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The Heat

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Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Zaz – Si c'était à refaire

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Freya Ridings – Home

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POV Claire

Maman , I don't want to leave Montreal.” My boy was in a bad mood. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked down towards his feet, trying to avoid eye contact with me.

“Honey.” I crouched down in front of him so he could see me right in the eye and hear me better. “Do you remember what we talked about during this whole month?” I tried to be as convincing as possible so that we wouldn't be late to get on the plane; almost all the passengers were already inside the aircraft and the company employee, who was just a few steps ahead of us, was impatient with our delay.

Oui maman, that Uncle Lamb fell off the stairs and he needs us badly.” Even though he understood all the reasons well, the silence lingered between us again. He pouted, clearly unhappy with everything that was going on in our lives.

I uncrossed his arms in a very gentle way and held his hands so that he looked at my face. But all that determination I worked so hard to enforce quickly vanished as I tried to understand everything from his perspective, making me smile in response to his dissatisfaction. “Uhum,” I fixed his hair affectionately and kept on smiling to encourage him to continue. “And what else?”

“He is our family and we have to help him now.” He was sad, but his brief smile brought a great relief to my heart.

“That’s right,” his blue eyes became even brighter due to some blink back tears on the verge of falling. “Fergus, he’s the only family we have left and our time in Montreal is unfortunately over. I know you wanted to end the school year with your classmates, and have some fun with our neighbors during the summer holidays” I put on a plastic smile, knowing how much he was suffering and God witnessed how difficult it was for me to decide to make this move. “There are things in life that need to be done without questioning. And yes, sometimes it’s very difficult to deal with the changes that happen in our life, but I promised that everything would be fine!” I gave a long kiss on his forehead sniffing in the pleasant scent of his hair. “Whenever we are together, we will be home.” I stroked his arm gently, showing that I understood how difficult this change was for him.

“I miss papa.” He hugged the teddy bear that his father had given him, his favorite toy since the very first day.

“Me too, my dear.” I hugged him tightly, kissing his curly brown hair that he took after me. “Me too.”

After nine years in Montreal, I was finally going back to England. Finally wasn’t the best way to describe it, at all. I wasn’t excited about moving back; however, the family commitments were stronger, and I couldn’t postpone my return any longer.

Deep down, I always knew I would have to come back to the UK one day, especially after my husband’s death, five years ago. From that moment on our family changed forever and I worked hard to continue with our routine in Montreal the best way I could.

In Canada, I had a job at the hospital and a few acquaintances with whom I shared some fun moments through the years we lived there. However, that wasn’t the real reason that prevented me from returning to my homeland. All of my decisions were made with just one person in mind, and he was a top priority in my life. From the first time I took my small and helpless son in my arms, I tried to protect him from all the harm in the world. At that moment I understood a feeling that was very difficult to describe, but that started making sense for me: unconditional love.

Fergus is Canadian, born and raised. Montreal was his first home and moving to London was very difficult for my little one since we first talked about the subject. He was leaving the only place he had known as home, the place that always made him feel very loved and protected wherever he was, but unfortunately I couldn’t change that. My uncle, Quentin Lambert Beauchamp, whom I affectionately called Uncle Lamb when I was a little girl, had aged a lot and had fractured his femur in an accident on the stairs of his building more than two months ago. And, on top of all this, I could no longer turn my back on him; I could no longer postpone my return. It was a moment to give support to my family no matter what, even if that meant returning to London, the last city in the whole wide world I wanted to live.

I had postponed my return to the UK since Arthur's death. I decided not to change Fergus’ daily life more than necessary, losing his father had been too hard on him, too hard on both of us. At that time, Fergus was very young and didn't quite understand what had happened, but he called out to his father every night before sleeping. It was more than a mother could bear, but I needed to be strongfor him. At times, I just had to make sure that Fergus was asleep so I could cry over my husband's death, and for all that this situation involved and would imply in our future.

Right after Arthur’s death, I was promoted at the hospital and along with that greater responsibilities. The new position was another reason for me to postpone our departure from Canada indefinitely because of the gratitude I nourished for Canada and for the Institution itself for welcoming me so well when I arrived.

I had no idea what was coming for our future. Even though I was British, I was starting over after everything I had ever lived as a doctor, a mother and a wife in Canada. I had made my life across the ocean and my home was no longer London or Oxfordshire. And even though I felt that something was different this time, I feared that all memories I blocked during the time away from my birthplace would come back to haunt my son and me again.



***



We were in our new home in London, which was just a few yards away from Uncle Lamb's residence. I would have to organize our lives, at least a little bit, in less than a week before Fergus restarted the school year that was close to our home.

Our house had two floors, two bedrooms, one small bathroom in my room and another large bathroom on the top floor; a large kitchen, living room, dining room and a toilet on the main floor; as well as a beautiful garden at the back of the house that just needed someone to bring all its shine back. It was much bigger property than we both needed, but I liked the idea of offering more space for a boy who was still growing and very active.

While we were organizing, for more than four hours, the countless items that had arrived in innumerable moving boxes, a feeling of exhaustion took over both of us. Fergus was frustrated about the time he spent arranging all his toys in his new room. I got tired just thinking about six more huge unopened boxes and I hoped that, between the breaks of my interviews for new jobs, I could get everything done to finally call that house our home.

“Fergus, honey!” I shouted from the bottom of the stairs, waiting for him with a naughty smile on my lips. “Would you like some ice cream?”

“A chocolate ice cream?” He showed up right after a few seconds with his big smile, grinning from ear to ear. He went down the staircase in a flash ,bouncing his curls along.

I reached for him on the last step, holding him in the air and kissing him on his neck. “Hey, calm down boy! You’ll get hurt! Let's take a walk around the neighborhood; we need a break! The mess will be waiting for us in the exact same place when we get back!”

We went for an ice cream in the café that was almost next to our house while we watched the neighborhood bustling. It was really a quiet place to live. Part of the street on the next block was only for pedestrians, and there were several children running and playing around. Fergus was still observing around, after all we had been in town for less than 24 hours and I could clearly see in him both shyness and anxiety to playing football with the kids nearby. At that moment I was sure that my boy would make friends faster than he imagined, but I knew that everything had its own time to happen.

Maman, when am I going to meet Uncle Lamb?” he asked me when he finished eating his ice cream, his blue eyes were even clearer due to the sun shining on them.

“Ummm…” I took a napkin trying to clean up the remaining candy spread all over his face, and he made a typical face of a boy who doesn’t like to receive this kind of attention from his mother in front of other people. Yes, he was growing up fast. “Should we ask if we can visit him now?” I smiled, pretending to be startled.

Yes, maman, let’s go!” He clapped his hands together as his body vibrated on the metal chair.

Although they had talked on the phone uncountable times, Fergus was very interested in meeting Lamb in person, and shortly after we left the cafe, we walked to my uncle's apartment. In fact , that space was mine and my son's. Arthur had left it for us both as an inheritance and a few months after he passed away, my uncle finally stopped working with several archaeological excavations around the world and was in need of a real place to live. Of course, I didn't think twice about offering that spacious apartment to him, nothing better than having someone you completely trust to live in your property, right? But, since stubbornness was a family problem, my uncle only agreed to stay there with the condition of paying me a rent; his pride was greater than anything and after all, I ended up giving in to his insistence.

We walked down the corridor and, as we entered the elevator and climbed to the 6th floor, we finally stopped in front of number 609, knocking together on the door after looking at each other. Christine, a beautiful blonde and sweet lady, introduced herself as my uncle's nurse and said that Mr. Quentin was waiting for us in the living room at the end of the hall.

Fergus and I walked hand in hand in the direction of my uncle, and I couldn't hold back my happiness in being finally able to reintroduce my little one to one of the most important people in my life. I was smiling at the expectation of seeing him in person after so many years, yet who I found sitting on the sofa was someone so fragile and weak for doing anything made my heart break a little. I knew that my face had shown my sadness; my uncle had always told me that I was like the most transparent of crystals, and I couldn't hide anything from him. Ever!

There was my uncle, of course, but he looked more like a shadow of his former self. He was thin, looking older than I expected, even though I often talked to him often on video calls. His look was very sad and depressed, and seeing him fragile in that way made me sure that I had done the right thing when I decided to return to England after his accident.

He smiled at me, the same calm and sincere smile as always. “Oh, my sweet Claire! How wonderful to see you again! I want so much to get up to hug you properly! And this big boy? Jesus Christ, Claire, he's huge!” He was really surprised, his eyes almost popped out of his face. “Hello, Fergus!” The little one lingered near the door with a shy smile. “The last time I saw you, you were a two-year-old boy!” He had come to visit us in one of his rare free moments.

“Hi Uncle!” I said while sitting next to him on the couch, hugging him tightly. His scent mixed with the smell of tobacco reminding me of my sweet childhood moments with him. “How are you feeling today?”

“I'm living day after day, darling. And my leg... Well, it’s not working at all, my dear Claire!” he laughed hard and that pleasant sound of his laughter made me laugh out loud at all the jokes and nonsense he was always saying, even when his life was not at its best. “I can't stand still much longer. I don't know how your patients can handle...” he smiled weakly and I squeezed the back of his hand to show that I was there for him now, supporting him.

“Come on, Fergus. I want you to meet the man who was like your mother's dad.” I smiled fondly at my uncle and saw his eyes sparkle with emotion.

Fergus pointed at my uncle's leg and asked, “Does that hurt?” He sat down slowly over the sofa, leaning his hand lightly against the cast on Lamb’s leg as soon as he got close enough to him.

“Aww, what a beautiful accent!” As much as Fergus was fluent in English, French was the main language in schools on the French-Canadian side of his birthplace, and I smiled at Lamb in agreement. Fergus did have the most beautiful accent. “Well, back to your question my boy: it doesn't hurt, but it itches a lot in there.” The exchange of glances between them was hilarious.

“And can you get this white thing off so you can scratch your leg?” My son was really puzzled, and Uncle Lamb and I laughed at the little boy's naive comment.

“He can't take it off, dear. And that white thing is called a leg cast!” I exchanged amused looks with my uncle. “But soon he will be able to take it off forever.”

“Ten days from now, to be exact!” he raised his hands to the sky, in his typically dramatic style. “In the meantime you can come and visit me and draw some things on it. There is enough space here and no children to doodle. Do you want to?”

Oui!” With a leap of happiness, Fergus sat next to my uncle. “And I'm going to bring my colored pens, can I maman?” he said as he leaned his body forward to see me, and I smiled widely, nodding in silence.

After talking a little more with Lamb and starting to catch up with everything, Fergus and I went home ‘cause we still had a lot to do there and both my boy and I were ready to face a second round after the fun and light moments that we had shared with my uncle.

And it really was what we did when we got back to our new home. Fergus was very happy and excited, working so fast that I was impressed to see him come down the stairs after just over an hour. He was willing to help me and, without thinking so much, I pointed to the books that were in one of the boxes and that had to be arranged at the bottom of the bookcase.

I was proud to have raised a kid so well, he was always a great companion to me, a loving boy with a good heart and very concerned about me and his little friends. I must confess that it wasn't easy to raise him, especially after Arthur's death... Although my late husband didn't help much in the family day by day due to his busy routine and countless trips, he was always present with his words of comfort when I felt overwhelmed with my routine at the hospital or at home.

The feeling of loneliness has never been more devastating than in the months that followed the fatal car accident that took Arthur out of our lives forever. He was on his way to work at the Université de Montréal late afternoon and his car crashed against a runaway truck coming in the opposite direction. In the truck driver's report to the police, it was written that Arthur died almost instantly, even though paramedics arrived swiftly, nothing could be done to save the life of my son's father.

The year that followed Arthur's death was filled with a lot of sadness and anguish, feelings that affected both Fergus and me, and what I wanted the most every day was that Arthur would come back to us and fill the huge hole he had left in our family's heart. Even though our relationship was incomplete in so many ways, this was what my son and I needed to be happy once again and it was undeniable that in some difficult moments, I unconsciously called Arthur to help me decide what to do. But, as expected for any family that goes through a difficult period of mourning, as time went by, the wounds started to heal and life was relieving our pain in the best possible way.



***



Finally Tuesday had arrived, and with it the school meeting, the day Fergus had feared since our arrival in London. As soon as we finished breakfast on “D-Day”, I called a taxi to go there, I didn't want my son to suffer in anguish more than the night before. Fergus had been so agitated during the early hours, calling me a few times in the middle of his nightmares, so scared that on the third time he shouted for me, around three in the morning, I gave up going back to my own bedroom and I curled up next to him to watch his sleep.

Fergus needed to do an assessment before being accepted into the institution and for that reason he was quite apprehensive, his nervousness had been even more visible during Tuesday morning. We were sitting next to each other in the school corridor, his legs were hanging due to the height of the chair, moving back and forth, and he could stop moving his feet for not being able to touch the floor. His body language was showing all the anxiety he was feeling that day.

I rested my hand on his small knee trying to calm him down. “Son, everything will be fine, my love! Don't worry!”

“What if they send me to Kindergarten, maman?” he sighed with anguish, very concerned about his future, and I couldn't help laughing softly, shaking my head.

I kissed his cheek, caressing the other one with my hand. “They won't, Fergus. They just need to know what you have learned or not in the second grade in Montreal. It's just to adjust the teaching, to know what you will need to reinforce until August.” I smiled with confidence and he seemed more confident. “And Mom will be out there waiting for you, okay?” I spoke as soon as he was called by the teacher.

I only received positive feedback and compliments from the teacher as soon as they left the room, even though he was so anxious. Mrs. Fitz was very happy with his performance and Fergus was proud of himself for having answered everything correctly. The only concern I had was about his English level but the teacher very patiently said that he knew the rules better than most British children the same age as his. His classes would start on the following day and he was very excited to meet all his classmates and finally go back to studying and making new friends. Those idle days triggered a lot of impatience on him.

After finishing everything at school, I left Fergus at Uncle Lamb's house and went to another important meeting. I had to leave my resume at another hospital in the city and I really expected to be hired by them since my great friend from college also worked there. In fact, he was one of the department directors at Royal Brompton Hospital. Cardiology.

Joe had always been present in my life since the first day of medical school. We were being excluded by the other students in our first anatomy class and I invited him the seat next to me. And since then, we always had each other’s back throughout college, the years of residency and even after my move to Montreal. In the last few years, we have called each other almost daily, having long conversations and frequent outbursts, always accompanied by a lot of wine, crying and laughing. We were best friends, but also each other's greatest counselors, maintaining that friendship was very important to me.

Inviting him to my new home on the first Saturday after my move brought me a lot of happiness. We hadn't seen each other for over nine years and being able to meet Joe and Gail after so long was really thrilling. Finally meeting little Emily and seeing how she really looked like her parents, body and soul, warmed my heart as a proud aunt. Seeing our children playing together on the living room floor while we drank my favorite Italian wine made me feel even more welcomed by London.

My friend knew that I was looking for a place at a hospital and with a “I'll be waiting for you and your resume any day next week! Just don't forget to call me the day before!”, the three of them said goodbye after a few hours having a good meal and catching up on the conversation.

Joe gave me a warm hug as soon as I showed up at his office door, our Saturday meeting hadn’t been enough to wipe out that feeling of missing each other so much. “Hello, Lady Jane, how did you spend the weekend?”

“Very well, and thank you for the opportunity you're giving me, Joe!” He pointed me to a chair that was in front of his and, right after we sat down, we held our hands affectionately over the table, smiling at each other.

“As I told you, Claire, I don't do it because we’re friends. Not just for that, at least.” He winked and we both laughed softly. “You're one of the most capable professionals I know and we need a general surgeon with some urgency. I just don't hire you right now because I need to meet with the other directors for the final decision, and that will only be on Friday.”

“No problem, I’ll wait!” I said pretending to be calm and we smiled, he knew I was very anxious and I could not wait so calmly.

“LJ.” He cleared his throat and for his long pause I knew he would go through some matter that I didn't like. “I didn't want to talk to you about it on Saturday, Gail was there and I didn't want to expose you without knowing how you would deal with it.” The chair suddenly became very uncomfortable for me and I swallowed hard, not being able to meet my friend's eyes. “How are you feeling…. now that you’re back in London?” I stopped breathing for a moment, I didn't want to believe he was referring to that. “Umm, is it difficult to readjust to London without Arthur?”

I exhaled the air I didn't even know I had retained in my lungs and I slightly relaxed my body in the chair. “Well, it was more difficult years ago. Fergus is bigger now and understands things more, but the change wasn't easy for both of us, much less for him. But today we went to school and he was very excited about everything, it starts tomorrow!”

His quiet smile brought me a peace that made me remember when he gave support to me in other extremely difficult moments in my life. “It will be alright, LJ. I'm glad you're back!”

I went back to Lamb's house after having lunch with Joe and picked up Fergus to organize everything for school on the next day. I think I was more anxious than him about his new beginnings. As I entered the living room I found my little boy surrounded by several important artifacts from Lamb's excavations while painting a beautiful green tree on the cast of his leg. That tender and relaxing image made me realize how much fun they had had that afternoon.

My uncle had always been wonderful with children and seeing them interacting so well automatically brought me back memories of my own past with Lamb. It reminded me of the fun moments I had running around the millenary object fragments of the dozens of excavations. I had so much fun being with him! And, even after more than two decades, I could still hear Lamb calling me excitedly to show something new that he had discovered or to help him with some setbacks.

I loved to see them being so friendly in such a short period of time. I couldn't contain my emotions of watching the two of them together and I had to sit for a while and witness the beginning of this beautiful relationship. And I knew that these moments would be treasured in Fergus’ memory forever. He needed a good male role model to influence in a substantial way his development and growth. Lamb was the best example he could have.

Shortly after calling Fergus for the fourth time to go home, my uncle insisted that we all had dinner together, saying that I was very skinny and needed to eat properly. I was unable to do anything but accept his proposal even though I knew I had never been so heavy. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement on my part, age has brought me only ten pounds more since Fergus' arrival, but I definitely knew that I wasn't malnourished, as Lamb liked to say!

When we arrived at our home shortly after dinner, Fergus went up and then down the stairs in less than three minutes bringing his backpack already eager to show me how he had organized his school supplies. Of course, my proactive and a little bit anxious boy had already started to organize everything the night before and I was even more proud of him seeing how happy he was nourishing so many expectations of his first day at the new school. We brushed our teeth after watching TV for some time in the living room and I put him to sleep like every night since he had been placed in my arms, stroking his curls, saying that I loved him very much and that the angels would take care of him during the night.

But as soon as I laid down comfortably under my soft blankets to read another chapter of my book, anguish grew inside my chest, speeding my heartbeat and leaving me breathless for a few moments. I tried to read some more, but that feeling was still there and, to try to calm my uneasy mother's heart, my next step was to go down to the kitchen to get a glass of wine.

In conclusion: sleep came only after two in the morning.



***



We went to school together just after breakfast, his little hand tightened even more its grip on mine when we got in the front of the school. Fergus stopped walking almost instantly because many children of different ages were there, laughing and talking as they went through the front door.

He looked at me with despair, tears clouding his blue eyes, and I lowered my body so I could give him an affectionate hug. “Sweetheart, you're being braver than me.” I said softly near his ear. “I’m very proud of you and I thank you for understanding all the reasons for moving to London.” I stroked his chin while smiling at him. “I know it’s not being easy, but I’m sure that in a few days you will have many friends to play football with next to our home or to play with your favorite video games!” I kissed his tears and smiled tenderly at him. “Oh, look who's coming!”

Mrs. Fitz walked towards both of us, leaning her body slightly to caress his arm. “Hello, Fergus!” Seeing how affectionate she was with my boy made me feel even more relaxed by leaving him in her hands.

“Hello, Madame Fitz.” Fergus replied and tried to smile at her, even though he was still a little upset.

“Ready for this very special Wednesday?” She held out her hand in the air for him to hold.

Oui.” Fergus took a deep breath, smiling bravely at me, wiping his tears on his coat sleeve and went with the sweet lady to his first day of school in his new home.

“I'll be here at the end of class, sweetie!” I spoke loudly to say goodbye to him.

He was excited standing next to the teacher, I could see by the way he walked with her towards the building. And to see my boy facing his own fears with such bravery made me feel an almost instant shame about something I had done so many years ago and that disturbed my peace since then.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Kodaline – High Hopes

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Gavin James – Always

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POV Jamie

 

“I can't believe that the birthday boy is finally here!” George shouted as soon as I got to the Department. “Happy Birthday, my friend!” He hugged me tightly with a wide smile on his lips hidden behind his dark beard. “Come here, Jamie! We need to show you the wonderful gift we’ve made for you!” He hit hard on my upper back and laughed in a rather mischievous way, so typical of him.

It was just the first day of the month and I would be stamped on that wall for another thirty days, just like every May in recent years. I didn't even have to enter the dining room hall to find out what it was. Every May for seven years, my dear coworkers always decorated one wall of our lunchroom with an enlarged page of the charity calendar in which there was my picture printed on it.

Yeah, a charity calendar.

That was a fantastic idea from a children's cancer institution that created this calendar with some world-renowned pro bono photographers and of twelve firefighters from across the UK. It was always a fierce competition to become one of the chosen ones, but ever since my first appearance eight years ago, I kept being chosen for the following ones.

Perhaps something about me pleased the audience that bought it.

The Fire Department was my life. The reason why I woke up, did my workouts, dressed up accordingly and left my house every morning. Being appointed Chief of my Department was as natural to me as my decision to become a firefighter when I was just a kid. Saving people was one of the most rewarding things for me since my first day at the corporation over a decade ago, when I moved to London for good.

I missed Scotland and my sister every day during my first month in London. However, little by little, after some time in my new city, I realized that this was my place in the world. London was a bustling center, vibrant with a hectic mood 24/7, a melting pot. There I had all the freedom and anonymity I’ve always wanted, quite the opposite of what I had experienced in Inverness. We were always in some kind of spotlight there, nothing and no one went unnoticed by its residents.

In contrast, London gave me, besides freedom and anonymity, the best of a real bachelor's life: pubs , parties and women . All of this filled my free time for several years; fulfilling my life with happiness through freedom and being able to fit in without worrying about other people's judgment were some of the joys this cosmopolitan city brought into my new life.

In one of those places full of freedom and anonymity was where I met Murtagh, my grumpy friend. Equally Scottish, Fitzgibbons was a much older man than me and his life story was very beautiful and very moving at the same time. And I, after going through a pain as difficult as his, I finally understood his suffering.

He was almost 60 years old when I met him but, even with our age difference, the conversation between us flowed so easily that it didn't take long for him to tell me what took him to this slightly different party every Friday night. He had become a widower the year before, Jodie was the love of his life and he missed her more than anything. I had never seen such a pure and genuine expression of love so closely, she had really been everything in his life and, even after all that solitude, it was beautiful – even if it's sad – to see how Murtagh was still struggling to hold back his tears when talking about her.

Our interactions remained a little bit shallow for a long time after he opened his heart to me, but my mind kept thinking about Murtagh’s whole situation for weeks after our first conversation, so much so that one night I asked him the real reason why he was going to that place. I knew that Murtagh didn't go to that party to flirt with any woman or to find any new girlfriend, he always remained loyal to his love for Jodie; and, with an honest smile, he just said that the place made him feel alive .

And in the end, isn't that what all human beings are looking for?

 

***

 

Right after receiving an excited “happy birthday” from my coworkers, I was finishing checking out all the team safety items when my phone started ringing inside my pocket.

10:30 AM.

I hated receiving inopportune calls while at work, but Laoghaire never understood what the word NO really meant. As much as I hadn't had a partner to replace the love of my life all these years, sometimes I couldn't deny my physical needs and I always had a few women to solve these problems with. Laoghaire was one of them and we had been in a relationship, so to speak, for longer than I have ever been with any other woman.

She fell in love with me from the first time she saw me, even when she was married. Her fascination was so great that she decided to get divorced when she first became involved with me, even though I didn't give any sign that I felt anything for her other than physical interest. But over time, her fascination broke all limits and, at that point in our “relationship”, I no longer had the patience for her meaningless questions, so, in the previous month, I tried to put an end to anything I had had with her during those years. But instead of pushing her away, trying to keep her away from me only made Laoghaire become even more attached, more inconsequential and inopportune.

Not calling during working hours was one of the main things that I had to emphasize every time I spoke to her, but that seemed to mean nothing to that woman. “What do ye want now, Laoghaire?” I was as impersonal as possible, I didn't want to extend her so predictable complaints.

“Good morning to you too, sweetie!” She laughed hysterically as if she didn't take my pitch level seriously. “Happy Birthday, my love! What are your plans for tonight?” She was chewing gum and that noise made me even more impatient.

“Obviously I’ll be sleeping because, after all, today is Wednesday.” I didn't want to sound like I was open to unexpected invitations and that I knew it would come if I didn't set some limits. “I am the Chief of the entire Department here and I need to lead by example every day.”

“But you don't have to be that serious, Jamie.” Her soft voice gave me the chills, I don't know how I was able to keep in touch with her for so long. “I can help you relax, you know that.”

“I dinnae need to relax.” What I really needed was for her to leave me alone.

“Not even on the weekend will you have some time off, honey? You can come over here and I'll make you a delicious dinner! We can drink wine and make love all night.” At what point did I say to her that we were making love ? Seriously?

“Well. Listen, Laoghaire, I dinnae want-” I was suddenly speechless because George had come closer to me in a flash and I pulled the phone away from my face to hear what was going on. He was restless, red in his face and full of adrenaline when he said that a big fire had started a few miles from our regiment. All of our coworkers were already running to the trucks, and of course I didn't need any kind of excuse to get rid of that call. “Laoghaire, I need to go, we can talk later” and I hung up leaving no room for an answer.

I was being updated by George while the truck was already on its way: the fire was in a primary school and it had started fifteen minutes earlier. All the men in the corporation were prepared for a roaring fire, as more than 200 children were inside the building and the flames had already spread to several places really fast.

The fire had started in the chemistry lab, at first because of some electrical failure, but that information needed to be verified. All those flammable products that were associated with any chemistry lab were making my spine shiver. And to add to the picture, we had the information that only one of the emergency exits was unlocked at the beginning of the fire, which caused an almost instant panic to the children and teachers. As much as they were all trained for this kind of situation, no one is really prepared to fail to evacuate 200 students from a school.

When we got there, the fire was intense and the smoke was coming out of almost every window on the right side of the building. As we stepped out of the truck, we could see a crowd of little human beings in the school’s front lawn in awe, very anxious but constantly restrained and calmed by the teachers in the best possible way.

“Hello ma’am, my name is James Fraser and I am the firefighter in charge.” I tried to speak in a calm and clear way, but my brain wanted her to answer me right away so that I could take action quickly. “What is yer name?”

“My name is Mrs. Fitz. Glenna Fitzgibbons, Officer Fraser. I need your help urgently!” She was very anxious, and I listened with attention while she held my hands tightly. “All the school classes are complete here, except for mine. I've listed all the students that are here and one is missing; but now I just don't know whether or not I'm losing my mind after everything that's happened.

My body stiffened when I imagined a child alone in that fire. “What's his name and his classroom number, lady?” I tried to be as calm and clear as possible.

“He isn't in the classroom! I remember seeing him going out with the others, but due to the blocking of almost all the exit doors, he was very nervous and disappeared from my sight! God, I'm terrified, it was his first day of school!”

I was ready to run as soon as I received all the information. “Okay, I need his name, ma'am.”

“Fergus, Fergus Lewis. He's eight years old…”

“Okay. Please take all these kids across the street safely!” I yelled as I walked away. “George, take these kids to the square across the street now! Coordinate the teachers!” And after calling out, I ran towards the school in search of the lost child.

Smoke was taking over the entire place, making it increasingly difficult to see and breathe as I entered the long corridor. I covered my mouth with the collar of my coat, shouting his name in every room, but receiving no reply. I became distressed at not having any evidence of any kind of life, those few minutes seemed more like hours to me.

I entered the last room and something very colorful caught my attention on the floor, next to a table. I strode closer so I could see what it was: a cell phone with a blue superhero cover. I put it in my pocket, walking into the room until I finally find a boy. He was partially unconscious, moaning nonsense while calling for his mother, huddled in a corner of the art room. I haven't really thought much when I saw him so helpless, just acting instinctively, picking him up and taking him out of school as quickly as possible.

While I was carrying him protectively outward, some door frames began to fall, and thank God I still had some great reflections to get rid of all those flaming woods. We finally managed to get out and, lowering the fabric that still covered my nose, I could breathe more easily after so many minutes, the fresh air giving me instant relief. However, the biggest relief I was feeling was that I managed to get that boy out of the school.

Several ambulances were already outside the school and one of the paramedics pointed out the one I should head to. As soon as I put him on the stretcher, I went out to make way for the paramedics and confirmed, by looking at his cell phone, that he was Fergus Lewis himself. During my coughing fits, I saw Fergus’ name written on the back of his cell phone next to the phone number of whoever appeared to be Fergus' mother, Claire Lewis.

“Foster!” I called the first officer I saw passing by in the back of the ambulance. “Please coordinate everything here, I cannae let this boy go to the hospital alone.”

“Everything is under control, sir. I’ll keep you informed.”

I quickly got into the ambulance before the doors were slammed shut and, as the siren went on, my stomach churned in a way I didn't expect. On the way to the hospital, while trying to call Fergus' mother, I saw the boy’s beautiful blue eyes suddenly open in despair, not understanding what was happening. I held his hand so he wouldn't take the oxygen mask off his nose and mouth, and even though he tried to say something, nothing came out of his little mouth.

“Shhh, Fergus, everything is fine, laddie.” I decided to calm him down by caressing his hand. “My name is Jamie, I'm a firefighter. We're taking ye to the hospital and now I'm going to talk to yer mom, okay?”

His eyes widened and filled with tears while a weak voice tried to get out of his mouth, without success. I soothed him again with my gaze and my hands, making Fergus to fall into a deep sleep once more.

Feeling heartbroken to be the first to give the bad news to Mrs. Lewis, I took the boy's cell phone and, after typing the numbers, I took a deep breath to try to sound as calm as possible: “Hi, my love, why are you calling me now?” A voice that was soft, strong and melodic at the same time, spoke to me as if I were his son. “You know you can't talk on the phone during class, dear.”

“Hmm, Mrs. Lewis.” I interrupted her and could hear a faint sound of distress coming out of her mouth. “Officer Fraser speaking here. I need ye to stay calm. Yer son is fine, however, we're taking him to the Royal Brompton Hospital, there was a fire at his school and Fergus couldn't get out with the other students, he inhaled a lot of smoke and requires care.” I swallowed dry when I heard her breathing clearly distressed. “At the moment, he's unconsc-

“I know how to get to the hospital and I'm on my way, I'll be there in 5 minutes!” Now she interrupted me decisively, speaking loudly and then hanging up the cell phone.

I escorted the kid inside the hospital in everything I was allowed to, I didn't want to and I couldn't even leave him alone before his mother arrived. A few minutes ago he looked so helpless on my lap, so small. I kept coughing and the doctor who had seen Fergus insisted that I should be under observation, but I denied it and said I was fine.

I knew I was fine! Who wasn't well was that boy, he was my biggest concern.

After so much pressure, I was convinced to put at least the oxygen cannulas in my nose for at least an hour. Well, that time would be enough for things to settle down for that boy and that's why I ended up following his recommendations.

The medical team took Fergus to a room near the reception to evaluate him better, putting saline and some drugs in his small veins, tubes in his nostrils and controlling other physical responses using different medical devices. An immense discomfort took over my body when I looked at all those people monitoring the kid, my only desire was to walk into the room and comfort him the best way I could: put him in my lap and hug him tightly.

I was observing the whole thing through the bedroom window, caught up in my thoughts and praying that that child would quickly get over it, when I finally heard a desperate voice that sounded like the one I'd heard on the phone minutes before. She was wearing a dark red coat that covered half her thigh, and her straight and voluminous hair was tied in a low ponytail. The woman was back standing me, asking about Fergus to the receptionist, visibly distraught by what had happened and the lack of information of her son's medical condition.

The hospital employee pointed in my direction before Claire came to me without looking directly at me, going towards the door while trying to unsuccessfully open it. Her gaze was fixed on the glass trying to check her son’s condition, but she still wasn’t looking at me. Even without speaking to me, I could feel the anxiety and fear clearly vibrating from her body.

I was still breathing with some difficulty, my eyes were misty, but as I stared at her side view, seeing her whiskey-colored eyes, as golden as an autumn leaf, and her trembling hands resting on the glass, it was as if my whole past came to the surface all at once.

Sometimes life takes unexpected turns .

I couldn't believe it was happening. I couldn't stop looking at her, the world had instantly come down to the two of us again. I began to breathe heavier, faster, the memories of my past kept coming in waves while I couldn't stop looking at her. Her lips began to try to stammer a few words, but her visible pain of seeing her son like that weakened her voice at every attempt made.

“I knew something wasn't right, I could feel it. Do you- do you know who his doctor is?” Her eyes filled with tears, still connected to her son, her cheeks wet from her silent tears. “I need to get in to see how he's doing. Were you the firefighter who saved Fergus? Fraser, right?” at last she turned her face to mine and the dread and amazement were stamped on her face, as well as mine. “Ale-” She took a step back, leaning on the wall beside her so she wouldn't lose her balance. “Alexander?”

“Elizabeth.”

We spoke our aliases at almost the same time, our eyes astonished to realize that our destinies had crossed again.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Selena Gomez – Dance Again

Youtube // Spotify

Ariana Grande – no tears left to cry

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Claire

I knew something was wrong. The night before I felt an unexplainable anguish, but it would never cross my mind that my son would be in danger inside his school.

I was home again, wearing comfortable jeans, my favorite white shirt and bare feet, just the way I'd like to be. I had just arrived and my only goal that morning was to organize all the groceries I had bought at the supermarket as soon as I left Fergus at school. Once I finished putting everything in its place, I went to take care of my little courtyard in the back of the house, pruning some dry leaves and watching fondly how my plants were growing so well that first week in our little family garden.

While I was looking after them, I was wandering about my past, my future and all that involved being in London again after so many years; and that was when I received Fergus’ call. I found it strange that he called me so early, his class would not finish until 3 o’clock. Besides, he had never used his cell phone for anything that was not urgent, so I was slightly worried that he might be upset because something in his new school was causing him difficulties to blend in.

But when I got silent after asking him why he was calling me, I soon realized it wasn't him. A man – with a deep, solid, reassuring voice – began to speak to me slowly while a siren sound was blasting in the background, and after that everything seemed to be like a real life nightmare.

I lost my bearings for a few seconds when I exchanged information with Mr. Fraser. As soon as he told me where my son was being taken, I took my coat and bag that were laying on the couch, put my shoes on and left the house in a hurry. I ran towards the first taxi that appeared in front of me and I don't know how I didn't cause an accident being so absent-minded, I only realized the horns honking as I sat in the back seat of the car.

On the way to the hospital I prayed like I hadn't for a long time. I began to worry even more about Fergus’ medical condition and the anxiety I was feeling was more that I could bear. I was so frightened I became nauseous and I silently thanked myself for not having eaten anything since I had left home with Fergus.

Oh, my helpless little Fergus!

Out of the blue, all the happy and sad moments we shared together were played in my mind as in a movie. Every time he needed me and I was there for him. Every time I cried and he came to me with his sweet embrace to comfort me in the best possible way.

My heart ached because at that very moment Fergus was alone in an unfamiliar place, scared by everything that was happening around him and surrounded by so many strange people. Even accompanied by professionals who were concerned about him and certainly did everything they could, Fergus was facing all that on his own.

I wasn't there for him.

When I arrived at the hospital, my only goal was to find out where my son was, I didn't want to know anything or anyone else. I quickly asked the receptionist, telling her who I was and, after listening to me, the girl pointed me straight to a room that was very close to where my boy was, also saying that the firefighter who had rescued him was in front of the window.

Without looking away from the room, I went towards the door to try to open it, but it was locked and my eyes instantly found Fergus through the glass. I quickly noticed two doctors and three nurses were inside with my little boy; he looked even smaller on that huge bed and when I saw so many people around him I figured out it was not a good sign.

I started crying and praying in silence. I cried for my powerlessness and for my despair in seeing that I could have lost my son if the man next to me had not rescued him. In that moment of hopelessness I could truly understand my patients, from that perspective I wasn’t a doctor anymore, I was just a mother who needed some news about her son. The jitters were making me nauseous and nothing I had learned in college helped me, quite the contrary.

"I knew something wasn't right, I could feel it." I began to speak with a certain difficulty, my voice overwhelmed by weeping. "Do you know who his doctor is?" I still couldn't stop looking at my little one, even with the tears blurring my vision. “I need to get in to see how he's doing. Were you the firefighter who saved Fergus? Fraser, right?" I slowly turned my face back to find him, still struggling to see clearly due to the tears, but the last thing I expected was to have my whole past pushed back to me in the most sudden way possible. As soon as I looked through those eyes of a tone of blue so deep and unforgettable, my legs wobbled for a moment. "Ale-" I walked away from him, having to lean on the wall next to the door so I wouldn't fall. "Alexander?"



"Elizabeth." We spoke our aliases at almost the same time and at that moment I could see that he was as terrified as I was of that unexpected reunion.

Everything seemed so surreal that I felt completely dizzy as if I'd been knocked over and hit my head. "Uh, what are you doing here?" I couldn't stop staring at him, and I saw that he was breathing with a certain difficulty, but only then I noticed that he had oxygen cannulas in his nostrils and a green cylinder beside him. Of course, he had inhaled smoke too, he had been the firefighter who had rescued Fergus.

"I was the one who saved your son." He took a deep breath still without facing me, swallowing with difficulty as if he was looking for the courage to take the next step. "My name is James Fraser. Jamie. I'm the Chief of The Fire Department who was in charge of the school fire." Still hesitant, he fixed his eyes on my face, extending his hand in my direction, for a second leaving me in doubt about what to do after that.

"Claire." I couldn't keep my gaze on him for too long, swallowing dry my saliva before speaking my real name to him for the first time. "Claire Lewis." I exhaled all of the air from my lungs and then I finally shook his hand.

But touching his skin after so long brought back our entire past right away.

 

Flashback On

"We will, Claire! Hey, no more crying! He doesn't deserve you! If Joe did this to me, he wouldn't have another chance. Believe me!" Gail told me firmly when she got ready to leave the hospital. "You can't get that depressed, girl!"

I pulled my face away from the closet door so they could see me. "But I'm fine, girls. I’m not depressed! I'm going straight home from the hospital, I've arranged everything for a weekend full of movies, popcorn and chocolate. You go, you don't have to worry about me!" I tried to smile even though I knew it didn't work out so well. "I need to stay on my own, things will get together as soon as possible, I'm sure of that."



Louise appeared, standing behind me with her hands leaning on her waist and her gaze stern as she found mine. "You've been saying that for two months, Claire. And we haven't seen any improvement in all that time, on the contrary." I knew she was right. "We're going to London today! Mary is going too, John didn't disapprove this time! It's going to be girls' night! A pub full of handsome men just for the two of us, Dr. Beauchamp!" She smiled naughty. "And I know you're going to work tomorrow afternoon and I promise we'll be back early!" She crossed her index and middle fingers in front of her face and winked one eye, making sure that that pact would not be kept.

I was in my last year of general surgery residency at Oxford. That's where I did all my medical school, where I met Joe and when I started my relationship with my ex-fiancé. Arthur was in his final year of his doctorate in Pediatrics when we met at a University event, an event that I had gone alone because Joe went to spend the weekend at Gail's parents' house, who was his girlfriend then.

I was at a lecture for trainees and employees that was part of a great event of the Institution, consequently something too formal and boring to bear without a little bit of alcohol. Some of the University's annual data was widely discussed by the directors and I was standing, lost in my thoughts, with the side of my body leaning against the window of one of the hall walls, carelessly looking at the thin snow falling outside that harsh Oxford winter.

My glass of gin and tonic was already empty, but I didn't realize it, I just kept stirring the ice in my glass while my mind swept away from everything that was being said by important people in the Institution. It was when I leaned my head against the wall that a light-haired and green sweet-eyed guy appeared in front of me with a glass full of my favorite drink and with an embarrassing smile on his lips. He clearly had been watching me long enough to know what I had drank before and I blushed instantly because I didn't think I was attractive enough for such a warm display, let alone coming from a man so handsome as he.

We talked and flirted that night and in all our meetings for the next three months before we started dating on a beautiful spring afternoon. Arthur, born and raised in Montreal, already had an established career as a pediatrician in Oxfordshire, and listening to him talk in such a lovely way about his children was one of the main reasons I fell in love with him.

Arthur was very charming and gifted with words; he knew very well how to use it to his benefit and the first years of our relationship had been like daydreaming, with many gifts, meaningful conversations, dinners and long nights making love. However, soon after Arthur finished his doctorate, he was called to work in a renowned hospital in London, so all my days off began to be spent in his apartment, but not necessarily in his company. He was very busy there; when not on medical duty, he was always in his home office with piles of documents and papers from residents to correct, constantly leaving me in second, third place in his routine.

And after five long years, as a consequence of a worn-out relationship, I broke up with him; I didn't even know how a long-distance relationship had worked for so long. Well, actually I did: he spent most of that time cheating on me with other women, mostly employees and colleagues at the hospital where he worked.

Of course I knew something was wrong, women know when something is wrong in their relationships. However, the truth was that I had gotten used to him. It was good to have him around, even if not fully. Arthur gave me the comfort and security I needed to have, with him I had a sense of belonging that I had never felt my whole life. Losing my parents so early was not an easy thing to deal with and Arthur was the only family I had.

Yes, I had used that relationship as a lifeboat, but I didn't realize it until all fell apart.

Even if my intuition had already warned me that something wasn't right, I wanted to believe that everything was the result of my imagination; but finding an explicit loving note, with descriptions of the intense night that this woman had had with Arthur, and on top of that with a mark of red lipstick on one of the corners of the paper, had been the last straw for me.

The moment I found that note, my fiancé wasn't home. I took all my things out of the apartment calmly and, along with the remains of my dignity, I waited quietly on the sofa in the living room until he arrived, which didn't take so long. When he came back home, he smiled as he saw me there, but that very same smile vanished once I started talking. I let out all the rage and resentment locked inside me talking about his betrayal and all times he had not paid attention to me, each time he had reduced me to nothing. Walking through the front door of the apartment and not listening to what he had to say to me, finally I asked him not to look for me ever again.

I left his apartment watching him crumbling to pieces in a devastating way.

All this happened two months before "girls' night" in London, and I never imagined that I would miss that bastard so much during all that time we were apart. At that time my emotions were so shaken that even my periods had become a total mess since I had left his life. I knew that everything would come back to a new normal when my heart and mind settled down, but I couldn't help myself feeling angry, knowing that Arthur still played a strong role in my life.

So I tried to immerse myself in the medical residency in order to find some answers for my sadness, but nothing seemed to fit; I still caught myself, quite unaware, wondering about Arthur and whatever he might be doing. Yes, the routine sucks, it makes you lose track of reality sometimes. When he called me multiple times at night I had to think long and hard about the reason why I broke up with Arthur before I decided to avoid his phone call.

Arthur was like an addiction in my life.

And no, he was not good for me.

Meanwhile, what I thought would be another relaxing and crying weekend had turned into a fun one with my friends. Gail, Mary, Louise and I were all heading to London on the way to get to a very trendy pub near Leicester Square, at least that's what Louise had said earlier. I knew everyone very well, Gail and Mary were happily married women and they didn't intend to do anything out of the ordinary... but I knew that things were slightly different with Louise.

We were all medical residents, each one in our own field and our friendship had been spontaneous right from the beginning. Well, except Gail, she knew me longer as she had been part of my life since she started dating Joe when we were still at college. Gail had moved from a different institution in the middle of medical school, and we had become great friends almost instantly. Gail and Joe were really meant for each other and I witnessed all that with heart in my eyes and exhalations filled with excitement coming out of my chest.

The bar was crowded but as always Louise managed to get a table to fit us all in ten minutes thanks to her persuading skills. We laughed, ate and drank a lot for the next two hours, silently agreeing that I really needed some fun and light moments after those dark two months. Gail was sober because she was three months pregnant, and she laughed at us as if she didn't believe we got so happy in such a short time.

But the night went longer than planned and I drank more than I intended to. I drank so much that Louise didn't have much trouble convincing me to go to a "party unlike any you've ever been to, Claire!”, She assured me the place was exclusive and that our names were already on the list.

I agreed to go with her and I can blame it on the alcohol! I didn't even wonder how I'd get home if we didn't have Mary and Gail's company. They dropped us off at the nightclub with wide smiles on their faces, and I thanked them for giving me such an exceptional night.

But what I didn't know was that the night was about to start and I didn't have a clue about what was going to happen.

The music was loud and the atmosphere inviting and, before I even entered the place, I knew that the place was right up Louise’s alley. I grabbed a drink at the bar before I could enjoy the place; the party wasn't that big and, while some people were having a sexy night out on the dance floor, a few others were chatting and drinking near the bar.

The lights, the music, the atmosphere. Everything was very intense there, but what really caught my attention was a couple on the couch across the room, on a corner a little lighter than usual. I don't know if it was because of that man's hair color or just because the way he was kissing the woman on his lap, but I was not able to take my eyes off them for a single moment after I saw their intense performance .

I could only see this couple from the side – the man seated on the sofa with this woman on his lap –, and even though they were far from me, I could clearly see this huge man's hands skillfully moving through that lucky woman's body. Yes, I was being a voyeur and, even though I had never done anything like this before, the drinks and the atmosphere made me have the guts to keep on looking at them.

I experienced an intense curiosity I had never felt before, a quite embarrassing situation I must say. It occurred to me that maybe all that was happening was due to the simple fact that I was really willing to be in that woman’s shoes.

God! Roads I have never taken before… was I really willing to be in that woman’s shoes?!

I had my questions answered very quickly because, after observing them for sometime, I noticed that all I wanted the most was to be in that blonde's place. The way my heart was pounding fast and the feeling of an increasing moistness between my legs proved me where I really wanted to be.

My gin and tonic was almost over, but before I turned to ask the bartender for another one, the eyes of that mysterious man finally found mine. He was fulminating me, in the best sense of the word, with the most seductive way even though he was with his partner still on his lap, rubbing her body against his at the same time she was devouring his neck. Like magic, quickly bewitched by the intensity that came out of that man, I could no longer stop contemplating him.

I kept my eyes on him as I finished my drink and thanked God for the atmosphere being dark enough so that the man didn't see the intense redness I felt flushing my cheeks. Suddenly the blonde, who was still sitting on his lap, changed her facial expression when seeing our little interaction, brutally pulling his face to face hers, instantly undoing the magic of that first interaction I had had with the redhead.

"Interested in anyone, Claire?" Louise took me out of the reverie and smiling, I turned my body to the bar to order another drink, a whisky now would go well.

"No, I was just admiring the scenery." I answered not trying to reveal any emotion by touching the hemline of my dress.

"That wonderful redhead?" I didn't have to look back to him to confirm it. "And what a beautiful landscape, isn't it?" She leaned with her back and elbows on the counter as we exchanged complicity laughs. "Honey, I think I'm a witch!" I wrinkled my eyebrows without understanding what she was referring to. "And no, I'm not talking about your redhead! Look at that beautiful man! He won't stop staring at me!" She bowed one of her eyebrows to me. "See you later, okay?"

"Of course, Louise." With my glass of whisky in my hand, I turned my body to stay in the same position as her. "Oh my God, he's eating you with his eyes! You can't miss this chance!"

"And soon he'll eat me in other ways too, dear!" we laughed, of course I knew very well what she meant.

As soon as she walked away to meet her guy, I turned my face to the couch where the couple I had been watching before were, yet I couldn't find either of them there. I searched all over the party area to find them, but without success.

When I set my eyes back on Louise again, she was already on the dance floor and I felt a sort of sudden flush rise through my body as I stared at her. She really knew how to charm a man, and in under a minute Louise was dragging him through a red door that I hadn't seen until then.

Having no one to interact with, soon I started to dance amongst people, enjoying myself while walking by sweaty bodies and provocative looks. It was so good to dance again and keep my mind off the grief from the last few months. But even though I was actually enjoying some of the gallantry from some men and women I was receiving, I couldn't get that redhead out of my head.

I think he was the charmer of women at that party. At least for me .

I went back to the bar a few minutes later and, while I took another shot of whisky, I smiled briefly at a gentleman sitting on one of the benches next to me. As soon as I received my drink, we toasted in the air with smiles on our lips, without touching our glasses, and I silently questioned why that man was sitting there alone, clearly with no intention of flirting with anyone. I said goodbye before walking, but as I saw the red door moving once again, an enormous curiosity took hold of me. The drink was definitely encouraging me to go through with that crazy plan to find out what was behind that door after all.

I left my empty glass on a small table near three people who were truly excited about each other, laughing at myself as I unconsciously realized where Louise was taking me when I accepted her last minute invitation. I knew I would go somewhere really different from anything I had ever been. Normally I wouldn't have accepted to go with her, but I was so tired of being the same Claire, so predictable and full of embarrassment, that I wished I could be Louise de La Tour for a day.

I'd like to know what it was like to live so differently.

The red door was heavy and, as I closed it behind me, I came across a long corridor that was acoustically isolated from the rest of the party, poorly lit and full of mirrors down the hall. Several doors on both sides had red or green lights on above them; if it weren't for the moans and screams coming from behind them, I would surely spend more time thinking about what might be going on behind those doors.

Louise had taken me to a party where everything was possible.

I swallowed hard due to my newest finding, fear and apprehension quickly overwhelmed me and an instant sobriety made me want to leave that place as soon as possible. I would take a taxi to the station and wait for a train back to Oxford easily, even if the first trip was only available early in the morning. I didn't mind staying there, all I needed was to walk away from that place as soon as possible.

However, right before I turned my body to walk down the corridor, strong arms wrapped me gently, sensuously; even though I was still a little bit scared, I was sure who was doing that to me. Those hands, which were unmistakable, had pushed aside all my decency and sobriety during the party and now wandered assertively over my skin, even hotter and rougher than I ever imagined, giving me an instant chill.

No matter how dark that place was, I managed to catch our reflections through the mirror in front of us, realizing that that man was doing with me the same thing he had done with the blonde moments before, near the dance floor. But the image was much sexier than anything I had ever seen and quickly a flush spread over my body, causing all the fear I had felt since entering that hallway to fade away like magic, most likely with the help of multiple shots of whisky. I quickly gave up the idea of leaving and I finally focused all my attention on that man, who had been my greatest desire from the minute I first saw him and who was now devouring my neck just the way I had longed for.

I looked for him from the beginning, but in fact he was the one who looked me up right after our little interaction, arousing me and making me realize that the redhead had actually set it all up before it actually happened.

And it was actually happening.

I moaned as I grabbed his hair roughly, encouraging him to continue his moves, his body against mine made me realize that he was even taller than I had imagined. He pushed me gently into a small room at the end of that corridor, not moving away from me and I didn’t stop him to do so.

And what we did inside that room was far beyond the way I imagined my Friday would end up.

As soon as he closed the door, the redhead pushed me against it with a naughty smile on his face and his lips finally found mine. His kisses were a mixture of softness and fury, something I had never experienced before and I was convinced that his bite marks would remain on my skin for many days But I didn't actually care. At that point nothing else mattered to me but that man in that place, driving me crazy with such pleasure.

His hands and mouth were magical, they seemed to be everywhere at once, as wild as him and as the moment we were sharing. His ability was such that I didn't see when or how all of our clothes ended up on the floor, even though I knew I had my share of the blame in it because I wanted so badly to see him naked as much as he wanted to see me.

Breathing heavily, our bodies somewhat apart, our eyes devoured each other for long seconds, the unmeasured desire quickly spreading like fire throughout the room. As if I had a demigod personified right in front of me – with his marble carved muscles and his sexy smile –, my urge to touch him grew in an uproaring way.

His abs and chest were deliciously defined as I had watched with my eyes, and I was unable to contain my slight joyful laughter at having that confirmation. As an answer, in a single step he pressed me against the wall one more time in a dominant way, holding on tight my legs as he pulled me to his lap. I instinctively wrap my legs around him, feeling his stiffness against my clitoris and unconsciously moving against him, groaning in his ear unlike I had never done before.

He looked at me with desire before grabbing my breasts, and I arching my back, moaning and begging for more. He grunted against my nipple as I rolled on his lap over and over, what made my remaining sanity fade away as I felt his tongue lick, nibble, and suck my nipples, quickly pushing me to the limit.

Even totally surrendered, I still had some sanity left between the alcohol running through my veins and the lust that has taken over my body, and I knew it was wrong.

I had to stop it immediately.

"Wait!" I screamed scared and he stopped immediately what he was doing, staring at my eyes somewhat in shock. And that's how I could see they were beautiful, as blue as the deepest ocean, a tone I had never seen before. "I, uh, we didn't say anything and, I don't even know your name! What am I doing?" I pulled myself out of his arms and he didn't show any resistance by gently putting me on the ground, slightly moving away from me. "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, how am I going to do such a thing?" I tried to cover part of my body with my arms, without much success.

"Alexander." I finally heard his voice and it was deep and somewhat velvety. Caressing my chin with a rare kindness, he smiled at me and that sight made me melt immediately. "Ye can call me Alexander, Sassenach."

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Calvin Harris, Sam Smith – Promises

Youtube // Spotify

Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Jamie

Flashback On

 

"For God's sake, Alexander, where were you hiding?"

That was one of the things I'd heard the most from the women I'd been having sex since I arrived in London four years ago. My life had always been very simple here: I worked in the Fire Department five, sometimes six days a week really hard and, whenever possible, I got rid of all the tension with the best hobby of all, at least from my point of view. No love affairs, no phone exchanges, let alone telling my real name to people who attended The Heat every Friday night, a private party place in a very confidential low profile neighbourhood of London.

Ah, London, how I love this city! Here I could be who I wanted to be and no one interfering in my life, unlike Inverness. My hometown is beautiful and full of peculiar places that make it unlike any city I have ever been to, but there is only one problem: it is tiny, so everyone knows everyone more than they should.

We, the Frasers, were the talk of the town for whatever reason, especially because all the arguments my parents had, even after they were divorced. It’s not an easy life for a child being brought up in a home where the father is absent and a mother is always in search of the love of her life.

Jenny and I didn’t have a healthy upbringing. I had huge rows with my mother about her countless boyfriends and the quarrels became more and more intense and frequent as I grew up. So I decided to ask my father for financial help when I realized I could no longer live with her. I couldn’t come to terms with the choices she made in life.

It was not easy for me to ask for Brian’s help after being abandoned by him for so many years, but at that time I had no other alternative. We had a face to face meeting in a small café downtown Inverness on a cold and rainy autumn afternoon. On that day, I notice in his blue eyes all his regrets and an enormous sense of guilt for having left his children to live with someone else. That financial help was some kind of compensation for all those years of suffering Janet and I had to go through.

As I left home at age of 19, I chose to leave my entire past behind me and so I could make my own path, free from all the sentimentalism and suffering that surrounded any step in the relationship I had with Ellen and Jenny. I needed to learn how to deal with my new life on my own, yet I can't deny that it hurt so much to leave my dear Janet behind along with the old Jamie .

My sister was three years older than me and she married my great childhood friend, Ian Murray, at the age of 18. I knew their relationship was healthy and Jenny had in her husband the support and the partnership she really needed to carry on with her life. But still, it was painful for me not to keep the fraternal and loving relationship from the past when we spoke sporadically on the phone.

We talked at least once a week about different topics of our daily lives, but we never mentioned Ellen Mackenzie's name again. I didn't want to know how she was or how her boyfriends were, she had definitely lost me as a son the moment she protected a man I had seen stealing her jewels. And her lack of confidence in me was the last straw that ended our relationship.

Since then I followed simple routines in all areas of my life so that I could keep my professional and private life in order. The rules were: work hard, play hard and NEVER get into a relationship. I liked it that way, I could manage my time and nobody would get hurt, emotionally speaking.

My dream has always been to be a firefighter from a very young age and I loved my job more than anything. Ever since I was a little boy, I've always loved to watch on TV the boldness of those men in saving lives of countless people as if it was the easiest thing in the world; and that was one of the few things that my father had always supported me with and one of the reasons he accepted to help me, financially speaking, in my early life in London.

As soon as I arrived in the Queen's city, I rented an apartment of less than 400 square feet near downtown and applied for the program that would change my life forever. Being able to work in what I had always dreamed of was one of the greatest things in my life.

The only one , pretty much.

The Heat had been introduced to me by a fellow firefighter, John Grey. It was not my goal to ask him for anything, we were not even so close, just colleagues who had known each other for less than two weeks, but the subject simply came up in one of our class breaks.

I enjoyed hanging out on my free nights to discover new places; I hadn't met anyone from outside of the Fire Department program and London was still a mystery to me. And so, one Friday night I ended up in front of The Heat . It was a very private place, no visible sign at the entrance, just a security guard holding a paper and some gorgeous women stepping in through the door. Obviously I tried to get in with them, but I was blocked without any explanation by the man who was bigger and stronger than me, which was something really odd as I am more than 6 feet tall and I have been working out at the gym since I was 17 years old.

And, even for me, the guy was frighteningly big!

I spent the weekend trying to figure out what had happened to me that Friday night. I got so intrigued that I couldn’t stop thinking about that for the next few days; so, in the following week, I shared with John my frustration about not being able to enter the place and finding out what really happened there. He stood still for a few moments as if he were just listening to me, but I could almost see through his brain wheels working right in front of me, and after a sigh, John ended up telling me things that would change my life forever.

John said that his ex-boyfriend was one of the business partners and that he could make it easier for me if I wanted to get in there. I swallowed hard when I got all that juicy information at the same time. After John noticed I got somewhat shaken with it, he laughed widely before reassuring me that my heterosexuality would be safe at that party. But he pointed out, before we finished, that all sorts of things happened at that party and that I had to be prepared for a very different kind of interaction, different from everything I ever had experienced before .

And that's exactly what happened. As much as I had sex with other women during my youth and part of my adult years, nothing could possibly be compared to the many experiences that I had there with women, couples, voyeurs , and so many other combinations that were hard to describe.

John had told me back then that the only thing I should do, for my own good, was to establish an alias and not get emotionally involved with anyone; and if I received a signal that the person wanted something beyond, I should end it up as soon as possible. Things should be kept within the party walls, so nothing could affect my real routine.

That wasn't real life.

I used my second name as an alias since day one in The Heat ; and after four years, even with some sticker lovers along the way, I remained faithful to my idea of keeping the relationships merely casual there.

One of them was Justine, a woman who often showed up in The Heat escorted by her husband. He enjoyed to watch other men and other women having sex with his wife, while Justine loved the idea of not having to cheat on her husband to get the extra-marital experiences she desired.

We had had some occasional meetings the last few months, but specially on that Friday, she seemed so thirsty for me that I didn’t even notice when she approached and kissed me with an unusual intensity. That blonde knew how to turn a man on in two seconds. I took her to one of the sofas in the lounge and I made her rub herself on my body while kissing her like I always do with all women; my only goal in being in that place was to receive pleasure by giving all the pleasure necessary for that.

Yes. Casual, objective, shameless sex. Just the way I liked it.

"Where is yer husband?" I asked her while Justine was still rubbing herself on me, but I didn't get an answer as she seemed too busy with my neck.

I kept waiting for her answer as I began to look for her man among the people around us. I was searching for a skinny dark-haired man, but what I could not imagine finding was an incredibly beautiful woman who kept staring at me, staring at us. She seemed aroused watching Justine and I on the couch, sipping her drink and not taking her eyes off me. So I suddenly stopped desiring the woman on my lap and all that staring game made me want more and more my newest voyeur .

Her magnetism was so strong that she extinguished the rest of the party. Even though the mysterious woman was a little far from me, in a darker place near the bar, I could see that her skin was pale, her dark curls framed her face with perfection, and her gaze had an unusual sensuality. What I longed for at that moment was to possess her in the way I knew she wanted to be; I knew that kind of look very well and I would do all I could to finally have her and feel her taste.

I just wasn’t expecting Justine to disrupt the connection, I'd actually forgotten about her. The blonde was still on my lap and hadn't enjoyed a bit of my little interaction with someone other than her and she quickly broke the spell that had grown between me and the brunette in those few intense seconds.

"Hey Alexander, stop staring at that woman, can't you see I'm still on your lap?" she was visibly jealous and I didn't like the inquisitive way she spoke to me. At all.

"What are ye talking about, lass? I'm not yer boyfriend, Justine... And ye didn't answer me!" I shook my face harshly so she'd let go of me, my teeth clenched in rage. "Where's yer husband?" I stared furiously at her, and she seemed to cling to my lap.

"He didn't come today, babe, it's just the two of us..." she tried to kiss me again, but I got up in a hurry, getting off her body quickly.

“What?” I spit the words out with anger. “That was never our deal, Justine, and ye know that. He would never let ye come here alone, and I'm not gonna get in yer mess. Again, I'm not and I'll never be yer boyfriend. Ye better forget me!”

I got so angry at Justine, she messed up everything and I couldn't keep up with her on such terms. She had such a jealous husband, so she couldn't just show up at The Heat without him, for sure he wouldn't allow her to go there alone and I wouldn't stick around to see what would happen there.

I went to the smoking area just to relax a bit and get out of Justine's sight; however, when I got there, the image of the mysterious brunette came to my mind right away. I had never seen her and I was sure she was new there, that beautiful woman would never get unnoticed to me. I quickly went back to the party only with that lass on my mind, but when I couldn't find her in the place where she had been before, I stood on my feet, next to my good friend Murtagh, and sighed deeply as I asked the bartender for a double shot of whisky.

"How’s yer night going, Alexander?" he spoke my codename with a funny voice since he knew what my real name was.

"I finally got rid of Justine... Can ye believe that woman came here without her husband and she almost proposed to me?" I rolled my eyes up, not believing how mad she'd made me. "She knows nothing's gonna happen across those walls, not for me at least... and not with a married woman and her jealous husband looking for me. These women never seem to understand, they can't disconnect The Heat from reality and they fall in love so easily."

"Aye, how hard yer life is..." he laughed and I couldn't help smiling at one more silliness of him. "And now what are ye going to do, lad? Have ye already got someone else in mind?" The conniving smile wouldn't leave his face.

"Aye, I always have!" I gave half a smile and turned my body toward the dance floor. "A brunette who was here at the bar minutes ago... But I ended up losing sight of her."

"Was that her ?"

He pointed towards the people at the party and it was then that I saw her again among the crowd. She was very relaxed and seemed to be looking for someone while people were talking close to her ear, and I silently wished she would be looking for me somehow. I smiled and made a toast with Murtagh, confirmed that she was on her way to be my newest affair and, sipping all my drink, I placed the glass on the counter and finally mixed with people to observe her next move.

She went back to the bar, getting a shot of whisky and briefly interacting with Murtagh before going back to walk around the place. I kept following her movements with desire as she moved among the people at the party and I sighed deeply as I saw that she was doing what I wanted the most since I first saw her.

She was going towards the red door.

I knew that corridor very well, each door led to different types of rooms, depending on the number of people and the purpose, so to speak. I had met all of them during those four years and I saw the green light lit on the top of the door in one of my favorite rooms. It was a smaller place, quieter and farther away from the others and perfect for only two people.

I went right after her with my heart pounding fast inside my chest and, even though I couldn't see very well due to the poor lighting in the corridor, for a moment my body froze when I felt all the tension flowing from that woman. Even with her slight hesitation, I followed her all the way down the hall and, before she turned her body towards me, I held her around her back, pulling her hair away to kiss the soft skin of her neck while feeling her perfect curves with my fingertips.

I felt her initial tension fade almost instantly and, even though I wanted to possess her with a desire that was on the border of insanity, I remained attentive to any sign of her body. I never needed to force anyone to do anything to fulfill my desire and that would not be the first time.

My wish was to feel her melting into my arms so that I could take the next step. And, to my pleasure, all it took was just a low moan and her small hand holding tightly to my hair so that I could quickly open the door in front of us using my fingerprint, gently pushing her into the room without letting my body slip out of hers.

She was more delicious than I ever imagined, few women in my life had been as tasty as she was. Her lips were very soft and claimed mine with intensity, their taste reminding me of Scotland, perhaps because of the whisky flavour that insisted on blending with mine as our tongues met with fury. However, even trying to find a logic, I could feel that it was far beyond that. I sensed as if I already knew her somehow, even though I was sure I had never seen her before.

Our heavy breathing filled the room as quickly as we undressed in a hurry, just like starving animals in front of a recently slaughtered prey. And what my hands had felt minutes earlier under the fine fabric of her dress was confirmed with my own eyes at that moment: she was perfect from head to toe, one of the most magnificent bodies I had ever seen in my life.

I pressed her against the wall one more time after hearing the sexiest laugh coming from her mouth. She stared at me while caressing my chest and abs with such desire, as if she were savoring me with her hands. I could do nothing else but show all the excitement I felt for her by quickly pulling her up and pressing my erection against the very center of her pleasure. I wanted to surprise her that way, but what I least imagined was that I would be surprised by her; she was so wet and ready to be taken that I couldn't maintain that little remaining self-control that I still had.

Sucking and licking her breasts with a voracious appetite, I increased my advances the more she moaned and arched her back begging for more, making me lose the control I have left inside me as I felt her hip rocking against my body and sliding against my dick in the most maddening way.

Nothing else mattered to me, I just wanted to give her all the pleasure I could. For the first time in my life I felt that watching a woman's delight against my body was enough for me.

But she broke with the magic we shared when she spoke the first complete sentence that I had heard come out of her mouth: "Wait!" she said somewhat struggled and I stopped what I was doing right away. My eyes got lost for a few moments in the gold of her eyes, as if I got suddenly drunk on the tastiest Scotch whisky. "I... we didn't say anything and... I... I don't even know your name! What am I doing?" I heard her strong British accent which was probably even more intense due to her nerves. I helped her get down from my lap, moving away from her body so that she had some space to breathe. "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, how am I supposed to do that?"

"Alexander..." Her gaze was like the one of an endangered animal and I tried to calm her down in the best possible way, caressing her chin gently while smiling at her. "Ye can call me Alexander, Sassenach." I saw the doubt take over her body, however I kept talking. "Alexander is the alias I use for this place and I think ye could choose one to use here as well."

"Alias? So you wouldn't be recognized?" she questioned me, making me suddenly uncomfortable to say that, as if I was lying to her somehow.

"Hmm, not only that, but not to get emotionally involved. This is not the best place to make promises or to start a relationship, so to speak..." I don't know why it was still so unpleasant to talk to her like that, I'd never felt that way with any other women.

"Yeah, I noticed that..." she was suddenly ashamed and I felt some kind of urge to protect her, but her more decisive gaze froze me. "Then you can call me Elizabeth."

She looked into my eyes and I noticed that there was no more fear or insecurity in them. Quickly the woman who had stared at me earlier in the bar was back and clearly willing to share that moment with me in the best possible way.

With a naughty smile, she stroked my chest and grabbed my mouth in earnest, made me groan on her lips in reaction to her skillful touch against my cock. Her mastery over me grew beyond control, reaching its highest level when I finally felt with my hand how soft and wet she was at the most sensitive point between her legs.

Her groans and uncontrolled movements in response to my touches made me dizzy with pleasure in such intensity that the next second she suddenly had her back to me, with her chest and arms leaning against the small table inside the room, and I could barely remember how she ended up there. I stared at her for a few moments through the mirror behind the table, and I slowly stroked the side of her body, paying special attention to her ass, so round and soft and even steeper due to the shoes she had not pulled off her feet.

After a few seconds, noticing that she was just waiting for me and ready to take the next step, I briefly moved her legs with my hands, caressing her intimacy and leaning over her body to reach her ear with my mouth, groaning as I heard her noises in response to my touch.

"Dinna move from that position, Elizabeth. Aye?" pulling her hair aside, licked her earlobe, making her groan once more, giving me a little satisfied laugh as she looked through the mirror and answered me with a soft "aye".

I moved away from her body with great effort to get the condom that was in the pocket of my pants, my hands trembling with anticipation as I unrolled it along my dick. She kept staring at me temptingly through the mirror and, upon returning to her body, I was ready to give everything she silently asked for. Positioning myself at her entrance, I caressed her niples and belly with lust until it reached her clitoris, stimulating her while penetrating her slowly and at once.

I don't know which of us moaned the loudest in that room and I swear my idea was to start with slow movements, hearing her begging for more like I always liked to do with other women. But being inside Elizabeth was like being a cocaine addicted at a party of someone really rich. The more she grunted, squirmed, and opened up to me, the more pleasure I wanted to give her.

Feeling her slippery curves made me want to lose control more and more until our bodies finally collapsed.

We continued in an intense struggle until I could no longer resist my desire to hear her voice again: "Tell me, Elizabeth..." I spoke in a paused way, pulling her hair so she would look at me through the mirror, her ear next to my mouth. "Tell me what else ye want from me?"

"Let me look at you, Alexander..." she spoke with some trepidation, and still staring at me, she grabbed hard at the opposite edge of the table to try to control the intensity of my movements.

For me her request was like an order, so I stopped what I was doing right away, turning her body to face me and helping her to sit on the table. Her pupils were so dilated with pleasure that I could hardly see the color of her eyes when we were face to face. She was the most beautiful and sensual woman I'd ever been with, she was completely devoted to me as I was to her.

Having her so intimately in my arms, feeling her bites on my shoulder and her noises against my skin, took my pleasure to a new level. Elizabeth kept her eyes closed due to the satisfaction she was feeling, but seeing her delightful little expressions as I traveled deeper and deeper into her, was bringing me closer and closer to the edge.

She stuck her fingernails against the skin of my back and, groaning in my ear and squeezing her legs around my hip, Elizabeth clung closer to my body as she felt her orgasm coming hard. And all the effort I'd put into controlling my own climax quickly faded as I heard her call "Alex" multiple times between her spasms, giving me one of the most incredible pleasures I'd ever experienced in my entire life.

After our breaths and heartbeats briefly calmed down, still with our bodies clinging to each other, she surprised me once again. I received from her the most tender hug and the most soft and delicate kiss I have ever got in my life, and as we opened our eyes and found each other's faces, I could find in her traits, besides some embarrassment and shyness, the proof that we had shared something different from anything we had ever experienced. Something unique and unforgettable for both of us.

 

Flashback Off

I don't know how long we held our hands together like that, but for me it was long enough to rewinded our past in my mind like in a movie. Touching her skin triggered our memories intensely and I realized that she still had the same influence on me after all those years.

As I blinked intensely to return to reality, even with all her fear and anguish at knowing nothing about her son, I found the same person I had met over nine years ago. The same fireworks and the same calm, all mixed in those amber-colored eyes that had bewitched me for the very first time.

After all that we had been through and the suffering I had felt missing her, I thought that I had overcome her absence and that I had a life without her presence.

But that was before her return.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Celine Dion – If I Could

Youtube // Spotify

 

Lilly Allen – Somewhere only we know

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Claire

 

I had mixed feelings about everything at that moment. While I was lost in my thoughts as I observed my little Fergus, so fragile and helpless, being taken care of by many people, I was aware of everything that was happening right by my side.

Alexander, or rather Jamie, was only a few inches away from me, so close that I could feel the warmth of his body beaming through the room as when we first met. We both stared with concern at my son through the window as the medical team was evaluating him; he was definitely our biggest concern, but I didn't need to really stare at Jamie to realize in him the same uneasiness that I was experiencing. What we were living was something unusual to say the least, and our fates seemed to be playing with us as if we were puppets.

But a long-awaited signal got me out of that rather uncomfortable scenario. The doctor invited me in and the sensation of finally being able to touch my son after all he had been through was both comforting and frightening at the same time. When I saw one of the nurses walk up to the door to open it, everything seemed to be in slow motion and I started to breathe harder and my heart skipped a beat. The feeling of anticipation was killing me, and when she walked away to let me in, I took my first steps, immediately holding my breath as I saw Fergus on the opposite side of the room.

All I longed for was to touch him, but time seemed to freeze for a few moments and my body didn't respond to any of my commands. Everything seemed surreal to me, as if I were in a horror movie. His hair and body were covered by the fire's grayish soot that almost took his life and it was terrible to see him unconscious over that bed.

Being in the same room as Fergus was even tougher for me to deal with than when I was in the corridor looking at him through the glass. He looked even more helpless there than I had seen through the window and I felt as if my heart was breaking into pieces inside my chest. I was holding back my tears, and my mind was in a parallel world for a few seconds, but the touch of one of the nurses on my arm awakened me from the reverie, making me come quickly to meet my little one. I tried to caress him in the most gentle way possible so that I would not hurt him because of all the venous accesses and cannulas in his little body, but I failed miserably.

Only a mother can really understand that.

"My baby..." I sat on the bed and pulled him close to my chest with intensity, kissing his hair and sobbing helplessly, wetting his face with my own tears.

"Madam...?" the doctor spoke as if he was asking me something, and then I looked at him feeling completely confused.

"Lewis... Claire Lewis..." I spoke slowly, struggling to breathe between my sobs and being careful to gently lay Fergus to bed.

"Well, Mrs. Lewis, I'm Dr. Forbes. I'm the pediatrician on duty today and responsible for your son's case..." he smiled, revealing a brief reassurance while I sat half-sit on my son's bed, wrapped the top of his head with my arm and stroked his ear as he always liked me to do before bed. "As Mr. Fraser has probably updated you, Fergus has been in a fire and remained inside the building longer than we believe to be out of danger. He inhaled too much smoke during the time he was there and he arrived at the hospital unconscious." Even though I saw my son there, managing to breathe without any equipment and only with the oxygen cannulas in his nostrils, knowing that his case was delicate made me even more desperate.

"He spoke to me inside the ambulance, Dr. Forbes." That deep, worried voice came out of the depths of my past, making me spin my body toward the door to stare at him one more time, but he kept his attention on the pediatrician. "Or at least he tried... He was very agitated and it was only when I told him I would call his mom that he calmed down and rested again," as he finished talking, his blue eyes rested on mine and we connected for a few more seconds before I spoke again.

"And what is the first diagnosis, Dr. Forbes?" I was still trying to manage all the feelings that rushed through my body, pulling the chair to sit next to my son, holding his little hand covered in soot firmly and tenderly to show in some way that I was there with him and for him .

"We had to sedate him lightly to allow his body to recover in the best possible way. He had some moments of consciousness as soon as he got here, but as Mr. Fraser has just mentioned, Fergus was still very distressed and he tried to get the venous accesses and the oxygen cannulas out of his nose. The sedation is only for this day and his condition will be completely reversed by tomorrow. His vital signs are stable now, but his blood oxygen saturation is under the lowest acceptable level." I nodded without a word, trying to build his case on my head. "We are giving him drugs to help his body recover, but please try to stay as calm as possible, your boy is strong and is fighting bravely to get well."

My boy was strong and was fighting like the warrior he has always been, fighting bravely as he did from the first day I held him in my arms. He was strong, resilient and I knew he could overcome another challenge. He had to go through another trial and I would do everything to help him.

When all the medical staff left, I remained deep in my thoughts as I watched the movement of Fergus' chest, observing the rhythm of his breathing and soon noticing that it was faster and heavier than usual. Quickly a warning signal went off inside my brain because, even if that clinical picture was as expected in his case, when it happens to be your son who became the patient, nothing more makes any sense, you just wish that he would return to what he was before.

And I just wanted my Fergus to be back to me immediately .

I stroked and kissed his hand energetically, closing myself more and more in our bubble  I got lost looking at his little fragile body until a very familiar voice made me return to reality and I began to cry again: "LJ, but what happened?" Our eyes met and I saw all the fear in my friend's face. "How's Fergus? Why didn't you call me?" Joe came up to me, making me stand up as he pulled my body into his embrace.

"Joe..." I started weeping on his shoulder. "His school caught fire, Joe..." he squeezed me harder and I sank even deeper into his bear hug. "On his first day at school..." I took a deep breath, finally with my heart open and completely exposed because I knew Joe was there to protect me. "He's under sedation now and his oxygen saturation remains low... I'm sorry I didn't call you, it was all very confusing and it happened extremely fast, I could only now be alone with him and calm down a little..."

"Everything is going to be alright, Lady Jane, I'm sure of it..." he stroked my cheeks, drying the tears from my face. "I'm in surgery now, but as soon as I'm free, I'll come back and check on you two... I'll always be here for you, LJ." We smiled at each other with some grief, but having his support was crucial to me. "I'm glad you brought him here, Dr. Forbes is the best in town!"

"I was actually so relieved to hear he was coming here, and I'm even more relaxed now to know that Dr. Forbes is a good pediatrician..." I stroked the side of his arm, trying to smile. "But get ready for your surgery, Joe, I will wait for you to come over for the later update!" he smiled back fondly, kissing my forehead and wiping my face once again before leaving the room.

I watched my friend walk out the door and the sight of the redhead who had been in my dreams and nightmares for so many years was there, as if he had materialized through my imagination. Jamie was sitting on the chairs across the hall and stared at me with concern, slowly getting up and starting to walk towards me. My anguish was so overwhelming after hearing all the information the doctor said I had forgotten for that brief moment that Jamie was there.

And God, he was still so handsome!

Even though he was clearly physically exhausted, his face singed and his red hair all messed up and dirty from the ashes of the fire, he looked undeniably similar to his image of nine years ago. I might even say that he was even better than when he was younger, and for a second my mind and body wanted to know how he looked after all those years. Whether his muscles were more defined or not, whether his stamina was still as good as when I first met him...

"CLAIRE, for God's sake! Your son's unconscious in a hospital bed and you're thinking about sex?"

I shook my head as I turned my gaze and body towards my son, feeling the blushing and shame colouring my cheeks red. Swallowing hard, I sat in the chair in front of his bed, watching Fergus' tender body - filled with cannulas and wires everywhere - as I listened to Jamie's approach through his steps and the noise of the wheels of the oxygen cylinder support. He stopped on the other side of the bed and I could tell from his face that the chat we were going to have would be uncomfortable, whether I wished it or not.

"Well..." he took a deep breath. "Before the doctors evaluate me clinically so I can be released to leave, I need to say a few things to ye, Claire..."

He stared at me as if trying to read my expressions in response to his words, my body freezing instantly. I didn't want to say anything about the past, about our past. I didn't want to touch the wounds that were all healed already, all I wanted was to thank him for saving my son and making him leave as soon as possible. Burying the past was all I needed to make my life the same again.

"God, Claire, ye dinna have to worry!" I think my response was so clear that he noticed how uncomfortable I was with everything. "I won't say anything about our past, I won't do anything ye dinna like..." the same gentleman, charming as ever, at least he hadn't changed in that aspect... "And this is neither the place nor the time for this to happen. What I'd like to tell ye is how Fergus' rescue happened, he's the only one that matters now." I swallowed hard and smiled briefly, my eyes drifting away from his as I felt how my cheeks were starting to get hot from my own embarrassment.

Jamie sat on the couch next to the bed and told me everything he saw and everything that happened that morning since he got the call from the fire department. He also told me all the information he had up to that moment about the fire, the most likely reasons and why Fergus couldn't leave school with his other classmates.

After listening to every word he said, I felt as if my mother's heart was breaking again inside my chest. For how long was my son alone, feeling abandoned, weakened, without anyone around to help him? I instinctively covered my mouth to contain the beginning of a cry, breathing deeply in a suffocated way as I felt the thick tears falling down my cheeks.

That was just too much for me.

I watched my son's savior with extreme attention, trying to control myself as he finished his report, and I could see in him a huge emotion restrained in his bright blue eyes by the crying they shed.

"Anyway, it's never easy for me when it involves children," he smiled weakly, taking a deep breath, looking at the base of the bed and wiping a few tears that fell down his cheeks after all. "They are very fragile, helpless, and my practical self gets pushed aside in those moments..." he smiled briefly at me again, that frailty showing me a side of his personality I had never seen before.

"I really appreciate you rescuing my son, Jamie... I don't know what my life would have been without him." His face brought me an unutterable peace of mind, even though Jamie was responsible for one of the greatest pains I'd ever suffered. "If I could take his place, I'd do it with a smile on my face... He's everything to me and I'll be eternally grateful to you for risking so much to rescue a child." I looked at Fergus' hand with affection. "I know it's your job, but even so, I thank you and I'll thank you forever." I finished speaking still not knowing where I'd gotten such courage, looking at him and noticing the indecision in his face, in his moves.

"Fergus is a good boy, Claire. Only by looking at him I can tell for sure." His gaze ran over the little body on the bed, stopping warmly on his face. "Umm... he called out to ye at a few moments inside the school." Listening to that made my heart crumble inside my chest. "I was verra touched by his situation and dinna wanna to leave him alone before ye arrived..."

This display of affection made me smile in gratitude while I fixed my gaze on his face, and the slight expression wrinkles around his eyes took my concentration away for a second.

"Even though he's unconscious, I know he can feel your presence here, Jamie." I didn't want to show that I was even more emotional, taking a deep breath to control my nearly cry. "You kept protecting him even after your work was done, you didn't have that obligation and yet you did it..." I tried to smile, looking away from Fergus. "Even with the breathing difficulties you're showing, you didn't put your work in second place. And that explains why you're the head Chief of your Fire Department..." Our eyes crossed once again, and if it wasn't for the nurse calling him in for his appointment, we'd be stuck in each other indefinitely by that invisible connecting string that insisted on linking us whenever we were together.

Jamie stood up, coughing a little and I got concerned quickly, but then he calmed me with a smile as if saying everything was fine with him. Watching him walk towards the door brought me instant sorrow, I couldn't bear to see him disappear from my life once again.

"Claire..." he called me almost from the outside, a hand on the door frame and his body slightly hidden behind it. Hearing how my name sounded when it came out of his mouth was still surprisingly comfortable for me. "I... I'm verra happy to have saved yer boy on my birthday, even though I'm sorry for his clinical condition that still requires lots of care..." How come was his birthday? On that day? He must’ve been kidding me... "I'm sure God always knows what he's doing and our meeting was supposed to happen." Blushing intensely with his statement, he bowed down his face, letting me see a shyness that never hovered above his eyes at the time I met him. "Our fates crossed again and, even if it was in a sad way, for me it was a wonderful birthday gift to bring yer boy back..." he smiled briefly not being able to keep his gaze on my face, getting that lovely sight of his was completely disturbing to me. "Well, I have to go... Then I'll come back and check on Fergus..."

Smiling as best as I could after hearing it all, I waited for the noise of his footsteps and the oxygen cylinder cart to fade to finally breathe again, and then my face and arms collapsed over Fergus' bed.

I was so screwed.

It was definitely not one of my most proud things what I did inside The Heat with Alexander. Yeah, I had to keep his alias so my sanity would be safe, too. However, even though I wasn't proud of that part of my past, I was amazed at how I could observe, only with that little interaction between the two of us, a huge difference in his way of being and behaving .

Well, I didn't actually meet him outside the party, our moments were restricted to Friday nights for a period of time, but I didn't think it was possible that he could be two different people, in and out of our room.

Right in front of me I could plainly see real differences in his way of being: I could see his eyes sweeter, calmer and more loving than nine years before; I could see a real concern for me and my son in every move he made; I could see a sense of protection that I had never witnessed after Arthur's death.

But even after noticing all these details, something remained intact: the lack of uncertainty in his actions. Just like when I met him. That man had messed with me in a unique way in the past, messed up my whole routine during the time we were together and after that, and without any explanation he had crossed my destiny again after so many years.

What now? I didn't know how to tell him... Should I tell him my reasons for doing what I did? Would he understand me? Would he accept it?

There were many questions that crossed my mind, but all with just one answer: it would take a lot of strength for me to go through one more challenge. All I wished to understand was the reason why God had put that man on my path once again.

"Ma'am?" a soft, feminine voice got me out of my thoughts, it was from a middle-aged blonde nurse who was smiling gently at me at the door. "We need the papers from both of you to fill up your son's file."

I was saved by the bell again, my thoughts dispersing even though I knew nothing would make me stop thinking about Jamie again. How could I forget the man who had marked me so much, who was a turning point in my life and who had saved the most important person for me on that day?

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter

John Marc – Give & Take

Youtube // Spotify

 

Adele - Make You Feel My Love

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Jamie

Shock.

There's no better word to describe what I felt when I saw Elizabeth again after so many years. Or should I say Claire, I still have to get used to referring to her by her real name.

She was even more beautiful than when I met her, although I‘d never thought it was possible, even in my greatest dreams. As I watched her for a moment, I noticed that she was also internally fighting to deal with the mixed feelings that the accident and our re-encounter had provoked in us. We still needed time to internalize all the changes of the last few hours, but to see her so helpless and desperate next to her son didn't help me to deal with all those emotions any better. All I wanted was to hold her tight so that all fear would disappear from her face. I wished there was some way I could make it all go away by only holding her really tight against my chest.

As soon as the medical team left the room, I felt like giving them some space, by sitting on the chairs of the long corridor of the hospital that were on the opposite wall of Fergus' room. That distance was as far as my heart could bear at the moment.

