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When the Bells All Ring and the Horns All Blow

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“Are you almost ready, darling?” Claire called across the hall to her husband in the spare bedroom. The grandfather clock downstairs had just chimed five times in the early evening of New Year’s Eve, and they needed to leave by 5:30 at the latest if they were going to make their dinner reservation. Claire was just putting her second earring in when the cry of her baby daughter simultaneously came echoing down from the nursery and blasting through the speaker of the baby monitor.

“D’ye want me to get her?” Claire heard Jamie’s muffled voice shout over their daughter’s cries.

“No, not unless you’ve started to lactate since I last saw you,” she yelled back, shimmying out of the top of her champagne-colored dress as she hurried down the hallway. She had timed the dinner reservation purposely to give her just enough time to give Brianna her feeding and drop her off with her aunt and uncle. After dinner, they were to attend Jamie’s work’s New Year’s Eve party which would last until past midnight, so she knew she would have to pump at some point during the evening, but she hoped to be able to put it off at least until after dinner.

After undoing her nursing bra with a practiced hand, Claire scooped Brianna up, and the baby instantly relaxed as she was offered her mother’s breast. “You know you’re more like your father every day,” she teased. “I can get him to stop crying by whipping these out too.” Claire chuckled to herself despite the fact that her audience was oblivious to her witty sense of humor.

Just as Claire sank into the rocking chair Jamie had given her the previous Christmas right after she’d found out she was pregnant, she heard his footsteps coming down the hall toward the nursery. “No, no, no! Jamie, you promised!” she cried, covering her eyes.

“My eyes are closed, Sassenach, I swear,” he replied. “I’m just passin’ by to grab my phone charger from downstairs.”

This was the first night out together Jamie and Claire would have since Brianna had been born in July. Claire would never forget the oppressive heat as she had gone into labor on one of the hottest days on record in Scotland. “You couldn’t have kept it under your kilt for another couple of months, huh?” she’d asked her anxious husband at one point between absolutely brutal contractions. “You just had to knock me up right in time for the world’s largest Highlander offspring to be born in the middle of summer.” That was the last joke she had cracked as a 9 lb. 5 oz. Brianna had entered the world less than an hour later, her hearty wail seemingly in protest of the hospital’s poor air conditioning system.

Discomfort and heat aside, that had been the happiest day of Jamie and Claire’s lives as they’d welcomed their long-awaited baby into their arms. As with any first-time parents, they’d been enamored of their daughter, documenting each milestone and spending as much time with her as possible. Jamie had gone back to work at the publishing firm after a month of paternity leave, but Claire had taken an extended leave of absence from her job as a surgeon in order to spend more time at home. She was due to start back part-time week after next, hence why Jamie’s sister had given them one free night of babysitting as their Christmas gift.

“Ye deserve at least one night, just the two of ye,” Jenny had insisted when Claire had immediately demurred at her sister-in-law’s offer of childcare. “Besides, I won’t be havin’ any great amounts of fun for Hogmanay this year,” she’d added, gesturing to her pregnant belly. “Ye might as well go out and party in my stead.”

And after much reassurance that one night away wouldn’t make Claire a horrible mother, she’d reluctantly agreed to the idea. Now that the day was finally here, she had to admit that she was feeling rather excited. She hadn’t truly had any time alone with her husband for almost six months now. Even when they’d started putting Brianna down in her own room a couple of weeks ago, she’d still been just down the hall, at her parents’ beck and call. But tonight they would have the whole house to themselves. A shiver of anticipation went through Claire at the thought of what was to come.

“Close yer eyes again, Sassenach. I’m on my way back,” Jamie called as he ran upstairs. Claire had mentioned in passing that it would be like seeing a whole new Jamie this evening. She was so used to him coming home and immediately changing into sweatpants and a t-shirt - and not long after that, being covered in baby spit-up - that seeing him formally dressed in his kilt for an evening out would be quite the change of pace. So when he’d jokingly suggested that they not see each other until they were fully dressed, she’d latched onto the idea with gusto, making him promise to get dressed in the spare room and not look at her until she said she was ready.

