Without another thought, she launched herself into his arms, her fingers sliding into the silky curls around his nape. She clung to him, her face buried in the crook of his neck, his scent (warm and masculine and familiar) filling her senses, making her feel almost drunk. He held her just as tightly, his own face buried in her curls as he breathed her in.
“You’re real,” she said dumbly, her mouth moving against his skin as she spoke, refusing to move back even a centimeter and risk losing the warmth of his embrace.
She felt his chest rumble against her as he made a nondescript sound, his hands sliding down her back to cup her bottom, lifting up slightly. She wrapped her legs around his waist then, finally moving her head to plant a kiss on his lips, a breathy sigh leaving her mouth and entering his as she tasted him for the first time in days.
“Mm,” he smiled against her lips. “You’re real, too. I can tell because your arse is even better than in the dreams I’ve had about ye the last few days.”
“You’ve been dreaming about my arse, huh?”
She leaned back to look at him, watching as his smile grew even wider. “Always,” he answered easily, eliciting a small giggle from her that made his eyes crinkle in affection at her.
She sighed then, letting her forehead rest against his as she closed her eyes. “I’ve missed you, Jamie.”
“I’ve missed you, too, mo ghraidh. It’s been hard to be away from you the last few days.”
“This is the longest we’ve been away from each other since we moved in together,” she said quietly. “I’ve hated it.”
“So have I. I don’t ever want to be away from you like this again.” He pulled back to look at her, his eyes intent as they swept slowly over her face, one hand coming up to sweep his thumb along her bottom lip. She watched his eyes follow the movement of his fingers along her mouth and cheek and jaw before he looked back up, his eyes meeting hers. He licked his bottom lip before he kissed her again, his mouth soft and firm at the same time against hers.
He pressed his lips against hers once, twice more before he pulled away and swatted her playfully on the bottom. She let her legs unwind from his waist as he placed her carefully back on her feet, turning back towards the seat she had been in a few minutes before, their hands reaching for each other like magnets as they walked up the few steps to sit down together.
He made a noise of deep disapproval when Claire moved to sit in the seat next to him. “I dinna think so,” he said, his hand tugging her into his lap. “C’mere.” His arms came around her, holding her close against his chest as she snuggled back into the warmth of his embrace.
They were both quiet for a few minutes, content in the silence and calm of being back together and in each other’s arms again. His jaw moved against her temple when he spoke, his breath warm against her skin. “Do ye remember our first date here?”
Her forehead scrunched together in confusion. “Our first date was in North Berwick. You took me out for a nice dinner and then you made me climb that bloody hill with you, which I was not expecting to do.”
She felt his chest rumble his dissent against her back. “That wasn’t our first date, Sassenach. Though that was a good one… ye went up with me in heels. Verra classy. I was impressed.”
“I’m glad, since we were already living together at that point. It would have been terribly awkward to have an awful date and then have to go home together, too,” she smiled. “Wouldn’t have wanted you to regret asking me to move in with you.”
“That would never happen. Best thing I ever did was convince ye to live with me. But still, you’re remembering wrong. Remember that date we had here, when I brought ye popcorn and Milk Duds?”
She turned her head slightly to look up at him. “That wasn’t a date, Jamie! You were still dating Laoghaire.”
His nose scrunched up adorably in disagreement. “Aye, I ken I was, but… it was still a date to me, Sassenach. I was so nervous waiting here for ye, hoping ye hadna changed your mind and that you’d still show up. And then when ye did… I was so happy. I wanted to kiss ye so badly the whole night.”
She hummed at that, settling back against his chest. “I think a kiss would have been a better end to that night, although I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way our first kiss went anyways.”
“Oh, aye?” he asked, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth at the tone of his voice (playful, sexy). She knew without looking at him that he was smirking, her cheeks pinking slightly at the memory of that night (first kiss, first time making love to each other, first morning waking up in each other’s arms).
“Aye,” she said teasingly. “Though I suppose having our first kiss here would have been fitting, too. We’ve had a lot of firsts here.”
He made a noise of agreement, his arms tightening around her. “First date.” She shook her head slightly, squirming when he poked her in the sides. “First date,” he repeated firmly, “first and only breakup, first make up kiss, first public sexual encounter…”
She gasped, sitting up and turning around to slap at his chest. “James Fraser!”