I was still deep in my own thoughts as I watched mother and son in their little bubble, as soon as everyone left the room; and then I saw a tall, thin man in a navy blue uniform, the same color that the doctors used to wear in that hospital, going into Fergus' room without asking for permission.

At first I assumed he could be another professional to examine the child, but the man was somewhat close to Claire, driving me insanely jealous, making me hit my fist against the barrel of oxygen with so much rage. He was hugging her with intensity and loads of affection, caressing her hair the way I was dreaming since I first saw her cry.

He was in my place!

However, even being green with envy, I noticed that Claire had truly relaxed after his appearance. I could see on her face that he was able to calm her down somehow and I felt relieved, at least someone was able to comfort her.

When the man left the room I could finally read his name on his jacket: Dr. Abernathy. He looked at me and smiled steadily, bowing his head briefly as if he was thanking me for something. Oh, sure! I was still in my firefighter's uniform, probably covered with soot everywhere, just like Fergus, so it was pretty clear that I had been the firefighter who had saved the boy.

The man vanished from my sight and Claire appeared as if from my dreams, her eyes glazed on mine with an unique intensity. I took a deep breath, then got up and went inside the room. I wished to tell her about some things that had happened that morning with her little boy, and my intention was never to talk to Claire about anything from our past at that time, Fergus was my biggest concern; but seeing the fear take over her face made my stomach turn. I would never, under any circumstances, hurt her; never put her in such an uncomfortable position. But I confess that seeing it go through her mind made my heart ache.

Is that what she believed of me?

I really needed to share what I had been through with her son and, after describing to Claire how it had all happened and managed to have a conversation with her – which had gone beyond short sentences, monosyllabic and embarrassing responses –, suddenly my heart got warmed. I was in heaven and I didn't want to leave the room, even after the nurse asked me to set an appointment before releasing me.

But I couldn't leave the room without saying one more thing to her: "Claire..." I took a deep breath, trying to control the trembling of my hand as I held the door´s frame firmly. "I... I'm verra happy to have saved yer boy on my birthday, even though I'm feeling terribly sorry for his clinical condition... " I wanted her to know a bit more about me as I hadn’t had the heart to do it nine years before. I felt I had to start by something, even if my birthday was the excuse for it. "I'm sure God always knows what He's doing and our meeting was supposed to happen." I lowered my face, so embarrassed that I felt my cheeks blush intensely. "Our fates crossed again and, even if it was for a sad reason, it was a wonderful birthday gift to me, to be the one to bring yer boy back..." I spoke trying to look at her face, but failing in doing it really faster than I imagined, and I grinning bashfully. "Well, I have to go... But I'll come back and check on Fergus..."

I was shaken and felt kind of hard to walk due to the last touching moments shared with Claire. I followed the nurse to a room across the building, making some respiratory exams and a specific blood test so that I could be released from the hospital.

I had got a leave for three days, starting from the current one, so that I could really recover to go back to work. But how could I leave the hospital and let Claire all alone with her son?

Yes, I knew we hadn’t shared any kind of intimacy other than the sexual attraction level, when our bodies claimed our souls nine years ago; and she probably wouldn't want me to stay by her side longer than necessary, but that feeling was stronger than I was. This time I felt committed to her somehow. I wanted to protect her, to protect her child as much as she would allow me to.

And I strongly hoped that she would somehow accept that.

Our lives had changed completely since our last date, undoubtedly. Besides all the mess of emotions that surrounded the three of us, something very important that I still didn't have knowledge about and that kept me wondering was: where her husband was. That golden ring made my heart feel tight after seeing it on her ring finger, yet not hearing any mention of the boy's father at any moment brought me even more uncertainty about who was that woman who managed to be even more mysterious to me than she had been years ago.

After a while waiting in a seat in the hospital corridor for the exams results for my final discharge, I found myself thinking once again about all that happened on that odd day, about all that this re-encounter could bring to my life from now on. Resting my head on the wall behind the chair, I closed my eyes for a few moments as I exhaled the air from my lungs sharply, finally relaxing after all those hours of tension.

Even with all the uncertainties that came along with Claire's reappearance, I felt emotionally energized as I had never been in those last few years. Yeah, the lack of her in my life had been greater than I had realized.

The voice of the doctor brought me to reality by handing me all the required papers. After getting to the toilet in an attempt to clean my face and hands to remove the ashes from the fire and tying my hair in a low ponytail again, I stared at my face in the mirror for a while until I heard a loud growl coming from my belly.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon and my body was finally giving signs that I needed to eat. All the concern about Fergus had hidden the hunger, and I quickly realized that the same thing had also been happening to Claire. As soon as I got to the hospital cafeteria, I ordered two sandwiches and two coffees, hoping she would like what I had chosen for that lunch attempt.

Time flew and it had been over an hour since I had been with Claire. When I was tended by Dr. Milestone, he told me that Fergus' condition was stable and, for that reason, when I came back to the room to meet Claire, I got in a state of shock cause she was totally devastated. She was standing beside the bed, crying copiously over her son's chest, asking him to wake up because she could not live without him. My intention wasn't to eavesdropping, all I wanted was to go away, but to hear her say that she couldn't be alone and that to lose his father had been hard enough for her, caused me a great fright, bringing me a new perspective and many other questions without answers.

Had he died or disappeared from their lives?

Had they been happy together?

Did Fergus miss his father?

I felt appalled by that new fact, I knew it wasn’t polite to be there peeping such an intimate moment. I couldn't be there listening to something that wasn't of my concern, but in an attempt to walk out of the room to leave them alone, the tray in which I was bringing the improvised lunch hit the door frame, and the noise scared Claire that made her get up and turned to me almost instantly.

I froze, swallowing hard and not taking my eyes off her face, even though I was still ashamed to be there. Yet, as I saw her chin trembling in an attempt to control the upcoming tears, I dropped everything I had in my hands on the sideboard close to the door, walking as fast as I could towards her and hugging her with all the intensity I had wished for all the last hours and years.

The smell of her perfume as I stroked her hair connected me immediately back to our past, and, after a few moments, my persistent caresses trying to calm her down triggered a crying fit, as if all the pain inside her was being released with my help. She sobbed over my shoulder like a little child, helplessly, holding me tightly and giving me no choice but to hold her unhesitatingly as long as she felt it was necessary.

There was nothing I wouldn't do for her and her boy.

Time seemed to stand still when I was with her, from the very beginning. Claire had this magical ability of bewitching me and taking for her all my attention as if she was a sorceress. As under a spell, she would lead me to a place where only the two of us existed, surrounded by our own bubble. In fact, the three of us now, cause her son was included in all of this and I didn't even have to make any effort.

With Claire still in my embrace, my eyes landed on Fergus' small body, observing the calmer pace of his breathing and how his hair was still a little grayish due to the smoke. Happily, I realized that at last the serenity turned his complexion lighter.

There I could look at him more peacefully, and I started smiling when I noticed the many similarities between Claire and him. His small and slightly snubbed nose, the outline of his face slightly tapered, and his lips fleshy as his mother's. He really looked like Claire, and realizing that made me so overjoyed.

As soon as we stepped back, I helped her wipe away the last drops of tears on her cheeks as I smiled at an incredibly embarrassed Claire, so typical of her.

But I needed to tell her that nothing like that was necessary: "Claire, dinna fash..." sliding my finger on her soft skin, I insisted that she lifted her face up. "Ye dinna have to be embarrassed about anything, I'll be here to support ye whenever ye need me and so allow me..." I spoke calmly, the golden shining tone of her eyes hypnotizing me again.

"You have no obligation to do that, Jamie..." she smiled, still embarrassed. "I don't want to hold you, none of these problems are yours..." but she had no idea that all I wanted the most in the world was to make her problems mine. "I have to deal with it all alone." Claire sighed deeply and looked at me with sadness, taking a small step back and leaving me helpless.

"Who said we have to be into our friends’ problems to help them out when they need support?" I smiled, even if she remained very serious and lightly surprised.

"We're not friends, Jamie..." said Claire, looking down at her feet, crossing her arms in front of her chest as if she was protecting herself, and this made me swallow hard.

"I understand..." her words reached my heart as if I'd been suddenly struck in the chest. "But we can be, if ye still want to... And ye may not even be my problem, but I wanna do something for ye. I need to do something for ye" she smirked poorly in response and it was a sign that I had gone too far, so I thought it was time for me to drop the subject and offer her my humble lunch. "Umm, are ye hungry? I brought some things from the cafeteria..."

"I don't know if I'll be able to eat anything now..." she sighed, turning her body as she looked at her son.

"Neither a coffee to warm yer hands? It still seems to be warm..." I had already picked up the tray, offering Claire one of the cups, and I got a grateful complicity smile in return when she picked it up from my hand because, to observe this scene, it immediately led us reminiscing about one of our moments in the past.

We ate in silence, sitting next to each other on the small couch in that room. At first, she didn't seem to want to eat at all, but it took me only a single nudge and, after the first bite on that big vegetarian sandwich, Claire devoured it faster than I did.

"I need to thank you again for worrying about my son and me..." she finished cleaning her mouth with a napkin. "I don't have so many acquaintances in London and you have been so kind to us both... I'm sorry I was a bit hard on you earlier, it wasn't my intention..." I obviously didn't expect such openness from her, so I looked at her face stunned and, as we exchanged glances, she deviated her gaze from me, laying her eyes on her son.

"Umm, well..." I also looked at the kid, breathing deeply. "Do ye mind if I come tomorrow morning to visit Fergus?" she turned quickly to me, clearly amazed. "I got a three-day leave and I'm sure I willna be able to do anything at home. He still worries me..."

" Of course, please feel free..." Claire smiled and a thin line came on her lips, our eyes speaking more than we were actually saying. Her eyelashes moved quickly after a few seconds, as if she was awakening from a trance, and she stood up in a certain sudden way to be near her son.

"Do ye need anything while ye're in the hospital?" I stood up, too, fixing my uniform so I wouldn't stare at her face. "Some clean clothes, perhaps?" I met her face again, now sincerely grateful.

"Don't worry, Jamie... I will ask a friend to pick up some things at home." She followed the movement of my body as I picked up my wallet from my pocket and took out a piece of paper I should have given her years ago:

"That's my card, Claire. I've wanted to give it to ye for over nine years and I'm glad I finally did." I smiled shyly, some tears clouding my eyes. "But dinna fash about Fergus, he's visibly better and I'm sure everything will be fine..."

"Yes, thank you." Her calm and sincere smile came back once again, her gaze as emotional as mine. "My boy is strong and he'll go through this challenge." she stared at Fergus' little hand, holding it tightly before facing me again. "I'm sure too!"

Claire sat down next to her son and, after exchanging embarrassed giggles, I left the room, but not the hospital yet. I spent a few more moments watching them through the glass window, remembering the gut-wrenching experience I have been through when I found little Fergus after so much time searching for him inside the school.

He was about eight years old, I wasn't quite sure, but even though he was a big boy for his age, he looked very small on that bed... And seeing him finally with his mother comforted me after all he had been through that day.

On my way home, I was thinking about the two of them and how life could surprise you when you least expect it. I couldn't stop thinking about Claire, how pleasant it was to know her name, at last to be able to say her real name. My Sassenach had occupied my dreams and thoughts in the past for longer than I had wished for, so often during all those years I didn’t need a motivation to have her image back in my mind like a hurricane, messing up my ideas and my emotions.

And now, after so long, she was back.

After a refreshing shower, I put the most comfortable clothes I had in my closet, lying down as quickly as possible, not caring if it was still too early. I had to sleep, I had to get rid of the rest of the suffering and distress in my body, I had to sleep to clear my head from the whirlwind of thoughts that had taken over my life during the last ten hours.

I needed to rest, but that was the least of my troubles, because I kept on dreaming all night of Elizabeth. Yeah, Elizabeth. Maybe if I could somehow separate Elizabeth from Claire in my mind, it would be easier to look at Claire and not desire to have her all the time.

Elizabeth filled my dreams, her whiskey-colored eyes staring at my body, at my face. Her little hands caressing her curves for my own delight. Her groans growing as she approached the climax.

Yet, during all the dreams I had with her that night, I could never touch her. I couldn't caress her long curls that fell over her tender, desirable breasts. I couldn't touch her glittering face or her legs that had driven me insane in the moments we were together. In that night's dreams, just when I was about to touch her, I just woke up startled, the sweat pouring down my chest, my forehead, my neck.

I could never touch her and for me there was no punishment greater than that.

Elizabeth had been a real treasure in my life, and no one had ever made me feel so special in such an intense way as when I was with her. Nobody had been so much missed as she was, my state of misery after she vanished was one of the worst moments of my life.

When I realized that she wouldn't come back to me, that made me not want to open my heart to anyone ever again. It was all very confusing, but the only thing I was sure of by the end of the day of my birthday was that Claire had come back into my life once again in an unexpected, powerful way, and her reappearance would undeniably change my life even more.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Kings Of Leon – Sex on Fire

Youtube // Spotify

 

Disclosure – You & Me

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Claire

 

Flashback On

 

"Louise, you got something to do on Friday night?" It was late Wednesday afternoon and we were finally meeting in the locker room. We hadn't seen each other or had time to talk since our trip to London the week before, our shifts were pretty much off.

"Well, well, my sweet Claire..." she sat on the bench between the lockers, quite interested to hear what I was saying. "What's on your mind? " she laughed naughtily with her eyes glowing in anticipation.

"I was considering strolling around London again to admire the same beautiful landscape of last week..." Still standing in front of my locker, I glanced at her with a smirk on my face; she was quite aware about what I was talking about, or rather, about who.

"Wow, that was quite a change from last week..." she said in a soft voice. She was comparing my current appearance with the one from a week ago and yes, I was definitely another woman. "Was it that good?" she asked louder, making a face pretending to apologize when I looked her with wide eyes. "Gee, why do I still ask you? Surely that man knows how to grant a woman all her wishes..." I blushed deeply at her words, hiding myself behind the locker door, and she giggled softly, clearly happy for me. "Well, Claire, I just checked my shift schedule and unfortunately I'm going to be on duty on Friday..." We looked at each other with the same disappointing expression while I was placing my uniform in the hospital's dirty laundry basket. "But I can talk to my friend about putting your name on the list if you want..." she dropped her face into her hands and raised an eyebrow while stared at me with a devious smile on her lips, clearly waiting for an answer.

"If it's easy for you..." I spoke trying to hide my excitement at the idea of being back at The Heat.

"Tell me if I can deny anything to those bright eyes and those blushed cheeks?" As much as I wanted to hold back my excitement, of course I always failed to hide my feelings from Louise. "I always want to see you happy, mon cher!" Still embarrassed, I sat down next to her and she smiled at me as she touched my hand.

"And can you ask your friend to put Elizabeth's name instead of Claire?"As soon as I finished, I turned my eyes away from hers. "Of course, my dear... But only if you explain it to me, Dr. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp." I smiled in a relaxing way and started spilling the tea, telling her everything that had happened to me at The Heat with the mysterious ginger guy.

Well, almost everything.

Alexander was on my mind constantly and I didn't know how I'd made it through it. For the last five days the only thing I was doing well was working; besides my job, the remaining hours of my days I spent daydreaming and my mind had been flooded with all sorts of caresses and kisses I got from him or what I was planning to get soon.

Last Friday night it was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. Something I had never imagined to go through before, but somehow it was doing me good. I knew it felt wrong to attach myself so much to someone in such circumstances. It was very risky, emotionally speaking, but my body was burning to experience again the same sense of fulfillment that I had shared with Alexander. I had found with him, inside that room at The Heat, a piece of my inner self that I never knew, and something I wanted to keep and not to lose anymore. I felt numb by Alex, nothing else mattered to me.

After all that had happened at the party, I had finally freed myself from Arthur's ghost and I didn't care anymore what he was doing or with whom he was. Not a bit! Even if I was somewhat relieved, I must confess that I was shocked by the thought of it; but at the end of the day, my only wish was that he could be happy whatever path he would take in his life. Without me.

The grief and heartache Arthur had caused me after I found out about his betrayal was gone; I wasn't emotionally addicted to him anymore and I was managing very well on my own. I might say that I was happier than I've ever been with Arthur. Even during our best moments, being with my ex-fiancé during those five years was not even close to the turmoil of the wonderful feelings that I had shared with Alexander in just one meeting.

It was impossible for me to forget that ginger. Between work breaks, I kept bringing back all our moments in my mind in such a vivid way that it was almost as if I could feel him nearby. I had had the most overwhelming and wonderful sex of my life with him and none of my previous experiences had come close to the connection I had with Alex that night. With him, I felt I could fulfill all my fantasies and, even though we had made sex and not love, Alexander had been the most polite and careful man I’ve had ever been with between four walls, never pushing me to do anything and always waiting for my signal to move on with his advances.

Alex clearly enjoyed giving pleasure and I just couldn't help but repay all those fantastic feelings that he was giving me. Soon followed, I hugged him tightly and kissed him fondly as I sensed our climax approaching by hearing him groaning in my ear. I kissed him the only way I knew how to do it, but also because I felt that he deserved to get to know me somehow, even if it was just a little.

He had shown me part of his world and I was showing him a little piece of mine.

Since my shift at the hospital began on Saturday after midday, I couldn't prolong my time in London that Friday night. Even if I didn't want to go into too many details, I told Alexander that I had to rest a little before my shift the next day. He seemed slightly upset at first, but even so he helped me to gently zip up my dress after finishing putting his own clothes on.

Caressing my arm with a smile on his face and just saying "see ye around" in my ear, we went out the red door together before we parted. Still stumbling due to all those intense moments, I went towards the exit door breathing heavily, attempting to recover my breath pace and still not believing the insanity I was experiencing with a stranger. As soon as I picked up my belongings from the cloakroom and paid the bill, I turned my face once again to the party and captured for one last time the blue and intense eyes of the man who was revealing to me a new and delightful world.

Both my return home and the days that followed the most overwhelming night I had ever experienced were filled with Alexander's flashes. Eyes, hair, chest, arms. His height and athletic body were breathtaking to any woman, even a very experienced one. His natural beauty was unique, he looked like that perfect man image in the ads of well-known brands; and Alex's body was fit to bear a uniform, I could only imagine him working in a uniform or something.

During most of the week, I was having an internal debate inside my mind, trying to figure out if I should or not go to The Heat over the weekend. I didn't want to sound distraught to be with Alex again, but I couldn't cope with the uncertainty I knew I would face for not knowing exactly what would happen if I went back to that place.

On Thursday morning, Louise sent me a message confirming all the details for the party, and the last 38 hours before I finally got to London were all about working the best way possible at the hospital, choosing the best outfit for Friday night and not losing my mind before I finally get there.

I had understood very well how those interactions happened there, I was willing to switch on an autopilot and only enjoy the moment with Alex in that parallel world full of wonders. However, I wasn't sure if I would find him there, we hadn't switched numbers or arranged a "second date". I expected him to show up at the party and I hoped he would want to be with me again. Yes, too many expectations for a "relationship" in which we didn't even know our real names.

Since I didn't have any company to travel to London, I went by car. The train experience of the previous week hadn’t been a pleasant one for me, so to speak, and that's the reason why I chose not to drink that night so that I could drive my old car that had been in my life since college.

I had traveled that same road countless times during my weekends with Arthur, but this time the journey seemed to take longer than ever before. I was extremely anxious about what could happen in the next few hours, and all that excitement made my hands sweat unrestrainedly against the steering wheel and my heartbeat pounded in my ears.

I made my way to London very early that day with just a single goal in mind: to buy some lingerie or something more daring and sensual than the underwear I had in my closet. I chose the perfect dress to wear, however, I felt embarrassed to stare at all my underwear and noticed that I had been definitely out of the game for so many years. That's why I decided to buy some items in a place that suited my "newest lifestyle": a sexshop!

I always felt quite trapped and submissive in my previous relationships, including Arthur, who had been the most liberal of the bunch. I could never exceed the limits: the moans should be restrained, the actions should be suitable for a girl who would be a doctor, the desires should be only those of satisfying my partner.

But, ever since our first touch, Alexander aroused new desires within me, leading me to new possibilities. I felt so comfortable and pleased that I didn't have to fake anything. With him I could be me; with him I could finally start to know the real me.

I had my eye on a burgundy corset and thong panties. I put them on before leaving the shop and slipped into my dress while still wearing my newest purchase; and I blushed when I had to ask for some help to remove the tags. I was so anxious when I chose the undergarment that I had forgotten to remove them. Receiving the shopping bag with the other stuff I had bought, I put on my coat to face a chilly night in the Queen's town in March; and as soon as I got into my car, I drove towards the address Louise gave me, parking near the party venue to wait for the place to open.

It didn't take more than an hour waiting, but it was long enough for me to almost quit all that craziness. During those almost 80 minutes I had convinced myself that I was not meant to be so fearless and free. I just couldn’t recognize my new me. On the top of everything else, I couldn't deal with the anxiety, that sense of vulnerability causing me an intense feeling of not belonging. The easiest way out would be to return to my ordinary and predictable life.

It would be way easier.

I was about to drive off and finish my night on my couch, alone with wine and chocolate when I spotted the image of a familiar man walking through the front door of The Heat's building across the street. Alexander seemed to be the same as always. He was naturally charming and sexy and he was arriving at the place in a very friendly manner, shaking the security guard's hand. That Ginger knew how to make an entrance! While taking a deep breath, I made up my mind that if he could make all that sound natural I could do it to.

I waited a while longer so that the place would get a bit more crowded. I didn’t want to give away that I was observing what was going on or that I was obviously waiting for him to show up. Fifteen minutes later, I put my shoes, closed my trench coat up to my neck and got out of the car, heading to the entrance of The Heat with all the courage I could put together.

Greeting the security guard in a much more restrained manner than Alexander, I gave him my codename and entered the main hall. I left my purse and coat with the cloakroom attendant while trying to conceal all my anxiety and expectations about everything that was about to come. The point is I sucked doing it.

One.

Big.

Failure.

I smiled once again at the girl before finally turning my body to the dance floor. The lights were low, in a warm tone, matching its color with the name of the place. My eyes ran restlessly through the hall, but as they stopped at the bar, they were quickly captured by an intense look. Yes, there he was: holding a glass of whisky with his right hand, he kept his right elbow resting on the bar bench and waved at me with the same half smile that had taken my breath away the week before.

Charming, just as I remembered him.

There is no doubt that my body froze and, giving him back a half smile, I instantly turned my face away from the intensity that came from that man. Even though I was very aroused, I felt a chill running all over my spine and my legs didn't know where to go after that look that had overwhelmed me and made me feel like the most desirable person in the world. I swallowed hard while breathing deeply to try to deal with my emotions, and as I turned my face back to where he was, I found him walking towards me, already a few feet away from me.

"How nice to see ye again, Sassenach..." he spoke in my ear when we were close enough for that, making all my body shiver once again. "Can I get ye something to drink?"

"Yes... Umm, do they have some water here?" I touched my hair to help me control my trembling hands. "I'm driving and I need to go home today..." As I finished talking, I stared back at him and those intense blue eyes were fixed like magnets in my mouth.

"Of course they do... Let's go!" he wrapped his fingers in mine to take me to the bar, his burning hot hand against mine, which was colder than an ice cube. "Wouldn't ye rather have some coffee, Elizabeth? I think they've got it here..." he spoke again in my ear after we stood next to each other next to the counter. "Yer hand is so cold..." he stroked it gently over the countertop surface, smiling briefly at me as if he knew the real reason why they were so cold.

"No, water's fine, but room temperature please." Shit, could my nervousness be even more apparent? "It's so cold outside..." I smiled embarrassed yet without staring at his face, unconsciously rubbed one hand on another in an effort to warm them up. "Soon they'll be warmed up..." I thanked the bartender and took a big sip as if there was some alcohol in it, swallowed the water as if it would give me courage to face Alexander one more time.

"There is a way I can warm them up if ye want to..." My body shivered for the thousandth time as I heard his voice so close to my ear and turning my body to his, still partially resting on the countertop and my funny inquiring look made him laugh at me. "No, Elizabeth, it's not quite what ye are thinking..." We both laughed again, but as I watched him pull his shirt out of his pants, my smile quickly faded and my eyes opened more than usual because I wasn't used to do such things so explicitly in front of other people. "No, Sassenach! For God's sake..." he shook his head, still smiling. "Just give me yer hands, I won't do anything inappropriate!"

Alexander took them with affection, placing them under his shirt and against his extremely warm and soft skin of his waist. Even feeling his chill due to my touch, I smiled with delight as I captured his warmth and felt his muscles underneath my fingers. I closed my eyelids when my hands finally got warm, as if his warmth was melting the ice off them. I enjoyed it for a bit as if I were just out of my own orbit, but as I opened my eyes I noticed Alexander even closer to me, the warmth of his breath close to my mouth.

Slowly guiding me back towards the counter, he pressed me against the icy metal surface and then kissed me eagerly, as if he was very hungry and I was the first meal he had in days. I moaned on his lips as our tongues touched, holding tighter at his waist as if I depended on it to survive, letting out all the desire I had suppressed for him for seven long days.

His hands ran down the side of my waist, resting firmly against my arse, just as I had dreamed for the whole week, and that was enough to bring me back the nerves: "I bought something for you..." I felt my voice come out deeper than usual when I spoke in his ear as soon as we stopped kissing to catch some air.

"Umm... And when will ye give it to me?" he stroked my chin, staring at me in the same hot way that almost melted me other times.

"Well, I'm wearing it now..." I smiled without avoiding his gaze, took my warm hands from inside his shirt and wrapped his neck around with my arms, feeling them like hot buns recently taken out from the oven against his skin. "So I'll give it to you only when and if we get into a room..." I arched one of my eyebrows as if I was challenging him.

"If we get into a room?" he held me tighter to his body to show me, by the hardness under his pants, how much he wanted to have me. "Do ye have any doubts about that, Sassenach?"

"Not anymore..." I said sensually in his ear, getting a little wet bite on my neck before he walked away from me briefly.

"Ladies first." He bowed so that I would go ahead.

The dance floor was more crowded than it was at the very beginning, which slowed us down when walking among the people towards the red door. We were both extremely close to each other and feeling his hands briefly caressing my waist, my belly, the outline of my breasts caused me wonderful sensations, as if I was completely out of my body. I was so excited about what was going on - and what was about to come - that I felt the urge to show it to him immediately.

Walking through the door, we crossed the corridor and, as he was still leaning behind me holding me firmly around the waist, I stopped in front of the door, took his right hand and helped him press his index finger on the scanner to unlock the door to "our bedroom". As I hadn't checked in any kind of my fingerprints at the reception of the place, I didn't know any other way about getting in the room other than that and he smiled at me with a sort of surprise. Alex probably didn't expect me to have been so aware of what had happened on our last night together.

I waited patiently for him to close the door so that I could start doing what he had offered me the week before. With a naughty smile, I pushed him hard against the door, kissing him with desire as I began to take off his suit and loosen his necktie.

As his clothes began to fall to the floor, he instinctively placed his hand to the side of my body where the zipper was with the clear intention of removing my dress, but I had to stop him:

"No, Alex..." I moved my mouth away from his as I put my hand on his, preventing him to go further.. "I want to do it, let me show you what I got for you..."

"I'll let ye do whatever ye want with me, Sassenach..." he spoke against the side of my neck and a chill quickly spread to my extremities and between my legs.

"Whatever I want?" I ran my fingers through his chest, stopping right on top of his belt buckle. "Umm, interesting..." I smiled with an undeniable fascination, carrying him to the side of the bed while I kept kissing his mouth and caressing his naked abs.

"I'll do whatever ye want..." As soon as Alex sat in front of me, he held me, sniffing the scent between my breasts. "But later, now I wanna see my present."

"Well, well, what a bossy Scot!" I moved my body away from his so I could see his face.

"And how do ye know I'm Scottish, lass?" he further forced his accent and the look on his face was priceless.

"Umm, and do I need to answer that question?" I answered amused, the laughter spreading through the room.

"Nay..." he held me tight again, laying his hands on my ass, under the dress. "I'm the only one who thinks ye're trinna to trick me?" His hands ran down to the top of my buttocks, finally finding the tiny panty elastic.

"You’re really that eager, Alexander?" I grabbed his loose hair, tieing it in an unpretentious ponytail near the back of his neck to make his face look mine.

"The whole week, Elizabeth ..." his hand ran down the side of my hip, stroking the inside of my thighs, following his path to the most sensitive point between my legs, making me groan. "I've dreamed about ye all week, and I dinna want to waste any more time with ye," he watched me closely as I squirmed against his fingers.

Well, then we were both in the same boat. And no, I wasn't expecting that kind of announcement, and certainly not that way. He seemed to be honest about everything he said, and I was ready to show him my gift, as much as I didn't have any experience with it. I gently pushed him against the bed and, taking two steps back, I slowly began to open the zipper on the side of my dress. Alex had part of his back and his elbows resting on the bed looking at me with lust. I looked at him all ready to start my show and I got an encouraging glance in return, as if he was telling me that I was doing it very well. Once I was only wearing the outfit I had bought with my black shoes, I stood there for a while not knowing what to do and then he, seeing that I was kind of lost, sat down again on the mattress and pulled me to lie down on the bed next to him.

"Someday ye tell me what I did to deserve such a wonderful gift?" I finally moved my head affirmatively with a shy smirk on my lips. "And I actually loved the way ye found to wrap my gift..." he caressed the different types of fabric which the corselet was made of, pausing his hand possessively on one of my breasts. "A perfect wrapping indeed."

"But, that's your gift Alex..." I played dumb, I just was wondering how far he was getting. "I was thinking of you when I bought it." I held his hand gently, allowing him to caress my belly towards my panties, letting him continue his way through it until he found my clitoris.

"So I've won many gifts today, Sassenach." He whispered in my ear, making me moan in response to his grunt when he realized how ready I was for him. "And I want to give ye something in return." His fingers began to move against my thin skin, making me moan as I arched my back.

"What do you have in mind?" I asked him in a soft voice and he, still moving his fingers inside me, finally pulled one of the corselet straps down and cupped one of my breasts, making me squeal his name.

"I want to hear ye moan my name helplessly, taste all over ye with my mouth and figure out how to make ye come in all possible ways..." his tongue licked all the extension of skin between my breast and the lobe of my ear, and I felt his accent even stronger due to his excitement. "Today I want to feel pleasure by giving ye a lot of pleasure." Patiently, he took off all my undergarment out of my body, leaving me naked from head to toe.

Remember what I had said about Alexander making me experience a totally different world and about all the warming caresses I got from him driving me completely out of orbit? Well, our new date had raised those feelings to a stratospheric level. Nothing I have lived my whole life could be compared to what I had felt with him during that night, not even our first one.

His mouth ran through every inch of my skin, dropping by on many sensitive spots of my body that I didn't even believe existed. During his expedition through my body the only thing I was able to notice was that he was experimenting what would pleasure me the most.

But with him, everything was sheer pleasure and all experiences would turn out really well.

Magnificently well.

Feeling his mouth licking my breasts with all that expertise while following a torturous route towards the very center of my pleasure was something so insanely erotic that I lost track of the number of times I spasmed underneath his body in response to his caresses. Even numbed by all those remarkable sensations he was giving me, the more he gave me, the more I desired to have, nothing seemed to be enough for me.

I wanted to feel him even more, I wished to reward him somehow, but he refused to take off his head between my legs. He really enjoyed what was happening, I could tell only by the intensity that his mouth, teeth and tongue touched against me.

Alexander was an excellent lover and had a lot of patience.

So much that, after taking me to another languid climax, I inclined my body towards him, briefly taking his attention as I caressed his cheek: "Alex, please..." I said, completely breathless.

"What do ye want from me now, Elizabeth?" he smiled shamelessly, wiping the wetness around his mouth with the back of his hand. "I'll do whatever ye ask."

"I need to feel you inside me..." I said, trying to pull him up. " Now!"

He didn't wait another second to get out of bed, grabbing his tie from the floor and seeing him move around the room naked made me realize that I had been so torpid by everything that I didn't remember when he took off his clothes. When he came back to me, he smirked maliciously as he tied his tie over my head to blindfold my eyes, making me smile as I felt him positioning himself between my legs.

My breath got heavier and heavier the longer it took and I started begging him to take me quickly, Alex finally fulfilled my greatest wish, moaning in my ear incoherent words litting so other spots on my body almost instantly. His movements became more and more rhythmic as his caresses increased, the blindfolding aroused my other senses even more. After a while all the sensations got even stronger than I could ever imagine in my life.

I longed to see Alexander's face, so I took off my blindfold to stare at his lustful eyes that looked breathtakingly blue. His face was sweaty, writhing with pleasure as he was moaning over me. I felt an utmost satisfaction when I saw I was causing him all those sensations. Watching his reactions in response to my body was all I needed to achieve the greatest climax I had ever felt.

Alexander was helping me to break, even without knowing it, all my sexual records and after that night I was pretty sure that he would be a one-way road with no return for me. No one would ever outperform him and I would have to learn to deal with it sooner or later. Once our destinies inevitably would stop crossing paths one day, my only doubt was if I could settle for less and resign myself to the sort of relationship I had before meeting him.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine?

Youtube // Spotify

Cheat Codes X Kris Kross Amsterdam – Sex

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POV Jamie



Flashback On

I've never been so eager to meet a woman again. My life in London had always been about working hard in the fire department and unwinding my sexual tensions accumulated during the week at The Heat when it was needed, which was not necessarily every Friday of the month.

But that was before I met Elizabeth.

She took over my mind like no other woman did before, all I managed to do was to spend all my free time during the week recalling our time together. As much as I wasn't sure she was going to return to the party or if she wanted to be with me once more, I really wanted to see her again.

When Friday arrived, the hours seemed to slow down more than the other days of the week, even though I have responded to so many emergency calls throughout that day. By the end of the afternoon, I was no longer focusing on Scotland's rugby match against England, giving up on controlling my anxiety and getting out of the house right away. After a hot shower, I nervously chose the best outfit for the occasion - navy blue suit, white shirt and purple tie - and I got dressed faster than usual, satisfied by the result I was seeing in the mirror’s reflection. I was ready and if all depended on me, I was sure it would be a wonderful night.

It was still quite early, so I went to a pub across the street from The Heat. From there I could observe the neighborhood while waiting for the venue to open; and I would keep on drinking and wait for the brown haired lass that was driving me nuts. I was sitting at my favorite table next to the window, and after I ordered a double shot of whisky and something to eat, a car’s headlights came from the outside, blinding my vision. The waiter came back with my order and, as I looked outside again, my heart stopped beating for a few moments.

She was there.

Elizabeth was there.

Even at a distance, I could see her inside the car. Her hair was loose just like it was on our last date, exactly the same beautiful way she had it before. Yeah, I got fascinated by her from the very beginning.

A sense of euphoria took me over, however, as I observed her more closely as the minutes passed by, I noticed that Elizabeth seemed more and more nervous inside the car. She was grasping her hands nervously, her gaze was lost searching for something, her mouth mumbled thoughts that showed confusion, perhaps some anxiety.

After I finished my second shot of whisky in one sip, I realized that it was almost 10 pm so I left the cash on the table as I walked out the side door of the bar and entered The Heat. I wanted her to see me before she decided to leave for good, but I had to be subtle with my movements because I didn't want Elizabeth to notice I was watching her.

After greeting Bill, the security guard and my former acquaintance, I walked into the lounge and ordered another double shot of whisky as I reached the bar. I kept waiting for Elizabeth to walk into the party at any moment and those awaiting minutes were killing me.

Every time someone walked through the door, my heart started to beat faster and it was hard for me to swallow my saliva. That wait was driving me nuts but, after the fourth double dose of whisky, I finally saw her luminous silhouette walking into the room. She was stunningly gorgeous in a dark, short dress, slightly outlining her delicious curves beneath the fabric. Her hair was loose, perfectly curly and untamed as I expected it to be. As I glanced over her body I could see her hands were shaking slightly as she carried in a rather shy way her purse and coat, which she had taken off seconds before.

Yeah, she was probably as anxious as I was for what the night could bring.

I tracked her movements around the large door and I was delighted to see that she was right there once again. Still leaning against the bar counter, our eyes finally met and, after we acknowledged each other from a distance, she quickly looked away from me jittery. And at that moment, without a doubt, I knew I was the cause of it.

Elizabeth had already told me last Friday that she'd never been to a place like that before, that it was all too new for her, so I decided to make my move and walk towards her trying to make her feel at ease. I knew Elizabeth was there because of me, and I didn't want another woman but her that night.

Watching her movements so closely, feeling the warmth of her mouth against my ear and the cold of her hands in mine made me want Elizabeth more than anything else in my life. I didn't want to rush our first contact and in dribs and drabs I felt her relaxing more and more against my body. When she hugged me to warm up her hands, I felt as if I was in heaven and I could not resist her lips any longer, pressing her against the bar counter and taking her mouth with so much hastiness as I had never felt before.

And Elizabeth corresponded to all my moves with the same intensity and we both were overjoyed about everything we were experimenting together.

When her soft voice told me that she had bought me a gift and that she would only show me if we went to a room because she was wearing it, it was as if an electric discharge flowed through all over my body straight up between my legs. I thought that it would be impossible to get even more turned on, but then all I wanted the most was to possess her body and soul and give her all the pleasure in the world.

She seemed to be made for me and I could only describe that sensation as some kind of addiction; there was no other explanation for the feelings I had when we were together. I was totally head over heels about her and I was compulsively addicted to her. I hoped that time could help to put myself together so that my obsession would tone down before everything between us invariably ended in a near future.

But that would be in the future, on that day Elizabeth had to be mine once again.

I wanted to please Elizabeth in so many ways, it seemed to me the least I could do for her. She seemed to love new experiences, and I wanted the memories of those moments we shared inside that party, no matter how long they lasted, to be as memorable for her as for me.

But her idea was clearly different, because as we went into the room, Elizabeth surprised me once again. She had really understood how relationships worked at The Heat, showing me she was ready to seize the moment and keep her mind on the Present.

The gift she had given me made her even more beautiful. The special lingerie contoured her body with perfection. The sensuality allied to her shyness of movements made the striptease hit me like a bomb; I felt like spreading all my serenity to every corner of that room. I pulled her close without taking my eyes away from hers and, laying her beside me, I began to caress her with the clear intention of driving her crazy, sliding my hands along her skin as I unwrapped the best gift I could ever get.

Her hips moving against my lips made me want her more each time. Her moans, her little noises, her hands running through my hair and pulling it hard when she came. Feeling her taste and her body twitching against my mouth as her orgasm approached was far better than I had ever imagined.

I felt as if I were in paradise.

Elizabeth seemed exhausted, but I couldn't stop listening to her groaning my codename or mumbling disconnected words as she reached the climax. She had led me to such an unexplainable degree of excitement that the tension I felt between my legs was almost impossible to bear; and even though I loved to see her surrender at that moment, I  wanted to try different ways to see how ready she was for me.

I watched her for a few moments as I blindfolded her with my tie and I noticed that she shared with me the same expectations, the same eagerness to satisfy that desire between us. I slowly penetrated her and only God knows how hard it was not to cum on that very moment, she was totally surrendered to me.

We moved on, taking our souls and bodies to the limit, my mouth mumbling disconnected things as we fought an intense battle in bed. Suddenly I was into oblivion when I felt my Sassenach melt and her body tightened under mine until she twitched in my arms again. Feeling an unmeasurable lust, she bit her lower lip before pulling me by the neck so that my mouth would cover hers, our kiss smothering her groans as her body calmed down above me.

Still united, I turned my body so that she could stand over my hips and I encouraged her, with the help of my hands, to ride me at an ever increasing pace. I could not hold my own climax for much longer, the sight of her from that perspective was extraordinary.

When Elizabeth finally heard me calling out for her among my groans, her face showed the embodied picture of joy. She held her small hand firmly in my chest in a relaxing way as we slowed our bodies down and it was impressively comfortable for me, as if those fingers already belonged there.

With my eyes closed, and as I was feeling her sweaty body against mine, suddenly I felt the need to stroke her hair and I kiss the top of her head with care. I have never felt like cuddling with any woman before, only with her.

Elizabeth had the knack of making me feel at ease, it was like I was home when in her arms. Even though our relationship was just physical, she seemed to know exactly what I needed at every moment we were together, and there was no logical explanation for that.

We were still very tired, with our breaths slightly panting and our foreheads still wet but, as we laid on the mattress one facing the other, I caught myself wondering about what her life would be like. Suddenly I felt the urge of knowing a little more about her life, and as she wanted to find out what was going on in my mind, she fixed her eyes on mine in a slightly questioning way, with a hesitant smile on her lips.

"Do ye need to go to work tomorrow as well?" it took me a long time to break that comfortable silence and, after talking, I laid back on the mattress, pulling her so that she was laying slightly on top of my body.

"No, tomorrow I'm off... why?" With her hand and chin leaning against my chest, she wrinkled her face between her eyebrows, then arched one of them and smiled at me in a softer way, revealing a lot of interest in what I was saying.

"I wish we could stay together longer and enjoy ourselves through the night, but I'm so tired Sassenach..." I said as I put a strand of her hair behind her ear. "We had a wonderful night and I am so exhausted… and I didn’t sleep very well this week.” After sighing, she leaned her head against my chest, clearly trying to hide her emotions..

"My week was very exhausting as well..." her fingers were strolling against my chest lightly and hesitantly.

"Thinking about us?" she stopped moving for a few moments and I kept on talking, holding her face to face mine. "Ye took over my brain, Sassenach, I dinna ken how I managed to work the whole week ." I smiled and she nodded back, the shyness covered her face again.

"Um, so we're on the same boat." she said after a few seconds, her eyes briefly slipping away from mine. "Mine was like yours..." she leaned her chin back on my chest, smiling with insecurity before changing subjects briefly. "But why did you want to know if I'd work tomorrow? What are your plans for tonight?"

"Well..." I hugged her more tightly, pulling her face closer to mine. "I thought we could get some sleep to recover our energy back... at least part of it." I rubbed my nose on hers with a smile on my lips and at that moment I realized I really didn't know what was going on with me.

"Umm... And after our nap?" she kissed my chest and smirked naughtily.

"We'll do whatever ye want, Sassenach." I kissed her lips tenderly. "I am here to serve ye."



***



We left the room just before dawn, after having sex once more in the middle of the night and taking a shower together just before saying goodbye to our Friday night. The party was over, a few employees were cleaning the lounge and putting things in order at the bar, besides three customers from The Heat who were still sleeping on the couches in the lounge. I noticed that Elizabeth was feeling embarrassed when she saw all the lights on and a few people looking at us; so my first impulse was to protect her. I wrapped her around my arm while we took the opposite path to the one which led us to that unforgettable night.

We checked out and, differently from last Friday, I escorted her outside the place. We walked side by side towards her car smiling, feeling our arms rubbing on one another, not more than an inch away from my Sassenach’s body. I'd never done that before, my relationships never crossed the borders of The Heat; but I cared very much for Elizabeth and, even though it was unusual for me, I didn't feel uncomfortable for breaking that "barrier" I'd build in my mind. I had such a strong desire to protect her that, for a moment, I wanted to take her home to be sure she would be okay, even though I knew it was completely out of place.

"See ye next week?" I asked as soon as she pulled the glass down to talk to me.

"I don't have anything scheduled, so I think so..." her eyes sparkled and she smiled shyly, keeping her eyes on me.

"Okay... Be careful, the drunk drivers are still out there!" she smiled naturally and I leaned my index and thumb against her chin while briefly staring at those lips that kept smiling at me.

"See you next Friday, Alexander." she stroked my hand for one last time.

"See ye, Elizabeth." I stepped away from the car and watched as it moved away, its red and yellow taillights got smaller and smaller until the car moved down to a street on the left and disappeared from my sight.



***



However, even though I saw truth in her eyes and in her words, Elizabeth had broken her promise. Next Friday she didn't show up at The Heat and all the plans I made during that long week were gone when I didn't see her walk through the wide door that kept us away from the world.

There wasn't enough whisky to keep away the mess of emotions that took over my mind. All the expectations of having her in my arms and being able to feel her scent once more collapsed like a sand castle.

When did I start longing for someone I was having sex with?

Had she messed up so much with me?

When did I start losing control?

What had I done wrong?

Had I hurt her in any way?

Did she think that I was getting involved and the fact that we slept together was some sign that I wanted to go beyond what we had?

I tried to review all the moments I shared with her during our last night together and I couldn't find anything to explain why she wasn't there with me.

I couldn’t absolutely find any reason why... quite the contrary.

She seemed so satisfied and happy with everything we had shared that I still couldn’t  believe my misfortune not having her there that night. After waiting for another hour, I decided to go to the smoking area to breathe some fresh air. Yes, at that point the sarcasm was my surname. I needed to fill the void somehow and I imagined someone would give me a cigarette to calm my mind, even for a few moments.

No, I wasn't a smoker, but maybe I wanted to punish myself somehow.

I met two beautiful women there. I approached them smiling in my best way, using a politeness close to courtship when I asked for a cigarette from one of them. They smiled broadly, a technique I was familiar with, but even though they were extremely gorgeous, I couldn't stop thinking about Elizabeth. My head was filled with thoughts and nobody else interested me but my Sassenach.

The women offered me a cigarette and a lighter. They started talking to me as their intentions soon became clear: they wanted a threesome and I was the one they had in mind  since they arrived at The Heat. At other times I wouldn't think twice and I would be kissing both of them at the same time, pulling them to one of the rooms while enjoying their beautiful and fit bodies, in their short and very tight dresses.

But that was before Elizabeth.

I refused for the thousandth time, but they kept pursuing the same idea, following me in the hall, rubbing themselves against my body with lust, until I decided that being rude was the last alternative I had left to scare them off.

At least it finally worked.

I went over to the bar for another shot of whisky and I found my friend Murtagh Fitzgibbons sitting in his favorite spot, with his favorite drink while looking over the dance floor as usual. I had known him for four years, around the same time I was attending that party, and in one of our meetings he told me that he was an extremely happy man during his marriage, which lasted for over 30 years, until he lost his wife to cancer 5 years before. A very painful fight for both of them that left very deep marks in his soul.

The year after her death, after almost giving in to depression, his therapist suggested that he should see different places, meet new people and maybe meet someone for companionship.  Murtagh did try to do this for a few months, but nobody could ever replace his lovely Jodie. His love for her was so great that no one could replace his beautiful brown-eyed blonde, not even in a carnal way. Fitzgibbons couldn't keep any casual relationship, having to give up on that idea after a while. He didn’t stop his weekly visits to The Heat though because he enjoyed watching all that interaction among the younger folks. He felt more alive there.

"What's happening, Alexander? Why are ye like this?" Murtagh asked after seeing the way I'd ordered my scotch from the bartender working that night. "What happened to those lasses?"

"Nothing!" I didn't look at him, my only purpose was to dive into my glass and forget the world.

"Oh aye, as if I dinna ken ye..." he fitted himself better on the high bench. "Lad, what..."

"There's nothing wrong, Murtagh!" I interrupted him harshly, my lips rubbing against each other forming a thin line.

"Are ye like this because yer brunette didn't come today?" His gaze stared at me as I turned my face sharply toward his.

"What brunette?" I wrinkled my forehead, pretending not to know who he was talking about. "Ye think I look like this because of a lass?" I laughed low, nodding negatively before I took another sip of my drink.

"We will all invariably be like that because of a lass, lad." He lifted his drink in the air, toasting with me and finishing up his glass in one sip.

"But ye ken how I deal with such relationships, Murtagh. It doesn't leave this place and I dinna care if one of those women I relate to doesn't show up." Who was I kidding? I was visibly bothered because Elizabeth wasn't there like we'd planned the week before.

"Are ye sure about that?" he smiled with a somewhat restrained stare at my eyes, they were probably spitting fire.

"I've never been so sure of anything in my whole life." I looked deep into his eyes, taking the rest of the scotch in one sip.

Of course Murtagh didn't believe what I said. Neither did I. I was trying to convince myself that not having Elizabeth that night didn't affect me at all, yet the amount of whisky I'd  drank in two hours had been higher than the dose I'd taken in two nights at The Heat.

That woman had messed up my mind like no other and all the dreams I'd had about her since I met her were driving me completely out of control. It needed to stop, I needed to get my balance back. But that day I no longer had the strength to fight; all the whirl of emotions from the latest events made it impossible for me to find my bearings once more.

“One more whisky, please...” I chose to drink, it was the only certainty I had.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway – You've Got A Friend

Youtube // Spotify

Coldplay – Magic

Youtube // Spotify

 

POV Claire

Jamie was very committed to Fergus and me in a way that it frightened me and impressed me at the same time. The reconnection between us had been almost instantaneous, as if nothing had kept us apart and no pain had ever existed. As if those nine years were suspended in time.

He didn't need to touch me to make me feel his presence, to feel his concerned tender gaze over me and over Fergus, to feel his almost hearable urge to make my pain go away. If I wasn't completely sure that Jamie had no idea what was going on inside that room, what really was going on, I would’ve sworn that my big secret had been discovered by him. Our last conversation had been intimate in a way that I would never have allowed if it was with another stranger, but Jamie seemed to know how to sense my soul like no other person and he knew exactly what I needed to hear not even having uttered it out loud.

And in the end, he wasn't a total stranger to me.

It was nearly 7pm when Joe was done with all his hospital rounds and finally managed to drop by to see Fergus' and check up on me. Watching him enter through that door raised in me an intense feeling of relief; I felt safe when Joe was close and, besides that, he was the only person I completely trusted my secrets with and that I could share all my apprehensions with.

"God, LJ! Fergus is that bad?" Pulling me out of the trance haunting me for hours, he hugged me tightly when tears clouded my eyes; finally I was able to surrender and open my heart.

"Fergus is fine, Joe." Sniffing briefly to hold back the tears, I tried to smile at him once we parted, but I knew I was over concerned about my boy. "He's stable, at least…"

"I heard from Forbes that it was all quiet around here, so I panicked when I saw you looking so scared... like something was haunting you, as if you had seen a ghost." I swallowed hard, that was a good description of Jamie. "What's making you feel this way, my dear?"

I sighed deeply and my eyes were flooded with tears again. My apparent weakness softened quickly and Joe, smirking gently, reached out to my hand as we walked across the room towards the sofa.

I was very familiar with his tactics and he knew me better than anyone.

"You won't believe what happened to me, Joe..."

My body was shivering at the thought of everything that fit in that little sentence, and I gasped deeply as I sat on and leaned my back against the sofa’s soft foam. My fears had to come out and I knew Joe was ready to listen to me, but my gaze remained fixed on the monitors that beeped loudly next to Fergus as I struggled to find the right way to begin.

I breathed in the air that had become suddenly so thin around me before I had the courage to look at Joe again. His face was the greatest encouragement I needed to start talking about everything I was avoiding to let it go, the words that were still getting in the way since I saw Jamie that morning for the first time in over nine years.

Joe was speechless when he heard that the red-haired firefighter who was outside the room earlier was the same man I had been related to during the internship.

The same man I had fallen madly in love with.

The man I had gotten pregnant with.

It was still hard for me to say out loud that Jamie was Fergus' biological father and not Arthur, as everyone believed he was.

Everyone but Joe.

He was the only one who knew this secret and only he knew how confidential that information was, so much so that he never said anything to anyone, not even to Gail. In that room, in a moment of deep concern to me, Joe was once again my confidant, as he had been ever since we first met during college. My friend was the only one who knew all my anguish and how hard it was for me to make the decision to move on with my life with Arthur by my side, instead of Jamie.

"Claire, I still can't believe what's happening to you..." With his body facing mine, Joe squeezed my hands with intensity trying to comfort me and keep me on my feet in that whirlwind. After a few seconds, he smiled lovingly at me, keeping the softness in his face even though his attempt hadn't worked out so well. “How can fate be so sneaky?” yeah, my friend, I couldn't believe it either... “Yesterday, when we were at my office, I wanted to ask you about how you were dealing with the idea of being able to meet this guy again, but I saw in your face so much anguish and concern that I chose to drop the topic...” I smiled weakly with a nod, I was sure he wanted to know more than just whether it was being difficult to settle down without Arthur. “But here we are talking about the firefighter who miraculously saved your son and who is the same person who had replaced you when you went to finally find him and tell him you were pregnant...”

"At least you insisted that I would go to find him, it would have been even more distressing if I hadn't done that, Joe..." I rubbed his face with a weak smile. "I am as surprised as you are, I do not know what to do with all this... there's so much going on now, all so fast." I sighed, my heart was about to pop out of my chest. "Oh, did I tell you that his real name is James Fraser?" I spoke after a long pause, shaking my head with a stunned smile, yet unable to believe that it was actually happening. "And, to make things even worse for me, Jamie is very concerned about me and Fergus. Very much, Joe! As if he knew that he is the father." I said silently even though my son was still unconscious. "Oh, one more coincidence of fate..." I rolled my eyes as my index finger asked for "permission" for another addition to my misery. "Can you believe today is Jamie's birthday? He said it was a gift for him to save my son and bring him back into my arms..." I exhaled with intensity, a laughter that mixed incredulity and astonishment seizing me. "God must be kidding me, Joe, there is no other explanation for that!" I leaned my face against the palms of my hands, squeezing my eyelids in distress to try to relieve all that tension.

"Jamie probably wants to show you that he wants to be more than just an acquaintance who saved your son, Lady Jane..." I sat with my back leaning against the sofa cushion, leaning my head back to take a deep breath, keeping my eyes closed for a few seconds. "And I can see that it's not being easy for you to deal with the whole thing... Well, tell me, how's your heart in the middle of all this war?"

"Oh, Joe, it's completely devastated." I tried to avoid crying, but all that hit me like a storm of emotions. "Starting with Fergus' medical condition which, as stable as it is, still required care and you know it very well. His sedation has tortured me terribly, even though I know all the clinical procedures in such cases and I know it's being handled in the best way possible." As I turned my face back to Joe my vision quickly became blurry, tears covering my eyes before it began to roll down my face. "That alone would break my heart. Look at him, Joe... So vulnerable!" We both looked back to the boy who was the owner of my heart and soul for all these years. "And of course, on top of all this, something had to come along to make this situation even worse! The man who haunted my thoughts for so many years and that I managed to keep in the back of my mind with so much effort, returns to my life in the most shocking and unexpected way… for all this time I masterfully tried to avoid thinking of him again!” I wanted to keep my voice down, but it was hard to control myself when I finally could release all my despair. “Do you remember all the fears I was feeling before I came back to London for good, Joe? What I always feared the most it’s happening right now, much faster than I ever thought it would be possible!" Sighing deeply, I dried up the tears that covered my cheeks. “I am appalled Joe, it seems like all my past  showed up in front of me at once and I don't know how to get rid of it!" I was trying to speak in a low voice as I put my hand over my mouth, my eyes wide-open and my heart beating fast as if it was coming out of my mouth. "I seem to be in a crossfire and I simply couldn’t find any place to hide......"

"Sorry, but you've been hit, dear..." even though Joe was saying it in a soft voice, I intensely felt a pain in my chest. Joe smiled tenderly in response, caressing the back of my arm. “But I don't think now is the right time for you to decide what to do with that, not now at least..." His advice was something very important to me, I always listened to him with full attention. "Your priority is Fergus and his total recovery, right? Don't worry about anything else, I'm sure you'll have enough time after this nightmare is over to decide the next steps," he opened his arms as he always did when I needed support and I hurled against his chest, sobbing against his neck. "But don't forget to take a deep breath and focus on the present. Observe on how Jamie behaves with Fergus and with you..." he spoke against my hair as he held me tightly, my body relaxing when I remembered how Jamie had held me when he saw me crying over my boy's bed. Or was it our boy? "Enjoy the protection he wants to give you. Don't let the past dictate your decisions completely now," he pulled my face gently so he could see me. "He seems to be a nice guy, Lady Jane..." he smiled and I knew what he was getting at.

"And that's what worries me the most, Joe!" I laughed, still surprised. "Jamie's being very helpful to me and Fergus, he looked after my boy even before he knew who his mother was. I can blame his profession, as he seems very committed to everything involved in being a firefighter, however I feel it goes beyond that... Grrr, I don't know!" I raised my hands to the sky hopelessly, as if asking God's help. "As I observed him more closely, I saw how careful he is about everything, worrying about every single detail, and in several moments it reminded me of our past. I remembered that he has always been nice to me from the beginning, at least he was when we met inside that place..." suddenly all the affectionate memories from that period of time, apart from the obvious and unforgettable sexual contact, came back to my mind. "When I watch him now from a different perspective, so calmer, gentle and sweet, even a little bit insecure at times, he seems to be kind to everyone around him and that made me rethink my behavior towards him back then. I wonder what it might have happened if he had chosen me..."

"The past is gone, LJ, you will never be able to change what happened." His complicity gaze lit up quickly and the smile from someone who was planning on playing a joke popped out in the blink of an eye. "And in reality you two don't really know each other. Jamie can surprise you positively, Claire..." I kept listening to him while staring at my fingernails. "There's probably a lot more about Jamie that you don't know!" He walked away from me briefly, wiping the few remaining tears that still insisted falling from my eyes and tapping his hand slightly over my knee twice. "Anyway, now I want to know if you've eaten and if you need me to pick something up for you at home!"

Joe was the best listener, the best mentor, and he knew better than anyone else when the uncomfortable conversations were over. He knew exactly how to bring peace into my soul when I needed it the most. He was my guardian angel on earth, and being back to London provided me this wonderful benefit of having him close to me again. Joe was always right, I didn't even have to try to think about other possibilities once he told me what to do.

Yes, I would have to focus only on my little one's recovery; he was all that mattered to me now and all my strength and prayers would turn to his quick recovery. The tests at the hospital showed that Fergus was responding very well to the treatment, so much that the doctor decided to stop the sedation just after his last round at 6 pm. The next morning, if everything was okay with Fergus, the sedatives would be completely removed and we would only give time for his little body to finally awake from that deep sleep.

Sitting next to my son for a few minutes, my eyes went through his body before it landed on my hands, which were wrapping around his little wrist, and for a few moments I stared at the large golden band that was on my left ring finger. I kept wearing my wedding ring for two main reasons: in memory of the excellent father Arthur had been to my boy, even with all the drawbacks we went through in our marriage; and because I needed to feel him close to me in some way. Raising a child alone was a very challenging task, which consciously made me use the ring as some kind of support. I needed an anchor, something to help me carry on, both for my son and for myself.

I used to feel Arthur’s death everyday, even though it had been over four years ago. Fergus didn't have many memories of his father, and I tried hard to keep alive the ones I remembered the most, and I had high hopes that those emotional gaps that Fergus were eager for recollecting would be minimally filled up in my son's mind. He loved to listen to the way I mimicked Arthur as I told him some details of his early childhood stories and he loved to know how our weekends were spent playing lots of games at home, in the square near our old home in Montreal or at the Botanical Gardens, our favorite park for our days off. Fergus was loved by Arthur, deeply loved, and I wanted my son to always remember that.



***



Later that day, Joe came back to the hospital to drop me off some things I had asked him to bring from my house, and then I finally managed to take a long, hot shower in that small bathroom inside the room. I let the water fall over my head for a few minutes and the sound of the water falling made me unwind a bit; at least for a few moments, all doubts and issues were washed away. Deep down in my heart I felt that everything would be fine, I was sure of that; however that situation was still very complex to me. All I needed was to be able to sort it out with easiness, which definitely would not be in that hospital. The one thing I lacked at that time was peace of mind to figure out the last stressing events and plan my family future with Jamie into it.

As soon as I finished, I put on my comfortable pants and a soft wool sweater and I dried my hair rapidly with the towel before going back to settle down as comfortably as possible in the chair next to my boy. I had left the TV on mute since Joe left and, as I sat in the chair, I saw the image of someone very familiar to me: James Fraser. Jamie. The news program was reporting the fire at Fergus' school and the images of the flames and smokes caught my attention almost instantly, making me eager to find the remote control to turn up the volume a bit and finally see what I had just heard from Jamie.

I was breathless for a few moments, concerned about everything I heard and saw, but the next scene was more tearing than I expected: the Scotsman was walking fast from the burning building with my son in his arms. With our son. It was surreal, it was like I was watching a movie right in front of me. Not just watching it, but living in one of those action movies with a lot of drama, danger and tragedy. The TV sound seemed distorted to me as I watched Jamie and Fergus disappearing behind the ambulance in front of the school, but a speech from the anchorman made me understand it all very clearly: "James Fraser, head of one of the largest and most effective fire brigades in the United Kingdom, besides being a hero to this poor boy in the fire that took place this morning in the elementary school, he saved thousands of other lives with a project that carries a lot of importance. He and eleven other firefighters are assigned to annual photo shoots that print the calendar of one of the most renowned institutions in the fight against child cancer...".

I couldn't keep watching the news, unplugging my cell phone and quickly researching about James Fraser and his calendar. A lot of news showed up, but what initially caught my attention were the photos. Yes. Of course my mind couldn't work any differently... I was already expecting sexy photos, so to speak, as they were calendars for money raising and several people really like to see men posing half-naked. What I didn’t expect was to feel butterflies in my stomach when I saw Jamie's abs and arms in those different pictures that he had taken in the last few years for the children's cancer institution. All his muscles were the same way I remembered. In fact, they were even more defined, as if that was even possible, giving me instant chills all over my body, especially between my legs.

Trying to avoid those images, I took a deep breath as I decided to read one of his notes promoting that work. I sighed, deeply moved, after reading an article in which Jamie said how happy and honored he was to help so many children in need. Besides the text, the article had a link to the video interview with Jamie. My heart melted and I shed emotional tears seeing him so moved helping other people. He was so real and so perfect that, for a few moments, I forgot the reason I disappeared from his life.

Yes, I was really screwed with that man.



***



I was impressed to realize how destiny was trying to bring father and son together after all that had happened between us, to face all the effort I had made in hiding that terrible truth from both of them and from the world. I don't know if impressed would be the correct word to this unique situation unfolding right in front of my eyes; yet I couldn't help but think of the incredible tricks the universe was playing to make Fergus meet his biological father.

I stayed up all night watching Fergus sleep and kept on thinking how my world had turned upside down in less than 24 hours. My past had come to its surface, all the memories of my moments with Alexander, Fergus' pregnancy, and my life with Arthur during those years flooded my mind. All those flashback images put me in a sort of alert mode and my peace of mind was drained. As I couldn’t sleep, the only thing I could think of was to pray; I have prayed over and over again for the health of my boy, to keep him stable so that the sedative could be completely removed.

There were no windows there, but due to the bustling noises outside the room, like voices from patients and visitors in the hospital corridors, I knew that another day was dawning. Dr. Forbes arrived just before 8 a.m. for the first round of the day and, after the general checks, he seemed relieved to see that Fergus was stable and already responding to some stimulus. Therefore, he decided that he would remove the sedation completely, not forgetting to mention that his complete recovery could take a few minutes or even hours. Before leaving, he emphasized that I should try not to worry about it, as much as he was sure that I was already anxious about the moment when I would finally hear my son's voice again.

Just after Dr. Forbes left and I received a quick visit from Joe, all the adrenaline that had built up over the last 24 hours went away and tiredness quickly took over my body. I was sitting next to Fergus cause I wanted to keep watching him sleep while I waited for him to wake up. I was so worn out! The slumber I felt was greater than anything and my eyelids weighed heavier than ever and the sofa which was next to the bed offered me a very inviting place to rest, especially with the fluffy blanket a nurse had offered me the night before.

I surrendered to my tiredness and gave up fighting against the impossible, kissing my boy on his forehead and caressing his little face with all my love. Even if he wasn't awake I wanted him to feel my presence all the time. I walked almost unconsciously towards the couch, nesting cosily before covering myself . I smiled, relieved to be sure that lying there I would have a good view of the bedroom’s door and Fergus' reactions in case he woke up.

All I needed was a 20 minutes nap and yet I managed to have a beautiful and very realistic dream all at once. Jamie arrived at the hospital room wearing jeans and a light blue sweater, carrying a toy store bag in one of his hands and a tray with two disposable coffee cups in the other. He had a broad smile on his face, the same one that had melted me so many times. Everything seemed so real! The next scene I remembered from that beautiful fantasy was Jamie talking emotionally with Fergus, asking if he was okay, if he needed anything.

"Yer mom's right there on the couch, but maybe let her sleep a little longer, laddie?" Jamie replied to Fergus' questions who seemed to be worried about me. "Last night was very tough for her..."

Jamie kept talking, looking at me and Fergus like he was part of our lives, like he'd never stopped being part of our family. In that dream he seemed to be the most perfect father for Fergus, with his long fingers caressing Fergus' hands and face, talking in his deep, silky voice showing all the love for his son.

In that dream I was also asleep on the couch and watching Jamie as he looked so dearly at me with such affection made me wake up, sitting and smiling openly at him. The best of all my smiles! I looked at them with sweetness, I wanted to say something, but I was still numb in my sleep and I couldn't utter a single word.

"Maman, I'm so happy you're awake!" Fergus spoke in a rather weak voice, which made me stand up and quickly hug my son.

"Oh, sweet pea! Mommy is here, my darling! And I'm so glad you are awake!" I held him tight, the emotion taking over my heart. As I looked away, I suddenly stared at Jamie's face, and I was moved to feel his soft caresses running through my hair.

"He's fine, Sassenach..." it was so wonderful to hear him calling me by the nickname that had been forgotten for so many years. His warm smile lit up the room in a beautiful way, bordering the oblivion. "Yer boy is fine now..."

"Jamie..."

I had a sobbing fit and I let it out after dampening it all those years of distance and anguish. I was daydreaming and, because of it, all I dreamed of turned into something tangible, something real. I held onto my son's little body while the Scot gave me a kiss on the top of my head. Everything was fine, I had my son's father by my side, the man I was truly in love with all my life, and a wonderful first step in my son's recovery. Our son. Even though I knew it was a dream, I was happy that all what I had silently longed for my entire life turned into something really real, at least in my thoughts.

Since it was my dream, I did exactly what I wanted to do. After Jamie had moved away from me, I gently leaned Fergus against the mattress, then turned around the bed to finally face Jamie. Smiling with all the joy inside me, I stood briefly on tiptoed before kissing his lips smoothly, hugging him tight as I wrapped his neck with my arms, expressing all my longing for nine long years.

The tears fell off my face and onto his shoulder. But there was something odd because I suddenly realized that Jamie's restrained caresses against my back seemed truer than I had wished for. In my dream he would not react that way. Everything was a bit too real, a bit too strange, and I didn't understand why. 

Jamie stood still for a while before he could relax and embrace me back, but I felt he reacted as if he was not expecting that expression of affection from me. His relief sigh against my earlobe made me realize that he was happy after all, but as I opened my eyes and faced Fergus, I saw that my son seemed very confused, as if he didn't recognize Jamie as his father or as if he didn't understand what was really going on between Jamie and me.

And it finally clicked to me.

That wasn't a dream.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!

Now, completely awakened and still in Jamie's embrace, I didn't know how to face reality. I had kissed James Fraser shamelessly and I had no reasonable explanation for that.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Conrad Sewell - Firestone (Acoustic)

Youtube // Spotify

Sufjan Stevens – Visions of Gideon

Youtube // Spotify

 

POV Jamie

I woke up at 5:30 AM as usual and even feeling exhausted, the routine was always boycotting me. I was feeling battered not only from everything that had happened to me on the previous day but for the turbulence coming from the dreams I had the whole night. My dreams were filled up with multiple images of Elizabeth, or rather Claire. Yes, my sexy dreams with the brunette I'd met nine years ago finally melted with Claire's sweetness, perseverance, and tenacity, my mind turning them into one. I just couldn't stop it.

However, apart from Claire and all the stress I had been through since yesterday morning, other things started worrying me from the moment I woke up. I just needed some fresh air and try to think more clearly about it.

I was forbidden by my doctor from doing any heavy workouts for five days, but I couldn't stay home much longer after breakfast because I was one of the main characters of the news that morning. I loathed seeing myself on TV and being included in all that sensationalism; I was just doing my job and I didn't understand all the nonsense every time I rescued someone... I have to admit that it annoyed me a lot, especially when they used a picture of me from one of the calendars to get the public's attention. The only nice thing that came out from all of this uncontrolled media disclosure was the calendars' increased sales and the consequent rise in the children's cancer institute's financial revenue.

At least those buzzards were useful for something.

Wearing a T-shirt, my favorite shorts and sneakers, I went for a short walk around the nearby square. It was a beautiful sunny morning, something unusual for this time of the year in London, and the blue sky and the fresh morning air were like a real blessing for my worries in the last 24 hours.

God, and I loved to live in that place!

After several years living nearby the downtown area, I finally found an apartment that supplied all my necessities. Besides being a residential area very close to my work, it was full of common areas to socialize with other people. In this equation, the only imbalance about all that was that after living more than three successive years in the same place, I hadn't made any friends. Of course, I was always around in case of a domestic incident and if one of my neighbors needed some help; but at the getting along level, my relationship interactions still remained limited to that.

I've always been very friendly to everyone since I arrived in London, but I never got beyond that. My busy routine, mixed with a lack of interest in interacting more intimately with other people, had never really allowed me to deepen any of the superficial relationships I had. Especially after all the heartbreak I felt not knowing what had taken Elizabeth away from me.

Well, now I had some thoughts, but I'd have to be patient in the meantime.

The shops were still closed, however, as I walked in front of a small window full of toys on my way home, I slowed down when I saw a small fire truck in one of the display's outstanding spots. There were so many details in that miniature, for sure it would attract any child's eyes. It was a bit bigger than the palm of my hand, the perfect size for a boy as young as Fergus, so I decided I would buy it before I went to the hospital that morning to visit Claire and her son. I was not sure when he would finally wake up, but I wished the gift would be there waiting for him.

A little after 10 am, I felt refreshed after the walk and a long shower. I left home and, on my way to the Royal Brompton Hospital, I stopped by at the toy store to buy Fergus the gift.

All I wanted the most from the very first minute I had woken up was to go to the hospital to be present at the first medical round, but the main reason was Claire. I was much more worried about Claire than Fergus because I knew the boy was well taken care of, his physical condition was stable and he would make it through the whole thing. I had experienced several other similar cases, most of them with positive results, but Claire was devoting every single piece of her heart and soul to her son's recovery, her energy fading away in every minute we shared the day before.

Yes, I do know that genuine mothers do anything for their children; however, that wouldn't make me feel less concerned about her. When I left her the day before, I saw the size of the weight she was carrying on her strained shoulders and the marks of her tiredness in her eyes. I just wished so badly that I could share that burden with Claire, that she wanted to share that burden with me...

I bought two cups of coffee before I went up to the room that morning; I was sure Claire would be extremely tired after being up the first 24 hours after the fire and I thought she'd like something to keep her awake. Besides, coffee would be a good excuse to start a conversation with her.

But the moment I got at Fergus' room, it broke my heart seeing her so battered. I knew she'd be tired after everything she'd been through the day before; but she looked exhausted, almost like she had passed out. Claire had certainly spent the night watching her son sleep. It was more than clear that it was not easy for her to feel helpless, not being able to heal her own child. She was clearly feeling powerless and lonely.

This couldn’t be easy for any parent.

I kept standing at the door for a few moments while observing her breathe, watching her sleep; and by seeing her so comfortably nestled on the little sofa peacefully, I allowed my mind to drift away from that place, years away.

Oh, she was so beautiful!

Her hair was curly that morning, it was not straight like the day before. It was exactly as I remembered it nine years ago, the loose hair curls surrounding her face and making my heart race inside my chest. When I noticed some locks of her hair falling in her eyes, it reminded me each time I caressed them and put them behind her ear.

Even tired, Claire seemed to be happy; at least in her dreams, she seemed to be happy.

There was a grey blanket covering half of her body, and that was the reason why I knew she managed to change her clothes. She was wearing comfortable pants and a very soft beige wool jacket. She had probably asked her friend to get her some extra clothes at home.

It couldn’t be different from that… but I must say that I waited for her call when I was awake at home. And, for obvious reasons, she chose him, her good friend Dr. Abernathy, for that task.

Still standing at the doorway, trying not to be jealous, I noticed when Claire barely opened her eyes and finally fixed them on mine. She was still asleep and, as I saw her smiling, all my memories of our unforgettable moments at The Heat sprung back to life.

God, I missed her so much!

Silently, I released the coffee cups on the sideboard and went towards the other side of the room, bringing the toy store bag in my hands. I tried not to make too much noise, grabbing a chair to sit right next to Fergus and leaving the bag next to me to finally stare at that beautiful boy's face for the first time that day. And while watching Claire sleeping on the couch, just a few steps away from me, I noticed once again the resemblance of his son to his mother. God was so right when he allowed the child to look like his mom. Claire's little smile while sleeping was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

Several minutes went by when I sensed an unexpected and very sudden movement of Fergus' hand. At first, I thought I saw things that were not happening, but when I heard a whisper coming from his little mouth, I became completely alert to everything around him.

I rose quickly, not knowing what to do and his low and confused speech put me in a watchful mode.

The first idea I had was to push the button and call the nursing staff, but an overwhelmed stare on the other side of the room made it difficult for me to think properly. Claire wasn't totally awake yet, but I wished she could wake up slowly, so I decided not to ask her about what to do.

Not at that moment, at least.

Turning my attention to the boy staring at me, I heard his first full sentence:

"Who are you?" His voice was weak and his eyes barely opened, but I could see that he was calm despite all that he had been through.

"My name is Jamie, Fergus. I'm a firefighter." I touched his hand briefly. "Do ye remember me from school?" I smirked affectionately and I felt emotional when I realized he was awake.

"Non..." he spoke briefly, a little bit lost. "What happened at school? Is it my new school or my old school? You know where my mother is?" he was very confused, speaking faster and faster and his accent made me wonder where he came from. I tried gently to stop Fergus from sitting down but without any success. "Why isn't maman here with me?" Giving up on laying him down, I helped him to sit up, placing some pillows behind his back to make him feel more comfortable.

"Yer mom’s right there on the couch, but maybe let her sleep a little longer, laddie?" I pointed towards Claire with a smile, I was so happy to see him finally awake. "Last night was very tough for her..."

"Poor maman. She looks so tired." He stared fondly at Claire, whispering quietly trying not to wake her up, just like I was doing, which made me suddenly feel proud of him. Fergus was certainly a boy who cared about his mother and he was giving her back all the love she felt and showed for him.

"She'll be fine! Now that ye're awake she'll be fine!" I looked at Claire tenderly as she was fully awake, sitting on the sofa and smiling at me as she saw that her son had finally come out of sedation.

"Maman, I'm so happy you're awake!" Fergus said weakly, very moved, making Claire suddenly stand up and finally hold her son.

"Oh, sweet pea! Mommy is here, my darling! And I'm so glad you are awake!" Claire smiled helplessly, hugging Fergus tightly as she kissed his face and his hair, her eyes gazing up to the monitors next to the bed before they fixed on me. I was so overwhelmed to witness that bliss after so much suffering that I could no longer hold back my desire to caressing her curly hair gently and soothe the urge that consumed me for all those years.

"He's fine, Sassenach..." I spoke to her with a big smile on my lips, her emotions overflowing as she heard me calling her by that nickname forgotten for such a long time. "Yer boy is fine now…"

"Jamie..." a sob broke out from her throat right after she spoke my name, and something made me believe that her reaction was to thank me for saving her boy.

Unable to control myself when I saw her in such a vulnerable way, I hugged her as she wrapped Fergus in her arms, kissing her hair and finally smelling the delicate fruity fragrance exhaling from them that blended so perfectly with her own scent. The smell of her perfume was all that I had asked God to feel again during my dreams with Elizabeth in all those years, and now she was right there in front of me, as real as I'd possibly ever imagined again, as beautifully as I'd longed to see her.

But there was something different about her eyes. She was not harbouring herself in a shell anymore; it seemed as if nothing bad had ever happened between us, as if we had never been apart from each other. In a fit of passion, she almost forgot her son was awake and, walking around the bed to stand in front of me, she smirked before stealing me a kiss, wrapped her arms around my neck with her tears dripping freely over my shoulder.

I got dazzled when I felt her lips against mine and my body froze almost instantly. What was she doing after all? What was happening to us? All I knew was that things weren't exactly the way they should in that scenario. For a few seconds I didn't know what to do with that beautiful woman and all the affection she was giving to me.

It was just so irresistible to feel Claire’s warmth and her perfume so close to me. I got tense for a feel seconds, but almost immediately I stroked her back trying to comfort her as she was weeping in my arms.

But then, right after that, her body stiffened against mine.

Was she scared of something? Regretting something? She kept hugging me tightly, but now it was as if she was trying to hide from me and her son, who was staring at us in an odd way and not understanding anything.

"What's going on, maman?" I suddenly noticed that I had my back to Fergus all the time, so he probably hadn't seen his mother kissing me. One less thing to worry about.

"Uhh... It's nothing, dear!" she quickly moved away from me, wiping away her tears before walking to the other side of the bed, next to him I felt the absence of the warmth of her body against mine instantly, and a sense of hollowness started invading my being in a painful and intense way; as if I had lost my guts, my soul.

"Mommy was only very emotional when I finally found you awake..." she said and now she was not staring at me anymore. She sat on the chair on the opposite side of mine to admire with affection her child's features. "Has Jamie told you what happened to you?"

"Not yet, maman..." Fergus looked at me and back at his mother, he was recovering his senses as the effects of the sedation were going away.

"So let's do it this way..." Claire's hands were wrapping her son's little fingers closely. "Now I need to call a doctor to evaluate you properly, ok? Once everything's fine, I'll let you know what happened in the last 24 hours and what an incredible help the firefighter Jamie was for you yesterday..." and she finally looked at me, her cheeks blushed in embarrassment as her eyes were trying to excuse herself and thank me.

As soon as the med team arrived, Dr. Forbes quickly requested the room so they could evaluate Fergus' physical reactions without our influence. I noticed the stress taking over Claire's body, so I smiled to the staff in an understanding way and I walked to where she was standing, gently guided her out of the room with my hand against her back. Before I closed the door, I went back to get the tray with the coffee, I would have to find a way to knock down some of the walls she had quickly built around her heart after our tender moment, and coffee was still a good option.

We sat side by side on the benches in the hallway a bit away from the room and I finally offered her a cup of coffee. The deep silence around us became stronger and stronger, so much so that I could almost listen to the sound of Claire's mind chatting with herself and making up a thousand theories about everything that was happening there as we stared towards the closed door in front of us.

We sipped the coffee very slowly, savoring the multiple flavors and sensations it could offer to us. We didn’t exchange any words for a long time until Claire finally took heart to say something:

"Well, Jamie. I suppose you deserve to hear some update about Fergus since you've been so helpful and concerned about him. There's nothing I can say to thank you for everything you've done for him, for what you're still doing for him..." Claire smirked briefly just before having the last sip of coffee. "Hum... He spent the night in a stable condition and the doctor diminished the dosage of the sedation yesterday and this morning he took away the rest of the medication." she stood up to toss her cup into the trash can and offered to throw mine as well. "Thank God his condition improved during the night," she kept talking as soon as she sat down next to me again. "I was praying so hard for him to wake up soon, but I swear I didn't think it would be so fast..." her eyes were turned down as she looked at her hands joined over her lap.

"And ye're feeling calmer to see yer boy interacting, Claire?" I knew what her answer would be, but I felt like I was walking on thin ice and I didn't want to miss another moment of closeness with her.

"Gosh, you have no idea!" Her body was leaning forward and her elbows resting on her knees; she quickly turned her face towards me and I saw the tears overflowing her eyes along with a tense grin that blended distress and excitement. "I couldn't sleep all night thinking about everything that happened to him yesterday. I couldn't help but to watch him breathing or if he would have any different reaction during the night..." After a long sigh, her curls fell over her face again, hiding it as she turned her gaze to her hands and a few tears wet her trousers.

"As soon as I arrived today I noticed that ye haven’t been able to sleep... And I confess I coudna sleep at all either." That was true but I wouldn’t give in and say that the real reason was her. "To make things even more “pleasant”, I coudna help myself but wake up at 5:30 this morning, even though I coudna go to work..." I chose to change the topic as I felt she was drowning in bad thoughts and I tried to bring some humor into the conversation. "I think I'm getting old..." I laughed briefly as I leaned back against the seat backrest.

"You're not old!" she laughed back, opening her eyes wide and easing her tension a little. "You turned 32 yesterday, right?" I was astonished to hear that she was actually counting down the years as time went by, knowing exactly the age I was. "If you're old, what's left for me then, Jamie?" Claire was playing the victim, as when she discovered I was younger than her in one of our conversations at The Heat. She made me laugh again cause she couldn’t play the victim for so long; she was role-playing the same old story, just like when I met her many years ago.

We kept a few moments of silence until the laughter calmed down before I had the nerve to take a rather daring step:

"I'm sorry, Claire, but it seems that all these years didna pass to ye..." I turned my body to hers, placing one of my arms on the upper edge of the backrest, bending one of my legs over the seat and finally having the guts to meet her face with my old smile on my lips. I felt my cheeks warm with embarrassment, however, I didn't bother with anything else, I just needed to get her answer. "And didna insist otherwise, I know what I'm talking about!"

"You haven't changed a bit too, Jamie..." she grinned briefly, glancing at me through her curls for a while, the same old glance that made me feel in heaven for so many times.

The silence fell upon us once again, keeping us trapped in our own memories until I could not control the thoughts that were popping up in my mind: "Do ye wanna talk about what happened inside the room?" I had to find a way to talk about what she actually meant by doing that, I really needed to understand what was going on inside her mind. "What happened between us, Claire?" I kept staring at her in a somewhat questioning way.

"Uh, no... no, Jamie," she spoke quietly, lifting her hand up to her face and making the same denial gesture with her head. "Forget about it!" She leaned heavily against the chair, resting her head on the wall before closing her eyes as she sighed deeply.

"There is no way to forget it, Sassenach." My voice echoed almost like a whisper. I touched a lock of her curls briefly, placing it behind her ear fondly and she slowly turned her face towards me; our lips were so close that I could smell the coffee scent coming out of her mouth.

We got stuck at the moment, trapped and bewitched by one another. We remained like this for long seconds, observing each other's breathing movements increase in frequency the longer we kept that tension in the air, and the longer we waited for a great outcome. My hand was still next to her ear and I couldn't keep my fingers steady, stroking her face gently as I watched her. I kind of made her lay her head against the palm of my hand as she closed her eyes, feeling all the enjoyment inside the little bubble bliss around us.

But the sound of a female voice coming from the doorway of the bedroom burst our bubble in such a way that made us jump away from each other, dispersing all that beautiful moment we had shared.

Claire stood up suddenly, her cheeks were blushing and she was breathing heavily for all the intensity of feelings we had shared seconds ago. She was clearly jumpy, but before she moved away from me, I rose up suddenly from the chair and, holding her arm gently, I approached her body because I needed to say a few more things before reality kicked in between us:

"Claire, I need ye to know that I've never felt so at ease with any woman other than ye... Ever! Ye have never lost the power ye exert over me since the day we met, not even for a moment!” She was standing with her back against me, so close that I could feel her warmth and her deep breath. "When I’m around ye it's as if nothing has changed between us, sometimes it feels like the years haven't gone by." The close proximity between us allowed me to speak very close to her ear, and her sighing against my chest made me tremble. "I didna want to make ye feel uncomfortable with any of this, so I need to know if I'm rushing into things too fast for you. If I am going too far." I caressed the edge of her arm completely unaware of it. "I just canna bear the thought of ye walking away from me once again."

"Everything's fine, Jamie." She caressed my hand tenderly for a second, pulling it away quickly without looking at me after she exhaled in an uneasy way. "But I really must go now."

And after another long and deep sigh, she entered the room. I thought it was better to give her some space at this moment because, besides being something private, I had to put myself together so I could return to the room.

Despite all the fear I had of being turned down after everything I said in her ear, she told me that everything was fine. I kept hearing the sound of her loving and apprehensive voice for a few seconds while waiting for the medical team to leave Fergus' room.

Fergus.

I still couldn't believe the ideas that had popped up in my mind the moment I woke up this morning. The boy seemed to be eight or nine years old the most, and many things went through my mind when I realized that his age overlapped the time I had been with his mother. As he resembled so much his mother, I couldn’t consider the idea of adoption, so the first possibility that sprang up my mind was that Claire could have had the child before we met. That was an almost unreal possibility and I couldn't believe that because she had to be breastfeeding him if she had a newborn child. Her body would’ve shown the signs and, furthermore, I could not believe Claire would seek sexual satisfaction with a newborn in her arms. Maybe I really didn’t knew her for real, but I was sure that wasn't her.

The second possibility was that she got pregnant by this guy Arthur after our meetings and Fergus was really a big boy for his age. I didn't know what he was like, I had no idea about his looks, but Fergus' father had to be a giant, much bigger than me, to be the biological father of a son that size.

I had my doubts about that.

