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Claire positively glowed in the firelight, Jamie thought to himself. Her creamy skin was illuminated by the dim lighting of the hall, but even more so by the smile that lit her face. Her curls were framing her face, bouncing to brush against her cheekbones as she turned to laugh at something Murtagh had said across the table. Jamie was so enraptured by his bride that he had no idea what they may have been laughing about. Claire turned to him, leveling that brilliant smile on his puir soul, and a broad grin spread across his face in return. How he adored her. 

Unable to resist, he leaned in close to her, placing one hand on her back and pressing his lips so close to her ear that he barely brushed it as he spoke. 

“Perhaps we could go somewhere more private?” 

Claire let out a breathy giggle, cheeks flushing. She was well into her cups at this point, delightfully warm all over. Jamie longed to have her pressed against him, holding her close and hands wandering. 

She nodded in response to his question and her eyes sparkled in anticipation. A giddiness rose in Jamie’s chest, and he stood up from his chair in order to offer her a hand. 

She bid goodbye to their companions (Jamie was too caught up in admiring his wife to pay those drunken bastards any more formality than a nod in farewell), and then Claire was taking his hand and rising. 

He led her out of Leoch’s great hall, the festivities still in full swing. She clutched his hand with more force than necessary, and Jamie was warmed at the thought that she was just as eager for a little privacy as he was. 

They had been back at Leoch nearly a month now, healed from the fallout of their fight about Wentworth, and Jamie found that every day, he fell more and more in love with his Sassenach. She was his very heart. He couldn’t imagine a life without her as much as he couldn’t imagine life without breath in his lungs. 

They walked side by side down the dark hallways, joined hands swinging a little between them. She was showing the effects of alcohol, tipping against him in the most delightful way and then laughing softly. Other than that, they didn’t make a sound. 

Until… Jamie rounded a corner, and Claire stumbled fully into him, her feet slipping out from under her so she slammed into Jamie’s chest with a squeal. The force of her knocked him back against the wall and he let out a huff of laughter. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to keep her from toppling over. 

She laughed, holding on to him tightly, one hand on his side and the other splayed flat on his chest. 

The second they both stilled and found themselves pressed very fully against each other, Jamie realized that having Claire in his arms like this was far too much of a temptation. Now he definitely couldn’t keep his hands off her another second. 

The air was crackling between them, and then suddenly they were kissing. Jamie wasn’t sure who moved in first, but suddenly Claire’s lips were crashing into his and his to hers, pressing insistently. He kissed her until he was breathless and his lungs ached, but he found air to be trivial in comparison to the need of her. He parted for only a second before lunging forward again, smoothing his hands down her sides to tug her closer to him by the waist. 

She was so soft. As his hands roamed up and down, he was once again overcome by the awareness of the difference between her curves and his hard body. She seemed to fit into him perfectly, soft in all the places he was sharp. She completed him.

Her hands, in turn, were wandering up to his hair, fingers burying themselves into his curls and tugging in the slightest. 

Finally, he (reluctantly) pulled his lips from hers, breathless and panting. 

“We shouldna be out in the open like this, Sassenach, anyone could see,” he gasped. 

“I don’t care,” she muttered, pulling him down to her lips again. 

He followed her obediently, intoxicated by her. Her lips took his hungrily, pressing with such insistence that Jamie could barely keep up. 

But it all changed in a second. 

One moment, she was kissing the daylights out of him, and the next, she was jerking away from him with a cry. 

Jamie was incredibly lost as Claire pulled back from him, face screwed in pain, and doubled over, hands coming up to wrap protectively around her middle. 

“Claire?” Jamie asked urgently. 

He reached down to steady her, placing his hands on her shoulders. He realized with alarm that she was about to collapse. 

Claire was panting in pain, the occasional moan slipping from her pursed lips. 

Jamie had no idea what to do; he hadn’t even the faintest idea what was happening to her. 

When Claire fell to her knees with a cry, Jamie sank down next to her and pulled her into his arms. 

She fell bonelessly against his chest, allowing him to hold her as she rode the pain. 

“Mo ghraidh? What’s happenin’? What can I do?” He desperately asked. 

“I don’t know,” she gritted breathlessly, “it hurts.” 