“What?” he laughed. “It was.” He grabbed her hand before she could swat at him again, tugging her back against his chest. He pressed his mouth to her ear, his voice low when he spoke. “I took ye up against that wall back there.”
“And that was a first for you, huh?” she whispered back, feeling the goosebumps erupt on her flesh from his touch.
“You know it was. Everything here with you was. And I knew that first night here,” he said quietly, his voice changing, a tone she couldn’t quite decipher taking over.
Confused, she turned around to look into his eyes, her voice just as quiet when she spoke. “Knew what?”
“That I was going to fall hopelessly in love with you and that I’d never be able to come back from it. I’d wanted ye from the first time I saw ye outside the library that day, but then that night here… you opened up to me and let me do the same. And I kent then that I’d do anything to have you and keep you. And I have no regrets, Claire.”
His hand came up to tenderly push a lock of hair back from her face, his fingers tracing the path down her cheek and along her jaw as his gaze stayed locked with hers. She took his face between her hands then and kissed him slowly, her lips as tender as his touch had been on her skin. “I don’t, either,” she said when she finally pulled away. “Is that why you ended up here tonight?”
“Aye,” he said, his thumb continuing to caress her cheek, a small smile curling up his mouth. “I haven’t been here since that last night we were here together. I felt homesick for ye, and I left John’s to get some air. I ended up here. I guess I knew somehow.”
“That this place would bring me back to you?” she asked knowingly.
“I did promise you that that night, did I not?”
“You did,” she sighed contently, remembering.
“Why did you come here tonight?” he asked quietly, his eyes searching hers.
She hesitated briefly, her eyes flickering down to her lap before back up to meet his. “It’s been a long week without you,” she said finally. “And today was a really weird day. Geillis came by, and then… then your sister showed up.”
She felt his body stiffen against hers immediately, his jaw clenching as he sat up straighter, a dangerous edge lining his tone of voice when he spoke. “She did what?”
“She came to our flat to apologize to me.”
He shifted her off his lap and onto the seat alone as he stood up, beginning to pace back and forth down the aisle. She could hear him muttering words of Gaelic under his breath (she recognized “fuck” and “damn it”), one hand running through his hair, mussing it up. She watched him quietly, knowing he needed to get his emotions under control before he spoke again. He finally paused, his back turned to her, his head bowed slightly as he exhaled loudly. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” she asked, confused.
He turned around to look at her, his face tight with anger. “That she showed up to our home after what she did and that I wasna there! Christ, I could kill her.”
He made like he was going to start pacing again, but before he could, Claire stood from her seat and reached for his hand, tugging him towards her. She placed one hand on his cheek, Jamie leaning into her touch automatically, though the expression on his face didn’t soften.
“You don’t need to apologize to me. Come sit down,” she said, pulling him after her into separate seats. She kept their hands locked together, knees touching as she turned towards him. “I thought about shutting the door in her face, but I wanted to hear what she had to say. Morbid curiosity, I guess.”
“She doesna deserve to breathe the same air as you, let alone speak to you,” Jamie said hotly. “I should have been there to turn her away and make sure she understands to stay the hell away from ye.”
“Jamie, you can’t protect me all the time, and—,”
“Oh, I ken that,” he cut her off. “Being at Lallybroch proved that, did it not?” He pulled his hand away from hers then, looking away from her as he seemed to fold in on himself as she watched, mildly shocked at his reaction and the bitterness she heard in his voice.
“Jamie…” she said again after a moment, reaching for him gently. “Look at me.”
He did so grudgingly, his eyes bright with a layer of unshed tears. She felt her heart crack as she looked at him, willing herself to not start crying at how broken he suddenly looked. She placed a hand on his thigh, squeezing it as she spoke. “Nothing that happened at Lallybroch was your fault. I don’t blame you for the way Jenny acted, and you shouldn’t, either.”
“How can I not?”
“Because you’re not her keeper, Jamie. You can’t force her to do or not do something. I know you want to protect me and would do anything for me. I’ve never doubted that, and nothing your sister says or does could make me think differently. You’ve always done your best for me. Always.”
He drew in a shaky breath, shaking his head slightly at himself. “She canna be trusted, and I don’t want her around you. What could she possibly have to say to you anyways?”