As I pondered about Arthur and that ring Claire was wearing even after her husband died, several doubts came to my mind: did she know him before me? Was she already married to him and simply went to The Heat because she wanted to have some fun? It didn't seem to be her thing.

But nothing like that really mattered, I didn’t know why I was always thinking back and forth trying to figure out things. It wouldn’t definitely take me anywhere. We didn't have any kind of commitment, I couldn't demand anything from her or from the connection we had back then. But I couldn’t deny that the thought of everything we experienced and what we could have experienced if I had been more open to a relationship, enhanced an intense feeling of anguish in my soul.

Finally, the third and strongest of all possibilities, the one that was really tormenting my heart: Fergus was my son. From all the possibilities that would justify Elizabeth's disappearance right after she vanished into thin air, I had never considered, even in my wildest ideas, a pregnancy. But now, nothing seemed more logical to me than that. Even if there were still some very unclear details about it, I felt Claire's hesitation when she was talking about the boy, or simply by the way she got lost in her thoughts for no apparent reason; and I knew it was more than just the facts of our strange reunion or the boy's medical conditions that still demanded attention.

I was taken from my daydreaming by an unknown voice saying that I was allowed to enter the room and that they would both be waiting for me inside. I took a deep breath, knowing that this would not be the right time to ask Claire about my last concerns, what mattered most now was Fergus' well-being and complete recovery.

I slowly opened the door and the least I expected was to be greeted in such a warm way by them. I got the most amazing smiles in the world and a kindhearted look from Claire, besides that I was asked to make a full report of everything that happened by a very talkative boy. A very chatty boy indeed!

"Fergus remembered everything that happened at school, Jamie!" Claire said it, showing it with a huge excitement expression on her face. "And he wants to say something to you..." she tapped him on the shoulder, encouraging him to talk. "Go on, son! Say it!"

"Firefighter Jamie, hmmm... Thanks a lot for risking your life to save me yesterday... I got really scared when everything got smokey and I heard all the screaming and I couldn't escape from there by myself... I'm glad you were there! You'll always be my superhero! Mine and maman's!" he glared at his mother, and I was delighted to see how blushed she'd gotten with her son's observation.

"Well, Fergus, first I want ye to just call me Jamie, right?" he smiled and nodded. "I'm so glad I saved ye and brought ye back to yer mother..." exchanging those little moments with them made my heart start pounding faster inside my chest. "Ah! Can ye guess what's inside that beautiful colorful bag?" I spoke to him softly, pointing towards the package I had brought earlier.

"Is it a gift for me, Jamie?" Fergus was very happy, his blue eyes wide-open and shining even brighter.

"Aye, It's a gift for ye! Do ye want to open it now?" Holding the package in front of his hands, he grabbed it quickly, opening it with more skills than I expected a child of his age to do, and still a forbearing patient.

"Wow, maman! Look at it! It's a fire truck!! Maman, can I become a firefighter when I grow up?"

"Sure, son!" Claire looked at me fondly over Fergus' head, kissing his curls. "You can be anything you want! But now, what are the magic words?"

"Merci beaucoup, Jamie!" His smile lit up the whole room and it made me fall in love instantly.

"Ye're welcome, Fergus! Ye deserve it..." I smiled tenderly at him, exchanging glances with Claire and feeling unthinkable complicity flowing around us.



***



The next two hours were filled with hospital food and small talks. Fergus was interested to know everything that had happened to him and to us in those last 24 hours which he had been unconscious. He fondly wiped the few tears Claire shed when she spoke of the pain she felt when she saw him that way and she laughed at the jokes I was telling them, trying to change the subject and bringing more lightness to our conversation. He was a good boy, kind-hearted, full of light, and that cherished much love for his mother and for the world.

Claire had done a great job raising him, now I was completely convinced about that.

"Hi, mo mhac, how are ye?" I got a call from my mom when I was still inside the room. She seemed worried about me, I had forgotten to call her the day before with all that happened.

"Hi, màthair..." I was speaking to her while exchanging glances with Claire, and I left the room not to disturb them. "It's all right, I'm sorry I dinna call ye yesterday, things were a little messy over here..." I looked at Claire as she was caressing her son while smiling at him, and as I watched them so fondly, I realized that I had never felt a mother's concern strike me with so much sense.

It was as if all that love Claire showed to Fergus shed a light on my feelings.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Little Mix - Secret Love Song

Youtube  //  Spotify

Bea Miller – i can’t breathe

Youtube  //  Spotify

.

.

POV Claire

Flashback On

 

Everybody has that moment in which everything goes wrong, and for me, it was right after my second encounter with Alexander. I spent the whole week planning another trip to London and dreaming of being in Alex's arms once again, but on Friday afternoon the whole plan went down the drain in a couple of seconds. An hour before I had finally got off my 12-hour shift, the sky opened up with a relentless rain along with a heavy fog that spread around the surroundings of Oxfordshire; and this weather change caused a huge freeway accident that overcrowded all the hospitals in that area, including the one I worked at.

There were hundreds of people with minor or serious injuries, who needed care ranging from simple stitching up to surgeries that would last more than 15 hours. The hospital was overcrowded with patients filling its total capacity during the next three days. And yes, my whole world collapsed. I was not able to travel down to London and stick to my promise to Alex that night. I was stuck in the hospital until further notice and I couldn't call or message him because I didn't have his phone.

I spent the entire weekend on nearly unbearable shifts since I was one of the oldest medical residents and according to the institution's professors"It's part of the resident doctor’s job description, Dr. Beauchamp". The hospital required an experienced staff to handle all the extra needs due to the gravity of the situation, and since we were only a few months away from graduating as medical residents, being there was almost mandatory.

At the end of that Dante's Inferno, I thanked God I was off on Monday. I slept a lot to recover some sleep from the chaotic last days, but the thought of Alexander kept me up until my bedtime. My last 72 hours had been filled with so much concern, blood, and sutures so I didn’t have time to think of him in the midst of all that confusion.

God, how I missed him!

It was killing me to be far from him for more than a week. At the same time I knew that I was walking in a minefield, unknown territory, I didn't have any idea how to deal with all those feelings that were growing inside me.

It was something too strong.

He was even more gentle with me on our second meeting, acting as if he could read my mind like nobody else in the world. Our sexual connection went far beyond what I ever expected to happen between us; I never imagined it would be even better than it was on our first night. We had reached such a deep intimate connection that I had no idea what to do next.

Despite my fear of not being sure of what to expect from my meeting with Alexander, on the following Friday I have the guts to put on my favorite grey dress, a matching set of black lingerie that I had bought in London on my last trip, and I finally gathered all strength that was still left in my soul to travel once again the 60 miles between Oxford and London to reach Alex. I needed to get back to The Heat, I needed to apologize to him somehow and I hoped he would understand my reasons for not keeping my word. Yes, I was sinking in an ocean full of uncertainty, but I had chosen to dive into these turbulent waters once again. I was completely bewitched by that Scot.

I missed Alex.

I missed him a lot.

I missed his warmth, his smell, the way he talked to me. During the trip, I couldn’t take my mind off him and my only wish was that he still wanted to hear me, embrace me, and possess me as he did before. But nothing, absolutely nothing, would have prepared me for the reception I got from him as soon as I arrived there.

I found him sitting on a bench at the bar next to a gray-haired gentleman, the same guy I had seen two Fridays before. Alex was downhearted, with a cranky expression on his face while he was drinking shots of whisky like there was no tomorrow.

I was standing in front of the cloakroom, still unsure about my next step, so I kept watching them for a few seconds. They had a bottle right in front of them and the man next to him was talking to Alex while pouring the drink, but he didn't seem open for interactions at all. Alex was in the drinking mode, drowning himself deeper and deeper into the whisky bottle. When I saw him in such conditions I got really upset. That ginger guy who I met nights ago, who could lit a place just being himself, was now just a shadow of Alex.

I took a deep breath as I began to walk towards him, I felt the fear taking control over my body the more I approached him. I heard him asking for another shot of whisky even though the music was loud, his voice echoed strong and deep loudly in the lounge. I didn't know what to expect when I finally touched his shoulder and he realized I was there. Was he that angry because of me, because I had left him waiting for me the week before?

My heart was pounding so fast I thought it would come out of my mouth. When I finally leaned my hand over his shoulder, squeezing him softly and whispering gently his name in his ear, Alex turned to me in slow motion, as if he didn't believe that it was actually me who was standing right next to him. His eyes went from my hand to my face slowly, compassed, as if he did not trust what he was about to see. He swallowed hard, his Adam's apple throbbing for a few seconds, but then his face changed when he found mine. He smirked almost instantly when he saw me as if our connection had been restored, as if our contact had released some kind of vital energy to light up his face with joy again.

"Hi..." I said in an attempt to break the ice between us. I was slightly emotionally affected by our meeting, the flush taking over my body and face as soon as I sensed the warmth coming out of his blue eyes. Alexander stood up very quickly, as if he had awakened from a trance, and carried me to one of the corners of the hall in a flash.

"Sassenach, is that ye?" When he saw me in front of him he held my face with slightly trembling hands, still not believing I was there. For a moment I thought I saw tears in his eyes, but I preferred to believe it was due to the lights in the room. I could not get even more involved with that man.

"Of course, you silly man! Why wouldn’t it be?" So I hugged him and I felt the warmth of his body releasing calm and euphoria at the same time, all that I desperately needed. His arms wrapped my body possessively, just as I had been dreaming of during the two weeks we had been apart. "I want to apologize for not coming last week, I couldn't..."

He prevented me from speaking by kissing my lips with so much passion that my knees weakened with such intensity. His hands went through my body in a lustful and unresting way, and in the following moment, he was pressing me against the wall, caressing my butt under the dress. Alex had a special talent to make me lose control quickly. For a few moments I allowed desire to take over embarrassment, but as much as I wanted to be with him like there was no tomorrow, there was not the right place for such insane behavior. As I regained some of my sanity, I stopped kissing him and gently wrapped his wrist with my fingers, making him stop caressing me as well. As he put me down with some difficulty, he gently straighten up my dress and leaned his forehead against mine while we were still out of breath.

"I dinna need ye to explain anything, Sassenach. Ye're here and that's all that matters..." he stroked my face lightly and I closed my eyes immediately. "Now let's go, I dinna want to waste any more time here!"

We had sex in a passionate, fast, and famished way.

We didn't reach the bed, we had no time for anything because the urge to be in each other's possession was consuming us in a guttural, sweeping way. Alex ripped off one side of my panties hard, without fully removing his clothes to take me in just one single blow. I was standing against the wall, with my dress pulled up around my waist, the shoes still on my feet. We were ravenous, acting on pure instinct, and nothing really mattered to me because he completed me, and that feeling was like being home again. 

Finally complete.

I could hear him holding his inspiration against my ear while standing still inside me for countless seconds, feel his wet and breathless expiration against the thin skin of my neck the faster he moved inside me, and also watch the overwhelming passion in his eyes. This was all I needed to feel at that very moment, and his presence was all I had asked for the universe in the last two weeks. I felt magically complete as I'd never felt before.

"Ye're tearing my guts out, Elizabeth..." I was still leaning against the wall and he held my hair tight, saying it in my ear as we reached the climax for the first time that night. His exasperated voice was deeply embodied by an intense degree of suffering in every word he uttered, and I confess I didn't know what to say to him, he sounded very confused. “These past two weeks, I have been through hell. Not knowing what had happened to ye, or if I had done something wrong..."

"Gosh, Alexander, you haven't done anything wrong..." I got up from his lap and held his face with my two hands so he could look straight at me. "I had an unexpected incident after the fog last week and I couldn't come..." I stroked his face, smiling bashfully. "I'm sorry I couldn't warn you…"

"Och, Elizabeth. Ye have to forgive me for demanding from you something that ye don't owe me," he held me tight as if he was trying to hide his reactions from me. "Ye dinna owe me any explanations at all, Sassenach."

After having sex a few more times in many different places in that room, I finally laid on Alex's chest and felt his arm wrap me tightly. He seemed insecure as well as possessive, his caresses on my back becoming more unsettling the further we kept in silence as if he was unsure which step to take next.

"Elizabeth..." he touched my face, awakening me from the bliss I felt. Doubt was imprinted in his voice in a way I had never heard before. "Is it normal what happens between us when I touch ye, when ye lie down with me?" Millions of warning bells rang in my head all at once. That wasn't exactly the way Alex used to speak to me. "Is that a usual thing ye feel when ye're with someone?" I raised my head quickly to face him, swallowing hard at the sight of his eyes glowing at mine.

We stood for a few seconds staring at each other while my brain was trying to come up with a good answer in a thousand different ways. However, there was just one proper answer available and I took a deep breath to have the heart to put it into words:

"No, that's not usual, Alex. It's different." I finally smiled and stroked his face back. "We have something different from anything I have ever experienced before." he grinned fondly as he kissed my lips just before falling into a deep sleep. There, I knew for sure that I was in the best place I would possibly dream to be.



***

 

I thought things would reach a new level in my relationship with Alexander after that statement of endearment; but even noticing in his eyes doubt and insecurity of showing me his true feelings, for the next five weeks I could never reach his heart the same way again. He kept being intense as ever, gentle when required, gutted when he would lose his grip, but I couldn’t ever connect with his soul ever again.

And after all that time I realized that it was no longer enough for me.

On the following Thursday morning, after more than a month since my return to The Heat, I woke up feeling awfully sick. Nothing I had eaten the day before could explain the nausea I felt early that morning, yet I didn't want to believe in the most logical explanation for those symptoms I was feeling. I didn't want to believe that I was pregnant, but my cycle had been out of tune for such a long time that I no longer knew when I had my last period. 

And I had been having sex with Alex without protection for over a month and this didn't help either.

That night I went back to The Heat, it was the week after the hospital emergency overcrowding, Alex was missing me so desperately that the last thing we could think of was using a protection. Of course the same applied to me, my body could not withstand the urgency of being possessed by Alex again and the little conscience inside my brain faded away as soon as his hands touched my skin.

We were both blind, lust was the only thing I could sense that night, so the last thing I thought of was to protect myself not only from unwanted pregnancy but from all the sexual transmissive diseases that could be the result of such an unwise act. As a doctor and aware of the potential risks of such a sexual relationship, I blamed myself, even more, when I realized this irreparable mistake only a couple of weeks later, with no chance of using a morning-after pill in an attempt to avoid what was now inevitable.

That Thursday was my day off at the hospital and God never had such perfect timing like that, I definitely couldn't work with all the shit that was going on in my life. I went to the drugstore nearby totally scared stiff to buy a pregnancy test and finally, after over two hours inside my home bathroom, I had the courage to do it.

Positive, of course! Yes, it was all I needed!

I kept staring at the two red lines of that white thing, completely in shock, unsure whether to laugh or cry. Then I decided that crying was the best alternative, tears running down my cheeks, wetting my shirt and I couldn't stop it. I was so screwed! Congratulations, Claire, you'll be a mommy! God, I got pregnant by a complete stranger... What was I thinking?

After sipping a cup of tea trying to calm me down from the worst nightmare of my life, - obviously did not help at all - I eagerly went to the hospital's clinical lab to ask one of the nurses with whom I had a close relationship with to take a sample of my blood and run a complete test for sexually transmitted diseases and in addition to it another one to confirm what I already knew. However, on top of all that, I needed to know how far I was in the pregnancy. That baby could be Arthur's, from before our separation, or it could be Alex's.

And I never wanted so much to be pregnant with Arthur.

Meanwhile, as I waited for the results, I kept judging myself in every possible way on how irresponsible I had been in the last few weeks by having sex without a condom with someone I didn't even know. I had always bought condoms since I quit taking birth control pills at the start of the previous year when I was still engaged with Arthur. And with Alex, I always carried them to London in my dress pockets, even though he always took several with him as well. But even so, in a rush of irrationality, we had just forgotten to use it and all this time I was acting like nothing could happen to me.

As I received the result, I realized that all the exam parameters I had requested were up to the correct standards, and this briefly gave me some relief. However, that didn't last for very long because, as I turned the page, I found that the Beta HCG result showed an early pregnancy, just over a month. As I read this, it was as if the earth had opened beneath my feet and I felt myself being pulled ruthlessly into a dark, very deep gap; as if the world had turned its back on me and all the frightening things were happening at once.

I couldn't talk to any of my friends. Louise was unaware that I kept returning to The Heat much less of the fiery passion I was feeling for Alex; she had warned me of the dangers of falling in love inside that place and I just couldn't admit to her that I had done exactly the opposite of what she had told me to do. Joe, on the other hand, had no idea of all the risks I was taking every Friday when I drove more than 100 miles to have sex with a strange guy, who I didn't even know his name, and who I was pregnant with.

God, I was a real amateur, indeed!

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Demi Lovato - Stone Cold

Youtube  // Spotify

Billy Lockett - Say I'm Sober

Youtube  // Spotify

.

.

POV Claire

 

Flashback On

 

I stopped going to The Heat after the blood test results and I spent the next two weeks struggling if I should tell him or not or about the pregnancy. Alex was quiet and not openly connected with me in the last encounters, so I wasn't sure if we had something really special and strong that could lead us to build up a solid bond to overcome the walls of that place. The truth was that I didn't know him enough and all we shared during these few months now seemed to have been no more than a fantasy.

I felt so insignificant to him, maybe because I only knew him in that way and I was feeling strengthless to fight a battle I thought it was lost. After many sleep-deprived nights, I realized, with deep sorrow, that I was madly in love with Alexander and I was sure I was unrequited. From the very beginning, he made it clear that he would never fall in love with anyone, and all his attitudes during our encounters proved this, except for the day I got pregnant with him.

I spent all the following days lonely, locked in my own bubble trying to solve the problem on my own, besides having to finish my final graduation papers and take care of the most critical cases in the hospital. I kept myself in silence for a few more days, working hard and setting up the presentation for the following week; but then Joe got fed up with waiting for me to talk about it, pushing me inside one of the empty rooms along the corridor and locking us two in it to tell me off as he always used to do.

"Claire, what's going on, for God's sake!" he pushed me abruptly against the door and I kept my eyes closed, I just couldn't stare at his inquiring face. "Why are you not talking to me?" Joe shook my body lightly as he held my shoulders firmly, he was really mad as I had never seen him before. "You've been so quiet for weeks, always avoiding me when I was asking how things were... Why are you absent-minded? Is it because of your graduation work? Is it because of Arthur?" he spoke fast and eagerly, expecting me to say something, but I couldn't look at his face nor answer his question. "Say something, Claire!" he shouted once again, his face displaying fear for not knowing what was happening to me.

"No Joe, everything's fine with my paper and nothing is going on with Arthur..." I stared at him at last, slowly collapsing against his hands, the tears pouring down my cheeks. Seeing the hopelessness in my eyes, he held me tightly. "Joe, I don't know what to do..." I said leaning my head against his chest, the fear was apparent in every word that came out of my mouth. "I'm screwed and I don't know how to get out of this mess..."

I told him everything. I told him about the first date with Alex, how I got into the place by Louise's invitation, how I had fallen in love with this guy, and how stupid I had been when I had sex without protection in one of the nights spent with Alex. I told him about the pregnancy test and the certainty I had that Alex was the father. But before we giggled, I almost hit Joe in his face when he joked about it. "Just think on the bright side of everything, LJ, at least my little Emily will have a friend to play with". He would always try to make me laugh, even in the darkest moments.

I knew I would have my friend's full support, but I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. Joe had been emphatic when he insisted that I should look for Alexander, but I hadn't even made up my mind if I would, let alone when I would. The only thing I was sure of was that I would keep the baby. It never crossed my mind about having an abortion.

Throughout those difficult days, I needed more than anything else to get some fresh air and a peaceful place to reflect on everything that was happening to me. Late that afternoon, even though my mind was more at ease than on the previous days, I still felt the need to put some comfortable clothes on and go for a walk to my favorite park.

But the last person I expected to see in front of me was Arthur.

I had spent a few minutes on one of the park benches, minding my own business, listening to soft songs birds were chirping on the tree next to me when Arthur showed up right in front of me. He was downhearted, his face bringing a shy smile on his lips and a bag of our favorite wine shop in one of his hands.

Yes, we had so many memories together, after all, a great part of my grown-up life had been shared with him...

"Claire... I went to your apartment and I imagined you were here." he talked to me as if the words were getting in the way, his eyes were wandering around the park, yet distant from me.

"What exactly do you want here, Arthur?" I stared straight up at him, struggling to hide any shadow of doubt imprinted on my face. I didn't want him to notice my vulnerability, not after everything we'd been through.

"Claire, hon..." he approached me, sitting at a distance and staring at me for the first time. "I need to talk to you."

"We have nothing more to talk about, Arthur!" I said harshly because, besides being deeply hurt by him, he no longer belonged to my life, I now carried another man's child in my belly.

"I cannot live without you." He held my hands tightly as if he didn't want me to run away from him anymore. "All I ask is that you forgive me, Claire..."

I stared at him for uncountable seconds before I broke the silence:

"I forgive you if that is all you need to hear." My eyes gazed at him, all the anger I had felt since our breakup came at once and stronger... "But now I want you to go away."

"Please, let's walk over to your house... I have found the Italian wine we love so much..." I stared at him in anger for a while, taking off my hands from his.

"Do you want to buy me with some wine, Arthur?" I laughed sarcastically and crossed my arms against my chest, breathing deeply trying to bring back myself some self-control.

"No, Claire! Of course not!" he was frightened, gulping down roughly, shaken hands as he tried to fix another mistake he had made. I struggled to keep a straight face, but I had fun with the faces Arthur was making and I ended up giggling at him, bringing him a relieving smile. And God, I loved that wine! "But I didn't know what to offer you as a gift and I know you wouldn't accept flowers after all I've done to you..."

"If you only knew what I’ve been going through, Arthur, you no longer would be here in front of me." I stood up quickly as I remembered everything I was going through, the tears pouring from my eyes for not feeling worthy of his love anymore. How things can change in the blink of an eye... "I am no longer the same as you knew."

"Claire, don't do this to yourself!" he followed me, spinning my body gently so I could face him again. My gaze was blurred, once again filled with all the grief and insecurity I'd been living through the last few days. "Let's go to your house and I promise to listen to you without judgment. I don't have any right to judge anything or anyone, after all I put you through, do I?" He squeezed my hand tenderly and smiled timidly, gently leading me towards my apartment. "Come on, hon, let's talk about the downpouring over the last few days!" God proved that once again he had the perfect timing to solve all things. Arthur was returning to my life at a moment filled with great uncertainty. And only He, the Almighty, knew how much I longed to talk to a familiar face about things other than the mess I was in.

In the end, Arthur made up my mind. I almost always used to give in whenever he was around, especially when I was feeling so lost and so fragile in the most complicated situation I had ever put myself through.

When we arrived at my place, we talked about some thrifty things from our past, some beautiful moments we shared, some friendships we had in common during those five years. My ex-fiancé cooked my favorite pasta to go along the wine and his voice was echoing softly in my living room, filling the emptiness I hadn't noticed I was feeling. Taking some time to observe him better while we chat, I noticed that his beard and his hair were a little longer than the last time I saw him and it contrasted perfectly with the greenish color of his sweet, tender eyes. No, I could not complain about how completely messed up he looked after those months we were apart. God, he was so handsome...

"Would you care for some wine, Claire?" he asked me after we ate silently for a while and he saw that my glass remained full. I would never leave it full normally. "I mean, you don't have to skimp on the wine because it is expensive!" He gave a little smile, and immediately I remembered the reasons I fell in love with him five years ago.

"No, for now, I'm fine..." I didn't want to talk about the real reasons to say no to one of the finest wines in life. "Your pasta is delicious, as always..." I grinned frankly, I was delighted to get so much attention after so many months apart and from all that had changed my life forever.

"I know it's your favorite..." he smiled back as he twinkled, all his love shining through in each attitude towards me that night.

As we finished, I made some chamomile tea and I sat down quietly on the couch over one of my legs and invited him to sit beside me. I knew he wanted to talk to me and we'd better start right away.

"Claire, I need to say a few things to you, but I need you to listen to me until the end, okay?" he waited for me to nod before he went on, making himself comfortable so he could sit facing me. "I love you, Claire. I love you so much and I'm terribly sorry for everything I've done to you," he looked at my hands over my legs, probably feeling lost in the absence of our engagement ring. "I don't know what I was thinking when I made you suffer such sore disappointment darling..." his eyes were sad and full of tears. "I can't concentrate on anything from the moment we broke up; all of these months I wasn’t sure which way I would take to get close to you again. I need to tell you that I’m the most miserable man on earth for having broken your trust and jeopardizing our life together not thinking how wonderful the woman I had by my side. My sunshine..." he gently caressed my face, making me smile almost unconsciously.

"Arthur, I need to say something first..."

"No Claire, not now." he interrupted me. "Please let me finish before..." he took a deep breath, looking happily at me. "I have some news! Do you remember that job opportunity in Montreal I was running for?" I nodded, of course I remembered; I had helped him to put together all the paperwork he needed to apply for that position five months ago, and we were very anxious to finally establish ourselves in his family's home country. "I was called to teach at the Medical University at the beginning of the coming school year and only you know how much I wanted to be hired by them..." he had achieved what many medical doctors' dreamed of their whole careers and I was very proud of Arthur. I smiled widely, not hiding my pride from him. "But I can't do it without you, Claire." He stroked my face and I closed my eyes as I felt the warmth of his hand against my skin. "I need you, so my life will have meaning again.

"Arthur, we're not together anymore. I'm not going to Montreal with you..." our time was over and I needed to make it clear once more... Our relationship would no longer work the same way because of my pregnancy, although I was happy for him. "I won't follow your journey, I have my own plans. Besides, I need to..."

"God! I don't want to stop you Claire!" he seemed scared by what I had said, cutting me loose once again. "I'm the last one who ever wanted to clip your wings, you know me and you know it! You have such a wonderful gift..." he smirked in the same sweet, gentle way as he did on our first date. "In Canada, you'll have all the benefits, I've already spoken to the bosses at the teaching hospital about you..."

"Did you speak to them already?" I adjusted myself on the couch so that I could hear him better.

"As I told you, Claire, I'm not traveling to Montreal without you. That's my only condition to move there and they are making sure that you will get the best possible opportunities. But I need you, Claire, I can't do this without you..." Caressing my cheek, he slowly brought his face closer to mine, our lips almost touching one another, so close that I could smell the sweet perfume of the delightful wine he was drinking.

"I'm sorry, Arthur, I can't do that." I stood up quickly, folding my arms in front of my chest to try to wipe away the coldness and fear I was feeling inside. "I need to tell you something that will change your mind about all that you've just said to me." I took a deep breath, taking heart to talk about the one thing that had been preventing me from sleeping the entire past month. "I'm pregnant, Arthur... I'm pregnant and it's not your child." His eyes fixed on mine with amazement, but they were soon heartbroken as they captured all the suffering in my face.

"How far are you?" Arthur had his voice under control and I knew he was about to explode anytime.

"A little over four weeks..." I couldn't face him anymore, the shame had taken over me hard."And does the father know that?" he stood up, grabbing my glass of wine that was still on the table and drank it up at one sip. His hands were shaking slightly. "Will you marry him?"

"God! No, Arthur!" My hand waved in the air, my eyes closed while I was shaking a negative movement with my head. "It's... it's a really tough situation to be handled." I reached the window frame, I just couldn't stare again at the man who had been in my life for so long and suddenly was realizing how upside down my life ended up to be during the months we had been apart.

"Please Claire." he cut me off. "I don't want you to tell me about any details, I don't know if I could handle it." Arthur said it embarrassingly after taking a long breath, but I noticed all the discomfort expressed by the body language for having been "replaced" by Alex. "But I think you should talk to him, Claire." I turned my head in shock to meet his face. I saw the effort he was making to soothe his thoughts. "He deserves to know he's going to be a father... You know how much I want to be a father, how much I love my little patients..." his voice grew louder and louder as he walked towards me. "The child deserves that, too, it's his right." He came a little closer to me, gently stroking the side of my arm, my body shivering in reaction to that simple contact. "However, I want you to know that I don't change my position," he gently lifted my face to face his and I saw all that anger turn into warmth in the twinkling of an eye. "I will not change my offer to you, and I want you to know that I will love this child as my own if you decide to forgive me..." I stopped breathing for a few moments, the shock took over my body. How would he accept something so messy and chaotic?

"Arthur, you don't have to do this..." I walked away from him again, the weight of shame getting bigger and bigger on my shoulders. "You mustn't do this! Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, I don't need your pity!" I shouted out.

"I love you, Claire, I love you in all possible ways!" his words of grief and longing made me turn my face quickly towards him. "It was my fault you had sex with a stranger, I know you well enough to know that you would never betray me as I did. You're such a special woman, Claire." His eyes were sparkling so brightly that I felt my heartache. "Now we have a chance to start from scratch together in a different place, start over... Don't give up on us, please."

"Arthur, you've come here telling me all these beautiful love words, but I’m living a totally different new scenario in my life," I said it without looking at him directly, that whole situation was hurting me more than I supposed it would be possible. "We need to think, things are no longer the same for any of us..." he slowly approached me and I didn't stop him. "I need to ponder over everything you told me and you need to think about your future in Montreal without me. I'm a question mark now." I sighed deeply, the tears that clouded my eyes were quickly removed with my fingertips. "I don't know what to expect from my life and I don't want to drag you into a mess and you are not supposed to shoulder this responsibility."

"I'll be waiting for you, Claire." Arthur was willing to give me the whole world and his sweet eyes expression and his complicity smile were always pointing this out to me. "Don't forget that. Do not imagine that I will give you up so easily," he hugged me fondly for long seconds until my cry softened, leaving through the front door moments later.



***



After I presented the final residency speech the following week, I spoke with Joe again and updated him on Arthur’s proposals and how he insisted I should go and tell the child's father that I was pregnant. After two long hours spent in our favorite pub near the hospital, Joe finally managed to convince me to look for Alexander at the end of that week. Yes, now I was sure he at least needed to know he was going to be a father.

I was not supposed to raise expectations over our relationship and put the blame on the child. I had been away from The Heat for almost two months and I didn't even know if I would find him there. Actually, I was not sure if Alex would be there that night if he would be as disconsolate as he was after the traffic accident that kept me trapped in the hospital and made me unable to stick to my promise to him. I was trying to prepare myself for any different situation that might occur in front of me, but I didn't expect to see Alex grabbing some blonde woman in a corner of the salon. She was kissing him eagerly and I was sure that she was the same woman I had seen with him on my first visit to The Heat.

The time went by quickly and the two lovebirds kept touching each other in the open for everyone to see. I couldn't keep staring at them anymore and hoping for something else to happen, or for Alexander to lose interest in her and finally turn his face to the place where our gazes met so many times before.

That was too much for me to handle.

Maybe he was attracted to women who enjoyed that kind of interaction and not a woman as old fashioned as me. I thought he was a different person than the guy I was seeing, but I only had to step aside for a moment for him to replace me with another, without even giving it much thought. Yes, I hadn't been to the party for over a month, I know that, but seeing him like that made my body shiver in a hurtful way; and in a blink of an eye, I felt like throwing up.

Right away, I remembered what he said to me on our first meeting and my heart stopped beating for a brief moment as the pain took over my body. He told me "The Heat was not the best place to find a boyfriend.” Now it all made sense... I was nothing to him. Everything we had experienced was definitely a lie.

The biggest and most tearing of all lies.

I had high hopes dreaming of a relationship based only on a casual love affair... He had warned me from the beginning, but what did I do? I got even more involved than I ever imagined... I tried to protect myself from a heartache when I said that I felt nothing for him but a strong sexual connection, but deep inside I knew I was getting involved. He never swore an oath of love, or promised me a loving relationship, with family and children. Yet, even knowing all this, Alexander seemed to treat me differently when we were together, so much so that I actually believed there was something special between us.

I rushed out without being able to think of anything else, the tears blurring my eyes as I walked towards the car that was parked over two blocks away. Unconsciously my mind led me to the only place where I would feel safe at that moment: Arthur's apartment. Parking in front of the main door, I tried to hold my tears so he wouldn't notice that I had cried, but it didn't work out as planned.

"Hey, Claire..." he spoke as soon as he opened the door, still sleepy, but he came to his senses almost instantly. "What happened?" He hugged me tightly and kissed my forehead instinctively.

"I have no idea what I'm doing here, Arthur..." I wept in despair leaning my head against his chest and then we walked in.

"Easy, Claire. You need to breathe..." I sat unwarily on the couch as he briefly walked away from me to grab me some water and tissue paper to dry the tears that kept coming from my eyes. "Tell me what's haunting you, my dear…"

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! What an awful situation!" I said, lightly blowing my nose and drying my face, I gasped strongly. "I've just seen the child's father, Arthur... and... and it's all over between us."

"He doesn't care about the baby?" He couldn’t hide the anger. He blushed with rage and his face imprinted all his angriness.

"It's all over, Arthur... I don't know what to do with my life from now on." I sobbed loudly, expressing all the pain I felt and resonating all my sorrows through every tear I was shedding for Alex. "I'm newly graded in medical residency, I work at the hospital for almost no money and I'm spreading my CV to several different places." I was feeling so lost... "I'm really close to losing my mind, Arthur. And now all this? I don't know what I did to deserve so much pain..."

"You don't have to feel this way, my love..." he pulled my face towards his. "I'm here with you and if you want me in your life, we can go to Montreal and start everything all over again." He grinned, really moved, the tears rolling down his cheeks. "We can live near a beautiful park and watch the baby grow together! I want to raise your child, I need to raise your child, Claire."

"Why are you doing all that, Arthur?" I could see the truth in his face, but I did not understand what had led him to make such a strong statement. I was sniffing my noise and I strained my eyebrows asking him. "Why do you need to raise him?"

"I say it out of love Claire, I am your friend above everything else in this world and I would not cease to love a son who came from you, whether I was the father or not." He took a long pause, the pain imprinted on his face. "But something else has happened to me since I left your place a few weeks ago..." he sighed deeply, hiding his eyes from mine. "Remember that test I took just before we split up?" We had done prenuptial exams, including prenatal ones and fertility tests since we intended to get married as soon as I graduated from the residence. " At that time Dr. Jones had asked me to come to his office for a talk, but when we broke up I canceled the appointment..." he sighed once again, looking at me with sadness. "Last week I finally returned there for other reasons and he showed me the exams... I'm sterile, Claire."

"Oh, God." I stroked the side of his arm and I tried with my whole heart to share all the pain I knew he was feeling. "I'm so sorry, Arthur... I know how badly you wanted to have a child of your own."

"Yes, I wanted it deeply. You more than anyone else understands how much I wanted to..." he attempted to smile, yet his eyes expressed an intense feeling of sadness. "I can raise your son as my own, Claire. I know I can love this child as mine." he held my hands tight, wetting them with his tears. "I would do anything for you, anything to have you by my side."

"No, Arthur, you don't have to do this, I must manage it alone!" I confess that unconsciously this was my deepest desire even though I was feeling horrified by his request; the shame of being through all that situation was greater than anything and I couldn’t by no means, accept what he was proposing to me.

"You know you don't have to, I am here to welcome both of you ..." I started shedding tears as well too..

We wept in each other's arms for a moment, the comfort he gave me was a balm to my weary soul and his warmth nourished my body. Arthur did me good and he was good to my heart. His love was calm, safe, mature, and after I had gone through that journey, I knew that everything was over in the way it was supposed to be: me in the arms of the man who was meant for me.

"And it's all my fault... if I hadn't been a jerk, you wouldn't have followed your friend and not even met this guy." He hugged me even harder, his tears wetting my face and the fabric of my sweater. "Why am I such an idiot, my God? Why on earth have I caused you so much suffering, my love?" he held my face gently, kneeling in front of my feet as he hugged my legs tightly as if he didn't want me to escape from him again.

"I don't want you to blame yourself, nothing else can be erased..." I swallowed hard, suddenly feeling comfortable to feel him so close to me. I started stroking his soft hair but still sensing a certain discomfort when I instantly felt his sigh of relief against my thigh. "If you accept me this way, accept us this way, I promise I'll go wherever you want." He lifted his head quickly, staring at my face as my fingers slipped toward his cheeks. "I love you, Arthur. I've always loved you and you have always been in my heart." That wasn't a lie, but what I couldn't say was that Alex, that  Bastard,  was playing a much bigger role in my heart and mind than anyone else could ever play. "I just need a few more days." I looked at him feeling confused, it was still strange to me to share that degree of intimacy with him again. " The graduation will be next weekend and I have arrangements to make so that we can move abroad."

"You are the only thing I need in this world, darling!" he laughed and cried and embraced me joyfully as he sat down next to me again. "As I told you before, I just need to be there in September, so I have plenty of time to help you with your graduation!" his smile brightened up his whole apartment, his eyes were as emotional and shining as mine. "I need to let the universities know we are coming and start looking for a place for us to live there! God!" He hugged me tightly and I could almost feel the excitement coming out of his pores. "I can't believe you're really back!" His hand gently caressed my flat belly and we smiled back to each other. "Don't worry, this baby is already much loved and I'm going to give him everything a father should give to his child. I promise you!"

After sharing such close and painful moments together, we finally gave in and began to kiss. At first, it was kind of strange kissing again that man who had broken my heart months ago, but somehow he was helping me to stick together all the thousand pieces of my heart that Alexander had broken a few hours earlier.

After all, the harm caused by the Scot had been infinitely more serious than Arthur's.

It may sound strange, maybe like a complete craziness, but I confess that I was enjoying all the attention and love I was getting from Arthur. Bonding with Arthur supplied me everything I needed at that very moment: comfort, assurement, certainty, and support... Exactly the opposite of what I got from Alexander. Arthur knew me well, he knew my likes and dislikes and my habits like no one else, he had been my friend for a long time, following every step of my journey until then.

We kissed deeply as we laid on the couch, and when I got a huge smile from the man standing in front of me when we briefly split up because we were breathless, I realized how much I had missed everything we were sharing together again. I finally realized that I really missed Arthur in my life.

Having sex with Arthur was inevitable. We kissed intensely and our hands wandered carefully through our bodies at first, as if we were rediscovering each other again after all we had lived through those months apart. We kept on our way to the room and, as we stood naked facing each other, Arthur observed me for a few seconds, visibly moved to see us intimately together so closely again.

I reconnected with him in a very unsure way on that first moment. I slowly pushed him to the bed, making him lie on the mattress as I crawled over his body, placing increasingly daring kisses on his skin until I reached his neck. I noticed he was surprised to see me leading him and by the look on his face, I sensed he was enjoying it.

I rode over his lap, his hands and his mouth searching for my breasts with desire, an intense urge growing deeper in our bodies as Arthur moved rhythmically beneath me. It was delightful to witness him as surrendered as I was, and in just one movement he flipped our positions to penetrate even deeper into me breathlessly until our climax came intense and calm, just like our relationship.

Being with Alex between four walls had been very special. He had been very special to me. Alexander had unfolded me a completely different world, teaching me a plethora of different sexual possibilities my body could experience.

But being with Arthur suited me well too, much more than I expected. He reminded me of safe love, routine, and comfort, things that I valued very much to keep up with my daily life in a healthy way, everything I had dreamed of since I was a girl.

But the most important thing of all things to me was that Arthur allowed me to approach his heart and wanted me to do the same differently from Alex.

And after all, my choice had been made.



***



Just before heading back to France, Louise tried to talk to me to understand the reasons I had decided to reconnect to Arthur and what had happened to the redhead guy at The Heat. I hadn't said anything about the pregnancy to anyone except to Joe and Arthur, so I told her that everything was fine, that I had had a lot of fun with Alex, but now it was time to face reality.

And my reality was Arthur.

I must admit that my heart ached when I said that, those weeks away from Alexander made me long much his laughter, the way he worried about me, the connection we had when we had sex, and the sense of completeness we felt, falling into a deep sleep after we reached the climax. My body used to burn for being close to him and the magical overjoying feeling when I thought about how complete I felt inside his embrace.

However, all that was not meant to be, that lustful relationship was completely out of my bucket list, and in my mind, there was no turning back. I was sure that I would always see the greatest passion of my life in the eyes of that child whom I was carrying in my tummy.

That should be enough for me.

After a few weeks of many legal steps taken, including our rush marriage, Arthur and I were moving abroad to Canada. I was almost four months pregnant, ready to start my professional life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean with the most supportive man in this world by my side. I was leaving my whole life behind in exchange for a professional dream, love, and a real family for my son and me.

Yes, we already knew it would be a boy and Arthur quickly chose his name right after the ultrasound: Fergus. I was delighted to see how my now-husband was so committed to our plans and to a son who was not his own blood but who would get all the love a child deserved.

He was already getting all the love that any human being deserved to receive.

I looked back at my past once more and I smiled confidently as I left it all behind along with the people that I loved, filling my heart with hope as I saw my husband extending his hand to me and showing that we could finally get on board to face our future. A future that was full of promises and surely the best thing we could ever dream of for ourselves.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Lord Huron - The Night We Met

Youtube // Spotify

Sam Smith - Pray

Youtube // Spotify

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POV Jamie

 

Flashback On

 

On the night that I was supposed to meet Elizabeth for the third time at The Heat, I left the place completely muddled, and if it was not for Murtagh’s help I don't know how I  would have made it safely home. He was a really good friend, he knew me very well, and he pointed out to me a million times that all I was experiencing was just because I was in love with Elizabeth. Of course, I kept reassuring myself that none of the things he said were true, but the uncertainty over what I really felt for Elizabeth began to deepen right after she failed to show up the first night.

I've never drunk so much like I did that past week and the only reason why I was doing all that had a name: Elizabeth. She was messing up my mind, my good sense of judgment, my habits. I couldn't eat or work properly, I had been told off more that week than during the four years I'd been at the fire station.

How in God's name did she exert that kind of power over me?

We barely knew each other, but I was under her influence during the most ordinary daily tasks, I just couldn't get her out of my mind. That woman who brought me peace so many times, so often, was ruining my life now.

Murtagh persuaded me to return to The Heat once again and wait for Elizabeth, although I wanted to convince myself that I didn’t want to go back to the party. He was sure she'd show up again and that something might have happened so she hadn't been able to be there the week before. I stuck to this idea so hard as a toddler who wouldn't let go of his favorite blanket.

We arrived and sat down in our usual place. I loved to observe everything from that spot, but I wasn't excited about it that day, I just wanted to drench myself in another bottle of whisky. I asked Jimmy the barman, an old acquaintance of mine, for a sealed bottle of the best Scotch whisky available in the place so I could keep on drowning my sorrows with my weekly booze intoxication. While I drank, I kept glancing up to the entrance door from time to time in an almost subconscious move, feeling even more frustrated when I saw that we had been there for almost an hour and Elizabeth hadn't shown up.

"Lad, dinna lose yer faith, yer nighean donn will show up when ye least expect it!" Murtagh poured me another shot as he tried to calm me down and I drank it in one sip, silently asking him to put more scotch in my glass.

"She always gets here so early, Murtagh..." I spoke in a second of weakness, once again offering him my empty glass so he could fill it up. He stared at me uneasily, but I guess that my frowny face made him stop questioning me. "Ye know what? I dinna care about her anymore!" Now Murtagh was stirring his glass tensiously, staring at his hands. "I just need to get soaked and find someone to soothe all that stress with. No lass is worth all this attention."

I was dipped in my thoughts for a few seconds, the noise around me seemed so loud that my ears were buzzing back one of my favorite songs. Nope, I was definitely not well. To make things worse, the color of the whisky inside my glass reminded me of Elizabeth's sweet and intense eyes, so I wished I could get rid of that glass right away... However, before I could fulfill one more of my wishes driven by a temporary state of insanity, I felt a gentle, chilled squeeze on my shoulder as I heard a voice sighing my alias in an apprehensive way in my ear. 

I recognized that voice. I knew for sure whose voice that was. Yet, I just couldn't believe that I was finally listening to it. I turned my body back in slow motion, swallowing hard when I  saw a small hand lying hesitantly on my shoulder. I followed the path up and my eyes met her gaze and just one little thought kept whispering in my head: she is here! I smiled as I saw her in front of me, those cheerful and trembling lips were the perfect match for those bright amber eyes reflecting all the joy for finally being there.

"Hi..." she finally said after a brief moment of silence, her cheeks tinted in pink while we were exchanging glances. As if I had woken up from a dream, I quickly got up from the bench and gently pulled her towards a more private spot, near the bar.

"Sassenach, is that ye?" I held her face with my trembling hands and smiled. I still couldn't believe she was there with me once again. That unimaginable sensation had taken me back in a way that I felt like crying, but quickly wiped away the tears with a long, deep sigh.

"Of course, you silly man! Why wouldn’t it be?" she hugged me and the world around us stopped spinning right away and then I brought her close to me possessively, keeping the silence between us inside that bubble bliss. I had longed to feel her scent the whole time we had been apart, and having this wish granted was on the top of what I needed the most. "I want to apologize for not coming last week, I couldn't..."

I stopped her with a very, intense kiss. She was there by my side and that's all that mattered to me, and all the pain I had been through over the past week faded away as if by magic. I pressed her against the wall while I fondled her body desperately, fulfilling all the desire kept inside me. I lifted her body up slowly as I caressed her butt underneath her sensual dress, and I found she was wearing small panties that seemed to be made out of lace. It turned me even more on and our kisses intensified as I felt like having her immediately. 

We kept on for a while until she silently asked me to slow down. I was frustrated, but I knew she was absolutely right to delay the pace, no matter how perfect it was. I gently placed her on the floor, tugging her dress down before leaning my forehead against hers as our breathing slowly returned to normal. 

"I dinna need to know anything about this, Sassenach.” I spoke after a few seconds. “Ye're here and that's all that matters..." I caressed her face briefly and she closed her eyes, smiling with pleasure. "Now let's go, I dinna want to waste any more time here!"

I could barely control my desires till we reached the room, my hand shaking with craving as I tried to open the door while savoring Elizabeth's neck. There was a whirlwind that had been building up for days inside me, so our first time together had absolutely no tenderness involved. In reality, neither of us was looking for it. I pressed her against the wall, positioning one of my knees between her legs, lifting her dress without care before ripping off a side of her panties so that I could have free access to what I wanted desperately.

Pulling down my pants as they piled up over my feet, I easily lifted Elizabeth up, penetrating her in a single stroke and moaning loudly as I felt how ready she was for me. We acted like breeding animals, instinctively, as we rubbed our bodies against each other. I couldn't move my head away from her neck, I loved the softness of her skin, her smell, her flavor, all intensified as her body's heat increased. She was perfect, exactly what I had dreamed of.

"Ye're tearing my guts out, Elizabeth..." I whispered with difficulty in her ear as I pulled her hair with my hand as I reached the climax with our bodies still as one, leaning against the wall. I felt confused by all the feelings that were pouring out of me. I couldn't keep quiet, I needed to share all the pain I felt in the last few days. “These past two weeks, I have been through hell. Not knowing what had happened to ye, or if I had done something wrong..."

"Gosh, Alexander, you haven't done anything wrong..." she unfolded her legs around my hip, descending from my lap and holding my face so I could stare at hers."I had an unexpected incident after the fog last week and I couldn't come..." she caressed my face very softly, smiling at me shyly. "I'm sorry I couldn't warn you…"

"Och, Elizabeth. Ye have to excuse me for demanding from you something that ye dinna owe me," I hugged her tight, suddenly feeling embarrassed for speaking such nonsense. Of course, she had her reasons and I didn't have the patience to wait. I really shouldn't have expected anything. "Ye dinna owe me any explanations at all, Sassenach."

In our calmest moments inside that room, when only our breaths could be heard, my mind could not stop thinking about what was really happening to me. What I really felt for the woman lying on my chest, all while holding her as if I didn't want her to leave my side ever again.  Even if I didn't know where to start, I felt like my heart would explode if I didn't ask what had been haunting me for long, torturous days.

“Elizabeth…” I gathered all my courage to ask her while caressing the soft skin of her face, awakening her from her sleep. "Is it normal what happens between us when I touch ye, when ye lie down with me?" I exhaled with such strength, not realizing I was holding my breath. I felt her body become tense in response to my question. "Is that a usual thing ye feel when ye're with someone?" Her eyes searched for mine quickly as if they could understand exactly what I meant. 

Elizabeth was quiet for much longer than I could bear, I could sense her brain struggling to find an answer to the question. And after a long sigh, finally hearing what she said was the greatest relief for my pain:

"No, that's not usual, Alex. It's different." she gently stroked my cheeks and my eyes just closed with joy, I wasn't imagining anything. "We have something different than anything I have experienced before." I opened my eyes again, appreciating her beautiful words with the most sincere smile I could give.

I could not control the happiness I felt, kissing her lips tenderly as I squeezed her firmly against my body, silently thanking God for this amazing woman that entered my life in such a particular way. After that strenuous week, I could finally relax and we fell into a deep sleep in each other's arms. There was no better place to be in the world than next to my Sassenach.

 

***

 

Yet all the darkness and uncertainty overwhelmed me again as I parted from Elizabeth that night. I still was not sure how I felt about her and I knew it wasn't good for my wellbeing at all. I could hardly manage some of the most basic routines as I used to since my heart raced erratically every time the thoughts about her entered my mind.

And the thoughts popped up more often than I would consider healthy.

As I left Inverness, I had sworn an oath to never allow my feelings to take over me and interfere with what I had planned for my life. I couldn't go off this path and neither could I get Elizabeth off hers. Our real lives were completely different from what we were experiencing in that small room and absolutely nothing of what we shared could go over that borderline.

However, every time we were together, I felt like I was being pulled by a magnet as soon she walked in The Heat’s door. Her eyes searched for mine as soon as she was in the venue as if they needed mine to feel alive and I could almost hear her relief sigh when it happened, even with the loud music in the room and the distance between us. In fact, the sigh I heard was the combination of her relief gaze as she saw me sitting in the same spot, with the echo of my blissful sigh when I realized she hadn't given up on me.

Not that night, at least.

But after a few weeks, she gave up. Without any explanation, she stopped meeting me on a rainy Friday in London. It’s not that the rain wasn't a usual thing for that city, but the sadness that took over my heart was greater than anything I could bear. The rain falling from the skies together with my pain was playing in a perfect duo; both slow and long-lasting.

 

***

 

After the second Friday she didn't show up, I finally told Murtagh, feeling deep grief in my heart, that I had fallen in love with Elizabeth. I  finally said, "Now I think I understand what ye told me when we first met, my dear friend." teardrops filled my eyes with sadness, and Fitzgibbons smirked sorrowfully at me and I could see in his eyes how deeply desolated he was for me not having made the right move at the right time.

The fear I had of turning that relationship real and not being loved in the same way was so great that I didn’t dare to give her my business card. Even after that incident that prevented her from coming to see me that night. Each time we said our goodbyes, shortly before dawn, I struggled inside to figure out exactly how and when it would be the best time to show her who I really was. I had never been in love with a woman like I was with Elizabeth, no one was ever so important to me as my Sassenach. But it was too late for that and now she had disappeared exactly the way she had come into my life, without a trace.

She had vanished from my radar forever.

I couldn't kiss any woman after Elizabeth, let alone have sex with any of them; the attempts had been too tempting the following weeks, but nothing else had felt right to me anymore.

Even though I felt I would never see my Sassenach again, I kept going to The Heat for several weeks straight, hoping to see her again. The whisky had been for sure my great ally during those painful times both inside and outside The Heat. On that night, right after drinking plenty of that amber liquid which reminded me of Elizabeth so much, Justine showed up and caught me off guard when I was coming out from the bathroom. I was totally under the influence of alcohol and unable to think properly, so I let her kiss me and kiss her back. I kissed her back hoping I could take Elizabeth out of my mind, no matter if only for that brief moment.

However, all that effort was in vain, nothing, and no one would take her place in my life and my heart. And for that reason, I had stopped going to The Heat after that night.

After four years and a broken heart, I realized that I was playing the role of someone who didn't exist. I wasn't a heartless guy who didn't like to get into relationships with other people, I had just closed my heart to the world in an attempt to protect myself. My tricks had worked very well until it failed to work on a magical Friday night when my world had turned upside down, and it had never seemed so right for me.

I have to admit that my body burned for Elizabeth more frequently than I found reasonable, and I spent more than a year without having sex with anyone after her. She used to fill up my dreams, haunt me during the day and when I realized I was having another daydream, I would feel like she had ripped my heart from my chest again. Seeing any curly, brown hair along the streets of London would make me turn my face around instinctively at her; even though I knew it was unhealthy for me, I couldn't get my head to stop thinking about Elizabeth.

Now I understood even more how Murtagh's mind and feelings worked after all that suffering, I could truly share his pain and finally allow my true self to emerge in a way that had never happened with anyone else. I talked to him about the soft moments I shared with Elizabeth, and he answered me with his own experiences with his Jodie. Tears poured into our eyes over and over again, drowning our grief with the good and old amber-colored liquid.

We had become great friends and our friendship took up significant space in my life. He had become a real reference for me. At least one good thing had come out from all that misery.

 

***

 

I chose to focus all my efforts on my job since my love life was a mess. Increasingly heavy workouts and a more controlled routine became part of my daily life from the moment my heart left my body. After the following months of Elizabeth's disappearance, I got fully committed to the fire department, and a few months later I was promoted as Chief of my unit’s department, a position I had always aimed at.

Later that same year, the first invitation to pose for the charity calendar on behalf of children with cancer appeared accompanied by a beautiful blond woman with a mysterious look. Laoghaire was one of the main people in charge of the charity calendar and she made an appointment with me at my new office. When I talked to her on the phone I realized by her name and accent where she was from and feeling vulnerable as I was, I ended up bewildered by her charming voice and broad smile. I missed home and I missed Janet and Ellen more deeply than I wanted to admit. I missed being able to love freely, with no judgment, especially for the people I had loved since I was born.

After a long talk with Murtagh on a cold Christmas Eve, having some whisky and a small portion of dessert on my plate that I had prepared for Christmas supper, I finally decided to face life and come to terms with who I really was.

“Good evening Jenny, is màthair with ye?”

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Sara Bareilles - Gravidade

Youtube  //  Spotify

Julia Michaels - What A Time ft. Niall Horan

Youtube  //  Spotify

 

 

POV CLAIRE

Being so close to Jamie after all those years apart and all the heartbreak I had to go through from that day he decided not to choose me, was one of the most confusing moments I have ever lived in my life. No matter how hard I tried to be tough and not let myself open up to him, just his mere sight or presence was the trigger to implode all the boundaries I had struggled for years to build up around my heart.

My body simply couldn't resist, it was as if gravity was pushing me back towards him all the time.

When our lips touched while I daydreamed about Jamie in that hospital room, even if so briefly, it was almost as if some kind of electrical discharge spread throughout my body. All those feelings and that blended sensations from nine years ago seemed to be returning to my heart in a blink of an eye.

God, how I missed his warmth, those strong arms around my body, the way he used to look at me when everything was silent.

When I came to terms with starting a new life all over again with Arthur across the ocean, I pledged to myself that nothing and no one else would make me feel so vulnerable like that, and I managed to curb these feelings for the years that followed Arthur's death in Montreal. Yet the power Jamie had over me was so strong that the simple memory of a brief touch of his lips was enough to make me feel a numbness on my lips. The memory of those lips on mine kept me awake for many nights away earning for him even when we were already outside that room at The Heat.  

Never a coffee and a silence were as long as at that moment.

Jamie and I sitting side by side, the tension hovering in the air, and I didn't know what to say or how to start chatting after kissing him in that most unexpected way. After much thought on where to start, I finally decided that it would be easier to talk about how Fergus' had spent the night, because above all, and as surreal as that might seem to me, our son was the only thing we had in common.

When I recalled the terrifying moments I had to spend awake watching my son’s sleep and how scared I got that something would happen during his critical hours, he tried to soothe me, taking my mind off things for a while.Jamie was highly skilled in the art of cheering people up and quickly brought some lightness to our conversation just as easily as years ago. I couldn't help laughing at his comments and how expressive his face was when he talked nonsense! Of course, I knew his age, I could never forget that he was five years younger than me and how oddly funny it was to know about that in one of our many nights at The Heat...

But I didn't have to say it loud and clear, Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!

"I'm sorry, Claire, but it seems that all these years dinna pass to ye..." still embarrassed and looking towards Fergus' room door, I saw when he turned and stared at me all handsomely blushed displaying that same charming smile on his face. That was the perfect blend of the two Jamies that went through my life. "And dinna insist otherwise, I know what I'm talking about!"

"You haven't changed a bit too, Jamie..."  I was still hiding behind my hair, my voice came out lower than I expected, almost as a whisper.

I was still feeling uncomfortable with my last act of extreme and unnecessary sincerity, and we remained silent while our minds were filled with all the memories brought back to us by my last words. But that "subtlety” was kept until Jamie had the guts to say something I never thought I'd hear coming out of his mouth:

"Do ye want to talk about what happened inside the room?" My body stiffened hearing his words and made me sigh deeply so that I could control the anxiety inside me. Why did he need to mention that? "What happened between us, Claire?"

“Uh, no... no Jamie.” finally I managed to say something, shaking my hand in the air in a negative way, I didn't have to prove how stupid I'd been. “Forget about it.” I leaned heavily against the chair, resting my head against the cold wall of the hallway.

"There is no way to forget it, Sassenach." His voice was filled with calmness and intensity, so typical of Jamie, focused on those few words, and the gentle touch of his fingers on my hair briefly reminded me of what we had lived together. Unable to help myself, I finally faced him, and our lips got so close that I could feel his warmth and the coffee aroma coming out of his mouth.

We stood still as if frozen for countless seconds, lips half-open, breathlessly, hearts fluttering more each time. When I sensed his caresses on my cheek, my brain shot off to all the grudges, resentments, or judgments that could be triggered by that touch, and the next second I laid my face on the palm of his hand breathing, a slight sigh coming out of my mouth as I shortly smiled at him. Inside that small bubble bliss moment, my heart was telling me I belonged in that place and so, for a brief instant, I allowed myself to experience that special daydream time.

 Who I wanted to fool; he was always present in my most beautiful dreams.

When I heard the nurse calling me so I could enter the room, I stood up feeling slightly dizzy as if I had been awakened by an anxious Fergus at 5:30 am; but as I was on my way to the room in trance, Jamie held my arm lightly and began to speak what echoed in my mind for the following days:

"Claire, I need ye to know that I've never felt so at ease with any woman other than ye... Ever! Ye have never lost the power ye exert over me since the day we met, not even for a moment!” he was talking softly against my ear in a sexy voice, without the slightest idea of the power he still had over me. "When I’m around ye it's as if nothing has changed between us, sometimes it feels like the years haven't gone by." How could things be so alike between us? Even after so many years, that's exactly how I was feeling. My body trembled against his when I noticed how close he was to me, the warmth that shone against my back not allowing me to think properly. "I dinna want to make ye feel uncomfortable with any of this, so I need to know if I'm going too fast. If I’m going too far. I just cannae bear the thought of ye walking away from me once again." He had no idea how hard it had been for me to decide to leave and for how many months, years, my heart had bled when I looked at our son.

"Everything's fine, Jamie." it was the only thing I managed to say, the world seemed to spin around my head non-stop. "But I really must go now."

I took a deep breath trying to put myself together and kind of disguising from all that sexual tension I could barely hide. I walked into the room feeling worried, but as soon as I heard the wonderful news about my son’s recovery, all concerns faded away. Fergus was fine, much more than the medical team expected, and if everything turned out well, he could be sent home anytime soon. Perfect! I was delighted to hear those words, thanking everyone and Dr. Forbes with a big hug and a million words of gratitude for all the assistance my son got during his stay at the hospital. 

"Maman, I remembered the firefighter that was here earlier..." how wonderful it was to hear his voice again, even though he sounded really tired still, "I recalled that he saved me inside my new school, I was so scared there, I couldn't get out with Madame Fitz... I remember him inside the ambulance too..." I sighed deeply and grinned at my boy, caressing his tender cheek affectionately.

 "You wouldn’t  be here if it wasn’t for Jamie, my darling..." That sentence had never made as much sense to me as it did in that instant. Without him, Fergus wouldn't exist at all. "He's our hero, isn't he?" He nodded his head, smiling, and I held him warmly, stroking his curly hair as Fergus wrapped one of my arms with his little hands.

The nurse was supposed to call Jamie so that Fergus could thank him face to face, and when he walked through that door, I witnessed the most exciting scene I had never imagined. I knew I would have to face the truth at some point and tell Jamie that Fergus was his son; and the only thing I would pray for was that God could give me the serenity to tell him such life-changing news in the best possible way...

But for some reason that I couldn’t explain, Jamie was interacting with Fergus as if he already knew he was his father somehow. His protective and concerned blue eyes would picture the intensity of his feelings much more than his words.

Their first interaction had played out unexpectedly, and my mind could not process so much information at once. For the longest time, my heart had been aching with the thought of my son so young, fatherless in such a premature way. One of the few things that had made me happy when I returned to London was that Fergus would have such great manly examples as Joe and Uncle Lamb to relate to. Now, if the stars aligned and allowed all this to come true, he'd have another good example to follow.

Jamie was a great example to follow.

Jamie said goodbye to us both right after lunchtime and our time flew away amid hospital food, hallways expeditions, and a delicious splashing shower. Fergus was getting better and better, his contagious happiness filled my heart with love even when exhaustion took over his body, making me lie down beside him before eight o'clock at night to watch him sleep closely. I was not afraid of it as I was the night before. His breathing pace was calm and from time to time he would smile while sleeping and for this reason, I wept once again, but this time for happiness. Nothing in the world is more satisfying for a mother than to shed tears of joy and relief after so much distress and suffering.



***



In the morning, after Joe's visit, the doctor's round, and a very cheerful breakfast with Fergus, I finally sat down in bed, facing my son so that we could start playing a board game. I was thinking of the best strategy to win him over when I looked at the time on my cell phone and I noticed that it was almost ten o'clock and my child's words burst like a dagger into my heart:

"Firefighter Jamie won't come to visit me today?" His eyes were fixed on the small pieces of the game and trying to hide the sorrow he was feeling. "He said he'd come here early..."

I must confess that I wasn't sure about what to say, but what I was sure of was that Jamie hadn't kept his promise. Friday morning was almost over and he hadn't shown up smiling, brightening up the place, and exchanging jokes with Fergus. I was feeling hollow and betrayed, even though I had no right to be nourishing those kinds of feelings. That feeling was stronger than I was, and for a moment I imagined Jamie was punishing me somehow for vanishing away from his life in the past. I knew it was nonsense, or maybe something my mind made up, yet it broke my heart to keep listening to my son telling me how much he wanted to show his little progress to his savior.

I stared at Jamie's business card for a long time after Fergus took a nap just before lunchtime, not being sure if I should call him or not, or maybe send a message... I remained silent until I heard Mrs. Fitz's sweet voice wishing me good morning. She had talked to me late afternoon the day before and I loved her idea of bringing some classmates to visit Fergus so that they could keep getting along. I knew he was skillful in starting new friendships and I was sure his recovery would be much faster with their help.

She was the most loving, concerned, and affectionate person in the world. That would sum up Mrs. Fitz. I witnessed her great ability to deal with the little ones in every word she exchanged with them. It was sheer magic the way she enchanted those three boys somehow by her sweet, assertive voice, humming some rules during their fun. While the kids were playing memory games on the sofa in the bedroom, Mrs. Fitz and I went down the hall to talk, while observing them through the open door.

"I want to apologize to you, Mrs. Lewis, for everything that happened to your boy." She looked down, swallowing dry, and then finally gazing at me once again. "I feel responsible for not getting your boy out of school and I  kept praying for him after that tragic day..."She was extremely desolated  "Feelings of concern and guilt have been plaguing my mind ever since.

"First, you can call me Claire!" I squeezed her hand tenderly, noticing a small smile of relief on her face. "Second, I don't want you to apologize for anything, good God!" I was keeping my voice down not to speak louder than I should. "I never blamed you for anything! These things happen and it has to be that way..." Thoughts of  Jamie instantly came to my mind and I took a deep breath, changing the subject trying to disguise the flush I was feeling on my cheeks. "Any predictions for the school's return?"

"Well, the school has been badly damaged so classes are expected to return at the beginning of next month" she seemed more peaceful when she started talking about how she was regaining control of things, which was such a clear sign of her personality. "But I already have your number, I'll let you know as soon as we have more accurate details."

I went to the cafeteria to get some lunch for all my son's guests and I met Joe in one of the hallways, walking in the same direction as I was. He was walking swiftly, late for the meeting with the other directors so that they could come up with the decision concerning my position as the general surgeon of the hospital.

"LJ, don't worry about your firefighter, I'm sure something unexpected happened!" I nodded, trying to believe what he was saying. "Oh, don't get nervous about the meeting, Lady Jane, your resume is terrific, I've already received calls from some of the members telling me that they'll vote for you!" he paid for his lunch before heading back to assure me all his trust in the matter. "I'll drop by Fergus’ room this afternoon to bring you the good news!

"I'll wait for you as calmly as I possibly can, Joe!" he smiled, hugging me tenderly before he left in a hurry, vanishing away from my sight in a blink of an eye.

The room was filled with giggles, conversations, and lots of sandwiches! Fergus was happy to talk to Joshua and Vincent, his newest friends; Mrs. Fitz seemed more relieved now than she was when we had our little talk; and I smiled at all those tiny interactions, making sure that those moments were what made our lives so wonderful.

That was priceless.



***



When Joe arrived just after our visitors left in the afternoon, it was as if the sun came out and the whole room was filled up with light and all my professional hindrances went away. He said the council meeting had taken a long time, but not due to the decision of the new General Surgeon. According to him, my name was a consensus among all the colleagues who were running for the position, and my heart nearly went out through my chest cause it was so full of joy.

Joe kept holding a paper bag behind his body while talking about what my newest bosses had said, and as he showed me what he was hiding, an emotional laugh took over us three. A hospital blue coat in the same shade of blue as his was wrapped in a sloppy way, so typical of Joe doing such things. As I tried on my newest uniform and closed the last button, I looked at my friend's face with affection. Getting an emotional smile from him, he gave me a bear hug, and a laugh of delight took over the atmosphere.

Of course I was happy! My son was doing well, smiling openly, and very excited about what was happening in my professional life. Everything was finally settling into place after our move, the accident, and Jamie's reappearance. All the things that seemed unbalanced in my routine, our routine, appeared to be finally settling in.

It just seemed to.

As I stepped out of Joe's arms, I opened my eyes and the first person I saw was Jamie sitting on a chair across the hall. He seemed to look at me strangely, but yet he kept watching me straight up and breathing slightly faster. My friend, seeing how my body had suddenly weirdly moved, turned his face outside the room, smiling soothingly back at me while caressing my arm.

"LJ..." Joe spoke softly in my ear. "He always comes back... if you let him, he always will..." I nodded embarassed, with a tiny smile on my lips and blushing cheeks. "Don't forget that you start on Tuesday!" Joe added, and the sound of his voice was closer to normal. "Fergus, take good care of your mother, boy!"

"I got it, Uncle Joe!" They both shook hands politely and exchanged friendly smiles. "Maman, is that Jamie?"

"Yes, son." Joe smiled once again at me and as he left the room he said something to the ginger before he extended his hand to him, making him stand up quickly.

His eyes reflected doubt when he saw me standing there beside Fergus' bed and at that moment I realized that I was wearing part of my working clothes. Naturally he would find it strange, he never knew where I worked, we had never talked about our jobs before. Trying to clear away all that uncomfortable feeling, I took off my coat somewhat faster than I needed to, hiding it in the paper bag, and then I looked at Jamie's to make him understand that he could enter the room.

Fergus' happiness was overwhelming, crystal clear, it seemed that my son was feeling the connection he had with the man who had saved his life. The real connection. I picked up my book that was on the bedside table and looked through the window, leaning against the wall to try to read something of my favorite novel, even though I could not get past the first page.

 Jamie and Fergus quickly began to talk about how their days had been and the ginger apologized for his delay, telling what had happened in the Fire Department and that he was deeply sorry for breaking the promise he made the day before.

Children forgive more easily than adults.

"I'm going to the cafeteria to get something to eat, would you like something special, Jamie?" I gently placed the book in the same place as before, avoiding eye contact with the Scot. 

"Can I go along with ye?" Jamie asked promptly, adjusting his jacket while keeping his eyes on mine. "Will ye be fine by yerself for a few minutes, Fergus?" I tried to say he didn't have to, it wouldn't take long for me to get back, but it was useless. Jamie stroked the boy's knee, smiling briefly at me. "I need to talk to yer mum about a couple of things..." my little one nodded and at that moment I realized I couldn’t hide from Jamie any longer. 

We walked through the hospital corridors without saying a word, my arms were crossed in front of my chest, and Jamie had to rush his steps to keep up with mine. I had no reason to behave that way. If I had sent a message to Jamie asking about his visit schedule that discomfort I was feeling would not have struck in that way.

But if I had done that, it wouldn't have been me.

"You didn't have to join me, Jamie," I spoke a bit harshly when I got in front of the snack bar to choose something I wanted. "I won't be here that long."

"I know I dinna have to, but I wanted to apologize for not keeping my promise." He was clearly restless, moving unsteadily around me. "It was a last-minute decision, I was already on my way to the hospital when the lads at work called me to deal with all the supply purchases for this month." He was really a leader for his department... "They cannae do anything without me."

I stared into his blue eyes as I let my guard down, picking up the little wallet that was in the back pocket of my pants to take out my business card with the updated UK number written by hand: "You couldn't have reached me, you don't have my number... Now you can text me or call me if you want."

“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Lewis.” After reading my name, he looked at me and smiled in complicity. "Elizabeth." I was intensely blushed as he said that name. "Doctor, General Surgeon. I never imagined ye'd be a doctor, but your profession suits ye verra well!"

“There are a few more things you can't figure out about my life, but here is not the right place to enlighten them,” I finished picking out the snacks and Jamie didn't let me pay for them, heading quickly to the cashier next to the counter. “I will start working here next Tuesday, so I'm gonna be tight on schedule with Fergus still recovering and the last fix ups at our new home.” It was easier for me to talk without those blue eyes staring at me in their usual intensity. “But I promise to call you as soon as possible so we can talk. I think we need to.”

He moved his body towards mine, smiling with a slight hesitation on his lips and a beautiful sparkle in his eyes :

"I'll look forward to yer call, Claire."

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter: 

Skinny Living - I Feel It Coming (The Weeknd Cover)

Youtube // Spotify

Harry Styles - Watermelon Sugar

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV Jamie

There's always a time for everything.

That's what Murtagh constantly told me after Elizabeth's disappearance. The days, months, and years went by slowly after she left my life and I never thought, not in a million years, that our reconnection would be a possibility. In fact, I didn't know if that probability really existed for me, for us, but what mattered to me was that my Sassenach was back in my life and I just couldn't let the fear and the insecurity take over me again.

I had lost too much until now.

Murtagh was expecting me that Thursday night for dinner, a habit we had at least twice a month to catch up about our rugby team and to share a special time together drinking our good old whisky and talking about our lives.

Well, now I had a lot to catch up on:

"Welcome, James Fraser!" With open arms, I hugged him tighter than usual, making him feel awkwardly surprised. "Why all this affection, lad?"

"I needed to thank ye for yer words, my friend!" His eyebrows narrowed in doubt and I laughed when I noticed his wary look. "Please pour two scotch glasses cause I have something unbelievable to share with ye! Double shot!"

I saw his face freeze, then his mouth opened briefly and finally he gave me a partner in crime smirk when I told him about Elizabeth's return. About the coincidence of me being the one who saved her son. About her real name. About her even more astonishing beauty. About how I felt when I realized that we had the same connection between us from years ago.

"I told ye, lad!" he laughed hard, cheering with me before taking a big sip of whisky, then banging his hand against the table over and over again with such excitement. "I told ye she'd come back to ye! But I just cannae believe it yet, Jamie!"

"Nothing in my life seems so right as when I'm with her, Murtagh! I dinna need to listen to her voice to know what she's feeling and I think it's the same for her!" Before drinking the rest of my shot, I sighed while looking at the golden liquor inside my glass which reminded me so much of Claire's eyes. "But yet, everything is so tangled between Claire and me... I know that everything is pretty recent and it will take time to settle down, but I still dinna ken what to do with that uneasy feeling between us when we are alone."

"Ye let her walk away before, Fraser." I swallowed dry when I remembered how hard it was to live with the biggest regret I had in my life. "Ye ken ye have the weapons to fight for her for real, and especially after all these years devoted to her, adoring her." Murtagh poured a little more whisky in our glasses, and his corner-mouth smile hinted to me the direction he would follow next. "Ye dinna say that she kissed ye?"

 

***

 

The things Murtagh said to me during dinner kept echoing in my head all night long. The hours went by as I tossed and turned on the mattress trying to set my mind on how to win back my Sassenach in the midst of all that mess around us.

The only thing I was sure of was that my Sassenach was worth each and every effort to win her back and I wouldn't give up easily.

But there was something else that kept me awake. I felt peculiarly anxious to see Fergus again. The conversation we had had earlier had been so smooth, light, and pleasant that I kept smiling foolishly at the thought of seeing him again the following day. Perhaps it was because I felt relieved to see him conscious, or because I knew that he was the child of someone I cared deeply and was recovering well, but what I felt for that boy had never been a usual feeling I had for victims I saved on duty.

It had never been so intense.

 

***

 

The following morning, just before I left home towards the hospital, George called me with his typical voice of who did something wrong and did not know how to correct. After beating around the bush, he finally asked for my help in making the purchases of the supplies of the entire battalion for the month that was starting. Yes, that was really my job, and yes, I knew I was on leave and not allowed to do that. But dealing with my colleagues' bad choices for a whole month, maybe more, would be even worse, so I decided it was better to make one more effort for the team's sake. One more of many. In the end, being so committed to my team was one of the reasons I became chief of the department.

Around four o'clock in the afternoon, everything was finished, the "fire" had been put out successfully inside my small office on the second floor of the battalion and I was finally free to follow up the schedule and head towards the hospital. Fergus and Claire’s images filled my mind throughout the day, for several moments I considered phoning the hospital to let them know I would be late, but something told me that I needed to slow down with Claire.

At the hospital reception, while waiting in line to pick up my guest ID, I became aware of how fast my heart was racing, just as my breathing pace. I couldn't help but smile, a smile that suddenly vanished as soon as I saw Dr. Abernathy walk into Fergus' room without knocking at the door and holding a bag in his hands.

What did that man want in there? Christ!

As soon as I reached the bedroom door, I sighed deeply trying to control my anger impulses on my body as I saw them hugging, but my attempt was completely in vain... I felt as if my blood was boiling as I saw that lovely cuddle, even though I had no rights over Claire. Yes, I became even more jealous when I saw it.

"But what's he giving her?" failing to control my disappointment, I babbled louder than I should while I threw myself into one of the chairs across the room.

The man kept covering part of my view until I could see what Claire was doing. She had put on a blue coat of the same color as the doctors' and I could notice the level of her excitement by the large smile she had on her face, a smile that reached her eyes. In those few seconds, my brain was struggling between all the possibilities that that image could convey. Was Claire an employee of that hospital? Was she a nurse or a doctor to receive a uniform like that? What was her real relationship with that man?

Claire's deep gaze met mine in the midst of that overflow of thoughts. Yet somehow strange, I swear she reacted with a certain incredulity, perhaps surprised to see me there across the hall.

I tracked his movements as Dr. Abernathy left the room, and I got astonished when I saw he was walking towards me. The man stopped right in front of me, reaching out his hand with a small smirk, and I quickly got up and squeezed it back doubtfully:

"Hello Jamie, my name is Joe." How did he know my name? "I'm Claire's old friend and I want to thank you for rescuing Fergus during the fire." Old friend? Is that all? Did he know about my past with her? "I just have no idea how my friend would have felt if she had to live without her little boy... Well, thank you again. But why don't you join them now, they've been waiting for you the whole morning." What did he mean they were waiting for me?

After watching her take her coat off and put it in a bag, I took a deep breath before walking into the room. I got a big smile from Fergus and shy looks from Claire, however, I tried to downplay any tension in the air as I began to talk cheerfully with the laddie. He shared with me all the things he had done since yesterday, his journeys through the hospital, the recent meeting with two of his classmates, and that he would be sent home the next morning.

Then I apologized to Fergus about my absence, for breaking my promise; and I told him about everything I'd done, during the whole day since I'd woken up, in a way that I made him smile over and over again. As I finished telling him all the things that happened I figured out the whole situation inside that room: there was a cheerful boy sitting on the hospital bed and a woman quite cranky, facing the bedroom window and pretending to read a book she had never started on the first page.

When I saw she was walking towards the cafeteria, clearly trying to escape from me and all the uneasiness I caused since I got there, I insisted on following her. I needed to talk to her alone, I was sure that Fergus would be fine by himself for a few moments.

However, she remained utterly mad along the way:

"You didn't have to join me, Jamie," she said as she stared at the counter, still not facing me. "I won't be here that long."

"I know I dinna have to, but I wanted to apologize for not keeping my promise." I moved back and forth from behind her body, I felt an increasing urgency to make her understand the reason why I broke my word with them. "It was a last-minute decision, I was already on my way to the hospital when the lads at work called me to deal with all the supply purchases for this month. They cannae do anything without me."

She gazes me for a long time and, watching her facial expressions soften, her next step was to pick up her wallet in her back pocket and give me a card:

"You couldn't have reached me, you don't have my number... Now you can text me or call me if you want." She smiled briefly and once she laid her eyes on mine, I felt it as a good omen that I still could rock her world.

“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Lewis.” I read her name slowly, paying attention to the word that had filled my dreams and nightmares for the past several years. “Elizabeth.” I smiled at her blushed cheeks due to my last word. "Doctor, General Surgeon. I never imagined ye'd be a doctor, but your profession suits ye verra well!"

“There are a few more things you can't figure out about my life, but here is not the right place to enlighten them,” she finished picking out the snacks we'd be taking to the room while I quickly headed over to the cashier. I have to admit that listening to her speak raised great expectations on me. “I will start working here next Tuesday, so I'm gonna be tight on schedule with Fergus still recovering and the last fix ups at our new home.” Once again she couldn't keep a steady look in my eyes, yet I felt high hopes as I heard those words coming out of her mouth. “But I promise to call you as soon as possible so we can talk. I think we need to.”

“I'll look forward to yer call, Claire.”

I wonder what she exactly wanted to talk to me about. About our past? About her reasons for disappearing? About Fergus? That week wasn't over yet, and it seemed to be one of the most puzzling of them all. It took only Claire waving her brown tempting curls in front of me to make it all messy and turn my world completely upside down.

But never a mess made so much sense in my life.

 

***

 

My greatest wish was to take mother and child home on Saturday, yet I wasn't that brave to make that move. I wrote and deleted endless messages to check on them to know how they were spending the day, and how it had felt returning home again, but I wasn't close enough to ask her that sort of thing yet.

Yes, the fear of losing her again was overwhelming and beyond measure.

I went to the gym to lower my anxiety and frustration into something productive. That was the first day I was discharged from the medical leave, and even though I didn't feel fully capable of performing great physical efforts, I needed to get back on track somehow in order to put myself together. It all went extremely well while I kept myself focused on the movements or exercises, but as soon as I left the gym I started thinking about Claire and Fergus nonstop.

At the end of the day, after arranging all the items in the kitchen, bedroom and bookcase unnecessarily, I turned the TV on my favorite channel and, while watching a rugby match, my mobile suddenly beeped. It was a message from an unknown number.



Hey, Jamie, just to let you know we're home. Fergus is fine and says hi!

Thanks again for everything. Claire.



I sighed deeply as I read those words. I sighed with relief to know that Fergus was well and at home, and felt joy because Claire had been thinking of me during the day so much that she had sent me a message. She had the heart to contact me. I was so flattered that I couldn't take my eyes off the mobile, and I kept smiling until bedtime.

That was the real Claire side effect nourishing my soul with joy once again.



***



The Sunday morning jog was replaced by a light walk through the neighborhood, towards the park near my house. London woke up to a sunny day, something unusual in the Queen's Land, it was chilly but very typical weather this season. As I walked through the park, Jenny called me on the phone, telling me how her week had been. This was something we were used to doing on Sundays since I'd left Scotland, a routine that intensified after I had started talking to Ellen again, almost eight years ago.

The relationship with my mother had improved greatly during those last few years, even though it was still somewhat formal and protocol-like most of the time. We talk to each other every day, by message or by phone, but the conversation never deepened as much as I thought the relationship between mother and son should be. The invisible wall was still keeping us apart; we were "healthily close", but nothing beyond that.

I had traveled four times to Inverness after the first time I contacted her when I decided to reestablish our connection. These were short trips lasting no more than five days, and on all those days no apology was exchanged between us.

Maybe my stubbornness should be Mackenzie's legacy after all.

She had her guard up every time we met for breakfast, when we went out with Jenny's children or when I attempted to talk to her about things from the past. It was so embarrassing for both of us to be back in our roles again, and eventually, I stopped pushing her, choosing to just be there for her and to wait until she was ready to take the next step. Or for me to be ready. I knew things would work out, I knew things would happen in the best possible way as time went on.

At least we were trying.

My attention was focused on the park trail and on Jenny's bossy voice as she complained for the millionth time over Ian and how he didn't help with their kids on the weekends. And I, always playing my role as a peacemaker, wanting to shed some light into my sister's mind by reminding her that none of that was true, that Ian was an excellent dad and that he helped her far more than the other fathers out there would do. Their relationship was balanced on equal terms and I was so proud of the bond they had both built as a family. I was laughing at another inappropriate comment from my lovely sister when I lifted my face to look towards the horizon, facing up beautiful flying brown curls in the wind.

My first impulse was to believe that they were from any woman other than Claire, as it had happened several times during those years when my eyes were drawn by long, perfectly curly hair like those on the streets of London. But that time, unlike the others, it was Claire who was right in front of me.

She was seated on a plaid cloth under a large tree’s shade, with her legs crossed in lotus, and dark-framed glasses adorned her face perfectly as she read a book that was laying on her lap. She was holding a small piece of sandwich in her right hand as the left was trying to control her flying locks by the sudden wind that had blown in. Her eyes were floating between the pages of her book as she was looking for the owner of another beautiful curly hair. She smiled, as usual, as soon as she saw her son playing among the other children right in front of her. The serenity that her body was conveying was so strong that I felt it on my own self.

Fergus was having fun with some toys, especially the fire truck I had given him, playing on the grass of Holland Park. He was so focused on his friends and the objects in front of him that he hadn't seen me standing there, so close to him and his mother. My heart started to pound faster when I saw him so happy, even though he was less active than most of the children who were running around there. When I heard his laughter in a higher tone among the others, I felt an unbearable lightness inside my soul and my vision blurred with tears, thanking God for sending me on the right time to rescue him.

But a sweet and tender voice brought me back to reality:

"Jamie, what are you doing here?" Claire was standing up over her blanket and cleaning up her hands against her pants while she hurriedly put on her shoes to reach me.

"Well, I've been a regular here for the last three years..." I spoke as we met halfway, kissing her cheek impulsively and I did not know what to do when our faces got dangerously close for many long seconds. "Uh, I live at Horton!" I pointed my arm in the direction to my street a few blocks away from there. "Do ye live nearby too?"

"Wow, what a surprise..." Her cheeks blushed and she took off her glasses, holding them clumsily with one hand while with the other she was trying to tame her fluttering hair. "We live nearby too, at Phillimore Gardens!" Her golden eyes seemed even brighter under the sunlight, and for the first time, I realized that I had never seen her under natural light.

"We're virtually neighbors, then..." I didn't want to create any expectations, but God just never gets tired of sending us signs! "Did Fergus wake up all right?"

"Yeah, quite a lot! Since last night I have to control his playing with Emily... I'm glad that she's a good influence on him!" we giggled, obviously men only manage to work well once they have a strong woman by their side. "Jamie, I was thinking..." her fingers rubbed lightly against her forehead as her lips were revealing some concern. " Hmm, do you think you have time for a cup of coffee later this afternoon? There's a café near my place and maybe we could talk and grab something to eat," she spoke faster than usual, slightly relaxing after finishing her thoughts.

"I have no plans for this afternoon, Sasse... Claire." My cheeks burned instantly as I almost spoke her nickname out loud, and not knowing what to do with my hands, I put them into the front pockets of my shorts.

"Okay, so..." she cleared her throat softly, trying to disguise the apparent uneasiness she felt. "Could it be at five?" I nodded with a smile, soon hearing Fergus calling out for me, walking with his friend towards us with a happy smile on his face. Turning my body towards Claire's, I was paralyzed as I felt her hand leaning against my arm while she kept a perfect, shy smile on her face. "Hmm, Jamie..." not taking her eyes off me, her voice sounded like a mixture of hesitancy and conviction, something so typical of her. "No problem if you call me Sassenach."

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Chloe x Halle - Cool People

Youtube // Spotify

Gotye - Save Me

Youtube // Spotify 

.

.

POV Claire

Relief.