Jamie felt incredibly helpless. He searched her for any external sign of injury, smoothing a hand over her back and sides and studying every inch of her, but he couldn't find any clues as to what was wrong. 

She let out another moan, and a tear escaped from her eye, both of which were squeezed tightly shut. 

Making the decision suddenly, Jamie scooped his wife into his arms and lifted her as he stood. He carried her down the hallway, half running, her skirts billowing around them. She clung to his neck as fled down the hall in the direction of their room.

Jamie was barely conscious of anything save Claire’s intermittent whimpers. He was so wrapped up in her, in fact, that he didn’t even notice the dark shadow flitting out of view as he passed a side corridor. 

He took the stairs two at a time, anxious to get Claire in bed. 

By the time he reached their room, she had gone oddly quiet. Jamie set her on the bed, laying her down flat with the utmost care, and then brought a hand up to cradle her cheek. Her skin was clammy and beaded with sweat, and eyes fogged with pain. 

“Are ye alright?” he asked softly. 

Claire blinked a couple times, shaking her head in confusion. She brought her hand down to her middle, placing it over her stomach. 

“It…” she started, but she choked off, “the pain’s stopped.” 

Confusion washed over Jamie. “What do ye mean?” he asked, bewildered, even though her answer itself was rather self-explanatory. 

“I don't know…” she said tentatively, “it just… stopped. One second was a terrible stabbing in my middle, the pain so bad that I nearly blacked out. Jamie, it was terrible. I couldn’t breathe. And then… as you were carrying me, and it just… faded away.”

Jamie’s confusion was trumped by gratitude as he took in the relief written across her features. He smoothed his hand down her face, his thumb sweeping across her cheek as he did. 

“How do ye feel now?” he asked. 

“I don’t know how to describe it…” she started, brow furrowing in confusion, “it’s like a soreness. A phantom of the pain. Jamie--” Claire fixed him with panicked eyes and gripped his forearm tightly, “I have no idea what just happened. Pain doesn’t just go away like that.” 

Jamie brought his other hand to cover Claire’s where she held onto him. 

“I dinna ken either. But I’m thankful it’s passed,” he said in a low voice. 

He could tell she was warring within herself, brain struggling between wanting to figure out what the devil had just taken place but also overcome by the trauma her body had just been through and wanting to take Jamie’s out and let go. 

Finally, she acquiesced, nodding in agreement. 

“Why dinna ye get some rest?” Jamie suggested. He couldn’t think of anything else to do. “I’ll watch over ye for a bit. Just tae make sure ye’re alright.” 

Claire nodded, her eyelids already starting to droop. Watching her double over in pain had sobered Jamie right up, and he didn’t think he’d be sleeping any time soon, but his wife on the other hand looked just that ready to drift off into oblivion. 

Before she did though, she spared a fearful glance up at him. “I don’t have a medical explanation for what just happened, Jamie,” she breathed. 

“Hush,” he said quietly, reached up to brush some stray curls from her forehead, “dinna fash about it now. Ye’re just fine.” 

Jamie wasn’t sure he believed his own words, but she seemed to accept them. She nodded, pressed a kiss to his palm, and snuggled down under the covers as she closed her eyes. 

True to his promise, Jamie sat up and watched her well into the night. But her breathing remained even, no signs of the terrible attack she had suffered. Despite the normalcy of her sleep, Jamie couldn’t help but relieve the movement in the hall over and over again. One second she had been kissing him with unabashed passion, and the next, all the life had gone out of her as she tore away from him and was overcome with pain. The image of her doubled over in front of him was burned into his brain, in much the same way that the sound of her cry echoed in his ears.

Jamie hated that there was nothing he could do to protect her from this threat. 

And so, he just sat and watched, praying that she would never experience such a thing again, counting her breaths. 

After a long while, he laid down next to her. On instinct, sensing his nearness even in her sleep, Claire shifted to nestle against his side. Jamie turned and gathered her into his arms, pressing a kiss to her forehead. 

He drifted off into a tenuous sleep, ready to wake at any moment should Claire need him. 

But nothing happened; the night passed uneventfully. They both slept, blissfully unaware of what was taking place only a few rooms below.