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Somewhere Only We Know

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Jamie set his coffee mug down onto the counter and sighed in resolution once that clock showed six. It was time to start the day. He lifted himself from the kitchen chair and quickly climbed the stairs to make sure his son was up and ready. It was an important day and they couldn’t afford to be late. Jamie knocked on the door a single time before swinging it open to reveal a blue-covered room. In the middle of the blue carpeted floor was a boat-shaped bed that held the sleeping body of a 7-year-old boy.

Fergus absolutely loved the water. Unlike most kids, Jamie had to drag his son out of baths instead of into them. Fergus would happily spend all day in any body of water; decorating his room to resemble an ocean with a pirate ship for a bed was Jamie’s way to reassure Fergus of his stature. He was loved and cared for. And as long he had his Da and his pirate ship, he was home.

“Fergus?” Jamie gently shook the small boy. “It’s time to get up, mon fils.” Jamie smiled as Fergus let out an overdramatic yawn and stretched his arms.

“Good morning, Papa.” Fergus smacked his lips.

“Are ye ready? It’s yer first day at the new school.” Jamie sat onto the blue linen-covered mattress.

“No,” Fergus shook his head moving to sit up. “Why do I have start a new one? Can’t I stay with you? School is…” Fergus paused trying to find the word. “bête.” He finished unable to think of the English equivalent.

“School is important, laddie, ye need an education. Now, c’mon. We’re behind as it is.” Jamie leaned forward and placed a kiss on the middle of Fergus’s forehead. “I ken ye're nervous, but it’ll be all right. I’ll be wi' ye.” Jamie promised standing up and extending his hand for the young boy.

“You promise, Papa?”

“Ye have my word, always.”

Fergus decided that his father’s word would have to be enough and begrudgingly took his hand. After his words of reassurance, they settled into their daily routine. Fergus dressed in the clothes he’d picked the night before while Jamie returned to the kitchen to make a balanced breakfast. Precisely fifteen minutes later Fergus would walk down the stairs fully dressed with his backpack in hand and then sit into his designated chair. Today, Fergus wore a purple polo with horizontal green stripes, blue jeans, and his sky blue Converse.

He would eat the meal placed before him while Jamie did his best to wrangle the thick curly brown mop that Fergus called hair. By this point in time, Jamie was very skilled at brushing out the curls with little discomfort to Fergus. He would brush the tangles out before once again trying and failing to convince Fergus to wear his hair in a tie.  

“I want to be like you, Papa. You wear your hair down.”

“My hair isna as long as yer’s.”

Jamie could never actually manage to tame Fergus’s curls. The only goal Jamie had in mind was to keep the hair from tightening into knots, besides that the hair was free to do whatever it pleased; typically sticking up to the point where you couldn’t even tell Fergus had his hair brushed at all.

Jamie put the hairstyling supplies back into their appropriate container before sitting down and joining Fergus for breakfast with his cup of coffee. Jamie would listen as Fergus talked about anything and everything. It was often nonsense and Jamie struggled to keep up with his son’s wandering mind. The boy couldn’t focus on one topic for more than a few seconds at a time. How Fergus started with dinosaurs and twenty seconds later ended up with trains Jamie had no idea. He found his son adorable and entertaining so he didn’t mind the rambling and constant content switches.

By seven, Jamie was locking the front door as Fergus waited patiently by the car. Jamie placed his travel mug on the roof of the car and helped Fergus buckled himself into the booster seat. Fergus knew how, of course, he’d known for a couple of years but Jamie always checked to make sure it was done correctly. Once he was satisfied, Jamie took his spot in the driver’s seat and they began the journey to school.

The ride started as it did every other day. Fergus continued his conversation from breakfast while Jamie drove and chimed in when he could. But once the school came into their sight Fergus went uncharacteristically quiet. Jamie knew he was nervous. He was always nervous when he moved classrooms, but this time he was changing schools. Jamie’s heart broke at the look on his son’s face.

Fergus had been labeled ‘difficult’ by the teachers of his school as well as the district of Broch Mordha. All of the teachers at this point refused to have Fergus in their class. They claimed he required far more care than they could give and that it wasn’t fair to the rest of the class. Jamie knew it was their polite school-political way of saying they just didn’t want to deal with Fergus. With everyone unwilling to take him it was firmly “suggested” that Fergus move schools.

Not knowing what else to do Jamie turned to his uncle, Colum MacKenzie. Colum was his mother's brother and the headmaster of a small school located twenty minutes from their home and was more than willing to expedite his great-nephew’s acceptance into the school. He had a new teacher whose skills he wanted to test and Fergus needed a school. Colum figured the situation was a win-win.

Colum had only given Jamie a brief description of the new faculty member. Their name was Randall and they came with many recommendations. Randall wasn’t just a teacher but also held a degree in psychology making them equipped to handle children like Fergus, children with ADHD. Colum assured Jamie that Fergus’s classroom would be smaller with half as many students as normal. Fergus would be able to get the one-on-one time he needed with a teacher while not being completely isolated.  

Jamie parked the car and together they stared at the playground full of children in front of them. Jamie took a deep breath and a final sip of his coffee before exiting the car and helping Fergus do the same. Hand in hand they walked to the front of the school.

“Look lad, it’s yer uncle Dougal.” Jamie pointed to a figure waiting for them by the entrance. Dougal MacKenzie had been thrilled when Jamie told him Fergus would be joining the school. Though Jamie suspected Dougal wasn’t fond of him, Dougal seemed to love Fergus and that’s all Jamie could truly ask for.

“Fergus!” Dougal held up a hand for a high-five which Fergus happily reciprocated with a loud, hard smack. “Will ye be joinin’ my team? I could use such a braw lad like ye.” Dougal was talking about his famed junior football team. As the physical education instructor, Dougal led all the sports activities on campus and he was the only person, besides Jamie, to openly encourage Fergus’ hyperactivity though to an extreme degree.

“Let him get settled first, Uncle, then we’ll see,” Jamie answered opening his hand for Fergus to take once more.

“Oncle?” Fergus asked, looking up at Dougal as they entered the school.

“Yes?”

“What’s my teacher like? Is he nice?”

Dougal gave him a nod and whispered to Jamie, “She's verra nice and she’s a looker as well, if I didn't ken she was a teacher I might o’ thought she was a whore.” Jamie gave his uncle a pointed look in response. “Och, well, good luck Fergus. I’ll see ye later.” Dougal disappeared without another word much to Jamie’s relief. They walked towards Colum’s office and Jamie sat Fergus down on the bench outside.

“I’m goin’ in to speak wi’ Colum. Ye stay put, ye hear?”

“Oui, Papa.” Fergus nodded. Jamie kissed the top of Fergus’s hair before knocking on the office door and shutting it behind him once Colum ushered him.

Fergus sat alone on the bench and swung his legs back and forth. He wasn’t tall enough for his feet to firmly plant on the ground but enough for the bottom of his shoe to graze the tile. He stared at the brightly colored walls around him as he waited for his father. He closed his eyes and leaned his back continuing to swing his feet out.

He jumped when a body hit his legs and landed on the floor with a curse.

“I’m so sorry!” Fergus shouted jumping off the bench and scrambling to gather the papers scattered on the floor. “Please don’t tell my Papa. He hates when I kick.”

“I agree with your father and wait…” The woman looked up at Fergus with wide whiskey eyes. “Is that a French accent? Do you speak French?”

“Oui, Madame.” Fergus nodded. “Je suis vraiment désolé de vous avoir fait tomber.” (I’m so sorry for causing you to fall)

“Comme c'est merveilleux,” she responded. (How marvelous)

“Thank you," he said, switching back to English.

“Very interesting,” The woman sat on her knees with a wide smile. “You have both a French and Scottish accent.”

“I am French, but Papa is a Scott,” Fergus explained. “I suppose I have to have both.”

The woman chuckled, “And what’s your name?”

“Fergus Fraser.”

“Ah, so you’re Fergus? My name is Claire Beauchamp, I’m going to be your teacher. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Oh, Lord in Heaven, Fergus.” Jamie sighed seeing his son and Claire on the floor. “I’m so sorry, Madam.”

“It’s all right, I just accidentally slipped and your son was kind enough to help me.” Claire winked at Fergus and accepted Jamie’s hand to help her stand.

“Papa!” Fergus jumped up to stand next to Jamie.

“Madame Beauchamp speaks French and she’s a Sassenach!”

“Sassenach?” Claire frowned looking at Jamie. “Isn’t that a derogatory term?”

“Fergus,” Jamie hissed, grabbing Fergus’s shoulder to pull him closer. “He means no offense, Madam, a Sassenach is an Englishmen or outlander at most. He truly dinna mean it in a bad way, ye ken.” He bit his lip. “James Fraser, ye’ve met my son, Fergus.”

“I have,” Claire smiled down at Fergus. “Your son is quite a character and I’m looking forward to getting to know him this year. I’m Claire Beauchamp, his teacher.”

“Beauchamp?” It was Jamie’s turn to frown. “No, his teacher is Randall.”

Claire sighed, “Randall is my married name, I’m trying to get away from it if you get my meaning.”

“I do.” Jamie nodded.

“Wonderful,” Claire smiled at them both. “Would you like to continue this in the classroom?” She motioned down the hall.

“O' course,”

Jamie stood rooted as Fergus began following Claire to the classroom. Dougal was right. She was absolutely stunning, but very much not a whore.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jamie watched from the small but very uncomfortable chair as Claire and Fergus spoke together quietly. They were leaning over a piece of paper; Fergus drew as Claire talked to him. Jamie wasn't close enough to hear what they were talking about it but it was obvious that Fergus was enjoying himself. For the first time in a long time, Fergus seemed genuinely happy to be at school. Every few minutes he would glance up from the paper to smile or laugh at whatever Claire had said.

Jamie was amazed.

Fergus could never sit completely still; he always had some part of his body moving. Usually, it was his lower limbs, his legs would continuously bounce or he would tap his foot restlessly on the ground. Most people became annoyed at his constant sounds and movements rather quickly, his previous teacher had only lasted a couple of minutes before asking Fergus politely to stop. Fergus would do his best, of course, but he could never stop his body. Then the teacher would get frustrated with him, they often attributed his high energy and lack of bodily control to disobedience and would thus resort to yelling and punishment to get him to cease. But not Claire.

She didn’t seem to mind as Fergus fidgeted beside her. She sat next to him with a constant smile on her face and what seemed like all the patience in the world. She would ask Fergus a question, Jamie knew because she would look expectedly at Fergus for a response, but she never pushed him. She simply sat and waited for him to answer in his own time. Sometimes he would respond right way, but more often than not, he would continue to draw and answer a few moments later.

Claire and Fergus moved flawlessly from English to French throughout their conversation. She would ask a question in either language and whatever he used in response she would continue with. If she asked a question in English and he responded in French, her next question would be in French. Fergus was fluent in both but preferred French over English sometimes; especially whenever he was particularly frustrated. He would be stuck in French and couldn’t seem to switch back to English until he was calm. This had been another issue with his previous teachers.

The first time Fergus slipped into French and couldn't calm himself down to switch back, his teacher had disciplined him. Fergus came home that day completely distraught. It took Jamie over an hour to figure out what had happened. When he'd finally understood, Jamie had been seething in rage. He'd immediately called the principal and demanded a meeting the very next morning. The next day, Jamie dropped Fergus off with Jenny believing the boy deserved a day off before heading down to the school. Jamie hadn't given the headmaster a chance to speak, he spent the entirety of the meeting yelling at the man who did his best to sink into his desk chair. Jamie ended the meeting with a single threat. If they ever punished Fergus for anything like that again, Jamie would go directly to the school board and aim to have the headmaster removed from his position.

After he left the school, still dripping with rage, Jamie had gone out and bought Fergus his first cellphone. Fergus was to have it on him at all times and immediately call his Papa whenever he began to feel frustrated. Jamie had programmed the phone with all the emergency numbers Fergus would need: himself, Jenny, Ian, Murtagh, even Colum, and Dougal were in his contact list. The phone had already come in handy several times. And despite his hyperactivity and general lack of attention, Fergus took good care of it. It was an old prepaid flip phone but Fergus treated it as the most expensive thing in the world.

“Papa!”

Jamie who was lost in thought jumped when Fergus suddenly appeared before him leaving a smiling Claire back at the table.

“May I go out and play, s'il vous plaît? Madame Beauchamp said it was okay.”

“Aye,” Jamie nodded, “if it’s okay with her then it’s fine wi’ me.”

Fergus gave him a smile and a wave to Claire before charging out of the room and onto the playground. Jamie stood and walked to the window so he could keep an eye on him. Fergus quickly found his cousin, Young Ian, and together the two raced around the blacktop with a little blonde girl in tow. Jamie now had absolutely no doubts about moving Fergus to the school, in fact, he kicked himself for not doing it sooner. It was completely out of the way; Jamie would have to adjust their routine to accommodate the change and push back his work but the look of pure joy on Fergus’s face made it completely worth it.

“He’s a bright young man,” Claire said, standing next to Jamie. “He’s got quite the imagination and a large amount of amiability. After reading his file that was the last thing I expected to see.”

“What do ye mean?” Jamie turned to look at Claire.

“Well, I’ve seen the notes his previous teachers left on him. They all make him out to be some uncontrollable vagabond. Most children who went through what he did, the way those teachers responded to him, tend to be closed off to new adults, some are downright hostile. They expect new adults to act like the ones before them so they repeat the mannerisms they were forced to adopt but Fergus…” she trailed off watching Fergus. “He was completely open with me.” She looked back at Jamie.

"He was sociable and kind. I wouldn't have blamed him for dismissing or even ignoring me. But he made every effort to contribute to the conversation. He sees the good in people, he's an exceptional young boy, you should be very proud of him."

“I am,” Jamie nodded with a large smile. “He’s been through a lot. It’s just me and him, ye ken? Sometimes I worry that I’m no’ enough for him.”

Claire gave him a bright smile and placed a gentle hand on his arm. The moment she touched his skin Jamie felt a warm wave wash over him.

“From what I’ve seen so far you’re doing an excellent job with him. It’s clear you love him with all your heart and he obviously feels the same about you.” She gave his arm a light squeeze before withdrawing it away from his body. “So, what are your concerns, Mr. Fraser?”

“Och, call me Jamie, please, Mr. Fraser was my Da.”

She chuckled and another pleasant wave engulfed him.

“All right, Jamie, what are your concerns? What do you think Fergus needs to work on? What should I know about him?”

“My concerns?” Jamie paused. “Weel… I guess I wouldna mind if he finished his thoughts before going to the next one.”

Claire nodded, “Yes, I noticed he jumps around a lot.”

Jamie walked away from Claire and grabbed Fergus’ backpack, he took out a laminated paper and returned to Claire and handed it to her. “I ken ye canna promise me anything but if ye could stick to this schedule as much as possible I would be grateful.” Jamie moved behind her so they both could see the paper. “He does really well when he sticks to his routine.”

"Routines are great for children, especially those with ADHD, it gives them a sense of security and helps them establish proper behaviors. Is he on any medication?"

“No!” Jamie shouted immediately. “I mean, no.” He lowered his voice. “Fergus is just a boy, he doesna need medication pumped through his body, he does just fine.”

“Of course.”

“If ye flip it over,” he watched as Claire flipped the paper. “These are all emergency numbers, he has his own phone but just in case they’re here as well.”

“Fergus is more than welcome to have his phone on him but I have a rule about electronics in my classroom. I don’t want him on it during class.”

"Aye, he kens it's only for emergencies," Jamie said. "Now, always call me first. If I dinna answer, for whatever reason, call his auntie, my sister Jenny." He pointed at Jenny's name and number. "If ye canna get her, then Murtagh."

“Aren’t Colum and Dougal family? Wouldn’t it be easier to get them?”

“Technically, yes, they are. But they dinna ken how to… calm him. Colum would only try to call someone else and Dougal would just have him run around. I ken they’re close but please, only as a last resort.”

“Got it.”

“Ye ken Fergus speaks French but he’s learning Gaelic too.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know Gaelic.”

Jamie laughed, "I wasna expecting ye to. He has flashcards in his bag if ye could just make sure he goes over them."

“I will.”

Jamie closed his eyes and took a deep breath. She was standing so close to him that all he could smell was lavender. He wasn't sure if it was her perfume or soap, but it was intoxicating to him. He'd never liked the smell of lavender before, it usually made him tense, but apparently, when it was on her he enjoyed it. 

“Thank you, Jamie, for this.” She turned around to face him and was surprised to find him so close.

“Sorry,” He muttered, taking a small step back.

“That’s completely all right,” She smiled at him. “It’s time for class to start,” she motioned him towards the door.

"I should say goodbye to Fergus," Jamie said, trying to find his son amongst the crowd of children. 

"He'll be fine," Claire assured him, taking his arm once more and leading him towards the door. When she noticed his hesitance she walked over to her desk and returned with a card. "I don't normally do this; it's extremely inappropriate, but here." She placed the card in his palm. "This is my cell number, you can call me with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your son."

Jamie examined the card, “Doctor Beauchamp, is it? Here I thought ye were just a teacher.”

“I’m no more just a teacher than you are a man.” She blushed realizing her awkward wording. “I mean, you’re a father and a man, obviously, I-I- bloody Hell this isn’t coming out right.”

“It’s okay, I ken yer meaning.”

“I think you should leave before I make an even bigger fool of myself.” They both chuckled.

“I have a hard time believing you could do such a thing,” Jamie tucked the card in his pocket and began moving towards the door. He stopped just at the threshold and turned back to Claire. “I’m leaving ye wi’ my most precious treasure, Sassenach, take care o’ him.”

Claire almost laughed but the look on his face was completely stoic. He was being serious; it was an honest plea to watch over and take care of his son. It was the highest honor that a parent could bestow upon a person; absolute trust that the other person would protect their child, and Claire didn’t blame Jamie for being so wary. Neither Fraser had a lot of positive experiences with adults in such a manner.

"I will." She promised. Jamie gave her a single nod before turning and walking down the hall. Claire watched him go, letting her eyes trail down his muscled back to his firm arse until he was out of her sight. She didn't know why but Claire felt a loss like never before... and a sudden need to be as close to Fergus Fraser as possible. 

 

Chapter Text

Jamie couldn’t believe two weeks had flown by so quickly. Fergus, for the first time in his life, was excited to go to school. Jamie no longer had to drag Fergus out of bed and through his morning routine. There were no more meltdowns or excuses to stay home, Fergus now eagerly jumped by the car as he waited for Jamie to buckle him in. He would happily fidget on their drive to school and talk about whatever activity Madame Beauchamp had planned for the class that day.

Jamie had to start his goodbye’s in the car because as soon as Fergus was unbuckled and the door swung open he shot off like a light to meet his friends. Jame would shut the car door and make sure Fergus was safely in the school or on the playground before driving back the way they’d come for work. He would arrive at work on time, as always, and toil through his day. Though he always had his mobile on him, he expected less and less each day that the school would call. 

Even though Claire had offered an open line of communication regarding Fergus, Jamie had yet to utilize it. Instead, he got all the updates he needed from Colum. Fergus was well beloved by the staff, partially due to his family connection, but also due to his overly friendly personality. Jamie knew his son was personable but hadn’t expected Fergus’ friend group to expand so quickly. He played with his cousins, Ian and Margaret, and had added many new children to his social group. His new favorite friends were young Rabbie and Marsali.

Rabbie was the son of Jenny’s housekeeper, Mary MacNab, so the boys knew each other quite well before joining the same school. Jamie wasn’t surprised to find that their bond was formed quickly and strongly. Marsali, on the other hand, was a different story. Her mother was Laoghaire MacKimmie, a woman Jamie absolutely loathed, that fact combined with Fergus’s general lack of interest in girls his own age led to a rather mismatched friendship. Jamie wasn’t sure what had drawn the two children together but as long as Fergus was happy Jamie wouldn’t object. Even if that meant he had to interact with Laoghaire. 

Besides his somewhat questionable choices in friends, Jamie and the rest of the family were overly thrilled with Fergus’s newfound success in school. Jenny claimed it was being surrounded by family and familiar faces all day, Ian said it was the fresh environment, but Jamie knew it was really all because of Claire. Because she was willing to work and be patient with Fergus. Their class was cut in half allowing Claire to spend an ample amount of time with each student to help with their individual needs. 

Fergus proudly claimed that Madame Beauchamp had taken a liking to him, that although she spent time with each student she spent more with him than anyone else. He said it was due to his “oozing French charm”, however,  Jamie was sure it was just their affinity to the language more than anything else. Hearing about his day with Caire had quickly become the new highlight of Jamie’s day.

Jamie couldn’t get the woman out of his head. He wanted to attribute his fondness for her as strictly professional. She meant a lot to Fergus and had clearly made an impact on the young boy educationally, apparently, on Jamie as well. He could still vividly remember her lavender aroma, her bright whiskey eyes, the way the edges of her hair curled and framed her cheeks...

Jamie was dragged out of his thoughts by the shrill ringing of his mobile. He pressed the green accept button on his touch screen without noticing the caller ID. 

“Hello?” he grunted into the phone as he straightened himself in his desk chair.

“Weel, hello tae ye too,” The deep voice of his godfather made him smile. 

“Murtagh,” Jamie said. “What can I do for ye, a ghoistidh?” 

“I need yer help,” Murtagh said. “I had a job scheduled this afternoon but I canna find Kincaid, he’s no’ answerin’ his phone. I’m a man short.”

“Rupert and Angus?”

“Agh,” Murtagh clicked his tongue. “Ye ken those two numpties are no use alone together, I need ye to help mind them and lift some boxes since yer there.” 

Jamie sighed and checked his watch, “I have to pick up Fergus from school,”

“Let Jenny!” Murtagh interrupted him. “She’s got to pick up her own bairns, she can take him as well. I’m sure the lad won’t mind.” 

Jamie nodded in agreement. Fergus definitely wouldn’t mind, he loved spending time at the farm with his cousins. Jenny certainly wouldn’t mind the extra pair of hands for evening chores either. 

“Besides,” Murtagh continued. “After everything I do for ye, ye can help me out,”

“All right,” Jamie said, knowing Murtagh was going to try and guilt him. “I’ll be there, I just need to run home and change into my gym clothes first and do a quick check wi’ Jenny.”

“I’ll text ye the address, see ye in a bit, mo caraidh.” 

Jamie ended the call and sent Jenny a text asking her to grab Fergus from school. She responded moments later with an affirmative yes and a promise of a hot dinner for Jamie later that evening. Jenny may be a pain in his arse most of the time but she was always there when he needed her at a moment's notice. He couldn’t imagine where he and Fergus would be without her and Murtagh. Jamie turned off his computer and gathered his things before walking out of the office and toward his car. 

The drive home was quick and free of cars despite being prime traffic hour. Jamie made it home in record time and parked in the driveway, it was a safe neighborhood so Jamie didn’t bother to lock the car as he walked towards the door. He shucked off his black wing-tipped shoes and put them on the small wooden rack by the door before he walked up the stairs and pulled off his tie. He changed from his suit into a pair of grey basketball shorts and Mutargh’s company shirt. It was a simple black tee with his company name “White Rose Moving” with a small rose beneath the words; even though it was simple, Murtagh was proud of its design. And Jamile wore it happily as a badge of honor just as his godfather. 

Jamie was glad to help Murtagh whenever he could, there had been multiple instances where Jamie and Fergus dropped what they were doing to help him out on a last-minute job. Jamie would help move the furniture and boxes while Fergus stood next to Murtagh donning his own child-sized company shirt and helped Murtagh give instructions to the workers. Those days were some of Jamie’s fondest memories of his family. 

Jamie pulled his hair back with a tie as he walked back to the car and began the drive to the address Murtagh texted him. It wasn’t far, only a fifteen-minute drive from his own home and more than halfway to Fergus's school. Jamie parked his car next to the moving van and easily picked out his godfather amongst the small crowd of workers; his large bushy brown beard made him hard to miss.

“Hey!” Murtagh shouted at Rupert as Jamie approached. “I’m payin’ ye to carry no’ drop.” 

In response, Rupert adjusted his grip on the box and rolled his eyes. Jamie chuckled and clapped Rupert’s back as he passed. 

“Murtagh,” Jamie nodded at his godfather and stopped in front of him. 

“I’m glad yer here, Jamie, I could really use ye.” Murtagh smiled at him. Murtagh was dressed in his favorite pair of jeans and a similar company shirt to the one the workers wore. Murtagh had no problem going toe to toe with his younger employees and if it wasn’t for his brown speckled grey hair you would think he was just as young as the rest of the men around him. 

“Happy to help,” Jamie put his hands on his hips and squinted his eyes in response to the harsh sun shining down on him. “Where do ye want me?” 

“Weel, ye can start by– Rupert, Angus, I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug!” Murtagh yelled, storming off towards Rupert and Angus who had taken to slapping each other with their shirts instead of working. “Knock it off!” Jamie heard Murtagh scream before he launched into a tirade of Gaelic curses. 

Jamie chuckled and turned around to grab one of the boxes from the moving van. He walked into the threshold and placed the box on the ground before seeing the label ‘kitchen’. He picked the box back up and was almost through the kitchen door when he slammed into a hard body. 

“Och! Watch where yer goin’!”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”

Of all the people Jamie expected to physically run into when he agreed to help Murtagh earlier that afternoon Claire was on the very bottom of his list.

Chapter Text

“Jamie?” Claire asked with a smile. “So, is this why you weren’t at pick-up today? I missed our usual tête-à-tête.” 

She missed him? Jamie could feel his heart soar at her words. 

“Aye,” Jamie nodded, setting the box onto the ground between them.

“I thought you worked at an office? You’re always in a suit when you drop Fergus off, don’t tell me you’re doing manual labor in slacks and dress shirts?” 

“Ah, no,” he chuckled, glancing down at his gym clothes and feeling mildly self-conscious for some strange reason. “I do work in an office, but my godfather needed my help at the last minute. So, here I am.” 

“Mister Fitzgibbons is your godfather?” 

“Aye, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser is indeed my godfather and Fergus’ too by extension.” 

“Well, that’s very sweet of you.” Claire folded her arms across her chest and steadily held her radiant smile. 

“Jamie! I’m no payin’ ye to stand around…” Murtagh said, walking towards them.

“Yer no payin’ me at all!” Jamie reminded him. Murtagh dismissed Jamie with the wave of his hand but stopped in his tracks the moment he noticed Claire looking expectantly at him.

“I’m sorry, Mister Fitzgibbons, we were just talking about Fergus and lost track of time,” Claire explained.

Well, it seemed the lass was quick on her feet, Jamie would have to remember that. 

“Ye ken Fergus?” Murtagh asked, looking at her uneasily. How this woman, client, he kept having to remind himself, knew the wee lad was beyond him. Jamie never introduced any lass to the young boy, as far as Fergus was aware, his father was a monk. 

“Aye,” Jamie said, moving to stand next to Claire, “She’s his new teacher.” Jamie supplied as if reading Murtagh’s mind. 

“Oh, so ye’re the bonny lass who Jamie’s talked non-stop about.” Murtagh couldn’t let an opportunity to tease his godson pass, even if he was still slightly apprehensive. His teasing proved successful as a crimson blush spread from Jamie’s neck to the tips of his ears. “We’re so thankful to ye, lass, for all ye’ve done for Fergus. I love the wee rascal but weel… it takes a special heart.”

Jamie gave an appreciative smile and looked at Claire with what Murtagh could only describe as 'that look’ . That look which conveyed full admiration, infatuation, and eventually, love, was focused as if perfectly aimed with a marksman on Claire. Murtagh knew the look well, he’d seen that exact expression on Brian Fraser’s face wherever he had spoken of his wife, and Ellen still held the look when she spoke of her husband even though he had passed long ago. Murtagh briefly wondered if Jamie knew how lost he truly was to the lass and if any intention to act on it was present, he made a mental note to speak with Jamie before the day was over. In his musings, Murtagh didn’t notice that Jamie and Claire had started up another conversation. It was only until the tell-tale grunt of a man behind him that brought Murtagh to reality once more. 

“So, ye put it in the slow-cooker for about an hour or two–stirring every once in a while–and when yer finished, ye get a braw roast,” Jamie said. 

Claire was hanging onto his every word, at some point, she’d grabbed a pen and paper and was scribbling down Jamie’s instructions as he spoke them. “I’m not much of a cook,” Claire chuckled, tucking a piece of her long hair behind her ear. “But I’m really going to try my best at this, that sounds absolutely amazing!” 

“Fergus loves it and so will ye, weel, as long as ye dinna burn the thing.” Jamie joked bringing out another bout of laughter from Claire. 

Another grunt, this time loud enough to grab all their attention, made them turn their heads. “So, nepotism is nonexistent? Because the way I see it–”

“Shut your trap, Bonnet!” Murtagh told his worker. Murtagh could see from the corner of his eye that Jamie stepped in front of Claire to shield her from the Irishman; he was thankful Jamie had the good sense to do so. “I’m yer boss, ye willna speak to me like that! Now, go and finish helpin’ Rupert and Angus.” Bonnet gave a wicked smile and with an exaggerated bow, he went back to work. 

“I’m goin’ to keep an eye on things…” Murtagh mumbled to Jamie who nodded in agreement. “‘It was nice meeting ye lass,” Murtagh turned to Claire and gave her an honest smile. “Try not to keep him too long, aye? If he stands still for too long his big feet will weigh him to the floor.” 

Jamie rolled his eyes at the joke but Claire quickly responded, “Aye, I promise.” She gave Murtagh a salute. Murtagh shook his head and walked outside the house, leaving Claire and Jamie alone. 

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” Claire groaned, burying her face into her hands. “Why in the hell did I just do that?”

“Och, so that’s where he got it from. I heard you say it earlier but I wasna sure if it was just a coincidence. That’s become Fergus’s newest… err, expletive.” It was Jamie’s turn to chuckle. 

“Oh, God! I’m so sorry, Jamie, I swear I’ve only said it once or twice around him, I’ll talk to him on Monday and tell him it’s a bad thing to say. I hope you didn’t punish him for it.” 

“No, I canna really punish him for it. It’s not technically a bad word, and the only thing I can fault him for is taking the Lord’s name in vain but aye, who hasn’t?” Jamie shrugged with a reassuring smile. They fell into a comfortable silence, both perfectly content to stay in the other’s presence though neither could explain why. Jamie didn’t want to go, he wanted to stay and talk with her, but every time he opened his mouth he couldn’t bring himself to sound the words. From the look of contemplation on Claire’s face, Jamie was sure she felt the same way. Nervously, his foot hit the box by his feet and Jamie was suddenly reminded why he was actually there. 

“I should get back,” he motioned to the front door with his thumb. “I think I’ve taken a long enough break.”

“Of course! I’m sorry to have kept you so long, I hope you can lift your feet.” 

Jamie made a show of reaching down with both hands to pull up on his leg in an effort to move them. He’d only moved two steps this way before Claire swatted at him with her hands and dismissed him. 

“Go on now, soldier, you have work to do. I’d like to be able to sleep on a mattress tonight and not a blow-up one.” 

“Yer wish is my command,” He nodded once and turned back towards the way he’d come which felt like hours ago. He was halfway through the slowly furnishing living room when he stopped and turned to face her once more. “Which Roosevelt?” 

“What?” Claire asked, confused by his question.

“In ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ’, which Roosevelt are ye cursing?” 

“Oh,” Claire paused for a moment, no one had ever asked her that before even though she knew the answer immediately, “Franklin Delano.” 

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today,” he took a deep breath, “let us move forward with strong and active faith.” 

And with a final smile, Jamie left Claire standing alone, dazed and confused, with a growing sense of attraction. 

Chapter Text

"Fergus,” Jamie said, glancing behind his shoulder and sighing when he saw the boy still hunched over the kitchen table. “I’m no gonna tell ye again, comb yer hair, we’re leavin’ in ten minutes. We're gonna be late.” Jamie turned back to his task, eager to finish before they left, and quickly scrubbed the last couple of dirty dishes that held the remains of their finished dinner. Jamie didn’t need to see the roll of Fergus’ eyes, his huff and the slow scraping of the chair against the floor told him all he needed to know. 

"Why do we have to go, Papa?”

“Because I want to ken how ye're doin’ in school.” 

“But I only have two teachers and you talk to them all the time… you saw Uncle Dougal earlier and Madame Beauchamp yesterday. What more could they have to tell you?”

“Fergus, hair, now,” Jamie said warningly, “We’re goin’ to the parent-teacher conference, I dinna want to hear another word about it.” 

“Yes, Papa.” Fergus conceded, realizing he would be unable to convince his father not to go. Fergus walked slowly up the stairs, dragging his feet the entire way, before grabbing his hairbrush from the appropriate drawer in the bathroom and carefully brushing the tangles from his curls. Once finished, he placed the hairbrush back into its drawer and exited the bathroom, by the time his feet touched the last stair Jamie was waiting for him by the door. 

Fergus slipped into the jacket Jamie was holding open for him and bent down to slip his Converse onto his feet. When his jacket was zipped and shoes tied firmly to his feet, he smiled at Jamie, “Ready!” 

They exited the house and Fergus waited for Jamie to lock the front door before they walked side by side to the car. Once they were settled, Jamie turned up the heater knowing full well that Fergus was cold even with his jacket on. They talked idly as they began the journey to Fergus's school, halfway to their destination, Fergus requested that Jamie play the audiobook they’d been listening to; as the sound of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone drifted from the speakers, they settled into silence. 

“Shite,” Jamie mumbled under his breath, pulling into the school parking lot. He thought they’d left early enough, but apparently not as every space in the lot was filled. He brought the car to a halt and narrowed his eyes trying to find an open space; from the corner of his eye, he noticed a whirlwind of movements. Jenny was standing in what was probably the only spot left, waving her arms widely in his direction and shooing away any car that approached. “As always, yer auntie is one step ahead.” Jamie joked to Fergus, driving in Jenny’s direction. 

“Auntie!” Fergus grinned as Jenny opened his car door and helped him out. 

“Ye wee rascal, ye were supposed to make sure yer Da got here early.” Jenny lightly scolded, smiling to make sure Fergus knew she was only teasing. 

“I tried Auntie! But you know how stubborn he can be,” Fergus wrapped his arms around Jenny’s waist and snuggled into her side. 

“Me? Stubborn?” Jamie snorted, walking around the car to face them both. “He’s the one that dragged his feet! How is this my fault?”

“Yer the adult, bràthair, and maybe if ye spent less time tryin’ to look fancy ye would have been here on time. Why have ye dressed so nice anyway?” Jenny asked, viewing her brother up and down. Jamie’s hair was tied back with the rest of his hair gelled to keep it down; he was wearing a navy blue polo shirt tucked into his nicest pair of black jeans.

“He’s trying to impress someone!” Fergus told Jenny. 

 “Go and find yer uncle and cousins, lad.” Jenny urged Fergus away before Jamie could object, pointing in the general direction where Ian should be with their children. Fergus happily ran off leaving Jamie and Jenny alone together to walk with the influx of parents heading into the school. “Is he right, Jamie? Has a lass caught yer eye? Is it Laoghaire?”

“No, it’s no Laoghaire!” Jamie hissed, grabbing Jenny’s elbow to try and keep her quiet. 

“Then who?” 

“None o’ yer business. Why can ye no leave me alone? Ye have yer own husband to nag.” 

“Weel, if ye had a wife, she would be naggin’ ye instead o’ I, but ye don’t, so,” Jenny shrugged as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “I have to do it until ye get one. Fergus needs a Mam and ye need a wife, Jamie. Mam and I both agree–”

“What I need is for ye both to stay out o’ my dating life!” Jamie told her, pulling his sister closer as they entered the school. Before meeting with the teachers individually, everyone was ushered into the auditorium for Colum’s welcome speech. Despite the relatively low student population, the way to the auditorium was packed with parents and family members eager to learn about their child’s progress in school. Jamie kept a firm grip on Jenny’s arm to prevent them from separating in the large crowd. Jenny reached into her pocket and fished out her phone, she read the text from Ian which stated where they were and Jenny dragged Jamie over to their family. 

Ian was standing in the row he’d hastily claimed for the Fraser-Murray’s. The children were seated– not so quietly or stilly– in the middle seats with Ian at the front near the center aisle. Fergus was at the end of the row playing a hand game with Young Ian while Wee Jamie teased his sister, Maggie. Ian ignored the children and greeted them, he placed a kiss on Jenny’s cheek and clapped Jamie’s back. 

“Jamie! So good to see ye,” Ian smiled at his brother-in-law. 

“Aye, ye too Ian.” 

The lights in the auditorium dimmed slightly, the universal cue for everyone to get their seats and focus their attention on the front. Jamie squeezed down the row, greeting his nephews and niece as he went, he wasn’t surprised to find Jenny trailing after him. Jamie took the seat next to Fergus, resting his arm on the back of Fergus’s seat as Jenny sat on his right. Fergus left his cousin alone for the time being and settled himself into Jamie’s side. 

It didn’t take long for Colum to walk from the wings to the center of the stage, standing directly in the middle of the rest of the faculty who sat behind him. Colum cleared his throat into the microphone and leaned heavily against the podium to take the pressure from his bad leg. Dougal sat at the head of the first row, still dressed in the school’s physical education uniform with his arms and legs crossed. Unlike Dougal, the rest of the faculty were dressed appropriately with their rapt attention focused on Colum. 

To his surprise, and Jamie prayed it was actually him she was aiming for, Claire smiled and gave a small wave. Jamie returned the gesture with a bright smile, earning a nudge and smug look from Jenny.

“So, is that the lass? The one ye got all dressed for?” Jenny whispered in Jamie’s ear. 

“For once in yer life, will ye listen to our uncle?” Jamie asked, dropping his smile. Jenny rolled her eyes and returned her attention to the stage, making sure Jamie could see the knowing look on her face. 

“Parents, families, and students, I welcome ye to another year at Leoch Academy…” Colum began. 

Jamie didn’t bother to pay attention to his uncle’s speech, having heard some version of it at one time or another, he chose to focus on Claire instead. She looked absolutely bonnie in her white blouse and matching grey skirt. Her long, brown curls hung to the side of her head, framing her face and making Jamie wonder if they were as soft as they appeared to be. Following the behavior of the rest of the staff, Claire laughed at Colum’s lame jokes, clapped when appropriate, and spent the majority of the speech staring at the back of Colum’s head. Occasionally, however, she would glance away and meet Jamie’s eyes. Like before, Jamie wasn’t sure if she was purposely looking at him, but he received his answer when he smiled at her and she returned it. 

His heart thudded wildly in his chest and his body temperature skyrocketed at her reciprocating movements.

A half-hour after he began, Colum finally excused the faculty to their classrooms to prepare for the rest of the night. Jamie kept his eyes on Claire until she was fully out of his sight and he was forced to look back at Colum. It was another twenty minutes before his speech was finished and the audience was directed to their child’s classroom. Jamie, Jenny, and Ian waited for the crowd to shrink before carefully exiting the auditorium. Jamie grabbed Fergus’s hand while Ian and Jenny discussed who would be going with each of their children; it was decided that Jenny would meet with Young Ian and Maggie’s teacher, while Ian accompanied Wee Jamie. The group then separated with the appropriate children, promising to meet back in the parking lot when they finished. 

Jamie and Fergus walked in the opposite direction as the rest of the family, and Fergus’ grip on Jamie’s hand tightened as they approached the classroom. Claire was standing by the door greeting each child and their parents as they entered. Claire’s smile widened when Jamie and Fergus approached her. Seemingly forgetting his nerves, Fergus rushed forward and accepted the hug Claire offered him. 

“Fergus, tu as réussi, je suis si contente!” (You made it, I'm so glad!)

“I would not have missed it for the world, Madame Beauchamp!” He seemed to forget his earlier resistance as well. 

“Go and take your seat,” she ruffled his hair as he passed by her, “Hello, Mister Fraser.” Claire turned to Jamie. 

“Misses Beauchamp,” Jamie greeted her appropriately, picking up on her subtle cues to be formal. “‘Tis nice to see ye again.”

“And you as well,” Claire gave a single nod, “Would you please take a seat? I’d like to get started.” 

Her smile warmed his bones. 

When Jamie walked through the door, he could’ve sworn that Claire’s fingertips grazed his arm. He grinned and hummed to himself as he joined Fergus towards the back of the room while Claire greeted the rest of the parents. True to Colum’s word, Jamie counted eleven students besides Fergus; though the class sizes were relatively small throughout the school, Claire’s had to be the smallest. During his count, Jamie became suddenly aware that Fergus was the only student with only one family member in attendance; every other child had at least two with one girl surrounded by five people. 

