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Welcome Home, Soldier

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WHS-Mood-Board

January 2005- Saratoga Springs, NY

James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser always knew he was destined to serve in the United States Army. He had grown up in a military family and saw the pride that filled his father’s eyes when he donned his uniform. James had applied to West Point, but being the third generation in his family to do so, he never really doubted that he would be accepted. The letter had arrived earlier that day and he was waiting until dinner to share the news. He would keep the Fraser Legacy intact and serve his country proudly.

“There was never any doubt, son. I’m verra proud of ye!” Brian Fraser told his son later at dinner.

“Aye,” Jenny, his sister, chimed in, “Always was one to go looking for trouble, weren’t ye, Jamie?”

To his family and closest friends, he was affectionately called Jamie. He gave his sister a stern look and then glanced back over to his father.

“Thanks, Da.”

Ellen Fraser, Jamie’s mother, seemed unusually quiet tonight.

“Are ye alright, Ma? You have’na said much.” Jamie said quietly.

“Aye, Jamie. My heart’s fit to burst with pride, but I worry about ye. After the academy you will be required to serve and could end up God knows where. And I don’t suppose you’ll be content as a Major or Captain.”

Ellen knew her son well, and while he may have inherited her stature, fiery red hair, and sapphire, slanted blue eyes, his determination, honor, and stubbornness came from his father. Ellen loved Brian with all her heart, but God was that man stubborn. When he put his mind to something, nothing stood in his way. Not even Ellen’s brothers, who were less than thrilled that the two had eloped years ago, under protests from Ellen’s family, the Mackenzie’s. Brian had been a Master Sergeant for the Green Berets, the Special Ops division with the Army, and she knew that was the path that Jamie intended to follow.

Jamie nodded, understanding his mother’s concern. The thought of what the future might hold scared him a bit too, to be honest, but Jamie had grown up in a family where his father had been deployed several times. He missed his Da terribly when he was gone, but the excitement & pride in his eyes when Brian came home and shared what little he could of his missions during Desert Storm…fueled Jamie’s desire to serve & protect not only his family, but his country as well. Jamie’s eyes crinkled and Ellen saw something stir within them.

“Actually, Ma, I was hoping to follow in Da’s and GrandDa’s footsteps. I want to become a Master Sergeant for the Green Berets.”

Brian slammed his fist down on the table, and let out a whoop! “That’s my boy!” He then looked at his wife and grabbed her hand. “Dinna fash, mo graidhe. You ken as well as I do that Murtagh will look out for him at the academy.”

“I supposed yer right.” Ellen replied.

Jamie could barely contain his excitement and couldn’t wait to call Ian Murray. Ian was Jamie’s oldest friend and had applied to West Point as well. Ian, Jamie, and Jenny had grown up together in upstate New York. Ian’s parents had immigrated over from Scotland around the same time that Ellen and Brian had eloped and decided to settle in New York as well, as opposed to staying in Scotland. The two couples became fast friends and when bairns started to arrive, there was no doubt they would all be lifelong friends as well. Jamie, Jenny, and Ian were inseparable growing up, but within the last couple of years, Jenny and Ian had grown extremely close. Jamie knew that Ian wanted to marry Jenny, but how would his plans of going to West Point affect that?

After dinner, Jenny helped clear the table and Jamie went to his room to call Ian.

“Ah, mo charaid! Did ye get yer letter?” Jamie asked as soon as Ian answered the phone.

“Don’t be daft, man! Ye kent well that I did. I’ll be packing my bags and headin’ to the Academy with ye!”

Jamie felt a sense of relief and dread as soon as Ian said those words. What would Jenny think when she heard that Ian had been accepted to the Academy? Jamie hoped he wasn’t around to find out. Jenny and Ian had never been apart for more than a few days their entire lives. They wouldn’t be too far from each other now, but a cadet’s life didn’t come with a lot of freedom.

“That’s braw, Ian! But, when do ye plan on telling Jenny?” Jamie asked carefully. There was silence on the other end, save for the breathing that came through the line.

“Weel, I hadn’t planned on telling ye this yet, but I plan to ask Jenny if she’ll be my wife. I’d like to be hand-fast before we go and then we’ll have a big wedding when we graduate. What d’ye think?”

Jamie couldn’t be happier for his friend, but he doubted his parents would feel the same way. Jamie didn’t fully understand how strong Ian’s feelings were since he'd never been serious with a lass himself. Sure, Jamie enjoyed looking and kissing them from time to time, but he had never felt that strongly about a woman. He had asked his Da one day about how he knew that Ma was the right woman for him. “Ye’ll ken weel enough, man. Ye’ll meet your lass when ye least expect and ye’ll just ken.” Jamie had to trust that his father was right. He’d never led him astray before.

“Ye still there, Jamie?” Ian inquired on the other end of the line.

“Aye. If that’s what ye want, Ian. Ye ken fine I’ll stand up for ye. Just make sure that Jenny wants the same. I’ll no be caught in the middle of the ‘twa of ye.”

“Thanks, mo charaid. I kent I could count on ye.” Ian said and then quickly hung up.

Jamie could hear Jenny’s cell ringing down the hall. A few minutes later, he heard Jenny call down to their parents. “Ma! Da! Ian’s on his way over. We’re going to take a walk. I’ll only be gone for a bit.”

Jamie smiled to himself and laid back on his bed. He stretched out his long, muscular frame, put his hands behind his head, and wondered when he would finally meet a woman that would make him feel the same way Ian felt about Jenny.

 

January 2005 – Boone, NC

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp practically jumped off the couch when she saw the mailman stop in front of her house. Uncle Lambert, affectionately called Uncle Lamb, had been dozing in his easy chair and was startled awake by Claire’s shriek. He knew she had been anxiously awaiting for her acceptance letter into the University of North Carolina’s Medical School. He didn’t doubt for a minute that she would be accepted, but Claire’s anxiety was palpable. She tore off towards the mailbox and there was a sole letter sitting inside. Her breath caught as she looked at the return address: UNC Medical. She grabbed the letter and ran back inside.

“It’s here, Uncle Lamb! It’s here!” she exclaimed. She walked over to the couch and sank into her seat. He could see her hands trembling.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Open it why don’t you.” He could see the hesitation in her eyes. "Love, regardless of what that letter says, you know how proud I am of you and you know your parents would be too.”

Claire stifled a small sob. She had been with Uncle Lamb for practically as long as she could remember. Claire was originally from England, and her parents had died in a car crash when she was five. Her only living relative was Lambert Beauchamp and he resided, well, nowhere actually. He was a bachelor who knew nothing about raising a young girl, but one look into her beautiful, whisky colored eyes and he was smitten. He knew that he would move heaven and Earth to make all her dreams come true. She had spent her childhood traveling the world with him and he saw at an early age how interested she was in medicine. In reality, she had been “practicing” medicine for years, in some of the third-world countries they had been in. Setting breaks, learning how to stitch open wounds…nothing delighted her more. He knew leading a nomadic life, as an archaeologist, wasn’t the best for a young girl, but Claire had always seemed so happy. He had made the decision to settle in Boone, North Carolina when she was starting her freshman year of high school. He wanted her to have some stability and the opportunity to chase her dream of being a surgeon.

“What if I don’t get in? What will I do then?” Claire asked, trembling.

“Then we’ll cross that bridge, but right now, why borrow trouble? Open it, dear.”

Claire carefully slid her finger under the lid of the envelope and reverently opened the letter. She began to read aloud:
   ‘Dear Miss Beauchamp: It is with great pleasure that we offer you a position in our Fall Cohort at the University of North Carolina’s Medical School…’
She had to stop reading because the tears in her eyes had blurred her vision to the point where she was no longer able to read what the letter said. Uncle Lamb was at her side in an instant, with his arms around her shoulder.

“What did I tell you?! You’ve been a physician to many people…now you’ll have the formal training and title, Dr. Beauchamp.”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! I did it. I did it!” Claire exclaimed.

