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The School Trip

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Jamie had often fantasised about taking his Sassenach away on a wee trip.  Some place sunny, like the south of France, where they could share a bottle of wine and gaze at the Mediterranean.  Eyes meeting across the table and hands under it; fingers caressing sun-warmed skin.  A gentle ocean breeze would ruffle her hair and he’d tuck an errant curl behind her ear before leaning in to kiss her. When their mouths met it’d be an expression of all the love between them; her soft sigh both encouragement and desire.  Even the thought of it made Jamie giddy and he’d often find himself idly googling flights thinking: one day.  The only problem with any of this was that despite the fact that he’d been dreaming of her soft lips for months, his Sassenach didn't even know his name.

 

Jamie Fraser had been been teaching Physical Education at Fort William High School for three years when she arrived.  Old Mr McGregor the science teacher had retired and in his place arrived an English curlywig named Claire Beauchamp.  Eyes the colour of honey and whip smart; she was the kind of person who could use the word parentheses and make it sound provocative rather than pretentious.  Jamie was completely smitten.

 

On Claire’s first day the sun shined brightly; a rarity in Scotland.  As warm rays hit her hair from behind, Jamie thought it looked like a halo and she an angel crowned with gold.  In that moment he knew that whatever it took, he had to somehow make Claire his.  Fast forward six months and the plan wasn’t going so well.  Every time he’d tried to approach her he’d ended up chickening out at the last minute.  Palms clammy and throat tight, he was so worried about saying something stupid in front of the beautiful Sassenach that he said nothing at all.  Once in a staff meeting he thought she’d called his name and his heart had soared. It turned out Claire had actually wanted Madame Fréseliere the French teacher and Jamie had walked away all pink ears and embarrassment.  All-in-all, it was a hopeless case of lovesickness that he had absolutely no idea how to overcome. 

 

Fate decided to intervene one day by way of some departmental cuts.  Due to reduced funding the annual school trip to France was replaced with the more budget-friendly Gretna Green; a tiny Scottish boarder town that was boring to anyone not living in the 19th century and looking for a time sensitive wedding. Each year two teachers were selected to chaperone the trip and all on staff dreaded their name being read out the way one does a call from the tax department advising a surprise audit.  Jamie loved his work as a teacher but an overnight trip with twenty-five hormone-fuelled teenagers with the likes of Glenna Fitzgibbons from the Geography department wasn’t his idea of fun. In fact he wondered if he could try and feign some kind of sports injury and be exempt from the draw altogether.  Given his disdain for the potential trip, it should have been no surprise that his name was selected first.  About to open his mouth to protest and beg for a redraw, they announced the second teacher’s name: Claire.  Jamie was sure his heart stopped in shock; could this be the opportunity he’d been waiting for?

 

When Jamie arrived at school on the morning of the excursion Claire was already there.  The chilly air gave her a luminescent glow; a light pink flush that bloomed on her cheekbones and chest.  Dumbstruck, Jamie just stood staring, mouth agape.  Collecting himself at last, he took in the scene before him.  Standing next to the bus with her clipboard and red-rimmed glasses, his sassenach shepherded students aboard with a no-nonsense efficiency - a masterful skill as getting teenagers to do anything was a lot like hearding cats. If it were at all possible, his interest and respect for her increased at the sight.  Running a hand nervously through his hair; Jamie wondered how had the universe conspired to give him forty-eight hours in the company of this amazing woman?  He just hoped he didn’t screw it up.

 

“Hello Mr Fraser! I’m Claire, well Dr Beauchamp to the students.  Oh and I work in the science department.  You probably don't know who I am; I don’t think we’ve spoken before?  My fault really; I tend to spend most of my time in the labs”

 

It was beyond Jamie’s understanding how anyone could not know who Claire was. Drinking in the sight of her, he didn’t even notice that he was staring again. 

 

“Do I have something on my face? I had some honey toast for breakfast and I was sure I’d got the last of it off?!”

 

“Oh…sorry, no ye um…yer fine lass. I mean Dr Beauchamp…Claire.”

 

Embarrassed that the first words to his Sassenach had come out sounding like he was a lad who’s voice was half way through breaking, Jamie cleared his throat and tried again.

 

“We havena met officially, but I’ve seen ye in the staff meetings. It’s so pleasurable…I mean its a pleasure to meet ye properly at last.  Ye can call me Jamie if ye like?”

 

Jamie

 

As she tried out the name on her tongue, Jamie shivered imagining her saying it as she was writhing beneath him, breath hot in his ear.  Chastising himself for being no better than one of his lust-crazed students, he leapt onto the bus, lest his imaginings become physically apparent.

 

This was not the dream start to his relationship with Claire that Jamie had hoped for.

Chapter Text

The bus carrying the contingent from Fort William High School trundled down the motorway with all the speed one would expect from a vehicle that was by-enlarge held together with spit and glue.  As with all school trips, the back rows were occupied with students; the freedom from getting away from campus imbuing them with a loud exuberance that saw much laughing, yelling, and throwing of objects down the aisle. Up the front of the bus sat the teachers; separated from the raucous teenagers by age and space they had no interest in the latest Snapchat filter, what was considered woke this week or who-liked-whom.  Which was fortunate as at that moment Dr Claire Beauchamp was quite pre-occupied with her own thoughts.  Sat with a copy of The Times crossword on her lap, she was doing her best to look like she was ruminating over potential answers when the real reason for her furrowed brow was sitting just across the aisle.  