As Claire began her speech, Jamie wondered if Fergus noticed the same thing. Was Fergus resentful that he was the child of a single, working father? Jamie knew he was more involved than most of the other parents, he had to be, but was that enough for Fergus? Jamie subconsciously pulled Fergus closer to him, sighing in relief when Fergus didn’t pull away. Fergus tilted his head back against Jamie’s chest, giving his father a happy smile before returning his attention to the front. 

Claire’s speech was similar to Colum’s, she welcomed the parents and family members to her classroom and dove into her expectations. They were general expectations of any classroom: respect, patience, being on time, and a willingness to learn. Claire’s curriculum focused more on the student’s individual improvement rather than their ability to memorize and repeat. When her prepared speech was finished, she handed out a paper for the parents to fill out. When Jamie received his copy, he noticed it was the same questions Claire had asked him when they first met. She wanted the parents to list their concerns, wishes, questions, emergency contacts, and anything else they wanted her to know. 

They were done at exactly seven-thirty. Claire gave a general goodbye to the room, announcing that she would stay a little while longer for anyone who wished to speak with her. Fergus took hold of Jamie’s hand and tugged him from the room when the majority of the classroom vacated with only a handful of parents waiting their turn to speak with Claire. They had just spotted Jenny and Ian in the parking lot when Fergus noticed Jamie had forgotten his form, having set it down on Fergus’s desk after getting it. 

“Stay wi’ yer uncle and aunt, I’ll be quick,” Jamie turned on his heel and fought against the crowd as he moved in the opposite direction. When he arrived at the classroom, he stopped by the door and watched as Claire stood alone in the dimmed room, shuffling a stack of papers in her bag. He knocked lightly on the door to announce his presence before stepping into the room. “I’m sorry, but I seemed to have misplaced my paper,” he said, walking over to where she stood. 

“Yes, you did,” Claire nodded the affirmative, “I was going to give it to Fergus tomorrow to bring home to you, but since you’re here.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a single piece of white paper. Jamie reached out to take the paper from her, their hands slightly touched during the pass off but it was enough to make his skin tingle. 

“Thank ye, Sassenach,” he said.

“Sassenach?” Claire questioned, her eyes locking onto his with his phrase. 

“Och, erm, I’ve just been callin’ ye that in my mind, I didna mean to address ye as such out loud. Forgive me,” he explained. 

“You’ve been thinking about me?” 

Jamie felt his body freeze, of course, that was the part she focused on. “Aye,” he admitted shyly, with a nod. 

“I’ve been thinking about you too,” she whispered, her own cheeks burning red in embarrassment at her own admittance.

Before he could stop himself, Jamie felt the words escaping his mouth, “I ken it’s probably no appropriate, but I’d love to meet with ye– outside of the school if ye get my meanin’. There’s somethin’ between us that I canna explain and I canna seem to get ye off my mind.”

“You’re right, it’s not appropriate.” 

Jamie felt his heart lurch at her words. He knew it was a long shot, parents and teachers “meeting” outside of school was frowned upon everywhere, it shouldn’t be any different for them. But that knowledge didn’t stop the feeling of disappointment settling into his bones. 

“However…” Claire began, making him jerk his head to look at her. She reached into her purse and pulled out a pen, she took the paper from his hand and wrote on the back before handing it to him. “Every day at four, after school, I go to this little coffee place near my house. If I ran into somebody I knew and they said hello, it would be awfully rude of me to ignore them, wouldn’t it? Why I would just have to say hello and chat– it’s the proper thing to do.” 

Jamie smiled when she finished and folded the paper with the address to the shop into a neat square before shoving it into his pocket. “I love coffee, I think I might be in the mood for some, tomorrow,” he said. 

Claire chuckled, “Well then, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, Mister Fraser.” 

“Aye, ye just might.” 

Jamie backed out of the room slowly, giving Claire a knowing smile before whipping around and rushing back to the parking lot. When he noticed only a few cars remained, Jamie hurried over to Jenny who was waiting outside of her van with her arms wrapped around Fergus for warmth. 

“What took ye so long?” Jenny asked, releasing Fergus from her grasp as Jamie picked him up. “He’s practically dead on his feet.” 

“I’m sorry,” Jaime apologized to Jenny, rubbing his hand along Fergus’s back. “I’m sorry, laddie.” Jamie kissed the side of Fergus’s head which rested on his shoulder. 

“Can we go home now, Papa?” Fergus mumbled into his neck. 

“O’ course we can,” Jamie held Fergus tighter with one arm and gave Jenny a quick hug with the other. “Thank ye, Jenny. Night Ian!” he waved to Ian through the window. 

“Ye didna’ answer me!” Jenny called as Jamie carried a sleeping Fergus to their car. He turned over his shoulder and gave Jenny a grin. Jamie carefully buckled Fergus into the car and began the drive home, the quicker he got home the faster he could go to sleep, which meant the sooner he would see his Sassenach again. And he couldn’t wait. 



 

 

Chapter Text

“Good job, Roger,” Claire said, giving the young boy a smile before continuing to walk through the row of desks. Each student was hunched over their desk filling out the paper she’d given them ten minutes before. On the paper were several analog clocks with each one telling a different time; it was a simple assignment, at least in her mind, but some of the students were struggling to fill in the answers. Claire walked through the rows, offering assistance when needed, and checking the answers that were written on the papers.

Claire tilted her head in order to get a glimpse of Fergus’s paper, his curly hair acting as a shield from above, she saw that the majority of the blanks had an answer and the once black and white clocks were filled with color. Claire let out a chuckle, grabbing Fergus’s attention who quickly looked up. 

“Yes, Madame?” he asked, watching her closely. 

“You’re doing wonderful, Fergus, but this one,” she pointed to the green clock at the top right corner, “Check this one again. Remember that the small hand is the hour and the big is the minute, you’ve gotten them confused.” 

Fergus squinted his eyes and leaned closer to the section her finger rested on. Claire noticed that he had been doing that a lot lately, squinting and leaning closer to view something, she made a mental note to speak with Jamie about getting his eyesight checked, maybe Fergus needed glasses. Jamie… just thinking of his name made her knees weak. 

She shook her head to clear her thoughts and focused her attention back on Fergus’ paper. She was glad Fergus wasn’t the mind reader his father appeared to be, Jamie seemed to be able to read her thoughts and respond before she could manifest the words. But the look of complete despair on his face when she’d turned him down the night before made him look absolutely adorable. Claire doubted anyone would have any reason to describe Jamie as adorable–he was definitely a gentle, rugged giant–but that’s what he’d been with his cheeks red from embarrassment and eyes cast down; Jamie looked an awful lot like the little boy currently scribbling away in front of her. 

“How’s this, Madame?” Fergus asked, tilting the paper so she could see. 

“That’s wonderful, Fergus,” she placed a hand on his arm and gave the limb a light squeeze. “Keep going, you’ve got the hang of it now.” Claire stood from her position and resumed her previous walk amongst the scattered desks. Overall, the majority of them seemed to have grasped the concept but they would certainly need a review the following day. At precisely two-forty, Claire returned to the front of the class and clapped once to garner their attention,

“All right class, it’s two-forty, that means it’s time to pack up your things and get ready to go,” she announced with a smile.

“Misses Beauchamp, it’s actually two-forty-one!” 

Claire nodded her head with a chuckle, “You’re quite right, Annabelle,” She praised the young girl. When all the students had their belongings and were ready to go, Claire escorted her class to the front of the school where a line of parents were waiting for their children. Since the eldest child in her class turned eight just a week prior, Claire liked to make sure all her students were safely on their way home before she left herself.

Fergus stayed within radius to Claire as he always did, but chatted with a little girl Claire vaguely recognized as Marsali. Soon, Marsali was picked up by a woman, her mother Claire assumed, with the same long blonde hair and blue eyes. Marsali bid farewell to her friend and her mother said a few words to Fergus, although Claire couldn’t hear what she had said to him, she was sure Fergus wasn’t appreciative as he inched closer to her as a result. Another mental note to keep an eye on things and discuss with Jamie if it prolonged. 

Not long after, a familiar black SUV pulled up, and before it had even stopped Fergus was bouncing towards the car doors. The car came to a halt, and the tall figure of Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser rounded the front of the car with his arms open for Fergus to jump into. 

“Murtagh!” Fergus wrapped his arms around Murtagh’s neck.

“Oh, laddie!” Murtagh groaned lightly as Fergus settled into Murtagh’s arms, “I’m no' as young as yer Da, and ye're getting to be braw, soon, ye're gonna have to put those legs o’ yers to good use.” Although Murtagh seemed to be radiating a grumpy vibe, Claire could hear the love in his words. 

“Where is my Da?” Fergus asked, peering into the tinted windows of the SUV. “He always picks me up on Thursdays.” 

“Och, weel, yer Da had a meeting he could no get out o’,” Murtagh explained, shooting Claire a sly smile, “So, he asked me to pick ye up. Are ye tired o’ me already? I suppose I could leave ye here wi’ Dougal, I’m sure he could find somethin’ for ye to do.” 

“No!” Fergus quickly shouted, “Je veux rester avec toi s'il te plait,” (I want to stay with you, please)

“It’s settled then,” Murtagh lowered Fergus to the ground, “In ye get.” he opened the back door for Fergus to climb into. 

“You speak French?” Claire asked Murtagh, clearly surprised even though she knew she shouldn’t be, it was likely that the entire family spoke French. 

“Aye,” Murtagh nodded, shutting the car door behind Fergus. “I picked it up a long time ago.” Murtagh walked away without further explanation. The car’s engine purred and the passenger side window lowered to reveal Murtagh smirking at her. “Ye have fun tonight, try not to keep him too late, I have a meetin' early in the mornin’.” 

Before Claire could respond, the vehicle pulled away from the curb and carried its passengers down the road. Claire stood for a few moments in shock wondering just how much Jamie had told his godfather.

It was another ten minutes before the last of her students were picked up, leaving Claire just under an hour to run home and quickly get ready for her date. She didn’t live too far from the school and traffic seemed to be in her favor, before long,  she was home and sitting in front of her bureau. She removed the bland, skin-toned makeup she’d put on that morning and replaced the color with something a little bolder. Nothing too bold, she didn’t want Jamie to think she was desperate, though it had been a while since she’d been on a date.

She changed into her favorite pair of slimming blue jeans, red-black flannel and opted for the matching black flats. After doing a final check to make sure her hair didn’t look too wild, Claire was in her car and driving to the café. She’d discovered the place soon after moving to Scotland on one of her many sleepless nights. She was overthinking her decision to move, even though it was too late to do anything about it, and thought a midnight drive would clear her head. Eight minutes into her aimless drive and she’d discovered the only open establishment on the block, a twenty-four coffee shop. Once she’d taken the first sip of their coffee and a bite from their pastry, she was a customer for life. She easily preferred their goods versus the overly priced options from Starbucks that many of her girlfriends were obsessed with. 

Claire parked her car directly in front of the cafe, debating on if she should go in and find a table for them or wait for him before entering. She was somewhat early and Jamie seemed like he would be a punctual man, but then again, it was supposed to be a ‘surprise meeting’. She grabbed her purse and entered the building, stopping in her tracks when she saw him already seated at a table near the door. He was dressed similarly to the night before in neatly pressed clothing, however today, the copper tendrils he called hair were loose and tailed just past over his shoulders.

She took a few deep breaths before walking in tentative steps towards him, when she was close to him, he glanced up from the menu in his hand and looked at her with mock surprise. “Why, Madame Beauchamp, what a surprise to see ye here.” 

“Mister Fraser, was it?” she asked, going along with the narrative he’d begun and closed the distance between them. “Of all the places in the world, my favorite coffee shop,” she said, sitting in the empty seat across from him which he’d clearly saved for her. 

“Mmm, I heard from a certain someone that they served verra good coffee.” 

The way he pronounced the word caused an explosion of butterflies in her stomach. 

“So, you’ve never been here before?” Claire asked, taking the menu a passing waitress offered her, even though she already knew what she was getting, it proved to be a physical distraction for her nerves. 

“No,” Jamie shook his head, “I dinna really have the time; between work, Fergus and helpin’ wi’ the family, exploring the restaurants and shops are the last thing on my mind.” 

“That reminds me,” Claire said, closing her menu and leaning her body closer to his. “Fergus has been squinting in class lately,” at the mention of his son Jamie’s full attention was on her. “Squinting and leaning in to get a closer look, I’m concerned he might have trouble seeing.” 

She wasn’t expecting the chuckle that came from his mouth, “Thank ye for yer concern, Claire, but I can assure ye his sight is fine.” 

“If he continues to do it he’ll only strain his eyes,” Claire said with a frown.

“Aye, I’ve told him many times that it will just hurt him in the long run but it’s a habit he hasn’t broken yet.”

“Where in the hell did he pick that up?” She rested back against the booth behind her.

“I’m not too sure,” Jamie shrugged, “I believe it stemmed from the idea that if he blocked out what’s goin’ on around him he could focus more.” 

Claire nodded in understanding, “I’ll keep an eye on that.” 

Jamie smiled in thanks and turned back to the menu in his hands, “What’s good here?”

“I like the black Colombian just fine, but I heard the cortados are wonderful here.”

“So, yer not one o’ those lassie’s that likes their coffee mostly sugar, aye?” 

“God no,” Claire snorted a laugh, “One of my friends in England takes her coffee,” she used air quotes with the word, “with the majority of her drink made of milk or creamer–adding a splash of the actual coffee for flavor.” His resulting laugh came from deep within his chest and made her stomach flutter once more. 

“Why Scotland?” Jamie asked once they’d placed their order, both getting the simple Colombian coffee and a pastry, Claire raspberry and Jamie apple. 

“I’ve been everywhere imaginable, I was raised by my Uncle Lambert who traveled the world as an archaeologist, we visited Egypt, China, the States, South America– you name it. I came to Scotland for the first time a few years ago with my husband, Frank, we were actually married here, and Scotland… Well, let’s just say of all the places I’ve been, Scotland's left a lasting impression. It’s absolutely beautiful here and when I could no longer stand England I came for a visit, initially, but then I didn’t want to leave.”

“Aye,” Jamie nodded with a smile. “I ken what ye mean, I’ve traveled a bit myself, and yet, I always come home to Scotland. There’s no place else I’d rather be.” 

Their conversation stalled as their waiter placed their drinks and treats in front of them. Claire grasped the mug in her hands for warmth, gathering the courage to speak, “Jamie, can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.” 

“O’ course,'' he took a sip of his coffee, and a happy sigh escaped his lips, “O Dhia, that’s really good… what is it, Sassenach? What’s on yer mind?” 

“Where’s Fergus’s mum? I haven’t seen her at pick up and he’s never mentioned her.” 

“He doesna have one,” Jamie explained, setting his mug onto the counter. “I adopted Fergus when he was a wee bairn. I was in Paris helpin’ my cousin, Jared, with his business, one day, I visited a friend o’ mine who was fosterin’ him. She was strained and tired, her first foster, and practically a newborn to boot. She kent I was good with bairns, asked if I was willin’ to watch him long enough for her to shower,” Jamie smiled with the memory. “By the time she was finished and ready to take him back… I couldna give him to her. Dinna ken why but it was like a piece of myself I didna ken was missin’ was suddenly there again, I felt whole. My fianceé at the time wasna keen on the idea, she didna want to be a mam– somethin’ we probably should have discussed before gettin’ engaged– she said it was either her or the bairn. Ye can tell which one I chose. The process was long and hard, tons o’ paperwork, visits, and fees– had to get a lawyer as weel. After, a couple o’ years little Claudel was mine.”

“Claudel?” Claire’s nose scrunched. 

“Aye,” Jamie chuckled at her expression, “My thoughts exactly, the first thing I did was change his name to somethin’ more braw.” 

“I can’t imagine what you went through,” Claire said, resting her head on her palm, “Frank and I talked about adopting, well, I talked about adopting and he dismissed the idea immediately. He said he could never love a child that wasn’t of his own blood.” 

“He’s an eejit,” Jamie said, his jaw tensing at the information. “I canna imagine my life wi’out Fergus, nor would I want to.” He took another sip of his coffee, glancing down at the brown liquid before asking, “Are ye still together, Claire? Yer goin’ by yer maiden name and no wearin’ a ring, but earlier you said ‘my husband’, no ex.” 

“Legally, yes,” Claire answered honestly, “But we’ve been separated for almost a year now. Why do you ask?” 

“I’ll be honest wi’ ye, Sassenach, I like ye a lot and this is somethin’ I want to pursue, but I’ve no intention of courtin’ a marritt woman even if she is unhappy– my Da would have my arse. Do ye plan on a divorce?” 

His brash honesty made her pause, she knew full well that there was something between them– they’d admitted it just last night. Yet, hearing Jamie explicitly say he had every intention of courting her– who even used the term courting, anyway? It wasn’t like they were in the eighteenth century– made her mind flood with the possibilities of their relationship and the challenges they would surely endure. She was his son’s teacher, for Christ’s sake, it’s not like they just dive into a relationship head-on, she could lose her job or registration if they didn’t act accordingly. But looking at the man in front of her… to hell with the consequences, she thought.

She wanted him as much as he seemed to want her.

From the prolonged wait for her answer, Jamie’s body was as hard and still as a rock. His slanted, cat-like blue eyes stared at her, waiting for an answer. 

She reached over and took his hand in hers. “I have every intention of a divorce, I promise you, I’ve talked to him about it but he said he’d only contest it if I sent the paperwork, so I’ve hit a roadblock on the matter. I’m not really sure what to do next.”

Jamie nodded, his body relaxing with confirmation of her feelings, and one of the noises she recognized as plainly Scottish sounded from his throat, “Good… verra good. I can get ye in touch with my family lawyer if ye’d like, the one who helped me wi’ Fergus. He’ll help ye as a favor to me.” 

“You don’t have to do that, Jamie, but I’d appreciate it if you’re sure.”

“I am,” he nodded resolutely, “I want you, Claire, almost more than I’ve ever wanted anythin’ in my whole life.” 

With a shaky voice, she responded, “I want you too, Jamie.”

He smiled at her words and pushed the plate holding her pastry closer to her, “Ye should eat, Sassenach, before it goes stale.” 

The rest of their date was filled with light and easy conversation. They talked about their families, Claire’s lack of and Jamie’s hectic one, his smile beamed the entire time he spoke of them. She finally got a firm answer on his career that had so far been shrouded with mystery,  he worked as an accountant strictly for the pay. He would much rather go back to working on his family’s farm, Lallybroch, he told her, but with Fergus and bills, he didn’t have a choice. Claire explained her brief stint as a psychologist before going back to school to get her teaching degree, a course Frank had not been on board with and one of the final pins of their marriage. 

She learned that Jamie was a very busy man, between working a full week and being a single parent to a very loving yet rambunctious child, he rarely had a moment of peace. He spent his weekends helping Murtagh, working on the family farm with his sister and brother-in-law, or assisting his mother with any given task. And to her surprise, she learned she was a good four years older than him, though he reassured her quickly that age was of no matter to him.

They talked for hours, losing track of time until their conversation was interrupted by a string of alerts from his cellphone. He apologized, thinking it rude to be on one’s cell phone while in someone’s company, but was compelled to check anyway, just in case it was about Fergus, which turned out to be the case.

“I should get goin’,” he said, typing a reply into his phone. “Murtagh said Fergus is gettin’ a bit antsy, ready to go home.”

“I don’t blame him, it’s…” Claire checked her watch, “My God, is it really close to nine? Can you believe how late it is?” 

“Guess we lost track o’ time, verra easy with such delightful company.'' he smiled at her, making her blush. He flagged down their waiter and ordered a chocolate scone to go for Fergus, a treat for being out so late, and before she could protest he paid their bill in full, she did, however, make him promise to let her pay next time. He walked her to her car, making Claire wish she’d parked further away, she didn’t want to part from him yet. 

“This is me,” Claire said, digging out her keys from her purse. 

“Claire,” Jamie whispered her name, taking a small step in her direction. “I’d verra much like to kiss ye, may I?”

Her eyes zoned in on his full lips, “I’d be upset if you didn’t,” she answered. And with her permission, he moved towards her and captured her lips in a searing kiss. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but it left a lasting impression, making her body tremble and a fire burn through her chest. “Apologize to Murtagh for me for keeping you out late, he explicitly told me not to,” she mumbled against his lips. 

“Dinna fash about him, Claire, he’s an auld coot with nothin’ better to do than make meanin’less threats. Besides, he’d never admit to it but he loves spendin’ time wi’ Fergus, I have to rip the lad away from him most o’ the time.”

They stood in silence for several seconds.

“Goodnight, Sassenach,” Jamie said, placing a kiss on her forehead.

“Goodnight,” she echoed, leaning into his touch. 

He pulled away a few seconds later, refusing to look anywhere but her as he backed up slowly and carefully to his car. 

“You better text me, you bloody Scot, you’ve had my number for ages now and have yet to use it!” she shouted at him as he climbed into his car.

Seconds later, her phone dinged displaying the first of many texts she was soon to receive from Jamie. It read: You have very soft lips, I can’t wait to feel them again 

She looked up just in time to see his car pull out of the lot, leaving her to wonder just how far gone she already was.

 

Chapter Text

Jamie opened his eyes with a groan; staying out late the night when he was due to wake at four-thirty in the morning was ill-fated, but so was giving a seven-year-old a sugary treat late at night, and he’d done both. Fergus had been in a horrid mood when Jamie finally arrived to pick him up from Murtagh’s, the brief exhilaration of seeing his father was quickly replaced by the lateness of the hour and the absence of their usual father-son time. 

Their drive home consisted of Fergus glaring at his father through the rearview mirror with his arms crossed, and by the time they pulled into their driveway, Jamie knew the boy would be getting his breakfast treat as soon as they got into the house. Normally, Jamie didn’t resort to bribing Fergus out of his moods; he usually waited until the lad was calm and they would talk about the issue. But this time, Jamie couldn’t stop the feeling of guilt washing over him so he’d offered Fergus his chocolate scone just to see him smile. This proved to be a bad decision on his part as the sugar overpowered Fergus’ earlier tiredness and kept him awake until one in the morning.

Leaving Jamie with only a little more than three hours of sleep and likely a very cranky, sleep-deprived child to boot. 

Jamie forced his body into an upright position and reached over to his nightstand to grab his phone. In just the few hours since he’d checked it last, he had ten new emails and several unread text messages: a handful from Jenny, one from his Mam, two from Murtagh, and one from Claire. He opened Claire’s first, smiling when he read her message: Thank you for last night, Jamie, I had a lot of fun, I hope Murtagh and Fergus weren’t too angry with you for being out so late. Have a wonderful day! 

The message was sent less than fifteen minutes before - she must be an early riser like him. He replied: Good morning, how did you sleep? 

He set his phone back onto his nightstand and finally heaved his body off the bed. Friday was the busiest day in the Fraser household and Jamie knew the longer he procrastinated the worse it be. He shed his pajamas and took a short, hot shower to jolt his body awake, dressing in his charcoal three-piece suit and black winged-tip shoes, he was ready for the day. 

He exited his room and crossed the hall to check on Fergus, one of the parental habits Jamie hadn’t been able to break as Fergus grew older. Constantly checking in on a newborn had been a necessity, but by the age of two, the periodic peek-ins were more to reassure Jamie's worries than to actually tend to the boy. Satisfied that Fergus was sound asleep, Jamie walked down to the kitchen and started a pot of strong black coffee. While he waited for the coffee to prepare, Jamie went back up the stairs to wake Fergus. 

“Fergus?” Jamie asked, knocking lightly on the door with his knuckles, Fergus’ body shifted slightly under the pile of blankets at his father’s rousing. “Time to get up, laddie.” Jamie walked further into the room to stand at Fergus’s bedside. “Fergus,” Jamie tried again, placing a gentle hand on Fergus’s shoulder. 

“Five more minutes, Papa,” Fergus said drowsily, smacking his lips and pulling his prized stuffed turtle to his chest. 

“We dinna have five more minutes,” Jamie carefully peeled the layer of blankets off Fergus’ body, “Ye ken on Fridays ye go to Grannie’s before school, I’m sure she’s already got yer favorite pancakes waitin’ for ye.” At the mention of his grandmother’s pancakes, Fergus opened his eyes and slowly sat up in the bed. 

“Aye, that got ye up,” Jamie smiled placing a kiss to the mop on Fergus’s head, “The sooner ye're dressed the sooner ye get yer pancakes.” The simple statement kicked Fergus' small body into action and he finally rose from the bed to shuffle over to his dresser. 

Leaving Fergus alone to dress, Jamie walked to his bedroom to take his cellphone off the charger, smiling when he saw the text from Claire: Rather well, though coffee so late was a bad idea, you?

He replied: Didn’t sleep so well myself, expect a Zombie Fergus today, we were up late. 

Jamie slipped his phone into the pocket of his pants and returned to the kitchen to transfer the coffee from the pot to his thermos. He turned off the kitchen light and made his way to the front door just as Fergus walked down the stairs.

“I’m tired, Papa,” Fergus yawned, rubbing his eyes with his hands and stopping on the second to last step.

“Och, I ken,” Jamie swung Fergus’s book bag over his shoulder and extended his arms in Fergus’s direction. Fergus happily took the invitation and settled into his father’s embrace, resting his drooping head on Jamie’s shoulder as Jamie locked the house and carried Fergus to the car. 

The drive to his mother's was eventless, Fergus fell asleep leaving Jamie to bask in the silence and emptiness of the road in front of him. Soon, the lights of his mother’s house shone through the darkness acting as a beacon to his ancestral land. Lallybroch was distanced twenty minutes from the nearest town though a mere ten from Leoch Academy, allowing the estate a tremendous amount of privacy from light pollution as well as people. Jamie drove past the dark house of Jenny and Ian and continued down the long dirt road to his mother’s home. 

Shortly after the news of Jenny’s pregnancy with Wee Jamie, his mother had moved out of the house she’d lived in for the past forty years and gave the space to her daughter and son-in-law instead. Her children were grown and off on their own adventures, leaving her alone in the large home that the Frasers had occupied for more than two centuries; she was more than happy to pass it on to the next generation. She settled into the much smaller building a mile down the road and turned a once empty space into an ever-welcoming environment for her children and grandchildren. 

Fergus lifted his head when the car came to stop as Jamie parked the car next to his mother’s. Jamie had just opened Fergus’s door when his mother walked down the wooden porch steps of her home to greet them.

“Grannie!” Fergus shouted, hastily unbuckling his seatbelt and darting off towards her. 

“Fergus, my darling boy!” Ellen wrapped her grandson in a large hug, “I’m so happy to see ye,” Though they saw each other multiple times a week, she always acted like it had been months since their last visit. Ellen Fraser was the epitome of grandmothers. She doted on her grandchildren with loving care, bending to their every wish and doing anything in her power to make them happy–often to the displeasure of her children who were left to deal with whatever hyperactive state or toys she had given to the wee ones. 

“Ye look like shite,” Ellen said, glancing at Jamie before leading Fergus inside the house with her hand pressed firmly on his back, “Were ye up late?” 

Jamie followed his mother and son into the kitchen and sighed happily at the smell of his mother’s pancakes and roasting coffee beans, taking a large breath, “Aye, we were.”

“Here ye go, laddie, Grannie has plenty, so eat as much as ye want,” She placed a large plate of fluffy pancakes loaded with whipped cream, berries, and syrup in front of Fergus before she turned to face Jamie, “Ye ken ye canna keep him up that late, especially on a school night, what’s wrong wi’ ye?” 

Jamie shook his head, “I got back later than I thought I would… couldna stand the way he was lookin’ at me, so I gave him a treat to make him happy. Is that truly bad?” 

“I suppose no…” Ellen said, looking from Jamie to Fergus, “Ye were out with yer lass, weren’t ye?” Ellen smiled at Jamie with a knowing look.

“Dhia… Jenny needs to keep her mouth shut! I dinna ken why she canna stay out o’ matters that dinna concern her.” 

“So, it’s true then?” Ellen placed one hand on her hip, “Ye were wi’ a lass?” 

“Aye,” Jamie nodded the affirmative, walking over to lean against the counter.

“Is she bonnie?” Ellen asked, sitting in the chair next to Fergus with her eyes never leaving Jamie’s face. 

“Verra,” Jamie responded with a smile, “Ye’ll like her, Mam, she’s verra intelligent and kind…” Jamie trailed off, his eyes landing on the back of Fergus’s head. Even though he and Claire had both announced their intentions to each other, they had yet to discuss how to proceed around Fergus. 

Jamie could see hiding their relationship from the world– though nothing stayed hidden for long if his family had anything to say about it– however, Fergus was an exception. Jamie didn’t want to create a web of lies explaining why he was suddenly away more, telling Fergus he was working the night before when he was actually on a date pained him enough. Jamie hated lying to Fergus, he wanted Fergus to feel comfortable coming to him with any issue, knowing his father would be understanding and willing to listen; a relationship that was hard to build if it was based on lies. 

“She’s somethin’ special,” Jamie finished, looking away from Fergus to his mother.

“Yer Da always said he kent from the moment we first met that we were it for each other; some feelin’ resonating deep within his bones…”

“Aye,” Jamie said, “Da told me the same thing, I thought he was crazy but I dinna anymore. I ken what he was sayin’,”

“Ye think she’s the one?” 

“I do,” Jamie nodded, “I really do.”

Ellen smiled, “Then I’m happy for ye, mo mac,” she stood from her chair and walked over to him, grabbing his hands in hers when he came in reach. “I may just forgive ye for keepin’ my grandson up so late given the circumstances. But no again!” She shooed Jamie away from the counter and motioned for him to sit at the table. “He’s a growin’ lad and needs all the sleep he can get. I will no have ye depriving him o’ it.” 

“Have some, Papa,” Fergus said, pushing his plate towards Jamie. “Grannie makes the best pancakes!” 

“I ken she does,” Jamie said, reaching out to take a piece of Fergus’ food only earning a smack from Ellen for his efforts.

“Here’s yer own,” she placed a pile of pancakes in front of Jamie, “Eat before ye have to leave for work.” 

When Ellen turned to walk towards the stove, Jamie fished his phone from his pocket and sent a single text to Claire: Sassenach, dinner tonight with me and Fergus? My place? 

She responded seconds later: I’d love to! 



Chapter Text

“Fergus, be verra careful,” Jamie warned, eyeing Fergus as the young boy teetered on the stool he was standing on. They were in the kitchen preparing dinner together as they did every Friday night, except tonight, Claire would be joining them.

Friday was Jamie’s busiest–and favorite– day of the week. He awoke practically at dawn and dropped Fergus at his Mam’s before being the first to arrive at work. He spent all day in various meetings, plowing through piles of paperwork and arguing with clients over the realities of their financials. If he was lucky, which was rarely the case, he might have time for a quick lunch to fuel his body for the rest of the day. Today he had not been lucky, Jamie’s stomach rumbled loudly in unison with the dinging of utensils against pots and pans. 

They were making lasagna. It was a simple yet classic meal that was heavily enjoyed by the Fraser men and Jamie had never met a person who didn’t love cheesy-carbs. Jamie stood over the stove stirring the marinara sauce while Fergus carefully laid down the first layer of noodles in the pan. Fergus was short for his age so even with the added assistance of a stool he still had to brace himself on the top of his toes with Jamie close behind for support. 

Despite the cover his apron was supposed to provide, Fergus had managed to dirty his prized green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt with blotches of red–he stood far too close when Jamie poured the marinara sauce into the pan– and had a thin white layer of flour from when they’d rolled out the croissant dough. 

“What now, Papa?” Fergus asked, standing straight so Jamie could check his work on the layered pan. 

“First the sauce,” Jamie said, carefully setting the steaming pile of marinara on the counter next to the pan and within Fergus’s reach. “It’s verra hot, Fergus, be really careful, please.” 

“I know, Papa,” Fergus responded with a smile, reaching forward and carefully scooping up a pile of sauce with the ladle Jamie provided. “Just put it on?”

“Aye, but smooth it out,” Jamie watched as Fergus poured the sauce over the waiting noodles and evened the spread. “Then the meat,” Fergus grabbed a handful of crushed beef from the pot and sprinkled it across the pan. “Can I add tons of cheese?” Fergus asked hopefully. 

Jamie chuckled and pulled the large bag of shredded cheese towards them, “Add as much as ye want.” He stood to the side, watching as Fergus sprinkled two large helpings of cheese across the first layer of lasagna. Just as Fergus reached for another bunch of cheese the doorbell rang signaling the arrival of their special guest. 

“Save enough for the rest o’ the layers,'' Jamie said, moving to wash his hands in the sink and drying them on the dishtowel. “Can I trust ye no to cover the entire thing wi’ cheese?” Jamie asked Fergus, slowly walking towards the hall.

“No promises…” Fergus shrugged, turning back to his cheesy-meaty masterpiece. 

Jamie left Fergus to his devices in the kitchen and walked into the hall to open the door for Claire. His breath hitched the moment his eyes took her in. She was standing as straight as a pushpin with a smile on her face and a bottle of orange soda in her hands. Her hair hung loosely, framing her beautiful face which only made Jamie want to run his hands through the long, brown strands. She wore a simple lilac blouse with form-fitting jeans, a pair of matching Toms, and a brown overcoat to complete the ensemble.

“Jamie,” Her smile widened with the use of his name, “I was going to bring wine but since Fergus is with us, well, I thought soda might be the better option.” She held up the orange bottle, “Don’t worry, it’s sugar-free, I know the two of you had a very long night.” 

“That’s verra kind o’ ye, orange is his favorite,” Jamie said, taking the offered bottle from her and stepping to the side so she could enter. 

“Yes, I remembered him saying so when we did our class introductions. He was very insistent that orange soda was the only authentic fruity flavor.” 

“Aye,” Jamie laughed, “He finds that grape and cherry taste like medicine, and the strawberry is a bit too sweet for his liking.” Jamie helped Claire shed her coat and he hung it on the rack before motioning with his head for her to follow him. “I hope ye like lasagna, Sassenach,” 

Fergus looked up from his task as they entered and gave Claire an excited, cheese-covered wave with his hand, “Good evening, Madame Beauchamp.” 

“Hello, Fergus!” Claire greeted, "Since we’re not at school, you can call me Claire if you’d like. No need to be so formal,” she glanced at Jamie who nodded in approval. 

“But only outside o’ school, do ye understand?” Jamie asked, waiting until Fergus met his eyes before he continued. “At school, she’s still Madame Beauchamp,” 

“Oui, Papa,” Fergus turned on the stool to face Claire, “I promise… Claire.” His face erupted in a toothy grin. 

“Right, now, what are you up to?” Claire asked, walking across the room to stand next to Fergus.

“I’m layering the lasagna,” he explained, “First you put the noodles, then sauce, meat, and cheese.” 

Jamie watched as Fergus verbally explained the process of layering the lasagna before carefully carrying out his own instructions. Lost in the thrill of having his teacher’s rapt attention on him, his body swayed with excitement and he began to slowly lean towards the edge of the stool. Jamie was seconds away from correcting the situation when Claire placed a hand on Fergus’s back to steady him, never taking her focus off his lasagna lesson. Fergus’s body straightened under Claire’s support and Jamie was no longer fearful of a possible catastrophe.

Jamie turned towards his own section of the counter and continued preparing their side salad for dinner; they would need something green and rough to counteract the amount of cheese Fergus would be feeding them for dinner. The trio finished their tasks at the same time, Fergus had even let Claire help assemble the entree after making sure she washed her hands. Jamie grabbed the oven mitts out of the drawer and carefully opened the awaiting oven.

“Fergus?” Jamie questioned warily, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Fergus was at an appropriate distance. 

“Six feet!” Fergus shouted in response, gently tugging on Claire’s hand as he backed away, “Papa doesn’t want people near the oven so we must stay six feet away.” 

Claire smiled and happily retreated from the blazing heat to stand at Fergus’s side. 

“Just ye,” Jamie said, slowly arranging the pan to rest in the middle of the oven, “Or do ye want what happened at Grannie’s last year to happen again?” 

“Get too close, did you?” Claire asked looking down at Fergus. 

“Oui,” Fergus nodded affirmatively and rubbed the middle of his forehead with the painful memory, “I didn’t see that Grannie had the door open and I accidentally touched it.” 

“He ran right into it,” Jamie explained to Claire, “Came around the corner and hit the door head-on, practically tore it off.”

“Goodness! I hope you weren’t hurt too bad?” Claire looked once more at Fergus.

“No,” Fergus shrugged, “It was just a little spot, right here,” he pointed to a small circular scar.

“How weird,” Claire leaned in to take a better look, “It’s perfectly round…” 

“Aye, he managed to touch a bit o’ a metal screw,” Jamie shut the oven door and turned the switch to lock it, “Go and play, Fergus, I’ll let ye ken when dinner is ready.” Jamie pulled his phone from his pocket and set a timer. 

“May I watch TV? It’s a special night after all…” Fergus asked, flashing his brown puppy eyes. Claire pulled a hand to cover her mouth in an effort to suppress the giggles escaping her body; Jamie was easily ten times bigger than Fergus but with his pleading eyes Jamie didn’t stand a chance, Claire could see the exact moment Jamie caved to his son’s request. 

“All right… but it’s off the moment dinner is ready. Ye understand?” 

“Aye!” Fergus responded with a small impersonation of his father before running off towards the living room. Jamie waited until he heard the beginning title of Spongebob before walking over to the glass curio resting against the wall. The curio held the more impressive and fragile items he owned; the shelves were covered with various bottles of high-quality liquor, his grandmother's wedding china, and several ceramic figurines. 

“Are we feeling fancy or adventurous tonight, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, shooting a daring smile in her direction behind his shoulder.

“I’m always up for a little adventure,” Claire responded. 

“A lass after my own heart, perfect,” Jamie carefully plucked a simple glass bottle from the bunch and closed the curio’s doors with his selection in hand. He grabbed two tumblers from a cabinet and placed the items on the counter. Claire joined his side and watched as he popped the cork off the glass bottle and poured a small amount of golden-amber liquid into each of the cups. “Give it a taste,” he handed her one of the tumblers. 

Claire took the glass from him and slowly lifted the container to her face, her nose scrunching when she smelled the contents, “Jesus, Jamie,” she eyed him, “What is this?” 

“Homebrewed whiskey,” he responded, draining his tumbler in one tilt of his head, “Ian and I brew it– for our own consumption, o’ course, though that’s no entirely legal either.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell.” She smiled before taking a deep breath and slamming down the liquid. “My lord!” 

“What do ye think?” 

“It’s strong I’ll give you that, taste leaves something to be desired,”

“It’s meant to get ye drunk, Sassenach, no to be a casual drink.” 

“Are you trying to get me drunk, Mister Fraser?”

“No, uh,” Jamie defended as a flush of pink trailed from his stubbled neck to the tips of his ears. “I would never! I mean if ye dinna want to drink ye dinna have to, a dhia, I should o’ asked...” 

“Jamie,” she placed a warm hand on his arm to stop his rambling, “It was a joke, I’m sorry, I know you would never do something like that, I trust you completely.” 

“You do?” 

“Yes…” she nodded, “I’d trust you with my life, I feel completely safe with you.” Her hand trailed down his arm to hold his fingers. 

“I’m glad to hear ye say that,” Jamie turned his head towards the living room, when he was satisfied that Fergus’s attention was glued to the television, Jamie turned back to Claire and kissed her lips. She pulled him closer, her hands going to wrap around his neck as his settled on her waist. Jamie could taste the whiskey on her tongue which only made him press harder into the kiss– he was determined to taste every inch of her. 

She was incredibly responsive to his touch, her body hummed and gooseflesh rose under the path of his fingers. Jamie walked them slowly backward until they reached something solid to lean on; Claire gasped when her back hit the counter. They broke away for air, resting their foreheads together and gasping for breath. Jamie went back in for a second round and Claire happily joined him– until a laugh from the next room brought her back to reality.

She pulled away from him and he groaned at the loss, “Jamie,” She gripped his shoulders and held him at arm's length. “Fergus could walk in at any moment,” she explained.

“Shite…” Jamie’s face flushed pink once more with the embarrassment of forgetting the proximity of his son. But then again, he was properly distracted and all thoughts of anything besides Claire’s warm body completely escaped his mind. “You’re right,” He nodded, stepping further away from her before the uncontrollable urge to take her could consume him. “You’re quite the minx, Sassenach,” 

“Me?” Claire pointed to herself and laughed, “Fraser, if only you could see the predator look on your face right now.” 

