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A Beautiful, Wild Country

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The skin on my bare shoulder began to tingle as Jamie’s lips trailed their way across it, towards the back of my neck where he planted a solid kiss. I sighed deeply as I came out of sleep, allowing my body to push back against his and find his solid frame there to welcome and comfort me.

“Good morning, Sassenach. Did ye sleep well?” His words were whispered against my neck as his tongue darted out to taste my skin.

“Yes, thank you. Did you?” I returned the question as a lazy smile drifted across my lips.

“Aye. I dreamt of ye, ye ken. Even in my dreams, ye are all I see.”

I turned my body to face his and kissed his mouth slowly as his hands grasped at my waist, pulling my body to rest on top of his. My knees instinctively fell to the side of his hips and I settled against him, feeling his length beneath me.

“And just what was I doing in this dream?” I teased him, eliciting a rumble of laughter from deep in his throat.

“What we were doing, Sassenach…” his teeth caught my bottom lip between them as his hands moved up my body to fist in my hair as he deepened the kiss.

“What were we doing then?” I taunted back when he released my mouth as I began to slowly move my hips against his, delighting when I saw his jaw tighten in restraint, “Something like this, I’d wager?”

Humour flashed through his eyes before they were filled with something else as his hands let go of my hair and came to cup my face tenderly. He pushed me away slightly so that he could look at me properly.

“Actually, I do dream of ye with yer clothes on sometimes, too. Last night was one of those times,” he said quietly and my body stilled against his as I let my weight drop onto him, propping my chin on his sternum so that I could look up at him. His hair was tousled from sleep which always amazed me considering that he slept on his back. There was the remnants of sleep in his eyes and his skin was flushed from the heat of spending a night in a warm bed with a body next to him. The gentle light of the morning sunrise was coming through the window and painted him in a hue that made him almost impossibly beautiful. Not for the first time, I sent thanks to whatever powers that be that this man was mine and that I was his.

When I didn’t ask, he told me anyway, “We were in the hills. Just the two of us, walking through Bidean nam Bian. The Three Sisters, ye ken?”

I shook my head no and his eyes widened slightly in surprise.

“Ye’ve never been to Glencoe?”

I snorted, “Jamie, before the wedding, I’d never been to Scotland. And every time I’ve been since then, you’ve been with me so if you haven’t taken me there, I haven’t been.”

He settled his arms around my back and nestled his cheek into the crown of my head, sighing contentedly as we basked in the sun that was streaming through the window.

“I shall take ye there soon then. There’s nowhere in Scotland like Glencoe. We can take a drive to Ballachulish, see Loch Lìobhann. Make a weekend of it,” he spoke out loud and I watched as he began to plan the trip in his head.

“Sounds good to me.”

***

I sent a swift kick to Murtagh’s shin under the table in the kitchen as he continued to watch his nephew from over his bowl of porridge. He started and cleared his throat as he continued to eat, Geillis laying a calming hand to the back of his hunched over neck. Thankfully, Jamie was oblivious to the close consideration that he was on the receiving end of as there was also breakfast food in front of him and I’d learned that when that was the case, there was little to be done to distract him from shovelling it all down in record time.

“So, what’s the plan for yer Saturday then, you two?” Geillis asked in an attempt to break the silence that was only being filled with the sounds of cutlery on plates.

“Probably just head home after breakfast, have a quiet weekend,” I shrugged as I sipped my coffee. Jamie’s head rose momentarily from his plate as he looked at me quickly and then straight back to his food.

“Actually, thought we might go to Lallybroch for a bit, if yer nae fashed, Claire. Ye could look in on Jenny.”

I immediately straightened up and looked at him but he was back to staring at his plate, “Is she alright?”

“Aye aye,” he said the words with a sharp inhale, a truly Scottish mannerism, before stuffing more black pudding and eggs into his mouth, “She’s braw.”

I looked at Geillis pointedly who sent me a subtle shrug of her shoulders before continuing to reading the papers. Confused, I leaned back into my chair and went back to drinking my coffee, the scraping of knives against crockery once again becoming the only sound in the room.

