"Shh, we have to surprise Daddy," Claire whispers, looking down at her twin three-year-old daughters.
Faith and Brianna both look up at her with large blue eyes, rounded out in excitement as they both hold up chubby fingers to make identical shushing movements while trying not to laugh.
Claire giggles, nodding at each little girl. "Good girls."
Their matching copper hair bounces in their pigtails as they make their way down the hall toward their father's office, each with a tiny hand wrapped in their mother's.
Jamie Fraser, Claire's husband, owns a Christmas tree farm, and this is, obviously, his busiest time of year. It's already December twenty-third, but with so many people being last-minute tree shoppers, Fraser's Ridge is always extremely busy today with people knowing Jamie closes the lot down on Christmas Eve until after New Year. Then in January, he'll be able to sit down and catch up on the bills and sales receipts from November and December and begin preparing for taxes and planting new trees. It's a never-ending cycle on the ridge.
It's hard work, owning his farm, and people often think Jamie has nothing to do outside of the holiday season, but Claire knows that isn't true. There's a lot more to it, growing and cultivating the trees that people from all over Wilmington come to purchase each season. She's proud of her husband; he's grown his business from a small tree lot to the expansive farm it is today. Him and his team offer tractor rides in the fall to visit the pumpkin patches, apple orchards on the east plot of land where people can pick fresh apples, to the everyday farming that takes place along with the Christmas trees. Not to mention the stables he runs as well, grooming and training horses.
She has to work a half-day tomorrow, unfortunately. The hospital is short-staffed, so she has to go in tomorrow morning for a handful of simple surgeries before she's free for Christmas and New Year. But she wanted to do something special for Jamie. He's been working so hard the last few months, and he deserves a little break in his day today to just enjoy a moment with his family.
"Knock, knock," she calls, letting the girls knock against the wood frame of his office door.
Creaking the door open, Claire peeks her head in, but Faith and Bree decide waiting is overrated and burst through the door, little calls of, "Daddy! Daddy!" echoing around the office.
"Och, there's my wee lassies!" he exclaims, his blue eyes shining as they capture hers over the tops of their twins' heads. "What a nice surprise!"
"Lunch, Daddy!" Faith announces, pointing back to Claire.
Grinning, she nods, slinging her oversized backpack off her shoulders. She sets it down on his desk, leaning in for a quick kiss to her husband before she starts to open the bag. "We know you've been so busy lately," she explains, glancing over to the girls. They've already made themselves at home in the chairs in Jamie's office, babbling to one another as they play with the toy horses Jamie keeps in his office for them. "But we wanted to bring you a little lunch today."
Jamie smiles, his eyes crinkling around the edges. "'Tis verra nice, Sassenach, thank ye." He wraps his arm around her waist, pulling her in for a deeper kiss.
Smiling into the embrace, Claire giggles when his scruff he hasn't shaved just yet tickles her cheek. "Maybe you don't shave for a few days," she declares, scratching at his jawline. "I kind of like it like this."
With a smirk, he murmurs into her ear, "Whatever ye want, Sassenach."
She grins at the nickname; it's one he's called her since they first met in college. They were both transplants to America, trying to find their way in the world as adults.
Claire had transferred to a college in Boston her junior year, having never truly settled down anywhere in the world. Her uncle raised her after her parents died as a young girl, and being an archeologist, Uncle Lamb traveled the globe with Claire on his heels. She'd started university at Oxford but soon found her heart being pulled toward Boston and its medical program.
After being there for four months, her best friend and roommate, Geillis Duncan, introduced her to Jamie. He and Geillis were both from Scotland and met during freshman year at some Scots in America meeting. Geillis had invited Jamie over to a party, and being the type to shy away from large crowds, he'd been hiding in the hallway of their apartment, looking at the pictures hanging on the wall.
"See something you like?" Claire asked the giant (gorgeous), red-haired man. She'd seen him around before, noticed him a few times at the campus coffee shop with Geillis, but had never had the pleasure of meeting him.
His cheeks pinkened, the blush moving up to the tips of his ears in the most adorable way. "Och, I'm sae sorry," he apologized, his Scottish accent making her smile. "'Tis only that I'm no' so good with big crowds." He motioned toward the living room, and she chuckled.
"And this party got way more out of hand than you were expecting?" He nodded at her question, and she smiled, saying, "Yeah, me, too." Geillis had told her this morning that it would only be a few close friends, but of course that turned into each of them bringing another close friend, and before Claire knew it, there were thirty people in their little apartment much to her chagrin.
"You want to get out of here?" she asked, taking a sip of her drink. "There's a park across the street. We could walk around and get some fresh air."
The curly-haired man beamed, nodding his agreement. "That's a fine idea, Sassenach. I'm Jamie Fraser, by the way."
His blush deepened as he grunted in the back of his throat. "Och, 'tis only a word back in Scotland that means an outsider... an outlander."
