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My Sassenach

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Claire Beauchamp was sick of dating. She was sick of the small talk, sick of the men who made promises and then didn't follow through; she was sick of wearing heels, the tight dresses; of pretending to be someone that she was not; she was sick of swiping left and right on dating apps to still have nothing to show for it.

“I’m over it Geillis.” Claire drank her now cold coffee, making a face at the bitter taste.

“Yer over not being yerself on dates,” Geillis answered sagely as she tipped her own coffee down the sink. “This is awful, I dinna ken how ye drink the stuff.”

“Caffeine is caffeine,” Claire shrugged. “What do you mean I’m not myself?”

“I’m certain that’s what druggies say a’fore they get their next hit. Coke is coke.” Geillis raised her eyebrow at Claire who snorted in response. “What I mean is, yer going on these dates but yer hair is always straight, yer wearing heels to the sky and a dress ye canna breath in and eatin’ bloody a salad.”

“You lent me that dress.”

“Aye, but it’s not yer style is it now?”

Claire opened her mouth to respond before closing it again. No, it wasn’t her style. But she’d seen other women on dates and they all wore the same thing.

“So what? I should turn up to my next date in track pants?” Claire asked sarcastically, watching as Geillis rolled her eyes at her in exaggeration.

“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Geillis narrowed her eyes at Claire. "I'm saying, go to yer next date as yerself. Wear somethin' ye actually own and are comfortable in and eat a fuckin' burger if ye have to. Just go as yerself, not "date Claire", whoever the hell she is."

"I..." Claire hesitated, not sure what she was going to say. To go as herself, Claire Beauchamp, plain Claire Beauchamp well that was-

"Scary," Geillis said plucking the word from Claire's mind. "I ken it is, it's written all over yer face that it's scary to go as ye are. But ye'll never get anywhere pretending to be someone ye aren't. The way that ye're dating at the moment is not made to last. What if ye went on a third or fourth date and then they see ye in yer daggy clothes, slouching about the house and they realise that who they were datin' is not who they thought? That's why these are'na goin' anywhere, ye aren't bein yerself and they can tell."

"Didn't realise you were in the mood for a sermon today. I would have taken a seat," Claire grumbled as she started to wash her empty mug.

"All I'm sayin' is that, yer a catch Claire Beauchamp. I like ye just fine as ye are, and I dinna need ye to be anything that yer not."

Claire let out a steady breath and turned to face her friend, leaning against the benchtop. "Alight. Next date. I promise. No straightener, no borrowed dress; just me."

"Good." Geillis nodded once, proud that she had finally gotten through to her friend. Their lunch break now finished, they left the small lunch room and headed back out to the Emergency Ward.

--

Claire awkwardly lay on her couch staring at the dating app and wondering if she could actually keep her promise to Geillis. Opening her profile she looked it over as she had a thousand times before.

Claire Beauchamp, 28

Pros:
- Nurse, could look at that weird rash
- Excellent trivia partner
- Loves a dad joke
Cons:
- Won't look at that rash
- Niche interests that are not useful in trivia
- Not a dad (could also be a pro)

I was once described by my fourth grade teacher as "A student in my class" and I've not had such a strong and factual compliment since.

It was a good description, funny, light, nothing too serious. It had also taken her three weeks to curate the perfect wording.

She scrolled through her pictures. Her hair was straight in every single one. Claire rolled her eyes at herself and shifted her position on the couch. Scrolling through her camera roll she selected a photo that Geillis had taken of her late one night in the emergency ward, holding a coffee in one hand and a clipboard in the other. She was laughing at something Geillis had said about the patient they had just admitted and had managed to snap a picture of her mid laugh. Her hair was wildly curling around her face and it was one of the better candid shots she had seen of herself. She found another that she had taken of herself when she was lying on the grass at the Royal Botanic Garden. Again her hair was wild and curly and that seemed to be her only prerequisite when selecting her new profile pictures.

Claire scrolled back through her profile again, amending the first picture to the one in the gardens. There. That was more her style. Of course, she still had the carefully selected original photos with her hair straightened and her posture perfect. This was a mix. She couldn't just jump into it full schleppy, she would need to ease into it.

Claire closed the app and rubbed her temples. It wasn't likely that she would get many hits, or any more than usual anyway. She should get up and make herself some dinner... or order some dinner... or get up from the couch... or something. Claire felt her phone vibrate on her stomach and she opened her eyes to look at it again. A notification from her dating app, and then another, and another as her phone continued to vibrate in her hands. Surely a change of picture couldn't make that much of a difference. The app was probably malfunctioning. Claire unlocked her phone and opened the first message.

Tom Christie - 32
"They say that "curls get the girls", but your curls have certainly caught the attention of this man..."

Claire audibly groaned at the opening statement and clicked out of the message before reading the rest.

Phillip Wylie - 21
"I don't have a rash, but I definitely have something swollen that could use your atten-..."

Claire shuddered at the message and wanted to disinfect her eyes.

Frank Randall - 38
"We assume bees buzz, but have we considered that they are all carrying tiny phones and are constantly texting each other?"

Claire stared at the message for a good fifteen seconds before she burst out laughing. Frank Randall might get a message back from her.

Angus Mohor - 25
"I think I've got a fever, you could always nurse me back to heal-"

Nope. Claire exited the message.

Charles Stuart - 20
"My family owns a large estate, we could go horse riding, or have a drive around the estate in my merce-"

Claire backed out of the message, rolling her eyes. Someone was clearly overcompensating for something.

John Quincy Myers - 36
"Sit on my face."
"Sorry, autocorrect. Would you care to have dinner sometime?"

Claire laughed before she exited the message. It had merit, but no, she wouldn't be replying to John Quincy-Myers.

Jamie Fraser - 23
"How old were you when you realised that recess in school was for the teachers mandatory breaks and not for the students?"

Claire's eyebrows furrowed as she thought about it. It had never occurred to her. She replied without giving it a second thought.

"I was...Today years old."

What an opener. Between Frank and Jamie, Jamie's message had been the one that she'd responded to without hesitation. She wondered why that was. She clicked on his profile, and felt her heart skip a beat as she saw him. The first thing she noticed were his eyes. Bright blue, and even in a picture it felt like he could see straight through her. A bump on the ridge of his nose, possibly a break when he was younger. A mouth with full lips, stretched into a beaming smile as he posed in front of the camera. Red. His hair was wavy and looked like it was overdue for a trim, perhaps long enough to tie back. Definitely long enough to run hands through.

Claire swiped to the next picture. Jamie on the ground with a huge mound of a dog on top of him. Clearly laughing as he wrestled the hound, or perhaps that was the air being forced out of his lungs by the weight of the dog.
Swiping again, he was on top of a mountain, dressed in running gear and smiling proudly. Clearly he liked to exercise if his arms were anything to go by. Even casually relaxed by his side, she could see his muscles.

Claire looked back at his bio.

Jamie, 23

"I know my way around an excel spreadsheet and a word doc. I'm not afraid to say it. I'm a rugby and soccer fan, can cook a decent meal without burning down the kitchen. That was one time. It was barely a fire... No one was hurt.
I like the outdoors, can speak Gaelic, French, some German and for no reason at all, some Latin. Can't dance to save my life, but I'll give it a shot with enough whiskey.
My family has a motto and I choose to live by it.
Je suis prêt."

Je suis prêt - I am ready. He seemed funny, relaxed and like a generally good guy. But as Claire had learned from her past dating experiences, the bio was only about 2% of a person. What they said that they were and what they turned out to be was often very different.

"Want to know the shameful thing?" A message from Jamie popped up and Claire clicked back to the messaging screen.

"What's that?"

There was a pause while Claire waited for Jamie to respond, nibbling on her thumb nail with nerves. If a dick pick followed, she was going to throw her phone in the trash and never use it again.

"I didn't even discover that. My nephew, who is five years old, announced it over dinner tonight. Full table of adults were stunned into silence. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since."

Claire snorted at the reply. Before typing out her own response.

Before she knew it, she and one Jamie Fraser had been chatting for well over an hour.

--

"So yer going to have dinner with him?" Geillis was far too invested in Claire's dating life since she had met Dougal.

"I think so."

"Ye think so? There's no firm plans set out? Did ye choose a day? A night? A time?" Geillis continued to push.

"We chatted back and forth, and we said that we should catch up for a drink... but no, we didn't set a day, a night or a time," Claire answered in exasperation. She had stayed up later than she usually would, talking to Jamie and now she was tired. There was something about him though, that even through a text message, gave her butterflies. She was probably building up the meeting more than necessary, especially with her promise to Geillis hanging over her head that she would go as herself, not, as Geillis had put it, as "Date Claire".

"What about any of the others? Did ye make any plans with them?"

"No, they weren't worth the response to be honest." Claire paused, "Well, there was one, Frank Randall. He made me laugh, but I haven't responded to him yet."

"Frank?" Geillis repeated the name with an exaggerated emphasis. "Who names their child Frank in this day and age?"

"Well, he was a bit older if I remember correctly."

"How much older? In a retirement home? Ye need to curate yer age group, if yer getting' people named Frank comin' through." Geillis laughed at her own joke while Claire rolled her eyes.

"He made me laugh, and he's not that much older," Claire defended.

"Well then, by all means, go on a date with Frank." Geillis smirked at her. Claire tried to glare at her, but couldn't hold her grimace and started laughing.

"What does this Jamie look like anyway?" Geillis continued.

"I'll show you at the end of our shift," Claire replied in a low voice as one of the Senior Nurses approached the desk and gave them both a stern look.

"Aye. I look forward to it." Claire heard Geillis say under her breath as she was handed a new folder for a patient.

--

"Wee fox, look at that hair, and those arms," Geillis practically squealed as she flicked quickly back and forth through Jamie's profile at the end of their shift.

“Alright you can stop drooling now, give it back.” Claire tried snatching the phone back out of her friend’s hands.

“Let me just see yer messages and see where he went wrong with settin’ a date.” Geillis grinned mischievously as she swiped back on the phone.

“Geillis. Come on,” Claire pleaded to no avail.

“Just a second,” Geillis clucked her tongue. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she concentrated on the words on the screen.

“Ye wee flirt,” she chuckled under her breath as she scrolled.

Claire felt her cheeks heating up with embarrassment as Geillis slowly deconstructed Jamie and Claire’s conversation from the night before.

“Well I dinna ken what ye’re talking about,” Geillis said confidently as she finally handed back Claire’s phone. “Seems like he asked ye out for a drink this Friday.”

“What? No he didn’t?” Claire said desperately as she once more unlocked her phone and opened the dating app.

“Weel, he may not have. But you just did.”

“Geillis!” Claire shrieked as she saw the message that Geillis had sent on her behalf. “Fancy a drink on Friday?” Claire read the message aloud. “That doesn’t even sound like me!”

“Aye it does. Should I have signed it off with a “cheerio” or “toodleloo”?” Geillis asked sarcastically, laughing at Claire’s expression.

“I could bloody well murder you.”

“Ye can murder me after ye’ve gone for a drink with yer Wee Fox.” Geillis was incorrigible.

Claire rolled her eyes before she looked hopelessly back at her screen. Hopefully he would reply positively and Claire’s heart rate could slow down.

“What if he says no?” Claire asked nervously, clicking the screen black and stowing the phone in her pocket.

“Ye spent the night texting the lad. He is’na going to say no.”

Claire fixed Geillis with a pointed look, expressing her lack of faith.

“O’ course. If he does, there’s always,” Geillis paused for dramatic effect and Claire could almost finish her sentence for her, “Frank.” Geillis burst out laughing and reluctantly joining in and shaking her head at her friend, Claire made her way home.

Claire nearly broke her ankle tripping over her couch as her phone pinged from across the room with a new message on the dating app. Breathing heavily, she opened the app, praying that it was a positive response from Jamie. There were two new messages. One new invitation from a man, Gerard Forbes and one message from Jamie. Claire checked the new message first.

Gerald Forbes - 36
“Hi, my name’s Gerald, but my friends call me Gerald.”

Claire smiled at the message but clicked away from it. It was a friendly invitation but she was too concentrated on Jamie’s response to even give it any consideration.

“Friday is good. 7pm? The Worlds End?”

Claire tried to swallow the lump in her throat. She was nervous and she was never nervous about these kinds of dates. Maybe because she knew that she wasn’t going as “Date Claire”. Deep down she knew that “Date Claire” didn’t really care about these dates. She never put much stock in them and didn’t think that they would go beyond one or two dates. But this one was going to be different.

She was going as Claire and damn it if she didn’t already like Jamie. He’d been nothing but kind and funny in their exchanges and now she was nervous.

“7pm. Perfect.” Claire typed out the response and taking a deep breath pressed send.

“Can’t wait.” Jamie’s response was almost immediate and Claire felt a medley of butterflies explode in her stomach.

“How will I know what you look like?” Another message soon followed.

“You mean aside from seeing my profile pictures and knowing what I look like?” Claire replied smiling at her phone.

“Aside from that yes. How will you signal to me that it really is you?” Jamie’s reply had Claire huffing out a laugh.

“Should I take a photo with today’s newspaper and you can confirm my identity?”

“Perhaps...”

“I think we can wing it. I’ll look for the tall red headed man and you look for the brown-curly haired woman walking towards the tall redhead man.”

“I suppose that would work. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Until tomorrow tall-redheaded-man.”

“Until tomorrow brown-curly-haired-woman.”

Claire couldn’t help feeling giddy and try as she might, she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face.

Whatever positive feelings Claire had been feeling the day before had dissipated as she stood in her bedroom, clothing strewn around the room as she tried to find something, anything to wear. She was nervous, she hadn’t eaten lunch and she had nothing to wear. Why did she promise Geillis that she wouldn’t put on her armour? Because that’s what it was. The tight dress made her feel more confident. The makeup was her mask. The straight hair made her feel like she could be anyone. The heels... well the hells just hurt a lot, but they did make her arse look fantastic.

Standing in her bedroom surrounded by clothing in her uniform, Claire was overwhelmed.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself down she started to sort through the piles of clothing.

--

For some reason, every other date was easier to get ready for than this one. Claire spent too long agonising over her hair, over her makeup and her outfit, but finally she was ready. She was still wearing a dress but she was comfortable and she looked like herself. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, she was nervous. Claire snapped a picture quickly of herself and sent it to Geillis and without waiting for her response, left her apartment and made her way to the bar.

7pm. Look for the red-headed-man.

--

Claire was early, because of course she was. She sat at the bar nervously tapping her foot on her stool, glancing over her shoulder at the door, trying to see a flash of red, anything that might signify that Jamie had arrived. Every time she heard the door open she twitched on her stool, forcing herself to stay calm and nonchalantly turn towards the door. Still nothing.

Claire checked her watch. 6.45pm. Still too early.

She looked back at her drink. It was empty. Was it a bad thing to have had two wines before he had even shown up? It certainly wouldn’t be the worst start to a date she’d ever had. There was the man who had turned up half-plastered, clearly carrying on from a session earlier in the day. Or the time that her date was forty minutes late and then tipped his glass of red wine down the front of her. He didn’t apologise, but he did make a joke that maybe she should get out her wet clothes back at his place. Classic. Yes, she’d dated some real winners.

Claire prayed that Jamie wasn’t like that. She crossed every available part of her body that he wouldn’t be like that. She was sure that he was “normal” but she’d been wrong before. Like the guy that she had spoken to for over three weeks before agreeing to go on a date, then at the date he asked if they could cut their date short because he was catching up with an old friend, only to return to the very same bar not ten minutes later with a new date. Clearly Claire had excellent taste in men.

Just as Claire made up her mind to order another drink, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Christ, she hadn’t even heard the door open. She should have composed herself, checked her makeup, done her hair differently, worn the tight dress, what was wrong with her? A thousand different thoughts raced through her mind before she remembered that a tap on the shoulder generally meant that someone wanted her attention, and that person was probably Jamie and she should probably turn around instead of gasping like some kind of fish out of water. Claire cleared the lump in her throat and turned.

“Claire?”

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. He was massive. He towered over her, not so huge that it was uncomfortable of course, but in person, Jamie just seemed like… so… much… man.

“It is ye, isn’t it? I have’na just disturbed some other curly-haird lass, have I?” Jamie’s voice shook. Thank god, he was as nervous as she was.

“It’s me.”

Or at least, that was what Claire tried to reply. Instead it came out as some sort of breathy moan and Jamie’s eyes widened in surprise. What the hell was wrong with her?

“Hi, yes, sorry, it’s me. Curly hair and all. Claire. Hi. And you are Jamie.” Claire babbled nervously. She was babbling. Claire had never babbled in her life.

A look of relief washed over Jamie and he glanced to the stool next to her.

“This taken?”

Claire gestured with her hand that he should take it, not trusting her voice, and knocked her now empty wine glass over in one swoop.

“Christ!” she exclaimed, picking up the glass quickly and setting it right. “I’m so sorry.”

“Aye, ye’re nervous, so am I, if it helps ye,” Jamie chuckled good naturedly and Claire fought the impulse to shudder at the gravelly sound.

“It does actually. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. I’ve been on a million of these before-”

Jamie’s eyes widened and his mouth quirked in a half smile while Claire’s brain caught up to what she had just said.

“Well, not a million of course,” she amended quickly. “Dates. I have been on dates before.” Claire paused to take a deep breath. “Sorry. Can I start again?”

“By all means.” Jamie was grinning at her and she couldn’t help but smile back at him.

“Hi, Claire Beauchamp, pleasure to meet you.” Claire held out her hand and Jamie studied her for a moment before taking it in one of his own and shaking it.

“James Fraser, likewise.”

His hand was warm and it enveloped her completely. If this was the size of his hand, Claire couldn’t help but wonder anatomically how large his-

“Can I buy ye a drink; wine, beer, whiskey?” Jamie interrupted her train of thought and Claire realised she was still holding his hand. It felt right in a way. But that was completely ridiculous because holding hands didn’t feel “right” or “wrong”. It was just… holding hands.

“Wine, please, yes, thank you.” Claire dropped his hand quickly and for the first time noticed his left hand fingers tapping away against his thigh. Thank goodness. He actually was as nervous as she was.

Jamie hailed down the bartender, paid for their drinks, Cabernet Sauvignon for herself and a neat whiskey for himself. Claire thought back to his profile as their drinks were set in front of them.

“Planning on an impromptu dance off tonight, then are you?” she asked before taking a sip of her wine.

“Had’na planned on it, no?” Jamie replied in confusion.

“You’re profile. It says that you will dance if you have enough whiskey. I was just wondering how much whiskey it would take and if that was on the cards tonight.”

“For ye, anything,” Jamie said so quietly under his breath that Claire was sure she had misheard him.

“Sorry?”

“I said, more than just the one,” Jamie replied nodding at her, though Claire noticed that there was a definite red flush on his earlobes and neck.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Claire smiled at him before drinking more of her wine.

--

Claire had had quite a lot to drink. While she could usually hold her liquor quite well, she and Jamie had been talking and drinking for hours with only peanuts and pretzels at the bar to keep them company. Jamie made her laugh, made her blush profusely when he complimented her, and now his hand was resting on her knee and he was making her feel warm and tingly inside. She’d snorted at one of his terrible jokes, something that she would never do on one of her other dates. She almost spat wine over him at one point. This date was different and Claire was thrilled.

Jamie’s speech has slowed considerably with the amount of whiskey he’d consumed and Clare briefly wondered how he was going to get home… and how she’d get there with him.

It was only their first date. If she wanted this to go further than that she couldn’t have sex with him on the first date. Could she?

“Should we get out of here?” Jamie asked looking up at her from beneath his eyelashes and Claire felt her breath catch in her throat.

“S-sorry?”

“I mean to get somethin’ to eat,” Jamie amended quickly, a light flush appearing on his cheeks.

“Oh,” Claire replied slightly crestfallen. “Yes. Yes that would be a good idea,”

“I ken a little place around the corner. They have good burgers here, but I promise this is better.” Jamie stood quickly from his stool with more grace than Claire thought possible after the amount that he’d drunk.

“Sure. Let’s go.” Claire stood up slower than Jamie, not entirely trusting her legs. Jamie’s hand immediately came under her elbow to support her.

“Are ye sure? I could take ye home?”

“Pardon?” Claire asked with surprise.

“I meant, if ye’re not feeling well, not hungry I mean. Dhia. If ye wanted to head home I could find ye a cab.” Jamie’s cheeks had a definite red tinge to them now and Claire couldn’t help the smile that came to her face as she looked at him. For all the suave that Jamie seemed to be, he still seemed to get tongue tied sometimes.

“I’m fine, Jamie. But thank you. Let’s go get these famous burgers.”

Jamie smiled at her abashedly and took a deep breath before bravely grabbing her hand and threading his fingers through hers.

“Is this ok?” he asked nervously.

Claire nodded in response, not trusting her voice as Jamie led them out of the pub. The tingly-right feeling was back.

Burgers. On a first date. “Date Claire” would be mortified. Actual Claire was in heaven. She had to make a conscious effort not to moan at every bite. Jamie was right. These burgers were phenomenal. Claire paused in her inhalation of the burger to see that Jamie was watching her… studying her.

“What?” she asked thickly, wiping the sauce from her mouth.

“It’s nothin’.” Jamie shook his head and looked down at his plate of chips smiling.

“Clearly, it’s something.” Claire raised her eyebrows at him, waiting for his response.

“It’s just that… I’ve never met anyone quite like ye, Sassenach.”

“Sassenach?” Claire asked her eyes widening. And here she was thinking this date was going well. She shouldn’t have eaten the burger. She should have just gotten a side of chips. Or water. Or nothing. She should have left at the bar when he’d offered. What was wrong with her? She knew coming as herself was a mistake. ‘Sassenach.’ She’d heard enough disgruntled patients at the hospital call her that name, thinking that she didn’t know what it meant. Granted it was always said like “feckin Sassenach,” and Jamie hadn’t sounded spiteful or angry like the others.

“I dinna mean it disrespectfully,” Jamie replied in panic. “Sorry, I did’na mean to offend ye. It’s just… well yer English and..”

“Yep. No it’s fine. I get it.” Christ. Were her eyes welling up? Was she going to cry? No. She refused. It had been a nice date but she should call it a night. She couldn’t believe it.

“Truly Claire. I’m sorry. I did’na mean it like that. I just… it’s a pet name.” Jamie tried again, his voice was almost a whisper at the end and she could see the red flush of his cheeks.

A pet name was it?

“A… a pet name? How could you possibly think that’s a good pet name?” Claire’s half eaten burger sat between them. Damn it she was still hungry but there was no way she could eat it now.

“I just…” Jamie ran his hands through his hair in agitation. “Sassenach, I’m sorry.”

He didn’t even realise when he was saying it now. Was this the definition of negging someone?

“Siud!” Jamie cursed under his breath.

Claire couldn’t help it. She laughed. For some reason seeing Jamie flustered made her giggle.

“I’m sorry. I just… ah, I canna even explain myself to ye.” Jamie stuttered over his words and Claire barely contained another laugh.

“I see.”

“We were having such a nice night, and yer just, sitting there, looking so bonnie, and I go an’ say something stupid like that, and I just meant that I’ve never met someone like ye before, and I really like ye Sassenach and… shit I said it again.” Jamie was rambling and Claire could see his finger tapping irregularly against his leg.

“Truly, I’m sorry. There’s just somethin’... and I want to see ye again, but I think I’ve messed it up now…”

Jamie continued to spill forth whatever thoughts he was having while Claire thought less about what he’d said but more about how he’d said it. “Sassenach.” She’d heard the derogatory term used against in all manner of filth at the hospital but there was something about the way that Jamie said it. It was softer, kinder, like he truly meant it as a term of endearment for her.

“Jamie,” Claire interrupted him as he continued to babble. “Jamie!” she repeated when he didn’t hear her and before coming to an abrupt stop.

“It’s ok.”

Jamie’s brows furrowed in confusion.

“I just…” he started again and Claire didn’t know what made her do it, maybe the fact that she’s been thinking about doing it since she’d seen him, but she’d certainly never done it before on a date. Claire leaned across and kissed him stopping him abruptly in his tracks.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

His lips were warm and pliable and they moulded to hers and he enthusiastically kissed her back. She meant it to be a chaste kiss just to shut him up. But his hands gathered into her hair and pulled her closer and her fingertips found their way to his jaw, scratching against the light stubble that was there. Claire sighed into the kiss.

She’d kissed men before of course but there was something about kissing Jamie. It was like the final piece of the puzzle clicking into place after years of working on it. The satisfying click and the puzzle was completed and a work of art was created. Jamie’s tongue brushed against her lips before tentatively pulling back and Claire enthusiastically opened her mouth wider to him.

She would need to come up for air soon but not until she had tasted him. She would pass out if she needed to but at that moment all she could think about was how right this felt and how much she needed to kiss him.

She’d never needed to kiss someone before. She’d wanted too, there was always want, but this was a need. She needed him like she needed to breathe. This was one hell of a first kiss.

Finally Jamie’s tongue met her own and she heard herself moan. She almost pulled away in embarrassment before Jamie pulled her somehow closer to him and moved his tongue against her.

Puzzle pieces clicking together. A mystery solved. It was like her heart recognised that this was what was missing and was rushing to fit them. The adrenaline someone feels when they have the answer, the last clue to solving a mystery and their hands are shaking, they can’t unlock the padlock fast enough. The answer on the tip of the tongue when someone asks you a difficult question and the pride in knowing the answer. Kissing Jamie, connecting with Jamie was the answer that Claire had known all along.

Slowly their kiss came to an end. Jamie pulled away slightly, kissing her twice more softly, as though he couldn’t bear to let her go, before they separated.

Jamie’s cheeks were flushed red and she could see him breathing heavily. Claire was sure she looked the same. Had he felt what she had? Such a rush of feelings and need for another person? This was not normal. This was unusual, but there was no way in hell Claire was going to say that out loud.

“Wow.” Jamie exhaled the word as he tried to catch his breath.

Claire let out a nervous giggle; Claire never giggled.

“It was the only way I could get you to shut up.”

“Feel free to get me to shut up any time ye like, Sassenach.”

Claire watched the colour drain from his face as he realised what he had just said and she burst out laughing. She watched as the horrified expressed cracked bit by bit before he was chuckling along with her.

He reached out and held her hand and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Right. There was that word again. It felt right.

Jamie took a deep breath, suddenly nervous and he started to rub his thumb over the back of her knuckles. He opened his mouth and shut it quickly a few times. His eyebrows were furrowed deep in thought as his eyes raced back and forth as he thought.

“Would you like to get out of here?” Claire asked, interrupting his thought process as he looked up her startled.

“Aye, I do, I just…”

“I don’t usually do this,” Claire interrupted. She never slept with anyone of the first date. In fact in all her history of dating and dating apps she’d only gone home with two men. Both were a mistake.

“I mean on the first date. I have… you know,” Claire raised her eyebrow significantly and Jamie flushed red at the insinuation. “But never on the first date. We don’t have to. We can wait. It was a dumb idea. Sorry.” Claire backed out of the suggestion as quickly as she’d said it.

Jamie took a deep breath, “Aye, yer place or mine?”

—-

Thank god she’d cleaned up the clothes explosion of July 2019 before she’d left for the date. There was no way she could have predicted that they’d be ending the night in her apartment when she was sitting by herself at the bar contemplating another glass of wine.

They had sobered significantly in the ride from the burger shop to her apartment. The only way she knew she was not making a gargantuan mistake was the way that Jamie kept his hand on her knee in the Uber ride. He was almost unaware of the fact that his thumb was rubbing a soothing pattern across the top of her knee (thank god she’d had the good sense to shave).

Their conversation still flowed through the car ride, though it was slower, more measured; deeper than whatever it was before. They were both genuinely trying to get to know each other. This wasn’t, “so what do you do?” (A nurse: An editor). It was, “what makes you happy, what do you need?” (My work, my garden: My family, a purpose).

Before Claire could properly prepare herself, whatever that meant, they were arriving at her small flat and she was unlocking her front door. She flicked on her lights and kicked off her shoes while Jamie stood politely just inside the entrance not moving. Perhaps he was having second thoughts. Claire’s heart felt like it was about to beat out of her chest.

“Would you like a drink?” She tried to stop her voice from shaking but she wasn’t sure she succeeded. Jamie looked at her carefully and she tried to convey her most confident look. Yes she did want this. Yes she did want him. But god she was nervous.

“Aye.” Jamie nodded at her and smiled a sort of half smile that made her blush for reasons she wasn’t sure of.

“Make yourself comfortable.” Clare waved at her old fabric couch before she retreated to the kitchen to fetch something to drink, and to catch her breath.

Whiskey. She knew she had a bottle somewhere. Trying to make as little noise as possible (she didn’t know why) she searched her kitchen for the bottle. Geillis had given it to her when she first moved. “A house warming present,” she’d said when they’d finished unpacking the last box.
With a triumphant “ah-ha” Claire pulled the somewhat dusty bottle from the back of her pantry. Collecting two glasses, and taking a deep breath, she made her way back to Jamie.

