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“So, I’m not ready to have a baby yet,” she muses, laying sideways on the bed so that her body makes a ‘T’ with Jamie’s.

“Aye, and I think wi’ branchin’ out the farm as we are, I dinna want to be away from ye sae much knowing ye’re pregnant.”

Two discarded pregnancy tests provided negative results, and their combined reactions (his slight disappointment, her slight relief) prompted a conversation that’s lasted now well into the night. It’s dim in their room, save for the glow of a Bluetooth speaker spilling sultry whispers of Sade songs.

“You were still a little excited though,” she points out, turning her head to peer up at him.

“I was. I still would be, but now we’ve talked it out, there’s still too much left tae do. Both of our careers, things we should do.”

“Speaking of,” she murmurs, reaching over to grab her phone and pulling up a saved tab. “‘The Twelve Most Beautiful Scottish Road Trips.’ We could drive the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. Listen to this.” She reads out loud about how the area has high cliffs, hidden beaches, and is said to be home to the castle that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

“Oh, so ye want to take me on a wee horror vacation then, is it?”

“No, you brat,” she says with a lazy back-handed slap to his stomach. “It just sounds nice. Plus, Fraserburgh is home to Europe’s largest shellfish port.”

“Och, I’m sae proud of my name right now, Sassenach.”

The laughter that erupts out of her mingles with his until she finally sighs with contentment. “I like planning things with you, spur of the moment. Going mostly whenever we want and not having to worry about what we can and can’t do with a baby.”

He hums, low in the back of his throat. “We’re no’ even marrit yet, so I ken I was a wee bit too enthusiastic. We have plenty of adventures to go on first, and I want to. Though, I’ll admit I’m eager to see ye round and heavy wi’ our child.” His arms tug her closer, shifting in order to pull her across his chest.

“We’ll have time for it,” she says with a smile filled with love and promise before kissing his chest. “How many times do you plan on getting me round and heavy?”

“Oh, at least four, a nighean,” he responds with no hesitation.

Despite not being ready right now, she can’t help the slight flip of her stomach at the idea of carrying his child, at knowing an act of love and need and soul-shattering bliss created a life.

“I’ll be twenty-eight when we get married, you’ll be close to turning twenty-seven. Days away, in fact.” She moves up his body and plants a soft kiss to his lips. “Thirty.”

His brows knit together in confusion, but that doesn’t stop him from kissing her again. “Thirty?”

“When I’m thirty, let’s stop the birth control and see what happens.” She chews on the inside of her cheek, watching him process.

“So, we wouldna necessarily be tryin’. More like no’ preventing it from happening.”

“That’s definitely what I said, Jamie,” she points out, letting out a laugh through her nose.

“Aye, I just wanted to say it aloud myself. It sounds far away, but I ken it isn’t. Look how quickly two years have passed since we met.”

“Since you invited yourself over for supper?” she teases.

“I did no such thing! And besides that, even if I did, ye burnt up all the lamb. ‘Twas such a shame tae see the animals I raised go up in such smoke.”

Removed from it, the teases comes across as just that as she smacks him lightly. “If I hadn’t burnt it then you’d have expected a proper housewife to cook for you every night.”

Jamie snorts through his nose and tugs her entire body over his, unashamed.

“I expect a lot of things from ye, Sassenach. Bein’ proper is no’ one of them.”

She laughs and leans down to steal a kiss from his lips before being pulled in to kiss him deeper. “And what is it ye expect from me, lad?” she asks in a terrible rendition of his accent.

“First, I expect ye to never try to mimic me again,” he warns with a kiss to her forehead. “Second, I expect ye to excel at your career, a nighean. Whatever it is we decide to do together, let it only be if ye’re truly ready in all aspects. Aye?”

Touched, she reaches out to press her hand to his cheek, stroking the high apple of it tenderly with her thumb. “Aye. I promise, Jamie. But speaking of that, I’ve been giving something a lot of thought.”

Now, she sits up and Jamie follows suit, pushing himself against the headboard. The sheet covers his hips, but Claire sits bare to him at his side, facing him with legs tucked under her body.

“What is it, Sassenach?”

“Promise you won’t say it’s insane.”

There’s a brief pass of confusion on his features before he nods. “I promise.”

Taking a deep breath, she lets it out and pulls her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment before speaking. “Once we have kids, I think I want to pull back from working at the hospital. Not because I don’t still love my work, but this--” She pauses, pushing a hand through her hair and causing riotous curls to fall across her forehead.

