I heard him before I saw him, bellowing my name as he bounded around the side of the house. He came to stop in front of my garden plot, where I had been kneeling long enough for it to ache, seeing to a few cabbage plants that stubbornly refused to thrive despite my efforts.
"What is it?" I asked, glancing up only long enough to see his tall leather boots caked in mud nearly to his knees and deciding I didn't have any particular desire to see the rest of the mess just yet. Though we had a fine entryway where such things could be taken care of so as to avoid tracking the mess straight into the house, it didn't seem to occur to Jamie that that, too, needed to be swept from time to time. At fifty he was still boyish that way, still so much like the young ruffian I'd first encountered in the wilds of Scotland so many years ago. Then again, my time spent in the air-conditioned, vacuumed luxury of the 1960’s had likely heightened my awareness of the dirt between the floorboards or the stickiness that covered the table after a spill. Sometimes, between the two of us, it seemed I was the only one who even noticed that I had to pry my sleeves from the polished wood, but I never really minded being the one to take care of such things.
"I've a new plant for ye," he answered, clearly pleased with his discovery. At that, I lifted my eyes to meet his, and they were shining bright blue with excitement. What kind of excitement, I couldn't yet decipher.
"Did you now? And where might this new plant be?" I asked, brows raised in question, and pouted my smirking lips just enough for him to notice. He had used similar ruses before, a patch of wild flowers or a meadow I simply must see, in order to convince me to abandon my tasks and follow him out into the woods, only to reveal that there was no such sight and he only wanted me to himself. It rarely bothered me—often they were the only moments we had to ourselves, save for the end of the day when one or both of us was often too exhausted for much of anything to happen.
"Och, some eight hundred yards or so back intae the forest, west o' the stream. Came across it on my way back from the Lindsay's."
Jamie extended a large hand and I couldn't resist. He'd been gone when I woke that morning, off to see to some tenants, and I was eager for a kiss from my husband. He pulled me up and into his arms as if it required no effort at all—damn the seven years that had me creaking and sore but left him as yet untouched. He tasted of whiskey and salt pork and I could feel him humming with excitement. Perhaps this wasn't a scheme, after all.
"And what does this plant look like?" I asked, my hands clasped at the small of his back as I looked up with brows raised. I would go with him, that much I had already decided, but he didn't need to know that yet. I had already followed this man two hundred years we spent apart. I'd follow him eight hundred yards into the woods, too, even if the only thing he had to show me was just how much he wanted me, even after all this time.
"Weel, there's only one that I could find. About yea high," he pinched the back of my thigh just above my knee, "with verra long, serrated leaves, looked tae be in bunches of about seven. And verra odd green flowers, too, if ye can even call them that. Ye'll ken better than I, Sassenach."
Now this piqued my interest. I thought I might have an inkling of exactly the kind of plant he was describing, although I didn't see how that was possible here. Marijuana wasn't native to the United States, but it had certainly arrived by the 1960's. Perhaps the craze dated back two hundred years and I simply had no idea. I certainly couldn't think of what else my husband might be describing. So, with a final peck to his lips, I told him to lead the way.
Jamie took me deeper and deeper into the lush forest behind our homestead, my hand in his the whole while. His ability to track never ceased to amaze me, as I certainly didn't possess anything even close to it. After being there barely two years, Jamie seemed to know each of our ten thousand acres like the back of his hand. Many who knew him had commented to me, in different ways over the years, that Jamie was born to be a laird—and it's not that I didn't believe them when they said it—but to see him carry it out with my own eyes, there was a certain divinity in it. As he caught me up on the business of our tenants, awash in the natural beauty of the country that was once the place of so much sadness for me, I marveled to myself that despite wars and shipwrecks, loss and separation, and everything else that had befallen us, it seemed we were living exactly the life we were supposed to. I knew well enough that it wouldn't last, that the Revolution was simmering and it wasn't going to be pretty, but on a day like this, with sunlight breaking through the leaf cover and Jamie's thumb caressing the back of my hand, it was easier to push that aside and simply enjoy what I had.
"Tis right up here," Jamie said, breaking away to spring ahead. I followed at a distance; I never cared for unnecessary running quite as much as he.
I couldn't help the shrieking laugh that had birds scattering from their treetop perches when I set eyes on this new plant.