“I think that’s enough whiskey for tonight,” Jamie put the cork back into its proper place on the bottle and placed the used tumblers into the sink. He was nowhere near drunk, he had too high of tolerance, his body had simply absorbed the alcohol, yet he felt the effects. He felt giddy, light-headed, and totally consumed by the woman standing across from him. 

“Yes,” Claire nodded in agreement, doing her best to smooth down the mess Jamie had made of her hair. “Soda?” She suggested, picking up the orange bottle from where Jamie had placed it earlier. 

“Aye,” Jamie grabbed three cups and passed them to Claire to fill.

“Fergus!” She called, pouring a slightly smaller amount of the liquid into the middle cup. 

“Dinna bother, Claire, he won’t move until the episode is over,” Jamie told her, picking up the cup and walking into the living room. Fergus was sitting on the floor behind the coffee table with his attention focused solely on the television. He muttered his thanks when Jamie placed the drink in front of him. “After this, wash yer hands, dinner should be ready by then.”

Fergus nodded in acknowledgment.

“I never got the appeal of this one in particular,” Claire said, leaning against the doorway as Jamie approached her. “The entire class loves it, I tried watching it to familiarize myself but my brain turned to absolute mush.”

“True sign yer no a parent, I havena watched anythin’ wi’ proper adult content in years.” 

“So, it’s just the cheese then?”

“Cheese?” Jamie frowned, glancing from Claire to the screen. “Sassenach…” he smiled at her, “He’s a sponge.” 

“How am I supposed to know?!” 

“It’s in the name,” Jamie laughed as Claire rolled her eyes and swatted him playfully. His phone buzzed signaling it was time to take their dinner out of the oven and the two adults returned to the kitchen. “Fergus!” Jamie called once the lasagna was safely placed on the counter and the oven’s door was sealed shut.

“I’m here, Papa,” Fergus said, appearing suddenly beside Claire. “Is dinner ready?”

“Yes, and it smells delicious, let’s wash our hands.” Claire led Fergus to the kitchen sink, moving the stool so Fergus could put his hands under the spout, and together they washed their hands as Jamie set the table. 

“Anywhere ye’d like,” Jamie told Claire as Fergus sat in his usual seat. 

“You can sit next to me!” Fergus said, excitedly patting the open space next to him. Claire obliged and sat in the chair next to Fergus who hummed with glee.

Jamie placed a plate in front of Fergus which consisted mostly of salad and a small amount of lasagna. Much to Claire’s surprise, Fergus ate his salad with no protest; she often battled with her students to eat the fruits and vegetables their parents had packed for their lunches, but then again, Claire couldn’t recall having such a fight with Fergus. He was always perfectly content to eat the entirety of his lunch, often saving his dessert for last as it was meant to be. He was a remarkable child, and Claire knew it was because of Jamie and their strong support system. 

“Do you like it?” Fergus asked, bringing Claire out of her thoughts; Jamie and Fergus were both looking at her, waiting for her to answer. 

“I think it’s the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten,” Claire said to Fergus and she could say with certainty that she was completely truthful.

“If you think Papa is a good cook, wait until you taste my Grannies food! She’s the best.” Fergus said, popping another forkful of cheesy-noodles into his mouth. 

“Is that right?” Clarie asked. 

“Oui!” Fergus responded.

Jamie sat quietly as Fergus ranked his Grannie’s best dishes– based on his opinions– for Claire. She was incredibly patient, listening as he spoke and chiming in with small comments to prove she was listening to him. Every once in a while she would look away from Fergus or up from her plate and their eyes would meet across the top of Fergus’s head. Her whiskey eyes matched the brightness of her smile and it made his insides warm. While she listened to Fergus, he was lost in thought of their earlier activities.

Jamie wasn’t usually so forward with his dates, and those in itself were rare. Fergus was at the top of his priority list so the rare dates he went on often ended with broken promises to reconnect or an awkward side hug, never anything more. The last thing he wanted was for Fergus to get close to someone and be shattered by their sudden disappearance. That particular thought never made itself known when he considered his relationship with Claire, he was more concerned with the possible damage to her career should anyone be found out. 

For once, he was thinking of someone else’s well-being before Fergus's, that had never happened before, Hell, he’d broken an engagement to have Fergus in the first place. He’d been turning down his mother’s and sister’s attempt to set him up for years, citing the importance of parental duties over romantic ones. Yet, Claire was in the foremost position of his brain and he had no desire for it to change. He would have been more than happy to ravage Claire against the kitchen counter but she’d been the one to stop them, she had been the one to be concerned about Fergus potentially catching them. 

Jamie wasn’t sure if he was more appreciative of her concern or disappointed in himself for being so careless.

Despite these thoughts, Jamie felt content. Claire sitting with them at their dinner table and eating the food she’d helped prepare felt right to him. As if they were meant to be. For the first time in a long time, Jamie felt completely whole, for the last time he’d felt this way he’d adopted a little French boy when he’d never considered being a parent before. Jamie wasn’t scared of these feelings or realizations. He was excited. And he hoped that Claire felt the same. 

Chapter Text

"Ye all right, bràthair? Ye’ve been starin’ into space all mornin’.”

"Just a bit distracted,” Jamie answered, not bothering to turn away from the horse he was brushing to face his sister. Jamie brushed the horse’s coat with flicks of his hand, listening as the heel of Jenny’s boot signaled her approach. Jenny said nothing else much to his surprise, instead, she ran one hand down the horse’s muzzle and the other down its throat in a calm, slow motion. “Dinna get too close, ye ken Donas isn’t fond o’ people.”

"Och,” Jenny dismissed his concerns with a wave of her hand, “Even this brute kens better than to bite the hand that feeds him… Ian canna go near him, so I’m that one that brings him his meals. Isn’t that right, Donas?” 

Donas huffed in response. 

Donas was Jamie’s large, stocky pure black sorrel stallion. Having been rescued from an abusive owner years before, Donas had a small list of humans he considered trustworthy; Jenny, Fergus, and Ellen could all get near him when others couldn’t, they could feed him, but only Jamie was able to saddle and ride him. Anyone else who tried was quickly thrown off and almost trampled. Unable to have a horse as a pet in the city, Donas lived on Lallybroch with proper care and freedom to roam. Jamie visited him often, whenever he was at Lallybroch he carved at least an hour to spend time with Donas. 

“It’s gettin’ harder to keep the bairns away,” Jenny continued, “I keep catchin’ Wee Jamie and Hamish tryin’ to sneak in here when they think I’m no lookin’,” 

“Weel, that’s definitely Hamish, Wee Jamie kens better.” 

Jenny nodded in agreement, “I swear Hamish just runs around like he’s some sort o’ Lord, that boy has no discipline whatsoever.” 

“Aye, why do ye think I dinna let Fergus play wi’ the lad?”

Jenny began to hum, a tune Jamie didn’t recognize as Jenny walked around in a circle around Donas, her hand gliding through his black coat until she came to stand on Jamie’s other side. Jamie could see from the corner of his eye as her arms folded and she stared at him with a teasing smirk. 

“What?” Jamie asked, keeping his eyes firmly on Donas. 

Jenny’s smile only widened. 

“What do ye want, Jenny?” Jamie sighed in defeat, realizing his sister wasn’t going to open her mouth unless she had his full attention, he turned away from Donas and glared at her. “Cat finally got yer tongue? About time…” 

“Fergus has been tellin’ Mam and I stories all mornin’, Jamie…” 

Jamie’s body tensed under her knowing look. Fergus must have told them about Claire, granted, they hadn’t specifically told him not to tell anyone, Jamie simply assumed Fergus wouldn’t. The boy wasn’t a gossip like his Grannie or Auntie, but then again, he wasn’t as stone-faced as his father either. Fergus was perfectly square in the middle, he wouldn’t say a word until he was probed about the subject, but once he was, it didn’t take much to break him. He was an open well of information to his Grannie and Auntie who loved to pry in their lives, just a candy bar and he’d tell them anything they wanted to know. 

When Jamie thought about it, he was actually proud of Fergus for keeping it a secret this long. 

“Jenny…” Jamie begged, “Please, dinna tell anyone.” 

“I might not be able to forgive ye for this brother, how could ye no tell us? Ye should see Mam, she’s no happy wi’ ye, keepin’ somethin’ like this a secret.” 

“Ye canna tell a soul, Jenny. Promise me! Bad things could happen.” 

“Bad things?” Jenny frowned, “Weel, I guess Laoghaire would make a bad in-law, she’s too self-centered and would definitely want holiday’s wi’ her.” 

Jamie looked at Jenny completely lost. What in the Hell did Laoghaire have to do with him and Claire? 

“I canna believe it!” Jenny suddenly smiled, reaching out to slap Jamie’s arm, “The lad’s seven and already smitten wi’ a lass. Takes after his Da it seems, charmin’ the lassies so young, Fergus and Marsali would be so cute together. I see them all the time when I pick him up from school, they’re practically handfasted already.” 

Jamie stared at his sister in utter disbelief before tsking and turning his attention back to Donas, followed shortly by a wave of relief, their secret was still safe. 

“What’s the matter? Yer no worrit about him courtin’?”

“Courtin’?” Jamie chuckled, looking at Jenny, “He wears footies to bed and sleeps wi’ a turtle, he’s no courtin’, ‘tis just but a crush. When he swaps the turtle for a razor then I’ll start to worry.” 

“Thank God Wee Jamie’s no into girls yet,” Jenny said, leaning against the wooden confines of Donas’s stall. “He still treats them like they carry the plague.” Jenny snorted at her son’s foolish thoughts. Jenny shook her head with another bout of laughter before pulling away from the stall and making several failed attempts to stop her giggles. 

Jamie continued his work on Donas, knowing Jenny would eventually bubble herself out. By the time Jenny managed to calm herself, Jamie had started cleaning Donas’s shoes while the beast himself nibbled at the bowl of oats hanging on the wall. Jenny straightened herself out, brushed bits of straw off her pants, and took large deep breaths.

“Ye all right?” Jamie asked.

“Aye,” Jenny nodded, running a hand through her long hair, “I think Ian put too much whiskey in the coffee this morn, I’ve been fuzzy all day.”

“Goin’ soft, Jenny?” 

“Shut up!” Jenny yelled, smacking the back of Jamie’s head making him hiss, “I can still drink ye under any table, dinna test me! And ye shouldn’t be so worritt about me, worry about yer son,” 

And with that Jenny stomped out of the barn, leaving Jamie alone with the animals and his thoughts. Wee Jamie was four years older than Fergus and therefore more likely to be around girls, yet it seemed–at least to Jenny– that Fergus was already miles ahead of his cousin and Jamie would be lying if he said he wasn’t starting to see her point. Fergus and Marsali seemed to always be close to each other, so much so that Claire had remembered the girl's name when she had no reason to. Whenever he pulled up to the school for pick-up, Fergus and Marsali always stood side-by-side, laughing to themselves and completely oblivious to the world. But they were children, it couldn’t be more than a simple crush. 

Maybe he should talk to Fergus for posterity’s sake… 

Jamie was just finishing Donas's care when Fergus darted from the house to the barn, slowing to a walk knowing better than to spook Donas. Once inside, Fergus used a bale of hay for leverage as he leaned across the wooden barrier into Donas’s stall to greet the horse. Donas, having smelled Fergus, moved his head in Fergus’s direction. 

“Is he okay?” Fergus asked, placing a kiss on the tip of Donas’s nose.

“He is,” Jamie nodded, exiting the stall and making sure to lock the gate behind him. “Fergus, come wi’ me, we need to have a talk.” Jamie waited for Fergus to hop off the bale of hay before motioning for Fergus to grab his hand. “Dinna fash, lad, yer no in trouble,” Jamie added to address Fergus’s anxious look. 

They walked silently hand-in-hand to the small lake in the middle of the property where Jamie knew they would have privacy. Fergus’s fears having been quenched by Jamie’s assurance, caused him to hop happily along with his father as they walked. Arriving at the lake, Jamie led them to the small dock and sat down at the edge, taking off his boots and socks to dangle his feet in the water, Fergus copied his movements. 

“Yer Auntie…” Jamie began, not quite sure how to continue, he paused for several moments before gathering his thoughts, “Ye’ve been spendin’ a lot of time wi' Marsali,” 

Fergus nodded, “She’s my friend, Papa.” 

“Nothin’ more?” 

Fergus’s nose scrunched with confusion as he looked at his father. God, how do you explain dating to a child whose biggest worry was missing a brand new episode of his favorite show? 

“Ye ken how Claire came to our house and had dinner with us?” 

Fergus nodded again.

“What Claire and I are doin’ is called datin’ or courtin’. It’s when two adults– who like each other verra much– spend time together and talk.” 

“Oh,” Fergus said in understanding, “So, you and Claire are dating?” 

“Yes… Now, ye and Marsali are far too young to be datin, but–”

“Papa!” Fergus interrupted him with a loud laugh, “I like Marsali, but not in that way. Her mam always packs her cookies for snacks and she shares them with me.” 

“Ye only like her because she has cookies?” 

Jamie couldn’t say he wasn’t surprised, Fergus was a sucker for sweets. 

“Well, she’s nice too,” Fergus explained, “She’s the only girl I’ve met who watches Teenage Mutant Turtles and actually likes them, we talk about them during break with Cousin Ian.” 

“And that’s all?” 

Fergus frowned, “What else is there?” 

Jamie sighed in relief, at least they didn’t have to have ‘the talk’ at this age, he had a few more years to go it seemed. Jamie let the conversation go flat as he kicked his feet in the water and watched as Fergus’s toes barely scraped the surface. Fergus gripped Jamie’s arm to anchor himself as he scooted closer to the edge of the dock to submerge his feet further into the water. After a few minutes, Fergus realized he would never be able to comfortably reach and settled back into his previous position. 

“Papa, can I ask you something?” Fergus asked in a low, almost shy voice. 

“Of course,” Jamie responded with a nod. 

“How come you’ve never dated before?” 

“Weel,” Jamie took a large breath, “Yer my top priority, Fergus, always remember that. Ye come first, then the rest of the family with everything else behind. What have I always said?”

“Family comes first,” Fergus said. 

“Aye, that’s right, family first and I was worritt about ye gettin’ hurt. What if I dated some lass and ye liked her then she went away? It would hurt us both, my pain I could handle but not yours, mon fils. I canna bear to handle yers.” Jamie looked at Fergus so he could see the sincerity behind his words. “And what if she hurt ye, physically? I’ll kill any person who lays a hand on ye, woman or no.”

“Why now then? Why Madame Claire?” 

Jamie looked away from Fergus to the still water of the lake, “I guess I’ve never been wilin’ to risk it before now. Besides, I’d bet my life that Claire would never hurt ye.” 

“I don’t think she’d hurt you either, Papa, she looks at you the same way Auntie Jenny looks at Uncle Ian.”

“She does?” Jamie asked, whipping his head to look at Fergus who nodded in confirmation. 

“It’s kind of gross,” Fergus said with a smile.

“Fergus,” Jamie made sure Fergus was listening to him before he continued, “Ye canna tell anyone, Claire and I shouldn’t be datin’ because she’s yer teacher. If ye tell anyone, we could get in trouble.” 

“You want me to lie?” Fergus looked at him in shock, “But Papa, you said lying is wrong.”

“It is, it’s verra wrong, yer right, but it’s no a lie if ye simply dinna tell anyone. Do you understand? It’s just a secret– it’s only a lie if someone asks and ye say we aren’t.” 

“That makes sense,” Fergus agreed.

“Do ye like her, Fergus? Truly like her as more than yer teacher?”

“I do, Papa.”

“I’m glad ye do because I like her too. I think I want her around for a while… what do ye say to that?”

“I say yes!” Fergus threw his arms into the air, “I would like that very much, you could spend more time with her and I can watch more cartoons.”

“Oh, ye want more cartoons and less time wi’ yer Da, aye? Weel, I guess we could start now,” Jamie grinned at Fergus and before Fergus could react, Jamie wrapped his arms around his son and threw them both into the cooling waters of the lake. 




Chapter Text

    “Good morning, Annabelle… Hello, Roger.” Claire waved her students in and peered around the door to make sure they were settling in. It was a quiet Monday morning which matched her relatively quiet weekend. She’d spent all Friday afternoon with Jamie and Fergus, not leaving their home until two o’clock Saturday morning long after Fergus had gone to bed. Jamie had been exhausted, clearly evident on his face, but he had insisted that she was worth it. Why would he want to sleep when he could be with her? That comment had resulted in a make-out session on the living room couch. 

    She’d gone home, showered, and managed to sleep in until eleven, dreaming of Jamie while she rested. Saturday consisted of unpacking and communicating with various friends checking on her, Jamie’s texts were always the first one she responded to. Sunday was very much the same except for the lunch she’d had with Jamie’s lawyer, Ned Gowan. 

    Ned Gowan had been a friendly, old yet charming man just a few inches taller than her. They spent the first few minutes of their meeting in polite small talk, after he reassured her that she wouldn’t be paying a dime for his services– some old favor he owed Jamie and his family– Ned cited. Jamie had simply told Ned Claire needed advice on matters of a divorce, allowing Claire to fill in the specifics. In the end, Claire had left the meeting feeling more confident and overwhelmed than she had before. 

    They would be filing a petition for divorce within a week citing adultery and unreasonable behavior on Frank’s part. Claire had plenty of evidence to prove Frank had engaged in numerous affairs so when he tried to fight this aspect– Ned said he probably would and Claire agreed– they would have proof that they weren’t just claims. His unreasonable behavior would be harder to support since Frank provided monetarily and although he made drunken threats of abuse, he’d never once hit her, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Adultery was their main defense since it came with a time constraint of a year which was quickly approaching and Ned insisted that as long as she hadn’t been intimate with another man– she promised she hadn’t been– this was the best route.

They would be meeting again on Wednesday to sign the appropriate documents and Ned would journey to Edinburgh the next day to file the paperwork. She was nervous and frightened of having to deal with Frank, but today was a new day and Claire was determined not to let those thoughts dictate her life. 

She greeted her students, giving hugs and high-fives to those who requested them, all while waiting for her favorite pair. They were easily picked from the crowd. Scotland was full of tall, red-headed men yet Jamie still managed to tower above them all, only Dougal came close in height. Fergus was a whirlwind of energy with his mop of curly hair jiggling as he bounced next to his father. 

“Bonjour, Madame Beauchamp, good morning!” Fergus said, both Fraser men coming to a stop a few feet away from her. 

“Good morning, Fergus!” Claire smiled at him, “Looks like we’re matching today,” She looked down at her sky blue blouse and then at Fergus’s blue Transformers shirt. 

“Papa, regarde!” Fergus tugged at his shirt. (Papa, look!) 

“I see, laddie,” Jamie said, patting the top of Fergus’s head, “It’s quite the coincidence.” Jamie looked up to shoot Claire a one-eyed wink. “I have to get goin’, ye be good today, aye?” 

“I promise,” Fergus said, wrapping his arms around the top of Jamie’s thighs and squeezing his father in a hug. “I love you, Papa.”

“Och, I love ye too, Fergus.” Jamie returned the embrace and bent down to place a kiss on Fergus’s forehead. 

Jamie was by far the most physically affectionate father of her class. The other fathers tended to wish their child a good day and only some would offer a quick hug. Today’s moment was just like every other day Jamie dropped Fergus off, a loving embrace accompanied by soothing words of affirmation– Jamie never left without them. He’d force Fergus off the playground to say a proper goodbye the rare times Jamie didn’t escort Fergus to class. It only made Claire fall for him more. 

“Ye look lovely today, Madame Beauchamp,” Jamie said, giving her a quirky smile. “The blue of yer blouse matches yer bubbly personality.” 

“Well,” Claire started, tucking a strand of hair behind her hair with a blush, “I received some very good news from my lawyer yesterday.”

“Oh, really?” 

Jamie knew that she and Ned had met but he hadn’t been told of the outcome, Claire wanted to do that in person. 

“Yes,” Claire nodded, giving him a smile of her own. “But that’s not talk for school,” she glanced at Fergus who was watching her expectedly, listening carefully to their conversation. Claire knew Jamie had talked to Fergus over the weekend, he was told of their situation and agreed to keep quiet; it was handled, Jamie assured. 

“Are you ready, Fergus? Seems your Dad has a meeting to attend.”

“Shite!” Jamie glanced at his watch, apparently forgetting his important meeting with their playful banter. “I really have to go, I love ye, Fergus!” Jamie placed another kiss on Fergus’s forehead before turning and rushing off to work, leaving Claire and Fergus alone in the hall. 

“Madame?” Fergus said quietly, tugging lightly on the hem of her blouse to get her attention. Claire leaned down to his level so she could hear his whisper, “Papa wouldn’t stop talking about you.” And with that Fergus disappeared behind her and retreated into the classroom. 

Claire took a moment to gather herself before deciding that Fergus needed to work on these little bomb-drops and joining her students for the day.

The morning went by quickly and before Claire knew it, she was escorting her class to the fields for physical education. Dougal stood waiting for them in his usual yellow short shorts, grey Leoch shirt, and whistle hanging around his neck. His arms were crossed and his face held an evil smile. Released into his care, her students flocked to join the other class already seated on the bleachers in front of Dougal awaiting his instruction. 

Claire didn’t know why but her gut was telling her to stay, a move she’d later be thankful for. 

She sat at the edge of the bleachers watching as Dougal told the class of today’s activity– tag. Each student was given a belt velcroed with two strips of fabric, flag-tag, it seemed. The goal was to run around collecting as many flags as they could, each student had two flags and once they were gone they would be out and resigned to the benches until the next round. The exercise seemed relatively tame and simple compared to what Dougal forced the older children to do. 

Claire watched from her seat as the students pulled on their belts and stood motionless waiting for Dougal’s whistle, after the blow, everything turned to chaos. Claire couldn’t keep an eye on any student for long as they ran around and eventually got lost within the crowd. Dougal acted as referee, calling out the children who no longer had any flags yet continued to play and judged any claims of cheating. 

    The first round was over after ten minutes with a third of the group remaining on the field, Claire noticed Fergus was one of them, his small and lithe frame combined with his massive amount of energy made him a hard target, he still held both of his flags. Dougal started the next round and much like the first Fergus remained untouched, this time he stood with a smaller group of students. 

    Dougal seemed to be managing the students well and Claire had grown bored watching the escapades, as Dougal started the third round, Claire looked to her phone for entertainment. She texted Jamie, informing him of his son’s athletic prowess to which she only received a smiley emoji in response. He then asked about her conversation with Ned.

Maybe if Claire had not been texting Jamie at that moment she later would have been able to tell him exactly what happened. 

She was halfway through telling him of her and Ned’s meeting when it happened. She heard it before she saw it. She heard the smashing of human bodies, what sounded like a loud crack followed shortly by a scream. Claire glanced up from her screen to see Fergus’s body fall to the ground. She was on her feet before she could process what was happening, slipping off her heels to traverse the dirt and grass to make getting to him easier. 

Fergus was in a ball on the ground, clutching his right arm and howling in pain. 

“Fergus!” Claire shouted, kneeling on the ground, “What happened?” Claire asked the group of students surrounding them. Dougal was on the other side of Fergus, on the ground like she was, switching between cursing and muttering assurances in Gaelic. 

“It was an accident!” One of the students, a large boy, swore. The child was almost twice the size of Fergus and with the stream of tears accompanied by an apologetic face, Claire was sure this had been the child who knocked Fergus down. “I didn’t mean to! I-I-”

“Go and get the nurse,” Claire instructed him, both to calm him and get him away so Claire could think. “Fergus, you’re going to be okay.” Claire ran a hand through Fergus’s hair and looked at Dougal. Dougal’s face was tight and Claire recognized that he felt ashamed, though whether it was because a student got hurt under his watch or because that student was his nephew, Claire wasn’t sure. 

“It’s just a sprain, laddie,” Dougal said, placing a gentle hand on Fergus’s legs trying to force him to uncurl. “Walk it off,” 

Claire wasn’t so sure it was just a sprain; Fergus’s arm was bent at too odd of an angle, it had to be broken, but at least there wasn’t bone sticking out.

“No,” Claire quickly said, causing Dougal to frown in her direction, “Fergus, I know it hurts but I need to move your arm, okay?” 

“What are ye doin’ Beauchamp? Yer no a doctor!” Dougal shouted. 

“I am, actually,” Claire told him, carefully placing her hands on Fergus’s arm.

“Yer no doin’ anythin’ to the lad!” Dougal yelled, grabbing Claire’s hands and pulling them off of Fergus. “Yer a head doctor, no the one we need. Ye will no touch him!”

“We have to move his arm up before it swells too much!” Claire shouted back. “It’s better in the long run.”

“Yer just his teacher, I’m his Uncle and I say we dinna do anythin’ until the nurse gets here.” 

“His uncle?” Claire scoffed, “You’re the last person on Jamie’s list of contacts, I don’t think he wants you making any decisions for his son.”

Dougal looked taken aback, the first time she’d ever seen the man speechless, Jamie had apparently not told his uncle of his ranking regarding Fergus’s care. Dougal’s jaw clenched and Claire prepared for another fight as she moved towards Fergus, but to her surprise Dougal did nothing.

“I’m so sorry,” Claire whispered to Fergus before gently moving his arm up towards his head causing Fergus to let out another scream. “I know, I know,” Claire said, wiping the tears off Fergus’s cheek. “We have to slow the swelling.” 

“I want my Papa!” Fergus choked out through the tears. Shit, Jamie. 

“I’m callin’ him now,” Dougal said, pulling out his phone. 

“Call Jenny too,” Claire added, knowing Jenny was much closer than Jamie and second on his list. 

“Aye,” Dougal nodded, phone to his ear and eyeing Claire. 

“Back away, give him some air, I said back up!”

The crowd of students parted to let the nurse through who quickly collapsed onto the ground next to Claire. Geillis Duncan was the fiercest woman Claire had ever met, her blazing red hair matched her personality perfectly. Geillis reached into her medical bag and pulled out several instant ice packs, snapping them in half to activate the chemicals before gingerly placing them on Fergus’s arm.

“Who moved his arm?” Geillis asked, shooting Dougal a look. 

“She did!” Dougal hurriedly pointed at Claire to shift the blame, “She moved him, I told her no to!” 

“Aye, and she was right. Good job, Beauchamp.” Geillis complimented, smiling at her before turning back to Fergus. “How ye doin’, fox cub?” Geillis’s voice was low and soothing. 

“Hurts,” Fergus mumbled, still clutching his arm. His eyes darted around until they landed on Claire, finding the comfort he was looking for. 

“You’re all right,” Claire smiled, pushing the damp hair off his forehead. “You’re doing so good, Fergus.” Geillis narrowed her eyes at the exchange but said nothing. 

“Hear that?” Geillis placed a hand around her ear to amplify the sound, “The ambulance should be here any second for ye.” Geillis smiled down at Fergus before turning to Dougal once more, “Did ye get a hold of his Da?” 

“No,” Dougal shook his head, “Straight to voicemail.” 

Claire used their distraction as the opportunity to pull out her phone and send Jamie a text: Accident at school, Fergus hurt, probably broken arm, call Dougal.

She shoved her phone back into her pocket as the ambulance was escorted onto the field by another member of staff Claire didn’t recognize. Just as the paramedics made their way to Fergus, Colum arrived, limping slowly to join the chaos. 

“What happened?” Colum asked Dougal.

“Just an accident,” Dougal said. 

“Accident?” Colum’s voice boomed, “It’s no accident if we have to call an ambulance!” 

Claire stepped to the side as a paramedic carefully examined Fergus’s arm; by this time, Fergus’s tears were silent but hadn’t slowed, his eyes and teeth clenched. 

“Looks like a broken arm,” the paramedic said to Geillis. “The ice packs and movement slowed down the swellin’, any head injuries?” 

“There doesna appear to be” Geillis answered. 

“Aye, still, to be careful we’ll use a stretcher, ye ready to go, laddie?” the paramedic glanced down at Fergus, “We’ll turn the sirens on nice and loud for ye.” 

Claire was pushed further back as the two paramedics gently wrapped Fergus’s arm and transferred him onto a gurney. She stepped forward as he was put in the rig, more than prepared to go with him but stopped as Colum moved forward.

“I’m his Uncle,” Colum explained when the paramedics tried to stop him, “Ye wouldna be able to stop me if ye tried.” 

“I’m comin’ too!” Geillis said, making her way to sit next to Fergus.

Claire watched as the doors slammed shut and the ambulance slowly pulled away with the sirens blaring, leaving her and Dougal to clean up the mess. 

“I got a hold of Jenny,” Dougal said, running a hand against the back of his neck, “She kens to call Colum, the boy will be fine.” 

Dougal turned away from her as if nothing had happened, he commanded the students to line up on the field for roll call. Claire wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered against the chilly wind. Of all the children… She wanted nothing more than to meet Fergus at the hospital, to be with him as he waited for Jamie, but Claire knew she couldn’t. It wasn’t appropriate, as Dougal had said, she was just his teacher. 

The rest of the physical education hour was cut short and for the rest of the day, canceled. Claire led her small group of students back to the classroom, they were abnormally quiet given the circumstances. Claire didn’t have the heart or mindset to continue with their planned math lesson, instead, she pulled up Netflix on the projection screen and they watched Spongebob for the rest of the day. 

Fergus would have loved it. 

Claire was visited soon after by another teacher and the only coworker she’d befriended, Mary Hawkins. Mary told Claire that in instances like these Leoch would send out an announcement to the parents by phone call and email, detailing the accident and what steps had been taken to remedy it. It was a way for parents to soothe, and prepare their children, as well as to clear Leoch of any legal responsibility; though Mary was sure the parent would not be suing the school in this case. 

Mary, bless her heart, noticed how distracted Claire was and stayed with her for the rest of the day, offering comfort to her and adding instruction to the students. Instead of supervising pick-up as she normally did, at two-forty-five Claire was in her car and driving to the hospital Fergus had been taken to. Geillis had sent the information to Mary who then passed it to Claire, both women knowing Claire would want to visit. Claire parked in the visitors center and made her way to the reception desk to find out where Fergus had been taken to. From behind the receptionist, Claire noticed that a short red-headed woman had both Colum and Dougal pinned against the wall behind them.

“Never mind,” Claire told the receptionist, walking in the direction of the accosted brothers. Claire didn’t recognize the woman, but immediately knew she was of some relation to Jamie, they looked exactly the same. 

“He could have been hurt!” 

Claire heard the woman say as she got closer. 

“Ellen–” Dougal started but was quickly interrupted.

“No! He was under yer watch, the both o’ ye! And look what happened! Yer lucky it was just a broken arm, I’d have ye by the necks if it was anythin’ worse.” Ellen was shorter than both of the men, she was seething with anger and the two men clearly knew better than to test her. 

“My grandson was hurt today,”

Grandson? Not only was she related to Jamie but she was his mother, meaning Colum and Dogal were her brothers; no wonder the two men looked both indifferent and wary. 

Ellen opened her mouth to speak again, but thought better of it and simply dismissed her brothers with the wave of her hand. Colum and Dougal quickly rushed away, Dougal shot Claire a questioning look as they passed where she stood in the hall. Claire turned to watch them leave, unaware of the presence next to her until she was startled by a voice.

“And who are ye?”

Claire turned to find that Ellen had moved in her direction. 

“Me? Um, I’m Claire Beauchamp, Ferugs’s teacher.” Claire said.

I’m also dating your son, she thought.

“Yer Fergus’s teacher?” Ellen asked, stepping closer to Claire. “And where exactly were ye when it happened? Why didn’t ye stop it?” 

“I…” Claire trailed off not having an answer. She should have been able to stop it, Claire realized, had she not been texting the boy’s father. It was only then that the lingering feeling in her chest made itself known as guilt. 

“You’re right,” Claire simply said. “I should have done more.” 

“Aye…” Ellen nodded in agreement, clearly expecting a similar fight as Colum and Dougal. Ellen crossed her arms, keeping her eyes firmly on Claire’s as they stood in the middle of the hallway.
    “Is he okay?” Claire asked, breaking the uneasy silence. 

“Yes, he will be,” Ellen answered and Claire let out a sigh of relief at her words. “Broken arm looks to be a clean break but we will no ken until the x-rays come back.” 

“Thank God!” Claire said, closing her eyes and sending a quick prayer of thanks to whatever God may hear. 

“Mam, can ye– Claire?” 

Ellen and Claire both turned to look towards his voice, Jamie was standing in the doorway of what Claire assumed to be Fergus’s room, looking from his mother to his girlfriend, his face flashing between terror and elation. His hair was an absolute mess, the red curls that had been pinned so neatly this morning stuck up at odd ends, a clear sign of his distress. His suit was no better in appearance, wrinkled with his jacket gone revealing a coffee-stained white dress shirt. 

“Mam, can ye sit with Fergus? He’s askin’ for ye.” Jamie said, stepping to the side so Ellen could pass him.

“O’ course, anythin’ for the lad,” Ellen said, standing rooted to the floor for several seconds before hurriedly walking into the room. Jamie waited until Ellen was completely through the door before shutting it to give them some semblance of privacy. 

Jamie looked absolutely terrible and Claire wanted nothing more than to rush forward and comfort him. 

“He’s okay?” Claire asked. 

“Aye, aye he is,” Jamie nodded,  “Claire, I...I,” His voice broke and he covered his face with his hands. His body began to shake, the emotions he’d been holding in since he’d gotten the call hours ago clearly needing some sort of escape. 

Consequences be damned , Claire thought. She rushed forward and wrapped her arms around his shaking frame, ducking as he lifted his arms to return the embrace. She rested her cheek on the middle of his broad chest as he buried his nose into her hair. 

“He’s okay, Jamie, he’s okay.”

Chapter Text

“Feeling better?” Claire asked, running her hand down Jamie’s strong back. His body had long since stopped shaking but they held firm in their embrace, relishing their own little world. Claire felt as Jamie nodded against her hair and pulled back enough to run a finger through one of the curly strands. 

“Aye, much better,” Jamie said with a smile, it wasn’t his usual smile but given the circumstances, Claire would accept it. He reluctantly pulled away from her arms and ran his hand down his face with a groan. “Been too long of a day,” he began, walking backward until he found the chairs against the walls, plopping into it with a thud. 

“First, my clients in that big meetin’ were absolute idiots, they dinna listen to a word I say but pay richly so we keep them on. Then Murtagh calls me freakin’ out about Bonnet– ye met him at yer house. In one of the jobs they did last week, the client reported some stolen items and Murtagh is up in arms, he’s sure Bonnet did it but doesna have any evidence.”

“Bonnet…” Claire whispered, trying to remember the man’s appearance. It appeared suddenly and she shuddered at the thought. She remembered Stephen Bonnet well enough considering her subconscious was doing everything it could to remove his image; Claire had felt uncomfortable with him the moment he entered the room, she wasn’t entirely surprised that the allegation popped up, Bonnet seemed the type. “Can’t Murtagh just fire him?” 

“Not wi’out evidence,” Jamie shook his head. “Besides this Bonnet shows up to work on time and does his job, Murtagh doesna have a reason to adequately fire him,” Jamie explained, motioning for her to take the empty seat next to him. Claire sat into the chair and he took her hands in his, stroking the soft expanse of her skin with his thumb. “I was on the phone wi’ him when Dougal called, Murtagh was in a state so I didna want to let him go wi’out talkin’ him down. Then Dougal called again followed by Colum and that’s when I kent somethin’ was wrong. I finally saw yer text and then Colum filled me in on the rest.” 

Jamie shifted in his chair to face her, “Thank ye, Claire, Colum and Geillis told me what ye did, movin’ Fergus’s arm so it wouldna swell.” 

“Everyone seems to forget that I am a doctor,” she said, smiling at him. “It was instincts, especially when I saw it was Fergus, my heart was in my throat and I just went on autopilot. I don’t know what happened, I can barely remember it,” she shook her head, “It was terrible, Jamie, he was on the ground in so much pain and I couldn’t do anything to help him.”

“Ye did, Claire! I ken ye did, he told me so, he said ye never left his side until the paramedics made ye and even then he was sure ye were goin’ to charge through them like a bull. It would have been much worse had ye not been there. I’m sorry my Mam thought ye were to blame, I blame Dougal for not payin’ attention but even then, it was an accident. I’ll talk to her and make sure she kens ye had no part to play but makin’ Fergus better.”

Claire shook her head, “That’s not how I wanted to meet your mother but I don’t blame her, she was just worried and scared. Fergus is the sweetest little boy on the planet, I’m sure hearing that he was injured was just a shock.”

“Still,” Jamie said, “She shouldna have spoken to ye like that, I willna tolerate it either, I promise I’ll sort it out.” 

“Jamie,” she placed a hand on his chest, “Don’t worry about that right now, focus on Fergus. Clean break you said?”

“Aye, they've already cast him. They’re keepin’ him overnight just to be sure there’s no any brain damage, he’ll be goin’ home first thing in the morn.” 

“You better not be sending that poor boy to school,”

“Of course no! He’s staying home until at least Thursday, I'm takin' some time off to be wi’ him.”

“That’s good, Jamie. I’ll make him a little packet so he’ll stay caught up.”

“I appreciate that Sassenach, now, would ye like to see him?” 

“Yes!” Claire said without hesitation. 

Jamie was the first to stand, grabbing her hand and slowly pulling her from the chair. They walked into the room on their right, Jamie leading the way with Claire close behind, shutting the door behind them. Fergus looked absolutely tiny in the large hospital bed. He was lying with the upper half of his body propped up with his bottom covered in a tan blanket, an IV and pulse monitor was attached to his good arm. His green plaster cast was cradled to his chest, fondling with the hard material as he talked with his grandmother. 

Ellen was running her hand through Fergus’s hair when she spotted them. 

“Fergus,” Jamie said, crossing the room to stand at the bottom of Fergus’s bed. “Look who came to see ye,”

Fergus turned away from Ellen and looked towards the door, his eyes widening and a smile spreading on his face when he saw Claire, “Madame! You came!” He shifted in his bed in her direction. “I was hoping you would,”

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Claire said, moving to sit in the chair Jamie pulled up next to Fergus for her. “How are you feeling?” 

“I’m okay,” Fergus responded, relaxing back into the sheets, “It doesn’t hurt anymore.” 

“Such a strong laddie,” Ellen commented, tucking the blanket tighter around Fergus. 

“And brave,” Claire smiled at Fergus, “You’re quite the talk of the school, I wouldn’t be surprised if that cast is filled with signatures by Friday.” 

“Serez-vous le premier?” Fergus asked, looking at her hopefully. (Will you be the first?)

“Je serais honoré!” (I would be honored!)

Claire signed his cast with her name and a crude drawing of a pineapple, before handing off the marker to Jamie and then Ellen in turn. Claire spent the next hour with the Frasers talking about her brief career as a psychologist and how she came to Scotland, both subjects were brought up by Ellen, who Claire knew was using the time to vet her. Despite the initial awkwardness, by the time visiting hours were over Claire felt she had made headway with the Fraser matriarch. Jamie offered to walk her to her car but Claire turned him down, the pain medication was starting to take effect and Fergus had become groggy, the feeling making him anxious and Claire couldn’t tear Jamie away. 

The next day, Claire and Dougal were forced to fill out various reports regarding ‘the incident’ as the staff called it while the school was called into an assembly. There was a brief anti-bullying lecture–Claire wasn’t sure how this was relative– and the proper way to handle such a situation should a teacher not be immediately present. Leoch Academy was of course not accepting any fault and Jamie texted Claire that night with an update on Fergus as well as how Colum stopped by unexpectedly with papers for Jamie to sign, waiving any future rights for a lawsuit. 

On Wednesday she met with Ned to sign the divorce papers and he called the following day to let her know they’d been properly filed. Fergus was not back at school on Thursday as Jamie initially estimated, Fergus had started complaining of headaches prompting Jamie to keep him home, taking more vacation days to stay with him. The rest of the week went by smoothly and Fergus didn't develop any more symptoms.

Saturday morning, bright and early, Claire was awoken by the shrill ringing of her phone. 

“Hello?” she muttered, brushing the hair away from her face.

“Sassenach? Och, I’m sorry, I didna meant to wake ye,” 

“No! Not at all, you didn’t wake me, I’ve been up for ages.” she lied, sitting up in her bed. 

Jamie made a noise in his throat, clearly not having believed a word she said. 

“Is everything all right?” she asked. 

“Yes, no, weel…” he trailed off for a moment, “I need a favor, a big favor.” 

“What is it?” 

“I just got called into work, there’s a crisis that apparently only I can handle,” he grumbled, “And since I’ve been out all week, my boss is forcin’ my hide, I have to go in. My Mam is wi’ her friends, Jenny and Ian are out o’ town, Murtagh is at a job… Is there any way ye could watch Fergus for me? Just for a few hours?” 