“She said she was sorry for what happened at dinner, that she didn’t mean to go that far. She said she’s known for a while now that the way she was acting was wrong, but she didn’t know how to stop herself. She feels indebted to Laoghaire for the way she was there for her after your mother died, and she just lashed out. She wants to apologize in person to you, too.”
“Indebted to Laoghaire?” he asked incredulously, the tips of his ears beginning to turn a dangerous shade of red from his anger. “That’s her grand excuse for all of this? That she had to be a good friend to Laoghaire and the way to do that was to bulldoze the two of us in the process?”
“I think she did it because she wanted you back at home, living close to her and Ian. She thought if you were with Laoghaire, she wouldn’t lose you, and the four of you would be around Lallybroch together,” she said quietly. “It’s twisted, but I think she thought it would work.”
“That’s because she refused to talk to me or believe me when I told her I was making the choices that I wanted to make for my own life,” he said furiously. “She didna want to hear a word of it because she’s selfish and only cares about herself.”
“I know. And whatever your decision is about speaking to her again and hearing her out or not… I will support you. I won’t push you like I did this last time. That didn’t work out too well in the end, did it?” she smiled weakly, though there was no humor in her expression or words.
“Hey…” Jamie grabbed her hand, squeezing gently. “It’s no’ your fault either, Sassenach. Maybe one day my feelings will change, but I dinna want to see or speak to her right now. Whether or not she’s sorry doesna change what’s happened and I canna trust her. I just… we all need space to heal, aye? And I canna do that with her around right now. I’m still too angry.”
There was a small part of her that wanted to argue that he wouldn’t be able to fully heal until he heard Jenny out and let her apologize, but she pushed it away, knowing he would come around when he was ready. She nodded her agreement instead, squeezing his hand back in reassurance. “Okay,” she said simply.
“Did she say anything else to ye?”
“Before or after I told her if she hurts you again that I’ll end her?”
“Ye said what?” he asked, the corners of his mouth quirking up in amusement.
She felt a small smile curve her own lips up as she looked at him. “She seemed strangely proud that I said that to her face. She told me then that you’ll be a great father, and that if I’m as protective of the… the baby as I am of you, they’ll be a very lucky child.”
“She said that?”
“She did,” she confirmed, biting down on her bottom lip before sighing heavily, knowing the topic could no longer be avoided. “I know we need to talk about the baby and make some decisions,” she said awkwardly, “but before we do that, I… I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
His eyebrows furrowed together in confusion at her words. “Sorry for what?”
She swallowed hard, trying to quell the sudden lump that had formed in her throat. She could feel the burn of tears rising in the corners of her eyes as they stayed locked on his. “For getting pregnant, Jamie. I swear I was taking my birth control pill every morning on time. I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work, and now we’re in this situation because of me.”
“Sassenach…” he shook his head at her, a shaky smile curling up one side of his mouth. “I dinna blame ye for getting pregnant. We were both there, aye?”
“Yes, but that’s not really the point.”
“It is,” his smile grew a little as he reached up with one hand to tenderly cup her face, his thumb brushing back and forth against her cheek. “I ken I shouldna say this, because I dinna want to make you feel bad, but… god, Claire, I feel proud that you’re pregnant and carrying my child. I ken we have a lot to talk about, but don’t think for a minute that I’m upset with ye for this. Okay?”
“It’s not just that, Jamie,” she sniffled, feeling her bottom lip beginning to wobble as tears slipped past her lashes and ran down her cheeks. “I’ve had time to think the last few days, and you were right about what you said the night I told you I was pregnant. You should have a say in this decision and I’m sorry that I told you that you don’t.”
“A lot had just happened,” he said softly. “And you were scared, Sassenach. That…” he trailed off, shaking his head slightly, a look of tenderness crossing his face as he took in her tears. “It wasna a good time for us to be talking about anything of importance. We were both reacting emotionally. So dinna fash about it, aye? I ken we’re in this together, and if you’re ready… we can talk about it now.”
She took a deep, shuddering breath, nodding her assent. She wiped quickly at her cheeks, brushing away the rest of her tears before settling back against her seat. Jamie followed suit, angling his body to face hers, taking both of her hands in his. She couldn’t stop the small, choked laugh from escaping her.
“What’s so funny?” Jamie asked, his mouth curving up slightly as he looked at her.
“Nothing,” she shrugged helplessly. “I’m laughing because I don’t know what else to do. Jamie… how do we decide? How do we know if we’re making the right decision?”
