In all her life, Claire didn’t recall feeling freer than she did just now. Running through the streets of London under the pouring rain, holding Jamie’s hand. Her clothes were soaked. Her hair a mess. But she didn’t care. She loved Jamie and he loved her back. They could finally be together now and the sheer idea of it brought an inexplicable sense of relief over her. A lightness.
Jamie’s apartment wasn’t very far. It wouldn’t have taken them much more than fifteen minutes if they didn’t stop every so often just to kiss like giddy teenagers. As if it was their first kiss. As if it would also be their last.
“Jamie…”She mumbled against his lips, droplets of rain strolling down her cheeks. She should be shivering from the cold but she wasn’t. Far from it. She was breathless, however.
“We’re going to be sick if we don’t make it inside soon enough –”
“‘Tis no’ verra far, Sassenach,” He answered between two kisses, a tender smile forming on his lips.
“That’s what you’ve been saying for ten minutes now,” She couldn’t help but laugh, the sound echoing in the empty street.
“Ten minutes, eh?” He nuzzled her neck, making her lean back against the wall. “Have ye been countin’?”
“Not counting per se,” She smirked, holding him close. “But I don’t want us to get sick come morning.”
Looking up, Jamie gave her the most tender expression. His face lightened by the street lamp. “Come,” The scot held out his hand and she took it. The warmth contrasting against her cold palm.
His apartment was situated in a narrow alley, the door up some stairs to the right. Claire followed him there, fingers still entwined with his.
Jamie turned slightly before turning the key into the lock, his mouth curling up into a smile, “‘Tis no’ much, Sassenach. And no’ verra big – ”
“Just open the door,” She smiled, kissing his cheek. She couldn’t help but feel nervous to be alone with him again.
“After ye, Sassenach,” The scot opened the door and let her in. “Dinna mind the mess, aye? Pretend it doesna exists.”
Claire couldn’t help but chuckle, walking inside, “Edouard showed you my office, I wouldn’t judge your mess.”
“Oh aye, the lad did. It was quite messy,” Jamie followed her and turned on the light.
Grinning, Claire nudged him before looking around.
The place wasn’t very big but it felt homey. There was a little kitchen on one side while the rest of the main living space was taken over by his canvases, a table with pigments and brushes, stacks of books and drawings. On the other side, under the big windows, laid a battered leather coach and almost next to it, stairs going up a mezzanine she believed to be his bedroom.
“Tis no’ much but…’tis my wee home,” He stood behind her, a smile on his face she couldn’t see but heard in his words.
“Why are all the canvases turned away?” She asked softly, moving her head to look at him.
Jamie shrugged, almost embarrassed, “I dinna like to look at them so much. I never had.”
Claire turned around and wrapped her arms around his neck. She didn’t know where the ease came from but it seemed to be so easy to be around him – like they never parted five years ago.
“You are talented, you might as well accept it at some point,” She smiled, the tip of her fingers stroking the back of his neck.
“Ye are biased, Sassenach,” He whispered, leaning his face closer to hers.
“Yes, I’m absolutely biased,” She rubbed her nose against his, her breath tickling his lips, “But I’m right, anyway.”
“I dinna think I can have the last word wi’ ye, can I ?” He licked his lips, his hands on her waist, pressing her closer. Both their clothes were drenched and clinging to their bodies but neither of them was cold. Quite the contrary.
“At least not about this subject, no,” Claire closed the distance between them and kissed him once more. She didn’t count how many times she had done so since their reunion on the sidewalk barely thirty minutes ago. But each time felt like the first time all over again.
The kiss was slow – almost painfully too slow. And Claire felt the heat rise up her body once more. Want. Need. She knew the same thought was up in both their minds. It could scarcely be otherwise.
“Claire…”Jamie rasped against her lips, his voice barely a whisper. “Will ye come to bed wi’ me, then?”
Pulling back, their eyes locked at once, both breathless from their kiss. His words made her feel suddenly very bold. A boldness she only experienced once with a man – that night in 1943. With him.