“Of course,” Claire answered immediately, “When would you bring him over?”

“Um, ten minutes?” 

Claire could hear the surprise in his voice; either he was shocked at her answer or how quickly she’d agreed, nonetheless, she was happy to do it. They hung up and Claire launched into action, getting dressed and making the house somewhat tidy. Claire didn’t realize just how nervous she was until she caught sight of Jamie and Fergus walking up the driveway. Jamie was asking her to watch Fergus, not as a teacher, but as his partner, this one afternoon could make or break their entire relationship.

Claire swung open the door before Jamie had a chance to knock, “Hello! Come in, come in,” she stepped aside so they could enter. 

“Thank ye, Claire, really,” Jamie said, guiding Fergus in with a hand on his shoulder. “Usually, Murtagh wouldna mind havin’ him on a job but wi’ Bonnet, he doesna want to take any risks. Ye ken?” 

“Of course,” Claire smiled at them, “Anytime, Jamie,” 

“I’ll only be a few hours, I promise,” Jamie said, looking between them, “Fergus behave, and I love ye.” 

“I know, Papa.” Fergus nodded, clicking his shoes together as he held tightly onto the strap of his book bag. 

“Aye…” Jamie eyed his son before turning to Claire, “Sassenach–”

“We’ll be fine,” Claire assured him, “I think I’ve got some board games around here somewhere.” 

“Oh?” Jamie quirked an eyebrow, “Good luck wi’ that,” He leaned forward and much to her surprise, he kissed her lips. He wasn’t usually so forward around Fergus, but Clarie chalked it up to the stress of the last few days. Jamie gave another warning to Fergus and words of thanks to Claire before rushing off to his emergency meeting, leaving Claire and Fergus alone by the door. 

Fergus stared expectedly at her, waiting for further instruction as Claire tried to think of what to do next. If she was being honest, she had no idea how to interact with a child that wasn’t in a school or office setting, there it was easy. She could either spend the time reading a book and doing worksheets, or talking about feelings, but in her home she had nothing. She didn’t own any video games, have any toys and Jamie apparently thought that a board game was a no-go. She didn’t know what to do. 

Her silent prayers were answered when she heard the rumble of Fergus’s stomach. 

“Hungry?”

He nodded eagerly. 

“Me too,” she said, “Let’s go make some breakfast, shall we?” Fergus reached out and grabbed her hand, waiting for her to lead him to the kitchen. 

Breakfast was an easy affair. Claire showed Fergus how to make poached eggs and together they whisked up the batter for French toast. After breakfast, Claire showed Fergus around the house, telling him about the small changes she was planning on making, primarily painting which Fergus quickly offered to help with. They spent the morning watching Netflix with Jamie checking in every hour on the hour, Claire assured him they were doing fine with a text and a picture. For lunch Claire made grilled cheese sandwiches, her doing the actual grilling while Fergus buttered the bread.  

When their plates were clear, Fergus pulled a football from his bag, “Would you like to play with me?” he asked, holding the white and black ball in his one good hand. It only required feet and her yard was fenced in meaning the ball couldn’t go far, so Claire conceded. 

“I’m not very good,” Claire warned as they took their positions on the grass. 

“It’s okay! You just have to try,” Fergus said, kicking the ball in her direction and it zoomed between her legs. 

“Jesus!” she whipped around, “That was good, Fergus, I barely saw it go by.” 

“I love football,” Fergus said, bouncing up and down as he waited for Claire to retrieve the ball. “Don’t use your hands, use your feet!” he shouted when she bent to pick up the ball. 

“All right, here it goes,” she kicked it towards him, Fergus caught it easily between his feet. “Use the inside of your foot,” he twisted his body to show her the proper kicking technique, “You have more control and no risk of hurting your toes.” 

“Do you play on a team?” Claire asked, kicking the ball the way he showed her, Claire found Fergus to be right as the ball went faster though he still caught it with ease. 

“Non,” he said, dribbling the ball, “I want to, but Papa is always busy, I play with my cousins sometimes but that’s it.” 

Claire nodded in understanding, she’d never had the time in her childhood for hobbies. She was always so busy helping Lamb with his digs that she never thought of extracurriculars, even if she had, they moved too often for her to be able to participate. Claire had never been one for sports, the idea of chasing after a ball held little interest to her, but Claire found herself enjoying playing football with Fergus. He was good, catching every one of her shots while she never got any of his. 

After twenty minutes of exercise in the sun, she was hot, sweaty, and desperately craving a glass of cold water. She excused her into the house to grab some, insisting that Fergus continue to play while she was gone. Inside, she took a picture of Fergus through the window and sent it to Jamie. She placed her phone on the counter and grabbed the pitcher of water from the refrigerator, pouring two glasses. 

She looked up, her body freezing at the sight, and the pitcher slipped from her hands to shatter on the floor.

Fergus was holding his ball against his chest and talking with a man. 

“Fergus!” she shouted, running out of the house, “Go inside!” 

“Madame?” Fergus frowned, turning away from the man and giving her a questioning look. “Are you okay?” 

“Fergus, please,” Claire said, Fergus gave her another look but did as he was told, rushing up the steps to take refuge in the house. Claire watched to make sure Fergus was inside before turning to face the man before her.

“Was that really necessary, Claire?” he sneered.

“Frank…” 

Chapter Text

“Frank…”

Claire took a step back, trying to get as far away from him as she could. Frank donned his usual three-piece with a long dark overcoat and a grey fedora he was currently lifting from the top of his head. He let his arm drop, fedora hanging next to his leg with his eyes firmly glued on her. His sneer, though she hadn’t seen it in almost a year was exactly how she remembered, mostly teeth with his lips curling just a bit at the corner of his mouth. 

“Lovely home, Claire,” he said, peering at the house behind her, his eyes latching onto a particular spot. Claire turned just in time to see Fergus’s head quickly drop out of sight, he was watching them. “Who’s the little boy?” Frank asked, sounding genuinely curious. 

“He’s a student,” Claire said, stepping in front of Frank to block his view of the building and Fergus. “What do you want Frank?”

“What do I want?” he asked, returning his gaze to her, “My wife filed for divorce, don’t you think I deserve to know why?” 

“Why?” Claire said nearly shouting, “We’ve been separated for almost a year, need I remind you that you cheated on me. That’s why.”

“That’s not reason enough! I told you, those girls meant nothing to me, only you, Claire.”

“They meant enough for you to stick your cock in them!” 

“What was I supposed to do?” he asked, exasperated, after all, this conversation wasn’t their first on the subject. “My wife wouldn’t touch me–”

“I lost a child, Frank!” Claire shouted, quickly glancing towards the window to make sure Fergus wasn’t still watching them before turning to Frank. “I lost our child,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I wanted comfort, I needed time and you gave me none of that.” 

“I was grieving,” Frank defended. 

“No, you were selfish. This divorce is long overdue, Frank, and I have every intention of pursuing it now.”

“I’m contesting it!”

“I knew you would,” Claire nodded solemnly, “My lawyer and I have prepared for it, now get off my property!” 

“The little boy is your student?” he asked, plopping his fedora back on his hair slicked head. “I don’t know many teachers who watch their students outside of school, let alone on a weekend. I was talking with him, you know? When you so rudely interrupted us, fascinating child, he is, though a bit off. Is he mental?”

“Frank,” Claire warned, gritting her teeth. 

“Alright, alright,” he held up his hands in surrender, “I’m leaving… though not for long. I’ve got a motel in town, why don’t you visit without the brat behind you and we can have a proper chat, hm?” he tossed a card at her feet. 

“This isn’t over, Claire, not by a long shot.” he gave his own warning before turning and walking out of the yard. Claire watched with her arms wrapped around her middle as Frank climbed into the waiting taxi, she waited until the car turned the corner before she allowed herself to relax. 

“Are you okay?” Fergus asked, making Claire turn towards him. Fergus was frowning with his eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed, he was worried. 

“Fergus,” Claire rushed over to him and swept him into a hug. “Are you all right? He didn’t touch you, did he?” 

“No,” Fergus said, shaking his head against her belly. “He was… weird, but he didn’t do anything.”

“Thank God,” Claire whispered, hugging Fergus closer. 

“Madame–”

“I’m all right, thank you. Let’s go inside? We can turn on some cartoons.” Claire suggested. Fergus nodded, breaking free from her grasp and grabbing her hand to gently pull her inside. Claire turned her head as she walked, reassuring herself that Frank was no longer there as she let Fergus lead her inside.

Claire sat on the couch to rest her shaking legs as Fergus went to the kitchen to grab her some water, having given him free rein of the house earlier, he knew exactly where to go. He brought her a glass before turning on the television and sitting next to her, offering his silent comfort with his mere presence. Even though he was adopted, Fergus resembled Jamie greatly, sharing the same mannerisms and facial expressions; in fact, if Jamie hadn’t told her of Fergus’s origins she would never have guessed they weren’t related by blood, a big win for nurture over nature. 

They cuddled on the couch, Fergus leaning into her side and clutching her arm while her cheek rested on the top of his head. She wasn’t paying attention to the cartoons, simply watching the minor distraction with half-closed eyes, her thoughts on Frank and his vague warning. She briefly wondered how he’d found her, she hadn’t told him where she was moving and knew none of her friends would betray her trust. He was a pitbull when it mattered, stubborn and extremely connected. He must’ve used one of his manly friendships to find her location, the thought made her feel unsafe in her home.

The sudden slam of the front door made Claire and Fergus jump from the couch.

“Where is he?!” Jamie shouted, suddenly appearing before them, shaking with fury. He didn’t wait for an answer before leaving the living room and beginning a search through the house.

“Papa!” Fergus shouted with glee, still standing next to Claire. 

Jamie reappeared moments later, having done a sweep of the house and satisfied that the source of his anger wasn’t present. 

“Jamie,” Claire put a hand on her chest to calm her racing heart, “You nearly scared me to death!” 

“He’s gone then?” Jamie asked, moving closer to them. “Frank?” 

“Yes,” Claire nodded, “He’s gone. How did you...?” 

“Fergus,” Jamie motioned to his son, “Called me and told me that a man named Frank was here, asked me to come quickly, said it was an emergency so I came as soon as I could.” 

“You looked scared,” Fergus explained at Claire’s questioning look. “And he was scary, he was shouting at you, so I called Papa…” 

“Ye did the right thing, mo mhac,” Jamie assured Fergus, “You did good callin’ me, I’m proud o’ ye.” 

Fergus’s shoulders squared and his chest puffed with his father’s praise. 

Jamie stepped forward and wrapped Claire in a hug, “Are ye all right? He didna hurt ye, did he? If he did…”

“No, no, nothing like that,” Claire squeezed him, “He was just telling me in person that he was contesting the divorce.” 

“How did he ken where ye lived?” 

“I’m not sure,” Claire answered honestly, causing Jamie to frown, “I think he got the information from a friend,”

“I have friends too, I’ll call the police and have a patrol set up to keep an eye ye and–”

“That’s not necessary,” Claire interrupted, pulling back to look at him, “Frank wouldn’t do anything. He may be… scary but he’s not stupid or crazy. He won’t try anything.”

“That’s worse, mo chridhe, a smart man can do more damage than a crazy one. Ye describin’ him as scary doesna make me feel better about the situation.”

“He has connections, Jamie, there’s no telling who’s in his pocket.” Claire protested. 

“I guarantee he doesna have connections here, ‘tis a small community, Sassenach, everybody kens everybody, the people here have no’ strayed further than Edinburgh– Frank is no one here.” He placed a kiss on her forehead, “Let me handle this, aye?”

Claire could only nod in response. 

And with her consent, Jamie sprang into action. 

He pulled out his phone and began a walk-through of the property, assessing the security risks, muttering into his speaker with any points that concerned him. Not long after his third walk-through, Murtagh arrived with several large plastic bags from the local hardware store. Murtagh emptied the contents– various boxes of screws, latches, doorknobs, and locks– to show Jamie who nodded and gave a grunt of approval. 

Murtagh responded with his own grunt, similar to Jamie’s but slightly lower in pitch. 

How the two men managed to have a conversation with only grunts and gestures was beyond Claire, though she found it absolutely adorable when Fergus began copying the sounds of his idols. He wasn’t quite there yet, too breathy and high-pitched, but with practice, he’d soon match his father in eloquence and style. If a grunt could be eloquent. Claire assumed it could as Murtagh began work on changing all the locks while Jamie installed a security system. 

“Isn’t this a bit much?” Claire asked, looking up at Jamie as he screwed a camera to the living room wall.

“Not at all!” Jamie insisted, not bothering to look away from his work. “It’ll keep ye safe, provide peace o’ mind, and if Frank shows up here again ye’ll have it on camera and it’ll help yer case against him. Besides, I’m no particularly thrilled with him threatenin’ ye or him bein’ near Fergus.”

“Jamie,” Claire started, pausing to gather her thoughts, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for Fergus to be caught up in any of this. I would never do anything if I thought Fergus would get hurt, please, believe me I-”

“Claire, ye have nothin’ to apologize for,'' Jamie said, finally turning to look down at her, “It wasna yer fault, never apologize for Frank, ye did nothing wrong. The only mistake ye made was marrin’ him and even then no one can fault ye ‘cause even snakes can be charmin’ at first.” 

“You mean that?” 

“Aye,” he nodded, “I do.” 

She reached up and placed a grateful hand on his the side of his thigh, smiling to let him know just how much his words meant to her. He still trusted her with Fergus, which was of utmost importance to Claire for their relationship would cease the moment he stopped. 

“I was thinking of ordering pizza,” she told him, retracting her arm to wrap around herself, “How does that sound?”

“Mmm, that sounds delicious,” Jamie said, running a hand over his stomach that had started to rumble, “I dinna think I've eaten since breakfast.” 

“We really need to work on getting you three square meals a day, can’t have you dying on me from hunger,” she smiled, “I’m serious, Jamie,” she added when he began to laugh, swatting his leg for good measure. 

“What do you want on it?” she asked when his laughter died down. 

“Can never go wrong wi’ meat lovers,” he said, “But order an extra one wi’ ham, bacon, and olives plus extra cheese, Fergus doesna like pepperoni or sausage.” 

“Your son has the weirdest tastes,” Claire said, grabbing her phone off the coffee table. “He won’t eat pepperoni but he likes olives?”

“He loves them! He used to put the big ones on his wee fingers when he was a bairn like fingernails and would just suck them right off– still does if ye dinna stop him.” 

Claire chuckled and turned to find the lad they were discussing crouched by the front door with Murtagh as ‘they’ installed the Ring doorbell and new locks. Murtagh was doing most of the work, grunting, and mumbling as he focused on his task, occasionally asking for a tool which Fergus promptly handed him. Every minute or so Fergus would ask a question, if Murtagh was annoyed he didn’t show it, instead, answering each one of Fergus’s inquiries with an in-depth answer, if satisfied, Fergus would go back to humming to himself and kicking his legs under the chair he was sitting on. 

“Pizza for dinner good?” Claire asked them, her thumb hovering over the call button. 

“Yes!” Fergus shouted excitedly. 

“Thanks,” Murtagh muttered with a nod. 

And with all-around approval, Claire ordered their dinner. 

Chapter Text

"You really didn't have to do all this," Claire said, relaxing into the kitchen chair behind her. 

"Aye, but I did," Jamie responded with a smile, reaching over to take her hand in his.

The cardboard box of their dinner was placed before them on the table, empty and full of used napkins. Murtagh had left an hour ago after having his fill of pizza, bidding Jamie and Fergus farewell and reassuring Claire that he was pleased he could help. Jamie and Claire were still at the dining table as Fergus snoozed quietly on the couch, leaving them alone to talk and sip on their beers. 

"You're amazing, you know that?" Claire told him, leaning against her open palm. "I don't know how many men would drop everything for a girl they've barely dated– barely known." 

Jamie chuckled, "Yer no just any girl, Sassenach, there's somethin' here, a connection, ye said ye felt it too." 

"I do," Claire nodded. 

"I dinna mind doin' it, Claire, truly," he said, "I just want ye to be safe, hell, I'd do more if ye would let me. Why are ye so sure Frank willna do anythin'?"

"He's… made threats before," she started, pausing when she saw Jamie's body tense, she wondered just how truthful she should be. She didn't want to lie but she also didn't want to set him off again, "But he's never acted on them, never! They've always been idle, you know? He's never actually done anything to hurt me, besides the affairs, of course." 

Jamie nodded, his face completely stoic except for his darkened eyes, "He shouldna have done that either, he's no a real man as far as I'm concerned. A real man doesna threaten or hurt a woman–verbally or physically. He's an arsehole." 

"See? Amazing," Clarie hummed happily despite the subject. She didn't know why, but it gave her tremendous joy to hear Jamie say such things. "A true gentleman." she held up her beer in salute. 

Jamie chuckled, "If I was any other way my Da would rise from the dead to tan my hide, I guarantee it. He was very proper, old-fashioned when it came to lasses. 'If ye canna treat a lass properly or respect her truly, then ye have no business bein' wi' her', he used to say."

"My God, Jamie, your father sounds like he was an amazing man." 

"Aye, he was," Jamie smiled sadly, "He passed a few years ago, right before the adoption went through. He only met Fergus once but he loved the lad, told me he was a fine addition and he couldna have been happier; Fergus was no less his grandson than Wee Jamie. They were the same to him." 

Claire squeezed Jamie's hand in support as he continued.

"He died o' a stroke, he was only fifty– barely that, mind ye. I was in Paris wi' Ned finalizin' the adoption when it happened. I always regretted no bein' there to say goodbye. Breaks my heart that Fergus will never get to ken his grandda." 

"He has Murtagh, and your mother, and Jenny and just about the whole Fraser-MacKenzie clan," Claire pointed out, "I've never seen a family so connected. Even when your mother was about to bash Colum and Dougal's heads in, I could tell she loved them." 

Jamie finished off his beer before reaching across the table for another, "Ye canna choose yer family, and ye canna help but love them either." 

"I adored Uncle Lamb, he was the only family I ever had, well, the only one I remember anyways–until Frank, that is; though Lamb wasn't too fond of him. He knew Frank professionally before we started dating, Frank used him as a consultant for his book, that's how we met, he was so…" Claire closed her eyes with the memories, "Disappointed when we married, he never said anything, but I could tell he was. I never should have married that man." 

"Maybe no but then ye wouldna be here, Sassenach, we never would have met. Ye wouldna have become Fergus's teacher," Jamie's eyes flicked from Claire to his son, making sure the boy was still asleep before looking back at Claire, "So for that, I'm grateful." 

"I guess everything has a silver lining," she opened her eyes and smiled at him, glad Fergus had called him when he did. 

She wasn't too worried about Frank's vague threats to her. He'd made them before and nothing had ever come of them. She didn't, however, appreciate the way he treated Fergus, his looks and words were absolutely despicable and ill-suited for such a perfectly wonderful little boy. In the brief time she had been his teacher and his father's romantic partner, Fergus had already stolen her heart. She'd do anything to protect him. 

For the first time, Claire was glad she'd lost the baby. She couldn't imagine raising a child with a man who treated children so poorly. He wasn't a man, she decided, he was a slimy, abrasive prick who deserved whatever sexually transmitted disease he may get from sleeping around. One of the lowest points of their marriage, rousing her suspicions of affairs, was him whining loudly from the bathroom about his painful and burning urination; he claimed he'd gotten it from a toilet seat. For a professor and researcher, he was terrible at science.

"Aye…" Jamie drawled out, his voice deepening as his eyes zoned in on her full lips. "Claire–"

"You don't have to ask," she said, interrupting him and throwing herself into his embrace. Her hands wound around his neck as he gently pulled her onto his lap, gripping the back of her thighs. She straddled him, their lips mingling in assault as they pressed their bodies against each other. Claire made sure to keep their lips interlocked as much as possible to stifle the moans and gasps escaping them. The last thing Claire wanted was for Fergus to walk in and see them like this. He was mature for his age, but Claire doubted he'd yet to learn the birds and bees. And she would not be in the inducer of that conversation. 

But she had no desire to stop their actions. 

They continued for several more minutes, their hands and lips exploring wherever they could. Claire finally pulled away when she felt the burgeoning signs of his arousal. Her hands rested on his shoulders for support as she tried in vain to catch her breath. Jamie was no better, he was heaving and Claire could feel his pulse under her fingertips. 

"I'm sorry, Jamie," she whispered, "I'm just not ready for that and Ned said it would complicate the divorce if–"

He silenced her with a chaste kiss, "Ye never have to explain yerself to me, Claire, I'll never ask ye to tell me anythin' or do anythin' ye dinna want to do; a no is all I need." 

"Have I told you how amazing you are?" 

He grinned, "Once or twice," he shifted her body so she wasn't sitting directly on his crotch, the heat still making a certain part of his anatomy well-known, "It's late, we should be goin'."

"You're kidding, right?" Claire asked in surprise. She turned in his grasp and motioned to the many empty beer canisters on the table, most of which belonged to him, "You're not driving anywhere tonight, especially with Fergus."

"I wasn't goin' to drive, Sassenach, I ken better than that. I'm goin' to order a car,"

"There's no need," she lifted herself from his lap, "The couch pulls out, you can sleep there, besides, Fergus is already fast asleep, no point in moving him now." 

"Aye… I suppose yer right, I always have gym clothes in my car, I can sleep in those."

"Good, you go and change while I get you some linens, unless, you're too drunk to get to your car?"

Jamie smiled, "Och, Claire," he made a show of standing from his chair and taking the few steps to close the distance between them, "Yer no drunk if ye can stand and well," he motioned to himself, "I'm standin'." 

"Cheeky bastard," she smiled at him, swatting at his chest when he leaned down to kiss her, "Go and get dressed before I change my mind,"

"All right, all right," he said, turning away from her and angling himself towards the door, he made it halfway before tripping on his own feet, catching himself on the wall and causing a loud laugh to erupt from Claire. 

It wasn't long before he lay awake on the couch properly dressed with sheets and blankets and with Fergus right up against him. He was exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open but unable to sleep. Claire being so close to him seemed to have a profound effect on him especially after their actions from earlier. His body had betrayed him, more than ready to take that leap while his brain was completely unprepared. 

Thankfully, he could use her refusals as cover to hide his uneasiness about the manner.

He wanted her, of course he did, but he didn't want to risk anything harming their already delicate relationship. He wouldn't be able to stand it if she parted from him. The fact that it had been ages since his last sexual encounter didn't help either.

For now, and for whatever reasons, they could take it physically slow. And he was perfectly content with that. 

Chapter Text

    Claire watched from the doorway a cup of coffee held tightly in her hands as Jamie and Fergus slept soundlessly on the pullout couch. Fergus’ broken arm had taken up the majority of the bed, pushing its owner into the side of his father, making Jamie hover precariously over the edge. Jamie seemed used to it as one arm was wrapped around Fergus, holding him close while the knuckle of his other hand grazed lightly against the carpet underneath. 

    They were adorable. 

    Claire fished her phone from her pocket and took a picture, saving it to her phone and sending a copy to Jamie. It was then she noticed that Jamie’s shirt had ridden up in the night, giving Claire a perfect view of his wonderfully toned back and the beginning of his arse. The man was magnificent. 

    And all hers, Claire hummed at the realization. 

    Jamie was as much hers and she was his, and he’d made it perfectly clear the night before that she was his. His to protect and to care for, even though she insisted she could take of herself, Claire appreciated the gesture. No one had gone to such lengths to make her feel safe since Uncle Lamb checked under her cots for monsters every night when she was a child. 

She loved it.

    She left the pair still sleeping in the living room as she took inventory of the refrigerator and cupboards, there wasn’t much she could use to throw together a suitable breakfast. She would have to do some serious grocery shopping if they were going to be over again, she doubted Jamie would be willing to live off takeout and Fergus needed something other than unhealthy fats and carbs to grow.

    She would go this afternoon, she decided, after Jamie and Fergus left for the day, though Claire didn’t know when that would be.

    In the meantime, granola bars and milk would have to do for breakfast.

    Claire had just finished opening the new box when Fergus walked into the kitchen, hair mused from sleep and his eyes weary. He stood where the carpet met tile and blinked rapidly, turning his head to get an understanding of his surroundings. It wasn’t until his eyes landed on her that he seemed to remember where he was, his mouth bursting into a grin.

    “Good morning, Claire!” 

    “Good morning!” she returned his smile, “Did you sleep well?”

    “Oui,” Fergus said, breaking into a yawn, “very much so.”

    “I’m glad, though I’m sorry you had to sleep in your clothes, last night was completely unplanned,” she explained, “it couldn’t have been very comfortable.” 

    “I don’t mind,” Fergus said with a shrug, “it wasn’t that bad.” he smacked his mouth after another yawn.

    “Here,” Claire placed the box of granola onto the counter, “I have an extra toothbrush in the loo, brush your teeth and you can have something to eat.” She led Fergus into the bathroom, past the sleeping Jamie, and dug through the box under the sink for the toothbrush. She found it moments later, handing the packaged purple toothbrush to Fergus and pointing to the tube of toothpaste resting on the porcelain sink. 

    “I like purple!” Fergus said, carefully opening the plastic to grasp the purple handle. 

    “I know you do,” Claire smiled at him, “you like green and blue as well.” 

    “I do,” Fergus nodded in confirmation, wetting his toothbrush before placing a dollop of paste onto the bristles. 

    “Let me know if you need anything, okay?” 

    Claire heard a muffled ‘thanks’ as Fergus shoved the brush into his mouth and Claire shut the door behind her, leaving Fergus to his own devices. She peeked into the living room as she passed, Jamie, now free to move around, had rolled onto his back. She watched as his arm moved to cover his eyes following a loan groan, he was finally waking, and with how much he had to drink the night before Claire was sure he’d be dealing with a massive hangover. 

She walked back into the kitchen, grabbing the white bottle of ibuprofen from the cabinet. She placed two tablets into her palm and grabbed a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator before walking back to the living room. 

“Here, take these,” she spoke softly, holding out her open palm and the bottle for him to take. 

Jamie’s eyes squinted open, immediately shutting once more when the beam of light hit his corneas, “Sassenach, can ye close the blinds please?” 

“You know, for a Scotsman, you don’t hold your liquor too well,” she said, not moving. 

He scoffed and sat up slowly, patting the space next to him so she could sit, “I hold my liquor just fine, I’ll have ye ken I just dinna normally drink with a beautiful woman,” he said as Claire sat next to him.

“I’d beg to differ,” she handed him the medicine and water, “you almost landed on your face last night and you’re hungover.” 

“Ye should have kent me when I was young,” he started, tilting his head to swallow the pills and water, “I could drink anyone under the table, except Murtagh, that man inhales whiskey like air.” 

“Murtagh isn’t a single father to a little boy either,” Claire reasoned, “wait, I don’t even know if Murtagh has children, does he?” 

“None of his own,” Jamie said, shaking his head, “He said he was always busy chasin’ around the Frasers to have his own, first me and my siblings, then our children, and then when he married my Aunty he became a stepfather. I dinna think it ever occurred to him that any of us weren’t really his, ye ken? He always looked out for us and treated us like we were.”

Claire nodded, “He didn’t really need to have one of his own with all of you, makes sense. He married your aunt?” 

“Aye, my Aunty Jocasta, my Mam’s younger sister, they’ve been married for about… six years, I think.”

“Jocasta MacKenzie,” Claire said, trying out the name. 

“Jocasta Isobeail MacKenzie Cameron Fitzgibbons,” Jamie corrected with a smile.

“Jesus,” Claire shook her head with a laugh, “what is with all these long names?” 

“Tradition,”

“Fergus’ is rather short for the family then, isn’t it?” 

Jamie shrugged, “Fergus is perfect the way he is, I never felt the need to add more.” 

“That he is…” Claire trailed off, her eyes zoning in on his full lips. 

“I have mornin’ breath, I’ve yet to brush,” Jamie reminded her as she ducked her head toward him.

“I don’t care,” she told him, finally locking their lips together. He set the water bottle onto the floor and decided to curl his fingers in her hair instead. Their lips moved effortlessly together, their hands roamed and the sounds from Claire’s mouth were shooting down to his core, making him hum in pleasure. 

They froze, lips millimeters apart, as the mattress behind them shifted with an unknown weight and two arms, one covered in plaster, wrapped around their individual necks. 

“Can we eat now?” Fergus spoke, pushing himself between the two, forcing them apart. Claire turned her face to hide her blush while Jamie gave Fergus an annoyed look, “What?” Fergus asked, innocently unaware of the moment he just interrupted, “I’m hungry.” he added at his father’s look. 

“I suppose so…” Jamie grumbled, shooting an apologetic glance in Claire’s direction. 

Claire cleared her throat, finally able to look at the boy still hanging onto her, “Granola and milk okay?”

“Oui,” Fergus said with a nod, “is it chocolate flavored?”

“You know what, I think it is, and original too,” Claire told him, “with lots of protein and fiber.” She stood from the bed and held out her hand for Fergus, “Let’s give your Papa some time to wake up, hm? I’ll let you have the first pick.”

Fergus, ignoring her outstretched hand, shot off into the kitchen to avoid getting stuck with the plain granola. 

“I’ll make you some coffee,” Claire told him, placing a single kiss on Jamie’s forehead before following Fergus into the kitchen. 

Jamie waited a few seconds, willing the butterflies in his stomach to go away before standing slowly and beginning to prepare for the day. 



Chapter Text

    “Ten more minutes, class,” Claire said from her position at the front of the room. Some of the students picked up their pace, pencils scribbling on the paper in front of them while others shrugged in defeat. It was the first test of her career. Well, not a test per se, Claire vowed not to be one of those teachers who based their students’ grades on arbitrary tests. Instead, she posed it as a way to understand what was working. In the small packet were the various subjects they’d covered throughout the first couple months of the semester, starting from basic addition to time telling and their recent studies of the solar system. 

    The students were graded on participation only, Claire wanted to see what information had stuck with the children and what needed to be reinforced. As long as they filled something on the paper out, they would pass. She had made it clear as she handed out the sheets that they shouldn’t feel rushed, she wanted them to take their time and think. If they didn’t know it, skip it and move on, they could go back later. 

    Claire watched from her standing position in front of the board as Fergus once again looked up from his paper, his eyes trailing around the room before landing on her, giving her a quick smile before returning to the task at hand. He’d been giving her looks all week, small smiles and waves when he thought no one else was looking– she returned them, of course. She didn’t want him to feel that things had changed despite the obvious fact that they had. 

He was discrete, thank God, Fergus hadn’t slipped and called her Claire as she feared, he was as polite and studious as ever, if only a bit more clingy. Now, he preferred to stay right by her side at pickup instead of mingling with his friends. At recess, he would stick with his own group made of his cousins and Marsali, making no effort to include the other children. It was a subtle change that spoke more to her as a psychologist than it did as a teacher so for now, she let it be. 

“Times up!” she announced, clapping her hands together to garner their attention. “Everyone, please make sure your names are on your paper and pass them forward to the person in front of you.”

She walked down the front row of students, taking the small stack of papers from each one before returning them to her desk to look over later.

“All right, time for our next lesson, the elements of storytelling.”

The lesson went by quickly, it was just the basics and Claire was happy to find the lesson was understood quickly by her students. They were a brilliant bunch, just slightly unfocused due to various educational needs but in the end, they reached their goal. By break, all of the children were able to accurately describe who, what, where, when, and why. After lunch, they would be applying what they learned to a short story, applying verbal understanding to hands-on. 

Claire retreated to the teacher’s lounge long enough to get a soda out of the vending machine before plopping down at her desk with her sandwich and crisps to grade the packets. She was able to multitask sufficiently, correcting answers while eating, but a certain packet had her completely consumed. 

“I can’t believe it…” Claire trailed off, staring dumbfoundingly at the name listed on the paper. 

Fergus Fraser had only gotten three correct– three out of twenty. 

It didn’t make any sense. 

Claire stared down at his written name, almost willing it to suddenly change and have her questions be answered by such a silly mistake. She went through the packet again, hoping she’d incorrectly graded one of his answers incorrectly but she hadn’t. If this had been a proper test, Fergus would have failed, and so far, he would have been the only one. The lowest mark besides Fergus’ was fifteen. 

As the students trickled in from their lunch– Fergus rushing to his desk with an uneaten cookie in his hand– Claire had yet to move on. She shoved the packets into her desk drawer, throwing away her half-full bag of crisps and a quarter of her sandwich. She took a moment, remaining seated at her desk, trying to think of the proper ways to handle this. Fergus would certainly have to be talked to, Jamie as well, they needed to figure out what had happened. Why Fergus had performed so terribly. 

“Mrs. Beauchamp?” Annabelle asked, looking at Claire expectedly. “Are we going to read now?” 

“What? Yes, oh, yes!” Claire hastily stood from her chair and picked up the picture book on her desk. The cover was navy blue with a green frog sitting front and center. “Today, we’re going to be reading about Andy the Bullfrog.” Claire read the book twice, instructing the students to take notes on what they believed to fit into the five W’s. 

They had only managed to get to ‘where’ before Claire had to shut the book and get everyone ready for pickup. They walked outside, a line of parents were already waiting eagerly for the children. Jamie was easy to spot, he was the tallest parent present, his bright red hair not doing him any favors in hiding. She held Fergus back before he could rush to his father, wanting Jamie to come to them. 

It didn’t take long for Jamie to get the silent message. After a few minutes without a child barreling into him, he walked slowly through the crowd of children, stopping feet away from where Claire was standing with her hand on Fergus’ shoulder.

“Fergus?” Jamie asked his son, looking at the boy and Claire questioningly. “What happened? Is everythin’ okay?”

“We need to talk,” Claire said, motioning with her head for Jamie to follow her into the school. Jamie did as she asked, walking behind Claire and Fergus as they made their way back to the classroom. Once inside, Claire quietly told Fergus to go back to his desk and start his homework, the boy did so without question. 

“Sassenach? What’s goin’ on?” Jamie asked again.

“I need to show you something,” Claire said, beckoning Jamie toward her desk. She dug Fergus’ packet out of the pile and handed it to Jamie. “I had them fill this out this morning, a way for me to tell what had sunk in and what needed more attention. Fergus… well, he only got three correct.” 

Claire watched as Jamie flipped through the papers, sighing defeat when he realized Claire was right.

“I dinna understand,” Jamie said, “I went over all this wi’ him. We spent an hour practicing subtraction, I remember because we had to miss shinty.” 

“Honestly, neither do I,” Claire said, folding her arms and shaking her head. “He turns in all his assignments and I rarely have to mark them, I’ve seen him complete worksheets during class, I know he knows the material but for some reason, he failed to show it.” 

Jamie looked away from the paper to Fergus before asking, “What can we do?” 

“My best guess is test anxiety, I made it clear that they’re getting participation points only but maybe the environment was too much for him.” 

“Fergus,” Jamie called, waving Fergus over. “What happened, laddie? Why did ye get so many wrong? I ken ye ken the answers.”

Fergus looked from his father to Claire, his mouth opening several times but no words came out. 

“Fergus, you’re not in trouble,” Claire assured. “We just want to know what happened.” 

“I couldn’t concentrate,” Fergus said with a sigh, “there were too many people, they were distracting! The pencils on paper, sniffling and someone was grinding their teeth, I could hear it!” 

“Fergus,” Claire kneeled down to be eye-level with Fergus, “when you hear these things, do they make you want to do something? Maybe hurt yourself?” 

Jamie opened his mouth to stop the line of questioning, glaring at Claire but she shut him down with a look, begging him not to interrupt. 

“Sometimes…” Fergus began in a whisper, “I clench my nails into my palms and it helps.” 

“Fergus,” Claire said, smiling softly and wrapping him into a hug. Fergus returned it, immediately digging his face into her shoulder as Claire stroked his back comfortingly. After a few moments, she broke away slowly, “Why don’t you go back to your desk? I want to speak with your dad for a second.” 

Fergus nodded and did as he was told, sparing one last look at his father before retreating back.

“Claire–” Jamie began, completely lost for words.

“It's not test anxiety, it's misophonia,” she answered his unasked question, “it’s often a comorbidity with ADHD. The sounds and motions that bother him are called triggers, when he’s exposed, they give him a sense of anxiety, sort of like his body going to fight or flight mode except he’s stuck. He’s hurting himself with his nails to distract himself against the triggers.” 

“It was a quiet environment, no noise except for those triggers, he was unable to focus and had limited resources to distract himself, it’s a wonder he finished at all. He’s always done terribly on tests, hasn’t he? That was in his file.”

“Aye, he has,” Jamie said with a nod, “though no one has really tried to find out why.”  

“It’s not really understood, not really a worldwide concept yet.” 

“What can we do? He canna spend his whole life being bothered by wee sounds.” 

“There’s not much we can do, Jamie,” Claire told him, “it can go away on its own or be lifelong. Creating quiet environments away from triggers can help as well as teaching better ways to cope. I’ll speak to Colum and see if there’s an area in the school designated for students who need extra time or a special environment for tests, if not, we need one. Has he ever been to see a therapist?” 

“No' really,” Jamie said, “he was diagnosed with ADHD by his pediatrician. Ye’re a psychologist, aren’t ye? Why can ye no talk to him?” 

“For many reasons, Jamie,” Claire said with a sigh, “I’m not a child psychologist, my specialty is more focused on adults. Plus, our relationship,” she waved at the space between them, “it would be highly inappropriate. The same reasons doctors can’t operate on their family members, it’s a conflict of interest.” 

“I guess that makes sense,” Jamie agreed, “so what do ye suggest?”

“Get him an appointment with a psychologist, I can ask Geillis if she knows anyone, the school might even have one on hand.”

“Thank ye, Claire,” Jamie said with a sad smile, turning away from her to look at Fergus who was working quietly on his homework. “He already has so many labels, ye ken? Being adopted, having ADHD, impossibly difficult– why another one? Why my son?” 

Jamie's face was heartbreaking, it made Claire want to lurch forward and crush him into a hug, reassure him that everything would be okay, instead, she could only use words to comfort.

“Sometimes,” Claire began, reaching out and placing a solitary hand on Jamie’s bicep, “the strongest ones have the most crosses to bear.” 



Chapter Text

“Misophonia,” 

    The words rattled in his brain, reminding him of the latest challenge Fergus was forced to face. His son just couldn’t get a break but Jamie was unwilling to let the newest word in his vocabulary stop them. They would handle this and ultimately come out ahead, just like they’d done with Fergus’ adoption and subsequent ADHD diagnosis. After the initial suggestion of getting Fergus some headphones, Jamie had dug out the old earmuffs he had used as a child when he went hunting with his dad, they muffled sounds well enough, but Fergus could only stand them for ten minutes before he felt uncomfortable. 

They would not be suitable for school.

Jamie spent the rest of the night doing his own research, browsing various sites that claimed which headphones were the best and comparing generic reviews of the products. In all honesty, he had no idea what to look for. They all looked the same to him, various colors predominantly black with different features and accessories, all boasting the ability to block out sound, having nothing but a list of words Claire had given to guide him. Jamie had become even more confused when one headphone offered passive noise cancellation and another offered active. He’d given in around midnight, unable to find a suitable pair for Fergus, and reached out to Claire, hoping she would have some idea since she knew more than he did.

A couple of hours later as Jamie was finally settling in for bed, Claire sent him a link with brief reasoning as to why these headphones would be the best for Fergus. Jamie trusted her wholeheartedly and ordered the headphones right away; they were slim and blue with extra padding on the muffs for comfort and active noise cancellation, they could even be connected to a smart device to play music. 

Claire was confident that the headphones she’d picked out would be perfect for Fergus, however, they wouldn’t arrive for another three weeks which is how Jamie found himself standing in the headphone section at the local ASDA with a list of specifications that Claire had given him looking for a temporary. Claire and Fergus were at school, Jamie was hoping to find the perfect pair and surprise them both with it after class, he might not have all the knowledge about Fergus’ condition but he could still help, a fact he wanted to be known. 

Ultimately, Jamie decided on a relatively cheap pair of headphones knowing it would be good enough for the next three weeks, and with the headphones in hand, Jamie continued with the rest of his shopping. He grabbed groceries for the house and products both his mother and Jenny had requested he get for them, he would drop those off on his way to pick up Fergus. He walked to the checkout lanes, a trolley full of various goods, and made sure Fergus’ headphones weren’t smashed in the bags. 