“Remember when we promised each other that there would be honesty between us? Secrets, but no’ lies?”
“Yes,” she said quietly. “I remember.”
“That’s how we decide.” His smile was crooked, his eyes beginning to look slightly glassy as he squeezed her hands. “We have to be honest about how we feel. We’ll figure it out, Sassenach, we always do.”
“It’s just… I’m scared that whatever we decide is going to change us forever,” she admitted, feeling tears beginning to prickle her eyes again.
He was quiet for a moment, his voice gentle when he spoke. “It’s already changed us, my own, no matter what we decide.”
She stared at him, letting his words sink in, the breath she wasn’t aware she was holding coming out as a sharp exhale when she realized he was right. Even if they chose to not have the baby, it would still have existed. Whatever decision they came to, that would never change.
She swallowed hard then, her voice slightly unsteady when she spoke. “I know you’re right, but… aren’t you scared, too?”
He let out his own shaky laugh, though there wasn’t much humor in the sound. “Of course I’m scared. The night ye told me you were pregnant, after I left our room, I got into it with Jenny. I went to my mam’s grave after that to think, and my da found me there. We had a long talk about the baby and how it would change our lives… how it would change you. It terrifies me, Claire. But at the same time…” his voice trailed off, his face suddenly pensive as if he was lost in thought, remembering his time with his father at Lallybroch.
“At the same time what?” she prodded.
“I dinna want to lie to ye and say that I don’t want it, either. My da… he gave me a lot to think about the last few days, and I have. Before I went back inside to you that night, the last thing he asked me was if you were the one, because if ye are, I must stick by you, no matter the cost.”
“And what did you tell him?” she asked, her voice so quiet it was nearly a whisper.
He gave her a look that pierced straight through her heart, making it break and mend and swell at the same time because of (and for) him, the beats of her life’s blood suddenly pounding stronger and faster in her chest. “I told him that you are, because it’s the only thing I know for sure. You are the one constant in my life, Claire. You’re mine forever, and I’m yours. That will never change.”
She could hear the slight hesitation, almost a hitch in his voice at the end. She quickly brushed away the tears she felt spilling past her lashes again (how could she have any tears left?), grabbing his hands again when she was done. “But what? I can tell you have more to say than just that.”
“I…” he stopped, averting his gaze from hers as he looked down at their intertwined hands.
“Hey,” she prodded, lifting his chin up so he would look at her again. “Honesty, remember? No matter what, we have to have that between us.”
His eyes began to fill with tears of their own, though he blinked furiously to try and quell them. He nodded once in assent, one hand tucking a stray curl away from her face as he kept his eyes locked on hers. “I will support whatever decision you make, I hope you know that,” he said quietly. “But I won’t lie to you, Claire… I’m scared that if ye decide you don’t want to have the baby, that I’ll wake up one day and resent you for it.”
She watched as he swallowed hard, his voice unsteady when he spoke again. “But I’m just as afraid that if you decide to have it, you’ll be the one who wakes up one day with regrets. I dinna think I could handle that. Do ye see now why I’m scared, too?”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes then, his gaze fixed on his hands laying in his lap. Heart aching, she reached over and slipped one hand into his, squeezing gently. “Look at me,” she said softly, turning her body so she could face him completely.
He met her gaze reluctantly, his eyes bluer than usual (almost green) from the tears that had filled them. She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against one cheek, then the other, her lips catching the tears that had slipped past his eyelashes, the taste of salt wetting her lips.
She pulled away to gently wipe at his cheeks with her thumbs before she pressed another kiss against his jaw. “I understand,” she said softly.
“Ye do?” he asked, his voice trembling with uncertainty as he looked at her.
She nodded, laying a hand on his thigh, hoping her touch would help reassure him. “I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about you hating me one day if I… if I decide not to have it,” she said, stumbling slightly over the words. “So I don’t blame you for wondering the same thing. Maybe it doesn’t help much, but I think that if we talk it through and decide together, really together, that neither of those things you’re scared about will happen. I think we’re bound, you and I, and nothing could ever truly tear us apart. But we can’t make this choice based on fear, Jamie. So if you can push that worry away for now, I will, too.”