Without an answer, she stepped back and watched him. His expression almost confused as to what she was about to do next. She reached out behind her and unzipped her blue dress in a swift but slow motion. Sliding the fabric up her body, she revealed her undergarments and saw Jamie’s eyes shift to a dark blue – almost black in the subdued light of the apartment.
She let the dress fall on the floor and removed her shoes before she stood in front of him, in her matching set of black lace, her garter belt holding up her stockings.
“Christ, Claire…” His voice cracked, his eyes shining with something but she couldn’t pinpoint what exactly. She felt the heat rise up her cheeks – probably turning crimson at this point, she thought. She knew her undergarments left little to the imagination. All of a sudden, she felt shy.
Her arms came around her, and a mixture of a chuckle and a sob came out of her mouth, “Would you bloody well say something?”
Jamie took a step closer, taking her hands slowly. He brought them up to his lips, kissing her knuckles, his eyes never leaving hers, “Ye are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, Sassenach. And the only woman I want to see for the rest of my days.”
“I haven’t done that in quite some time,” She said softly, her index finger stroking his scruffy chin.
“I have only done it once…” He admitted, his smile mischievous and tender.
“If I recall correctly, it was twice,” Her own smile erupted at the memory of their night together all those years ago and at the knowledge of being the only woman who knew what it was like to see James Fraser surrendering himself to love.
“Aye…’tis was,” He licked his lips once more as her hands came up his shirt and started unbuttoning it slowly, each button removed revealing an inch of his skin.
Her eye caught on something and she stopped all a sudden. Her finger tracing the silver chain around his neck.
“You…you kept it?” She couldn’t prevent the way her voice cracked as she asked him about the necklace. The one she had given him and she never thought he’d still have.
“Of course I did. Barely took it off,” He rested his forehead against hers, “It kept me safe…like ye promised me it would and whenever I felt it against me, I knew you were there somewhere, protectin’ me. I dinna needed it to think of ye but it was a great comfort to me durin’ all these years.”
“I’m glad it was,” She said sincerely, looking up at him, vision blurred with unshed tears.
“Do ye want it back?” He asked softly, stroking her cheek.
Shaking her head, she smiled, “No…It’s yours.”
He cupped her chin, eyes piercing through hers, and rasped, “And ye? Are ye mine?”
“I believe you already know the answer to that…”
“Remind me,” He whispered softly, his fingers stroking a stray curl behind her ear.
She knew her hair was most likely a frizzy mess but she didn’t care. Not answering, Claire finished unbuttoning his shirt and took it off, followed by his under-shirt to reveal his toned body that managed to almost rendering her speechless. Need growing in the pit of her stomach. She almost stroked his chest before her hands started their travel down his fly but she didn’t, afraid to burn herself on him.
Jamie watched her skilled hands opening his trousers and she could feel his eyes on her, feeling his heart – and her own– beating with anticipation. But she took her time, they were in no rush, after all. That simple knowledge made her heart almost burst. It was such a stark contrast that the first – and only – time they had been together like this.
With the slightest tremble from both of them, Claire placed her hand over the front of him, feeling how badly he wanted her. A breath left his chest as he glanced down at her and his trousers fell to the floor. Then, she took a small step backwards, her eyes never leaving his.
“I want to look at you,” she whispered so softly he barely heard.
Jamie held her gaze, hooking his fingers into the waistband of his boxers and pulled them down, letting them join the rest of their clothes on the floor. Her amber eyes moved downwards, over his chest and flat toned stomach, to the dark rust coloured hair in between his thighs. He was more than ready and he was aching for her – just the sight of her made him almost beg.
“Sorcha…” Jamie whispered and Claire reached behind her to unhook her bra, her shoulders shrugging off the material and it dropped to the floor. “Christ.”
She took a step forward, her heart hammering in her ears and placed her hands on his chest, using him as her anchor. “I want you, Jamie,” Claire looked up at him through thick lashes and then in the next instant he bent down, placing one hand behind her knee and the other behind her back, carrying her over to the mezzanine and then the bed.
