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Welcome Home, Soldier

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WHS-Ch-54
LRMC - Germany

A week had passed since Claire’s final test. Despite receiving the good news, it had been a stressful week for the Frasers. The logistics of making sure all discharge paperwork was in order, as well as going through final debriefs since they would be returning to the States as retired military, along with making travel arrangements, made for an exhausting week. Their spirits were high however, and adding to the celebratory feeling was the knowledge that Ian would be flying home with them as well! He had passed his final evaluation and been set up with a physical therapist back in New York.

Each night at dinner, conversation centered around what their lives would look like in a few short days. Claire and Jamie talked of the house and the progress Ellen had made with her crew. Earlier in the week Claire had spoken with Uncle Lamb and learned that he had found a small cottage on the far Eastern edge of Brian and Ellen’s land. He would be in New York to welcome the happy couple and the rest of the soldiers home, then head back to North Carolina to finish packing up his home and prepare for the move to New York. He was keeping his home in North Carolina until he knew if his next job would be teaching or leading an excavation.

Ian had become increasingly quiet as the week wore on. The night before they were to fly home, the trio was having a quiet evening watching TV but Jamie and Claire could tell something was wrong.

“Talk tae me, mo charaid. What troubles ye?” Jamie asked, reaching out and resting a hand on Ian’s forearm. Using the other to turn off the TV in the common room as it was only the three of them.

Ian remained quiet and Jamie glanced over at Claire. “Ian? Would you rather I leave? I understand if you would prefer to talk to Jamie alone.” Claire offered gently.

Ian looked at Claire and gave her a weak smile. “Actually, I would prefer tae talk with ye.”

Jamie was caught slightly off guard, but recovered quickly enough for no-one to notice and not upset Ian. “Whatever would make ye feel better bràthair.” Jamie gave his arm a squeeze and then leaned over to kiss Claire on the forehead. “I’m going tae go find John and see if he has any updates on when he’ll be leaving fer the States.”

Claire smiled at Jamie and said she would meet him in their room. Once Jamie had left, Claire turned back to Ian and took his hands in hers. “You’ve been quiet all week…what’s on your mind?”

Ian sighed deeply, trying to decide where to start. “Ye’ll think I’m a coward,” he whispered.

“I would never think that of you, Ian! Do you forget all we’ve been through?”

“Exactly! Claire, we’ve literally been tae war together and survived. I’ve lost a leg and overcome some serious physical obstacles. I should be able tae face whatever comes at me at this point.”

“Then what’s bothering you?” Claire prompted.

Ian looked down and swallowed hard. “I’m afraid tae see Jenny.”

He had said it so softly, Claire wasn’t sure she had heard him correctly. After everything he’s been through, he’s afraid to see his wife? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! Thick headed Scot! That woman is just happy he’s alive and coming home, Claire thought to herself. Taking a breath to internally compose herself she spoke “Ian? Look at me,” Claire answered just as softly.

Ian raised his head and with tears in his eyes, met Claire’s gaze.

“Oh you darling man!” Claire reached out to cup Ian’s cheek. “You know that Jenny is going to be thrilled just to see you and have you home.”

“Aye, but I’m no’ the same man she marrit. I’ve changed Claire, and I dinna just mean physically. War takes a toll on ye mentally too. Ye ken that as much as I do…mebbe more.”

Claire nodded in understanding. “I do know that Ian. Jamie and I know that better than anyone and we’ll be by your side the whole time. Did we tell you that we are going to continue with therapy? We may go as a couple, but I know we will also be going separately. We both still have stuff that we are working through. Nevermind everything that will be brought back up when the trial starts.”

“Yes, I plan to continue seeing someone as well, but I’m still afraid. What if I canna be the husband she deserves? I’m no’ sure I’m even the man she remembers.”

“It will be an adjustment for all of us. It will take time and effort for us all to adapt to civilian life. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m scared too, but do you know what’s helping me face it?”

Ian shook his head and looked at her eagerly.

“Family. Knowing that we will be surrounded by loved ones keeps me going.” Claire absently rubbed her small bump. “And this one is going to need her uncle to show her how to find her way in the Fraser Clan.”