There's no better word to describe how I felt the minute Fergus and I left that hospital on that Saturday morning. Taking my son back home, and seeing him overflowing our place with his happiness as I heard all his cheerfulness while playing games, warmed up my heart with so much joy. The living room was quickly filled up with his innumerable toys that morning, but one, in particular, was always present in the tales of his futuristic toys: Jamie's fire truck.

Every effort I put on taking that man away from my mind was in vain, whatever happened in my routine reminded me of him, starting with Fergus. My son kept talking about the firefighter, asking if I had told him that we were home, or if I had invited him for dinner so he could tell him his plans for his future job. He wanted to tell Jamie right away that he had actually decided to be a firefighter. The kid had always been determined whenever he wished for something since he was just a kid and, still inside the hospital on Friday, he had decided that he would follow his heroes’ footsteps.

Nothing seemed more right than discussing with his "mentor" about his professional choices, right?

Fergus had countless doubts to ask his future teammate about his career, and now all I could think of was Jamie teaching him the routine of his work. Most likely using his cheerful manner, he would be completely focused on the person he was talking to while saying how exciting it was to save someone who was in danger for whatever reason and make a difference to society.

I was so double screwed with those two.

 

***

 

Abernathy's family didn't take long to arrive for dinner and Fergus hurried towards the front door to greet everyone, especially Emily. I grin at seeing them so close to each other but, as soon as I laid my eyes on the two adults standing at the front door, Gail hugged me with so much thrill that I took a huge effort not to burst into tears right in front of everyone. She wrapped her arms around my body, assuring me that she was supportive of all the suffering I had been through and that she was there for me.

God, how I missed her during those years in Canada!

Although Joe was my best friend and to whom I used to share absolutely everything, Gail was an essential part of our trio. She always shared an inspirational lightness to deal with daily life so that I got quite convinced that I wouldn't have made it to the end of college and medical residency without her support, her friendship, and her comforting words.

Besides, without her, I wouldn't have raised Fergus so well. As we had our children only a few months apart, her tips on being a first-time mother were a lifesaver for things to work out more peacefully for me, even if we were thousands of miles away from each other.

 

***

 

"How is everything with Jamie?" Joe asked me in a hurry as soon as we got alone in the kitchen finishing to fix dinner.

"What? There's nothing with Jamie, Joe!" I stared at him over my shoulder while I was cleaning some veggies. "I spoke to him yesterday when he showed up at the hospital and that's it…"

"He doesn't know yet that you guys are back home?" Joe paused what he was doing, questioning me in an outrageous way, raising his voice in volume little by little until the end of the sentence.

"Well, yesterday I told him that Fergus would be discharged from the hospital in the morning. So he might have presumed we're back home..." I turned my face once again towards Joe, but I couldn't handle his inquiring glance at me and turned my face back to the tomatoes that I was cutting over the wooden board. "I think that's enough."

"Oh, no! That's not enough, Lady Jane." Taking the lasagna out of the stove, he placed it on the kitchen island, looking at me quietly until I turned my face towards him again. "Jamie saved your boy, I think he deserves more than just a BIG NOTHING!" His eyes were wide opened, expressing disappointment at my actions.

I put the last plate next to the others before inquiring him. "Joe, it seems you have forgotten everything that happened!" the sound coming out of my mouth could be controlled, but it showed all the anger I was feeling. Only, all I had to do was stare at Joe one more time to swallow hard as I got one more sign of reproach from those almond eyes that were usually so kind to me.

"Sure I will forget about it, you two had never ever talked about your past!" he tried to control his voice's tone, but he failed miserably. His index finger touched the stone surface fiercely as he kept talking. "What matters to me is what I pictured, and what I pictured was a man who's fallen for you and who has a family that he has no idea that it belongs to him!" his voice twisted as he pointed his finger toward the room where Fergus and Emily were. "Claire, this guy is the father of that kid, for God's sake!"

"Shush, JOE!" I covered his mouth fast with my eyes wide open and breathing hard. "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" I exhaled hard the air that was compressing my lungs. "Okay, I'll text him! Will you be happier with that?"

"Hmmm, that's the first step..." he smiled at me, kissing my forehead before taking some of the plates into the dining room.

While Joe and Gail arranged the dining table and entertained the kids, I spent almost ten minutes standing in front of the kitchen counter holding my cell phone in hand and not knowing what to write to Jamie. I began countless sentences, but they seemed to be either too impersonal or somewhat intimate. Eventually, something nearer to what seemed acceptable to me came out while my son called me to take a seat at the table.

 

Hey, Jamie, just to let you know we're home. Fergus is fine and says hi!

Thanks again for everything. Claire.

 

I exchanged a partner in crime glance with Joe while I put the phone on the sideboard, and smiled at him with flushed cheeks before finally joining them all. Joe knew me too well that he didn't have to ask anything to know what was going on inside my brain.

It was obvious that it was completely filled by Jamie.

The dinner time unfolded in a very noisy and cheerful way, a typical feature of all our meetings, but at a certain moment, we noticed that something really beautiful was going on among us: the beginning of a beautiful and genuine friendship. Emily and Fergus were sitting side by side, talking nonsense totally immersed in their own bubble while laughing softly at something we, the older ones, probably couldn't be aware of. Smiling proudly at them, I turned my gaze to Joe, and no words were needed. What we had always dreamed of for both of them was happening, our friendship was being mirrored right in front of our eyes.  

Emily stayed for a sleepover, of course, we couldn't split those kids up that quickly! I made a big bed on the floor of Fergus' room with the mattresses and all the extra covers we had at home and put them both to sleep after they bathed, kissing them goodnight before tucking them in. I left the door opened and the hallway light on in case Emily would get lost when she walked into the bathroom, and I observed them once again before I went into my room, feeling over the moon and recharged with peace by all that happiness that finally was blessing my little family.

 

***

 

The idea of getting our breakfast outside of the house was on the rise and that Sunday morning dawned in the most splendid way ever! I strolled down to Holland Park with two restless kids, a bag full of toys, and a picnic basket. We were finally ready to enjoy some sunshine and to eat some snacks that we had prepared before we left.

"Fergus, remember: no running and don’t go far away, we must be careful with your health right now!" I spoke to him in a somewhat alarming way, but with a smirk on my face. No matter how hungry the little ones were, their willingness to play with some of the children, who were a few steps away from where we were sitting, was greater than anything. "We have to take it easy now, darling!" he nodded and gave me a happy smile.

"I got it, Aunt Claire! I'll take care of Fergus and tell him off if I have to!" they exchanged complicity glances, and it made me think how beautiful their friendship was.

"Oh, don't forget the toys!" I spoke as I showed them the bag with everything they had picked out at home and Fergus came back to pick up the bag in a very exciting way.

"Merci beaucoup, maman! Relax, I won't run!" I stroked his little face, he was so cheerful that I could see in his eyes how thrilled he was.

Once again sitting on my cloth underneath the shadow of a leafy tree, and wearing my reading glasses, I picked up a book from inside my purse. I leaned on my lap and, while I was having a sandwich with extras filling made by the kids, I got lost in the very first words of that beautiful period romance, the author's narrative description carrying me to a faraway world full of those sweet first expectations of a couple that recently met each other.

The breeze was a little intense and it was messing up my hair; but of course, I had nothing to tie it inside my bag so I had no option but to try to tame it with my "free" hand. I could hear Fergus' voice and his laughter echoing through the park as if it were the most beautiful music of all, and after a few minutes focused on my reading, I allowed myself to observe my son's interaction with his new friends for a few moments. He smiled, gesturing smoothly with Emily and the other kids. I could no longer find that shy boy from the week before his accident. He finally seemed comfortable with the way things changed for us and nothing could make me happier than the happiness of my son.

However, a redheaded silhouette of a well-known person drew my focus right away. With a gray T-shirt tight to his body, black shorts, and running shoes, Jamie was standing in front of me a few steps away, staring straight towards Fergus. As I noticed the connection between them, I felt an unexplainable stir inside myself.

"Jamie, what are you doing here?" putting on my shoes in a hurry, I finally had the courage to say something, and I swore I'd seen a genuine thrill in Jamie's eyes when they found mine.

"Well, I've been a regular here for the last three years..." going towards him, my body froze when Jamie kissed my cheek in such a natural way. Our eyes remained glued onto one another for a few seconds until the redhead interrupted all that awkward moment. "Uh, I live at Horton!" of course the universe wouldn’t have placed him somewhere far away from me, it would be too much to ask! "Do ye live nearby too?"

"Wow, what a surprise..." I felt my face burning from heat and it wasn't because of the soft sunshine on that beautiful Sunday morning. I took off my glasses with one hand while the other struggled bravely to contain my hair that kept flying in the wind... "We live nearby too, at Phillimore Gardens!" I smiled, trying to keep it casual but I failed miserably.

"We're virtually neighbors, then..." what should I make from all these signs the universe was sending me? What were God’s plans for all that innuendo? "Did Fergus wake up all right?"

"Yeah, quite a lot!" I rolled my eyes pretending to be exhausted. “Since last night I have to control his playing with Emily... I'm glad that she's a good influence on him!" An easy laugh arose between us, and I confess that I couldn't help but look into his bright blue eyes; they were even more beautiful under natural light. "Jamie, I was thinking... Hmm, do you think you have time for a cup of coffee later this afternoon?" I don't know how I had the courage to keep up that conversation on such a delicate matter. Maybe it was the way Jamie looked at Fergus or Joe's words from the night before or both. “There's a café near my place and maybe we could talk and grab something to eat,” I spoke in a rush, not giving myself time to move ahead.

"I have no plans for this afternoon, Sasse... Claire." he smiled shyly and I felt my heart pounding faster inside my chest.

"Okay, so..." I gasped, trying to regain some control. "Could it be at five?" he nodded and suddenly Fergus called his name. The two little ones came walking fast towards us, and when I realized so closely that strong connection between Jamie and Fergus, I couldn't help myself, caressing his arm to try to make something clear between him and me. "Hmm, Jamie..." I kept looking at his eyes, smiled timidly, and said. "No problem if you call me Sassenach."

 

***

 

"Oh, my dear Claire, I'm so appalled about what happened to Fergus." Lamb was talking to me right after lunch while Fergus and Emily were busy with many of their historical artifacts in the other corner of the room. "I feel responsible, in a way... He wouldn't have gone through all that if he'd been living in Montreal."

"Uncle, please! There's no one to blame around here, for God's sake! We had to return to London and everything had to happen exactly this way... Our fate is here, Lamb." I smiled softly as I stroked the back of his hand, the picture of Jamie just popping up in my mind. "And Fergus is fine, can't you see? Tell me how I can relax leaving you here all alone.”

"I'm not alone, I have Christine and Maria with me." He pretended to be angry, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm fine with them, the urge to move was yours."

"It has been mine, yes. And I would do everything again just so that I could see you like that!" he was much better than the first time we saw him when we arrived in London, and I knew that our presence played a great influence on his recovery. "That's what we do when we love someone, you stubborn man!" I kissed his forehead, smiling silently when I received a reproaching frown for displaying such affection. "Do you need a company for your Tuesday appointment?"

When I got a call from Joe telling me he was already arriving to pick up Emily, I put all the kids' stuff together before heading downstairs with the kids to meet up with Joe outside. I had a favor to ask him and hoped he would help me. When I got there, Joe was already outside the car with a broad smile on his face, and I asked the kids to wait near the front door of the building as I walked closer to him so that we could talk privately. I was obviously embarrassed, but I had no other option.

"Is it OK if Fergus stays with you until 8 pm?" I spoke all at once and he looked at me with his inquiring almond eyes, as if he was waiting for me to explain myself further. "Well, you see, I'm going to meet Jamie at the café next door. I didn't want to leave Fergus alone, much less with my uncle, he would ask too many questions..."

“Jamie, huh?” After his much-expected reaction of amazement, Joe spoke again. " It seems that our little talk yesterday worked well... Of course, it's okay, LJ!" We exchanged another complicit smile. "You know I'm really glad to see you trying..."

"I must do this for Fergus or I'll never forgive myself..." I smiled embarrassed, my eyes barely reaching his.

"And you have to do it for yourself and Jamie too, darling." Joe gently stroked my cheek. "Let me know when you're alone and I will bring your boy home!"

Before all those years, Jamie had turned into just a suspended old memory for me, placed in a drawer inside my heart that I managed very well to keep hidden. Being away from him all this time had been essential to keeping things under control deep inside my chest, yet now I would face him again without the interruption of Fergus, or any hospital or fire department staff. There was nothing that made me more anxious than to know that I could not use any subterfuge to escape from his deep eyes, from his so seductive and tender voice. Even knowing it was the best for all of us, from that moment on I couldn't put him back in that drawer that had been "kept safe" inside me for so long, and this thought made me terrified. It was a point of no return.

 

***

 

After trying on the fourth outfit, I finally decided on jeans and a light green wool blouse to face that chilly promised nightfall, and I was ready and obviously late to meet Jamie. I walked down the street and my naturally curly hair was flying gently with the soft breeze of that evening, and I giggled as I tried to convince me for the millionth time that the reason I had put on a little makeup on my face, some eyelash mask and a discreet red lipstick on my lips, was for any reason but to surprise Jamie. Of course, I was thinking about how he would react seeing me in a more casual way and not that suffering look imprinted on my face the first moment we met at the hospital.

"Well done, Claire!" I shouted to the universe. "Nice job trying to get him out of your life."

5:09 PM. On that Sunday afternoon, the café was crowded with people chatting cheerfully, completely oblivious to what was happening around them. The atmosphere was quite intimate, dark walls that mixed bricks and wood as well as some spots of light along with the ceiling and walls. Minimalist paintings had already taken my attention when I was there with Fergus, but that day I could see that they had a purpose beyond merely decorating. It really was a perfect setting for a date, even though I knew that whatever I would have with Jamie was far from being that.

I had a thousand things in my mind, like how our conversation would begin, about what we would talk about on this first "date" after so much time. I knew I had to talk about Fergus, but I had no idea how to approach the topic in the best way.

I didn't know the best way to tell him he had an eight-year-old son.

Well, I don't think there was such a right way for that, after all.

As I entered the café, I was receptioned by a gentle smiley waiter who guided me inside the place. I walked slowly looking for Jamie until my eyes suddenly stopped as I found him sitting at one of the tables next to the wall. He didn't notice that I had arrived and I took a moment so that I could watch him without judgment.

And Good God, he was so beautiful!

His hair was loose, slightly messy and the light coming from the ceiling was enhancing his flaming curls, the same curls that filled up my longing dreams for almost a decade. He wore a red plaid shirt that perfectly highlighted his skin tone, his mouth babbling something rhythmically while he was tapping against the menu cardboard on the table. He was clearly anxious, no one needed to be an expert to realize this, but being aware of it as I witnessed how breathless he was and how hard he seemed to be swallowing, made my heart pound faster. I knew I was the one causing him to feel all those sensations.

When his gaze met mine it was as if Jamie pulled me out of a long trance in the most intense and sweet way anyone could ever do. His face revealed all the relief he was feeling at that moment and also all the joy brightening the small distance between us.

We smirked at each other with blushed cheeks, and after a long sigh, I kept walking towards him again. Avoiding the tables and chairs that were between us, I walked up towards him as Jamie rose up and I noticed that his hand was trembling upon the chair's backrest.

We exchanged kisses quickly and with no more than a "good afternoon" and a bunch more of shy smiles, we ordered a couple of cappuccinos and something to eat. We sighed almost at the same time and the silence took over us, the stress prevented me from listening to the conversations that were so clear and vivid around us before.

"So, Claire..." quietly thanking the waiter, Jamie settled into the chair as soon as we got our orders, his eyes meeting mine again. And Good God, how I loved to hear the way my name came out of his mouth. "I am verra impressed by yer professional choice, I think medicine is an extraordinary career..." very well... Nice start, Jamie. "What made ye choose this path?" his eyes were sparkling, his back relaxing against the chair.

"Hum, I'm not sure... " I sipped the coffee and put the cup back on the table again. "I think I've always wanted to take care of people since I was a little girl... Maybe that's some kind of gift..." I grinned shy, people didn't ask me that very often.

"It's certainly a gift, Claire." His relaxing face quickly twitched, but he didn't say anything.

"What, Jamie?" wondering what was going on in his mind, I smiled in order to encourage him to carry on with his little interview, my hand fixing my curls that insisted on falling over my eyes. "What do you wanna ask me now?"

"Um, well..." a smirk that reminded me of our past appeared on his face. "When we first met, were ye already a physician?"

Jamie's eyes, which until then had been focused on my hands, followed a slow path towards my face. The mixture of sensuality and doubt that came from that bastard quickly made my body react to that energy, just like years ago, making my cheeks warmer than the coffee I was drinking.

"Hmm, yes. Actually I was doing my medical residency in general surgery at Oxford University..." I ate a big slice of the berry pie after, keeping my eyes fixed on the piece of cake in front of me, trying not to look into those big deep blue ocean eyes that kept staring at me.

"Oh, I get it... Huh, so ye traveled to London every week? Back and forth?" The amazement was imprinted on his face as much as he wanted to hide it. I lifted my gaze quickly as I heard how puzzled he seemed to be and I noticed how a tiny piece of his ear had turned as red as the hair around it.

"Yes..." a little discomfort and another adjustment on the chair, I gasped trying to get rid of the uneasiness that insisted on lodging in my throat. "Well, I was used to that journey, that wasn't hard for me at all."

The silence filled our little bubble once again. While we were sipping our coffee, we exchanged glances from time to time, not knowing what to do or what to feel when these little breakthroughs began to appear in our conversation. After a long sigh, Jamie rose up his face sharply towards me, blushing and eyes sparkling, and while smiling, he said the last thing I had expected to hear at that moment:

"God, how I missed ye!”

I'm sure Jamie heard the sound of amazement that came out of my chest, I think everyone around us must have heard it. My eyes quickly turned away from his in a desperate attempt to move away from the striking power that came from that man. I tried to put myself together and, before a brief moment, I managed to take our conversation to a slightly more steady path than the one we had followed before:

"Hmm, were you a firefighter when we first met?" I turned my face to him, trying in vain to hide me behind the coffee.

"Aye... Well, I've been living in London for a few years now. Even though I didna have a very good position when we first met, I always dreamed to be a firefighter since I was a lad, just like ye wanted to be a doctor," he called the waiter, staring at me again. "Right after we stopped seeing each other, I was nominated Department Chief and that's actually where I stand until this day." He showed a slight pride in his smile and I felt an unexplained assurance that he was an excellent boss to his brigade.

"Hmm. I saw on telly something about a charity calendar..." I spoke softly in a light funny way after the waiter walked away, and Jamie gave me a light smile, just like in the old days.

"Aye, there's also the calendar..." he laughed again, clearly baffled. "Well, I like to help people. The moment this offer popped up, it was verra important to me..." he accepted the water he had ordered before and waited until the waiter stepped aside to keep talking. "It helped me a lot to carry on with my purpose." With my inquiring gaze back, he sighed once again, turning his gaze away from his hands that were crossed over the table. "Erm... cause I didna ken exactly what to do for a long time after ye disappeared. My life was never the same after ye left, Claire."

I lifted my eyes to face him in shock, his cheeks flushed and his wet, blue shining eyes were even brighter than usual. I inhaled deeply while all those conflicting feelings of years ago erupted at once inside me. Everything I grieved at finding myself pregnant with someone I barely knew, seeing that Alexander had chosen another woman and all the decisions I had to make after that sorrowful day. I kept staring at him and now the anger was rising sharply within me. It flowed through my veins as hot as the lava of an erupting volcano.

At last, I would ask all the questions I didn't have the guts to ask in the past:

"Then why did you replace me?" My voice, even restrained, came out roughly, overwhelmed and I shed a single tear which was dried in a fast move. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough hiding it from him. Jamie kept silent, staring at me in shock as if he didn't understand what I was saying. "Don't you remember?" I laughed in an ironic tone, astonished with my new recently acquired skill, I was not only coordinating so many thoughts at the same time but also in charge of the mixed emotions that were overflowing my body. I swallowed dry, sighing deeply before answering his silent question. "I went back after just a few weeks and you were having a pretty amazing time with the same blonde who was with you when I met you. Don't you remember that day? Well, then it might have been more than just one, these blondes are all the same..."

Silence took over again, but now Jamie was clearly trying to control the fury of the hurricane that had settled inside his body. I did not recognize that particular facade of his personality and I was surprised to see that his efforts were practically in vain. His face was now so transparent that I could almost see what his brain was thinking.

And none of what I heard afterward was easy to digest:

"Ye came back exactly that day, Claire?" his voice, even if it was low, displayed more and more annoyance and conflict. "God, I canna believe it!" His hesitant hands went through his hair as if he could put his ideas together, failing miserably during the process. His eyes held so much pain, so much confusion that for a second I felt my heart stop beating. "Claire, I've waited for ye for weeks, not knowing what had happened to ye, whether ye would come back or not..." His hands rubbed instinctively his eyes in an effort to hinder the hopelessness that had settled into his body. "I had lost all hope that night, and the only thing I remember was drinking another bottle of whisky and kissing Justine to try to forget ye. Nothing happened after that, I just walked away from her, and then I left. If ye'd come to me, maybe..."

"There is no maybe, Jamie!" I spoke sharply, louder than I had planned, breaking down his thinking line quickly. I had suffered countless times for that terrible moment and I was not willing to listen to anything more about that woman. "Please try to take my place, I couldn't cope with the whole situation and kept waiting for you to finish what you were doing! God!" another endless pause and me and my tearful eyes trying to look away in vain from the intense power coming from the man who had destroyed my heart once. "Besides, you always made it very clear that all relationships from within that place would only stay there. I thought that was the case." Our eyes crossed and I could see all the suffering he was going through, much like mine. "I could not fight for someone who was not mine, but yet I felt you chose her over me." I stared at him for a few moments before the air that was trapped in my chest came out. "So I thought I'd better move on."

"Claire, I wouldn't be here talking to ye if all the regret I feel had the power of killing me... Believe me." His eyes, although hesitant, wouldn't leave mine for a single second, as if Jamie had told me silently that now he was there for me. "I dinna ken what kind of world I was living in at that time, but ye were the only person who made me feel things I didna even ken I could feel. Ye have awakened something within me that has been asleep for a long time and I will always be grateful for everything we have," he swallowed dry, the sadness was still imprinted on his face. "Ye dinna ken how much it hurts me to know that ye felt replaced... God knows that wasn't my intention and how hard it was for me after ye left."

We remained in silence for a few more seconds, absorbing everything we had said to each other. The news had not been easy to deal with and it would have taken me much longer than a few minutes to adjust my brain to everything he had told me. But my goal there was bigger than thinking about making up with someone I barely knew, Fergus was above everything and for him, I had to move on:

"Jamie, you're really important to Fergus and me. Just the thought that I might not have my son in my arms now makes my stomach sick." I sighed soundly, pulling away some of the distress that was overshadowing us. "Really, I have no words to thank you for all you've done for him and our family. In the past I really liked you, but now we both have nothing left..."

"Claire!" Jamie suddenly stopped me, scaring me by the grievous way he said my name. "If ye want somehow thank me for saving yer son, I have a suggestion to make.." Yes, he had caught my attention, so I just nodded to him. "Well, let me show ye who I really am, who I've become after ye have entered my life." At that moment, Joe's voice telling me how Jamie and I didn't know each other echoed in my mind, and the heartfelt face of the ginger in front of me didn't help me at all.

"Well, Fergus is insisting that I invite you over to our house for dinner." I swallowed dry, finally staring into his eyes; they glowed so brightly that I could have sworn to see polished diamonds against the dimmed lights. "Fergus needs to share with you some professional decisions he's made since he met you..." I spoke casually and we laughed together and a bit of the stress around us faded away with the sound coming out of our throats. "Fergus has a favorite dish and he insists on I prepare it for you in a sign of gratitude..." I could notice he hindered a sigh of happiness, but he controlled himself and smiled back. "Lasagna Bolognese. We can have dinner Friday night at my place. 8:00 o’clock?"

"Friday. 8:00 o’clock. Perfect!"

His face was expressing joy and relief at the end of that tough conversation we had, but at least, we had talked over that concern so nerve-racking to me and that was probably for Jamie as well.

It was extremely painful to hear what really made us drift apart. Just the thought of that perhaps the course of our lives could have changed completely if I had shown up at The Heat a few minutes before or maybe after. Well, but the past didn't matter anymore, nothing could be erased. What really mattered was that Jamie was willing to show his "new self" and I was willing to bring him closer to Fergus before I revealed the whole truth to both of them.

It was already late and, telling him I needed to be with Fergus, we left the cafe at the same time. Jamie walked me toward the front door of my new home, and he wished me a good week while kissing me on the cheek. He handed me a package of chocolates that he had bought at the little shop at the Café, before saying tenderly: "Give this to Fergus on my behalf! See ye on Friday, Sassenach!" and he stood there, hands inside his pockets, watching me with a big smile until I got home. And seeing him from that perspective, just before I closed the door, gave me the idea that we were really a couple who had had a real date.

I was finally able to breathe freely after two hours of one of the most intense encounters I had ever had with Jamie, and only God knew how intense my meetings had been with that man! I leaned my back against the door as I closed my eyes trying to recover my balance, something I always lost when I was in his presence. And as I laid back against the carvings in the wood of the door frame, a surrendering smile took over my face. At last, I decided to give up fighting against that feeling. I felt lost around him and nothing I could do to break that powerful bond I had with Jamie would be enough to send him away from me.

A quick resume of the week: nothing would make me get rid of that Scot.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Sam Smith - Writing's On The Wall

.

.

POV Jamie

It was wonderful to see such a beautiful and spontaneous smile on Claire’s face, but as soon as she closed the door of her home on Sunday night, I felt my body aching as if a bulldozer had rolled over me. Those last two hours were like being on the world's most insane ride, like being in a wild roller coaster, with its many loops and sharp curves. But I couldn't be more grateful to God, I was relieved that I finally rode over those dangerous tracks.

I cannot clearly explain how I managed to get home after seeing Claire, the physical pain that I was feeling was very real, quite the opposite of everything I had felt before with someone and for someone else. It wasn't actually a date, it seemed more like the Inquisition, like a big trial where I had been accused of a crime that I didn't know I had committed until then. Even if the tension had been briefly eased by the sweet taste of cappuccino and by the beauty of my Sassenach, It was not easy to hear the things Claire mentioned about our past, especially in the painful and upset way she expressed herself.

I had been thinking of the countless possibilities to explain her absence in my life for almost 10 years; but I never thought that she could have witnessed a  moment of weakness of mine and for that reason, she felt replaced by another before making her decision to go away forever. Which godly reason could I find for such a disappointing, unbelievable misunderstanding?

Back then, I couldn’t understand what I felt nor how to express my feelings for her, although I was sure that Elizabeth was unlike any woman I'd ever met. Maybe I'd be able to face my feelings as time went by and take a chance to go a step further to finally open my heart to a new thing. But now, knowing what had actually happened, the feeling I nourished was that God had different plans for us for some reason, no matter how painful that would be.

In stark contrast to all that bitterness that made a simple Sunday coffee into a great settling of scores, Claire showed me some more of her personality during those moments, making me even more fascinated by her sense of humor, steadfastness, and her beauty. She always had been different from all other women I'd ever met and remained so even after all those years apart.

While sitting on my couch and sipping a glass of whisky, I thought long and hard about the things that had played out over the last four days. I felt as if my mind had suddenly woken up from a long trance. Little by little I started clearing my thoughts as if I was witnessing the first sunrise after long stormy days.

How could I be so blind?

I knew Claire used to go by car to The Heat, but at the time I didn't realize she probably did it because she lived far away from there, otherwise she would go by taxi since London isn't the best place to find parking spaces. My brain was almost bursting trying to assemble all the pieces of this big puzzle. Claire drove over 100 miles every Friday just to see me. A woman who obviously never been to a place like that before, and most likely would never go again, was traveling all that distance just to see me.

EVERY WEEK.

She was in love with me and I was such a jerk cause I couldn't read the signs!

Well, complaining wouldn't get me anywhere. I had to react in some way and stop whining about the time I had wasted, I had to go for and pursue what I had been yearning all those years. All those painful years we endured didn’t matter anymore, not even what it might have been if I had given her my number or if she had started a conversation with me on that disastrous night. From that point on, I made up my mind that I wouldn't waste a second without the woman of my life.

Not Ever Again.

Now I could have one more chance with Claire if she let me. I was ready for the toughest battle I'd ever fought and this time I wouldn't let young Jamie's fear and insecurity get in the way of my truest dreams.

I felt heartbroken to see Claire so distressed in my presence and to see all the hesitance and discomfort reflected in her body language. She acted as if she was walking on eggshells and I could see the doubt hovering her whisky eyes, making them extremely half-hearted when they met mine. I needed to bring back the lightness and brightness in them that suited her personality so well. To do this, I had to jeopardize everything I had so that I could conquer - or even recover - her trust and her heart. I had to intensify my real feelings and intentions, so to speak, and I needed to make it happen before our dinner the following Friday.

For such a battle, it was necessary to set goals and prepare very intentional daily approaches. My plan had only one purpose: to show clearly my devotion and fascination for Claire so that she would let her guard down and trust me again.

At least I had to make an attempt and I hoped that God would help me this time.

I searched online for gift stores I would use in my plan during the week to surprise Claire, and while staring at the message board on my phone for a few seconds, I decided to text my Sassenach a few words to let her know that I didn't want to lose her again. I had to make my intentions clear once and for all:

 

Claire, I hope Fergus enjoyed the chocolates and that yer week starts well! Thank you for your honesty this afternoon. I promise to dazzle you in the best possible way.

Ps.1: Your week will be full of surprises 😉

Ps.2: I'm not giving up on you.

At the beginning of the week, my plan was put into action intensely. On Monday morning, before heading off to the fire department, I sent a beautiful hand-picked bouquet of country flowers to Claire's home, along with a small note:

 

I hope your first day at the hospital will be everything you hoped for.

If you need me for anything, just call me.

J.

Starting from scratch is not easy for anyone. I didn't know where Claire and Fergus lived for all that time, but the lad's accent made me think that they had been away from the UK for several years, maybe France or Canada; and even though Claire was one of the most British person I'd ever met - and had studied at Oxford - I knew exactly this feeling of concern that followed with such a big moment.

So, for her important first day at the hospital on Tuesday, I decided to give support and stand by her somehow. Still, on Monday, I picked a fine chocolate box from Rococo, one of my favorite chocolateries in London. And for the card, I wrote just a simple thing:

 

No matter if it's a good or a bad day, chocolate is always a great idea!

I hope you are off Wednesday night.

J.

However, differently from Monday, on Tuesday I decided to stop by the hospital to drop off the package in person and leave it in the reception. I had made acquaintance with one of the receptionists while Fergus was there, and seeing her there made me feel assured that my package would arrive safely in Claire's hands in just a wink. My first thought, I confess, was to give Claire the gift in person, but when I arrived at the hospital, she was already in surgery - which made me inexplicably proud -, she would probably spend hours to finished the procedure and I had to get back to work.

I spent the rest of the day worried, not exactly sure if she would react in a good way. However, in the evening, my Sassenach's name popped up on the phone screen:

 

Hi Jamie, it's Claire... Thanks for the gifts ♥

My first day at the hospital went better than I thought and your chocolates were an excellent complement!

Yes, I am free on Wednesday night, why?

My plan had worked and I had finally received a reply from her. I recall she mentioned that she would be very busy this week so she would not be able to see me until Friday. So I was surprised when she said she was off on Wednesday night, and I instantly got high hopes that she was finally dropping her guard. Of course, I stared at her words for countless minutes, picturing what made her put that little heart in the reply text. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but her signs seemed more clear by the minute and, still enchanted by her lovely words, I decided to answer her question right away:

 

Good evening Claire, I'm glad that your day has been good! For tomorrow night the only clue is: wear something a little more posh than jeans and a T-shirt. I promise to make an effort to do the same!

Fergus is one of the guests too, but I need your confirmation by early afternoon tomorrow to complete our reservation! I'll pick you up at 8:30 pm, okay?

That’s no doubt I was including Fergus as well. Claire was a single mother who worked full time and had a restless child at home who couldn’t go to school. But when she answered me back after around 20 minutes, I was surprised how fast things were unfolding.

 

Okay, I'll see you at 8:30...

Fergus had already planned to have dinner with the Abernathys, Emily's already making a hundred plans for their camping ... so it'll be just you and me.

See you tomorrow!

I originally thought of having a "family" dinner, with the three of us in a restaurant near our homes to celebrate Fergus' health that first week after his accident. We would get to know each other a bit more as we shared a very different moment from the ones we had in the hospital and I knew the lad would love to talk about his professional plans with me. However, surprisingly Claire did not want to use Fergus as a shield and I would have to find the strength to control myself in order to bravely behave and not go forward any further than what she would have allowed me to.

While still thrilled about the path our lives were taking, I made all the necessary calls to alter our reservation and, before going to sleep, I thought it would be best to let Claire know that the plans had changed slightly, in a subtle way:

 

Okay... Then consider an even more fancy outfit, Claire.

I'll be there at 8:30 sharp.

***

"What's the matter with you, Fraser? Why are you so unfocused?" George just showed up at my door at 3:00 pm. He had already paged me like three times to help him fix a door that was stuck and needed to be tested before the end of the shift.

"Sorry for my distraction, George. I'm on my way down..."

As much as I wanted to pretend that everything was okay with me, it was clear that my mind was everywhere else but at my office. I have never been a person who was absent from my duties, but just the thought of being with Claire in less than five hours was not helping my mental sanity one bit.

All the trust I had felt since I created the "Sassenach project" on Sunday night was gone as soon as I woke up at four o'clock in the morning from Tuesday to Wednesday, completely overwhelmed by a nightmare about Claire. In the dream, she was with another man by her side as she was holding tiny Fergus on her lap and she seemed very happy with her family. She saw me watching them and showed nothing but contempt towards me. I don't even need to mention that I couldn't fall asleep after having her inexpressive face imprinted inside my mind.

But that was only a bad dream and what really mattered now was my upcoming date with Claire. I didn't know exactly which gift to give her that night in addition to what I had already planned, but I remembered what she had told me during one of the long nights we shared at The Heat. I quickly got the phone number of the flower shop where I had bought the flowers on Monday and made a very special order: a small terrarium. Claire had told me, about a decade ago, that her biggest hobby was to take care of her plants; it was almost like meditation for her, so I imagined that she needed new plants now that she was settled in again.

At least I had a good excuse to give her another gift.

The reservation had already been made at the Clos Maggiore, one of London's most romantic restaurants, and I bought a new suit for the occasion. It had been a long time since I wore one and my old suits did not fit anymore. Oh and last but not least: the gift to Claire was perfect and it was already neatly packed so it wouldn't break.

Everything was ready before 7 pm, which was a new record for me, but still, I knew that my restlessness could be summed up in a single word: anxiety.

Looking one last time in the hallway mirror at my apartment, I remembered the way I enjoyed getting ready to go out in my "golden years", how excited I felt - just like that night - when I chose the outfit I would wear to meet Elizabeth. The contrast between the dark blue of my suit and the color of my hair made me almost look the same as I did at the time I met her. Yet, even though almost ten years had passed from the old Alexander to the current Jamie, I had gone through highs and lows repeatedly in my life since then, and the signs of time suddenly appeared around my eyes and in the way I live my life now.

My biggest wish was that Claire would like my new me as well.

I lived less than 5 minutes from Claire's house, but I chose to leave just after 8 pm because I couldn't contain my nervousness anymore. With the distress I was experiencing, I preferred to suffer in front of her house. It was far better than agonizing alone at my place.

However, what I did not expect was a message from her just a few minutes after parking the car:

 

Hey Jamie, I hear you're already here... I'll be there in 5!

I wasn't the only one who was excited after all.

Stepping out of my car and taking a deep breath, I tried hard to get rid of all the worries and jitters I felt inside, I leaned near the car door and stood there waiting for Claire. I was alert to every movement inside her house and, observing the lights dancing as Claire moved inside it, I felt as if my heart was going to pop out from my mouth.

Capturing her shadow behind the curtain, however, was a breath of fresh air for me.

I watched her for as long as she remained in front of the mirror while she was getting ready for me. I couldn't see her clearly, so I didn't have enough in mind to prepare myself for the image I was going to see right before my eyes in the next few moments.

Perfection.

She showed up at the doorway of her house, walking down those few steps as if she were floating towards me. Her face shone brightly with the most beautiful smile and I confess that it was extremely difficult for me to control the bliss I felt when I saw her like that once again. It seemed as if Elizabeth had come back to me as if we had magically gone back in time.

"Good evening, Jamie..." Claire's soft voice as she spoke my name pulled me out of the trance and I was grateful that I was leaning on something solid enough not to fall. "Where are we going?" she was looking perfect in a dark lacy green dress that went down to her knees, hidden by a coat, loosely tied hair as I'd seen through the window, and wearing soft makeup on her face. I don't know how long I remained speechless, not making a sound, but she decided to break the ice in such a peculiar way. "You look very handsome too, Jamie..." she added, smiling in a mix of uncertainty and joy.

Making an almost unheard sound, I quickly pulled myself together to greet her properly, kissing her face and smiling as I listened to the brief gasp she sighed in response. I needed to respond to her compliment and to do so, I managed to keep in a position to serve my conquering purposes by not moving completely apart from her as I spoke:

"Well, ye're so beautiful that sometimes I just lack the air and the words, Claire." I smiled with my eyes on hers, making her blush quickly. "And today is no different." I took a step back, still looking at her so that we could breathe a little more freely. "Regarding our dinner, I intend to keep it a secret for a few more minutes..."

"Plenty of secrets. Just like in the past, Mr. Fraser?" crossing her arms in front of her chest, I saw a little discomfort hovering in the air even though she kept a funny smile.

"No, Mrs. Lewis, far from it!" I was clearly worried, I didn't want her to think anything wrong about my surprise. "But I think ye'll like it..." it was going to be like a fresh start for both of us, something quite different from what we'd experienced in the past.

"I'm sure I'll..." after a short pause, she kept talking. "And Jamie, I'd rather you call me Beauchamp, please." Well, not wanting to use her married name while in my company along with the crease that the absence of her gold ring made on her ring finger were both interesting clues, to say the least.

"Whatever pleases ye, Mrs. Beauchamp." I bent my body slightly towards hers, Claire placing her hands on her dress hem in reaction, making the equivalent movement for me. "Can we go now?"

I offered my arm so that I could take her towards the car door and feeling the intense chill of her hand on my skin made my mind travel to the past. That was the sign I needed to be sure I still caused an impression on her and that she was as excited about our date as she was years ago. Exactly the way I was.

Leaning my free hand over hers, I smiled before helping her get into the car. I stood a few seconds in front of the driver's door and, sighing deeply to put myself together and take up the next step, I laughed softly to the universe, still refusing to believe that my first night with my Sassenach, after so many years apart, was about to happen.

And it would be exactly as Claire deserved.

 

***

 

The way was packed with tension, we exchanged a few words and many conflicting feelings were hovering between us. Claire's hands swung alternatively between holding the bag, which was on her lap, and rubbing themselves against each other in an unconscious gesture to warm them up. My only desire was to hold her hand to give, besides warmth, a little comfort, however, I could not overcome the invisible barriers that still existed among us. I just wasn't prepared to receive that distrustful look from Claire again, I didn’t know if I would be able to rise up again.

However, completely against everything I feared the most, I received the brightest golden look as soon as we stopped in front of the restaurant. Claire was probably overwhelmed by the choice I had made when I decided to bring her to that exact spot, and her shy smile compensated for any stressful silence between us minutes later.

I smiled in return; that was the new version of me I wanted her to meet, I was a typical romantic man and she would have to learn how to get her bearings around the new me!

The place was even more pleasant than the pictures shown on the website, a few tables were set in several rooms of this old house uniquely set up to match the decoration of each space while the soft sound of an elegant violin reverberated through the air, bringing an even more the romantic atmosphere of the venue. We were guided to our table by the maître, Claire's scent spread through the air reminding me of our journeys to our room at The Heat.

Yes, it would be a long night!

The meal was delicious, but nothing compared to the feeling of having just for myself all of Claire's soft looks, giggles, and her blushing cheeks. All exclusively for me. The Italian wine we were drinking, apparently her favorite, had a rather smooth and yet remarkable flavor, just like her, and her voice was sounding even more relaxed as she drank it. Our talk kept on solid ground at first, going through some funny moments of our childhood to tragicomic events in Fergus' life; to even more moving grounds like the premature loss of Claire's parents and my choice to move out at an early age from home due to the relationship incompatibility between my mom and me.

We were getting to know each other like never before.

I'd never opened my heart to anyone as much as I had opened it to her. Almost a decade ago I didn't know what was best for me, what I really wanted for my future, the only thing I thought about was on the practicalities of things to keep me surviving in this world in the most logical way. I didn't want to experience any jitters, but what I didn't know at the time was that it is exactly the uncertainties, the distresses, and the surprises that make human beings live at their fullest.

Everything I had experienced last week was one of the best ways to live to the fullest and I would never want to lose that flame burning inside my being again.

Seeing that she was a bit apprehensive right after checking her mobile, probably thinking about Fergus, I knew that our date should end soon. “Would ye like some dessert before we leave?" Her attention quickly turned to my face, her catchy smile quickly reaching mine.

"I don't know if I can eat anything else, but I can try a piece of yours if you'll allow me..." 

The blend of her almost childish eyes with the sensual movement her index finger was making around the edge of the glass was like meeting my complete demise. Claire had crossed a fine line, probably on purpose, tearing down the rest of my sanity with her words. From then on I knew that I could no longer control myself.

"Umm, a slice of my dessert? Do ye ken what people say about Taurus people?" her amusing, questioning face, blushed by the effect of the red wine, was staring at me like a big question mark. "That they only share their food with people they really love." I arched one of my eyebrows, my body slightly inclined towards hers while waiting for her answer.

"Huh..." the red color on her face made me smile briefly noticing at how uncomfortable she was when she realized she'd messed with fire.

"But I‘ll share it with ye, I'm a nice lad..." I lifted my glass in the air and she smiled more comfortably, toasting with me once again before we chose what we would eat.

I never imagined that sharing a simple dessert with Claire would achieve such a high degree of sensuality. Her lipstick had toned down by then and now the color of the wine was dying her lips, but seeing how she put the spoon inside her mouth while she was smiling so freely pushed me to the edge. And I was sure she realized that cause her body couldn't lie.

The night had been wonderful, much more than I had ever imagined for a first date with Claire after so many years and everything we had been through; and her silent responses proved to me that she felt the same. We stood up from the table, moved towards the lobby, and waited for my car to arrive. But before the spell had been broken, I needed to make something clear to her:

"Claire..." I spoke real close to her ear, and I felt her skin shiver as I helped her put her coat on. "What I just said about the Taurus' food relationship is true, at least for me."

Her movements froze almost instantly, her coat was partially settled on her body, and her breathing was clearly held in her lungs. I knew that maybe it wasn't the best time to say that, but the blend of Claire's scent and the inebriating atmosphere that still hung over both of us didn't help me to keep in silence.

The restaurant's valet came to the entrance door to tell the car was ready for us and, getting out of that trance, Claire quickly finished adjusting her coat and then started walking towards the exit. Of course, I was completely uncomfortable with my last move, not knowing what to do or how to act afterward, and not being able to see her reaction after that impulsive insane moment didn't help at all.

I got the car keys from the valet guy and didn't see it when Claire stopped walking abruptly right in front of me, almost causing me to bump into her. I was still briefly dizzy when I heard a deep sigh and, before I could ask what had happened, she turned her body to face mine with determination. Her eyes reflected the tone of the best whisky, carrying a sign of the past that I knew very well.

The next second her lips were so close to mine that I could smell the wine coming out of her lips through her shortness of breath. Her gaze slowly moved from my mouth until it fixed in my eyes, and all her desire was reflected in the doubts and certainties that her unexpected movement transpired. She remained the same, even after those years I could still read her thoughts, and I knew very well that she was only waiting for my signal so that her newest wish would be granted.

I wrapped her waist with one of my arms, emitting a low sound as I briefly brought her closer to me, smiling the way I knew she enjoyed it. And then the sequence of our movements was as if the barrier of a water dam broke in a single stroke. Her mouth searched for mine sharply, almost on the verge of despair, as if Claire depended on that connection to survive. I held her tighter against my body as I felt her arms wrap around my neck and her hands held my hair tightly against the back of my neck. Our tongues performed a shy but not any less passionate dance for a few more seconds while I savored all her distinctive tastes. The world stood still for a moment, there was neither time nor space when I was in her arms, that reconnection confirmed that nothing had changed between us.

"Let's go, Sassenach..." still holding each other, I smiled before kissing the tip of her nose, and she slowly opened her eyes in satisfaction to find mine. God knows how hard it was to keep the control and stay away from her lips so we could walk into the car. "I still have one more gift for ye and I dinna want ye to be late for work tomorrow!"

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Lady Gaga - Heal Me

Youtube // Spotify

Britney Spears - Invitation

Youtube // Spotify

.

.

POV Claire

 

Did you ever experience a feeling of butterflies flying softly inside your stomach? It usually happens when you see someone you are interested in or when you think about them, right?

But what do you do when that feeling doesn't go away even in your dreams?

Since our date on Sunday, the mix of emotions that filled up my mind imprinted in me a sense of deja vu, a sort of sensation of having traveled back in time, of having somehow come back to when my body yearned for being with Alexander.

I couldn't get Jamie out of my thoughts anymore... For every gift sent, which was always sent with a small but meaningful note, I felt my heart more and more drenched in him.

The Scot was courting me in a quite unusual way, revealing a completely different side of the man who had filled up my mind over all these years. Alexander was as intense, powerful, and indecent as a perfect lover must be, yet I always wondered if he could be more than that if his heart hid anything I had never had access to. Now Jamie had proven to me that he had the skills to turn the man I fell in love with years ago into someone real, someone perfect for me.



***

 

Fergus was a very bright and witty grown-up boy, so as soon as the flower bouquet showed upright in the front door of our house he gave me a wandering inquiring look almost immediately. Surely he knew me well enough to read the feelings I was trying to conceal from him. When Fergus heard the bouquet was from Jamie, he relaxed completely and then he went back to his homework as if nothing had happened there. As if he knew there were things going on between Jamie and me, and even so, everything was fine for him.

I've always been very discreet about having new relationships when Fergus was around. Of course, during those five years as a widow, some men went through my life, primarily to attend to my own physical needs, yet they never made it through the " front door x jealous son " obstacle. Fergus was always a very protective boy; apparently the lack of a father figure so prematurely made him want to unconsciously fill this familiar void. Or did he act this way only because of the strong bond that usually a boy has for his mother?

Anyway, the point of this was that he had never welcomed any man's approach at all, making faces and even getting slightly aggressive when one of them came close just to ask something randomly. But with Jamie things had changed somewhat and Fergus kept talking about his future coworker with great interest and excitement, even after I had received so many gifts from him.

Would that be another heavenly sign?

It was Tuesday night when I finally put on a brave face and sent a message to Jamie in response to his moves. I just needed to know what he was planning if my answer was positive.



Good evening Claire, I'm glad that your day has been good! For tomorrow night the only clue is: wear something a little more posh than jeans and a T-shirt. I promise to make an effort to do the same!

Fergus is one of the guests too, but I need your confirmation by early afternoon tomorrow to complete our reservation! I'll pick you up at 8:30 pm, okay?



He was one in a million... After all that had happened since last Wednesday, Jamie and Fergus' had really established a solid foundation towards a beautiful future, so to speak. Before the accident, it was completely absurd to think of a future including my son and the scot in it, but having him back in my life scenery again made it impossible for me not to see him bonding with me and our son.

Jamie really cared about Fergus and knew how important he was in my life so much that he didn't even consider the idea of excluding him from our next date. Still, even though it was very nice of him, just after a few minutes I realized that I couldn't take him with me to this date. Back on Sunday, I had decided that I would no longer fight against the feeling that was growing faster within me and which meant showing him that I wanted to be alone with him, nothing, and no one around us.

I had to ask Joe for help once more and after a fast call linking the words dinner, Emily, camping, all together in a sentence, the deal was made. That was enough for Fergus to jump off the couch with joy, picking up the phone from my hand, and plan with his friend what they would do the following night.

Well, I'd have to warn Jamie about the changes in our plans somehow.

Excited and not sure how to tell him that I had planned a sleepover for my son so that he wouldn't be home during our date, I felt it was best to create a little excuse so that my desire to be alone with Jamie wouldn't be so shamelessly obvious:



Okay, I'll see you at 8:30...

Fergus had already planned to have dinner with the Abernathys, Emily's already making a hundred plans for their camping... so it'll be just you and me.

See you tomorrow!



***



The next day was fulfilled with high expectations. Everything worked out very well with my patients, and due to that, I got some great compliments from some of my new coworkers, both physicians, and nurses, which made me utterly happy.

My shift ended before 4 pm, giving me enough time to spend with Fergus and my uncle on his first day without a cast so that I could evaluate for myself how his recovery went on. I was delighted to see that my uncle was the most resilient person I have ever met; he was able to walk around as if nothing had happened, even though he hadn't begun his physio sessions. It was exceptional for me to see him in such a fine way, and my heart was finally at ease since the chances of long term physical effects were quite small in his case.

As soon as I said goodbye to Gail, Emily, and Fergus at 7 pm, I had a little over an hour to get ready for my first date with Jamie. I couldn't even describe how I felt at that point, those butterflies wouldn't leave me alone anymore, flying so fast in my stomach I could barely take a sip of water. A feeling of anxiety made me get dressed faster than I imagined. I was already dressed in the most elegant outfit I could find among those I had brought to London when I heard a car noise in front of my house that caught my attention. I only needed to put on my earrings and looking through the window glass I could see a tall silhouette in front of our building.

It was Jamie. 24 minutes earlier.

It was quite clear that the Scot was as anxious as I was.

Facing my reflection in the mirror for just a couple of seconds, the idea that came to my mind just after Sunday's meeting with Jamie triggered my final decision: it was time to take off Arthur's ring. For years, I had been wondering about it, besides I didn’t want to have the image of my late husband between Jamie and me on our date. That was a trick I often kept on doing when I was with other men after Arthur's death, but since Scot's return, I had felt less dependent on Arthur's image. Fergus would carry his surname forever, even though he was not his biological son, and he would always have the image of someone who loved and cared too much about him.

But it just wasn't meant for me anymore. At last, my grief was over.

A message and a few tons of anxiety later, I was finally ready. Even feeling all the anxiety in me with all the uncertainty that night held, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was feeling confident staring at myself in the mirror. As much as I'd aged since our last meeting, I really enjoyed my little changes and, on top of that, at the hospital, Jamie had told me that for him it was as if the years hadn't gone by for me.

So I had nothing to worry about, right?

The sight of Jamie all dressed up in front of me, leaning against his black car, made me feel a whole army of butterflies in my stomach again. He was wearing a navy blue suit, fitting his body perfectly, his hair was as loose as I loved to see it, and the image of his jaw-dropping as I walked downwards the few steps of my doorway was one of the most stunning images I'd ever had of him. Time could have passed for him, as it had passed for me, but knowing that he had become even more beautiful than in the past ten years was still a mystery to me.

His eyes, so blue and intense as the deepest ocean, gave me the assurance I needed to allow his moves towards me. It made me feel certain my feelings would be reciprocated. It made me certain that we could make it work.

But when I got inside the car, the ghosts of the past insisted on tormenting me. The uncertainty came in waves and took over my mind while what I wanted the most was for Jamie to ward off my demons with the heat of his hand. During the whole journey to the restaurant, his hand was insecurely resting on the gearshift lever the whole time. Yet, as we stopped in front of the restaurant, one of the most romantic in London, our eyes met once again and all my doubts and insecurities vanished like magic.

Jamie never ceased to surprise me. He was definitely engaged in making a good impression on me and I was ready to receive whatever he wanted to offer me.

The violin sound that was flowing in the air merged with the energy that was laying over us and it was undeniably sensual. With every sip of my favorite Italian wine, I became more relaxed in Jamie's company. Since he was the driver this time, he didn't drink much more than half a glass all night long, so I was the luckiest girl to have my wine glass filled up the whole night, besides the excellent food and the man I loved so much finally right before my eyes.

Yes, I loved him, surprisingly, even harder than in the past. That finding was at best sudden since the few shared caresses we had in the hospital and in the café had been nothing more than a quick kiss and cuddles to ease my pain, just the exact opposite of what we had experienced in The Heat. But all the emotion overflowing from those blue eyes was telling me so much more than his words, and once again I fell in love with Jamie.

I had forgotten how Jamie’s body language turned me on. The way his tongue unconsciously wetted his lips before speaking, his fingers wandering around in a unique way in the air earning a touch in my arm or my hand once in a while. God is wise when He makes us forget such intense things, these details are so tormenting that the brain wisely excludes us from our mind so that we don't have syncopes every five seconds.

And that's all I was doing during that date.

I felt my cheeks blushing all the time because of the wine, so I didn't feel shy about things I said or a single pick up line Jamie was saying while a light conversation flowed between us. My body became more and more at ease as the wine kicked in my bloodstream, my mind was breaking all the protocols that had been established many years ago for a first date, and I ended up in the most daring move I had ever made: I asked for a piece of Jamie's dessert.

Had I been naughty? Oh, definitely! But the last thing I expected in return was an even more risky one for Jamie: a love confession concealed by a joke.

"Umm, a slice of my dessert? Do you know what people say about Taurus people?" At first, I didn't understand what he was talking about, so I did the best I could, which was to laugh at him once more. "That they only share their food with people they really love." He looked at me smiling, with a mixture of confidence and humor in his look driving me insanely crazy about him.

“Huh…” I froze myself and, even though I didn't think it was possible to blush even more, I felt as if my cheeks were on fire.

Was I so drunk that I didn't quite understand what was happening?

Was he really saying that and meaning it?

"But I‘ll share with you, I'm a nice lad..."

Jamie was definitely trying to mess with my mind, and while we were choosing the dessert we'd share, our conversation started flowing more smoothly again after that brief tension and an idea popped into my head. Facing him sassy, I finally settled on using all the sensuality I had kept inside my body, while we shared the dessert, I clearly tried to figure out what was going on inside his mind. I smiled at him in a very sensual way while we ate the dessert or just sipped some wine in order to get some kind of answer to my questions.

Which didn't require more than a few seconds to show up.

His unquiet lips were craving for more than just the dessert we were sharing when his body suddenly stiffened against the chair back.

The power I had over Jamie was still the same as it was years ago, and I had to deal with that kind of influence in the most logical way possible. I had stirred up the wildfire unwisely, turning them into a firestorm in just a few seconds, and if I couldn't control my actions that night I would have to deal with the fire that was about to blaze again.

Was I prepared to burn myself again in those flames?

Even a bit hesitant at this point, my sudden lack of confidence wasn't enough to prevent things from being out of control, as good as these terms can be. We had got up in the lobby of the restaurant and the ginger gently offered to help me to put my coat on. Well, at least I thought he was just being kind, but he had more interesting ideas in mind to drive me to insanity.

And that was the moment when Jamie took the hot-blooded step that would move definitely the status of our relationship forever from there:

"Claire..." I shivered right away, it was kind of an involuntary reaction of mine when Jamie was talking to me with his body so close behind my back, and that was what I felt since the first moment I met him. His mouth was so close to my ear that I could feel the slight wetness as he exhaled, clearly anxious about what was to come. "What I just said about the Taurus' food relationship is true, at least for me."

A man who loved to impress me: James Fraser. For the umpteenth time that night, my breath was held inside my lungs, my arms were frozen and I had trouble putting on my coat. The red-haired had been very bold to tell me that, but deep down I could feel the restless jitters pouring out of his body, the same as it flooded over mine. Jamie was revealing to me his many sides, far beyond those that I already knew, and to have the blend of these "two men" was the deadly combo for me to finally fall into his arms at last.

I still couldn't move and then my eyes were suddenly filled with the excitement I felt when I heard what he said. Obviously it felt all very messy within me, but the only thing I was sure of was that my body was demanding to feel Jamie even closer, to have his hands around me, and to finally taste his lips with my tongue.

I finally quit reasoning when I acted as instinctively as possible, just like when I first met him. Suddenly stopping to walk, I took one deep breath and, turning my body to face him, I stared at him with a slight smirk on the face. I was filled with all the courage I could find along the way, so it didn't take me more than a second to dangerously bring my lips closer to his, our restless breaths colliding with each other as our bodies approached.

Even though I was totally surrendered to him and to that moment, I waited for some kind of sign that I could carry on with that rushed gesture. I saw in his eyes that he still knew how to read my signs, and I felt his strong arm around my waist the very next second, along with the same delightful smile that had unsettled me in the past.

Fullness.

The mixture of softness and roughness of his lips against mine quickly sent me back to our past, but it was when I finally felt his tongue searching for mine that time and the space around us were gone. Clinging to his neck as my fingers sank into his hair, Jamie pressed me even tighter against his body, and nothing else was there but both of us and the almost savage urge to absorb one another.

How can things change so much and be exactly the same?

"Let's go, Sassenach..." he strayed away from my lips with some hardship, grinning just as lustfully as ever before he kissed the tip of my nose. How is he supposed to be so adorable and sexy at the same time? "I still have one more gift for ye and I dinna want ye to be late for work tomorrow!"

"Jamie! What do you want to do with me?" I spoke amusingly as I crossed my arms in front of my chest, pretending to be upset.

"God, I'm gonna have a hard time undoing the fame I have of being a former consumer of The Heat..." he rolled his eyes, still smiling. "If ye can manage to contain yer curiosity, I can show ye soon!" he laughed and, pushing me gently towards the car, we soon got inside to escape from the typical London chilly night.

How had I not felt that chilly wind when I was in his arms?

Before Jamie started the car, he took a small box of paper from the back seat of the vehicle, and, giving it to me, I quickly realized what his surprise was. He never got tired of giving me gifts and, opening with a bit of eagerness, I was impressed by what was inside. It was a small terrarium. How could a man who definitely did not know me, especially after so many years, at the same time know so much about me?

"I love plants! You guessed it right, Jamie!" I was really delighted with the softness of that little garden, unable to stop looking at every little detail of it.

"Uh, actually I ken ye liked them, that's why I bought them for ye..." I kept staring at him waiting for him to add something, still positively startled about what was about to come. He exhaled the breath of his lungs, starting the car before he went on. "Ye once told me it was one of yer hobbies and I decided to take the chance..." his smile was shy, his gaze running away from mine as I stared at him in great shock. "I hope ye enjoyed it..."

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie! Of course, I loved it! But… how can you remember such things?" I was speechless, how could he remember so many things?

"Uh..." another long, anxious sigh. "I've replayed our meetings in my mind more times than I'm capable of counting..." His look quickly went off the road to focus on me before he smiled in the most loving and shy way in the world. "It's engraved in my memory and in my heart, Sassenach."

I didn't have anything to say. I could tell that I was sorry, or that I would like to really understand exactly why the Universe conspired against us, setting us apart, but all I could do was wrap my fingers in his and thank him silently with a moving smile. Our paths were beginning to run side by side again and all I expected was that one day they could cross and become one, like never before.

The first official date was coming to an end and I didn't know what to do... I felt it was too early to invite him in, but I wanted to take advantage that Fergus wasn't home to try to extend at least some more of that feeling of fullness that I experienced when I was in Jamie's company.

As soon as he parked his car in front of my house, his bright eyes searched for mine, and he certainly found a small shadow of sadness in it, and soon his hand was hitting on my knee to make me feel more excited:

"Come on, Sassenach, I'll walk ye towards the door!" His smile was so wide that it reached my own face.

"You are such a gentleman, Jamie." Even if I had my cheeks burning with embarrassment, I kept my eyes on his. " I couldn't imagine less than that..."

While I was waiting for him to walk around in the car, suddenly stress took over me. I still didn't know how to finish that date, if I should finish it at the front door of my house or to invite him in. Smiling in a shy way as I saw the door opening, I accepted his help to move out and we walked to my house together.

"Thank you so much for dinner, it was amazing..." We were facing each other at a safe distance, but our urge to be closer to each other was so strong it nearly shouted out loud.

"I appreciate that ye accepted my invitation and I'm extremely pleased ye enjoyed it, Sassenach..." how I loved to hear that name come out of his mouth again. "It's really one of the good ones, isn't it?"

"Without a doubt..." well, now it was the moment for me to try a daring move. "Uh, you wanna come in? I have nothing to drink but coffee and tea, but we can talk a bit more..."

"Umm..." looking at his feet with a surprised face, he exhaled the air from his lungs hard, and blushing on his cheeks as he looked back at me brought me some hope. "There's nothing I want more in this world than this, Claire... Ye dinna have the slightest idea! But I dinna think we need to rush into things, aye?"

Jamie spread so much frustrated sexual tension towards me that I couldn't help but smile back. Besides the great pleasure I felt when I saw him so committed to me, my smile carried a lot of reciprocity as well. I was equally frustrated not to have him inside my home for a longer time, even though I knew it was best for both of us at that moment, so my next move would be just a reminder that we had experienced something very real that night and that we were both willing to make it work.

I looked inside his eyes as I took a few steps to shorten the space between us and, completely bewitched by everything we had shared, and by everything he had told me on that magical night, I traced the outline of his jaw before caressing his cheek smoothly. Jamie's eyes closed almost instantly when I touched him, the unbearable warmth of his skin bringing me no choice but to kiss him; and, wrapping my arms around his neck once again, I caught his fondly, delightful look just before his arms wrapped my waist.

God, I could live inside that hug forever!

When our lips touched, we shared a kiss so calm and intense at the same time that, when I realized, I was already on tiptoe, so close to Jamie's body that my arm muscles were burning up. It was sheer pleasure to feel the warmth of his body against mine, his hands moving so tightly against my back that I could feel all the desire coming from each part of his body.

How could a man harbor such a perfectly controlled fire within himself?

Stepping away from him briefly, I slowly opened my eyes and, still, with my hands steady in his hair, I smiled before finally answering his question:

"Aye..." our eyes were smiling because we knew what we had lived together and what that Scottish term meant to us. "You're right. I’ll wait for you on Friday... Any particular requests?" removing my hands from his neck, he quickly held them close to his chest as if I couldn't get away from him.

With a contemplative smile, Jamie briefly turned his look away from mine to watch closely that intimate contact right under his eyes before speaking again:

"Do ye have a good whisky?" I shook my head negatively, I hadn't had time to buy beverages since I arrived in London, and definitely whisky wouldn't be my first choice, not until that very night. "So I'll bring it in for a toast after dinner..." Kissing the knuckles on my fingers without moving his look away from mine, I sighed half-consciously so that my body wouldn't melt with that level of romance. "Oh, and I'll bring the dessert too!"

"Perfect! We'll be waiting for you at 8:30!"

"I'll probably get here sooner than that, but 8:30 is perfect!" we laughed before he gave me one last kiss on my lips. "Mo chridhe." His face glowed so fondly that I was unable to ask him what he meant when he spoke it. I knew we'd have the right time for it to happen. "See ye on Friday!"

" See you on Friday..." I inhaled his perfume once again as I gave him a quick kiss on his lips, struggling to walk towards the front door of my home while waiting for him to get into his car.

Jamie smiled as he looked at me one last time over the top of the car and, waving his hand restrainedly, he suddenly looked away from me before he disappeared from my sight.

Butterflies from all over the country joined together to bring me one of the most joyful experiences of my life, a happiness that approached delirium flooding my body so intensely as I stepped into my home that I couldn't hold back the words that were coming out from inside my heart.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, I love that man so much!"

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Christina Aguilera, A Great Big World - Fall On Me

Youtube // Spotify

Francis and the Lights - May I Have This Dance feat. Chance the Rapper

Youtube // Spotify

.

.

POV Claire

Astonishment. Fright. Fear.

The way Jamie faced me after I finally said he was Fergus' father unspeakably appalled me. I could barely breathe. He got so shaken that he wouldn’t let me answer his questions properly so that he could understand my side of the story. Each and every single word was aimed at me with no mercy and I felt as if I had been stabbed right in the heart. No matter what I tried to say, stating my reasons, he would run over me with a speech loaded with anger and disgust. He didn’t give me a moment of truce and I got terrified; but as he left my house slamming the front door with such fury, a thud and blustering noise against the frame of the door woke me up from that horrible nightmare.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!

It was around 4 o’clock on Friday morning. Was there any doubt that I was really on edge? The feeling of guilt I felt all those years for not insisting on trying to reach Alexander one last time at The Heat, had always been so painful that it filled my sleep again and again; however, it had never felt so heavy for me as it did since my first real date with Jamie.

He had proved to be a good man since Fergus' accident, but during our dinner at the Clos Maggiore, he stole my heart showing all his love and care for me throughout the night. Jamie was unlike any man I'd ever met, which made me feel the world's most terrifying monster by not allowing my son to grow up alongside his progenitor. No matter how Arthur had been such a wonderful role model of a good father to him, nothing can replace a love from a biological dad who really wants to be one. And Jamie seemed to be a guy who'd really want to have a son.

Which words would I choose to tell him that he was a father?

How would I make him understand the reasons why I didn't tell him when I realized I was pregnant?

How would I tell Fergus that I had deceived him all those years when I made him believe that his biological father was Arthur, when in fact I always knew that his real father was Jamie, the man who accidentally saved him in a fire?

Although I had not figured out how to tell Jamie, I knew for sure I'd have to do it soon, for everyone's sake. So I made up my mind that I'd talk to him on Friday night at all costs, no matter how much my heart could suffer again.

I just couldn't bear lying to him any longer.

As if things weren't already messed up inside my mind, at that point I was completely in love with Jamie. I could not help but fall for his moves, his caring and lustful looks, noticing that he was focusing all efforts to make our reconnection something meaningful, and showing me a different version of what happened to us years ago.

And what about his text messages? Dear God!

The red-haired sought to establish a more solid bond between us than when we first met, something that brought me a great feeling of hope about our future together. Newsflash: I found myself caught up in this huge emotional mess that was too great for one to deal with on their own.

 

***

 

On Thursday, I started the process of removing Lewis’s last name from all my documents. I had already discussed the subject matter with Fergus a few days before and he seemed to understand what I was saying. I made it clear to him that, even if we didn't keep the same surname, nothing would ever be changed between us. He would still be my boy and I would stay by his side for as long as I lived.

I arrived slightly late at the hospital for the afternoon shift because I had picked up an important order I made: the nameplate which would be placed outside my office door. The moment I finished sliding it into the support, I got a friendly smile from Joe as he read what was written on it:

 

DR. CLAIRE E. BEAUCHAMP

General Surgeon

 

That was one major step for me. My whole career has been linked to my married name Dr. Claire Lewis, one of Montreal's most influential General Surgeons, married to the renowned Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Arthur Lewis, who held one of the most respected and valued positions in his field, worldwide. However, it was already a great start for me in London, especially when I think about Fergus' accident and Jamie's return, so my last name would be just another of those great changes. I'd experienced far worse things before and, of course, I would survive this one as well.

 

***

 

We arrived home late Friday afternoon and the air was filled with anxiety and expectations. Fergus was so excited about having dinner with his superhero guest that he didn't need more than 15 minutes to walk down the stairs already ready for The Big Event. I was just finishing the lasagna sauce when Fergus showed up at the kitchen door. He was just stunning! With a clear intent to cause a good impression on his guest, he was wearing a deep blue polo shirt in perfect contrast with his skin, and fancy nude trousers that made him look very hip - I was always telling him about that - as well as his beautiful curls framing his face. Oh, and the most amazing smile, the cherry on top!

We still had to layer the lasagna for the evening meal and I tied an apron around Fergus so he wouldn't get his clothes dirty, but the strings circled his body so many times that it made the two of us laugh out loud. Fergus and I prepared the lasagna as we used to, one on every side of the kitchen counter; however, that day he painstakingly filled every corner of the platter with sauce, like if it was a work of art.

After praising him for the good work, observing how focused he was doing his task, I no longer could hold back a question that was on my mind:

"Did you have to dress up so nicely for Jamie?" I asked him when he added the last cheese layer.

"Oui, maman! Aside from him having rescued me at school fire, I have some very important professional questions to ask him," of course, it had to be a professional meeting, how could I possibly forget! "Emily is also coming for dinner, remember? And then we're gonna go to the ‘Egyptian night’ with Uncle Lamb!" Shit! How could I have forgotten and scheduled the dinner exactly on the same day?

"Oh, baby! Sorry, I forgot..." I felt my cheeks burning as I finished wrapping the aluminum foil over the platter.

"I told you yesterday, maman, and you agreed. I told you when you picked me up from my uncle's house..." He looked slightly worried, sitting at the other side of the counter. "Are you getting very tired at work?" Obviously the hospital wasn't that exhausting, the only thing draining my energy was my thoughts about James Fraser.

"Oh, yes! Forgive me, honey, it was a busy week for me!" I stared at him fondly, suddenly admitting myself that I would have to deal with a lot of things at once that night. "Did you pack everything you wanted to take with you?"

 

***

 

8:16 pm. We were ready for Jamie’s visit, and after a quick shower, I put on a very comfortable long dress and was finally ready for dinner. Our second date in less than a week. God! This night wouldn't be a real date, but having him in my place would surely be another big step for both of us.

I sighed and just smiled somewhat hesitant at my image in the mirror. It would be a long night.

The noise coming from the living room was loud yet relaxing, Fergus and Emily's voices were exceeding the sound of the music that was playing in the living room. They seemed happy downstairs but, listening more carefully to them, I was pretty sure I heard a male voice mixed with the children's voices. I thought that it might have been the radio at first, but quickly I became concerned. I walked down the stairs in a hurry, startled and with an uneasy feeling in my body, while thinking that something had happened to the children during those few moments they were alone.

However, instead of facing a dreadful man enticing the children, the most beautiful sight appeared in front of me. Jamie was sitting on the floor next to them, playing with toys while he said funny things. He turned towards me when I came down to the bottom of the stairs, and it seemed as if time just froze in a matter of seconds. His bright eyes were sparkling to be there. And God, seeing Fergus side by side with his father was more than my heart could bear.

"Hey, Claire!" Jamie stood up quickly, laughing at the kids before he walked towards me, somewhat wavering before kissing my cheek. "Sorry to walk in without ye here, but the children noticed that I was standing at the front door and they opened it for me..."

"You don't have to say anything, Jamie... and the kids were right, it's cold out there!" He looked handsome in his white shirt, a beige jacket, and dark jeans. Well, he was handsome in all ways, and may God have mercy on me tonight. "Did you find a parking space nearby? The café next door is hosting a book signing event and it feels like the whole London is there!

"I called a cab, Sassenach..." Jamie giggled, stepping back for a short while to pick up a shopping bag that was on the living room couch. "Whisky and driving don't go together! Huh, I just gave Fergus some chocolate for dessert!" I looked annoyed as I knew my boy pretty well and I knew how much he loved candy. "And yes, I asked him to save it for later, dinna fash!" Now he was a mind reader too? Lord!

While the kids joined Jamie, asking him about several things concerning his job at the Fire Department, I tried to keep track of my heartbeat at the same time I was cutting the vegetables which would be served along with the lasagna already in the oven. I was dying to have Jamie there, to see him get along so well with Fergus, to be the only one who knew the truth between us three. That bubble was just about to pop, whether I wanted it or not, and every second that went by brought the moment closer and closer and I wouldn't want to carry on with that lie any longer.

Watching how Fergus enjoyed talking to Jamie, or how his eyes sparkled when listening to the redheaded jokes or to his more serious lines, was enough for the smile not to leave my face the whole night. They were sitting side by side and any fool would be able to tell that they were related, even though they were not alike at first sight. It was a completely opposite situation from Arthur's and only God knows how grateful I was when I realized that Fergus was dark-haired just like me for the first time I held him in my arms. When I was pregnant, the idea of having a redheaded child was something that regularly I had in my mind. That was one of the major things that made me apprehensive than having to explain to the world which side of the family that red hair was from.

I remained deep in my thoughts for a few seconds until I bumped into the prying eyes of all my table members, asking me silently where my mind was, their funny faces making me laugh with embarrassment. That wasn't the appropriate moment for me to be wondering about the past.

Getting a kind glance from Jamie, I smile back before he turned his attention back to my boy, now speaking seriously:

"Fergus, I want ye to visit me at the Corps, I haven't forgotten the invitation I made ye!" He looked at the two of us over and over before he ate the last piece of his lasagna.

"I have not forgotten!" He was very excited, clapping his hands and his face brightened up as he found mine. " We could go next week, maman?"

"Of course, son!" I leaned my body forward to squeeze his hand over the table. "I'll set up with Jamie a proper day to go there..." I met Jamie's gaze across the table and the fact that I was actually seated had been essential for me to keep myself upright, the power that the Scot had to leave my legs trembling was beyond comparison. "But now it's time for chocolates, Uncle Lamb must be waiting for you both!"

"I can't wait to have 'one night at the desert' with Uncle Lamb!!"

The children quickly walked to the living room looking for the dessert and, when noticing the lack of understanding in Jamie's face, I smiled before I started gathering the dishes:

"Umm, they'll both spend the night in a little tent at my uncle's living room. He used to be an archaeologist and the kids just fall in love with all those stories that he tells them..." Jamie stood up pretty fast and began to help me. "Yesterday Fergus planned everything with my uncle and I didn't think it was fair calling off their entertainment time because of our dinner. They are growing up so fast and soon they will no longer want to play those games..."

"That's true, time flies at their age..." with a little hesitation, he entered the kitchen right after me, but the kindly look I gave him relaxed him right away.

"Did I ever tell you that I grew up among artifacts, tents, and a lot of desert sand?" I spoke amusingly as soon as I finished putting everything in the dishwasher.

"Not yet, Sassenach, and perhaps this explains something about yer personality..." his face clearly expressed the same boldness as in the past.

"Umm... Like what, Jamie?" By throwing a challenging look at him, I rested my hands on the countertop - the only thing that kept us apart - and our eyes kept staring at each other for a few seconds.

"Well, we can talk about that when we get some whisky..." he approached his face dangerously close with that same old half-smile that always melted me. "But regarding yer uncle," he said as he walked away, "it's very odd that ye talk about a retired archaeologist, I believe that earlier this year I helped a gentleman who had fallen down from the stairs in his building, I think it was actually nearby..." ah, of course! God would not allow me a moment to breathe? Another coincidence? "The neighbors are aware that I'm a firefighter and they always call me whenever something is wrong... Well, and I ken about his career because, while waiting for the ambulance, I asked him to say something he was passionate about while trying to ease his pain somewhat, and then this gentleman told me about his passion for Egypt. Are there so many archaeologists like him in the neighborhood?"

"Well Jamie, I'm pretty sure you did help my uncle..." I smiled back and he shook his head, barely trusting the way things like that were happening with us. "He took the cast off his leg on Tuesday, a femur fracture..." We kept staring at each other in amazement. "But just to make sure I wanna ask you something: can you walk us there?" even astonished by the way I acted, he nodded. " We dropped the kids off at his place and you can check if it's the same patient!"

"That sounds great," I felt dizzy seeing he smiled and blushed.

I went up to the kitchen door and, asking Fergus to pick up his belongings in his bedroom, I waited until the children's steps disappeared to finally get back to my guest. But before I could say anything to him, I saw Jamie walking slowly towards me, not stopping to stare into my eyes, and that intensity made my smile fade as I realized the way that gaze still dragged me back to our past.

"I loved the dinner, Claire. Ye're a very skillful cook..." His voice was lower than usual, and he was standing a few inches away from me, so I looked at his mouth before fixing my glance on those two deep blue ocean eyes.

"Don't compliment me too much, I can only cook some meals..." even though I was very embarrassed, the atmosphere surrounding us didn't allow me to avoid the energy that came from him.

"What do I have to do to make ye show me a bit more of yer cooking skills?" Yes, he used exactly that tender voice. He caressed my cheek softly and that was enough to make my eyelids close in an almost unaware movement.

"Who knows, maybe I could invite you to have dinner here again." Daringly staring at him, I moved my lips even closer to his, just a few inches away.

"Dinna promise me something ye canna keep, Sassenach..." Jamie smiled as he spoke really close to my lips, and in a familiar move to both of us, he hugged me tightly on my shoulder line, holding me cozy against his body.

"And who said I’m not gonna keep it, Fraser?" That pickup line was full of double meanings and we both knew it very well.

My eyes could only stare at the fine and lustful outline of his lips; I was yearning for them so badly that it was hard for me to think properly. Wrapping my arms inside his jacket to surround his lower back, I smiled in pleasure as I felt the same fire energy emerge from his body as years ago. Jamie aroused so many unique feelings inside me. It was like being in heaven and hell at the same time.

We both began kissing slowly, at first conscious of the place we were and by whom we were accompanied by. However, if it weren't for Fergus' voice close to the doorway, I knew for sure that the next second there would be nothing else surrounding us. Figuratively and practically. We were carelessly stirring in that spark among us and almost turned it into the wildest flame ever.

Still slightly dashing, we stepped aside fast, as soon as we heard the kids talking, and we smiled just like two teenagers who had been caught red-handed right in front of their parents. Of course, no harm was done, but the fact that there was a man inside my place who wasn't Arthur was still a pretty delicate issue for me and a lot more to Fergus, and I didn't intend to raise any unexpected surprises for the kid.

 

***

 

"Hey, uncle, how are you feeling tonight?" I said it straight after everybody got into the apartment. "Are you ready to host two kids willing to discover the fantastic Egipician mysteries?" We laughed together at that statement, but I was the only one who really knew his appreciation for those ludic moments, especially after so many years apart from his great love for the archaeology in situ.

"They remind me so much of you at that age, Claire..." how wonderful it was to see him up on his feet and so excited with his life again. "And who is this lad? I know him, right?" His gaze was a mixture of questions and jokes, something that was typical of Lamb. Of course, I had no doubt there would be plenty of questions when we were alone.

"Hello, Mr. Lambert! James Fraser." They shook their hands cordially. "I'm the firefighter who helped ye in the stair accident earlier this year! I'm so pleased to see ye doing so well!"

"Oh, son, it's good to see you again!" now hugging him tightly, he got a light embarrassed laugh from Jamie.

"And you have no idea exactly who else Jamie saved, uncle..." his eyes widened, quickly looking back at the child who was so busy with the large tent that was being set up in the middle of the living room. "Yes, he's the firefighter who rescued Fergus last week!" Note to self: besides being his father. "Tonight we hosted a thank-you dinner and Fergus has already decided he's going to be a firefighter, he's already got plenty of tips from his mentor!"

"But we are living in a very small world, indeed... I'm glad Fergus was in such great hands!" and in a fast startled glance, he walked towards his bookcase, bringing back something very familiar to me. "Umm, before you leave, dear lady, I have something for you... I actually have something to give you back!

"Aw, uncle! My dragonfly in amber!" He gently handed me over the object that had been with me for so many years until I moved to Oxford to get myself prepared for college. I smiled thrilled as I saw its beautiful details against the light once again.

"I found it lost among my boxes! I believe that when you went to Oxford you said you were afraid of losing it and after all, I never sent it back to you! But now it is here!" I gave my uncle a loving cuddle, some tears running calmly down my cheeks. "Hey Fergus, you have to come here and say goodbye to your mother! We're going to have a long night!"

I kneeled in front of Fergus and gave him all the instructions to be careful with everything in his uncle's apartment and I reminded him Uncle Lamb was still recovering from an accident. I kissed his forehead and soon I realized how fast he was growing up and had become a beautiful boy. We stood in our little bubble while I was giving him the last recommendations, but when I looked around I found two grown men appreciating my special talk to Fergus, especially Jamie.

And the look he had in his eyes said more than anything we'd ever told each other.

 

***

 

We walked slowly back to my home, and while we did it, doubts were popping up in both heads about our next moves. We strolled side by side and, even wearing a coat, I unconsciously crossed my arms in front of my chest in an attempt to fill the heat from Jamie that I had felt a few minutes ago. I longed to feel his body close to mine again but, beyond that, I longed to have the right opportunity to tell Jamie that Fergus was his son.

Once we reached the doorstep, it seemed to me that opportunity was right in front of me:

"Well, Claire." Jamie was facing me, his effort to hold back his insecurity was as noticeable as mine. " Thank ye again for the dinner and for sharing some of yer time with me... Can I call ye tomorrow? " his apprehensive look made my heart race inside my chest.

"Of course you can call me, Jamie..." taking a longer moment than I had imagined, I could finally fix my eyes on him in order to finish my sentence. " Huh... But would you like to share with me some of the scotch you gave me?" the heat flowed all over my body, blushing my cheeks. "For old time's sake..." his shy, sparkling smile burst out as I saw the wheels grinding in his head.

"Umm, perfect... right after ye."

Then Jamie extended his arm to let me go first and by turning my body towards the door to open it, my heart was almost coming out of my mouth as my trembling hands held the keys unsteadily. It was finally truth time and I expected that the whisky would operate some kind of miracle and provide me some kind of superpower over my being, giving me the necessary strength to face the most challenging battle I had ever fought my entire life.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

ODESZA - Corners Of The Earth (feat. RY X)

Youtube // Spotify

ZAYN - Dusk Till Dawn ft. Sia

Youtube // Spotify 

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POV Jamie

Claire kept surprising me with her actions. Even though we shared a very sensual time together just after dinner in the kitchen, I never imagined, even for a second, that she would suddenly invite me for a whisky after dropping Fergus and Emily off at her uncle's apartment. I sort of felt that mix of tension, doubt, and seduction hovered over us and since that was the second time that Claire invited me to step into her house, the thought of playing "the good guy" role again and offering her some space and time was not exactly a thing that crossed my mind.

No more.

I simply couldn't handle one further second away from her inebriating smell, her soft skin, her demanding lips. She uniquely teased me and, as I noticed how she was trembling when smiling to me when she invited me in and the way her hands struggled to put the key into the keyhole, I realized that the same whirlwind that filled my body and soul was also inside her.

I felt as if I was living in some sort of parallel universe, a brand new world was showing up to me as soon as Claire stepped through the doorway. When the kids first opened the door for me, I was unable to catch sight of the small details of her home as the fusion of excitement and anxiety I felt about what was to come. The urge the kids displayed to have my attention at all costs had not allowed me to explore into any kind of surroundings scrutiny besides being with them. However, I had only eyes for my Sassenach at this time and each and every move she was making.

Claire's house had very peculiar characteristics of her that really amazed me not having noticed them before, to begin with the hall entrance decoration. She quietly took off her coat, putting it in one of the hangers next to the door, and only then I had a glimpse of a bureau with three family photo frames, on it which photographs might have been taken on the same day, to enhance the décor of that narrow aisle.

In the first picture, Fergus' smiling at around two, three years old while sitting in such a charming yard made me react to that giggling boy with the same smile. I couldn’t help myself.

In the next sequence of photos, there was a picture of sheer bliss crowning one of the moments Claire had Fergus in her arms, and the unbearable lightness of her flying hair curls pairing with the freshness of the shiny dark curls on the top of her son's head. It was a perfectly captured moment by the lens of the photographer and I couldn’t help myself looking at it, feeling an extreme tenderness in my heart. Staring for a few seconds at that image frozen in time, the sound of Claire’s laughter was immediately heard in the back of my mind, a sound that I had tried to remember all those years but somehow I had blocked in my subconscious. Never, during all those years, my lack of attitude in claiming Claire's love had broken me so much as it did at this very moment.

And God, how much I had grieved.

Taking a deep breath, my eyes switched to a new picture and I felt my whole self freeze at the sight of a family one. Even though he was dead, my archrival was finally in front of me with a beautiful broad smile on his face, his blond hair perfectly disheveled by the wind and revealing an adoring gaze for his little family. It was impossible to deny that jealousy grew inside my body, despite not knowing his story nor his name, because everything that I longed for in life was inside that man's arms by the simple fact that I didn't have the guts to tell her what I felt at that time.

I don't know for how long I got lost in those thoughts, but the sound of Claire's steps on the wooden floor hallway brought me back to reality. Taking unsteady steps, she stood by the bureau that was near the doorway, dropping down her keys softly just beside the flowers I had sent her early that week. It was perfectly arranged into a crystal jar, and I smiled just imagining her exact reactions when she got them on Monday.

How come I haven't seen them before?

I was still watching all her movements, following her into the interior of her living room from a distance, when I saw her placing the dragonfly in amber on one of the shelves of her bookcase. Claire looked at me over the shoulder and smiled briefly before walking towards the kitchen, and only then I realized that there was another gift I gave her among her belongings, right next to the artifact: the terrarium. She had blended my gifts together with her house ornaments, and even if I didn't know how aware she was when she mingled all those objects that were part of her story with those she recently got from me, it seemed as if she wanted to insert me in her life; and just get that idea made me feel so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling at myself once again. I was alone with the woman of my life and I was sure something very important would happen that night.