Claire paused on her way out to him. Jamie was sitting on her couch, studying a photograph intently. It wasn’t that he was looking at a photo of her and her uncle, it was that he looked so completely relaxed and at home in the room. Like he’d always lived with her and this, the whiskey, the dinner, was just part of their normal everyday lives. Claire could actually see a future with him, a future she felt like she’d already lived and forgotten about. Like it all came rushing back to her. Claire didn’t believe in reincarnation, or any kind of mystical arts of history repeating itself with souls connecting. She was a woman of science. It was why she was a nurse. She understood science and medicine. It could be explained. But whatever this was with Jamie, try as she might, she couldn’t explain it. How could you explain to someone that you’d just met that this was your shared future? It was their first date for goodness sake and she was thinking like some sort of love sick puppy. What was wrong with her?

Claire cleared her throat, trying to settle her nerves and Jamie jumped at the sound, putting the photo frame back on the coffee table quickly.

“I was just lookin…” he hastily explained.

“My uncle and I,” Clare filled in for him. “He passed away last year.” What was she doing? Yes this will get him in the mood, talking about her deceased uncle.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s life.” Claire shrugged nonchalantly.

“Aye, ‘tis. Does‘na make it any easier though.”

Claire hummed in response. Great she’d killed the mood. She should just call him a cab now and say goodbye to the future she had just imagined in the kitchen.

“Whiskey?” Jamie asked looking down at Claire’s hands.

“Oh, err, yes. I’m sorry I don’t know my whiskey well. I hope this is alright.” Claire held out the bottle to Jamie and he looked between her and the bottle in surprise before taking the bottle from her as if it contained liquid gold. He didn’t say anything but continued to look from her to the bottle.

“Is it… err, is it alright?” Claire asked nervously.

“Sassenach,” Jamie said in awe, “this is a 20 year old bottle of Glenlivet.” He said it like Claire should also react with revered awe, rather Claire looked at him blankly.

“Yes… yes it is.” She nodded dumbly.

“This is a very good bottle of whiskey,” Jamie continued, ignoring Claire’s tone of ignorance.

“Oh well, that’s erm… that’s good then.”

“Ye dinna understand. This is a… it must be 200 pounds if not 300.” Jame placed the bottle of whiskey on the coffee table in front of them and wiped his hands on his knees.

“Oh… oh!” Claire picked up the bottle and read the label. “Well should we… should we open it?”

“Ahh,” Jamie hesitated.

“What’s wrong? Will it not be good?”

“No,” Jamie shook his head emphatically. “I’m just wondering if ye dinna have a better occasion ye should be opening it for.”

“I can’t think of one; our first date seems just as good as any.” Without any further ado Claire cut the seal and whipped the lid off the bottle. She heard Jamie gasp in surprise, or maybe it was awe. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye she could see him watching the bottle intently as she poured a generous serving into each glass and she couldn’t help but smile.

“Well,” Claire said handing Jamie a glass, “to our first date.” She raised her glass in a toast. She could see Jamie’s hand shaking slightly as he held the glass before clinking it against her own.

“The first of many.”

Claire blushed, unable to meet Jamie’s eyes after the sincerity in his voice. So he thought that they would see each other again. That was good.

Claire watched Jamie drink the whiskey rather than drink her own. His eyes fluttered shut with the first sip, a small crease appeared between his eyebrows and he tilted his head slightly as if he was trying to remember something important. He opened his eyes slowly as he swallowed and Claire watched his adam’s-apple bob with the movement. He made a satisfied Scottish grunt before looking back at Claire and grinning.

“Are ye going to drink any or are ye just goin’ to watch me?” he asked cheekily before he raised the glass to his lips again.

“I think I’ll just watch you,” Claire replied sarcastically before she took a sip of her own. It was spicy and Claire felt like fire and smoke was travelling down her throat as she swallowed. She breathed out heavily surprised to not see any smoke leave her mouth. It had a certain sweetness at the end, almonds and maybe a slight taste of peach.

“What do ye think?” Jamie asked and Claire noticed that he was studying her intently.

“It’s definitely whiskey,” Claire replied still feeling the smoke and fire somewhere in her lungs now.

“Aye,” Jamie grinned at her. “That it is. It’s verra good.”

“I couldn’t tell you, honestly. I haven’t drunk it much.”

“That will be our next date then. I’ll take ye on a tour and ye can get a proper appreciation.”

“Next date?” Claire raised her eyebrow at him.

Jamie swallowed heavily. “Aye, if ye’d like.”

“How do I know that you aren’t just in it for the shag and then I’ll never hear from you again?” Claire asked cheekily. She sounded like she was joking but there was a lot of seriousness in her question.

“I would’na do that,” Jamie replied seriously, shaking his head at her. The whiskey in his hands now forgotten as he looked at her. “Besides. I’ve… I’ve never done this before.”

“Neither have I!” Claire replied quickly. “I usually wait until the third or fourth date. Or sometimes not at all.” She amended seeing Jamie’s alarmed look.

“No, I mean… gah, I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. I’m never done this before,” Jamie emphasised looking at her pointedly.

“At all?” Claire asked in surprise. “Never?”

“Never,” Jamie confirmed as he shook his head. “If this changes things.... I can go.”

“No!” Claire almost shouted at him, before resting her hand on his knee that had started bouncing with nerves. “No it’s ok, it’s just… how?”

“How?”

“I mean… you’re very attractive. I would have thought that you would have had women throwing themselves at you.”

A faint blush appeared on Jamie’s cheeks as he looked away from her. “Aye, that’s not to say I’ve been a monk. But I just… have’na… ye ken…”

Claire nodded, taking another drink of her whiskey and spluttering slightly as it hit the back of her throat.

“Ye want me to leave,” Jamie said with a heavy sigh before he started to shift in his seat.

“No. No I don’t.” Claire shook her head emphatically before putting down her whiskey. “I’m just… do you want to do this? We don’t have to. We can wait.”

Jamie huffed out a breath of a laugh before he ran his hand through his hair, pulling at his roots.

“What?”

“Do I want to do this? Christ, ye have no idea. It’s been on my mind since I saw ye at the bar.”

“You’re sure? You don’t mind that I have?” Claire asked as Jamie took her hand in his and threaded their fingers.

“One of us should ken what their doin’, aye.”

Claire felt a wave of nerves run through her body before she smiled at him. She was about to take his virginity. Big shoes to fill.

“Okay then. Follow me.”

Jamie was nervous. She could see his fingers tapping against his thigh as she stood in front of him.

“Come here.” Claire held out her hand and he took it gently before she pulled him towards her. Claire ran her fingers over his cheek bones and down his jaw, tenderly memorising his face with her touch. Jamie closed his eyes at the contact. Gently, she ran her thumb over his bottom lip which fell loose as she touched him. Slowly he bent his head forward and he kissed her. Carefully; shy at first and then with more confidence.

He tasted of the fire of the whiskey and he groaned in appreciation as she kissed him back. It was as if the fire on his tongue ignited something in Claire and she pushed herself further into his arms; arms that had previously hung limply at his sides now pulling her toward him, almost stealing the breath from her lungs as his kissed her. Hands and fingers that previously had tapped nervously against his thigh were now everywhere. Claire’s back, her hips, threading through her hair with a slight pull that caused her to hiss, not in pain but with the pleasure of desperation to simply touch each other

Claire pulled back from the kiss to catch her breath but Jamie didn’t stop. Kisses on her cheek, her temple and back down to her neck with the slight sting of a bite, immediately soothed by a tongue and Claire felt one of her knees collapse. Jamie’s arms came around her holding her upright against him in support. Pressed up against him as she was, she could feel his nervous excitement pressing against her leg as he tried to pull her closer still, tongue and lips still tracing their way over her shoulder.

“Wait, wait,” Claire managed to gasp out before Jamie pulled back.

“What’s wrong? Do ye want me to stop? We can stop,” He was breathing heavily and Claire’s heart squeezed at his flushed cheeks.

“God no, I just… I want to look at you.” Claire took a half step back before she undid the zip on her dress. Pushing it from her shoulders, she let it flow to the floor.

Claire had seen cartoons, she’d seen the exaggerated bugging of eyes when someone saw something surprising. She never thought that she would see it in real life, in the flesh. But looking at Jamie right now, she almost laughed. Almost. His eyes had widened considerably, his pupils expanding so much his eyes almost looked black. His mouth had comically fallen open into a perfectly shaped “O”.

“Still with me?” she asked as she stepped out of the material at her feet.

A strangled sort of grunt came from Jamie’s mouth and he cleared his throat before confirming in a voice that was a full octave lower than his usual.

“Your turn then.” Claire reached forward and untucked his blue button down shirt. A heavy breath of air huffed out of Jamie as Claire carefully undid his buttons. “Tell me if you want me to stop,” Claire said as she pushed the material from his shoulders. Christ, he was beautifully made. He had a six pack for goodness sake, of course he did. Claire carefully ran her hand over his chest and the coarse red hairs that resided there. Jamie shuddered at the contact.

“I dinna want to stop.” Jamie shook his head at her. His hands were uselessly hung by his sides again.

“You can touch me, if you like.” Claire looked up at him as she reached to pick up one of his hands. Jamie grunted slightly as she placed his hand on her mid-back. His handspan could cover the entire breadth of her back. That was ridiculous. It wasn’t like she was a stick of a person. His hand was warm and she shuddered slightly.

“It’s ok, it’s good,” Claire said sensing his hesitation at her movement. Jamie nodded slightly with a look of determination in his eyes.

“Can I kiss ye again?”

Rather than reply, Claire pulled him down towards her mouth again. If Claire thought that his hands were everywhere before, this time he had grown extra. One hand was in her hair, the other was at her back, then another was on her arse; no he had moved his hand from her hair but then who was pulling the strap of her bra from her shoulder? Still Jamie of course but his hands were on her with a desperation Claire had never experienced with another man. Claire wasn’t discouraging of it. Far from it. It was nice to be so desperately wanted. Her hands, of course, were doing their own exploration. Up and down his back, into his hair, down his jaw, neck, chest, nipples, stomach, belt buckle. Ah-ha. Belt buckle.

To say that Jamie flinched when Claire had finally unzipped his jeans and pushed them off him would be an understatement. Jamie solidly jumped as the back of Claire’s hand brushed innocently against the still clothed length of him.

“We can stop,” Claire said breathlessly as a half moan half grunt came from Jamie. Both of his hands were currently well occupied with her body, one on her arse, the other on her right breast.

“Do ye want to?” Jamie was out of breath, the words were punctured by kisses on her neck.

“God no, but if you want to…” Claire tilted her head to give him better access.

“Don’t think I could if I wanted to,” Jamie answered, pulling the other bra strap down. “How do I get this off ye?” he asked desperately.

“Clip at the back.” Claire shuddered as she pressed against him again and he fought the clasp.

With a triumphant “A-ha” Jamie pulled the bra completely from Claire and dropped it somewhere behind him.

With no hesitation at all Jamie resumed his previously exploration of Claire’s body with his lips.

“Be-bed,” Claire managed to stutter as his tongue found her nipple.

Jamie grunted in response and tried to shuffle forward. Unfortunately his jeans were still around his ankles and he stumbled slightly.

“Maybe lose the jeans,” Claire laughed as she settled herself back on her bed, watching as he wrestled with the stiff material.

Jamie grunted in response as he almost threw the offending clothing across the room once he was freed from them.

“How should I… what should I…” Jamie mumbled as he lay beside her on the bed.

“Go slow, pay attention.”

Jamie nodded studiously and started by kissing her again. There was something wildly erotic to Claire to have Jamie’s chest pressed up against her own. The coarse hairs on his chest causing delicious friction against her skin. Her hands ran desperately over his back, trying to pull him closer. Claire again thought about how beautifully made he was; muscular but not overbearing. Jamie’s hands started to travel a path over her again, landing once again on her arse.

“Ye have the most lovely arse, mo nighean donn,” Jamie gasped before he started to kiss down her neck towards her chest.

“I don’t know what that means,” Claire gasped as Jamie circled one of her nippled with his tongue.

“Yer arse. It’s the lovely wee plump thing at the top of yer legs,” Jamie mumbled into her skin before moving across to her other nipple.

Claire smacked him playfully with a breath of a laugh. “The other thing. Mo-mo neeun d-down,” Claire tried repeating what he’d said but was far too distracted by whatever Jamie was doing with his mouth.

Jamie looked up at her cheekily, with a half-cocked smile, “I’ll tell ye some day.”

“Uh-huh.” Claire lost her train of thought as Jamie kissed her hip bones tenderly. For a first timer, her certainly knew what he was doing. For a moment Claire panicked, thinking that maybe that was just a line he used to get a woman into bed. Her second thought was that if Jamie kept going the way that he was, she wouldn’t actually care. Her concern was relieved when Jamie looked up at her again shyly.

“Can I… de ye mind if I take…” Jamie asked nervously looking pointedly at her underwear.

“Be a bit inconvenient if you didn’t.” Claire smiled at him, sitting up on her elbows. “You as well.”

Jamie hummed a laugh, but she could see the nerves behind his eyes before a sort of steely resolve took over and he slowly dragged the material down her legs, slower than Claire thought was possible. Jamie blushed slightly at the sight of Claire laid before him, ready and waiting, before he shed his own underwear.

“You okay?” Claire asked as he looked her up and down.

“Fine,” Jamie’s voice shook and he cleared his throat before lying back down beside her.

“Have you not seen a naked woman before?” Claire asked before she kissed him.

“Aye, I have,” Jamie replied somewhat breathlessly. “Just not one so close.”

Claire smiled before she kissed him again and pushing him onto his back, she straddled him.

“If you want to stop at any point. Just tell me.”

“There’s no’ a lot that could stop me now, Sassenach.” Jamie let out a breath of a laugh before Claire was kissing him again and taking a hold of him.

Claire had purposely avoided looking at the length of Jamie. He was nervous enough, he didn’t need her scrutinising his body. But taking a hold of him now, she probably should have looked to avoid the squeak of surprise that left her lips at the size of him.

“What’s wrong,” Jamie gasped as she slowly pumped him.

“Nothing,” Claire voice was higher than usual. “Just,” Claire cleared her throat, “good size.”

“Oh.” Jamie blushed a deep red at that and smiled a little proudly. His eyes fluttered closed while Claire continued to pump.

“Feels good,” he mumbled as his fingers bit into her hip bones.

“Surely you’ve done this before.” Claire grinned at him as his eyes snapped open and he went a deeper shade of red.

“Well, I … ah, not someone else… feels different,” Jamie mumbled completely avoiding her eyes. She hadn’t meant to embarrass him.

“I’m going to roll us, so you can go on top,” Claire said, back to business.

Without waiting for an answer, Jamie rolled them and Claire was pinned beneath him.

“Oof.” A huff of breath left her lungs as she landed.

“Sorry!” Jamie immediately apologised. “Are ye alright?”

“Fine,” Claire smiled. “Just surprised me.”

Jamie nodded, biting his lip before Claire relaxed it from between his teeth with her thumb.

“Are you ready?” she asked carefully.

Jamie nodded quickly, enthusiastically.

Claire smiled, spreading her legs and taking a hold of him once more and slowly running him up and down herself. Jamie’s eyes closed at the sensation and Claire hummed in appreciation of finally getting some friction between her legs.

“Just do what your body tells you to do. Don’t try and overthink it.”

“Go slow and pay attention,” Jamie repeated Claire’s earlier instruction and she smiled in response.

“Exactly.” Adjusting her hips slightly, Jamie met Claire’s center and he slowly pushed forward.

It was tight, but not painful and Jamie pulled back slightly, before his instinct took over and he pushed forward again. Claire gasped at the sensation and Jamie hesitated.

“Good sound. Good sound. Keep going,” Claire encouraged breathlessly.

Jamie nodded, his lips compressed into a thin line before he started to move again. God, he was large but, holy shit it felt good.

Claire squeaked again as he surged forward only for him to move back again.

“Jamie, you don’t have to be silent. You can make noise. You look like you’re going to explode.” Claire eased the frown in his brow with her thumb before tilting his mouth forward to hers for a kiss.

“I dinna want to hurt ye,” Jamie gasped out as they separated.

“You won’t, but you’ll pop a blood vessel if you keep going the way that you are.”

Jamie continued to move in a steady rocking sensation, hitting a particular spot that made Claire breath catch in her throat before she made a sound of contentment. Jamie’s breath left him in a huff at the sound.

“What was tha’?” he asked in a voice that Claire could only describe as a growl, “I want to hear that sound again.”

Claire grinned in response and locked her ankles around his back, pulling him roughly against her, moaning as he surged forward again.

“I… I…” Jamie stuttered as Claire continued to pull him closer, his hips started to move faster at the pace she was setting.

“Ye said to go slow,” Jamie said hurriedly, his body acting of its own accord now as it moved with Claire’s.

“I also… I also said pay attention.” Claire was breathless as she felt Jamie move inside her. It had been far too long.

Jamie groaned a deep guttural sound that went right through Claire from head to toe and she felt herself involuntarily clench tightly around him at the sound.

“I dinna think… I can..” Jamie was spluttering and Claire cut him off quickly with a kiss.

Jamie drove deeply into her and she cried out, Jamie was too far gone to have noticed and his hips snapped against hers in an uneasy rhythm as he reached his peak. Claire following behind him closely. She was almost there. He just needed to hang on a little bit longer.

“Jesus. God. Claire.” Jamie stuttered incoherent words, his sweaty forehead pressed against Claire’s. She held him to her and Jamie spilled into her with a guttural groan.

Damn it. She was so close. So close. Still. It was his first time and the lad didn’t do a bad job. Far from it. She could feel aftershocks moving through him causing her to clench down on him. Jamie was breathing heavily, his weight almost collapsed entirely onto her, the saving grace being his elbows that had stopped him from completely crushing her.

Slowly Claire lowered her legs from around his hips and he pulled out of her. She felt the loss of him, even more on edge after her failure to come. Jamie was lying on his back, on hand over his chest as he tried to catch his breath.

“Well,” Claire interrupted the silence, “how was it?”

Jamie looked across at her and grinned triumphantly. “I dinna ken why I waited so long.”

Claire smiled back at him and turned to face him, propping herself up on her elbow.

“Well, actually, I do know why I waited,” Jamie continued. “I wanted it to be special. With someone I actually liked, and trusted.”

“Oh,” Claire made a noise of surprise. “And you ... and me?”

“Aye,” Jamie hummed, “you and me.”

Claire didn’t really know how to react to that.

“I’ll erm.. I’ll be back in a moment.” Claire got up from the bed quickly, feeling the wetness between her legs increase as she made her way to the bathroom.

Claire washed quickly, cleaning quickly between her legs. Thank god she was on birth control. She hadn’t even thought about a condom. Claire braced herself on the sink and took a few steadying breaths. Jamie seemed so sure, so confident at times and then completely vulnerable and lost at others.

“Someone I trusted” the words were bouncing around in her head and she didn’t know what to think of them. It was their first date. Oh god. She’d slept with him on their first date. She took his virginity on their first date. What was she thinking? It all felt right and natural in the moment, but now, after the fact, was it all a huge mistake?

Claire splashed some cold water on her face. It didn’t help that she was all riled up and didn’t have a satisfying ending. It left her nerves on edge. How long had she been in the bathroom? Jamie was probably getting worried. Or he was getting dressed. Maybe trying to leave. Claire left the bedroom quickly. She didn’t know what she wanted but Jamie leaving was something she could without a doubt say, wasn’t it.

Jamie was exactly as she had left him, though for propriety's sake, had thrown the sheet across his lap. Claire smiled at him as she resumed her place on the bed. Stark naked she should have felt more self conscious. There was something about the way that Jamie looked at her made her want to equally throw herself at him, cover her body, and parade around in front of him to admire from all angles. She settled for also ducking under the sheet and covering herself.

“Can I… can… did ye like it?” Jamie asked shyly once she’d settled herself again.

Claire nodded in response but she could see that Jamie didn’t believe her.

“What?”

“Ye… ye did’na… finish.” Jamie’s cheeks burned and he briefly couldn’t meet her eyes.

“Well no, I didn’t, but that’s ok. It doesn’t happen every time,” Claire explained carefully.

“But ye were close. Ye told me so,” Jamie continued. “I’d like… could I…”

“What?”

“Could I try again?”

Claire almost laughed, if not for the pure innocence, determination and seriousness of Jamie’s voice.

“Are you sure you’re … erm… ready?” Claire asked delicately, but Jamie was already moving closer to her.

“For ye, Sassenach, always.”

Claire woke up the next morning feeling deliciously sore in all the right places and well satisfied. Jamie was a quick learner with his hands, his mouth and his… well… cock. He figured out her tells, when she was close, how to hold back and how to bring her hurtling over the edge. She was famished, exhausted but oh so incredibly happy.

Claire looked across to Jamie who was deeply asleep.
The sun glinted off his red mane and lit the tiny soft hairs that created his spine, running down to the reddish-gold fuzz that dusted his buttocks and thighs, and deepened into the thicket if soft auburn curls that showed briefly between his spread legs. She hadn’t realised in the darkness of the bar and then her apartment how many shades of red were in his hair. Copper in some places, auburn in others; even a few curls of blonde were at the top of his head.

Claire stretched, feeling her bones pop and crack with the movement. Of all the dates that she’d had, that was certainly the best. Her stomach grumbled and she shifted, trying to extricate herself from the tangle of sheets so that she could make some breakfast. Jamie grunted at the movement and with eyes still closed, his hand patted around the bed trying to locate her. Coming in contact with her arm, he gave it a gentle squeeze before settling back into a blissful sleep. Claire’s heart squeezed at the sight and she crept out of bed toward her kitchen.

Armed with two pieces of toast with jam and a coffee, Claire entered the bedroom to see Jamie still fast asleep. Carefully placing her provisions on the bedside table, she crept back into the bed. He was lying on his back now, one hand flung above his head, the other resting on his bare chest. And what a bare chest it was. Claire thought about taking a picture of him and sending it to Geillis who would no doubt reply with something crude and raunchy. But no, this was something between Jamie and Claire and she didn’t want to share that just yet.

“Jamie,” Claire called his name softly. His mouth twitched but other than that he slept on. Claire ran her fingers gently over his forehead and through the whorls of curls on his head, pushing the hair away from his eyes. Jamie smiled in his sleep and Claire once again felt her heart beat irregularly. Goodness he was attractive.

“Jamie,” she said his name again a little louder and his eyes snapped open.

He looked at her in confusion for a half second before rubbing his eyes and looking at her again.

“Good morning,” Claire greeted before turning to the side table and picking up a piece of toast. “Hungry?”

“Mornin’.” Jamie’s morning voice was gravelly and rough and Claire nearly shivered at the sound. “Did ye sleep well?” he asked as he stretched and sat up against the headboard.

“When we finally did get to sleep…” Claire replied cheekily seeing Jamie’s neck flush red, probably remembering their night as Claire had, “Yes I slept quite well. You?”

“Aye, best night sleep I’ve had in a while,” Jamie smiled at her kindly before looking at the toast in her hands.

“All yours.” Claire handed him the plate of food before continuing to drink her coffee.

“Thank ye, Sassenach,” Jamie said gratefully before eating.

“Still with the “Sassenach”,” Claire tutted sarcastically.

“It’s what ye are; my Sassenach,” Jamie answered through a mouthful of toast.

“Oh I’m “your Sassenach”, am I now?” Claire asked raising her eyebrows at him.

“Aye. Ye are.”

Chapter Text

“The date went well.”

That was putting it mildly. Claire didn’t actually know how to describe her first date with Jamie. Mind blowing. Extraordinary. Overwhelming. Satisfying. There were too many ways for her to describe it.

Easy. It had been easy; once they were past the awkwardness and pressure of a first date. One evening to determine if the person sitting across from you, or next to you at the bar as Jamie had sat, was worth entertaining the thought of a second.

“Well?” Geillis repeated somewhat skeptically. “That does’na sound promising.”

Claire hummed, trying for nonchalance and failing miserably. Her cheeks gave her away first as they flamed bright red as she thought about Jamie lying in her bed and the steps that had led him there. Next to go was her mouth, as it became devoid of any moisture as she thought about Jamie’s touch on her skin and her reluctance to let him leave the following morning. Not meeting Geillis’ eyes as she tried to shrug was the nail in the coffin.

“Claire Beauchamp. What aren’t ye tellin’ me?” Gellis demanded as her eyes widened at her friend.

Claire cleared her throat before responding, “It went very well.”

“Verra well, is it?” Gellis crossed her arms, eyeing Claire up and down.

Claire nodded quickly, avoiding looking directly at Geillis, knowing that once she did, it would be useless and Gellis would soon drag every last scandalous detail out of her.

“Spit it out. What aren’t ye tellin’ me?”

“Nothing,” Claire replied too quickly and too loudly. Geillis was like a bloodhound on the hunt. She slapped her hand down on the table, making Claire jump.

“Is he married? Divorced? Multitude of bairns runnin’ about the countryside with 12 different women? He’s a criminal? Smuggler? His cock is bent?” Gellis continued a litany of guesses before Claire interrupted her.

“None of those things. It was a perfectly lovely date.”

“Will ye see him again?” Geillis pushed, clearly unsatisfied.

“Yes, I believe so,” Claire replied demurely, eyes focused on her nails, rather than the burning glare of her best friend.

“Ye… ye believe so,” Geillis repeated in exasperation. “Christ, it’s like pulling teeth.”

Claire grinned in response as her phone vibrated in her pocket.

“Did I, or did I no’ call ye the second my date with Dougal ended? Did I,” Gellis continued holding up her hand to stop Claire’s interruption, “call ye the morning after we’d finally done the deed to describe to ye in exquisite detail, our night together?”

“Yes, but I didn’t ask you for any of that. Especially the “exquisite detail” of your night of debauchery,” Claire counted as Gellis scoffed in disbelief.

“Ye did’na have to ask. Such the friend that I am, I willingly shared the intimate details of my night with ye. And ye will’na even tell me about yer date, beyond “it went well”.”

Claire snorted in laughter as Geillis continued.

“Far be it from me to be interested in my best friends life. To be interested in the men that are interested in her. And need I remind ye, that wi’out me, ye woulda have even had yer “lovely” date.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Was it not I that suggested ye go as yerself and not some other numpty?” Geillis’s green eyes zeroed in on Claire.

“Well yes but–” Claire started before Geillis interrupted her.

“And was it not I that asked yer Wee Fox out for a date when ye’d been speaking with the lad all night and somehow never managed to get that bit done?”

“Well yes, I suppose–” Claire tried to interject but there was no stopping Geillis once she’d started.

“So do ye not owe me the kindness of tellin’ me about what happened on the date that I had an 80% hand in setting up?”

“80%?” Claire questioned.

“Fine. 75%,” Geillis conceded. “Now tell me about yer date.”

“Have you thought about being a lawyer? Wasted talent in my opinion,” Claire mumbled as she shuffled on her seat uncomfortably.

“Yes, I’m brilliant. Get on wi’ it.” Geillis waved her hand impatiently, brushing away Claire’s comment.

“Maybe a priest. You can certainly preach well enough."

"Aye, but we all ken I'm no' getting' inta the holy land. Now get on wi' it."

Fine,” Claire groaned as she rolled her eyes at her friend. “Well you saw what I wore, I sent you that picture.”

Geillis nodded excitedly, clearly thrilled that Claire was finally giving up the details.

“I arrived at the bar early–”

“Course ye did,” Geillis chuckled under breath.

“And he wasn’t there so I had a glass of wine.”

“Christ, ye were’na shitfaced when he arrived, were ye?”

“Goodness no!” Claire laughed. “What do you take me for?”

Geillis fixed her with a look.

“Don’t answer that,” Claire said quickly, stopping whatever her friend had been about to say. “I was contemplating ordering a second before he arrived and then… he was there... Tapping me on the shoulder.”

Claire paused, wondering how she was ever going to get to the part of Jamie’s virginity, or for that matter– if she would even tell Geillis that part.

“And?” Geillis prompted when Claire’s silence had apparently gone on long enough.

“And,” Claire exaggerated, “I was awkward and babbling. I knocked my wine glass over, it was empty, thank goodness... and it was a first date,” she finished somewhat lamely.

“Tha’s it? That’s all yer going to tell me?” Geillis asked skeptically.

“Well, once the awkwardness settled and we were a few more wines in, we chatted, and then he took me out for a bite to eat.”

“What did ye have?” Geillis interrupted.

“If you must know… a burger.”

Geillis almost shouted with laughter. “If ye two get married, ye can thank me for that. I’ll put it in my bridesmaid’s speech; about how if it was’na for yer wisest oldest… best looking friend, ye wouldn’t have gone on that date as yerself and ye wouldn’t be married wi’ sixteen children.”

“I thought this was your bridesmaid’s speech? Why do I have sixteen children? And who said you were my best looking friend? You are entirely discounting Joe,” Claire argued as Geillis continued to grin at her.

“I’m jus’ sayin’, I should be the first one ye thank when yer givin’ yer wedding toast.”

“It’s only been one date. I hardly think wedding bells are ringing.” Claire shook her head, smiling at her friend. It really was thanks to Geillis that she went on her date with Jamie, and she really did owe her… not that she would ever admit that out loud. The gloating from Geillis would be too much to bear.

“So then what happened when ye were stuffing yer gob?” Geillis prompted, earning a disapproving look from Claire.

“I did not “stuff my gob”. I still have some decorum.”

“Aye, sure,” Geillis rolled her eyes, “I’ve seen ye after a few wines. I ken what ye look like when yer hungry.”