Claire had gone to an after-Christmas sale at one of her favorite local dress shops and found the most perfect dress to wear. It was a champagne gold color with patterns of sparkles throughout, perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The fit was somewhat loose, but the hemline ended just far enough below her arse to still be appropriate, but accentuated her long legs, especially when she put on the heels she had picked out to wear with it. Best of all it had sleeves, serving the dual purpose of keeping her warm on a frigid, Scottish evening and hiding the utilitarian straps of her nursing bra. To complete the look, she’d wrangled her naturally unruly curls into soft waves and given herself the bold, red lip she knew would drive her husband crazy.

“No, darling, Mummy worked way too hard on this hair for you to mess it up tonight,” she gently chided Bree as she grabbed for her mother’s soft strands while Claire burped her. “You’ll understand one day. We curly-headed lasses always have a bit of extra work to do in the hair department.” Bree’s soft, red baby hair had already started to curl at the nape of her neck, causing Claire to practically squeal with delight when she’d noticed her daughter taking after her. Jamie and Bree’s baby pictures were indistinguishable when held side-by-side, and Claire always joked that if she hadn’t given birth to her, she’d assume Bree had just split off from Jamie in some form of human mitosis.

Claire placed a milk-drunk Bree back in her crib and fixed her dress, preparing for the big reveal to Jamie. “Okay, I’m ready when you are,” she called as she walked back to their bedroom.

“Close the door, then, and I’ll knock when I’m ready,” Jamie replied, and Claire did as he asked. She felt silly as her heart began to pound in her chest in anticipation and, if she was being honest, a bit of nervousness. She hoped Jamie wouldn’t be disappointed with what he saw when she opened the door.

Just when she started to really doubt her appearance and was turning back to the mirror to reassess, three soft knocks sounded at the door. With a deep breath, she opened it and audibly gasped at what she saw. There stood her husband looking just as dashing as the day she had married him. His kilt was in the traditional Fraser tartan colors, and he wore tall boots, showing off a glimpse of his knees that he knew she loved so much. His jacket was well-tailored, and she could almost see the outline of his muscles underneath it. He was, in a word, resplendent, and she was starting to regret that their plans for the evening required them to leave their bedroom.

“Sassenach,” Jamie breathed. “Ye’re stunning.” He lifted her chin to give her a soft kiss on the lips. “Do we really have to go out tonight?” he murmured, echoing her own thoughts.

“We did promise your sister we’d go out and have fun tonight, and I’m rather looking forward to walking into the room on the arm of the most handsome man in attendance. Besides, we’ll have plenty of time for other things once we get home.” Claire gave him a quick kiss to punctuate her line of logic, and Jamie groaned his acquiescence.

“All right, all right. Although I dinna think anyone’ll be lookin’ at me if ye’re in the room, mo ghraidh.”

“They’d better not unless they want to face the wrath of Claire Fraser. And that includes that Laoghaire girl,” she warned.

“Ye needn’t worry about her tonight. I saw on Facebook she’s off with her grannie for the holidays. Besides,” he added, kissing her on the tip of her nose, “ye ken I’ll be lookin’ at no one but you.”

Claire blushed sweetly, mumbling, “Well, yes,” before grabbing Jamie’s wrist to look at his watch. “Jamie, it’s 5:27! We have to go!”

“Aye, Sassenach, I’ll bring the bairn.” Claire slipped into her heels and double checked the contents of the diaper bag before joining Jamie at the car where he was putting Brianna into her carseat. Claire’s face broke into a huge grin as she observed her daughter flashing a gummy smile at her da while he attempted to sing “The Wheels On the Bus” to her as he buckled her in.