"Would you like some ice?" Her voice muffled echoed from inside the kitchen, the sound of the glasses clicking and the cupboard door slamming turning that little moment into something so typical between us.

“Nay! Scots will never water down such a fine beverage, Claire..." I heard her little giggle and couldn't help but giggle just the same way. After a brief pause, while I carefully observed her living room, I kept talking. "I'll be glad to help ye buy some of yer drinks, Sassenach... So far all ye've got is some whisky." I took off my jacket, placing it over a couch backrest.

"And that's exactly what you brought me!" Her voice echoed quite clearly, making me turn my body quickly towards the sound and then capture Claire's figure right at the kitchen door.

She was stunning. Claire walked towards me smiling, holding the glasses, and as she approached me I noticed her long flying dress fluttering in the air as if she came out from one of the dreams I had in my past. She had her hair tied up in a messy bun, some locks falling on her face, reproducing the same light movement of her dress. As she stopped in front of me, she asked me quietly to hold the glasses as she opened the bottle and poured some scotch into each of them, and I tried so hard to keep the glasses steady, cause having her so close and feeling her perfume would always make me feel dizzy.

"And shall we make a toast to...?" I said right after she placed the bottle over the coffee table, of course, I was really curious to know what she wanted to drink for.

"Hmm..." she took a moment to think, staring at the glass I was holding. " We could start to toast for the reunions and the coincidences?" She smiled embarrassingly and blushed immediately. That’s one of the things I had longed the most in all those years.

We toasted in silence, however, that energy vibrating straight from Claire's soul was so strong and loud that it seemed as if she was exuding everything she felt for me loud and clear. The only thing I was sure of was that Claire was ready to burst out into a sudden blaze and I was ready to melt into that ocean on fire. There was a seduction breeze in the air, and from time to time, she would wet her lips with her tongue while she was moving the drink casually, not taking her eyes from mine, ensuring quietly a promise of a perfect night.

But suddenly all faded away, in a matter of seconds, as if some kind of fear cloud had been rising over our heads. Her face shifted from glow to darkness in a fast and terrifying way, the tears clouding her eyes before she drank all the whisky in just one big sip. Her thoughts were screaming loudly inside her head; and it was crystal clear that Claire was using the alcohol to pluck up a little of dutch courage to handle something she couldn't face sober.

Yeah, something wasn't right. Definitely not right.

"Claire, are ye all right?" My body froze when I saw her walk away from me towards the window just after she poured more whisky into the glass. " Is there anything I can help ye with?" I felt my voice trembling from inside my chest, but I had to make her talk to me again.

"Jamie..." She kept staring at her glass as if she was summoning up courage inside of it. "I'm a hideous person," she was facing the window, and the yellow light coming from the street was sadly glowing over her face, matching suitably with the sound of her voice. "I can't even look at you without feeling the vilest person alive."

She took another long shot of whisky real fast and almost dropped the glass when placing it on the window sill. A grieving sigh came out of her lungs and I felt an uncontrollable need to do something. Then, after sipping a large dose of what was left of my scotch and putting it on the coffee table, I took a breath, ready to take my first step:

"Hey..." I said quietly, and walking slowly towards her, I hesitated for a couple of seconds before touching her. Claire was freezing, just the opposite of a few seconds ago, and even though she was gazing through the window as if she was totally adrift, she shivered somewhat scared at my first touch, but loosen up right after. "Why are ye talking like that about yerself, Sassenach?" I spoke close to her ear in the most gentle and tender way, and then I heard her whimper very softly.

Even though I couldn't see her face, I could feel the intense suffering she was going through. I allowed my intuition to take control over my behavior, I no longer could hold back the secret urge I was feeling to hold her tight in my arms. The most comforting embrace I could ever offer her. As soon as I wrapped her in my arms, I felt an agonizing shiver fluttering from her chest towards her extremities, making me squeeze even tighter her back against my body in an attempt to calm those frantic sobs coming out more and more intensely. Her agonizing body bowed forward the more the sound of her sobbing increased until it culminated in the most heartbreaking outburst I had ever heard coming out of her lungs. And I had witnessed her desperation when she saw Fergus lying in bed unconscious at the hospital.

"Claire, listen to me!" I spoke out loud because her loud cries were ripping my heart to pieces. I let my arms go so that I could turn her around and face me, and then I wiped her tears with my fingertips to try to make her look at me. "Dinna do this to yerself, mo chridhe." She still snorted amid her whimper and I got deeply worried about whatever was going on inside her mind. "Christ Claire, look at me! Ye're the most wonderful person I ever met, for God's sake! Ye light up my whole world and ye are the reason why I kept myself alive for the last 10 years!" She held her breath as if she was feeling guilty and shocked at the same time. I smiled trying to cheer her up but she insisted on self -punishment for some reason...

"I'm a ph- phony, Jamie, y- you don't understand... And I d- I don't know how I'm coping with all of this s- stuff inside me..." she stammered in her speech, weeping coming out of her mouth and her eyes relentlessly. "How I could li- live like this f- for so long..." even if I was holding her face tightly so that she would face mine, her eyes kept looking down and in anguish towards my chest. "I've been lying f- for so long... I wanted to believe that- that it was the best for everyone, b- but I was actually s- so fucking selfish..." our eyes met slightly, her face revealing despair and resignation. And then, after a few seconds of silence, a huge sigh finally came out of her lungs in a massive effort to control her emotions. “That's something so heavy for me to bear, Jamie..." Claire struggled to hold back her tears, but her wrinkled chin and her slightly flipped lower lip proved that she was failing miserably. Swallowing hard her saliva, her eyes gazed at mine with so much love, her wavering hand moving towards my face to gently caress my cheek as she put a few of my curls behind my ear. "But even though it is a heavy burden, I'm so terrified of losing you again..." her half-smile held one more tearful wave, so overwhelming that I could almost hear my heart breaking inside my chest.

I hugged her tightly with one of my arms while my other hand was caressing her face firmly. I put my mouth very close to hers in a very possessive way, trying to breathe her in, and hoping that doing so I could bring her back to me somehow.

"Christ, Claire! If it's up to me, I'll never let ye out of my life again! Can't ye see how important ye are to me? Can't ye see how much I love ye?"

Her grief snapped in a thrilled smile, her tearful eyes searching for mine while her hand, which remained on my cheek, stroked my skin gently once again. Even though the time seemed to have stood still inside our bubble, she wouldn’t utter a single word, and I didn’t know what to do to prove to her how I felt for her and how precious she was for me. So I did the only thing that was in my power: I wrapped her neck tightly and finally kissed her. I couldn't lose her again.

All the hopelessness I felt at seeing her disappearing from my life returned to me intensely that night, turning the feelings we shared there in her living room into something as primitive as the many moments we shared at The Heat. Our mouths and tongues were desperate for one another, all the rage pouring out my veins turned as a mirror for what was happening to Claire. We were so desperate for that touch as if we were the only ones on Earth who could rescue one another, and my hands raced towards her waist while her hands quickly searched for my neck, her body fitting each time closer to mine, the depth of that connection proving to me that she was entirely surrendered to me exactly like in the past.

I saved her from the cliff.

"Loose yer hair, Sassenach." I spoke against her ear, making her moan in reaction to the subtle lick I gave to her earlobe. "I want to see yer curls..." my tongue traced a wet path through the bottom of her cheek until I hit the corner of her mouth. "I like them loose, did ye forget it?" She laughed, sniffing softly as she wiped her tears with her fingertips before answering me.

"Well, I had my reasons, Fraser." I pretended to be surprised, and she shrugged her shoulders as she nodded. "I wanted to know how long you'd wait to show your little discomfort..." she finally laughed against my lips as she moved her hands weakly in the back of her head. "But there are so many things that I didn’t forget, Jamie..." Her voice sounded almost like a whisper, and as she moved her face away from mine, a lusty smile appeared as she settled down her hair around her face.

"Like what, Sassenach?" I arched one of my eyebrows, moaning with pleasure as I felt the softness of her hair once again after so many years. But I knew right away, due to Claire's body reaction, that she would not answer my short question. "Hmm, like that, for example?" Still holding my right hand against her scalp, I squeezed her butt with my left hand as I pulled her even closer to me while I licked and bit her neck. Her head nodded weakly, and I felt her sharp breath against my ear taking my breath away for a moment. "Christ, Claire, why ye chose to wear such a lengthy dress?" I laughed as I tried to pull its hem up with my hands so that I could finally touch her skin.

"Because I couldn't imagine we were going to do anything like this, you silly man!" We giggled together after she slapped my arm lightly, that chill stretching our connection even further. "But when I'm with you, everything is always so magically unexpected..." Her surrender was shining through her smile as she helped me lift up her dress. Holding her dress on one side of her hip, I could finally touch her inner thighs, groaning into her ear as I recalled with my fingertips just how soft her skin was.

"Claire..." I spoke hesitantly as I pressed her once again against my body, now placing my hands firmly on her butt, allowing her to grab my hair with her free hand to make me stare at her eyes. "I need ye so badly..." so I felt her shortness breath against my lips and all her desire overflowing each and every moment we were sharing. "Will ye have me?"

"God, Jamie!" Her horny smile appeared for the first time in about a decade and we had no more hindrances ahead. Now nothing would prevent her from doing or saying what she desired the most. "I just need to be yours, nothing else matters to me now."

Her mouth met mine eagerly as her hand guided me towards the very center of her pleasure, inside her underwear. We moaned at about the exact same time when my fingertips met her fine skin and realized just how ready she was for me. Her body leaned towards mine as she rolled against my hand, the next few seconds I could feel her moanings begging me to cease her agony.

I felt completely punch-drunk by love from everything I was getting from her in those few, but intense moments. I got so aroused that I had no idea when I had laid her down over the nearest soft sofa cushions. She looked like the embodiment of lust, and as I took off her panties and shoes trying not to lose the control of my body impulses, I stared at her while knelt down, then leaning her thighs over my shoulders.

She was as flavorsome as my mind could ever possibly recall. During all those years, the one thing I was sure of was that I would die happily just for the delight of feeling her taste once more. And, for being there at her feet, God could take me to heaven at that very moment.

Her thighs were pressing my head again and again while she rode against my mouth, one of her feet searching for some sort of support against my back so she could have the pace she longed for. Her moans were driving me crazy, and the more she moaned and called out my name, the more pleased I felt at finally pushing her to the limit. Her firm hands behind my head led my mouth deeper and deeper into her, and all her demands were making it clear to her that I was loving being right there with her.

There was no other place I wanted to be than at her disposal.

I knew her, I knew her reactions, and even after so many years apart, her body kept reacting to my touch just the same way. So when the first noises and early signs of her climax burst fort, I kept my efforts by pressing her closer to my mouth before putting one, then two fingers inside her until I went into oblivion and heard my name shouted out countless times between her moans, the pulsing of her sex against my tongue and her hand pulling my hair making me feel a delightful pain. There was nothing better than to have her like that, so entrusted to me, but hearing my real name come out from her lips in such an inmost private moment was one of the finest, without a doubt.

As soon as her body relaxed, she pulled me up rather hard so that our lips could meet again, and while I sat next to her, she started to speak:

"I missed this..." she had a wobbly smile on her face and her eyes were sparkling full of lust, her small hand pulled my head close to hers so that her tongue could stroke the outline of my lips. "Very much..." her voice was even more lustful in a deeper tone and I could feel it when her hand began to move slowly down to the center of my legs. "And I miss that, too."

I caught my breath as I felt her slight sharp strokes against my cock over the trouser fabric. Her skillful hands began to open my belt quickly, and even if I wanted to have her right there, I didn't want to rush into things that way. Then, with the slight emotional balance within me, I could finally stop what she was doing and I took a few moments to breathe properly before I could say any words that made sense:

"Claire..." I pulled her hand out, kissing the knots of her fingers while staring at her. " In case ye keep this up, I won’t last long..." And then I made her smile while swallowing hard my saliva, she had no idea exactly how close I was to the edge. "And as much as I want to do a thousand things with ye all night long, I dinna think yer living room is the best place for it..." I threw a half-smile before briefly kissing her lips.

"Mmm... yeah, you're right," she exhaled frantically against my throat. "Then we have no choice but to go upstairs," Claire smirked naughtily before she stood up next to me, picking up her panties from the floor in a rather sensual way next to the couch. "All night long you said, Jamie?" She looked over her shoulder and giggled at me, and that was the green light I needed to follow her steps to the stairs.

I stepped up the staircase just behind her, attempting without success to feel the curves of her hip over all the different fabric layers of her dress, grinning painfully when we reached the top of the stairs. A hoarse, giggle-like sound came out of her chest as she realized how disappointed I was with my failed efforts, giving me no choice but to clench her against the wall to mute her laughter with my own lust.

She groaned against my lips and, lifting her dress once again, I pulled her legs around my hip so that she would remain on my lap:

"Where is yer room?" I loved to feel her firm, round arse against my fingertips, it was so tempting that I just couldn't help but squeeze it on and on all over again.

"The next door on the left." she grinned softly against my ear as she held her arms even tighter against my neck.

I had some trouble opening the door due to the extra weight I was carrying – and all I hope was that she couldn’t read my thoughts! – and to be able to finally step into a place so private to Claire. A place I never imagined I'd have the pleasure to be at. The lamp above her bedside table was lit up and its bright, chaste light added an extra glow to that place that was so mysterious for me.

As I gently laid her down on the mattress, I could finally catch a glimpse of her eyes after our first moment in the living room. The same color as the amber decorating her bookcase downstairs, they were completely devoted to me, as well as her body, but now I saw far more than just desire coming from them. The urge to make her mine took me into oblivion real fast, but during my lapses of sanity, I could swear I had sensed love in its purest and most intense way I had ever felt receiving from anyone before.

Of course, we were not the same anymore and so many things had happened in our lives after we shared our last intimate moment together. And yet, despite being fully dressed in that bed, there was never a time when we were so stripped and destitute of our defenses – which in theory protected us from the world – as we were at that very moment.

Right there in all that quietness and peacefulness we were sharing underneath those soft sheets, our auras were so pure and real and genuine that not a single word was necessary or even needed to be uttered to connect our essences like never before. We stayed like this for a while and then, with cheerful smiles and eyes brimming with tears, I gently kissed her lips once again before lifting her out of bed. All that I needed the most was to see her naked again.

"I meant it when I said I wanted to make love to ye all night long, Claire." I smiled as I caressed her waist seeking the dress zipper. "Now, if ye could please tell me how to get ye out of that dress, I will thank ye immensely!"

She laughed softly before turning her back to me, showing me where the zipper was, perfectly hidden just behind her beautiful tangle of curls that covered the back of her neck. I carefully unzipped it down until it stopped moving slightly after her lower back curvature, it made me sigh hard for her little moan as I stared at her long pearly skin that contrasted perfectly with the dark fabric of the dress she was wearing. Her body was even softer than I could ever remember, and it took me a few moments gently caressing it before making her dress slip through her body toward her feet.

She stood on her back for a few seconds and, as wonderful as it was to see her curves from that perspective after so many years, I could feel she was not at ease to stare at me one more time.

"Claire..." I approached her body so she wouldn't get lost in her thoughts again, caressed her spine with both hands before taking them to her belly and her breasts, which aroused immediately a moan in us both. "If ye are uncertain of this, we can take it slower..." I wrapped my arms around her upper body, leaning my chin against her shoulder. "I would never push ye to do anything, mo chridhe, we have all the time in the world now... I only need ye to talk to me."

Claire moved my hands away gently before walking a few steps forward, breathing heavily and then finally turning her body to find mine. Fear and doubt were all over her face, but more than anything else, I saw so much longing in her eyes, that image led me straight back to our past and to the endless times when I had rewatched those same reactions in my dreams with Elizabeth.

I couldn't stop admiring her beauty, how her curls fell over her shoulders, how her nipples stared at me, hard and eager to be caressed. I kept staring at her, amazed how much she had changed and stayed the same, amazed at how hard it was for me to stop observing all her curves. I was so deeply absorbed by that delightful flood of images that I couldn't realize that I wasn't in the many dreams I had with her. She was clearly feeling fazed and she tried to hide protectively, making a rather uncomfortable movement wrapping with her arms her breasts and intimacy before she could say what was disturbing her:

"Please, Jamie, say something..." She looked really shy trying to turn away her gaze from me as if she wouldn't satisfy me in a way.

"Christ... Claire, ye are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen!" My voice came out loud and, as I stepped up towards her with a broad smile, I held her tightly against my chest, making her relax again. "Ye leave me speechless, I'm not quite sure ye remember it..."

"Well, you were a more straightforward man than today, Mr. Fraser!" I faked a shocking face and she grinned at me with a bright thrill in her eyes.

She started to pull off my shirt slowly while I took off my belt and pants somewhat more hurriedly than I had planned to:

"Do ye want me to be more straightforward, Sassenach?" I turned my face towards hers in a challenging way, prepared for proper competition.

"If you feel up to it..."

Her teasing smile fueled me to finish removing everything between us fast, pilling all my clothes together with hers on the floor just before getting as close to her body as possible, skin to skin for the first time in years. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she smiled daringly at me for a moment before I pulled her legs in a usual movement for us both, grabbing her against my body as we rubbed our private spots against each other, intertwining our kisses with barely heard moans coming out of our mouths.

I laid her down once more on the mattress, but now having her naked as if she were a mermaid charming one of the most passionate of sailors was infinitely much better. She kept staring at me, eyes half-open, and giving me the most enticing smile on her lips. As I dragged myself over her body, I began to gently kiss her legs, taking a slow and agonizing path towards her breasts, taking my time on those silky nipples as I made her squirm under my body. She complained impatiently and, pulling me back in the right position on the top of her, she demanded through disconnect words:

"Jamie..." she cried out my name nearly in a plea.

Liking her stiff nipples once again, I laughed against her belly before standing up to grab the condom inside my pocket. Not that I was expecting to have sex with Claire exactly that night, but from our last date, I knew it would happen sooner or later.

As soon as I turned my eyes towards her, I saw that Claire kept looking at me with so much desire. Her legs were open, her feet pressed against the mattress, her back leaned on her elbows and the most shameless longing look that she could give me. There was neither fear, doubt nor insecurity like early that night; there was a woman who was sure of her most profound longings, she knew how to express them and her intentions were focused on making me lose my mind.

Standing in front of her and willing to delay this moment so that she would lose her mind as much as I would, I stared at her body lustingly and caressed her breasts, her belly, her vagina's entrance. But my plan lasted less than I expected, since Claire approached me in a hurry, pulling me so that I could be on top of her, saying everything I needed to hear:

"Jamie. Do it now, and don't be gentle.”

There was nothing like being inside Claire. It was like sipping your favorite whisky, like traveling to a peaceful place, like being at home at last. I gazed into her eyes, focusing on all her responses, and, at each blow, I felt as if there were fireworks spread all over her body, litting up places that were hidden by the darkness. I could feel her winding curves once more and it felt like I was given a golden ticket straight to heaven, or perhaps to hell since the heat of that woman and everything she caused me was both my biggest sin and my biggest redemption.

"Tell me what do ye want from me now, Sassenach?" I felt that she was coming again.

"Let's come together, Jamie..." she spoke harshly against my lips. "I can't..."

Claire moaned and groaned my name as I held her arms with my hands against her pillow, thus feeling every inch of her. I quickly increased the pace of my thrusts, her knees against my chest and our eyes were glued to one another.

Just a couple of more thrusts were enough for Claire to wrap my body with her long legs, shutting her groan for a millisecond before she finally reached her orgasm, so strong and overwhelming that the pulsing pleasure along with her piercing groaning was the trigger I needed to achieve my own climax.

As I lay her down over my chest after we recovered some level of balance, I inhaled her unmistakable perfume while I could feel our breaths soothing. However, even though I felt her there, so close to my body, my mind couldn't stop thinking that it wasn't real. Feeling her legs wrapped with mine and her hand caressing me as my hand went down her spine felt like being dreaming about Elizabeth again; that felt like another one of the countless fantasies I'd had about her over the last few years that I just didn't want to be awakened from. And on that night, more than ever, the fear I felt of waking up from that dream made my heart pound strong inside my chest.

"Jamie, what's happening?" Her face lifted up to stare at mine, her chin above my chest and her eyes trying to figure out what was going on inside my head.

"Och, Sassenach, I coudna be feeling better!" I kissed her forehead for a long time and smiled, throwing away my doubts as I found her warming gaze. "I beg yer pardon... my thoughts were far away, mo chridhe..."

"I'm not a dream, Fraser." She kissed my chest, still grinning softly. "Although I can't believe that you and I are really here, together, after so many years... But I can pinch you if you need to wake up!" Her soft laugh resounded through the room as her hand snaked up towards the edge of my hip, her fingers like tweezers, ready for action.

"I dinna need a pinch, I just need to do this now!" I said a little loudly right before I stretched out my arm and slapped her butt a bit loudly.

"Hey, you are the one who thinks you're dreaming, not me!" She hit me in the arm, laughing louder before she cuddled up on my chest again. Suddenly, a quiet moment grew between us, and I could see that her mind was working on how to tell me something important, so I encouraged her inquiries by gently caressing her temple. " Huh, what does Sassenach mean, Jamie? And whatever you said today... Mo..." that name was a new one, I'd never called her face to face in such a meaningful way.

"Mo chridhe?" I asked her even though I knew exactly what she meant, pulling back a lock of her hair that was over her eye, putting it behind her ear.

"That..." she smiled at me and I couldn't help myself, turning our bodies to stand over her as I kissed her deeply again until I felt her body melt beneath me.

"Well..." I cleared my throat as I leaned my body weight against one of my elbows. "Sassenach means foreigner, an outlander..." her wrinkled eyebrows and her incredulous smirk were so entertaining for me. "Aye, even though I was the foreigner, that name simply fitted ye verra well since day one..." My lips were quietly asked to kiss her neck, making her lean her head back as she laughed. "And mo chridhe, well..." I spoke in a slightly overwhelmed voice and didn’t stop looking into her eyes. "Mo chridhe means my heart..." her eyes, even startled and moved, kept staring at mine, her tears clouding them instantly.

"I... am I your heart, Jamie?" Her body was shaking under mine, the bliss lighting up her body and all over her.

"More than my heart, Claire." I pulled her up so we sat facing each other, her hands seeking mine thrilled. "I've never stopped being yers for all these years. Completely yers." I held her right hand, pulling it to kiss the palm gently. "Even not knowing anything about ye, I only survived through the memory of ye..." I stared into her eyes again and I noticed happiness tears pouring out of them just like in mine as well. I sighed deeply before touching her cheek, and realizing how perfectly it fitted inside my hand reminded me of something that had ripped my heart apart for all these years. "I've dreamed about ye so many times, Claire... I saw ye so many times... Ye came to me so often, with yer hair curled around yer face... but ye never touched me." She gazed at me intensely and her chin wrinkled as she briefly held her breath.

"I can touch you now..." holding back her weeping, she sighed with her cheeks moistened by her tears. She approached my face and she caressed my cheek with her fingers, kissing me with such intense devotion that I could ever possibly expect to receive from anyone. "I love you, Jamie." One long sigh and she finally looked inside my eyes. "Madly. Since the very beginning."

I held her tight breathlessly, still not convinced that she had finally said the magical words I had so longed to hear from her. I dreamed about it so many times, but it never felt so perfect, having her fully mine and blissfully crying against my neck.

"I love ye more than my life, Claire, and nothing is going to change it," I said softly against her ear, and I felt her body shivering against mine. "Not even time was strong enough to change this love inside me..." I lifted her face to face mine, smiling as she saw that we both shared the same happiness.

She always had been like an addiction to me from which I never wanted to get rid of. Our last words triggered the desire between us once again, like a small spark that starts a fire in finding a dry haystack. Our kiss grew strong, overpowering and, on the very next instant, the only thing I managed to think of was that I needed to feel her even closer, even more connected to me.

And I felt it was the same thing for her.

God, she was even more beautiful with her wild hair surrounding her face, her breasts moving smoothly as her hips hit against mine. Claire rode over my lap while I kept my fingers sunk into her buttocks so that our movements would be even more steady between us. My hands and mouth drove her even crazier over me, and as she screamed and groaned, her fingers remained leaned on my chest, or beside my head, or over my knees.

Even though I heard her say that she loved me and feeling her as free over me as she had never been before, it was still hard to believe that she was really there with me. However, as much as my mind wanted to prove that none of that was real, all the five senses in my body were pointing in the opposite direction. I knew this from her scent lingering in the air, from her taste that remained on my tongue, from the pressure of her thighs against my belly, from her slight movements of utmost pleasure as I reached her most hidden places, from the luscious moans that came out from her.

Claire was really there and, most importantly, she was so in love with me as I had always dreamed of since the first day.



***



The sleep of the just. I actually understood the meaning of it since I now had the woman I loved lying beside me making little sounds in her sleep, filling my heart with joy; her warmth filling a void that was even greater than I had realized, which fortunately no longer was in me. I kept watching her sleeping for a while, still not believing that it all was happening, and then I fell asleep, surrounding myself in a loving atmosphere, smelling the unique scent from Claire's hair.

A few moments later, still very sleepy, I realized that Claire was no longer beside me, her warmth had almost completely disappeared from beneath her sheets. I realized some time had passed since she was there with me, and for a second I had to ensure myself that I was really there in her bedroom and not woken up from another wild dream with Elizabeth.

Terrified by my concerns, I swiftly sat down on the bed to recover my sanity, at last finding Claire sitting in a chair right in front of me. The smile which had appeared instantly on my face faded away as, even in the utter darkness, I saw that she was holding a glass of whisky in her hands while her face carried the same sorrowful look as when we came back from Mr. Lambert's house.

Hearing her deep sigh, I swallowed hard the saliva that kept piling up in my throat, terrifying me with the sorrowful tone of voice that came out from a person that had cheered from happiness with me just a few moments ago.

"Jamie, we need to talk..."

And no, nothing was fine.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Adele - When We Were Young

Youtube // Spotify

Naughty Boy ft. Beyoncé, Arrow Benjamin - Runnin' (Lose It All)

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

POV CLAIRE

He was right there.

I could feel Jamie's presence everywhere, especially in my own skin. All that I longed the most to have in life had been fulfilled, but I still couldn't actually believe that Jamie was right there by my side, lying on my bed, enveloped in my arms, under my sheets. When I felt his presence by my side in the absolute depth of silence of the night, I figured out how hollow I was feeling inside and how much I was pretending not to be. There I felt all the emptiness that filled me up by his absence and by all those years when he had been just a ghost to me.

As soon as I woke up, the warmth coming from Jamie's body kept me comfortably in his embrace for a few minutes, and the gentle sound coming out of his mouth took me on a journey to a different place, a peaceful place without the fears of real life. However, I felt a sudden awareness when I remembered the most important thing I was supposed to tell Jamie, and that our torrid moments did not allow me to do, and now the uneasiness was devouring my heart again.

Or was I trying to escape from the real world wishing one last night with Jamie before everything fell apart?

None of the expectations I had about us could surpass what we had lived and shared that night, not even the ones I had nurtured in my mind during all these years apart. To feel his mouth wandering through so many sensitive places in my body, his cock filling me with every thrust and offering me one of the greatest pleasures of my life, was as if he could carry me to a new dimension that I had never been before. Not even with Alexander. The sort of bond I had felt with Jamie had left no room for doubt, at least not when our body's impulses came over the reasoning that I had to face.

Hearing Jamie saying he loved me loud and clear had been even better than sharing all that intimacy after so many years. And he expressed his love for me not only once, but twice. His devotion, blended with his seductive soul that had been enhanced as time went by, inspired me an intense feeling of trust, making me believe, even if for a short period, that our relationship would be kept safe after all the truth between us was revealed.

I woke up that night wrapped by strong, demanding arms but, as soon as I recovered my qualm and woke up from my spell casting sleep due to Jamie’s presence, all the regret for not having looked for him in the past took shape within me again. Even after seeing him in a compromising position at The Heat, I shouldn't have been such a coward; I should have stayed a little longer and looked for him again. I should have done something to let Jamie know what was happening to me, to us.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep on sleeping on that bed anymore. My mind was even more messed up than it was in the beginning of the night, and all I needed was a drink to put all my thoughts together. As soon as I made up my mind that whisky was my answer to everything, I let go of Jamie's arms with some difficulty trying not to wake him up, and I gazed at his relaxed face before I turned off the lampshade and let the room sink into full darkness. I needed to feel his presence for as long as I remained far from him, so I picked up Jamie's white shirt that was next to the other clothes, sniffing once more his perfume before wearing it.

The hidden traces of the many lustful moments we had shared that night were all over the bedroom, across the corridor, down to the living room. The lights were still on, the cushions were scattered upside down on the sofa and the whisky bottle was left open on the coffee table. I took the glass that Jamie had used earlier and drank all the whisky that was in it, its strong taste and full of personality flowed into my body until it reached my soul in a very intense way. As intense as the Scot who gave it to me.

I smiled as I remembered the glances, the touches, and the moans we exchanged there, and suddenly I felt like watching his sleep once again. I desperately needed to watch him sleeping, even if it was for a few moments before everything changed between us. After putting everything in order and turning off the lights, I headed back to the bedroom with the bottle in my hand and the glass in the other, and I sat down in silence on the armchair opposite to my bed.

As soon as my eyes got used to the subtle clarity coming from the window, I could observed the way Jamie's chest moved up and down as the air flowed in and out of his lungs; the contrast of the gorgeous golden color of his legs against the white sheets, slightly darkened by the twilight; but the best of all, how he smiled in his sleep, just like Fergus. Just like his son.

Jamie tossed and turned in bed, half sleeping, sliding his hands across the mattress as he reached out to me. I knew immediately that the moment of truth had come and my body sank into the chair. I hid myself, drinking my third shot of whisky before Jamie sat down abruptly and stared at me, his smile fading as he found me so helpless.

I sighed deeply to gather courage before I could finally start talking:

"Jamie, we need to talk..." he was startled and remained motionless for a few seconds, then stood up and turned the lamplight, putting on his boxers before sitting on the edge of the bed in front of me.

"Is everything all right with ye, Sassenach?" He had such a crystal clear expression on his face that, even the room being poorly lit, I could notice all the anguish printed on his body.

"No, Jamie, things are not quite right with me now. Or with both of us." I poured a double dose and offered it to Jamie as I leaned slightly towards him. "Have a sip, you shall need it.” He stared at each and every move I made while he took a big sip of the whisky. "It's about our past."

"I'm here to listen to ye, Claire." I noticed he had a distressed look on his face even though he was talking in a rather calm way.

"Well, you know when I stopped seeing you at The Heat, but what you don't know is the real reason why it took me so long to look for you." Focused on my speech, his eyes seemed a little confused, maybe because he was not sure what to expect. "We were always very careful during our nights there, sexually speaking, but do you remember when a fog prevented me from reaching you on one of our meetings?" He nodded slowly and I took a deep breath before going on. "Do you remember what our next meeting was like after that?”

"I remember each and every single detail, Claire." He smiled shyly at me, lowering his gaze to the ground. "I was so hopeless for not seeing ye again, not knowing what I'd done to make ye not show up one more time, and then not really believing that ye were actually there. It was so intense..."

"One of the most intense of all nights, at least until today..." we smiled with complicity, silently agreeing that the night we had shared hours ago had been the most perfect of them all. In an attempt to accommodate me in the chair, I leaned my feet on the ground, the sobriety taking over my face as I looked into his eyes again. "But the point is that, on that night, we were so blinded by passion, by doubt, by anguish, that we didn't remember to use something essential, especially for the kind of relationship we were having at the moment." He stared at me in amazement as soon as he realized what I was referring to. "Yes, we didn't use condoms..." I dropped my face toward my hands.

"And ye got pregnant." Now it was me who made a tiny noise of astonishment, turning my attention to him in a flash.

"Hmm..." I kept talking, still having a hard time putting my ideas together as I saw him looking at me in such an attentive way." My period track was shaken for months due to the distress I felt when I had broken up a long-term relationship, so I didn't realize I was pregnant until nausea and dizziness came, weeks later." Jamie stared at me in shock, his elbows resting on his knees as his hands covered his mouth. And by the sight of him there, so worried, he made me burst into tears instantly, and my voice weighed down. "I spent several weeks trying to figure out everything that was going on with me until Joe pushed me to talk to you about the baby..."

"Joe." An anguished sight went out of his chest, so loud as to hear it from across the room. "And that night you saw me with Justine and gave up looking for me..."

"I hope you understand me, Jamie. It was very difficult to deal with everything that was happening to me. I fell in love with you from the first moment I saw you, even though I wanted to deny what was happening within me. But as soon as I learned about the pregnancy, I feared your reaction..." I tried to pull myself together to try to control the tears with a long sigh, but seeing Jamie kneeling in front of me, hugging my legs as he laid his head on my lap, ripped my heart to pieces. "You said relationships remained at the party and I didn't know you, I didn't know what to expect from you..." He embraced me stronger, and the warmth of his tears on my skin made it difficult for me to hold the urge to stroke his soft hair. "Then, weeks after our last date, I went after you at the party and I found you with that blonde woman again. It tore me apart, Jamie..." I burst into tears unceasingly, Jamie turning his face up and searching my cheeks with his hands, giving me no option other than to do the same with him. "The sight of you with her shattered me... It may sound too selfish now, but I couldn't cope with it, my heart was broken and the sorrow was too dreadful. I assumed that you had no feelings for me, I was just another woman in your life. But most of all, by seeing you with that woman I was certain that you would never recognize the child…” then I instinctively pressed my hands against my belly, the tears kept rolling down my cheeks.

Clearly distressed, Jamie stood up quickly, pulling me so that I was surrounded by his strong, warm arms for long seconds, caressing my hair as he spoke meaningless words to me as if it were some sort of prayer. "Claire, come to bed..." his fingers wrapped up in mine, his mouth looking for the knots to kiss them gently before gently pulling me out from there.

Jamie laid on his side, tapping his hand on the mattress, inviting me to lie down next to him, and I laid turning my back against him, our bodies fitting perfectly. "I loved you from the first moment, mo chridhe." I shivered as I listened to him, and I felt his warm fingers running down my belly as I noticed his wet breath against my ear. "I just dinna ken how to express it in time..." I squeezed his arms against my body, trying to make it clear that now he knew how to do it. "There was not a single day that I had not blamed myself for being a coward with ye and with myself." I had to face him to prevent him from sinking away, fate had been sneaky with both of us and I would not allow him to speak those horrible things anymore. "I never felt anything for anyone as I felt for you... in fact, as I feel for you." His eyes were shining brighter than anything else, his deepest feelings showing in the most tender caress I had received from him. "But no matter how sorry I am for everything that happened between ye and me and how it happened, it no longer matters to me because now ye have me." He held my hands against his naked chest and I could feel how fast his heartbeat was against my fingers. "Now I'm here with ye and Fergus. With our boy..." his hand went straight over my belly, the emotion flooding in our bodies for everything we had lost and for what we were about to experience together. "Ye raised him so well, Claire..." Jamie hugged me tight, kissing my forehead for a while. "I winna blame ye for what happened or for yer decisions, and I wish ye'd do the same to yerself. Get the weight off yer back, Claire, now we can start over!"

"How can you be so perfect?" My face was sunk in his neck and my lips felt the contentment fluttering out of his throat.

"Because ye have made me this way, mo chridhe." Pulling my face to find him, he smiled with tears in his eyes, making me give back all that love with a passionate kiss. "Everything that I am today is because of ye, Claire."

“How could I not love a man who says such things?” I smiled while kissing his lips.

"Now tell me a little bit about our son!" He stopped caressing my hair and pulled me to sit on the bed, eagerly awaiting for every single detail about our boy.

"Well... He's Canadian, born and bred. Montreal."

"Hmm, that explains his accent..."

"Yes! I must say I melt every time I hear him call me maman..." he smiled at me, our hands coming together on my lap."Arthur and I moved to Canada as soon as I finished the medical internship when I was still pregnant. We did very well in Montreal, but my uncle's broken leg forced us to come back to London..." I smiled in complicity before kissing his hand.

"All leading us to find each other again..." I nodded, I didn't need to finish his sentence, it was more than clear that many things were pointing us to the same place.

"I've never felt anything so strong for anyone, Jamie. I guess the whole Universe conspired to put us together here, now… That's inexplicable." He caressed my cheek, my eyes closing with pleasure as I felt the soft roughness of his fingers against my skin."But the thing that strikes me most is that Fergus seems to have realized that you're his biological father... I could never bring any boyfriends home after Arthur's death, he was always very jealous..." Jamie stopped caressing me, his frown immediately making me laugh. "Yes, James Fraser, I didn't nurture my widowhood after Arthur's death!"

"When did he pass away?" He sighed and looked at me in a rather serene way, proving to me that he was not that jealous about it.

"Five years." It was hard to think of how fast the years went by. "Fergus was so young, yet he grieved and still struggled with Arthur’s absence..." I tried to smile, but my eyes remained sad. "He was an excellent father..."

"And..." his eyes filled with doubts met mine before he could keep up with his little inquiry. "Was he an excellent husband as well?"

"He was a good husband, as far as possible... Arthur was a pediatrician and spent most of his days on shifts or traveling, but he was a good companion to me and he helped me to raise Fergus. He was very much missed by our little family."

"I have no idea what ye see in me, Sassenach..." his eyes fixed towards our entwined hands. "Ye go through many places with people that are far more interesting than me..."

"Hey Jamie, look at me." Touching his cheek, I lifted his face up so he could stare at mine, and then I smiled. "I love you, there's no better explanation than that!" Even ashamed, instant happiness burst into his face. "I had never intended to be related to anyone due to his social position. It doesn't matter to me..."

"I must confess, the image of yer late husband is not something I enjoy to think of. He was too handsome and too perfect..."

"No, he wasn't! Believe me." We giggled and I tapped his leg. Yes, Jamie was incredibly jealous.

"All right, all right, I get it!" His arms rose in surrender and Jamie took a deep breath as he became serious once again. "Since Fergus' accident I've been thinking about our past, wondering the possibilities about yer disappearance, and one that has come up in my mind the last few days is that ye got pregnant. I confess I was jealous at first; but now, after ye've told me about Fergus, all I can feel for Arthur is thankfulness. I'm so grateful he was a good father to my boy and a good husband to ye..." His face was soft, reflecting so much truth in everything he shared with me. "All this time all by yerself on the other side of the planet might have been verra difficult for ye."

"Not easy at all. But Fergus is a wonderful boy!" Jamie nodded when our eyes met, sobbing very quietly as he repressed his emotions. "I have so many things to tell you... Oh, did you know he smiles in his sleep, just like you?"

"Do I smile in my sleep?" I nodded and he laughed, pressing his lips against my forehead for a while. "Come here, Sassenach, ye're freezing". Jamie lay down, lifting the blanket so that I could crawl under it to lie facing him, our eyes observing each and every single movement of our faces. "Claire, thank ye for giving me a perfect son and for allowing me to meet him, I already love him more than anything else. This child has moved me from the very moment I carried him out of the fire." The scene of them leaving school took over my mind almost instantly.

"I was terrified to tell you the truth and then lose you, but I just couldn't bear it anymore..." he hugged me tightly and I felt his warm breath up against my head. "I would not manage to live with you, with both of you, and just keep hiding everything. It wouldn't be fair to anyone." I sighed before turning to him again. "Now I'm free as if I could actually breathe easier now... The only thing that really worries me now is exactly how to tell Fergus about you."

"We'll figure out together, Sassenach..." he smiled peacefully before looking at me in wonder. "Oh, ye dinna have any idea what Fergus asked me when we were walking towards yer uncle's house!" Jamie said laughing. I knew Fergus well enough to know he didn't save words, bowing my eyebrows with a bright smile, waiting for him to finish. "If I was yer boyfriend!"

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ..." our eyes remained stunned, staring at each other. "Well, but receiving Fergus' honesty is a good sign." I could finally laugh at it, even though still embarrassed. That boy loved to drag me into awkward situations. "And what did you say?"

"Uhm..." with his elbow over the mattress, Jamie moved his body by leaning his head against his fist, and then he smirked in the most shameless way possible. "That was something I really longed for, but that ye needed to accept it first..."

"Uh..." so he really wanted it? "And what did Fergus say?" Pretending that I wasn't being touched by his words, I put on a poker face, even though I knew I couldn't hide my feelings.

"He didna say anything, he just smiled at me and quickly changed the subject..."It’s so typical of him. "Our son is a clever boy, Claire..." our son. I'd still have to get used to the joy I felt when I heard Jamie talking like that.

Approaching even closer to his body, I reached out for his neck to kiss him before I could proceed with my inquiry:

"And when will you make the official proposal?" I smiled against his chest and Jamie held my face to face his.

"Soon, Sassenach. Verra soon." Getting a shameless kiss, I melted against his body for the umpteenth time that night. "I still want to figure out something to surprise ye..."

Of course, we were already committed. I didn't need a proposal to know that, but the thought of him wanting to surprise me somehow, made my heart pound faster inside my chest. I simply laughed as I felt his hand slide over my belly beneath the shirt, making me shiver almost instantly at the gentle touch of his fingers against my breasts. But even though we didn't say anything, right there in the stillness of the room, our exchange of caresses and glances spoke more than words could express.

Unlike the other times, now we searched for each other's bodies slowly, we hadn't felt anxious about what was about to happen. The love we felt for each other was real, solid, and flooded our lives like never before. We stared at each other, absorbing the sensations and flavors of our mouths, the reactions of our faces, the electrical energy of our bodies. We remained connected like this until our climax reached our bodies like embers in a slow, silent, and intense burning, with our lips united and our mouths breathing each other deeply until our bodies finally calmed down.



***



It was very early in the morning, before 6 o'clock, and I saw the sun was rising between clouds through the small window gap with the promise of a beautiful spring morning. Saturday was meant to be perfect, but what I felt when I woke up in an empty bed, in an empty room, turned everything into shades of grey in the blink of an eye. Sitting quickly, I could see that I was completely alone. Jamie's clothes weren't there, and my dress was perfectly lined up on the bedroom chair. Breathing effortlessly, I put on a nightgown with my heart almost exploding inside my chest and I went downstairs expecting to find Jamie there.

He just had to be there.

Once I got to the bottom of the stairs, I heard steps in the living room and I never hoped so much that Fergus wouldn't be home.

couldn't have lived a dream. That noise had to be Jamie's.

While still motionless and wondering who was on the other side of the wall, my heart raced inside my chest as I saw the redhead's shape walking towards the front door with one of his hands moving against his wet hair while the other was touching his cell phone.

Why was he leaving?

"Jamie!" I held tightly to the stairway handrail as if somehow I could wake up from that nightmare, and my voice was carrying all the fear and agony I had felt in those last few years when we were apart. "Where are you going?" His face quickly turned to face mine. "You promised you wouldn't leave me anymore..."

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Sleeping At Last - Turning Page

Youtube // Spotify

Paul MacCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed

Youtube // Spotify 

 

 

POV Jamie

God, Fergus was my son.

Even though this question had been in my mind since I met him and Claire again, I was not ready for the moment in which she finally shared with me everything that had happened years ago. I wanted a quarrel with God, with Claire and with myself for everything that had happened between us; for everything that Claire had endured because I wasn't there for her; and because I had somehow betrayed her even though without any intention. But the woman I loved the most on Earth was right there before me in her most vulnerable condition, with an open heart, and entirely exposing all her feelings as she revealed me one of her greatest secrets.

I just wanted to protect her at all costs, I could not lose her again because of my choices.

I heard what my heart was saying and I sheltered her in my hug, our words resounding in the still of that night like a lovely song, the sparkle in Claire’s golden eyes when she shared with me for the first time things that happened in the life of our Fergus. She was delighted and elated and I knew that all that evident excitement was beyond our mother and father sharing exchange. I could see that she was euphoric not only because of sharing a son with me but also for having a partner again with whom to share her motherhood fully again.

Only God knew how happy I was to be that guy.

Earlier that night I didn’t expect Claire to ask me to stay at her place, nor that I would spend the night with her, while wrapped up in her legs and feeling her perfume all over the place. What happened after dinner made me forget to tell Claire that I needed to wake up quite early that morning in order to attend a routine inspection in my battalion.

I woke up at my usual time, just after five o'clock in the morning, and I allowed myself to admire Claire for a few moments before I left.I observed how some curls were covering her face, how her chest moved up and down along with her snore, and how indescribably comfortable she seemed to be in my arms.

Claire was so relaxed and I did not want to wake her up from the deep sleep; so the nicest thing I could do was to dress myself up and then leave straight away in order to make my way back to my Sassenach as soon as possible.

Getting up very quietly, I picked up the clothes that were all over the floor, placing Claire's dress on a chair in the bedroom before I took a quick shower in the bathroom in the corridor. I let the water fall down over my head, and Fergus' smell and his toys made me smile as the silliest father ever.

He was mine.

He was my boy.

Once I got dressed, my plan was to find a piece of paper downstairs so I could write Claire a note, but I didn't expect to bump my hand against the curtain in the front window, almost dropping the glass she had left on the windowsill the night before. I managed to catch it in midair, but I wasn't able to do it without muttering, blaming myself because I didn't mean for the noise to wake Claire up.

When I found a pad of paper, I took a deep breath before I started writing:



 

 

Sassenach,

No, I'm not sneaking out!

With all the things that happened yesterday, I forgot to tell you that there’s a routine inspection today at the corps. It was rescheduled because of my sick leave period. It begins very early in the morning and I'll be back with our breakfast at 9 o'clock!

I love you very much; just call me if you need anything!

Yours, Jamie.



I got the dragonfly in amber that was in the bookcase, which reminded me so much of Claire's eyes, and used it as a paper holder, placing it over the dining table before I picked up my jacket on the back of the sofa.

I turned towards the door, dialing the company cab number as I walked a few steps between the living room and the front door. I was thinking about all the security items that would have been checked that morning and the fact that I still had to organize the last things at the fire department storage room; but before I reached the door handle, a distraught voice coming from the stairs took my full attention:

“Jamie!” Claire was wearing a long nightgown and her curly hair slightly misaligned outlining her face beautifully. But on her face, there was the same expression of fear I had noticed multiple times during those last days. "Where are you going?" It broke my heart to hear the angst flowing through her words. "You promised you wouldn't leave me anymore..."

"Christ, Claire! I'm not leaving ye!" I said it louder than I expected, rushing towards her. Our eyes were aligned as she stood on the last step of the stairs. I noticed that she was keeping her guard up while looking at me very seriously, crossing her arms as a sign of protection as soon as I approached her. But, even though she was working hard to remain in the role, her eyes were crystal clear.

"Oh, really?" Now her voice hid all the anger in a comical tone, and her eyes were glowing with an intense golden tone, almost as if they were throwing small flames in my direction. "So where are you going that early on a Saturday, Fraser? Actually, the sun hasn't risen yet!" 

She inhaled hard after speaking all at once and I remained in silence for a few moments, just watching her anguished breathing, her questioning eyes, and I realized right away that she would never believe in any excuse I could give her. The most reasonable thing to do was to show her what I wrote.

"I think ye'd better read this first, maybe it'll help ye..." giving her the paper in earnest, I observed when she last sniffed amidst a long sigh, blinking intensely to wipe away her tears before she began to read what I had written. Her face softened with each word, melting my heart as I witnessed the commotion appearing on her face. I smiled at Claire before getting closer to her and narrowing the space between the two of us, and my fingers instinctively wiped away the tears that ran silently down her cheeks. "I will never leave ye again, a leannan!"

She smiled shyly before hurling herself against my body, wrapping her arms around my neck as she sobbed against my shoulder. I couldn't help but surround her soft body, inhaling the sweet perfume of her hair as she finally relaxed against me.

"Sorry, Jamie..." more calmly, she moved slightly away from me, wiping her last tears. "Not seeing you by my side felt like everything we shared last night wasn't real," she smiled shyly.

I took her hands and held them against my chest, staring for a moment at her eyes before I could say anything:

"Are ye feeling my heartbeat?" She nodded once again with joy, and then my free hand reached out for her face. "I am real, Claire. I'm here with ye and I'm not gonna vanish... Understood?"

"Understood." She saluted in a fun way with her free hand. "And apparently you won't even leave me alone!" She giggled and I agreed, placing a long kiss on her lips.

"Never again! Ye will deal with this jealous Scot forever!" Her eyes sparkled with excitement. " Now I need to go, Sassenach." We walked to the front door, her hand searching for mine naturally."But I will return soon, aye?" I kissed the knuckles of her fingers, still smiling, and still not believing I was really right beside her.

"Aye!" She grinned at me naughtily, placing one last kiss on my lips before opening the door. "Probably I'll be in the yard, so just call me so I can open the door.”

"I'd rather ye go back to bed..." I arched an eyebrow in a funny way.

"I promise you I will try to sleep a bit more if that makes you happy." I smiled with appreciation. "Oh, and I loved to feel Fergus' scent on you!" I loved to carry his scent with me, as well!

"I didna want to wake ye up, so I decided to use the hallway bathroom. I really hope that's not a problem..."

"Of course that's not a problem!" Her hand stroked my neck briefly. "Besides that, you're his father!"

"I must confess I'm a bit scared, it willna be easy for him to understand..." Claire caressed my face, making me look once again in her eyes.

"We'll find a way, right?" If she only knew the strength I felt when I got that smile.

"Right! I'll call ye as soon as I'm on my way back. I love ye, mo nighean donn." I stroked her face one last time.

"I love you, James Fraser."



***



Work inspections were done monthly but, since my first year as fire chief, we didn't get any extra disturbance inside the institution. My function was highly significant for me and for the corporation and it had been the greatest pride of my life for years, yet absolutely nothing was the same compared to having a real family, to have a person to love, to feel the true and unconditional love for a child. Everything seemed different now, more colorful, more lively, more real. All I could see now was how beautiful life was, and not even the thin rain falling outside, a typical London weather, bothered me as before.

I never used to dress so well while at work, so I expected to be the center of attention when I arrived at the Department in those clothes. I knew I would hear something about my outfit during the week, but my happiness was so great that Saturday morning that I didn't let any questions come up during my fast time at the Corporation.

When I got back to Claire's neighborhood, I stopped by at the cafeteria next to her house and bought some things for our breakfast. I was there once again, right in the same place where, last Sunday, we faced the whole painful truth about our lives and where we both decided to give us a second chance, and I couldn't help smiling when I remembered how everything had changed between us after that somewhat distressing day. Nothing could make me happier! This time I was ready to share the first breakfast with the woman who owned my heart for over nine years and with whom I dreamed of sharing every day that I had left to live.

"I'm coming, Jamie!" Claire yelled from inside her place and I heard her hurried steps against the floorboards at the hall. "Oh my goodness, you are such a spender Scotsman!!" She spoke amusingly as soon as she saw the many things I bought for our first breakfast together.

"Good morning to ye too, mo nighean donn!" She looked stunning with her hair styled in a ponytail while dressing casual clothes, and a gray gardening apron adjusted to her body.

"Plenty of new Gaelic words, Mr. Fraser!" She opened the door with a big smile, and her arm moved along to invite me in.

"I have plenty of Gaelic words exclusively for ye, Mrs. Beauchamp." As soon as she closed the door, Claire arched her eyebrows in a surprising way before pressing me against the wall with a shameless smile. "Besides, I have to feed ye well after our last night!" I spoke softly before her beaming lips found mine in a naughty kiss and I squeezed her butt tight in return.

"Then those bags are all mine?" She laughed, pulling me by the hands towards the kitchen.

The sun was now shining shyly among the clouds, and the few trees in the garden were showing a shade of green so typical of springtime. We talked through calm waters, unpretentious matters surrounding us while we had a unique, very light, and loving morning. After so many years of dreaming about it, I finally shared with Claire a moment so simple as breakfast; I finally had her at her truest shape; after so many years of sadness, she was finally mine.

We didn't need to say how much we wanted to make new memories among us, our touches and the glances we exchanged were screaming loudly enough, even if we were so quiet. Claire provided me with details about a few moments of sorrow, delight, and anguish in Fergus' life when he was two, five, seven years old. We knew none of that knowledge would replace the missing years in the life of my son, but God had decided it was time to bring us together again after so many years and that made me feel moved. There were no words to express it.

Nothing made me happier than to finally have what was my given right.

"I need to pick Fergus and Emily up at my uncle's place, those kids are probably not eating well since last night’s dinner!" Claire spoke while we cleaned the stuff from breakfast. "Lamb has some issues with discipline when it comes to kids."

"He's like Fergus' grandfather..." I said as soon as I finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher, and she smiled at me, illuminating everything around her. "And grandparents are meant to mess up grandchildren’s routines, right?" I arched my eyebrows before she nodded, smiling at me. "Come on, Sassenach, grab yer coat and I'll take ye to yer uncle's place."

"Wait!" she smiled while calling me closer using her index finger. "Not before a farewell kiss, Mr. Fraser." I laughed before pressing her against the kitchen counter, intensifying our kiss for a few minutes longer, and losing myself a bit in the fire she knew how to build up like no other. 

"I just want ye to know I would take ye upstairs right now if it wasna for Fergus."

"And I wouldn't waste any time taking you upstairs!" She laughed as she slammed her flattened hands against the stone counter behind her back.

I was so lost with that woman!

We walked along that small square between Claire's house and her uncle's apartment, and I instinctively put my arm around her shoulders, as if that place had never stopped being hers. Her face was searching for mine sweetly as if we both were not believing that we were there together in daylight after so many years.

Together as we secretly always dreamed to be.

When we were at the front door of the building, I turned my body to face hers, caressing her face one last time before saying goodbye:

"We didna plan anything for the next few days ahead, Sassenach, but I think we should take it easy now until we talk to Fergus." We nodded quietly.

"No matter how much he likes you, I don't want to push him either." She smiled shyly as if she felt guilty about it. "I think he needs a regular weekend with his mother, games, and lots of popcorn! Oh, he will certainly ask many questions about you!"

"I'll check on ye later, Claire,'' I smiled before gently kissing her lips. "We didna have to rush things anymore, right?" She nodded, we were together and nothing else would ever tear us apart. After hugging her again, I kept talking. "Umm, dinna look at yer uncle's window right now, but I think I'll be one of the first topics ye'll have with Fergus. He is staring at us now..." Her eyes stared back at me, a low laugh echoing between both of us as she leaned her forehead on my chest.

" If it's not raining tomorrow we are going to the same park as we went last Sunday...." Claire added as she walked away from me, taking steps backward without taking her gaze from mine.

"I'll be there! "I spoke before she disappeared behind the door.



***



"Hey lad, how are ye?" I had Murtagh at my place that night for another dinner filled with scotch, noodles, and chat. "I know ye are very happy just by looking at yer face," he squeezed my cheeks tightly before hugging me.

"I have a lot to update!" His hands tapped my back hard. "My life has changed so much since our last dinner!"

It was remarkable for me to have my only confidant in front of me, supporting me in another great moment of my life. Murtagh was the only person who had met my darkest demons, with whom I had shared my great sorrows for almost a decade, whom I considered as a father to me, even if we were not relatives.

How I missed having a close-knit relationship with my family at such a happy moment in my life. In contrast to the advances I had made in the relationship with my mother, my father was kept absent from me and Jenny, even after I had sought him out for a talk on one of my latest trips to Inverness, years later from my definitive departure from Scotland.

We met at the same café where he had helped me with the money I needed to make my move to London at age 19. And in that last meeting, I found out that I had a half brother, Phillip, 15 years younger than me. Brian seemed happy with his new life and with his new family, happy as I had never seen him in the past. The pride he felt for his youngest son was printed on his face when he showed me a picture of his new family, when he told me how smart the boy was or when he smiled with the mere image of his son created in his mind.

And that hurt me more than I could ever have imagined.

Only God knew how hard the relationship with my parents had always been, but having Murtagh as this sort of reference was a real blessing for me. He was the image of a father I always wanted to have and, even so grumpy, he didn't need to put into words the love he felt for me, which was the same I felt for him. I knew that, for him, I was the image of the son that he could not have with Jodie, I knew because I received the exact same proud look from him that I saw in Brian's face when he spoke about Phillip.

With his mouth half-open, still amazed by everything that had happened since last week, Murtagh poured another shot of whisky for us before we toasted effusively.

"And the boy already knows that ye are his father?"

"Nay, Murtagh. We still didna ken how to tell him this without upsetting him.”

"He's eight years old, Jamie. Ye ken how kids at that age understand everything, how they already ken what to think, what to answer... do ye believe he's okay with ye being with his mother?"

"When we were taking him to Claire's uncle's home last night, Fergus asked me if I was dating his mother and he didna seem angry or worried. Claire told me that he never accepted other boyfriends when they lived in Montreal... so that means that everything is fine for him, right?”

"Right..." he kept silent for a few moments, taking another sip of his drink. "But will he accept ye so easy as his biological father?"

That was something that had come to my mind since last night. As much as I didn't want to push the boy away from me, something told me that it wouldn't be easy for him to accept this huge change in his life.

The only thing I was sure of was that I would not lose my family again.

While I was having dinner with Murtagh, Claire sent me a selfie of both of them. Fergus was sleeping on her lap, covered by a colorful blanket and his curls were spread over his mother's legs while his hands were entwined in one of Claire's tiny fingers. She looked amazing with her loose and wild curly hair, the same reading glasses from last Sunday, and disclosing the most beautiful smile on her face, the same that I dreamed of so many times to see again. There was an empty popcorn pot on the couch, as well as some toys scattered around, and in the message attached to the photo, the most moving words I could receive:



 

 

I hope you're prepared for all this mess!

Fergus has been sleeping for over 20 minutes and I'm glad we'll have you here soon because I don't have the strength to carry this little boy up to his room anymore!

When Emily left, the first thing Fergus asked me was if you were my boyfriend! He likes you very much and I hope this lasts after everything comes up.

We're going to the park tomorrow at 10 am, in case you want to show up...

You are missed here more than on all the other days of these nine years.

I love you like I never imagined possible.



All yours, Claire.



I got lost looking at that beautiful image, at those beautiful words, so much so that for a moment I forgot that Murtagh was on the other side of the table looking fixed on my cell phone in an attempt to see something.

“Dear God, I thought ye had overreacted when ye said Claire looked exactly the same! And Fergus is such a beautiful boy, Jamie!"

"Here! Claire sent me some pictures of him!"

It made me feel really proud when I heard Murtagh’s compliments about my boy for the first time. I couldn't explain what was happening to me, but it was as if my father was getting to know my son for the first time.

Even with Murtagh by my side, so happy for me and for the family that I had just acknowledged, in such a recent way, I couldn't stop thinking about Brian. I missed him every day even with everything we went through, so much that sometimes I felt like calling him and pretending that everything was ok between us.

Things were still very unclear between us, and all I hoped was that the universe would help us once more, as well as it helped me to find my Sassenach again.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Mumford & Sons – Slip Away

Youtube // Spotify

Troye Sivan – My My My!

Youtube // Spotify 

.

.

POV Claire

"Maman, are you dating Jamie?" Fergus spoke in a very natural way as we finished the dishes from Saturday's lunch. "Uncle Lamb thinks so..."

"Uh, he thinks so?" After washing one of the pots, I remained with my back toward Fergus while I tried to figure out what to do with what he had just said. I obviously didn't know what to say to him, so many things had happened in my life since last night, but I decided to be honest with him. "Well, I honestly don't know..."

"Jamie said he really wants to date you..." I glanced over my shoulder and saw when Fergus picked up some of the chocolate he got from the ginger the night before, putting it in his mouth before smiling at me.

God, such a smart boy!

I swallowed hard before I could finally face my son:

"Oh, did he say it?" I pretended to be surprised since Jamie had already told me about the conversation they had when we were taking the children over to my uncle's home. "And what do you think about that?" Crossing my arms in front of my chest, I pretended not to seem bothered about it, even though I felt my heart pounding faster.

"He seems to be cool..." one more piece of chocolate and a long pause. “Unlike all the other guys before...”

"Hmm, I get it..." I had already imagined that he would be OK with that, but I just didn't expect it to be that good. "Hmm, so what do you think that needs to happen so that he asks me to be his girlfriend?" I sat next to him, with one of my elbows leaning on the bench and my eyes very focused on my interlocutor, and then I finally got a piece of chocolate.

"Je ne sais pas, maman... I don't know, maybe I should tell him something?" He became serious instantly, his eyebrow wrinkled in doubt. " Tell him it's okay if you're dating?"

"Yeah, it may work..." I rested my head on the palm of my hand, and couldn't stop smiling at my beautiful boy.

"Do you want to be his girlfriend for real, maman?" The look on his face suddenly changed. "Because if you don't want to, I could make him go away..." it was lovely to see the way he tried to protect me and not get rid of my suitor.

"No, sweetheart! I mean, yes, yes, I want to be his girlfriend..." I felt my cheeks blush with shame. “We‘ve just started, and we don't want to rush into things…”

"Nearly two weeks is not long enough?" We giggled and I hugged him just before inviting him to go to our backyard.

Fergus was a smart boy. His inquiring eyes were after me the whole time over and over again since I picked him up at my uncle's house, but he waited for Emily to leave home right after lunch so he could finally ask me about my future with Jamie.

Gosh, he had no idea how long Jamie and I had been "tangled".

I tried to restart my romantic life together with other men, but Fergus had always made it difficult for me. So, even though I was already expecting him to react positively about Jamie, I was delighted to hear that it was ok for him that I was dating the Scot. I didn't see the jealousy and anger in his eyes anymore; now he seemed really happy for me, at ease with the choice I had made.

But I wonder if he would think in the same way when I revealed him the truth about Jamie being his biological father.

After setting up for our movie night and watching 'Despicable Me' for the thousandth time, Fergus finally gave in to exhaustion from the previous night, sleeping on my lap as he always did when we were on the couch. I watched him for a few moments, lost in my thoughts as I outlined with my eyes his tender face, the perfection of his curls wrapped around his face, the way his smile reminded me of Jamie.

Jamie. It was nearly impossible not to wish he was here with us, finally sharing such a family moment. Trying to make him feel even closer to us, I took a picture of me and Fergus and sent it to him with a description of all the feelings that flooded my heart that night:



I hope you're prepared for all this mess!

Fergus has been sleeping for over 20 minutes and I'm glad we'll have you here soon because I don't have the strength to carry this little boy up to his room anymore!

When Emily left, the first thing Fergus asked me was if you were my boyfriend! He likes you very much and I hope this lasts after everything comes up.

We're going to the park tomorrow at 10 am, in case you want to show up...

You are missed here more than on all the other days of these nine years.

I love you like I never imagined possible.



All yours, Claire.



Our movie nights would never be the same after Jamie became part of our little family. Nothing else would be the same for both of us, Fergus would finally have a father to follow as a model and I would have a true love to call mine. Some tears of happiness began to run down my cheeks while I caressed my boy's hair lightly. I was so relieved to finally say to the father of my son what I felt inside my heart, and I was so moved to have Jamie back in my life after so many years.

I was not joking when I said I couldn't carry Fergus up to the room anymore. He was already over 4.3 feet tall and almost 70 pounds, much bigger than the boys at his age and that was Jamie’s fault! I still got scared at the thought of the Scot’s height, much taller than an average man, and, by the way Fergus was growing up, he would probably follow his father's steps.

I woke him up after watching him sleep for a few minutes, helping to roll him up in his colorful blanket to keep him warm. I walked up next to him towards his room and I repeated the words that I had always said to him since he was very young as I covered him with love just before wishing him a good night. He was happy, very healthy, and that was the most wonderful blessing I could have received from Heaven as a mother.



***



Due to the quiet drizzle falling from London skies on Sunday morning, our plan to visit the park had been postponed and replaced by two cups of hot chocolate to warm us up and a board game before 8:30 am. Yes, Fergus used to wake up very early even on weekends, and a full tank of energy that was really hard to keep up. I was distracted by my phone while texting to cancel the meeting with Jamie right before we could have another round, but Fergus' voice took my attention as soon as I pressed the send button:

"Maman. Jamie was coming to the park with us today?" Even though I didn't mention anything about our meeting, Fergus proved to be a very insightful boy again. "Does he have any company for lunch today?" Apparently, the ability of surprising was something rather genetic in both men in my life.

"I can ask him if you want..."

Jamie showed up with some bags and his wide smile just after 10 am. During the phone call earlier that morning, I could clearly imagine his smile after hearing that Fergus had invited him for Sunday lunch and how serious his face kept when he insisted on cooking the meal for the three of us, even though I tried in vain to convince him otherwise.

Now that Scot was right there in the middle of my kitchen, messing everything up. Something I have never imagined to share with him, and definitely something I never imagined I needed in my life!

It was lovely to see how Jamie was quietly moved looking at Fergus when the little one wasn't paying attention to the grown-ups; he had blushed cheeks and misty eyes expressing all the bliss overflowing from his heart for having his son so close to him. And I had no doubt that Jamie was witnessing the exact same feeling in me.

These family moments were filled with laughter, delicious risotto and many dishes to be done. Well, Jamie had to have some flaws, and if it was just his messy way, I knew I could handle it very well! It was impressive to see that all worked so well between us three, to see that Fergus and Jamie had a very similar sense of humor, to see that my boy was comfortable with all the tiny exchange of affection between Jamie and me.

While Fergus went to the bathroom, Jamie updated me on his last talk with the little one:

"Sassenach, Fergus is unbelievable!" His face displayed such joy and his bright eyes were fixed on mine. "He asked me when I was going to ask ye to be my girlfriend, that I couldn’t keep fooling you around!" I eyeballed Jamie and a silent laugh flowed through my body. "Exactly those words! Oh, and that his maman is worthy of all the love in the world, and soon!"

"I can't believe it! What a daring boy!" I covered my mouth with my hand, and I got really impressed by how Fergus was trying to protect me. " What did you answer?"

"Well..." a short pause, his fingers stroking my arm gently making me shiver instantly. “I told him that I love ye so much, more than anything in the world!" Even mumbling, that same half-smile that smoothed my heart more and more emerged as magic during his response. "Of course, I couldna say that he was my biggest love due to the circumstances we live in now," I smiled entirely touched to hear such a love statement for his son, "but he laughed quietly before saying that he would grant me yer hand!" His withdrawn laugh echoed along with mine through the living room. "Do ye believe that?

"He seemed to be very worried about it yesterday, and I'm glad you guys got it right and that his maman is very well protected!" I laughed while kissing his lips shortly, the joy overtaking us both. "And when do you intend to make this proposal?" I faked an unhappy face and crossed my arms in front of my chest. "I think you're trying to trick me, Mr. Fraser."

"Uhm, Am I tricking ye?" He bear-hugged me in a possessive way and I felt his warmth all over my body. "I want to make it clear that I would have kissed ye several days ago if it hadn't been for yer reluctance, Mrs. Beauchamp!" Slapping his chest softly, I laughed before losing myself just for a moment on his lips. "What are yer plans for Friday night? I can drive ye someplace in London ye dinna ken yet and surprise ye on the way..."

"Nothing at first, but I need to check my schedule to confirm that I'll be free, Mr. Surprise!"

"Mr. Surprise, this is a name that suits me perfectly!" We giggled before we split up when we heard Fergus approaching. "Agreed, then!"



***



The week went by in a flash between phone calls and messages to Jamie, multiple surgeries at the hospital, and the start of the temporary homeschooling for Fergus. Even though I couldn't meet up with my future boyfriend sooner than planned, I was sure that things were going well between us and the progress we were making as a couple, but as I showed up early at the fire department to meet Jamie, the following events made me feel as if the ground opened up beneath me.

Friday. We planned to meet just before 5 pm and I was already wearing comfortable clothes since it was his time to choose where to go. I managed to finish my hospital duties a bit earlier that day, so I had a quick shower in the locker room and, immediately after, I went straight to meet him because I knew Jamie would be expecting me. As soon as I got there, I asked one of the firefighters where his office was and I went upstairs slowly. I was so excited to be there, to be one of the few, if not the only woman who was searching for him in his workplace.

Ohhh, it was just a BIG MISTAKE!

It was only meant to be a surprise for him, but it ended up being my biggest nightmare.

The door was half-opened and I sighed deeply in anticipation to meet him after almost a week. I was smiling, but I got shocked when I found, on the other side of the room, a horrible scene. Jamie was sitting in front of the computer with a blonde and smiling woman leaning over his back. She was clearly enjoying what was happening there since one of her hands was stroking Jamie's arm possessively while pointing something on the screen with the other.

When will those blondes ever get tired of haunting me? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!

Despite all the fury within me, I noticed right away how handsome he was in his uniform. Even if he was sitting, as soon as I saw his figure with the door half-opened I could observe the black shirt unbuttoned close to his neck, the khaki-colored jacket opened in front of his chest, and his hair tied close to the back of his neck with some messy locks over his eyes. That bastard Scot had the right profile for uniforms, precisely as I imagined from the first time I saw him at The Heat. It suited him so well, he was so gorgeous, but I wasn't delighted at all to see him that afternoon.

Jamie was somewhat tense, undoubtedly feeling uneasy, but I had made up my mind not to argue about the matter in front of that woman, especially not in his workplace. I kept quiet for a while and I inhaled hard before I could finally knock, getting rather surprising looks as soon as I opened it, especially from the person I was looking for:

"Jamie, I'm not in the mood for anything today," I gave him a serious look and spoke firmly, while my jaw muscles stiffened as my eyes met his hopeless gaze. "We'll talk tomorrow, okay?"

"Sassenach, wait!" Jamie stood up straight and shouted out, keeping his eyes on mine and pushing the chair back without minding the woman behind him.

"Tomorrow, Fraser. Not here." I tried to express with my voice a kind of control that was not visible in my eyes, filled with tears. I walked away without looking back and I took the same path I had taken a few minutes ago while listening to him shout out my name loud and clear, and at the same time, I could hear incomprehensible screams that echoed from inside the room, even when I was already far away from them.

I just couldn't believe he was actually doing that, not again, and not after everything we had been through. The tears that clouded my eyes earlier now were falling relentlessly down my cheeks. I was feeling so emotionally unstable that it was really difficult for me to find the cab company's number on my phone. Jamie was free to do whatever he wanted with that icy blonde, all I needed at that time was the warm embrace from my son and the home peacefulness.

No, I wouldn't run away from Jamie again. I just couldn't bear standing there and watching his interactions with a woman who clearly had feelings for him. And she had very sinful intentions. The way she smiled triumphantly at the sight of my discouragement was the solid proof of that!

As I was walking down the street, I saw a free cab approaching and I unconsciously made a gesture for him to pull over. I waited for the car to stop completely before I walked towards the door. I was completely dizzy with everything I had seen minutes ago, so I couldn't see anything but the door handle, and my ears couldn't hear anything around since they were buzzing as if I was somehow inside a plane taking off.

However, before I could get in, I was quickly stopped by two strong hands gripping my arms. I didn't have to turn around to know who it was, the warmth of those hands and the audible sound of his breathless voice next to my ear were clear enough signs.

"What are you doing, Jamie?" I said not facing him while I tried to let go of his hands in vain. "Leave me alone!" Damn, that man knew how to piss me off!

"Listen to me, Claire!" He made me turn to face him, the hopelessness and the rage were printed on his face. "I will not leave you alone! Haven't I promised to never leave ye again?" There was a long pause and I was terrified to see that he was red with anger and anguish. "So now ye will listen to me!" He held my elbow with his possessive hand, pulling me firmly into the building once again.

I laid my eyes on the blonde again, who was about to get into a car. I was surprised to see her red nose as if she had cried and her eyes were filled with fear and despair when they met mine. But what had Jamie done to her?

From the moment I entered his office, I could no longer control the sound of my voice, shouting as I released all the anger inside:

"The LAST THING I wanted was to make an awful scene at your workplace, but it seems like you do not think at all sometimes, Fraser!"

Jamie snorted as he walked around, taking off his jacket with rage after hearing me, throwing it over the couch before aggressively approaching me:

"I dinna mind what is going to happen to me, Claire!" Jamie pushed me against the wall, all the anger pouring out of his blue eyes as his hands held tight against my arms. "What the fuck! The only thing I canna bear in my life is to lose ye one more time!" He spoke close to my mouth, and his broken breath moistened my face.

"So why didn't you tell me that you had this woman in your life?" I was completely blinded by jealousy and no longer worried about how I should behave in front of his co-workers or in front of Jamie, the words were coming out of my mouth relentlessly. "I would never have a relationship with someone else, not after so many important things that we have shared together! Well, the things I thought were important!" A nearly primitive laugh resounded from deep inside me before he briefly shook me as he pressed me against the wall again.

"Of course they were important, CHRIST!" He spoke even louder and his voice seemed shaken. "And Laoghaire is no one for me but the person responsible for the charity calendar, Claire!"

"But things are different for her, I'm not sure if you realize it!" I kept my eyes staring at his, my anger increasing in each and every second that went by. "I didn't need to stare at you two for more than a minute to be aware of it!”

"I'm not that foolish, ye ken that better than anyone!" He was completely out of his mind, again walking in circles inside the small free space of that room. "Of course I ken she's in love with me." His angry look stared at me once his body stopped right in front of my body.

God, why didn't he stop talking?

"Ahh,...so you know!??!" I couldn't figure out why I was still screaming and a surprised and grudge smile showed up on my face. "So did you have sex with her?"

"Claire," he spoke in a warning tone and I knew at that moment that things were even worse than I had imagined. "Do not ask me what ye dinna want to know the answer.”

"Oh! So you took her to bed?"

Beyond belief, that man was beyond belief!

My vision was cloudy due to the rage that took over my body, and the heat I felt was so intense that I could no longer keep that nylon coat on. I was sweating so much that the jacket was glued against my arm's skin. "God, men are so predictable!" I laughed uncontrollably in a sarcastic way and avoided his eyes, then I finally succeeded in pulling all the zippers down and threw my coat across the room.

"And ye want to know why I took her to bed?" I stared at him once again in a harsh way, and I felt as if sparks flew out of those blue eyes that always kept me so distracted. "Because ye disappeared from my life, damn it!" He replied his own question screaming. The veins of his neck and forehead were totally apparent when he finally released all the anger he felt against the wall I was leaning on. A small frame fell down and the noise of the shattered glass interrupted us from our fight for a few moments.

"Now it's my fault? You're just beyond belief!" Of course, he had to reverse things in his favor, right? I stared at him appalled and when I teased him he came to stand in front of me again. "I want to know if I kept throwing in your face how many times I have grieved and tried to forget you with Arthur!" He stared at me and his face softened as his eyes revealed all the sadness he was feeling."Oh no, right?" I couldn't stop screaming, our faces were so close that I could feel his breath dashing against my mouth. "I want you to know that there were plenty! Countless times!"

"Ah, countless times, then?" He wrapped me in his arms again so I couldn't get away from him, and his hand slid hard against my back, squeezing one of my butt cheeks as he pulled me to get even closer to him. "And did he manage to make ye stop longing for me?" His tongue filled my mouth with no consent, making me moan against his lips as I felt his other hand grab my breasts inside my t-shirt. Once again he pressed me against the wall, with his thigh placed between my legs and his hands holding mine above my head, clearly demonstrating how difficult it was to breathe properly. "Answer to me, Claire," speaking more softly against my mouth, in the next second his lips found my neck, making me lean my head unconsciously to the other side, letting him follow with his advances. "Ye've stopped wanting me, huh? Have ye ever stopped loving me?"

He had so much power over me that I remained helpless for a few seconds, unable to speak or do anything while I sensed all his caresses. Finally, taking a bit of balance back, I managed to get him away from my neck so that he would look at me again and stop taking my concentration.

I couldn't be that easy.

"I want to know if she could make you stop wanting me, Fraser." His eyes moved away from mine and softened as they focused on me again.

"Of course not, Claire, do ye still have doubts about that? Ye have no idea how hard I tried to forget ye!" One thing he knew was how I had really tried to make it work with Arthur and to watch Jamie's face look dismayed as he searched for contact made me drop my guard a  little bit. "Dinna ye still understand that what I feel for ye is greater than anything I've ever felt in my life for anyone?" He lowered my arms, wrapping my wrists with his hands gently as if he were apologizing for squeezing them tighter than he needed.

"So I don't understand what she was doing here, Jamie!" I spoke a little louder, trying to remain strong and not surrender myself in his arms again.

"Work, Claire." He managed to keep his tone of voice lower, even if it showed signs of anguish and anger. "I have nothing to do with her".

"Well, I think you'd better tell her, I don't think the lady realizes that!" I spoke in sarcasm while trying to get out of there. Jamie moved away from me a little but didn’t let me go.

"Sure she knows. I have already asked someone else from the institute to contact me to take care of anything about the calendar. Please relax, she won't see me again." I looked in his eyes expecting for more, I needed to be convinced, to be assured until I felt safe again. I needed to feel safe, and as if he could read my mind, one of his hands pressed me again against his body while the other gently caressed my face. "Isn't it clear that I belong to ye only? That ye are the only one I love, Sassenach?" A more restful smile rose up on Jamie's face, a little sketch of that same smile that always made my whole body scream for him.

Ultimately, I didn’t need much to melt in his arms. I felt the lust taking over my body after his statement of love and, after all that mixed feelings released due to our fight, I smiled dangerously at Jamie in a truce sign.

I gave up fighting and decided to trust both of us once again:

"I need you to prove it to me again, Fraser..." I turned our bodies against the wall and I kissed him earnestly, feeling the taste of blood, of his own blood, on my tongue. At the next instant, our hands and feet began to hastily remove our clothes, our lips moving away as little as possible; we were so thirsty as we tried to satisfy that overwhelming desire that had arisen between us. "Condom!" Was all I could say and he laughed in reaction to my brief lucidity emerging before I pushed him down decisively, asking him silently to lie on the floor.

I rode on his lap, our moves becoming more and more paced as his cock penetrated me sharply, deeper and deeper. It was impossible not to scream, not call out his name, all those conflicting feelings which filled up that room led me to one of the most pleasurable moments I had ever had in my life. Even with him.

My hand was on his neck as I kept moving along his cock."You are mine only! Do you understand me, Jamie Fraser? Answer me, you bloody Scot!"

Jamie turned us in a quick twist so that I had my back against the carpet. He tried in vain to shut my mouth using his hand as he penetrated me harder and harder, his movements over me close in anger. Involuntarily, I bit the side of his hand so that I could alleviate my impulses and finally moan quieter. We exchanged funny glances before Jamie paid me back on the same coin, increasing the pace of his moves until he left me on the edge of the abyss. And knowing me very well, sexually speaking, he knew when I had reached the limit, playing with fire and with my sanity by simply not moving inside or outside me:

"Jamie..." I begged him, and he laughed lightly at my vain attempts to make him move inside me.

"I am only yers, Claire, and ye are only mine. Do ye understand that?"

As much as I wanted to play hard to get, the urging I felt to reach the climax was immense and I was willing to let my guard down completely to get what I wanted:

"Yes, Jamie, I'm only yours!" I looked inside his eyes as I pulled his hip once again with my legs, and I got him moving in return, I moaned when I had him completely inside me again.

"Oh, Sassenach," his increasingly strong movements seemed to trigger fireworks inside me. He went on a voyage on every single inch of my skin with his mouth and, leading me closer and closer to madness. "It seems that I cannot possess yer soul without losing my own..."

Jamie muffled my cries with his mouth on mine, and the involuntary movement of my muscles against his cock, in addition to his frantic moves inside me, made him reach his climax. Now he moaned against my mouth as he repressed his own grunts, finally releasing his weight over me as soon as his spasms had calmed down.

I loved to feel his panting and his grunts against my neck from the first time we met, almost a decade ago, and on that day it hadn't been any different. The only thing that had changed between us was that now we managed to express our feelings somehow; whether they were good or bad, we solved our differences with no real need of veils and disguise. Our relationship had achieved a completely different level from what we had had in the past, the last disagreement was proof that together we were stronger than any outside interference.

"Ye didna answer me a very important question, Claire," he caressed my face and, struggling to get out of that trance, I finally managed to look at him, still not understanding what he was referring to. "When we went to The Heat..."

"Hmm, so many things were not answered at that time..." turning our bodies so that I would rest over his chest, I smiled naughtily. "Be clearer James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser!" Emphasizing his codename, I smirked just before kissing his lightly sweaty chest.

"One night ye showed up wearing very sexy underwear and ye told me that ye had bought it especially for me..." gee, how did he remember so many details? "I asked ye if someday ye would tell me what I had done to deserve such a wonderful gift and ye nodded yer head..." I smiled as I leaned my chin on the knots of my hands, the emotion rising as I remembered what we had experienced that night. "So, Claire, will ye answer me?" His fingers sought my hair, placing a lock of hair behind my ear while still staring straight into my eyes.

"I don't know if I should... Actually, I don't even know if you deserve to know, Fraser!" I laughed amusingly and Jamie, pretending to be shocked, turned me so that I turned my back once again to the floor, holding me gently with his hands and the weight of his body. "Do you want to force me to let out my most hidden secrets?" A low laugh echoed between the two of us before his lips sought mine.

"Can I try to convince ye, at least?" with one last naughty smile, the following moment his tongue began to lick my jawbone, following a gentle path through my neck until it found one of my breasts.

"Jamie..." I moaned under his body, immediately complaining when I could no longer feel his mouth.

"Do ye want more?" Another provocative lick on the other nipple with a smile that always convinced me to do everything.

"Okay!" I sighed deeply before I finally started talking. "Uh, I was trying to surprise you, I think... It was our second encounter and I hadn't found any lingerie in my drawer at the level of my newest lover!" He laughed cheekily, torturing me by licking my breast without touching the nipple.

" Hmm... And what made ye choose something so beautiful for me?" The sound of his voice was low and his tongue was sneaking around looking for my lips.

"You aroused something in me that I couldn't explain at the time. I had never had a relationship like that before, I think you noticed it very soon..." he nodded, smiling at me as he laid down beside me, leaning his head against his fist so he could keep listening to me attentively. "So at first I thought I didn't know how to behave like a lover, I thought that was the only way I knew how to react to any relationship. But now, when I think about the choice of that underwear, I remind myself that the way my body reacted to yours never changed, it’s the same as today..." I leaned over to search for his lips, tears flowing from my eyes. "I think I wanted to subdue you, somehow break down your boundaries so that you would want me, love me the same way." I smiled sadly, Jamie's fingers quickly reaching the corners of my eyes to dry the few tears that came out of them.

"I wanted ye from the first moment I saw ye, Claire. Since when our eyes met in the hall of that party." His hand finally stroked my face, our lips deepened in another long kiss. "But after ye disappeared from my life, my heart tore apart and I realized that I loved ye from the moment ye hugged me after our first time." His mouth reached my knuckles with devotion. "I didna ken what to do with that roller coaster of feelings inside me when yer lips searched for mine in such an honest way... It was so strong, so different from anything I had ever felt," I nodded with an emotional smile, caressing his face as he searched for my lips once again. "At that moment, ye pulled down some walls that protected me from the world, and ye built a small bridge towards my heart," he smiled at me with great affection. "This bridge was never destroyed, Claire. Even damaged, it was always here eagerly awaiting for ye".

"I love you, James Fraser. Very much!" His eyes glowed and his nose was slightly red as he held his emotion. "And I'm willing to fix this bridge to build a beautiful castle!"

"To the three of us!" he smiled passionately as he hugged me tight, kissing my temple for a while, and a relieved sigh coming out of his chest. He helped me to get up and reached his coat to me in the air so that I could put it on before asking silently for me to sit on the couch. "And speaking of gifts, I have one for ye today, Claire."

"Uhm, a gift?" he was always impressing me with surprises and I smiled with expectation as I sat comfortably on the sofa.

"I was planning to give it to ye later on our date, but it was canceled due to our small delay..." he laughed, finishing putting on his pants before showing me the screen of his cell phone.

"Jamie! An indoor climb? Are you kidding me?" I laugh with my eyes wide open at the physical activity that my scot wanted to drag me into. "And what would be the gift I would get after such a physical effort, Mr. Fitness?"

"Well, besides what I've already given ye here, wee vixen..." he laughed at me cheekily before kissing me in a funny way while sitting next to me. "At the end of yer climb, I'd be waiting for ye with this." Jamie took a black box out of his pants pocket, his eyes thrilled before putting it over my hand. "I thought long and hard about something ye could use in yer daily routine that would be meaningful for both of us... Anyway, I hope ye like it, Sassenach."

The velvet box was too big to bear a ring, but it definitely had a jewel in it. I had a smile full of expectations on my face and I let out many whispers and then I finally opened the box, finding a gold necklace with a round coin-size pendant inside.

"But what is engraved here, Jamie?" I was really surprised by that gift, turning the pendant from one side to the other while trying to figure out the reason for those engravings.

"Well, a dragonfly on one side, of course..." his body leaned toward me as if the designer were anxious to show his great masterpiece. "I saw last week that it is very important for ye and yer family, so I thought it was a beautiful image to be always with ye. But beyond that, yer dragonfly reminds me of something everlasting, something permanent, just like our love".

"Just like our love!" It was impossible not to smile and not want to kiss those lips every second. "And this date on the other side? 11/03 with this infinity symbol?"