***

For the whole drive to Lallybroch, Jamie didn’t once let go of my hand which made it particularly difficult when trying to change gear. I had muttered something along the lines of ‘downright dangerous’ under my breath but Jamie had simply grinned, pulled our joined hands to his mouth and planted a kiss there, all the while keeping his eyes on the road. He had, once again, picked the music of our journey and we sat in a companionable silence as the car was filled with the voice of Rufus Wainwright. I looked at him in surprise and watched his mouth flip up at the sides, confirming that he had put on this particular song on purpose. It was the song that I always found myself singing along to, the one that my fingers typed into my phone when I needed to fill the silence. But I hadn’t realised that Jamie had noticed.

“It’s one of your favourites, no?”

“You never stop surprising me, James Fraser,” I mused as I looked out over the rugged terrain of the highlands. The road to Lallybroch was twisted and wild and driving it would’ve scared the life out of me but Jamie knew the area like the back of his hand, occasionally pointing to a remote farmhouse and telling me who lived there and who had lived there before them. We passed derelict crofts, vast pieces of land that were the home of cattle and dense woodland that seemed to go on forever. It made sense why Highlanders still had mysticism and folklore running through their blood, how could they not when they seemed to live in amongst a fairytale?

When we finally came within sight of Lallybroch, as always, the tension that I wasn’t aware that I was holding evaporated from my body. Jamie smiled knowingly at me as he parked the car, his smile widening at the sight of his family spilling out of the front door.

“Auntie Claire!” Wee Jamie’s arms tightened around my knees as soon as I was out of the car. Shocked that he hadn’t gone to his uncle first, I looked up at Jamie’s equally surprised face. He scowled at me jokingly as I pulled Wee Jamie onto my hip, the dense weight of his body almost impossible to settle against me as he squirmed in a way that only young boys could.

“Pure dingied, man!” The older Ian laughed out loud at the sight of his brother-in-law’s over exaggerated pout.

“Leave him be,” Jenny smacked her husband lightly on the chest before sending a straight look at her offspring, “Say hello tae yer uncle, James Murray.”

As soon as I put his feet on the floor, Wee Jamie ran straight to his uncle who scooped him up with much less difficulty than I had had.

“This is a nice surprise for a Saturday morning,” Jenny said, her hands settling themselves in their standard position on their hips. She looked pointedly towards her brother with a strange smile, almost too big for her face before Ian placed his hand on her waist and she seemed to relax slightly. I shifted my eyes to Jamie and caught him smirking straight back at her, the two of them telepathically sharing thoughts with each other.

As we all went inside, Jenny was forced to sit at the kitchen table while Ian got everyone settled with cups of coffee. Jamie came to deposit his nephew on Jenny’s lap before running his fingertips along the back of my neck on his way out of the room as I began to question Jenny about how she was feeling. I noticed the shift in her eyes, her glance darting to the door that her brother had disappeared through moments later.

“And are you getting any exercise at the moment? Movement is good for the baby’s development,” I asked her, her eyes flitting back to me.

“Running after this wee one and his father is exercise enough,” she snorted as Ian put his hands on her shoulders, kneading the muscles.

“I’m trying my best to help but she’ll no be telt sometimes,” he chuckled as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head and then went to load the dishwasher.

“You really should try to rest a bit, no big plans for a while,” I raised my eyebrows at her and saw a small smile spread across her lips as she pulled Wee Jamie closer to her.

“Aye, no big plans, I promise ye.”

We sat at the table and caught up as we drank our coffees, Wee Jamie finding all the adult chat terribly boring and finally scurrying off to find his uncle.

“Where has he got to anyway?” I mused out loud, craning my neck to the kitchen door just in time to see Jamie step through it, his namesake following closely behind him. He sent a blinding grin to his sister and then came to sit beside me, eagerly crashing a kiss against my temple.

“Sorry for bailin’ on ye, Sassenach, is this still hot?” He raised the mug to his mouth and drank deeply, hiding a smirk behind the rim. I glanced at Jenny who was glowing at him and wondered, not for the first time that morning, if there was something they weren’t sharing with the rest of the group.