“Of course you did, darling! Now, I say we celebrate. We’re going to the finest establishment in Boone, Joy Bistro! We have reservations at 6:30 PM.” Claire loved the French Bistro and knew Uncle Lamb reserved it for special occasions.

“How do we already have reservations?” she asked.

Uncle Lamb winked at her and simply shrugged his shoulders. Claire threw her arms around her uncle’s neck. “Thank you.” she whispered and then let her emotions take over and cried tears of joy into his shoulder. Uncle Lamb rubbed her back and let the weeks of stress and anxiety flow from his niece. In reality, he felt like he was finally breathing easy for the first time in weeks as well, but he would never have let Claire know that. She was all he had and he would be her rock. He knew one day, she would have a different shoulder to cry on. A different shoulder to lay her head on and share her hopes and dreams with, but that day wasn’t today.

“Are you alright, love? Think you’re ready to go change for dinner?” Uncle Lamb asked gently.

“You’re too good to me, Uncle Lamb. I can’t imagine ever finding a man who has so much faith in me and fully supports me following my dreams.”

“You will darling, I promise you will. But you have to promise me…you’ll never settle. Find a man that wants the best version of you. A man that can handle you earning more money, wants you as a partner and not just ‘arm candy’, although you are beautiful.” he winked.

“Uncle Lamb! Stop it!” Claire giggled.

“I mean it, Claire. I won’t be here forever and would not rest easy knowing you had to change to fit some man’s mold of the ‘perfect woman’.”

“I haven’t even left for med school yet, and you have me off and married to some mystery man. I say we go to dinner first. When this ‘mystery man’, who frankly sounds like a fantasy himself, decides to show his face…hopefully I’ll be able to recognize it and not let him go. But for the time being, I’m going to go upstairs and get ready for an amazing dinner, with my favorite uncle.”

She kissed him on the cheek and bounded up the stairs, wild brown curls bouncing with each step. Lamb’s heart broke just a bit more. It had been breaking, ever so slightly, with each milestone she passed with him: starting Kindergarten, going to middle school, prom, graduating high school. He knew it was only a matter of time until she found Mr. Right and he wanted to know that Claire would be well cared for, before he left this world.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-2

May 2009 – West Point Academy

“Ye look braw in your uniform, mac peathar. I canna wait for yer parents to see ye.” Major Murtagh Fitzgibbons told Jamie as he helped straighten his tie.

“Thank ye, a ghoistidh. It means a lot to have ye here with me today.” Jamie looked into his godfather’s eyes and shook his hand firmly.

Jamie looked around for Ian and found him quickly. He was helping another cadet with his uniform. Jamie nodded and Ian quickly finished and came over.

“Christ, man! Are ye wearing that uniform or is it wearing you? I swear, Jamie, if girls weren’t swooning over ye before, they will be tonight when we’re out celebrating.”

Hurmph…Jamie made a Scottish noise deep in his throat. “Och, no! Get off it man. I dinna care about the lasses that just throw themselves at me. I can’t focus on that kind of thing now. Especially knowing that we ship out in three weeks. I’ll no promise a lass anything, knowing that I’m heading out to train to become a Master Sergeant.”

Jamie and Ian had been informed weeks before that they were at the top of their class and had been chosen to train and become Green Berets, Special Forces in the United States Army. Ian looked solemnly at Jamie.

“Ye don’t have to remind me that we’re leaving. Jenny has mentioned it every time we speak. Breaks my heart that I canna give her the wedding she wants, but she insists that we get married before I go. She kens that once our training is done, we’ll be heading to the Middle East”

“Aye. My parents are still talking about it, but they would rather the ‘twa of ye have a small ceremony that they can attend, then run off and elope. I also figured you wanted to make things ‘official’ before being deployed for 18 months.” Jamie smirked and gave Ian an owlish wink. Ian had never had the heart to tell Jamie that he couldn’t wink. The man always thought he was being so clever.

Their conversation was cut short as an officer came into the room and all the cadets immediately stood at attention. The officer instructed them to form their lines, as it was time to march into the Commencement Ceremony. Once the officer left, the cadets were at ease and quickly formed their two lines. Jamie looked over at Ian and gave him a nod and a smile. This was a day Jamie had dreamed about. He was about to become a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army and begin his training as a Green Beret and hopefully, a Master Sergeant. A little over a year of grueling physical & mental training, that would prepare him to become one of America’s elite.

 

May 2009 – University of North Carolina , Medical School

“Come on, Joe! The ceremony will be starting soon. We have to get your cap on straight.” Claire was tugging on Joe Abernathy’s arm.

Joe had been in Claire’s cohort and they had become fast friends. Each knowing that this was exactly what they were meant to do.

“Alright, I’m coming, LJ.” Joe had called her Lady Jane, LJ for short, since the first moment Claire had said ‘hullo’. He adored her British accent and found it all too proper to give her a title.

The two had been inseparable throughout their time at UNC, spending holidays at each other’s homes. Claire was thankful that she had found such a trusted friend in Joe.

“Can you see Uncle Lamb out there? I’m hoping he gets a few good shots so I can send them to my mother.” Joe’s mother was ill and unable to attend the graduation. Uncle Lamb, had of course, agreed to take as many photos as possible for Joe to pass on.

“I think so, but there are so many bloody people out there, I can’t be sure it’s him.”

Just then, a senior resident came in and announced that the procession would begin momentarily. There was a bustle of activity and the med students, soon to be doctors, were anxiously lining up. Claire and Joe took their places in line and waited for the music to start.

Claire was excited to begin the next chapter of her life, but there was a constant nagging in the back of her mind. She had loved every minute of med school, but often found herself looking back on those that she had helped while she and Uncle Lamb had traveled the world. There was a part of her, a rather large part, if she would admit it, that wanted to practice medicine that way again. Not wanting to upset Uncle Lamb with the possibility of leaving, Claire had only spoken to Joe about taking her talents to where they could best serve others…the Middle East, as a surgeon for the United States Army.

When she had first approached the subject with Joe, she was not surprised by his response. “Are you crazy, LJ? Why would you want to put yourself in a position where you are trying to save lives, while risking your own?”

“I know it sounds crazy, Joe, but some of my fondest memories are from when I was helping people who truly appreciated what I was able to do for them. I’m afraid it would break Uncle Lamb’s heart, but I don’t know if I can wear the white coat every day and be up to my ears in splenectomies and bowel obstructions. Enlisting and being a surgeon for the Army would provide for some protection. It’s not like I’m just driving a Jeep around the desert looking for wounded people.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I might just be tempted to join you.” Joe smirked.

Claire would love nothing more than for her best friend to take this journey with her, but that was not something she could ask of him. Joe would have to decide on enlisting in the Army, solely on his own. Claire was quickly brought back to the present when she heard the band start to play “Pomp & Circumstance”. She would enjoy this day with her best friend and uncle. Tomorrow is when she would sit Uncle Lamb down and have a serious conversation.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-3

February 23, 2011 – Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

Jamie took a long pull on his canteen. Wearing 75 lbs of gear was taxing and he thought that even if he drank for the rest of his life, his thirst would never be quenched. He glanced over at Ian who looked like he might pass out at any minute.

“Ian, man! Are ye alright? Have ye been drinking?” Jamie rushed to his friend’s side.

“Aye, but I finished my canteen an hour ago. Dinna fash, we’re almost back to base and I’ll get to rest then.”

Jamie quickly gave his friend the rest of his water and offered to carry his gear. Ian gratefully accepted the water, but was not about to look weak in front of the rest of the team. As soon as they got back to base, Jamie was able to convince Ian to visit the medical tent. Ian was beyond dehydrated and needed more than a canteen of water. Jamie had Ian take a seat on the bench in front of the tent and just as he pulled the flap of the tent aside he heard an English accent cry out,

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! How many times have I told you to take an extra canteen on your morning patrols? Are you trying to turn to dust yourself?!”

Jamie tried to hide a smile as he looked around to see where the voice had come from. “Sounds just like my Sergeant Major every morning” he thought. However, when he found the source of the tirade, Jamie’s smile faded and it took every ounce of energy he had left to not let his jaw hit the floor. On the other side of the tent was a woman with her dark brown hair tied back, but curls were escaping and being plastered to her neck by sweat. Her eyes were squinted as she yelled at the soldier, but he could still see their unusual color. He had never seen a lass with eyes the color of whisky before. God, he could stare into those eyes all day!