"Well, no clue pops into yer mind, Sassenach?" I kept shifting my gaze between the necklace and Jamie's face, still not understanding what those numbers meant, but his emotional eyes fixed on mine brought it all out like in a flash.

"Oh my God!" I looked with devotion at the necklace, caressing the engraving while Jamie placed my hair behind my ear. Smiling at him, I breathed in hard before speaking. "This is the date we first met, Jamie? March 11th? That's it, isn’t it?"

"I told ye I haven't forgotten anything we've shared together... not even the dates!" How could he have such a beautiful smile? "My life has changed completely after that day, Claire, over nine years ago." I couldn't say anything due to the emotion I felt and my tears were gently wiped by Jamie's fingers while I smiled like a fool at the man of my life.

"Our lives completely changed from this date on!“ I smiled as I threw myself against his bare chest, his arms wrapping me in a strong embrace as I inhaled the perfume of his neck. "Sometimes I think you are not real, James Fraser! What did I do to deserve you?" In an Eskimo kiss, I couldn't stop smiling like a fool when I felt his lips touching the tip of my nose.

"I am the one who dinna ken what I did to deserve ye, mo chridhe!" He took a long sigh before holding my free hand to kiss it, and immediately after that, he asked me to turn my back so he could put the necklace for me. I kept looking down toward the necklace, amazed at what was happening until his soft voice against my ear asked the question I had so long desired to hear. "So, Claire... do ye want to be my girlfriend?"

"Are there any doubts?" I replied as soon as I turned my body to face him again. "Yes, Jamie! Thousand times yes!" I hugged him tightly, kissing his face countless times before we sealed up our lips tightly. "Can I tell Fergus now that you're not tricking me anymore?"

"That's all I want!" We laughed as we kept kissing. "I'm here for ye and for Fergus, there's nothing more important to me than that!" Standing up with some trouble, he reached out his hand and a slightly worried smile came upon his face. "Speaking of our family, we need to think about a way to tell everything to Fergus..."

"So we order our dinner over here or at your place?"

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Céline Dion - Parler à mon père

Youtube // Spotify

Keith & Kristyn Getty - A Mother's Prayer

Youtube // Spotify 

 

 

POV Fergus

I remember I had to pretend to be strong for my classmates in Montreal, for my friends in the neighborhood, but even more for my maman. She was one of the toughest people I've ever met and I really wanted to be more like her when we moved to London and when everything changed in our lives. It was very hard to leave behind the things and the people I knew, but I had to understand that Uncle Lamb needed us. Seeing my mother's face all swollen from so much crying when the phone rang and finding out that he was in the hospital made me so sad...

The only time I remember seeing my mother being so desperate was five years before moving to London, the year I lost my father. I have a few memories from those days, but even so, there are things that still come back to my mind, like: our dinner getting cold on the table, my mother's crying on the phone, and the saddest, longest hug I've ever got from her in my entire life. The following day was even worse: the time I saw my father being carried away in that wooden coffin and my horror when they closed the lid. I shouted, "He won't be able to breathe that way!". Today I understand more what happened to my father, but even so, I still have nightmares; when I have them I see the image of the dirt falling on top of the coffin and my mother trying to hold me, hugging me and telling me to calm down while I screamed.

I grew up without my father around, but I always had my mother helping me to remember everything he was to me. She did everything so that I would not forget how our family used to be when everything was different, when life was filled with fun days in the park, trips to the beach, and movies on weekends. I tried everything to not forget him, but the more time went by, the more distant was his smile, his smell, his voice, and that made me very sad. I missed these little things and maman could never mend this.

Even living across the ocean, my mother always kept in touch with Uncle Lamb and the Abernathys, especially Uncle Joe; so, even though it was hard to accept moving to London, it didn't take long for me to get used to our new life. Emily became my best friend from the very first visit of her parents and she made it to my home and, even though she was so bossy, our talks were always much fun. We understood each other so much that it was as if I could read her mind  and she could read mine.

On my first day at school, I was really nervous until Madam Fitz introduced me to two of my new colleagues, Joshua and Vincent. Showing me a hidden ball in his backpack, Joshua invited me to play soccer later during recess time, and I was thrilled to finally have new friends and be able to play with them.

But unfortunately, that did not happen. There was a loud sound inside the school that frightened everyone, and although my teacher was calm, I was so afraid of the screams inside the building that I entered one of the rooms and hid in a corner, hoping that everything was just a bad dream.

But it was not a bad dream.

I tried to cough, but the smoke wouldn't let me breathe. I started to feel very sleepy, and the more the minutes passed, the more sleepy I felt until I suddenly heard the voice of a man calling out to me that made me strangely awake... I wanted to talk to him and say that I was there, that I was the boy he was looking for, but my voice didn't come out strongly enough. The voice of the man that was looking for me was screaming in distress now and, for a long time, the only contact I had with him was through that noise. I was blind for a while because of the smoke engulfing the room until he finally found me.

The next two days were very confusing for me and I thank my mom and Jamie for helping me to get my memories back in order. Poor maman... I had never seen her so worried about anything or anyone than the way she was about me that day when I woke up in the hospital bed. She seemed so tired.

I didn't remember Jamie when I woke up, but I soon realized that he was very concerned about me; the flashbacks of the fire and Jamie saving me came back to my mind slowly, and, little by little, I finally remembered my hero's voice once again.

Yes, because for me he was a superhero!

I was very amazed by his superpowers, I mean by his profession, and that's how that day, I decided that I wanted to be just like him. I had never met anyone who had a job as cool as his. Such a cool job to save people! There was no more important job in the world than that!

I knew my mother saved lives too and I was very proud of her, but Jamie's work was different... He was now the superhero of my life!

My mother's cheeks turned red when we talked about Jamie or when he showed up at the door of the hospital room. That was very strange, I had never seen her look like that in front of anyone, she looked like those girls from the movies when they meet the boy they like.

Eww.

But, even if it was disgusting, I don't think I've ever seen my mother so happy. The other boyfriends who showed up in her life got what they deserved for trying to replace my father. I always made it clear to maman that I would never accept them in our family, but with Jamie it was different. He didn't seem to want to replace anyone, he just seemed to want to be my friend. And maman's boyfriend, of course!

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't understand why people found it nice to date someone. But when they were together, those hearts kept appearing in their eyes and something inside me was saying that he was the right person for my mother and me. The way he made my mother smile when she received surprising gifts was so beautiful to see!

But, even though everything was very beautiful, I couldn't let him think that my mother was all alone in this world, I had to keep protecting her as I had always done all my life. When we went to Uncle Lamb's house after the dinner we made for Jamie, it was the right time to ask him some questions:

"Jamie, are you my mom's boyfriend?" he stopped walking for a bit before he continued walking next to me.

"Uh... I dinna ken very well..." Jamie seemed doubtful and I thought that was strange, he had never shown any doubt at all since I met him.

"Uhm... And have you ever asked her out?" his eyes met mine, surprised by what I was saying. He knew I was just a boy, but I couldn't leave my mother unprotected.

"Nay, laddie..." he took a while to answer me, he seemed embarrassed to talk about those things with me.

"And you want to be her boyfriend?"

"I really, really want that, more than anything! But she still needs to accept me..." I just smiled, he seemed to really like her.

My mother deserved to be happy again, her sparkling eyes had to be like that forever! If Jamie was the person who made her feel that way, I would accept him as her boyfriend.

Even though I accepted the idea, I have to confess, it was strange to see them kissing for the first time. I was looking out the window of my uncle's apartment, waiting for my mother to arrive to pick up Emily and me for lunch. Then they arrived together, so close that it was difficult to see, there from the sixth floor, some space between them. As much as I knew about Jamie's desire to date my mother and how she reacted when she was in his presence, I did not expect to see them together that morning. It was still strange for me to see my mother with another man, who was not my father, but I was trying my best to get used to it.

It was so nice to see their happiness at our Sunday lunch; it was nice to see how Jamie made her laugh, how he made me laugh. It was nice to have him there, teaching me some other tricks in the kitchen that was different from my mother's, telling me stories from Scotland when he was the same age as mine. I pretended not to see that they were both hugging in the living room when I went downstairs, but I confess I laughed at the slight shock I caused them when I showed up. Even though I wasn't silent at all when I went down the stairs, it was as if they did not hear me!

No matter how much the children complain about the classes, at the end of the day, it is very boring to have nothing to do but play. Madam Fitz sent a couple of homework assignments on Monday so that we would not lose track of the schedule. So my week was filled with numbers, words, and a few new phrases, and I always had Uncle Lamb or my mom to help me when I didn't understand something.

Every day, since maman started working, I was at my uncle's company while she was at the hospital. Our days were always filled with many stories from the time he worked with archer... with the excavations! It was so much fun to be with him, my uncle always had a different story for each ornament he had at home or for each picture of his immense box of travel memories.

It was nice to hear my mother's stories too when he took care of her. She had lost her parents at a young age and both of them were always like father and daughter. They lived together until she had to go back to Oxford, the city she was born, to study to be a doctor. Seeing her pictures together with Uncle Lamb at the excavations along all that time, I realized that it must have been very hard for my mother not to have a real home to go to as I had. Even though I had to move to London, the troubles I had faced were so much easier than hers and I had to be happy with everything she could give me now.

Everything was so perfect, I don't know how things changed so fast.

Saturday after lunch I was sitting on the couch, playing with my cell phone while my mother was talking on the phone in the kitchen. I was used to playing with my mom's cell phone, hers was much better than mine and I could play games that took much more storage space on it as she had almost no apps. I kept waiting, my ears very attentive to what she was saying while I was hoping that she would finish her call soon.

"We will talk to Fergus today, right? I'm so nervous, Jamie..." even though she was whispering, when I heard my name and realized how worried my mother sounded made me pay even more attention to everything.

What will they tell me today? That they were dating? But that was obvious, the night before my mother arrived home smiling after work that I was sure she had seen Jamie.

She was still worried, speaking lower and lower on the phone, but the words 'I'm afraid' and 'his father' reached my ear and after that, I couldn't stay silent anymore, I had to know what she was talking about:

"What do you and Jamie have to tell me tonight?" I entered the kitchen, making my mother jump, so scared.

"Oh, Fergus, you scared the hell out of me!" looking at me startled, she thought for a moment before placing the phone on the counter. "That's nothing, sweetheart!" she tried to seem calm, but the tears in her eyes and her red nose showed that she had been crying on the phone.

"What can't I find out, maman? That you're dating? Or that you're not together anymore? Why were you crying?"

"Take it easy, it's nothing like that Fergus!" she looked weird, her eyes very worried when she crouched down to be closer to me. "Jamie will come here later and we'll talk about some things that will change our lives a little, but we need to wait for him..."

"But why do we have to wait for Jamie?" I started talking a little louder, and my mom held my hands so I wouldn't get out of her sight. "I don't understand... Are you pregnant? Am I gonna have a brother?"

"No, Fergus, for God's sake!" a heavy sigh came from her mouth, and then she laughed nervously.

"So what are you afraid of, maman?" I tried to move further away from her, but she wouldn't let me. "Why don't you tell me what's going on? Don't you trust me anymore, huh?"

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Fergus! Of course, I do trust in you, love!" she hugged me tightly, her voice seemed to tremble as she breathed close to my ear.

"So tell me right now, maman! I will not wait until tonight to find out. YOU have to tell me what happened, Jamie is nobody in our family!" I yelled and she looked at me, she seemed angry at what I was saying.

"You don't know anything, Fergus, stop talking like that!" She spoke as if it was a warning, like I was doing something wrong.

"I don't understand why YOU don't talk to me!" Now I was mad at her as I'd never been before. Why was she acting like that?

She quickly stood up from the floor and started walking from one side to the other with her hands folded at her waist. It seemed that she was trying to control her anger, but she couldn't:

"Oh, do you really wanna know, huh?" she suddenly stopped in her tracks, looking at me with an angry face before she told me the truth. " All right! Jamie is your father! Your real father!"

We kept in silence for a while. I stared at her and I couldn't really understand what she said. What did it mean?

"What are you talking about, maman? My father died when I was little and I know he wasn't Jamie!"

She took a deep breath before explaining everything, with her eyes filled with tears. Her face no longer seemed to have the same expression of anger as before and she seemed to regret what she told me:

"Arthur loved you very much!" she started to cry more and remained in silence for a moment, but the tears kept on falling more and more down her face. "He raised you wonderfully, but he wasn't your real father, Fergus..."

What did she mean? My papa wasn't my real father?

Now she was sobbing so hard that her nose got clogged very fast. She couldn't look at me, feeling ashamed of what she was telling me. My desire was to hug her and say that everything was going to be fine, but she was hurting my heart so much that I had no courage to do so.

What made my heart hurt the most was that I could see in her face that she was telling me the truth. I knew that my mother would never joke about something that serious and it seemed like her words had opened up a hole under my feet and I no longer could feel the ground beneath me.

"What do you mean by, my real father is a stranger?" I didn't know why my voice came out so sad and loud from my chest.

"Jamie is not a complete stranger to you, Fergus."

"Of course he is!! I've known him for less than a month!" I'd never yelled at my mother in such an intense way before and nothing made me more sad than that, but my anger was deep inside and very strong. "Why did he never look for me? I wasn't important to him?" I felt small, like I meant nothing to him. "And how did he show up to save me at school, he knew I was there?"

"Calm down sweetheart, one thing at a time..." She made me sit down on one of the kitchen benches alongside her while facing me. She kept quiet for a while, looking at my hands. "I met Jamie when I was younger, but our relationship ended because I didn't think he loved me. I was very frightened by everything that was happening and after all, I had you inside my belly. I had a huge commitment, and your papa was such a great man for me and for you. He was my boyfriend once before and helped me a lot when he accepted you as his son, and he loved us as much as we deserved...".

I kept staring at my mother's face not knowing what to say. My world had just been turned upside down. Everything I knew to be real was just a big lie. My life has been a big lie.

"And why didn't he search for me earlier?" My voice sounded weak, filled with sadness. "Why didn't Jamie try to find me earlier?"

"Because he didn't know he was your father either until last week" she tried to caress my hand, but I took it away from the bench real fast. " Now I'm sure Jamie would never let go of you if he knew he had a son. Jamie loves you very much, Fergus..."

"No!" I shouted loudly, scaring my mother. "You can't love a person who doesn't want to be loved! I don't WANT him in my life, I don't care about him AT ALL! Do you understand? AT ALL!" I jumped down from the bench as the tears filled my eyes, and I didn't want her to see me crying. I didn't want to look like a weak little boy.

I was so lost! I was just a child who needed protection, but I felt as if I could no longer feel safe when I was around my mother. For the first time, I didn't feel safe with her, and, grabbing my backpack from the couch, I ran outside very fast to try to get rid of all the bad things I felt inside me. Realizing that the only place that I would be safe was at my uncle's house. I ran very fast all the way there, so fast that I couldn't hear or see anything but my tears and the sadness that made my chest hurt and my stomach upset.

I knew my mother was right on my heels, but I was faster than her, and, using the keys that Uncle Lamb had given me, I opened the main door of his building and went straight to his apartment. He was sitting on the couch and received me startled, but he finally asked me to approach him to receive his bear hug:

"What happened, child?" his arms held me tight, but I couldn't say anything, I could only cry against his chest. "Where is your mother?"

"Fergus. Son!" my mother's voice came from the doorway, but I didn't turn my face to see her. "You need to listen to me, sweetheart..."

"I don't care anymore!" I spoke loudly, shouting in anger at her while noticing a very sad look on her face.

"But what's happening, Claire?" Uncle Lamb asked but she remained quiet.

"You won't tell him what you told me?" I said with rage. "Oh, that means he knows everything as well and he was lying to me all this time too?"

"He doesn't know anything about it, Fergus!" my tears were thick and made my vision blurred, but I could still see how hard it was for her not to be near me. I ran from her every step she took in my direction, I couldn't stay close to her nor forgive her, it was stronger than me.

"So I think NOW is the right time for you to say everything!" I shouted furiously, and I sniffed my nose before hiding in my uncle's room.

I was so angry with my mother, with papa, with Jamie, and with the whole world. Everything was so strange, I felt so confused. As much as I liked Jamie, I didn't want him to replace my father in any way and I never wanted him to be my REAL Dad!

I kept crying on my uncle's bed while hearing him arguing with my mother, so sad that everything was upside down again in my life. I knew that I would forgive my mother once my anger was over, but how could I deal with Jamie now? I knew he was very good to her, but having him as my father was not something I would accept.



***



I woke up the next day with swollen eyes, thinking about my papa. I wanted so much to be able to talk to him at that very moment. I was sure he would have the right words to say, to help me find a way out!

Even though I hadn't eaten anything since yesterday, I was not hungry at all and, after the big hug from my uncle in the dining room, I ate a few cookies with some milk, only because he insisted so much. I wasn't feeling quite well yet, but at least I was calmer than yesterday. Even with many strange dreams that made me wake up in the middle of the night, I felt better. We didn't talk about the fight with my mother, but I could see in his eyes how he was feeling sorry for me. Besides, he seemed very upset with her also and when he said he needed to take me home, he was like a father to her, and to keep the secret from him for all those years that I wasn't Arthur's son must have broken my uncle's heart in 100 pieces.

Uncle Lamb asked if I was ready to leave and walked me home, staring seriously and silently at my mother before he kissed me at the top of my head. My mother looked at me with affection, but her eyes showed me how sad she was, I had seen her crying the whole night once and her face looked exactly the same.

We went to the sofa in the living room and we sat down facing each other before I began to talk:

"I know you like Jamie, maman, but I don't want him in my life..." I saw tears falling from her eyes just like mine, now I didn't want to pretend to be strong in front of her anymore, and I needed to release all my pain from my heart. "I can't think of him as my father and I'll never manage to do it..."

"Why don't you listen to what Jamie has to say to you?" she seemed to be thinking to find the right words before she spoke, sniffing once more before I finally let her caress my hand.

"Maman, I want you to understand me. I don't want to listen to him. I don't care about him." I don't know why it was hard for me to say those words, but it seemed that my heart was broken. "I can forgive you for doing this to me, you're my mother and I always try to understand you..." I tried to smile, but it was still so hard... "I love you very much, maman, but he is nothing to me other than your boyfriend and the person who saved me in the fire. He's not my father, papa is my father and it will always be just him".

"He doesn't want to replace Arthur, Fergus!" she tried to control her voice, but I could hear a lot of pain in her. " It's all very new to Jamie too, being a father is something very new to him... And you guys got along so well even before Jamie knew that you were his son..."

"I'm sorry, maman." I heard an agonizing sound coming from her chest after I cut her off, but it was all very difficult for me. "I don't care about any of this... I'm going upstairs to take a shower."

My mother's gaze showed sadness as she dried the tears that rolled down her cheeks yet again while she watched me walk up the stairs. She might want things to be quieter in my head sometime later so she could talk to me again, but what she didn't understand was that I couldn't love a man who, even when he had become a hero to me, was nothing but a stranger.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Sam Smith - Fix You (Live)

Youtube // Spotify

John Mayer - XO

Youtube // Spotify

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POV Jamie

Nothing has ever made my heart hurt more than listening to Fergus saying that I meant nothing to him, that he didn't want to feel loved by me, that he didn't wish to have me in his life. Nothing ever made my heart ache so much, not even Elizabeth's disappearance.

While I talked on the phone with Claire on Saturday afternoon, we tried to set up our next moves for that night so we finally could tell Fergus that he was my son, but he apparently had heard something that made him ask what his mother was saying to me. Then I heard a noise as if she had dropped her cell phone somewhere. I called Claire's name over and over again so that she would talk to me, unsuccessfully, and soon I realized that I was still listening to their conversation.

I don't know if Claire purposely kept her cell phone on, it didn't matter anyway, but everything I heard from that kid in the next few minutes ripped my heart out. At first, I noticed that he was very confused and for this reason, I felt that we should talk to him soon, I needed to make him understand that I loved him and I would do whatever was necessary to make him feel the same. Their conversation was getting increasingly out of control as I drove through those few blocks that kept me apart from them and, even though Claire tried to convince Fergus that I loved him, it seemed that nothing seemed to be enough for him. He had so much rage inside when she tried to reassure how much I loved him that his answer to Claire reached my ears as if I had been punched in the stomach.

"No! You can't love a person who doesn't want to be loved!” He shouted at Claire. I never expected that he would speak to her that way. “I don't WANT him in my life, I don't care about him AT ALL! Do you understand? AT ALL!"

I opened up the car’s door as soon as I parked it and anguish seized me up cause I felt the urge to do something for her, for me, for our family. I felt that I had to try to share that burden with Claire somehow since our whole planning had blown away. However, just before I walked across the street, I got stuck as I saw Fergus running through the door towards his uncle's place.

He seemed to be lost, his face was red and he sobbed as his tears were constantly wiped down by his sweatshirt sleeve. Fergus was clearly too shaken to see me there, however, I should try to talk to him. But crossing the street to finally get to him, I ended up watching a heartbreaking scene: even "dressed in her armor", Claire was completely shattered with a reddish face from all the tears she cried. She didn't care about anything but her son when she went after him like the protective mother she was, but when her eyes met mine, all her strength faded away instantaneously.

I kissed her head while I held her tight for only a few seconds and then I followed her hurried steps towards the door of her uncle's building. I squeezed her hand against mine along the way and I tried to smile at her as soon as we stopped as if I silently said I'd be there once they came down. Then, she sighed as she mustered all her strength so typical of her before I saw her walk through that door and disappear down the hallway.

She was a brave wee thing.

I remained there for over half an hour, worried and unaware of what was happening or if she needed my help somehow. Meanwhile, I tried to figure out what was the best approach to use once I saw the kid walking out that door cause I knew everything that happened and what he thought about me. I was really distressed, trying to prepare myself for a moment of tension, but this moment, luckily or not, didn't happen.

The last thing I imagined was to see Claire walk out that door alone. The traces of despair were so clear in her face that I would move heaven and earth to find out the magical solution to soothe all that pain in my Sassenach's heart. Even if she wanted to pretend to look strong, as soon as her eyes met mine, her chin began to tremble in an attempt to hold back another outburst of tears and to hold her tight was all it took for her to collapse against my chest.

When I felt her clinging so tightly to me, silently telling me that she couldn't handle all that turmoil by herself and that she needed me to get back on her feet, made me aware of the frailty she was going through at that moment. My mind quickly wondered how much she had been through all the years she was a single mother, taking decisions for both of them with no one to turn to, no one to share her doubts and insecurities with. Claire didn't seem to be that strong and brave woman I knew so well; there in my arms I noticed how flimsy she felt, her breath cutting against my chest showing me how helpless she felt.

"Let's go to my place, Jamie..." even trying to smile, her face almost burst into tears another time. "We need to talk..."

We sat on the couch, one facing the other, and as we recalled the lastest moments of our phone call, Claire got surprised as well as sorrowful to learn that she hadn't hung up the phone. She kept apologizing over and over again, saying I didn't deserve to hear all those horrible things and she didn't mean to hurt me any further for the wrong decisions she had made in the past. She remained on a loop for another few seconds while staring into her slightly trembling hands until I silenced her with a long kiss. She owned my heart and soul from the first moment I met her, so making her understand that I loved her immensely was the only way I had to comfort her at that moment. I needed to make her understand that I didn't blame her for all that and that we would find a way out of that problem together; I would do everything in my power so that delicate moment we were going through in our family would find its balance again.

"Jamie." She talked to me once we kept quiet. "I didn't mean to say it like that to Fergus, but sometimes that boy knows how to make me fly off the handle..."

Even though I got somewhat startled when I heard Claire tell Fergus the whole truth so suddenly, I forgave her almost instantly. I forgave and would forgive everything she might have done long before I found out about Fergus. I just loved her, there was no turning back for me anymore.

"What’s done, is done Sassenach..." I tried to make her smile by stroking her cheek. "We need to figure out exactly what to do next... Why did ye take so long to come downstairs and why ye dinna came with Fergus?"

"Oh, Jamie..." Claire spoke in dismay. "It feels like I'm on a roller coaster, Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" she rubbed her eyes with the tips of both indexes and opposing fingers, attempting to hold back another tearful rush and her anguish was so overwhelming that it almost made her skin shiver. "Fergus confronted me once again in front of my Uncle challenging me to say the whole truth to him and, after arguing with me even more, he locked himself in one of the rooms". Claire swallowed hard before looking at me again. "I feel so ashamed, Jamie... As I told you, Joe was the only person who knew that Fergus was not Arthur's real son, not even my uncle knew." Her grief-sigh made me intertwine my fingers with hers as if to make her understand that I was there for her now. "He is like a father to me and it was so hard keeping my secret and not telling him what was going on in my life... God!" now mumbling while leaning her head against my chest, I tried to tame her tired cry as I held her tight. "That was my agreement with Arthur, but after he passed away, I found it more and more difficult to tell the terrible truth to Lamb." She stroked my face while looking at me again, her lips forming a shy but loving smile. "I never imagined finding you again, you stubborn Scot!" She gave me a bigger smile and I closed my eyes as I felt the softness of her fingers against my skin. "Then I thought I'd never needed to speak to him about it. And, in fact, how could I explain to him that I didn't even know the name of Fergus´s real dad?" I nodded, having the sensation of a knot clutching my stomach as I thought about everything she went through all alone. When she saw how sad I got it was now her turn to lift my face. "There is nothing in this world that makes me happier than to have you back in my life darling, never forget that! I would never complain about having you back to me!" She sighed. "But now we need to make things right and it hurts my family, just as it hurts you too..." I nodded, kissing the palm of her hand. "If the conversation with my uncle had been with the same intense rage I got from Fergus, I would have felt more at ease..."

Mr. Lambert was deeply hurt by Claire. Her grief was clearly visible when she told me the only sentence he had said in response to everything that involved the three of us:

I don't know how you could live with this lie for so long... but, more than anything Claire, I don't see what I have done wrong, not being important enough for you to share something important as this with me... I thought I was like a father to you. I must tell you that I don't know what to feel right now, so please go home and leave Fergus here with me. He has to deal with so many things and I will assist him with whatever he needs... But you need to go.

When Claire finished talking, she started to cry again uncontrollably, feeling all the support she needed on my shoulder and on the touch of my hands. While comforting her with a warm hug, my head kept thinking about different strategies to solve all those problems but failing miserably at every little attempt. I felt lost and all I wanted was to lean over on my Sassenach's lap to be comforted by her just as I was comforting her. But there, at that moment, I needed to be strong for her.

This was not the right time for me to break down.

"What hurt me most, is to hear from Fergus that he doesn't want to see you and that he doesn't want to be a firefighter anymore..." Even if I had heard that on the phone earlier, those words still tore my heart apart.

"He is so angry. He is very disappointed with us and he doesn't understand how his life will turn out now..." I wiped her tears with my fingertips and I smiled as I put a lock of her hair behind her ear. " I must confess that I was afraid to tell him the whole truth, but I dinna expect him to react so badly..." Our faces remained worried, and our eyes were still clinging to each other. "But I'll fix it, Sassenach." I tried to smile and she nodded, exhaling strongly. "I just need to know if ye're with me on this."

"Always!" she smiled widely at me, wrapping my neck with her long fingers before sealing her lips on mine. "I want the best for my boy and I know you're the best for him!

"We are both the best for him!" our eyes sparkled with joy, a few tears slowly running down our cheeks. "I want the best for the three of us, dinna forget that we are a family, mo nighean donn!" I kept smiling, but she shut her face quickly and her eyes dropped into our entwined hands. " What is wrong with ye, Claire?" I lifted her chin to face me.

"We're not a family, Jamie..." the pain took over her face again, and at the end of the sentence, her voice almost sounded like a whisper before her eyes turned away from mine again. She kept her silence, making my spine shiver, and my body reacted badly to her sentence. "I haven't done anything right since I gave up on you that night and now I'm struggling to deal with the consequences of my mistakes..." God, she was back in the loop.

"Hey Claire, look at me!" My fingers reached for her chin with affection, lifting her face so that she could connect with me once again. I was there for her, always. "Dinna punish yerself like that... not anymore! I am here with ye and I know we will win this fight!" I kept silent until I received a brief smile in return. "I never thought it would be easy, but ye two are worthy of every effort!"

I felt horrible to leave her alone but I had to go, Fergus could return home at any moment and I couldn't face him without a good plan. We couldn't face him without a good plan. I kissed Claire in such a passionate way before leaving and we decided that we couldn't meet again before we found a way out. I hugged her once more to carry some of her delightful scents with me as I left.

Ok, it was finally my turn to cry.

Feeling completely powerless, the only thing I knew I needed was some help to think of a way to win my boy back. When Murtagh heard the hopelessness carved in my voice on the phone when I asked if I could go over there, he made me swear to not pass in front of a pub and that I would wait for him at his house because he was almost arriving there. He had seen my worst side after Elizabeth left my life and he knew what I was able to do in order to briefly forget my weaknesses.

As soon as I explained that everything was fine between Claire and me, I described in detail everything I had experienced in the last hours and how I had lost the admiration from Fergus in a blink of an eye. Breathing deeply, Murtagh repeatedly tapped  on the table with a pen, pondering silently while he clearly tried to choose his words before he started to speak:

"Well, Lad... I had already thought of the possibility of him responding badly to all of this, I had even told ye that, but I dinna imagine that it would be... well, let's say... so harsh..." His look was exactly the same as when he was comforting me after Elizabeth, with the concern printed between his eyebrows and by the way he was biting his lips. "And now what are ye considering to do about it? How does Claire feel about all this?"

"She's devastated, Murtagh. Her heart is so broken... But the good thing about it all is that, unlike in the past, we are now more connected than ever!" The smile he gave me being a small encouragement for the moment of pain I was living. "I ken she needs me, that I need to help her get through this and regain Fergus' trust, but I dinna ken where to start..."



***



What would happen to my life without Murtagh?

The only thing that had been worthwhile to be a client of The Heat was to win such a true friendship as his, and obviously to have met Claire. That man was very stubborn and, after more than one hour wondering about different things I could do to regain Fergus, the brilliant idea finally came up while he was caressing Adso, his grumpy cat. Grumpy as the owner, by the way!

On Sunday morning, I had already spoken on the phone with Claire about the big plan, and after comforting her due to the harsh answers Fergus gave her earlier, I asked for a phone number that would be essential for the stage two of the plan: Joe's. I had never spoken to him alone, only during those short moments while Fergus was still in the hospital. At that time, I still had all the doubts about not being aware of the exact status between Claire and him, preventing me from actually seeing him.

But he was an exceptional guy!

Our conversation on that Sunday afternoon in a café first flowed somewhat lighter paths. We talked first about how glowing Claire was now that I was in her life and how happy Joe was to see that I was a nice guy, that his assumptions were right about me. But as we got used to each other's presence, finally the current subject came to light. Fergus was still reluctant to meet me, and Joe stared at me sadly as he said that the boy had had a chat on the phone with Emily the night before and, even if she insisted, nothing made him change his mind about me.

Well, I had high hopes that things would move forward from the moment my plan was put into action, and while telling Joe everything I would do to regain my son's trust, I explained to him meticulously step by step what he should do as soon as Fergus phoned to the hospital to look for his mother. It wasn't a very complicated task, nor did it take long, but it was crucial for him to finally come back to me.

I took advantage that Fergus was with Claire and went to the place of one of the people I was most afraid to face: Mr. Lambert. As much as Claire was the reason for his grief, I felt I had something to do with it, one way or another. Plus, I felt I needed to help my Sassenach in some way to re-establish her relationship with her uncle, he was one of the most important people in her life.

Knocking on his door later in the afternoon, obviously with a bottle of whisky in my hands, I was greeted by a slightly surprised gentleman, and soon he invited me to sit on the couch:

"Well, Mr. Lambert, I came here for several reasons, the first one is to try to convince ye to reconsider talking to Claire." He pulled a chair to sit in front of me, turning that scene into nearly a police interrogation. "She is in deep pain with everything surrounding Fergus, just like me, but what worries her the most is not receiving yer forgiveness..."

"I'd rather you just call me Lamb or Quentin, James." Our eyes finally met and I saw so much pain in them. "Well, you have no idea how hurt I am for her not having told me such important things... You, Fergus, Arthur..." his hand was moving in the air, just as restless as his voice. "I don't know how she could have hidden it from me for so many years, and I'm sure she would have kept it as a secret if you hadn't shown up in her life again..." his tears started turning his brown eyes into light brown bright ebony. "Claire is like a daughter to me, and at the moment I feel like I'm not important to her..."

"Lamb, please listen to me." I sighed deeply before staring at his face. " It is exactly because ye are so important to her that she chose to keep ye out of all this... Try to stand in her shoes and explain to the man who is just like a father to her that her 3, 4-year-old son has an unknown father?” while staring at me, I saw his face relaxing minimally after a long sigh. “We had so many misunderstandings at that time, everything was so different in our lives... But the only thing I want to make clear to ye is that, if I had known about this child, I would never have let him disappear from my life.”

"And how have you managed to forgive her so easily, James?" His brown eyes clearly looked for something that would also help him through that moment. "After so many years and everything that happened?"

"Even though I felt guilty about some things in the past, Lamb, I canna deny that the first time I thought of this possibility I dinna ken how I would react to all of this..." when that idea came to my mind, the conflict inside me was undeniable. " But she was so truthful to me when she showed me everything she had inside her heart, all her wounds, all her motives... But beyond the honesty of her speech, I could sense so much love in everything she told me. I understood that, no matter how wrong she was, she had strong reasons at the time to choose to follow that path, so I believe that's why it wasna hard for me to forgive her".

"Yes, I understand your point of view," Lamb made a long pause as he took a deep breath. "But I'm still pretty upset about all this, James... When I found Fergus so hopeless, crying, and screaming like that at his mother, I confess I got very worried. And when I heard about this whole story, I had no choice but to be angry with Claire, do you understand me?" I nodded and Lamb, taking another long pause, still seemed to digest all that information. "But I understood everything you said and, looking from this point of view, I realize that Claire had her reasons too… It must have been a very hard time for her, I suppose, but all I wanted was that she had shared this with me. I know I would have helped her in some way, I would have made her burden lighter, maybe. I love Claire just like I love Fergus and it hurts me to see them like this and not being able to do anything to help them".

"I'm sure she loves you, sir, very much. I mean ye!" I fixed the way I had called him as soon as I received his reproachful gaze. "She needs her uncle by her side to help her to take the first steps on this new path. Actually, we both need ye, Lamb..." he made a funny face as if asking what I was referring to. "Uh, I need to regain Fergus' trust and I've made a plan for that..."

"And what do you need me to do to help you with the boy?"

Telling him all I had planned and what would be his role to help me regain Fergus' trust, I saw a gentleman going from seriousness to astonishment in a few seconds, quickly ready to be one more piece on this board game that I had made up to bring my son back to me. Claire, Joe, Lamb, and Murtagh had equal roles in the plan, without any of them nothing would be possible, and I knew I could count on them with all my heart.

Of course, I spent nights not sleeping properly while upgrading the plan. I was very anxious about everything that would happen on Wednesday, the time when we would make everything happen. Besides that, I chatted with Claire during most of those nights. She was also concerned about everything and couldn't sleep properly. The situation improved between Claire and her boys every day; Lamb felt more comfortable with her presence and Fergus became more open to her fondness and jokes, but she was still concerned about whether the plan would work or not. That's why on Wednesday morning, during our daily video call after she arrived at the hospital, we drilled over everything that would happen later for the nth time.

After I said goodbye to my Sassenach, I felt quite prepared for the war.

I felt I was ready to regain my son's trust.

 

***



3:05 pm. I was near Murtagh’s place, somewhat hidden, but close enough to see everything that was happening there. Before saying goodbye to him earlier, I managed to instruct that grumpy old man to use his headphone to make calls, so I could hear how things would happen between Lamb, Fergus, and Murtagh sooner without being noticed.

The plan was simple: at that precise moment, Lamb should have left his home with Fergus for his daily walk, as they always did at that time due to his injured leg. Orders from the physiatrist and corroborated by Claire, of course. I had already given Lamb the address of my friend Murtagh and, he gave an excuse to Fergus that he needed to buy a new artifact in an antique store that was on the opposite side of the one they normally used to walk, and we knew that Fergus wouldn't complain about having to walk more.

Claire was worried about the long journey they would make, trying in vain to suggest to her uncle to pick up a bus to the surroundings of Murtagh's place. You didn't have to hang out with Lamb for a very long time to know that such a sentence would make him furious, his rough and funny answer making us all laugh: "stop calling me an old man, Claire!”

My little daydream was suddenly interrupted by the image of Lamb and Fergus coming around the corner. Murtagh was already standing in front of the tree and in contact with me by phone, transmitting so much confidence in his voice that I thanked God for giving me a friend with such a strong, resilient father image.

I wouldn't have fought bravely without him.

Murtagh, as soon as he saw Lamb and Fergus approaching, started to mumble increasingly louder, looking at the treetop that was in front of his home, Lamb pointing in his direction and encouraging the lad to approach to see if that gentleman needed help.

All right, everybody following the script.

Adso always climbed that tree as soon as morning came, staying in that tree until the end of the afternoon when he got hungry again, meowing madly as he wrapped himself in Murtagh's legs until he earned what he desired the most. I had seen that scene countless times and I always had fun to see my friend insistently complaining that the cat didn't give him a break. And of course that day Adso was there, just like all the other days, and his owner would use him as bait to get my son's attention.

"Oh my God, I'm so worried about my cat! He doesna want to climb down..." Murtagh mourned with his sorrowful voice, acting even better than I imagined.

"Do you need any help, sir?" Lamb said as soon as he got close and I saw Fergus looking in the same direction where the cat was, smiling probably for having found the tangle of Adso's grey fur among the green leaves.

"Oh aye, please!" my friend was a real showman! "I canna get my kitty out of that tree... I call him and he won't come down..." I couldn't contain my laughter and I heard a reproach coughing against the microphone. Of course, I couldn't distract that great actor! "I've been calling for him for about an hour, but I don't think he'll come down alone..."

“And now Fergus, what can we do?” Lamb was another Oscar nominee! "I can't climb a tree anymore since I was 45 and it's been a long time!"

“I think I need a firefighter,” Murtagh said exactly how it was in our script. "But I dinna ken if they're coming just because of my kitty…"

"What about Jamie, Fergus?" Lamb said as if it was something very normal. "He's your friend and you have his number, right?"

"I will not talk to him, uncle" he spoke exactly as I predicted. "And he is no longer my friend." The sorrow I felt when I heard that took away the smile I had on my lips.

"Well, I don't know anyone else who can help this gentleman, my son..." Lamb followed the script and soon my hopes returned.

"I can try to talk to maman! Maybe she can climb up or call Uncle Joe to help us!" Fergus seemed to have had the brightest idea of all, but he was following every step of my plan to make it work, even without knowing it.

Now it would be Joe's turn to answer Claire's phone and tell Fergus that she couldn't go now because she was in surgery. Of course, it wasn't true, Claire was sitting right in front of him, jittery as her phone rang, reaching out to Joe so that the plan could keep going. Even though she didn't hear what Fergus was saying to Joe, she knew the conversation was following the plan, because the boy was very serious and stared at his feet as he listened to his uncle's lecture. Briefly, Joe would tell Fergus that he should call me, because I was the most capable person and that Claire and him could not leave work at that moment.

"But Uncle Joe, I don't want to talk to him..." Fergus was clearly upset, with a tearful voice.

Well, now Joe would tell Fergus that he couldn't choose the people he would like to work with and, moreover, if he really wanted to be a firefighter in the future and to save people, he couldn't choose his co-workers and neither whom to save. He would have to do what was necessary for him to succeed in his job, in those moments there couldn't be an inch of pride.

Even though Murtagh was somewhat distant from Fergus, I swear I was able to hear my boy's sorrowful sigh as soon as he hung up his phone. I could see how upset he was, maybe a little anguished, but, after another long sigh, I heard him speak the words I longed for the most:

"Okay, uncle, I'll call Jamie."

I hung up quickly the phone call with Murtagh, my heart beating so fast inside my chest that I had no idea how long it took for the boy to finally find my number on his cell phone to call me at last. I had already sent one of his pictures to pop up as soon as he called me, but, anyway, it was a great thrill to see his laughing face there for the first time. Sighing deep, I pick up quickly before he lost all that courage:

"Hello?" I spoke with sobriety, trying not to show all the happiness I felt hearing his voice.

"Uh, hi, Jamie. Here is Fergus." His voice was a bit too serious, but I saw one of his feet kicking the air, expressing his nervousness.

"Hi Fergus, how are ye?"

"Well... But I, uh... I need your help with something..." he took so long to say it all that I could barely control my giggle.

"Now?" I pretended pretty well not to know what it was all about. Well, at least I think so!

"Well, I must save a cat that's on top of a tree and I can't do it by myself, my maman is very busy and Uncle Lamb can't climb up to get it…"

"Uhm... And do ye think I need a ladder?" I already knew I didn't need it, but I wanted him to have a complete experience as the savior of that cat.

"Uh, I don't think so..." he stood still for a while and I saw that he was measuring with his eyes the size of the tree. "It seems easy to climb, I think Uncle Lamb might try to help me climb it..."

"NO! What if ye fall off, Fergus?" I said in a hurry, of course, I didn't want him to try to go up on his own, it had been less than a month since he was sent home from the hospital and I didn't want him requiring these services any time soon. " Ye were right to call me. I have saved many cats during my days off and I ken how to get them out of many different places".

"And… is today your day off, Jamie?" he seemed hopeful, excited by my response.

"Aye! I can be there in 20 minutes, okay?" I heard an affirmative noise coming out of his mouth while watching the boy joyfully jump alongside his uncle. Trying to keep up my earnest, I took a deep breath before I kept talking. "Can you hand the phone to the owner of the cat?"

And that's how I chatted with Fergus after almost 10 days. I was still shaken to finally be able to hear his softer voice while speaking to me, I spoke with Claire to tell her that things were happening as planned and that we were on the final stage of the plan. She laughed excitedly, letting her evident happiness to be apparent. We spent a few more minutes chatting before I said goodbye. I still had something very important to do.

Of course, I couldn't make it quite so obvious that I was only two blocks away, and then I took a long walk down the block before parking in front of my friend's place. Walking a slightly faster to pretend concern with Adso, I saw Lamb, Murtagh, and Fergus standing in front of the tree, the kid was still beside his uncle, without actually looking at me. I sighed deeply and I wore my best "standard firefighter" face after wishing good afternoon to everyone, grinning restrainedly at Murtagh and receiving a wink in return.

The tree was not so tall and very easy to climb, and it only needed just a few firm steps to reach Adso. He knew me since he was just a kitten, so I didn't need to call him more than three times to make him come stretching to me. Oh, obviously I was helped by the snack Murtagh had given me just before climbing, it was essential for him to almost jump in my arms. The cat was grumpy but very smart!

Putting him inside my jacket and holding him with one of my hands before climbing down, I immediately handed Murtagh the furry one, and he was performing another Oscar-worthy scene when his 4 pawed son was finally in his arms. Fergus was amazed, looking at me and the cat alternately, and this brought me instantly the joy when I saw a little smile starting to appear on his face.

"Do ye want to caress him?" Murtagh spoke, bending down a bit to stay at Fergus' height. "Now ye're his superhero, Fergus! And mine as well!" ah, Murtagh was the best!

"Am I?" my boy's little eyes were very moved. "But I have done nothing!"

"Of course ye did," I said, making him stop petting the cat to look at me closely. "If it wasn't for ye, I wouldn't be here and the kitten wouldn't have climbed down the tree. Ye worked very well as a team, lad!"

"So can I still be a firefighter when I grow up?" His eyes sparkled as he spoke, a big smile appearing toward me for the first time since Saturday when everything seemed to have collapsed under my feet. Even though he asked a silly question, the way he spoke was as if he had asked his father what to do about his future and of course, it touched me so much.

"Of course, Fergus!" I replied as I bowed in front of him, my smile was once again matched with my son's happiness. "You can be whatever you want!" I caressed his arm lightly, very relieved to see that he was not running away from me.

It wasn't my goal to prolong our reunion, even more, I wanted him to get used to me again, the objective was to slow things down between us so that our relationship would get stronger and stronger. Leaving them nearby Lamb's apartment, I got out of my car to walk them to the door; I still had one more thing to ask for him and I wanted to enjoy the excitement he still felt for saving my friend's cat.

"Fergus, I wanted to ask ye a question..." I leaned on his shoulder and he looked a little scared at me, turning his tiny little body to face mine. " Today I noticed that ye have a great future in the firefighter's career. And on Saturday we will have other kids joying in a very nice event... Do ye want to come with your mom?

"Uh..." he stood still for a while, looking at his uncle briefly before he got a squeeze from Lamb's hand, indicating him to follow. "I think it'll be nice." He smiled shyly, his cheeks red with shame almost instantly.

"Yes, it will be nice, Fergus!" I nodded with a big smile. "I'll see you there, then!"

As I watched them both pass through the front door, I waited to make sure they got into the elevator so I could breathe properly, realizing I was more tired than if I had attended a real call from the fire department. I picked up my cell phone one more time as I walked toward the car, smiling as I heard my Sassenach's eagerly awaited voice:

"Jamie, for God's sake, what took you so long! Just tell me how everything was please!".

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Florence & The Machine – Never let me go

Youtube // Spotify

John Legend – Conversations in the dark

Youtube // Spotify 

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POV Claire

"Maman, did you date Jamie for a long time before I was born?" Fergus and his always tricky questions! Of course, I froze when I heard that, and I kept staring at his reflection in the mirror briefly, unable to help him finish getting ready for the big event with Jamie that Saturday.

"Uh, well... just for a few months, Fergus..." I finally managed to speak the closest thing to the truth, of course, I didn't have to mention under which conditions I had " dated " Jamie at that time.

Fergus took a deep breath, looking sadly at me before taking the courage to keep talking:

"And what is different between you two now? So you won't split up anymore?" I noticed on his face a true fear of losing Jamie and I felt my heart tightening inside my chest.

"Uh, so many things are different now, sweetheart..." well, our chat had taken an important path, so I turned him towards me while I lowered myself in front of him, closing the zipper of his jacket before kissing him on the forehead. He needed to listen carefully to what I was going to say. "Besides the fact that we have you, which is the most important thing for both of us, nowadays Jamie and I can talk about all kinds of things, whether good or bad; at this time we do not let the fear keep us apart anymore..." he stared at me attentively to what I was saying.

"You two aren't together just because of me, right?"

"Oh no, dear!" I hugged him for a few seconds before caressing his face so that he would keep his gaze on mine. "If there was no love between Jamie and me, we wouldn't try to get together because we have a child... I'm sure Jamie will be a great father for you and it wouldn't be any different if we weren't together as a couple." It still hurt me a bit to think about how my wounded pride had been the hindrance for Fergus to live with his real father and had created all that chaos. "But we love each other deeply and I want him to be a part of your life as well as mine.”

"I like him, maman... But it's really hard for me to picture him as my father." I smiled before I dragged him so we could sit on his bed. His heart was opening to Jamie and I needed to take advantage of it.

"Did you know that my love for you grew and has grown more and more every day from the moment I held you in my arms?" His eyes widened, amazed, definitely not expecting that. "Our relationship has been built with every smile, every sleepless night, every new word you learned..." My finger touched his nose, his chin, and his heart in a funny way. "Love is like a very high building which has to be built one floor at a time, using the best materials and being very careful!" he smiled shyly as he nodded. "Just give him a chance to show you how much he loves you, Fergus... Your building is going to be very high and strong, believe me!”

Gradually he seemed to welcome Jamie into his life, not only as a person who had saved his life but also as his father. Fergus fell in love with his superhero from the first contact, and I knew how wonderful it would be for my son to have a paternal image as strong as his, but I saw that something was still missing for Fergus to feel entirely comfortable with that fact. 

That Saturday would bring all the opportunities to make it happen.

I was worried about going back to the fire department once again after our quarrel in Jamie's office last week. We hadn't been silent at all that evening and, even though Jamie hadn't mentioned anything, I was concerned to get some funny looks from his colleagues when I arrived with Fergus there. But all the fear I had was gone as soon as I saw how Jamie had worked even harder that morning to regain his son's trust.

To know all the small details about that day made me be sure that Fergus would really enjoy this new experience with Jamie, but to see Fergus’ perplexity when he saw the whole firefighter's training program set up inside the big fire department garage was priceless. His eyes sparkled when he saw the whole scene set up: the truck parked near the entrance; water hoses and fire extinguishers ready for the practical class; as well as a dozen children with whom to share all that euphoria.

"Maman, what are we going to do here today?!" his eyes were shining excitedly and his voice was so full of expectation that it made my heart skip a beat.

"I don't know for sure, I think you should ask Jamie!" Pointing towards my obstinate Scotsman, I smiled as I saw how handsome he looked in his uniform, which made me blush immediately when I realized it was the same outfit I had seen him wearing the week before. Yes, I missed him a lot, sexually speaking. Coughing to try to regain some balance, I looked at my son again as I finished speaking. "Why don't you go over there, darling?"

Even though he was a bit uncomfortable with Jamie's new position in his life, Fergus looked at his father for the first time since he had arrived and, breathing hard as he said "okay", I saw my boy running towards Jamie without being able to contain his excitement anymore, making me utterly moved. After all we had been through, especially that last week, to have that image carved in my eyes was the greatest blessing I could ever have.

Then I knew that, sooner or later, everything would turn out well between them!

The kids listened with attention to the lecture which preceded the practical lessons while the parents watched at a distance what was happening in that small room set up for twelve children loaded with energy.

All parents, including Jamie!

I couldn't decide what made me happier: seeing Fergus' excitement as he listened to the coach speak, always accompanied by his watchful gaze searching for us amongst the grown-ups; or it was to witness Jamie's thrilled face as he had his plan to win back his son working out right before his eyes. He had told me he wouldn't give up on me, he wouldn't give up on our family, but I didn't imagine that Jamie would go this far in order to have all that was rightfully his.

Every little new thing that happened that day made me fall even more in love with my two boys, but I felt my heart melt when it was Jamie's turn to lecture. The Scot talked about his passion for his job from an early age and what his career had been like until he became Chief of the Corporation. I observed the evident amazement Fergus displayed for Jamie as he spoke to the little ones, and it was one of the most touching pictures I had ever seen, a kind of interaction I never thought I would have the chance to witness, not even in my wildest dreams. But there we were: us three, our family incredibly more and more together, and sharing a day that would be engraved in our history forever!

Right after that, three sets of children were quickly gathered surrounding each firefighter while Jamie and his colleagues showed them how to put on their personal safety equipment or hold the fire extinguishers or the water hose to extinguish the small fires that would be part of their practical lesson. Fergus was always very shy when interacting with unknown children, but when he had to decide which group he would be working with at that late morning, he didn't hesitate to choose his father's group.

As if by magic, Jamie had regained his boy.

After all the awards to the “new firefighters” of the department, including medals, certificates, and very proud photographers' parents, it was time to leave. Jamie had left us just to change his clothes, and in that little moment without his presence Fergus got shy again. Even happy with everything, he wouldn't walk away from me any longer and he looked scared as if a tiny wall was being built up around him once again. As soon as Jamie got close to us again, I stared at him in a concerned way, quietly telling him that he must react fast because his child was shutting himself once again in his cocoon.

On witnessing my concern, Jamie got down immediately to stand at Fergus' height, getting his son's attention:

"Fergus, are ye hungry?" The kid stared at me before he nodded to his father. "It has been a while since I wanted to invite ye and yer mother to eat something so that we could celebrate yer full recovery after the fire, but Claire told me that ye were quite busy on the day I had suggested..." Jamie stared at me with a small smile in the corner of his mouth, we knew he was referring to the day of our first date at Clos Maggiore. Now it was more than clear that Jamie hadn't bought into my excuse that Fergus couldn't make it on that day and for that reason, I couldn't hold back a giggle when I realized it. "It's late for us to go to a restaurant but, if yer mother allows me, we can eat a tasty burger nearby!" Well, a famished Taurus would know how to convince a child! "Or we could pick it up and eat it at yer place if everybody finds it better..."

"Oui! At home! Maman, say yes! Please!" The owners of those sets of blue eyes kept staring at me like two needy dogs, making me have no choice but to agree with a big smile.

"But it's just because we need to celebrate the youngest firefighter in the family! I don't want you to get used to having fast-food all the time, sweetheart!" I looked at Jamie and there was a silent giggle on his face.



***



"Why are you staring at me, Fergus?" Jamie said plainly, making Fergus feel uneasy since he thought he was being subtle. We had already finished our "lunch," but we kept sitting at the table after eating a delicious, giant, fatty hamburger. "Do you want to ask me something, lad?”

"Well..." I stepped in as I noticed that Fergus wasn't replying to Jamie's questioning, his cheeks reddish with shame. "Why don't you both sit on the couch while I'll set up everything here?" I stared encouragingly at Fergus, and he finally got up from his chair, making Jamie follow his movement right away. As much as I wanted to join in that conversation, I knew that moment was very special for both of them and I had to understand that now Fergus had someone else to have his back beside me.

"Jamie... I was thinking about something maman told me today." Fergus was sitting on the couch back to me and I got a low-key look from Jamie. After hearing a mention of me, of course, I couldn't help but keep my attention on them even more. "She said love is like a huge building that one builds slowly and with very good materials..." I heard Fergus talk as I slowly cleared off the table all the bags and plates we had used. "So that means that the love you had before was made of poor materials?" Could I at the same time be proud of his cleverness and want to keep him quiet? This boy didn't mince his words! "I needed to understand how your love can be stronger now than it was before..."

"Yer mother is a very clever lass, Fergus, and so are ye..." I got another quick glance from him before Jamie settled on the pillows to try to answer that sharp first question he had received from his son. Well, he'd have to become used to it somehow. "Actually I was the biggest culprit of our breakup before ye were born because I haedna the guts to tell her I loved her." Our glances crossed once again, mine trying in vain to make him not talk like that. "We had very strong materials to build this building, the same as we have now, but we didna build the walls at the same time and that's why it didna work..."

"And now you're going to build it together?"

"We are already building together, son!" Jamie was holding Fergus' hands and the child didn't refuse his affection for a single moment. Fergus couldn't help but smile, even if shyly, as he listened to him call him son for the first time. "We three are together now and we are going to build the biggest and strongest building in the whole world!” Jamie invited me silently to get close to them, holding my hand with his over the back of the sofa. "Do ye want to build a new building with me and yer maman?"

"Yes, Jamie... the highest of all!" As if he was already waiting for that invitation, Fergus jumped against his father's chest for the first time, feeling comfortable again as he received his fondness, his love, his concern.

I couldn't hold back my feelings any longer, so I leaned forward over my two boys, holding them tightly against my body for the first time in my life. I kissed the top of their heads with tears clouding my eyes and a relentless smile on my lips, grateful for that one more gift. What had only been a dream for me, something completely unreachable for all those years, now it had become reality right in front of me in the most unexpected way.



***

 

"Are you happy, Jamie?" I spoke softly while watching Fergus sleeping with his head on his father's lap after another Saturday night movie session. The first one for Jamie.

"More than anything, mo chridhe!" He whispered, and his smile glowed brightly even with the small light that lit the room. "When ye sent me that picture weeks ago, all I wanted the most was to be here with ye two, exactly like that.”

"And now you're ready to carry your boy upstairs?" I laughed silently as I rested my forehead against his shoulder, kissing his arm.

"I guess that was always the main reason I never skipped the gym, Sassenach!" He laughed as he kissed my head before he tried to figure out the best way to make such a move.

"First, hold his head so you can get off the couch and then you pick him up in your arms" he nodded before following my instructions, whispering a few words in Fergus' ear when the boy was slightly shaken, making him instantly relax against his chest, melting my heart with love once again.

I turned off the TV and the lights in the room and I walked upstairs right behind Jamie, helping him to cover Fergus before wishing him a good night as soon as we got to his room. We were sitting one on either side of the bed, our hands intertwined over our son's chest, and I thrilled that Jamie was there for the first time while I was saying to Fergus the same words that have been so ordinary to both of us since his birth. I saw in Jamie's gaze the sorrow for the years that he wouldn't recover anymore, but I could also feel a great hope overflowing through those deep blue eyes so excited and grateful to be there at last.

"Can I try too?" Jamie asked me in a shy way, his hand was caressing mine on and on gently.

Jamie brought so much joy at every word he said, at every gesture he made, at every glance he gave. I didn't need to understand what he was saying to understand that it was the most beautiful prayer I had ever heard, the purest, the truest. The prayer of a father who was completely in love with his son, who was so moved to speak those words which had probably been said to him when he was little and which he had never had the chance to say to his child.

I felt complete as I had never felt before. We had gone through so many misunderstandings, so many challenges, but it didn't matter anymore, the only thing that really mattered was that everything had been worthwhile for me to have at least my boys with me.

"Let's go to bed, Jamie?" I spoke as soon as we left Fergus' room, giving him a playful smile before wrapping my fingers in his.

Pulling me up against the hallway wall, his lips were dangerously close to mine before he answered me:

"Uhm, to bed or... to sleep?" His hoarse voice together with his hot half-smile proved to me that he really wanted to drive me crazy.

"Well... What do you think, Mr. Fraser?" I held onto his neck before kissing him in a dashing way, bringing him even closer to me.

I missed him a lot during all that week, very much. We had, of course, more important and difficult issues to deal with than my desire to have sex with Jamie, but I confess that the nights after the cat rescue were tough for me to cope without my Scot's presence. No kind of pleasure could completely replace Jamie's absence, but I confess that still having such a fresh image in my mind of how our quarrel had turned out on the floor of his office in the fire department was quite a help.

Now, fortunately, he was there with me, as eager as I was, his demanding kisses making me groan against his lips while we tried to keep silent inside the room. With every noise of a belt beating on furniture, shoe falling down on the floor, or a grumble for not managing to take off some cloth, one more laugh accompanied by a silence order appeared between us.

Even though the door was locked and Fergus was in a deep sleep in the next room, having silent sex was still a new experience for both of us. Of course, it was always wonderful to be with Jamie in every possible way, but never during all the times we were together we had to hold back our moans and our gasping breaths or even to control our movements. Under no circumstances. It was almost impossible not to call his name while he slowly filled me, or to receive one more silence order from that man, who looked more like a Greek God with his muscles carved by hand, while he pushed me to the limit with his mouth thirsty for my breasts.

The climax was overwhelming, my desire to scream being replaced by an unrestrained pleasure that spread through every cell of my body as if it were fireworks. Still puzzled by that sum of sensations that flooded my body, Jamie covered my mouth with his as he sank completely into me in his final thrust. His grunts twisted and restrained were shocking against my lips as my fingers remained firmly tangled in the hair close to his neck.

At last, taking the place that was rightfully mine, I laid my head against his chest, the silence that hung in the air only interrupted by our slower and slower breaths. My mind flew to a time when things were different, where we were younger and more inconsequential, and the urge to relive some of that past quickly seized me.

"What's going on inside that pretty mind?" He kissed the top of my head, quickly getting me out of my trance.

"Hmm, it is nothing..." I laughed before leaning my chin against his chest. "I want you to know that having you back in my life is more than I could ever imagine possible, Jamie… You are more than I ever imagined to be real..." I closed my eyes as I received his cuddling on my face, being quiet again once my mind was thinking about our past again.

"But..." he knew like no one else how to read my reactions.

"But... Huh, I confess that sometimes I miss the unpredictability of our meetings at The Heat..." I smiled in embarrassment because of course, nothing was better than having that Jamie there with me like that. "Not knowing what would happen, what you would show me next Friday..."

"Hmm, so ye miss Alexander?" His contained laughter echoed throughout the room, making me slap his chest in punishment.

"I didn't say that and you know it!" I glanced at him with reproach before sealing my lips on his. "You're perfect exactly for this duo blend that drives me crazy! But having Fergus in the next room doesn't help much if you know what I mean..." Jamie nodded back before giving another naughty laugh.

"Well, so we need to find a solution for that, Sassenach." He stood still suddenly, making me want to know what was going on in his head.

"What is this ginger head thinking now, huh?"

"Nothing at all, Sassenach!" We laughed in complicity, I knew he had my last speech still hammering in his head. "Sassenach, do ye have an extra drawer? I think I'll need to have some of my clothes here. Even though I live closer, it's unfair to have ye like this in my arms and have to go home to get some comfortable clothes!”

"I can lend you something of mine if you want! Or from Fergus!" He laughed loudly against my ear, slapping my butt to lecture me. "Ouch! Well, tomorrow I will arrange your drawer in order, Mr. Fraser." I saluted funnily, laughing before cuddling in his chest once again.

"Do ye ken that I like yer arse even more now?" He laughed as if he was ready to provoke me. "Those extra pounds have done a lot of good, Sassenach."

"JAMES FRASER, how dare you!"

I laughed, still not believing in his audacity, and Jamie squeezed my ass before turning our bodies on the bed and filling my mouth with all the desire he felt for me. I gave in, of course, I was completely insatiable when I was with him.

And well, at least someone was happy with the extra pounds!

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

ZAYN – TiO

Youtube//Spotify

Beyoncé – Drunk in love (feat. Jay-Z)

Youtube//Spotify 

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POV Claire

"No, Jamie... I won't go to the pub without you!" I couldn't hide my frustration while talking to my boyfriend on the phone that Friday night. " I will only get in the way of Joe and Gail, I don't wanna feel like a third wheel... It was meant to be the four of us together."

"I ken, mo chridhe..." Jamie exhaled hard, his voice expressing real frustration. "Please forgive me once more, but this unexpected event has come up and I need to fill in for González on the night shift. Claire, I really think ye should go and have some fun. They are yer best friends and obviously, ye willna be feeling like a third wheel there!'' His laughter, together with his low voice, made me smile. "The kids are already at yer uncle's house and I'm sure ye're ready to go, right?"

"I wish you could join us, Jamie..." I couldn't hold back my frustration. "I thought we'd have the night just for us."

"Umm..." he made a long pause and I heard his deep breath against the phone. "I ken I promised ye so many things during the week, and I'm a man of my word. I didna forget anything, Claire." I couldn't help but giggle, his messages had been so indecent that my cheeks turned red countless times during all those days we didn't see each other. "But just because we will not be together today, doesn't mean that ye will not have a lot of fun. I am sure ye will! I want ye to have a great time, is that clear?"

"Okay..." I sighed as the word came out of my mouth doubtfully. "God! Why did I choose a boyfriend so committed to his job?" I heard his laugh against my ear and it was impossible not to laugh back. "I love you, Jamie."

"More than anything, Claire."

I was so excited to finally be able to officially introduce Jamie to Joe and Gail that evening. But apparently, things wouldn't always turn out the way I had planned being in a romantic relationship with the most committed firefighter in the UK. Earlier that week, Joe proposed to us to meet at the Wyld Bar, in a well-known hotel on Leicester Square. He told me he wanted to hang out with a younger crowd to experience a night as if we were still in college. When he told me that, suddenly my mind went back to the time when I eagerly felt the same butterflies in my stomach as when I met my redhead at The Heat, week after week. And then I laughed shamefully to the universe before holding back those thoughts so I could properly answer my friend.

As soon as he heard about our next Friday's event, Jamie kept sending me dirty text messages, describing what he would do to me on our night off. Tons of short messages popped up on my cell phone during the shift at the hospital, at the doctors' room, or at the cafeteria; while cooking dinner with Fergus; or before going to work picking up the newspaper at my favorite newsstand nearby. We couldn't meet all week due to Jamie's several appointments for work out of town, but that Scot knew how to be present wherever I was, even when physically distant from me.

Jamie was determined to drive me crazy with his insinuations, regardless of what time of day it was. As I read things such as "I'm dying to hear you screaming out my name, begging for my cock to move faster and faster inside of you," of course those words momentarily blushed me, but they nourished my imagination during the days we were apart, giving me butterflies in my stomach just like when we were at The Heat. I was totally ready for whatever would come from Jamie that night, so his phone call was like throwing cold water at me.

We were going to have a grown-up meeting, something very unusual for us in recent times, and, as I had promised Jamie that I would go to the bar with my friends, I tried to cheer myself up again before calling the cab. He was right when he said that I would have a fun evening in Joe and Gail's company. It would be us three again and we would have a light and relaxed night just like the old days!

The place was very crowded, with many people sitting in front of the bar and at the tables, while others were already dancing cheerfully on the dance floor. I smiled as I listened to the loud talks and laughter among the drunk young people there, but seeing Joe and Gail sitting at one of the round tables in the large hall, drinking as they talked close to each other's ears, made me curse myself for being there. It was such a rare moment alone for them, considering they were full-time parents, and there I was to get in the way...

Shit, what was I thinking?

They quickly saw me in the crowd and waved at me cheerfully with big smiles on their faces asking me to join them. The shame I felt for being there was quickly transformed into reddish cheeks, and I sighed deeply before walking towards them.

As I was there already, I might as well make the best of the night.

The atmosphere hovering over the place, mixed with the sounds, flavors, and perfumes, made us quickly travel back in time. Joe was absolutely right when he recommended that bar. The three musketeers were together once again, just like 15 years ago. Even after so many years, we were able to sit down and enjoy this rare occasion to have some food, drink a lot, and finally be able to talk and act as grown-ups with no kids around.

"Let's dance, Claire!" I laughed as Gail tried to pull my hand and lead me to the dance floor. "Oh, come on! That's our song, remember?"

"Of course I remember!" I was already dizzy from the gin and I laughed when I realized it had been a long time since I drank and had so much fun. " But Joe, is he going to be alone?"

"As if this had never happened before, LJ!" he laughed quietly as he shook his hand in the air. " Just go, before the music ends!"

Yep, we still couldn’t shake it like Shakira. It had always been like that, even during college when our bodies were still used to those movements that were so common at every party we attended. However, once again with the help of alcohol, there were the two of us laughing and dancing like two gals while the beats of "Hips don't lie" (youtube//Spotify) resounded through the speakers in the lounge. Probably most of those people at the club were just little kids when it was a hit on the radio, but it was crystal clear that the music still played the same effect at any good party like that, it was simply impossible to stand still when listening to its beat.

"Claire..." after a few moments, Gail suddenly stopped shaking her body and the sound of her loud voice against my ear called all my attention. "Don't turn back now, but there's a guy who won't stop staring at you!"

"Really?" I grinned rather jumpy, no matter how much I enjoyed catching men's attention in places like that, it was odd for me sometimes. "Are you sure he's looking at me?" she nodded and my body shivered, and my cheeks turned red very quickly. "Umm, not that it really matters to me, but... is he handsome?"

"Well..." she laughed as she looked over my shoulder. "I think he's your kind of guy, Claire... Why don't you have a look? There's no harm in looking, darling."

"All right, then!" We giggled like two teenagers. How could we go from discussing the kids to flirting with a stranger so quickly? "Just tell me where he is..."

"At the bar, holding a glass of whisky in his hand. Dark shirt and cream suit. He won't stop staring at you, when you turn around you gonna feel you are attracted to a magnet," she laughed as she tenderly caressed my face, staring deeply into my eyes as she smiled back at me. "I'm gonna go back to Joe, sweetheart!"

What? She was just going to leave me there because a guy was staring at me at the party? I was a committed woman, for God's sake! Trying to stop her from walking back to our table, I turned my body to try to pull her arm as I called her name over and over again, but then I got the most intense glance that didn't allow me to think properly anymore.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, it was Jamie! There he was at the bar, leaning his elbow over the stone surface while toasting in the air with his glass of whisky towards me. Exactly how he welcomed me to The Heat in the past.

I must confess that for a few moments I didn't understand exactly what was happening for Jamie to be there, but as soon as he smiled at me, I realized he had set up that night in the smallest details to surprise me. Looking at the table where Joe and Gail were, I saw them both walking out embracing each other, laughing as they kissed like two teenagers. That sight of them made me smile instantly at Jamie while we narrowed the distance between us and, as we walked among the people at the party, those blue eyes kept staring at me sharply.

As soon as I got close to Jamie, I tried to say something, but feeling his hand rush through the root of my hair in a very possessive way had left me speechless. Pulling my head to one side before placing a wet kiss on my neck, Jamie moaned hotly against my ear before he eventually said:

“I loved the dance, Claire…" I laughed in disbelief, holding onto his hair. - I dinna ken ye were so skilled at belly dancing.”

"Are you mad?" his eyes quickly stared at mine, and the combination with his half-smile caused me to feel all his desire for me.

"Just for ye, Sassenach." He spoke against my mouth and a shiver took over me instantly. "Didna ye miss the unpredictability?" I nodded, the warmth of his body melting my legs and left me speechless for a moment.

"And now, Jamie?" I struggled to speak close to his ear. "What will you do with me now?"

"Well..." his mouth went through my jawbone, the warmth of his lips and tongue against my skin bringing me silent promises of an unforgettable night. "I told ye I'm a man of my word, Claire."

"Yes, you told me..." I giggled as I felt his hands slide up towards my butt over the dress, pulling me even closer to his body before his lips met mine in a kiss so intense that it made me lose my senses briefly.

"Do ye remember all the things I promised I would do with ye today?" to feel his still fluttering breath against my lips and his half-closed eyes made me lose my way once again. "Well, I hope ye are ready for all of them, Sassenach."

There was no one like him. He kissed my knuckles before dragging me out of the bar, and the next instant we were just waiting for the elevator that would take us to one of the biggest flashbacks moments I've ever had in my life. I was grateful for not being alone during those few moments when we traveled the 5 floors inside that lift. It was filled with mirrors and cameras and, with the glances Jamie had launched me, I would surely forget that we were almost in a reality show.

Once we left the lift, he embraced me around my back with lust and kissed my neck while we walked slowly towards number 518. And then my laughter of anticipation mixed with the gin that was still flowing in my veins brought back the same feelings I had the first time I met Alexander at The Heat through its well-known red door. I felt in his touches the same desire, the same lust from years ago. He was clearly determined to provide all that I had requested him days ago but, behind all that fire so familiar to me, I could feel in his touch all his love and devotion to me.

How could it be so different and so similar, all at once?

He gave me the room card and an incredulous laugh came out of my mouth when I realized that he intended to remake a complete experience in The Heat style. Low music was filling the room, and spotlights were lighting up the place while glasses and two bottles of champagne were freezing on the table. And something told me that the dark box with a big red bow that was over the bed had unusual items to spice up even more what was almost taking me to the limit that night.

"You really know how to impress someone, Jamie... Do you realize that?" I spoke softly in his ear once we closed the door, licking his earlobe in reply to those strong arms that surrounded me with so much desire.

"I may be committed to my job, Sassenach." He pulled my hair back, thus having free access to my neck and jawline. "But I am so much more committed to ye." His naughty kisses quickly found their way into my mouth, and then he took it eagerly while sliding his fingers through my back towards my butt. "But what is this?" he said as he stroked my body under the dress, making me laugh against his lips.

"My little surprise isn't as magnificent as everything you've planned for this night..." I licked his lips teasingly, smiling passionately as I held onto his neck even tighter. "But I think you are gonna enjoy your little gift, Mr. Fraser."

I had bought a burgundy corset and thong panties to surprise Jamie, a set very similar to the one I gifted him in the past. And even though I cursed myself throughout the night for having it still on my body, I was grateful that I forgot to replace it for something more comfortable the very instant I felt his strong hands run down my upper body under the dress. His fingers were like flaming iron bars on fire and desire leaving a trail throughout his journey as his mouth ravished mine with absolutely no shame. Our kiss deepened as I pushed him toward the bed, and I struggled to take his shirt off with a faintless degree of conscience I still possessed. He took his pants off in a rather impatient way, groaning incoherently words against my ear as he felt my hand slip around his cock.

He was so desperate to see his gift that his fingers were hastily seeking any evidence of a zipper, bow, or buttons on my dress. But when I said "Let me show you your gift", I made him sit down on the edge of the bed while smiling in reaction to his lusting gaze. I began to dance for him as I took off my dress very slowly, and I saw his hungry blue eyes yearning for every inch of skin and lingerie being uncovered.

He pulled me so I could stand between his legs, and then his face plunged between my breasts as his hands moved steadily along some details of the corset. Then he became breathless as he felt with his hand the way my nipples got stiffened under the thin fabric of my lingerie. His hands followed a tortuous path down my back and I groaned as I felt them squeeze my butt again, and I held Jamie's hair tight so that I could seize his mouth possessively. I clearly wanted to remain dominant and I heard no complaints about it.

He didn't set up any kind of hindrance to stop me. Jamie was totally under my power.

His walls were completely down and all the determination he had displayed moments ago, faded away at every caress I made on his face, his abs, his cock. I was willing to witness him melt for me before the seduction game turns things around, so I smiled naughtily as I led his hand up to the top of my head, his fingers entangled with my hair while I knelt in front of him, his penis so stiff against my hand that it was hard for me to hold back my arousal at such pleasure.

I wanted to push him to the edge and Jamie was aware of that. The more my hands and my mouth worked swiftly against his cock, the more I heard my name and all my nicknames echoing weakly through the room. The words Jamie kept saying over and over again were always mixed with disconnected grunts coming out of my Scots mouth, which was the trigger I needed to take him a step further to the edge. His hands pulled my hair more firmly once or twice, forcing me to stare at him, and giving me one of the greatest pleasures in life as I saw his face and his breath break in reaction to my caresses.

He lifted my face with both hands and looked at me with the most flaming gaze I had ever seen:

"Sass- Sassenach." he spoke as if he was struggling to get back in charge of it. "Do ye have any idea what ye are doing to me?"

"Yes, I do..." I smiled naughtily before I headed back to my position, but he stopped me. "You know I do enjoy what I'm doing here, Jamie. A lot."

"I'm certainly not protesting about it, Sorcha..." one incredulous laugh echoed through the room. "Ye make me an extremely happy man, ye ken?" he stood up with a certain difficulty, pulling me quickly to stand in front of him. "But now it's my turn to express to ye how much I like to do it also and how happy I make ye feel".

As I stood up, Jamie slowly took off my lingerie as if unwrapping a delicate gift, and his fingers kept torturing me as they traced out gentle pathways. I laid down in bed, and I smiled as I watched him unfold the box that was by my side and take off some of the objects that we would use that night.

With my hands tied in padded handcuffs at the head of the bed and eyes blindfolded to "improve the other senses, Sassenach", I smirked as I felt the weight of his body move the mattress on both sides of my body before he began to deposit tempting kisses on my skin, beginning with my breasts.

As soon as he reached my ear, his deep voice, almost in a pledge tone, made all my body shiver:

"Now it's yer turn to reach the limit, Claire. I want to hear ye call out my name, moan at every caress, at every lick, at every bite," he said between words and wet kisses on my neck. "Do ye realize that I want to push ye to the edge so many times tonight and make ye lose yer bearings?" I nodded weakly and swallowed hard, he had barely touched my body and I no longer had the strength to express myself clearly.

Our son was not in the room next door and no neighbors would stare at us weirdly the next day, so there was no reason for holding back my screams. At all. At every kiss, lick, or bite I got from him, the louder I called his name, and the desire I felt to grip his hair was replaced by grunts and insistent complaints, followed along with giggles of sheer pleasure from Jamie.

He was eating me with his mouth. Literally.

I don't know how Jamie succeeded in being so persistent in his attempts during those moments when he decided to madden me even more under his body. Pouring on me some liquid which, by the smell, I assumed was strawberry syrup, Jamie played with every little inch of skin on my body, beginning with my belly. His mouth approached my breasts time and time again and Jamie would hear a frustrated grunt from me whenever his tongue didn't reach the most sensitive area. Our actions and reactions were like fuel that pushed us further and further into the abyss of that cliff. And, though slightly frustrated, I felt even more pleasure for having him so surrendered to me and so dominant at the same time.

I was absolutely ready for Jamie since I had laid eyes on him in the hotel bar, but listening to his grunt as he felt the wetness between my legs was much more exciting than I had expected. My legs were flexed, open to him, and Jamie had made me gasp when I felt his fingers slowly moving along the warm, slippery paths between my outer lips. Since I was blindfolded and with my hands tied, the only way I had to answer to the caresses I received was to roll on his hand. He wanted to keep on stretching the torture, so he began to rub my clit in circles along with the movement of his hand, making me cry out for more as I moved even more against his hand, feeling a great wave of pleasure.

His fingers were quickly replaced by his mouth, and while I moaned at each movement of his tongue, it was as if fireworks spread through my body. I knew he would send me over the cliff with his thrusts, I was waiting for it, but when I heard a loud grunt and I felt his mouth even more buried between my legs, it didn't take me long to twitch against his tongue, reaching my first climax of that night.

I pressed his head with my thighs as I wandered into that spiral of pleasure, shouting out his name amid moans until my twitching spasms settled against his mouth. He had crossed the very limits he had established, and I couldn't help but laugh, at the same time appalled and satisfied with his lack of control. I took his attention while caressing his body weakly with one of my feet:

"I thought you'd leave me on the edge of the cliff, Fraser... not that you'd push me off it so fast." I heard his laughter echo through the air as he promised revenge.

"I promise I will try harder next time, Sorcha." He kissed the inner part of my thigh hard and then smiled against my skin.

And, of course, he tried harder.

Suddenly I felt his fingers slipping slightly curved inside me, then the blend of his twitching movements with the way his thumb rub against my clit making my hip move faster and faster against his hand. The powerful pleasure waves that arose with every move made by the Scot left me absolutely amazed, and then the unspeakable sounds that came out of my mouth, with every caress he was giving me, were now mixed up with his groans.

I kept calling Jamie and he knew exactly what I needed, increasing the movement of his hands while our groans, filled with pleasure, reflected in the air. I felt another dizzying wave of pleasure grow inside me, but just as it was about to break, Jamie simply stopped all his movements abruptly, leaving me completely breathless and dizzy.

This time, his effort had worked out well. At least for him.

Even knowing he was up for that, I couldn't stop complaining, begging for more, and making Jamie giggle before talking:

"Have I let ye up on the edge of the cliff now, mo chridhe?" Jamie moved his hand against my clit for a few seconds, replacing it briefly for his tongue before he kept speaking. "What do ye want from me now, Claire?

"Please, Jamie..." I mumbled as I tried to pull him up with my legs, but he kept his head placed between them.

"Tell me, Claire. Do ye want me to end this torture?" His mouth sank in again, and he made me gasp when he pushed it away again. "Tell me what ye want me to do…"

"I need you, Jamie." My voice rose out of my throat as a whisper.

"But I'm already here, Claire." Acting cheeky, he licked hard his tongue against my clitoris and laughed as he heard another one of my pleas. "That's not what you have in mind? Oh, isn't it? Then be more cl…"

"Fuck, Jamie!" I finally gave in, completely out of breath, and said what he and I wanted to hear the most. "I need your cock inside me! Now!"

After laughing against my belly, he got up quietly out of bed and after a few moments, he got back to uncuff my hands before kissing my wrists. Jamie told me to keep the blindfold over my eyes, and he made me smile excitedly as I noticed the mattress moving around my body. I lifted my hips when he rubbed his penis against the vagina entrance, Jamie caressing my clit with the tip of his thumb and only quit torturing me when I begged him once again to fill me up.

Jamie leaned over my body, digging himself halfway inside me just before he took off my blindfold to finally stare at my eyes. He had so much desire trapped in those sapphire-colored eyes that I couldn't stop staring at them, still amazed to have such a wonderful man all at my disposal.

The lack of control I had when I was with Jamie was huge, since the first very moment, and of course, I was completely surrendered to him once again that night, but what still impressed me was to feel something so strong with someone and for someone. It had never been like this, neither before nor after Alexander. I had never felt so desired by someone as by Jamie, and never my entrustment had been as true as with that Scot. He owned me entirely, just like I owned him.

"And now, Claire. Tell me what do ye want for me to do?" I felt electricity flow through my whole body with every controlled movement he made inside me, and my legs tried to pull his body against mine in vain.

"Deeper, Jamie," I pulled his hip again and he smiled mockingly. "You damned Scot! I. Want. All. Of. You. Inside. Me!" I spoke pausingly, a kinky smile popped up on my face.

"Deeper, Sassenach?" at last feeling his cock filling me completely, an outgoing moan went out of our mouths and filled up everything around us. "Like this? Do ye want it that way?"

Of course, I couldn't answer, all I did was to roll over under him, moan disconnected words and call out his name incessantly at each and every blow. Our movements on those sheets got quickly-paced while our mouths and tongues tried to suppress with panting kisses the shouts and cries that left our mouths.

Our climax arrived intensely, and Jamie's final movements brought me a breathtaking feeling which spread quickly as a huge chill from the center of my pleasure to all the edges of my body. Instantly his mouth started to call out my name frantically among grunts, the increase of his own pleasure leading him up to the last and final movement deep inside of me.

I felt alive and loved when I was with Jamie, and complete as never before. Since he had come back to my life, of course, I always recognized Alexander's undisguised presence mixed with every one of his gestures, inside or outside a room. Sometimes just a glance, or a smile or a touch sending me back to what I had lived with him years ago. But there, on that very night among those four walls, I had the Scot I met at The Heat giving me all the pleasure I was craving for and at the same time as he took all the pleasure he craved from me. When I spotted him so delightfully lustful over me, it was as if I was witnessing the recovery of a piece of his personality that he had clearly suppressed up until then, probably due to the unconscious fear he had of losing me again. Now he seemed to be somehow whole.

By leaning his body against mine, his uncontrolled moans mixed with several "oh Claire" and "I love ye" was like music to my ears. I felt even more whole, as if such things were even possible, because having Jamie there, so panting while nestled over me, gave me the confidence that he no longer had any fear of showing that he was totally committed to both of us, unlike in the past.

"Does it ever stop?" he asked as if he was distressed, taking my attention quickly. "The wanting ye never stop?" I held him tightly against my body, our foreheads stuck together while I kept staring at him. “I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe, Claire."

"I don't want it to stop. Never!" I kissed him fondly. "I love you, James Fraser. I love everything about you, all your different "I's"... And I want all of them for myself, do you understand me?" he smiled slightly shyly before spinning our bodies to set me on top of him.

"I love ye more and more every second, Sassenach."



***



"Fergus, listen to your father and all the grown-ups in Scotland!" We were in the airport lobby and I crouched down so that my boy would listen to me better. "I don't want to hear any complaints about your behavior when you come home, okay?" I glanced at my Scot, who was slightly concerned about the trip, and I smiled briefly to try to reassure him.

"Understood, maman! And I promise to take care of Jamie as well!" Father and son glanced at each other and a big smile overtook them.

It was August 23 and Fergus was on vacation from school and I hardly felt the time go by during those almost four months I was with Jamie. Our lives were packed with Fergus’s classes and exams, besides our work at the hospital and the fire department. We spent many free days to put Fergus and Jamie's legal life in order, as well as sharing dinners, evenings, or any moment that might come to get father and son closer and closer. We were still not living together, and Jamie and I didn't want to rush things between us mainly for Fergus. I felt Fergus even more comfortable in his father's company and that trip, even if for a sad reason, would certainly make them even closer.

As much as I loved the idea that my son would travel with his father alone for the first time, the real reason we were at that airport was due to a father's hopeless request to see his son for the last time. Brian, Jamie's father, called for him in the middle of the last evening. He had suffered a stroke and, right after Jenny's call, that terrible news made Jamie feel completely lost. Jamie's gaze and tone of voice were heartbreaking as he paraphrased his sister's speech saying that his father needed to see him as soon as possible. It brought to his eyes a visible fear that it wouldn't be possible to settle things between them anymore.

Since I couldn't take any day off from the hospital due to my shifts, I thought it was better not to delay them any longer so they could fly to Inverness. Instead, I would use the opportunity that they wouldn't be in London to schedule some shifts so that I could get some free time in case the worst happened to his father.

"Jamie, don't forget I'm just a phone call away, okay?" the Scot hugged me, a worried smile engraved on his face.

"Dinna fash, I'll take good care of our boy!" Fergus looked happily at his father, who smiled at him as he quickly stroked his head.

"I have no doubts!" I kissed him tenderly on the lips, hugging him softly to try to bring some of the comfort that his eyes were craving. "Safe travel and don't forget to text me when you land..." I kissed Fergus' forehead. " Either of you!"

Fergus held his inseparable backpack behind his back while Jamie carried a bag with their clothes, and the smiles and nods we exchanged as they walked away offered me a beautiful image of father and son, a perfect sight to be etched in my mind. But as soon as they disappeared behind the departure gate, unexplainable angst arose within me. It was the first time Fergus was traveling without my presence, and even trusting Jamie completely, it was still difficult to transfer some of the responsibilities that had been mine alone for so many years.

I sighed deeply as I tried to shake off the unexpected fear I felt before I finally headed to Jamie's car in the parking lot and finally began another working day. Fergus would meet his grandparents, uncles, and cousins. My boy would finally have a big family to relate with and I hoped he could be the one connection Jamie needed to finally make up to his parents.

