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The Coffee Incident

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Claire had never been a woman who wanted children. At least not until she married Jamie.

Before him, she was career driven. Too much, even sometimes. Being a doctor, the strain, the training, the hours. Everything made it hard to think about being a parent. Even less be one. There was also something else...something she carried within her since childhood: the constant fear she would die. Die just like her parents and leave an orphan without the care of its mother. Now, there was also her infertility issues weaving into it all, making her believe that, after all, she would never be a mother.

The more she thought about it, the more Claire wished for nothing more than a child with the love of her life. Each time, the knowledge of such a thing happening kept her up at night. They had started to think about adoption. She knew better than anyone a parent didn’t need to be related by blood to take care of a child and love it well. Nonetheless, during the night, while Jamie would be sound asleep next to her, she’d pray one day she’d carry their child.

Though, any child or adoption discussion had been put on hold since Jenny and Ian’s dreadful accident.

The weeks that followed their burial passed in a blur. The funerals were held in the little chapel near Lallybroch and the bodies were buried in the cemetery up the hill behind the estate with other people of various generations of Clan Fraser.  

Claire stayed at young Ian’s bedside morning and night. Cutting back on her work hours to make sure her nephew had the best possible care. She even decided not to attend the ceremony in case the little boy would wake up and not see a familiar face. His injuries weren’t as bad as the one that took his parents’ lives but his frail body needed time to heal.

Telling a child he would never see his parents again was probably the hardest thing Claire ever had to do in her life. As a doctor, she had been confronted with the issue more than a few times but she would never get used to it. How could she? She experienced first hand the trauma of such a situation and no matter the age, it was something that stayed with a child for the rest of his life.

“Auntie Claire...will ma and da come back?” The little boy asked, curled up into his aunt’s arms.

Claire knew the question was coming and as much as she had prepared, there was no right way to do this.

“You remember when you asked me why I didn’t have parents and I told you that they were looking over me from the sky, darling?” She stroked his blonde curls back, looking at him with the most tender expression.

Young Ian nodded, attentively listening to her “Aye, they had an accident too, like Mam and Da.”

“Yes, they did. Well now, your parents are with them too, my love,” Claire placed a kiss on the tip of his nose, trying not to let her tears fall.

“They can’t be here but they’re looking at you to make sure you’re a good lad,” She booped his nose, “If you brush your teeth before bed,...”

Young Ian looked up at her amused, “I always brush my teeth, auntie Claire!”

“Do you?” She grinned, “I recalled you whining about it a couple of times.”

“Nah,” He tried to wink and giggled softly, “I promise I will be good for Mam and Da but I miss them lots.”

“I know you do,” Her heart broke, there and then, “Everyone does but they’re here, ” She pointed to his heart, just like uncle Lamb had done with her.

“Always with you,” She held him close, “They won’t go anywhere.”

“I love ye, Auntie Claire,” Ian whispered, hiding his face in the crook of her neck and closing his eyes.

“I love you too, darling.”

Young Ian was dismissed from the hospital one month after the accident, his right arm in a cast and his bruises slowly disappearing.

Jamie carried his sleeping nephew carefully to his bedroom at Lallybroch and laid him in bed before covering him. He watched the sleeping boy for a little while, too preoccupied to realise Claire had been leaning against the doorframe, her eyes glued to her husband.

“Jamie,” She whispered, touching his back and bringing him out of his haze.

Turning his head, Jamie smiled softly and held out his hand to her before pulling his wife close. He wrapped his arm around her and placed a kiss on her curly head of hair. Letting silence envelop them as they watched the little boy.

“Let’s let him sleep, darling,” Claire whispered against his neck, “He needs it and I want to talk to you about something.”

Jamie nodded and let her out of the bedroom, carefully closing the door. They walked hand in hand without a word to their own room.

Sitting down on the bed, Jamie pulled her onto his lap, burying his face into the safe hollow of her neck. He placed a kiss on the little beauty mark she had there.