I clapped a hand over my mouth but couldn't stop from snickering, even as I caught the slight cock to Jamie's head and the questioning look in his eye. I could hardly believe it, even though I'd already suspected what I would find. There, standing tall and proud above a group of shrubs, was indeed, a marijuana plant. I'd never seen one in person, nor partaken (although I had quietly suspected that the reaction that cropped up to its recreational use shortly before I left the 1960's might have been a bit much), but when I touched one of the small, furry looking buds that had begun to sprout and brought my fingers to my nose, that was all the confirmation I needed.
"I'd love tae know what ye find so amusing, if ye've a moment to share," Jamie interjected with a smirk, following my lead and sniffing his fingers. The face he made had me in stitches again, and I'm quite certain he thought I'd lost it altogether.
"Have you—have you ever heard of marijuana?" I asked, biting my lip in an attempt to keep myself contained as I waited for his answer.
"No, canna say I have. Care tae enlighten me?" Jamie wrapped his arms around my waist and planted his chin on my shoulder, letting out a low, contented hum as he nuzzled into my hair. Still smirking ridiculously, I did just that.
"Well, it's—it's a drug. It becomes very popular in America by the 1960's, but I didn't know it—dated back this long."
Jamie sounded so excited to have found something to help with my work I almost didn't want to let him down. I crossed my arms over my middle and let my hands rest on his forearms, stroking the bristly hairs.
"No, not quite. Though I suppose...possibly, I'm not actually sure. It's primarily used recreationally, though, it's from a class of drug called psychoactives. They make you—I don't know—see things? Feel funny?"
I didn't know what kind of reaction I was expecting, really, but it certainly wasn't the level of interest he showed. He unwound his arms from my waist and bent down, fingering the leaves and the strange little buds more intently. I watched, thoroughly amused, and allowed myself a moment to admire his hands. They were beautiful, really, from the sparse ginger hairs on his wrist to the slightly crooked middle finger on his left hand. I loved to kiss that scar, and Jamie always indulged me even though I knew he had never quite regained feeling there, and the sensation was probably an odd one.
"D'ye jab it in yer arse, like yer penicillin, then?" Jamie wondered aloud, glancing up at me.
"No, you smoke it like tobacco."
A little taken by his curiosity, I knelt down beside him and examined the little buds more closely. They were touched here and there with an orange hue, and there was an almost moss like quality to them, with small, curled up leaves interspersed between...whatever the other bits were. They were pretty in a strange way, and I assumed Jamie was right in that this was the flower, per se.
"So ye smoke the leaves?"
"No, no I think you smoke these here," I said, touching one of the odd green bits. Having satisfied my interest, I braced my hands on my knees and stood once more, leaning back for a stretch while I was at it. "Are you ready to head back? You did interrupt my gardening, you know."
"Shouldn't we harvest some? Seems there are uses for it."
"Oh, I don't think—it's not really medicinal, it's used for recreation."
"Tis like drinkin', then?"
"I don't really know, I've never done it."
"I thought ye said twas popular, in yer time," Jamie questioned, standing and wrapping an arm around my waist.
"It was, among...a certain group of people. It was getting to be rather frowned upon by the mainstream though, by the time I left. I never saw much harm in it myself, but that doesn't mean I tried it."
"Then why don't we harvest some tae see?" Jamie asked, squeezing my hip. I couldn't help but grin at the playful glint in his eye, though I was a little surprised by this turn of events.
"You want to—smoke pot?" I snorted out a laugh. The thought of Jamie Fraser, highland warrior, smoking a doobie was quite the image.
"I dinna see why not, if it's no worse than drinking'."
"Jamie, we can't—I scared Brianna shitless about it when she was in high school. I'm nearly sixty, for God's sake, I can't..."
"Who said Brianna has to know?" Jamie wiggled his eyebrows and pulled me closer, smoothing his hand up and down my un-corseted side. I'd taken to forgoing them most days, and was unsurprised to find that my husband didn't mind in the slightest. He'd muttered something about easy access and my bouncing breasts and temptation itself when he caught me over the butter churn one morning.
"You're really set on this, aren't you?"
Jamie demurred with a shrug and a Scottish noise, but followed it just a moment later with, " Seein' things , feelin' funny ...could be entertaining if nothin’ else."
I looked sidelong at him for a long moment, my bottom lip caught between my teeth as I bit back a smirk.
"You never do cease to surprise me," I said finally, shaking my head as I acquiesced. "Let's go, then. For the record, I have no idea if these are actually ready to...do anything with."