My Scot had been through enough because of this.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter: 

Led Zeppelin - Thank You

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Robbie Williams – Angels

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POV Jamie

"Jamie... Uncle Murtagh is Scottish just like you, right?" Fergus started to talk as soon as we sat down on the airplane seats. "Why didn't he join us, then?" My boy and his thoughtful questions.

"Well... Aye, Murtagh is Scottish, lad, but he doesna belong to our family." I gave him half a smile as I tapped softly on his leg. " That's why he's not coming along with us..."

"Oh, I got it..." he fitted himself better in the seat, fastening his belt the same way as I did. "I just thought he was maybe part of your family or your dad's friend... Sometimes Uncle Murtagh sounds like your dad."

"Well, he's bossy enough to be an excellent father!" We giggled. "Brian and he have almost the same age, that's right, but yer grandfather has not been very present in my life after he got divorced from yer grandmother... I guess that's why they never met each other, anyway".

"Aw, that’s sad..." Fergus was really upset for me. "I have some classmates at school who also have divorced parents and, I don't know, some of them seem unhappy.”

"In fact, for some families, it is often best for parents to break up, there are several couples who split up and everything remains the same for their children, sometimes it even gets better... But, there are other cases where parents canna stop transferring their disagreements to their children, and in the end, they move away from their kids..." No matter how much I tried to speak in a more widespread manner, of course, I was referring to my own experience as an example.

"And it was like that with you and Aunt Jenny?" I stared at Fergus quite surprised, I still wasn't used to his sharp insights.

"Aye, that's how it was..." I smiled, slightly awkward, and right after I spotted on his face one more doubt to be cleared up.

"And does your father regret doing this to you and that's why he called you?"

That was the question I had asked myself since the night before when Jenny called me in angst to tell me everything that had happened to Brian and how he had called me to see him at the hospital. Had he regretted all the things he had done, or rather, the things he had stopped doing when he didn't really choose to be our father? He had suffered a stroke and he might die due to that, and not knowing the real reason why he called for me in a hurry in the middle of the night didn't allow me to have a full night's sleep.

Even though I didn't get enough sleep last night, the only positive thing was having Claire's warmth by my side. We didn't live together yet, however, she had been resolute when she insisted that I would stay at her house to at least rest a little until it was time to head for the airport. Being able to hug her and watch her sleep was one of the biggest relieves from the mixed feelings occupying my mind during all those hours.

Despite being worried to leave Claire alone at home and with no prediction of when we would be able to return to London, I traveled more at ease because I knew she would be fine with Lamb, Joe, and Murtagh. I had made explicit recommendations not to leave her alone! What I wanted the most was for Claire to travel along with us, but as she was the youngest hired physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital, they didn't allow many benefits nor privileges to her. She had only a few extra hours and for that reason, Claire would take the opportunity to spend all those days in our absence to increase this number. And she may possibly be using it earlier than we imagined. We hadn't received an official medical report before the plane took off, however, according to Jenny, things weren't very good for Mr. Fraser.

During the days in Scotland, we would be staying at Lallybroch. The farm had been in  Ian's family for generations and my sister and brother-in-law had lived there since their marriage. Over there Jenny was able to establish roots and raise their two bairns with the freedom she always dreamed of. She worked with Ian in a very unique niche in the livestock market: the training of border collie breeds for herding cattle and sheep throughout Scotland. Their business had grown very steadily, especially during the last five years, and that was due mainly to the couple's efforts to make things work in all spheres, including in the line of work they had chosen.

They were a wonderful role model family.

Lallybroch had been a part of my life since I was very young. At that time, Ian's grandparents were the official residents of the place and many of my weekends were spent in the company of the Murrays. As I grew up and things in my family got worse, that was the place I could truly be myself, the only place where I felt protected when I needed to avoid arguments from my parents, and the spot that still had my heart and soul even after so many years.

The property was located a few miles from the town of Inverness, and consequently far from the hospital where Brian was, so the arrangement with Jenny for that morning was that once we arrived at the airport, we would rent a car before heading to the hospital to visit my father.

To rent a car at the last minute wasn't the most efficient thing to be done inside an airport and I saw in Jenny's worried face that we had taken longer than expected:

"Bràthair!" Jenny was near the main entrance of the Inverness hospital and waved as soon as she saw me arrive with Fergus. "I was worried about yer delay, was it that hard to rent the car?"

"Airports are a constant turmoil, Jenny..." I smiled warmly as I wrapped her in my embrace, and she exhaled with relief against my chest. I could see the exhaustion in her dark eyes. "Fergus, do ye remember yer Aunt Jenny?" They already knew each other through the video calls we made with the family once a week, however, Fergus used to get somewhat shy when he met someone in person for the first time.

"Hi, Aunt Jenny..." he nodded, still a little shy. "Isn't little Jamie and little Ian here?"

"Hi, honey!" she crouched down in front of my boy, caressing his face with affection before she hugged him and smiled tearfully at me. "No, they stayed at home... but soon ye'll be playing together!"

"How's Brian, Jenny?" I said, and my voice came out weaker than I expected.

"He's fine, Jamie..." she sighed as she stood up, trying to smile at me. "He is a little better than last night, at least. The medical report was more positive than they expected, but his condition is still critical. He's awake, even if a little sleepy because of the medications. Since he's still in the ICU, Fergus won't be allowed to meet his grandfather now. For this reason, I already gave yer name at the reception so ye can get in there..." she gently stroked my arm while hugging Fergus with her other hand. "Ye should go right now, I’ll stay here with him in the meantime..."

"Thank ye, piuthar." I kissed her forehead before turning my attention to my boy. "Fergus, stay for a while with yer aunt, I promise it willna take long for me to come back," he nodded and I knew he wanted to say something. "What do ye want to ask, son?"

"Huh... Is your father going to die, Jamie?" he stared at his feet before looking at me with his blue eyes.

"Well. We hope not, lad..." I caressed his face as I kept a soft smile. "Yer grandfather is receiving the best treatment here at the hospital, and I hope he comes out well from here." he agreed with his head, finally giving me back the smile.

"Let's have some ice cream, Fergus?" Said Jenny, stretching her hand so that my boy could hold it.

I could only smile in response, and my heart overflowed with joy when I spotted Fergus bouncing as he held tightly his aunt's hand while crossing the street. I was very grateful to have my sister there, however, the more away they got from me, the harder reality hit me. Unfortunately, I wasn't there in Scotland to enjoy a summer vacation with my boy. I was just standing at the front door of Inverness Hospital to see my father who was very sick. And over there, alone and without the need to show strength or emotional stability to anyone, I realized for the first time the lack of courage I felt to face everything that was about to come.

I walked with hesitating steps, my doubts and uncertainties increasing suddenly with each step I took through the long white corridors. After wandering through several places that always seemed to be the same, I finally found the ICU sign on top of a wide light blue door. It was the moment I feared the most and, pressing my fists tightly, I sighed deeply once more before ringing the bell at the intensive care unit.

Things that happened after I crossed that line were as if I was experiencing a firefighter training. A very short and serious male nurse immediately instructed me on how to sanitize my hands, and he offered me all the appropriate outfit to enter the room where my father was. The guy seemed familiar to give all the necessary instructions to each visitor of the ICU patients, so much so that he was a little uncaring. However, even though it seemed like a usual routine for him, I must confess that I got more worried about my father with all that strictness.

Was he that bad?

Glenn, my father's wife, left the room slightly jumpy, and she pulled her mask down just before seeing me in the hallway and smiled at me. Her straight brown hair and light green eyes were in perfect contrast with her skin tone and, although she was clearly overwhelmed by everything that happened in the past hours, I could notice that the pictures clearly didn't do justice to her beauty. We never met each other in person, so of course, we would stay still for a few seconds, wondering what to do or what to say. We had no idea how to start a conversation in such circumstances, that was very clear, but her relieved face, when she saw me, made it clear that all the effort I made to travel to Inverness was worth it.

The walls in his room were even whiter than other parts of the hospital, possibly as a result of the many lamps in the ceiling or perhaps due to the grip that was suffocating me. The machine that measured my father's physical parameters kept beeping as if they were part of a funeral symphony. He was asleep, at least he seemed to be, due to his closed eyes and the pace of his breathing, the sight of the cannulas in his nostrils, and the vein accesses on his hands brought me instantly back to when I met Fergus. My heart got heavy when seeing the whole picture, and suddenly my breathing got irregular while trying to control my nerves.

As I tried to get used to the clarity reflected from those walls, a weak voice called out my name and caught my full attention:

"Jamie. Is... is that ye, ma mac...?" Brian spoke in a low voice, and his voice was shaky and weak, the exact opposite of his normal tone.

"Aye, father." His hand slowly moved to find mine but struggled as I walked toward his bedside. "Ye asked for me and now I'm here." I approached him, holding his hand gently, and then I sat down on the chair next to him.

"Oh, Jamie... Good... that ye managed to... managed to come..." the sound of his voice sounded a bit stronger now, but his words were still briefly trapped.

"Shhh, father." I caressed his hand. "Ye dinna need to say a word, okay? I will spend a few days here in Scotland and ye need to be quiet now, ye need to recover properly.

"I can't relax, mo mac... I have so many things to say to ye..." he struggled to stroke my hand with his thumb. "I pretended all these years, while living in denial... while refusing my past... while refusing ye both."

"Please, ye dinna have to do this right now." I tried to keep my voice steady because his vital signs had changed a lot since I got there and I just didn't want him to feel worse again. "Please save yer energy, aye?"

"I want to do this and I will, Jamie... I dinna want to be buried with this regret." There was so much pain in his voice, enough to turn one's stomach. "I'm not gonna die without saying everything I feel..." His grief was so great that he made me swallow hard. "I had already talked to yer sister today and nothing makes me happier and more relieved than to have ye here now..." I felt so moved. In that very instant we couldn’t hold back the tears. Brian took a deep breath before he could continue talking, his usual voice appearing as he adjusted himself in bed. "All these years I unconsciously rejected ye and Jenny because I had a terrible relationship with your mother. For that reason, I left ye two with no father for all those years. I have failed ye, son" he sniffed softly and his ashamed eyes sought mine. "Glenn has always tried to make me understand how important it was for me to re-establish my relationship with ye two, and now, with Phillip getting older, I realize very clearly how much he needs a father, how much a son needs a father..."

"I'm glad ye could understand this, and I forgive ye for all these years." Even though it was a slightly sudden reaction, I needed to calm him down. "But I think we should talk about this when ye feel better, Brian.”

"No, I'm well enough to have this conversation. And listen to me, boy, I will not let you refer to me as Brian!" His eyes and voice showed great discomfort, the sound coming out strongly for the first time that morning. "I may be Brian to many, but to my children, I will always be a father." He had tears in his eyes as he sighed once more. "I want to always be yer father and I need ye to forgive me, mo mac. Truly," now the tears were in my eyes as well, the movements of my face trying in vain to control my feelings. "I beg ye to forgive me for all the times ye had to deal with family issues all by yourself, no child or teenager should have to deal with this kind of thing." I instinctively pulled out my hand that was placed over the mattress, and my harsh gaze, that had come out in response to what he was saying, left him unsettled. "Huh... I know that most of the things that have happened in yer life have been an indirect response to everything ye experienced in the past, and for that, I also ask for yer forgiveness..."

With plenty of courage to take the next step, I cleared my throat several times as I took a deep breath before I could stare at him once more and state everything that was locked inside my heart:

"I have a son. His name is Fergus. He is eight years old and I only met him four months ago." The look he gave me was a mixture of doubt and pain, the sadness engraved on the twitching of his chin muscles. "Ye must be wondering why I only met him four months ago... well, because at the time I couldn't show the love I felt for his mother and she disappeared from my life before I knew she was pregnant."

In that very instant, when Brian understood why I was saying all these things, he sighed deeply as he looked at me again. It was still very difficult for me to say something so personal and, as I nervously rubbed the upper thighs, my eyes quickly moved away from my father's sorrowful gaze. I kept talking:

"I'm not here to blame ye for anything, after all, I am conscious that I have the biggest share of guilt, but do ye understand that all this time I lost with my boy won't come back?" I said it in grief and, when I turned my eyes to him once again, I saw thick tears falling down his cheeks. He knew what it was like not to be able to recover the lost time. He stretched his hand weakly in the air to reach mine, and I smirked poorly before reciprocating the fondness. "I want ye to know him and to play with him. I want him to have an experience with ye that I didna have after the divorce... I want to experience through him yer affection and your care while he grows up." I cried as I smiled behind my mask, receiving an emotional smile from my father. "He deserves to be really loved and that's why I demand ye to do your part to be better soon, do ye understand me?"

"Ye brought him to Scotland?" His voice expressed a thrill that I had never heard from him, except when he spoke of Phillip.

"Yes, and we will manage to stay a few more days here until ye get better!" His hand tapped mine cheerfully in response.

"Great! Once I get out of ICU I want to meet my grandson!" Our happy eyes met again. "Don't forget to take him to Lallybroch. He will love it as ye did."

"Aye, Ian and Jenny will host us! Fergus will have a lot of fun just like me, I'm sure of it!" A noise coming from the door caught our attention, it was the nurse announcing that our time was up. "Well, I need to leave ye so you can rest, but I'll come back tomorrow morning to check on ye, aye?"

"Aye, Jamie." A relieved sigh came out of his chest. " Thank ye again for coming, son."

"I'm glad to see ye again, father." I caressed his hand once again fondly as I got up from the chair.

Claire, even though she was not with me personally, was present at every step I took in Scotland, starting with the phone call I gave her from inside the hospital bathroom as soon as I left the ICU. I cried so hard while on the phone that, at first, her words were not clear enough for me to listen to her properly. But then those strong, repetitive instructions came into my ears as if they were magic words, and, once I returned to my old self, I finally managed to speak to her about everything that had happened with me and my father in those 30 minutes.

Claire was one of the few people with whom I had spoken about all my family issues and she was the most encouraging person for me to deal with them, one at a time. During that phone call, she kept saying she was really proud of me, so happy that I finally managed to express what I felt inside, but when I finished telling her everything, it was Claire who needed to be reassured by me.

Even though I felt emotionally drained after that roller coaster, I no longer felt insecure. The doubts I had when I walked along those corridors moments before seemed to have disappeared. There were still many things to happen between my father and me so that our lives could become more connected, but we had taken a big step in the right direction and I was very pleased about it.

I was walking along the same white corridors earlier, so absorbed by the thoughts that popped up after that difficult conversation and the emotional breakdown I had inside the bathroom, that I couldn't understand for a moment what I had just heard from Fergus as soon as I found them outside the hospital. I stared at him for many seconds without saying anything, and my face and body froze as I tried to absorb his words and the emotion that filled me.

"Hey, Da! Are you there?" He moved his hand in front of my face. "Tell me how Grandpa is!" His face was incredibly shiny that morning, even if he was tired due to the flight.

I hadn't heard him call me father yet and my body was shaking so much that I had no idea what to say. Looking silently at Jenny, I received such a typical smile from her, and I knew right away she had something to do with it.

Before I managed to speak, I knelt down to stay at Fergus' height while I tried to control my breathing, giving him a moving smile:

"Yer grandfather is doing a little better than I imagined, and he's very excited to meet ye!

"And when can I meet him, Da?" Oh, I could hear him calling me Da forever.

"As soon as he moves into a room where a child is allowed to enter..." I caressed his face. "I hope it happens before we leave, right?"

"Oh oui, I really want to meet Grandpa! I never had a grandfather, the papa of papa Arthur had passed away when I was born and his maman didn't like me as much as Uncle Lamb and Uncle Murtagh do..." I loved the way Fergus had found to keep having his papa even having me as Da.

"Well, and I'm sure he'll love ye very much!" I stood and hugged my boy while doing the same thing to my sister, speaking softly by her ear so that Fergus wouldn't listen. "I want to know everything that happened for ye to accomplish such magic, Mrs. Murray!"

"I used some female psychology, bràthair. We have the skill to get inside children's heads," she blinked one of her eyes cheekily, laughing as she leaned her head against my chest while we walked towards the parking lot.

Murtagh always tried to make me and Claire use the skills of his professional colleagues to try to help Fergus understand more effectively what was happening at that point in his life; but we both, as his parents, decided to use all our knowledge to help him in the best possible way, mentally speaking. Fergus became more and more relaxed in my company during those months, but when I saw what happened in less than an hour during an unpretentious talk between my sister and Fergus, which he had with a person who was not qualified in the field, I understood what Murtagh wanted to say to me months ago. He was a former psychologist for more than 10 years now and I thought that maybe he was out of practice to make a diagnosis; however, it was clear to me at that moment that he hadn't lost a bit of his professional intuition while evaluating the needs for Fergus since he found out that I was his father.

I gotta hand it to him, this time I was the stubborn one and not Murtagh.



***



"I need ye to tell me about yer conversation with Fergus, Jenny!" It was late Tuesday afternoon and the boys were playing soccer while my sister and I were observing two border collies being trained in one of the covered places of the dog training center.

"Well, my bairns are a bit older than yer Fergus and I was always a very attentive mother to my children, as ye ken..." of course she was very attentive, and being around the children most of the time made all the difference. "Hey, ye dinna have to put on that sad face, bràthair!" She knew how to read my thoughts and how to bring a smile to my face. "Ye can rest assured that with time ye'll get the hang of it, ye're a terrific father!" Her hand briefly stroked my back before she kept talking. "Anyway, ye had already told me that he didna call ye father, and during the talk I had with him, I managed to ask him why..."

"And how did that happen?"

Jenny told me that they were sitting face to face in the cafeteria and the fact that Fergus called me by name was an excellent starting point. While they were talking, she finally found a way to ask why he did that. Even if Jenny had seen in his eyes some embarrassment between his sudden silence, Jenny told me that Fergus gave his answer pretty fast: "Well, because that is his name”. She giggled softly and, managing to deepen the conversation a bit more telling  Fergus that parents really want to be called parents, Jenny finally figured out the real reason why he kept calling me by my name: he simply didn't know how to call me dad without replacing Arthur's role. Jenny kept thinking for a few moments while having ice cream with Fergus until she asked if she could suggest something different than usual and he accepted.

"He asked me if it was important to ye if he calls you Da and I said aye!" She grinned as she spoke, clearly satisfied with the outcome of her plan. That was definitely something genetic! "That ye loved him very much and that way ye two could have yer very special code!"

"It seems that with every Da I hear my heart keeps growing inside my chest!" I sighed, unable to hold back my tears. "I feel truly happy, Jenny, with Claire and the family who so suddenly entered my life!" She caressed my cheek, with tears in her eyes as well. "Fergus and Claire are everything to me, it seems that I went into hibernation all these years until I found them again.”

"Ye were preparing yerself to embrace them in yer life, Jamie!" She held me tight. "Ye look so mature now, bràthair... I'm so happy for ye, for all of ye!" She smiled and her eyes looked for mine. "I couldna waste the opportunity to understand Fergus' mind... maybe he didna like the things he'd hear from me, but I chose to take a chance!"

"And it worked!" I kissed her head while still wrapping my arms around her body. "I can hardly wait to tell Claire!"

"And then why dinna ye just do it?"

The late afternoon medical report had been very hopeful for everyone in the family, and after a day filled with new adventures for Fergus with the boys and the delicious dinner that Jenny cooked to greet us. I felt such a peaceful and positive energy in the air. Ian told one of his jokes that always made us laugh while we were drinking one of the most delicious wines produced in the area when the face of my Sassenach appeared on the cell phone screen. We had spoken through text messages during the day, but that little surprise call from her felt as if she was there with me somehow.

"Good evening, mo nighean donn!" I spoke as I walked towards the living room window and couldn't stop smiling, the sight of her face was like the cherry on top of that remarkable day.

"Good evening, Mr. Fraser!" Even if she wore her glasses, I could see the brightness in her eyes. "How are you guys doing?"

"Fergus is fine, Sorcha!" She laughed back after my cheerful smile, I knew exactly who she was worried about. "Do you want to talk to him?"

"Huh... is he around?" She pretended to be casual, yet the jumpy way she moved on the couch showed quite the opposite.

"He's upstairs in the kids' room making his bed, but I can go to him while we talk..."

"No! It is fine." She suddenly became silent, her gaze distant from her screen. "It's just very odd not having you two around..."

"We miss ye too, Claire." Her wrinkled chin showed up in an instant, followed by a quivering sigh. "How were things at yer uncle's place?" I spoke in an attempt to ease her sorrow somewhat.

"It was great!" Her smile appeared once again after a little sniff. "He loves to show me the old archeology movies so that I can feel like I was in the desert again!"

"He knows how to keep his children busy, right?" She agreed and laughed. "Umm, Claire... I have some news to tell ye..." her brows wrinkled in question. "I wanted to wait until we got back, but I dinna think Fergus can keep that hidden for very long anyway…"

"Hmm, just tell me!"

"Fergus said something to me today..." I pretended to be serious, sighing deeply. "In fact, one very important thing."

"Ah! Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie!" her hand fluttered in the air and her image shook a little. "Stop dragging it out, you bloody Scot!" We laughed at each other.

"He called me Da, Sassenach!" I widened my eyes as I whispered to try to control my excitement. "Not Jamie or James, but Da!" her face froze and it wasn't a defect in the image.

"But... how?" She laughed in disbelief, her hand covering her mouth.

"Jenny." I laughed silently. "In less than an hour, she found out all the reasons why he didna called me dad and she suggested that he should call me Da. Simple as that!"

"Jenny is pretty persuasive indeed, now I understand what you mean!" Tears began to fill our eyes. "Oh, my love, you must be so happy!"

"Much more than happy!" She smiled thrilled, grooming her hair unwittingly in the sexiest possible way. "Even though I dinna think it's possible, I feel even more complete now, Sassenach!"

"And I don't know how it's possible, but I'm even happier with you, James Fraser!



***



It was already Thursday and, just like the last few days, Jenny and I visited our dad in the morning while the boys stayed with Ian and Mrs. Crook. Brian was recovering fast and, when we met up with the doctor that day, there couldn't have been better news. Dr. Borras, carrying a sincere smile of relief on his face, informed us that, if everything went as expected, Brian would be moved to a room the next day and would be able to receive the children's visits, which made Fergus so happy and full of expectations for the future meeting with his grandfather.

It didn't take more than one afternoon for my boy to appear that he was born in Lallybroch. He ran all over the place and already knew several parts of the huge house, of course always with Jenny's boys, Jamie and Ian. It was so wonderful to witness the relationship between the boys who had the same names as my friend and I; to watch them made me remember when Ian and I used to play between those same walls, over those same lands, exploring every corner as if we were in a great adventure movie. Lallybroch gave me wonderful memories of a healthy childhood and I knew Fergus would carry them the same way from then on.

Although I wished Fergus had many memories as possible with his cousins, I also longed for him to create some with me in my home country, so at least for a moment during the afternoon I called him to walk or ride the fields of the property while I introduced him to some hidden gems from my perspective. That Thursday afternoon, on our second horseback ride through the highlands, now with one of the most beautiful typical Scottish views of the property as a background, I finally dared to share something that had crossed my mind, and that required Fergus' help to accomplish it.

I wanted to ask Claire to marry me, and I, although obviously the guy who loved to plan things, this time I wanted Fergus to be part of the decisions for the perfect plan and thus surprise her even more. He was sitting in front of me on the horse's saddle and initially, he got very quiet after I told him what my future intentions were with his mother, so quiet that I confess I thought Fergus hadn't appreciated the idea of me marrying Claire.

But when I was almost beginning a different subject, his excited voice caught me off guard:

"Da, I don’t know, why don't you use something from your work to ask her to marry you?" I smiled relieved, my heart melting once again when I heard him call me Da.

"It's a good idea, mo mac..." Claire really liked it when I wore my uniform, so I could think of something interesting to do after truly proposing to her. "Let's think about what to do, but I think it will work!"

"You can buy her ring here, I think she is going to love it..." of course, the Scottish jewels were beautiful and they suited Claire very well. "There are so many beautiful things here that Aunt Jenny showed me that day I went with her and the boys to town..." I stroked his arm before hugging him fondly, my chin fitting perfectly over the top of his head. We remained for a few moments in silence, observing that lovely orange sunset at the horizon, that fresh landscape dazzling all our senses in a way which only Scotland could offer until Fergus decided to surprise me once again. "Huh, Da..." he turned his face back briefly with a cheeky smile on his face. "I think it's about time you moved in..." why didn't he warn me when he decided to melt my heart once again? "Maman seems to get a bit lost when you're not with us..." we giggled together.

"Well, we can solve these two things very quickly, lad!" I kissed the crown of his head, and then Fergus laughed when I tickled his belly.

As soon as the sun set behind the mountains, we slowly rode back to the main house, and at last, I could feel the sense of fullness that people talk so much about. I had my son standing next to me, accepting me entirely after so many rough turns in our relationship and, even if we weren't making any noise except for our breaths during the ride, the happiness in that comfortable silence between us was all I ever wanted in life.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Mumford and Sons – Pictured You

Youtube // Spotify

 

James Arthur – Certain Things (feat. Chasing Grace)

Youtube // Spotify

 

 

 

POV J amie

Everywhere I went something always reminded me of Claire, so much so that her face popped up in my mind only by the smell of the country flowers, the taste of a typical Scottish meal or simply by seeing Fergus having fun all over Murray's land. My mind kept on reminding me of my Sassenach, and the moment I missed her the most was during the conversations I had with Jenny and Ian right after dinner.

The three of us have been close friends since the first year of school, and we have been there for each other throughout the years of our childhood and adolescence. Even though we had been apart from each other for so many years and with a different kind of relation than when I was living in Scotland, there, in that house with so many memories, we were once again just Jamie, Ian and Jenny, the trio that was always ready for another adventure through the highlands, to play football near the house or to build another wooden object with my friend's grandfather. Of course, we weren't as active as we used to be in the past, but to see the same kind of friendship between our children, with the same purity as ours, made it possible for us to once again share a sort of unmatched sensation that is only ours. Just like old times.

However, the evening plans for that Thursday had changed and I was eager to have a completely different conversation than the previous nights. Jenny invited our mother to dinner so that she could finally get to know her grandson face to face, and I decided it would be the perfect time to talk to my mother. I was still feeling the urge to take the first steps to deal with those family matters around me, or at least try to play my part to make things better.

This time it was for real, without any masks covering our faces or blackout curtains to make us believe that everything was fine.

The sound of the taxicab reaching the front door late that afternoon made Jenny's kids rush out to welcome their grandmother, and their frantic talk slightly intimidated Fergus, who remained sitting on the couch in the lounge, while the grown-ups headed for the lobby to meet Ellen. I called for him to accompany me and Fergus smiled shyly before running to hold my hand, hiding behind me as if he needed my protection if something went wrong.

I was also anxious to see my mother. It had been over a year since I had seen her, and even if we kept in touch by phone, the conversation I was planning to have with her could break whatever boundaries established between us until now. I was concerned that things wouldn't work out well between us or that our relationship wouldn't evolve in any meaningful way. But when I saw her entering the main door, something told me that everything would be fine after all.

She smiled as she hugged my sister and Ian. Watching her during those moments made me notice things about her appearance that I hadn't noticed until then. Apart from her more distinctive facial lines, I could see that her long, naturally straight hair had a lighter red color than in the past. How had I not noticed such a significant change? Perhaps because she usually kept her hair tied back in a bun or a braid? Or was it because I unconsciously failed to actually see my mother during all those years?

Our eyes met in the midst of my daydream and, as I walked with Fergus beside me, I hugged her in a restrained and lengthy way, smiling at her silently before I finally introduced my son to his grandmother. Even though she already knew of her grandson's existence and had seen him through video calls, I could see her eyes shining brightly as they laid sight on my boy. She was so overwhelmed to meet him that she couldn't nor intended to hold back her smile. There, bending down in front of her grandson while talking to him and caressing his face, my mother couldn't hide what her heart felt; her feelings were shown in a truthful way that I had only witnessed when I saw her playing or having conversations with the children in our family.

Ellen knew how to win everyone's attention. She had always been exceptionally tender with Jenny's boys, and her radiant excitement had always fascinated all the kids around her, ever since my childhood. And with Fergus, things weren't any different. Although he was shy at first, he was now happy and definitely in love with his grandmother. His smile got even wider when he received a gentle cuddle from her or when Ellen teased him or told him something, which made me have big expectations for our future as a family.



***

"Ian, may I use yer office for a moment?" We had just finished eating dinner and the kids were playing on the living room rug while the grown-ups still were seated at the table.

"Sure, Jamie!" He gestured in the air while holding the glass. " Make yerself at home, my friend!"

" Mother..." I quickly caught the attention of the redhead who sat across from me at the table. "Can we talk for a second?

"Oh Jamie, of course." She got up a little jumpy. "Is there anything wrong?"

"No, no!" I calmed her down with a wide smile as I followed her movements. "But I think we need to talk before I go back to London, right?"

I walked slowly beside her for a short distance and, the closer we got to the office, the more I could sense her concern growing by the minute, especially from her face and eyes. I turned on the lights and poured some whisky for us both as Ellen sat down on one of the armchairs in front of the window. I could glimpse her worried face, her restless hands over her lap, and her anguished breath stirring her chest.

As I finally made myself comfortable beside her, I took a deep breath before I started talking:

"Well, Mother..." I coughed to try to clear the discomfort lodged down my throat. "I have already spoken with Brian about our past and I believe that ye and I need to resolve our differences once and for all. I believe we should find a solution for our past to avoid it from happening over and over again," I spoke effusively, and once the silence settled down, we looked shyly at one another, "and for that reason, I need ye to listen to me."

She nodded, drinking a big shot of whisky before looking at me again. I took a deep breath and made myself comfortable in the chair once again.

"Jenny and I went through many struggles in our teens and also in our adult years because of the unsolved things within our family. Please, I want to make it clear that I'm not saying this to find anyone to blame. We all have responsibility for what happened and all the consequences after that, but I wanted to share with ye something concerning Fergus that ye dinna ken yet." She settled down better in the chair as she nodded, her face was clearly uneasy from what would happen next. "Ye already ken that I met Fergus almost four months ago, but what ye dinna ken is the reason for that..." my voice faded away for a while, overwhelmed by emotion. "Well... I didna ken how to deal with what I felt for Claire, let alone to describe what I felt for her. So things between us both slipped out of my hands to a point where she disappeared from my life without telling me that she was pregnant".

"Oh, mo mac!" She contained a small hiccup with the palm of her hand, her sapphire-colored eyes stunned to hear what I said. "I had no idea..."

"She has endured so much pain during all these years and I thank God for this new opportunity He has given us..." I sighed deeply, then I smiled thrilled. "Claire means everything to me, Mom. Always has! Even through all these years apart, my heart never stopped being hers". Ellen smiled, clearly moved as she gently laid her hand against my knee. "I ken how a true feeling works in a person's life, and I never wanted for ye to be unhappy in love, mother. That was never my intention when I confronted all the men in yer life," her cheek quickly turned red, and I pressed her hand as if I said everything was fine. "But I have always ken that they warna good men for ye."

"Ye never accepted any of them, James. In fact, the only one ye accepted was yer father," well, Fergus took something after me. "And it got worse and worse as ye grew up." Her smile vanished by the end of the sentence, and her gaze remained focused on the inside of her glass.

"I ken our quarrels reached wild dimensions in my late teens and I apologize for that. Sometimes I didna even ken what we were discussing about..." I sighed regretfully while turning my head to face the darkness through the window. "But that guy who stole yer jewelry was the last straw for me." I turned my face towards her and then I drank all the scotch in just one sip.

"I never listened to ye because yer behavior became a pattern in yer teenage years." Well, there are always two sides to the same story. "I already expected to hear yer disapproval and, not to mention the fact that ye didna want to see me happy with anyone but yer father, all I could feel was yer unrestrained jealousy.”

"Of course I was jealous, Mother! Ye were the woman of my life, the only one I had to protect, and I didna want to see ye suffer!" I said it more harshly than I had planned, and I smiled in shame as a way to apologize to her. "But it always went beyond jealousy, I was sure he wasn't a good guy and it wasn't just a feeling, I saw him doing all that with my own eyes, but ye wouldn't listen to me." That sudden memory made my heart ache so hard that I had to hide my gaze in the bookshelf in front of us. "Ye seemed so bewitched by him..."

"I'm sae sorry, Jamie." Her sigh caught my attention and, as I looked into her eyes, I saw silent tears flowing down her cheeks. "Ye have no idea how much. The only thing I was looking for was to be happy again, like I had been with yer father..."

"I cannot remember ye and my father being happy…”

"Oh, darling... we were." She attempted to smile, but I could see the pain right in her eyes. "We met each other at a very young age and we’ve been married for over a decade. Although, we couldn't deal with our differences, so our relationship was worn out and we broke up in the worst possible way. But the worst part was to get ye two involved in our arguments," her heartened look met mine. "Ye guys didna deserve it at all, no child deserves to be drawn into something like that, and I dinna ken what I was thinking, what we both were thinking..."

"Mom, it's okay, ye don't have to..."

"No mo mac, I have to get this off my chest," she interrupted me and stood up a bit restless before walking slowly to the living room, "I never had the nerve to say this to ye before and the whisky is being a good ally to me today, Jamie..." she grinned dully as she took one last sip before she placed the glass on the writing table and turned towards me once more. "Son, I beg yer forgiveness for not having listened to ye for all these years and for turning my back to ye during our disagreements. A true mother doesnae do that, a true mother fights for the sake of her children. But I was so disappointed and blinded by everything around me..."

"I understand ye perfectly and I hope ye forgive me as well for being so disrespectful to ye over the years..."I walked towards her and smiled shyly as I stood face to face with her, caressing the side of her arm. "A son always wants to protect his mother, but sometimes he doesn't ken how to measure the importance of things," her hand tenderly squeezed mine. "I can clearly see this in Fergus' relationship with Claire..." I smiled as I got moved and her fingers now stroked my face softly, and my eyes closed almost at once. "I can see myself in him so much, mother..."

"And I see ye in every tiny piece of him, Jamie!" we sighed at the same time, and then my thrilled eyes met hers before I held Ellen in my arms. It was so good to know that the woman that raised me really saw my son in me. "And now, with Fergus in yer life, ye seem to be so mature!" Her face moved away from my chest for her eyes to find mine. We couldn't stop smiling at each other while her fingers kept putting some strands of hair behind my ear.

"Having Claire and Fergus in my life made me see everything in a whole new perspective. It seems now that I can see my real purpose in life, I feel ready to do anything for them." she kept smiling and I felt the same happiness inside me that I noticed on her face earlier that day. "Claire doesnae have a big family, so all I want for Fergus is that he receives much love from this new family he is getting to know now.”

"We have to toast to Claire and yer new family!" She smiled widely as she grabbed our glasses for another round of whisky. When she handed me the glass, we toasted gently with thrilled smiles on our lips. "And as for Fergus, well..." she laid her other hand on the left side of my chest, her eyes filled with tears. "This boy got my attention because of the many similarities he has with his father, including the unique ability to capture the love of everyone around him! Just like ye, my darling!"

Her hand briefly caressed my chest where my heart was pounding fast as a reaction to her words and, without being able to control the tears anymore, we moved closer towards each other and hugged deeply.

"And please," she kept talking against my chest, leaning her head back to find my face, "ye dinna need to ask us to love Fergus, it's almost impossible not to love him!" She sank her face back into my chest, my arms squeezing her even tighter. "Claire raised him very well and ye must be very proud of yer boy's mother!

"I'm very proud of my Sassenach, Mom!" I laughed at her in reaction to the frown that popped up on her face instantly.

"Ye call her Sassenach, kid?! I cannae believe it!" She couldn't stop laughing. "And when will ye propose to this poor woman?"

"I dinna ken for sure... but it will be soon enough, Ms. Ellen! Fergus gave me the idea to buy her ring here..." I drank the last sip of whisky, placing the glass in the corner of the desk. "I'll stop by the Inverness stores tomorrow when I visit Dad at the hospital..."

"Excellent idea, there is a jewelry store downtown that will be perfect for the occasion! They have beautiful things there!" I stroked her back as we left the office. "Oh, I almost forgot! I found one of yer things in the attic at my home, so let's go to the living room. I need to give it to ye before I forget again!"

I had no idea what my mother was talking about, but when I saw how big that object was inside the bag, my mind clicked and the sight of my chest of treasures popped up in my mind right away. Even though it was much smaller than I remembered, it was big enough to save all the most important things to me when I was a little boy. So, I invited Fergus to sit with me by the coffee table across from the living room sofa, and he smiled.

"Well, son! This is a chest that was mine when I was a child, and where I kept the things I found most precious in life!" He smiled at me broadly. "At least for a 6-year-old boy! I haena seen it since yer age, sort of, and I hae no idea what's inside! It's been so long since I've laid eyes on it..." I stared in awe at all the details carved into the box. "Do ye want to open it with me?

"Oui, Da!!" Fergus clapped his hands in the air. "It's so beautiful! Was it you who wrote your name here?"

As soon as Fergus opened it, we noticed that there was a yellow metal car inside, which was the most precious thing for me when I was little; some small stones, not so precious anymore, that I had found in Lallybroch during that time; as well as some drawings I had painted with Ian or my sister that were full of dolls, flowers, and suns all over the corners of the pages. While Fergus removed the things from the chest, I got lost in my thoughts with each one's meaning to me, back then, and how having that chest helped me feel that I could somehow protect the things I loved the most.

My mind got stuck in the past until Fergus made an unexpected question:

"What is this wood on the bottom of it, Da? It seems that there is nothing inside it," my God, the false bottom that I had made!

"Wait, I think there's a way to see what's beneath it!"

I picked up what was left inside the chest, and then I found the small false bottom which Ian's grandfather had helped me to build so that I could keep what was even more important to me and that couldn't be found by anyone else. I smiled thrillingly at everyone around me as I said who was the person who helped me to build it, and the tender memory of Mr. Murray seized our minds right away. I had no idea what I had hidden there, however, I pointed to Fergus where he should insert his fingers to remove the false bottom. And I unconsciously held my breath while he was picking up the wood structure.

"Well, here are a few dry flowers," he placed them gently in the palm of my hand and I quickly realized that they were forget me nots that I had found next to a circle of stones a few miles from Lallybroch. "A piece of folded paper that seems to be a letter and a drawing..." he kept quiet for a second as he stared at the bottom of the chest, his eyes widening dramatically just like his mouth. "Da, I think you don't have to worry to buy a ring for maman anymore!" He smiled as he held something in his hand and, as soon as he gave it to me, I felt the weight of the jewel drop against my hands. It couldn't be true!

"Brathair, is this Grandma Mackenzie's ring?" It was a very rusted silver ring, yet the amber stone was immaculate and it was in fact the perfect jewel to propose to Claire. "The one she gave ye for...?"

"To give to Mom?" I smile sadly at my sister and then at Ellen, who clearly didn't understand what it was all about. "Yes, that's the one... Mom, Jenny and I were going to give it to ye along with those flowers and that letter. But you announced the divorce that same day and..."

"It was a plan of ye two for yer father and me to remain together?" She cut me off thrilled, and her hand was hiding her mouth.

"It may have been silly, but we were so young and we thought it would work out..." said Jenny as she was walking towards Ellen, then holding her arm around her as a light smile rose up on her face.

"And I ended up hiding everything here... as if I could hide my sadness like that. I haedna any idea of what was inside." I stood up from the floor and I smiled to soften the tears that burst on Ellen's face. " Dinna feel sorry about it, Mom! It is all over now, and look on the bright side... At least I won't have to buy anything for my Sassenach!" I laughed loudly, hugging the girls tightly before I continued talking. "Jenny, do ye have those silver cleaning products?"

 

***

 

What I felt that night had been so intense and life-changing that, even though I had been lying down for over an hour, I tossed and turned in bed, not managing to sleep at all. Staring at my phone for the thousandth time to check what time it was, I smiled apprehensively as I typed on the screen before finally text Claire. I knew she was on duty and I didn't want to alarm her with a phone call so late at night, but she was one of the few people who managed to soothe me and I felt the urge to share the news from that night with her.



[Sassenach, are you there?🤔] 01:13

[Hi Jamie! Everything is fine?👀] 01:14

[Aye, that's all right! I didn't want to bother you, but I just can't sleep...😬] 01:15

[Did something bad happen with your mother today?] 01:15

[No, quite the opposite!] 01:16

[But everything that happened tonight made me realize some things about you...] 01:16

[Jamieeee... Just talk!] 01:17

[Can you please just wait for me to write?🙄] 01:18

[It is impossible for me to stop thinking about you every second here, but while I was talking to my mother I felt the urge to say some things to you. Do you have any idea how wonderful you were in Fergus' upbringing? That you are such a wonderful mother who devoted yourself so much to turn him into this good boy he is today? 💝] 01:19

[I was so proud of him and I'm proud that you are the mother of my son, you know?😍💗] 01:20

[Claire, I love you even more every day and I don't know how that's possible] 01:20

[How can I have room inside my heart for so much love?🥺🥰] 01:20

[Sassenach, are you there?👀] 01:23

[Do you want to kill me completely dried up, James Fraser?😭😭🤧🤧] 01:24

[Of course, I am here! I had to walk into the doctors' room to hide because I can't stop crying, you bloody Scot!😭💘] 01:24

[I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I will never complain back to the universe!] 01:25

[You bet!] 01:25

[I love you more than anything in this life! You and Fergus are everything to me💜💜] 01:26

[I bought the tickets this afternoon, we'll be back on Sunday😊] 01:27

[Dad is now in a stable condition and I cannot stay so many days away from the corps...] 01:27

[Besides, I miss you so much that it barely fits inside my chest🥺] 01:28

[I miss you too😭🤧] 01:28

[Ah, I bought you a surprise for when you come back home] 01:28

[I think you will enjoy it, Mr. Fraser 😏😉] 01:29

[I might have a surprise for you, as well, Sassenach!🙃] 01:30

[I will not tell you my surprise, but who knows, perhaps you feel sorry for me and share what you have bought for me?🤔] 01:30

[I could make an exception since I won't make you share what my surprise is...😏🙄] 01:31

[But I already took a picture earlier today, just before I left home👀] 01:31

[I just didn't send it to you earlier because I didn't mean to distract you😎] 01:32

[Actually, I don't think you'll be able to sleep anymore after seeing this🔥😎] 01:32

[I can handle one more night with no sleep, just send it to me! 😎] 01:32



01:32



[SASSENACH!👀] 01:34

[How can I wait until Sunday now?🥺🥵] 01:34

[I warned you, didn't I? Well, I think it will be worth the waiting!😇] 01:35



Well, she wanted me to wait until Sunday to see with my own eyes the gift she had bought, but of course, my desire to be with her was greater than anything after receiving that picture filled with double intentions. Since she was alone in the doctors' room, I made a voice call to narrow the physical distance between us, but my goal was not only to hear her voice, my body longed to hear her grunts, her complaints, and the words she used only when we were between four walls.

Quotes that had been merely the preliminaries of spicy phone conversations calls during those months became the trigger for a very peculiar and unexpected fire between us. We had our headphone so that our hands remained free and lowered the chances of being heard by anyone, our lustful words became more and more shameless as the time went by, and our lines slowly became moans on both sides of the phone call until I heard a well-known noise coming from Claire's mouth. She wasn't the quietest woman I'd ever been with (not that I was complaining, on the contrary, her sounds were one of the things that fascinated me the most when we had sex), so, just a few moments before she came to me, Claire always made the same sound, foretold the burst of another delightful climax. And when I heard her grunts on the other side of the line, even being in the darkness of that big bedroom over half a mile away from her, my body felt as if Claire was right next to me.

I didn't need to actually see her to know how her body was relaxed as her noises decreased, the way she smiled of pleasure on the next instant, or how her fingers decreased the movements against her clit along with the recovery of her senses. Of course, having the imagination of what was happening on the other side of the line while her voice broke softly while groaning my name was enough to set me on fire and come uncontrollably on that immense bed. My twitching spasms spread to the edges of my body like sparks in a dry haystack. We were not away from each other for a long time, in fact just less than a week, but at that point, all my body muscles were shouting loudly for her, for every single part of the body of my Sassenach, as if we had been far away from each other for ages.

She was my greatest addiction and I was never willing to find a cure for it.



***



On the following morning, about an hour after having breakfast with my mother and leaving Claire's ring at the jewelers for proper cleaning, Fergus and I were already in front of the hospital door so he could meet his grandfather. My boy was excited to meet him, and he was so familiar with all the surprises he got during that short trip that he didn't show his usual concern when meeting a new person. I had the brightest boy from all over the highlands right in front of me and it was not even nine o'clock in the morning. He was so happy and anyone could tell how much he was enjoying each new experience on my side of the family.

Brian was even more cheerful than the day before, so much so that he welcomed us standing next to his bed with a big smile on his face and open arms to welcome his newest grandson. His interaction with Fergus was more hectic than I expected for a man who was recovering from a stroke, but it was crystal clear that he didn't mean to waste that moment with his grandson for any reason. He had completely reevaluated his life in the last few days and to see him interacting with Fergus made me believe it was for real.

"Grandda Brian, Da told me a very cool story about when you two camped out by the lake for a whole weekend!

"It was a very fun day, wisna it Jamie?" He smiled broadly at me. "Well, I guess ye were about Fergus' age, warna ye?" I nodded, that had been one of the last moments he managed to put apart his kids' relationship from his problems he had with our mom. "We went by ourselves and we went fishing, picked some berries and cooked in little old pots as if we were pretty familiar with the whole thing!

"But what about the funny thing, Grandda?"

"The leeches?" We laughed together, and then my father made himself comfortable in his bed so that he could share some details that even I couldn't remember about that weekend.



***



The sun had barely risen on that Sunday morning and, as I finished loading our bags inside the car, Fergus got a big hug from Jenny. My sister started walking towards me with small steps, arms crossed in front of her chest while my boy said goodbye to the kids using the hand gestures they had set up to be their special kind of sign. They had built a strong friendship on those few beautiful summer days in the countryside of Scotland, and nothing made me happier than to see my boy so overjoyed next to me.

While facing each other, Jenny's hands held mine firmly just before her weeping gaze met mine:

"Ye cannae take that long to come back, bràthair..." We tried to smile, but it was impossible not to feel how sad that moment was. "And I demand ye to bring Claire next time! Ye ken I've always wanted a sister to talk bad things about ye!"

"She'll be delighted to badmouth me with someone else, she's the only girl in London and I think it must be hard to deal with so much testosterone per square foot!" We giggled as we cuddled warmly, and I kissed her head before I could keep talking. "We’re coming back soon, Jenny... I think before ye can ever imagine!" as she leaned her head back, the space between her eyebrows wrinkled as she found my face. "Well, I will propose to Claire very soon, and I dinna see any reason to postpone the wedding ceremony any further... I just dinna ken where we're going to..."

"We can use our chapel and I'll speak with Father Bain for the ceremony." she stopped me in her harsh way, with her arms crossed in front of her chest. "There's no chance ye winna get married here, James Fraser."

"Aye, ma'am!" We laughed together. "Who am I to disobey yer orders, Jenny?" I pulled her into my embrace once again. "Thank ye so much for everything, sister..."

"Thank ye for giving me such a beautiful nephew!" She pressed both hands against my cheeks. "I love ye, bràthair..." I smiled as I caressed her face.

"No more than I do!"

The sun was lighting up briefly at my sister's house and some of the plants and flowers that were adorning the front door when Fergus and I said goodbye to its four residents once again before getting into the car. I could see through the rearview mirror how my boy was trying in vain to hide the sobbing coming from his chest as I tried to hold back the thrill of seeing him so sad to say goodbye to his newest family. No matter how much he missed his maman, Fergus had lived a unique family experience in Lallybroch. During all his life he had never felt so much love at once and I could see in his eyes how much his new family played an important role in his heart now.

My family was made up of a group of very complex people, primarily me, and I knew that things between us would still need some time and perseverance to really get back on track, but this time I said goodbye to Scotland in a completely different way from all the others times in the last 13 years. I never thought I would miss being there, or miss passing time with my family again, but what I could never dream of was the reconnection with my parents, which I had longed for all those years, would magically come true by the hands of the boy who was the result of a love that had been something unthinkable for me over so many years.

Only, as unthinkable as it was, my son was right there in my rearview mirror, sitting right behind me, with his blue eyes paying attention to every sign nature sent him on our way back to the airport. I couldn't help but smile as I listened to his insightful and funny comments, his face, and his curls constantly reminding me of the real reason why we were going home. Claire was waiting for us with a great lunch a few hours away. She was so happy to greet all the boys at her place that I could see her bright smile even though we had only spoken through audio.

I sent Claire a text message shortly after landing in London to let her know we had arrived, so I found it strange when I couldn't find her at home. Fergus ran upstairs shouting out for his mother to show her the toy cars he had received as a gift from Jenny, but he came downstairs and told me she wasn't there. I quickly looked around the house as Fergus walked into the kitchen to search the courtyard before I phoned her again, and then I heard the sound of her cell phone coming from her purse that was laying on the couch.

Well, she hadn't gone far.

"Da!" Fergus called me. "Maman is not at the yard and I saw that she'd cooked a different dessert for lunch..." I remembered she'd said she'd leave it all ready for lunch and he would invite her uncle and Murtagh to join us.

"Oh, this chocolate cake is very tasty, I think ye'll like it..." it was a chocolate and chestnut brownie, similar to the one we had shared at Clos Maggiore, and of course I smiled as I remembered everything we did that day that changed our lives forever. "I wonder where yer mother went?"

"Did she go to Uncle Lamb's place to cook lasagna?"

Just before we left home to head to meet them, something in the lobby caught my attention and made me smile like a fool: the photos of the door hangers had changed during those days we had been in Scotland. Claire had chosen a different photograph of Fergus and Arthur in one of the frames and, in the two other ones, she had placed beautiful photos of us.

Of our family.

In one of them, Fergus and I posed for the camera after he received his junior firefighter's degree, and he had the brightest smile of joy as I showed all the pride I felt for my boy. In the other frame, we were at the beach in Brighton on a beautiful family day we shared last month, we were giggling profusely because Claire said that we were not allowed to make more faces in the next photo. The sight of those small and significant changes made it even clearer to me that she was really missing us during the days all alone. Nothing made me happier than to be back with my Sassenach.

We were strolling along beneath the umbrella those few yards between Claire's house and Lamb's apartment. We were in a slight hurry due to the heavy rain that fell over London that morning, chatting about something related to Jamie and Ian, when I saw a cloud of subtly dense smoke coming out from one of the windows of Lambert's building. I couldn't say a word and, with my fingers firmly surrounding Fergus' hand, I began to walk at a faster pace until I heard a familiar voice calling out to me. It was Murtagh. He came walking around the corner close to Lamb's building with a worried face and when he saw my reaction, we ran towards each other.

Quite breathless, I began to talk:

"Murtagh, ye stay with Fergus here for a while as I call the fire department..." I handed Fergus' hand so he could hold it.

"What's happening, lad?" Fergus was beside Murtagh and they both stared at me with the same terrified face.

"Oh, Dia! I think Lamb's apartment is on fire." I quickly caressed my boy's arm. "Do ye have yer uncle's key with ye, Fergus?"

"Oui, Da!" He pulled his backpack out and handed me his keychain swiftly. " It's all the yellow ones!"

"Okay!" I kissed the top of my son's head before running out. "Stay here and don't come any closer!!"

I ran relentlessly those few yards, breathing out hard against the phone when I heard that a unit of the fire department had already been called up to that address. Of course, I was warned of contempt by González, because even if he told me that I should wait outside until the fire truck arrived, I insisted that I needed to get into the building. I didn't even care to receive a warning or to lose my job. I was not wearing the right clothes to attend a fire and neither was I there on duty, but inside that building were two of the most important people in my life and I could not just stand there like a stupid person while waiting for everything to get worse.

God, why should a boy need to have so many keys? I was trying to find the right key to open the main door when I heard a sound coming from Lamb's window that made my heart stop for a few seconds. Screams echoed in front of me as a reaction to the noise of broken glass, and suddenly people started to come down the corridor freaking out, running fast to get out of the building all while I tried to run the other way toward the stairs. I gave some last directions for the people before I finally could get inside the building. The more I climbed the stairs, the more the silence invaded. my soul. But the distress I was feeling wasn't worse than hearing Claire’s suffocated voice crying for help.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Pink - glitter in the air

Youtube // Spotify

Blakey – Prism of love

Youtube // Spotify



POV Claire

Everything seemed really strange without Fergus and Jamie by my side.

Jamie managed to organize his agenda during Fergus vacation so that he was able to spend his afternoons with his son. And, for that reason, it didn't take more than a few days to get used to his daily presence when I got home from work. The brain adapts quickly to the good things in life, so much that I kept seeking out their laughter as I came home after work, even though I knew they wouldn't be there.

So, even with Brian's health improving, I stuck to my plan to increase my extra hours at the hospital with only one objective: to keep my mind busy somehow because, as much as I kept in touch with my boys on a daily basis, I wouldn't know what to do with my time off and arriving home after work to an empty house made me miss them terribly.

Even with many extended hospital shifts, I had to come home eventually and, to find something to do on Wednesday night, I changed all my bedsheets before I started reorganizing the downstairs decorations. I was dusting off the books and other objects on the shelf and, as I walked towards the dresser to put some water in the flower pot, my eyes were caught by the pictures hanging close to the front door.

Why hadn't I replaced them yet?

Everything had changed in my life during those four months and, due to the busy routine at the hospital and being at home with my boys, I couldn't pay attention to the tiny details that certainly mattered to Jamie. From the very first time he had walked into our house, these photographs were one of the first things that caught his attention. Even though he never mentioned them, I could feel that Arthur's image kept him uneasy as if it were a relentless reminder of the moments and time Jamie had lost with me and especially with his son.

Thinking about the moments we already had shared as a family to choose new photographs, I quickly remembered Fergus' firefighter class and just how that day was the turning point for our new family. Jamie and Fergus had such a sense of fulfillment from the events that morning that they wore their best smiles as they posed for my camera. I sighed, feeling moved before I continued to choose more photographs. I found one soon enough that was the symbol of our family: the three of us on a beautiful sunny day we shared in early summer in Brighton. I could almost hear our giggles in that picture and at first, I couldn't stop laughing as I saw the happiness stamped on our faces. But soon I was overwhelmed with emotions when thinking about how much I missed them in my daily life.



***



Sunday had finally come along with my boys' return. I confess that my week went by faster than I imagined, with the many shifts at the hospital and the phone calls from Jamie, Fergus, Murtagh, and Uncle Lamb. And the last-minute substitution for Saturday night helped me, even more, to pass the time. When I arrived home close to 7 a.m. on Sunday, I had no intention of sleeping, so I showered for a long time in an attempt to awake myself after getting Jamie's call saying that they were already on their way to the airport. I had to prepare the lasagna sauce already, but since I hadn't slept for more than 24 hours, the tiredness I felt did not allow me to even cut the tomatoes to prepare it.

Well, someone would receive a guest.

My uncle's Sunday morning was filled with the usual things: jazz playing softly in his old phonograph player while he read the daily newspaper sitting in his favorite chair; in his mug, the smell of his favorite coffee, typically Turkish, floating through the air; and, after finishing his reading, he went to his writing desk in front of the window to connect with his archaeologists’ friends in "old school style", with red wax and a signet with a beautiful emblem to seal the letters. I don't know how he could find himself in the middle of all that mess of papers, books, and objects that were on the table, but, being a typical archaeologist, he didn't know how to get rid of the things he cared about the most. Well, he cared about a lot of things.

While I cooked the sauce and set up the lasagna, changing my uncle's Sunday routine a bit, we kept talking in a very light manner, and my uncle's peaceful presence made me forget about the exhaustion I had felt for a while. When everything was ready for our lunch, right before 10 a.m., Lamb convinced me to take a nap for a while in his apartment before heading over to my house to greet the boys. Everything was fine till then, so I got really frightened when I heard him shouting my name in the living room.

The flames had started at my uncle's desk and the smoke burning from the books and papers was so thick that it had already spread throughout the room.

Why wasn't the fire system working, Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ?

I couldn't see anything, and the silence that was prevailing in my uncle's apartment was only interrupted by the soft crackling sound coming from the fire that was spreading towards his bookcase; by the rain that was pouring outside; and by the unsettled cough coming from my chest. I couldn't get any answer from my uncle as I screamed, I couldn't tell where he was or if he had been hurt in any way, and the fact that he was unconscious somewhere in the room made me feel even more desperate.

Everything kept happening very fast while my heart was racing and, without finding anything to put out the fire, I decided to call the fire department right away. The attendant was quite responsive and, after I received an E.T.A of 5 to 7 minutes, the woman instructed me to leave as soon as possible.

But how could I leave without my uncle?

I needed to find him somehow and, while I tried to put out some of the fire to reduce the smoke, I stumbled on my uncle's body. My God, was he dead?

Lamb was lying near the writing desk and, after checking his vital signs, I threw one of his heavy artifacts that stood near his chair against the window in a desperate attempt to dissipate the smoke, and the sound of broken glass woke my uncle up. The few people who lived on that floor came out shouting through the corridors because of the smoke and sound of broken glass, their shouting spread through the lower floors, echoing everywhere.

I kept calling out for my uncle, my voice coming out faintly while I coughed and tried in vain to drag him out of the apartment. I had nothing else to do than to open the front door and scream for help non-stop until someone came up to help me.

It was a perfect plan, but the door was locked!

Why did my uncle always have to pull out the key, good God?!

I anxiously kept screaming out for help, hoping that someone would break the door down so that I could get Lamb out of there, there was no more alternative left for me, but even in my wildest dreams, I couldn't imagine that it would be Jamie who would bang on the door at that exact moment.

"Sassenach? Are ye there?" Jamie beat hard on the door, frightening me a bit.

"Jamie... I can't... open the door..." I spoke as I kept coughing. "And Lamb... is unconscious..."

"Claire, move away from the door! Now!" His demanding voice made me head towards the living room straight away.

Jamie broke the door down after three kicks, the wood partially shattering, and made a loud noise when the doorknob hit the wall. His well-trained eyes easily found me amidst the thick smoke in the hallway, his arms holding me tightly as he asked me where my uncle was. I was so distressed that I hadn't heard anything until then, but when Jamie pushed me out of the apartment saying that the firefighters' unit was climbing the stairs, I suddenly heard the siren outside and the sound of water coming in through the window.

What seemed to have lasted hours, now happened as quick as a flash. Even though I was struggling to remain close to my uncle, one of the firefighters held me against him as he led me downstairs to one of the ambulances that were waiting next to the building. I noticed that the rain had subsided as soon as I stepped outside and saw the ambulances, the fire truck, and the restricted access tape surrounding the building. It seemed as if I was on the set of an action movie.

No matter how much I kept insisting that I was fine and that I needed to go back to my uncle's apartment, the firefighter ordered me to stay put and to be assisted by the paramedics, and I only accepted his recommendation if I had the chance to see what was happening at the front door. I sat in the back of the ambulance and got a small blanket to warm me up while being examined by the paramedic. I answered his questions in a very rushed and automatic way because I wanted to get out of there quickly to check out what was going on outside.

And Fergus, where was Fergus?

Immediately a loud whisper emerged around the ambulances, and the sight of my uncle on a stretcher appeared among the cops and paramedics who were waiting for the potential victims of the fire. Jamie made room among the people as he guided the stretcher towards the ambulance that was in front of mine, the sight of his committed face reminding me instantly of when I saw him with Fergus in his arms at the school fire.

No, it couldn't be happening again with my uncle!

They disappeared from my sight for a few moments, and my body stood up unconsciously to follow them, but the urge of needing to know how my uncle was doing was not authorized by Friedmann, the paramedic. I knew he was doing his job, but I couldn't help but glance at him with disgust when he held my shoulders and made me sit down again.

As I adjusted my blanket in front of my body, I sighed in resignation slightly before I heard a well-known voice calling out to me:

"Sassenach! Sassenach!" Jamie shouted out for me, his blue eyes filled with despair and relief as he found me. "Oh Dia, mo chridhe, are ye all right?"

"I'm fine, but Mr. Friedmann here doesn't trust me!" I stared at the paramedic in an unfriendly manner, coughing a bit and causing a startled look in Jamie: "I'm fine, darling, I just need to know how my uncle is! And the fire?"

"He is stable and awake, mo chridhe, but he inhaled smoke and he must be sent to the hospital. The fire is controlled and there wasn't much damage". Why did it have to happen all over again? "Hey! Easy, Claire," witnessing the anguish in my eyes, his arm reached for my body so that I could sink my face into his chest. "He'll do just fine!"

"What took you so long, Jamie?" I spoke softly with my head still laying on his chest, and there was a burst of restful laughter suddenly emerging between us two. Jamie stroked my cheek before he reached down to grab my hand and kissed it long. "I'm glad you're here..." I was finally released by Paramedic Friedmann and, while I saw the ambulance where my uncle was heading towards the hospital, I tapped the metal floor beside me so that Jamie could sit down. "Who did Fergus stay with?"

"Murtagh," while sitting next to me, his fingers searched for mine and caressed them before he kept talking. "He's fine, Sassenach. It's going to be alright..."

We had our foreheads together as we caressed each other's faces, ecstatically. Even if we were gray from the smoke and wet by rain, we stared at each other as if we were the most beautiful people on Earth. We were there, whole and together again, and a restful cry, at last, emerged from our faces.

We remained in silence for a while, with our eyes closed, breathing each other until I felt Jamie moving suddenly beside me. What was happening now? Opening my eyes a little jittery, the first sight I had was Jamie standing in front of me, clearly apprehensive as his trembling hands looked for something in his pants pocket. But, after hearing a sigh of relief coming from him, a big smile full of emotion emerged on my face as he knelt.

What was he doing?

"Jamie, the pavement is soaked! What are you..." I tried to pull him up but, with a smirk of complicity, he interrupted my way of reasoning by holding my hand close to his chest.

He was going to do thattherenow!

"Claire, Fergus and I had worked out the perfect plan with everything ye deserved for this moment, but facing the slightest possibility of losing ye again made me understand that things dinna always need to be perfect, they need to be real". My chin wrinkled in the attempt to stop the tears, and thrilled tears began to roll down over my face before I could hold them back. " It had never been in my plans to have ye back in my life, but all the love I've felt for you for all these years doesn't get any closer to everything I feel for ye now, my Sassenach!" He kissed my hand in adoration, his tearful eyes always searching for mine. "I didna need any kind of plan to love ye this way, Sorcha, and now it's impossible to imagine my life without ye in it." His trembling hand went towards his pocket, taking out a small box of burgundy velvet that was slowly opened in front of my eyes. "Will ye marry me?

"Oh, my God!" I covered my mouth with my free hand, a surprising hiccup coming out from my chest. "Yes, thousand times yes, Jamie!" He looked at me helplessly in love as I stretched my fingers so he could put on that beautiful ring, our thrilled smiles not leaving our faces. "I don't need your perfect plans to know how much you love me!" He finally pulled me closer to stand in front of him, his arms holding me tight against his body as his mouth searched for mine in a kiss filled with love and devotion.

"Maman, Da!"Jamie and I finished our kiss almost instantly upon hearing our boy's voice appear breathlessly at our side. It was so beautiful to hear him calling Jamie Da! Pulling him into my embrace to make up for a lost time, Fergus stared sharply at my hand and into his father's eyes and laughed, making us pause, expecting another insightful statement from our son. " Oh, Da, I was certain that you wouldn't be able to wait until next week!”



***



Joe, even though he wasn't scheduled to work that Sunday, didn't hesitate to go to the hospital to follow-up on my uncle's condition. Even though Lamb's health condition was favorable, I felt the urge for a complete cardiac exam to end the doubts I had in the last few hours, and no one better than Joe to calm down a daughter's heart. While my friend was assisting my uncle at the emergency room, Jamie and I remained seated in the chairs down the hall and that scene reminded me of the small attempts he had made to get closer to me when Fergus was hospitalized.

I sank into his arms during the first moment of peace and quietness since the fire, and Jamie caressed the ring on my finger as I sighed deeply before starting to speak softly, still with my head against his chest:

"I don't think I ever told you Jamie, but when we sat on chairs like these during Fergus' hospitalization, all I longed for was you to actually kiss me..." His long, strong fingers caressed my cheek before he gently grabbed my chin so that our eyes could meet.

"Oh, Claire... and ye have no idea how I wish I had done that." He smiled at me, his hand caressing my hair and making my eyes close in sheer delight, just like that day. "And why did ye kiss me? Why did ye kiss me inside Fergus' room that morning?"

"Hmm, well..." I coughed as I had my body facing his, our hands joined and my eyes fixed on Jamie's. "I was so tired that morning after an entire sleepless night that I thought you were part of my dream!" I laughed quietly as I leaned my forehead against his shoulder.

"And in yer dream, ye were mine, Claire?" His slightly broken voice against my ear made me instantly search for his eyes again.

With one of my hands caressing his face and my fingers rejoicing as they sink into the roots of his hair, I pulled his face closer to mine to meet his lips for a few moments. And, still inside our little bubble, I gently approached my mouth towards his ear to answer him:

"I never stopped being yours, Jamie..." I spoke softly, and he held onto my body as he sank his face into my neck, breathing in my perfume. "Nor in my dreams have I stopped being yours."

"Tha gradh agam ort, mo chridhe." He spoke towards my neck, and I smiled like a fool at receiving another love statement from that Scot who had made my world into everything I had ever dreamed of.

"I love you too, my love! More than I ever imagined possible".



***



It was around four o'clock in the afternoon and Lamb´s condition was stable and only needed to stay overnight for routine observation. Jamie and I were almost kicked out of the room by my favorite grumpy, who told us that he was very well settled and that he would make use of all the benefits of being the uncle-father of one of the staff doctors, to get whatever he wanted during his short stay in those beautiful accommodations. Of course, I knew he wouldn't do anything wrong there, he just wanted me to go home right away to rest after so many hours awake and everything that happened in our lives since late morning.

It had been quite a roller coaster!

As soon as Joe was leaving the hospital, he said that he would pick up Fergus at Murtagh's house to spend the afternoon with Emily, because my boy had a lot to tell his friend about everything that had happened in Scotland and, in our call in the early afternoon, Fergus repeated that it had to be in person. Of course, it couldn't be over the phone!

Our way back home was done quietly inside the cab, our hands joined as we watched the sun begin to shine after the prolonged period of rainfall that morning. I was happy and, even though I felt tired from the latest events, I couldn't help but smile as I put the key at the door lock and twisted the doorknob. I was finally at home. I always felt at home when I was with Jamie.

As soon as we entered, Jamie hugged me fondly around my back while he closed the door behind him, his soft voice talking in my ear giving me goosebumps:

"I loved the pictures ye put here..." he pointed to the hooks near the entrance and I smiled as I felt how happy he was.

"You are part of our family, Jamie," I said. As I turned to face him, his arms squeezed tighter around me, the more emotive his eyes seemed to get. "So nothing fairer than having pictures of you all over the house!"

"Ye ken that yer son agrees with that?" My cheerful face expected some addition to his phrase and, caressing my hair as he put it behind my ear, he smiled at me. "Well, Fergus told me that he thinks it's time for me to move in because his maman seems to be kind of lost when I'm not here". His gaze remained as if nothing had made him emotional, but soon his sobriety was broken by a breathtaking laugh.

"Oh, he said that?" I laughed, feeling my cheeks burning instantly as I held tighter to his neck. "And what do you think of that, Mr. Fraser? Do you think I look kind of lost when you're not around?

"I dinna think so, Sassenach..." his eyes stared at my smile at the same time as his hands caressed my back, stopping neatly close to my butt. "I'm sure of it!"

"What?" I hit him lightly in the chest, no matter if he was absolutely right I wouldn't admit it that easy.

"Stop hitting me, Claire!" He squeezed his hands against my buttocks, giving me a popped kiss on my lips. "Now let's take a bath because we need to settle on the wedding arrangements!"

"Are you crazy?" The laughter rose between us again, I was still amazed at his ability to convince me to do everything without thinking twice. "Did you just propose to me and you want to get married already?"

"Aye, yes to both questions," he kissed the tip of my nose before caressing my chin with his fingertips. "I also get kind of lost when I'm not around ye, Sassenach!"

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Roy English – Worldstop

Youtube // Spotify

Sleeping At Last – Light

Youtube // Spotify

.

.

POV Claire

30 days. Everything was set up in only 30 days.

Together with Jenny and Freya, a ceremonialist and friend of my future sister-in-law's, Jamie and I managed to set almost every detail so that our wedding ceremony would happen in late September in Lallybroch. It wouldn’t be anything fancy nor pompous, but that didn’t mean that the organization of a wedding would be easy to accomplish in 30 days and over 500 miles away from me.

All this rushing could make people think I was pregnant, but that was something beyond logic for a woman of almost 38 years of age who was professionally established and committed to the man who was the father of her child. No, that's definitely not the reason why we rushed to set a date for the ceremony. Ever since our first talk about the wedding, right after the fire at my uncle's house, we understood the fragility of our lives. All of us. Jamie had traveled to Scotland due to his father's stroke, my uncle was in serious danger due to the fire that arose from something as commonplace as a candle, Fergus had been in a hospital for several days because of another unexpected fire.

Sure, things must be dreamed, planned, and fulfilled... but when all is beyond our control?

Jamie and I had been apart for too long, our family had been in our dreams for too long, Fergus didn't have his father around him for too long. We had no excuses to waste any more time on idealized protocols, we already had everything we needed to accomplish the unimaginable in our lives. I would marry James Fraser, the man I loved in silence and secretly for so many years, and fulfill one of my most impossible dreams: to raise a family with him and Fergus.

And the family was way beyond the three of us, the conversations between all five people inside the Audi Q5, which we had rented for our trip to Lallybroch, made me smile excitedly over and over again. Yes, Fergus and I weren't alone anymore. Murtagh grumbled at the peaceful way Jamie drove along the country roads that connected Inverness to his sister's house while Lamb and Fergus kept shouting as they pointed at animals, stone formations, or other amazing things which were part of the beautiful scenery surrounding the roads.

And that was the perfect family chaos I never expected to experience in my life!

Watching Jamie in the driver's seat by my side was one of the most touching moments I experienced during the months we were together. His eyes sparkled naturally as he reached for me, his hand never stopped holding mine while his lips searched for my fingers to place kisses over and over, always followed by those quiet smiles that could promise me the world.

He was very happy with me and Fergus, but the recent breakthrough with his family had brought to Jamie's life an unspeakable amount of bliss. Of course, his relationship with his parents hadn't turned water into wine after their conversation last month. No one shared love statements or anything like that, but I finally felt Jamie more comfortable while having long distance phone calls with Ellen and Brian, or while hearing their names as they became a common subject in our family conversations. Jamie seemed to have found the balance in life that he always pursued and I couldn't be happier for him.

Jenny was ready to welcome us to Lallybroch on that sunny morning in early fall and I had so many butterflies in my stomach once I realized that my whole family concept was about to change in less than 20 minutes. For the longest time, my life had been about my uncle, Arthur or Fergus, and I couldn't complain about feeling alone at any of those different moments of my life, quite the contrary. But I just knew that nothing would prepare me for what was about to come with Jamie's extended family.

Even if Fergus had described to me the many moments he experienced at Murray's property in Scotland, Lallybroch was much more than my mind could imagine. With a large stone arch right at the entrance of the property and a centennial house that looked more like a castle, my eyes remained stunned as Jamie parked the car in the front door and we were welcomed by two children and three adults. Fergus rushed out towards his cousins once Murtagh opened the car door, and I smiled proudly at the relationship that my son had built up with them.

Once I closed the car door behind me, my gaze wandered anxiously along with the faces of Mrs. Crook and all the boys from the house until I met the brown eyes of the family matriarch. Jamie had told me so many things about his sister, from the sweetest to the harshest, but again my mind failed to make up an accurate picture of that bossy little woman. I never imagined that there were people who could offer as much affection in the first touch as Jenny and, even shorter than me, her warm embrace made me feel like a little child ready to be filled with all the love in the world.

We were in our happy little bubble with our eyes moist as we caressed each other's faces, but when she told me that it had taken me a long time for me to go visit her, our close to tears burst into a giggle that spread among everyone around us. Jamie approached us right away, wrapping us in an even bigger hug for a few moments before Murtagh and Lamb's "formal" introductions started. We were sharing a moment of joy, the smiles stamped on everyone's faces was the premise that things would be perfect during those days in Scotland and beyond.

Ellen Mackenzie owned one of the most renowned fashion stores in Inverness and she was exceptionally waiting for us right after lunch so I could, at last, choose what to wear at the wedding. As Jenny drove me in her small car all the way to town, my hands kept moving in a very restless manner. I wasn't sure if I was more excited to choose the dress and the final details for the party or to finally meet my mother-in-law. However, as if Jenny could feel my uneasiness, her motherly and resolute voice had convinced me, with only two sentences, that everything would work out well with Ellen. I could then quickly understand how Fergus agreed to start calling Jamie Da so easily. That little lady knew how to be very persuasive.

Ellen welcomed us at the front door of her store with a broad smile on her face. She was so radiant that her dazzling Scottish beauty left me speechless for a few moments:

"My God, ye're even more beautiful in person, Claire!" I giggled shyly. "Ye are very welcomed, lass!"

"And can ye imagine when she gets ready for the wedding, Mother?" Jenny rubbed her hand against my back with a smile on her face, her discreet caress encouraging me to follow my instincts and finally hug Ellen.

"I'm so happy to finally meet you, Mrs. Mackenzie!" Her arms were already open to receive me in her arms and it wasn't weird for me as I had first imagined.

"Oh no! For God's sake! Just call me Ellen, Claire!" Her arms wrapped around my body squeezed me tighter and I finally relaxed and I hugged her more intensely. "But hurry up, we have so much work to do!"

It was a beautiful boutique and its furnishing, with several crystal chandeliers, elegantly dressed mannequins, and tasteful displays, made it look very similar to London's famous stores. Ellen was a woman with a really good taste for her store and for herself. She was as elegant as she was beautiful and just a quick glance at her was enough for me to find many similarities with Jamie, starting with beauty.

Ellen told me about how she had entered that kind of niche market seven years ago, and that she had never imagined she could have her own business after her 50´s, even if it had always been her dream. She had reinvented all her life, always with Jenny's emotional support, and seemed very fulfilled to finally have something of her own.

As I entered into a larger and more private room of the store, the first thing that caught my attention was a round platform in front of a big mirror, a place where probably all the brides remained still while they were suited to choose their dream dress, just like in reality shows. It was never my golden dream to have a traditional wedding, but the sight of three wedding dresses hanging from one of the racks close to the dresser made me remain motionless for the first time that day. I sighed to hold back a great emotional outburst for finally taking that big step next to Jamie, and the emotional looks from my companions made me unable to hold back my tears of happiness.

Jenny hugged me and thanked me once again for making her brother so happy, and as she dried my tears while smiling, she switched on her "practical mode" instantly by asking me to quickly remove all my clothes, from the leather jacket to the pleated skirt, so that we could finally start "the bride operation". Although the store sold beautiful dresses, Ellen had already chosen three beautiful pieces for me that were on the clothes rack. Jenny and my mother-in-law, while helping me dress the first one, kept flattering me with their astonished faces, leaving me eager to see the result right away.

Finally turning my body towards the mirror, I suddenly ran out of words before I could vocalize a complete sentence:

"God, that's the one... I don't even need to try the other ones, Ellen!" I spoke thrilled as I stared at my image in the mirror, my hands wandering through the soft satin fabric of the champagne color dress that gently contoured my body. "How can you possibly know precisely what I like the most?"

"That's something usual for me, Claire." She gave me a smile through the mirror while stroking my back. "I just need a minute to ken the model that suits ye better, it's so many years dressing people that it's already an automatic thing!" She adjusted the dress skirt to fit the trim, now crouching down starting to measure the new length of the piece using some pins. "But I'm verra happy to ken that ye liked it!" She said and her grin reminded me of Jamie. "As soon as my son told me he would propose to ye, this was one of the three pieces I picked up immediately".

"Aye, even before ye two set the wedding date, Mom already ken what ye'd like to wear, Claire!" Jenny spoke amusingly while sitting on one of the couches next to the mirror, holding her face in her hand while smiling at me from a different angle.

"But how did you keep three dresses reserved without even knowing when it would be, Ellen?" I asked curiously.

"There might not be a date for it, but I still ken my son verra well!" She blinked one of her eyes amusingly and I couldn't help but smile. "He wouldn't wait more than the necessary time, and for him, it takes verra little time for things to work out!"

"Well, he knows very well how to persuade people to do what he thinks is right..." My face instantly blushed as I thought of some rather indecent things, and I coughed to try to get rid of this discomforting moment and keep talking. "So much so that I'm here in less than 30 days to marry him!" My voice sounded funny, a soft laugh appearing once again among us.

"We had our disagreements in the past, but I canna deny that Jamie is a verra loyal and committed lad, Claire." Standing up in front of me, she held one of my hands firmly while smiling. "And if he's doing all of this it's because he truly loves ye, never doubt it!”

“And I love Jamie more than anything, Ellen." I smiled embarrassedly. "Your son is an exceptional man, an exceptional father, and nothing makes me happier than to finally marry him!"



***



It was close to 6 in the evening and time had flown by choosing the flowers for the bouquet and deciding the last details with the ceremonialist Jenny hired. Freya was a beautiful woman with her blond princess hair, deep blue eyes, and the sweetest smile I had seen in a woman over 30 years old; and her meticulous work was essential for us to organize everything in so little time. Our meeting place was one of the most exquisite bakeries I had been to and we welcomed my mother-in-law to share a "girls' moment" after hours discussing the latest arrangements. I was laughing while telling them something about Fergus when I felt a warm, cozy embrace, very familiar to me, wrapped around my back.

"Jamie, but what are you doing here?" He kissed my head before greeting his mother with a big hug.

"Claire bothered ye a lot, Mother?" Ellen shook her head as she smiled widely while her head laid against her son's chest. "Hi, Freya... how are ye?" I felt a slight uneasiness in the air, but then Jamie hugged her in a friendly way, before kissing the top of Jenny's head and finally sat down next to me. "Well, I just finished the whole arrangement with Ian and I wanted to join my future wife on her first visit to Inverness. Do I have to ask for permission for that as well?" He pretended to be annoyed, leaning his elbow over the table and his head against his closed fist while his dissatisfied gaze alternated between his sister and me.

"Ye canna see the dress before the wedding, I told ye brother!" Jenny rolled her eyes and laughed at the frown her brother did to her.

"I ken, ye bossy woman!" He smiled, at last, leaning his body over the table to hold her hand fondly. "How much longer will this take?"

"Uhm, in reality, we are celebrating the very productive afternoon we had with these delicious desserts!" I said, sparkling with happiness. It was quite a relief to finally have everything ready for Saturday. "Do you want to have one?" I offered one of my pastries and Jamie ate it all at once.

"I want to get ye out of here as soon as possible, Sassenach!" He spoke as he finished eating and stood up in a hurry. "I need to show ye something before the sun goes down!"

As we said goodbye to the girls who would stay there for a while longer, Jamie put his arm around me and held me tightly as we walked down the streets of downtown Inverness. The city was beautiful and quite peculiar, and its historic buildings made me travel back in time while we walked hand in hand towards the car. I could sense Jamie's happiness being with me in his hometown, his joy becoming more intense the more he told me about his past. And every time he told me more of his past, the more in love with Jamie I became.

The cold weather during that evening began to eat through my skin and a big chill made me want to enter the car right away:

"Aren't you gonna tell me what you have been doing the whole afternoon?" I asked him as I shut the door, rubbing my hands against each other in an attempt to heat them up, but that didn't work.

Jamie wrapped my hands with his and the warmth made me smile delightfully:

"I will..." as he kissed my fingers, his amusing eyes were the preamble of a sly addition. "But not today, Sassenach!" He laughed before starting the car.

"Jamieeee..." buckled up, I pretended to be bothered. "You were at some bachelor party and didn't tell me?"

"I dinna need a bachelor party, Claire." Kissing my lips, my smile faded away as I felt the honesty in his voice. "What we will do this weekend is a mere formality, at least for me. I have been committed to ye since my last birthday, since Fergus' rescue, and I dinna need other women to ken that ye are and always will be the only one for me".

As I sniffed trying to vainly avoid another tearful outburst that afternoon, I gave him a thrilling smile before I could answer him:

"You are always ready to make me cry, you bloody Scot..." I caressed his face before we sealed our lips once again.

"If it is from happiness, then I won't hesitate to bring ye to tears, Sassenach!" He kissed my forehead for a while, and then adjusted himself back in the driver's seat and started the car. "Well, we have to leave soon cause tomorrow will be an impossible day to kidnap the bride!"

"And why do you want to kidnap me, Jamie?"

Even if I knew he wouldn't answer me, I loved to watch his funny faces when he tried to hide something from me! Jamie was a man full of surprises and, if normally he was very quiet when he planned them, his mysterious ways became even more secret during the last days. And just for that reason, he gave me even higher expectations for the wedding.

He drove less than 20 minutes along a few small roads around Inverness, and soon we arrived in a slightly different landscape of the highlands: a circle of stones. I always wanted to visit that place ever since Jamie told me about everything involving one of the many Scottish folklores. Over a hill filled with trees, the location was reminiscent of an ancient and known ground of mystical credence, including fairies and time travel.

As we got out of the car, I wrapped myself in a beautiful wool tartan to keep my body warm, and Jamie held me close to him before we started walking through that rugged landscape to finally reach the highest point among the rocks. From there we could see the beautiful view of the city and the highlands around us and even though the sun had already set behind the mountain, the beautiful image of the pink, orange, and violet tones that painted the sky gave me an indescribable feeling inside.

Then, as he sat on one of the stones, Jamie quietly asked me to sit between his legs with my back leaning towards him. His embrace was warming me even more than the tartan wrapped around me:

"I didn't expect you to bring me here today... You used to come here often?" I asked him, trying to figure out the reason why he took me there. I knew it was more than just to show me the scenery of the beautiful highlands.

"I rode my bike all over these parts with Ian and Jenny and this was one of our favorite places when we were kids." He sighed as he rested his chin upon my shoulder. "But things have changed quite a bit after they began to date each other and then my teenage years began." Jamie seemed to be quite sad and, rubbing one of his hands that wrapped my body, I placed myself better in his arms in order to encourage him to carry on talking. "As ye ken, my youth wisna the easiest period I had with my mother, and school was one of my safe havens... As though I was not into studying, the friendship I had with some classmates was probably one of the best ways to forget my troubles. And, during my last year of school, a new girl started in our class." I unconsciously stiffened my body, but I guess he didn't notice. "She had a hard time with her parents as well and had left Glasgow to live with her aunt here in Inverness..."

"Hmm... And did you two share your family issues?" As the sun went down, the colors of the sky became darker and darker, the freezing cold increased and I tucked myself in Jamie´s embrace even more so that I could warm myself up.

"Aye, she was one of the people who helped me the most during that last year". A very uncomfortable silent moment combined with his Adam's apple moving towards my neck made me realize that she had been more than just comfort for him. "To have someone to share what I was going through was quite reassuring, so to speak..."

"Uhm..." turning my face back, I could see that he remained serious with his eyes focused on the horizon. I swallowed hard as I turned my face looking forward once again. "And you used to bring her here to talk?"

He nodded as he kept telling me his story:

"She was a great companion for me at the time and this was one of the few places we could hide without anyone listening.”

"And you two fell in love?" Of course, I didn't need to know that, but I couldn't hold back my little jealousy.

"Well, I probably wouldn't put that statement in plural." One of his hands moved my hair out of the way to place a long kiss on my neck as if he was telling me none of that mattered because he was there with me now. "Our conversations always helped us to make up the perfect escape plan going somewhere far away from our families, and I was delighted to have someone to run away with as soon as school was over," he laughed in astonishment. "And so I ended up having these expectations for both of us, expectations that were not there for her." Hmm, so we had a broken-hearted Scot? "She saw me as a friend and it has always stayed that way..."

"And did you feel anything for her beyond fascination?" I knew my voice was sounding deeper and more distressed than necessary as if I was afraid to hear his answer. And Jamie, feeling the unease in me, squeezed me even more tightly against his body.

"She was like a lifeboat to me and I thought what I felt for her was love." He kept talking and his voice held so much truth. "But what I felt for Freya never got close to what I felt for ye for almost ten years, Claire."

"Freya?" A blend of surprise and jealousy taking over me as I tightened the tartan even harder around my body, and I turned my body quickly to stare at his face: "The same Freya I met today?"

"Aye, the very same..." his look remained embarrassed beneath that increasingly poor sunlight. "I thought it was better to tell ye before things got much more intimate between ye two."

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie!" I was slightly annoyed. "You should have told me before!"

"I tried after I ken she would be our ceremonialist, but I couldna find a proper moment back in London. I'm sae sorry, Claire," his fingers searched for my face gently, and I unconsciously closed my eyes. "Beyond that, I didna want ye to get a bad impression of her, Freya did nothing wrong... In fact, neither of us did."