 

Claire noticed Jamie Fraser as soon as she’d arrived at Fort William. At 6’4” and with hair the colour of summer berries, he was hard to miss.  Add to this a pair of sparkling blue eyes and a body befitting a Physical Education teacher - it was no surprise that he was on the radar of most of the females at the school, both teachers and pupils alike.  Not one to be swayed by looks alone, Claire’s interest had been piqued when she learned that in his own time Jamie tutored English-as-second-language students to help them get up to speed with the Scottish curriculum.  Kindness and intelligence: Claire was definitely intrigued and decided to ask Jamie out for a coffee to learn more about him.  

 

At the next staff meeting her heart did a little dance when he walked in. Muscled arms accentuated in the fitted polo-shirt he wore, Claire buried her nose in her notebook to avoid staring.  When the briefing was over, Claire called out to Mr Fraser, asking if she might have a quick word.  Unfortunately she instead caught the attention of the French teacher Madame Fréseliere who decided it was a great opportunity to discuss the rehearsal schedule for the student recital.  By the time Claire had extricated herself from the conversation, Jamie was gone.  

 

Undeterred, Claire next tried to approach Jamie in the staff lounge.  Concerned that her reason for suggesting coffee might make her attraction to him too transparent, she spent the night before reading up about football. Not really one for sports, Claire had researched the game, paying particular attention to something called the offside rule so she wouldn’t look too ignorant of something Jamie was passionate about.  Luck it seems was not on Claire’s side again; when she found Jamie he was talking to the Geneva Dunsany, Principal’s assistant.  If flirting with men was a sport then Geneva would’ve been part of Team GB at the next Olympics; Claire rolled her eyes watching the petite brunette simpering and batting her fake-eyelashes at Jamie. Without meaning to eavesdrop, she overheard Jamie asking Geneva about booking a date, emphasising that he’d like it to be as soon as possible.  Realising Jamie’s affections lay elsewhere, Claire chastised herself for being no better that all the other infatuated women in the school.  Heart bruised, she retreated to the comfort of the science labs to lick her wounds.

 

If anyone had asked, Claire would have told them that her feelings for Jamie ended then and there, but that was far from the truth.  The position of the science labs afforded a very good view of the school’s sports field and so it was from this vantage that Claire watched Jamie run his lessons, secretly pining from afar.

 

On the bus, Claire’s eyes flicked over to Jamie.  His face calm, he sat scrolling through this phone, turning around occasionally to quieten any particularly rowdy students.  Claire wished she could look so calm, but ever since they’d set off she’d been replaying her early morning conversation with Jamie; cringing all the while.  Her introduction had been babbling, followed by asking him whether she had food on her face; could there have been a more embarrassing way to start their acquaintance?  Claire’s thoughts were interrupted by a question from the man himself.

 

“Ye seem a bit stuck with yer crossword there - would ye like a hand?”

 

“Tell me you love me”

 

“I um…sorry what did ye say?”

 

Claire flushed with mortification realising how her comment must have sounded to Jamie.  Worse yet, his face had gone a deep shade of scarlet too, most likely second-hand embarrassment on Claire’s behalf.

 

“Oh gosh, sorry no! Ha! No nothing like that! It’s the crossword clue! “Nine across: ‘Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me, oh and I rush to the start’ are lyrics to which song by the band Coldplay?’ Twelve letters”

 

Recovering himself, Jamie thought a moment then gave a little chuckle.

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

“The answer…I take it yer not a Coldplay fan then?”

 

Claire shook her head with a perplexed look that conveyed both her confusion at a joke she had apparently missed as well as embarrassment at not being up with popular culture.  Jamie reached across the aisle.

 

“May I?”

 

Claire nodded and he took the newspaper and pencil from her, quickly filling in the answer before handing them both back with a smile.  She looked down to see what he’d written:

 

The Scientist

 

“Sorry, I thought ye’d have known it…being a scientist and all”

 

Claire looked up to see Jamie desperately trying to stifle a laugh, the corners of her own mouth turning up at the sight.

 

“Oh all right - point taken!”

 

They both started giggling, Claire unable to keep her eyes from the way Jamie’s entire face lit up when he smiled. White teeth, shining eyes; he was breathtaking. 

 

The ice now broken, Claire was eager to continue their conversation and asked Jamie if he’d been to Gretna Green before; he shook his head in the negative.

 

“Neither have I, but I do like to be prepared so I put together this binder with notes about places of geographic and historical importance.  You know, so we can make sure the things we point out to the students are educational as well as interesting”

 

Jamie’s eyes widened at the size of the folder and for a minute Claire was worried he might laugh at her over preparedness.  Instead Jamie regarded her as if deciding what to say, then licked his lips before he spoke.

 

“May I have a look?”