His face still looked troubled, but his shoulders relaxed slightly as he nodded. He let out a shaky breath, leaning over to cup her cheeks as he kissed her on the forehead, lips and breath lingering against her skin. She closed her eyes at his touch, leaning into him as her hands clutched at any part of him she could reach, seeking the reassurance of his body against hers.
“Together then,” he said finally.
She squeezed him once more before pulling away. “I don’t really know where to start.”
“Why don’t ye tell me what you’re unsure about first?”
“A lot of things.” Her voice was small, wobbling. “We are so young, Jamie. I know people have children at our age all the time, but we’re still getting our feet underneath us… you with work, and me with school. I look ahead, and all I see is medical school. It’s been my dream for so long, and I don’t know how a child fits into that.”
His fingers tightened around hers as she spoke, his face smoothing over into a semblance of neutrality as he listened carefully to her. She watched as his eyes narrowed slightly, one of his tells that he was thinking about how to choose his words.
“I ken we’re still young, but I think we’re mature for our age, Sassenach. I dinna ken many other people living with their significant other and planning a future with them like we are. And I think I’m right in saying that our future together includes bairns at some point, aye?”
“Yes, at some point. I just didn’t think that was going to be nine months from now. It’s a lot of responsibility, Jamie. This little person would rely on us for everything. Late nights going out to a bar with John and your friends or hanging out at his place while I’m studying wouldn’t be an option anymore. Neither would spending lazy weekends in bed together, or taking a spur of the moment road trip, or traveling around the world like we had planned. It wouldn’t be about just us anymore.”
“Aye, some things would have to change. I ken I would need to be home to help with the bairn while you’re studying or in class. I ken things wouldna be as spontaneous anymore, and when we travel, it would be with a diaper bag and stroller and a child who doesna know or care what a plan is. But we would still be experiencing new things and places together, making memories with our child as a family. I canna promise that it won’t be really hard at times, but I can promise that I will do everything in my power to support you and take care of you.”
“And that wouldn’t frustrate or disappoint you? You wouldn’t feel…” she paused, searching for the right words. “You wouldn’t feel tied down or stuck because of the baby? Because of me?”
His eyebrows knit together as he looked at her, disbelief lining his face and coloring his voice. “No. God, no. Sassenach, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I dinna really care where we go or what we do as long as I have you. And having a bairn soon… yes, it would be all consuming for a while, but I dinna mind that. I would choose you and the bairn over anything, always.” He hesitated, clearing his throat quietly before he spoke again. “Would you feel that way?”
She sighed, shaking her head. “No, I don’t think so. I’m sure there would be moments where I wished we could go somewhere quickly, just the two of us, or have time really alone, like we do now, but—,”
“We could still have time together, just the two of us,” he interrupted gently. “The bairn will have to sleep, aye? And I ken my da or Mrs. Crook would be willing to take him or her if we want to go away for the weekend. Things would change, yes, but we can make sure we have time for each other still.”
“I know they would help, it’s just… I know how much I would be asking of you, Jamie. I’ll still have class and studying to do, and you’d have to take the baby by yourself during those times, or we’d have to pay someone to watch him or her.”
“And?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “It’s my child, too, Claire. I’m more than capable of taking care of a bairn.”
“I know you are. But what about the money for a babysitter when I’m gone during the day?”
His mouth curled up into a small smile, his eyes lighting up in something close to humor. “Ye ken I have a job, Sassenach. I even get paid for doing it,” he said teasingly.
She tilted her head to the side, giving him a look (narrowed eyes, slightly pouting mouth) that only made the smile on his face grow wider. “Don’t be cute. I’m being serious.”
“So am I. I make decent money. It’s no’ a fortune, but it provides everything we need plus a little more. Besides, do ye really think my da and Mrs. Crook willna be hovering around Edinburgh, trying to get their hands on the bairn? He already said he will do whatever he can to help, Claire, and he meant it.”
She bit down on her bottom lip, her teeth digging in as she shook her head slowly, blinking back the sting of tears in her eyes. “I know that, but it feels like such an imposition, Jamie. How can we ask them to put their lives on hold while they come here and help us?”
His touch was gentle against her face, his thumb moving over her stinging bottom lip, rubbing the color back into it. “They’re family,” he answered simply. “You are family.”
She blinked harder at that, looking down and away from Jamie as she sniffled, the beating of her heart quickening and rushing in her ears. She knew what he was saying was true — that she was family to them, that Brian considered her a Fraser now. His gift to her at Lallybroch had been proof of that.