“So, after the burgers we… erm… we went home.” Claire looked away, unable to meet Geillis’ eyes and that was ultimately her downfall. For a moment Geillis was silent, and then the barrage started.

“Ye… ye went home… separately. No, of course not. Why would ye not be able to look at me when ye said that? And ye would have said something like “and then we called it a night, made plans to catch up again, he text me when he got home saying what a nice time he had”–”

“He did do that actually. When he got home,” Claire interrupted, trying to derail Geillis current train of thought.

“Aye, but when did he get home?” Geillis asked raising an eyebrow at Claire. “Ye said, we went home. WE, Claire. WE. Ye went home with him. Or he went home with you. Either way, ye went home together.”

When Claire didn’t respond, Geillis actually hooted. Claire had never heard Geillis hoot before. It wasn’t quite a squeal, nor a scream, but closer to a yell. It was certainly an exclamation and several other patrons at the coffee shop turned to look at the two women sitting by the window.

“I knew it!” Geillie announced in victory. “I knew it when ye walked in. I said to myself, “there’s something different about Claire”. I thought that the date just must have gone well, but no, this is different. Claire Beauchamp, you’ve been well and truly fucked.”

“Keep your voice down!” Claire hissed at her friend, trying to hide from the glares of other customers behind her unruly mass of curls.

“Ye are’na denying it though,” Geillis continued victoriously. “Oh. My. God. Tell me everything!”

“I’m not telling you anything if you’re going to act like a horny teenager at the slight implication that we went home together. We might have gone home and played jenga for all you know,” Claire replied indignantly.

“Aye, but ye did’na, did ye? And it was’na a slight implication, ye did go home together, didn’t ye?”

The expression “shit-eating-grin” came to Claire’s mind as she looked at her best friend, who was smiling back at her triumphantly.

Claire pursed her lips and tried to look menacingly at Geillis, whose smile only widened. It had never worked before, she didn’t know what made her think that a stern look would stop her now.

“Fine, yes, we went home together, and yes I’ve been well and truly fucked,” Claire hissed the words and Geillis sat back in her chair proudly as Claire buried her burning face in her hands.

“On a first date. Tsk, tsk,” Geillis tutted as Claire tried to bury herself further into her hands. “Ye said ye had some decorum.” Geillis snorted again as Claire audibly groaned. “How was he then? Ye look… satisfied, I’ll give ye that.”

“It was… it was very good,” Claire mumbled as Geillis grinned.

“‘Very good’, she says. Yer face is saying a bit more than verra good, let me tell ye.” Geillis laughed at Claire’s expression.

“So ye have plans on seeing the lad again then?” she asked demurely, seemingly she had gotten what she wanted, which was Claire’s embarrassment.

“Yes,” Claire groaned looking up again at her friend. She was never going to hear the end of this. “Tomorrow actually. He’s taking me on a whisky tour.”

“A whisky tour? Ye dinna even drink the stuff. I bought ye a bottle, a verra good bottle might I add, a few years ago and I’ve not seen hide nor hair of it since I gave it to ye.” Geillis frowned at Claire. “Did ye even talk to him about what ye like? Or did he just not listen?”

“Well, no… that bottle… when we got home… I cracked it open and we had a sampling.”

“Christ!” Geillis exclaimed. “Must have been some date to open that.”

“Well I didn’t know it was a good bottle. How should I know that you bought me a bottle of very expensive scottish whisky?”

“Because I’m yer best friend and I do nice things for ye?” Geillis replied in confusion making Claire laugh.

“You are my best friend,” Claire agreed, “but I don’t know about the nice things part. In any case,” Claire spoke louder over the top of whatever Geillis’ rebuttal was going to be, “he knows that I don’t know whisky so it was his suggestion that we go for a tour and I can learn.”

“Perfectly good waste of a fine bottle of whisky, on yer first date if ye ask me. Bet ye hardly even drank any of the stuff a’fore ye were tearing each others clothes off,” Geillis continued to grumble.

“The bottle’s open now. Feel free to come over and drink as much as you like.” Claire smiled as Geillis rolled her eyes.

“Ye ken I’m taking ye up on that,” Geillis said before tossing back the remainder of her coffee.

“Wouldn’t doubt it,” Claire laughed as she picked up her bag and her phone vibrated in her pocket again.

--

Standing in front of her mirror Claire fiddled with her cardigan, fussed over her hair and checked her makeup. This was the second date. She’d already slept with the man, how badly could this date go? She considered straightening her hair, but she knew what Geillis would say if she found out that she did, and Claire decided that it wouldn’t be worth the beratement from her friend.

How was one supposed to dress for a second date anyway? Or at least a whisky tour? She’d settled on jeans and a simple t-shirt. It wasn’t over the top and at least she was comfortable. But she should be putting in more effort? Was her make up alright? She wasn’t wearing that much, so maybe she should put in a little more effort.

Geillis’ voice chastised her in her head. “Go as yerself and not some other numpty.”

Claire shook her head and looked herself over once more in her mirror. This was as good as it was going to get, and if Jamie couldn’t see that, then that was on him. Besides… he had seen her first thing in the morning, no make up with mussed up “sex hair” so surely what she was wearing right now couldn’t be that bad. He had wanted another go another round after eating the toast and having some coffee the next morning, so really, she clearly couldn't look completely horrendous when she put in at least a little bit of effort.

Why was she overthinking this? Why was she so nervous? Claire knew the answer to that; it was because she actually liked Jamie. It had only been one date, but she did quite like him and if the second date didn’t go well… she wouldn’t be heartbroken, it was far too early for thoughts like that, but she would be disappointed. She supposed, there were still other “fish in the sea” but Jamie seemed like quite a catch.

She wasn’t quite ready to delete the dating app from her phone, and there was still Frank that she could message back if she wanted to. Why was she thinking about another man- one that she hadn’t even spoken to- before her date with Jamie?

Nerves. She was nervous. And she was trying to protect herself. If things with Jamie didn’t work out, even after their excellent first date, if today, their second didn’t go well… well at least she’d tried. At least she had back up. At least she would be ok.

Huffing and shaking her head, Claire picked up her bag and locked her apartment. Ready or not, she was going on a second date.

They agreed to meet at the whisky distillery rather than carpool. Claire was nervous and couldn’t maintain conversation with her Uber driver. Only managing a few “uh-huh’s” and “mmm sure’s” in response to whatever he had been asking. Soon he gave up trying to engage her in conversation and they continued the journey in silence.

2pm. That’s what Jamie has said. 2pm at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Claire’s knees were bouncing in the car and then shaking upon her exit. 1:38pm. Of course she was bloody early. She was always bloody early.

Claire looked around to see Edinburgh Castle looming beside her. She hadn’t walked through the castle in goodness knows how long. It was very touristy and as much as Claire was very decidedly not from Edinburgh, she did feel like she was more of a local nowadays. Geillis had a big hand in that, opening her home, and her city to Claire when she had first arrived. Would there ever be a part in Claire’s life where Geillis was not somehow involved?

20 minutes to kill. What was she going to do for 20 minutes? Claire huffed in frustration. She was too anxious about being late so she arrived stupidly early. Maybe she should have stayed in the Uber and made the driver go around the city for a few loops.

Spying a free bench under a tree that was providing absolutely no protection from the sun at all, Claire decisively made her way over and was about to take a seat when a voice interrupted her.

“Claire.”

Christ. It had been 48 hours and his voice still did things to her insides. Claire turned back slowly toward the sun to see the outline of Jamie standing in front of her. She blinked a couple of times, trying to clear the glare from her eyes. Was she always going to be perpetually awkward and dumb when it came to Jamie?

“Jamie, Hi,” she smiled at him. What was the protocol here? Was she meant to hug him? Kiss him? Shake hands? They’d slept together and then parted ways. There was no rule book for this. Were they dating? Was this exclusive? Was this far too soon to be thinking about any of that? Yes was the definitive answer to that particular question and Claire shook her head looking down at her feet. Good lord, she was embarrassing. Thankfully Jamie couldn’t read her mind or else he’d be running for the hills from the idiot, love sick puppy standing in front of him.

Jamie’s fingers were tapping against his thighs in an uneasy drumbeat.

“Good to see ye again,” he said ducking forward to her.

Unfortunately at the exact same moment Claire said “you’re looking well,” and moved forward to give him a hug. A hug was, after all, a friendly gesture.

Claire’s chin collided with Jamie’s shoulder and she jolted forward in pain. Jamie’s hand was somehow in between their bodies and as Claire lurched forward his fist collided with her stomach, somewhat winding her.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” Claire gasped one hand flying to her chin, the other to her stomach.

Jamie jumped about a foot in the air at the exclamation and his hands fluttered around her helplessly.

“Dhia, I’m sorry Sassenach. Are ye alright?” He sounded panicked and Claire snorted with laughter which turned into a gasp for air as her stomach muscles recoiled.

“Give me a second. Just winded me is all.” Claire held up a finger as she doubled over and tried to take some deep breaths.

“I’m so sorry.” Jamie was shuffling from foot to foot as Claire tried to catch her breath.

“What’s your shoulder made of? Cement? Nearly shattered my jaw,” Claire said as she slowly stood up straight and rubbed her bruised chin.

“Just bone as far as I’m aware,” Jamie answered nervously running his hands through his hair with nerves. “Are ye alright? Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m fine,” Claire tried to smile. The pain was already subsiding but goodness it had hurt.

“Great start to our date, aye,” Jamie said sheepishly.

“You certainly took my breath away,” Claire joked and Jamie let out a breath of relief.

“Aye, I’ve been told I have that effect on women,” Jamie replied lightly.

“Well, with a right hook like that, I’m not surprised.”

“Truly Claire. I am so sorry. Are ye alright?” Jamie asked in concern again as Claire nodded in response. “Ye still want to go on a date with me?”

“I suppose so. I’m already here, and we did already buy the tickets. Seems like it would be a shame to waste them,” Claire grinned at him and watched as his face relaxed in relief. “Maybe just warn me before you make any sudden moves so I have at least a chance to prepare myself.”

“Aye, will do.” Jamie grinned as his cheeks darkened slightly and a smattering of red flush appeared on his throat. “Just one more thing…”

“What’s that?” Claire asked curiously before Jamie, with slow, exaggerated and deliberate movements linked their hands together.

“Ye look lovely, Sassenach,” Jamie said before ducking down and placing a swift kiss on her cheek, making her blush.

—-

Whisky tasting, as it turned out, was quite a lot of fun, especially with a private expert who whispered facts while sampling the smokey alcohol.

Jamie laughed as Claire’s nose scrunched up upon tasting a very old, very rare whisky that Jamie insisted was like honey. Claire thought it tasted more like eating a mouthful of ash, but she wasn’t about to say that to Jamie or their host.

Claire watched in fascination as Jamie chatted with their guide, asking poignant questions about their ageing process and the barrels they were using. Anyone would think that Jamie owned his own distillery with the way that he spoke to the guide. Claire soon stopped listening to the questions Jamie was asking in favour of simply watching him talk about something that he clearly loved.

He spoke a lot with his hands when he was particularly passionate about something. He moved fluidly as he tried to articulate with his hands what he couldn’t with his words. When he laughed at something the guide said, the rumble started somewhere deep in his chest before exploding from his mouth and Claire could help but smile and chuckle along as well, even if she had no idea what she was laughing at.

When he was listening intently to something the guide was saying (for the life of her, Claire had no idea what it was) there was a crease that appeared between Jamie’s eyebrows as he lost himself deep in thought. He nodded in understanding, a slow and measured move before he asked his next question.

His fingers tapped impatiently against the bar as the guide turned and spoke to some other patrons and Jamie waited to monopolise his time again, a fresh barrage of questions in his arsenal, ready to fire.

The guide himself seemed thrilled that someone like Jamie was in his audience and would more than likely have spent all his time indulging Jamie’s questions, if not for the other guests that had also paid for his services.

“Are ye enjoying yerself?” Jamie asked snapping Claire out of her study of him.

Claire thought about the amount of time she had spent watching Jamie in comparison to actually listening to the distillery owner talk about the whisky creation process, or for that matter, actually sampling the whisky.

“I am,” she replied with a smile. He didn’t need to know what the smile meant, or that is was specifically from the joy of watching and learning about him. “You certainly seem to know your stuff.”

“Ach,” Jamie grunted and waved away her comment with his hand. “My father and my uncle worked in a distillery when they were younger, passed the love of good whisky down the line, I s'pose.”

“You take a lot of your dates on whisky tours then? Impress them with your knowledge?” Claire asked slyly, turning on the stool she was sitting on to face him properly.

“No’ really no,” Jamie answered seriously. “I usually have much better taste in women, who already ken their way around the drink.”

Claire scoffed in response, playfully whacking him on his arm. “Date a lot of alcoholics, do you?”

“Aye, must be why it has‘na worked out for me. I always loose them somewhere between the fourth and nineteenth drink.”

“Have you considered that they were drinking to forget your awful company?” Claire teased as Jamie shuffled his stool closer to her.

“Why, Sassenach! How dare ye! And here I was thinking that we were having a lovely time!” Jamie replied in mock outrage.

“You did greet me by almost dislocating my jaw and socking me in the stomach,” Claire pointed out with a grin, which widened as Jamie’s cheeks flushed with colour. “Not to mention the fact that you’ve spent most of our date with our tour guide.”

“Well he’s a very fetching man, Sassenach.”

Claire looked over to the barrel chested 50-something man, who had clearly enjoyed a life of whisky if his reddened cheeks and prominent belly were anything to go by.

“What a monumental disappointment I must be, if that’s your type,” Claire snorted as she looked back at Jamie. He was looking at her intently and she felt herself blush slightly under the intensity of his gaze.

“Aye, ye’ll do,” Jamie hummed before the guide approached them with a new sample and Jamie was lost once more in the experience.

Their date was coming to a close and now there was one question on both of their lips. Owing to how their first date had ended, how could they think of anything else? Your place, mine, or neither? Claire had a good time with Jamie. He made her laugh and blush profusely when he complimented her, but they had rushed things when they’d slept together on the first date. Claire didn’t regret it, of course, but she knew that it had been too soon, especially as she planned to see Jamie for many... many more dates.

And so where did that leave her now? Was it an expectation that she would take him immediately home and ravage him (not that the thought was far from her mind, of course). Something about this date was different though. They had moved passed the awkwardness of the first date. The awkwardness of knowing that an app on a phone was responsible for bringing two people together.

And what an odd thought it was. The algorithm that simply located two people within a certain radius, a certain age group, with a certain preference and that were both willing to date; to bring two people together that were meant to be what? Soulmates? No that was perhaps too strong of a word. But two people that were meant to find, what was it? Satisfaction? With one another? What an odd thought that was to entertain.

Claire, however, was still left with the conundrum of what were she and Jamie supposed to do now? It was too early for dinner, too late for lunch. While not completely inebriated from the tour, Claire was decidedly tipsy. She wasn’t sure how Jamie was faring after the alcohol consumption but he seemed to be standing quite solidly next to her.

Though, Claire had decided, they had moved passed the awkwardness of the first date and getting to know each other, here she was feeling very, very awkward about what was supposed to be her next steps.

Was she supposed to invite Jamie back to her place… again? Were they supposed to just part ways and wait for the next date? Surely there would be no harm in kissing him goodbye. She’d remembered how he kissed her and what it did to her insides and she involuntarily shivered at the memory.

“Are ye cold?” Jamie asked snapping her out of her inner monologue. It was the middle of summer and no doubt it must have been at least 28 degrees (which was wildly warm for Scotland, even at the peak of summer, but global warming was a myth right?).

“No, no, I’m fine,” Claire replied, slightly embarrassed that Jamie could see her physical reaction to him. Although, she couldn’t really avoid it with Jamie standing as close to her as he was.

“Well, I … ahh,” Jamie began and Claire realised he was as lost as she was when it came to their next steps.

“I had a nice time. Very informative.” Claire swallowed the lump in her throat. Should she just invite him back to her place? It didn’t seem like that kind of a date.

“I’ll make a Scot of ye yet,” Jamie smiled at her as she snorted in response.

“Is that what you’re trying to do? After only two dates? I think you’ve got your work cut out for you, good sir.”

“Oh aye?” Jamie replied, his eyes alight with mischief. “Why’s that?”

“I’m an English woman. Born and raised,” Claire retorted. Which was not technically true. While she was born in England, Oxfordshire to be exact, Claire had grown up all over the world, only spending the latter of her teenage years back in her homeland. “The blue blood of royalty runs in these veins. You can take the girl from the motherland, but you can’t take the motherland from the girl.”

Jamie grunted in response, a sound that sounded so distinctly Scottish and so distinctly Jamie that Claire scoffed with laughter.

“Truly are a Sassenach, then aren’t ye?”

“It would appear so,” Claire readily agreed. The name didn’t sound so bad coming from Jamie. It was, dare she think it, somewhat sexy when he said it.

“Canna say I did’na try then,” Jamie admitted with a shrug.

“Canna indeed.”

Jamie grinned at Claire’s (atrocious) replication of his accent, shaking his head at her, she was sure she heard him mutter “terrible” under his breath before he looked back up at her.

“Well. I suppose we should call it a day then,” Jamie said nervously. His hand rubbed the back of his neck; a habit, Claire had noted, he did when he was nervous or uncomfortable.

“Yes, I suppose we should. Unless there are any more whisky facts that you insist that I should know.” Claire looked up at him hopefully, not quite wanting their date to end.

Jamie thought for a moment, before looking back at her, his eyes bright with an inside joke that Claire wasn’t quite a part of yet.

“Tasting whisky. It’s similar to somethin’ that ye’ve said to me,” he said confidently.

“Oh?”

Jamie nodded seriously, but Claire could somehow see the humour in his eyes.

“Aye. When ye taste whisky,” Jamie paused for dramatic effect and Claire nodded eager for him to continue, “go slow, and pay attention.”

Claire left Jamie feeling giddy. They had parted ways but not before Jamie had kissed her, with an intense kind of passion that was sure to stay with her for several days. They made plans to see each other again, but with Claire’s night rotation coming up, things were made quite difficult.

Eight days. Eight days before she would be able to see Jamie again. She could still text him of course, but it wasn’t quite the same as seeing him, sitting with him, watching him, listening to him… kissing him.

She was somewhat glad they hadn’t gone back to either of their places after their date. Their first had been so rushed, it was nice to start slowing down with each other and giving themselves the space to start growing a relationship.

A relationship. After two dates. Is that how quickly it always worked? You clicked with someone and that was it? Exclusivity? After two dates… they hadn’t discussed it of course. It was much too soon for that. Or was it? Claire wasn’t the type to see several people at once. Especially since she had connected with Jamie more than she had connected with any other man. But the thought of seeing other people didn’t interest her and she was embarrassed to admit that the thought of Jamie seeing someone else made her stomach turn.

She would need to ask Geillis about how quickly she fell for Dougal and what the protocol was for being exclusive. Although, perhaps that was a can of worms she was not prepared to open.

Eight days. It seemed like such a long time but at least she would be occupied with work. At least that would take her mind off Jamie and over analyzing every detail of their two dates; trying to find what went right, wrong and anything in between.

Eight days. That was when she planned on seeing Jamie again. Sunday night. They were going to have dinner. They hadn’t decided where yet, maybe a restaurant or maybe one of their places. Jamie had boasted about his ability to cook, and while Claire was not completely redundant in the kitchen, she was by no means the chef that Jamie had made himself out to be.

Eight days. That’s when she was expecting to see Jamie again, and so it was a complete surprise her she saw him walking down the street, arm in arm with a shorter dark haired woman, stopping outside a cafe, throwing his head back in laughter at something she said, then swooping down to kiss her on the cheek.

Claire felt her stomach drop to somewhere around her ankles and struggled to pick it back up. They hadn’t discussed exclusivity. Claire had just assumed, and perhaps she shouldn’t have. It only “made and ass of you and me” as her uncle used to say. Well, Jamie was certainly a very specific type of ass, maybe an arse was more accurate and Claire very much felt like an ass for thinking that what they had was something deeper.

She shook her head trying to clear it, she’d just come off a night shift and maybe she was seeing things. She could just stroll past the coffee shop and take a peek inside. Perhaps it was nothing.

Gathering her courage Claire slowly passed by the coffee shop, walking slowly in the pretext of looking for something in her bag, while slyly trying to look through the window. There was no mistaking Jamie, as large as he was with red hair on show- it was definitely him. Claire felt her heart squeeze in adoration as somehow his large frame was squeezed into a small and delicate coffee table and chair. But there was also no mistaking the way that he was holding the other woman’s hand across the table, looking at her with soft eyes as he nodded at her. He squeezed her hand before he jumped up, pulled the woman with him and grabbed her in a bone crushing hug.

Claire couldn’t watch anymore. It was embarrassing and a wave of shame and regret passed through her body like lava, slow and burning from the top of her head through to her toes. As she turned away from the window trying to regulate her breathing, it was like a bucket of ice was thrown over her and her body struggled to regulate its temperature. Shame. Embarrassment.

Claire felt tears spring to her eyes. She was being ridiculous. She was just tired. Well, if Jamie was going to see other people, then so was she. They hadn’t discussed exclusivity after all. Perhaps this was her own fault for moving too quickly too soon. She’d “popped his cherry” as it were and now he was looking to roll his oats...sow his oats- whatever the saying was; Claire couldn’t think properly. She was still standing stupidly in front of the window and she heard her name being called, muffled from behind the glass of the cafe. She needed to get out of there.

She quickly turned on her heel, pulling headphones from her bag and stuffing them into her ears. She walked quickly in the hope that Jamie wouldn’t follow her. It’s not like he would abandon his date to go chasing down after her. That would be ridiculous. She heard her name being called again and she kept her head down. It wasn’t muffled now, he was clearly outside of the cafe. He called again and she crossed the road. She hadn’t even turned on music to drown out the sound. She heard him call once more before she turned the corner out of his sight, and fell against the wall of a building, breathing heavily.

Opening up the dating app on her phone, she scrolled quickly to find the message that Frank Randall had sent her and without giving it a second thought, she replied.

They hadn’t said anything about exclusivity, after all.

Chapter Text

Sunday night drew ever closer. Claire had admittedly withdrawn slightly after seeing Jamie with the short dark haired woman-only replying to his messages rather than starting conversation with him. She used the excuse that she was busy at work, that the night shifts were kicking her arse. Which, while not exactly false- it wasn’t a particularly truthful excuse either.

In fact, the emergency ward had never been quieter in her entire time at the hospital. Triage was quiet with only a few minor cases coming in each night. A case of the flu here, a split lip there, nothing overwhelming and nothing to take Claire’s mind off of Jamie and the mystery woman.

He was, of course, free to date anyone he liked. Claire had no ownership over him. Nor did he over her. Which is why she had replied to Frank Randall and organised a date with him for the night after her dinner with Jamie on the Sunday.

She and Frank had swapped some light banter, his jokes bringing a small smile to her face as she read them, but there was something missing, something that had been there when she spoke with Jamie. A sort of easiness that was hard to replicate with anyone else, even Geillis.

“We assume bees buzz, but have we considered that they are all carrying tiny phones and are constantly texting each other?”

Franks message had made her smile when she’d first seen it, and roll her eyes the second time, when she’d replied.

“Counterpoint- the buzz is from the hot gossip they are messaging each other. It’s a well known fact that bees don’t use the vibrate function.” Claire was quietly proud of her response, considering she had made it up on the fly after basically fleeing from Jamie at the cafe.

Frank’s reply came later that night.
“Good point. Word on the street is that the queen bee is seeing several men on the side. She claims it’s her “royal duty” but that’s to be debated.”

“You’ve got an “in” with the local hive?! Colour me impressed!” Claire smiled at the messages. It was friendly, fairly simple banter over a ridiculous notion.

“I know a guy. Excellent honey. Terrible choices in women though. I don’t take dating advice from him. Not just because of his taste in women. But mainly because he’s a bee.”

Claire laughed at the message and shook her head. Before she could respond, another message appeared from Frank that made her swallow heavily.

“Speaking of dating. Would you like to meet face to face sometime?”

Claire paused over the message. He seemed friendly enough and they clearly didn’t have an issue with casually chatting. But she couldn’t help but compare Frank to Jamie.

Hers and Jamie’s conversation had come so easily between them, it was hours into the night before Claire realised the time. Not to mention, in their first conversation neither of them had even thought to ask the other out.

Now there was Frank, just throwing it out there. Well, this was what she wanted wasn’t it? She wasn’t locked down to Jamie (as much as she wouldn’t mind that) and if he was going to see other women, so then so would she… except men. She would see other men.

Squaring her shoulders (despite the fact that she was at home alone on her couch and nobody could see her putting on a brave face) Claire agreed to go on a date. A movie, on the Monday night.

Sunday approached quickly and Claire briefly thought about cancelling her plans with Jamie, but that thought was soon shut down as she was looking forward to seeing him far too much.

They had agreed to meet at Jamie’s apartment and he was going to cook her dinner.

Intimate.

The word bounced around in Claire’s mind. It seemed very personal to be going to his flat for him to cook her dinner, which felt like a ridiculous thought after they’d already slept together on the first date.

Claire picked her outfit with purpose. If Jamie was going to see other women then she was going to make sure he knew what he would be missing out on if he were to suddenly ghost her. Oh god. What if he suddenly ghosted her? No. That wouldn’t happen. Jamie wasn’t that sort of guy. Was he? Claire had no idea. Apparently he was the type of guy to date another woman after he and Claire had slept together, so what did she know?

Claire struggled to pull the skinny jeans up her legs, rolling around on her bed and trying to use gravity. It didn’t work, or help, but she did eventually get them on. They weren’t uncomfortable once she did finally get into them, but goodness they were a bitch to get on and off. They did make her legs and arse look phenomenal (if she did say so herself) so it was worth the 15minute struggle.

The red top showed a good amount of cleavage, not a pornographic amount mind you, but enough to keep it interesting. It did make her skin look much paler than it was and she briefly wondered if it was the right choice after all. She shrugged at herself in the mirror, it was comfortable at least and that won out in the end. Cleavage and comfort- ideal clothing.

Claire spent some extra time on her makeup and hair. Longer than she had on their second date. The nerves were there, not as bad as they had been for the second date and nothing in comparison to their first, but these were different. These were nerves built out of… fear? Betrayal? Hurt? She wasn’t sure. She felt slightly uncomfortable in her own skin and she knew it was because she was comparing herself with a woman she had only barely glanced at.

Claire checked her appearance over once more in her mirror. She had tied her hair up, as it marginally cooperated for once and she had somehow perfected the messy bun that was currently in style. She looked put together, like she hadn’t just worked four back-to back night shifts and a 12 hour day shift, which was honestly a miracle- her concealer working double time obviously.

Claire nodded to herself in the mirror. She could do this. She was looking forward to seeing Jamie again, hopefully he wouldn’t mention the date with someone else and she wouldn’t need to mention her date with Frank. She could do this. Claire liked Jamie. She felt a little bit more than “like”, not that she would ever say that aloud. She could barely admit it to herself. But she could do this. She could go to his house, have dinner, get to know him a little bit more and then make her next decision. If it all went badly she would leave early. Fake a stomach ache or a headache or something.

She had her date with Frank the following day. If dinner with Jamie went to hell in a handbasket, at least she had tomorrow.

Just before 7pm, Claire’s Uber pulled up in front of what she supposed was Jamie’s building. Truth be told she had actually arrived early and the Uber driver was outrageously kind in taking her for a quick detour around the surrounding streets to try to calm her nerves. Claire thanked the woman as she exited the car, blushing as the Uber driver winked at her and wished her luck.

She was early, but not too early.

Claire checked her phone to see the directions from Jamie. Flat 8. Claire made her way to the intercom and found Jamie’s name.

JAMM FRASER - 8

JAMM? How many people lived in the flat? Claire pressed the number 8 trying to figure out the “AMM” of “JAMM”. Perhaps it was a spelling mistake, meant to say JAMIE but a mix up had resulted in Jamie referred to as a conserve. Claire snorted to herself at her own joke as Jamie’s voice crackled through the speaker

“Aye?”

Claire rolled her eyes. Could he be more Scottish?

“It’s me, Claire.”

“Ahh, Sassenach, come on up,” Jamie replied happily, or at least, Claire thought he sounded happy. The line was crackling and she was probably reading into things. The door buzzed beside her and she jumped in fright at the aggressive noise before making her way inside.

Jamie’s flat was three flights up, and while not technically unfit, Claire had to admit that her cardio could probably use more work as she (embarrassingly) was breathing heavily through her nose before she reached his door.

Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves (and her breathing) she knocked on the door with the faded number 8 marked in gold.

She could hear rattling around and heavy footsteps approaching before the door was swung open and Jamie stood in front of her.

Goodness he was tall. Was he always so tall? Claire was not short but this guy was a giant. How could she have forgotten how tall he was? He was barefoot, wearing dark blue jeans and a grey shirt. Even in casual clothes he was attractive- damn him. Here Claire was, agonising for hours (if not days) about what she should wear, her makeup, how she should do her hair and he throws on a T-shirt and jeans and her mouth runs dry at the sight.

“Sassenach,” Jamie greeted as the corner of his mouth upturned in a smirk, blue eyes shining at her. “Ye look… well ye look bonnie.”