“One more thing,” Jamie chuckled as he laid her back and moved his hands to her garter, working on unhooking them.
“Here,” she sat up and helped him. His cheeks were tinted pink and he placed a soft kiss to the inside of her palm before lifting one leg and removing the thin material slowly. Once the stockings were both off, Jamie laid his hands on her hips, feeling the lace of her panties against his skin.
“I want ye so much, Sassenach… Ye dinna ken how much I longed for ye…to kiss ye…to touch ye,” he said before pulling off the last remaining article of clothing and leaving her bare before him. His eyes moved slowly across her body, drinking her in. “Will ye have me now?”
Claire leaned up onto her elbows, cupping his cheek and kissed him slowly. “Yes, I’ll have you. Always,” she smiled against his lips and he positioned himself over her.
Slight anxiety crept on her. So brief, Claire did not notice it as her eyes were lost in his – drowning in the ocean. She had dreamt of his hands on her body for so many nights. She had craved his kisses. His voice. His touches. She had craved him and she was finally free to have him. All of him. Free to give herself to him, just like she did once. Just like she wanted to do for the rest of her life might it be long or short.
The foreign yet familiar feeling of their bodies meeting again after all this time was almost too much for her. Starting to thrust inside of her, Jamie wrapped Claire’s leg around his waist, his fingers pressing into her thigh. Surely come morning, she would be bruised with the touch of his love. She craved him. It was primal. She knew neither of them would last long but it didn’t matter. After all, they had all the time in the world now.
His mouth was all over her burning skin. Her lips. Her neck. Her breasts. Claire arched her body, her eyes glued on his toned chest, vibrating with each thrust.
Bodies joined, they danced a slow dance together as one. In the privacy of the little apartment on Middletown Road. Together again. One soul divided into two hearts.
When Claire woke up, she didn’t know what time of the day it was. Sun barely crept in through the windows under the mezzanine and her eyes were too heavy to open completely. Yet, she knew exactly where she was and she couldn’t help but smile at the thought. Reminiscences of fractions from the night before coming by to her bit by bit. His smell clogging her sense. His touches stamped her body.
But the bed was cold. She could feel that much.
However, she wasn’t worried. She could hear Jamie rummaging in the kitchen down the stairs and the kettle boiling. The noise far enough not to wake her completely but close enough for her to know it hadn’t been a dream. Smiling, Claire kept her eyes closed and turned on her belly, yawning.
She must have dozed off again, at some point because she got woken up sometimes later, by a trail of kisses on her bare back, coming up her spine. Goosebumps erupting all over her porcelain skin.
“Good mornin’, Sassenach,” Jamie whispered, his breath tickling against her skin.
“Morning,” She mumbled against the pillow, smiling.
Slowly, Claire turned around and looked at him – his piercing blue eyes still rooted with sleep, his sweet smile. He looked like a cherub and she felt a bit faint at how handsome he was.
Without a word, Jamie leaned up and sealed their lips tenderly. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer, “Mmh…”
“How did ye sleep, mo nighean donn,?” He asked softly, his index finger brushing a rebellious curl away from her cheek.
“Rather good,” She admitted, smiling. “I haven’t slept so well for a long time…I was afraid to fall asleep last night, actually.”
“So was I, a nighean,” He kissed her again, “I was too afraid if I did, ye might disappear come mornin’”
“I haven’t,” She stroked his cheek. “I’m not a ghost, at least not anymore –”
“I was one…” Jamie said softly, something passing through his eyes briefly.
“Until I saw ye again,” He added, his lips brushing against hers. “I was dead, my Sassenach, and yet, all this time, I loved ye.”
“So long as my body lives, and yours – we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched her, hair and chin and neck and breast.
“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire – I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you. No’ anymore, anyway. Not again.”
“I could never let you go,” She watched his eyes, cupping his cheek.