And now… her hand rose without conscious thought to her stomach once more, resting there lightly, protecting what lay within. Now she had another member of the Fraser family growing inside her, half Jamie and half her, part of the legacy of his parents and her own. She looked up to see Jamie watching her, his eyes fixed on her hand cradling her still flat stomach before they rose to meet hers. He was trying (and failing) to hide the desperate hope within them, blurred by his own glassy tears, a spark growing that hadn’t been there since the night she told him she was pregnant.
She swallowed hard, her voice wobbling, hoarse, when she spoke again. “And what about school?”
It was the last (and biggest) of her practical concerns. Jamie sniffed, rubbing quickly at his eyes before answering her. “What do ye mean?”
“If I have the baby, how will I keep up with school? I’ll have to take weeks off after I have him or her. What if I fall behind?”
“I’m sure your professors would work with ye to make sure ye stay up to date before ye go back to class. It won’t be easy, especially at first, but I can take a little time off from work and help so ye still have time to study and work on things for your classes. It’s no’ impossible,” he said gently.
“I know that, but it seems like it’s going to be really bloody hard to do both. And it’s me that has to do it, no one else. I have dreamed of being a doctor for so long, and I don’t want to give it up. Maybe that’s selfish, I don’t know.”
“Sassenach… ye dinna have to give it up and I wouldn’t let ye. I ken I don’t have all the answers to some of your worries. I ken issues will pop up that will have to be resolved. And while I can’t tell ye how we’ll do that, I promise you that we’ll figure it out together. Whatever has to happen for you to continue with school if you decide to have the bairn, we’ll do it. I swear to you. I won’t fail either of you.”
She didn’t try to blink the tears away this time; she let them fall, slipping past her lashes and down her cheeks, curving into her lips and down along her jaw. Jamie’s face began to crumble at the sight of her; the last thing she saw was his reddening, watery eyes before he pulled her against him, tucking her head into the curve of his neck. He began to whisper to her, soothing words in Gaelic (some she recognized and some she didn’t), his fingers combing through her curls as he soothed her.
She felt the beat of his pulse against her lips, felt the reassuring pound of his heart against her hand on his chest. “I know you won’t. It’s just… I just don’t know if I can do this,” she finally managed to cry, her words (desperate and broken) a muffled sound against his skin.
His hold on her tightened before she felt him press his lips against her head, his chest rising against her as he breathed in deeply. He pulled away from her gently, lifting her chin up so that she had to look at him.
“Love… ye’ve given me all the reasons you’re scared, and I understand. I ken ye like to be prepared and know what’s going to happen, and there are so many things we dinna ken about having a child. But have ye let yourself think about what it might be like if the worst case scenario doesna happen… if you have the baby and he or she makes things even better? If all the moments of joy we have together make the hard ones worth it?”
She gave a small laugh, one that sounded strangled to her own ears. “Of course I have. But god, Jamie, it feels like… like too much to hope for. Like it couldn’t be possible for me to have all those things and have it work out. But…” she trailed off, shaking her head slightly at herself.
“But what?” he prodded.
“I want it to,” she admitted, her eyes boring into his, suddenly desperate (for what, she couldn’t quite name). “You asked me earlier if I would resent you or the baby if I have it, and I need you to know… I wouldn’t wake up one day and regret having it. It’s a piece of me and you. I’m just terrified because I don’t know how to do this.”
She shrugged, a helpless noise coming out of her mouth. “I know how to be a good student and nurse. I know how to stick to a schedule, how to go to class, and take notes, and study. I know how it feels to spend hours pouring over a textbook or working a clinical rotation. I know how to detach emotionally from patients and provide them with the best care possible. I know how to map out my academic future. I know that if I keep working the way I have, in just over five years, I’ll be a doctor. I know how to be Claire Beauchamp, student. I have no idea how to be Claire Beauchamp, mum.”
She wanted to turn away from him as she finally let herself express her biggest fear, but found she couldn’t look away from his eyes, those big, blue pools she had drowned in so many times before (without thought or effort or hesitation). “I know how to not fail when it comes to school. I have no idea how to not fail when it comes to raising a child. You know I only have a few memories left of my parents. The ones I have I cherish, and I know how loved I was… but there’s so much I don’t remember and never had. Uncle Lamb did everything he could for me, and I will never complain about the way he raised me, but he wasn’t a mother. He couldn’t be. What if I don’t know how to be one, either? What if I try and fail at the most important thing in our lives because I’m not ready for it yet? Because it’s not the right time?”