"Hm," she grunted playfully back at him, "Anytime I've heard it, it's been used in a derogatory way." She eyed him up and down suspiciously, fighting the smirk growing on her lips.
He looked down at his feet, then back up again, giving her the cutest little shrug. He tilted his head to one side, saying, "I can call ye by yer real name if ye'd give it to me."
"Mmmmm," she drawled out dramatically, "I think Sassenach will do for now… until I know if you're a serial killer or not."
He grinned at her, adding, "Weel, mebbe it should be me that's worried seein' as ye're the one who asked me tae go walk in a dark park wi' ye."
She bit her bottom lip, pursing them together before saying, "Are you willing to take a chance, James Fraser?"
"Aye," he chuckled, a gleam in his eyes, "more than ready."
With that, they sat their drinks down, grabbed their jackets and headed across the street. They walked for over an hour, stopping to look at the gardens inside the park, talking and genuinely getting to know one another.
They spoke of how they each landed in America, their childhoods, and what they wanted to do with their lives. It was the best non-date-date Claire had ever been on.
They ended up on the swings, laughing and talking the night away, and before Claire knew it, they were holding hands and she was letting him kiss her goodnight hours later at her door.
After that, she'd spent all her time outside of class with friends, which now included Jamie. They began dating, and before long were moving in together, graduating, and getting married.
"Daddy, I wanna eat," Brianna says, interrupting her parents' moment.
Jamie reaches down, scooping one toddler into his arms while Faith slides down from her chair, wobbling over and holding up her chubby, little arms for Claire to pick her up as well.
With a baby on her hip, Claire announces it's time to eat and begins unloading the rest of the food she'd packed.
She hands Faith off to Jamie as well, watching as he bounces both girls in his arms, spinning them around and making them shriek in delight. He's singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them, completely off-key, but the twins' little babbles of incoherent lyrics fill the room, their father's horrible singing be damned.
Claire pulls out the container with turkey and ham in it, then the bag with sandwich bread. There's pasta salad she'd made last night, grapes and pineapple, and a bag of baby carrots for them all to share.
"Alright, you three," she calls, "let's settle down so we can eat."
Jamie sets the girls down, tapping them each on the tops of their heads before helping Claire. He pulls out the tartan blanket she'd stuffed in the bottom of her bag, a little gift box falling out as he does. "What's this?" he asks, eyeing the wrapped box suspiciously.
"That is for me to know, mister," she says with a smirk, snatching the box away and holding it to her chest, "and for you to find out."
He narrows his eyes, looking from the gift to Claire, but clearly decides it's not worth it right now to push, so he grins, kissing her lips chastely before fanning out the blanket.
The girls toddle onto it, giggling as they flop onto the fabric, Jamie tossing the Christmas pillows from his office chairs onto the ground for them.
Claire dishes out the food, Jamie helping get everything set up, and before long, their little family picnic is underway.
"We need to cover their cute outfits," Claire declares, hurriedly reaching for the large napkins and unfolding them to tuck into the girl's shirt collars before they got them too messy.
Brianna goes to tug on hers, but Claire gently admonishes her. "We don't want to mess up your cute Santa shirt, baby. Just wear this while you eat."
The little girl eventually stops fussing with it and agrees with a little nod, especially once she sees Faith has dutifully kept hers on and is already happily munching away on her turkey pieces.
"Aren't those outfits just darling?"
Jamie smiles, shaking his head and making a joke about how he's sure they cost more than they ought to, but they are cute.
Faith is in a pair of black leggings with white snowflakes on them. Her shirt is a white long sleeve with Frosty's face on it, while Brianna is in red and black plaid leggings with a matching white, long sleeve shirt. Her shirt, however, has Santa's winking face and rosy red cheeks on it instead.
They're adorable, their little matching black, fur boots making it even cuter. Claire knew she already had outfits picked out for them to wear tomorrow and on Christmas, but these were too cute to pass up so they needed a good reason to wear them.
As they eat, Claire watches the snow fall outside from the large window, glad Wilmington decided to have a white Christmas this year after all. "The snow is so beautiful," she comments, sipping on her hot chocolate Jamie had fixed them from the Keurig he kept on a table in his office. "I miss being in Boston and having real snow."
Jamie laughs, saying, "Ye always complained about how cold it was, mo chridhe, ye really want that kind of weather again?"
Giggling, she shakes her head, knowing North Carolina got cold enough for her. "No, but it would be nice to go visit Geillis up there sometime while it's cold. Let the girls see real snow."
He agrees with a good-hearted scoff. "Aye, that would be fun. We could show them around campus, let them play in our park." He grins at that, and she smiles back, knowing they always talked about bringing their future children to the park where it all began.
"And Geillis would love to see them. She hasn't seen them since they were just a few months old."