Brianna slept for the half hour drive to Lallybroch where her aunt and uncle lived. Jenny managed to extricate her from her carseat without waking her and shooed Claire and Jamie on their way, not even allowing them to enter the house. Claire placed one last kiss on Brianna’s cheek before sliding back into the car for the drive to the restaurant, tears welling in her eyes.

“Are ye okay, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, rubbing her knee before starting the car. “We can cancel the whole thing if ye’d rather stay home with the bairn. It wouldna matter to me one bit as long as I’m there to give ye a kiss at midnight.”

She took his hand and squeezed it. “I’m fine, honestly.” She turned to look him in the eye so he could read the sincerity on her face. “I’m going to miss her, but I do want this evening with you. I love Brianna so much, but we have to make time for us too. I never want what we have to get lost in the shuffle of life.”

Jamie leaned over to kiss her. “For what it’s worth, I miss her too. When I leave to go to work, and I kiss ye goodbye in the nursery with the wean at yer breast…I feel like I’m rippin’ my heart out when I open the front door to step into the world, another eight hours away from my wife and bairn. But it’s what I need to do for you and for Brianna. She may not realize it until she’s grown and married herself, but one day she’ll be grateful that her parents took time for themselves. We’re doin’ it for us, but we’re doin’ it for her as well.”

Claire nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I love you, Jamie,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Claire. Now let’s get goin’ before my sister comes out here and starts beatin’ on the car to get us to leave.”

***

The drive to the restaurant was pleasantly uneventful. Claire pulled up the restaurant’s menu on her phone so they could decide on what they would order in advance. They were already running a bit late, so expediting the ordering process was essential if they were to get to Jamie’s work party on time. They were seated quickly after receiving a glare from the hostess when they’d given their name. Once the wine and food had been ordered, they both relaxed, excited to enjoy their first fancy dinner together in a long time.

“What did we used to talk about at dinner before we had Brianna?” Claire asked. It seemed lately that all they ever talked about was either what Brianna had done that day or the latest news from Jamie’s work.

“Whatever it was, I’m sure the excitement levels paled in comparison to filling me in on how long it’s been since Bree’s last poo or how many loads of laundry ye’ve done so far that day,” Jamie chuckled.

“Ugh, am I really that boring?” she asked, sipping her water.

Jamie reached an open palm across the table for Claire to lay her hand in. “No, Sassenach. None of it is boring to me.” He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. “If I must be away from ye, I want to hear every last detail of what I’ve missed.”

Claire smiled at him, twining her fingers with his. “You’ll have to do the same for me, you know, once I go back to work. I’ll be expecting minute-by-minute photographic documentation of every adorable thing she does.”

“Good thing ye’re only goin’ back three days a week, he teased. “Yer phone’s storage willna be able to handle much more.”

At that point the waiter came with the bread and wine, and the rest of their dinner passed by with easy conversation, delicious food, and several glasses of wine. After a triple chocolate layer cake and a cup of coffee to sober Jamie up, they were off in a flurry of coats and scarves back to the car to drive to the party.

The drive was only about ten minutes, and Claire was still feeling slightly tipsy. She had indulged in the wine a good deal more than Jamie had since she knew she wouldn’t have to drive. Claire gazed out the window of the car, watching as the city lights blurred together and then came back into focus as she stared. Jamie’s hand started out resting on her knee as he drove, and she hardly noticed as it made its way higher and higher up her thigh until they were pulling into the parking garage, and he had to remove his hand to maneuver the car into a parking spot.

Looking down, she noticed the hem of her dress had been pushed up quite a bit higher than was decent. She also realized that Jamie had parked the car in a secluded corner on a higher level of the parking garage that was quite deserted. She turned to look at Jamie next to her who had a self-satisfied smirk on his face. “James Fraser, were you planning on having your way with me in our car of all places?”

“It wouldna be the first time, would it, Sassenach?”

“Perhaps not, but I did not get all dressed up and wrangle my hair into submission just for you to muss it all up before we even step foot into this party.” She flipped down the mirror to emphasize her point, and applied a fresh coat of lipstick.