As the surgeon continued to berate the soldier, while hooking him up to an IV, Jamie stepped into the tent. The surgeon looked over to him and straightened up.

“Can I help you?” she asked calmly. Clearly she was trying to get herself back under control.

“Yes ma’am. My friend just outside seems to be needing yer attention as weel. Once you have him hooked up.” Jamie nodded towards the poor soldier who was sitting on the cot.

“Geillis, can you finish this? I need to check on another soldier,” the doctor looked over to the nurse on the other side of the tent.

“Sure, Claire. Let me know if ye need help outside.”

Jamie didn’t miss another Scottish accent coming from the nurse. It was little things like that accent that made him miss home just a little less. It made him feel as if he was among family. Sure, his squadron were his brothers, but their teasing wasn’t the same as Jenny’s.

Jamie held the flap open for the doctor and as she made her way through and lightly brushed against Jamie’s arm. What should have been nothing more than a simple touch sent electricity coursing through his veins. He hoped the doctor hadn’t noticed his slight flinch. She looked past Jamie and saw another soldier slumped over on the bench.

“Must be an epidemic going around. No one can seem to drink enough bloody water today. Come along, let’s get you hooked up to an IV as well.” Jamie and the doctor bent down at the same time to help Ian. Jamie couldn’t help but notice the floral fragrance that wafted up from the doctor’s hair. It seemed that someone back home had sent her a care package with shampoo that wasn’t issued from the Army. He quickly sent up a small prayer of thanks.

“May I stay with him, ma’am?” Jamie asked as soon as he got Ian settled on a cot.

“Of course. Do I need to hook you up as well?” Without asking, Claire came over and stood directly in front of Jamie. She put her hands on his face, gauging his temperature and then gave the top of his hand a slight pinch, judging how much fluid seemed to be in his body.

Och, no, ma’am. I’ll do just fine. Just want to watch over my brother-in-law. My sister would kill me if I let anything happen to the man.”

He looked over at Ian and gave him that owlish blink again. Ian gave a small laugh, but he knew he would have to start being more careful. Jamie was right, Jenny would kill them both if they didn’t come home alive.

“Well, just the same, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you’re hydrated as well. You must be carrying 60 lbs of gear there. Let’s get some of that off and then roll up your sleeve. What were you all out doing anyway?” Claire inquired.

“Special forces training, ma’am.” Jamie sat up a little straighter as he said that. All of sudden he felt the need to impress the doctor. ‘Get a hold of yerself, Fraser. Like she cares what ye do.’

“You’re a Green Beret then,” the doctor said impressively. Then she looked up into Jamie’s eyes. Jamie visibly swallowed as soon as those eyes were looking directly into his. She started rolling up his sleeve and Jamie felt paralyzed, as if her touch had a power over him.

“Yes, ma’am.” was all Jamie could mutter.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jamie could see Ian taking in this whole interaction. He could also see the nurse, Geillis, watching as well. Then the doctor took her hands off of Jamie’s arm and started working on the IV. Geillis took it upon herself to strike up a conversation with the two soldiers.

“Where are ye lads from? I detect a wee bit of Scots in ye both.”

“That’s right, ma’am. Our families are in upstate New York, but both sets of our parents immigrated from Scotland. Outside of Inverness. Our family had land there...ever heard of Lallybroch?” Jamie asked.

“I’ve heard the name once or twice. Weel then, how did the ‘twa of ye end up over here?” Geillis asked as she checked Ian’s IV.

Just as Jamie was getting ready to answer, he noticed hands on his arm again. Based on his body’s reaction, he didn’t need to look to know that the doctor’s hands were probing the nook in his elbow, looking for a vein. Again, Jamie swallowed visibly. Apparently, this time Ian noticed and made a Scottish sound in his throat.

“Are ye alright, mo charaid?” Ian asked teasingly.

Jamie narrowed his eyes at Ian, but before he could say anything else, Ian answered the nurse’s question.

“We both graduated from West Point. Jamie was at the top of his class and is a third generation Special Forces Master Sergeant.” Ian said proudly.

Jamie thought perhaps a bit too proudly. He didn’t need Ian rattling off his credentials to the doctor and nurse.

“Ah, ye hear that Claire? A Master Sergeant, that’s impressive.” Geillis crooned.

“Yes, quite impressive,” Claire noted as she finished hooking up the IV. As soon as her hands were off Jamie’s arm, he found he could put together a cohesive thought.

“Thank ye, ma’am. If you don’t mind my asking, where are you from ma’am? Ye’ve the sound of a Sassenach in yer accent.” Jamie blushed slightly as he looked the doctor in the eye. He hoped she would just think he was flushed with the heat.

“Sassenach, you say? I haven’t heard that term in quite a long time! Although, I supposed I am an outlander. I’m from England, but grew up all over. North Carolina is home, for now.” Claire replied.

Jamie was rather enjoying the small talk among the four of them, when another doctor came rushing in.

“Lady Jane! We have four casualties coming in…roadside bomb. I’m going to need your help.” And as quickly as he appeared, the doctor left.

“You’ll have to excuse me, gentlemen. Geillis, make sure their IVs are flowing and then please meet me over at the OR tent. Sounds like we’re going to need all available hands.”

The doctor then looked at Ian, before settling her gaze on Jamie. “Please take better care in hydrating yourselves. I wouldn’t want America’s Best of the Best passing out before they could carry out their mission.”

Then the doctor gathered her things and rushed out of the tent. Jamie was still recovering from staring into those whisky-colored eyes when Geillis checked his IV.

“I’ll send someone over in about 20 minutes to remove these. Take care guys!”

When Geillis had disappeared, he heard Ian chuckle.

“What’s sae funny?” Jamie asked.

“You, ye dafty! Could ye be more obvious? Puffing out your chest like a damn peacock whenever the doctor looked at ye. Not being able to speak when she had ‘er hands on yer arm. Christ, Jamie, act like ye’ve been around a woman before!” By this time, Ian was laughing so hard, there were tears coming out of his eyes.

“Weel, at least you're hydrated enough to cry, man.” Jamie scowled.

He knew he had made a fool of himself. He had never been around a woman that evoked these types of reactions in him. It wasn’t often that a Master Sergeant was not in full control of his faculties and this damn doctor had him rattled!

 

As Claire ran over to the OR tent, she couldn’t stop thinking about the tall, solid, red-headed Master Sergeant, with eyes that she could’ve drowned in. If Joe hadn’t have come in, she wasn’t sure what excuse she would have come up with to leave the triage tent. As a doctor, she had trained herself to remain composed in difficult situations. Med school had taught her how to speak with grieving families, give someone news of a terminal illness...not how to handle the electricity that shot through her body as she touched the Scot’s arm. She prayed he hadn’t noticed the slight jerk that coursed through her body.

Then she made the mistake of touching his face to gauge his temperature, which of course led to her looking into his eyes. Those deep, blue eyes that appeared to see into her soul. ‘Get it together, Beauchamp,’ Claire chided herself. ‘You have to focus on the task ahead of you.’

As she opened the door, she could see Joe prepping the area for the incoming casualties. Claire’s training took over and she spent the next several hours doing her best to save the men that were brought in. When all was said and done, all four of the men had survived...two had concussions and shrapnel wounds, one had a broken arm and leg, and the fourth had to have his arm amputated at the elbow. Considering what could have happened, Claire was pleased with the outcomes.

She was so absorbed in re-living the amputation, Claire hadn’t noticed Geillis waiting for her.

“Geillis! I didn’t see you standing there. Everything ok?”

“Aye. How are you?” The way Geillis had drawn out the word you, made Claire look at her funny.

“I’m exhausted after that, but I’ll do. Ready to change clothes and get something to eat. Care to join me?”

“Always, love. Maybe we’ll see a tall, red-heided Scot in the mess hall.” Geillis said innocently. Claire flushed.