"Would ye lassies like tae go visit Auntie Geillis? Hm?"
Twin blue eyes look up from their torn up turkey and ham, Faith's chubby hand smushing her grapes between her fingers and Brianna sticking a piece of cheese into her little mouth. They look to one another, then their parents, both nodding and giggling.
"Auntie G!" Faith called, clapping her hands. "Yeah!"
Smiling, Claire takes out her phone, videoing Brianna excitedly calling for Auntie G as well and sends it to her friend with the caption: "Sounds like two little girls are ready to visit Boston."
Once the food has all been consumed by their little endless pits, Claire and Jamie work together to pack up the empty containers into her bookbag.
"How 'bout a story before ye all head home, hm?"
Jamie sits back down on the blanket, patting the spot next to him. Faith is first to respond, plopping herself next to her father.
Claire grins, sitting across from his stretched out legs while Brianna cuddles next to her.
He reaches behind him, grabbing The Night Before Christmas off the little table.
"Tomorrow isn't Christmas," Claire chuckles, running her fingers against Bree's back.
Jamie shrugs, giving her that half-cocked smile that always makes her feel giddy. "Och, 'tis alright, Sassenach." He leans in, stage whispering, "They dinna ken the difference."
Laughing, she sits back, her torso leaned against his desk as her legs stretch out in front of her, running parallel to Jamie's.
He begins to read, his Scottish accent filling the room as his voice crescendos and decrescendos at all the right places in the story. He's a natural born storyteller, and she's always loved to sit and listen to him read. In college, they'd spend lazy weekends inside, especially during the winter, watching television or reading as the world around them got coated with snow. Some of her favorite moments were when Jamie would read poetry to her, soothing her into a cozy afternoon nap snuggled up against her love.
Jamie reads to their daughters about sugar plum fairies, making his hand move around as if it's dancing. The girls giggle, but she can tell by the muffled sounds of it that their lunch is hitting their full bellies, and they'll be asleep soon.
Bree grows heavy against her legs with each page, her small thumb finding its way into her mouth.
Claire rubs circles along her back, eyes trailing over to Faith. She's in much the same position, draped across Jamie's legs, thumb in mouth. Her blue cat-like eyes that are all her dad's are growing heavy, and Claire can tell she's almost out as well.
Jamie's large hand comes to rest against Faith's back, rubbing softly, and Claire smiles fondly, watching as that motion finally lulls their baby girl into dreamland.
"I think you've put them both to sleep," she murmurs, nodding her head toward Faith.
Jamie stops reading, glancing down at Faith, then over to Brianna, grinning at the sight.
"They're sae bonny, mo chridhe."
She loves what a good dad he is. He's always been madly in love with the girls ever since they were in her belly, and watching him with them every day is a gift.
"We should let them sleep for a bit," she states, "then we can load them into the car."
He nods, slipping Faith off of his legs and tucking a corner of the blanket over her limbs.
Claire does much the same, laying Brianna next to her sister, eyes misting over as their tiny hands find each other even in slumber.
She's thankful they're such good sleepers, knowing they could sleep through a hurricane and not wake up. They'll sleep on the blanket, and she has no doubt they'll sleep while being transported back into the car and all the way home. It'll be a nice nap, reenergizing them for the rest of the afternoon.
"I have something for you," Claire says, taking Jamie's hand. She leads them over to the two plush chairs in his office, moving the toy horses the girls had left there out of their way.
She pushes on his shoulders, motioning for him to sit down before going over to his desk and retrieving the small gift from her backpack.
"Here," she says with a smile. "Now you can have it."
"Sassenach," he looks up at her, eyes bright with excitement. He's always loved presents, and she loves watching him open them each and every time. "Ye dinna have tae do this. Christmas isn't for another two days."
Shrugging, she gives him a look that says oh well! and he grins, shaking his head. "I wanted to give you this as an early Christmas present while the girls were asleep."
Peeling back the wrapping paper curiously, he breaks through the tape on the box and lifts the lid. Claire bites down on her bottom lip, trying to contain her own excitement as his eyes land on the gift, a look of confusion coloring his features.
He pulls out a baby sized pair of Santa boots, turning them around as he appraises them. He cuts his eyes over to her, brows still furrowed.
Peering down into the box again, he pulls out a white onesie with the words Santa isn't the only one coming to town... written in red and green lettering with a little Santa hat above his name.
"Turn it over," she instructs with a lilt of giddiness in her voice.
Her hands are clasped together, resting under her chin as he does, her eyes trained on him as he reads, "Arriving July 2020," written on the butt of the onesie.
"Mo graighd," he breathes in wonder, looking up to her with tears in his blue orbs. "Are ye sure?"
Beaming, she nods and reaches into her purse. "I went last week for my annual check up," she explains. "Imagine my surprise when my doctor told me." She laughs at the memory, shaking her head. She hands Jamie the black and white sonogram, saying, "I'm nine weeks pregnant."