“What if I promised I wouldna touch yer hair or any place above yer waist, mo ghraidh?” Jamie purred. “Could I persuade ye then?” His hand was back on her thigh, heading towards its obvious destination as she replaced the cap on her tube of lipstick. Her face was flushed, and she swallowed hard as she looked him in the eye again and nodded ever-so-slightly.

That was all the encouragement he needed as his hand moved up under her dress to cup her over the bit of satin and lace that was covering her up. She whimpered slightly as she let her legs fall apart as much as the car allowed and grasped the handle on the ceiling of the car, grinding desperately against his hand. “Aye, lass, that’s it,” Jamie growled as he moved aside the fabric of her underwear to slide his fingers against her slick heat.

He had planned on taking a bit more time with her, but he knew her body well enough to realize she wouldn’t last long. He ran his fingers teasingly over the spot he knew she needed to be touched the most, but she wasn’t having any of it. With her free hand, she grasped his wrist, maneuvering his hand to where she wanted it. He chuckled but gave her exactly what she desired, her cries spurring him on. He loved watching her fall apart like this, and he was immediately grateful that he was wearing a kilt instead of trousers, constricting as they would have been on his growing erection. But that would have to wait until later.

Claire bit her bottom lip as Jamie’s fingers pressed and circled just right, bringing her oh so quickly to the edge. She cried out, knuckles white on the ceiling handle as her hips moved of their own accord to ride out the pleasure rippling through her body. She opened her eyes to find Jamie’s face inches from hers, and she kissed him, thrusting her tongue against his as their mouths collided. When they finally pulled apart, she was panting heavily, her golden eyes staring into the depths of his blue ones.

“Well that certainly was a start to the party,” she gasped, pulling away to begin straightening her clothes.

“And I kept my promise, did I no’?” Jamie flashed her another charmingly arrogant grin at which she couldn’t help but laugh.

“I suppose you did. Although I do think my hair isn’t quite as perfect as it once was.” She flipped the mirror back down, twisting to attempt to see the back of her head.

“Dinna fash, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said, pulling her to him to kiss her curls. “Ye look perfect. Not at all like ye’ve just been having car sex. Although anyone who sees ye tonight couldna blame me for not bein’ able to keep my hands from ye.”

“Speaking of which, we had better get out of this car before you initiate round two.” Claire reached for the door handle, but Jamie grabbed her arm before she could take hold of it.

“No, no, allow me,” he insisted, moments later appearing outside her door with a proffered hand. She took it, legs still slightly wobbly from what he had just done to her, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders as they made their way to the nearest elevator to take them to the party.

The publishing firm Jamie worked for had rented a hotel ballroom for their New Year’s Eve bash which they had decorated to the nines. Gold and silver decorations were on every surface, confetti already covered the floor, and a large net holding gold and silver balloons was hanging from the ceiling, presumably to be released at midnight. The dance floor was comfortably full, and the drinks clearly were flowing freely despite the night still being young.

“This is quite the party,” Claire observed. “I didn’t expect it to be nearly so lavish.”

“Aye, I heard tell of the one we skipped last year, but I didna expect all this.”

“Well you’d better make your rounds, and then we can get to dancing,” Claire suggested.

“Dancing, eh?” Jamie gave her a dubious look. “Ye ken I’ve two left feet.”

“Oh, come on. It’s New Year’s Eve. You have to dance with me, otherwise what’ll we do all night?”

“All right, Sassenach, we’ll see if they play any good music. I’ll promise ye at least one dance.” Claire rolled her eyes but followed him to the first group of co-workers he spotted.

The first hour or so of the evening consisted of lots of small talk with Jamie’s colleagues and bosses. Claire was charming and lovely as always, but by the end of the hour, the top of her dress was getting tighter and tighter, and she knew she would need to leave the party to pump. “Jamie,” she whispered, tugging him away from the group of schmoozing co-workers. “I’m just going to pop down to the car and take care of these,” she explained, gesturing to her chest. “I won’t be long.”