Ian smiled at that. “I’ll have to show her and her mam. First rule, ye dinna want tae get between two Frasers when their danders are up. Let ‘em cool off.”

“Good advice. Do you hear that lovey? Uncle Ian is already looking out for you.”

“Thank you, Claire. I feel better…still scared, but I think it’s a good scared.” Ian squeezed her hand. “I could’na talk tae Jamie about this. I dinna want him thinking I’m no’ man enough tae take care of his sister.”

“You don’t truly believe he would think that, do you?” Claire asked, slightly taken aback.

“No, but it was certainly easier talking tae ye.” Ian pushed back and stood up from the table. “We’ve a long day tomorrow. Let me walk ye back tae ye room and ye can finish packing while ye wait fer Jamie.”  Ian offered Claire his arm and she gladly took it.

When they got to her room, Ian leaned over and gave Claire a kiss on the cheek. “I could’na have asked fer a better piuthar. G’night Claire.” Ian then placed a hand on her small bump. “And g’night wee one.”

Claire gently placed a hand on his cheek and kissed the other. “Good night Ian. You sweet, sweet man.”

 

Claire had finished packing and was lying in bed reading when Jamie came in. Closing her book she asked, “How was John?”

“Good. Excited tae get to New York.” Jamie looked around. “Did ye finish packing Sassenach? I’m sorry! I woud’na have stayed fer a game of chess if I kent ye were here packing.”

“It’s alright, I didn’t mind. It was nice to have some alone time for a bit.” Claire patted the bed next to her. Jamie smiled and made his way over to sit next to his wife.

“Are ye ready fer tomorrow?” Jamie leaned his forehead against his wife’s and gently rubbed his nose along hers.

“Mmmm, I think so.” Claire had closed her eyes and was enjoying the closeness of her husband. She had just passed into her second trimester and her hormones were reeking havoc. She simply couldn’t get enough of her husband whenever he was in reach and Jamie knew it.

He continued to run his nose along her jawline. “Ye smell good too mo chridhe. I love the smell of yer shampoo.” Claire’s breathing had increased, along with her pulse. Jamie was very intune with his wife’s body and was taking a little too much pleasure in teasing her.

“Jamie,” she was practically panting at this point. “Jamie, I need you.”

He smiled against the skin of her neck and slipped his hand under the sheets where he found her wet and wanting. “Aye and I mean tae serve ye well, but only if ye promise me that tonight will be the last night we have tae be quiet about it.”

“God yes! I cannot wait to for you to fuck me in our house while I scream your name.” Claire grabbed Jamie’s shirt and pulled him on top of her.

“Christ, Sassenach! Sometimes I dinna ken what mood ye’ll be in with these hormones, but I’ll no’ lie, this part of pregnancy is rather intriguing.” Jamie devoured her mouth with a passionate kiss.

“Well, enjoy it, Soldier, because before long I’ll look like a whale and barely be able to move.”

“And ye’ll be as beautiful as the day I met ye…sweating and swearing in the Medical Tent.” He kissed her again, but this time there was more longing and desire behind it.

Jamie had found her center and was applying a light amount of pressure to her clit with his thumb as his fingers made their way towards her entrance. Claire was already rocking slowly against his hand, desperately looking for friction. When Jamie inserted not one, but two of his long fingers Claire was keening and biting her lower lip to keep from screaming out.

“I’ve got ye mo chridhe.” Jamie whispered before capturing her mouth with his again.

They stayed like this for a few more minutes, when Claire suddenly pushed Jamie onto his back and climbed on top of him, throwing her shirt off in the process.

“I need you Jamie. Now! I want you deep inside me.” Claire was practically feral in her actions, clawing almost frantically as she started working Jamie's pants down his long legs. Jamie was more than happy to comply with her request, pulling his shirt over his head. With Claire straddling him, Jamie reached up to delicately cup her breasts. He knew how tender they were, yet he still yearned to take them into his mouth.