Claire didn’t miss the way his eyes ran over her, lingering slightly longer at the neckline of her top and she felt her stomach flip a little in victory. Perhaps the agonising and the effort had been worth it.

“Thank you, I err… I brought wine.” Claire blushed as she held a bottle of red wine in between them, with no idea if Jamie would actually drink it. If nothing else, Claire liked the wine that she had picked, so at least she would enjoy it.

Jamie nodded at her, not saying anything, or acknowledging the wine in her hands as his eyes ran over again.

“Are you going to invite me in, or will we be dining in the hallway?” Claire asked jokingly as Jamie blocked the door.

“Hmm?” Jamie hummed looking back up at her before shaking his head and focussing again. “Sorry, yes, come in.”

He stood to the side and Claire squeezed past him in the rather narrow hallway.

“Just keep going down and then to the right,” Jamie voice said from behind her as he closed the door. “Ye’ll hit the kitchen-dining-living room.”

Jamie’s apartment was... well, small was the first word that came to mind, but that was perhaps because Jamie seemed so large. Somewhat open plan, if you counted having a small two-seater dining table in the same space as the couch and television. The kitchen was attached, somewhat closed off from the living room. It was sparsely decorated, a photo frame on the small coffee table, a rug on the floor. Nothing that would immediately tell her anything about Jamie, what he liked or didn’t like.

“Dinners’ almost ready, have a seat.”

Jamie’s voice sounding directly behind her made Claire jump in fright from her focus on his apartment.

“Right. Thank you.” Claire sat on the couch primly. Her knees weren’t bouncing with nerves thank goodness but her stomach did feel like it was somersaulting around her body. She leaned forward to study the photograph on the table. A family photo, Jamie in the middle of an older man and woman. Clearly his mother and father. He had the red of his mother's hair, but the blue large eyes of his father. Both his parents seemed to be quite tall, though Jamie was at least a head taller than the both of them. No siblings in sight.

He looked happy, relaxed and Claire smiled at the photograph. What she wouldn’t give to have something as an adult with her own parents. Unfortunately the last photo Claire had with her parents was when she was only six, it was posed at a friend’s wedding, Claire had been crying- not wanting to be in the photo. Her face was red and blotchy, her mother was trying to get her to smile and her father had that sort of tight smile that exhausted parents do when their child is being a handful.

There were other photos of her and her parents of course, not just that rather unfortunate one. But it was the last of them together. Claire carefully put the photo of Jamie and his parents back on the coffee table with a sigh, only to jump in fright as she realised that Jamie was standing next to her, watching her.

“Sorry, I was just…” Claire didn’t really know what she was apologising for. Jamie was looking at her curiously, his eyebrows furrowed over his eyes as he studied her.

“Nothin’ to be sorry for,” Jamie said brightly, snapping out of whatever he had been thinking about. “Ellen and Brian,” he nodded at the picture, “my parents and I at my family home.”

Claire nodded politely at the confirmation. She hadn’t really paid that much attention to the background, she was much more focused on how much Jamie resembled his parents.

“Well. Dinners ready,” Jamie went on after clearing his throat.

“Wonderful.” Claire stood up from the couch, playing with her fingers nervously. She could see Jamie’s fingers tapping out an uneasy rhythm on the side of his leg and it brought her at least a small amount of comfort to know that he was as nervous as she was.

Claire should have known. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to her. She’d spoken to Jamie long enough, texted him enough to know that as soon as they sat down to eat, it would be easy once more and conversation would flow again. Still, it took her by surprise. After a few stilted moments in conversation, they were soon back into an easy rhythm of banter, stories, updates on their weeks and general chit chat.

She made Jamie laugh, a sound that started somewhere deep in his chest before bursting forth from his mouth. She made him blush, a red flush that started around his neck and steadily made its way onto his cheeks and, to Claire’s surprise and delight, his ears. She made him think, as their conversation took a deeper turn, and his eyebrows creased when his was deep in thought, his top teeth worrying his bottom lip, two fingers tapping on the table thought as he thought over his answer.

Claire liked Jamie. She liked him a lot. He was easy to talk to, he had a similar sense of humour and more than anything, he listened to her. He wasn’t listening for the purpose of replying, or trying to make her feel important. Jamie had a way of concentrating and listening so intently to her that it made Claire feel as though no matter what she was talking about, to Jamie, it was the most important thing in the world. He listened like he cared.

Claire thought that Jamie liked her. He made her laugh at some truly terrible jokes, that were just on the right side of awful, and he spoke to her like an equal. He didn’t pander to her or try to impress her with his own self importance. Claire found herself liking him more and more as the night went on, her upcoming date with a Frank slipping further and further from her mind until-

They were having coffee on Jamie’s couch, or rather, Claire was having coffee, Jamie was having whisky. Jamie had said that he couldn’t have coffee after 6pm or he’d be up all night. Claire had assured him that after years of working in the emergency ward and countless night shifts, caffeine didn’t really have an effect on her anymore and 8 o’clock at night was a perfectly acceptable time for a cup.

Jamie had looked at her curiously and it made Claire blush under the intensity of his gaze. He seemed to be unaware of the fact that he was watching her until he shook his head slightly and quickly focused back on his drink.

“So what does yer week comin’ up look like then?” Jamie asked, not quite meeting her eyes.

“Oh just work,” Claire tried to shrug casually.

They had so far successfully avoided discussing dating other people, or the almost meeting at the coffee shop earlier in the week.

“No other plans than just work?” Jamie asked, shuffling slightly on the couch. The movement brought him closer to Claire and she felt her breath catch in her throat as their thighs touched.

Claire shrugged again, trying to calm her racing heart that was certainly not from her cup of coffee.

“What about you?” She tried deflecting back to him.

“Same as usual. Just work, 8-5 every day.” Jamie put down his now empty tumblr on the coffee table in front of them, angling his body closer to Claire’s. “I’ve not such a hectic schedule as yer own.”

“It… it erm keeps things interesting for me. That’s for sure.”

“On… on Wednesday did ye have a night shift or a day shift?” Jamie asked suddenly and Claire felt her heart skip a beat with anxiety.

Wednesday- The day she had just come off a night shift. Wednesday- the day she’d seen Jamie and the short dark haired women at the cafe. Wednesday- the day that she’d replied to Frank Randall’s message.

“I was on nights most of last week,” Claire answered carefully. “They all run together sometimes.”

“Were ye… did ye go for a… were ye near West Port on Wednesday morning?” Jamie asked nervously.

Yes. Yes she was. She was standing outside the coffee shop that he and his date were at.

“Erm,” Claire frowned pretending to think. “Possibly.”

“Oh, I just… och, it’s nothin’.” Jamie waved his hand as if he was trying to brush away the thought. “I was just… it does’na matter.” Jamie shook his head.

An awkward sort of pregnant pause hung over them both for a moment as Claire waited for Jamie to admit that he’d been having coffee with another woman and Jamie waited for Claire to fill in the blank that she was on West Port on Wednesday morning, and it wasn’t some other curly haired lass that he’d called out to.

“Well, it’s getting late. I should go.” Claire stood up from the couch quickly as she threw back the rest of her coffee. It was undignified and the mouthful was a little more than she had been expecting, gagging slightly as she tried to swallow.

“Oh?” Jamie sounded disappointed but Claire didn’t particularly notice that detail as she made her way to the kitchen to deposit her empty mug (and catch her breath).

“I thought that we might… erm… watch a movie or something,” Jamie said haltingly as Claire came back into the room.

“Oh.” Claire blinked in surprise.

“Unless, unless ye wanted to go. I could call ye a cab.”

“Oh, I just thought that…” Claire didn’t finish her sentence. She didn’t know how.

“I thought that I should leave because you clearly saw me on Wednesday but you were on a date with another woman and I didn’t want to interrupt. By the way I have a date tomorrow night. Also, I thought that we would be exclusive because you know, we slept together, and I took your virginity. So I figured that there was something there. But no, it’s ok. If you want to see other people, that’s fine. Because as I said, I have a date tomorrow night. So don’t even worry about it.” Things that Claire would never say out loud to Jamie.

“If ye did’na want to leave yet…” Jamie said somewhat shyly as his right hand threaded through this hair pushing the auburn locks out of his eyes.

“No. I suppose not.” Claire swallowed heavily before she resumed her position on the couch next to Jamie.

“Any preference?” Jamie asked as he opened a cabinet and took out a remote for the television.

“Is that scrabble?” Claire asked, noticing the board game sitting at the back of the cabinet.

“Aye,” Jamie replied with a smirk. “Ye want to play?”

“I mean… if you want to,” Claire answered sheepishly, memories of nights with her Uncle playing the game as he taught her about the world.

“Ye ken yer going up against an editor. I canna be beat,” Jamie boasted as he pulled out the game and started setting it up on the coffee table.

“Bold statement. Pride goeth before the fall, my good sir, and it’s going to hurt even more when you fall from that high horse of yours,” Claire replied cheekily, sitting forward on the couch- all thoughts of calling it a night now abandoned.

Jamie was good. He was very good at scrabble, but so was Claire. Jamie also had a good poker face, aside from a small quirk of the brow when Claire produced something he hadn’t been expecting.

“Sthenia?” Jamie asked, looking up from beneath his eyelashes at her. “That’s no’ a word.”

“It is,” Claire defended picking up her phone to google the word and show him. “It’s a condition of abnormal strength.”

“Yer making that up,” Jamie scoffed as he crossed his arms.

“I’m not. Look!” Claire held out her phone showing Jamie the explanation. His eyes widened slightly as he read the word before he cleared his throat.

“Ah ye have a new message.” His cheeks were flushed and he suddenly became very interested in his own tiles.

Claire flipped the phone back around to see a notification from Frank on the dating app disappearing.

“Oh. That’s… nothing.” Claire felt her cheeks burn. “I told you it was a word.”

“Aye, ye did.” Jamie nodded before he played his next word.

They continued to play in awkward silence and Claire’s heart felt like it was about to beat out of her chest. She had to say something to him. Explain. Or… something.

“Kex,” Jamie mumbled as Claire played the word.

“It’s the dry stalk of a hollow stemmed plant,” Claire answered quietly. She reached for her phone to show him but Jamie quickly interrupted her movement.

“I believe ye. I dinna need to see it,” he said somewhere roughly.

Claire let out a deep breath before squaring her shoulders.

“Look, Jamie, I… erm… I did see you Wednesday. I’d just come off my shift and was getting a coffee and I saw you at that shop.”

Jamie looked up at her in confusion, his eyebrows furrowing.

“Did ye hear me callin’ out to ye?”

Claire nodded sheepishly. “You seemed,” Claire paused over her choice of words, “otherwise occupied on your date and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“My… my date?” Jamie asked in confusion. Either he was very good at lying or he actually didn’t know what she was talking about.

Claire nodded biting her lip, “She… um… anyway, we didn’t, I mean, we haven’t talked about not dating other people and I mean, it’s only our third date, so who knows where this is going to go, so it’s fine.” Claire tried to shrug casually.

She had been looking down at her letter tiles as she spoke, too afraid to look up at him. But she did now. He was looking at her with a peculiar expression. His face was relatively blank, save for his eyes that were running over her face.

When Jamie didn’t say anything further Claire continued to talk just to fill the silence between them.

“So, I wouldn’t usually go out with… that doesn’t matter. I just figured that if you were seeing other people in the week, that maybe I should as well. And it’s fine. It’s totally ok,” Claire paused as she took a breath. She sounded crazy, babbling as she was. “I mean we haven’t talked about not seeing other people. And why would we? It’s only our third date. And you are perfectly within your rights… it’s completely ok for you… for us to be seeing other people, until this… until we… if this is…”

Jamie had looked back down at the letters in front of him and his shoulders twitched as if his shirt had suddenly become too tight.

Claire plowed on through her monologue when Jamie looked like he still wasn’t going to respond.

“And it’s not like I have, you know, fifty dates lined up between this and the next one. Because I don’t. I just have that one. And it’s the first one. I haven’t had any others since we… since our first date-”

Claire stopped taking abruptly as Jamie lay out his tiles on the game board with a new word.

“Quipu.”

Jamie sat back on the couch, staring at Claire and playing with his bottom lip.

“Quipu?” Claire asked, raising a lone eyebrow in disbelief.

“Aye.”

“Use it in a sentence.”

“I used the word “quipu” to win a scrabble game against ye, Sassenach.”

“That’s… no… use it in an actual sentence.”

“Are ye now debating my ability to string a sentence together?” Jamie asked. There was something burning behind his eyes but Claire couldn’t figure out what it was.

“I’m…” Claire paused trying to think of the best way to phrase it, “requesting a new sentence and definition.”

“A definition now, is it?” Jamie asked with a mischievous quirk to his mouth.

Claire nodded confidently. “I believe that’s well within my rights for a challenge.”

“Well then. I canna say no to yer rights for a challenge, can I?” The corner of Jamie’s mouth quirked again and Claire’s eyes were briefly drawn to his lips, her mind recalling his excellent kissing abilities.

“I used the “quipu” to record important dates, and statistics when I lived with the Incan tribe.” Jamie’s eyebrows flashed at Claire and she felt herself blush slightly. “Will that do?”

Claire found herself somehow devoid of a voice at the look Jamie was giving her and simply nodded in response.

“Now, as for a definition,” Jamie continued sitting forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he looked at. “That’s a bit more difficult.”

“Is it?” Claire managed to croak out. “That seemed to be sufficient.” There was something about the way and the intensity that Jamie was looking at her. Like he was mentally undressing her, not in the gross-seedy way that some men seemed to do, but as if he was seeing through layers and layers of self preservation that she had built up over years and years of being alone. It felt like she was being stripped back to who she was and Jamie for some reason could see it all.

“Oh, I dinna believe so. See I had thought that after our first date, that we were “dating”.” Jamie made quotes around the word. “Exclusively,” he added after a pause and Claire swallowed heavily.

“And so when ye ask me for a definition, I suppose I would have said that we were dating, what would ye have said?”

Claire cleared her throat and glanced away from his penetrating gaze.

“I would have said that we were dating,” Claire answered, her nose wrinkling as Jamie grunted in victory. “However, we have never said anything about exclusivity, and so, you could be “dating” several women at once. Therefore my definition remains.”

“Well then,” Jamie hummed. “I suppose we are in a worse state than I first thought, if we have different definitions of what dating means.”

“Well then, by all means, tell me your definition,” Claire said, sweeping her hand in invitation.

“I’m much more interested in yer own, Sassenach,” Jamie answered quickly before trying to regain a much more relaxed position.

“Well, I suppose I would define it as going on dates. A meal, an activity, something like that… spending time with someone.” Claire chewed on her bottom lip as she waited for Jamie to respond.

“With a definition like that, ye could be “dating” any one of yer friends. Just spending time wi’ someone.”

“Well then, spending time with someone with romantic intent,” Claire answered with a huff. “You know what I mean.”

“Och, but do I? Ye said spending time with “someone”, but is that a singular someone or is that multiple someone’s?” He asked as his eyebrows rose and he tilted his head at her in curiosity.

“Bloody hell, you are an editor, aren't you? Picking apart every word I say.” Claire sighed as Jamie chuckled. “You haven’t given me your definition, mind you.”

“Have I not? Well I suppose it’s a similar definition to yer own, with a small amendment.”

“Oh?”

“Aye, I agree to the “spending time with someone, doing an activity, with romantic intent” that ye said...”

“What’s the amendment?”

“Exclusively.”

Claire felt her breath catch in her throat and she looked down at her remaining scrabble tiles to avoid looking at Jamie. That didn’t explain Claire seeing him with another woman. And they did seem very close, hugging and laughing together. How could she … or he justify that? She didn’t really give him any opportunity to explain what she’d seen. Though, why should she? They’d only had two dates, until tonight- their third.

She wasn’t even going to bring it up, but he’d seen the notification on her phone. Now here they were on a third date trying to define what it was they were doing together.

“Exclusively?” Claire repeated, still not looking up at him and shuffling her tiles to make herself look more nonchalant. (It wasn’t working, her hands were shaking.)

“Aye. Dating. You, me, exclusively.”

“Are you asking me to be your girlfriend, Jamie Fraser?” Claire tried to joke, glancing up at him with a chuckle only to see him looking at completely seriously.

“I suppose so, if ye need a name to it.”

“Bit of a double standard if you’re going to keep seeing other women,” Claire shot back before laying down her next word (kettle) and sitting back on the couch and crossing her arms.

“Also would be a bit incestuous considering the woman ye saw me with was my sister,” Jamie shrugged casually and Claire felt her stomach drop somewhere around her toes with shame. He had a sister? Somehow that had never come up between them and the thought had never crossed her mind. She glanced around the room quickly trying to see if there was a family photo of them together that she had missed. Her eyes landed on the picture of Jamie with his parents that he has moved on the coffee table to accommodate their board game.

Suddenly the familiarity and closeness that Claire had seen didn’t seem so scandalous and Claire felt like an utter idiot.

“Your sister?” She repeated dumbly as Jamie looked away from her and back to his remaining tiles.

“Aye, Jenny- was giving me some good news, came all the way down to Edinburgh to share it.”

“Oh?” If only the couch would swallow her up and Claire would be put out of her misery. Death was the only answer. Or perhaps she could fake her death and start a new life in Canada. Anything to get away from the shame that she was currently feeling, sitting on Jamie’s couch, after enjoying a lovely dinner and then trying to call him out on a double standard that didn’t exist.

“Aye,” Jamie said again, “apparently I’m to be an uncle.”

“Oh,” Claire repeated, it was all she seemed able to say. “Well congratulations!” She tried to say with more enthusiasm.

“Thank ye,” Jamie nodded, glancing at her quickly before playing his next word off her last (truth).

Truth. How ironic.

“So,” Claire said with a sarcastic laugh, “any other sisters or brothers I should be aware of before I jump to any more conclusions?” Bloody hell she was embarrassed. She should have just spoken to him like an adult, but something like this always happened, and it happened because she liked him. She liked him a lot so she’d put her foot so far into it she wasn’t sure she would ever get it back.

And now she had a date tomorrow night, with a guy she wasn’t even sure she liked.

“Just a brother, Willie. So, if ye see him with me… just my brother, not a secret lover.” Jamie’s mouth was twitching like he wanted to smile, like he enjoyed watching Claire squirm; which he did (the bastard).

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Claire said quietly as she looked at her final three tiles. Y, G, A. Claire’s eyes ran over the board looking for a free O to use up all her tiles.

“Now that we’ve got all that cleared away,” Jamie said conversationally as Claire searched the board. “I do have somethin’ to ask ye.”

The only spare place that she could use her letters was within of the U’s from Jamie’s Quipu. Guya… no she didn’t think that was a word. Auyg… nope. Augy…

“Claire?” Jamie called her name and she looked up at him quickly. “Are ye listening to what I’m asking ye?” He asked nervously.

“No, I’m trying to win. Give me a second.” Claire looked back down at her tiles as Jamie laughed. He only had one tile left, if she couldn’t get her three down he would definitely win.

Yuga… was yuga a word? Claire thought it sounded familiar but maybe that was just because she wanted to win so much. Yuga… something about Buddhism.

Yuga… something her uncle had told her. One of four epochs in the history of the universe in Hinduism. Holy shit it was a word. And it fit. Claire was going to win.

“A bet,” she said triumphantly, finally meeting his eyes.

“Ye want to place a bet now? When I’ve almost won?” Jamie asked skeptically.

“I do.” She nodded, not stopping the smile that came to her face. “I think I know what you’re going to ask me, given the line of our current conversation and for the fact… that I made assumptions I shouldn’t have. So, a bet.”

“Yer confident in yer final three letters then?”

“I am.”

Jamie studied her for a moment, playing with his bottom lip. “What are the terms?”

“If I win, you don’t ask me the question that you were going to and we schedule our next date, of which you can ask me then,” Claire said carefully.

“And if I win?” Jamie asked with a crooked smile, clearly enjoying himself.

“You get to ask me what you want to, you get to hold my stupidity over my head for as long as you like, I cancel my “date” tomorrow night… and,” she said speaking over Jamie’s almost interruption, “you might just get lucky tonight.”

She watched as Jamie lost his train of thought for a moment as his mouth fell open into a comical O shape.

“Seems like quite the prize,” Jamie finally said after clearing his throat.

“If you win, yes.”

“And if ye win, ye go on the other date?” Jamie almost spat the word out, making Claire’s smile widen.

“I do.”

“Do ye want to go on the date?” Jamie asked, suddenly much more serious.

“I don’t like cancelling plans.”

“If ye win, ye go on this other date and after that then… then I am able to… then we’ll be-”

Claire held up her hand to stop him from following through. “You can’t say it.”

Jamie let out a heavy breath through his nose as he thought it over.

“Let me also remind you, that you started this game telling me that “I canna be beat”,” Claire tried to mimic his accent and he rolled his eyes at her. “So it really comes down to how confident you are in your own game.”

Jamie smirked at her then, almost in exasperation. “Alright then. Deal.” Jamie held out his hand and Claire shook it tightly.

“Deal.”

Claire smiled at him as she laid out her tiles. The stunned face of Jamie staring back at her.

“That’s no’ a word,” he said automatically as the final tile was put into place.

“Is that a challenge?”

“Aye, it’s a challenge. It’s no’ a word.” Jamie twitched uncomfortably in his seat and Claire for the first time noticed what putting sex in as part of the deal had done to him.

“In Hinduism, yuga is one of the four measurements of time in the history of the universe. You can google it if you want.”

Jamie grunted at her before he picked up his phone and quickly typed in the word.

“I canna believe it,” he said shaking his head. “It’s a feckin’ word.”

“Damn right it is,” Claire said triumphantly. “What’s your final move?”

Jamie held up a letter Z.

“Oh,” Claire said laughing.

“I was going to put it with the “I” right there,” Jamie said pointing at the letter that was conveniently next to her final word. “But ye’ve gone and taken my spot.”

“So I guess that would mean… that…”

“Aye, ye won. I… I canna believe it.”

“Did you hurt yourself?” Claire asked innocently.

“Hurt myself?” Jamie asked as he looked up at her in confusion.

“From falling off your high horse?” Claire continued. “No broken bones? I am a Nurse after all.”

“Ha, ha,” Jamie laughed sarcastically. “I canna believe ye won.”

“Believe it,” Claire replied smugly. “It also means that I won the bet, so we should probably call it a night.”

Jamie grunted in response, his eyes running over the game board as if he was trying to find where he went wrong.

“Ye don’t have to follow through on yer part of the bet if ye did’na want to, ye ken.”

“But that would be against the unwritten rules of betting,” Claire said in mock outrage.

“Well, ye could borrow some of the terms of my bet,” Jamie said sheepishly making Claire to grin.

“And which terms should I borrow, exactly?” She asked as she stood up from the couch.

“Weel, ye dinna have to go on this other date, ye could cancel, and ye could… ye could stay the night…”

“So really the only part left is you never bringing up what an idiot I was?” Claire smiled as Jamie took a step closer to her, drawing her away from the coffee table and couch.

“I’m sure there will be other opportunities,” Jamie said with a grin before his large hands took hold of her hips and pulled her closer to him so that she had to look up at him.

“Hmm,” Claire hummed in disapproval before Jamie’s head tilted towards hers.

“No? Well then I suppose I shall have to leave ye with a good memory of me, so that this other lad does’na have a chance.”

“Better make it good then,” Claire answered in a hushed tone.

“I plan on it,” Jamie said before he kissed her.

Chapter Text

Damn it, Jamie could kiss. As soon as his lips had touched her own, Claire was lost in him. He pulled her closer and her breath left her in a huff as their chests collided. Gathered into his arms as she was, she felt safe, secure, protected and oh so very turned on. 

Large hands running up and down her back before landing on her arse. 

“Christ,” Jamie breathed before he continued to kiss down her neck and back to her mouth. 

“Christ was right,” Claire thought as his mouth found hers again. He had no right being this much of a good kisser. 

Claire had briefly worried at dinner that they may be venturing too far into “friend” territory rather than dating territory. They got along famously, but there had been limited physical contact. Their flirting over the board game had cleared up some of that concern, but it was the way that Jamie was kissing her that definitely confirmed that they were no longer friends. This was something more. Something deeper. And Claire was about to go on a date with someone else. 

Claire eventually left Jamie’s. Clothes in tact, hair thoroughly messed and panting with swollen lips. Her Uber driver has given her a smug knowing look which Claire promptly ignored before giving the directions to her apartment. 

Jamie was right when he said that he would give her a kiss as something to remember him and now she couldn’t wait for the next date. She just had to get through her date with Frank Randall first. 

“Ye dinna have to go on this date, ye ken,” Jamie stated as he leaned against his door frame. 

“It’s just one date,” Claire reasoned. 

“Aye, but what if ye really hit it off?” Jamie looked down at the floor, his voice somewhat gravelly.

“Are you worried?” Claire asked in surprise, taking a step closer to Jamie again trying to make him look up at her. 

Jamie grunted in annoyance before answering, “Wouldn’t ye, if it were me?”

“I was,” Claire answered truthfully, “before I knew it was sister, of course. But yes I was worried. I was worried that…”

“What?” Jamie asked hopefully looking up at her. 

“At the risk of laying all my cards on the table,” Claire said with a huff, “I was worried that I was reading more into… us,” she continued, indicating between them, “then what was there.”

“And do ye still feel like that?” Jamie’s voice lowered as his hands rested on her hips. 

“Not so much now, no.”

“Good,” Jamie nodded confidently. “Because ye aren’t. It’s there.”

“Good.” Claire repeated the word before pausing for a moment, “I am still going on this date though.”

“Why?” Jamie groaned, “I can already tell ye how it’s going to go.”

“Oh? And how’s that?” Claire asked with a smirk. 

“Ye’re seeing a film?” Jamie clarified as Claire nodded at him. “Well first he’ll compliment ye, because ye look bonnie. Ye always look bonnie.” Claire blushed at the compliment as Jamie continued, brushing an errant curl behind her ear. 

“Then ye’ll get some snacks, popcorn maybe. He’ll ask ye about yer work-“ 

“He already knows what I do. It’s in my bio,” Claire tried to interrupt as Jamie continued. 

“And ye’ll reply, probably downplayin’ what ye actually do. Ye’ll ask him about his work. Ye’ll wait in line together for yer film, what are ye seein’ by the way? It does’na matter. Ye’ll wait in line, awkwardly standing next to each other. Then ye’ll sit in yer seats and ye willna be able to hold a conversation so all ye ken about this fella is his job and maybe what he does on the weekend. Ye’ll both spend the movie not really payin’ attention. He’ll be thinking about taking yer hand in his and ye…”

“What will I be thinking about?” Claire asked, cocking her eyebrow at his explanation. 

“Well Sassenach, ye’ll be wondering why ye went on this date when ye ken that I’ll be waiting to hear from ye. Ye’ll be thinking about how I dinna like ye going out with some other lad. Ye’ll be thinking about how much better yer night would have been if it were me with ye.” Jamie brushed her cheek softly with the pad of his thumb and she fought the urge to shudder at the contact. 

“Confident are you?” Claire tried to ask in jest but it came out much airyer than she’d anticipated. There was something about the way that Jamie was standing with her. The way that he touched her so gently. The way that he looked at her- It turned her legs to jelly. 

“Nah,” Jamie chuckled shaking his head. “I’m no’. But I ken what I’ll be thinkin’ about.”

“Oh?”

“You,” Jamie said clearly. “I’ll be counting down the hours till our next date.”

Claire felt her cheeks heat up and she shook her head. 

“You know you’re well within your rights to also go on a date with someone else,” she pointed out. 

“I dinna want to date anyone else, Claire,” Jamie said with a somewhat exasperated sigh. “So when ye’ve had yer date, let me know so that we can start dating, just the two of us.”

It was then that he had kissed her goodbye and Claire had rethought her plan to leave and her plan to go on a date with another man. 

“Goodnight Jamie.”

“Goodnight Claire.”

It was with Jamie’s kiss lingering on her lips that 18 hours later she was getting ready for her date with Frank Randall. 

Claire was at a crossroads. She didn’t particularly want to be going on this date, but she also didn’t want to stand him up. She’d lost a lot of sleep after leaving Jamie’s apartment wondering if she should cancel the date after all. It wasn’t like she was expecting it to go anywhere. It didn’t make sense for her to go on a date with another man when she had Jamie waiting (not so) patiently for her. 

She didn’t like cancelling plans. She felt like she would be letting him down somehow. She’d never even met the man and she already felt like she was failing him. Not a great start. 

Claire’s job meant that she ended up cancelling plans far more often than she liked. She was a perfectionist in all areas of her life and while logically Claire knew that cancelling a date wouldn’t be the end of the world and Mr Frank Randall would more than likely find another woman on the dating app, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to follow through on her agreement to meet him. 

So, there she was: standing in her underwear looking at her closet- trying to decide how to dress. 

She didn’t want to go over the top and give him hope that there might be a second date or that she had put in a lot of effort trying to impress him. But she didn’t exactly want to go in house clothes and look like she’d put in no effort at all. 

Claire huffed a sound of frustration as she picked up her phone and sent a text to Geillis. She always knew what to wear on these types of things, not to mention, Claire hadn’t even told her about this other date. 

“Going on a movie date. What do I wear?”