Jamie knelt down beside me, pinching off the first of the buds with a thumb and forefinger. He made to reach into the pocket of my skirt but I swatted his hand away.
"Don't stink up my skirt with that!" I cried, wobbling a little when he went for it again, dodging my hands and skimming along the side of my skirt to find the opening.
"How are we tae sneak it into the house, then?" He teased, tickling my sides as I tried halfheartedly to fight him off.
A well-placed flex of his fingers had me knocked completely off balance, and I whooped with laughter as I caught myself in the dirt. Jamie straddled my hips instantaneously, catching my flailing wrists in one hand and holding them out of the way to once again root around for my pocket. He was every bit as strong as the lad whose shoulder I fixed in a one room highland cottage, making my struggles for naught.
"Jamie!" I pleaded, shaking my wrists as hard as I could though they barely moved in his grip. "I don't want these in my skirt! It'll stink and Bree cannot know that I'm—doing this. Put it—put it in your sporran!"
"Och, so ye'll stink up my sporran and no' yer skirt?" he challenged with a quirk of his brow, still holding her at bay.
“That’s exactly what I’ll do,” I retorted with a stern raise of my brows, despite the fact that I had nothing like the upper hand here.
Jamie hummed and pulled an exaggerated contemplative face, looking up and away for a moment as he considered the situation. When he looked back to me his eyes drifted momentarily down my bodice and I knew exactly what he would deem this trickery worth. I was more than happy to oblige, but I let him be the one to request his premium.
He released my hands and I let them fall into the brush at my sides as he leaned down to brush his lips just barely against mine.
“It’ll cost ye,” he burred from low in his chest, tracing a fingertip along the top of my bodice.
“Oh really? And what might the price be?” I demurred with wide eyes as he hooked a finger between my breasts and tugged at the garment.
“I think ye ken well enough,” Jamie replied with that charming, owlish wink as he lowered his lips to mine again.
“Do I look like…?”
“Like we just fucked in the woods?” Jamie finished for me, catching me by the hand as we strolled back in the direction of the house and tugging me into him. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his crassly accurate description of what we had just done. Fucking was one of the twentieth century terms that my husband had espoused into his own vocabulary over the years, and I couldn’t say I minded.
“That’s one way to put it,” I replied, belly still shaking as I tucked myself into his side and wrapped an arm around his waist.
Jamie turned to me, his tongue sweeping across his lower lip as his eyes drifted across my face, down to my chest and back. The look of pride that flickered across his face was enough to tell me that I looked just as flushed as I felt, which only made my cheeks burn hotter.
“Ye dinna look like a virgin, Sassenach,” he answered after a moment, squeezing a handful of my arse and making me jump.
“I should hope not, at my age,” I laughed a little breathlessly, and leaned up to capture his lips before he turned back.
The trees began to grow sparse, and before too long I could see the Big House in the distance, standing in stunning relief against an early evening sky of soft pinks and purples. Smoke billowed up from the chimneys and people bustled about the yard, but I paid little mind beyond scanning quickly from head to head as we came closer, searching for Brianna’s telltale red curls or Roger. Unless I really did have some massive historical blind spot and Americans had been getting baked for hundreds of years, they were the only people I needed to worry about smelling it on us. The fact that they were my daughter and son in law only made me more determined to get the stuff secreted away without their knowledge.
“Alright, we have to get this straight to our room when we get there, understand? No—chatting, no kissing babies, straight upstairs.”
“Ye’ve no’ had enough of me, have ye, lass?” Jamie wiggled his eyebrows at me, large fingers flexing against my waist, and I shot him a glare.
“Would you quit ?” I warned, elbowing him in the side. “We are sneaking illicit drugs into the house, this is serious!”
“I dinna think we’ll have a problem, Sassenach. We are Laird and Lady, after all,” Jamie assured me with a double-eyed wink, which wasn’t entirely effective given the poor way he hid his smirk. He didn’t know enough about precisely what we were doing to look guilty, but I knew if our daughter caught us with weed, I’d never hear the end of it.
Much to my chagrin, Jamie disregarded my request that we go straight in, stopping to chat with just about anyone who bothered to say hello along the way, which resulted in me making up some story about a spider bite that I needed to tend to and tugging him bodily up through the yard until we finally made it to the house. The scene inside was only slightly safer, but when I didn’t hear Brianna’s voice in the halls, I relaxed a little, and we made it to the room with our contraband undetected.