“They’ve become much fuller Sassenach, and yer nipples have darkened, like ripe cherries,” he said before gently flicking his tongue over them one at a time. Claire arched her back, forcing her breasts closer to Jamie. Her hips had continued to rock against his upper thigh and Jamie could feel her arousal dampening his leg. While keeping a delicate grip on one of her breasts, Jamie took his other hand and splayed it along her hip, guiding her to his erection. “Do it now Sassenach and dinna be gentle about it.”

Claire positioned herself over Jamie’s hardness and slowly enveloped him as she slid down. When she had fully taken him in, she stilled as both sighed in pleasure and stared into each other’s eyes. Claire took Jamie’s face in her hands and gently kissed him. Their bodies began to move together in the dance they had performed many times, but something about tonight felt different. It was as if they were closing the book on the first part of their lives and starting a new one. What this new journey held for them, they did not know, but knew they would face it together.

After a few tender moments, Jamie pulled back and gave Claire a mischievous grin. “Where did my wee vixen go? The one that could’na wait tae devour me?”

Claire giggled, picking up the pace of her hips. “Are you complaining, Soldier?”

“Perhaps I am. Would that get me in trouble?”

“I think it would,” Claire said as she raked her nails down his chest and leaned in to gently bite his bottom lip. “I hope you’re ready for your punishment.”

“I supposed I’ll get what I deserve,” Jamie sighed as he smacked her arse as his devilish grin grew wider.

“Aye,” Claire said and winked at her husband. “Buckle up Soldier. You’re in for a rough ride.”

 

The next morning Claire and Jamie met Ian in the cafeteria. They were grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading to the helipad at 10:00. It was going to be a long day of traveling, but the trio was excited.

As they were finishing breakfast, Jamie spotted John Grey and Dr. Hildegarde making their way into the cafeteria.

“I thought we might find you here.” John said with a smile, before leaning down to kiss Claire on the cheek. Jamie stood to shake his hand, as did Ian.

“Just grabbing a snack before we head out. I hear the in-flight meal leaves much tae be desired,” Jamie joked and everyone laughed.

Claire looked at Dr. Hildegarde. “I’m going to miss you so much Mother Hildegarde!” Claire threw her arms around the woman and they held each other for several minutes. Dr. Hildegarde whispered to Claire in French as they embraced. At the end of the conversation, Claire was smiling and nodding along.

Dr. Hildegarde looked over to Jamie. “I have some leave coming up soon. I would like to visit when le bébé is born.”

“We would love tae have ye Mother Hildegarde! The house should be ready fer guests. We’d be honored if ye were one of the first!”

Dr. Hildegarde smiled and turned back to Claire. “I would stay, but I must make my morning rounds and you and I both know what will happen if I walk you to the helipad, non?”

Claire got teary again and nodded. “I’m not sure how I can ever thank you for all you have done for my family. I will email you when we are settled and keep you posted on how the baby is doing.”

“I would like that, ma chérie. Travel safe.” Dr. Hildegarde hugged Claire one more time before moving on to Jamie, who also thanked her profusely.

Ian then stood and thanked Dr. Hildegarde for all that she did to help him get a state of the art prosthetic.

Dr. Hildegarde dabbed her eyes and then waved goodbye to the travelers, but not without blowing a kiss in Claire’s direction.

“What time are you to be at the helipad?” John asked.

“10:00,” Ian answered, before taking another sip of coffee.

“It’s 9:30 now. Would you all like help getting your bags? I’m happy to assist,” John offered.

“That would be great, John. Thank ye!” Jamie said and then pushed back his chair to stand. He reached out to Claire to pull her up and into a hug. “Are ye ready tae go home Sassenach?”

“Yes!” Claire replied with a beautiful smile on her face.

 

Saratoga Springs, NY, USA
One helicopter ride to the airport, two plane changes to get out of Europe, an overnight in Washington D.C, and a final early morning plane ride later, wheels touched down on the tarmac of Albany International. As the plane taxied to the gate, Jamie gave Claire’s hand a squeeze.