"Hmm..." I finally relaxed after a long sigh, smiling as I hugged his neck. "And how was it for you to see me next to her?" I arched one of my eyebrows, twisting my mouth as I waited for further explanations from him.

"I hadna seen her in years, almost the whole time I lived abroad, so it was strange to see her again. Even more, sitting next to ye!" His eyebrow arched, revealing his surprise. "But what I feel for ye, Claire goes far beyond a mere teenager enchantment and ye ken it well".

"She's very beautiful and easy to get enchanted by, Jamie. Even I was amazed by her beauty!" He laughed as he shook his head from one side to the other. "And I can't even imagine her when she was younger!"

"Claire, listen to me..." his hands held my face so I kept my focus on him. "My love for ye is greater than my own life and grows more each day, it is immeasurable and incomparable to everything I have ever experienced in life." Our foreheads met as his fingers searched for mine: "I wanted to bring ye to this special place so ye would ken more parts of my past that even I had forgotten about," his arms fitted around my waist, bringing me even closer to him as he put on such a passionate smile. " To bring ye here is as if my past finally made a connection with my present self. Ye are my present, my future, and everything that happens along the way!"

I wrapped my arms around his neck and I sighed thrillingly as an answer to his grin. Then, as I could no longer hold back the urge to feel the warmth and softness of his lips against mine, I reached out for them with unexpected eagerness. And the shameful desire Jamie showed me by invading my mouth with his tongue without any announcement was proof that I wasn't the only one with those feelings.

After we switched our positions, Jamie still kept trying to cover me with the tartan while our kisses grew fiercer and hotter until I came up with a better idea to warm me up:

"Make love to me, Jamie," I said against his ear, and then this incredulous laugh came out at the bottom of his throat, "I need to feel your heat."

As I stroked his half stiff cock over the jeans and felt how excited he was, I smiled cheekily as I pulled down his belt and pants resolutely. Then his hand grabbed my neck to pull me into a kiss that was bursting with desire, and by the next instant, I was lying on the grass over the tartan. At least that morning I had chosen the perfect outfit to have quick sex in an afternoon as cold as that.

We looked like two teenagers sneaking out to screw, away from their parents' sight and, with some of his body on top of mine, Jamie nimbly took off my panties and giggled blissfully against my lips as he felt how wet and ready for him I was. I felt the cold over the grass with my fingertips and the tartan under us, but that cold wasn't reaching our bodies anymore. I felt the heat everywhere, and the deeper Jamie went inside me, moaning against my neck, the more I wanted to feel my naked skin touching his.

The darkness of the night had already settled around us when I felt my second climax come at the same time as Jamie's, the silence of the highlands being broken only by the noises of our bodies colliding with increasing intensity and the echo of our groans of pure pleasure. Still, with our breaths panting and my legs wrapping his hip tightly, I held his face with both my hands so that he would listen carefully to me:

"You are mine, James Fraser! Only mine, do you understand?" He nodded, a lustful laugh resounding from his throat.

"And ye're mine alone, future Mrs. Claire Fraser!" His lips reached out to mine and his tongue filled my mouth again with no permission, melting me beneath his body. "I'll remember to provoke ye jealousy rather often, that always works!"

"Jaaamie!" I hit his chest while I laughed at him, my legs unfolding from his body. "Don't you dare!"

"Now let's go, Mrs. Jealous!" Finally getting on his feet, Jamie zipped his pants before he reached out his hand for me to stand up. "I might be able to warm ye up once more, but I think there's a risk we'll be the main course for tomorrow's lunch if we dinna make it to Jenny's dinner!"

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Us The Duo - No Matter Where You Are

Youtube // Spotify

Sleeping At Last – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

Youtube // Spotify

.

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POV Jamie

 

As soon as we reached Lallybroch that night, Ian and Jenny's inquiring eyes searched for mine right away and a big smile appeared among the three of us, just like in the old days. I could never hide anything from them and they knew exactly when I had done something.

And that afternoon I had done something, indeed!

It never crossed my mind that Claire would get so jealous over a girl I had shared a few kisses and a small part of my teenage years. That was more than a decade ago and was buried in my past, but who am I to complain about the outcome of our conversation. I loved to witness the way Claire used to dominate me even when she was completely under my body. She knew that I had never stopped belonging to her during all those years, just as I knew she never ceased to be mine, so I had fun playing her little game one more time, igniting more and more flames to that small fire lit by my Sassenach.

Before having another unforgettable experience with Claire, I spent the whole afternoon working on an old project that Mr. Murray had started. When Ian and I were about the age of Fergus, his grandfather hired a company to build two wooden projects for Lallybroch: a chapel, which served as a place for several masses and church meetings for the community of their town, Broch Mordha, and where now it would be held the religious ceremony of the wedding with Claire; as well as a rustic wooden cabin that was placed over one of the farm's hilltops. For many years this house was used as a home for renters of parts of Murray lands. However, due to the successful growth of Ian and Jenny's company, they decided to use part of the land to construct new spaces, and, for that reason, the cabin was completely abandoned since then.

And it would be part of the huge surprise for my Sassenach.

The house was situated in a magical place by the river's spring, a beautiful hiding place among trees where we used to play when we were kids. With a splendid view of one of the most beautiful sunsets in Scotland, that small cabin has been my most wonderful dream since my childhood and was the first idea I had for an unforgettable wedding night for Claire.

Sorcha.

Mother of my son.

My future wife.

After I moved to Claire's house the previous month, I still kept believing I was dreaming for a few nights as I saw her lying next to me. As I watched the outline of her body under the moonlight, for a split second my half-awake mind convinced me that Claire was just a dream, and the only thing that led me to reality was to feel her scent as I pressed her against my body. Claire was real, our life together was real, and all she wanted was to raise a family with me, so much so that she didn't think twice when she went along with the most astonishing plan I had proposed to her: a wedding in thirty days.

The weekend of our engagement had arrived in the blink of an eye, and as Fergus was telling his mother how his afternoon had been with his cousins, I smiled at my little family, still not knowing what I had done to deserve it all. We had endured so much far from each other, that's true, but to be there, together with the whole family around us made it all worth it somehow.

"James, do you have a minute before dinner? I would like to talk to you." Lamb woke me up from the quick daydream with his usual English cordiality.

"Of course!" I smiled as I gently tapped his back. "Do ye have a warmer jacket? I think I ken a good place for us to chat."

The night was even colder when I suggested that we could walk towards the chapel, but I carried on with my intention because I knew the silence would be a great company for us. As soon as we entered the chapel, I lit the lights before sitting down on the last pew next to the front door, silently offering the space next to me for Lamb to sit. We looked at our surroundings with focused eyes for a moment, as if the peace there had the power to overwhelm our souls with every breath we took.

"James, I would like to share something with you before the wedding." I looked at him for the first time and I saw how he was struggling to express what he felt, while his tearing brown eyes showed deep emotions. "I, as the only father image Claire has, wanted to say how delighted I am to see her so happy! Claire has always been a strong, fearless lassie who never failed when dealing with difficulties. I think her parents' premature death made her build a protective shell that has been with her all these years..." Just the mere idea of my Sorcha losing her parents at such a young age always made me feel ill. "Her annoyances began to have less importance the more life demanded of her and Claire seemed at ease with all that was happening to her. But that changed when you reappeared in her life a few months ago".

"Uhm…” I spoke slightly uncomfortable because I didn't want Claire to feel unprotected in any way. “And that was bad?”

"No, of course not!" A pleasant smile appeared on his face, making me relax as I leaned against the wooden backrest. "Well, of course, I never imagined that all this had happened during these last ten years..." I swallowed hard, feeling slightly shy. "However, when Claire found herself forced to face her past, it was as if she finally freed herself from the chains she made for herself... She loves her son, her work, and you, James. As freely as a bird that always chooses to return to its nest and its family every day". His hand briefly touched mine, a long sigh was coming from deep inside me to try to control the thrill to hear his words.

"I love Claire and Fergus more than anything in the world, Lamb." I smiled feeling moved, giving up on holding back the tears that began to roll down my cheeks.

"I do not doubt that, lad! It is very touching for me to see her giving and receiving so much love..." Even though he was a tough guy, Lamb laughed kinda nervous as he tried to hold back his tears. "None of us will live forever and, following the chronology, most likely I'll die before you all," I tried to stop him, but I received a distasteful grimace. "James, don't interrupt my train of thought, please? Well... you have no idea how delighted I am to see her being so loved by everyone in your family... Everything a parent wants is for their child to be loved by the people around him, right?" Even though his eyes were tearing, Lamb blinked to me in his usual joking way.

"First and foremost: I will not allow ye to speak about death while life keeps shining so brightly inside ye, Mr. Lambert..." I made a frown and he laughed at me. "But I understand yer way of thinking. To see Fergus being cherished by my family gives me such an inexplicable feeling, something only parents can understand, right?" I finally hugged him, a liberating laughter echoed from both of us. "Here everyone loves Claire for the woman she is, and this goes beyond her being my fiancee and the mother of my child. If it is up to the Frasers, Claire will never be alone; she will have me, Fergus, and all my family to guide her through the pathways to her destiny!”

"What have my boys talked about for so long in this cold weather?" Claire showed up smiling behind us, shivering with cold while embracing us at the same time, resting her chin on her uncle's shoulder: "Jenny will serve both of you for lunch tomorrow if you guys stay here!”

"My sister is not as sweet as she sounds, Lamb!" A burst of loud laughter in unison echoed as we stood up, Claire sought the comfort of her uncle's embrace as I locked the chapel.



***



That day had been long for several reasons, but I felt the weight of tiredness only by the end of dinner. Claire and I said goodnight to everyone before going upstairs and only after putting the boys to bed, could we finally relax. All I needed was a warm bath, a comfortable bed, and my Sassenach by my side.

Claire was sitting on the edge of the bed and, after leaving her whisky glass on the dresser, she remained in silence for a while as she took off the shoes and rubbed her feet, but soon her eyes began to follow me around the room:

"Oh, honey!" She said cheerfully when she saw me in front of the closet. "You have already arranged everything!"

"Aye, I had some free time before my afternoon duties," I smiled flattered at all the things I had set up in the cabin for our wedding night. "But the kids helped me as well..."

"That was very kind, thank you!" She walked up to me, wrapping her arms around my neck while smiling sleepily before briefly sealing her lips on mine. Leaning her head on my chest, she yawned loudly as she softened her body against mine. "I'm so exhausted, but I need a shower before going to bed..." Claire was so tired as if she had ended a long shift at the hospital. "I don't know if I can remain on my feet much longer..."

"Hmm..." I stroked her back while smelling her hair. "I don't think ye noticed the huge tub inside the bathroom, then..."

"What? Huge bathtub? I can't believe God heard my prayers!" She was acting like a child with her favorite candy. "What are you waiting for, Jamie?"

All the remaining energy I had inside emptied as soon as I leaned my neck against the bathtub and finally felt the warm water surrounding me, relaxing my muscles. I don't know how long I was out, but I got a little startled as soon as I felt Claire trying to sit silently at the opposite side of the tub, between my legs. Still sleepy, I sat back to give Claire some more room, and as I watched her slowly submerge in the water with her hair carelessly stuck in a high bun, I instantly remembered one of the dreams I had with her in the past.

"Did you manage to travel far away during the last two minutes, my darling?" She asked me softly, then taking a sip of whisky as the foam was moving around her body in such a sensual way.

"Far away... a few years away, to be honest." I took her glass and sipped some of the whisky before sending a cheer her way. "But dinna fash, Sassenach, ye were there!"

"Um, and what was I doing this time?" She bit her lower lip while smiling and she began to gently caress my chest with one of her feet. “Have I allowed you to touch me this time, at least?"

"We didna get that far, Sassenach..." I giggled hard, not believing that she had lit her fire again, even if she was so tired. "But now ye always let me touch ye, in my dreams and in real life."

"And I am quite pleased when you touch me, Mr. Fraser." She smiled at me full of desire while her foot was now moving along other parts of my body, but all her sensuality was lost as soon as a big yawn appeared on her face, making us laugh. "Gosh! I am a disaster... not even to cheer up my almost-husband!"

I leaned my body to grab one of her hands and I smirked before kissing her knuckles deeply:

"Ye have already cheered me up very much, and not just today, Sorcha..." She gave me back the smile. "Dinna fash, we'll have the rest of our lives for ye to cheer me up in any way ye want." A laugh that mixed sleepless with a little booze resounded through the large bathroom and Claire quickly turned her body to rest her back against my chest.

"I never thought the love I feel for you could grow stronger every day, James Fraser!" I held her tightly, caressing her belly under the water. "I want you to know that I'm very happy with you, more and more every day!"

"If throughout the past few years I've had a half-empty-life without ye," I kissed the top of her head, "now I dinna ken what it's like to have a life without ye anymore, Claire.”



***



Friday was packed with so many other appointments, starting with the early meeting with Father Bain. Since he was responsible for that small community, for him it was almost a requirement to know a little more about who would receive his blessing, and since we were not from the city, our morning became full of small judgments disguised as sermons as he was getting to know more about us. Of course, we didn't say anything very detailed, but just the fact that we were marrying having a child of almost 9 years old showed him that things were not quite correct, at least not religiously speaking.

While Jenny was on her way to Inverness to pick up all the clothes and dresses we would wear the next morning, the rest of the family remained involved with the decoration of the living room under Freya's leadership. It was the first time Claire saw Freya after hearing about my relationship with her, so it was almost impossible not to smile shyly as soon as the blonde's sweet eyes met hers. Fortunately, that discomfort didn't last more than a few moments and soon Claire went to greet her properly, joining everyone else while I escorted the priest out.

As soon as we got next to Father Bain's three-wheeled blue car from the 1990s, his quiet face stared at me long before he started talking:

"My son, I wish to take the opportunity now that we are alone to share some thoughts with ye. I ken ye dinna belong to this community and ye hae no obligation to obey all of God's principles, but I feel that ye hae more to say than what ye told me in the office..." His voice remained incredibly peaceful, even though he said somewhat uncomfortable things. "I see that ye are a verra practical man, so to speak, but starting a relationship by lying to yer wife is not God's path, lad."

"Well, Father." I took a deep breath as I slipped my hands into the pockets of my pants, my brain trying to figure out how to put it all together in an appropriate way. "Ye are right when ye say I haena said many things about my past, but dinna fash because Claire ken everything. About every dark point, about every insecurity of mine. When I left Inverness to live in London, I wanted to escape from personal issues with my family and I decided to be as practical as possible in my relationships..." Thinking about my past always made me very upset because I knew the painful consequences caused by my bad decisions. "Meanwhile, I met Claire and things got very confusing for me at the time, but now we are on the same page". I smiled with relief and he nodded. "Everything is fine between us three, Father Bain."

"I see ye hae so much love for her and for yer boy, my son, and I'm feeling calmer now after hearing ye." He tapped my arm a couple of times before he got in the car. "I'll be here tomorrow morning around 11:00. God bless ye, my son".

"Amen, Father." I closed the car door while smiling. "See ye tomorrow."

I exhaled deeply, following the car with my eyes as it passed through the large arch at the property entrance when I heard Claire's voice sound slightly startled, as she stood on the porch next to the front door of the house:

"Jamie, Joe should have been here by now..." approaching me, her face showed signs of uneasiness. “I wonder if something happened to them."

"Have ye tried to call him?" She said no, quickly picking up her cell phone from the pocket.

The same difficulties I had a month ago renting a car at the small airport of Inverness were now hindering Abernathy's life. The rental company, once again, had no car available and as I remembered Jenny was probably in town, I asked Claire to stay on the line with Joe while I got in touch with my sister.

"Joe!" I spoke as I picked up the phone from Claire's hands. "Ye dinna need to rent a car, my sister is in town and she will pick ye up at the airport! She's in an Audi Q5 and arrives in a few minutes at the arrival terminal."

"Oh, I don't want to bother you, Jamie. I can just choose a smaller car, they're almost done here!"

"No, no! I winna take no for an answer, Joe! Ye guys are our guests and ye never bother us! Besides, it will be fun for ye to get to ken Jenny a little better. We'll be waiting for ye here, okay? Oh, and prepare yer ears!"

As soon as I hung up, I hugged my Sassenach and felt her happiness as a part of her family would be present at such an important moment as our wedding. He was like a brother to Claire and he was the closest person in her life for many years. Joe and Gail would be the best man and bridesmaid, as well as Ian and Jenny, while Emily would be the ring bearer accompanied by Fergus. And yes, Fergus was so excited that he couldn't stop talking about it!

As soon as Jenny arrived with our guests, she, the little one, stepped out of the car and started giving us orders :

"Someone please ask Mrs. Crook to join me!" She said as I went to open the back door. "These three haena eaten anything since dawn, Jamie, and no one is allowed to starve in Lallybroch!"

"Ye're gonna eat so much here that ye're heading back to London on foot, Joe!" I hugged him fondly. "Even if ye only spend the weekend here, my sister will fatten ye up a pound each!"

As Claire heard our excitement, she came running from inside with her huge smile on her face, hugging her friends as Fergus held Emily by the hand to finally get to know the boys:

"Please, let's step in so my friends can be properly fed!" Claire spoke smiling as she escorted them both inside the house. "I hope you had a safe journey!"

It didn't take long for Emily to start coordinating the boys' activities, just like she did with Fergus, and while we were finishing our lunch, the four of them ran outside for her to see some of the nooks and crannies they liked the most around the property. We kept hearing them laughing even though they were already outside and it was interesting to notice how quickly Claire got at ease with Fergus' routine in Lallybroch. There she felt safe letting him wander off freely like a normal child and I really enjoyed that side of my Sassenach.

It was almost 4 pm when Freya left Lallybroch after we finished the whole decoration for the following day. The chapel looked perfect and, as I held my arms around Claire from behind, we stood in silence feeling proud of the outcome of our hard work while really relaxing for the first time that day. The wedding plans were going according to schedule; even in such a hurry, things were finding their proper places in an incredibly easy way and, in less than 24 hours, everything I had dreamed about would come true.

Claire would finally become my wife!

The sun was shining brightly in the sky with perfect clouds that looked more like Fergus' drawings and, as we walked towards the main house, Claire had an excellent idea: take Joe and Gail to ride and breathe some of the fresh air of the highlands. She wanted to spend some time with the Abernathys to show them some of the Scottish lands. Their flight back was scheduled for Sunday afternoon due to work and, after the wedding, we probably couldn't have a moment just for the four of us.

We rode for a few minutes while I showed some places to our friends that had been part of my childhood. And then, as I tied the two horses to some trees that belonged to the larger forest quite a distance from the main house, we kept talking about things while the ladies arranged the improvised picnic over the plaid blanket with fruits, cheeses, and a chocolate cake that Mrs. Crook had made. As we settled down and enjoying all the tasty things, the sun began to disappear behind the mountain, and Claire quickly moved her body to lay back against my chest while the silence seized everything that surrounded us.

"No photograph can ever capture all this beauty, right?" Claire said when only the sun rays could be seen behind the mountain.

"I can't stop staring at the sunset, Claire!" Gail said, stunned. "I would give anything to have a place like this to hide sometimes..." Settling down better in her husband's embrace, she smiled at him fondly and there was no doubt about the strong love they had for each other.

"Well..." I began to speak. "These are not my properties, but I ken that my sister and my brother-in-law would always welcome ye here, ye two are very important for Claire and me!

"So much so that we would like you to be our best man and bridesmaid!" Claire added excitedly, her voice slightly broken as she leaned towards them to hold their hands. "I love you two so much! You've been a part of my life for so many years, and I have no words to express my gratitude for having you always around! I don't know what would have happened to me, to my family, without your stubbornness, Joe, and your complicity, Gail!”

"I always knew Jamie was the right lad for you, Lady Jane!" A peal of broad laughter echoed around the four of us because Joe didn't miss the opportunity to show off, saying he had been our cupid. "Seeing you this happy, my dear friend, is one of my greatest joys." He stroked her hand gently before kissing the knuckles. "You are like a sister to me, and I can't even remember when I didn't have you by my side..."

“Even an ocean apart!” They spoke at the same time, almost like a mantra, and a big chill took over my body. It was always overwhelming to witness their connection and how their friendship overcame the challenges of a long-distance relationship.

In the past, because of Lamb's absence due to his work, Claire had felt that her friends were like family for several years and Joe had always been the most supportive and trustworthy person she knew during that time. He had the essential role for Claire to give me a second chance, right after Fergus' accident, and even though I got slightly jealous at first seeing the intimacy between them, having an honest conversation with Joe was all that it took for me to understand their brotherly love, just like mine with Jenny. Joe was one of those rare friendships that don’t happen very often in our lives, and I would always thank God that he was in my Sassenach's life.

It didn't take long for the chill to set in on that hill, and as we untied the horses to get back to Lallybroch, a question coming from Claire caught my attention right away:

"What's that cabin, Jamie?" Aye, our cabin. Definitely there was nothing that would pass unnoticed by those well-trained eyes.

"Uhm..." without looking at it, I kept on adjusting the horse saddle. "It's just an old and abandoned cabin. It used to be a home for the tenants when the land was rented out..."

"Will you take me there one day?" She asked me as soon as she sat behind me, hugging me lovingly while wrapping her body in the tartan.

"Of course, Sassenach." I stroked her hand that was firmly against my abdomen. "I will take ye there as soon as I can!"



***



5:00 a.m. Saturday morning. A run always helped me a lot to release tension, just like Scottish nature, so nothing better than to unite practically with pleasantness after a restless night due to my jitters. I left the house to run along the roads of Broch Mordha and I finally managed to release some of my tension while my future wife was still in bed deeply asleep. Yes, there was barely anything that could wake that sleepyhead up!

I heard my belly growl loudly as soon as I got back to Lallybroch, so I headed to the kitchen to get some cookies to take the edge off my hunger until breakfast. I was trying to be quiet, but as I slowly opened the big wooden door I got scared when I laid eyes on a well-known little lady sitting at the table:

"Oh, Jamie, ye scared me!" Jenny screamed, almost choking with her coffee. "Where did ye come from?"

"Hey! I was the one who got scared!" I replied to her frantically with a smile on my face. "Ye sit there at this table like a ghost in this darkness while drinking a tasty coffee!" Jenny closed her eyes quickly in reflection to the lights being lit.

"Would ye like some?" She asked me while she was already filling a cup for me. Yes, she knew me well. "And why are ye all sweaty?"

"I went for a run..." sitting in front of her holding a pack of cookies, sipping a bit of the coffee before grabbing a cookie. "I coudna sleep well last night..."

"Ah, that's lovely, brother! Not that it's good not to be able to sleep, but ye understand what I'm saying.” Now with our hands entwined on the wooden tabletop, our smiles were overwhelmed by joy. “I am so happy for ye, for you two! Claire is even more wonderful than I imagined... The hard work ye made to have her back was definitely worth it!”

"She is so wonderful to me, Jenny." I smiled, feeling moved when I realized once more that Claire was the only one who had this power over me. "I'm a better person because of her and Fergus."

"And I am grateful that this boy entered yer life, just so that ye two could find each other again..." she kept smiling, but as soon as she looked at the clock against the wall, her worried eyes showed up instantly. "Ye have to walk upstairs and wake up yer wife to be, we need to have breakfast right away because you need to be ready at 10 o'clock sharp!”

"Yes, ma'am!" My voice came out funny as I got up from the table, taking the last sip of coffee before finally leaving the kitchen in a hurry.

In an attempt to control my emotions, I opened the bedroom door slowly to allow me to observe Claire sleeping for a few more moments. She was so beautiful and relaxed, with her curly hair spread all over the white pillowcase as her breathing made her chest move slowly in a rhythm. I laid down in front of her and caressed her face gently, getting a sleepy smile from her in response:

"Sassenach... Wake up, mo chridhe. It's about time."

"Huuuummmmm..." she stretched out before caressing my chest and quickly opening her eyes. "Why are you all sweaty this early, Jamie?"

"I just returned from my morning run..." I spoke amusingly and laughed even more when she sat up sharply in bed to face me, her hair completely messed up around her head.

"Don't you know we're on vacation? And that we're getting married today?" She rolled her eyes and then she glanced at me with great second intentions. "I don't want my husband getting exhausted before the end of the night..."

"I'm never tired for ye, Sassenach." I pulled her over my body and she laughed before kissing my lips.

"Uhm, I hope so!" She caressed my forehead while she released a few strands of hair that were glued to my sweat. Claire´s mind was far away, clearly thinking of something.

"Did ye ken that ye are just like yer son?" I laughed at her clueless face. "Just say what ye want to ask me, Sorcha!"

"Uh, well..." she laughed ashamed. "I was thinking about something..." Lying next to me, she pulled my body to face her. "Is this where you stayed when you last came here?"

"Aye, in this very room." I smiled without understanding what she wanted to know. "Why?"

"Uhm... So this is where we had phone sex?" I lifted my eyebrows, surprised by her words. She smiled joyfully before pulling me towards her to kiss her lips, and we got carried away with each other for a few moments.

"Aye..." I replied and she giggled against my mouth. "It's great to have ye by my side to fill in the gaps that night had left in me!" I was about to fall into her morning charms when I remembered everything that we needed to do and, while separating myself from her with great effort, I smiled as I caressed her face. "Umm, mo chridhe, we dinna have time for this. It is past 6:00 and soon Jenny will come through that door to kick ye out of here!"



***



Like a hurricane, in less than an hour, Claire was already in Jenny's room with Freya and all the hair and makeup team while I remained surrounded by the children and our guests in the dining room. The ceremony would only start at 11 am and all I needed was to put on the traditional Scottish suit with the Frasers pattern that had been offered by my father the last time I was with him, just before I went back to London. We were about the same height and I knew the kilt would look perfect on me; even so, I stopped by my dad's house to try on the piece and make a couple of minor adjustments on Thursday before meeting Claire at the bakery.

"Da, maman's hair is all curled up around her head and there are so many people putting things on her face!" Fergus told me excited as soon as I walked into my room to start getting ready. "She looks like a very well-known artist!"

"Today is a great day for our family and she deserves to receive excellent care, right?" I held him against me and couldn't stop smiling back at his blissful face.

"Aye, maman is our princess, right?" I agreed before breathing deeply to hold back the thrill. "Are you nervous, Da? Maman is!"

"I'm so nervous I couldn't sleep properly, son!" I said and he giggled. "Listen, dinna ye want to take a shower? Yer aunt will show up here in a moment, pissed off with ye!" Jenny had committed herself to get the kids ready. I don't know how she could handle it, but I was grateful to have her in my life!

I hadn't worn a kilt in almost 20 years and I confess that for a few moments it was odd to see my grown-up self reflected in the mirror in a Traditional Scottish Outfit, but this little uneasiness didn't last more than a few minutes. That kilt was packed with lots of symbolic meaning for the Scottish people for centuries and the pride of being a Scot suddenly resurfaced inside when I saw myself dressed as a true highlander. In a gala suit, of course!

I was still lost in my thoughts in front of the mirror when I recognized a voice coming from the door:

"Do ye need any help with the tie, mo mac?" Brian stepped inside next to Phillip as he got a big welcome smile from me. "This kilt is even better on ye than it was on me!" We laughed while hugging each other softly.

"How are ye, little brother?" I could always make Philip laugh when I called him like that.

"I'm fine, Jamie!" As he reached out to me, I hugged him eagerly. "Where are Fergus and the boys?" Even if he'd already moved on from the playful stage in life, Philip was clearly longing to interact with the little ones.

"In their room, just about finished getting ready! I think ye better go there because yer sister probably needs help with all those kids!"

I watched Phillip leaving the room, and then my eyes met my father's, bringing out an instant smile between us. Therefore Brian came close to me and, even if he kept his cool, I noticed he was clearly moved as he tied my tie, his blue eyes showing his joy for me. Things between us were progressing slowly, but I finally felt at peace with Brian.

"Are ye nervous, Jamie?" He spoke as he sat in a chair by the window.

"I think that's very clear, everyone who walks into this room asks me the same thing!" I laughed and relaxed the weight of my body on the mattress. "Aye, I'm feeling nervous, but it's a good feeling! Even though for years it might have seemed something unattainable for this to happen with Claire, deep inside I never stopped dreaming about this moment. And now she's getting ready for our wedding only 3 rooms away!"

"I'm verra happy for ye, mo mac. I feel so much joy when I see how complete ye finally feel! Ye will still have many stories with yer Sassenach ahead!"

"I'm looking forward to it!"



***



I was already accompanied by the guests in the living room when Jenny showed up smiling and thrilled at the top of the stairs. I remained still in front of the fireplace because I knew what she was about to tell me and, with hurried steps to find me with her dress flying in the air, she laid her hand on my chest before speaking softly:

"Claire is ready now, brother." Her fingers fitted my suit as she tried to hold back her tears, just like me. "She looks so beautiful!"

"So can we start soon? If not, I think Father Bain might take one of those snack trays and hide in the chapel!" We giggled.

"Freya!" Jenny called her. "Please lead everyone down to the chapel, Claire is ready. Mom! Ye stay here with Jamie a bit longer, Freya needs to set up the last details before ye two walk-in!"

"Where's Fergus?" I asked as I only saw her boys coming down the stairs.

"He's coming soon, brother!" She funnily blinked her eye and suddenly I knew they had prepared something together.

As people slowly walked out, my heart kept beating fast. And to observe how jittery I was, my mother smiled as she wrapped my hand with hers and, with her tearful eyes, she sought my gaze for a few moments just before she could speak, her voice coming out a little restrained:

"Are ye happy, son?"

"I'm feeling much more than happiness, Mother." I smiled as she wiped one of my tears. "It's somewhat hard to explain, really... But I think happiness is a good word!"

"The way she looks at ye is very special, Jamie. She's a very special lass and I'm verra happy to see so much joy between ye two!" She stood in front of me and caressed my face before she got on the tip of her toes to kiss my forehead. "May God always bless ye, my love!"



***



I took a deep breath for the hundredth time that morning to try to contain my crying that was appearing at the base of my throat as I walked with Freya and my mother towards the chapel door. The time had finally come. I smiled lovingly at Freya before she nodded while opening the remaining barriers that kept me away from the rest of my life, offering my arm to Ellen so that we would finally enter the chapel.

To see all the people who were so important to us standing there as they followed my steps to the altar was more overwhelming than I could have imagined. The morning was a bit cloudy, the wind howled softly outside, but there, inside the chapel, the love that flowed from those people made it seem as if the most intense of suns shone over that beautiful place.

Already in the right place, I rubbed my palms against the kilt, and soon my attention got caught by the front door opening again with Emily and Fergus appearing side by side with their best smiles. I kept looking at their bright faces for a few seconds, so it took me a while to notice something different about Fergus: he was wearing a kilt! I looked quickly at my mother and she laughed softly at me, now I knew that my boy had thought out the surprise with the help of his grandmother and aunt in order to astonish his parents!

The kid was learning too fast!

All the anxiety I had experienced since the early morning and during the arrangements for this moment simply vanished once the groomsmen walked in. I got quickly relaxed because I knew that my Sorcha would finally be there next time the door was opened. Fergus was on his tiptoes to try to see better and both he and Emily smiled softly as they stretched their necks towards the door waiting for Claire. And I was having a good time watching them, I loved to see their complicity in action.

Freya gave a sign to the cellist who was located in the corner of the chapel near the altar and, changing the melody that came out of the violin, I adjusted the lapel of my suit one last time in the wait until the door of the chapel was opened again.

And Jenny wasn't wrong, my Sassenach was looking so beautiful!

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

The Light The Heat – Rest of our Lives

Youtube // Spotify

Ray LaMontagne – Hold You In My Arms

Youtube // Spotify

Imaginary Future – I Will Spend My Whole Life Loving You

Youtube // Spotify

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POV Claire

 

Jamie's voice and caresses awoke me from a very nice dream that Saturday morning. Those last few months, I got used to his presence in my routine, so of course, I didn't expect not to have him by my side. Last night, just before falling asleep, I remembered the day when we exchanged some hot messages while Jamie was in Scotland, and how our conversation ended during the best phone sex I'd ever had in my life. It was a perk having a set for the loud moanings and the indecent words coming out of Jamie's mouth on that phone call, it really made things even more arousing.

My body was claiming for Jamie even in my dreams, and although I knew we didn't have enough free time that morning, I had to try my luck with the most engaged groom of all to follow protocols that I had ever met in my life. It was lovely to see his commitment in every nuts and bolts when doing everything, including our wedding, and even if my attempts that morning didn't work out very well, it didn't really matter because I would be Mrs. Claire Fraser in a few hours and then I could do with him whatever it pleased me.

And I knew he was ready for that!

Then, after a quick shower and a hasty coffee, I was in Jenny's room right before 8 am, along with all the girls at the house, plus a photographer and the hair and makeup team that would take care of us five for that unique moment in my life. Yes, I had been married before, but it hadn't been with the right person. And even if I had married Arthur "by the book", it would never match the same level of joy I would feel if I "only" had a Civil Wedding with Jamie.

Being deeply in love with someone transcends any kind of celebration and I would go till the end of the world to be happy by Jamie's side.

I didn’t know any child more excited about his parents' wedding day than Fergus! Once we told him about our ceremony date and that he was going to be our ring bearer, there was not a day he ceased to ask us how many more days were left for the big day. Sure, besides the thrill at that big step in our family’s future, he was excited to have an extra week of vacation with his cousins right after the classes began and to have Emily's company on this new trip to Scotland. He loved to share everything with his best friend and he was excited to show her the many amusing places in Lallybroch he had been before.

That Saturday morning, even though Fergus couldn't interact with me so often, he managed to trick his aunt's system once or twice to see how I was doing and tell me how beautiful I was - even though my hair was curled up and my face was partially made up. He was charming, just like his father, and now being with him daily, he had all the working knowledge of massive strategies to convince me to do whatever he wanted only by using his soft voice and his puppy eyes.

Jamie was "helping" me to spoil that little clever boy even more!

The slight awkwardness I felt when I saw Freya on Friday when I left the office accompanied by Father Bain faded away very quickly. As much as I liked to use these silly stories to provoke Jamie - especially in bed - I trusted him completely and I knew his love for me surpassed any teenage passion. Freya was a very capable professional, that was beyond any doubt. She had put everything together so that the ceremony could happen in such an impromptu way, and on that special morning, she was being the best ceremonialist I could have asked for. I don't know how she still had functional lungs and legs after walking up and down the stairs over and over again!

Even though Jenny was in charge of getting the boys ready, I kept getting instructions from everyone - from the hairdresser, the photographer, even Emily. The sound of everyone's voices kept mixing with the sounds of a real army prepared for war but, as soon as Ellen finished the buttoned-up the colloquy that hovered in the air simply ceased. On Thursday I got baffled to see how well the dress had fit me, but Jenny was right when she said I would feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when the wedding day finally came. I never felt as beautiful as I did that morning, and it wasn't just because of the makeover and the magnificent dress that was on my body. It was like I was in a fairy tale and I could actually see the joy overflowing around me.

It was Jenny's idea to have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue on the wedding day and I must confess that I haven't struggled so much against another tiny family tradition. The precious pearl and diamond earrings I inherited from my mother were my choices to stand as the "something old" if I got married at the church, and they were the first thought I had when Jenny mentioned this to me on the phone just as we were settling the details of the wedding. The other ritual items were given me early that morning: the forget-me-nots which were part of the white rose bouquet we had chosen on Thursday; the woolen coat Ellen had lent me so that I could elegantly face the cold weather - her exact words - and the very wedding dress I was wearing, the most beautiful "something new" I had ever worn in my entire life.

Throughout the morning Gail kept sniffing and sobbing amidst broad smiles as she kept saying again and again how beautiful I looked and how happy she was for me. After so many years of half-truths, one night just after Fergus and Jamie got to know each other better, I was finally able to meet her alone and talk about all the secrets hidden in my past with Jamie and Arthur so that she could have a complete picture of all the mess I had been through for those almost 10 years. Besides the surprise and the initial shock - especially for Joe's silence - she exhaled such a big sigh before saying that she always knew I hadn't been truly happy with Arthur and that all the happiness displayed when I was with Jamie was what I deserved to have in my life.

It was a bit after 10 o'clock when Freya told everyone in the room to head out to the living room because the ceremony was about to begin. I sighed deeply once again, staring at my image in the mirror as I listened to the voices dispersing in the corridor. I was trying to adjust a tiny detached lock of hair when a soft knock on the door woke me up:

"Lass, may I come in?" Murtagh's voice sounded low across the door.

"Sure!" I sniffed once again as I turned my body and it was impossible for me not to smile as soon as I saw his awe look at me. "You'll have a chance to brag at Jamie for seeing me in my wedding dress sooner than him, Murtagh!" He nodded, his serious laughter blending in with mine.

He walked towards me, held my hands and he couldn't disguise his tender look, something he always tried to hide through his usual grumpiness:

"Ye bet, Claire!" another giggle came as his warm hand caressed my face amusingly. "Well, I dinna want to bother ye more than I already do, lass, so please allow me to say the reason why I'm here only moments before yer wedding!"

"Let's have a seat, shall we?"

I pointed towards the small couch next to the window, and Murtagh helped me tidy up the subtle volume of my skirt before he sat down next to me, facing me briefly. He grabbed my hands tightly again before finally staring at my face:

“I just want to thank ye once again for giving Jamie a second chance. I have just walked out of his room and it seems his joy couldna fit inside that giant's body!" Even grumpy, his smile along with tears in his eyes couldn't come out of Murtagh's face. My chin wrinkled in a great effort to hold back my very own tears. "He's like a son to me and ye have no idea how much it hurts me not being able to truly help him during those years...”

"That's not true, Murtagh." I suddenly cut him off, his brown eyes blinking relentlessly as they fixed on mine, clearly surprised. "Jamie always said that you were the only person who could keep him on track and he is very grateful to have you in his life.”

"Aye, I ken lass, but all I managed to do was restrain his urges by offering my friendship, my ears to listen to his sorrows, and my guidance when he needed to listen to me." He expressed a frustration that I knew very well, much like the ones I got when something in Fergus' life didn't work out as planned. "I ken so many sides of his personality that it would take forever to name them all, but this Jamie," he pointed his finger toward the room he was in, "this fulfilled, whole and joyful man I only met now, only after ye came back to his life! This is the best version of him, Claire, I'm sure! Ye are wonderful to him, my dear" his thumb caressed my cheek lightly as we smiled thrilled at each other "I ken from the first time I saw ye that ye were the right lass for him".

"Hmm..." I sniffed while smiling at him cleverly. "You knew that only by toasting, without exchanging a word with me, Murtagh?" I tried to add a playful mood through our turmoil while he gently wiped away my tears.

"Well, aye." A giggle burst out of my chest as I saw the pride printed on his face. "I recognized a look in Jamie that I hadn't seen in a long time, lass... much less at that place and with those people. I noticed in him the same look I held in my face when Jodie was close to me. And Jamie hadna changed the way he looked at ye during all those years, Claire".

"And now here we are, Murtagh..." I arched my eyebrows while smiling, pointing out my dress faking surprise and he nodded proudly.

"Better late than never, lass!" he grinned at my stunned face and I tapped his arm lightly, reproaching him. "Well, before I got here I asked Freya if ye had a silver sixpence coin to put on yer shoe and she said no..." He took his wallet out of his pants, taking a small old coin out of it and smiling as he put it in the palm of my hand. "This one is verra important to me because Jodie used it on our wedding day and, for sure, it will bring even more luck to both of ye in this new life!”

"You are very important to Jamie." I gently stroked his gray beard. "He loves you like his father, Murtagh, and I thank you for looking after him so well over all these years."

I pulled him to hold him tight when I noticed tears streaming down his cheeks and disappearing into his beard, and we got lost in our feelings for a few more moments until Jenny stepped up to the bedroom door:

"But who's gonna fix this makeup now, Claire?" she spoke sharply, but without failing to smile. "Get yerself together right away, for God's sake! The ceremony begins in 20 minutes and everything is ready downstairs, including yer groom! I will come down to tell everyone to head towards the chapel, aye?" even jittery, I nodded with one big smile while I slipped the coin into my shoe. "I'll be right back!"

"I'm going to leave ye now before that short lass chops my head off!" Murtagh spoke it in a nearly imperceptible voice and I laughed at another nonsense coming out of my new best friend's mouth.

Time seemed to run wild as I walked through Jenny's bedroom window from side to side. The feelings that flooded my chest seemed beyond words, but deep down I knew that they could only be summed up in one word: LOVE. Love that Jamie and I felt for each other; love that we felt for Fergus; love that all those people that were now walking towards the chapel felt for both of us.

I lived through many different kinds of love in my life, but even with Arthur still alive, I never stopped questioning God what was the real reason for all that pain inside my chest. But there, dressed as a bride as I watched the love of my life walking towards the chapel in his beautiful traditional Scottish outfit, none of those questions were popping into my mind anymore. I had to be right there with Jamie at that very moment, neither before nor after; and I was willing to live that love and that happiness to the fullest.

"Let's go, Claire?" Jenny's voice grew in the air softer than usual and I sighed deeply one last time as I walked towards my future sister-in-law.

My dear uncle was waiting for me in the living room, along with the best man, and he was looking at me thrilled as I walked down the stairs with Jenny's help. As we had been each other's best friends and confidants for years, Lamb didn't need to say a single word to make me understand everything happening in his mind reciprocally. His observant eyes were always very true, just like mine, and now they were showing pride, happiness, and boundless love.

"Ready?" Lamb asked me as soon as he finished lacing up my cloak kissing my forehead while I silently nodded to try to hold back one more outburst of excitement from inside my chest.

"Jenny, where is Fergus?" I said once we began to walk towards the main door. "I didn't see how his suit looked on him..."

"He's on his way to the chapel, but believe me, he's even more handsome than ye think!" she blinked one eye naughtily.

I walked with Lamb and Joe, listening to my friend's compliments as we tried to keep up the pace of Jenny's footsteps. Even though I kept focused on the wooden trail so that I couldn't sink my heel into the grass, a small tartan caught my attention outside the chapel door. It was a kilt to be more accurate, and that kilt was wrapped on Fergus' body! He was wearing a whole suit and looking at me proudly with both hands against his waist, chest bloated, and wearing his most beautiful smile while I looked at him in astonishment.

He was so lovely and it could only have been his idea with his aunt's help!

"You look so beautiful, maman!" he said as soon as I reached the entrance and of course I couldn't help but feel emotional at the sight of that beautiful Scottish miniature, and so I leaned my body to stroke my boy's bunches of hair.

"No more than you and Emily!" She was obviously by his side and I made them laugh with joy by touching their noses with the tip of my finger. "I loved that kilt on you! Has your father seen you all dressed like this?" he refused proudly and I rolled my eyes, amazed. "He'll be delighted to see you as a typical Scot!"

"Now the best men and bridesmaids walked in." Freya's voice emerged beside me, offering the final guidelines while the couples stood in line to step into the chapel.

I felt so much heat under that cloak even though the clouds hid the sun and brought even more chill to that fall morning. I swallowed dry while rubbing my hands to try to keep away the sudden humidity that took hold of them while I observed the best men and bridesmaids walking inwards and then the kids facing the door, which was closed again.

Yes, I was very jumpy and excited because it was actually happening!

I returned back Fergus' smile just before he walked into the chapel, and on the very next minute, it was me waiting for Freya's sign. I kept staring at the tips of my feet along with shivering gasps until I sensed my uncle's cold fingers lift my face to meet his. He caressed my cheek while offering me a soft smile, silently saying everything was going to be fine.

As soon as Freya started to open the door, Lamb helped me to remove the cloak I was wearing and then a very brief ray of sunshine ripped through that heavy cloud, beautifully lighting up my dress, my face, my hair. I could barely listen to the music I had chosen for that moment or the quiet cheering coming from the guests as they saw me. For a few moments, all the sounds and images around me remained blurred as my focus was completely on one certain Scot who couldn't stop staring at me stunned and with tears in his eyes.

Once again I didn't know if we had been stuck on each other's eyes for just a few seconds or for long hours, but Lamb's subtle cuddle against my arm brought me back to the present. I accepted his hand and held on to my uncle's arm before finally taking the first step, and then all the inconveniences we had to deal with as we hurried to make that wedding was suddenly justified as I walked through that chapel towards Jamie. We had everything we needed right there in front of our eyes: my uncle led me toward Jamie as I had always dreamed of; Jamie's parents and our best men and bridesmaids kept smiling thrilled when I met their faces; the children kept moving in excitement.

The closer I got to the altar, the clearer I could see Jamie's features, from his overjoyed face to the beautiful, traditional Scottish suit he was wearing that morning. He was so stunning that I  felt air lack inside my lungs for a while as if I had forgotten how to breathe properly. Wearing a kilt, long leather boots, and his curls all loosened carefully backward, he looked like one of those princes' true descriptions coming straight out of a Scottish fairy tale book.

Finally my prince in my fairy tale.

When I was handed over to Jamie, my uncle didn't miss the chance to lecture him using a brief lesson disguised as a joke when he said that my future husband should look after me very well because not even his death would prevent him from coming after Jamie if he ever caused me any harm. The ginger laughed hard as he hugged him warmly, and then when he finally held my hand, he kissed my knuckles deeply. He didn't leave my eyes during all that time, and I breathed deeply in an attempt to stop another outburst of tears as we stood in front of Father Bain to receive his blessing.

I was so caught up in that beautiful moment while listening to those wonderful words of the priest echoing through the walls of that little chapel that I only felt the time elapsed when he started to pronounce the traditional marriage vows for the exchange of rings. Yes, plural. Jamie was emphatic about having something to symbolize our relationship, and I had absolutely no objection to him carrying a little reminder of me everywhere he went. They were both golden and quite simple, but Fergus felt like some kind of guardian while carrying them over a little cushion. And when Father Bain called him to have the objects blessed properly, he rose proud and excited with the ultimate responsibility he had to perform.

Yes, he was enjoying his parents' wedding day to its fullest!

Once we finished repeating our marriage vows and finally exchanged our rings, Ian stepped up next to us with a white strip in his hands, and he blinked at Jamie before putting my left hand over Jamie's, tying the fabric around our wrists.

I couldn't understand what was happening, so I wrinkled my eyebrows and Jamie smiled at me:

"Sassenach, just repeat after me..." I nodded. Of course, that was another one of Jamie's surprises. "Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone, I give ye my body, that we two might be one. I give ye my spirit, 'til our life shall be done."

He was trying to kill me? We kept our eyes fixed on each other's faces while tears flowed down our cheeks as we completed those beautiful and surprising vows. We were looking at each other in adoration until I heard the priest's voice sound next to us:

"Ye may kiss the bride."

"Come here, Mrs. Fraser." he pulled me closer to his body, my smile stuck to my lips until I felt the warmth and softness of his mouth against mine. Even if I had only kissed him a few hours before, it seemed as if days went by before I got his heat, and if it weren't for the subtle cough from the priest's throat, I knew for sure that I would get lost again in that numbness flowing from Jamie.

The children were so excited when they threw rice over our heads right outside the chapel, including Phillip, Jamie's young brother. It was crystal clear that he didn't want to display so much fun with the kids, I knew very well what someone about his age had in mind at moments like that; so I confess I was happy to see him soon loosening up and running with the other kids through the wide garden connecting the chapel to the main house.

And, just like the children, at that very moment, I was making the opposite journey from minutes ago and heading to the main house, but the only difference was that now I was holding my dear husband's arm. I kept staring at Jamie still not believing he was really mine, and after looking back at me with questioning eyes, I started to talk:

"Can you pinch me?" laughing in amazement, I jumped up slightly when he reached for my ass over the dress. "Not for real, Fraser! Would you like me to do the same?" I tapped his chest softly.

"Nah, I ken verra well that I'm not dreaming, Mrs. Fraser!" he kissed my temple long and firm, and he pressed me even tighter against his body shortly before we began to walk up the small stairs from Lallybroch's front door.

The whispering that hovered in the living room was incredibly comforting and everyone was enjoying the little brunch, including Father Bain who proved to be truly hungry since he didn't move away from the table. When everyone received the glasses for the first toast of the day, Jamie hit the crystal lightly using a fork to attract the other guests' attention for his words:

"Well, before we drink to the bride and groom," I laughed softly at his funny voice when he hugged me tightly against his body, "I wanted a minute of yer attention to say thank ye. Thank ye for being here with us on this very important day for me and my family. And also thank God for finally having Claire in my life." He turned his body towards me and held my hands steady, staring at my eyes. "Our paths didna intertwine in the most straightforward way, nor in the fastest one, but it doesna matter now because I finally have ye back with me, Claire Fraser." He had tears blurring his eyes, and he caressed my chin which trembled in a feeble attempt to stop my weeping. Hugging Fergus beside his body, Jamie pulled me so that I could sink my face into his chest, our little family fitting all inside his embrace. "Finally we can watch together our little boy's growth and how our family evolves. We are together, finally together. I love ye, mo nighean donn".

Jamie had the gift of the word from the first moment I met him and there, during his short speech, it had been no different:

"How can I keep any makeup on my face, James Fraser?" I smiled as I leaned back, staring into his eyes, as blue as two sparkling topazes, as I struggled to wipe my face. "I don't have a wedding vow as beautiful as yours, but I hope you like it." I coughed as I walked slightly away from his body, breathing heavily into his face. "Jamie, you are the best father and the best partner I could ever imagine. I'm tremendously happy at your side like I've never been before. To share this moment with you, with all of you, still seems to be an impossible dream to reach, as one of the many I've had during all these years. And even if it may sound quite unlikely, I find myself more in love with you every day" I pressed the palm of my hand against his chest and he wrapped it warmly with his fingers. "I love you for the person you are and for the love you give me, for the love you give us!" I brought Fergus close to my body and I shared happy looks with my boys before facing our guests. "Thank you all so much for being here, you are very important people in our small family and your presence makes this ceremony a more significant moment for the three of us!”

"To the bride and groom!" toasting our glasses in the air, then we crossed our arms slightly awkward until we could drink the sparkling wine in the best "romantic comedy" style.

It was so easy to get lost in Jamie's gaze that I had no idea how many seconds went through before I heard a soft whisper from Emily next to me:

"Go Fergus, just talk!" she kept saying as she encouraged my son to be near us again.

Fergus smiled shyly, and for a while, I didn't understand what was going on there. But then, stepping up on one of the chairs with his glass of juice in his hand, he stared briefly at the people who were there before turning his body to Jamie and me:

"Uh, well... I wanted to say a lot of beautiful things, but the happiness I'm feeling seems to make ideas slip out of my mind!" God, could he be even more adorable? "Today is a very important day for both of you, but I think it's even more important for me. Ever since I met you, Da, I've always known that you were great for maman; and I'm glad I wasn't wrong!" Yes, we were both already crying in each other's arms, you bet! "We may not know each other since I was a little boy, but now it doesn't matter anymore to me. We have a nice family that loves to do things together and I think that's the most important thing. We like to be close to each other, we like to talk and laugh at a bunch of nonsense, and I think that's what family is, right?" the two proud parents nodded with broad, moved smiles. "Thanks for making maman so happy and be sure to give me a little sister soon! I'm getting too old for these little sister things!" giggles echoed everywhere, he never knew when to stop talking, the same as his parents!

A child. One more child. This was never something that crossed my mind after Fergus' birth and had never been a topic between Jamie and me. As much as we loved each other for so many years and had a child together, we were still at the beginning of our relationship as a couple. But when I saw Jamie's face after Fergus ended his speech, I soon realized it was an unsolved issue between us both.



***



A little before 4 pm, as soon as we cut the cake and posed for the photoshoot, I could finally eat a slice of that wonderful cake while talking to Brian and Glenn about his stroke recovery. I was in the middle of a big explanation about heart function when I saw an odd buzz between Jamie and Jenny near the main door. Jamie whispered something to her sister as he buttoned his suit and I knew he was planning something. Now I was very familiar with his modus operandi.

"Claire." Jenny reached me a few minutes later, pulling me closer to the wall. "Jamie told ye to grab the cloak and go meet him at the stables."

"Jenny..." I stretched my arm straight towards the guests and she interrupted me.

"Dinna fash!" Holding my hands in front of her body, she smiled calmly. "The celebration is almost over and everything is under control, sweetheart. And of course I'll take care of yer boy".

"I know you will, but I should say goodbye to the people..."

"Leave it to me, sister!" her fingers gently tapped my arm while sighing deeply. And of course, naming me her sister was the sweetest thing she could ever do to me, it always made me smile like a silly girl. "Just go!”

Why exactly the stables?

Bidding a brief farewell to Brian and Glenn and giving a quick kiss on Fergus' forehead, I grabbed the woolen cloak that was on one of the hooks near the main door and headed towards the back door that was in the kitchen, closer to the stables. I couldn't help but smile as I walked a little bit fast towards Jamie's meeting; I knew he was planning something since we had arrived in Lallybroch, but with the whole process of the celebration happening that day I couldn't pay attention at the exact moment he had walked away from me.

Another big surprise from Jamie was about to happen and, as usual, I had no idea what it was. What had he planned this time?

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Dave Matthews Band - You & Me

Youtube // Spotify

Freya Ridings – Unconditional

Youtube // Spotify

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POV Claire

 

The sun tried to warm me up on that beautiful fall afternoon while I walked toward the stables to find Jamie, but even if I wore the cape over my shoulders, the wind was cold enough to reach my skin under its wool. It was even colder than at the wedding ceremony, but it didn't really matter to me, what I wanted most was to find out the mystery involving my now husband's surprise.

The stable was quite big so I couldn't find Jamie as I entered, but the sound of buckles and leather straps coming possibly from Donas' stable made me walk a bit faster, wondering what Jamie was doing there. My husband - yes, I liked to call him that! - had his back turned to me, slightly leaning forward while finishing saddling his favorite horse, and he was so focused that he didn't see me coming near him. It was a rather tempting sight, to have him there so beautiful with his kilt, tall boots, and a coat that fit him perfectly, so, for that reason, I decided to embrace the moment and quietly watch him for a while.

He was even more breathtaking in such a rustic place.

"You know, I've always wondered what a Scot wears under the kilt..." His gaze reached out to me at the sound of my voice and a husky laugh echoed from his throat as he turned around. "And now, as my husband is a true Scot AND is wearing a kilt, I thought it was an appropriate moment to ask him without being misunderstood.”

"Hmm..." his lips curved into a naughty smile. "Do ye want to infer something other than what's obvious?" Coming up close to me quite fast, he put his arms around me while shamelessly french kissing me.

We laughed as soon as he furtively ended our kiss and I pinched his waist inside his jacket before answering him:

"No, in fact, I wanted to feel it with my own hands," I replied with an even more shameless kiss and then I smiled against his lips as I placed my hands on his buttocks, pulling him even closer. "May I?" I said with no shame and arched my eyebrows as I watched him nod with absolutely no hesitation. I leaned down to caress the back of his legs under the thick fabric of the kilt, but soon I found his usual boxer brief fitted to his thighs. "Well, at least you're saving yourself for me!" I spoke amusingly and he laughed against my temple.

"Just for ye, mo chridhe." I felt his fingers slide from my upper back down to my waist as his mouth strode a wet and eager path toward my chin, his eyes staring at me with desire as our lips barely touched. "I haena forgotten what I promised ye this morning, Sassenach." I smirked as I felt his mouth take over mine in an outburst, his sudden arousal making me squeeze his buttocks. "I just hope ye're ready for more surprises today..." his intertwined speech against my lips showing all the desire he had for me.

"Uhm..." I gazed around the room as I wrapped my arms around his waist, and then a cheeky smile popped up on my face. "And are you going to do me right here?"

"Nah, Sassenach. At least not in our first sex as husband and wife..." he kissed the tip of my nose in a lovely way, completely unrelated to what he was talking about. "I want to give ye comfort, Claire, so that I can serve ye well."

I wrinkled my eyebrows and I held his body even tighter as I smiled naughtily:

"Can I ask you why we had to leave the house for you to offer me comfort?"

He didn't say anything else but another deep laugh came from his mouth as he helped me to fit the cape properly around me. Soon after that, he led the horse out of the stable so that I could mount up and no, it was not easy to make myself comfortable on a saddle wearing that long dress. However, once I did, I could finally enjoy the beautiful contrasting champagne tone of my dress with Donas' deep black fur.

Who would have thought I would bring that beautiful dress for riding that afternoon?

"Tie this up over yer eyes, please." Jamie offered me a thick black ribbon while he spoke in an almost austere voice, which made me grin eagerly as I tied it around my head. "How many fingers do ye have here, Claire?"

"Eight?" he giggled softly at me and, feeling the slight movement of the saddle beneath me, soon Jamie's strong back was set against my chest.

We started riding through Murray´s fields straight away and, even though I couldn't see anything but a few clear shadows between the dense fabric pattern, I knew we had a very beautiful moment of a "runaway bride and groom" and that it was worthy of a photograph or something similar. The sensation was even more satisfying as I was blindfolded and I felt delighted sliding my fingertips along the strong muscles of his abs as we rode and how his body reacted to every little movement of our horse. 

I couldn't tell how long we spent on the horse's back, riding up and down so many hills, but at last, I heard Jamie's commands to Donas and felt another strong contraction of his abs with my fingers as he pulled the horse's reins. We finally stopped and the rays of light which I had barely glimpsed behind the thick fabric were gone. It was as if we were in a deep forest and all the sounds around us instantly went into a deep silence that was only interrupted by Donas' exasperated breaths, the sound of leaves being shaken by the wind, and the soft noise of running water.

While still on the horse, I held Jamie tightly as I tried to find his ear with my mouth:

"Have we arrived at our final destination, Mr. Fraser?" His hand pressed mine against his abs, his unspeakable heat reaching my skin quickly.

"Aye, Mrs. Fraser." His body leaned forward and I felt his lips kissing my fingers. "And now ye can take off the blindfold if ye wish."

It took a while before my eyes could adapt to the clarity, but soon the image of the hut I had "found" on the day before suddenly appeared just a few feet away from me. Today the place had a subtle smoke coming out of the chimney, a few bouquets of country flowers on the benches just below the windows, and a line of small lit lamps around the frame of the front door. Now the place that had caught my attention seemed even more beautiful and more alive than the day before.

Jamie got off the horse in a skilled manner and I kept smiling emotionally at him while not making a sound, his blue eyes filled with devotion searching firmly for mine. "That was the surprise you were hiding from me all these days, Jamie?" I took his hand to get off the horse and, as soon as my feet reached the ground, Jamie's arms wrapped my waist possessively under my cape.

"Uhum..." he turned his head back towards his “piece of art”, then our faces met again. "Ian, Fergus, and I spent Thursday afternoon setting everything up for this very moment and today I had some help from Mrs. Crook and her husband for the final details," he said grinning, his pride never faded away from his face.

"Fergus had to be part of this as well, naturally! This kid is already learning from you how to surprise his maman..." I wrapped his neck with my arms, unable to stop smiling. "So... don't you want to show me everything you did in there right now?"

"I was desperate to bring ye here ever since I saw ye wearing this dress, Claire." I arched my eyebrows as I felt his hands squeeze my buttocks and I noticed that his blue eyes, darkened by pleasure, couldn't stop staring at my lips while he made the dirtiest smile.

"That much?" I kept staring at his eyes with my mouth only a few inches from his, teasing him a bit more. "And what are you waiting for, Jamie?"

He suddenly grabbed me in his arms while pretending to put so much effort in carrying me - as he always did - and my arm wrapped around Jamie's neck - as I always did. He easily made those few steps toward the doorstep of the place that would be the most perfect shelter for such a special moment of our life as a couple. We would share one more magical moment from now on, and I couldn't help but stare at Jamie's facial expressions for a second. It was wonderful to see up close the blend of desire, happiness, and sweetness printed on Jamie's face.

"Oh, dhia..." Jamie tried to open the door, but it was locked. "Claire, can ye get the key in my shirt's pocket? I really dinna want to screw up our moment by placing ye on the floor right now!”

I managed to reach his pocket with some effort underneath his vest and soon found an old, golden, and heavy key with words engraved on both sides. It was hard for me to read due to the bad lighting on the porch and, seeing my great effort, Jamie opened the door like magic - obviously without the key that was still in my hands - and turned on the lights of the cottage so I could finally read the words that were engraved on it: LOVE and FAITH, one on each side.

He gently placed me on the floor in front of the crackling fire from the fireplace, and I looked at him amazed by the small details he had planned, his hand wrapping the key along with mine:

"Love demands faith, Claire. To love means having faith in a feeling that is not visible, that is not touchable, but that we still have to believe it is there." He touched my cheek while tears began to run down, making him smile and feeling moved. "For so many years we both suffered in silence, but there was still a shred of faith in our love inside us, enough for us to have the strength to fight for us when our fates met again." He kissed my knuckles with tears in his eyes, still smiling thrilled at me. "And this key is the symbol of that. It will always be the symbol of our love and the reminder that we must have faith for there to be love".

"Do you want to be a widower after being married for only four hours?" Tears flowed down my cheeks, but even so, I kept smiling so brightly at the joy I felt inside me. "How can you manage to plan so many things and surprise me like that?" I kissed his lips sneakily, still amazed at everything that was going on. "And here I am, as usual, just with a new set of lingerie..."

"Ye are the most wonderful gift God has ever given me, Claire." His dirty half smile appeared as he wrapped my body again with his strong arms. Well, I was glad I had a place to lean on since my legs suddenly lost their bearings. "Without ye I wouldnae be the man I am today, without ye I wouldnae have Fergus and I wouldnae feel like the world's most loved man!" he put a lock of my hair behind my ear. "And ye ken verra well how much I love to unwrap my gifts."

"So you can start with this dress..." a cheeky laugh popped up in me before I turned my back toward Jamie. "Buttons first, then the zipper."

I listened to the despair coming out of his lungs as I watched Jamie take off his jacket behind me and release the buttons of his vest. Even somewhat lost in the feeling that I was experiencing as I sensed his lips moving along the side of my neck, I was finally able to observe some of the decoration inside the cottage. It was tiny, but very cozy and carefully furnished with country flowers, burning candles, and exquisite bed sheets, perfectly matching what Jamie had set up for our honeymoon. Some things from the brunch party were placed on the table together with fruits, bread, a bottle of my favorite Italian wine, and two sparkling wines inside a bucket of ice. And at the top of that, curtains made with light fabrics framed the windows perfectly, turning the cottage into a magically familiar spot, as if it were our home, our hiding place.

I noticed Jamie's skilled hands opening the buttons and the little zipper of my dress as I watched the details of the cottage, the fabric slowly loosening around me as my body shivered in response to Jamie's heavy breaths next to my ear. His fingers were strong and delicate, depending on the need of the moment, and they knew exactly what they were doing to me there, so it didn't take long for his hands to finally find my bare breasts under the dress and for me to hear a grunt of satisfaction coming out of his throat, his clear arousal pressed against my back.

I took off the dress with his help and the cloth slid down my skin until it piled up around my feet, and then I heard another grunt as soon as he saw that I was wearing only a small white panty along with ¾ socks of the same color. He really knew how to drive me crazy without barely touching my body and, looking back at him, I found Jamie speechless, with flushed cheeks while his eyes focusing on my ass.

"Are you enjoying the view, Fraser?"

When I turned toward him, his eyes began to stare at my breasts as he swallowed hard and, finally meeting my eyes, Jamie blinked a few times as if he woke up from a trance. Then, he helped me get out of the dress completely so that I would be even closer to him:

"I never get tired of this view." He sketched with his finger a very subtle path between my breasts, and I gasped as I felt his caresses; quickly a fiery heat rushed through my body and then focused on the most tender spot between my legs. "It's my favorite, Claire. Ye ken how to surprise me so well..."

"I know?" my voice sounded almost like a sigh and as he wrapped my back tightly with one of his arms, Jamie smiled before shamelessly giving me a deep french kiss. His only goal was to drive me crazy, and now feeling his hand cover completely one of my breasts, a loud grunt burst out of my lungs as his fingers finally rubbed my nipple.

"Aye." He took one of my hands down between his legs, and a horny laugh came out of my mouth: "Do ye still have any doubts about what ye could do to me?"

I nodded silently, removing his tie firmly while he took off his vest in a hurry. As I pulled his shirt over the kilt, the vast volume of his stiffened cock under the heavy wool fabric caught my attention again. Then, holding my hands on his belt, I bit my lower lip naughty not failing to stare at him: "You see, from the first moment I saw you in the chapel, all I wanted the most was to open this belt and hear everything falling down on the floor."

"Umm... And what are ye waiting for, Claire?" He used the very same voice that always softened my legs as he said exactly what I had said to him outside the cabin.

I moved away as little as possible from him, smiling unabashedly as I laid my hand on the belt, opening it with zero patience while he stared at me ravenously. My hand searched for his cock inside his underwear like a magnet and all the serenity Jamie seemed to have in opening his shirt disappeared instantly. He groaned loudly in reply to my skilled hand, the remaining buttons spreading everywhere as well as my astonished laugh.

"Is it that good?" I said close to his lips before kissing him eagerly, his voice nodding against my mouth.

Blinded by desire, my hands went to the side of my panties in a rush, but I was stopped from taking it off by two strong hands:

"No, Sassenach." Jamie's deep, lustful voice sounded low in the room. "This is my gift and only I can unwrap it."

He lifted me onto his lap easily, and I wrapped my arms around his neck and my legs on his hip as he carried me to bed. He was biting and licking and sucking my neck so hard I knew it was going to bruise, but I didn't really care. I just held firmly onto his hair, silently allowing his moves. 

Jamie laid me down carefully on the mattress, standing in front of me between my legs as he watched me for long, agonizing seconds, his eyes so filled with desire staring into every little piece of my body: "God, Claire... ye are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." His face reflected the same astonishment he always displayed when he saw me beneath him.

Jamie stripped off his shirt, the sight of his naked upper body leaving me once again breathless. Leaning my elbows and the bottom of my feet on the mattress, I bit my lower lip again not leaving his eyes:

"And when will you start unwrapping your gift?"

"Impatient, Claire?" His hand went along the elastic band of my panties, from the hip to the most sensitive spot between my legs, and he slipped two fingers slightly bent inside me, our single moaning, filling the room.

"Always." I swallowed hard, my body falling back on the mattress. "I'm always longing to be yours once again, Jamie."

He took off his boots quickly, as well as all of his clothes, and soon those big, warm hands reached the sides of my panties, pulling them quickly from me. No, he said he wouldn't take off my socks nor my shoes for scientific reasons and, after gently stroking my legs, he promptly put his head between them, slightly biting the inner side of my thigh before leaning my legs on his shoulders, caressing them as he stared at me with lust.

I moved my hips up and he giggled brazenly before sinking his mouth into my most sensitive spot. Our grunts emerge as one with lust, resounding in the air as I wrapped my legs around his neck, the heels of my shoes scratching his back. Jamie took a brief pause, arching one of her eyebrows and smiling naughtily as he briefly moved his mouth away from me:

"Is it that good?"

I couldn't answer him using more than a few meaningless words and Jamie giggled once again before giving me even more pleasure. Now one of his hands was searching for my breast as the fingers from the other slid in and out of me, paced with his tongue against my clit, making me arch my back and gasp uncontrollably, the shoes slipping off my feet as I moved underneath the redhead.

"Jamieee," I shouted his name out loud between moans, my hand searching hard for his hair as he led me to the first climax of the day.

The lust coming from those blue ocean eyes was always intense, but it still kept me completely breathless over and over again. Jamie kept sipping me as my body calmed down, one of my feet still firmly resting on the mattress, and I was so lost in that blend of feelings that it took some time for me to realize that he was wanting a second round.

"Jamie, please... I need you inside me." I tried to pull him up with my hands and feet, still weakened.

"Just one more time, Sassenach." I bent my back again as I felt him move his fingers inside me, his husky voice bewitching me again. "Cum in my mouth once more, a nighean donn." He stared at me as hungry as if I were a complete meal for the most hungry Taurus in the world.

I caressed Jamie's hair and his lips bent in a tiny nasty smile before his face disappeared between my legs once again, making me exhale as I gave up fighting my husband's wishes to finally rest my back on the mattress one more time. Jamie knew he had the power to do with me whatever pleased him without any kind of prior approval, but what he didn't know was that he was even more attractive exactly by doing it that way. Using circular movements that combined both strength and softness, my second climax hit me suddenly, my thighs pressing his head as my feet pushed my hip up just once, a long groaning along with this orgasm.

I kept my eyes closed and felt his lips and tongue following a dizzying path across my belly, pausing strategically on my breasts for a while until I finally felt my own taste in his mouth. Jamie kissed me ravenously as if we were just starting that evening. I searched for his cock with one of my hands, and after hearing one "dinna even think about doing it because I won't last a minute," I laughed as I gave up paying back Jamie's caresses, quickly turning our bodies and sitting on his thighs as I masturbated him.

It didn't take long for my wish to be fulfilled by him to seize me. I liked being in charge just like that, and I loved to see him enjoy that moment as well. And by slowly adjusting his cock inside me, Jamie's hands held my hip for a few moments, holding me still as we adjusted our bodies to each other. His hands ran down my waist, breasts, and neck with such desire that they seemed to set fire trails everywhere they went, and as I began to move against him, we soon found a strong, paced rhythm for our bodies.

I felt the climax come twice at that same position and I felt so softened by all those waves of pleasure that I could only hold the pace of my movements with the help of Jamie's hands against my hip. His sounds anticipated his own climax and, intensifying my movements, I felt his cock fill me up further before a loud, unisonous moan emerged between us.

I fell over his chest, completely sweaty, and with my disheveled hair stuck to my forehead. I smiled with pleasure as I listened to Jamie's panting breath by my neck, interspersed by the almost unnoticeable exhalation of my name from his throat. That was the place I loved to be and, wrapping my back gently against his body, he kissed my temple before pulling my chin to find my gaze.

"I love ye, mo chridhe.”

"Forever, Jamie."



***



It was late at night and the pleasant noise of crickets blended with the wind that blew through the trees near the cabin woke us up from a wonderful nap. We remained spooning for a while, Jamie's strong arms pulling me close to his body as I listened to the little lazy noises coming out of his mouth. However, a big growl from my belly made us laugh and quickly grab something to eat.

I had a warm and refreshing shower in the small bathroom of the cottage while Jamie revived the flames in the fireplace. I wore comfortable clothes - which he had wisely taken there on Thursday - before he took a shower too and we finally sat down at the table to feed ourselves after so much physical effort - his words, of course. We shared a cozy silence while eating bread, fruits, and tidbits, the yellow light from the lamps mixing with the tone that came out of the candles and the fireplace turning that moment into something magical.

"Wow, this pie made by Mrs. Crook is terrific!" he agreed with his mouth full, delighting himself as I did. "Oh, I just talked to Jenny and everything's fine with the boys, everyone is already in bed!"

"The old folks as well?" I shook my head, laughing from another nonsense coming out of my dear husband's mouth.

Pouring now wine for us both, Jamie smiled fondly as we toasted once more that day, and his appearance made me instantly remember Fergus' speech hours ago. I silently drank a large sip of wine and I placed the glass on the table before I began to talk: "Jamie, right from the beginning of this afternoon I want to ask you something..." I spoke as I was finishing eating.

"Apart from the kilt?" I nodded showing my serious face and soon he understood that it was something important. "Anything ye want, Claire." He leaned his back against the chair backrest, settling down before he faced me again.

"We never talked about it, in fact, I don't think we ever had time for this kind of discussion since we've started dating just over five months ago." He listened to what I was saying while taking the glass to his mouth and I coughed somewhat uneasy, taking another sip of my wine. I didn't actually understand why I was feeling uneasy about it. "Eh, well... do you intend to have another child apart from Fergus?" Jamie didn't stop sipping his drink, but I could clearly sense the doubt in his eyes.

"Hmmm… And do ye wish to hae another child besides Fergus?" he wisely turned the question over to me as I settled in the chair, sitting on top of one of my legs before facing him again.

"I must confess that I never imagined having another child, Jamie, not after so long... but I never imagined you back in my life as well," searching for his hand over the table, I smiled and felt moved as we intertwined our fingers. "I saw the way you reacted when Fergus begged us for a little sister and I know how you still struggle because you didn't share everything with our boy. I know that a child cannot replace another and that is not the aim of all this conversation, but I thought you might want to have this kind of experience..." His eyes were lost in our fingers before they found me again.

"And ye would like to relive that experience one more time?" He sounded like a puppy dog when he said it so tenderly and I could no longer hold back my desire to sit on his lap and wrap my arms around his neck.

I slowly kissed his temple and lifted his chin to make him look at me one more time:

"I want to have as many experiences as possible with you, honey." His face lit up instantly and, caressing his cheek fondly, I leaned my forehead against his, our noses touching briefly. "You are an exceptional father to Fergus and I know that you have enough love to have 12 children!"

"And ye want to have 11 more children with me, Claire?" he squeezed me tightly in his embrace, a laugh bursting out as he saw the face I made in answer to his question.

"No, for God's sake!" I laughed as I waved my hand negatively. "Just one more and I'll shut down the factory!" Jamie held his hand on my neck, laughing with me as he stole kisses from me.

"Okay..." he pretended to look disgusted, but soon he funnily kissed my arm. "Just kidding, mo chridhe. I am verra happy having only Fergus and ye in my life, in fact, I am the happiest man in the world with both of ye!" He caressed my womb almost instinctively. "I never wanted to talk about having another child because I ken how hard Fergus' pregnancy was for ye."

"Yes, it wasn't easy to bring that boy into this world, but now I would have something different in that equation." I sighed to try to hold back the great thrill I felt while placing his hair behind his ear gently. "If we have another child you will be with me this time, unlike Fergus' pregnancy. "My chin trembled as the tears began to run down my cheeks and Jamie, trying to make me not blame myself again for those terrible choices of the past, held my face to give me an Eskimo kiss. It was always something that made me smile. "You give me all the strength I need to be brave enough to live fully again, Jamie."

"I will be with ye today and always, mo nighean donn. With one, two, or twelve children. And I will also be with ye when they all grow up and only we two remain in our house, old and filled with energy to travel around the world! I will be with ye in the happy moments and in the less happy ones because I was born for ye, I do not doubt it. It has always been forever for me, Sassenach".

"And I will always be yours, in this or in other lives. We were made for each other, Jamie, and I don't make a plan for life without you in it. Never again!"



***



3 months later…



Fergus had just started his Christmas vacation and that Saturday afternoon we would celebrate his nine-year birthday with his closest friends, my uncle, Murtagh, and Ellen, who had already arrived in London to spend the festivities with us. Just a month after our wedding, Jamie had been caught off-guard with the notice that Murtagh and his mother were dating. However, he had been the only naive grown-up who hadn't noticed the bright sign with hearts, flowers, and words of love that had stayed on top of their heads as soon as we got back to Lallybroch from our wedding night. Well, if I only knew that a bouquet of flowers would bring luck in love so quickly, I would have found a way to pick some at one of the weddings I had attended in Canada!

Ellen and Murtagh seemed to be so happy and in love with each other that even though they had to travel back and forth to London and Inverness quite often, the long-distance between them didn't seem to be something difficult for the two lovebirds. I had never seen Murtagh smile so much as when they were together in the same room! Even though Jamie seemed a little jealous at first about everything that was going on, that grumpy man was one of the people Jamie trusted the most in life and I knew that deep down my husband was very happy to see two people so important to him together and happy in love at last.

Jamie had left home early that morning to go to the fire department to finish the last details before taking two weeks off and I was so exhausted that I could barely remember his rather loud morning movements. But that wasn't what caught my attention as soon as I woke up. I was still very sleepy and the feeling I had was that I was living a déjà-vu from years ago that matched indispositionnausea, and a little dizziness.

Just like when I found out I was pregnant with Fergus.

But now it was different, Jamie was with me.

While still staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror after brushing my teeth for the third time that morning, I kept laughing and crying as I faced the two different pregnancy tests that were over the sink. As much as we were already planning on having a baby, I never thought I'd get pregnant so fast after I had my IUD removed, especially at my age.

Well, fertility had two pathways and Jamie was clearly very fertile, just like me. And not only in the past.

"Maman, are you okay?" Fergus' voice on the other side of the bathroom door dragged me back to reality.

"Hi, my love!" I smiled with tearful eyes as I opened the door. "Maman is fine!"

"But why are you crying?"

"It's from happiness, Fergus!" I caressed his face and he gave me his broadest laugh. "Do you promise to keep a secret from your father?" He nodded happily and I picked up the two little pregnancy tests before making Fergus sit on my bed. "Do you remember that mommy told you that daddy and I would begin to try to give you the little brother or sister you wanted so badly?" He nodded, his eyes as open as his mouth while he waited for me to finish speaking. "You can be happy already because he or she is already on the way!" I instinctively covered my womb with my hand.

"And my little brother or sister is going to grow up there?" He gently touched his hand against my belly and I smiled tearfully.

"Yes, just like you!" We hugged hard and I kissed the top of his head deeply.

Leaning his head back, he looked into my eyes just before asking the million-dollar question:

"And when will you tell Da?"

IMMEDIATELY.

The resemblances to Fergus' pregnancy stopped at the physical symptoms, the whole experience was completely different. This baby had been planned and I was happy and married to the love of my life. With no anguish or suffering, my tears were nothing but joy inside that cab that drove me toward Jamie's job to tell him the big news.

All of my husband's co-workers already knew me and, asking where he was after saying good morning to a small group who were on the couches at the Department reception, George promptly replied that Jamie was alone in his office, finishing papers for this month. I couldn't stop smiling, so I thanked him as I started walking towards the mezzanine, my hands were shaking a little against my purse as well as the breaths coming from my chest.

Knocking on Jamie's door, I waited for his voice to echo from inside the room to finally open it:

"Claire?" he looked at me over the computer screen, clearly not understanding what I was doing there. "Is everything alright with ye, mo chridhe?

"Uhum..." I walked up to his desk, smiling nonstop at my husband. "I left Fergus at Lamb's house and thought I'd come here to meet you for lunch. Well, actually I don't think I'll get much lunch today, I woke up feeling a little queasy..."

"And are ye okay now?" he stood up scared, going around the table to hold me. "Did something happen, Claire?"

"Nothing out of schedule, Jamie," I spoke with my head on his chest and, finding the two tests inside my purse, I smiled thrilled before putting them in the palm of his hand. "And yes, I chose the most trustworthy brands."

For a few moments he didn't understand what I was referring to, but, seeing the two red lines on one and a positive sign on the other, his eyes widened, as open as his mouth, exactly as Fergus had been minutes ago:

"Sassenach, ye are pregnant!" Holding my face with his hands, he smiled at me like a fool, surely in the same way I did.

"Well, I still need to do some blood tests," I giggled softly, "but I don't believe two false positives can happen in one day. So yes, I am pregnant!" He hugged me tightly and our laughter of joy echoed in the room, but soon he laid his hand on my womb in a worried way.

"And what do we need to do now besides the blood test? Do ye need to make an appointment with a doctor?" he spoke in a hurry, the space between his eyebrows sharply wrinkled. "Do ye have to eat something different? How will ye get through pregnancy without eating properly due to nausea, Sassenach?"

"Hey" I held his face with my hands "easy, Jamie!" He giggled along with me as we sneaked our lips, joyful tears flowing down our cheeks. "You have so many questions and I promise you all have fine answers, but not now!" I caressed the back of his hand that was laying on my belly. "I'm pregnant, we're pregnant and we need to celebrate this! Then we'll think of everything else, okay? We have plenty of time left."

"I just want to help ye in everything I can, mo chridhe..." I knew everything that was behind that short sentence and I hugged him for a few moments, my face sunk into the curvature of his neck.

"And you will..." I kissed his neck before leaning my head back. "You're already helping me so much by giving me so much love right now!"

"Well, I hope ye winna suffocate by receiving double love, Mrs. Fraser..." he rubbed my nose in his, his amazed look finding mine once again. "Because I will become the most sentimental man on earth now that ye are carrying my bairn inside ye!" His hand caressed my still flat womb lightly.

"I promise I can handle the whole softness, Mr. Fraser!"

In a hurry, Jamie bent down in front of me without stopping smiling, his two hands together in a shell shape on my belly:

"Hey, good morning, baby! How are ye today?" Well, I'd have to get used to that kind of cute daddy voice right away. "Please behave yerself because yer mother needs to eat something during these 9 months, a leannan!"

"Jamie, he still doesn't hear anything!" I laughed as I stroked his hair.

"Hmm, do ye really believe that?" He looked at me arching one of his eyebrows inquiringly. "Besides, I need to show all my love for my girl from now on!"

"And how do you know it's a girl?" I asked as he got up again, his hand not leaving my belly.

"I dinna ken exactly, but I think I dreamt with her tonight, Sassenach." I swallowed a hiccup loaded with emotion and he kissed the tip of my nose tenderly. "A redheaded girl with curly hair like yers. And her name will be Faith".

"Faith as in our key?" I spoke in awe, now wiping away the tears that flowed from Jamie's eyes.

"Just like in our key." He kissed my forehead for a while, our eyes closed as we sighed again and again. "We had faith in our love for all these years, Claire, and now we received our Faith as a divine gift."

I was in the warmest, most comforting hug I could ever imagine getting again after nine long years, even less in a déjà-vu like that. I was pregnant with Jamie once again, but now there was no fear that he would refuse the child I carried in my womb, nor me. After almost a decade, we had overcome every hurdle set by fate and there we were, more connected than ever, very happy with our little family of three and waiting for our little girl.

Waiting for our Faith.

Waiting for our Faith Fraser.

Chapter Text

Music to listen to as you read this chapter:

Roberta Flack - The first time ever I saw your face

Youtube // Spotify

Hozier – Work Song

Youtube // Spotify

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POV Jamie

 

Seven years later

 

There isn't a single day in my life in the last seven years in which Claire doesn't make me feel like the proudest man in the world. She is the most skilled physician, the most attentive mother, and the most perfect wife I ever imagined I could have in my daily life. And the pregnancy of our little Faith made me certain that Claire is the strongest woman I know.

It was a late Sunday morning in early June when the fear overwhelmed our family for the first time since we found out about the pregnancy. On that incredibly hot day for late spring, Claire wore a short gray dress that adjusted perfectly to her even more beautiful curves, including her now prominent belly; and kept her hair in a high ponytail with her voluminous curls falling down her back, her long neck fully exposed making me want to kiss that soft skin every five seconds. Yes, she was even more beautiful pregnant with my child and I was just the luckiest guy in the world.

I got to know Claire quite well in the year we were together, and the most noticeable trace in her personality was that she didn't know how to lie. And especially on that day, the half-hearted smile she put on her face to try to convince me that everything was fine, actually made me feel that nothing was fine. I noticed an unusual concern hovering over her eyes, and my heart just knew that something was wrong, even if she kept saying the opposite.

Claire was extremely tired that day and nothing I said or did was enough to make her leave the bedroom. This is why I had already given up our plan to take Fergus and his friends to the soccer field next to our house. Something kept telling me that I shouldn't leave my Sassenach's side... and I'm glad I listened to my sixth sense.

Fergus and I were setting up the pool in the backyard, shortly before Sunday lunch, when we heard Claire's distressed scream echoing so loudly through the house that it reached my ears in a blink of an eye. I instinctively shouted her name back before I left whatever I was doing to run desperately through the house until I reached upstairs. My mind kept thinking of several scenarios during those few seconds, but none of them prepared me for the way I found Claire in our bedroom.

I still have a clear picture of everything that went through my head during those few seconds, as if I was living in a slow-motion movie. Claire was standing near the bathroom door, twitching in pain as she held the lower portion of her belly with her hand while the other one was leaving a trace of blood on the door frame. A red line was dripping down her inner legs making a puddle on the wooden floor, and in those few moments I kept staring at her, completely shocked, it seemed to me that the puddle of blood around her feet was getting bigger. She was looking down, sweaty, and ruddy due to the effort she made to control the pain, but, as soon as she saw me arrive, her eyes full of tears were instantly soothed. Even though I was as desperate as she was and unsure which action to take, I was right there for her, I was right there for them.

The very next second I was at Claire's side, covering her hand with mine under her belly while I wrapped my arm around her back. I kissed her sweaty hair near her temple fiercely, the more she cried on my shoulder and screamed in utter despair "It's happening again!", the harder I hugged her.

This time I was there to comfort her.

Everything we had feared the most was happening, we didn't need to say a single word to know what we were thinking in the middle of the chaos. We remained astonished for a few moments, as we were anesthetized inside that little bubble filled with pain and sorrow, but I finally awoke when I heard Fergus, standing at the door of our room, saying anxiously, "My little sister cannot die!".

Acting as practical as possible, I swiftly picked up my Sassenach in my arms and laid her on the bed as Fergus called the emergency while caressing his mother's leg. My precious Fergus. Everything was very messed up and filled with pain, but still, I could notice his reactions that morning. He had shown much confidence and tranquility talking on the phone that, from that day on, I was sure he would be an excellent firefighter.

At least he had taken something after me, besides the jealousy the zeal for his mother!

Fergus had grown up a very healthy boy, but the time of his pregnancy was very difficult for Claire. Aside fro