He had been a complete shell of himself since the passing of his sister and his best friend. Claire tried to give him all the time he needed to grieve and heal but it killed her to see him like this. She had no family, yet, she could understand all the pain the Frasers were going through. After all, no matter the rocky start she had with Jenny, the two women had become like sisters and her loss was immeasurable for Claire as well.

“How are you, Jamie? And don’t give me the usual bullshit, I know you’re not fine,” Her tone was in no way accusatory. She wasn’t angry at him to be in pain, far from it. She simply wanted him to talk to her about it. Hopefully, she could help him carry his grief.

“I want you to talk to me, you barely have since the accident happened,” She touched his face, letting him melt into her touch.

“Aye no, I’m not fine sassenach,” He held her tightly, tears strolling down his cheeks.

“I miss my sister, Ian and when I look at the wee lad, I cannot help but feel my heart break in a million of pieces all over again for him. Growin’ up wi’out parents...”

“Ian has lost his parents but you lost your sister and your best friend, Jamie. You aren’t going to be okay in a couple of weeks. Not even a couple of months,” Claire kissed his tears away and stroked his cheeks.

“Grief does take time and it never goes away, you simply learn to live with it,” She stroked his jawline with her index finger, his scruff grazing her skin.  

“On the other hand, there’s this little boy now who will need us to be strong for him,” Jamie nodded at her words, his grip around her waist tightening.

“I remember how I heard my uncle cry sometimes at night for my mother and for his lost brother. How he prayed to be strong for me and to be able to help me go through this...Now, looking back, I’m so thankful to Lamb for all he did for me. How strong he was even if he was devastated.”

“I dinna ken if I can be strong, Sassenach...I truly dinna ken it,” He rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes for an instant.

“You can, I know you,” She kissed his lips, holding him close. Her throat was tight and her vision was  starting to blur with tears

“And Frasers are stubborn, remember?” Claire smiled softly, “Being strong doesn’t mean forgetting your pain, my love. It doesn’t make you weak to have bad days, either. Quite the contrary.”

“What have I done to deserve ye, eh?” His mouth curled up into a smile.

“Bad bad things, Fraser,” Sealing their lips again, Claire could feel her husband’s tears on her own cheeks but also his smile against her mouth. She would mend his heart. No matter what or how long it took.

She held him close for a long time, both eventually moving to lay down on the bed. Silently just enjoying being together, only the two of them. It had been a while, since their time was spent at the hospital, cramped on an old leather chair watching over Young Ian.

Claire had missed her husband and the heat radiating out of him like a human furnace. She didn’t know but her arms were his own private sanctuary. A place where peace could take over him and chaos of the outside world was non-existent. A place where he could be himself completely and unapologetically because she would never judge him for being angry or sad, and even less vulnerable.  She saw all his flaws, yet, she loved him all the same.

She simply held him and gave him the solace that was her healing touch, without asking for anything in return. The only sound in the room the one of their synchronized breathing. She didn’t need to tell him just how much she loved him, Jamie simply knew. Without a word, he slowly started to unbutton her silk shirt.

Claire smiled, then, and let him undress her, his deep blue eyes turning dark with lust. And started to undress him after a few seconds.

Both naked, Jamie rolled them over and let his wife straddle him. Tonight, he needed her to possess him and she did just that. Every inch of his being. His body. His soul. It was hers. Joined together to make one.

Eyes locked, Claire gently caressed his cheek while her hips moved in slow circular motions, reminiscent of the first time they had made love. Back then, they both were discovering new territories that they learnt they knew everything about already. Jamie had been on his wheelchair and the solace that Claire brought him that night made him realise just how much he loved her. How much he needed her to be happy.

Tonight was no different. Every kiss, every whisper, every touch healed him. She wasn’t taking the pain away, she simply made it bearable for him to live with it.