"This…" he starts, shaking his head and looking up to the ceiling, an obvious sign he's trying to not to cry, "is wonderful news!"
He stands, smiling brighter than she ever thought possible, and picks her up, spinning her in his arms. "Och, I'm sorry, Sassenach," he says, placing her down gently.
His hand reaches out to rest on her stomach, and Claire covers his hand with her own. "It's alright," she snickers, "I couldn't believe it when she told me. It's been so hard not to tell you all week."
Jamie's tears finally fall when he looks at the tiny onesie in his chair. Looking back to Claire, he brings her in for a kiss, his lips fully covering hers.
He moves his lips against her smoothly, drawing a moan from the back of her throat.
She wraps her arms around his neck, fingers scratching at the little hairs on the bottom of his neck.
"I canna believe this," he says again in shock. "'Tis a Christmas miracle, indeed."
Beaming, she pulls him back in for another kiss, deepening it this time and drawing her husband as close as possible.
Her pregnancy with the girls had been a difficult one, the birth even harder. She wasn't sure she ever wanted to go through it again, but the older the girls got, the more she imagined their home with another baby in it. And besides, Jamie always joked about having twelve kids, so she supposes he'll have to settle on just the three. She can't imagine any more than that with their hectic schedules.
"Three wee bairns," he laughs, breaking apart from their kiss. "Suppose it's another wee lass!"
Giggling, she shakes her head. "And it's definitely just one. I had them triple-check," she chuckles. "Probably another red head, too."
"Aye, those Scottish genes are strong, ye ken?" he asks with a sly grin, eyebrows bouncing up and down.
She smacks his chest, scoffing out another laugh as he sits back in his chair, gazing down at the onesie again. He sets it on the small table between the chairs, taking Claire's hand and pulling her into his lap.
"Nah, I have a feeling this one will be a wee lad," he states, rubbing her stomach, "and wi' dark hair like his ma. He'll be the brawest lad there is!"
"Is that even a word?" she asks with a snicker, and he gives her that boyish smile in return with a shrug.
"I dinna ken fer sure, but whether it is or no, he will be braw."
Grinning, she leans in, pressing a kiss to his cheek before leaning back against his large chest. "I'm going to be massive."
"Ye're going tae to beautiful, just like ye were with the girls."
Rolling her eyes, she sighs, thinking back to how big she'd grown with the twins and how uncomfortable she'd been near the end. But it was all worth it.
"Oh, Sassenach," he says, looking up at her with a worried expression. "Is it alright for ye tae be pregnant? I know the last one was sae hard."
She cups his cheek, practically melting at his sincerity and concern. "It's fine, Jamie," she assures, pressing another peck to his lips. "The doctor said everything should be fine, but she'll keep an eye on me just to be sure."
He inhales slowly, cautiously, nodding as he seems to decide that's the best answer he's going to get. "As long as ye're alright."
She smiles down at her husband, fingers tucking under his chin to tilt his head up. She presses a soft kiss there, letting it linger.
Pulling apart, her eyes find the girls, still nestled closely together on the plaid blanket. Jamie's hand comes to rest against her stomach once more, and she lets her head fall to lean against his temple.
They sit there for another twenty minutes, watching the girls sleep, listening to the Christmas music humming softly through the speakers in his office, and talking quietly to each other, soaking up this peaceful moment while they can.
As Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas begins to play, Claire stands, walking over to the large window that overlooks the farm.
The snow has started to fall again, and she smiles, loving this view with the Christmas lights outside filling her with the comforting feeling that comes with every Christmas season.
"Come here," she beckons softly, reaching a hand out to Jamie.
He stands, stepping gingerly over the twins and coming to stand behind Claire. He wraps his arms around her middle, chin resting on her shoulder as they both stare out of the window, letting Michael Buble's voice surround them.
"I love you," she says, emotion getting the best of her as she fights back tears.
She can feel his smile more than see it, and he tilts her head to kiss her neck. "And I love ye, too." He kisses her again, turning her in his arms. "This was the best Christmas present ever."
"Oh, well, great!" she exclaims sarcastically. "Then I can return your new PS5."
She watches as his eyes grow large, a dramatic hand landing over his heart.
They laugh together, Claire looping her arm through his and resting her head on his chest as they turn to watch the snow some more. The song changes to I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Claire sighs in complete bliss, letting her husband's heartbeat soothe her soul.
She looks up at him, a warm smile playing on her lips. She stretches up on her tiptoes, kissing his cheek and whispering, "Merry Christmas, my love."
He smiles right back, his arms wrapping more snuggly against her as he says softly, "Merry Christmas, Sassenach."
Thanks so much for reading and happy holidays! I hope everyone enjoyed this bit of Christmas fluffiness! Lol