He hit traffic heading toward Lallybroch which was unusual given the time and location, normally, it would be another few hours before cars were lined bumper to bumper. Unwilling to sit idly in his car, Jamie turned off the main road and down a street full of independent and small shops which catered mostly to tourists. He was stopped at a light when he caught sight of it, he wasn’t entirely sure why he was drawn to it but he felt compelled to see it up close. He parked his car and then stood in front of the shop’s window staring at the ornate vase on display. It was a simple design, white with blue etches of flowers and trees. Before he knew it, Jamie was walking out of the shop with the vase safely tucked in layers of wrapping and a brown paper bag. 

He couldn’t explain why but he knew the vase was meant for Claire, his thoughts had been consumed with her the moment he saw it. 

Jamie resumed his journey, driving the rest of the way to Lallybroch and smiling when he noticed his mother waiting patiently for him by the door of her house. She was walking down the stairs before he managed to open his door, her arms already stretched offering him a warm hug which he happily accepted. He wrapped his arms around Ellen and practically melted into her embrace when she started rubbing his back and whispering words of comfort in Gaelic. 

“Come, mo chridhe, tell yer mam what’s wrong, I ken somethin’ is botherin’ ye,” Ellen said, breaking their hug and grabbing his hand to lead him inside, dismissing his complaints of needing to grab the groceries. She dragged him into the kitchen and forced him into one of the chairs, setting a kettle on the stove to boil for tea, and placed a basket of scones in front of him. “What is it, Jamie?” 

“Mam…” Jamie paused, unsure of how to form the words. “I think, no, I ken it, I’m in love.” 

“In love?” Ellen asked, surprised, of all things she hadn’t been expecting her son’s declaration of love. “Who are ye in love with? The mystery lass?” 

“She’s no’ a mystery, Mam, ye’ve even meant her,” 

“I’ve meant her?” Ellen took a moment, thinking of who Jamie could be talking about before realization dawned on her. “Madam Beauchamp?” 

Jamie nodded with a smile, “Aye, the very one,” 

“Weel, that explains why ye defended her so wi’ Fergus’ arm.”

“Ye mean when ye accosted her and blamed her for something she didna’ do?” Jamie pointed out, Ellen’s eyes narrowed when he finished. 

“Aye,” Elen mumbled, stood from the chair, and grabbed the whistling kettle from the stove to finish preparing their tea. When she returned to the table, they resumed their conversation, Jamie having gone silent in the interim. “Are ye sure, lad? Ye have to be sure wi’ this, she’s Fergus’ teacher, ye canna start somethin’ and end it later; look at how good he’s doin’ wi’ her.” 

“And that’s how I ken I love her, Mam, she’s got this bond with Fergus– the closest he’s ever had to havin’ his own Mam.” 

Ellen bristled at the comment, “He has me and Jenny.” 

“I ken that, I do,” Jamie said, “but aren’t ye and Jenny always goin’ on about how I need to get married and find someone to be a Mam to Fergus?” 

“Yes, we do, but why her? Of all people?”

“Da always used to say that he took one look at ye and kent he loved ye– that was all he needed. When ye ken, ye just ken, he used to say.”

“I remember.” Ellen nodded. 

“I ken it, Mam, she’s the one for me and for Fergus. She cares so much about him, she’s been helpin’ me adjust and find ways to get Fergus through this misophonia thing and–”

“Misophonia?” Ellen asked, pronouncing the word slowly. “What in God’s name is that?” 

Jamie explained misophonia and its implications toward Fergus as they drank their tea and ate the lemon scones, like her son, Ellen had never heard the word before now. Jamie went into detail about everything Claire had done in the twenty-four hours since they’d matched the disorder to Fergus, he made sure to mention the independent research Claire had done without his asking. He showed her the headphones Claire had picked out and described how they would help Fergus cope both inside and outside of school and as Jamie dipped the last scone into his tea, he told Ellen the plan for Fergus to see a psychologist. 

Ellen collapsed into the chair behind her, rubbing her temples and closing her eyes to process her thoughts. It was clear that Jamie was struggling with the weight of Fergus’ newest challenge and Ellen felt ashamed that she hadn’t picked up on the behavioral cues herself. Then again, she reminded herself, Claire was trained in this aspect and she wasn’t. The more Ellen thought about the situation the more she began to see just how perfect Claire seemed to fit with Jamie and Fergus; the three of them would be perfect together, Ellen had to admit. 

“I wish ye would have told me about Fergus sooner Jamie, I’m his Grannie, I need to ken these things.” Ellen began. 

“I ken and I’m sorry,” Jamie apologized, “my head hasna’ been on very straight lately.” 

“But,” she reached across the table and took Jamie’s hand in hers, “I’m glad ye’ve got a lass to help ye through it–  ye and Fergus. I think ye’re right, mo mhac, she’s perfect for ye both. If ye’re as serious as ye seem to be, bring her here for dinner this weekend, I’d love to meet her officially.”

“Ye mean it?” Jamie asked, matching his mother’s smile.

“I do.” Ellen nodded.

The plan was made and they would be having dinner that Friday or Saturday night, whichever worked best for Claire. They spent the rest of Jamie’s visit unloading groceries, talking about Lallybroch’s finances and Jenny’s latest news, she was pregnant again. Jamie knew Fergus would be excited about the prospect of a little cousin, Fergus was second youngest with Young Ian a couple of years below him. Jamie briefly wondered how Fergus might react to having a little brother or sibling, Jamie was certainly open to the idea and he hoped Claire might be open to it as well. 

Jamie left Ellen’s, promising to call her as soon as he talked to Claire about the dinner, and rushed to Fergus’ school. Jamie was excited to show Claire and Fergus the headphones he’d picked out, wanting to prove to both of them that he could handle whatever hurdles came their way. 

He waited patiently at the front of the pickup line since he’d arrived early, he kept his eyes glued to the gates of the chain-link fence that separated him from his son and love. Jamie nodded to Dougal as his uncle opened the gates and a swarm of children was released. Claire was easy to pick out, carefully leading her students in a single-file line to the outside of the school toward their parents. Fergus spotted him almost immediately, giving his friends a quick goodbye and letting Claire know where he was going before rushing toward Jamie.

“Papa!” Fergus shouted, jumping into Jamie’s waiting arms. 

“Fergus!” Jamie said, kissing Fergus’ forehead and setting him onto the ground. “I got somethin’ for ye.” 

“What is it?” Fergus asked, trying to get a glimpse at whatever Jamie was getting out of the car. Jamie handed the bag to him and watched as Fergus happily tore apart the bag to get to his surprise. “Headphones?” Fergus looked up at his father, unsure of what he was supposed to do with them. 

“Special headphones,” Jamie began to explain, bending down to Fergus’ level, “ye put them on and they block sound. Here, let’s try them on,” Jamie took the package from Fergus and carefully extracted the black headset from layers of plastic and ties, and handed then back to Fergus. “These should help ye, put them on.” 

Fergus carefully pulled the headphones open and placed them over his ears just as Claire joined them. 

“How do they feel?” Claire asked, smiling at Jamie before placing her full attention on Fergus.

“I don’t…” Fergus trailed off, taking time to adjust to the new device. “Say something, Papa.

“Uh, well,” Jamie thought for a moment, “yer Auntie is pregnant.” 

Claire looked at him in surprise as Fergus broke into a wide grin. 

“I heard you say I’m going to be a big cousin but I couldn’t hear the other kids,” Fergus said, taking off the headphones.

“That’s what they’re supposed to do,” Claire said. “They block out the small background noises but you can still hear the loud ones though they are dampened.” She took the headphones from Fergus and examined them. “Good choice, Mister Fraser, these will work wonderfully in class and help Fergus immensely.” 

    By now the gaggle of children had eased leaving just a few stragglers and no one within earshot. Jamie took the opportunity to speak candidly to Claire. 

    “Claire, I um,” Jamie cleared his throat, moving toward the car to grab the brown bag sitting on the front seat. He thought better of it at the last moment, suddenly aware that there was a better time and place to give her his gift so instead he asked, “Would ye have dinner with us and my Mam this weekend?” 

    “Jamie,” Claire took a deep breath and smiled, “I would be honored.” 

 

Chapter Text

    Tonight was the night and Claire couldn’t have been more anxious. She was meeting Ellen properly, not as an instructor to Fergus, but as Jamie’s girlfriend. Claire was fond of the Fraser boys, very fond, more than likely she loved them, yet she knew their entire dynamic and relationship could be changed by Ellen’s opinion. If the Fraser matriarch didn’t like her for whatever reason, Claire was sure she would be reduced to Fergus’ teacher and nothing more. Tonight had to be perfect, she had to be perfect.  

Claire twirled in front of her floor-length mirror, hoping to get a proper idea of how she may look to someone viewing her, how Ellen would see her. She sighed and began to strip off the flowy dress, unhappy with how it rose to reveal a large portion of her legs, the last thing she needed was Ellen to believe she was some kind of whore. Claire tossed the dress to the growing pile of clothes to her left and marched once more to her closet, eyeing the different outfits and tops hung neatly into a row. She was halfway through her inventory when an ivory turtleneck which she had yet to wear, its tag still hanging in place, caught her eye.

She had purchased the sweater a week before she’d told Frank she wanted a divorce, it was a spur-of-the-moment purchase and just happened to be on sale, seemed like fate at the time. She had intended to wear it to the dinner party that same night, however, Frank had started another argument, leaving Claire too angry to attend the event. She shoved the top into the back of the closet, later a box, and had completely forgotten she owned a turtleneck until it was unpacked. It would do just perfectly, Claire deemed, pulling the fabric over her head and onto her torso.

Fuck Frank, Claire thought, humming happily to herself, content with her choice. Frank may have bought the piece but it was Jamie who would reap the rewards. It clung to her figure, accentuating her curves in a way Claire knew Jamie would love. Although Jamie claimed to love all her outfits, he’d seen plenty by now, Claire was sure this would be his favorite.

She was reminded of the precious fleeting time by the chime of her phone, a text from Jamie telling her they were on their way to pick her up. Claire responded with an acknowledgment before rushing to her dresser to find a matching bottom. In the end, it all came together beautifully. The ivory turtleneck combined with a pair of slimming blue jeans, a pair of eggshell heels, and simple diamond stud earrings made her feel vibrant and confident. 

Claire locked  her door as Jamie pulled into the driveway, he exited the car and met her a few feet away, kissing her lips before he whispered, “Hello, Sassenach.” 

“Hello to you too,” she grinned, stepping back to take him in. His hair was pulled neatly back, his torso covered in a black buttoned shirt with a matching pair of slacks and wing-tipped shoes. 

“Are ye ready to go?” he asked. 

“Certainly,” she nodded, getting into the car through the door Jamie held open. He shut it gently once she was settled and rushed to resume to his seat. “Hello, Fergus,” she turned in her seat and greeted the boy sitting behind her, “you look very handsome tonight.”

Fergus blushed under her compliment, “Thank you… tu es très belle ce soir.” (You look very beautiful tonight.)

“Merci,” Claire said, smiling before she turned back in her seat. “How long did it take you to pin his hair down?” she asked Jamie. In the back, Fergus ran a hand over his gelled hair.

“Och, it didna take verra long,” Jamie said. 

“Liar,” Fergus responded, “it took ages, and it feels so gross!” 

“Ye ken yer Grannie likes it when ye put a bit of effort to yer appearance,” Jamie eyed his son through the rearview mirror, “it’s an important night and I want ye to look yer best.” 

“I know, I know,” Fergus mumbled, opting to look out the window instead of the adults in front of him.

“I’m a bit nervous,” Claire confessed once she was sure Fergus wasn’t paying attention. “What if she doesn’t like me?” 

“Claire,” Jamie reached over and took her hand in his, “she will, I have no doubts, Ye’ve done so much for us–I’ve told her everythin’– she would be a hypocrite for no’ liken’ ye. Dinna fash, Sassenach, she’ll like ye just fine.” 

“And Jenny?”

Jamie snorted, “I dinna care what her piehole has to say, besides, it’s just us and Mam tonight. It’s probably better if ye’re introduced to the Frasers slowly, we can be… a bit much all together.” he told her with a sheepish smile. 

“Probably best,” Claire agreed, squeezing his hand. 

They stayed silent for the rest of the drive, Jamie concentrating on the road as Claire tried her best to gather her thoughts, images from the first time she’d met the Randalls played through her mind. That night had been a disaster. Claire had been so nervous she’d been unable to eat much of the meal Frank’s mother, Nora, had prepared, insulting the woman who believed it was due to Claire disliking the food. Frank’s father had been drunk by the time they finished their first course and had been unwilling to speak of anything but politics, a conversation topic made even worse by an inebriated mind. 

Claire took a deep breath and cleared her mind of the Randalls as Jamie squeezed her hand once more, looking her way occasionally. He pulled his hand to the steering wheel as they entered the Lallybroch estate, the unevenness of the road requiring both hands. 

“Right there,” he pointed to a stone building on the right as they drove by, “is where Jenny and I and centuries of Frasers grew up, now inhabited by the Murray brood. Built by the hands of my great-grandfather so long ago, we’ve been here ever since.” 

“It’s beautiful,” Claire said, bending her neck to keep the building in view as they continued to drive. 

“Aye,” he agreed fondly, “it was a hard choice for my Mam to give it to Jenny and Ian, but it was too big once my Da was gone. She makes better use of her current space.” 

“I see.” 

It wasn’t much longer before they reached Ellen’s home, slightly less than a mile from Jenny’s by Claire’s estimation. Far enough away for privacy but close enough for the children to get to on foot should the need or want to visit arose. The house was painted a pale yellow with a tan wooden porch and stairs leading to the door. The building’s bottom was covered in plants, it seemed that Ellen loved to plant, and possed a green thumb as well. Claire made a mental note to bring up the topic later that evening, something besides the boys they could potentially bond over. 

“Grannie!” Fergus shouted, rushing out of the car, up the steps, and through the door seconds after Jamie had parked.

“Fergus, ye wee rascal!” Jamie shouted after him, opening Claire’s door. “Ye were supposed to wait!” 

“Let him be,” Claire said with a chuckle, taking Jamie’s offered arm to ease herself out of the car, “it’s best he gets all of that energy out now rather than later.” 

“I wanted us all to go in together,” Jamie mumbled, shutting the car’s door and slowly leading Claire up the steps. “Ready?” he asked Claire, pausing at the doorway. 

“As I’ll ever be,” Claire nodded resolutely as they stepped over the threshold together.

The interior of Ellen’s home was decorated beautifully, modern and classic furniture mixed perfectly to create a warm and inviting space. The living room wallpaper was a dazzling white covered with family pictures and various plants hanging from the ceiling. From their location, Claire could see a similarly decorated hallway, with more pictures and plants, that led to the back of the house. Claire reached out, her fingertips grazing a strand of marble pothos as they passed into the kitchen. 

Ellen and Fergus’ back was to them, Fergus standing on a stool at the counter so he could reach, he was carefully stirring a large pot as Ellen stood behind him, watching his every move. Ellen’s flaming red hair, more flaming than Jamie’s Claire could argue, fanned down her back all the way to the hem of her shirt. She turned as Jamie and Claire stopped a few feet into the room, waiting to be greeted by the matriarch.

“Jamie, be a good lad and get me the pot off the top shelf, will ye?” 

“Mam, this is Claire,” Jamie said with a smile, moving his hand to rest on the small of her back, ignoring his mother’s request. 

“Hello,” Claire greeted.

“I ken who she is lad, we’ve met before, get the pot,” she told him, waving Jamie toward the appropriate shelf. “I didna mean to be cross, Claire, ye’ve got to be firm with boys, ye ken? Or they’ll forget and trip all over themselves at the least minute– if they do it at all. Ye look very pretty tonight, perhaps a bit overdressed for a simple meal though, Jamie didna tell ye to get all dolled up for me, did he?” 

“Not at all,” Claire assured, “I just wanted to make a good impression is all.” 

Ellen gave her an acknowledging smile, pleased with Claire’s honesty, “Weel, ye look verra bonnie, I’ll give you that. Though I must apologize for the first time we met, I was rather rude toward ye and I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize, it was a stressful situation, your grandson was hurt and you wanted answers, I completely understand.” 

“That may be so, but I still shouldna have treated ye like I did, Jamie was right, ye were no’ at fault, and yet I acted as such. Please, forgive my manners.” Ellen said.

“Ye better take it, Claire,” Jamie chimed in, back from retrieving Ellen’s pot, “you’ll never hear her apologize again, the words are foreign to her.” 

“Jamie,” Ellen turned to Jamie as Claire laughed, “yer as bad as yer nephews.” 

“Am I bad, Grannie?” Fergus asked, suddenly appearing between Jamie and Ellen.

“Not at all, yer my wee angel!” Ellen told him. 

Claire nodded in agreement, “I couldn’t agree more! Such a polite young man and now I see where he got it from.”

“Not from his father,” Ellen chuckled at her joke. “Jamie, get the bread out of the oven and Fergus, go back to stirring,” she said, giving each boy a task. When they stepped away, she crossed the space between her and Claire and wrapped her arm around the younger woman’s shoulders. “So, Claire, tell me all about yerself.” 

“Well,” Claire paused her words as Ellen led her into the dining room, “I wouldn’t know where to begin.” 

“Och, well, every story has a beginning, so start there, I want to ken all about ye.”

Claire made herself comfortable in the chair Ellen pointed to as the older woman sat across from her.

“The beginning? I suppose there’s no better place to start, I was born in England…” 





Chapter Text

    If Claire had to pick a single word to describe Ellen Fraser she would simply choose motherly. Claire started from the beginning of her life as Ellen suggested, detailing the loss of her parents and newfound guardianship under Uncle Lamb. They laughed together as Claire described the many adventures she had gone on with her eccentric uncle, the lessons she learned, and the friends she met on their travels. Ellen held Claire’s hand when she explained how alone she felt after Lamb’s death, a true orphan with no one to turn to, except the arms of her new husband, Frank.

    Claire was careful on the subject of Frank, she wanted to tell Ellen the truth– leaving out the part of Frank’s latest appearance, of course– but wasn’t sure how deep to go. Her and Frank’s marriage was simply a relationship of circumstance at the start, desperate for the family she’d lost as a child Claire had agreed to marry Frank, despite Lamb’s advice not to. Frank had been kind at the beginning, understanding, and seemed to care for her, then Lamb had died and things changed. Once captured by his charm, Claire quickly fell prisoner to Frank’s dem empty promises. Looking back, Claire supposed she had loved him at some point, she must have to have married him, however, his attitude quickly turned when they’d begun planning their future. And the qualities Lamb had warned her about began to show.

     Jamie and Fergus had been banished to the kitchen by Ellen, leaving the two women to talk privately and Claire couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so safe and comfortable. Ellen listened to every word, offering nothing but nods of encouragement, except for Frank, for him, Ellen frowned and rolled her eyes. The warm feelings increased as Ellen wrapped her arm around Claire’s shoulder, pulling her in closer as Claire spoke about her and Frank’s trouble with conceiving. All the tests she had undergone proved that Claire’s body was more than adequate for childbearing, it had to be Frank but he refused to get tested. He refused to accept the possibility that he was the issue. 

    Their marriage was toxic, unhealthy, and hanging by a thread by the time she found out she was pregnant. Then came the brief hope that Frank would change, he became doting and an ideal husband. His personality flipped once more following the loss of their child, a daughter, at six months. Frank became less careful with his affairs, he made no moves to hide his extramarital activities and after months of trying, her best friend Joe and his wife Gail successfully convinced her to go with them on vacation to Scotland. 

    “And the rest was history,” Claire finished, giving Ellen a small smile, “once I was here, I didn’t want to leave. We went back home to London and I applied to every school that mentioned they were hiring, Colum was the first and only to call back. Offered me the job after our phone interview and the next thing I knew I was buying a house online and moving to a small community I’d never heard of.” 

    “That was a brave thing ye did, Claire, moving here by yerself, leaving yer friend and job, couldna have been easy.” 

“It wasn’t,” Claire agreed, looking across the hall and into the kitchen where Jamie and Fergus stood laughing over the meal they were supervising, and she smiled, “but so far, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.” 

“I admire ye, Claire, I do,” Ellen said, looking toward her son and grandson. “Brian and I had struggled for a wee bit as weel. We lost two bairns before bein’ blessed with William, then Jenny, Jamie, and wee Robert.” 

Claire looked back to Ellen, “Jamie told me about his brothers, I’m so sorry Ellen, losing one child was hard enough, I can’t possibly imagine losing two.” 

Claire knew there had been a total of thee Fraser boys, Jamie spoke of his brothers in passing, Claire didn’t have a single clue of what had happened to them. However, she knew how losing a child felt, so it was her turn to offer Ellen comfort. 

“Aye,” Ellen nodded slowly, “Willie was sick, a bad case of meningitis, ye ken? He was fine, then had a fever and a few days later… we buried him,” she took a deep breath, “Robert came into the world already havin’ already passed onto God. He didna suffer and for that, I’m grateful. It was hard on Jenny and Jamie o’ course, they became even closer after everything.” 

“So, that’s why Jenny is so involved with Jamie’s life?” Claire asked with a smile. Claire had never seen an older sister so controlling and involved in their brother’s life before, now knowing the reason for Jenny's insistence, it was nothing but endearing. 

“Aye,” Ellen chuckled, “much more than a big sister probably should be with her little brother, but what can ye do? They’re inseparable, even with their own families and homes. They invented their own language, I think Jamie was ten and Janet twelve, Brian and I could never decipher it.” 

“I’m glad he has Jenny,” Claire said, “I haven’t met her yet, but from what I heard she’s not one to be trifled with, Fergus looks up to her and you.” 

Ellen chuckled, “Family is verra important, my dear,” Ellen turned her body to face Claire, “there’s nothin’ more special in the entire world, and once ye’re a Fraser, ye’ll remain one until the good lord calls ye home. We started off on a bad foot, I have to admit, but Claire, I wouldna mind if ye joined the family one day, I ken ye’d fit in perfectly. My son–and grandson– for that matter love ye so, and that’s all that matters to me. Do ye understand what I’m sayin', lass?” 

“I do,” Claire nodded quickly. 

Before Claire had the chance to open her mouth and continue the conversation with Ellen, Fergus, once again with his ill-timing, bounced into the room and announced that dinner was ready. And with that, Claire and Ellen were ushered into the kitchen to eat. The two women and child sat at the oval dining table as Jamie served them each a plate stacked high with roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed vegetables, and Claire knew a chocolate pie was waiting for them for dessert. 

She bowed her head with the Fraser’s as Ellen said evening grace, all four of them making a cross on their body before digging into the wonderful food before them. Claire was amazed at how easily the conversation flowed throughout dinner, everyone chiming in, and more often than not the entire table would collapse into a fit of giggles. Fergus spent the majority of the meal making faces to Claire and his Grannie, sparing a quick glance to his father with every new face. In the end, Claire couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so happy, her earlier anxieties squashed by the welcoming and warm presence that Ellen irradiated. 

It was then that Claire realized she could one day call the Frasers, and Lallybroch, home. They were a tight-knit family and for the first time in her life, Claire got a taste of the perfect nuclear family. She didn’t ache for the loss of her parents, or even for the loss of the child she carried not long ago, instead, she stared in wonder at a family who had experienced so much loss of their own yet came out on top with nothing but smiles and resilience. The Frasers were welcoming, opening their hearts to strangers and pulling them in, making them family. 

“Are ye ready, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, pulling Claire from her thoughts.

“What?” Claire looked at Jamie in confusion.

“Dessert, Claire, are ye ready? My Mam makes the best pies in all of Scotland,”

“Jamie…” Claire took a deep breath and finished in a whisper, “I’m ready for anything.” 

He stilled, eyeing her carefully to try and decipher the meaning behind her words. Finally, after a few weighted seconds, he smiled, took her hand in his, and placed a kiss on the palm. “There’s something I’d like to show ye,” Jamie stood from his chair and pulled her up. 

“We’ll be right back,” he told his mother and son, “not too many sweets, Mam, I mean it. I canna have him up all night.” 

“No promises!” Ellen responded as Claire and Jamie quickly left the kitchen and retreated into the cool night air. Jamie led her to his car as Claire wrapped her arms around her torso for warmth. 

“Should have brought a bloody jacket.” Claire huffed as Jamie searched his car for whatever he was looking for, his back to her as he mumbled curses in Gaelic. It wasn’t long before Jamie returned with a triumphant grin and a large brown paper bag. 

“I was waitin’ for the perfect time to give it to ye, but I suppose, now is as good as ever,” he explained, holding open the straps to the bag so she could reach inside

“Jamie,” Claire said with a blush, reaching inside to remove the paper-covered object. It was heavy and about the size of a football. Claire removed the paper wrapping, her breath hitched as the blue vase came into view, the most beautiful object she’d ever seen. The vase was clearly old, the flowers covering the porcelain were hand-painted, this vase had been the result of someone’s painstakingly careful work. 

“I’ve always wanted a vase,” Claire whispered, turning the vase in her hands to get a complete look. “I can’t tell you how many times I came close to buying one only to talk myself out of it last minute, I never felt like I should, you know? I didn’t have a proper home to bring it to.” 

“Now ye do,” Jamie said, “Claire if ye want, I can promise ye that home, with me, and Fergus.” 

“Jamie…” Claire shook her head, wiping her eyes at the tears threatening to fall. 

“I ken ye’re still married,” Jamie continued. “Think of it as a pre-engagement, the moment ye’re free of that bastard Frank, I want ye to be mine, forever.”

“There’s nothing in life that I could want more, a life with you and Fergus; to be your wife and his mother. I can’t imagine anything more perfect, but Jamie, isn’t this all just happening too fast?” 

“Is it though?” he shot back instantly. 

The only answer that came to Claire’s mind was no, it didn’t feel fast, only right. 

Goddammit, she was about to become pre-engaged to the man of her dreams, commit to being the mother of the most ill-understood boy in the world, and nothing had ever felt more right in her entire life. 

“Yes,” Claire whispered with a smile, hugging the vase to her chest as her tears ran down her cheeks. “Yes, Jamie, yes, always and forever yes.” 

“Mo ghràdh,” Jamie said with a large smile, letting out the breath he was holding, “I’ll always love ye, Sassenach, I’ll always protect ye and see ye well, ye have the entire Fraser, MacKenzie, and Murray clans behind ye now.” Jamie wrapped his arms around Claire and pulled her close. “Even if they dinna ken it yet.” 

“I love you, Jamie,” Claire said, tilting her head up. 

“I love ye more, Sassenach.” Jamie finished, bringing his lips to hers.

 

 

Chapter Text

    The blue vase looked absolutely perfect on the mantle where Claire had immediately placed it the moment she arrived home following dinner last Friday. Jamie couldn’t give her a ring, their relationship still a secret to the vast majority of people, but the vase held his promise just as well as a ring could have; they were together, would be together for life. She didn’t have to worry about what he felt, agonize whether or not she was imagining the nature of their relationship because the vase spoke volumes. She was his and he was hers– end of story. 

She was both nervous and excited about the prospect. Frank had all but ruined her view on marriage, not long after they had separated, she’d sworn up and down to an equally drunken Gail that she would never marry again. That proclamation only rang true for a year. Has it really only been a year? It seemed like a small time frame to find the man she could see spending the rest of her life with, to become the mother to a polite troubled boy, yet, she had and she was excited. 

Jamie and Claire had talked following their kiss in Ellen’s driveway, they would not be telling Fergus about their pre-engagement. How he’d managed to keep their relationship a secret this long was beyond Jamie, he’d confessed to Claire that Fergus wasn’t normally so tight-lipped. He was easily bribed with candy and toys, his coaxing nosy aunt knew just how to get whatever information she was looking for out of him, however, Fergus had stayed silent so far and Jamie didn’t want to push their luck by adding on another secret. 

Speaking of Fergus… Claire glanced down at the two boxes on her dining room table; one held the figurine of some wrestler and the other a shiny new football. She knew Fergus well-enough to know he would appreciate either gift, but which he would like more had her stumped. Fergus loved to wrestle, he watched it with his cousins and reenacted matches with them on the playground and around Lallybroch, his love for football was just as strong. The ball he frequently brought over to play with was tattered and faded. 

She could give him both, she reasoned. 

No, she shook her head. What teacher gave their student two gifts for their birthday?

Leoch was a small community, therefore, half of the staff who had known the Fraser’s and MacKenzie’s for decades would be in attendance, if not for loyalty to Colum than for Ellen’s well-known cooking. Claire was going to the party under the guise of being part of the staff, a way for her to be included in the family event without drawing unnecessary attention to her closeness with the Fraser boys. As the clock chimed twelve behind her, Claire grabbed the boxed football and shoved it into the party bag. She could give him the wrestling figure later. 

The party was being held at Lallybroch, the only place big enough to hold the large number of people expected to attend. MacKenzie’s, and Murray’s would be coming from all over Scotland, only a handful of Fraser’s in contrast. Jamie expected his half-uncle, Simon, to come, maybe one or two of Simon’s children. Jamie’s grandfather would not be in attendance, the old man rarely left his estate but would send an extravagant present in consolation, the only reason he’d been invited, Jamie told her. 

Claire parked her car in the designated area, she grabbed Fergus’ present out of the trunk before walking toward the field already populated by guests. She gave a single nod to Dougal who stood with his arms folded behind a truck, three girls who Claire knew instantly were his daughters were arguing over something trivial, making Dougal clearly annoyed. Yes, the MacKenzie’s were an easy bunch to spot; they were all tall with high cheekbones and varying shades of russet hair. The only MacKenzie who wasn’t outwardly noticeable as part of the clan was Jenny who was rather short with straight black hair, she clearly took after Brian. 

Ellen was standing at the entrance to the party, greeting every guest with a welcoming smile and occasional personalized greeting. The matriarch’s smile widened as Claire approached, throwing her arms around Claire who stiffened in surprise. “It’s nice to meet ye Misses Beauchamp! Fergus has told me all about ye and I’m glad we finally get to meet. I can’t thank ye enough for all ye’ve done for my wee lad.”

It seemed Ellen was well aware of her and Jamie’s charade and would be playing along nicely, Ellen confirmed her knowledge by giving Claire a quick wink when they pulled apart.

“Of course!” Claire responded, “He’s such a delight to have in class, a young smart boy.”

“I’m pleased to hear it,” Ellen said, shaking her head as Claire held Fergus’ present to her. “Over there,” Ellen motioned to the growing pile of boxes, bags, and envelopes. 

“Jesus,” Claire whistled, Fergus would certainly be happy with the pile of gifts. 

“Most of them are small, ye ken, the bigger gifts will be from close family,” Ellen explained.

    “I’m surprised he isn’t over there trying to guess what they are.”

    Ellen laughed, a warm light sound as her body shook with the motion, “We’ve already had to shoo him away a dozen times. If he comes near it again Ian will spray him wi’ the hose.” Ellen pointed to her son-in-law who was indeed standing guard by the pile of presents with a hose ready to fire at anyone who dared to come close. Claire joined Ellen’s laughter as Young Ian was soaked by his father as the boy approached, running away with a giggle toward the gaggle of children. “It’s all in good jest,” Ellen said, motioning for Claire to drop the present off, “he willna shoot ye. Give him the present and then go and stuff yerself, aye? There’s plenty of food, I’ve been up since dawn bakin’ and cookin’.” Ellen led Claire with their arms linked to the tables lined with pots, pans, serving trays, and baskets. 

    It all looked absolutely delicious, Claire’s mouth watered as she looked up and down trying to pick her bounty: pastries were in abundance, surrounded by quick finger-grabbing food with a variety of hearty meats to choose from. She stood, still trying to pick when Ellen was dragged away by a friend, leaving Claire alone to think. She’d forgone breakfast with Jamie’s warning of the food, but he neglected to tell her just how much food would be available. 

Ellen could feed an army, no, she was feeding an army, Claire amended. All but a handful of the guests were descended from highland warriors. Though generations of easier living had lessened their ferocity, their hunger and thirst hadn’t been quenched. Claire looked warily over at the adult's table where bottles of hard liquor were already half empty. It was indeed a highland party.

Claire’s plate was neatly arranged with small bits of food, deciding to be adventurous and try new food instead of relying on favorites. She was reaching for the spoon sitting in the bowl of haggis when her hand hit another person.

“I’m so sorry, was I in the way?” Claire asked, pulling back her hand to give way to the other person. It was a middle-aged woman, Claire quickly recognized her as Laoghaire McKimmie, the mother of Marsali, one of Fergus’ friends. Marsali was well-behaved and a joy to be around, her mother, however, gave Claire an uneasy feeling she couldn’t place. 

“Not at all!” Laoghaire flicked her hand in dismissal, “Dinna fash about it. Wait, you’re Madame Beauchamp, right? The one who teaches the slower bairns.” 

“They’re not slow,” Claire said through gritted teeth, “they’re perfectly normal, just need a little more attention.”

“Oh, aye, of course,” Laoghaire agreed, though Claire could tell it was just for the sake of conversation. “That explains why Jamie is so alone, too busy to focus on nothin’ else but his son. Ye ken the lad isn’t even his, aye? Adopted he is.” 

“Fergus is just as much Jamie’s son as Marsali is your daughter,” Claire snapped. 

Laoghaire paid no attention to Claire’s outburst, either ignoring it completely or too self-involved to have heard it. Instead, Laoghaire dished several spoonfuls of food onto her plate and continued her line of conversation, “The poor man is gonna die alone at this rate. I’ve been tryin’ to get his attention myself, but no, it’s all on the lad.”

“As it should be,” Claire muttered. 

“Say! Do ye think ye could get Fergus to be a wee bit more independent? Then Jamie could focus on somethin’ else, me, perhaps? Could ye do that for me, Beauchamp? Do a lass a favor?” 

Claire was about to speak, ready to defend both Fergus and Jamie when Ellen appeared out of nowhere and spoke for her.

“Jamie already has a woman,” Ellen told Laoghaire whose mouth fell open in surprise. “Besides, I’d have to be six feet under before I’d let ye anywhere near my son or grandson,” Ellen nodded firmly, “Shut yer mouth lass, ye look like a trout.”

Laoghaire snapped her jaw shut and hurried away, abandoning her plate on the table as Claire began to laugh at the sight. If Claire had been unsure of Ellen, she no longer was. Ellen gave Claire a wink, squeezed her shoulder in reassurance before disappearing to go back to talking with her guests. Claire didn’t see Laoghaire or Marsali for that matter, for the rest of the day. 

Claire spent the day either talking with Mary or making polite conversation with Colum and his wife Leticia, meeting Hamish who Jamie had perfectly described as a ‘Wee Heathen’. She was talking with Geillies, taking shelter from the sun under one of the trees as they talked aimlessly. Geillies had quickly become her closest friend following Fergus’ injury at school. The nurse was shocked and excited that another woman had medical knowledge, surprised when Claid confirmed she was a doctor. 

“Not that kind of doctor,” Claire amended when Geillies’ eyebrows rose. “I started as a nurse before becoming a psychologist.” 

“So, ye have a nursing degree and one in psychology?” Geillis asked. 

“Yes,” Claire nodded.

Their conversation was interrupted by Jamie announcing to the crowd that it was present time, Fergus hastily taking his spot in front of the giant pile of gifts. Claire and Geillis joined the crowd, squeezing their way to the front to have a better view. Jamie gave her a wide smile and nod when he saw her, she returned the gesture. Once the crowd was gathered, Ellen took the first present and handed it eagerly to her waiting grandson. 

Overall, the gifts weren’t lavish, ranging from books to clothes to toys Claire wasn’t sure Fergus had any interest in. Nonetheless, Fergus opened each present carefully and thanked the giver, giving hugs to those he viewed as family. 

“This one is from yer Auntie Jocasta and Uncle Murtagh,” Ellen said, handing Fergus a box and motioning to the couple a few feet away from Fergus. Jocasta, though being younger than Ellen, looked older, her hair completely grey.

She was blind, Claire realized, she was leaning heavily against Murtagh who dutifully gave colorful descriptions of every present Fergus unwrapped. 

“I picked that one myself,” Murtagh puffed proudly. 

Fergus tore the wrapping off, gleefully bouncing in his seat as he held up the present to the crowd, it was a signed jersey of Ryan Fraser, Fergus’ favorite football player. “How did you get it?” Fergus asked, handing the jersey to Jamie who nodded, clearly impressed and a bit jealous that he may be outdone.  

“I have my connections,” Jocasta said slowly, smiling as Fergus’ happiness was obvious, not needing to be told that her great-nephew enjoyed his gift. 

“Thank you, Auntie!” Fergus shouted, rushing up to wrap Jocasta in a bone-crushing hug.

“Ye’re very welcome, laddie,” Jocasta returned the embrace.

“I said I picked it,” Murtagh grunted, wanting his share of the attention. Fergus waited until Jocasta had her hands on Murtagh’s shoulder before hugging his uncle. 

“Thank you!” Fergus said, returning to his position to resume the present opening. 

Despite Claire having placed her present near the top of the pile, it had yet to be given to Fergus, Ellen must have been saving it for last, though Claire didn’t know why. When there was only a handful of presents left, Jamie picked his from the pile, a rectangle box wrapped in blue, and handed it to Fergus. The gift was the newly released deep blue Nintendo Switch Lite, Ellen’s gift was a handful of games to go with it while Jenny and Ian supplied the accessories. He handed it to Jamie for safekeeping and reached for the next present Ellen was handing to him before Dougal emerged from the crowd and walked over past the pile.

“My turn!” he announced, ignoring Ellen’s warning glare. Dougal’s present wasn’t hidden in the pile like all the others, instead, he had stashed it behind Jenny and Ian’s garage. Claire’s eyes widened as Dougal walked over, rolling a minibike back to the crowd. She watched as Jamie shuffled his feet, his mouth puckered and his arms crossed, Ellen looked just as unhappy. 

“Every lad,” Dougal said loudly, wanting everyone to hear him, “deserves a bit o’ danger and excitement, I think ye’re old enough now.” 

Claire recognized the bit immediately for what it was– payback. Dougal must still be bitter for being left out of Fergus’ emergency contact list, combine that with Jamie’s refusal to let his son play on Dougal’s team and the elder man was furious with his nephew. Dougal knew there was no way in hell Jamie would let Fergus anywhere near the bike, Claire wouldn’t either, for that matter. The thing was dangerous, a death trap even with the proper bodily protection. Dougal was acting like the loving uncle, presenting his nephew with an elaborate gift, painting Jamie as the bad guy when he took it away. 

“Take it back,” Jamie told Dougal, stopping the man and bike before they could reach Fergus, who had stayed silent and still in his spot. “Ye ken damn well I dinna want my son on that thing.” 

“Och, Jamie, it’s just a gift! Let the laddie live a little, aye?” Dougal protested. 

“He’s still hurt from the last time he was wi’ ye!” Jamie shouted, Fergus clutched his broken arm to his chest in memory. 

“That was an accident and ye ken it! I would never hurt the lad on purpose.”

“Oh, no? Then what in God’s name is this then?” Jamie asked, kicking the bike with his foot. Ellen rushed forward, immediately taking Jamie’s side in the disagreement, and began shouting at her brother. Claire watched as Murtagh escorted his wife to stand by Leticia and Colum before he too joined Ellen and Jamie. Murtagh said nothing, Claire knew he was just muscle in case the argument turned physical. 

Ian and Jenny dispersed the crowd, directing children to the games and the adults to the food and drinks. Claire stood still, her heart aching as Fergus sat alone on the ground, his arm still clenched to his chest as he watched his father, grannie, and uncle's fight. 

“Fergus?” Claire asked softly, approaching the boy, kneeling to his level.

Fergus sniffled before he looked up at her, his eyes watery and his voice shaky, “Hi, Madam Beauchamp.”

Claire smiled at him, in awe that Fergus could keep their rouse when he was clearly distraught, “It’ll be all right,” Claire assured him. Fergus wiped his eyes, clearing the tears from his cheeks as he let out another sniffle. 

“You never opened my present,” Claire said, grabbing the bag from the small pile a few inches away. “It’s not much,” she told him as Fergus began to open the bag.

Fergus’ eyes widened as he took the ball out of the wrapping and he turned his attention to her, “You got me a football?” he asked, astounded. 

“It's not expensive or signed or anything, but I hope you like it.”

He gave her a warm smile before getting on his knees to wrap an arm around her neck, hugging her with one arm as the other held the ball. She returned the hug, squeezing him gently to comfort him. 

He pulled away, “Will you play with me?” he asked.

“I would love nothing more,” she told him honestly, happy that she chose to wear jeans with sneakers instead of a skirt with heels. Fergus helped her stand and gathered a few of his cousins, his aunt, and uncle, dribbling the ball before kicking it to Claire who immediately passed to Jenny who stood behind Fergus; both women cheered as Fergus failed to block the pass. 