Moonlight cast a blue light over her ivory skin and took Jamie’s breath away just seeing her. Sometime, he still couldn’t believe she was his wife but god, he was grateful for it. The long lines of her body, as if it had been made to perfectly fit his, the soft curls cascading over her shoulders and her eyes...Dark whisky turned golden with lust. Piercing his soul.

Jamie sat up slowly, his hands firmly planted on her hips and buried his face between her breast.

Claire cradled his head against her, moving slowly and gripping his curls.

He looked up then, eyes shiny with tears and lips trembling. He cupped her cheeks, bringing her face closer to his and gave her a long and slow kiss. Full of something. Something Claire recognize to be gratefulness. For what? She didn’t know. But she smiled against his lips.

“Ye’re the only thing that makes sense to me right now, Claire,” He whispered, holding her close and letting her take him over the edge of pleasure like she did many times. Like she would for the rest of their lives. She reminded him how alive he was and that’s all he needed.

******

“We could bring Young Ian to the zoo tomorrow? What do you think?” Claire looked up at him, moving up slightly. They’d both briefly drifted to sleep after making love but they had woken up again, in the middle of the night.

“Good idea, Sassenach,” He smiled and placed a kiss on the tip of her nose. His hand drew patterns on her back.

Claire stroked his cheek with her thumb, “Jamie?”

“Yes, mo nighean donn?”He said softly, holding her close.

“You know, there are a few spare bedrooms at home…” Claire bit her lower lip softly, her eyes locking with him. They had no need for words to communicate. Never had. Never will.

Jamie sat up a bit, eyebrow raised, “Are ye saying what I think ye are saying?”

Smiling, Claire nodded, “ We should adopt Ian. I know your parents would take great care of him but he loves spending time at our house and I think we would be good guardians to him.”

“Aye,” Jamie’s mouth curled up into a smile and his heart warmed at once with Claire’s words, “Ye’re right, Sassenach, I thought about it --”

“I know you were, you might hide your emotions well, I’m your wife after all and I can hear you think now,” Grinning, she pecked his lips.

Jamie chuckled softly and kissed her back,  I’m glad I dinna need to talk for ye to understand me.”

“Do you think your parents will be mad if we tell them this? I don’t want them to believe we think they can’t take care of him --”

“Oh no, my mam kens how much we want children and this situation might not be what we had imagined but I think we would be great parents to young Ian,” He stroked her hair back, “We talked about adoption before ye and I. I think we  owe it to Jenny and Ian to make sure the lad will be just fine.”

“We should talk to your parents and see what they think is best and if they agree, ask Ian what he thinks about it too. Then we can start the procedure,” Claire laid her head on his bare chest and closed her eyes with a smile.

“Christ, I love ye so much,” Jamie whispered, his eyes blurring with tears.

Claire looked up at him and wiped a tear strolling down his cheek, “And I love you, darling.”

“Can ye tell me how ye felt when yer parents passed away? Ye dinna have to if ye dinna feel like it but…” Claire rarely talked about her parents and Jamie knew this similar situation was weighing on her. He was afraid to be insensitive but he needed to know. For his nephew.

“No, I’ll tell you,” Claire sat up and leaned against the headboard, as Jamie did the same. He watched her attentively, his face bore an expression of curiosity.

“It’s been a while I talked about it though,” She admitted, smiling softly.

“Truly, ye dinna have to tell me if ye dinna want to,” Jamie took her hand reassuringly and brought it to his lips.

“Jamie, I tell you everything, really I don’t mind,” Claire smiled and kissed his cheek.

“Aye,” Jamie wrapped his arm around her neck and pulled her closer. They were not tired. It happened sometimes and they’d spend the night talking and making love. Just now, they both were simply happy to be together, alive and well, no matter what was going on around them.

“Well, you know my parents died in a car accident coming home from a party,” Claire looked at Jamie who was nodding.

“I was supposed to go with them but they changed their mind last minute and decided to leave me with a nanny,” She started, holding his hand.

“ I don’t know why they changed their minds but I guess, it doesn’t really matter anyway,” She shrugged and he wanted to hold her even tighter. He wanted to make sure she’d never be hurt again.