“I knew it!” exclaimed Geillis. “I saw your reaction when you touched his arm. Yer into the Master Sergeant!”

“Geillis, stop it. I’m not sure what you think you saw, but it was nothing more than a routine IV.” Even as Claire was saying the words, she didn’t believe them. There was a connection with that man that she couldn’t explain.

“If ye say so, Claire, but there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. After all this is over, ye’ll never see each other again and if I were you, I wouldn’t let that cock get away!” Geillis had to duck as Claire threw a roll of gauze at her head.

“Alright! Alright! I’m half starved, let’s go get some food, aye?”

“Right behind you.” Claire said.

As they left the OR tent, Claire couldn’t help but think about what Geillis had said. A little fun never hurt anyone, but Claire wasn’t sure she could “just have fun” again. She thought she was just fooling around with Frank Randall. A resident that she had been under in med school, in more ways than one. Part of the appeal was the fact that he was her superior, but just when Claire had started to fall for him, she realized she wasn’t the only intern Frank was fucking. After that, Claire put all her energy into focusing on being a better surgeon than Frank had ever hoped to be. It was the only way she felt she could get back at him. Beat him on his own turf. The bloody man thought he was not only God’s gift to women, but medicine too. Claire had quickly gained more ground and was invited to assist on more surgeries than an intern should have been allowed. This of course had pissed Frank off and the last time she had seen the man, he was screaming at her about some procedure as she walked to her car. After that, he must have had a change in shifts because she never saw him again.

Why would I have started thinking about Frank?’ Claire wondered. She hadn’t given that man the time of day in years, and yet now, she couldn’t stop comparing him to the Master Sergeant. The two men could not have been more different.

That was when Claire noticed that she was glancing around to see if she could see the broad-shouldered, red-headed man standing out in a crowd. ‘Who am I kidding? There are hundreds of soldiers here,’ she thought to herself. But as she stepped into the mess hall, Claire couldn’t help but wonder when she would see Master Sergeant Fraser again.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-4
place to upload pictures

 

March 2, 2011 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

A couple of weeks went by and Jamie hadn’t had the opportunity to see Claire again. The Special Forces training was picking up and intel on their target was coming in. Jamie was in daily briefings and it looked like they would be making a move soon. That didn’t stop him from thinking about the beautiful, British doctor every waking minute.

Christ, Fraser. Get it together. How are you supposed to carry out this mission if you can’t stop thinking about Dr. Beauchamp?’ he asked himself one morning.

“Still thinking about her, aren’t ye mate?” Jamie hadn’t even noticed Ian coming to stand beside him.

“Aye. I can’t help it. Those whisky eyes and that arse haunt me all night long.”

“Weel, I’m thinking ye’ve been complaining about those blisters on yer feet a bit more than necessary. Perhaps someone should have a look?” Ian teased.

Och! Away with ye man! I’m not having that gorgeous lass look at my feet. At least not in the condition they are right now. Although, my throat is starting to feel none sae good.” Jamie attempted a wink at Ian.

Ian just shook his head and walked away. Jamie knew it wasn’t fair to take time away from soldiers who might really need Dr. Beauchamp’s attention, but there hadn’t been any casualties in the last couple of weeks. He was desperate to see her, especially knowing what was to come. With his mind made up, Jamie headed towards the Medical Tent.

 

Claire was trying to catch up on some paperwork, but her mind kept wandering.

“Ye’ve been on that chart for that last 45 minutes, Claire.” Geillis said looking over her shoulder.

“Hmm? Oh, yes. I was just having some trouble focusing is all. I hate to say it, but it’s been calm lately...almost too calm.”

“Aye and that gives yer mind time to wander towards that handsome, wee red-heided fox cub. What was his name again?”

Claire could feel herself flush, up from her neck and throughout her face. “I’m not sure what you are talking about, Geillis.” Claire turned back to the chart and did her best to look fully engrossed.

“Silly me. I must have been mistaken. Wait, what’s this? I see a soldier making his way toward the tent. Och, no a soldier, a Master Sergeant.” And with that Geillis was gone.

Claire’s head swung around, and sure enough, the well-built Master Sergeant appeared to be coming her way. She quickly turned around and pretended to be filling out the chart.

“Excuse me, ma’am? I would knock, but there isn’a really a door.”

Claire could feel her insides clench, with the way his Scottish burr, drew out the word door. Claire attempted to turn around nonchalantly and stood up.

“What can I do for you, Master Sergeant?” Claire asked, praying he couldn’t see her pulse racing in her neck.

“Weel, ma’am. My throat’s been a bit sore lately and I thought I would come and see if ye had anything to mebbe make it feel better.”

Realizing this wasn’t just a visit, ‘Of course not Beauchamp! He has a million things to do. Just stopping by to see you is ridiculous.’ Claire quickly jumped into doctor mode and gestured to the cot.

Jamie made his way over to the cot and sat down. Claire was going to bring over a chair, but noticed that she barely had to bend over to peer into his mouth. Grabbing a pen light and a tongue depressor, she looked back towards the Master Sergeant. “Open wide and stick out your tongue. Say ‘ahh’.”

Jamie complied, but had a hard time focusing, noticing that her full, perfectly-shaped breasts were right in front of his face. In fact, he hadn’t even heard the question she asked him.

“Master Sergeant?” Claire inquired.

Jamie quickly realized he was staring and snapped his head up to look the doctor in the eye. ‘A dhia, Fraser! That view isn’t much better’ he thought. “Ma’am?” he said.

“I asked you if you were having trouble swallowing.”

“Aye, a bit.” Jamie lied.

God, he was starting to feel awful not being honest with her, but to be this close to the beautiful doctor was worth it. Just as he was about to say something, the doctor put down her pen light and tongue depressor, and put both her hands under his chin. She gently massaged her fingers around, trying to feel for swollen lymph nodes. Jamie felt his eyes slightly roll back and then close. Christ, if it felt this good to have her hands on his neck, how would it feel…

“Your glands aren’t swollen. Your throat isn’t even that red. Are you drinking enough? The air is so dry here, you might just be parched.”

Quickly opening his eyes, Jamie looked at the doctor. “Aye. Perhaps.”

But Claire noticed a slight glint in his eyes. Had the Master Sergeant made up an excuse, just to come and see her? Her heart raced a little more.

“My suggestion, make sure your canteen is full and drink more frequently. But, if it’s not better in a few days, please come back and see me. I wouldn’t want our Master Sergeant feeling under the weather for long.”

With that last sentence, Claire made sure to stare directly into those dark, blue eyes. Jamie stood up, holding her stare, and at that moment, the world seemed to shift. With their eyes locked, it was as if they were the only two people on the planet. Jamie wasn’t sure if it was the heat or the smell of her floral scented shampoo, but the room started to spin. He lightly grasped her arm, craving, yet fearing the sensation of when they touched. And with just a single touch, the doctor had centered him. The spinning stopped, but the bolt of electricity that he felt the first time they touched, shot up his arm and it took every ounce of strength not to bend over and kiss her. The doctor must have sensed the connection as well because as soon as Jamie grasped her arm, he heard her hiss slightly. Looking down at her, Jamie licked his lips and opened his mouth slightly, as if to say something. Claire readied herself, expecting him to lean down and kiss her, but instead, he slowly stood to his full height. He slowly let go of her arm and turned to leave.

He got as far as the opening of the tent, when he turned back around. “Think it would be ok, if I came back tomorrow, ma’am? I’m thinking my throat won’t be better.” Jamie gave the doctor that owlish blink and the corner of his mouth turned up slightly.

Quickly regaining her composure, Claire straightened up and said, “I think that would be best. We wouldn’t want your condition to worsen, Master Sergeant.”

Jamie smiled. “My name is James Alexander Malcom Makenzie Fraser. Please call me Jamie.”

“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” and Claire stuck out her hand. Jamie stepped closer and took her hand, noticing how delicate and small it felt in his.