“I’ll come wi’ ye, Sassenach,” Jamie offered.

“No, just stay here. There’s no reason for you to sit in the car awkwardly watching me when you could be enjoying yourself up here. I’ll be back soon.” She stood on her toes to give him a kiss and then disappeared into the crowd. He knew it was silly, but when she left, it was like the lights in the room had dimmed just a bit. Sighing, he turned back to the mundane conversation, vowing internally to take her dancing once she returned.

Unfortunately she ended up returning to the party at just the wrong moment. It turned out Laoghaire MacKenzie, one of the receptionists at the publishing firm, was in fact not with her Grannie for the holidays and had come to the party just waiting for a moment to latch herself onto Jamie. She’d been watching him from the sidelines all night, and as soon as Claire had left the room, she’d sidled up to the group Jamie was in, standing as close to his side as she could manage. Jamie kept inching further away from her, but he was now as close as he dared get to the co-worker on his other side. As Claire was making her way across the room, Laoghaire let out a disgustingly fake laugh, grabbing onto Jamie’s arm in the process.

“Hello, darling,” Claire purred, inserting herself between Laoghaire and Jamie. “What have I missed?”

Jamie wrapped his arm around her possessively and replied, “Nothing at all, mo ghraidh. I was just waitin’ for ye to come back so we could finally have that dance.

Claire hummed in response, taking Jamie’s hand to lead him onto the dance floor, but not before “accidentally” brushing against Laoghaire as they walked away. “Oh, sorry, dear. Excuse us,” Claire apologized, leaving Laoghaire aghast at how quickly her fortunes had changed.

“I canna stand that lass,” Jamie seethed, feeling horrible that he hadn’t been able to rid himself of the leech of a receptionist before Claire had seen.

“I know you can’t, my love,” Claire reassured him. “You’re mine and I’m yours. No one could ever change that. Now forget about her and dance with me.”

And so he did. He forgot about his awkwardness and embarrassment at his lack of dance skills, letting go and having fun with his wife. She was beautiful when she danced, cheeks flushed and eyes crinkled with joy. The DJ was actually halfway decent, playing Bowie, ABBA, and the like before transitioning into some slower dances. These were the ones Jamie really loved as he could pull Claire close to him and feel the lines of her body through her dress. Her head was the perfect height to lean against his shoulder, and she wrapped her arms around him as they swayed back and forth to the music.

The lights had been lowered enough that Jamie felt comfortable allowing his hands to roam a bit, reaching down to cup Claire’s arse through the fabric of her dress. She responded by pressing her body even closer to his, rubbing against his sporran which in turn pressed on his hardening cock. Claire could feel the growing dampness between her thighs, and she was starting to wonder how they would ever make it all the way home before ravishing each other.

“Follow me, Sassenach,” Jamie practically growled, and Claire nodded, gazing at him through hooded eyes.

He took her hand, leading her out of the crowded ballroom, down a secluded hallway where payphones had once been mounted to the wall. He pressed her against the wall, kissing the ivory skin of her chest and neck before moving on to her lips as she panted into his mouth. His hands reached under her skirt, gripping her bare arse as he had been longing to do for hours now, and she moaned as he lifted her dress higher and higher, rucking it above her waist.

“Jamie,” she gasped. “God, Jamie, I need you inside me now.”

“I need ye too, Claire. I can scarcely breathe with how much I want ye.”

“Then have me, dammit!” Claire was just reaching for the hem of his kilt when a figure cast a shadow at the end of the hall. Laoghaire.

“Oh, Jamie, I’m so sorry to interrupt,” said the annoying girl. “They were just bringing out the shrimp puffs, and I know how much you love them. Wouldna want ye to miss out. I’ll see you back in there in a minute then?” And she sauntered off, clearly proud of herself for putting a stop to Claire and Jamie’s tryst.