She looked away from him then, suddenly exhausted (emotionally and physically) from the conversation. She breathed in deeply, letting out a slow, shaky breath before reluctantly turning back to meet Jamie’s eyes. She had one brief glimpse of his face and the look in his eyes (stunned disbelief mixed with the dawning of realization and an unutterable tenderness that was almost fierce in its intensity) before his hands were on her face, pushing his mouth against hers.
She had kissed Jamie over a thousand times before, in a thousand different ways, in more places than she could count. She knew his body more intimately than she knew her own, to say nothing of the way she knew his heart and soul. But this kiss… this one felt different, like he was trying to pour every hope and dream and piece of himself into her, like she was the lifeline he needed to survive. His mouth was gentle but insistent against hers, his hands moving to tangle in her curls, tugging her tighter against him as he sought to reassure her and be reassured alike.
She felt the taste of salt in her mouth, but wasn’t sure if it came from her or him; with one more press of his lips, Jamie leaned away, his eyes bright and wet, matching her own. “Do ye ken the part of you I love the most?”
“What?” she asked, her voice slightly confused.
“Do ye ken the part of you I love the most?” he repeated, eyes intent on hers.
Her forehead scrunched together as she searched his eyes, taken aback by his question, by the change in direction away from what she had just confessed to him. “Is this leading to a comment about my arse again?”
He made that Scottish noise of his that always made her weak, the corners of his mouth curling up. “No, Sassenach, not this time.” His hands had been half tangled in her hair still, but one came down slowly to rest against her chest, his fingers splaying over her heart. “This is.”
She swallowed hard past the sudden lump that had formed in her throat, shaking her head slightly at him. “Jamie…”
“I need ye to listen to me.” His voice was serious, his hand warm against her chest even through the layers she was wearing, her heart feeling like it was stretching and beating to meet his touch. “I dinna ken what it’s like to actually be a parent, either. I have no idea what the proper way to raise a bairn is. I dinna think ye can truly know or understand until ye have one of your own. But what I do know is you. I know what’s in here.” His fingers tapped lightly against her heart.
“You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. You’ve loved me beyond reason, even when ye had reason not to. I dinna think a day has gone by since we moved in together that I havena laughed at something ye said or did. You make me smile and laugh more than I ever thought was possible. When I’m sick, ye force me into bed and feed me vitamins and medicine and that terrible chicken soup ye try to make yourself.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at that, even as she brought her hands up to wipe at the tears that were sliding down her cheeks. He gave her a moment to stop sniffling before he continued to speak. “You’ve comforted me and held me when I’ve cried over my family and the grief I felt over not speaking to them. You always try and put me first, Sassenach. God, even when ye broke up with me, it was because ye thought you were protecting me. You’re the least selfish person I know. And none of what I’ve just said even begins to cover how beautiful and smart ye are.”
He paused again, his eyes searching her face as he reached up to tenderly wipe at her wet cheeks. “All those things… everything that you are, that’s why I know you’ll be a great mother. Maybe we willna know what to do in every situation, but we’ll figure it out and learn together, aye? All I know, Claire, is I dinna want anyone but you having my bairns. Whether that happens nine months from now, or nine years from now… it could only ever be you.”
She knew there was no use in trying to stem her tears anymore; his words had cut her right open, his belief and faith in her so overwhelming she could do nothing else but pull him into her, her arms wrapping like vines around his neck as she clung to him, burying her face in his neck. “I love you,” she managed to whisper against him, squeezing tighter as he wrapped his own arms around her, both of them holding on to each other for dear life. “I love you so much, Jamie.”
“I love you, too,” he whispered back. “You’re everything to me, Claire Beauchamp.”
She kissed the side of his neck in response, his skin warm and flushed against her lips. “Have you been talking to Geillis?” she sniffled, wiping at her eyes and nose as she pulled away slightly to look at him.
“Because she told me today that I underestimate myself. She said some of the same things you did, actually, though not nearly as beautifully.”
“Aye, well, it’s pretty hard to be as poetic as I am,” he said teasingly. “What else did she say?”