“Pleased to meet ye, ma’am.” With that, Jamie turned and left, leaving Claire standing in the Medical Tent staring at a very fine, tight ass in fatigues.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-5

 

March 3, 2011 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

Claire woke up and for the first time in months, wondered what she should try doing with her hair. She knew Jamie would be stopping by the medical tent later and she wanted to look like she hadn’t been sweating like a pig all day.

Like it matters, Beauchamp. We’re in a bloody desert. Everyone will be sweating!

She got up, showered, and put on her fatigues. She attempted to tame her unruly curls, but ended up settling for a bun on top of her head. It was the best she could do...they weren’t exactly meeting for a first date or anything. He was stopping by for her to check his throat.

Claire had no idea when Jamie would come by the Medical Tent, and keeping busy throughout the day until then was proving rather difficult. She hadn’t been able to hide her giddiness at dinner the night before, and the few times she made eye contact with Gellis or Joe throughout the day, both of whom knew what she was waiting for, did not help.

Time seemed to drag all day. Claire was grateful for no major injuries. In a war zone, you never knew what you would face on a daily basis, but she was more than happy to just have some minor injuries to tend to. At least that was keeping her mind occupied.

Right before she was about to break for lunch, she noticed that light coming into the tent from the open flap was blocked. Only one man could take up the entire opening...Master Sergeant Fraser. Claire turned around, more quickly than she would have liked, but at least she was able to keep her smile at a minimum.

“Dr. Beauchamp.” Jamie said, nodding in her direction.

“Master Sergeant Fraser. How are you feeling today?” Claire asked with a smile.

“Weel, it’s the strangest thing, ma’am. I woke up this morning and felt braw!”

“That’s wonderful news! Does this mean you were just stopping by to inform me and then heading back out for more training?” Claire tried to hide the disappointment in her voice.

“Weel, ye see, ma’am,” Jamie hesitated, “I thought perhaps ye might be free to grab a wee bit of food.” His ears flushed bright pink at the tips.

“That would be lovely. Let me just tell Geillis and Joe that I’m breaking for lunch.”

Claire quickly found her colleagues and informed them she would be back in about an hour, unless there was an emergency. She then took off her stethoscope, put it on her desk, and walked towards the Master Sergeant. Jamie held the tent flap back for her, and with his hand on the small of her back, Claire stepped through.

As they headed for the Mess Hall, they walked in a companionable silence. Nothing between them felt forced, just a comfort in knowing the other was nearby. Once they got their food, they chose to sit at the far end of a table. Luckily, they were not surrounded by an entire cafeteria of soldiers, since neither of them had much of a schedule that day.

“How did ye become a doctor in the Army, if ye dinna mind my asking,” Jamie inquired.

“Well, I attended medical school in North Carolina, but I had traveled a good part of the world with my uncle when I was a child. We were often in areas that lacked medical attention and it just came naturally to me. After med school, I felt compelled to travel and practice medicine in more remote parts of the world.”

“So ye’ve always been a sassenach?”

“A what?” Claire inquired.

Jamie blushed. “It means, outlander or an English person. Just a word that came to mind when I heard ye speak the first time.”

Claire stared at him for a minute and then nodded. “I suppose so. I’ve never really thought of anywhere as home.”

“Och, lass. I’m sorry. I did’na mean to make ye sad.”

“It’s ok. Maybe being a sassenach is why the Army seemed like the best way to go. It didn’t require me to settle down, but still allowed me to focus on helping people. And you? How does one become a Master Sergeant?”

Jamie blushed slightly, but she could tell it was with pride. “Weel, I’m a third generation Master Sergeant and green beret. My da and grandda were both Master Sergeants and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”

Claire admired how Jamie spoke of his father and grandfather, but couldn’t help but feel a small pang in her chest at the thought that he had several generations of family that he had grown up with and she had none.

“Is everything ok, Sassenach?” Jamie had a concerned look on his face.

Damn glass face, but the fact that a man she had been in the presence of a grand total of three times, could read her face like he did, had her slightly unnerved, not to mention he now had a nickname for her.

“It’s nothing. Just hearing you talk about several generations of family is a bit foreign to me. My parents died when I was just five and I grew up with my Uncle Lamb. It’s just been the two of us for as long as I can remember.”

Jamie reached across the table and grabbed her hand, slowly stroking his thumb across her knuckles. The action seemed so intimate, yet felt perfectly normal. As soon as he saw Claire glance around, to see if anyone had noticed, he let go.

“I’m sorry Sassenach. I should’na have done that.” He placed his hands in his lap.

“It’s ok. It felt...nice.” Claire blushed.

A small smile crept onto Jamie’s face. “I’m glad. The last thing I would want was for ye to be uncomfortable in my presence.”

Claire smiled. “So tell me more about your family.”

“How many generations back?” Jamie laughed.

Claire relished the sound and hoped he would do it more often. “Your parents will do.”

“My da is a Fraser. A proud graduate of West Point and then went on to be a Master Sergeant. My mam, weel, let’s just say that even though she married a Master Sergeant, she’s in full control of the house.” Jamie laughed again and Claire could feel herself being drawn in by this man she hardly knew. He continued, “My sister, that’s Sergeant Murray’s wife, ye ken, is back home and writes to Ian every other day. She’s worrit sick that one of us won’t make it home. Especially since we lost our oldest brother just a few years ago.”

Now it was Claire’s turn to reach across the table and grab Jamie’s hand. “I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. May I ask what happened?”

“Willie was in the Army as weel. Training for Special Forces, but he was killed in a training exercise. My parents were not thrilled by my choice, but they were’na surprised either.” Jamie shrugged his shoulders, but for a man who was often hard to read, Claire could see the pain in the depth of his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Jamie.” Jamie raised his face and looked Claire in the eyes.

“Ye called me ‘Jamie’,” he said, a little surprised.

Claire blushed and tried to pull her hand back, but Jamie held on, keeping her eyes locked with his. “I guess I did. I figured if you were going to call me ‘Sassenach’ then ‘Jamie’ would be ok for you. It’s just nice to relax and not worry about rank.”

“It does almost feel like a first date, does it no’?” Jamie smirked. “Although, I’m wounded that ye think I would take ye some place with food as awful as this.” T

his time, Claire used her other hand to gently swat at the large hand that had yet to let go of hers. “You think you’re rather charming, don’t you?”

Jamie shrugged and gave her that endearing double-blink. Claire smiled and then looked at her watch.

“Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! We’ve been talking almost an hour. I promised Geillis and Joe I wouldn’t be gone for more than an hour.”

Reluctantly, Jamie let go of Claire’s hand and took her tray over to the trash. He looked back over to her and said, “Shall I walk the lovely doctor back to her post?”

Now it was Claire’s turn to laugh. Jamie’s heart almost melted, it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. He would do anything to evoke that melodic sound from her again. He opened the door and motioned her out, placing his hand at the small of her back again. They walked back over to the medical tent and just as Claire was about to go in, Jamie gently grabbed her upper arm and turned her towards him, pulling her close.

“Sassenach?” Jamie’s voice had dropped an octave and become husky. “Do ye think ye have any appointments for tomorrow? I’ve been noticing that my heart has been racing a lot lately, especially when I’m in the presence of a curly-haired doctor. I’m under a lot of stress and strenuous exercise currently, I would’na want it to give out.”

“Barring any emergencies, Master Sergeant Fraser, I think I could see you around 7 PM tomorrow.” Claire said breathlessly.

And with that, Jamie raised her hand to his lips and brushed a soft kiss across her knuckles. “It’s a date then,” he said and then turned and walked away.

“Ok,” Claire whispered, but there was no one around to hear.

 

“What are ye doing, man?” Ian asked incredulously. “Ye ken that in a month, we will be tryin’ to take down one of the world’s most dangerous targets ye have to have yer wits about ye!”

“Dinna fash, mo charaid. I know exactly what we’re here for and nothing will stand in the way of that.” Jamie said sincerely. “It’s just that I’ve ne’er been around a lass who made me feel the way Claire does.”

“Oh Claire! Claire, is it now?! What happened to ‘Dr. Beauchamp’?”