 

Smiling, Claire began to pass the binder across the aisle but Jamie got up and moved to the empty seat next to her. Unable to help herself from inhaling his soft fragrance, her pulse drummed faster at his nearness.  Due to his long legs, their thighs touched in the small seats; Claire could have shifted over but at feeling the warmth of his skin through his jeans she refused to budge an inch.  This was the closest she’d ever been to Jamie and wanted to savour in every minute of it. 

 

“This is verra good Claire, did it take ye long?”

 

“No, not really, just something I put together in between classes”

 

A master note-taker since primary school, it’d taken her but an afternoon.  An afternoon also spent watching Jamie as he ran laps of the oval during a free period.  She’d felt a bit of a voyeur at this, but any thoughts drifted away when she saw his strong muscular body covered in the sweat from his endeavours.  When he finished he’d checked his watch, smiling at the time he’d done.  Claire was oddly proud and longed to run down to the oval and congratulate him.  

 

As much of a schoolgirl she felt to admit it, in her head, right from the very first day she’d seen him, Claire had always thought of Jamie as her Scot.  Now that they were finally going to be in the same place together, she hoped there’d be a chance - however small - she could make it be true.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sitting next to a fellow teacher in a dusty old school bus hardly seemed like an exciting anecdote to recount to mates, but for Jamie it was magical.  Settled beside his Sassenach, their legs touched as she showed him the notes she’d prepared for the excursion.  When Claire didn’t move to break their contact, Jamie felt a glowing warmth in his chest that made him want to sigh and squeal at the same time.  Try as he might to act like a grown-up and seem unaffected, he’d never been this close to Claire before and the proximity was doing funny things to his brain.  A heady euphoria wrapped around him like a fog, his thoughts running rampant with possibilities.  Her chestnut curls in a tight bun, he longed to tug the hair-tie free and run his hands through her silky tresses.  He ached to pick up her small and delicate hand and press his lips to her palm.  Imagination leaping ahead, he pictured them sitting side-by-side somewhere far away; a picnic perhaps.  A Fraser-family plaid to sit upon, he’d feed her pieces of cheese and sips of wine just for pleasure of watching her beautiful lips move.  It’d be just the two of them and the fresh mountain air.  He’d trail his fingers over her smooth white skin and kiss her with abandon; making his Sassenach moan and pull him down on top of her. His large body surrounding her, protecting her.  

 

Jerking back into the present, Jamie was abashed.  Claire not moving her leg hardly meant she wanted to run away with him and god knows what kind of creep she’d think he was if she knew about the elaborate fantasies he concocted about her. Oh but a lad could dream...

 

“So ah…how long have ye been teaching?”

 

Turning towards him, Claire began a potted history of her career to date.  An undergraduate degree in England, a couple of years teaching in Wales, various tutoring jobs in France while she completed her doctoral thesis.  Jamie drank it all up, thoroughly impressed with both her accomplishments and the non-nonsense modesty with which she spoke of them.  It wasn’t an intimate conversation by any means, but Claire’s crisp English accent and smooth tone had Jamie nodding with interest and committing all that she said to memory.  Eager to discover as much about her as he could, he found himself asking more questions, not even stopping to think if his Sassenach would like to learn about him in return.

 

“Do ye play any sports? Ye look verra fit” 

 

With her rosebud mouth, slim waist and gorgeous arse, Jamie couldn’t have envisioned a more ideal woman even if assisted by a police sketch artist.  Unfortunately his accent had a habit of sounding extra Scottish when he was particularly moved by something; so combined with his choice of words, his enquiry had come across less like ‘question from a colleague’ and more like  ‘dodgy pick-up line in a nightclub’.  Jamie closed his eyes, cringing at the gaffe. 

 

“Sorry, that didna come out right…”

 

Sniggering at Jamie’s awkwardness, Claire placed a comforting hand on his arm.

 

“It’s okay, I know what you meant.  I’m sure I’m nowhere near as fit as you, but I do enjoy trail running. I really love the outdoors and it helps work off all the whisky I drink”

 

“Ye drink whisky?”

 

Claire raised a brow in question and smiled alluringly.

 

“Yes, I thought it was mandatory if one lived in Scotland?” 

 

Jamie would have loved to respond in a way that acknowledged both Claire’s humour and his complete excitement that she was a whisky-drinking, trail-running lover of the countryside.  Instead he just sat there dumbstruck, mouth gaping like a cod that’d just been pulled from a stream.  His usually active mind was drawing a blank; how to show Claire that he was worthy of her?  That he was more than just some guy who’d had a crush on her for months but never mustered the courage to talk to her?  It was a question he was still pondering when the bus pulled into the car park at Gretna Green.

 

Knowing that the students would have excess energy to burn after being cooped up for several hours, Claire had wisely selected a physical-based activity to begin their excursion. With Gretna Green known historically as the place for forbidden lovers to tie the knot, there were a number of ‘love’ based attractions dotted around the town.  As twenty-five students and one besotted teacher listened attentively, Dr Beauchamp began to tell them about their first destination: The Courtship Maze.  

 

Shaped like a pair of interlocking wedding bands, the maze was designed to represent a relationship.  With twists and turns, the idea was to enter separately from your partner, each of you seeking to find the other in the centre.  The symbolism wasn’t lost on Jamie who watched his Sassenach talking with a dreamy look on his face, imaging himself catching her in the maze and being rewarded with a sweet kiss. 