Claire threw her phone back on the bed and looked helplessly back to her closet. 

Jeans were casual… maybe she could wear black ones- they seemed to be more dressy over her normal blue ones. Claire pulled a pair from the hangar and threw them onto the bed just as her phone buzzed. 

“With the red headed lad? Didn’t you see him last night?”

Claire read Geillis’ reply chewing on her thumbnail. 

Rolling her eyes at her own hesitation to tell her best friend about the other date Claire replied, trying not to overthink it. 

“Yes, but this is a different guy. We’re going to a movie.”

It felt like Claire had only just pressed the send button when the phone was vibrating in her hands, Geillis’ face smiling back at her. 

“Another lad?” Her friend asked immediately, not waiting for Claire to greet her. “What happened to red-heid?”

“I told you, I saw Jamie last night,” Claire replied weerily. 

“But ye did’na tell me that ye were goin’ on a date with another lad. What happened?” Geillis demanded. 

“Nothing happened,” Claire sighed, “I’d just planned another date and it’s tonight, and I don’t know what to wear.”

“Somethin’ must have happened,” Geillis mumbled more to herself than to Claire. “Who’s this other lad yer goin’ out with then?”

“Does it matter? I just need to know what to wear.”

“Aye, it matters. I thought ye liked Jamie,” Geillis argued. 

“I do like him.”

“Then why are ye seeing this other lad?”

“I just told you.” Claire’s eyes were running over her closet trying to find something to go with her black jeans. 

“Ye planned another date,” Geillis repeated Claire’s words skeptically. 

“That’s right,” Claire answered sternly, “now help me decide what to wear.”

“Is this because ye dinna like cancelling plans?” Geillis asked, ignoring Claire’s request to move on. 

“Are you going to help me or just microanalyse my life choices?”

“Both,” Geillis replied confidently, earning a snort of laughter from Claire. “What have ye got picked out?”

“So far? Black jeans,” Claire answered in relief that Geillis was finally moving on. 

“Good choice. What top?”

“Well that’s where I’m stuck,” Claire said with a sigh as she ran her fingers over her clothes, hoping that something would jump out at her. 

“What about that green top. Ye ken, the one we bought when we were in London at Christmas?” Geillis suggested and Claire pulled it from the hangar. 

“Maybe,” Claire hummed as she looked at it paired with the jeans. 

“What kind of message are ye trying to send?” Geillis interrupted Claire’s assessment of the clothing. 

“Uhhh.”

“Jesus,” Geillis breathed in exasperation as Claire’s non-answer. “What message were ye trying to send yer wee fox on yer first date?”

“I… I don’t know. I was trying to be more like myself and less like “Date Claire”, as you put it.”

“And who are ye trying to be tonight?”

“Myself I suppose. More casual than the date with Jamie. This is just a movie.”

“Just a movie, aye?”

“What?” Claire asked hearing the skepticism in Geillis’s voice. 

“Ye dinna sound keen about the date. What does it matter what ye wear?”

“Because I want to look nice.”

“But ye dinna want to be putting in too much effort,” Geillis continued Claire’s thought. “I see. Go with the green top. It’s casual enough for a movie but ye are’na over doin’ it.”

“Shoes?”

“Does’na matter. Ye can wear heels if ye want, maybe yer white tennis shoes. Ye’ll be more comfortable,” Geillis suggested and although Claire couldn’t see her, she was sure that she had shrugged. 

“Alright.” Claire nodded looking at the clothes laid out on her bed. 

“Do not straighten yer hair,” Geillis said suddenly. “Ye always straighten it on dates. Let it go free.”

“Date Claire?” 

“Aye, Date Claire straightens her hair. Don’t straighten it.”

“Noted,” Claire laughed. “I should get ready. Thanks for your help.”

“Nay bother. Send me a pic when yer ready and let me know when your done. I want to hear how it goes.”

“I will.”

“I also want to ken what’s happening with yer wee fox, mind.” Geillis reminded her. 

“I know. I’m working tomorrow, evening shift.”

“Aye, same. Remember. Pictures and debrief,” Geillis said again. 

“Yes, yes I know. Bye Geillis.”

“If ye get lucky, text me immediately.”

“Goodbye Geillis,” Claire said firmly while laughing and hanging up the phone. 

—-

Claire was late. Claire was never late. Never in her life. She left early for most appointments to arrive with time to spare. She arrived to work half an hour early to each shift, just in case. But right now- she was late. She had excuses; the Uber hadn’t arrived and then the roadworks on the way to the theatre had held her up longer than she had been expecting, the Uber driver had passed the theatre twice while looking for somewhere to pull over. Then she dropped her bag while exiting the car and had to stop to pick everything up. 

Claire’s heart was beating heavily in her chest with anxiety as she tried to control her breathing. She could feel herself sweating and was praying that her cheeks weren’t flushed with embarrassment. 

Claire took a deep breath as her phone buzzed in her pocket. She was already late- stopping and reading a message wasn’t going to make a difference. 

“Good luck on your date. Can’t wait to hear all about it.” A message from Jamie. Claire rolled her eyes at the message and was about to reply when a voice nervously called her name. 

“Claire?”

Claire looked up to see her date standing shyly in front of her. 

“Frank,” she greeted pocketing her phone and mentally reminding herself to reply to Jamie later. “Sorry I’m late. I was just about to message you.” She was lying but he didn’t need to know that. 

“Not at all. You look lovely by the way.” Frank smiled kindly at her. 

“Thank you.” 

This was arguably the most awkward part of any date; how to properly greet each other. Shake hands, kiss on the cheek, awkwardly do nothing. Frank took the lead and quickly swooped forward placing a chaste kiss on her cheek, his hand briefly clasping her upper arm. Claire had to force herself to stand still and accept the greeting, rather than jump backwards away from him. 

It was a normal greeting, one that she should have expected- it was a date after all, but it still surprised her. 

He was clean shaven, unlike Jamie who had a small rasp of stubble on his strong jaw. Christ. She shouldn’t be comparing Frank to Jamie. They were two completely different men… Frank was older than Jamie, by a good few years. Light brown hair, very styled, gel or hairspray perhaps- brushed out of his eyes, unlike Jamie, whose hair was longer and hung messily in his eyes. Franks had soft brown eyes with laugh lines- a good sign that he was willing to live a little.

“Well, should we err, get to it?” It took Claire a moment to realise that it was Frank talking to her, and she wondered if that’s how she sounded to everyone else in Scotland. 

Frank was English. Very English. 

While Claire’s accent had morphed over the years (spending time in different countries had a tendency to do that to a person), Frank’s accent was clean and crisp. It was almost laughable to Claire. He sounded… well pompous. Claire could just imagine what Jamie or Geillis would say about him should they ever meet. Which they never would. Claire shut that thought down quickly. 

“Claire?” Frank asked again, clearly concerned that she had some kind of handicap as she stood assessing him on the street. 

“Sorry, yes of course. My mind was on other things.” 

Frank held out the crook of his arm in a very old fashioned gentlemanly way, which Claire promptly ignored and strode on ahead of him into the theatre. 

“Did you have an idea of what you wanted to see?” Claire asked looking up at the board of flashing lights advertising the available movies and times. 

When Frank didn’t answer she turned to find him unabashedly staring at her. God, did she have something on her face, or in her hair? She knew she should have straightened it. 

“Frank,” she called his name to get his attention, feeling stupid. Geillis was right. Frank was such an old man's name. 

“Sorry,” he immediately apologised taking a step forward to be next to her and look at the movie times. “This is going to sound very cheesy but you do look very nice. I suppose I was distracted.”

Claire smiled tightly at him. She was sure that it was meant as a compliment, Jamie had done and said things to the same effect after all, but she didn’t feel as warm inside when it came from Frank. It felt a bit… what was the word… predatory. Claire shook her head. She was casting some very wide judgements on a man that she knew nothing about. 

“So, the movie? Any idea?” She asked, directing the conversation to something neutral and ignoring his “compliment”. 

“Oh, whatever you like, dear,” Frank replied as he squinted to read the illuminated words. 

Dear. He called her Dear. On the first date. Oh no. No, that was not going to work at all. 

Though, Jamie did call her Sassenach. So it wasn’t that pet names were necessarily a bad thing. It was that Frank called her a name that was specifically reserved for grandparents and people that had been married for forty years. Not people you had just met for a first date. 

Though, if Jamie’s pet name was anything to go by, the English version… well Frank may as well have called her “bitch”. Claire snorted a laugh at the thought of Frank greeting her like that, as prim and proper as he was. 

“Something I’m missing?” Frank asked with a grin on his face waiting to be let in on the joke. 

“Oh no, it’s nothing,” Claire answered feeling her cheeks flush. 

Frank arched an eyebrow at her and she almost felt like she was getting in trouble for not telling him. 

“It’s just… a friend of mine… is Scottish, he calls me “Sass-en-ack”, (damn it, it sounded horrible when she didn’t have Jamie’s liquid accent) “and I was just thinking that the equivalent of that in English might as well be “bitch” and the thought of you calling me bitch… well, it just made me laugh.”

The amused smile was fixed on Franks face. Definitely fake. He nodded once as if he understood the joke (though clearly he didn’t at all) before turning back to the movie board. 

“Yes well, I wouldn’t imagine that would be the best way to greet you. A friend of yours, you said? That’s not particularly respectful. I would never do such a thing.”

“Oh no-” Claire tried to explain, “no he doesn’t mean it like that. It’s just. I’m English and the Scottish don’t particularly love the English and it’s in jest, it’s not a rude thing.”

“Yes I’ve noticed,” Frank hummed as a few teenagers passed them cackling loudly at something their friend was saying. 

“No it’s not that… it’s… never mind. It was a brief funny thought that I’d had,” Claire shook her head. She shouldn’t have tried to explain it. Jamie would have laughed. Claire made a mental note to tell him about it. “So, the film?”

“Perhaps “Mary Queen of Scots?” Frank suggested looking away from the board to the ticketing line. 

“Why not, when in Rome… or Scotland I suppose.”

Frank did laugh at that and Claire fought the urge to roll her eyes. It wasn’t even that funny. 

Waiting in line was almost exactly as Jamie had described. 

Frank asked Claire about her work and she told him about nursing. She asked him about his job and he launched into a detailed description that Claire boiled down to one word. “Historian”.

“So then you’ll be able to judge the inaccuracies of the film.”

“Oh I believe so. Not exactly the year of my personal expertise, but I have done some reading on it of course.”

“Of course, as did I,” Claire replied (somewhat sarcastically pompously). 

“Really?” Frank sounded thrilled. 

“Yes, I believe it was grade ten history… or perhaps eleventh year.”

“Oh, so not recently then?” Frank sounded immediately crestfallen. 

“Oh no, that was only… two years ago?” Claire answered pretending to be thoughtful. “I failed that class a lot.”

There was a brief pause between them as Frank studied her and Claire stared straight ahead waiting for her joke to land. 

“Your joking,” he finally said, somewhat amused. 

“I am absolutely joking,” Claire answered in relief as Frank began to laugh. “Though I have to say I am offended at how long it took you to figure that out.”

“You said it so seriously,” Fank defended still chuckling. 

“That’s called sarcasm, Frank.” At least he did know how it laugh… eventually. 

“Lowest form of humour, people say,” he said nudging her playfully. 

“And yet the most popular.” Claire grinned as the pre-pubescent usher scanned their tickets. 

—-

The movie was good. Worthy of an Oscar, Claire thought.

“Loaded with factual inaccuracies, if you ask me,” Frank said as they exited the theatre. 

Claire hadn’t. 

“I quite liked it. There needs to be some licence for creativity.”

“Oh of course, of course,” Frank immediately conceded. “I was merely pointing out, well Mary and Elizabeth never actually met in real life. And the scene of John Knox arguing about Mary taking another husband. The timeline is off, it would have been treason to say such a thing.”

“I don’t think that anyone watching the film would have known that,” Claire reasoned. 

“I knew that,” Frank said proudly. 

“Yes but you’re a historian, aren’t you? I didn’t know that, even with my very impressive and relevant eleventh year history knowledge.”

Frank chuckled lightly at Claire comment and shook his head. “No, I suppose not.”

They continued their way out of the theatre, moving slowly with the other patrons until they were standing awkwardly on the footpath where they had first met. 

“Well, shall we go get a coffee or something?” Frank suggested as he smiled at Claire. 

She hesitated. Before meeting Jamie Claire would have said yes in an instant. Frank was respectful, understood some of her jokes, he complimented her and he was clearly very intelligent. But there was no… spark, there was no zing. Unlike with Jamie whom she had hit it off immediately, even if she had been a bumbling embarrassing idiot. 

“It’s just a cup of coffee,” Frank said reading her hesitation. “We’ve hardly spoken. I would like to get to know you.”

Claire smiled at him before nodding. It was one cup of coffee. How bad could it be?

He held his arm out to her and she ignored it once again. They weren’t there yet “dear”.

Despite how the earlier date had gone and the judgements that Claire had made about Frank, she actually had a good time with him. Once he had relaxed and stopped trying to impress her, he was actually quite funny. He was clearly very intelligent, an academic, but she didn’t feel like he was talking down to her. He was very passionate about his job and very obviously loved what he did. 

He was currently completing research into the highland clans of the 1640’s and was travelling around Scotland on a research expedition. 

He actually reminded Claire a lot of her uncle and she felt the unwelcome sting of grief pick her ribcage as she thought of him. 

Lamb was- eccentric was putting it lightly, he was passionate about life, passionate about history, passionate about Claire. When he had the heart attack and was gone not even four hours later, enough time for Claire to get to the hospital and hug him once more before he slipped away, Claire was numb from the shock of it. 

Lamb who had always been so full of life, now gray and lifeless on a hospital bed. It was a shock to Claire’s system and it took her a long time to be able to move on with her life. Much faster than her parents deaths, but then she was much, much younger then. 

“Claire?” Frank’s voice brought her back to the present. “I’m sorry. I’m talking about this too much. My brother always tells me that I talk about my work too much.”

“You have a brother?” Claire latched back onto the conversation and pushed the memories of her uncle and her parents firmly to the back of her mind. 

“Yes, two actually. I’m the middle child.” 

“What’s the age difference?” Claire asked. She was always fascinated by sibling dynamics, perhaps it was the result of growing up as an only child of a single parent. 

“John is four years older and Alex is six years younger,” Frank answered, smiling at her. Obviously glad that he had her full attention again. 

“That’s quite a large gap between you all.”

“Well it certainly made growing up interesting. A house full of boys for my mother. I think she always wanted a girl so she is very soft with Alex.”

“I'm sure she’s soft with all of you,” Claire said with a laugh. “You just don’t see it because it’s you.”

Frank wrinkled his nose as he shook his head, “No, Alex has always been a soft spot for my mother.”

Claire smiled at him. She actually did quite like Frank Randall. Not as much as Jamie of course, but she didn’t actually regret coming out on a date with him as much as she thought that she would. 

“What about your father?” Claire asked before she finished the last of her coffee. 

“What about him?” Frank’s voice grew sharper, and less warm then when he spoke about his mother. 

“Does he dote on your brother as well?”

“I shouldn’t think so, we haven’t seen him since just after Alex was born.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Claire reached out and touched Frank’s hand in sympathy. 

Frank shrugged casually. “From what I can remember of him, it doesn’t seem worth having the memory.” Frank turned his hand so now they were… well they weren’t exactly holding hands, but they were touching.

“What about you? Parents? Siblings?” Frank asked as he looked up at Claire. She wanted to move, but it felt awkward to so anything so her hand sat limply in his.

“Orphaned and an only child, I’m afraid. Not much to tell.”

“Oh, Claire. I’m so sorry.” Frank sounded genuinely upset for her and Claire shrugged off his concern. 

“My uncle raised me, essentially. So I wasn’t exactly lonely. But I would have loved a sibling.”

“You’re uncle never…?”

“No,” Claire shook her head as memories of her Uncle Lamb washed through her mind. 

“Uncle Lamb, that lady was staring at your bottom,” a young and hardly innocent seven year old Claire had announced loudly to the entire cafe.

Lamb had shook his head, grinning at his young niece. “Perhaps I sat in something.”

“I don’t think so,” Claire continued, unaware of the peals of suppressed laughter coming from the patrons around them. “Stand up and let me see.”

“I’m sure it’s fine, Claire,” Lamb said kindly as his coffee arrived. 

“But if you did sit in something, then we need to wash it in soda to get it out. That’s what Mary’s mum used when she got chocolate on her skirt. That’s what Mary said. She said that her mum used soda. And I said that it would make it all sticky. That it was probably something else. But it wasn’t Uncle Lamb. It WAS soda.”

“Well, I hardly think I am going to take of my pants in this cafe to dunk them in some soda, sweetheart.”

“No, I guess not. But you can borrow my sweater when we leave, and wrap it around your waist if you like. Then more ladies won’t look at your bottom.”

“Thank goodness I have you, little Lamb. Always protecting me.” 

Claire smiled sweetly at him before she dug into the muffin and hot chocolate in front of her. 

“No, he was never really interested in relationships,” Claire said, snapping herself back to the present. “I don’t think he was particularly keen on a family until he was landed with me.”

“How old were you?” Frank asked carefully. He was trying to entwine their fingers together but Claire moved her hands to her empty coffee cup, pretending to warm her hands on the mug. The mug was cold, but Frank didn’t need to know that. 

“Six. I don’t have many memories of them. I have photos and videos of course, but it’s not quite the same. Although-” Claire paused as she wondered why she was being so open with Frank about her family history. She hadn’t told Jamie about any of this yet. 

“Yes?” Frank encouraged, his hand was still lying on the table between them, waiting to trap her own again. She was sure if she even so much as reached for a napkin, he would seize the opportunity to hold her hand again. 

“I don’t have many memories of us together. A few that I think my mind has just created from various hallmark movies, you know every memory that a child wants, Christmas, birthdays, those kinds of things.” 

Frank nodded in understanding and Claire continued. 

“But I do have these moments, like a certain smell or a sound and I’ll be transported back to when I was a child and it will be my mother’s perfume, or my father's laugh. And then it’s gone, a second later. But for a moment it’s like I can remember everything about them and they haven’t really died and I’m just waiting for them to come and pick me up from school.” Claire’s voice clogged with emotion and she had to clear her throat to continue. 

“Anyway, it doesn’t happen all that often. But it’s strange, isn’t it, the things you remember.”

“Yes, yes it is.” Frank’s forehead wrinkled in thought and he was playing with his bottom lip. 

“What?” Claire asked with a small smile as he looked back up at her quickly. 

“Well, it’s just, you were so young, and I don’t mean to be rude, but it's truly fascinating. How can you be sure that the smell of the perfume is your mothers? Or your father's laugh? How can that be?”

“Oh,” Claire felt herself flush a little under Frank’s gaze and she wasn’t entirely sure why for a moment. She hadn’t really shared those kinds of memories with anyone before. Geillis, perhaps, but that would have been years ago. Her Uncle when he was still alive, she would have told Lamb about it. He might have confirmed it- the perfume perhaps. 

Claire couldn’t quite meet Frank’s eyes. She’d shared something deeply personal with him and he was trying to pick apart the only memory she had of her parents. What did it matter that it wasn’t actually her father’s laugh or her mother’s perfume. It was the feeling that was associated with it. The feeling of family- of belonging to something. 

And Frank was, what, trying to tell her that those things weren’t real?

“I suppose I don’t know. Maybe it’s buried deep in my subconscious,” Claire answer slowly, calm and measured- trying not to be emotional in front of a man she barely knew. “Maybe it’s the echo of them on earth trying to tell me that the love me? Maybe it’s just me clutching at straws to feel like I still have some connection to my parents. Who knows. Does it matter?”

Claire met his eyes as she spoke and she saw the skepticism pass over him as she spoke. 

“They are good memories, why shouldn’t I try to gather what I can, while I can, when I was cheated from having the life with them that I was supposed to?”

“Don’t get me wrong, Claire. I completely agree,” Frank said quickly trying to back-track. “I simply meant that it is fascinating what your mind will retain as a memory and the feeling that you will associated with it, with no idea of its origin.”

Claire ground her back teeth together and nodded quickly. “Yes. Quite.”

It was awkward then. Claire wanted to end the date and Frank clearly wanted to continue. She thought about messaging Geillis with a code to call her and pretend there was some emergency that Claire needed to attend to. But she was an adult wasn’t she? She didn’t think that this date was going to go anywhere and now she had confirmed in in the last four minutes. Jamie would be thrilled. 

Claire looked at her watch. They had been chatting in the coffee shop for well over an hour and a half. That was long enough, wasn't it? Counting in the movie, she’d been with the man for over four hours. Christ. How had it taken her four hours to realise he was an idiot?

To be fair, about three of those hours were in a silent movie theatre. Jamie was right. A movie was a terrible first date idea. You couldn’t get to know someone in a movie. And in the last four to five minutes Claire had discovered that there would be no second date or quick coffee catch up (a fact she should have realised the moment she found out that Jamie was having coffee with his sister and not another date).

“I’d like to see you again-” Frank began as Claire opened her mouth to say “I think I’d best be off.”

Claire abruptly closed her mouth and held her tongue. 

“It’s not often that you meet such a… a beautiful and intelligent woman on these dating apps. It’s been very refreshing,” Frank continued unaware of Claire’s discomfort. “I’ve met a lot of very attractive women, of course, but none that are so quick, as you are.”

“Are you saying that women can only either be attractive or smart?” Claire asked as her eyes widened in surprise. 

“Oh that’s just my experience,” Frank waved away her comment. “But not you, you are both.”

“How kind,” Claire answered flatly. She didn’t take kindly to a compliment that came at the expense of another woman, even a hypothetical woman she didn’t know. 

“Yes.” Frank nodded enthusiastically, glad that Claire seemed to be following along with him. 

“I should go,” Claire said abruptly, before standing up and tucking in her chair. 

“Oh so soon?” Frank rushed to join her and bumped into the table making the mugs and saucers rattle. 

“Yes I-” Claire hesitated. She has been about to make some excuse about needing to work early in the morning. In truth she had the next two days off work. She had no real obligations and no real reason to leave except that Frank Randall turned out to be a bit of a jerk. 

She couldn’t say that to him, could she?

“Yes,” she repeated. Claire didn’t owe him anything, false explanation or the truth. She could just leave. 

“Well, should we schedule our next date?” Frank asked eagerly as he followed her out of the cafe. 

Claire called up her Uber app and quickly scheduled a ride. She could pretend she hadn’t heard him and that she was concentrating on her phone. But he would just ask again. 

“Erm.” As much as she wanted to be the type of person that told the truth all the time, and was painfully blunt with people, she just wasn’t. She could be at work, but that was work. This was different. 

“I am working this week, so much schedule is a little bit hectic. I haven’t received my full roster yet and I may be on call,” She hedged. 

“Oh well, shall I just text you then?” Frank asked. He was disappointed. Claire could tell. But she couldn’t find it in herself to care. 

“Sure.” Claire felt her phone vibrate in her hand as her Uber approached. 

“Well I had a lovely time,” Frank said taking a step towards her. She nearly took a step back if it meant she wouldn’t then be standing in the pathway of oncoming traffic. 

“Yes,” Claire answered lamely. She’d had… well it hadn’t been terrible, until the end there. 

“May I kiss you goodbye?” He asked softly, looking at her carefully. 

God no. Please no. 

“This is me,” Claire breathed in relief as a black Mazda pulled up in front of her. 

Frank looked even more disappointed as she opened the door. She thought that he might have tried to kiss her, regardless of her giving her permission or not and all she wanted to do was get out of there as quickly as possible. 

“It was nice to meet you, Frank,” she said kindly, turning back to him once more. He was much closer than she thought and she was surprised when his lips met hers. 

So much for asking. 

Claire pulled back suddenly and Frank was smiling at her mischievously. 

“I’ve been thinking about that all night,” he said quietly. 

Claire was stunned into silence. He’d just gone from being a bit of a jerk to down right creepy. 

“Bye Frank,” she said harshly before climbing into the car and slamming the door shut. 

She fought back a shudder as she unlocked her phone and opened a new message to Jamie. 

“You were right. Feel free to rub it in whenever you like.”

And then a moment later. 

“Are you free tomorrow? I would like to make good on part of our bet.”

Chapter Text

Try as she might, Claire could not stop thinking about her first date with Jamie. Specifically how the date had ended. In bed. Naked. Which was an issue because she was meant to be doing her rounds on the ward and her mind continued to wander. Thinking about Jamie. His hands. His mouth. His unbridled enthusiasm. The memory was good, certainly, but Claire couldn’t wait to see him again and do it all over again. Refresh her memory as it were.

The old woman cleared her throat bringing Claire’s mind back to what she was doing. She had the chart in her hands, her pen hovering over the spot she was supposed to write the blood pressure. Except that the screen was now blank and Claire, for the life of her, couldn’t remember the numbers.

“That doesn’t seem right,” she mumbled, hoping to sound like she had been thinking deeply over the numbers, rather than lost in her own imagination (the way Jamie’s fingers danced across her skin, the way the sweat gathered at his hairline, the joy on his face as he collapsed beside her).

“I might just try it again,” she said a little louder to her patient. Claire flicked the machine back to life and watched as the cuff swelled on the patient's arm. Her eyes flicked up to the screen and she told herself that she would focus and memorise the numbers. She wouldn’t think about the way that the muscles in Jamie’s stomach contracted when she ran her hands down his body feeling the coarse, springy hair on his chest. Or the way that he had fallen asleep next to her, a quirk of his mouth that told her that he was happy, or at the very least- satisfied.

129/80. Claire blinked clearing her head and she quickly wrote down the numbers from the screen.

“That’s what it was a’fore, when ye first took it,” the old woman said as Claire removed the cuff from her arm.

“It’s a bit high, I wanted to make sure,” Claire explained, glad that she had double checked. 129/80 was quite high and she might need to talk to one of the doctors about giving the old woman something.

“Can I get you anything? A cup of tea? Another blanket?” Claire asked as she hung up the board and packed away the machine ready to wheel it back out of the room.

“Aye, a cuppa would be grand,” the old woman grumbled. Claire couldn’t remember her patients the name, despite the fact that she had just been looking at her chart.

“Of course. I’ll be back in a moment.” Claire wheeled the cart out of the room, parking it out of the way before taking a deep breath and shaking her head. ‘Get a grip, Beauchamp.’

Her date with Frank had gone exactly how Jamie had said and now Claire was anxious to see Jamie again. Unfortunately her working schedule seemed to have other ideas and she was posted on evening shifts for the remainder of the week.

Jamie had replied to her message after her date with Frank with a not so subtle “told you so” and Claire wasn’t particularly looking forward to having him rub it in her face. Though she was looking forward to seeing him again and hopefully making whatever they were, a thing. An official thing.

Claire returned to the patient's room (Mrs Harland) with a cup of tea before plopping herself back down at the nurses station and rubbing her eyes.

“Ye alright pet?” The voice of Claire’s best friend said from above her.

“I’m fine. Just tired,” Claire answered, keeping her head in her hands.

“Weel, by my watch ye’ve still got another two hours left in yer shift and ye have’na yet told me about yer date.”

“Oh, that,” Claire grunted as she looked up her friend who was watching her carefully.

“Aye, that. What happened?”

“Well,” Claire drew out the word as she sighed. “His name was Frank,” Claire said as Geillis nodded eagerly. “And it went about as well as it would go with someone named Frank,” Claire finished while Geillis cackled with laughter. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the name Frank,” Claire continued as her put her head in her hands. “I don’t know… He just… he called me “Darling”. We’d only just met for goodness sake, and he called me “Darling”.”

Geillis (uncharacteristically) wasn’t saying anything, but her grin spread from ear to ear.

“I suppose you want all the gory details then?” Claire asked as she raised her head to look at her friend.

“Aye, o’ course I do. This is what happens when I’m in a relationship and ye’re single. I can live vicariously through ye, and cringe at all yer atrocious date stories.” Gellis drew out the chair next to Claire with a flourish and plopped herself down as the springs in the ancient chair squeaked. “Go-on then, I’m ready.”

Claire rubbed a hand over her face as she groaned. “Well, I was late” she began before Geillis immediately cut her off.

“Yer never late!” She exclaimed in surprise. “Ye’ll turn up early to yer own funeral.”

“I know, not exactly the best start to a date,” Claire shook her head before she continued. “We saw a movie, he’s a teacher… no, a historian and it just… there wasn’t really a spark. I made a joke, and you know, it wasn’t overly hilarious, but then I had to explain it to him, and it just… there was no flow. Anyway, we saw a movie, which was fine and then we went and had a coffee afterward and…” Claire paused as she tried to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with the date with Frank.

“What happened when ye went for coffee? Why did ye even go for coffee if ye kent the date was’na goin’ that weel?” Geillis interrupted Claire’s thoughts.

“I went because… well, we hadn’t really talked very much and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing something.”

“Ye said that there was no spark, did ye ken that before or after the coffee?”

“After for sure, but… I suppose I knew it at the start. I just didn’t want to be to hasty in making a judgement before I had actually spoken with him,” Claire explained.

“But ye’ve got yer other lad. Why go on a date in the first place? There’s already a spark there isn’t there? Or is that no more?” Geillis pressed, and Claire looked up at her friend in surprise.