“How are ye feeling mo nighean donn?” Jamie had been very attentive throughout the entire trip, almost to the point of driving Claire insane, but she knew he was worried about her and the baby. Despite the clearance she had received from Mother Hildegarde in Landstuhl, Claire would be lying to herself if she hadn’t been nervous about the trip as well.

“We’re doing alright,” she replied with a small smile as she rubbed the small bump in her abdomen.

“Sassenach…”

“I’m alright Jamie, just a bit nervous. So much has changed since we left our families almost two years ago. What if…” she trailed off.

“What if…what?” Jamie prodded gently.

“What if we don’t adjust to civilian life as easily as we’re hoping to?” Claire’s eyes were filled with tears.

“It will be an adjustment, there’s no denying that, but we’ll be together and surrounded by family. And we have both agreed tae continue seeing our therapists. Not only will that help with the trauma from our accidents, but also adapting to a new lifestyle.” Jamie raised her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I believe that as long as we’re together, we can do anything.”

Claire’s smile turned genuine and she nodded. “I agree.”

The plane had finally parked at the gate and passengers were starting to get off. The trio unbuckled and grabbed their packs from the overhead bins. Claire looked over to Ian who looked both ecstatic and as if he was going to be sick.

“Chin up Ian! You know Jenny is going to be a wreck when she sees you. A happy wreck, but a wreck. The bit I’ve talked to her, I’ve learned she is a strong woman but she’ll need you to be strong for her.” Claire squeezed his arm and Ian gave a small nod.

As Ian, Claire, and Jamie made their way down the gangway, their hearts started to beat a bit faster. They had agreed to let Ian go first since he had a spouse waiting for him. Claire and Jamie walked slowly behind Ian, giving him a bit of space. Being taller than Ian, Jamie actually saw Jenny first and gave her his infamous owl-eyed blink and a nod. Jenny broke through the crowd and threw herself at Ian, causing him to fall backwards, which was another reason Jamie wanted to be behind Ian…to keep him on his feet. He knew his sister wouldn’t be able to control herself and Ian wasn’t strong enough yet to support his weight and his wife’s.

Jamie guided Ian, who was holding a sobbing Jenny, over to the side and helped him sit on the ground. Once he was no longer trying to stay upright, Ian collapsed into sobs and held his wife tightly. He clutched her to him, needing to feel her weight against him. Nearby passengers took in the scene and started cheering to welcome home the soldiers who had just deplaned.

Jamie looked back to where Jenny had been standing and saw the three other people who had come to pick them up…Brian and Ellen Fraser, along with another man, who must have been Uncle Lamb. All three were holding a sign that said ‘Welcome Home to Our Heroes’.

Claire had been taking everything in with Jenny and Ian, but when she heard the cracked voice say, “Claire Bear?” she crumbled. She turned to see Uncle Lamb and ran to hug him. Jamie followed closely behind and into the arms of his parents.

There were hugs and introductions, followed by more hugs and crying. Tears of happiness and relief. Claire was immediately relieved of any apprehension she had felt about meeting Jamie’s parents. They both enveloped her in a tight embrace as soon as Jamie officially introduced them.

“We’re so happy you were able to come home with Jamie, a leannan,” Brian said as he kissed her on the cheek.

“Let me look at you,” Ellen said, teary-eyed, as she held Claire at an arm’s length. “You’re simply glowing nighean! How are ye feeling?”

“Pregnancy-wise, really good! But I’m exhausted from all the traveling and the debriefing we went through yesterday in D.C.. We are thrilled to finally be home though.” Claire said as Ellen brought her in for another hug.

Jenny and Ian had finally made their way over to the group. With his arm wrapped around his wife, Ian introduced Jenny to Claire.

“It’s so nice tae finally meet ye in person, piuthar!” Jenny exclaimed as she wrapped Claire in an embrace.

“Me too, Jenny!” Claire said as she started to cry all over again. Instead of watching the two women cry, the rest of the family closed in and wrapped their arms around one another.

 

The family stopped to get a bite to eat on the way home. On the way to the restaurant, Jamie had sat in the backseat of Lamb’s car with Claire and was pointing out places that he wanted to take her to. Claire had leaned her head on Jamie’s shoulder and enjoyed listening to him talk about all the places they would visit over the next few months.