 

“All right, I want everyone to partner up - the maze has two entrances, one of you will start at each and the goal is to find your partner by the end.  Enjoy the thrill of the chase - but no funny business, Mr Fraser and I will be watching!”

 

The kids tore off into the maze, their shrieks of excitement echoing over the tall walls. When the last of the students had gone in, Jamie smiled hopefully at Claire.

 

“What do ye say Dr Beauchamp, shall we give it a try?”

 

“I’m game if you are!’

 

Claire hadn’t been lying when she said she was a runner, shooting off at a speed that both surprised and impressed Jamie.  Inside the maze was it was delightful chaos with everyone (teachers and pupils alike) yelling, laughing and running here, there and everywhere.  No better than the students at finding his partner, Jamie would run in a one direction only to round a corner and find himself right back where he started.  Every couple of minutes he’d catch a fleeting glimpse of his Sassenach, her peals of laughter ringing along the paths as she remained tantalisingly out of reach.

 

Jamie did have one advantage over everyone else in the maze: his height. Taking a large vertical leap he discovered he could see along a couple of paths either side of the one he was on.  After hearing Claire calling out but unable to see her, he stopped and jumped, spotting her in the path to his right.  Luck was on his side as he took off after her; Claire was headed straight for a dead end.  Inching around a corner Jamie saw her begin to double back and as she came past him, grabbed her by the wrist.

 

“Got ye!”

 

Claire’s yelp of surprise had them both laughing.  During the chase, her hair had come loose, ringlets falling around her face like a chocolate cloud; with cheeks rosy from the exercise, Jamie couldn't take his eyes off her.  Beaming, Claire took deep lungfuls of air:

 

“I should have known better than to try and outrun the PE teacher!”

 

“Aye, a lesson I hope ye’ll remember for next time”

 

As Claire stood with her back against the wall of the maze, Jamie was in front of her, hand pressed into the stone by her head.  Their chests were practically touching, but to Jamie’s immense delight Claire seemed in no rush to move. 

 

“Of course, I know that you were cheating…”

 

“How dare ye speak such lies!”

 

“Ha, I think not. I saw you jumping up like an oversized jack-in-the-box!  Very poor sportsmanship, Mr Fraser…”

 

“Are ye gonna punish me, then?”

 

As Claire exhaled to laugh, Jamie felt her breath on his face and could think of nothing but how much he wanted to kiss her.  With her soft pink lips and honey eyes that sparkled in the morning sunlight, desire crashed over him like a tidal wave.  Feeling emboldened by her flirtatious tone, Jamie inched closer and when his Sassenach didn’t move away, closed the small gap between their mouths to kiss her.

 

“Jamie! There ye are!”

 

The high-pitched exclamation could have shattered glass.  Body stiffening, Claire’s eyes darted in the direction of the noise but Jamie didn’t need to turn his head to know who it was that’d ruined the moment with his Sassenach. 

 

Laogharie.

Chapter Text

Adrenaline coursing through her, Claire sprinted along the paths of the maze.  After being so close to Jamie on the bus, she had a lot of nervous energy to burn and forcing her legs along the narrow tracks was as much a necessity as  amusement.  From somewhere nearby she heard Jamie calling out; reminding her of childhood fairytales and hiding from the big bad wolf. 

 

“Come out, come out wherever you are…”  

 

The thought of Jamie catching her gave Claire a little thrill as she pictured his long arms wrapping around her waist, teeth sinking gently into the place where her shoulder met her neck.  At this she stopped short.  Breathing deeply Claire leaned back into the wall and imagined instead it was Jamie behind her, strong muscles pressing into her soft curves. She closed her eyes and sighed; thoughts of her Scot’s raw physicality always left Claire a little weak in the knees. 

 

When Jamie did finally catch Claire, it wasn’t the surprise of seeing him that made her yelp, but the feel of his hand gripping her wrist.  Warmth and strength; what might his touch feel like on other parts of her?  Backing into the wall again, Jamie’s hand stayed wrapped around Claire’s forearm and they stood close, struggling to contain their laughter and get their breaths back.

 

From months of observing him on the sports field, Claire knew Jamie’s hair glowed like embers when hit with the full light of the sun.  That morning in the maze was no different and as he stood in front of her, Claire’s fingers itched to run through his ruddy waves.  Instead she pressed herself against the smooth stone wall, her pulse increasing with every inch Jamie moved closer to her. 

 

When she called him out on his cheating he feigned surprise, then smirked at her; his smile making her insides feel all gooey.

 

“Are ye gonna to punish me then?” 

 

His blue eyes alight with mischief,  Claire laughed; partly from the joke but also from nerves.  This felt like one of her fantasies playing out and she desperately hoped she hadn’t hit her head and hallucinated the whole thing.  All Claire knew for certain was how much she wanted Jamie to kiss her and as he began to close the small gap between them she closed her eyes in anticipation of the feel of his beautiful mouth on hers.  The feeling never came.

 

“Jamie! There ye are!”