Claire hadn’t told Geillis about the date with Frank until she needed to, and clearly Geillis had many more thoughts on the matter than Claire had expected.

“I told you, I don’t like cancelling plans,” Claire answered hesitantly.

“I dinna believe that for a momen’. Ye dinna like cancelling plans,” Geillis scoffed sarcastically. “That’s not a good enough excuse, Claire, and ye ken it.”

Claire opened her mouth to respond before closing it again. No, it wasn’t the only reason she had agreed to go on the date. Yes, she had been the one to respond to Frank and set up the date and it would have looked bad for her to pull out the day before, but it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. Maybe if they had gone on several dates before that one and she had found someone else, then yes, she would owe him the courtesy of a date or a meeting to at least explain that it would be the last time they saw each other. But this was a first date. People cancelled first dates all the time, Claire had been the recipient of a few late cancellations but for some reason she had followed through with this one. Despite Jamie’s obvious discomfort with it. Despite Geillis’ surprise when Claire told her about it. Despite Claire’s own misgivings about meeting someone new when she knew that she would only be thinking about Jamie. Why was it so important for her to go on a date with Frank Randall?

Geillis suddenly let out a noise of understanding and Claire looked back her friend who was in turn studying Claire quite intently.

“What?”

“Yer scared,” Geillis answered confidently, leaning forward on her chair as if to emphasize her point. “Yer scared that yer putting all yer eggs into one basket wi’ this other lad, who has actually seen you for you.”

“Geillis, that’s not-” Claire began before Geillis waved her off.

“Yer scared that ye might feel something for this other lad, what’s his name?”

“Jamie,” Claire supplied quietly.

“Jamie, aye, ye might feel something for Jamie, and so ye immediately went lookin’ for a way to sabotage whatever ye have with him.” Gellis sat back proudly and waited for Claire to respond to her diagnosis. When Claire didn’t say anything, Geillis said “thought so” quietly, causing Claire to frown at her.

“Yes alright. Christ. It is scary. This thing with Jamie is much, much more than I ever thought it would be and when I saw him with another woman, I panicked.”

“Ye saw him with another woman?” Geillis sat up quickly and nearly fell off her chair.

“It was his sister,” Claire waved off the question and was about to continue when Geillis interrupted her again.

“His sister? He told ye that?”

“We had dinner, and it came up and … and...”
Claire stuttered before she was interrupted by Geillis again.

“Let me get this right. Ye saw Jamie with another lass, so ye organised a date with another lad. Then it turned out to be his sister, and ye followed through on this other date because yer scared about what ye feel for Jamie, and so ye thought that going on a date with someone else would what, change how ye felt?” Geillis summarised the past few days of Claire’s life with frightening accuracy.

“Well it sounds bad when you say it like that,” Claire groaned as she covered her face in her hands.

“It does’na matter how I say it pet, it is bad. Yer a right daft numpty, aren’t ye?”

“Yes, I know, it was a mistake.” Claire’s voice was muffled from behind her hands but she didn’t dare show Geillis how red her face was as it burned with shame.

“It’s more than a mistake Claire. Christ. Yer supposed to be a functioning adult, and this is the stuff of… of girls… of people that dinna ken how their actions affect other people. I’ve seen toddlers with better cognitive reasoning than ye right now.”

“I know.”

“Do ye? Jamie kent about this other date?”

“Yes, we spoke about it. It’s how I found out that he was with his sister and not some other woman.”

“And he was alright with ye seein’ another man?”

“Well, no, not exactly,” Claire answered hesitantly.

“And that wasn’t enough to cancel yer date with this other lad?” Geillis practically screeched at Claire. “Christ! If he still wants to see ye now he’s either a complete eejit or totally taken wi’ ye to the point that he’ll act like an eejit.”

Claire didn’t know how to respond and rather than incriminate herself further, chose to remain silent.

“Yer scared about what ye feel for Jamie,” Geillis clarified as Claire nodded stiffly in response. “So ye led this other lad on, in the hope of distractin’ yerself from what you feel. Jesus, Claire. What if it had gone well? Then where would ye be?”

“Well, it didn’t. So that’s not so much of a worry anymore.”

“It certainly is still a worry. Now ye’ve got to explain to this other lad that ye dinna want to see him any more, and puir Jamie is probably goin’ out of his mind wonderin’ if something minor ever happens between the two of ye, that ye’ll go straight out lookin’ for another lad. Did ye not think of any of this?” Geillis rubbed her forehead as if she was trying to banish a persistent headache while Claire chewed her thumbnail nervously.

“I’ve spoken to Jamie,” She said quietly as Geillis looked at her skeptically. “We’ll work it out. If… if what we have is on the same page as each other, then I’ll delete the app.”

“Ye think that will be enough?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Christ Claire!” Geillis exclaimed almost jumping out of her chair and making Claire flinch. “Yer one of the smartest people I ken, but yer verra stupid sometimes.” Without waiting for a response, Geillis continued, “Ye went straight to another man when ye got spooked. Datin’ Apps are’na the only way of meeting people.”

“But I’m not like that, I don’t go hooking up with random men on the street,” Claire defended.

“Aye, I ken that, but I’ve also known ye for nigh on 14 years. Ye’ve known Jamie for all of three weeks, ye think he kens that about ye?”

Claire once again opened her mouth to respond, but realising that she didn’t really know what to say, she shut it again.

“Yer an absolute numpty, ye ken that, don’t ye?” Geillis said with a sigh as Claire nodded in agreement. “When are ye seein’ Jamie again?”

“I'm working evening’s all week. Not till Saturday.”

“Thank god ye’ve got time then. I hope ye’ve got a hell of an apology speech prepared for him, not to mention the one ye’ll need to give to this Frank lad for leading him on.”

“I didn’t lead him on,” Claire quickly defended as Geillis rolled her eyes.

“Ye organised and went on a date with him, and went to get coffee with the lad. Ye led him on.”

“But I haven’t contacted him since the date,” Claire tried to reason.

“From yesterday? Ye have’na contacted him since yesterday? Weel, yer a bloody saint then aren’t ye?” Geillis said sarcastically.

“I’m not saying that!”

“Aye, but ye are’na takin’ responsibility for goin’ on this other date when ye kent it was the wrong decision.”

“I didn’t realise that you had such strong feelings about me dating Jamie,” Claire grumbled, crossing her arms across her chest.

“I saw ye after yer date with the lad. Ye were different, and I’m seeing ye now after yer other date. There’s a difference and ye’ve royally fucked up between the two of them.”

“I thought that the whole point of dating was to see what was out there.”

“Aye, but when ye find what is out there, ye dinna go and make plans with somethin’ else. Ye get together wi’ what ye found.” Geillis sounded exasperated with Claire, and Claire’ couldn’t really blame her.

It had been her fear that had made her reach out to Frank. Her fear that she was too invested in Jamie. Her fear that he was seeing another woman. Her fear that this new relationship, or whatever it was with Jamie was a match, not a bonfire. Something that would strike and burn brightly, but disappear soon after. She wanted a slow burn, the burn that would keep her warm for years to come and it was the fear of losing it, and if she was really honest with herself, of actually having that kind of relationship that made her make stupid, impulsive decisions. She was stupid for going on the date with Frank, rather than just cancelling it, she was stupid for stringing Jamie along and she was stupid for thinking that she was meant to keep looking, even after she was sure she had found what she wanted with Jamie.

“It’s not just you, Claire. Ye brought other people into yer life, ye invited them in and they are affected by yer decisions,” Geillis said softly.

“I know,” Claire sighed. “I didn’t realise that you were so invested in all of this, invested in me.”

“Yer my best friend, I care about ye and who yer seeing. But I’m also the kind of person that’s going to call ye out on yer bullshit when yer sabotaging yer own happiness. And that’s exactly what yer doing.”

“So I should be thankful for this verbal smackdown then?”

“Aye, ye should always be thankful for a conversation wi’ me.”

The two women sat in silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts before Geillis spoke again.

“What do ye think Jamie is goin’ to say?”

Claire shrugged. “I don’t know. We made plans to see each other, but… who knows if he’ll want anything to do with me, knowing that I am a complete ass.”

“Weel, havin’ seen yer arse, pet, I’m sure he’ll want a little more of ye,” Geillins grinned cheekily.

“Charming,” Claire snorted as she rolled her eyes.

“Just… dinna be making any more rash decisions, talk to Jamie, like an adult and make a decision from there. Ye also need to contact this other lad, Frank, terrible name, and let him down easy. He might have had a good time wi’ ye and it’s better to be honest wi’ him now, rather than leave it and leave him wonderin’ what happened. Edinburgh is remarkably small sometimes and ye dinna want to be runnin’ into him on the street, caught unawares.”

“A wealth of knowledge as always Geillis,” Claire said with a sigh as she stood up and stretched her legs, ready to complete the next rounds of her patients.

“Aye, older, wiser, better lookin’,” Gellis listed dramatically before also standing and looking over her charts.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Claire laughed before she headed down the hall, grinning, but also with a thousand thoughts running through her mind. Geillis had brought up some things that Claire had tried very hard to ignore. What to do about Frank and how the hell was she supposed to apologise to Jamie?

--

The week simultaneously dragged and moved faster than Claire anticipated. She was eager to see Jamie and in those moments the days dragged by as Claire checked her watch, waiting for the day to end to be one day closer to him.

Other times she was petrified of seeing him, not knowing what she was supposed to say to him and at those times the clock took on a life of its own and the day was done before she’d really had a chance to process it.

She and Jamie had been texting back and forth- It wasn’t complete radio silence. Jamie (thankfully) hadn’t brought up the other date and Claire had been steering clear of any conversation that would discuss what exactly they were.

Frank had sent her a message on the dating app two days after their date. Claire hadn’t replied. She didn’t know what she was supposed to say. She also hadn’t deleted the application. She wanted to do that in front of Jamie. A symbolic gesture to show that she was committed to whatever they were.

She knew that she would have to bite the bullet and message Frank back, but what the fuck was she meant to say to him?

-I had a really nice time with you, I can’t wait to see you again.-

The message from Frank felt like it was burning a hole in every pair of pants she owned when she put her phone in her pocket. She knew that it would be a simple message and she knew that she was definitely making a bigger deal out of her reply than she needed too but none of that helped her actually compose a message.

Friday night, the end of her work week, her last evening shift, saw her sitting on her couch in her light blue scrubs, thumbs hovering over the screen on an empty message to Frank. Throughout the week she had decided that she needed to reply to him before her date with Jamie. Jamie needed to see that there wasn’t going to be anyone else on her standby list while they discovered… whatever it was that they were.

-Hi Frank.-

The blinking cursor taunted her as she tried to figure out what to say next.

-I had a nice time on Monday-

Claire paused. She’d already led the man on once, did that sentence open him up to more hope. Claire deleted the sentence.

-Thank you for the movie on Monday.-

Good lord. She sounded so formal. Was she breaking up with a business acquaintance?

-Despite the good time we had on Monday I think it would be best if we didn’t see each other again-

Fucking hell. It sounded like she was being held for ransom by someone.

Claire closed the app and googled “how to break up with someone on an app”. Fuck it. If google couldn’t help her she was screwed.

After reading several articles and pulling a few ideas together she crafted her text.

-Hi Frank, thanks for the movie and coffee the other night. I’ve given it some thought and while I enjoyed talking with you, I don’t think that we should see each other again. I hope your deep dive into Scottish history is as rewarding as you made it sound. Wish you all the best. Claire.-

Claire tweaked, poked and prodded the message until she was finally happy with it. Taking a deep breath (and a few shots of her very expensive, supposedly delicious whisky that made her gag) she pressed send.

There. It was done. She was as polite as she could be and she’d done it. She didn’t know why she was so scared about sending that one message. She’d sent messages to men that she didn’t want to see before. Although most other dates she had been on had either been so terrible she didn’t mind shutting them down, or they both hadn’t felt a spark or anything close to a spark and had never contacted each other again.

There was nothing completely wrong with her date with Frank Randall, it was just that there wasn’t anything that was totally right with it either.

Claire almost leapt off her couch as her phone vibrated next to her.

A message from Jamie. Goodness why was she so jumpy?

-What’s the plan for tomorrow?-

Claire had put a lot of thought into her date with Jamie on Saturday. Or rather, she had put a lot of thought into the end of the date, she just hadn’t planned the before part… the actual date.

-Dinner at mine?- Claire suggested. She could make dinner. It was only fair. He had made dinner for her last week, besides she needed to impress him someway- try and butter him up before she apologised and they had “the” talk.

Claire waiting impatiently for Jamie to reply, flicking aimlessly between apps (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, back to Facebook, Tumblr, Facebook and so on).

Finally Jamie responded, she gave him her address and then that was that.

Claire sat on her couch, restless. She was tired after her week of evening shifts and her talk with Geillis had left her somewhat rattled. It called up a lot of the thoughts that Claire had been forcibly trying to ignore about herself. That at the core of herself, as much as she wanted to be confident, she was not. When all those layers were stripped away though, she was scared- she was terrified of being alone. Thank you unresolved grief from childhood. The death of her parents had really done a number on her.

The thing that terrified her the most about Jamie is that she felt more like herself then she had in a long time when she was with him and she didn’t really know him that well. There was just something about him that made her want to show him who she was- And that was fucking terrifying.

Geillis had said that she’d known Claire for 14 years, and that was right, but it was only in the last three years that Claire had really opened herself up to her friend.

Claire had known Jamie for three weeks and she wanted to tell him about her whole life, things that had taken Geillis years and years and years to get out of her.

Claire wanted to impress Jamie. There was something about him that made her want to do better- to be better- and still she went on a date with someone else.

Trust. Claire struggled with the concept of trusting people. The people that she trusted, left, and quite quickly at that. First her parents in the accident, then her fourth grade best friend that suddenly decided she didn’t want to be Claire’s friend anymore. Her first boyfriend, Aaron, who Claire thought would be her husband (the naivety of a 16 year old) who decided that Claire’s friend Katherine was a much better fit for him. They’d been married for almost four years, so he was probably correct in thinking that, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt. Then her Uncle Lamb. Cancer was meant to be a slow death, Claire was supposed to have time to say goodbye, but he was gone far too quickly for her to even process that he had gone when she was putting him in the ground.

So what was it about Jamie that made her want to impress him and tell him every gory aspect of her fucked up life? Why did she want him to see everything that she was and (dare she think it) love her anyway?

Every other date that she’d had with that stupid app, she had dressed up, straightened her hair, worn clothing she could hardly breathe in, let alone eat in and tried to impress them, and nothing worked. Nothing made her want to, for the want of a better word, expose herself and show who she truly was.

Maybe it was just the fact that she went on the first date with Jamie as herself, no fancy frills, no suit of armour and he decided that it was enough (more than enough) for him.

Although, by that logic- she had also gone on the date with Frank as “herself” and that didn’t turn out so well. She even told him about her memories of her parents, something she hardly ever spoke about (despite the fact that it was rarely far from her mind).

Claire rubbed her eyes tiredly and felt her phone vibrate on the couch next to her. Thinking that it was a message from Jamie she swiped it open without opening her eyes.

Her brow furrowed as she read the same text she had seen before. Not a message from Jamie then. Swiping down on the notifications she saw something from Frank in the dating app.

Crap.

Of course he was bound to reply to her. She could just ignore it. But then she wanted to show Jamie that she was deleting the app and she didn’t want to show an unread message. Truth be told, she was planning on showing him the conversation between her and Frank to show that she was well and truly broken it off. Claire scoffed at herself. “Broken it off” like she had been seeing the man regularly. It was one date.

-So no second date then? I was thinking we could go on a walking tour of the castle and I could show you a bit more about my line of work. You seemed so interested. I’m free tomorrow?-

Claire’s eyes widened at the message and she read her own again, just to confirm that she had definitely not left the window open for another date.

“I don’t think we should see each other again.”

No, it was definitely there. Claire’s fingers hovered over her keyboard as she tried to figure out how to reply.

-The fuck? No!-

Claire snorted at the message and deleted the words.

-I don’t think so. Have a good night.-

There that was polite and nice and simple and it didn’t lead to any further conversation… or further suggestions of a date.

-Sunday then?- Frank replied and Claire laughed out loud. He was persistent, should could give him that… though not necessarily a good thing, especially when a woman says no. Claire couldn’t think of a time when she had ever say “no” to a man, only to be thinking “dear god yes”. Otherwise she would have just said “oh dear god yes”.

-No. I think it best if we left things here.-

Claire hoped that a more straightforward approach would put an end to the conversation.

It didn’t.

-I thought you had a good time?-

Claire didn’t reply. It didn’t seem worth it.

-Could you at least tell me why?-

The message started to come in quickly then.

-Claire?-

-You’re not even going to reply?-

-Just going to pretend like we didn’t have a nice time together?-

-Claire?-

-I think it’s a pretty reasonable request.-

-This is incredibly rude. Just ignoring these messages.-

-It’s not like I’m asking for something difficult. I think I deserve to know why, especially when you said yourself that you had a nice time.-

-So you didn’t have a good time then? That was just a line? I don’t need your pity.-

Good lord. She’d picked a real winner here. This was more than a close call with a relationship with someone. Claire had well and truly dodged a bullet.

-I go on a lot of these dates. I thought we had something and you’re just going to blow your chance without even talking to me about it.-

-Really mature Claire.-

Claire laughed at the messages. She couldn’t help herself. Yes, in this scenario she was the immature one. 12 messages in a row and she was the one that wasn’t handling things like an adult. Thank goodness she had Jamie to look forward to tomorrow. She clicked off her phone, silencing it from the onslaught of pings that continued to come from the dating app and went to bed.

Saturday. Jamie’s day- as Claire had been referring to it in her head. He wasn’t coming over until dinner time and Claire was going to use the time in between productively. She was going to clean her house. She was going to wash her hair and shave, wax and pluck every unsightly hair on her body. She was going to exfoliate, she was going to moisturise, she would do a sheet mask, drink a glass of wine and make the best dinner Jamie had ever had in his life and then if things went according to plan- she would completely and thoroughly fuck his brains out.

Claire’s house had never been so clean, since the day she moved in several years ago, her skin had never been so smooth since (she was sure) she was born and the dinner she had made was the best tasting thing she’d ever made on the planet. Well, to be fair- The second dinner that she made. The first dinner didn’t make it out of the oven so well after she’d fallen asleep on the couch with her face mask on and woken up to the smell of smoking vegetables and a pile of ash where a piece of lamb used to be.

Claire fixed her hair, was bravely wearing minimal makeup and had changed into three (eight- she didn’t count just switching out a shirt to be a completely new outfit) different outfits. Now all she had to do was wait. She sat on her couch staring down a glass of wine. Jamie said that he would be there at 7pm. It was 6:32. She could have just one glass while she waited. Though truthfully, it would be her third.

The first was when she was removing every unwanted follicle of hair from her body- liquid courage.

The second was when she was making her second round of dinner.

The third was sitting on the coffee table in front of her. Waiting to be drunk.

As she made up her mind and took a sip there was a polite knock on her door.

6:45 (had she really been staring at a glass of wine for fifteen minutes?). The sudden onslaught of butterflies in her stomach made it difficult to swallow the mouthful of wine. Looking around her living room she confirmed that everything was in place before she opened her front door.

Damn it- he was attractive. Damn it- he was mouth watering. Damn it- she needed to stop objectifying him. Damn it- she needed to stop becoming so speechless whenever she saw him. Damn it- she needed to pay attention to what he was saying. Damn it- she needed to move out of the doorway.

“What?” She asked stupidly. She hadn’t even greeted him. Why was he so damn attractive? There was just something about him that just did things to her. He wasn’t even that dressed up. Casual jeans and a dark blue button down shirt. What would he look like in a suit? Or a kilt? Claire’s mouth ran dry at the thought.

“I said ye look bonnie, Sassenach.”

Goodness. Had it really only been a week since she’d heard his smooth Scottish burr? Only he could call her Sassenach and send her weak at the knees.

“Please come in, make yourself at home.” Claire stood to the side and he ducked his head at her as he passed. Damn it- he even smelt amazing. People like Jamie Fraser were simply not allowed to exist.

Claire closed the door slowly behind Jamie. He seemed to know his way through her apartment well enough. She needed a moment to catch her breath. Seeing Jamie again was like being smacked in the face with a wave of emotion. She missed him. She actually missed him and seeing him again was like feeling a piece of a puzzle slide into place. She’d thought it before- on their first date. It was like coming home. Of course it was much, much too early in… whatever they were, to be feeling things like that- she just hoped that her face wasn’t telling Jamie all of that. She knew she had a glass face and she really didn’t want to scare Jamie off with the depth of her attraction to him.

“Good week?” Jamie asked conversationally was he watched her plate up their dinner.

Best. Meal. Ever.

Claire was very proud of herself as she saw Jamie close his eyes and smell the plate she put in front of him. Yes it smelt good. She just prayed that it tasted good as well.

“Busy. Working. How about you?” Claire poured a more than generous amount of wine into their glasses.

“Aye, same. Lots of spelling errors, grammar issues and I read one truly awful manuscript. Vampires, wolves and fairies set in 3045 but everythin’ had gone backward to 1645. Didn’t make a lot of sense.” Jamie shook his head before he started eating. Claire watched him carefully, waiting for any sign that he either loved or hated the meal.

“It was in that strange category where it was sah bad- it was good- ye ken? Where ye canna put it down but yer just frustrated by the whole thing,” he continued before shovelling in more food.

“I stopped at chapter 14 because the spelling and grammar got so bad I could’na deal wit’ it anymore.”

Claire nodded along politely as she barely touched her food. The butterflies that had been fluttering through her stomach all afternoon had turned into a full blown hornets hive of activity and it felt like they were slowly crawling up her throat- choking her.

“Anyway, I got most of the assignments out the door before they were due, so next week should be easier unless there’s something that I’ve missed.” Jamie paused briefly, wiping his mouth on a napkin. “This is really good. Where’d ye learn to cook?”

Claire’s voice hadn’t yet managed to resurface and she shrugged simply in response. She was being ridiculous. Why could she not talk to Jamie? She had been thinking about their date all week, finally ready to clear the air and now that she actually had him in front of her- she was tongue tied.

“My uncle, living around the world,” she finally said in short bursts.

“My sister Jen is really the cook in the family. There is’na a meal that she’s made that’s been bad. She says she just follows the recipe but I reckon it’s gotta be natural talent. Some people just have, ye ken?” Jamie carried the conversation, if he was aware of Claire’s nervousness he did a very good job of not showing it.

He asked her occasional questions and she managed a one or two word response before he continued in his story.

Claire cleared up the plates- her plate hardly touched and Jamie’s almost licked clean, as Jamie made his way into her living room and onto her couch.

“I didn’t really take much notice of yer place, the last time I was here,” Jamie called out from the living room. Claire almost dropped the plates in the sink as she remembered with student clarity her first (and only) night with Jamie.

“I like the artwork on yer walls,” he continued, unaware of the hot flush that Claire was currently experiencing. “Reminds me of my Mam. She used to paint the same way.”

Claire could hear Jamie moving around the small space and she took the time to take a few fortifying gulps of air before she brought out a tumbler of the good whiskey for him and a cup of coffee for herself.

Jamie turned to look at her as she entered the room and she nearly dropped everything. He was smiling widely at her, deep, long dimples forming on his cheeks and his eyes crinkling at the edges. Blue eyes sparkling and wavy red hair that was in desperate need of a trim. Good lord. Did he know how attractive he was?

“Whisky for you. Coffee for me.” Claire placed the drinks on the coffee table and tried to make herself comfortable on the couch. She tried to relax, she tried to look at ease but as soon as Jamie sat next to her, she could feel herself trembling from head to toe.

“I still dinna understand how ye can sleep when ye have coffee so late. Surely that’s no’ good for ye?” Jamie picked up the whisky and took a savouring sip and closing his eyes.

“I don’t plan on sleeping tonight,” Claire wanted to say but she bit her tongue and shrugged instead.

“So,” Jamie said shuffling slightly so that he moved closer to Claire.

“So,” Claire repeated, carefully putting her coffee on the table in front of him and feeling his thigh brush up against her own.

“Elephant in the room then,” Jamie said seriously and Claire felt her heart sink somewhere to her feet. She knew that it was going to come up eventually and she had braced herself for it all night. Though if Jamie didn’t want to see her anymore, he probably wouldn’t have stayed for dinner. But he probably would want to know all about the date and Claire wasn’t looking forward to that part.

Claire nodded solemnly. She had sworn to herself that she would tell him anything he wanted to know and that she would show him the messages and delete the app. Regardless if he didn’t want to date her, she would delete the app. She’d had enough of the one off dates for a long time anyway.

“We’ve a choice to make here. And it will affect the rest of our night together, so I want ye to think about this carefully. Right?”

Jamie’s voice was soft and Claire was willing her body to stop shaking with nerves. She liked him so much. Why did she have to like him so much? She shouldn’t be this nervous. There was nothing going on between her and anyone else. But if Jamie said that he didn’t want to see her again, she would be crushed. She really liked him.

“Are ye ready?” Jamie asked seriously and Claire took a deep breath.

“Now. I see ye have connect four and monopoly. So. Which is it?”

Chapter Text

Previously- 

“Elephant in the room then,” Jamie said seriously and Claire felt her heart sink somewhere to her feet. She knew that it was going to come up eventually and she had braced herself for it all night. Though if Jamie didn’t want to see her anymore, he probably wouldn’t have stayed for dinner. But he probably would want to know all about the date and Claire wasn’t looking forward to that part.

Claire nodded solemnly. She had sworn to herself that she would tell him anything he wanted to know and that she would show him the messages and delete the app. Regardless if he didn’t want to date her, she would delete the app. She’d had enough of the one off dates for a long time anyway.

“We’ve a choice to make here. And it will affect the rest of our night together, so I want ye to think about this carefully. Right?”

Jamie’s voice was soft and Claire was willing her body to stop shaking with nerves. She liked him so much. Why did she have to like him so much? She shouldn’t be this nervous. There was nothing going on between her and anyone else. But if Jamie said that he didn’t want to see her again, she would be crushed. She really liked him.

“Are ye ready?” Jamie asked seriously and Claire took a deep breath.

“Now. I see ye have Connect Four and Monopoly. So. Which is it?”

 

----

 

“I’m sorry?” Claire asked, dumbfounded.

“It’s the elephant in the room. I’ve been wonderin’ all night and I canna wait to see what ye choose,” Jamie continued happily, as if he hadn’t heard Claire at all.

“Connect four- verra simple sounding game, but ye need a good strategy- ye need to ken yer opponent.”

“We’re doing what now?” Claire tried to interrupt, but Jamie carried on.

“Monopoly’s been known to ruin marriages, friendships, relationships. It’s not just strategy, it’s greed and a wee bit of luck.”

“You want to play a board game?” Claire clarified as Jamie sat looking at her expectantly.

“Aye, what did ye think I was asking ye about?”

The smug bastard. He knew exactly what he was doing and of course there was part of Claire that knew this was her comeuppance for going on the other date but at the same time- he was a bloody smug bastard about it.

“I wasn’t sure,” Claire answered cautiously. She moved from the couch to fetch one of the games and looked back over her shoulder at Jamie, “You don’t have a preference then?”

“Oh I have a preference about yer choices, Sassenach. But it is yer decision after all.”

The air was thick with the double meaning and Claire looked back to the cupboard, trying to weigh her options. She also had Hungry Hungry Hippos but Jamie hadn’t mentioned that one. She supposed there wasn’t really a third option, unless she counted Hungry Hungry Hippos as Horny Horny Beauchamp, in which case she hoped that the third option would be explored later in the night.

“Connect Four,” Claire announced decisively as she pulled the game from the cupboard. “A game of strategy and knowing your opponent, didn’t you say? Should be fun.”

“Aye Sassenach. I believe it will.”

Three rounds. Three rounds she had lost to Jamie and now she was getting frustrated. Frustrated not only for losing, but for the comments that Jamie was making throughout each and every loss.

“Ye dinna want to be puttin’ that there. Unless ye’re tryin’ to lose. Are ye tryin’ to lose, Sassenach?”

“And ye see, when ye are’na payin’ attention to what I’m doing on the left. Ye’ll lose on the right.”

“Yer supposed to get four in a row, no’ just three.”

“Shall we reset? Are ye ready to lose again?”

By the fourth time, Claire had had enough and she huffed heavily as Jamie separated the coloured plastic discs once more.

“Ye ready?”

Clearly it was going to drastic action to win against Jamie. Maybe… even… possibly…. just a little bit of cheating? No, she couldn’t stoop that low… could she?

“I’m ready,” Claire nodded solemnly, her eyes on the blue grid separating them. Jamie made a soft sort of grunt and Claire glanced at him quickly. “What?”

“Are ye sure yer ready?” Jamie asked as he picked up his yellow coin and held it precariously over a gap in the middle.

Claire nodded resolutely, her eyes focused on the game in front of her. She was going to win this round.

“If yer sure…” Jamie said as he carelessly let the plastic coin drop into place.

Claire bit her lip as she concentrated. She had been playing hard defence against him, trying to stop him from scoring and somehow she always lost. It was time she went on the attack. Picking up a red coin her eyes briefly brushed over Jamie’s face, to see him watching her intently before she placed her coin.