It was another several days before I got up the courage to actually do anything about the little green buds, which now lay deep in a dresser drawer, wrapped in a cheesecloth. Jamie and I had planned a couple times for it to be the night , but due to this or that, one or both of us was far too knackered at the end of the day; or I had begged cowardice and backed out at the last minute.
On a Thursday evening just as the leaves had begun to change, though, it seemed the stars aligned. Jamie and I had both finished our relatively light days work early in the evening, and by dusk we’d seen Fergus, Brianna and their families off to their respective homes after an impromptu family dinner. There were no overnighters in the surgery, and Jamie and I had retired to the study, where I’d curled up on the sofa with a botany book while he saw to some letter writing.
Immersed in my reading, I jumped a foot out of my perch when Jamie cleared his throat, glaring at him over my shoulder as he snickered.
“Sorry tae startle ye, Sassenach,” he said, though I could still see him shaking faintly with laughter. “Tis only, ye look especially bonny tonight.”
“Oh?” I replied, feeling a flush of heat crawling up from my chest as I turned in my seat to face him, leaning against the arm of the sofa. It was a familiar thrill, one I still felt each and every time my husband said something sweet to me.
He returned his quill to the inkpot, forearms braced on his desk as he made a more direct appraisal of my appearance. His eyes, clear and blue as the ocean we’d ventured across to get here, wandered slowly across my features, from the cloud of my curls to my neck and clavicle, then lower, to the neck of my simple linen shift.
“Come, sit wi’ me a while.”
I was about to protest, seeing as there was far more room on the couch, when it occurred to me that perhaps the lack of room at the leather chair behind his desk was exactly what he was getting at. A smirk tugging at my lips, I appraised him with thoughtful eyes for a moment, then put my book aside and rose from the couch. He pushed himself back from the desk just in time to swing me into his arms as I rounded the corner, his arm strong around my back as he dipped me for a kiss.
I came up chuckling, not having expected a greeting quite like that, and anchored my fingers at the back of his neck. He smiled against my lips, nuzzling the tip of his nose along mine, and I couldn’t help but kiss him again.
That wasn’t enough, was never enough, and I sighed a few minutes later, resting my head in the crook of his neck to catch my breath. As my body rose and fell with his labored breathing, I felt a surge of pride that I could rouse my husband in the same way I had thirty years ago. I could still remember worrying about getting older, in lifetimes past, but Jamie had quieted that concern in an Edinburgh brothel, of all places, and by now, he had all but decimated it. My back might ache, and my joints might creak, but knowing that I would be loved so thoroughly for the rest of my days and beyond made those things matter so much less.
“Might I request your company in our bedchamber, Mister Fraser?” I hummed, pulling away to meet his eyes. They were dark and glazed, and I’m sure a reflection of my own. “I have a very pressing issue that could really use the Laird’s attention.”
“Aye, ye might,” Jamie answered, though he didn’t move. The corner of his lips twitched, and I sensed with considerable annoyance that he had other plans. “Or we could stay right here and…”
He trailed off, holding me to him with one arm as he reached forward and pulled open one of his desk drawers with the other. As he brought out a tobacco pipe that he owned but, to my knowledge, rarely used, the earthy scent of our illicit harvest hit me almost immediately and I gawked at him.
“You’ve been planning this!” I exclaimed, smacking him lightly on the chest. “What, you thought you’d get me all worked up and use it as leverage to convince me to get high?”
“The gettin’ ye all worked up wasna part of the original plan, no.” His cheeks, already reddened from our earlier activities, flushed darker, and God help the charming bastard, it just might work. “But I did think to myself that we’ve a nice long evenin’ ahead, just the two of us. Ye ken I like tae come prepared.”
Glaring, and betrayed by the helpless upturn to my lips, I plucked the clay pipe from his hand and peered into the bowl. Staring back at me, as expected, was one of the strange green buds, aromatic as ever.
“Did you bring this downstairs while everyone was here?” I asked suddenly, eyebrows flying up to my hairline as I looked back at Jamie with no little accusation.
“Nae, Sassenach, I waited til ye were tidyin’ up in the kitchen. So,” he continued, returning us to what had quickly become the issue at hand. He dropped his head and began placing soft, teasing kisses along the column of my neck in what I knew was a calculated move, intended to break me down so I’d give in, and pulled away at the slightest hint of a whimper caught in my throat. “What d’ye think? Shall we have a wee bit o’ fun tonight?”