Claire focused all her attention on the game and on Fergus, who seemed to forget his worries as he played. It was a short match, no more than ten minutes when Ellen caught the ball mid-kick and announced to the group that it was time for cake. Fergus and the others followed Ellen, leaving Claire back as she waited for Jamie. 

His face was red and his body still shook with fury, but he was calmer than before.

“Is everything okay?” Claire asked him, wanting nothing more than to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder, but mindful of their surroundings, didn’t. 

“Dougal is an arse,” Jamie said, shaking his head, “He kent I wouldna let Fergus near the thing but brought it anyway, just to spite me. He did it on purpose to get me back, and on my son’s birthday of all days!” Jamie cursed in Gaelic. “Did ye see him? How upset Fergus was? Dougal kent what he was doin’, I’ll give him that.”

“Jamie,” Clarie said slowly, “Fergus wasn't upset that you took the bike away, I think he was upset because you were all arguing.” 

“What else was I supposed to do?” Jamie asked in defense. “I couldna very well let Fergus have the damn thing.”

“No, you couldn’t have. I would have fought you on it if you had.” 

“Fought me, would ye?”  

“I would,” Claire nodded, whispering, “I’m to be his mother, after all, I don’t want him anywhere near that thing, or you for that matter either.” 

Jamie laughed, “True enough,” he agreed, “I did say that.” 

“Now, come on,” Claire nudged him to get him moving, “your mother brought out the cake.”

The duo rushed forward to join the crowd surrounding Fergus and the large chocolate cake Ellen had baked, ‘Happy 8th Birthday’ was written in blue frosting on the top layer of the cake. Fergus watched, his eyes wide as Ellen carefully lit all the candles, he bounced in his seat, eager to blow them out. Once Jamie took his place on Fergus’ left side, his mother on the right, and the rest of the family behind them, the crowd began to sing. Claire stayed silent, knowing that next year it would be her standing behind Fergus as he turned nine. 

The song ended with a rush of cheers and hoots. 

“Blow out yer candles, mo chridhe,” Jamie said to Fergus.

“Dinna forget to make a wish!” Wee Jamie shouted to his cousin. 

Fergus hummed, his eyes narrowing as he thought before his eyes glanced between Jamie and Claire. It was barely noticeable, you wouldn’t have seen it unless you were paying attention, the look had lasted no more than a couple of seconds. 

“It’s already come true,” Fergus said, before leaning forward and blowing out his candles. 

Chapter Text

“Right, let’s go,” Jamie said, opening the door for Fergus and taking the offered bag. Fergus hopped out of the car, shut the door behind him, and grabbed Jamie’s hand, walking by his father’s side as they made their way up to the office. “Are ye ready to get that off?” 

“Oui, Papa,” Fergus said, looking from his father to the cast on his arm, “it itches,” he lifted his arm up and wrinkled his nose, “and smells.” 

Jamie laughed, “Ye’re no’ supposed to smell it, God, just like yer auntie and grannie, always stinkin’ yer nose where it doesna belong.” 

Fergus said nothing in response but grinned up at his father, taking the remark as a compliment. Jamie opened the door for Fergus and together, hand-in-hand, they walked through the appropriate office door. The walls were a light calming blue, the carpeting was imitating a large jigsaw puzzle, and in the corner was a pile of what Jamie assumed to be disease-ridden toys. He motioned for Fergus to take a seat in one of the plastic chairs, handed him his bag, and waited patiently in line to check in. 

“How are you doing today, Mister Fraser?” the peppy secretary asked him, waving to Fergus who returned the gesture. 

“Eager to get the cast off, aye?” Jamie told her, signing the papers she placed in front of him. He glanced at them: liability waivers, medical release permission, and receipt of payment, all standard, he signed them every time they visited.

“I’m sure he is,” the receptionist said, taking the papers back and giving him an approving nod, “The Doctor is runnin’ a little behind, we’ll call ye when we’re ready.” 

“Thank ye,” Jamie told her, turning to sit next to Fergus who was engrossed in his Switch game. He pulled out his phone and sent Claire a text: At the doctor now, shouldn’t be too long. Miss you! 

The three typing bubbles popped up right away, Jamie smiled, the kids must be at break if she was replying so quickly: Congrats to Fergus! I know he was anxious to get it off, miss you guys too :) 

It had been a hectic couple of weeks since Fergus’ birthday, and much to Jamie’s dismay, he hadn’t had time to see Claire outside of school pick-up, and even then Murtagh, Jenny, or his Mam had had to pick up Fergus once or twice. Jamie was working long hours at work, a new merger resulted in him taking on extra clients, he didn’t mind the extra work, he liked to stay busy, but was rather peeved at how little time he got to spend with his two favorite people– his son and very wonderful… pre-finance?

Jamie frowned, he wasn’t exactly sure what their label was, just that he was hers and she is. That had to be enough, Jamie reasoned, shrugging outwardly earning him a glance from Fergus. They were in love, that’s all that mattered. The fact that she was still married– no word from Ned about a court date though the lawyer swore it would be soon– and that she was Fegus’ teacher were just minor complications. They would get through it, they had to. 

Before Jamie could text her back, “Fergus?”

Jamie and Fergus looked up toward the door and were motioned to follow the nurse in scrubs plastered with unicorns and rainbows, Fergus handed his Switch back to Jamie and they followed her back. She took Fergus’ vitals, his height and weight, “I’ve grown, Papa! Look, a whole five centimeters!” Fergus shouted happily. 

“Ye’re just over a meter,” the nurse told him with a smile.

“That’s good!” Jamie told his son, “Ye’ll be taller than yer auntie soon at this rate.” 

They were led to a room at the end of the hall and given the usual, “the doctor will be with ye soon” and the door was shut behind the nurse. Jamie watched as Fergus crawled onto the table lined with paper, ready to help if Fergus asked for it– he didn’t. Fergus situated himself on the exam table, the paper crinkling underneath him, and motioned for his game back. Jamie handed it over and peered over Fergus’ shoulder, watching as Fergus’ character ran around a large field with a fishing rod in his hands. 

“What game is this?” Jamie asked, frowning as the character walked up to a river and cast the line. 

“Animal Crossing,” Fergus replied, not looking up from his screen. Jamie shook his head and left Fergus alone to his game, deciding to look over the variety of pamphlets and magazines on the rack next to the door. He shoved the pamphlet on ADHD into his pocket just as the door opened and the doctor walked in.

“Fergus! How are we doing today, little man?” 

“I’m good, Doctor Abernathy!” Fergus responded, instantly setting his game down to put his full attention on the new arrival. 

Doctor Joe Abernathy was a wonderful physician, he’d been Fergus’ pediatrician since Jamie had adopted him as a baby. Since he had been trained as a doctor in the U.S. Joe had been the only doctor at the time not swamped with patients, highlanders being naturally cautious about foreigners. Seven years later, however, and Joe Abernathy was a well-known pediatrician serving the town of Broch Mordha and the nearby area. Jamie was proud to have been one of Joe’s first patients, the doctor was kind, straightforward, up to date on the latest studies and medical advancements, and overall very wonderful with the children, making every effort to connect with them.

“I understand we’re here to get that cast off, is that right?” Abernathy asked Fergus who nodded eagerly. “Let's get the party started then!” 

It was a rather simple procedure, the cast was cut open with a small electrical saw and the bandage underneath was cut with scissors. It took no more than ten minutes for them to get a glimpse– and smell– of Fergus’ newly healed limb, pale and small after weeks of being confined in the plaster. Abernathy set the saw down and carefully examined Fergus’ arm, turning it slightly and running a fingertip down the skin. 

“All healed,” Abernathy told them.

“How does it feel, a chuilein?” Jamie asked, lightly tapping his hand against his thigh to create a repetitive thump as he eyed Fergus. 

Fergus twisted his arm slowly, “It feels weird.”

 “It's going to be stiff for a week or two, start moving it slowly and increase the exercise each day– I’ll give you a paper to follow. The skin is sensitive, so don’t scratch–” he said firmly, staring into Fergus’ eyes “– you mustn't scratch. Go straight home and take a warm shower, the dead skin will wash off, don’t scrub hard either or you’ll just end up back here with me.”  He turned to Jamie,  “Keep an eye out for swelling and if it starts to hurt call me immediately.”

Jamie nodded. 

“No strenuous activities, no sports, and play light, absolutely no wrestling or any activity that can exert or cause harm to the arm.”

“Does that mean no chores?” Fergus asked, half-joking as he smiled from his father to the doctor.  

“Ye wish ye wee gomerel,” Jamie said, ruffling Fergus’ unruly mop of hair. 

Abernathy laughed, “Nice try, maybe next time, sport. You two are all set to go, I’ll have the receptionist give you the exercise sheet.” 

“Can I keep it?” Fergus asked, pointing to the discarded plaster that used to house his arm.

“I don’t see why not,” Abernathy said with a shrug, piling the two pieces together and handing them to Fergus. 

They left the doctor’s office, Jamie taking a picture of Fergus with his arm free and cast in hand, sending the picture captioned ‘Free at last’ to Claire, Murtagh, Jenny, and his mam. And with Fergus buckled safely in the car, Jamie drove home, having taken the whole day off to stay with Fergus after the appointment. By the time Jamie pulled into the driveway, his phone gave two dings signaling the receival of texts, one from Jenny and the other from Claire. 

Jenny: He looks so happy! Good job Fergus! 

Claire: Make sure he takes it easy, don’t want it to break again. I’m glad it went well. 

Jamie smiled at Claire’s message, of course, she would be concerned that Fergus would hurt it again, she’ll make a damn fine mother. His heart dropped when he remembered that Claire had been a mother, for a blissful six months before tragedy struck and the child was lost, Frank not far behind, though good riddance to the latter. The thought of Frank made Jamie’s body tense, visibly enough that as he opened the car door for Fergus, the boy noticed his father’s body language immediately, and wisely chose to keep his mouth shut. 

Once inside, Jamie instructed Fergus to take a shower, reminding him not to scratch or scrub his arm as Jamie walked into the kitchen and turned on the coffee maker, he needed a jolt. As Jamie waited for the coffee to brew, he carefully opened the package that had been sitting on the counter for the last few days and was pleased to see that Fergus’ headphones had finally arrived. He would have Fergus try them on later.

In celebration of getting his cast off, Fergus was given extra screen time which allowed Jamie some free time as he checked his email, went through the mail– all junk–, and began to plan dinner. They had leftover roast from the night before but Jamie wanted something special, Fergus had been on his best behavior as Jamie spent more time at work, knowing his father was stressed enough as it was. He needed to be rewarded for that, Jamie’s subconscious pointed out, and he agreed wholeheartedly. Steak? No, Fergus wasn’t a fan of it. Fish? Not that either, the boy refused to eat any fish that tasted “fishy”, a problem only Ellen was able to circumvent. Pizza? They’d had pizza two nights before, that wasn’t special.

Jamie was about to throw in the towel and order a pizza anyway when the doorbell rang, startling him. He moved slowly to the door and swung it open, revealing Claire who was holding a greased paper bag in one hand and a bottle of coke in the other. 

“How did ye ken?” he asked, flabbergasted at how perfect her timing was with delicious smelling food.

“I knew you’d want to celebrate,” she told him, walking passed him and kicking off her shoes as he shut the door, “Fergus!” she called. 

They could hear Fergus coming from a mile off, his feet hurriedly thumping against the carpeted floor as he rushed toward them. “Claire!” he yelled happily, jumping the last few stairs and holding his arm up for her to see. “I got my cast off!” 

“I see that,” she said, handing Jamie the bag of food and drink to take Fergus’ arm in her hand. “It looks good, does it hurt?” 

“Non,” he shook his head, “it just itches… don’t scratch! I know,” he added before Jamie and Claire could tell him, he’d heard it enough already. Jamie narrowed his eyes as Claire laughed, a bubbling sound that made both Fraser boys smile. “Can we eat now?” 

“Go,” Jamie told him, pushing the bag into Fergus’ arms and watching with pleasure and Fergus rushed to the kitchen. “Have I thanked ye yet, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, turning his attention to her.

“You have not,” she stated with complete assurance. 

“Och, where are my manners?” he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him, pressing their bodies flush together, his hands going to rest on her round arse. “Thank ye, mo chridhe,” he leaned down and kissed her lips.

“Cheeky bastard,” she muttered, pulling away for a few seconds to breathe before resuming the connection. 

“I’ve missed ye, greatly,” he said when they broke apart, resting his forehead on hers. 

She linked her arms around his neck and held him to her, not letting him pull away, “We can’t be apart this long again, two weeks with only small meetings– where I can’t kiss you– are too little.” 

“I ken,” he hummed in response.

Before either could speak again, a crash came from the kitchen, and a loud, “Oops!” from Fergus made Jamie tear himself away from her. 

“Fergus!” Jamie shouted, rushing to the kitchen.

Claire ran a hand through her hair, sighing contently before following him, her lips still tingling from his touch. 

 

Chapter Text

    It was dark when she opened her eyes, dark and warm. She could hear the fan as it spun somewhere in the distance, creating a white noise that made her want to close her eyes and go back to sleep. She would have if it wasn’t for the large hard body pressing into her back. Claire twisted in her position to find Jamie lying behind her on his side,  arm slung tightly across her waist and his face buried into his pillow. He looked utterly adorable with his hair sticking up like a porcupine and a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. It warmed her heart to see him so at ease and relaxed. She had never seen him so peaceful.

    Jamie was generally an easy-going guy considering his many responsibilities of being a single parent, working full-time, helping support his entire family and now she was added into the mix. He wasn’t one to turn to immediate anger, he didn’t lose his temper often, she had only seen him upset with Frank and Dougal. On the outside, he was happy and completely in control but on the inside, he was tense. You could see it in the way he walked, he was practically ready to snap at any given moment. And Claire hoped she wasn’t there to see what happened when he did. 

    She turned to face him, lying on her side as she ran a hand up his arm and noticed that he wasn’t under the blanket with her, he was lying on top, giving her some sense of modesty. 

She didn’t remember getting into his bed– they were both fully clothed, she checked that next–but she did remember feeling exhausted. They’d cleaned up Fergus’ mess, he’d been trying to reach for a bottle of ketchup and instead knocked several glass jars of spices, before eating the burgers and fries she had brought. They had watched a movie after dinner, Lilo and Stitch, the parallels were obvious with that one, before Fergus had gone to bed. She hadn’t gone home, instead, grading assignments on the couch as Jamie worked on client proposals. She must have fallen asleep there and he’d carried her to his bed, tucking her under the blankets and settling into the mattress with her, forgoing the warmth of the coverings for her sake. 

He was a furnace, it seemed, radiating so much heat that Claire kicked the blanket off her leg to cool off. 

She smiled when she heard the soft snores coming from his open mouth, so he did snore, thankfully, not as loud as Frank, she wouldn’t go through that again. Frank was like an engine, his snores kept her awake many a night, she could have sworn he was rattling the windows. She’d started sleeping with earplugs and even that hadn’t blocked the noise completely. Jamie’s were light and short, instead of annoyance, she felt relief. Relief to know that he was alive and with her. 

I could get used to this, she thought, scooting closer to his body and nuzzling her nose into the crook of his neck. He snuffled in his sleep and tightened his arm around her. She fell asleep in his embrace, feeling safe and loved for the first time in years. 

The next afternoon, she found herself waiting in the lobby of Ned Gowan’s office. He’d called her that morning, requesting that she make the hour-long trip to his office in Inverness that day, ‘important matters to discuss’ he had said, refusing to speak more until they were face to face. Jamie had offered to accompany her but she turned him down, it was Saturday, he was due at Lallybroch to help with various tasks and dinner with his mom. She didn’t want him to skip time with his family to sit in a lawyer's office– Jamie hated lawyers, only dealing with them when necessary, Fergus’ adoption had been a worthwhile cause– and speak of her divorce. No, he should spend the day with his family and have fun. He hadn’t looked happy when she denied his companionship, but he didn’t press on the matter. Instead, he had given her a kiss on the lips and wished her luck, only requesting that he be informed of anything she felt comfortable sharing. She promised she’d tell him everything later that night. 

 It was a nice office, Claire mused, looking at her surroundings. The receptionist was a kind woman, attentively answering the phone each time it rang, greeting anyone who walked through the door and offering her refreshments every ten minutes that passed as she waited for Ned. 

Finally, the door opened to his office and a man walked out, looking utterly pleased with whatever news he’d been given. Claire watched as Ned bowed as his client spoke to the receptionist and turned toward her, a smile covering his face. “Are ye ready, Ms. Beauchamp?” 

She nodded, grabbed her purse from the floor at her feet, and followed him into the office; it was small and cozy, like the lobby. He motioned for her to take a seat in one of the two chairs and sat on his own on the other side of the table. She waited patiently as he fumbled through the various stacks of papers on his desk, “Ah, there it is,” he mumbled to himself, pulling out a large manilla folder buried in the middle of one of the stacks.

“I’m usually more organized, but it’s been a long week,” he explained, giving her an apologetic smile.

“No worries,” she flicked her hand in dismissal. 

“Now then,” he pushed the wiry glasses up his nose, cleared his throat, and began, “ as we thought he would, Frank has officially filed a motion to contest the divorce.” 

“Of course,” Claire scoffed, shaking her head, “he could never make things easy for me.”

Ned nodded, “He tried to get the hearing in London, but I was able to get it moved here.”

“Here?” Claire asked, looking at him questioningly, “So, I don’t have to go to London?” 

“Not at all!” Ned assured her. “You were married here, in Scotland, only a few miles from Inverness, correct?”

She nodded in response.

“Given that fact, I argued that since the marriage started in Inverness, it should end here as well. Frank and his lawyer weren’t too happy wi’ that but the judge saw it my way.” 

“I… I- that’s amazing, Ned, thank you.” Claire said. 

“Dinna fash about it,” it was Ned’s turn to dismiss the thought, “I reasoned that you would want to be close to home. The date is set for three weeks from now, a directions hearing to see if there’s a possible way to settle the matter– which I assume won’t be possible. Then, we move to trial, present the evidence– witness statements, written testimonies, pictures, stuff of that matter– to help support our cause,” Ned explained, speaking slowly to help her understand and keep up with the information, “then the judge will make their ruling.” 

“Could they rule in Frank’s favor?” Claire asked, suddenly worried, “Could they actually force me to stay married to him?” 

Ned stiffened in his seat and frowned with a sigh, “It’s… technically possible, yes, but I assure you, my dear, it is rare. If that happens, we’ll file a motion of disagreement.” 

“Okay,” Claire said with a nod, “What can I do?”

“Ye have a list of names, aye? Of the women, he was with?” 

“I do,” Claire took the offered pen and paper from him and wrote the six names down, writing any information she had on them including looks, place of residence, and where they worked; Frank had been very sloppy in his affairs, not even bothering to hide the women he was with. When she was finished, she slid the paper over the desk toward him and watched as he picked it up and read the information. 

“Wonderful! This is a nice start, now, as I said before, infidelity is the way to go in this case since there’s an ample amount of evidence we can use. Unreasonable behavior would be next, though harder to prove–”

“Would stopping by at my current home, unannounced, and threatening me count?” Claire interrupted him. 

“What now?” Ned asked, dropping the paper in shock. “He did what?”

Clarie explained in great detail the Saturday morning Claire had watched Fergus for Jamie, telling Ned how Frank had interacted with the boy and his treatment toward her and the threats he had made. Even though she hadn’t intended to use it, Claire had picked up the card he had given to her and smartly kept it, handing it to Ned as she finished apprising him of the situation.  

“My lord…” Ned said, surprised at the story, “And why, might I ask, was I not informed of this encounter? We could have filed a motion for a restraining order– and easily won it as well.” 

“I, uh, it didn’t occur to me,” she answered honestly, “I was in shock and didn’t really want to think about it. Besides, we changed the locks and installed a security system.” 

“We?”

“Jamie and I,” Claire explained, “he came over after it happened, Fergus called him, and set everything up.” 

“Right…” Ned nodded, he thought silent for a moment before clearing his desk– placing the stacks of paper onto the ground– and focusing his attention squarely on her, free of distraction. “I’m going to ask ye three questions, aye? Now, think carefully, and be sure of your answer– they could make or break this case for us. Understand?” 

After her nod, he continued, “Question number one, do you still wish to pursue a divorce from your husband, Frank Randall?” 

“Yes,” she answered immediately. 

“Good, good. Question two, are you still in love with him?”

“No.”

“Last one, this is the most important– have you had sexual relations with anyone besides your legal husband during the marriage?” 

“No,” she answered quickly, giving a reassuring nod. Given the events of last night she had slept with another man, Jamie to be precise, but they had yet to do anything physical besides roaming hands, and even that was over the clothes. “I’ve been completely faithful to my husband,” she winced at the word, “to Frank, but he has not returned the favor.” 

“Well, in that case,” Ned gave her a warm smile, “I think we’re in good standing. In just a couple of months, ye could be a free woman.” 

She could be free, well, free to marry Jamie, anyway, which she fully intended to do. She had no intentions of becoming single again, she wanted Jamie and Fergus more than she’d ever wanted anything in her entire life. 

“I can’t wait,” she said honestly and with that, she left Ned’s office, thinking of her future in a positive light. 

 

Chapter Text

    It was a beautiful day, and for once, Claire got to enjoy it. It was an abnormally sunny day in the highlands, the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Claire let out a wistful sigh as she bit into the sandwich Jamie had made her. Following her normal routine, Claire had all been prepared to buy a packet of crisps, a candy bar, and soda from the vending machines in the teacher’s lounge, instead, when she had gone into her desk to retrieve her wallet, a small paper bag had fallen into her lap; a BLT wrapped firmly in saran wrap. Fergus must’ve slipped it into her desk when she hadn’t been looking. She had looked around for him upon the discovery, and the little bugger had been nowhere to be found, meaning she couldn’t question him. It was no doubt from Jamie, though, she could recognize his handwriting anywhere: Try actual food for a change, I promise you’ll like it. Love J

    It was absolutely delicious and just what she needed on a warm day like today, as she bit into the sandwich, juices from the tomato and lettuce ran down her chin mixed with the crunch of the bacon. Jamie wasn't a five-star chef by any means but his prowess in the kitchen was unmistakable and just what their relationship would be need considering pasta was the butt-end of her culinary knowledge.

She was sitting on one of the benches in the playground, supervising the students as she ate her lunch, it wasn’t her rotation, she usually supervised on Thursday’s but Mary Hawkins had called out for a family emergency. Her husband, Claire assumed, was probably sick again. Alex Randall– no relation to Frank– was a sickly man, she was always complaining about his various illnesses, but she loved him, nonetheless. When Colum had asked her that morning to take on Mary’s playground shift, she had quickly agreed, she would be eating lunch alone anyways, might as well eat it outside. 

She finally spotted Fergus as he, Young Ian, Marsali, and Roger weaved their way through the flying swings. She had half a mind to scold them, the last thing the school– she – needed was for Fergus – and the other students, of course– to get hurt on school property. They were managing well, though, and always seemed to make it to their destination with plenty of time to spare so Claire let them be; one good kick in the rump or head and they would stop anyway, some children needed to learn the hard way, and Fergus was definitely one of them. She was so distracted by her delicious sandwich and keeping an eye on the children that Claire didn’t notice as someone sat next to her on the bench until they spoke.

“So, when’s the weddin’?” 

Claire choked on the food in her mouth and coughed, spitting out the bread as she tried to regain herself, “What?” she asked, still coughing, turning to find Geillis staring at her in amusement. 

“The weddin’,” Geillis said, raising her eyebrows. 

“I’m not getting married,” Claire cleared her throat. “Well, I can’t have a wedding, I’m still married.” 

“Dinna play dumb wi’ me, Claire,” Geillis rolled her eyes, “to the wee fox cub’s da, I mean,” the woman clarified, waving a hand in Fergus’ general direction. “I ken yer involved, it’s pretty obvious.” 

“No, it isn’t,” Claire protested. 

“Aye, it is,” Geillis insisted, scooting closer to Claire so her lowered voice could be heard, “I’ve seen ye two at pick-up, the moon eyes and the fact that the bigger fox cub looks like he wants to knock ye down and ravage ye, no matter who sees.” 

Much to her horror, Claire could feel the blush spread its way up her neck and face, giving her usual fine skin a red tint. The mental image Geillis had induced couldn’t be helped, she could very well imagine Jamie’s naked body, she’d seen him shirtless enough to conjure it perfectly and she had seen his ass once before, accidentally, of course, but she could still see it. She wanted him, physically, sexually, and knew that if they weren’t tied by her marriage and case against Frank they would have crossed the boundary long ago.

Geillis’ grin widened, apparently pleased that her words were having such an effect on Claire, “Dinna fash, Claire, I willna tell anyone.” 

“Why should I believe you?” Claire asked. 

Geillis frowned, the fact that Claire didn’t trust her while not understandable seemed to surprise her, “Ye see Dougal over there?” Geillis pointed to the other side of the playground where Dougal stood supervising a group of students as they played with the borrowed shinty sticks from his department. “We’re together.” 

“Together?” It was Claire’s turn to frown at the other woman, “Isn’t he married?” Claire couldn’t remember Jamie’s aunt’s name but knew Dougal was married, had been for twenty years with four daughters to show for it, she had met three of them at Fergus’ birthday.  

Geillis rolled her eyes and dismissed the idea, “Please,” she scoffed, “Maura doesna leave the house, agoraphobia, I believe it is. Ye canna blame the man for strayin’ from his marriage bed, the lass is a mess, and hasna touched him in years. It’s only natural for him to seek it elsewhere.” 

“I don’t think Maura would see it as such.” 

Geillis shrugged, uncaring, “Anyway,” she turned back to Claire, “yer secret is as safe wi’ me as mine is wi’ ye, remember that, hen.” And with that, Geillis stood from the bench and left Clarie alone with her lunch, which she was no longer hungry enough to eat. 

Claire did her best to distract herself from the conversation with Geillis, throwing herself into the afternoon lesson more than usual, keeping herself busy at all costs to prevent the panicked thoughts from taking over. She also kept a distance between herself and Fergus as much as appropriate for student and teacher, the lad, like his father, had the uncanny ability to tell when something was off. Her glass face made it easy for anyone to see she was preoccupied but the Fraser boys were exceptionally good at reading her; all the time they spent together in close quarters, most like

She was relieved when the final bell rang and she marched her class to the front of the school for pick-up, eager to go home, soak in a hot bath, and panic in peace. She was robbed of the opportunity, however, when she spotted Jamie in the crowd who immediately frowned and sent her a text: Come over

She gave him a silent nod above the heads of children, she would be there, and he repeated the gesture in kind, taking Fergus by the hand and leading him to the car. 

And that was how Clarie found herself pacing back and forth, wearing a path down in Jamie’s kitchen as she struggled to find her thoughts. Jamie leaned against the counter, waiting patiently for her to work out what was bothering her. Fergus was situated in front of the tv with a snack, they were alone. 

“Geillis knows, about us,” Claire said, motioning to the space between them as she continued to walk, “and if Geillis knows, then Dougal knows– they’re sleeping together–” Jamie’s eyebrows rose at the information but he said nothing, “and if Dougal knows then Colum knows,” Claire continued. 

“Sassenach,” Jamie spoke softly, trying to calm her, “if Colum kent, wouldn’t he have said somethin’ to ye by now?” 

“I don’t bloody know!” Claire said, exasperated, “He’s your uncle.” 

“Aye, he is,” Jamie agreed, crossing his arms against his chest, “and if he does ken, which we dinna ken that he does, he’s either keepin’ his mouth shut because yer invaluable to him and he doesna want to lose ye, holdin’ it for blackmail, or bidin’ his time.” 

“Was that supposed to make me feel better? Because it didn’t,” she snapped at him.

Jamie sighed, removed himself from the counter, and crossed the room, wrapping his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. She did her best to shrug him off but was no match for his large arms. “Would it make ye feel better, ease yer mind, if we told him? If we came out?”

She froze, both in her actions to free herself and mentally as she processed his proposal.

Come out? Officially? As a couple? The thought had never occurred to her before now. The danger was always there, that they would be caught, she worried about that enough but to willingly expose their relationship… no. It had never crossed her mind. It could go only one of two ways, either it would be overlooked and they could move on happily, or she would be fired and possibly lose her credentials if Colum was so inclined; the latter seemed much more likely, and the thought made her uneasy. She had worked so hard to become a teacher, not only had she fallen in love with the Frasers but with her students as well. She couldn’t imagine coming to work and not being greeted by their smiling faces, the way their eyes lit up as they grasped a concept for the first time, it was like a drug. One she had no intention of kicking. 

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head, “no,” she repeated more firmly. “I-I can’t risk my job, Jamie, I can’t.” 

“All right, all right,” he said softly, kissing the back of her head in silent reassurances, “we willna tell him then. I only suggested it to try and make ye feel more… safe, I suppose. But yer right, Claire, it’s a risk to yer job and I willna have ye do that. Though…” he tapered off, going silent behind her.

“Though, what?” she asked, turning in his arms to stare up at him. 

“It canna be a secret forever, can it? I mean, we can hide a relationship well enough but we’re goin’ to be marritt, Sassenach, surely ye dinna wanna hide it that long.” 

“I don’t know what I was planning on us doing,” she told him hesitantly, honestly, “but the idea of our relationship going public–”

“Are ye ashamed of me?” he asked, stunning her with his words, “Ashamed of Fergus?” 

She blinked at him, unsure if she had heard him properly, “What? Of course not! Jesus, Jamie, why would you ever think such a thing? I love you and Fergus. I would never be ashamed of either of you, never ,” 

He nodded slowly, almost as if he was reassuring himself, “If ye say so.”

“I do!” she yelled at him, sighing, and wrapping her arms around his torso, “And if I ever hear you say such a thing again I’ll make your ears ring. Understand?” she cupped his chin with her hand and gave him a firm squeeze.

“Aye, I do,” 

“Good, lad,” she nodded resolutely, stood on her tip-toes, and kissed him soundly, erasing his and her own fears with the action. Where the hell had his self-doubts come from? Completely out of the left-field, that was not a discussion she had ever imagined on she would need to have with him.

The kiss deepened as he held her to him, pushing her body closer to his, she moaned under his touch as the aching feeling that had enveloped her since lunch slowly melted away. He smirked at her noises and walked her back until he had her up against the wall, right next to the refrigerator, kissing her senseless.  They stayed in their cocoon, happy to be alone in their own little world for as long as they could, where the troubles of the outside world could be forgotten. A certain part of his anatomy was growing under the repeated friction and she was forced to add space between them before they got carried away. 

The bigger fox cub looks like he wants to knock ye down and ravage ye, no matter who sees

The words echoed in her ears as she stared at him, his body trying desperately to inhale the oxygen he was deprived of, his eyes dark and hooded with his lust, his hair mused and his face red. He shifted uncomfortably under her gaze and from the tightness in his slacks. The fabric was doing little to hide his excitement and Claire’s cheeks brimmed crimson at the sight. 

“I, uh,” he coughed, voice hoarse, “I think it best if I take a cold shower.”

She nodded, “I think that’s a good idea. I’ll start dinner?” 

“Aye,” he licked his lips, “there’s a casserole my mam brought over earlier in the fridge. It just needs to be put in the oven for a bit, instructions are on the pot.” He looked her over, up and down, firmed himself resolutely before turning on his heel to march himself upstairs to shower. Claire closed her eyes, sighed, opened them,  moved toward the refrigerator, removed the pot from the appliance, and placed it in the oven following Ellen’s written instructions. When the oven was on and the door locked securely, she cursed James Fraser under her breath for his impeccable good looks and resigned herself to the living room with Fergus. 

Nothing killed the mood more than the presence of a child.

At least she hoped that was true.   

Chapter Text

    “What do you think?” Claire asked, holding up a blue blouse and slimming pair of jeans against her body. 

Jamie nodded appreciatively from his position on her bed and grinned, “The clothes on the outside, mo cridhe, dinna matter, it’s what’s underneath that counts.” he gave her his signature owl-wink before chuckling to himself. 

“Stop it!” she threw the blouse at him which he ducked expertly, “I’m not going to talk about what panties or bra I’m going to wear to meet your sister. I need to look… professional?” Claire was nervous, meeting Janet Fraser-Murray for the first time, being properly introduced as Jamie’s partner was the next big step in their relationship. Claire had seen Jenny before, of course, around the school when she picked up or dropped off her kids, at Fergus’ birthday but they had yet to interact to a meaningful, besides the common courtesies of ‘Good morning’ or ‘How are you?’. 

And Jamie was being of no help to calm her nerves. He, apparently, saw Jenny as his older nosy sister whose opinions, therefore, didn’t count. Claire, however, knew that Jenny’s opinion rivaled Ellen’s, she would need both to move forward with the Fraser boys and she was eager for the woman’s approval. Ellen, she had already won over, thankfully, and was no longer a concern; hopefully, if things went sour with Jenny Ellen could step in and lend a hand. 

“Could you help, please?” Claire implored, tossing the black jeans and blouse Jamie retrieved for her into the no-pile which was steadily rising in height with every discarded outfit option. 

“Claire,” Jamie stood from the bed and crossed to her, he set his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead, “it doesna matter what ye wear, Jenny will like ye fine, ye could be stark naked– wait, no, she would mind that, Ian wouldna though.”

“Jamie…” 

“All right, all right,” he conceded, his eyes roaming her body before he spoke, “dinna wear anythin’ I would like ye in, my sister is no’ against callin’ out… provocative clothes. It should be somethin’ simple, what about that sweater ye wore to meet Mam?” 

“I already wore that to meet your mother, I can’t wear the same thing to meet your sister.” 

The look on Jamie’s face made her laugh, he looked completely baffled at her statement and seemed as if he was trying to connect the pieces in his head. 

“Why no’? It’s no’ like there’s a rule.” 

“I just can’t, please, Jamie, pick something out,” she pushed him toward her closet and watched as he carefully began to look through her clothes. Claire walked to the door of her bedroom and stuck her head into the hallway, she couldn’t see Fergus from here but knew he was in the living room watching cartoons, loudly, considering she could follow the plot of whatever scheme Patrick and Spongebob were getting into. “Turn it down, Fergus, it’s much too loud. You’ll damage your hearing!” she shouted at him, not moving from her spot until the volume decreased.

“Oui, milady!” Fergus responded as the voices from the television lowered. 

“Where the bloody hell did he get that?” Claire asked, turning back to Jamie who was still rifling through her closet. 

Jamie shrugged, pulled a shirt off its hanger before shaking his head and replacing it, “I dinna ken, Sassenach, ye’ll have to ask him.” 

Claire nodded, making a mental note to speak to Fergus later before joining Jamie in the closet to resume their task. 

In the end, Jamie chose a grey blouse with a black cardigan, the jeans from earlier, and a matching pair of black flats. She was hesitant with his choice considering she was practically in all black but upon Jamie’s insistence, she found the outfit looked marvelous on her. The black slimmed her figure considerably and created a sophisticated yet casual look that was perfect for meeting Jenny. When she was dressed, Claire began the process of applying a light layer of makeup, just foundation with a bit of lipstick, and Jamie joined Fergus on the couch.

The boys were dressed casually, both in jeans and trainers with Jamie wearing a light-blue polo and Fergus a t-shirt covered with sharks. Jamie’s hair was tied back while Fergus’ was left to run wild, the curly mop sticking up in odd directions. 

There were a beautiful sight, sitting next to each other on the couch, Fergus’ hands gripping his father’s arm as something nerve-wracking played on the screen in front of them. They were made for each other, that much was obvious, Jamie Fraser was born to be Fergus’ father and vice versa; if you weren’t aware of Fergus’ origins you might never have figured out that he was adopted, that’s how much he mirrored his father’s mannerisms and appearance. The boy had even forgone a haircut in an effort to grow his hair to match Jamie’s length, he idolized his father and Claire hoped she could be just as much of a role model for him.

She could watch them all evening, but the clock chimed four and Claire knew she must break the spell if they were going to get to Jenny’s on time. 

“Ready, lads?” she asked, smiling as their heads turned to look at her simultaneously.

“Vous êtes belle!” Fergus said, moving on the couch to face her so his belly was against the back, his hands on the top as he grinned at her. (You look beautiful!)

“Say it in Gàdhlig,” Jamie told his son, nudging the boy softly with his elbow. Fergus had long since mastered French, the language being his native tongue meant he was fluent by five. Jamie thought it important to keep Fergus connected to his heritage and with that decision, the boy would learn Gàdhlig as well, though this was a slower process since the language was rarely spoken outside of the home. Jamie had informed Claire on their first date that Gàdhlig had actually been his and siblings’ first language, Ellen and Brian hadn’t bothered to teach their children English until Willie started school, both the MacKenzie’s and Fraser’s all spoke it so communication hadn’t been a problem. 

Fergus was French by birth but Scottish by heart, and no child of Jamie’s would not learn the language. It was a point of pride and principle to the family. 

Fergus frowned and glanced from his father to Claire, trying to piece together the words in his mind before he dared to speak them aloud, “Tha thu a ’coimhead glè bhrèagha,” he said slowly, being careful to speak the words. (You look very beautiful)

“Aye, that’s good, laddie,” Jamie said with a smile, clapping a hand onto Fergus’ back. “Shall we go then?” 

Fergus nodded and scampered off the couch, grabbed Claire’s hand before he towed her outside toward the car. Jamie and Claire spent the car ride listening to Fergus talk about his day while their hands clung together on the center console. It wasn’t long before they drove onto the Fraser-Murray properly, this time instead of venturing into the darkness toward Ellen’s house, they parked next to a mini-van under the light of a standing lamp pole. 

Claire opened Fergus’ door and took the boys offered hand, he gave her a smile and nod of encouragement as they waited for Jamie to join them. They were only halfway up the steps before the door burst open and a group of children ran out with a chorus of “Uncle Jamie” and “Fergus”. 

“Back inside ye wee heathens!” Ian bellowed from the doorway, glaring as his children abandoned their path and turned to go back inside. “Let yer uncle and cousin arrive in peace, off wi’ ye all. Fergus,” Ian turned to his nephew, “would ye like to go and play wi’ yer cousins?” 

Fergus looked eager to accept his uncle’s offer but hesitated, he glanced up at Claire as if he was seeking her permission. 

“Go,” she told him, smiling at him, granting his silent request. Fergus grinned at her, squeezed her hand one last time in reassurance before he chased after his cousins inside the house. 

“Ian, this is Claire,” Jamie said, introducing them, “Claire, my brother-in-law, and my best friend, Ian Murray.” 

“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” Claire said, taking Ian’s outstretched hand in greeting, “I’ve heard so much about you.” 

“Jaime talks non-stop about ye, it’s always ‘Claire this’ or ‘Claire that’, I’m surprised it took him this long to bring ye home. What’s wrong wi’ ye, man? Ye should have brought her sooner.” 

“I wanted her to myself for a while, ye ken? I kent once I brought her over I wouldna have her to myself anymore, I’m allowed to be selfish, aye?” Jamie told him. 

Ian laughed and nodded in agreement, “Oh, aye, weel, come in, come in,” he stepped aside to let them enter. Ian was a tall man, only a couple of inches shorter than Jamie, and despite his prosthetic leg he stood straight and proud; his brown hair, like Jamie’s, was tied neatly back with his warm brown eyes gazing upon her in excitement. “Ye look verra bonnie tonight, Claire,” 

“Thank you, Ian,” Claire said with a smile. 

“Jenny’s in the kitchen and Mam is upstairs with Michael, he’s got a wee stomach ache at the moment,” Ian explained, shutting the door behind Jamie and Claire. “The rest of the lot is in the den, most like, ye’ll meet them later.” 

“What can I get ye both to drink? Jamie, whiskey? Claire, tea?” Ian asked as he settled into his role of host. 

“I wouldna mind a toddy,” Jamie told him. 

“Just tea for me, thank you, Ian,” 

“I’ll get those for ye, please, sit,” Ian motioned to the couch before he disappeared into the kitchen to the left of the entrance. 

It was a lively home, warm and cozy despite the original stone walls. It was clear that a family lived here, the walls were adorned with pictures and drawings done by the children. Claire was not surprised to find that Jenny kept a tidy home, by the door was a bookcase turned cubby with each shelf bearing the name of a child; everything had a place and everything was in that place, tucked nice and neat where the owner could find it. 

The woman was a marvel. 

Claire smiled when she noticed Fergus’ shelf, it was empty at the moment but nonetheless his to burden when he was over; he really was treated as a member of the family, and though Claire had no reason to expect anything less, it still warmed her heart to see the proof. Jamie, with a hand on the small of her back, lead her into the living room and pulled her down onto the couch with him as they waited for Ian to return with the drinks.