They went back and forth silently, only the sound of the plastic tokens hitting their targets between them. As their tokens dwindled, Jamie shuffled uncomfortably and Claire saw it. Finally she saw it- an opportunity for her to win. Two possible moves that would seal the deal for her. Either side of one of Jamie’s yellow tokens. She could actually win a round against him.

To play to the left or the right of the yellow, that was the real question. She wondered if Jamie had seen the same thing that she had and she glanced up at him quickly. He wasn’t looking at the game at all, but rather openly watching her as she went to make her move. She nodded to herself and picked up her token. She was going to win this. She was hovering between the two when Jamie spoke.

“So how was yer date the other night?” He asked casually and Claire dropped the token in surprise, landing it directly on top of Jamie’s.

“I want that back!” She said automatically as Jamie scoffed with laughter. “You distracted me, I didn’t mean for it to go there.”

“Too late now, Sassenach,” Jamie said smugly as he let his next piece slide into place, blocking one of her options.

“Cheat,” Claire mumbled as she fiddled with her next red piece. Now she would need to re-think her entire strategy, not to mention her heart was beating irregularly with the question from Jamie.

“Ye did’na answer my question,” Jamie continued as if he hadn’t heard her.

“It was fine,” Claire answered with a furrowed brow as she slid her next token in place, trying to get her upper hand back.

“Aye?” Jamie sounded nonchalant but she could see his fingers fiddling with one of the coins. He looked nervous.

“Do you really want me to tell you?” Claire asked as Jamie went to drop his next piece into place.

“Do ye want to tell me?” He asked carefully, his fingers hovering over the bar, waiting for Claire to answer.

“I want to tell you anything you want to know,” She answered precisely as she watched the coin fall into place. Jamie must have not been paying attention to the game anymore because his move left her wide open to finally “Connect Four” and win.

Jamie made his grunting sort of sound in acknowledgment and Claire fiddled with her own token waiting for him to answer her properly.

“Shall we…” Jamie’s voice broke and he cleared his throat quickly, “Shall we put away the game then?”

“Are you only asking that because I’m about to win?” Claire grinned as she held up her final piece.

“No ye… are...n’t...hmm,” Jamie said slowly as she watched him figure out her move. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

Claire laughed happily as she let her final piece fall and she finally won. Jamie shook his head in disbelief.

“Congratulations,” he said as she slid the game out of the way and sat to face him properly.

“Thank you, about bloody time,” she replied.

They sat looking at each other, neither one quite knowing where to start.

“Do ye mind if I hold yer hand?” Jamie asked nervously. “It always seems a bit easier to talk to ye when I’m touching ye.”

Claire nodded enthusiastically, hoping that he couldn’t tell that she was shaking like a leaf.

“So,” Jamie cleared his throat again, “ye said that it went fine. Any… what… care to elaborate?”

Claire would have laughed at Jamie’s effort at sounding nonchalant if she wasn’t so nervous herself. She shouldn’t be nervous of course. She had made her decision, she wanted to pursue her relationship with Jamie- it was just that if Jamie said that he’d thought about it, and after her going on a date with someone else, he’d never trust her and they should end things, well… that wasn’t exactly ideal. Though they were holding hands, and it didn’t seem like the situation where you would hold hands, only to break up with someone.

Claire sighed heavily and tried to force herself to relax. It didn’t work.

“Well, I was late, so it wasn’t a great start… come to think of it, it wasn’t a great middle or end really.” She said more to herself than to him when she heard Jamie release a breath she didn’t know that he had been holding. “We saw Mary, Queen of Scots. The movie was very good. Margot Robbie is just brilliant. But we… I don’t know how much detail you want me to go into.”

“However much ye want to tell me. But first… can… I just need to… are ye going to see him again?” Jamie stuttered over his words and she felt his grip on her hand tighten slightly.

“Oh, god no!” She answered quickly. “Sorry, I should have started with that.”

“Christ, Sassenach,” Jamie breathed in relief. “I was just about havin’ a heart attack over here.”

“Sorry,” Claire snorted with laughter, her nerves getting the better of her. “Sorry. No, Jamie. No plans to see him again.”

“Right, I feel much better hearing about this date then, go on,” he encouraged. His fingers which previously were holding her hand with an almost vise-like grip, were now relaxed and had started rubbing soothing patterns across her palm.

“Well, as I said, we saw a movie. Oh. He called me Dear. We’d only just met and he called me Dear, so that was an immediate turn-off.”

“What’s wrong with “Dear”?” Jamie asked hesitantly.

“Nothing really,” Claire answered with a shrug, “just not for someone you’d only just met.”

Jamie scoffed with laughter. “Is it any pet name that ye dinna like? Or just tha’ one? Just want to make sure ye are’na immediately turned off by anything I call ye.”

“I mean, you call me “Sassenach”,” Claire reasoned. “Which I actually told him that… and it made me laugh because I suppose the English equivalent of it- is bitch, and then I thought about him affectionately calling me bitch and that made me laugh and I tried to explain that to him and he did not at all understand that joke, so I suppose that was another red flag- what?” Claire stopped abruptly seeing the look on Jamie’s face.

“I dinna call ye a bitch, Claire.”

“No, no!” Claire exclaimed quickly. “I just meant… urgh,” she groaned, wanting to put her head in her hands. “It was just funny to me… and I know now that you don’t mean anything derogatory by it. I mean, I’ve had patients call me a “fucking sass-en-ack” every now and again for me to figure out it’s not a particularly polite name. But how you say it is different- how you mean it is different… or at least I hope how you mean it is different, else we’ll be needing to have an entirely different conversation.”

Jamie huffed out a laugh but he still looked uncomfortable. “I can stop sayin’ it, if it upsets ye.”

“It doesn’t. Truly. I promise. It was just a thought that made me laugh and…” Claire paused trying to decide how open she wanted to be with him. “I like it, Jamie. Very much.”

Jamie nodded, seeming appeased and Claire continued. “Anyway, we didn’t really talk that much before the movie and you’re right, seeing a movie for a first date is a terrible idea. We went for a coffee after it though, and… you know it was fine, but then we said goodnight… and.. Uhh… That was it.”

“What happened?” Jamie asked carefully. Claire had hesitated over the ending of the date and she hoped that Jamie didn’t know her well enough to pick it up. Apparently she was wrong.

“Nothing, I left him on the curb and I went home.”

“Yer not telling me something. I can see it on yer face.”

“He kissed me,” she said quickly, as if saying it faster would do less damage. “He kind of landed one on me when I wasn’t expecting him to.”

“Did he force himself on ye?” Jamie asked, his voice was tense and the soothing strokes of his fingers abruptly stopped.

“No, no! Nothing like that. I was just turning to get in the car and he surprised me. I pulled away immediately… I didn’t really say goodbye, I just sort of… drove off.”

“That’s assault, Claire,” Jamie said seriously and she could see a mottle of red rising on his neck.

“No, it really wasn’t anything like that. He didn’t… you know it wasn’t…” Claire spluttered.

“Did ye want him to kiss ye?” Jamie asked tensely.

“No,” she answered indignantly.

“Did ye tell him that ye wanted him to kiss ye?”

“Not at all. Jamie it wasn’t like that.”

“But it is like that,” Jamie said. “If ye did’na give yer consent, it’s assault.”

“Jamie… It was a date,” Claire said in exasperation

“That does’na make it okay,” Jamie argued back. “Ye dinna owe him anything, just because yer on a date.”

“I never said I did!”

“But yer acting like it was alright,” Jamie said gruffly as he shook his head. He squeezed her hand tightly as if it would help him to make his point.

“It definitely wasn’t alright, but it’s not worth it to me… I don’t feel the need to report him to the police or anything like that. I know that I will never see him again. It was a misunderstanding.”

Jamie huffed in frustration and Claire squeezed his hand tightly. “Well, not quite a misunderstanding but really, I’m alright. It wasn’t a big deal and I do understand what you are saying, but I am okay.”

“No one should touch ye without yer consent. I spent the whole night of yer “date”,” Jamie spat the word, “wondering if ye were alright, if ye were falling in lov- if ye’d ever want to see me again. Then I hear that this other lad forced himself… kissed ye without yer consent and it makes me see red.”

“I understand,” Claire nodded seriously. “But I am never going to see him again… so it’s done and dusted. There’s nothing else there and so there’s no point revisiting it. Trust me.”

Jamie didn’t look even remotely happy at her explanation but he nodded in agreement not to push the issue any further. She couldn’t really blame him for his reaction. He had to be feeling insecure about her going on another date. Maybe insecure was the wrong word because surely he didn’t feel as deeply about her as she did about him, but then she was reminded of how her own insecurities had flared when she thought that he was on a date with someone else. Jamie’s forehead was wrinkled and he looked like he wanted to argue his point further.

“I want to show you something,” Claire said as Jamie released her hand and she picked up her phone from the coffee table. “The messages between him… Frank and I, so you know that there’s nothing else there and that I won’t be seeing him again… if you’d like.”

“I dinna need to do that,” Jamie shook his head as he smiled at her. His cheeks flushed slightly.

Claire held out her phone to him but he still didn’t take it. “It’s just that… I don’t know how to say this without sounding crazy,” Claire groaned as Jamie waited patiently for her to organise her thoughts.

“I erm… I made a bad error in my judgement by making plans with this other guy and not cancelling the date after we had cleared things up between us. I would like to… wipe the slate clean as it were. I don’t want you to think that I have a multitude of men behind the scenes that I am seeing and that… I don’t know… that I am making myself available to them as a… as a safety net. So I’m… I was going to delete the app from my phone, so you would know… so that we could… we’d know where we both stand.”

Jamie didn’t say anything in response and so Claire plowed on through her explanation.

“I thought it might be a bit more reassuring for you to read the messages, that I wasn’t making any plans to see anyone else before I deleted the app.”

“I dinna… if ye tell me that ye are’na seein’ anyone else, I’ll believe ye.”

“But if you wanted to be sure, I wouldn’t mind,” Claire answered as she held out her phone to him again and he took it from her cautiously. “You can start at the top if you like.”

Jamie met her eyes briefly, almost as if he was assuring himself that this was what she wanted before his eyes focused on the screen in front of him. As much as he had hesitated taking her phone he couldn’t quite disguise his interest in her conversation with the other man.

Claire sat silently watching as his blue eyes ran back and forth across the screen feeling a sense of panic creep in. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. After explaining her date, she wasn’t sure how Jamie was going to react to the unending barrage of messages that Frank had sent.

Jamie grunted roughly and as Claire picked at her nails she wondered where he was up to.

“Weel,” he said with a sigh, still clutching her phone tightly in his hands, “he certainly hasn’t given up hope that he’ll see ye again.”

“What do you mean?” Claire asked in surprise. “He accused me of immaturity and I stopped responding.”

“Weel, he seems to have turned a corner overnight and thinks that ye’ll be seeing him sometime this week.” The corner of Jamie’s mouth twitched with amusement as Claire’s jaw dropped open.

“I didn’t lead him on. You saw that from the messages, right?” Claire grabbed her phone back and scrolled through the multitude of messages that she had been (not-so) politely ignoring.

“Oh aye, ye were very clear, I hope to God I never get a message like that from ye,” Jamie grinned.

“I was perfectly cordial!” Claire exclaimed before she glanced up at him. “You’re enjoying this!” she accused, “You’re getting enjoyment from this!”

“Not at all, Sassenach.” Jamie was openly smiling at her, amusement clear on his face.

“Fucking sadist, so much for not needing to see the messages” she said under her breath looking back at her phone as Jamie scoffed with laughter. “Have you dealt with this before? A date that won’t drop it?” Jamie suddenly shifted uncomfortably and she glanced back at him quickly. “What?”

“Nah, I have’na had that problem.”

“What aren’t you telling me?” She asked, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion as she clicked her phone blank and tossed it onto the coffee table.

“Well, I have’na exactly…” Jamie twitched as if his shirt was irritating his back.

“What?”

“I have’na been on a lot of dates from… this... from ye ken…”

“You haven’t been on the app that long?”

Jamie shook his head in response and Claire could see the mottled red creeping up his neck again.

“How many?” She asked bluntly.

“How many what?” He stalled.

“How many elephants are there in India?” Claire asked sarcastically. “How many dates?”

“Three,” Jamie mumbled, his eyes now focused intently on his knees.

“Three women,” Claire repeated. “That’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

“Three dates, Sassenach. One woman,” Jamie clarified as his fingers tapped an uneasy beat on his knee.

“Oh,” Claire answered in surprise. “Oh Christ,” She repeated as she realised what that meant. “I was your first date… your only date… and…. oh shit, I took your virginity. Jesus H Roosevelt. Christ.”

“I have been on dates before,” Jamie said uncomfortably. “Just not through… I just have’na met someone through… like tha’ before.”

Claire was feeling a bit faint. She was his first date- meeting a stranger from an app and then they had gone home together. It was a miracle that he still wanted to see her.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” Claire repeated under her breath. The first date. The first time he had sex. A lot of firsts. And then she’d gone on a date with another man. He had no experience with these kinds of things. He probably thought that Claire was going to go home with Frank… because she was so experienced and all, good lord, what he must think of her.

“I’m not a slut. I mean, I don’t sleep around. Not that there’s anything wrong with women that want to do that- or men. I’m not judging them. I just… I don’t usually sleep with men on their first date… on a first date,” she corrected herself, wincing as the unfortunate word choice, “I didn’t go home with Frank.”

“I never said that ye were,” Jamie replied in confusion.

“We… it was your first date and I took you back to my place and took your virginity… Jesus, what an introduction to the dating world. You must think… what you must think of me!” Claire felt like her heart had stopped and jumped out the window during Jamie’s revelation, however now it had forcibly slammed itself back into her chest and was pounding at triple the normal speed.

“I don’t think anything of ye,” Jamie said in surprise, before he realised what that must have sounded like and shook his head before starting again. “I mean, I didn’t think anything bad about it. We had chatted back and forth for a while before the date, so I sort of felt like I already kent ye. By the the first date ye were’na a stranger anymore. I also seem to recall being more than willing… to… for the… later part of the night.” Jamie stumbled over the last few words and Claire felt her heart swell with endearment for him.

“As for yer other date, weel, I was terrified that ye wouldn’t want to see me again, sure, but I also thought that ye would at least come and talk to me about it. When ye sent me that message telling me that I was right and that ye shouldn’t have gone on the date, weel, I was counting down the hours till I could see ye again.”

“But… but you… should you maybe go on more dates, before we… settle this?” Claire offered, although the thought of Jamie seeing anyone else in a romantic setting was enough to shut that idea down very quickly and she immediately regretted offering it. She remembered her reaction to even thinking that he was on another date, and the woman was his sister. What she would actually do if he took her up on it… well… she didn’t want to think about that.

“Settle, aye?” Jamie asked cheekily and she rolled her eyes at him. “Nah, I dinna want to date anyone else, Claire. I think I’ve made that verra clear.”

“You have, yes,” she nodded thoughtfully. “I don’t know why, but I just feel the need to apologise.”

“Ye’ve no reason to apologise,” Jamie shook his head and smiled at her. “And to be clear, I have gone on dates before. But they’ve always been set up by a friend or my sister. So dinna be thinking that I have’na “dated” anyone. It’s just… I have’na done… done it this way before.”

“Seems like you haven’t done a lot of things,” Claire said under her breath before she could tell her brain not to say anything at all. She looked up at Jamie, mortified that he’d heard her.

“Aye, but I’m a quick study, Sassenach.”

Claire swallowed heavily.

--

“Back to my original question,” Claire began again as Jamie looked at her curiously, “you’ve really never dated someone that wouldn’t let it go?”

Jamie huffed out a laugh and wiped his hands on his jeans. “Aye, that I have, a few.”

“Ohh, now I’m interested,” Claire grinned.

“Are we really doin’ this?” Jamie asked as he settled himself comfortably next to Claire.

“Doing what?” She asked as Jamie lifted her legs casually and slung them across his own, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. His fingers started to play with a loose thread from the rip in her jeans.

“Dating history. We’re really going to hash it all out tonight?” he asked mischievously. She felt goosebumps breakout on her calves as his fingers brushed against the bare skin of her knee.

“I don’t see why not. We’ll end up talking about it eventually anyway. Why not now?” Claire tried to shrug casually, but the warmth of Jamie’s large hand casually on her thigh was making her flush.

“We’ll talk about it eventually?” Jamie repeated. “Then there’ll be more nights like this?”

“I assume so,” Claire answered in confusion. Maybe they weren’t on the same page? She had thought that by showing Jamie the messages from Frank and confirming that she wasn’t about to go on any more dates with anyone but Jamie just about sealed the deal between the two of them.

Jamie wasn’t planning on seeing anyone else.

Claire wasn’t planning on seeing anyone else.

What was the issue?

“It’s just that, we have’na said it…” Jamie suddenly couldn’t meet her eyes and his cheeks turned an alarming shade of red.

“Said what? That we are seeing each other?” Claire clarified bluntly. “Sure we have.”

“No’ officially,” Jamie mumbled. “Last time I tried, ye would’na let me.”

“Well then, by all means, go ahead,” Claire grinned at him. It all felt so very high school and Claire found that she didn’t mind one bit.

“Claire Beauchamp,” Jamie began after clearing his throat.

“James Fraser,” she interrupted just as seriously.

“Will ye, do the honour of becoming my girlfriend- sorry, my exclusive girlfriend? I dinna want there to be any confusion as to what we are.” He tried to sound confident, and he was smiling, but Claire could hear his voice shake slightly, and his fingers were drumming quite heavily on her left knee.

“How could I refuse?” Claire smiled so widely that it hurt her cheeks. There was something extremely charming about the innocence of Jamie that she couldn’t help but like.

“Now that that’s settled...May I kiss ye?” He asked, his voice a touch lower than usual.

“I don’t know what’s stopping you,” Claire answered before he was cupping her cheeks and she was lost to the feeling of his lips against her own.

“That was a fairly good distraction,” Claire said once she had got her breath back.

One kiss had turned into a rather intense make out session- the likes of which Claire had not experienced since she was 16 years old with her high school boyfriend rushing to kiss before her Uncle Lamb returned from work.

Admittedly, Jamie was a much better kisser than Joshua Roberts- James was much more confident, much better looking, much… much more of everything if she really thought about it. She’d come a long way since the gangly limbed, awkward Claire of her teenage years.

“I was’na tryin’ to distract ye,” Jamie replied somewhat breathlessly. He was in obvious discomfort as his jeans grew tighter and Claire found the whole thing rather endearing.

“Clingy girlfriends. I think that’s where we were.”

At the start of the kiss Claire’s legs had been across Jamie’s lap. Throughout the kiss she had been maneuvered onto her back as Jamie blanketed her body with his own. He kept the majority of his weight on his elbows and she felt him shaking with effort over her as he tried not to crush her into the couch. With the occasional roll of his hips against her own, as if he couldn’t help himself, Claire was thoroughly flushed and breathless.

“Do ye really want to ken about that?” Jamie whined as he shuffled on the couch, trying to adjust himself nonchalantly and failing miserably.

“As you are fairly new to the dating game, yes, I am wildly curious about it,” Claire answered with a wide grin. Jamie, innocent Jamie, with his masterful mouth and quick wit- yes she wanted to know absolutely everything she could about him, as quickly as possible, including all the ghosts of girlfriends past.

“Am’nae “new” to the dating game,” Jamie said, making finger quotes around the word, “just to the… This part. The online part,” he clarified after a moment's pause.

“You’re stalling,” Claire teased as she watched a splotchy flush of red appear on his throat.

Jamie made a grunting sort of scoff and rolled his eyes in exaggeration before he began.

“There was a lass I dated just out of high school. Jenny- my sister, was at university with her older brother Gordon. His younger sister- Gen, was always hanging about the group.”

Claire waited patiently for him to continue, which he did after another groan.

“Anyway, Gordon was gettin’ sick of her hanging about the group all the time so he suggested to Jenny that I should ask Gen out.”

“How old was Gen?” Claire interrupted.

“Must have been 17. I was only 18 I think.” Jamie paused thoughtfully before shaking his head and continuing. “Anyway, Jenny begged me to take her out and bein’ the saintly brother that I am, I did.”

Claire scoffed with laughter at that and Jamie looked at her in mock outrage.

“What?”

“Saintly brother, were you? I don’t believe that for a second. What did she look like?”

Jamie shrugged casually. “I dinna recall, to be honest wi’ ye.”

Claire laughed harder than that. “Of course you do. You just don’t want to say.”

Jamie rolled his eyes at Claire in exaggeration. “She had brown hair, blue eyes. That’s about all I remember.”

“Very believable,” Claire muttered sarcastically. “How long were you two an item?”

Jamie tilted his head to look at the ceiling as he tried to remember. “Must have been… six months or less.”

“What was the nail in the coffin?”

Jamie raised his eyebrow at her in question and Claire continued.

“I mean, why did you break up? How did it lead to her being a clingy girlfriend?”

“Oh, Geneva was stupidly spoiled. Loved to get her own way and would throw a tantrum when she did’na. I expect that’s why her parents made Gordon have her around him so often. I kent that we would’na last but like I said, saintly brother and all, I promised Jenny that I would take her out.”

“For six months?” Claire asked, grinning at him.

“Aye, she was alright some of the time. If it was just the two of us, but as soon as we were out with other people- She liked to show off. I did’na like that.”

“So..” Claire prompted when Jamie went quiet.

“So,” he continued with a sigh, “when I broke up wi’ her she threw a fit. I’d never seen anythin’ like it. She threw a vase at me and it shattered against the wall. I did’na ken she felt so strongly about us. To be honest, I think she just was unhappy that she was’na the one doin’ the breaking up. After I left, I thought that was the end of it. That I would’na see her again and she would’na hang around wi’ Gordon and Jenny anymore because she did’na want to see me. But then she just went on like we did’na break up at all. I’d go out for a drink with some lads and she’d turn up. I did’na even ken how she kent where I’d be.” Jamie shook his head in disbelief as he remembered. “She’d hang herself all over me, while flirting’ wi’ my mates.”

“So how did she get the hint and stop coming after you?”

Jamie shrugged, almost in disbelief. “I dinna ken to be truthful. She started datin’ a much older gentleman and I think she forgot all about me. I did’na have a penny to my name, that seemed to help a bit, I think.”

“Oh, so you’re not rich, then? Perhaps we should end things here,” Claire said seriously. “I was only in it for the money.”

“Ha, ha, Sassenach,” Jamie laughed sarcastically. “What about ye? Any skeletons in the closet, ghosts of boyfriends that I should ken about?”

“None that were so clingy. But I have to say I’m far more fascinated about your backstory. You said you’ve had a few? Care to expand on that?”

“Ye really want to hear about it?” He asked again, slightly confused.

“Absolutely, I do,” Claire grinned widely. “The women that couldn’t let you go, the women that didn’t make the cut, I want all the gory details.”

Jamie sighed heavily fixing her with a sort of glare before his face broke into a smile and he shook his head at her.

“Well, then there was Laoghaire. She was relatively recent,” he began as Claire shifted into a more comfortable position on the couch. Her legs were slung over his lap again. She could watch him as he spoke from this position. Study him; see his eyes as he rolled them at her interruptions or watch his Adam’s Apple bob up and down as he swallowed when he was nervous.

“Jenny works wi’ her.”

“Does that mean you still see her?” Claire asked curiously.

“No’ often,” Jamie shook his head. “If I pick up Jen, of if they are havin’ a dram after work.”

“And she’s moved on?” Claire prompted.

“I suppose so. She does’na give me her puppy eyes anymore.”

“How long were you together?” Claire asked, wondering if she would cross paths at some point with this Laoghaire.

Jamie’s forehead wrinkled as he thought. “A little over a year… maybe a year and a half.”

“You’re not great with dates, are you?” Claire laughed as he started to count on his fingers.

“Aye, but I’ll remember July 15th, 16th and 19th 2019, trust me.”

“Why?” Claire asked stupidly as Jamie started to lean toward her.

“Because, Sassenach, July 15th was when I sent ye that first message about my nephew and I started a conversation with the most interesting woman I’d never met. July 16th was when ye asked me out for a drink, and July 19th was when I lost my virginity.”

Claire burst out with laughter as Jamie kissed her softly on the side of her mouth.

“Lost your virginity- important date to remember.”

“Well, the first date was important too, I guess,” Jamie conceded as Claire shook her head at him.

“Although, July 16th might be more important to you and Gellis than to you and me,” Claire said as Jamie’s warm hand slowly traveled up her thigh.

“Oh?” His hand stopped as he looked at her in confusion. “Why’s that?”

“Because Geillis actually asked you out. Not me. She was reviewing our messages to each other and she sent you the message asking you out for a drink.”

“Ye let her read our messages?” Jamie asked in what must have been embarrassment because his cheeks darkened considerably and his shoulders twitched as if his shirt had become too tight.

“Bold of you to think that I gave her permission to do any of it. No, she stole my phone, read the conversation and then sent you the message.” Claire shook her head at the memory. She could have killed Geillis in that moment, though it seemed to have worked out alright.

“Well then, thank you Geillis,” Jamie grinned as he bent to kiss Claire again.

“She also…” Claire was losing her train of thought as Jamie’s lips moved across her jaw. “She also… she… said… do you want to go to the bedroom?”

“Geillis asked if I’d like to go to the bedroom?” Jamie asked cheekily as he lifted his head and blinked up at her owlishly.

“Not Geillis. Me. Claire. I’m asking,” She answered breathlessly as Jamie grinned at her.

“God, yes.” His answer was quick as he picked her up from the couch with a squeal from Claire, and carried her to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

Sex was a strange thing if you really thought about. It was, at times, uncomfortable and awkward,  sweaty with noises that in any other environment, would be frankly, horrendous. To find someone that you were comfortable with, and perhaps not just comfortable, but more importantly compatible with was rare.

 

Claire had had sex with men before. She could count on one hand the times that it had been absolutely mind blowing (one of those times had been on hers and Jamie’s first date- once the cherry had been popped and Jamie became more sure of what he was doing) and she had lost count of the amount of times she had faked it in order to have the session end. She didn’t like faking it- didn’t like lying about it, but sometimes it was a necessary measure. 

 

Some men tried too hard, were too much in their own mind that they lost the rhythm of things and made Claire, in turn, lose interest. Others didn't try at all, laying there like a limp noodle expecting Claire to do all the work. A few had clearly watched far too many porno’s written by a man, where the woman was immediately ready after a kiss on the lips and a squeeze of a breast. One in particular should perhaps do some research on the female anatomy.

 

The lead up to sex could be awkward. Of course, there were plenty of times where one thing led to another and two people would end up in bed together. But others, not so much. To go for it, to hold back, did the other person want this, was it too soon- there were far too many variable factors. It felt odd to just blurt out “well, should we have sex now?”. There was a certain trepidation with the lead up to sex, and suggesting it. What if the other person wasn’t ready? What if it was too soon? 

 

Things with Jamie on their first date had happened organically, and sure it was awkward and there were moments that were stiff and graceless. But after the bandaid had been well and truly ripped off and Claire let herself go with him, he seemed to be a natural and Claire hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. They fit together, and yes, there were leg cramps, elbows in the wrong place and a few moments of passion that were broken by an unexpected move, but they had found each other on an intimate level that Claire wasn’t entirely sure she had experienced with another partner before.

 

Her first sexual experience had been memorable, but not in the way one would want it to be. Fumbling hands, red faced blushing profusely, a few strokes and it was over. It was a classic first time between her and her then boyfriend. She’d thought a few times over the weeks between her and Jamie’s first date, that Jamie didn’t know how good he’d had it for his first time.

 

She’d rarely had a reaction to another man like she did with Jamie. Other men would put their hands on her knee or hold her hand and she would think, ‘I suppose this is nice’. But when Jamie touched her, she was sure that her entire surface area broke out in gooseflesh. Perhaps it was the distance between them, the uncertainty of what they were or how they were supposed to be together that made her react that way. But even after they had defined what they were to each other, his touch still gave her the same reaction. 

 

Jamie had calloused hands, rough patches on his metacarpals where his fingers met his palm. He might sit behind a desk for most of the day but he also very clearly used his hands for hard labour regularly. When the rough skin of his palm brushed lightly against her knee, or anywhere else on her skin for that matter, Claire was a lost cause of jelly legs and muddled mind. He also seemed to be wildly unaware of the effect that he had on her which was both infuriating and endearing at the same time.

 

He had strong arms, and damn it if Claire wasn’t a sucker for some muscles. A decent spread of her dating life had been with ‘Academic’ types. While not strictly ‘unfit’ they had a history of being into sports like golf and jogging and therefore had entirely different body types. There were no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ body types as far as Claire was concerned, but it just so happened that Jamie’s body type was the exact thing that had Claire weak at the knees whenever she witnessed just how physically fit he was. The man had a bloody six pack and Claire wasn’t entirely sure she had seen a man outside of a Chris Hemsworth movie in a natural habitat that had one. The fact that he could pick her up from the couch in one swoop, without making a groan of protest at her weight, as if she weighed no more than one of the cushions they were sitting on, made her stomach clench. 