“I didn’t know what happened until I got up the following morning and I found my uncle downstairs,” She continued, “It was unusual to see him there because he travelled so much. Lamb only came around for Christmas or my birthday. I remember seeing him and feeling the rush of happiness because I had missed him so much. I ran in his arms and he held me for a very long time, which I recall finding odd. Even more, since he was sobbing and I had never really seen adults crying before that day.”

Claire felt Jamie’s arm tightening around her for comfort and she felt her own throat tightening with her recollection, “Then, of course, I asked for my parents. It was unusual to wake up and not smelling pancakes or bacon in the air. The few times it  happened, it was because my mother was either out early or sick in bed with the flu.”

“Anyway,” Claire wiped her tear, “My uncle sat me down and explained to me how my parents had a terrible accident and wouldn’t be coming home. He told me they were now looking over me now and that they lived in my heart forever. I didn’t understand then and I secretly hoped they would come back one day and stop their tasteless joke. Sometimes I even wondered if they had left because I had been a bad girl -- ”

Jamie looked at her, heartbreak was written all over his face and held her close, “I’m so sorry ye have been through this, Claire. I wish I could kiss all the pain away. I really do. I can bear pain myself but I canna bear yers, mo nighean.”

“It wasn’t easy but I made it through and young Ian will too. Lamb was truly marvellous with me,” She touched his cheek, “I think we can be that way for Ian too. We won’t ever replace his parents but we can love him and raise him well. Hopefully, Jenny and Ian will be proud, wherever they are.”

“Aye, I think so too,” He kissed her forehead, smiling.

“And you know,” She cupped his cheeks, “One day, Ian will find a woman who will kiss the pain away...just like you do to me.”

Jamie’s mouth curled up into a smile, “Dinna think I heal ye, Claire. It’s the other way around in this story.”

“Oh, is it?” Claire raised her eyebrow, bringing his face closer and kissing him.

“Yes, ‘tis...” He looked into her eyes, getting drunk on them. “When I met ye, I was drowning and ye rescued me. I thought was life was worthless and ye prove me it wasn't. But most importantly, I was wounded and ye healed me. Ye stayed wi’ me after my accident. Always there, watchin’ me, helpin’ me...I got better and yet, ye still heal me every day. ”

“Jamie…” Her voice cracked.

“Ye heal me every day, Sorcha,” He smiled through the tears.

“Well, I’m a doctor,” She joked, sniffing.

“Fair point,” He chuckled softly, ”But ye heal other people’s bodies...not their souls. That’s just something you do to me.”

“Good God, Fraser,” Claire pulled him close, wrapping her arms around his neck, “You sure know how to talk to women.”

“Jamie Fraser the author, remember?” His eyebrow rose and he smirked.

Claire burst into a laugh, “Yes I do remember that!”

“The very same one who ye wouldna drop yer panties for...” He remarked, kissing the delicate skin of her neck.

“Did I say that?” She let out a moan, feeling his scruff, “I don’t recall...”

“Oh aye, ye did,” He whispered against her skin, making her skin erupt in goosebumps. His hands travelling to her bare bum and took a firm hold on it.

“But I made you work for it,” She smirked proudly, trying to resist him. It wasn’t working.

“Ye did that too...but still, ye dropped them,” Jamie smiled mischievously, looking at her. “More time than once.”

“Don’t tell anyone,” She said seriously, trying not to smile.

“I dinna need to say anything, ye’re loud enough to have the whole word hear,” He looked at her, mischief floating in his eyes.

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Ye just make squeaky noises is all,” Jamie’s lip flicked up.

“I do not!” She said scandalized.

“Oh aye,” He grinned, kissing the delicate skin of her neck, his unshaved beard tickling her skin, “Ye do.”

Claire closed her eyes and enjoyed the sensation of his warm lips travelling on her skin. She wasn’t going to try and contradict his statement because it took approximately three seconds for her to start and make squeaky noises again