Hurmph...Jamie made a noncommittal Scottish sound in his throat. “Ian? Do ye ever think…” Jamie stopped. He didn’t want to actually say what he was thinking, but Ian knew him better than anyone and where his mind went.

“Aye,” Ian said quietly. “I do. And yer afraid it may happen and you won’t have ever laid with a lass?”

Jamie nodded. He wasn’t afraid to die. Christ, why would he have signed up for this if that was the case, but ever since he had laid eyes on Claire, everything took on a different meaning. Jamie had always known that he wanted to become a Master Sergeant with the Green Berets. He had dated plenty of girls, but nothing ever serious. He wasn’t going to give himself fully to a woman, if he couldn’t promise her the world. When he signed up for this mission, he knew there was a strong possibility that he may not come back alive. It broke his heart to know what that would do to his parents, and he wasn’t about to put a wife, let alone children through that.

“But, Ian, I dinna want to just lie with her,” Jamie said. “There’s something about her. I want to stare into those whisky eyes all day long, make her laugh. I want to hear about all the places she’s traveled with her uncle when she was younger. Christ, I would give anything to just hold her in my arms.”

“I ken, man. I’ve kent ye all my life, practically, and I can see ye have it bad.” Ian sympathized.

“So, if it means that for the next three weeks I can have a bit of happiness, a bit of joy, before having to lay my life on the line, I’d like to keep seeing her. Do ye think ye can let me do that without busting my balls too much?” Jamie looked at his brother-in-law.

“I’d do anything for you, mo charaid, ye ken that. I just don’t want ye to be disappointed when this is all over and we go home. The odds of seeing her again are slim.”

“I ken that. But three weeks with her would allow me to die a happy man, Ian.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-6

March 26, 2011 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

Jamie and Claire had settled into a routine of seeing each other on a daily basis. Jamie tried to stop in to see her around a meal, whether it was lunch or dinner, so he could spend as much time with her as possible, but with the date of his mission rapidly approaching, time was not always on his side.

What had started out as simply a friendly, flirtatious encounter, was quickly developing into a very meaningful friendship. Claire relished every moment she had with Jamie, but things in the camp were becoming restless. She knew something was coming, but she didn’t know what. She also knew she couldn’t ask Jamie. Whatever was going on was strictly confidential and Claire was not on a ‘need-to-know’ basis.

One evening, in late March, Claire was cleaning up the Medical Tent and replenishing supplies for tomorrow. The camp had been lucky so far, but Claire was not one to let supplies dwindle, knowing she may need them at a moment’s notice. She was also trying to keep her mind off the fact that she hadn’t seen Jamie all day.

“Aren’t you done yet, Lady Jane?” Claire turned to see Joe standing there.

“Almost, Joe. You know me...I just like to come in, in the morning, with things organized and prepared for anything. We are in a war zone, you know.”

“Yes, I do know. But I also know that you have walked around and triple-checked all the supplies in the last hour. What’s on your mind, LJ?”  Joe knew Claire better than anyone and keeping something from him was never easy.

“Jamie hasn’t come in all day.” Claire was a little surprised by the concern in her voice. Joe had heard it too.

“Ok. You know how busy the guy is. We can all feel the shift in the camp. Something big is going to happen soon. Are you concerned about him? Or are you concerned about what the future holds?” Leave it to Joe to get right to the point, Claire thought with slight annoyance.

“I don’t know, Joe. We’ve known each other for what, a month? It’s not like we’ve been on a ‘real’ date. We eat in the mess hall or sit around here. Christ, the bloody man hasn’t even kissed me!”

That was when Claire saw the tall, Scottish Master Sergeant standing in the doorway of the Medical Tent. Claire could feel the color drain from her face. Surely he didn’t just hear what she said. The room started to spin, slightly, and before she could reach to grab on to something, two large, warm hands had her by the shoulders.

“Sassenach? Are ye alright? Ye look as if yer going to faint!”

“I’ll go grab a cup of water. Master Sergeant Fraser, please have her lie down on a cot.” With directions given, Joe turned to leave and retrieve some water.

Jamie scooped Claire up and carried her over to a cot and laid her down gently. He was brushing the hair out of her eyes, when Joe came back in. He cleared his throat, announcing his presence, and brought the cup of water over.

“I trust that you can see Dr. Beauchamp back to her tent, Master Sergeant? When she’s feeling better of course.” Joe couldn’t help the glint in his eyes or teasing in his voice and Claire thought she was going to faint all over again.

“Aye sir. I won’t let her out of my sight until I know she is safely in her barracks.”

“I’m sure you won’t. I’ll see you tomorrow, LJ. ‘Night Master Sergeant.” Joe nodded at Jamie, winked at Claire, and then left.

“Oh bloody hell,” Claire whispered.

“What is it, Sassenach? Are ye ok? Are ye hurtin’ anywhere?”

“Jamie? Are we going to pretend that none of that just happened? Surely you heard what I said. How long had you been standing there?”

Jamie’s face flushed and his ears turned bright pink. “I may have heard something about not being on a ‘real’ date.”

“Ugh,” Claire moaned and covered her face. She felt two hands cover her own and slowly pull them down.

“As for not being kissed by the ‘bloody man’...Jamie mimicked in his best British accent before trailing off.

Before Claire could say anything, Jamie was kneeling next to the cot and leaning forwards. Just as Claire started to close her eyes, she saw Jamie stop. She could see him fighting something in his eyes. She looked up at him with need and desire.

“Claire?” the husky tone in his voice was stirring up emotions that Claire wasn’t sure she had ever felt before.

“Yes, Jamie?”

“I have’na done this in a verra long time. I would…” he paused. “I would verra much like to kiss ye. May I?”

Claire couldn’t believe his restraint and was even more turned on by him asking permission. “Yes. Yes, you can kiss me.”

Jamie leaned over the cot and gently put his mouth on her’s. The kiss started off soft, almost tentative. Claire slightly parted her lips and Jamie readily accepted the invitation by deepening the kiss. His tongue slid into her mouth and tangled with her’s. Claire moaned and Jamie could feel his body react. ‘Keep it under control, Fraser.’ he thought to himself. ‘Ye did’na come to ravage the lass.’

Claire appeared to have other ideas, however. Before she knew what she was doing, her fingers were sliding up Jamie’s neck and running over that short-cropped crew cut and into the soft curls on top. She pulled her mouth away and started kissing along his jawline. It was Jamie’s turn to let out a moan. As Claire was kissing her way along Jamie’s neck, his hands started exploring, as well. As he reached his hands around Claire’s back, he slowly sat himself down on the floor, bringing Claire onto his lap. With the shift in their bodies, Claire was made fully aware of Jamie’s arousal. Considering he was in fatigues and she was in scrubs, it wasn’t leaving much to the imagination. Claire brought her mouth back to Jamie’s with a hunger that she didn’t know she had. The pulsing deep within her took over her body and before Claire knew it, she was unbuttoning his jacket. Jamie pulled back, just enough to look Claire in the eyes.

“Not here, Sassenach. Anyone could walk in. I would’na embarrass ye that way.”

Claire knew he was trying to be a gentleman, but damn it! It had been a LONG time since she was this aroused. And given their current situation, who knew when it would happen again.

“Please, Jamie. I need you.” Claire gently pleaded. Claire couldn’t believe the words that had just come out of her mouth. ‘Christ, Beauchamp! Did you just BEG him to serve you?’

Jamie’s pupils had blown wide open, with that statement, causing his eyes to look more of a midnight blue, and Claire could see the desire deep within them.

“I want ye, Claire. I want ye so badly, I can scarcely breathe, but there are things ye dinna ken, lass. Things I canna tell ye.”

Claire could feel him trying to restrain his urges, and while she was tempted to go back to the buttons, something in his tone made her stop. Claire reached out to cup Jamie’s face in her hands.

“What is it? What’s going to happen?”

It was no secret that the atmosphere of the camp had changed in the past week or so. In fact, wasn’t she just having this conversation with Joe before Jamie came in?