“I tried hard enough but you were always there. Somewhere. No matter what I did or where I was. You were there with me. Keeping me safe. And sane, in a way. Even when I was so lonely and afraid I knew I must die. I knew that I had to keep going, that it was what you would have wanted for me. But it was bloody hard,”
“I ken, Sassenach,” He stroked her bottom lip with his index finger. “The same happened to me.”
“And when I saw you again…After the initial shock of realising you were alive, I hoped you’d feel the same way I did about you but I didn’t want to assume. Then you told me about your engagement,” Her eyes dropped, her chest tightening at the memory.
“It wasna something I did out of love, Claire,” Jamie lifted her chin softly, eyes locking with hers.
“At least no’ the kind of love that bound us. That isna something to be found more than once in a lifetime, Sassenach. I’m no’ even sure we could find it again in another one. But I had made a promise at a time I didn’t think I’d ever see ye again and when ye appeared at the gallery that day, I could barely believe it. I dinna want ye to think I loved another the way I love ye because it wasna the case.”
“I don’t think that,” Her thumb gently stroked a tear away from his cheek. “I have no doubt about it now.”
“Mary and I have been friends since we were bairns back in Broch Mordha. She played wi’ my sister and I and we’ve always been close,” He explained, moving them both on their sides and held her in his arms.
“Her husband, Rabbie was in my regiment,” His voice grew silent after his statement and Claire felt a shiver run up her spine at the thought of his regiment’s end.
“When I woke up at home, after the bombin’ and I learnt that Rabbie had died, I immediately thought about Mary and their two bairns. Two boys,” He smiled at the mention of the children. “One of them is around the age of Edouard.”
“When I realised Mary had lost the love of her life, I couldn’t understand why a man who had a family waiting for him had to die when I didn’t. Then, I immediately thought of ye and that I had to find ye because if I had survived, it must have meant something. I remembered the promise I had made to ye. Not to die. To find ye again.”
Claire nodded, listening carefully and stroked his cheek as Jamie was slowly telling his story.
“So when I was better and I started to look for ye, I was so full of hope. Like I could breathe again. Knowing that I would see ye soon and be reunited wi’ ye…”
“But you found what happened at the hospital,” She added softly, closing her eyes for a moment.
“Aye,” His voice cracked, his arms tightening around her as if she would disappear.
“And I thought about Rabbie and Mary. How our stories were no’ the same but similar in a way. Here I was, alone wi’out the one person I loved the most and Mary was in the same situation. Except she had two bairns. Two boys who would grow up wi’out a father. I went back to Scotland for a bit and my mother talked to me about the wedding. How it was time I take my father’s place as the Laird and how marrying Mary would be a good thing for everyone. I believed them.”
“They weren’t wrong, it would have been a good decision,” Claire said softly, forcing a smile. She had no reason to feel jealous of Mary. In reality, she wasn’t. But the faint idea of it made her heart drop, a little bit. She couldn’t help it.
“Aye, it wouldn’t have been a bad marriage, I ken that much,” Jamie smiled softly. “But then ye came back and I knew immediately I couldn’t go through wi’ it…I was just afraid ye were not seeing me the way I was seein’ ye. After all, we only spent one night together, during a time where everything was uncertain and we both wanted comfort. We were afraid.”
“Now we both know it wasn’t just comfort,” She stroked his chin, his scruff rasping against her skin. “It was more than that.”
“Aye, ‘tis more than that, Sassenach,” Jamie sealed their lips for a moment, entwining their hands, “I dinna ken what it is between us. When I kiss ye…When I lie wi’ ye…When I touch ye…but I ken it’s more, mo nighean donn. It’s no’ usual what it is between us.”
Claire shook her head slightly, smiling,” I don’t know what it is either but it’s not usual, no.”
“I’m glad it hasna changed since that night,” He whispered against her lips before kissing her, his hand sliding under the cover to stroked her side.
“So am I,” She whispered against his lips.
“I want to draw ye,” His lip flicked up into a mischievous smile and she chuckled softly.
“Draw me?” Claire raised her eyebrow, “Again?”