“Dinna be nervous,” Jamie said, kissing the side of her head, “yer doin’ just fine, dinna fash,” 

She nodded at his words and gave him an uneasy smile.

It was not Ian who appeared a few minutes with the drinks but Jenny, Claire stood from her seat to greet the woman. 

Jenny was rather short given the height of her brother and mother, she reached Claire’s nose while on Jamie she must’ve only come up to his mid-chest. If Jamie was the spitting image of their mother then Jenny was the embodiment of their father, Brian. Jenny had his curly black hair though she had inherited the same slanted blue eyes as her brother. They hadn’t spoken yet, but Claire could feel the authoritativeness radiating off Jenny the moment she had stepped into the room, it was clear who was in charge, and Claire doubted that anyone but Ellen could challenge her daughter in that matter. Jamie may argue all he wished, but he wouldn’t win in that regard. 

Jenny set the tray of drinks she was carrying onto the coffee table before eyeing Claire slowly, piercing her lips as she took the woman in, “Weel,” Jenny began, placing her hands on her hips, “‘bout time ye brought her over, Jamie,” 

“I ken it,” Jamie agreed, “but she’s here now, and ye better be nice, Janet.” 

Jenny scoffed and waved a dismissive hand at her brother, “Dinna even think about tellin’ me how to behave in my own home, Jamie Fraser,” 

Jamie immediately opened his mouth to respond to his sister but Claire beat him to it, shooting Jamie a warning glare as she said, “You do have a lovely home, Jenny, how do you manage to keep it so well together? I imagine you have your hands full taking care of so many children, your husband, brother, and nephew. It’s simply amazing.” 

Jenny seemed taken aback, her face going blank as she processed Claire’s complement and thought of a response, “Aye,” she said with a nod a minute later, “it’s verra difficult at times, but they’re mostly well behaved. The bairns listen better than Jamie does.” 

Jamie slouched into the couch and mumbled under his breath, going silent when he noticed the glare Claire aimed in his direction. 

Jenny laughed, a hearty laugh that made Claire smile, “Weel, ye must be somethni’ special and verra familiar wi’ my brother to have him by the balls so quickly. I’ve never seen anyone able to quiet him wi’ a look, no’ even Mam or Da.” 

“I’ve no physical familiarity with your brother’s balls– not yet anyway–  I’ll still take the compliment, though, he can be rather difficult at times,” Claire told her honestly, Jenny’s eyebrows rose as Jamie’s face flushed red, “And regardless, I love your brother and your nephew. I’d do anything for either of them.” 

“I believe ye,” Jenny said in astonishment, surprising both Jamie and Claire, “Mam’s told me everythin’ ye’ve done for my brother and favorite nephew, and I canna thank ye enough, however, I’m no’ sure what I think of ye just yet,” Jenny said. 

“And I’ll do everything I can to prove it to you,” Claire told her.

“Aye, I suppose ye’ll have to,” Jenny nodded, she opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Fergus who came barreling into the room with excitement, for once, his timing worked out in Claire’s favor for which she was grateful. 

“Claire, come with me,” Fergus said, grabbing Claire’s hand, pulling her in the direction from whence he’d come, “I want to show you the house in Minecraft I built! Cousin Jamie said it’s not very good but I want to know what you think.” 

“If you built it, Fergus, then I’m sure it’s amazing, I’d love to see it,” Claire told him, not able to resist sending a smirk in Jenny’s direction. 

Jenny let out a small humph but said nothing, crossing her arms instead and eyeing the other woman. 

Claire was all but happy to leave Jenny and Jamie to whatever argument she was sure would follow, and eagerly followed Fergus down the hall to the den.

Chapter Text

    The house was immense and intricate, Fergus must have spent days, if not weeks, building and planning his creation. It was a large base, built with planks of acacia and dark oak, chandeliers made of fences, and torches with an open skylight, allowing for copious amounts of sunlight during the day. The inside was extremely detailed, furnishing made with various blocks to give a semblance of reality. Fergus, in video games at least, was surprisingly tidy, his loot was organized alphabetically in the basement, blazing furnaces in one corner, and a small nook for enchanting in the other. The area in front of his base was covered in automatic farms, beehives, and a large plotting area for food. He had even built a large stable for the black horse he had tamed and subsequently named Donas. And although Claire didn’t understand half of what he was saying, the look on his face made the time well spent. He was absolutely enjoying himself. 

    Claire was sitting on the old tattered brown couch sandwiched between Wee Jamie and Young Ian with Fergus on her lap, leaning against her for support as he twidled with the controller in his lap. They were playing split-screen, Fergus giving her the grand tour while Wee Jamie mined for ore, Young Ian, Claire suspected, wasn’t actually doing anything, she doubted his wireless controller even had a battery pack. While the boys played their game, the girls, Janet and Maggie, were coloring on Claire’s right, drawing abstract shapes on various colors of construction paper.  

    She wrapped her arms around Fergus’ middle, holding him closer to her as he showed her how to work his wheat farm. It was simple, the pressing of a single button would release a flow of water which would drag the wheat down toward a second stream where they would flow into a hopper and chest for collection. 

    “Do you want to try?” Fergus asked, holding up the controller for her to take if she so desired.

    “No,” she told him, “I’m more than happy to watch you play.” 

    Fergus grinned, pleased to have an adult interested in his game for once, and told Wee Jamie they should prepare for a trip to the Nether, “I want to show Claire the zombie pigmen!” Wee Jamie nodded enthusiastically, apparently, it was imperative to their gameplay that she see these zombie pigmen if both boys agreed on the journey. 

    She was only half paying attention by the time they went through the Nether portal, though her eyes were glued to the screen ten feet away her mind was elsewhere, upstairs with the adults. She’d expected and prepared herself for a hostile meeting with Jenny, the woman cast a very warm light on those she loved and a cold one on the ones she didn’t. Claire didn’t feel cold by Jenny’s gaze, nor hot, she was somewhere in the middle, she supposed. Jenny thought enough of her as Fergus’ teacher, the boy had made a remarkable improvement under her tutelage, but professional courtesy would only go so far. It was as Jamie’s partner and Fergus’ mother that she had yet to prove to Jenny. 

    Jenny Fraser-Murray was formidable and a central part of family life; she and Jamie were close, according to Ellen. They were inseparable since their older brother, Willie, had died and their bond had only increased and strengthened by Brian’s death two decades later. She was protective of her brother and nephew, and it startled Claire to realize that Jenny– as ridiculous as it sounded– was scared. Jenny had been there since the beginning, the very beginning, she had been present at Jamie’s birth, when Fergus was adopted, and staples in their everyday life. 

    Claire felt an immense amount of admiration for the woman.

    Ellen was a wonderful mother, the ideal matriarch but when Brian died she was suddenly in charge of a large property with residential tenants, business deals, and during the holiday season a very popular tourist attraction. And even though Ellen’s children were grown– Jenny was married with children and Jamie had just become a father– she was a single mother, left alone to carry on the family mantle. Except she hadn’t, Jenny had taken on responsibilities to ease her mother’s burdens. 

    It was Jenny, Jamie had told her, that helped him settle into life as a father after Fergus’ adoption was been finalized. Jenny, who with her own children to care for, had visited every day, checking on her brother and new nephew, cooking them meals, and babysitting at a moment’s notice to give him much-needed peace. Jenny hadn’t missed a single appointment with Fergus’ pediatrician, not wanting Jamie to be alone, and it was Jenny who had been present with him at the ADHD diagnosis; a term neither sibling had heard before but together conducted research to understand. 

    Jenny was the center of their worlds, the closest thing Fergus had to a mother and the only stable partner Jamie had ever had. Then suddenly, a stranger barged in and took her place. No wonder Jenny was frigid, she was scared of being replaced, scared that someone would hurt her beloved boys. It certainly didn’t make matters better that Claire was still married to a cold, unrelenting husband. If Jenny found out about Frank’s interaction with Fergus, Claire suspected that shit would literally hit the fan. Jenny was fierce and stubborn– Claire would pay good money to see Jenny and Frank go toe-to-toe, and she’d put all her savings on Jenny for the win. 

    If she could win Jenny over, maybe the woman could help her get rid of Frank.

    Now that was an idea.

    Claire nodded to herself, pleased with the thought, and turned her attention back to the television. Since she had not been paying attention, she had no idea what was going on but cheered Fergus on as he battled some floating ghost with his shinning diamond sword. 

    “Dinner’s ready!” A voice behind them announced, causing all the children and Claire to turn and find the source. Ellen was standing in the doorway with a smile on her lips and hands on her sides, daring someone to protest. The children, evidently knowing their grandmother, set down their crayons and controllers and walked past Ellen, rushing toward the dinner table. Fergus hopped off Claire’s lap, offered her his hand which she immediately took, and together with Ellen they returned to the outside world. 

    Jamie was seated at one end of the table, both chairs next to him empty with Ian on the other end, shooting daggers at his brood of children as they clambered into their seats. 

    “Have fun?” Jamie asked as Claire and Fergus took their seats. 

    “Claire, unlike you, Papa, enjoyed my house,” Fergus told his father with his nose in the air, “she said it was magnificent.” 

    “It was quite elaborate,” Claire confirmed, smiling at Fergus, “perhaps, though, you’ve been spending way too much time on video games if you were able to build such a thing.” 

    Fergus’ eyes widened with the meaning of her words, “Non!” he protested, “I don’t get enough video game time.” 

    Jamie and Claire both snorted with laughter, knowing fully well that Fergus had plenty of game time, they would give him more whenever they wanted alone time together, it was the perfect distraction for the boy. 

    “Alright,” Ellen said from the side of the table standing behind Wee Jamie, clapping her hands once, she began, “we’ve potatoes, ham, turkey, various vegetables, bannocks, biscuits, and salad for those feeling so inclined.”

    “Wow, that’s quite a lot,” Clarie said, eyeing the table of food in front of her. The wooden surface was crammed with an assortment of serving dishes, leaving just enough room for plates to eat off of. “If you go through all this trouble for a simple dinner I can’t imagine what you do during the holidays.” 

    “There’s even more food, Auntie!” Young Ian shouted from the opposite end where he was seated next to his mother. “They bring out three tables then!” His siblings, father, uncle, and cousin all nodded in agreement. 

    “He… he called me auntie,” Claire whispered to Jamie, surprised at the boy’s words, not sure how to react.  

    “Well,” Jamie shrugged as he scooped a pile of mashed potatoes onto his and Fergus’ plates, “ye practically are at this point,” he stopped and looked at her, “Do ye want me to talk to the bairns? Tell them not to call ye so?” 

    “No! I don’t mind it, I’m just surprised is all,” Claire explained, “I wasn’t expecting it.” 

    Jamie smiled, “Young Ian speaks his mind, bein’ the youngest of the bunch he doesna understand quite what we are, just what we’ll be, as far as he’s concerned, we’re already marritt, which makes you his auntie.” 

    “Auntie Claire,” she repeated in a whisper, “I could get used to that.” 

    Jamie beamed down at her, captured her lips in a quick kiss, and then went back to plating his meal. 

    “Papa, can you cut this?” Fergus said, struggling to cut the large piece of ham on his plate. 

    “Yer eight years old, Fergus,” Jamie told him, “that’s too old to have someone choppin’ yer meat for ye, ye can do it.” 

    “Give it here,” Claire said, ignoring Jamie’s sounds of protests as she reached for Fergus’ plate, “I’ll cut it for you.” She took Fergus’ plate and met Jenny’s gaze who was staring at her from across the table, looking impressed that she had ignored Jamie’s instruction, Claire gave Jenny a nod before turning to the task at hand. She cut Fergus’ ham into bite-sized chunks and gave him back the plate, watching as he ate the first few pieces to make sure her job was adequate. 

    “Eat yer food, Claire,” Ellen said from Claire’s left, nudging her softly, “ye dinna want it to be cold.” 

    “Right, of course,” Claire said, picking up her fork and eating the food before her. 

    They made it through dinner with light conversation, everyone making comments on their past week and their plans for the next. It was when the desert was brought forth that the real questioning began. 

    “Yer still married, Claire?” Jenny asked, ignoring the looks of her brother, mother, and husband.

    “Yes,” Claire said, nodding the affirmative, “I have a court date next week to start the divorce, my ex is contesting it so I’ll have to fight for it.”

    “Frank is a slimy bastard,” Jamie said, giving his unbridled opinion on Claire’s current legal husband. “It’ll be a cause of celebration to have him gone.” 

“Aye, I’ve heard enough o’ the man to agree,” Ellen chimed in, “devil o’ a man if ever there was one.” 

“Ned Gowan is confident we’ll win, our case is good, but there’s still the possibility that it could go against our favor.” 

“Wait, what?” Jenny asked surprised, her silverware dropping onto the plate with a clash, “Ye mean the judge can force ye to stay marritt to him?” 

“Well,” Claire began, looking to Jamie for support, “He can’t force us to act as a married couple but yes, he could keep us legally bound. Ned said we’ll file a petition right away if that happens.” 

“And I’m sure it won’t,” Ellen said, placing her hand over Claire’s for comfort, “if it does though, my sister, Jocasta– ye met her at Fergus’ birthday party– has a connection to some lawyers through her… second husband, I think? Maybe her first?” 

“Third,” Jamie and Jenny answered in unison. 

“Murtagh knows lawyers?” Claire asked, shocked by the revelation, the bushy man seemed the type to have a large disdain for lawyers. 

“No, not Murtagh,” Jamie said, “Auntie Jo has been widowed three times, Murtagh is her fourth, it’s Hector that kent the lawyers, Mam,” he addressed the last part to his mother. 

“Jo is a widow three times over and Murtagh still married her? He must be very brave.” Claire said. 

“Murtagh may no’ look it but he’s a romantic at heart, he’d risk death to be wi’ the one he loves,” Ellen explained. 

Jenny looked at Claire, “Mam speaks from experience, Murtagh fancied her for a bit before she chose our da.” 

“Janet Flora Arabella Fraser,” Ellen hissed, glaring at her daughter, “ye ken fine we dinna speak o’ that!” 

The rest of the table burst into a fit of laughter and hoots as Jenny dismissed her mother’s rebuke away with a simple shrug. 

“As I was sayin’ before I was so rudely interrupted,” Ellen continued with a glare at Jenny’s direction, “my sister kens lawyers and even has a few political connections as weel, we’ll go as far up the chain as we need to get ye divorced, dinna fash about it.” 

“I… I can’t even begin to thank you enough, it’s comforting to know that I’ll be rid of Frank eventually,” Claire said. 

Jamie snorted at her side but said nothing. 

“I’m just worried about the process now, the thought of seeing him…” Claire said, shaking her head, “makes me a bit uneasy.” 

“Ian will go wi’ ye,” Jenny told her, pointing a fork at Ian who was nodding, “he’ll make sure yer no alone and if Frank does anything uncouth he’ll be there to protect ye.” 

Before Claire could open her mouth to speak Jamie was already arguing with his sister, “I’ll be goin’ wi her, ‘tis my job.” 

“Ye canna go, Jamie!” Jenny said. “How’s it goin’ to look if she brings her fiancè to her divorce proceedings? She’ll lose the case on that alone, no, Ian will go wi’ her.” 

“But–” Jamie began but was cut off by Ellen.

“I will go wi’ her,” Ellen said firmly, eyeing her family, “that way she’ll no be alone, and I can pass as a friend no’ impactin’ her case. We’re done discussin’ it, I’m goin’, that’s final. Am I clear?” 

Claire sat in her chair flabbergasted, food forgotten, as she stared at the scene before her. Before she could protest or weigh her opinion, it was already decided which Fraser would be accompanying her. She would have preferred Jamie but Jenny was right, Frank’s lawyers would have a field day if he was there. Ian would cause a similar problem with the added fact that he would relay everything to Jenny. No, Ellen was the perfect choice. She could easily pass as a friend, not harming the case in any way, and would keep her mouth shut about the trial, nor Jenny or Jamie would be able to pry any information from their mother.

It was then decided that Ellen would pick Claire up from her home on the morning of the court date, stay for the duration of the trial, and then drive Claire safely back where Jamie and Fergus would be waiting to accompany her. She wouldn’t be alone during the day at all, support Claire didn’t know she needed or wanted until it was offered. 

It was then Claire realized just how lucky she was, the Fraser-Murray’s had accepted her with open arms, and though she wasn’t legally bound to them yet, she was reaping the benefits of a very large and caring family. 

She couldn’t wait to become a Fraser. 





   

 

Chapter Text

    She was in a daze, had been all week, simply floating through her days, going through the motions as the court date loomed closer and closer. She felt like a zombie, roaming around, lost, doing the bare minimum to ensure her survival and fuck all else. She was nervous, scared, and lost in thought. No matter what she had done in the past week, Frank was always on her mind, distracting her to no end. She was starting to think she was delusional, several times she had thought she’d seen him, standing across the street from her or following her in a car, but no one else had seemed to notice him; either he was some kind of spy or she was losing her mind.

    She had developed compulsions in tandem with her paranoia which she knew logically was a consequence of stress and her general uneasiness; several checks to make sure all the doors and windows were locked and unarming and rearming her alarm. She knew what she was doing, but couldn’t stop herself. The mental ease she received from the repetitive behavior was too great; hearing the lock snap into its bolt or the confirming beep of her alarm released waves of endorphins. The relief was only temporary, of course, leaving her restless until she completed the acts once more. 

    Claire was mentally exhausted, her brain firing on all cylinders as it processed impending events and possible outcomes. What if she lost the case, what if her appeal was denied and she was forced to stay married to Frank? 

Ned had assured her that they couldn’t force her to act as Frank’s wife but it would surely affect her relationship with Jamie. 

Jamie…

The sweetest man in the world. 

He had noticed her change in behavior immediately, taking it upon himself to reassure her throughout the day as well as texts to remind her to eat and drink. Fergus was his father’s eyes as school, reporting the lack of enthusiasm and cohesiveness of her lessons. Her boys were worried about her, that much was clear. Fergus stuck by her side during the day and Jamie kept her company at night, more than once they had fallen asleep to the sound of the other’s breathing over the phone. Thank God for unlimited texting and calling plans. 

Tonight, however, they were with her physically. Jamie was asleep beside her in bed as she stared up at the ceiling, Fergus in the guest bedroom he had claimed as his own. Having Jamie next to her eased her mind greatly though not entirely, she could feel him breathing next to her as he slept, forcing her breathing to match his slowed her thoughts. She could do this, they could do this, and no matter what happened they wouldn’t give up on them, on each other; Jamie had assured her of that. 

It was close to one in the morning, she had five more hours before she had to get up and get ready for court when she felt the mattress shift beneath her. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know it was Fergus, his curly hair tickled her nose as he settled against her, head on her shoulder as he made himself comfortable, burrowing under the blankets for warmth. 

“Are you okay?” Claire whispered not wanting to wake Jamie, she wrapped her arms around him and held him close.

“No, milady,” he said honestly, surprising her, “what if they take you away? Papa would be so upset.” 

She blinked, willing the tears that had begun to form to stop, she knew Fergus was well aware of what was going on around him but didn’t realize how much of an effect it was having until now, he was worried about her, distressingly so, “Oh, Fergus,” she kissed his forehead.

“I would be upset– I don’t want you to go,” he was close to tears now, his voice shaky and rising in pitch with emotion, “I don’t want to lose you.” 

“Fergus, my darling, I’m not going anywhere,” she squeezed him, “that's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do."

“But you’re worried about it too, I know you are.” 

For an eight-year-old, he was frighteningly astute. She didn’t know what to say, every urge of her being wanted to comfort him, reassure him that everything was going to be okay but it felt wrong when she couldn’t convince herself of the very same thing. She closed her eyes and rolled onto her side, spooning him as he molded his smaller body to her own, seeking the comfort she was offering. 

“I can’t tell you what will happen,” she said after a few minutes, her voice low, “because I don’t know. I could be divorced tomorrow or go through an entire trial–,” she thought the latter more likely but wisely didn’t share that with him, “– but one thing I can say with certainty is that I’m not leaving you, I would never. I love you and your dad more than anything.” 

He nustled his face under her chin, his tears dripping onto her skin as he silently cried. 

“You’re mine, Fergus Fraser. Your father said that to you when he adopted you and I’m saying it to you now, you’re mine. I don’t care what happens, nothing will ever change that, you understand?” 

He nodded, gulped, and sniffled.

They stayed silent, the tensions present but at bay as they relished in the embrace. Fergus felt safe and protected, Claire felt at home, and as Jamie’s arm slung around them, squishing Claire in the middle meant they were whole. 

“Claire?” Fergus asked quietly, a few minutes later when he was sure Jamie hadn’t woken. 

“Yes?” 

“Do you think you could adopt me? Be my mam and Papa’s wife?” 

Claire’s breath hitched in her throat, she had thought about it, Jamie clearly wanted it but they had never brought the matter up to Fergus, “Would you like that?” 

“Very much,” he nodded, “I want a mam– I want you to be my mam.” 

“I want that too,” she told him, smoothing down the curls of his hair, “you have no idea how much I would love that. I’ll talk to Mr. Gowan about it today, okay?” 

“Promise?” 

“I promise.” 

And for the first time in days, Claire fell asleep with a smile, locked between the two people she loved most in the world. 

 

Chapter Text

    “Ready to go, lass?” Ellen asked, waiting by the door.

    “Yes,” Claire said, grabbing her purse and slinging it onto her shoulder. 

    She kissed Jamie goodbye, a deep kiss, one she normally would have chosen not to have in front of his mother but sensibilities be damned; she was nervous, her worries beginning to cascade onto her and she would take all the comfort she could get. Jamie had taken it upon himself to be the voice of reason, the put-together one, he had spent all morning acting as if nothing was wrong and it was a normal Thursday– doing his best to make her and Fergus laugh, making breakfast, and he had even packed her a lunch. 

Fergus, on the other hand, was far from normal. He was quite, had been since he woke up, much to the displeasure of Jamie and Claire. He was worried, obviously so when he refused the pancakes Jamie had made citing a stomach ache; the boy who was typically exuberant was tame. Fergus was not going to school today, Claire had announced to Jamie who readily agreed, instead, he would be spending the morning with his father and the afternoon with his aunt where Claire would pick him up after court. 

“Don’t worry,” Claire whispered into Fergus’ ear as she hugged him, “it’s all going to be okay, I promised, remember?” 

He nodded into her shoulder and sighed, “Vous parlerez à Mr. Gowan?” (You’ll speak to Mr. Gowan?) 

Claire had decided not to tell Jamie about her and Fergus’ conversation the night before, it was a private moment between the two of them and until Claire was sure it could actually happen, they would stay silent, “Oui,” she said, placing a final kiss on his mop of curls before releasing him from her grasp and letting Ellen escort her out of the door. 

They arrived at the courthouse early, Claire’s stomach knotting in anxiety and fear as Ellen parked the car in the designated lot. She exited the car, grabbed her purse, and stared up at the building, it was looming above them, blocking any trace of the sun with its massive frame. Claire had been here once before, many years ago when she and Frank had still been in love. Frank, wanting their marriage to be official as soon as possible, had insisted on filing the license here instead of London. At the time, it was romantic, now it was bloody inconvenient. She would never be able to look at this building without thinking of him again. 

“Och, we’re early, good,” Ellen said, walking to stand next to Claire, “let’s go inside, shall we? Nothin’s goin’ to happen wi’ us just standin’ here.” 

Ellen was right, Claire knew that realistically, the faster they went inside the faster this ordeal would be over with, but her legs refused to move. Ellen wrapped her arm through Claire’s and led her gently toward the entrance. They breezed through security and were pointed toward a room down a long hall, their heels clicking against the floor and echoing off the walls. They stopped at a bench which Ellen immediately sat upon and dragged Claire down with her. 

Claire didn’t know what she would do without Ellen; the matriarch, having sensed her further daughter-in-law’s mood was talking nonstop about whatever little thought entered her mind. It was all nonsense, and Claire honestly wasn’t paying much attention but just having the older woman there eased her greatly. She was, not for the first time, happy that Ellen accompanied her, if it had been Jamie she would have broken down already, Jenny would have made her more nervous, and Ian despite his intentions would have made it awkward. No, Ellen was the right choice and Claire was thankful she was here. 

“Is that him then?” Ellen asked, removing Claire from her thoughts. Claire looked up to see Ellen nodding in Frank’s direction, making Claire freeze in response. 

“Yes,” Claire whispered.

Frank was indeed standing a few yards away from them, across the hall diagonally with his lawyer, John Grey. Grey was a tall, thick man, though thick with muscle instead of fat, but not as large as Jamie. Whatever Frank had done to convince John to work on his case Claire didn’t know, but the sight of him both eased Claire’s nerves and made her heart race. Frank and John were as opposite as two could be, Frank was hard and defiant while John radiated kindness and knew civility, despite this fact, John was willing to do whatever it took to win. One of John’s brothers, Claire couldn’t remember which, had served with Frank during his brief military career, they had met at some related function or other. Overall, her opinion of John Grey was kind, but why he had chosen to represent Frank confused her. 

The last time the three had been together, Frank had made many bigoted homophobic remarks which cumulated in John breaking Frank’s nose. Claire had refused to attend to Frank’s injuries that night, believing him to have fully deserved it, much to the displeasure of Frank who took it as a personal blow to his ego that his wife didn’t support him. 

Was it blackmail? Claire wouldn’t put it past Frank and it would certainly explain why John was here. She supposed she would never know, though.

As Claire stared at John, she briefly thought how entertaining it would have been to watch the young lawyer square off against the dinosaur Ned Gowan, from the outside, of course, watching it from the inside made her worry. 

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” Ellen muttered beside her, making the sign of the cross, “if a snake was ever to have two legs it would be in the form of that man.” Ellen nodded again toward Frank. 

“Snake?” Claire turned to Ellen, amused by the words. 

“Weel, maybe no’ a snake but he’s certainly evil. Whatever drew him to ye, Claire? Yer way above his station,”

Claire shrugged, “I was young and dumb, Frank offered what I thought I wanted so I took it. Now, if Jamie had been in the picture at the time, it would have been an easy decision and Frank would have been kicked to the curb.” 

Ellen smiled at the mention of her son, “He loves ye so, Claire, and so does Fergus.” 

Claire opened her mouth to speak but shut it as Ned emerged from a crowd and walked toward them. 

“Mrs. Fraser!” Ned said, his voice sharp with excitement at the sight of his old friend. 

“Ned,” Ellen greeted with a nod, standing from her seat and smiling as Ned took one of her hands and kissed the back. “So wonderful to see ye again.” 

“The pleasure is all mine,” Ned told her, giving a slight bow before turning to Claire. “Are we ready to go, Ms. Beauchamp? Nothing to be nervous about, my dear, it’s just a hearing. God willing this could all be over in an hour.” 

Claire nodded and stood from the bench, doing her best to smooth out the wrinkles on her skirt. 

“Ye’ll have to stay here, I’m afraid,” Ned said to Ellen, “we shouldn’t be too long, ye’ll be all right?” 

“Dinna fash about me,” Ellen said, dismissing the concern with her hand, “just take care o’ my lass here, anythin’ happens to her Ned and–”

“I’ll face the full wrath of the Fraser’s and MacKenzie’s? Aye, if I ever needed a reason to be vigilant that would be it.” 

“And the Murray’s,” Claire added.

Ned smiled, “Of course. Let’s get going, aye? I need to speak with ye before the appointment.” 

Ellen wrapped her arms around Claire and kissed the side of her head, “Ye’ll be fine, a nighean. I’ll be right here waitin’ for ye.” 

Claire nodded and followed Ned as they walked in the opposite direction of Frank and John, they stopped at the end of the long hallway before Ned spoke, “Now, I must warn ye lass, unless Mr. Randall has changed his mind about protesting the divorce this won’t be fixed today, I don’t want you getting your hopes up.”

“But you said–”

“Aye, I said God willing, but based on his past behavior I think it unlikely. It’s not a complicated hearing, simply, the judge will hear the motion of divorce, the grounds stated, and the thoughts of both you and Mr. Randall. All you have to do is say you want out of the marriage, repeat the reasons why, and stay silent, only speak when addressed directly by the judge, and don’t react to anything he says, that’s what they want. Ready?”

Claire nodded, “As I’ll ever be.” 

“Wonderful,” Ned gave her a smile before turning on his heel.

“Mr. Gowan, Ned, wait,” Claire reached out and grabbed his arm, “I wanted to ask you of another legal matter.” 

“Another matter?” he frowned, “Busy lass, are ye?” 

“What would I have to do to adopt Fergus? To become his mother legally?” 

Ned thought for a moment before speaking, “I’ll be happy to advise ye on the matter but let’s get ye divorced first, aye? Can’t be his mother until ye can marry his father.” Claire nodded in understanding and together they backtracked toward the courtroom. Ned opened the door for her and Claire returned Ellen’s smile before walking into the room. 

Frank and John were already inside, Frank seated at the table with John standing beside him, ruffling through his bag. Ned led her to the table next to their’s and pulled out the chair for her to sit. Claire took the offer, unsure how much longer her shaking legs could support her, and collapsed gratefully into the uncomfortable leather chair. 

“Claire, it’s so wonderful to see you again, though I wish it was under better circumstances,” John said, standing in front of Claire with a sad smile on his face. 

“I’ll ask ye kindly, Mr. Grey, please dinna speak to my client.” 

John gave a single nod of acknowledgment before returning to his table and Frank  

Claire risked a glance over to Frank and immediately wished she hadn’t, he was staring at her, his eyes cold and foreboding. She looked away quickly with a gulp and stared down at her hands in her lap, wishing for the millionth time that Jamie was with her. Just the sight of him would calm her. 

It was another ten minutes of silence except for the rustling of papers before they were told to stand for Judge McCune, a large black-haired woman, who entered from the opposite side of the room and took her seat. “Please be seated and we’ll get started today with this… directions hearing.” She waited until all parties were seated before speaking again, “Is the filer of the motion here today?”

“We are, your honor,” Ned said, standing from his seat. “Ned Gowan representing Mrs. Claire Beauchamp-Randall.” 

Claire flinched at the use of Randall with her name, gripping the table before her to keep from fidgeting. 

“And you’re protesting the petition?” McCune asked, looking at John and Frank. 

John nodded the affirmative and stood, “John Grey on behalf of Mr. Frank Randall.” With introductions complete, both John and Ned sat down. 

“What are you citing as the grounds for this divorce petition, Mr. Gowan?” 

Ned stood once more, “My client is stating and maintaining that Mr. Randall engaged in adultery and unreasonable behavior, we would also like the court to know that my client and Mr. Randall have lived apart for over a year, your honor.” 

“Mr. Randall, what’s your response to these claims?” 

John stood, “They’re all false, your honor,” 

“We have evidence suggesting otherwise,” Ned interjected. 

“You wish to move forward with this motion, Mrs. Randall?” McCune asked Claire.

“I do,” Claire said, standing, “my marriage to Frank is unfixable, your honor, multiple infidelities and cases of unreasonable behavior have led me to this conclusion.” At McCune’s gesture, Claire resumed her seat

“Mr. Randall?” 

Frank stood, buttoning the top button of his suit jacket, and gave McCune a warm smile, “I love my wife, your honor, and I fully believe this marriage can be saved–”

Claire snorted at his words but quieted at Ned’s warning look.

“And I don’t believe this court is the business of ruining perfectly good marriages.” Frank continued. 

“If the marriage was suitable my client wouldn’t be filing for divorce, your honor,” Ned said. 

“Mr. Gowan, you and your client’s view on the marriage is made clear, and Mr. Randall,” McCune looked at Frank, “don’t ever presume what business this court has or doesn’t have, am I clear?” 

Frank, for the first time, looked abashed and sat in his chair. 

“I’m granting the continuance of this motion of divorce but am unable to make a decision at this time, we’ll reconvene next week to hear the evidence you have gathered, Mr. Gowan.” McCune banged her gavel and Ned bowed in response. McCune left the room as Ned and John approached the remaining court official to schedule a trial for the following week.  

Claire stared down at her hands, leaning back in her chair, thankful that Ned had warned her about the most likely outcome, she would have been devastated if she had expected to be free from Frank today. 

She was distracted, lost in thought, and therefore didn’t notice the figure before her until he coughed to get her attention. Claire looked up to find Frank staring down at her, a look on his face she couldn’t place, “What do you want, Frank?” 

“I want all of this to be over, I want you to come home so we can resume our lives,” he said.

“We don’t have a life together anymore, Frank, you know that.” 

“I don’t know that,” he hummed, “I fully believe we can work this out, come on, darling, why are you being so difficult?” 

“Difficult?” Claire asked in disbelief. “Me? You’re the one doing all this! All you have to do is agree to the divorce and this would all be over.” 

“I can’t end the marriage when I still love you, Claire, I won’t let you do this to us.” 

Claire shook her head, unable to hold in the laugh bubbling in her throat, “You’re insufferable.” 

“Until the court says otherwise– they would have to be imbeciles to agree with you– you’re my wife. It doesn’t matter what you say or believe, nothing will change that.” 

“Fuck you, Frank,” Claire said through gritted teeth. 

“Just remember, Claire Randall, you asked for this.” 

And with the final warning, Frank walked away just as Ned rushed over, staring after him to make sure he was gone before he turned to Claire, “Are ye all right, lass? What did he say to ye?”

“Nothing unsurprising,” Claire said honestly, “but don’t say anything to Jamie, he wouldn’t be happy to hear about it. Can I go home now?” 

Ned looked her over before nodding, “Aye, lass, I’ll walk ye back to your escort. We’re done here for the day.” 

They walked out of the courtroom, Ned by her side as Claire stared down at her feet, feeling Frank’s eyes on her as the door shut behind them.  









Chapter Text

    Jamie’s brain flashed with a mixture of worry and concern. He knew little of what happened during the events of the day, his mother had been vague, not knowing much herself except that a date was set for trial for the following week. Ellen, however, had plenty to say about Frank; he was a slimy bastard, the embodiment of evil– the perfect human vessel for Satan– all of her descriptions had made him laugh uncontrollably for several minutes. Frank, apparently, had affected Claire greatly, while she had been nervous and distracted before the trial, after, she was anxious and on guard. He hadn’t heard anything from Claire except for a few hours before through a text telling him that she and Fergus had arrived home safe. 

    He was driving over the speed limit, eager to get home and see them both. Fergus wasn’t acting himself either, his usual energetic persona had been replaced by lethargy and distractedness. Something had happened between Fergus and Claire in the last twenty-four hours, the change had been noticeable at breakfast, Jamie had no idea what had happened but it had affected them both. He was curious yet unsure whether or not he should pry. Fergus was his son, he had the right, but Jamie had no intention of ruining whatever private relationship had blossomed between the two since Fergus’ birthday party. Claire and Fergus had grown close, she was practically his mother by now and the thought made Jamie smile. 

    Claire was an excellent mother; she was caring, kind, and loved Fergus for he was, treating him as her own. 

Jamie couldn’t have asked for more than that.

    He just hoped that Frank’s pettiness wouldn’t keep her from being a part of the Fraser family legally. 

    The house was quiet when he pulled up, he walked through the door, and was surprised to find himself surrounded by darkness, no lights were on except for the glow of the television. He followed the dim light and low sounds of cartoons to the living room where he found them; they were cuddled on the couch, wrapped tightly in a balled embrace, Claire’s head resting on Fergus’ with their arms intertwined. 

He moved slowly, not wishing to disturb them. 

He bent down and kissed the brown curls of her hair, she looked up at him and gave him a small smile, “Hello, mo chridhe,” 

“Welcome home,” she told him, shifting Fergus in her arms, “he’s asleep,” she glanced down at her companion.

Jamie’s eyebrows furrowed, it was too early for Fergus to be asleep, it wasn’t even seven yet.

“I was going to make dinner, have it ready by the time you came home but I didn’t want to wake him. We had a small issue earlier,” 

“Small issue?” Jamie asked. 

“He had a meltdown,” Claire explained, “too many triggers, I think.” 

Jamie frowned, kneeling down to get a better look at his son, “He hasna had one o’ those in a while. What happened?” 

“Well, he’s already stressed from school and court– probably shouldn’t have told him that one– Jenny said he got into a fight with Wee Jamie, and when we got home he wanted to watch the telly but I told him he had to get his homework done first, and then…” she took a deep breath, “let’s just say he wasn’t happy with that.”

Jamie shook his head, “I’m sorry, Sassenach, ye shouldna have had to–”

“What?” She looked at him, “Deal with a well-deserved emotional break? He may not have gone about it in the best way, we’ll have to teach him appropriate alternative behaviors, but he was long overdue for one. He’s been under a lot of stress lately,” she paused, adding when she saw his concerned look, “he’s okay, just a bit of yelling and pushing. He fell asleep as soon as he calmed down.” 

“I’m sorry,” Jamie repeated. 

“Don’t be,” she said, reaching up to pull his face down to hers, kissing his lips as soon as they were in reach. 

“He’ll be up all night,” Jamie whispered.

“I’ll stay up with him, Colum gave me tomorrow off,”

He nodded, kissing her once more before shaking Fergus lightly. 

Fergus shifted, yawned, and opened his eyes, staring up at Claire and his father, “Get up, laddie,” Jamie said, “shower before dinner, aye?” 

Fergus slowly untangled himself from Claire’s limbs but didn’t leave her embrace entirely, leaning his head against her chest as her arm squeezed around his shoulders. He smacked his lips and rubbed his eyes, “Can we have spaghetti?” he muttered, voice thick with sleep.

“Anything you want,” Claire told him with a smile, “now up you get, soldier, the faster you shower the faster you eat.” 

They watched as Fergus slowly shuffled his way up the stairs and out of sight toward the bathroom. 

“I’ll get dinner started? That way you can go and change,” Claire said, standing from the couch. 

“What happened today?” Jamie asked.

Claire sighed, “I… I’ll tell you the details later, Jamie, I promise, I’m still processing it myself.” She ran a hand through her hair, “We’ve a court date next week to present evidence and such, Ned feels confident but we’ll just have to see.” 

He nodded, kissing the side of her head as she moved past him into the kitchen to start dinner. He stared after her, silently watching as she moved around, rummaging through the cabinets to find a box of pasta and an appropriate pot. She wasn’t telling him everything, her glass face assured him of that, though Jamie couldn’t expect her to tell him anything that she was still trying to work out for herself. He watched her for a few more seconds before following Fergus’ path up the stairs. 

Jamie put his ear up to the bathroom door and was satisfied to hear the water pounding, smiling when he heard Fergus’ low rendition of ‘Alouette’. He always sang in the shower. 

“Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette, je te plumerai, je te plumerai la tête,” 

The boy was as tone-deaf as he was, Fergus’ voice was high pitched, cracking at certain points, but the singing assured Jamie that everything would be all right; Fergus would be okay. Jamie walked away from the door, leaving the showerhead as Fergus’ only audience, and slowly undressed from his suit into a pair of comfortable sweats and a long-sleeved shirt. He grabbed an old, well-worn shirt from his closet and one of the pairs of pajama pants Claire had left from a previous visit and went back downstairs. 

He wordlessly handed her the clothes, an action which earned him a grateful smile, and he took her place by the stove, waiting for the water to boil as she went and changed. He debated on finding something relatively healthy to go along with their meal, maybe a salad, but decided in the end that cheesy carbs were just what they needed; spaghetti was comfort food for a reason. It wasn’t long before the pasta was cooked with a meat sauce and piled with enough cheese to feed an army. 

After dinner, Jamie forgoed the task of clean-up, which could wait until tomorrow morning, and let Fergus drag him and Claire into the living room to watch television. This time, however, it was Jamie’s turn to snuggle with Claire as Fergus sat on the floor in front of them flipping through the channels, unable to make up his mind on what to watch. 

Jamie nuzzled his nose to her brown curls, inhaling the floral scent of her shampoo and body wash, she always smelt so nice. Tonight, he smelled peonies and roses, his favorite combination. He loved that she didn’t use the common scent of lavender –which for some reason made him uneasy– he had never liked the smell, he wondered briefly if he would be able to tolerate it on her. She leaned back into him, gripping the arms that were wrapped around her torso as she settled into a comfortable position. 

He kissed the back of her neck making her shiver in response, “I could get used to this,” he muttered. 

She turned to place a kiss on his cheek, “You better, Fraser, this is your future,” 

He smiled and nodded, vowing to the good Lord that he would do whatever it took to make this future a reality. 

   

 

Chapter Text

    Fergus didn’t fall asleep until four in the morning, much later than Claire had anticipated despite Jamie’s warning. He was only eight and rather small for his age but she was unable to move him from the couch fort he had built for them; she left him snoring, surrounded by a wall of blankets as she moved to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. She believed she was sufficiently tired enough to fall asleep the moment she hit the mattress, meaning she could get a couple of hours of sleep before starting her day. 