“I canna tell ye much, Sassenach.” Jamie looked down. “But I’ll have tae leave in three days. The mission we have is dangerous, I’ll no’ lie to ye. Sae dangerous, that I canna promise I’ll make it back.” Claire could feel his hands trembling as they held hers. “What I can tell ye, is that I wanted ye from the first moment I saw ye. That day ye grabbed my arm and put the IV in, there was a spark and a tenderness all at the same time.” Jamie then looked away and added, “I have imagined what it would feel like if you touched me in other places.” A deep blush covered his face and wouldn’t look Claire in the eyes, but he continued. “I’ve wondered sae much that I’ve thought of ye as I’ve touched myself. I could’na help it, lass. I’ve ne’er been around a woman that made me feel this way before.”

Claire tried to swallow the thump in her throat. She had never encountered a man that possessed such qualities as strength, confidence, pride, sincerity, and tenderness all at the same time. Reaching for his hand, Claire said, “I felt it too...that spark. I have never experienced anything like this before either. It’s different.” Claire confirmed. “And I would be lying if I hadn’t thought of you while touching myself.” she whispered.

Jamie let out a low growl and his eyes grew round at that. “Ye think about me?”

“Aye,” Claire mimicked him.

“So ye see, Sassenach. I will’na ravage ye in the Medical Tent. I have more respect fer ye than that. Plus…” Jamie trailed off.

“Plus, what?” Claire raised an eyebrow at him.

“Plus, I have’na...ye ken.” Jamie shrugged bashfully.

“You haven’t what? Told me what’s going to happen?”

“No, Sassenach. I have’na ever been with a lass that way.” Jamie said in an exasperated tone.

“OH! Ok...not even back home?” Claire asked incredulously.

Jamie shrugged.  “I never really thought it would be fair to a lass, ye ken? I knew what my destiny was and to be with a lass, then leave, knowing I might not make it back? What kind of a numpty would that make me?”

“And now you feel ready to be with me, even though you might not make it back?” Claire asked carefully.

Jamie blushed for about the fourth time that evening. “Aye. I am, but not if ye don’t want me, Claire. I will’na force myself on ye. I just thought if I died in the next week, I’d die a happy man knowing I was able to hold ye, even it it’s only one night.”

Claire simply stared at Jamie. How was it that she had waited all her life to feel like this with a man, and he was basically telling her that after one glorious night, he would be gone, possibly forever. “I appreciate you not just taking me right here on the floor, but I do want you, James Fraser. No matter if you can give me a lifetime or one night.”

“I want to serve ye properly, Sassenach. I ken a spot we could go, but it certainly does’na have a four post bed. May I take ye there tomorrow?”

“I would like that, Jamie, very much.” Jamie leaned over and kissed Claire thoroughly.

“Good. Now, I promised Dr. Abernathy that I would see ye back to yer barracks and I’m a man of my word. Grab yer things, Dr. Beauchamp.”

Claire grabbed what she needed and turned out the lights. She then turned to Jamie, before walking through the tent flap that he held open, and said, “I must say, Master Sergeant Fraser, you have more restraint than any man I have ever known. I’m hoping that holds up for tomorrow as well.”

Claire looked at Jamie with a teasing glint in her eye. She then walked through the tent flap, swinging her hips a little more than was necessary, drawing attention to that round ass she knew he couldn’t keep his eyes off of. Jamie closed his eyes and offered up a quick prayer, 'Lord, I’ve made it 24 years...give me the strength to make it one more night.'

 

Jamie walked Claire to her barracks, and with it being night time, he felt comfortable keeping his hand in the small of her back. If it was up to him, he would let the entire camp, no...the entire world, know how he felt about this woman. But he knew how respected Claire was on the base and he didn’t want her reputation to be ruined. As they got closer to her barracks, Jamie pulled Claire into the shadows and kissed her thoroughly. He was starting to second guess his decision of waiting until tomorrow night, but he wanted it to be as perfect as possible. He also needed to talk to Ian...there were some things Jamie needed to know.

“Christ, Sassenach. Now that I’ve started kissin’ ye, I’m no’ sure I can stop.”

“Then don’t, Jamie. Don’t ever stop.” Claire said breathlessly.

Jamie bent over and deepened the kiss again before, reluctantly, pulling away from Claire. Taking her hands in his, he brought them up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “Sleep well, Dr. Beauchamp. I’ll come by to get ye around 7 PM tomorrow, aye?”

“Sir, yes, sir,” Claire replied, as she batted her eyelashes, and then turned and walked into her barracks.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-7

 

March 27, 2011 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

Jamie woke up the next morning with butterflies in his stomach. Today would be a day that he would remember for the rest of his life. He stretched for a minute, fully extending his long frame, and flexing his feet. Rolling off his cot, Jamie made his way over to the showers and then put on his fatigues. As he was heading to the mess hall, he met up with Ian.

“Ah, mo charaid! Just the man I was hoping to see. Beautiful day, is it no?” Jamie smiled at Ian.

Ian looked at Jamie, but didn’t return the smile. “Ye have’na heard, have ye?”

“Heard what?”

“We’re heading out tonight, Jamie. The newest intel is showing that our target is getting restless and may move out. All our training, all our surveillance is contingent on the compound they are currently in. We have to go now.”

Jamie stopped. They weren’t leaving today...they were scheduled to depart on March 30th, with an attack on the target’s compound on April 5th. They couldn’t leave today. “Who told ye this, Ian?”

“Major General MacKenzie. He was lookin’ for ye this morning. I told him ye were in the shower and I’d send ye o’er straight away.”

Jamie turned and immediately headed towards the Major General’s office. He knocked, before entering.

“Sir,” Jamie nodded when he entered.

“Master Sergeant,” MacKenzie responded.

“I understand there’s been a change in plans, sir. We’re moving today?”

“Yes. We leave at 20:00. I don’t want to draw a lot of attention, so go about business as usual...conduct some basic drills, take the men for a 5 mile ruck. Then, gather them and give them our new orders. They can shower and pack what they were told to bring. Any questions?”

“No, sir.” Jamie responded, doing his best to keep his emotions in check.

“Dismissed,” MacKenzie said and then returned back to the correspondence on his desk.

Jamie turned and left the office, with his brain going a mile a minute. ‘Alright, Fraser. This is the mission ye’ve been training for,’ half of his brain rationalized. The other half was thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to tell Claire?

Jamie quickly found Ian and pulled him aside. He quickly told him what the plan was for the day.

“Have the men assemble at 10:00, that’s an hour from now. I have to go find Claire.”

“Aye, Jamie. What do ye plan on telling her?”

“First, that we’ll no’ be meeting tonight like I had planned,” Jamie said ruefully.

“Christ, man! Was tonight going to be the night?!”

“Aye, it was and that’s why I was on my way to find ye, but then everything started happening so fast this morning.”

“Alright. Go find Claire. Meet me out at the back field at 10:00, so MacKenzie does’na think it suspicious that ye are’na there.”

“Thanks, bràthair. I owe ye,” and with that, Jamie took off at a jog towards the medical tent.

 

Claire awoke that morning in a pleasant mood. She wanted to lay on her cot a little longer than she usual, but then thought twice when she realized she hadn’t shaved in a week. ‘Christ! What I wouldn’t give for a salon and a bikini wax right about now.’ She rolled out of bed, made sure her razor was in her shower caddy, and headed for the latrine. After showering and dressing, Claire stopped by the Mess Hall to grab some breakfast and then made her way over to the Medical Tent.

As she was walking up, she noticed Jamie standing there, pacing. She stopped briefly to watch him. ‘Is he that nervous about tonight? He’s already acting jittery,’she thought. Claire couldn't hide her smile. The man was the most handsome and adorable human being she had ever laid eyes on.

“Good morning, Master Sergeant,” Claire said cheerfully as she approached Jamie.

Jamie had his back to her and swung around at the sound of her voice. “Sassenach!” he exclaimed and grabbed her.

Claire was caught off guard by his lack of formality, and immediately knew that something was wrong.

“Jamie, what is it? What’s wrong...is someone hurt?” Claire asked anxiously.

“No, everyone’s ok, Sassenach.” He paused then, before continuing. “Do ye trust me, Claire?”