“She asked if I was pregnant ten years down the road, having our first child… if I could live with not knowing what their brother or sister would have been like if I decide to not have this baby.”
She watched as he swallowed hard, his voice quiet when he spoke. “Could you?”
The smile she gave him was small, tremulous. “I have spent the last five days thinking about how I feel and what I should do and how to decide. At one point, I started to write down the pros and cons of having the baby on a piece of paper and then I threw it away because it seemed so ridiculous. This isn’t a decision that can only be based on some kind of list on a page. I have felt… lost, Jamie. And I’ve been scared. I still am, because I don’t know if the timing is right, or how we’ll manage everything.”
She paused, taking in a deep breath before she continued, feeling a weight that had been pressing on her chest for days begin to lift. “But bigger than all that fear and doubt is the knowledge that growing inside of me is a little piece of you and me. I keep wondering if this baby is going to be a boy or a girl. If he or she is going to have red curls like you, or brown like me. If their eyes are going to slant a little at the corner like yours, and whether or not they’ll be blue. I want to know what it sounds like when they cry for the first time, and what they look like when they smile at us and laugh. I want to know everything about what this baby is going to do and be.”
His eyes were beginning to well with tears, that nervous hope she had seen him trying to hide earlier beginning to build and grow again. His hands clutched onto her, his voice measured and even when he spoke, like he was afraid of scaring her away. “What are ye saying?”
She bit down on her bottom lip through her growing smile, Jamie’s face blurring in front of her as she watched him. “I’m saying that I want to have this baby.”
She could feel the way his hands began to tremble against her, his fingers digging into her suddenly. “Are ye sure?”
“I’m sure,” she nodded, relief flooding through her at her words. “You’re going to be a father, James Fraser.”
She didn’t get a chance to see his reaction; he pulled her against him once again, squeezing her tightly against his chest, a muffled Gaelic prayer whispered into her hair before his mouth was crashing against hers. This kiss wasn’t hesitant or meant to reassure like before; it was fierce and urgent, his hands on her face and his tongue in her mouth, her own hands clutching at his coat as she tried to draw him closer.
This time, she knew the tears she felt melding between them were ones of happiness, a giggle forming in her throat as Jamie moved his lips from her mouth to her cheeks and then her neck, his hand pushing her curls out of the way. “I’m not done talking yet!” she managed to gasp out, squirming slightly away from him even as she angled her head to give him better access.
He barely paused from the trail of kisses he was leaving at the soft spot behind her ear, his mumbled “mmphmm?” against her skin his response.
She pushed against his chest, trying to get his attention. “We still have things we need to figure out, Jamie.”
“Like the fact that we live in a one bedroom flat and have nowhere to put this baby when he or she arrives.”
She felt him smile against her skin, his lips pressing one more kiss to her neck before he looked at her. “We can look for a new one. Maybe we’ll even find something with a wee garden outside for you with room for the bairn to run around and play.”
“That sounds expensive.”
“I’ve money from my mam. Looking doesna mean we have to get something right away. We have time still. What else?”
“I’m probably going to get super hormonal and emotional. What if you wake up one day and hate me because I’ve become crazy?”
His mouth curved up on one side, that half-smile she loved so much more devastatingly sweet than she had ever seen it before. “I could never hate ye. Even if you’re weepy one minute, and mad the next, I promise I won’t hold it against ye, as long as you don’t hold it against me for getting ye pregnant in those moments. Deal?”
“Well, I can’t make any promises…” she teased, trying (and failing) to hide the smile that was beginning to bloom on her face.
“Fair enough,” Jamie laughed, pulling her from her seat and settling her against him, his mouth covering hers again. She could feel his smile against her lips, his breath warm against her face as his hands made their ear around to her backside, tugging her closer against him.
“You know that’s going to get twice its normal size soon because I’m going to get fat,” she mumbled, her hands seeking his skin underneath his coat and sweater.
“You’re going to look perfect, Sassenach. I canna wait to see ye all round and glowing.” He pulled back to look at her, his eyes searching her face before roaming down her body, like he was already imagining how she would change. His hand came up to rest against her stomach (tentative at first, then sure), her own joining his seconds later, their hands together for the first time over their child.
“We’re having a baby,” he whispered, eyes coming back up to meet hers, his expression slightly dazed but full of awe.
She nodded, a smile spreading across her face, matching Jamie’s own. “We’re having a baby.”