Fergus would be staying home from school, again, and under Claire’s charge as she worked with Ned from her house to build a stronger case against Frank. Ned was confident they could win, Frank may have wrangled one of the best lawyers in the UK– a feat Claire was still puzzled by– but they had history, evidence, and character witnesses for herself and Frank whose statements were full of negative aspects of the man’s personality. One that Claire was particularly excited about was written by an old friend and colleague of Frank’s, Reverend Reginald Wakefield, it was a full-on character assassination. The Reverend had nothing nice to say about Frank at all, going so far as to question the man’s piousness; it was absolutely vicious and Claire couldn’t wait to present it in court. 

The Fraser-Murrays had put all of their faith in Ned to handle the situation; they were all so sure it would work out. Ellen and Jenny had started planning the wedding, little ideas here or there about a color scheme or flowers in the bouquet along with Ellen’s not so subtle reminders that Claire would have to seek an annulment from the Catholic Church. Claire wasn’t as devout as Jamie’s family but she was Catholic, had been married to Frank in a traditional ceremony, and would therefore need to seek permission and an annulment before she and Jamie could marry within the Church. If it had been anyone else Claire wouldn’t have bothered but it was important to Jamie and his family so she would, she would do it for him and Fergus. 

It was best to be married before going through the adoption process, Ned had told her. 

Frank would be out of her life, she would marry Jamie, and become Fergus’ mother, her life would be perfect then. It was that promise of a bright future that kept her going through the sleepless nights, stressful hours, and time spent in Frank’s presence. 

Once she was satisfied that coffee would be awaiting her when she woke up, she did a final check on Fergus, smiling when she found him on his stomach snoring lightly. She placed a kiss on the back of his head and let the tent of blankets close over him. She entered the bedroom carefully and quietly, Jamie was a light-sleeper, always ready to jump into battle at the slightest noise. He snorted in his sleep as she lowered herself onto the mattress, she caressed his cheek and he calmed down. Jamie slept on his back, hands folded on his stomach with his curly tendrils fanning along the pillow and a smile on his face. He was absolutely adorable when he slept, so peaceful and… very attractive. She could watch him for hours. 

Claire settled into his right side, rested her cheek on his shoulder, and fell asleep with his long arm cradling him to her. 

She woke as her body moved, rocking slightly with the push of someone’s small hands, “Claire?” 

Claire forced her eyes open, winced as the sun hit her corneas, and moved them to focus on the boy, “Fergus? What’s wrong, love?” 

He shrugged and without permission crawled into bed with her, curling into her side as she had done with his father. She could tell the bed was empty next to her, Jamie was an early riser, he liked to get a workout in before work, and judging by the light in the bedroom he had been gone for a few hours at least. 

“What time is it?” she asked, pulling him closer, nuzzling into his soft brown curls. 

“Um…” he hesitated, looking at the clock on the wall. 

“Come on,” she encouraged him softly, “you know this. The big hand is?” 

“The minute and the small is the hour.” 

She smiled, “Good, now, where are they?” 

“The big hand is on nine and the small… half-way between three and four, which means it’s nine-seventeen?” 

“That’s right! Good job, Fergus, see, I told you you could do it.” 

He turned on his back to smile up at her, “I think I’ll like having a teacher for a mam, I’ll be smarter than all the other kids! Especially Roger, he’s a know it all.” 

Claire hummed, not bothering to acknowledge that particular statement since she knew how Fergus and Roger got along– horribly was a minor way to put it. Roger was indeed a know it all, as Fergus had put it, with no qualms about showing off in class. Roger was one of her more advanced students with a strong possibility of moving into the school’s general population in the following year.

Fergus wasn’t quite there yet, there were still problems that needed to be addressed and worked on but Claire had promised herself long ago that they would get there. Eventually, Fergus wouldn’t need to be in the slower-paced class, he would leave her tutelage – at school, anyways– and would lose his label as a problem child. She was sure of it. 

For now, she was happy to keep him close, to protect him, and assure him of her permanence in his and Jamie’s lives. 

“Do you want to get up? Eat some breakfast and watch cartoons before we go and see Mr. Gowan?” she asked. 

“Non,” he said, shaking his head. “I want to stay here with you!” 

She laughed, “Ten more minutes, okay? Then we have to get up.” 

In the end, they were late meeting Ned; by the time Claire and Fergus pulled into the driveway, Ned was standing by the door with a pile of boxes at his feet. Claire sent Fergus to the door with her key and strict instructions to help Ned inside as she sent a quick status update to Jamie, confirming their safe arrival and plans for the day. She and Ned would work on the case while Fergus completed the packet Claire had assembled for him since he had taken two days off school. 

The trio worked in the kitchen, Fergus on her right, and Ned across from them. The boxes, turns out, were full of files pertaining to Frank- a very extensive background check. Ned had even managed to get information on Frank’s brief, secretive military service. Together, Claire and Ned worked through the boxes, determining which file, incident, or bits of evidence should be used against Frank.

Around noon, Claire gave Fergus a well-deserved break, he promptly exited the kitchen and turned on the television; Claire and Ned kept working. They were startled from their tasks when a ping from Ned’s phone sounded. It took the older man several minutes to locate the app, log in to his account, find the new email and read it in its entirety. It wasn’t good news based on the frown that appeared on Ned’s face. 

“What is it?” Claire asked. 

“Here,” Ned handed her his phone, “give it a read.” 

She took the phone from him and read the email, it was a list of witnesses that Frank and John would be calling to help their case. Claire knew most of them as coworkers, old teachers, and friends. “What’s the matter with this?” she asked, unsure as to why Ned was upset. “Our list is practically the same.”

“Keep reading,” he simply told her, straightening in his chair. 

She did as she was told and kept reading until the third to last name made her tense, “He’s… he’s calling Colum MacKenzie?” 

“Looks that way,” Ned said with a sigh. 

“But why? He’s never met Colum– at least to my knowledge. What the bloody hell is he planning?” 

“We can’t be sure,” Ned said, shaking his head, “he might be trying to remove ye from your position. I can’t think of a better way than having your boss present as he drags ye through, well, shite.” 

“But that can’t actually work, can it? I’ve been a model employee.” 

“Ye work with children, Ms. Beauchamp, if Colum has any reason to believe your behavior or character is unfit to be around children he has every legal right– mind ye– to fire ye.”

“Bloody bastard…” she cursed, leaning back into her chair, “what can we do?” 

“Hmm,” Ned thought for a moment, rubbing his chin, “och! What if we invited Reverend Wakefield to give his testimony in person? That should knock Randall down a few pegs.” 

“Do it,” Claire told him, any wish to remain civil soaring out the window. 

They spent the rest of the day piling together the documents they would be presenting, as well as calling witnesses to appear in court; Reverend Wakefield had readily agreed and so had several others who were more than willing to give their uncensored thoughts about Frank to a judge. It was a good list, half would act as character witnesses on her behalf while the others were to attest to Frank’s damaging behavior.

They were in good shape, Ned assured her as he began to pack up the boxes. It seemed that Frank and John were mainly planning offense, only a few on his list could truly say anything to make Claire look bad. If they prepped their own witnesses, thought carefully about whatever Frank would say, and they could counter his claims, they would win. Ned was sure of it. The lawyer left with a promise to call her in a few days. 

It was later than Claire would have liked when she finally gathered some of her belongings to bring to Jamie’s and managed to get Fergus in the car; the boy kept forgetting things, resulting in several trips from the driveway back into the house to collect whatever he had forgotten. Eventually, she got everything settled and they drove home, Fergus humming happily in the back as she focused on the road in front of her.

“Can we get pizza?” Fergus asked, staring at her with wide, pleading eyes. 

“Of course,” she told him with a smile, laughing as he pumped his fist in the air in celebration. “I’m sure your father wouldn’t mind a night off from cooking and cleaning.” 

It was dark by the time they pulled into the driveway, Claire held open the door for Fergus and they walked inside hand in hand. She opened the front door and pushed Fergus toward the stairs, “Shower before dinner, I’ll order the food.” 

He nodded and ran up the stairs, shouting, “Hi, Papa!” 

She watched him go before turning on her heel into the kitchen, stopping when she noticed Jamie sitting silently at the table. “Jamie? Are you all right?” 

He said nothing, instead, he looked up at her, and pushed the large manilla envelope that was laying before him toward her. He motioned for her to take it and open it. 

“What’s going on?” she asked, opening the packet.

“It’s a summons,” he said, tapping his fingers on the table to release his pent-up anxiety. “I’m to appear in court, next week, on behalf of Frank Randall.” 

 

Chapter Text

    She collapsed into the open kitchen chair, Jamie’s summons clutched in her hand. 

    You, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, has hereby been summoned to appear before a magistrate in the High Court of Inverness on behalf of one, Franklin Wolverton Randall

    She stopped reading, seeing Frank’s name so close to Jamie’s made her stomach clench. What the hell was he playing at? They had looked at Frank’s witness list hours before, Jamie hadn’t been on it. He must’ve waited until John sent the document over before summoning Jamie, last-minute witnesses were allowed, but dirty. Whatever Frank’s plan was it was working, Jamie was fuming silently in his chair, his body stiff and compressed with anger as his index and middle finger tapped a rhythm onto the kitchen table. 

    Claire took a picture of the document and sent it to Ned, hoping the lawyer would respond quickly and tell them what to do. She set her phone on the table and leaned back in her chair, watching Jamie carefully, unsure what was going through his head or what he planned on doing, now or on his summons date. She dimly registered the pipes rattling as Fergus turned them on, taking his shower as he had been told. 

    Jamie took a deep breath, ran a hand over his face, and began to chuckle. 

    Claire frowned at him, she had expected anger, maybe shock, but not humor. 

    He licked his lips, scratching the stubble on his chin, “Franklin Wolverton? What kind o’ name is that?” he returned her gaze before succumbing to another bout of laughter. 

“Have you gone mad?” she asked incredulously.

Jamie doubled over, laughing, and held up a hand to silence her as he failed to compose himself. It took several minutes of uncontrollable laughter and uncomfortable silence on her end before he straightened up, took a deep breath, and spoke, “Wolverton,” he repeated, jabbing his finger at the paper. “Rather English, no?” 

“He is English,” Claire said, snatching the paper off the table and stood to glare down at him. His hand was covering his mouth, his eyes squeezed tight as he did his best to control himself. “What in God’s name?” she started, hands on her hips.

“I’m tired,” he said, surprising her. He blinked several times, all traces of humor had evaporated in seconds. He suddenly looked older, his body moved with the intense efforts of his breaths, his hair was a strangled mess, and she noticed dark rings under his eyes. 

How long had those been there? 

“I’m tired,” he repeated, “Fergus seems to be back trackin’, he had a meltdown for the first time in months and Colum said he’s been fightin’ wi’ other kids,” 

“One kid, Roger,” 

“Jenny’s wi’ child and she’s too focused on my family to worry about hers. My Mam should be at home, enjoin’ her retirement, instead o’ chaperonin’ everyone around.”

“Jamie,” she said, walking toward him, trying to get him to slow down but he was on a roll and couldn’t be stopped, he either ignored or didn’t notice her words.

“I canna protect ye from Frank, the damn bastard has just called me to court, he’s tryin’ to take ye away from me and I canna do anythin’ about it.”

“Jamie,” she tried again, jumping back as he suddenly sprang from his chair. 

He was manic, gripping his hair as he began to pace around the room. “For God’s sake, I canna even touch the woman I love because if I do it could push her back into that arsehole’s home. Do ye ken how hard it is to work on budget proposals and investment portfolios, and retirement plans wi’ all this swimmin’ in my head? I’m losing my shite at work and not just there and– I canna breath.” He suddenly bent over at the waist, hands on his knees as he worked to breathe, he was pale, the red hair on his arms and neck stood out more than normal.

“Jamie!” she shouted, rushing to him, dropping the summons paper onto the floor. She put a hand on his back and the other on his chest, he was shaking violently, the movement traveled up her arms as she touched him. “You’re having a panic attack,” she told him, slowly moving him to sit back in the chair. “Take deep breaths, okay? I need you to breathe, like this.” She took exaggerated slow, even, deep breaths.

He nodded and followed her example, breaths coming out in spurts as he tried to control them.

“That’s good, Jamie, you’re doing great, name five things you see around you,” she told him, rubbing his back in soothing circles. 

“The mail… the toaster, the stove, yer purse, and yer phone,” he said, slowly, taking his time to focus and form words. 

“What are four things you can touch?” 

He hesitated before answering, “The chair, the table, my leg, and the envelope,” 

“Three things you can hear, you’re doing so good, my love,” her hand trailed from his back to his hair, scratching his scalp with her fingernails as she knew he liked.

His breathing was slowing, becoming more stable as he focused on his tasks, “I-I can hear Fergus upstairs, cars outside, and yer voice.” 

“Two things you can smell,” 

“Yer perfume and the hallway air freshener."

“Last one, what’s one thing you can taste?” 

He thought for a moment, she could see him lick his lips before answering, “The beer I was drinkin’ when ye came in.” 

“There you go,” she smiled, kissing his cheek, wrapping her arms around him as she sat in his lap. He was back to normal now, physiologically, anyway as he returned her movements and squeezed her to him. “I knew you could do it,” she pulled away to kiss his lips, a short peck to keep the much-needed oxygen following into his system. 

“Sassenach…” he started but stopped at her look.

“How long have you been feeling this overwhelmed?” she asked, voice soft so as to not to startle the clam they had settled into.

He thought for a moment before speaking, “A while, I suppose.” 

“You should have told me,” she said, stroking his hair.

“Ye’ve been goin’ through a lot wi’ Frank, the divorce, and work, I didna want to add to it.” 

She stopped her ministrations and gently cupped his face, forcing him to face her as she rested her forehead against his, “This isn’t going to work if you can’t tell me what’s going on with you, okay? I need to know what you’re feeling and why so I can help you.” 

“I ken,” he said, nodding, bumping his nose against hers, “I ken.” 

She smiled and kissed him again, more languidly this time, allowing her senses to be overwhelmed by his smell and the small sounds escaping his lips. He groaned softly at her movements, his hands moving from her back to her waist as he leaned into the kiss. They stayed in their embrace for several minutes, hands roaming as they took their time to reconnect. She pulled away to look at him and for the first time noticed how exhausted he was, despite the lust-filled eyes, swollen lips, and the evidence of his arousal against her leg he looked ready to keel over. 

“Jamie,” she said, giving him a smile and soft kiss before pulling away from him. He groaned at the loss and she bit her lip to keep herself from resuming her earlier position. “I want you to go straight upstairs to bed. Do you hear me?” 

“I need to shower… there’s dinner and Fergus…” he stopped, yawning midsentence. 

“You can shower tomorrow, I’ll take care of Fergus and dinner. Now, upstairs, and bed. All I want you to do is strip down and go right to sleep.” She knew he was really tried when he only hummed and stood without further complaint as she pulled him up from his chair. 

“I love ye, Claire, I dinna ken what I would do wi’out ye.” 

“I love you with all my heart,” she told him, “and you’ll never have to know because I’m never leaving you, or Fergus.” 

He nodded, pleased by her sentiments, and slowly shuffled out of the kitchen, not noticing as she followed him to make sure he successfully climbed the stairs. She waited until she heard his bedroom door shut before returning to the kitchen and ordering dinner. She wasn’t hungry herself but ordered two pizzas, knowing Fergus was famished, after a long night’s sleep she was expecting Jamie to be hungry enough to eat a horse in the morning. 

It had been a long day for them all and Fergus was ready for bed after his third slice. She walked him to bed, putting clean-up off until tomorrow, and settled him down. Claire tucked the blankets under his chin and kissed his forehead, “Goodnight, Mam,” he whispered as his eyes fluttered closed and he fell asleep, the week's events taking a swift toll on his body.

She took a deep breath and looked down at the boy before her. That was the first time he called her that and she wasn’t sure if he would even be aware that he had done it when he woke up. 

Had he said it on purpose or by instinct as she tucked him in? She shook her head of the thought, it didn't matter why he called her that, just that he did.

She smoothed down his curls and forced herself out of his room, walking silently into Jamie’s bedroom, leaning against the door so it settled with a soft click behind her. Claire could barely contain herself, she felt giddy and proud; Fergus had called her mom. 

She had privately wondered for some time what he would call her when he finally did; would it be maman for his French origins? Mum because she was English or mama for its simplicity? It seemed his Gaelic upbringing had won and she was to be his mam; just as Jamie called his mother and she couldn’t have been any prouder. She had wanted it for so many years, to be a mom, losing hope with the loss of her and Frank’s child but a little boy named Fergus Fraser had not only restored that hop, he had made it into reality; she was finally here and the feeling was as incredible as she imagined it would be.  

Claire wanted nothing more than to wake Jamie, to tell him the amazing milestone they had just passed and she would have, had he not looked so peaceful.

He had stripped down to his boxers as she had instructed, probably only keeping those on for a sake of decency, before collapsing onto the bed, too tired to pull the blanket over himself. She moved away from the door and picked up his abandoned suit, throwing it into the hamper before stripping herself and throwing on one of his oversized shirts, and crawling into bed with him. 

All thoughts of Frank and their impending trial disappeared from thought as the feel of Jamie’s body to next her own enveloped her and Fergus’ voice played in a loop. 

 

Chapter Text

    She opened her eyes only to find herself surrounded by darkness, moving her head to get a glimpse at the alarm clock on the bedside table Claire groaned when she saw the red numbers, it was barely four o’clock in the morning. She had two hours before she would be forced to get up and begin the bloody day. Today was either the start of her new life or the continuation of her old one, knowing Frank as the bullheaded, narcissist that he was, she hoped for the former but expected the latter. She would be free of the man eventually, Ned assured her that much, but she wasn’t counting on a quick victory. 

    Frank was like a dog with a bone and he was refusing to let her go,  the fact that he was the reason behind the whole mess seemed beyond him. If Frank hadn’t cheated, had tried to be a better husband, and grieve the loss of their child with her instead of self-destructing, they might still be married. The miscarriage had been a catalyst to their separation, though certainly not the only warning sign, it was just the final straw. He had been pulling away for some time, working more at the university but he hadn’t been entirely unpleasant. When they found out about the pregnancy, he suddenly became the embodiment of the perfect husband and father, checking in with her throughout the day, home before five, and caring. Then the miscarriage and with the flick of a switch, he was one of the worst people on the planet. 

    She didn’t doubt that Frank had been grieving, they both had, but he’d gone about it in the worst way possible which was what he didn’t seem to understand. 

A blessing in disguise, she mused, staring at the wall across from her. If the baby had survived, been born according to plan, she would still be with Frank and would have never met Jamie and Fergus. They were her world now and she was happy to make them so. 

    Claire smiled, remembering Fergus’ words the night before. She was a mother now, his mam, and she wouldn’t want it any other way. 

    She all but melted into Jamie’s touch as he pulled her closer. 

He slept soundlessly behind her, their legs intertwined with one hand cupping her breast and his face buried into her hair. Claire couldn’t fathom how he could be comfortable in such a position but as long as he didn’t mind it, she wouldn’t either. She liked having him close and intimate in a way that wasn’t sexual. 

She wanted that as well, in fact, she couldn’t wait until they were able to take that final plunge. There had been quite a few close calls, times when she wanted to literally fuck it, and find pleasure against the nearest flat surface. Jamie, however, is proof that chivalry isn't dead, he had been the one to stop them several times, always making sure that they never went too far, and from the feel of him, hard and wanting, it was the last thing he wanted to. He never wavered, and Claire was thankful to him, their situation would be much harder– pun not intended– if they had given in to carnal desires. 

Soon, though, she was sure of it. 

Claire detangled herself from his limbs, unable to fall back asleep, she felt it a waste to be laying around, her heart clenched as Jamie twisted in the bed, searching for her. It was several long seconds before his head landed on her pillow and he settled into sleep once more, sated by her smell ingrained in the fabric. 

She chuckled and leaned down to place a soft kiss on his cheek, being careful not to wake him, she exited the room. She checked on Fergus next, feeling an innate urge to make sure he was safe in his bed. Claire opened the door and smiled when she saw him, cast in a beautiful, dark blue glow from the night light he insisted on sleeping with, he was absolutely adorable. While Jamie was a peaceful sleeper, except during times of stress, Fergus was the exact opposite. Claire had left him on his back the night before only to find him somehow sleeping on both his stomach and side, one arm twisted behind him with his legs spread out and the blanket a jumbled mess around his waist as he clutched his stuffed turtle to his chest. Satisfied with his well-being, she left Fergus alone and went downstairs, immediately starting the coffee maker. It was going to be a long day and they would need all the help they could get. 

Claire unplugged her phone from where it was charging on the kitchen counter, her body stiffening when she noticed the email from Ned, she opened it and fell into one of the kitchen chairs. Ned’s official, legal advice was for Jamie to testify:

Seems to me that Randall and Grey will do anything they can to make Mr. Fraser testify, it would be in his and your best interest to appear in court willingly rather than be forced by a magistrate. We can set up a time to go over possibilities and proper conduct, say, mid-morning? Around nine at my office? Gives us a few hours to prepare before court.

Jamie could refuse to go willingly, Ned explained, but then Frank and John could file a motion to force him, if granted– which Ned found very likely– Jamie would be held in contempt of court which could end with a large fine or possible imprisonment. In the end, it would be better to go compliantly. 

Claire sighed in frustration and tossed her phone onto the counter, uncaring as it slid across the tile and hit the adjacent wall. Fucking Frank Randall. This wasn’t the first time Claire wished she had listened to Uncle Lamb when he’d protested the relationship.

He’s not good enough for you, my dear, he simply isn’t.

The words rang in her head and she cursed her younger self. It was a double-edged sword, on one hand, she could have avoided this entire mess by not entering into a relationship with Frank. If she hadn’t, however, she never would have met Jamie and Fergus, and that she would never regret. 

The coffee maker beeped behind her making her jump, she shook her head to clear her mind and stood to pour herself a cup. 

The day, thankfully, was all planned due to Jamie’s one-track mind, small modifications would be made now that he was expected to testify but it would hardly affect anything. Jenny would swing by around seven to pick Fergus up for school, much to the boy’s disappointment, but the respective adults in his life were unwilling to let him miss anymore. Claire, and now Jamie, would be escorted to Ned’s office to prepare for their session that afternoon by Ellen who would accompany them. After court, they would meet the rest of the Fraser-Murray’s at Lallybroch for dinner, in either celebration or to lick their wounds and reaccess, before returning home and spending quality time as a family. Claire and Jamie had promised Fergus a game night, the boy had picked Monopoly as their entertainment and she couldn’t wait.

Claire spent the morning busying herself with small tasks, she cleaned the kitchen and living room, packed four lunches– for herself, Jamie, Fergus, and Ellen– before sitting down once more at the kitchen table with her third cup of coffee, and Fergus’ homework packet in front of her. She had assembled it for him a week ago, knowing Fergus was bound to miss a few days due to court and was duty-bound as his teacher, and future mother, to make sure he didn’t fall behind in his studies. Claire hummed to herself as she looked over his work, with no classroom distractions and a lack of pressure, Fergus’ work was exemplary, she couldn’t be prouder. 

It was just after six when she had her first companion, “Good morning, love,” she said, looking up from the paper to find the owner of said work rubbing his eyes in the doorway, still clad in his pajamas. His hair was an unruly mop, eerily reminiscent of her own, and his cheeks were still flushed with sleep. She was surprised to see him awake, the boy was notoriously not a morning person, and to see him out of bed before Jamie made the situation that much more odd. 

“Everything okay?” she asked, looking him over. He seemed physically fine, but there was no way to tell his mental state without talking to him.

He didn’t answer, instead, he shuffled across the kitchen tile to wrap his arms around her, burying his head into her shoulder. She returned the embrace and stroked his back, kissing the side of his head to offer what comfort she could. Claire didn’t hesitate to pull him onto her lap, his legs dangling on either side of the chair, he was small for his age and she found the weight of him pleasant, continuing to soothe him as he rested his cheek on her shoulder. She held him securely with one arm and with the opposite hand she checked his cheek and forehead for fever, finding him cool to the touch. 

“Fergus, what’s wrong, darling?” she asked. 

“I missed you,” he whispered, taking a deep breath before continuing, “I had a bad dream that you were taken away by the bad man and Papa and I never saw you again. I just wanted to make sure you were still here.” 

“Oh, Fergus,” she said, her heartbreaking with the telling of his dream, she squeezed him with all her might, “I’m not going anywhere, you’re safe with me, always.” 

She was going to kill Frank Randall for making her– yes, her– sweet boy so paranoid and insecure. 

“Last night,” Fergus hesitated, feeling more confident in French, he continued, “je t'ai appelé Maman, c'était d'accord?” (I called you Mam, was that okay?) 

“It was more than okay,” she assured him. He had been moments from sleep when he’d said the words last night, Claire hadn’t expected him to remember let alone seek reassurance and permission. “I loved it.” 

She could feel him smile against her shoulder. 

“Well,” he shrugged, his fears abated, “you act as my Mam, I thought you should have the title to go with it,” 

She laughed, “That’s a good enough reason, I suppose,” 

He straightened up, lifting himself from her shoulder, and placed a kiss on her cheek, “Je vous aime,” (I love you)

“I love you too, more than you’ll ever know,” she told him. 

“Should I be concerned that I’m no longer yer favorite, Sassenach?” 

Claire and Fergus turned to find Jamie leaning against the doorway, his arms crossed against his chest with a dreamy smile on his face as he observed them. Claire looked him over and was happy to see him looking rested, the circles under his eyes were lighter, and his body was relaxed, no longer rigid with the stress he’d been carrying for weeks; the twelve-hour rest was exactly what he had needed. 

“I’m afraid that ship has sailed,” Claire said to Jamie, tightening her hold on Fergus who giggled in her arms, “Fergus is my favorite Fraser, but I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know you’re in my top five.” 

His eyebrows rose, “Top five? How many Frasers are on that wee list o’ yers?” 

“Well, there’s Fergus, then your mother and sister–” 

“Ouch!” he feigned offense with a hand over his heart. 

Claire grinned and continued, “And I am particularly fond of Young Ian.” 

“Say no more,” he held up his hands in mock surrender, “I ken where I stand, Sassenach, and I’ll no’ be forgettin’ it soon, mark me.” 

Their eyes locked, seeing nothing in the room except for the other, his brilliant smile and slanted eyes squinted in pleasure and amusement assured Claire he was happy to be her Fraser, no matter where he landed on the list. In reality, he was much higher up, tied with Fergus for first place in her heart, but he didn’t need reminding of that, his ego was big enough already. 

Fergus squirmed on her lap, shifting to find a more comfortable position to view both his father and Claire. His stomach growled, bringing the adults out of their revere to the world around them. 

“Right, I suppose breakfast is in order.” Claire motioned for Jamie to take Fergus from her and once freed, she moved to the refrigerator to pull out the leftover pizza. Jamie settled Fergus at the table before helping Claire assemble their breakfast. Claire dished out the food while he poured out beverages: coffee for him and Claire and apple juice for Fergus. 

Breakfast passed way too quickly for Claire, before she knew it, she was helping Fergus into his jacket as Jamie and Jenny discussed the plans for the day. They took turns saying goodbye, each squeezing him in a hug with a parting kiss, they stood side-by-side, waving as Jenny and the van full of children went off to school. 

“Ready?” Jamie asked, holding out his hand for Claire to take as Ellen pulled into the driveway thirty minutes later.

She took a deep breath, and clasped her hand in his, “As I’ll ever be.” 





Chapter Text

They were in the same room as before, Clarie recognized it easily, she was seated at the same chipped table next to Ned as he rifled through his bag, pulling out paper after paper. Ned Gowan was meticulous and fully confident in the case they had built against Frank, bank statements proving her financial independence, character witnesses for both her and Frank– her’s positive, his negative– Ned had even managed to track down and convince one of Frank’s mistresses to appear in court. Claire could see the young woman, Sandy, her name was, fidgeting in her seat out of the corner of her eye. Sandy was young, blonde, tall with perky breasts and a willingness to please. It was easy to see why Frank had been drawn to her, she was everything Claire wasn’t.

Claire shook her head, trying to clear her mind as she turned in her seat, needing to get a glimpse of Jamie, the reason she was doing this, her light at the end of the tunnel. He was sitting between his mother and Colum, dressed rather handsomely in his charcoal suit and navy blue shirt. They were talking lowly, Claire couldn’t make out what they were saying, Jamie’s brow furrowed as he listened to his uncle and he nodded slowly. 

Colum, despite his physical limitations, was a formidable man and influential in his own right. Not only was he the headmaster of Leoch, but he was head of the local MacKenzie clan, he had endless support in the local community with political sway and connections throughout all of Scotland. Colum, like his sister and nephew, was able to hide behind a mask, Claire was unable to read him, unsure if he was her friend or foe. If he was sitting with his family, that had to be a good sign, Claire told herself. It wasn’t likely that Colum would be seated anywhere near Ellen if he was planning on crossing them; she was the only person who dared to confront him. Hopefully, Ellen’s presence and familial obligations would keep Colum in check. 

Jamie glanced up from his lap, caught her eye, and offered her a warm smile as he placed his left hand over his heart. 

It will be okay, he would make sure of it.

She nodded, letting him know she’d received his silent message and turned back in her chair. Ned finally sat next to her and took his wire glasses off his nose, carefully cleaning them with a handkerchief he’d pulled from his pocket. 

“Shouldn’t they be here by now?” Claire asked the lawyer, motioning to the empty table a few feet from theirs. Frank and John had yet to arrive with a little less than ten minutes before their hearing was due to begin; Claire wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or an omen. 

“Dinna trouble yourself, my dear, all will be well, maybe fate will be on our side, and they won’t arrive at all, we could have the entire thing thrown out in that case.” 

No such luck, it seemed, as moments later the heavy wooden doors to the room creaked open and their opposition walked in. Claire forgot, for the smallest of moments, that she was supposed to be angry with John, returning his smile as he walked by her, only remembering their current position seconds later, dropping the smile. Frank looked as pretentious as ever in his brown tweed three-piece suit with a matching fedora covering his slicked-back hair; for a man who took pride in his appearance, he had no sense of style. 

Claire sat with her hands in her lap, biting down onto her lower lip as she waited for the proceedings to begin. It wasn’t long before she was prompted to stand as Judge McCune entered the room and sat once more when the judge had situated herself. The sight of the familiar judge eased Claire as McCune seemed to have no problems calling Frank out on his behavior as she had done the previous week. Having a female judge who radiated professionality would work best in her favor, Claire was sure of it. 

“Are all parties present and accounted for?” McCune asked, looking from Ned to John. When both lawyers nodded in the affirmative, McCune turned her attention to Ned. 

Ned rose from his chair at McCune’s prompting, cleared his throat, and began with his opening statement, “This is a divorce case stemming from a marriage gone horribly awry. My client, Claire Beauchamp-Randall, has spent the last several years subjected to emotional and psychological abuse at the fault of Mr. Frank Randall. As if the mental repercussions from the union weren’t enough, my client also has also had to contend with an unfaithful spouse who has participated in multiple affairs. My client’s livelihood, reputation, and safety have all been brought under question from harmful actions brought forth by Mr. Randall and it’s for these reasons that my client seeks reprieve. At the end of the day, your honor, marriage is a contract, and my client’s contract has been broken several times over. We have prepared documents, witness testimonies, and statements, as well as photographic evidence to support our case. ” When he was finished, Ned gave McCune a bow before returning to his seat. 

John stood with a tight smile, “Your honor, my client and I will address all of the aforementioned concerns– which is what they are, simple concerns– with evidence of our own proving the validity and sanctity of this union and the efforts set forth by Mr. Randall to preserve it. Every step of the way, my client has been met with resistance, but his resolve has not been shaken. As Mr. Gowan put it, if this marriage’s contract has been shattered, it was not done by just one party,” John paused in his speech and glanced at Frank, waiting for a nod before he continued, “and we’ll go to great lengths to prove it.” 

“Would you care to elaborate, Mr. Grey?” McCune asked, eyeing John. 

“Not at this time, your honor,” John answered, taking his seat. 

“You have the floor, Mr. Gowan,” McCune said to Ned. 

They started with the character statements, notarized to support their legitimacy, praising Claire as a wonderful and irreplaceable employee and friend while simultaneously pointing out Frank’s misogynistic and homophobic tendencies, citing numerous affairs and occasions of his brutal nature. Ned spoke eloquently with passion and poise as he read from the documents, pausing for dramatic effect every few minutes to allow the statements time to sink in. The statements were from mutual friends, old colleagues of Claire and Frank, and to her surprise, Frank’s younger brother, Alex, had written in her favor. 

Frank remained stoic throughout the readings, not letting a single word outwardly faze him.

When Ned finished, he sat back in his chair, allowing John to take the floor in rebuttal. John and Frank had prepared character assessments as well, citing Frank as an honest, hardworking saint of a man for putting up with such a stubborn, prudish, rude wife. Claire could hear Jamie’s snort as John read a line detailing her as selfish and emotionally closed off. She didn’t dare turn to look at him, instead, focusing on John as he finished reading his last statement before resuming his seat. 

They called witnesses next, Sandy was the first to take the stand and with Ned’s prompting questions, she went into great detail about her and Frank’s affair. It started as any normal relationship between professor and student until his attentions progressed; young, naive, and eager to please Sandy had fallen for his charms, just as Claire had. They were together for two years, starting before the pregnancy with Frank ending the relationship shortly after Claire had moved to Scotland. It was guilt that had convinced Sandy to testify against Frank, she had been aware of his marital status but knew nothing about the pregnancy. To support her account, Sandy brought several letters, text logs, and voicemails with varying dates and content. 

Sandy’s testimony and evidence proved that Frank had been engaging in extramarital activities longer than he had claimed, before his grief over the miscarriage had caused him to temporarily forget his vows. In his cross-examination, John used the fact that Frank had been the one to end the affair to their advantage, claiming remorse and sorrow had led Frank to see the error in his ways and stop all contact with Sandy. Feeling his point proven, John ended his questioning, and Sandy was dismissed. 

“Doesna matter if he ended the relationship,” Ned whispered to Claire, “we already proved it happened and they’ve just confirmed it, it’s damage control at this point.” Claire nodded in understanding. 

Reverend Reginald Wakefield was next, giving several examples of Frank’s uncouth, borderline hostile behavior to himself and other undeserving people. The Reverend went into great detail about Frank’s personality, describing traits that any decent man wouldn’t have: abusive, aggressive, narcissistic, and manipulative. The marriage, the Reverend said in his professional opinion, never should have been blessed as there was no way Frank could have abided by the holy sacraments.

“The union should be dissolved legally and religiously,” Reverend Wakefield said in conclusion. “No one should be forced to live with such a man, especially someone with as big and good of a heart as Claire Beauchamp.” 

John argued the Reverend’s claims were unfounded. There was no corroborating evidence to prove the actions that had been attributed to Frank had indeed taken place. The Reverend, John said, was using this opportunity to act out a personal vendetta on his old colleague and friend stemming from an incident that took place years before when Frank had disputed several ‘facts’ the Reverend had stated in his book about the ‘45 Jacobite Rebellion causing the work to be pulled from publishing. 

“The Reverend’s testimony is prejudicial,” John said, “and should be struck from the record and removed from consideration, it’s clearly retaliation.”

McCune thought for a moment before agreeing, “Reverend Wakefield’s testimony will be stricken from the record and will have no bearing on the outcome of this trial.” 

“I’m verra sorry,” the Reverend said to Claire as he passed her table on the way back to the gallery, “I tried, yer in my prayers, have faith that God has a plan for ye.” 

“That didn’t go in our favor,” Ned confessed, frowning at his notes, “much of our argument was based on the Reverend’s testimony.”

“What now?” Claire asked. 

“It’s their turn to call witnesses,” Ned said, motioning to John and Frank, “all I have to do is successfully counter or dismiss whatever they’re trying to claim.” 

“Colum and Jamie…” Claire whispered, gripping the arms of her chair. 

“Aye,” Ned said. 

“The court calls Colum MacKenzie to the stand,” McCune said. 

Colum steadily rose from his seat and with his cane, slowly made his way through the divider and up to the witness platform. The resemblance to his family was strong, Claire had to admit, she could clearly see his relation to both Ellen and Jamie. The high, strong Viking bone structure with a broad nose to match, even though Colum’s hair was now mostly white, she could still see traces of the tell-tale Auburn hair that marked him, his sister, and nephew as part of the MacKenzie clan. 

“Mr. MacKenzie, please state your position for the court,” John said.

“I’m Laird of the MacKenzie Clan, though I’m sure ye wanted me to say that I’m headmaster o' Leoch, no’ the first bit,” Colom said, earning a chuckle from many of the spectators watching the trial. 

“Indeed I did,” John agreed, “how long has Mrs. Randall been employed at Leoch?” 

“Ms. Beauchamp,” Colum said, enunciating her name, “has been under my employ for about six months now.”

“Would you please describe what kind of employee Mrs. Randall is?” 

Colum straightened in his seat, his eyes narrowing, Claire thought that for the briefest seconds that Colum had looked at Ellen as if he was seeking his sister’s permission to speak. Having seemingly received it, Colum began, “Ms. Beauchamp is a model employee. She’s never missed a day except for the ones relating to this trial, her students adore her, and she gets along fine wi’ the rest o’ the staff. I’ve no issues with her whatsoever.” 

“Mr. MacKenzie… Laird MacKenzie, excuse me,” John amended, “like most schools, I’m assuming Leoch has a rule forbidding fraternization between teachers and parents–”

“Objection, your honor,” Ned shouted, raising from his seat, “relevancy.” 

“How is this relevant, Counselor Grey?” McCune asked, looking at John.

“I’m establishing a pattern, your honor, it’s all relevant, I can assure you that. What Mrs. Randall does in her professional life has bearing on her personal life, does it not?” John explained. 

“Very well,” McCune nodded, “continue.” 

Ned sat back in his seat with a huff as John continued. 

John turned toward Colum, “Is there such a rule?” 

“Aye,” Colum said with a nod, “there is.” 

“And the consequence of breaking this rule?” 

“Immediate termination,” Colum answered. 

“Thank you,” John said, “I’ve no further questions, your witness, Counselor Gowan.” 

Ned rose from his seat and approached Colum, together, they painted Claire as a wonderful teacher beloved by her students and respected by her colleagues. She was patient with her students, turning several of them around both behaviorally and academically when others had given up on them. She was dependable, always willing to cover lunch or play duty when another teacher failed short. Claire was a source of pride for Leoch and Colum was more than happy to claim her as a member of his staff. 

When Ned finished questioning Colum, the trial was dismissed for lunch, allowing all parties to regroup and freshen themselves up. Claire excused herself to the restroom as Ned approached Ellen and Jamie, wanting to go over notes before Jamie’s testimony which would take place after the break. 

Claire didn't really have to use the facilities, she was far too nervous for her bodily functions to be working perfectly, she just wanted time alone. Time to think. It was obvious where John’s questions were leading to. And as Claire cupped her hands under the sink to collect water, her hands began to shake. She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths to try and steel herself. Now was not the time to panic or lose her confidence, that’s exactly what Frank wanted. 

Lost in thought, she didn’t hear the door creak open or the small pang as it closed. She opened her eyes to look at the mirror only to find Frank’s reflection staring back at her. 

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Claire yelled, turning around to face him. “What the devil are you doing in here, Frank? This is the woman’s bathroom.” 

“I wanted to get you alone,” he said with a shrug, his cold hazel eyes focusing on her, “it’s not too late, you know.” 

“What?”

“Drop the divorce, Claire, go out there and call off your Scottish team of dogs, come home with me and this could all stop.” 

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Claire told him, backing up to create as much space between as she could. “I don’t love you, Frank, I don’t want to be with you. Why can’t you just let me go? You can go back to Sandy or whatever girl you’re screwing now.” 

“Because I love you,” he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “look, I know you have feelings for that Scotsman out there but he can’t take care of you as I can. I know you better than anyone, more than you know yourself.”

“I don’t want anything to do with you! God, Frank, I loved you once, I did, but now I want to get as far away from you as possible.” 

“Last chance,” Frank warned, “drop the divorce and come with me or–”

“Or what?” Claire asked, crossing her arms across her chest. “What could you possibly do?” 

“Just remember, Claire, you caused all this. I gave you a chance.” 

And with those parting words, Frank left the bathroom, leaving Claire shaking and alone by the running sink.