An hour or so later, Jamie was parking his Landrover in the side street beside the flat. He had been quiet the whole drive home but I still saw the smile that had been permanently sat on his lips, only being broken in the moments where he would chew the side of his bottom lip with his teeth. He burst from the car and jogged around to my side to open the door for me, holding his hand in an act of chivalry that I would usually scoff at. But something today felt different. He didn’t let go of my hand as we walked up the stairs to the front door of his flat and I felt the atmosphere between us change slightly.

“Jamie, what’s going on? You’ve been funny all day,” I narrowed my eyes at him but he simply pushed the door open and gestured for me to go inside.

The first thing that I noticed was the smell. The air in the room was uncharacteristically floral and as I rounded the corner into the living room, I realised why. Every possible surface was filled with flowers. Wild flowers and roses and lillies and peonies, some flowers that I didn’t even recognise. Every space that wasn’t covered in vases was covered in unlit candles, some looking as though they’d almost burnt to their end. I spun on my heel to look at him, standing in the doorframe watching me closely. With a flick of his hand, fairy lights that I hadn’t even noticed came to life, their light setting everything in a warm glow.

“Do ye like it?”

Tears started to fill my eyes as I laughed in delight at my thoughtful, loving boyfriend, “Jamie, it’s beautiful. When on earth did you set this all up?”

He moved towards me then, placing his hands gently around me and holding me close to his body as he kissed my forehead.

“I spent most of yesterday afternoon getting it together, Jenny helped me with getting the flowers delivered. Took me an age to light all yon wee candles but after our fight in the morning, I wanted ye to come home to something beautiful,” he mumbled into my hair as I closed my eyes and let myself be pulled deeper into his grip.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t here to see it all. Let’s light some of them now,” I pressed a kiss to his chest and moved away from him, grabbing the box of matches that we kept on the bookshelf and striking the first one, setting to work at lighting two of that were within reach.

“Dinna fash yersel, Claire. Besides, our trip to Lallybroch this morning gave me time to get this,” he said from behind me.

“Get what?” I asked as I lit another candle and turned to look at him.

My heart skipped a beat.

He was there, the warm light of the room bringing out the fire in his hair and flickering in his impossibly blue eyes. His face was calm but I noticed that he was shifting his weight slightly, nervous energy getting the better of him. Balancing on one knee with his hands outstretched towards me. Cradling a small burgundy velvet box in his hands.

“Jamie?”

I stared at him, rooted to the spot as the corner of his mouth curled up, his eyes full of sincerity.

“Claire… Sorcha… From the first moment I saw ye, I knew in my heart and in my soul that we were destined to be together. It was as if I stepped outside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out. Ye have allowed me to know ye, love ye in ways that I thought I could only dream of. I did not know it was even possible to love someone this deeply,” he spoke with a surety that made my skin tingle, every fibre of my being was set alight in that moment, “If ye’ll have me, I wish to spend the rest of my life lovin’ ye, servin’ ye. Will ye give me that gift, Claire? Will ye marry me?”

I wasn’t even aware of making a conscious decision to move to him until I felt my knees hit the floor in front of him, my hands reaching out, cradling his face and crashing my lips against his. One strong arm came around my waist, holding my body tightly against his own as he kissed me back fervently. I couldn’t get enough of him, wishing that I could sink under his skin and never be parted from him again.

He wrenched his mouth from mine, breathing heavily with hooded eyes as he panted, “Is that a yes? Will ye have me as yer husband, Claire?”

“Yes. Yes, I’ll have you. I’ll be your wife, Jamie,” I whispered against his mouth, eliciting a groan as he slammed his mouth back onto mine.

Suddenly, he stood taking me with him and broke our kiss. His hand, still gripping the box, sought out my ring finger on my left hand and he planted a kiss above my knuckle before flipping the box open and slowly pushing the ring onto my finger.

“It’s beautiful,” I told him honestly, admiring the intricate white gold band with a large amethyst stone set into the middle. On closer inspection, I saw that the design that held the stone in place were thistles.

“It was my mother’s. And now it will be my wife’s,” he pulled my hand once again to his mouth and placed a kiss on the ring, “I love ye, Claire.”

“And I love you.”