“Aye,” He kissed the tip of her nose. “I’ve drawn ye from memory countless time and only once did I do it wi’ ye in front of me. I want to do it again, Sassenach. And seeing ye like this, wrapped in the sheets, yer porcelain skin glowin’ in the morning light – I’ve never seen ye so beautiful, mo ghraidh.”
Claire blushed, running her hand through her curls, “I must be looking like a poodle after being caught in the rain.”
“No, mo nighean donn, ye look perfect,” Jamie stroked her cheek before getting up to grab a pencil and his sketchbook. He sat by the bed and watched her for a moment.
“What do you want me to do?” She asked softly, her eyes not leaving his.
“Dinna move,” He said softly, smiling.
So Claire didn’t and watched him at his task, fascinated by his concentration and how he didn’t look once at the paper while he drew her.
“You look all serious,” She noted, smirking. Her observation made him chuckle softly.
“Are ye makin’ fun of me, Sassenach?” His eyebrow rose up in question as he was meticulously drawing her.
“I was just making an observation is all,” She smiled, “I wish I had my camera right now to take a picture of the master at the task.”
Jamie grinned, not making a comment on that. “I hope no one was expectin’ ye home last night…”
“No,” Claire smiled, “My uncle is in town and took Edouard camping for the weekend. I didn’t want him to see the exhibition. He doesn’t need a reminder of those atrocities now. It’s too soon.”
“Ye’re right,” Jamie watched her, smudging the paper with the tip of his finger. “But one day he’ll have to see the work his mother did because ‘tis important.”
“One day,” She smiled, moving slightly.
Silence fell into the room again while Jamie concentrated on his drawing. His eyes briefly leaving her to look at the paper. He looked like a little boy, biting his tongue softly and frowning while he graced the paper with dark lines of her.
“Edouard loves you, you know,” Claire finally said, breaking the comfortable silence.
Jamie looked up slowly from his sketchbook, his eyes shining. “He does?”
Claire sat up slowly, smiling and nodded, “He does, very much. When I told you about you going back to Scotland, he told me he thought we’d be a family one day…”
“There is nothin’ I’d love more than that, Sassenach,” Jamie kneeled on the mattress and put his sketchbook away.
“You know,” She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down with her. “The cottage isn’t very big but…it’s big enough for the three of us. Even if you’re a giant,” Her smile grew wider.
“What exactly are ye askin’ me?” He rubbed his nose against hers.
“I think you know exactly what I’m asking you”, She stroked his cheek, smiling.
“London is smoggy and clogged. I think the countryside will do you some good and the garage is mostly unoccupied…It’s big enough to make you a painting studio and all that jazz.”
“Are ye sure the lad will approve?”
“I’m sure,” Claire held him close, resting her head on his chest. “There is nothing he’d wish more than have you around. He looks up to you a lot, you know. I love raising him but often I wondered if I would be enough for him –”
“Ye ken ye would have,” He kissed the top of her head. “Ye’re a wonderful mother, Claire.”
Turning around, she laid on her belly and watched him – her heart squeezing. “We didn’t get to raise our child but we can get to raise Edouard. Together.”
“Aye,” Jamie’s smile grew wide. “Together.”
Claire leaned up, cupping his cheeks. A feeling of utter happiness taking over her body. She had Edouard and Jamie. She didn’t need anything more to finally be complete. She straddled him slowly as her lips found his. Overlapping.
Jamie wrapped his arms around her waist, sitting up and whispered, “I didn’t finish my drawing yet, Sassenach.”
“Later,” She whispered between two kisses, slowly sliding down on him. “We’re not in a rush, are we?”
“Nay,” Jamie groaned, his hands travelling down her back to take a firm hold of her buttocks, “We’re no’ in a rush at all, Sassenach.”
Claire started to move her hips in slow motion. So slow it was almost agonizing for both of them. She cupped his cheeks, her whisky eyes lost into his own. In them, she saw the past. Their night together in France. The months after their parting. The first year after the war. And she saw the future. Their future together as a family.
At that moment, Claire realised that even now, after all the pain and death and heartbreak that followed their night together, she still would make the same choice.