 

He put her down as they entered the bedroom, standing awkwardly in front of each other. All the confidence that Claire had felt sitting on the couch with Jamie, the teasing, the flirting, had vanished somewhere in the hallway. The unspoken question of “now what?” hung between them. The first time- Claire had taken the lead, this time- Claire wasn’t as sure. She smiled to herself as she remembered how his eyes had quite literally bugged out of his head like a cartoon character when she had stripped off her clothes. Last time, she hadn’t dressed to impress, not sure where the night was going to go. This time was different. This time she had put effort into her outfit, into her almost hairless body, into her matching underwear that was currently giving her one hell of a wedgie. This time was different. This time there was meaning. Of course, there was meaning last time, she was taking his virginity for goodness sake. But last time, if it all went to hell in a handbasket she didn’t need to see him again. It was their first date, there was no expectation for anything further. Or at least, that was what she told herself. If she was truly honest with herself, from the first moment she saw Jamie at the bar, she knew that she wanted to see him again.

 

Now however, there was expectation. They would still see each other after this night, they would be dating, they would be a couple. This wasn’t a casual fling. This was dating with purpose. The reality of that seemed to hit Claire all at once and she hesitated. She knew that she liked Jamie, she had been thinking about him all week; had been waiting for this. She had been waiting for the chance to see him again and to put a label on what they were. Now they had. Now they were moving forward. Now they were standing in her bedroom, looking at each other, neither knowing what they were meant to do next.

 

“Are ye as nervous as I am?” Jamie asked hesitantly as a breath of a laugh left Claire.

 

“I don’t know. How nervous are you?” She asked as she tried to force herself to relax.

 

“On a scale of one to ten? Maybe an eight.”

 

“What were you on our first date?” Claire asked as Jamie took a tentative step toward her.

 

“I was swingin’ anywhere from a four to an eleven at any point in the night,” Jamie answered as his hand rested lightly on her shoulders for a moment before travelling down her arms and linking their fingers.

 

“What about at… when we were at this point of the night?” Claire asked breathlessly as she felt a shiver start somewhere at the base of her spine and travel up her neck.

 

“Somewhere between a five and a seven.”

 

“You were less nervous?”

 

“Aye,” Jamie said as he lifted her right hand and placed a tender kiss on the back of it. “It was the first time I’d done it. I was pretty sure it was’na goin’ to be pretty. I’d accepted my fate. I was more worried about the after. If I was shockin’ at it, ye might no’ want to have seen me again.”

 

Claire chuckled, “And this time you’re at an eight?”

 

“Aye, this time, I suppose I should ken what I’m doin’ a bit better.”

 

“I suppose you should. Though, you didn’t have a lot of practice. Only one night.”

 

“And the next morning,” Jamie reminded her and Claire felt herself blush.

 

“And the next morning,” she agreed.

 

“And three weeks of imagination,” Jamie breathed, as if he hadn’t actually meant to say it out loud. 

 

“Imagination?” Claire asked quietly as he bent his head, their foreheads touching and noses bumping lightly against each other.

 

“Imagination, memory, whatever ye want to call it,” Jamie said, his voice low as his movements made Claire’s head tilt upward slightly, giving him better access to her lips.

 

“You’d better show me what you remember then,” Claire said breathlessly before Jamie’s lips captured her own.

 

He was gentle, almost hesitant, like he had forgotten how to kiss between the journey from the couch to the bedroom. When Claire’s tongue swept against his lips, asking for entrance, a strangled sort of groaning sound came from quite possibly his chest and his kiss became more insistent, more intense. It was like a match was struck and ignited in Claire and now she couldn’t get enough of him. Hands that were previously held carefully by Jamie were released as she clawed at the back of his shirt trying to rid him of the offending material in the worst possible way. His hands in turn had started to explore her body, a squeeze of her arse; a gentle and hesitant brush of her breast. The first time that they had been together Claire was almost convinced that he had grown an extra set of arms to be in all the places that he was touching her and the thought came to her again. When they finally did separate, a necessity in order to breathe, Claire’s hands were immediately on the buttons of his shirt, while his lifted then dropped, not entirely sure if he should remove her top or leave that to her.

 

He may kiss like the devil on fire, but he still wasn’t confident in what he should do next. He still needed some direction. Claire smiled in what she hoped was an encouraging manner, as she took his hands and mimicked the movement of removing her top. Jamie sprung into action once more and tried to whip the shirt over her head faster than she was expecting and he nearly beheaded her in the process. 

 

Sex wasn’t always glamourous. 

 

She was specifically watching his eyes when he took in what she was wearing underneath her clothes. Last time she had enjoyed watching his eyes bug out of her head and this time she was able to enjoy the way his blue eyes were drowned out by the black of his pupils as they dilated at the sight of Claire in her underwear. Now wasn’t the time for her to pat herself on the back for her outfit choice- she would do that later.

 

Jamie had to clear his throat several times before he was able to speak again, and even then all she got was a mumbled, slightly embarrassed, “Ye look bonnie, Sassenach,” before he was kissing her as he ran his hands over her scantily clad body.

 

Legs awkwardly walking backward together as the back of Claire’s knees hit her mattress. Jamie’s shirt was off at least now, though his jeans still were on and that was always an awkward maneuver at the best of times. Claire’s own jeans were also still on and she quickly undid the button and the zip. Perhaps she should have waited for Jamie to do it, but the poor lad still looked somewhat lost and could probably use all the help he could get.

 

“This will be a lot easier if you take off your pants,” Claire said casually as she wriggled her own down her hips.

 

“Aye,” Jamie mumbled, fiddling with his belt and then the button on the top of his jeans. “Suppose I was distracted.”

 

Claire sat on the mattress as she pulled the material from her calves and tossed them somewhere across her room. She could deal with them later. Jamie in contrast was extremely cautious, had taken off his jeans and had folded them neatly and placed them on the floor. He looked up at her to see her grinning at him.

 

“I did’na want to make a mess,” he explained, rubbing the back of his neck with a faint blush appearing at the bottom of his neck.

 

“Yes, that is exactly the thing that I care most about right now,” she answered sarcastically, still smiling at him. “Leave your jeans in an unsightly state and I’ll never have you back around again.”

 

Jamie’s mouth quirked in a quick smile before his eyes ran over her body.

 

“Did ye… did ye wear this for me?” It came out as a sort of strangled sound as she stood up from the bed again.

 

“No, it’s for the guy that comes right after you. This is his favourite,” Claire answered breathlessly as Jamie’s hand reached out and ran lightly down her back, bringing them closer to each other.

 

“He’s a lucky man,” Jamie breathed.

 

“I should think so.” Claire’s teasing held barely any of her usual gusto as Jamie’s hand travelled further south and eventually settled on her arse.

 

“Aye, what’s his name then?”

 

Their lips were almost touching. Claire’s hand was resting over Jamie’s heartbeat and she could feel it thumping under her fingertips.

 

There was something to be said about the moments before a kiss. Specifically the kind of kiss before the commencement of sex. The last kiss before all hell broke loose and it was all systems go. The kiss could be fast paced, a clashing of tongues, teeth and lips as each person tried to devour the other. Or there was this- the breath between the kiss that would light the fire. There was something inherently sensual about holding out, about the teasing, about the almost kiss. It was an erotic dance of patience, maybe even of chicken as each person dared the other to make the final connection. To light the fire, stoke the flame, ignite the dynamite. Who would move first?

 

The touch before this kind of kiss somehow made it even better. The connection of skin on skin. Pulse points feeling the warmth and beating lift of another person. Claire’s hand on Jamie’s chest, his hand cupping her arse. Connected, feeling each other, the electricity that hummed between them, but not… quite… there. It wasn’t quite complete until their lips would meet and it would seal the promise of something more. The breath of the moment before the powder keg exploded into action could last anywhere from a brief few seconds to the longest drawn out tick tock of a grandfather clock as the second hand made it’s inevitable jolted movement. Time moves differently in all kinds of circumstances.

 

It slows when a child is at school and the ticking clock is the only thing between them and being released for summer holidays.

 

It speeds up at work when that phone call has to be made, the talk has to be given, the deadline needs to be met, and the time approaches faster than anyone thinks is possible.

 

It moves at a glacial pace when at a party, stuck listening to the human equivalent of a sloth that is explaining something that nobody cares about in excruciating detail.

 

It speeds up somehow over the weekend, and one moment it’s Friday, and before you know it two days have passed and there was no way that it could be Monday morning already.

 

This moment- the seconds between a breath and a kiss could move either way. What may have been a few seconds in reality felt like lifetime to Claire and it only made the build up worth it.

 

Their noses bumped lightly against each other, her eyes fluttered closed, unable to stay open from the anticipation and pleasure she was feeling (though they had done almost nothing), the shared breath between them - unspoken - are you ready, jump with me - their lips finally met and the match was struck. 

 

Claire was a nurse. She knew that without a stethoscope you couldn’t hear a heartbeat- let alone her own, but she swore that as soon as Jamie’s lips met her own she could hear the twin thump, thump, thumps from the both of them. It felt stupid to think that they could be so synchornised with such a simple kiss, that their heartbeats would compliment with each other. But as Jamie kissed her, and as Claire kissed him back, she felt like she was losing herself in him. Like they were becoming one person. The complete and intrinsic notion of truly knowing someone. Claire was sure that she had never felt like before with another person, let alone after one kiss and in all honesty, it scared the absolute shit out of her. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to feel it again, but the moment was over as fast as it had come and her attention was drawn back to the feeling of Jamie’s hands running up and down her back. Fingers threading in her hair, tilting her head to gain better access to her mouth. The back of her knees hit the back of the mattress once more, though Claire couldn’t remember walking backwards.

 

Claire came up for air with a gasp as Jamie’s hands continued to explore her body. A brief brush of her nipple had her shivering involuntarily and the graze of fingers against her hip almost had her legs buckling beneath her.

 

“Wait,” she said breathlessly, Jamie’s lips attached to her collarbone and his shoulders hunched awkwardly to reach her.

 

“What’s wrong?” He looked drunk. His pupils were blown wide and his lips already pink and swollen. His brows creased as he looked at her in concern and his hands immediately froze in their exploration of her body.

 

“Nothing, nothing,” she assured him with a shake of her head. “I just…” Claire looked at the bed behind her and moved in what she had hoped would look like an erotic way to lie down. In reality, she simply climbed on the bed, self consciously with her ass high in the air before turning to face him again and lying on her back. Jamie didn’t seem to think it was awkward, far from it if his facial expression was anything to go by as she saw him swallow heavily, his throat bobbing up and down with the movement. He nodded, somewhat to himself before he joined her on the bed, choosing to lie beside her.

 

“Just thought it might be better…. On the bed,” Claire explained awkwardly.

 

Jamie nodded again and she watched as his eyes ran over her body once more before his face blushed profusely and his eyes met her own.

 

“What’s wrong?” she asked with a smile. She couldn’t help it, there was something about Jamie’s hushed embarrassment that brought her endless amounts of joy.

 

“Nothin’.” Jamie’s mouth quirked in his half smile, almost somewhat self deprecatingly. When Claire continued to look at him, eyes narrowed and refusing to speak, he continued. “It’s just that… well, as a man, ye dinna want to be the lad that gets caught checkin’ a lass out, ye ken. Ye… ye want to make it sneaky, or if yer a real gentleman, ye dinna look at all.”

 

Claire smirked and barely contained the laugh that was threatening her lips. “And, are you a real gentleman?”

 

“I try to be, but havin’ ye lie here wi’ me, like ye are… lookin’ the way that ye are, it’s gettin’ harder and harder.”

 

“I think that this might be the one situation that you are welcome, if not invited, to look.”

 

“Aye, I ken… aye, it’s just that.... I’m new to all this and it feels like… Like I might be doin’ somethin’ wrong,” he answered sheepishly.

 

“You weren’t raised Catholic, were you?” Claire asked, now well and truly grinning at him.

 

“Is it that obvious?”

 

“Lingering guilt out of wedlock and all that,” Claire chuckled. “If it helps, you have nothing to feel guilty about and honestly I will feel far worse if you started to avoid looking at me.”

 

“Aye, I ken, I dinna think I could stop lookin’ at ye if I tried.”

 

There was a pause between them and the electricity in the room seemed to charge. From the playful banter in an attempt to relax them both, to something deeper, something stronger; sexual tension hummed between them.

 

“Or stop myself from touchin’ ye,” Jamie finally said as his eyes ran down her body once more, retracing themselves over her breasts several times.

 

“What’s stopping you?” Claire asked. She was trying to maintain the banter, trying to relax them both, but her question came out airy and breathless. She watched as Jamie swallowed heavily and shook his head, unaware of his own answer.

 

Come to think of it, what was stopping Claire from touching him? He was wonderfully built, strong and capable, yet she was shy to reach out and run her fingers through the springy red curls that were on his chest. She told herself that she was purposefully taking things slow for him because she knew this was all fresh to him, that she was letting him take the lead and pace to a place that he would be comfortable with. The truth was, however that Claire was beyond nervous. It was ridiculous. She’d done this thousands of times before, well no, not thousands, but she’d done it enough to no longer be this nervous about it.

 

It was just sex.

 

Except that it wasn’t. Not this time. Not anymore. Since declaring that they would be seeing each other on a more permanent basis, things had changed. She was desperate for this to be good. To be better than good. The first time together was Jamie’s first time, he had no idea what to expect, except for anything that he would have looked up. Now he knew what it was to lie with someone, and what if Claire suddenly wasn’t good anymore? What if the settlement of their relationship had changed the dynamic so much that she wasn’t able to… to do anything.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jamie asked, clearly seeing Claire’s inner monologue play out on her face.

 

“Nothing,” she tried to reassure him, but she still hesitated to reach out and touch him.

 

“I can see it written plain on your face that there is something. Do ye no’ want to do this? We dinna have to,” Jamie offered and her heart squeezed at the gallantry of the man lying on the bed next to her, whose body was very, very obvious in his desire to continue.

 

Of course she wanted this. She had thought about this for three weeks, so why was she now suddenly so nervous?

 

“I do want this,” she answered quietly. “I just…. I don’t know, I’m nervous all of a sudden.”

 

“Aye, as am I,” Jamie said gruffly, as if he was admitting something shameful. “I’ve… I hope this isn’t too forward,” he hesitated and Claire shook her head to encourage him to continue. “I’ve thought about in great detail what I should like to do wi’ ye, once I had ye to myself, naked… and er…. willing.” His voice was raspy and with every word he spoke Claire found herself more and more drawn to him. Any previous inhibitions she was holding had started to melt away.

 

“Oh? Well, I’m almost naked… and I am,” Claire cleared her throat, “willing.” Her hands moved to the strap of her bra with the intention to take it off when her hand was stilled by Jamie’s.

 

“I’ll see to that, if ye dinna mind.”

 

“Oh.” The sound that came out of Claire’s mouth was one she wasn’t sure she had made before. “If you insist. Why don’t you tell me what you had been planning, these past few weeks.”

 

“Weel,” Jamie drew out the word as he sat up on his elbow and looked down at her.

 

And there it was - the feeling was back. The charge had been set and the look in Jamie’s eyes was all it took. Claire couldn’t care anymore if she was going to perform properly or if it was going to go well, because the look in Jamie’s eyes told her that if he didn’t devour her soon, they might both combust.

 

Jamie’s fingers, rough and calloused brushed lightly against the strap of Claire’s bra. “I’d thought about how ye would lie, similar to how ye are now, but I did’na… I did’na imagine that ye’d be wearing something like this.” He tugged the strap lightly and Claire felt gooseflesh spread across her chest and fought the urge to shiver.

 

“What were you thinking, out of curiosity?” Claire asked as Jamie slid one strap from her shoulder.

 

“I dinna ken, to be honest. Perhaps what ye were wearin’ last time. Didn’t think there would be anything like this.” Again his eyes fixed on her breasts, contained by the black lace, focusing on the strain of her nipples against the fabric. “I imagined that I would take my time to thoroughly kiss ye,” Jamie continued before he bent to kiss her softly.

 

Whoever had taught Jamie to kiss deserved some kind of medal, or perhaps it was pure talent. His lips were soft against hers, gently tugging her lower lip into his mouth. As his tongue gently traced against her lip, Claire cupped his jaw, her fingernails rasping at his light stubble.

 

“And then,” Jamie pulled away and continued as if there had been no interruption to his sentence. “I would use my hands to memorise ye. I remembered how ye felt, yer skin was so soft.” Jamie’s fingers gently ran from her collarbone, between her still clothed breasts, down her stomach to the top of her underwear. “How warm ye were when ye pressed up against me, how I thought that my whole body would burst into flames when ye… when touched me.” Jamie’s hand paused at her hip before moving to her arse. “How I would grab a handful of yer arse and think that I’d never seen or held anything sae verra fine.” He squeezed slightly and the movement brought Claire slightly onto her side to look at him better.

 

“I thought then I might try to taste ye again,” Jamie said before dipping his head to her collarbone. His hand was still groping her arse quite strongly and to Claire’s surprise she found that she didn’t mind all that much. But that might have been because Jamie’s mouth was making its way further south. A simple kiss between her breasts before moving slowly across the top of her right. 

 

Sensation was a funny thing, and when done correctly could make someone lose stock of their body and what was being touched. When faced with the pleasure of Jamie’s mouth on her nipple, sucking through the lace of her bra to pull it into his mouth and a hand that was gripping her arse, it was a surprise when Jamie’s other hand had somehow reached around her back and managed to undo the clasp of her bra. She hadn’t even noticed. So when Jamie desperately released her arse from his hand and her nipple from his mouth and both hands came together to strip the bra from her body - to say that she was shocked was an understatement.

 

“How did you do that?” She asked breathlessly, as Jamie’s mouth fell open slightly at the sight of a topless Claire lying down beneath him.

 

“There was a clasp at the back,” he explained logically before focusing his attention to her other breast.

 

“I didn’t… yes I know that… I meant… fuck it. It doesn’t matter.” Claire’s thoughts became incoherent as she lay on her back and Jamie’s blanketed her. He was hot, Claire thought that he must run about ten degrees hotter than the average person and she could feel his cock pressing insistently against her left thigh. Claire’s hands automatically went to his back, as her legs fell open for him to settle between them. One hand ran over the barely veiled muscles that rippled as he held himself above her, the other travelled up the nape of his neck to tangle in the longer curls that rested there. Jamie rocked forward and she could feel his somewhat neglected manhood press against her thigh again as he let out a heavy huff of breath. 

 

They were both still wearing their underwear for goodness sake. Things had barely even started and Claire was already chasing a high. Claire bent one knee and wrapped the other around his hip. The movement shifted him so that he aligned less with her inner thigh and more to a place where she was actually craving him. At his first thrust forward Claire actually flinched and Jamie reared back as if he had hurt her.

 

“Christ, sorry, are ye alright? Was I too rough? I shouldn’t have... it was just somethin’ that I read that… ye might enjoy.” Jamie’s face was running desperately over Claire’s face, trying to see if she was in pain. In contrast, Claire’s eyes were running over Jamie’s face trying to make sense of what he was saying.

 

“Huh?” She said stupidly, wondering how she could pull him back down to her and remove both of their underwear at the same time.

 

“Aye, are ye hurt?”

 

“No?” Claire answered in confusion. “What did you do?”

 

“Yer… well… yer…” Jamie looked pointedly at her breasts and Claire’s eyes looked down as well, expecting to see an open wound with the way that Jamie was looking at her.

 

“My nipple?” Claire asked in confusion with a frown on her face.

 

Jamie’s cheeks flushed a deep red at the word and Claire fought the urge to giggle. “It’s fine. I… I was enjoying it actually. No, I was wondering how to get our underwear off, without stopping you from whatever you were do- did you say you read something?”

 

If at all possible Jamie flushed a deeper red, the colour moving from his cheeks and mottling down his neck.

 

“Were you.... Did you do research?” Claire asked in surprise. She tried to keep her tone light, as if she were just asking about the weather, trying to spare him embarrassment. It didn’t work.

 

“Aye,” Jamie said sheepishly. “It’s just that… weel, last time it was my first time, and I wanted this time to go well, for ye to enjoy it. I ken last time was a bit… messy, it was’na probably what ye thought ye were going to get so I wanted to be a little bit more prepared. I did’na want to be presumptuous of course. I did’na ken how tonight was goin’ to go, but I wanted to be prepared. Bring ye… a bit more pleasure if I could.”

 

“Oh,” Claire answered in surprise. “Last time… last time was fine.”

 

Fine was very much the wrong word to say at that moment as Jamie quite obviously refused to meet her eyes.

 

“More than fine,” Claire amended. “I… I very much enjoyed it last time, and was very much looking forward to it again.” Now she knew why Jamie had flushed such a deep red. For some reason admitting that to him was mortifying.

 

“Look,” she continued after taking a steadying breath. “In my… experience, this is best… this works the best when… How do I want to say this? If you spend the entire time wondering if you are doing this right or wrong, or if you need to last longer for my benefit, if you spend too much time overthinking things and not actually enjoying them, the other person can tell, and it, this sounds so cliche, it takes the magic away from the moment. These things are best enjoyed in the moment.”

 

“Aye.” Jamie nodded. 

 

“If you are worried about hurting me, I will tell you. And it takes time to learn how the other person is going to react to something. I was… well I was quite enjoying what you were doing and my reaction was more out of pleasure than anything else.”

 

“It was?” Jamie finally met her eyes again and smiled.

 

“Trust. That’s what… that’s what it comes down to. You told me last time that you were happy that you waited for someone that you trusted and I… well, I trust you,” Claire said the words before she even realised that she meant them and she cupped his jaw gently. “I trust you,” she repeated more firmly and Jamie turned his face to kiss her palm before nodding. 

 

While the frenzied kissing and movements had been interrupted, this settled for something new, which wasn’t altogether a bad thing.

 

One of Jamie’s hands travelled down her body, this time his fingers slipping beneath the material of her underwear before dragging it down her legs. Somehow his own were lost at the same time, but Claire didn’t really care how that had happened.

 

He was on top of her again, the warmth of his body pressing against hers, she could feel his strength. She knew that he worked out, that he was strong, but as he held himself above her, her hands gripping his biceps she actually realised that he held an unbridled amount of strength about him and all that did was turn her on more.

 

He began to move again, small withdrawals and forward thrusts as he moved against her. It wasn’t entirely what she wanted, not a whole lot of stimulation going on for her and by repositioning themselves she was able to get a hand on his cock and give it a few good strokes. That stopped Jamie in his tracks and an involuntary huff of breath left his lungs.

 

“Give me your hand,” Claire said as she took it and moved it between her own legs. “Just a warm up before the main event.”

 

Jamie nodded determinedly as his fingers hesitantly moved over her and she shivered again. He hesitated and she breathed the word “trust” before he continued again. One finger eventually found its mark and pushed gently inside her. Her hand continued its rhythmic movement over the length of him, feeling the muscles his arm shudder beside her. Good lord he was talented even if he had no idea what he was doing. Claire felt herself shudder as a second finger was added.

 

“This alright?” Jamie asked hoarsely and it was all Claire could do to nod in response.

 

Suddenly she stopped. Like a light switching on in her mind.

 

“Shit.”

 

“What?” Jamie paused what he was doing and Claire almost cried.

 

“Shit. Fucking. Shit.”

 

“What? What’s wrong? Am I… did I hurt ye?” Jamie looked panicked, withdrawing his hand.

 

“No, no, I just. Fuck. I didn’t get any protection.” Claire could have kicked herself. All the planning, all the preparation and her horny, sex starved brain had forgotten the simplest thing of protection. It was lucky that she was on birth control last time, but that wasn’t always effective and it was a miracle that she didn’t get pregnant. They wouldn’t be doing that again any time soon.

 

“Oh,” Jamie shook his head and backed away from the bed. 

 

“It’s ok, we can just… we can do hand… stuff,” Claire tried to sound comforting. To get so worked up, only to forget the stupid fucking protection. She was an idiot.

 

“Oh no. No… it’s not… I did’na, as I said, I did’na want to be presumptuous or anything but I… er… I bought some.” Jamie bent down to his neatly folded jeans and pulled six connected condoms from the pocket.

 

“Six? And you weren’t being presumptuous?” Claire couldn’t help but laugh as relief flooded her body.

 

“Aye, well… seemed silly to only bring the one,” Jamie answered with a shrug.

 

“You bloody brilliant man. Get back here,” she demanded as Jamie grinned and they resumed their earlier position.

 

--

 

“When should I… should I put it on now?” Jamie asked as Claire’s back arched on the bed. “I like what ye’re doing with yer hand, but… I think…”

 

“Yes, now, sure, now, yes,” Claire answered breathlessly, almost immediately regretting her response when he withdrew from her. 

 

Jamie sat back on his heels awkwardly and tenderly picked up the pack of condoms.

 

“Weel… so this is a thing I’ve never done before,” he said awkwardly as he tore the packet. Luckily Claire stopped herself from laughing and sat up to help him, though she couldn’t entirely stop the smile from coming to her face. Last time had felt so natural. One, two, three and his virginity was taken. This time it was like every possible interruption was getting in the way. She was half expecting her phone to ring with an emergency that she couldn’t ignore, and she considered knocking on the hardwood of her bedside table for luck.

 

“Not even for a practise?” She asked curiously. She’d never thought of it in all honesty. She just assumed that men… just knew how to put on one. It wasn’t that difficult really. Pinch the end and roll- though she supposed as a young girl she’d had to learn how to put in a tampon. Same kettle of fish she supposed. All things that were learned eventually.

 

Jamie closed his eyes as she rolled the condom up his length and she snorted a breath of a laugh. “Might want to keep your eyes open next time, see how it’s done.”

 

“Sorry,” he murmured as they lay back on the bed together. “Just feels good with your hands on me, is all.”

 

Claire hummed out a contented response and things started again, once more. The foreplay of the night had been a rollercoaster. Worked up only to stop with nerves. Worked up again only for them to have a discussion on trust. Worked up a third time only to stop and think they had no protection. 

 

Worked up a fourth time and Claire’s body was on a knife’s point of pleasure. She was sure that it wouldn’t take long to push her over the edge and she was sure that Jamie felt almost exactly the same. If she came after one thrust it would do wonders for his ego.

 

Finally, Jamie aligned at her entrance and slowly pushed himself forward with a grunt.

 

“Jesus,” he breathed as Claire’s body contracted around him. “Feels different than last time, but still... fuck me…” Jamie said with a groan of contentment.

 

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Claire couldn’t help but reply as Jamie snorted with laughter into her neck.

 

He tried to maintain a simple rhythm but his body was soon moving of its own accord and they were both chasing their highs, a competition to who could reach it first, or make the other one reach it first. Neither of them knew, but his body was pounding into her at a pace that may leave bruises in the morning and she couldn’t find it in herself to care. She knew she was making sounds, she knew that she probably sounded like an idiot but every grunt and groan from Jamie was spurring her on. She didn’t realise that the guttural grunt of pleasure from a man could bring her so much satisfaction. Perhaps it was the knowledge that it was her body and that she was the one that could bring him to his knees. That she was the only one that could cause him to make those sounds, and better yet she was the only one to have heard it. Jamie moved to sit on his knees before he bent over Claire and grabbed the headboard, her hips now at a new angle and he seemed to be hitting somewhere deeper than before. Claire clenched around him as his pubic bone brushed against her own and she squeaked high pitched a sound she wasn’t sure she had ever made before. Jamie didn’t notice though and continued to thrust into her at a punishing pace.

 

She was getting close, so was he, she could tell. The sexual tension and build up of three weeks, of wondering if he was seeing other people, of thinking that he was seeing other people, of going on a disastrous date, of waiting, of praying for this moment to happen again built up in Claire.

 

“Mo Chridhe.” 

 

Claire had no idea what the words meant as they burst from Jamie’s lips and Claire came in a moment of absolute bliss. A string of profanities also left her own mouth but if you asked her what they were, she wasn’t sure she would be able to remember. Jamie continued to thrust and Claire felt the moment the tension left his body and he released.

 

Slowly they came down together. Jamie’s brow had drops of sweat in his hairline and there was a fine sheen on Claire’s chest. Jamie released the headboard from his grip and Claire let her legs down from his hips. They were both breathing heavily, their skin red and flushed from exertion. It was all they could do to smile at each other.

 

Gently Jamie pulled out of her and she helped him remove the (surprisingly) full condom, tying it in a knot before disposing of it. They flopped down on the bed next to each other, entirely spent, but happy.

 

“Was it as good as you remember?” Claire asked, turning to him.

 

Jamie kissed her gently and she felt butterflies in her stomach that definitely weren’t there before. Butterflies that left her tingling from the top of her head down to her toes.

 

“To have ye one night, Sassenach, I thought that I could die a happy man. Then have ye again, to see ye as ye fall apart around me and to ken that it is me that ye reach for… I dinna think I could ever get enough.”

 

Claire could feel herself blushing, but it was covered quite well by her already flushed skin. “You’ll stay tonight?”

 

“Aye, as long as ye’ll have me.” Jamie sounded sleepy and Claire couldn’t blame him. Her body was exhausted and spent in the best way possible. Before they could fully drift off, Jamie pulled on his boxers and Claire threw on one of her loosest shirts and some underwear.

 

Jamie’s arms around her, his deep even breath starting to lull her to sleep, Claire felt safe, relaxed, happy and then suddenly very, very awake, as Jamie drifted off to sleep.

 

“I think I might be in love wi’ ye, My Sassenach.”