The mischievous glimmer in his eye had already mostly convinced me, but I wouldn’t cave quite so easily.
“I don’t know,” I sighed, trapping my lips between my teeth and letting them roll out slowly so they’d look especially full as I made an exaggerated point of considering the situation. “Are you planning on finishing what you started?”
“I asked you first, lass,” Jamie retorted, looking rather pleased with himself.
“You’re impossible,” I huffed, peering once more into the bowl of the pipe. I knew Jamie wouldn’t let me get away with wriggling out of this for much longer—why not tonight?
“When they smoke it I think they—pull it apart?” Dumping the bowl out into my palm, I set the pipe back on his desk.
“Who’s they ?”
“ Hippies ,” I answered flatly, flashing him a glance before sliding off his lap. “Go open a window, I suppose we’re doing this.”
He rose from his seat and I stole his spot immediately, noting the warm leather beneath me as I scooted myself into the desk with some effort. The man really was a furnace. Digging my thumbnails into the heart of the...thing, there was an almost sticky quality to it all as I pried it in half and set to work picking it into smaller bits.
“Why the window?” Jamie asked. I jumped, and shot him a glare. He was behind me, forearms braced on the back of the chair, and I had no idea.
“How are you so bloody quiet,” I wondered aloud, mostly to myself. “I don’t want—marijuana fumes stinking up our house.”
It didn’t take long at all before the greenery was shredded well enough and returned to the bowl of the pipe. When Jamie led me by the hand to the open window and produced a tinderbox, I realized I’d run out of delay tactics. Handing me the pipe, he set the box on the sideboard beside the window and effortlessly kindled a small fire within, then reached for a sulfur tipped splint of wood.
“What if a patient comes? What if someone gets hurt and I can’t—I can’t help them?” I babbled just before the tip reached the coals.
Jamie stopped, cocking his brow as he looked up and met my eyes.
“This’ll be the third time ye’ve used that excuse, Sassenach,” he reminded me, reaching out and pulling me to him. His arm around my waist was comforting and I burrowed closer, still holding up the pipe between us.
“And ken what happened the first two times? We passed the whole night without a patient in sight, just as we usually do. Besides, I’ve seen ye tend tae people just fine after a few glasses of good whiskey.”
“Yes but I know what whiskey feels like. I can handle drinking. I have absolutely no idea what smoking—marijuana is like! I could be flat on my arse in five minutes for all I know!”
“And if ye are, I’ll see ye safely tucked in bed with a glass of water like ye do for me when I overindulge, and on the off chance that someone does come lookin’ for Doctor Fraser, I’ll ride for Marsali myself.”
When I didn’t say anything, his hand snaked from my waist down to my arse and he gave it a squeeze, lingering there to keep me close—not that I was going anywhere.
“If we dinna get one wi’ this the fire’s going tae see itself out,” he encouraged, a little softer now.
“Fine. But I’m not doing it first,” I surrendered, pushing the pipe into his hand and snatching the splint. I still suspected this might not be the best of ideas, but neither was it probably the worst in the grand scheme of things.
“I just smoke it like tobacco, then?” Jamie asked. I was glad when he didn’t relinquish his grasp on me. So many years later, things were still easier when we touched.
“I—essentially, yes, I think.”
As I had several times since Jamie happened on the mysterious plant in the woods, I thought back to one of my neighbors in Boston. Ophelia Harper. Older than Frank by a few years, she had lived in the brownstone beside us for several years when Bree was in primary school. She had always reminded me in a way of Mrs. Graham, Reverend Wakefield’s housekeeper. Though a decidedly different brand of eccentric, there was a heart about the two of them that struck me. She was a proud spinster and something of a hippie who kept only the most interesting and varied of company; Frank never liked her—far too much of an individual for his tastes—but Brianna was fond of her, and I thought it important she be exposed to more than just Frank’s ivory tower set. I didn’t know the smell that emanated from her apartment most nights of the week was marijuana until I asked, and when I did, she indulged my curiosity graciously. I couldn’t hope to recall the whole conversation, but I remembered her mentioning something about holding the smoke in your lungs before you exhaled.
I sent up a silent prayer to Ophelia Harper, wherever her soul may be, as I dipped the end of the splint into the smoldering tinderbox.