 

Eyes snapping open, Claire registered the shrill voice belonged to one of the students. Laogharie Mackenzie: blonde hair, ice-blue eyes and a permanent scowl.  Based on the way she’d addressed Jamie by his first name, Claire guessed their acquaintance went beyond the school-gates.

 

Face reddening - Claire wasn’t sure whether from anger or embarrassment - Jamie squeezed her shoulder then spun around to face the girl.  Claire noticed a tension in his posture that hadn’t been there a moment earlier.  He reminded her of a cat; hackles raised as they sized up their foe.

 

“Laogharie, ye are well aware that during school hours ye are to address me as Mr Fraser.

 

“Yeah but Jamie…”

 

Mr Fraser.  What is it ye want?”

 

Shimmying over to him, Laogharie flicked her hair back in a way she clearly thought was alluring; Claire thought she looked more like a horse twitching it’s tail to shoo away flies.

 

“Well I was just wonderin’ if ye’d like to be my partner in the maze, I’d make it worth yer while…”

 

“No thank ye; why don’t ye run along and find the partner ye were assigned to begin with”

 

“It’d be much more fun if it was you and me; ye dinna want to be stuck wi’ Miss Beauchamp all morning, I can tell how bored ye are”

 

Hands balled into fists, Jamie turned briefly to Claire.

 

“If ye will excuse us a moment Dr Beauchamp.  There’s a couple of things I should like to address with Miss Mackenzie”

 

Jamie took a few steps around the corner and into the next path of the maze, signalling for Laogharie to follow.  Turning to Claire with a victorious smirk, the girl trotted after the sports teacher.  Curiosity overcoming her, Claire crept close to the corner so that she might overhear what was being said.

 

“What do ye think yer playing at?”  Jamie hissed.

 

“Nothing at all. I was doin’ ye a favour!  She’s a stuck-up nerd, I ken ye’d much rather be with someone ye can have fun with”

 

“Ye will not speak about Dr Beauchamp - or any member of staff - with such disrespect.  Just because yer father works at Lallybroch doesn’t give ye the right to be rude to people and make our acquaintance appear any more than it is”

 

“But can’t ye feel what’s between us, Sir?”

 

“Between us? I’m yer teacher, nothing more.  This is completely inappropriate - not to mention that ye’re sixteen Laogharie!

 

“I’ll be seventeen in July.  I can tell ye want me…it’s ok, I want ye too”

 

“Enough! I willna have ye talking such rubbish!” 

 

“But ye waited for me Jamie…Mr Fraser.  That’s why yer still single; ye want us to be together”

 

“Nothing could be further from the truth! Not that I owe ye any explanation about what I do in my own time, but if ye must know, I’m seeing someone.”

 

Claire inhaled sharply. Her Scot had a partner? But hadn’t he just been about to kiss her? Or did she imagine it?  Not wanting to hear any more but unable to step away, she continued eavesdropping, heart deflating all the while.  It seemed she wasn’t the only one caught off guard by Jamie’s revelation.

 

“Ye…ye have a girlfriend?”

 

“Yes - so ye will stop with these fantasies or I’ll have no choice but to make a complaint to the school board. Is that clear?”

 

“Aye, but…”

 

“Now, ye will go and apologise to Dr Beauchamp and when ye’re back at school it’ll be a week of detention”

 

“Oh c’mon Sir - yer being so unfair!”

 

“Make that two weeks”

 

Jamie and the girl returned; a mumbled half-hearted apology followed, before Laogharie turned on her heel and ran off back into the maze.  Clearly more fazed by the confrontation than he’d wanted to appear, Jamie ran a hand roughly through his hair, eyes downcast.  Disappointed as she was that the fantasies involving her Scot were about as likely to come true as Laogharie’s were, Claire still wanted to make sure he was all right.  If a student were to make allegations of inappropriate conduct it could be career-ending and no teacher should have to manage them on their own.  Her enquiry was met with a rueful smile from Jamie, who looked embarrassed that Claire should have had to bear witness to something that’d been a millstone around his neck for quite some time.  

 

“How much did ye overhear?”

 

“Enough; have you told anyone about this?”

 

“It’s fine Claire, really - I’ve got it in hand. I’m just sorry that ye had to get dragged into my mess”

 

“Oh honestly Jamie, there’s no need to soldier on alone.  There’s nothing wrong with accepting a little help once in a while”

 

Jamie smiled - genuinely this time - and took Claire’s hands in his.

 

“Aye, that’s what Jenny always says”

 

Jenny: from the affectionate way in which Jamie said her name, Claire assumed she must have been the hitherto unmentioned girlfriend.  Not one to dwell on misfortune, Claire did feel embarrassed at the way she’d gotten her hopes up about a possible future with Jamie.  She consoled herself with the fact that at least it wasn’t Geneva; if Claire couldn't be with her Scot she sure as hell didn’t want that slimy toad to get her hands on him either.

 

The next attraction on the school group’s list was arguably Gretna Green’s most famous: The Kissing Gate.  Located inside a courtyard adjoining the blacksmith’s shop, a tour guide met them at the entrance and took them through the site, explaining the history of the location with pride.  The gate itself consisted of a metal arch adorned with upturned horse shoes, and - the guide informed them - had seen marriages performed under it since 1754.