After ensuring that the weary travelers had had their fill of food, it was agreed that Uncle Lamb would drop Claire and Jamie off at their new home, while Ellen and Brian took Ian and Jenny to their home. Ian couldn’t wait to be in the home he and Jenny waited so long to share. Ellen told Jamie and Claire that their fridge had been fully stocked, but she would love it if both couples would come up to their house for dinner the following night. Both couples said they would love to come for dinner the following night, and Claire thanked Ellen profusely for doing the grocery shopping.

“My pleasure, a leannan. Jamie told me some of your favorite things to have on hand, as well as your recent cravings.” Ellen winked at Claire, who smiled gratefully at her husband.

“You always think of everything don’t you? Thank you, love!” Claire leaned in to kiss Jamie.

“Alright clan,” Brian interjected. “I ken how exhausted these three are. Let’s get them home so they can take a real shower and get tae bed.”

Jamie leaned over and nudged Ian in the ribs. “As if these two will get any sleep.”

“Jamie!” Both Claire and Jenny hissed at the same time. The two women looked at each other and burst out laughing, prompting everyone else around the table to do the same.

 

Their homes were about twenty minutes away from the restaurant and it was dusk by the time they arrived. Claire was in awe of the house that stood before her. Ellen had truly outdone herself with getting it prepared before they arrived. The entire exterior had been painted and she had all the lights on. The home was a beacon calling out to both Jamie and Claire.

“Jamie! It’s beautiful,” Claire whispered.

“We’ll tour the grounds tomorrow, but tonight I just want tae use that master suite fer what it was intended fer.” Jamie whispered back, gently nibbling her ear.

“Alright you two! We’re here!” Uncle Lamb had parked on the driveway and was getting out to open the door for Claire. Jamie was already grabbing their bags out of the trunk.

“Thank ye, Lamb! I appreciate ye driving us out here. We’ll see ye at dinner tomorrow?”

“Of course! I’m currently staying with Ellen and Brian until things are finalized with my cottage. Claire, I cannot wait to show it to you! You’re going to love it!”

“And I cannot wait to see it!” Claire leaned in and gave her uncle a kiss on the cheek. “I cannot tell you what it means to know that in a few short weeks you’ll be living here too. I would not have changed a single thing about my childhood and I will be forever grateful for the experiences you gave me. I’m just so happy that we are all going to be one, big happy family.”

“Me too, darling,” Lamb said while wiping tears from his eyes. “Enough tears, even if they are happy ones. Good night you two!” Lamb hugged them both one last time and then hopped in his car and drove back to Brian and Ellen’s.

Jamie then dropped their bags to the ground and scooped Claire up into his arms. She squealed and begged Jamie to put her down.

“What are you doing? You’re back can’t handle my extra weight!”

“I’m carrying my wife over the threshold,” Jamie replied as he leaned down to kiss her.

“But that doesn’t mean you have to carry me up the stairs!”

“It’s fine mo chridhe. I’m feeling better than I have in weeks. And ‘tis only 4 steps.” Jamie carried Claire up the front steps and they stopped on the front porch. He lowered her to the floor and turned her around in his arms so they were both facing out towards their land. Jamie wrapped his arms around Claire’s waist.

Leaning back against his broad chest, Claire sighed. “I cannot believe this is all ours.”

“I ken what ye mean. I dinna have much tae give ye, other than my name, but I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life making ye happy.”

Claire turned to face Jamie. “What do you mean you don’t have much to give me? You’ve given me your love, to start with. That’s all I need, but…” Claire took Jamie’s hand and placed it on her baby bump. “You’ve also given me a baby. You make me happier than I have ever been. You are enough for me. I don’t need anything else.” Turning in his arms, she leaned her forehead against his.

“I felt lost before I met you, mo chridhe. You have filled the empty space in my heart and I realize now that it doesn’t matter where we live. You will always be my home.”

Claire pulled back slightly to cup Jamie’s face in her hands. She gave him a tender kiss and whispered, “Welcome home, Soldier.”