“Is she stalking you now?” Claire asked, disgusted. “She has got to get a hobby.”

“Just a moment, Claire. Wait for me by the fountain in the lobby.” He kissed her, and she whimpered as he pulled away. “I promise it’ll be worth it.”

Claire sighed, frustrated and unfulfilled as Jamie practically ran down the hallway. She slowly made her way to the fountain, sitting on its edge as partygoers drunkenly stumbled by. She gave obligatory smiles to the ones she knew, but she mostly just stared at the water, wondering what Jamie could be up to.

About fifteen minutes later, Jamie returned, grinning like a cat that got the cream. “Well, Sassenach, would ye like to accompany me to our hotel room?” he asked, brandishing a newly-acquired hotel key. “Got the very last one-“ But before he could finish his sentence, Claire was on him, covering his mouth with her own. “All right, a nighean, let’s get inside the room first, aye?” He led them to the elevator and pressed the button, both of them shivering with anticipation.

As soon as they entered the elevator, Jamie pushed Claire up against the mirrored wall and fused their mouths together. Claire wrapped her leg around his as his mouth moved down her neck, and she stole a glance at the mirror on the other side of the tiny, ascending room, grinning at the picture they made. She could see the lust and love reflecting in her eyes as she took in the sight of Jamie’s toned backside, made all the more alluring by the kilt he wore. Just when she was about to reach around to grab his arse, the elevator dinged, and Jamie lifted her off her feet to carry her to their hotel room.

“Jamie!” she squealed, wrapping her arm around his neck. “What on earth are you doing?”

“Ye’re still my bride, Sassenach, no matter how many years have passed since our wedding night. I mean to carry ye over the threshold into the new year.”

“You ridiculous man,” she laughed as Jamie inserted the key card into the slot. He pushed the door open, turning sideways to fit through the doorway with Claire in his arms, and before the door had latched shut, Claire was kissing him with vigor, her hands running through his hair. He stumbled over to find the bed in the dark and tossed her gently onto it, causing her to break into laughter.

“Come here,” she demanded, crawling to the edge of the bed towards him. When she was close enough, she started undoing the buttons on his shirt, sliding it off his shoulders along with his jacket. She then ran her palms over the toned muscles of his upper body, leaving a trail of kisses in their wake. When he made to reach for the zipper on her dress, she stopped him. “Now fair’s fair. You already had your fun in the car. It’s my turn to take the lead.”

He put his hands up in surrender, and she continued with her exploration. She removed his sporran next, revealing the tented front of his kilt. “Ooh, seems like you’ve got a bit of a problem here,” she observed. “Shall I take a look at it?”

“Ye’re the doctor,” he responded smoothly, and she reached her hand up under the woolen fabric.

“Ah, yes, I seem to be able to feel what the issue is here, sight unseen.” Jamie gasped as her hand made contact with his cock, her delicate fingers moving up and down its considerable length, making him impossibly harder. “Why don’t you lie down, and I’ll see what I can do to help.”

She pushed him down onto the bed and lifted his kilt, grinning wickedly before she took him in her mouth. “Holy mother of God,” Jamie swore as his head fell back against the pillows. He tried to control his movements, but his hips were thrusting involuntarily; he’d been ready for hours now, ever since their tryst in the car, and he wasn’t going to be able to hold on much longer.

“Claire,” he gasped, hoping she would understand the uttering of her name to be his plea for her to stop.

“Was that not what you needed to alleviate the discomfort, darling?” she asked, running her hands down his tense thighs.

“No, ye were alleviating it all right, Dr. Fraser. But I mean to be buried deep inside ye when I finish tonight. And I mean to have ye naked when I do. Come to me, my Sassenach, and let me unwrap ye.”

Claire sat on the edge of the bed to remove her heels, and Jamie moved to sit behind her, pulling down the zipper on the back of her dress. He eased the fabric down her arms to pool at her waist while he kissed along the elegant line of her shoulders. He made quick work of her bra as she slid back on the bed to lay flush against the bare skin of his chest. His hands reached around to knead her breasts, all the while kissing the side of her neck as she threw her head back against his shoulder.