 

As the students wandered through Claire couldn’t help glancing furtively at Jamie.  Try as she might, she just couldn't make sense of his behaviour.  On the bus he’d asked dozens of questions, seeming to hang off her every word.  In the maze when he held her arm it’d felt almost possessive; his thumb brushing back and forwards across the soft skin of her inner wrist.  Claire had been certain there was some sort of connection, but had she mistaken friendly interest from a colleague for something more?  She longed to ask about the mysterious Jenny but knew if she did, the sadness at Jamie’s unavailability would be written all over her face.

 

As if sensing her thoughts, Jamie appeared by Claire’s side.

 

“Is everything all right? I ken this tour guide’s a little hokey but I think the students are enjoying it?”

 

“Oh not it’s not that…”

 

“No? It’s just that ye looked…worried about something.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

His deep blue eyes were so full of concern that any plans Claire had to keep her true feelings from showing on her face evaporated.

 

“Well I um…It’s about before actually; in the maze…”

 

“Aye?”

 

Jamie’s features softened as he took Claire’s hand; that lovely warmth she’d felt from his earlier touch flowing through her again.  A shy smile on his face, he looked down at her expectantly and Claire knew that she had to get to the bottom of the whole girlfriend ‘thing’.  She wanted him too much to walk this tightrope of feelings any longer.

 

“There's something I wanted to ask you about”

 

He stepped closer and Claire’s pulse began to rise; moving from a gentle thud to a hard hammering.  Fearful that her hopes and dreams were about to be dashed once and for all, she commanded herself to be brave; looking at Jamie full in the face.  Claire was rewarded with a tender smile as he leaned forward to whisper in her ear:

 

“The kids will be occupied here for a bit; we could slip away for a couple of minutes to talk?”

 

Claire nodded her assent but before either of them could take so much as a step, things started moving beyond their control.  Less than ten minutes later they found themselves standing in front of all the students; Claire kissing Jamie full on the mouth.

 

Chapter Text

As the school group wound their way through the blacksmith’s shop and the tour guide droned about the art of smelting, Jamie reflected on his morning.  First the bus ride and his first real conversation with Claire.  Then the run through the maze; cries of delight as he chased her (and her gorgeous arse).  And finally the moment when they’d stood close; honey eyes locking with his and reeling him in like a tractor beam. 

 

Despite his warm feelings on the subject, Jamie knew that after their almost-kiss something had shifted for Claire; she’d been quiet ever since.  Had he misread the situation? Had the kiss he thought mutually desired actually made her uncomfortable? The only thing that hurt more than the thought of her rejection was the idea that he’d been about to force himself on his lass when she’d been unwilling.

 

Of slight encouragement to Jamie was that Claire kept staring at him when she thought he wasn’t looking (he was always looking).  Her eyes would dart to him and then away, a little half smile on her face was though she was internally debating something.  When the group moved into the courtyard, Jamie took the opportunity to move close to his Sassenach and ask if she was all right.  Cheeks lightly pinking, Claire licked her lips as she looked up at him.  Thinking how beautiful she was, Jamie smiled in return and quite without realising, took her hand in his.  At his suggestion that they slip away for a couple of minutes to talk, his Sassenach nodded and squeezed his hand; an immediate balm to Jamie’s frazzled nerves.

 

“So, do we have any volunteers?!”

 

The tour guide’s loud proclamation was met with an awkward silence.  Having not been listening for the last ten minutes, Jamie had no idea why volunteers were needed and hoped one of the more exuberant students would put their hand up for whatever banal activity the guide had in mind.  From their position at the back of the group, Jamie interlaced his fingers with Claire’s; preparing to sneak away unnoticed.

 

“Cat got yer tongues today? How about we get yer teachers up here then, aye?”

 

The chorus of laughter and clapping from the kids had Jamie completely confused.  He looked over at Claire who appeared as much in the dark as he was; hastily untangling their hands as the students all turned to look at them. Cursing fate for once again thwarting plans to speak to his Sassenach, Jamie stepped forward; assuming he’d be asked to throw a horseshoe onto a nail or something.

 

“That’s the spirit!”

 

“Ooooh, Mr Fraser and Dr Beauchamp!” Heckled one of the students.

 

“Ye gonna snog her Mr Fraser?” Yelled another.

 

Panic washed over Jamie; a sheen of sweat springing to the surface of his skin.  Did they know he and Claire had been about to leave? Were his feelings of ardour for his Sassenach plain for all to see?   Claire following close behind, Jamie waded through the crowd, the tips of his ears burning as though someone held a candle to them. When both teachers were standing up the front the purpose for their volunteering became clear:

 

“All right then - let’s have ourselves a marriage ceremony!”

 

“A what?”

 

Claire’s shock made her cut-glass English accent even more pronounced.  Jamie smiled; his Sassenach was clearly as alarmed as he was. The guide turned to Claire with enthusiasm:

 

“No need to panic lassie, it’ll just be a mock one although I am licensed should you feel the urge to make things official!”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Ye and the tall red-headed lad; ye are a couple, yes?”