“I can’t help thinking about sitting around with Jenny while our children play and we hang laundry. Helping with the farm, being sunkissed instead of pale from working indoors all day. I want to be here, or at Lallybroch, I suppose, helping while you and Ian work to expand things overseas. I want to contribute; I’ve thought up ideas for a community vegetable garden, how to repurpose things we can’t sell into groceries for the less fortunate. That’s what I want, and it’s how I can still help others. You, your family, the legacy of your farm, Jamie, I want all of it.”

He doesn’t know what to say at first, mouth going dry before finally reaching out and pulling her almost reverently into his lap. Her legs tuck against his hips, hands resting at his sides. There was a time when she’d laid out plainly to him she wouldn’t change her occupation to please any man. To hear her speak so passionately now, to hear her make a choice conjures just enough tears to blur his vision.

“Christ, are ye real?” he asks first, reaching out to lightly trace the curve of her jaw. “Claire, I would wait centuries for that life wi’ ye. Forever, if I had to.”

She smiles softly, reaching out to wrap her arms around his neck and situating herself better, able to feel him hard and nestled between her thighs. “You don’t have to wait forever. Only until thirty.”

“Are ye really marryin’ me in two months?”

Her mouth finds his and she presses her words against his mouth. “I am. And you’re really going to be mine.”

“Oh, I am yours, Sassenach.” His hips begin a slow roll against hers, one arm slung low around her hips. “I was yours the moment ye told me to find you.”

Pressing her lips to his neck, she lets out a soft sigh as her hips begin to slowly match his movements. “You found every part of me,” she whispers. “You put me together and you kept me.”

His hands reach out to hold onto her hips as they move in tandem, not yet joined, but mimicking.

“I’d find ye again if I had to. And it would be easier the next time because I ken ye now. I could find ye in the dark wi’ my hands tied behind my back.”

“How?” she asks, breathless and wanting, reaching between them to guide him inside of her. Both of them let out a quiet gasp of completion, clinging to one another now.

Ducking his head, Jamie presses his teeth to her shoulder lightly, only scraping gently before soothing the spot with a kiss. “My soul calls out to ye when we’re no’ together. Maybe ye dinnae realize it, but ye found me, as well. Long before ye visited the market.”

As her eyes open, she knows exactly what he means as they move together, her smile matching his slow, easy one. “The shirt.” A random plucking out of a random box at the hospital and it happened to be the one shirt advertising Lallybroch.

With no more room for speaking between them, they move together slowly at first, staring at one another while they explore every hue of blue and gold between them. When it’s too much, she closes her eyes and rides him faster, harder, until his hands clutch at her back and her fingernails leave pinched crease marks at the base of his neck. When she shatters, bursts of white light flash behind her eyelids as her body shakes around his. He guides his hips up once, twice more, then loses himself in her with a shallow gasp of her name. It’s quiet this time, their lovemaking, born of the confessions and hope between them.

After, once they’ve shoved themselves up from bed to go about their nightly routine (cleaning up the kitchen, locking doors, and bathroom rituals), they stand side by side brushing their teeth. He’s in grey boxer briefs, slung low on his hips, while Claire’s in a t-shirt that hangs to mid-thigh, hair up in a messy bun in an attempt to get it out of her face while washing it. The silence is companionable until he breaks it.

“Ye ken, Sassenach. Once ye turn thirty, I’m no’ gonna hesitate to start trying to get ye pregnant.”

“Is that so?” she asks once she spits, serving impressive side-eye in the mirror.

“Oh, aye, I promise, we’ll find out ye’re wi’ child two, three months in, tops.”

“You mean you plan on fucking me senseless until I’m pregnant?” she asks, batting her eyelashes. “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.” She knows breaking a vow would never happen, but she likes knowing what sort of rise she can get out of him.

True to form, he wipes his mouth with a towel before tossing it aside and turning to stalk toward her. With a predatory gaze that promises more once they’re in bed, he backs her to the wall, a hand braced at the side of her head.

“I don’t make idle threats, Sassenach,” he says, raising one brow before his head ducks to press a kiss to her neck, just below her ear. “And I dinna take frivolous vows.” Jamie captures her lips now in a deep kiss, one that makes heat pool low in her belly.

“Now. Can we go to bed?” he asks, knowing full well the effect he has on her. So much so, that even as she’s nodding, he pulls her up, her legs locked around his hips.

He’s inside of her before they can make it out of the bathroom, but eventually, they become a mess of limbs on the bed, breathing hard together and trying to calm their pounding hearts. Once she can move, Claire nestles herself in his arms and rests her head on his chest.

“Thirty with you is going to be amazing, you know,” she murmurs.

He’s already planning it, deciding to take her somewhere, to make it special.

“So will all the road trips in between, Sassenach.”