She moaned as he slid his hands further down her body and lifted herself slightly off the bed so Jamie could fully remove her dress and thong. His kilt still stood in the way of full contact, but she was wriggling her bottom against his erection, causing him to groan along with her. With her finally bared to him, he slid a hand between her legs, finding her irresistibly slick and ready for him. Suddenly he could wait not a moment longer, and he moved aside to lay her back onto the bed, her arm wrapping around his neck to pull his mouth down to hers.

She kissed him urgently, wrapping her legs around his bottom to pull him into her. Not wanting to take the time to remove his kilt, he lifted the fabric out of the way and slammed hard into her, causing them both to gasp at the intrusion. Claire wasted little time though and began moving her hips to urge him on. He did as her body requested, sliding in and out of her at a rapid pace, quickly losing control. She was close, he could tell, and he used every bit of strength he had to hold on until she finally cried out, spasming around him as he came. He collapsed half on top of her, and her hand stroked his back as their legs tangled intimately together.

Claire was still breathing heavily as Jamie shifted off of her, and she felt his large hand slide down to rest on her belly. “D’ye think there’s any chance we just made another one?” he whispered, kissing down the column of her neck.

“Another what?” she asked, after which she immediately realized what he’d meant. “Another baby, you mean?” She grabbed his face between her hands to look into his sweetly hopeful eyes. God, she would gladly have twelve children with this man if he gave her that look each time he even thought about the possibility of having another baby with her.

“Aye, another wee bairn, Sassenach. Our bairn.” He kissed her, slow and deep, their mouths opening to one another as his hand rubbed over the loose skin under which Brianna had grown.

“I-I don’t know. I mean, yes. Yes, there’s a chance.” She paused, really thinking about it for the first time. Another baby. Was she ready for that so soon after Brianna? Right before she was to start back to work? She only had to think about it for an instant before the answer flashed in her mind - yes. She sat up, pulling the sheet over herself in an attempt to signal a change to more serious conversation. “But you know how long it took for us to conceive Brianna. And I haven’t gotten any younger since; quite the opposite I’m afraid.” She looked down at her fidgeting hands, not wanting to meet Jamie’s gaze. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give you another child, as much as we both may want one.”

Jamie tilted her chin up for her to look into his eyes where she found only love and hope. “And if that were the case, Claire, ye ken you and Brianna would be enough. More than enough. You are all I need.” He kissed her again as a tear rolled down her cheek. “But this night with you has been nothing short of magical. I didna ask if it was possible that ye could be pregnant just out of simple curiosity. I asked because I just have this feeling that ye really might be. Just like with Bree.”

Claire’s hand joined Jamie’s on top of her stomach. “I hope you’re right, darling, but whether or not your next extra-large bairn is rapidly growing under our hands, we won’t know for a few weeks yet.”

“Aye, I suppose ye’re right,” Jamie agreed, rolling over to lie on his back. “Ye ken we have this room for the rest of the night.”

“Mhmm,” Claire hummed, shifting to her side and running her fingers over his toned stomach.

“We have a soft, warm bed. We havena even explored the uses we could put that large tub to in the bathroom, not to mention the shower. I have my wife next to me, gloriously naked and willing.” Jamie turned to his side, propping himself up on his elbow. “And yet,” he reached to tuck one of Claire’s curls behind her ear, “all I want to do is get dressed, drive to Lallybroch, and watch the year change holding both my daughter and my wife in my arms.”

Claire’s face immediately brightened. “Really, Jamie? I didn’t want to say anything, but that’s all I want too. You really don’t mind driving all that way this late at night?”