 

“Jamie isn’t…Mr Fraser and I are not a couple. We’re here to chaperone the students so I’d appreciate it if you could keep your assumptions to yourself please”

 

Despite the fact that they weren’t a couple - far from it - Jamie was crestfallen; Claire’s annoyance at the mere suggestion of being mistaken for an item bruising his hopeful heart.  Perhaps he had been wrong about their moment in the maze?  He schooled his features, trying to appear indifferent.  

 

The guide apologised to Claire before turning to address the students, telling them about the olden days when marriages could be performed by anyone, with the village blacksmith often called on to perform the service.  A marriage over the anvil they called it.  

 

Still looking harried, Claire pulled Jamie aside; asking if he was uncomfortable about what was about to occur.

 

“Me? No, just a bit of fun; when in Rome, aye?”

 

“Indeed”

 

Brow furrowed, something was still on Claire’s mind.

 

“I just wanted to make sure, I don’t want to upset Jenny”

 

“Jenny? I dinna think so, although come to think of it, she’d probably be happy to know I’d finally decided to think about marriage, even if it was just a pretend one!”

 

He’d meant it as a joke, but Claire didn’t laugh; instead biting her lip and looking at the ground.

 

“Are ye sure you’re ok with this? We dinna have to do it if ye’d rather not”

 

Eyes shining she looked up at him and nodded; the sight giving Jamie the urge to wrap his arms around his lass to soothe her worries.  Now was unfortunately not the time; the guide - relishing the authority performing the mock ceremony had given him - shushed the group to begin.

 

The simple serviced was delivered with ostentatious flourishes more befitting St Paul’s Catherdral than the windy courtyard in front of the Kissing Gate.  At the tour guide’s silliness, Jamie rolled his eyes at Claire and was relieved when she stifled a giggle. Watching her smile he imagined standing at an altar with his Sassenach for real one day, reciting vows and declaring before God and man that he was hers. He smiled dreamily at the thought. 

 

Taking their right hands, the guide bound them together with a strip of muslin, explaining it symbolised the lifelong unification of a couple in matrimony.  After months of pining from afar, being bound to Claire with their entire forearms touching made Jamie buzz like he’d just downed a whole can of Red Bull.  Hyper aware of everything about his Sassenach, he slid his palm up her arm to caress the soft skin of her inner elbow with his fingertips, delighting in the bloom of pink on her cheeks as a result.  It was a bold move but the faux ceremony was doing funny things to his head.   

 

“…And that bring us to the end of our ceremony between Mr Fraser and Dr Beauchamp…almost!”

 

The tour guide-cum-celebrant gave a squawking laugh and Jamie decided the man enjoyed the sound of his own voice far too much.

 

 “The conclusion of all marriage ceremonies is of course the kiss, which symbolises the exchange of souls between the bride and groom; two becoming one flesh”

 

Jamie’s eyes flicked to Claire to gauge her reaction.  She was staring at their joined hands, her long dark lashes fluttering closed and leaving her expression unreadable.

 

“So kids, what do we think - shall our bride and groom seal the deal by locking lips?’

 

A resounding yes followed and Jamie felt a strange calm descend; this certainly wasn’t how he’d pictured his first kiss with Claire but there was no way he’d be passing up this opportunity, however chaste it turned out to be.  His Sassenach smiled shyly and Jamie leaned in, expecting to give her a small peck to satisfy the crowd.  When their mouths met something else happened entirely; her lips soft and inviting, the second he touched them with his own Jamie knew he never wanted to stop.  Opening up ever so slightly so he could cover her mouth with his own, he sought more of the sweetness that she infused in him.  His blood thudded through his veins and  - fearing losing control completely - he was about to pull back when Claire stepped closer, deepening their kiss.  

 

The tour guide was gone, the students vanished, the horse-shoe covered gate replaced with swirling space; Jamie was not conscious of anything but the blissful sensation of his Sassenach kissing him.  It couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds but it changed him completely; his imaginings nothing compared to the real thing.   When the kiss ended, Claire looked a little dazed and Jamie gazed into her eyes lovingly; the tour guide untied their wrists and the kids broke into applause.  

 

This had gone far beyond a bit of fun to educate the students but Jamie didn’t care one iota.  What he suspected before, he now knew for certain; his heart and mind totally and completely belonged to Claire.

Chapter Text

If ever there was a time Claire wished she could turn off the scientist part of her brain, it was now.  Standing in front of Jamie while the tour guide-cum-celebrant waffled on about the history of marriage, her cheeks flushed crimson.  She tried to convince herself it was from icy wind whirling around the courtyard; the voice inside her head had other ideas. “Adreneline; the hormone that makes blood vessels dilate, resulting in blushing when close to the object of one’s affection” it recited.  Wiping sweaty palms on her legs, her internal monologue continued: “norepinephrine makes the heart race and head spin - classic symptoms of lust.” Claire cringed, wishing she could supress her body’s response to Jamie. In truth she had just as much control over what time the sun rose each day.

 

The faux-wedding ceremony concluded and Jamie leaned in for their kiss; short and perfunctory Claire told herself, despite wishing it was anything but.  His lips brushed hers; light as a feather and warm as melted candle wax, it made Claire’s heart beat with the ferocity of an eagle’s wings at full flight.  Logic - usually her dear friend - decided to take a back seat and she pressed closer, deepening their kiss.  Jamie’s strong grip on her arm only dragged her into the moment further and Claire had just touched her tongue to his when she remembered where she was.

 

Claire pulled back, dazed; had that really just happened?  Peaking at Jamie from under her lashes, she was met with a look of complete tenderness as he smiled at her, bright blue eyes full of awe.  They were still holding hands when the heckling started.

 

“Ewww - teachers snogging!” 

 

“Gross!”

 

“Get a room!”

 

Laugher followed, the kids egging each other on and becoming more over-the-top with their jeering.  Claire screwed her eyes closed in mortification; struggling to understand how she’d allowed herself to kiss a colleague, with a girlfriend in front of an entire group of students.  Instead of panicking she responded the way she always did when a situation threatened to get out of control; squaring her shoulders Claire switched to “Dr Beauchamp” mode.  Confident, no-nonsense and absolutely not intimidated by a group of rowdy teenagers.  She began by putting two fingers to her lips and whistling; the loud and piercing sound had everyone’s attention immediately.

 

“Two lines in front of me, right now!  We’re due for lunch in ten minutes, anyone not behaving appropriately will be going hungry. Am I making myself clear?”

 

The students jumped into formation faster than pipers in the Edinburgh Tattoo; the yelling quickly replaced with a subdued chorus of ‘sorry Dr Beauchamp’. Had she not still been embarrased from their kiss, Claire would have found it amusing that such was the effect of her teacher-persona that Jamie had also joined one of the lines; dutifully marching towards the cafe with the kids.

 

Lunch was at the rather unimaginatively named Gretna Love Cafe. Lace-covered tables adorned with vases of bluebells, scones with tea their specialty; it was the kind of place only grandmothers would find appealing.  Based on the meagre budget Fort William High School had provided, it was unfortunately the best Claire could organise for twenty-five hungry students.  The kids spread out across the dozen or so tables; a small one in the corner set aside for the two teachers.  Not yet ready for more one-on-one conversation with Jamie, Claire busied herself at the counter co-ordinating everyone’s orders and chatting to the owner about the weather.

 

“The food willna be too much longer lass, then ye can get back to yer fella”

 

Claire laughed nervously.

 

“I’m ah…there’s no one here for me. I’m just playing chaperone today”

 

“Are ye sure? That handsome redhead hasna taken his eyes off ye since ye walked in”

 

Claire turned around to see Jamie looking anxiously in her direction.  Their gazes meeting, his worried expression morphed into a lopsided grin.  He gave a little wave and Claire’s heart squeezed at the sight.

 

“Well lassie, if he isna yer fella now, he will be verra soon…” 

 

The older lady winked knowingly and Claire blushed, bighting back a smile.  Whatever it was between her and Jamie, she’d never felt anything like it and girlfriend or not, she resolved to clear the air so she knew where they stood.  If he proceeded to tell her about some amazing soon-to-be fiancée Claire just hoped her disappointment wouldn’t be too evident. 

Returning to the table, she found her Scot red-faced and mopping up a puddle of milk.

 

“What happened?”

 

“Och, tis nothing.  One of the kids was larking about and knocked over the jug”

 

“Here, let me help you”

 

Grabbing some napkins, Claire assisted with the clean-up.  Wiping down the table, their hands brushed together, her skin tingling from the contact. 

 

“Claire, can I speak to ye…about before?  Ye seem different, have I done something to offend ye?”

 

“God no! I wanted to speak to you too actually”

 

“Aye?”

 

Heart beating out of her chest, Claire drew confidence from the understanding look on Jamie’s face. 

 

“I’m sure when you woke up this morning the last thing you’d imagined was winding up kissing me…”

 

The sports teacher reddened and began playing with a packet of sugar.  Claire thought this a little odd but put it down to the unusual situation they now found themselves in.

 

“Well it isna what usually happens on a school excursion…”

 

“Yes…Look I know it was just for a bit of fun but I wanted to apologise in case you felt perhaps I’d stepped over the line?”

 

Jamie dropped the sugar and gripped Claire’s fingers.

 

“Not at all and there’s no need for ye to be sorry.  Would…would ye prefer to just pretend it never happened?”

 

“Would you? Because the last thing I want to do it make it difficult to work together.  Or worse yet if you think I’d been disrespectful to your girlfriend”

 

“Whatever do ye mean? I dinna…”

 

Jamie’s attempt to interject was thwarted by Claire, who babbled and spoke over him, worried that if she stopped, how much she felt for her Scot would be written all over her face.  Blushing fiercely she explained how she’d overheard Jamie telling Laogharie about his girlfriend and how she never wanted to be the cause of upset for him, even if their kiss hadn’t meant anything.  It took Jamie’s large hands splaying across her face to snap her out of the rant.  Eyes widening at his boldness, he drew back.

 

“Sorry I didna mean to be so forward but I need to explain a couple of things.  I think ye’ve got the wrong idea”  

 

“I have?”

 

Jamie’s eyes were full of hope and Claire drunk in the site of him, goosebumps breaking out as his fingertips brushed across her knuckles.

 

“The thing is, I dinna have a girlfriend…Not yet anyway”