“Nah, I dinna mind one bit.” He kissed her forehead, his lips soft against her skin. “But we’d better get dressed quickly if we’re to make it in time for midnight.” Both Claire and Jamie hopped out of bed to freshen up and throw their clothes back on. Claire groaned when she saw the state of her hair in the mirror, but there wasn’t time to fix it. Jamie threw on his shirt and jacket before helping zip Claire’s dress up, and just like that, they were ready to leave.

They walked down the hotel hallway glued to each other’s sides, laughing to themselves as they almost tripped over each other’s feet. When they got back in the elevator, Jamie kissed her again, this time slow and sweet, having sated the desperate wanting present in their previous elevator encounter.

They reluctantly pulled apart as the elevator dinged, the doors opening to reveal none other than Laoghaire MacKenzie, wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the sight that greeted her. Not only were they clearly coming from a hotel room, but Claire’s hair alone told the story of what they had been up to all too clearly. Any hope Laoghaire had had of gaining Jamie’s affections were immediately dashed when she saw how visibly happy and satisfied Jamie and Claire were in one another.

“Laoghaire,” Jamie nodded as he passed by her trying not to laugh. Claire, never one for being able to hide her emotions, couldn’t help but snicker as she passed by the girl on the arm of her husband, with whom she had obviously just had very hot hotel sex.

“I think we’ve inadvertently just put an end to that infatuation,” Claire whispered as they strolled to the parking garage, and Jamie nodded, kissing his wife on the top of her head amongst her unruly curls.

***

Claire fell asleep on the drive to Lallybroch, her face pressed against the cool glass of the car window. Jamie was tired, but exhilarated enough at the thought of seeing Brianna that he was able to remain alert. “Claire,” he murmured, kissing her cheek after he had pulled up to his family farm and turned off the car. “It’s quarter ’til, lass. Ye dinna want to miss the new year.” Her eyes fluttered open, and she tilted her chin up for a kiss as she always did when she awoke after he did. He obliged, and then they both got out of the car and walked up to a dark and silent Lallybroch.

“I suppose Jenny, Ian, and the bairns are all abed,” Jamie mused as he inserted his key into the lock.

“I don’t blame her. When I was as far along with Bree as she is with the next wee Murray, you couldn’t have paid me to stay up until midnight.” Claire followed Jamie into the house and soundlessly eased the door shut behind them. They took off their coats and shoes and crept up the stairs to the nursery. Bree was the only child still young enough to be sleeping in a crib as Jenny and Ian’s children had both graduated to beds by now. Claire rushed over to the side of the crib and ran the back of her finger over Bree’s soft cheek.

“Hello, my darling girl,” she whispered as Bree’s eyes slowly opened. Once she recognized her mother’s face, she smiled, revealing her two bottom teeth that had just recently come in. Claire lifted her out of her crib and gave her a kiss on the cheek before pulling her little body close. “Mummy and Da missed you so much tonight, we just couldn’t stay away.”

Bree then noticed Jamie standing in the doorway and babbled at him excitedly. “Aye, a leannan, yer da is here too. ’Tis almost the new year, and we couldna see it arrive without ye.” Jamie gave her a kiss of his own on the top of her head and gathered Claire into his arms to look out the window into the moonlit field. He pulled out his phone, setting it on the windowsill to watch the last couple minutes of the year go by. As he and Claire stood at the window, she began to softly sing to Brianna.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?”

“Ye have a beautiful voice, mo chridhe,” Jamie remarked, swaying slightly with his lasses in his arms. “Last thirty seconds now. Get ready for the countdown.” At ten seconds they counted down together, quietly wishing a happy new year to Brianna and each other when they hit zero. They each gave Brianna a kiss on the cheek and then Jamie pulled Claire to him, Brianna on her hip, and gave her a proper New Year’s kiss.

And as the balloons fell in that ballroom amongst drunken partygoers, Jamie and Claire were right where they wanted to be, tucking themselves into one of the spare beds in Jamie’s ancestral home, Brianna at Claire’s breast, their little family ringing in the new year. Quiet. Happy. Together.