There was pleading in his eyes, but not like the look of desire that she had seen last night. This look held more desperation. Claire nodded and allowed Jamie to lead her away from the tent.

When they were at what Jamie considered to be a safe distance away from anyone, he turned her towards him. Jamie’s mouth was on hers before she could ask him what was going on. He was kissing her with the intensity of a man that wouldn’t ever kiss a woman again. As much as Claire was enjoying it, she pulled back.

“Jamie, you’re scaring me. What’s happening?”

Jamie brought their foreheads together and gave Claire a weak smile. “Yer supposed to be the one with the glass face. Is it that obvious I’m rattled?”

Claire nodded and waited patiently for him to continue.

“There’s been a change in plans, Sassenach.” Jamie looked down at the ground before continuing. “I canna take ye on our ‘date’ tonight.” It took all of his strength to bring his eyes up to meet Claire’s.

She tried desperately to not look disappointed, but her feelings must have been plain on her face, because Jamie’s eyes softened immediately.

“Aye, I’m disappointed too. I…” she could tell that Jamie was having a difficult time trying to get out whatever there was to say.

Claire reached out and took Jamie’s hands. “Remember, in the Mess Hall? The first time we ate lunch together? You were telling me about Willie and I grasped your hand. It was easier to talk when we touched. Tell me Jamie.”

Thankful for the strength she was giving him, Jamie held her hands a little tighter. “I told ye there were things ye did’na know. Things I was going to try and tell ye tonight? Well, Sassenach, for the past few months I’ve been training for an extremely dangerous mission. We were supposed to leave in three days, but there was a significant change in our intel, and we’re moving out tonight.”

Claire started to sway, but Jamie immediately grasped her shoulders. “Don’t faint on me now, Sassenach,” Jamie said firmly and held her eyes with his, trying to center her, as she had done for him.

“No, Jamie,” Claire whispered. “Please tell me your mission is not what I think it is.”

Jamie knew he couldn’t tell her where he would be going. That would not only compromise the mission, but Claire’s safety, if the target’s men made their way into the Army camp. There was some comfort in knowing that she would honestly be able to say she had no clue what the Special Forces were up to. He also knew, by the look in her eyes, that she knew exactly where he was going.

Without saying a word, Jamie gently squeezed her hands in response. “Ye ken I canne tell ye where I’m going, mo nighean donn.” Jamie wrapped one of her stray curls around his finger.

Claire laid her cheek in the palm of Jamie’s hand. “What does that phrase mean?” she asked quietly.

“My brown-haired lass,” Jamie whispered back.

Claire didn’t even try to restrain the tears that started falling down her cheeks. How could she be so attached to a man she’d known for about a month? It was quite an irrational notion, and yet, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

“What time are you leaving?”

“We head out at 20:00. I’ve got to go over basics with my men and then Major General MacKenzie wants me to keep things ‘normal’ with a 5 mile ruck. Afterwards, I’m to tell the men that we are heading out and have them pack.”

Claire nodded somberly. She was trying to be brave. She didn’t want Jamie to worry about her or her feelings. He had to stay focused on his mission if he was going to not only be successful, but make it back alive.

“I dinna want to leave ye, Sassenach, but I need to get back to my men before Major General MacKenzie notices I'm missin',” Jamie said.

“I understand. Walk me back to the tent?” Claire asked.

They walked quietly, hand-in-hand, back to the medical tent. Damn anyone who attempted to say anything to them. Their lives were going to drastically change in about 12 hours. As they approached the medical tent, Jamie pulled Claire close for another passionate kiss.

“I’ll find ye before we leave. I promise.” Then Jamie turned and jogged off to his men.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-8

 

March 27, 2011 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

Claire’s mind was racing.  She no longer cared about their original plans...all she could think about was that Jamie was headed into danger.

I cannot lose this man, ’ Claire thought frantically.

She didn’t know what the future held, but she was damn sure the two of them were to end up together.  She had never been more sure of anything in her whole life.  That scared her, perhaps more than a bit.

As soon as she walked into the Medical Tent, and made eye contact with Joe, tears immediately filled her eyes.  Joe was at her side instantly as she sank down onto a vacant cot.

“What is it, LJ?  What happened?”

“You were right, Joe,” Claire sobbed.  “You knew something was going to happen.  I just didn’t want to believe that it would involve Jamie.”

“What’s happening?” Joe asked.

“I don’t know much.  He’s not allowed to tell me anything, other than they are leaving tonight and it’s dangerous, Joe.  Really dangerous.”  Claire buried her face in her hands.

Joe lightly rubbed Claire’s back.  “You knew something like this could happen, Claire,” he said softly.

“I know,” she whispered back.  “I just hoped it wouldn’t be so soon.”

“I’ve never seen you like this, Lady Jane.  Your feelings for him, are they that strong?”

“I know it sounds crazy, Joe!  I haven’t even fully wrapped my own head around it, but we’re meant to be together.  I’ve never been so sure of anything in my entire life.  It’s as if we were both destined to be here, at the same base, and that this is where our lives would begin.”

“Oh, LJ.  I wish I could say something to make you feel better, but I just don’t know what…”

“I know.” Claire replied sniffling.  “My mind has already started to prepare for the worst.”

“You can’t think like that!  Jamie wouldn’t want you to think like that.  I’m sure we’ll be briefed as the mission gets closer.  They will want medical personnel standing by.”

Claire sighed and finally met Joe’s eyes, giving him a small smile.  “Why are you always my voice of reason?”

Joe smiled back at his best friend.  “I know you, almost as well as you know yourself, LJ.  I’ve been the man in your life for a long time, and I’ll continue to be until that Scottish Master Sergeant is back in your arms.  We’ve been through a lot, and we’re going to get through this...side by side.  You have my hand, Claire, if you need it.”

Claire grabbed Joe’s hand and held on to it like it was a life raft in the middle of the ocean.

“Thank you, Joe.  Your friendship means the world to me.”

“Alright, Dr. Beauchamp.  Now let’s start prepping what we’re going to need when our Special Forces come back to camp.”

Claire nodded and stood up, thankful to be doing something productive.



Jamie knew he should be sprinting to catch up with his men, but he needed time to think.  Christ, what was he going to do?  Thankfully, MacKenzie’s plan of keeping the day as routine as possible would give him something to focus on.  He would run his men through their drills and then suit up for the five mile ruck.

Jamie was looking forward to all the physical exertion, to use as an outlet for his uncontainable energy.  He was anxious about the mission, nervous about his men’s safety, and scared for Claire.  Claire .  The thought of her made his heart flutter.  He had never felt this way about a woman before.  He knew he was meant to be with her.  

Lost in his thoughts, Jamie was suddenly back in the fields of Lallybroch with his Da.  He was around eleven years old and had just caught his Mam and Da in a passionate kiss in the kitchen.  Wanting to avoid further embarrassment, Jamie ran out to the fields, where his Da found him perched on a fence post.  Brian sidled up to Jamie and just stood there quietly, waiting for his son to say something.  

“Da?  When did ye ken that Mam was the lass ye wanted to marry?”

Brian smiled and turned his gaze out towards his expansive land.  “The first time I saw her, lad.  I canna truly describe it, I just kent it.”

Jamie turned to look at his Da and he could see the soft expression in his eyes.  The love and adoration shone as brightly as the summer sun.  Jamie hoped that one day he would be lucky enough to meet a lass that made him feel the same way Mam made Da feel.  

Jamie stopped in his tracks.  It hit him like a tank...he had met his someone, in the last place he expected.  He could feel it in his soul.  Claire was who he was destined to spend his life with.  This revelation, on the heels of the news that he was leaving on a mission, that he may not come back from, had Jamie feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Luckily, he had caught up with his men by this point and was grateful for the distraction.  They ran through some basic calisthenics and then put on their gear for the ruck.  About two miles in, Jamie was back to thinking about Claire and what he would tell her, when a voice surfaced somewhere near.

“Yer thinkin’ awfully hard, mate," Ian said as he jogged up to meet Jamie.  “There’s practically smoke comin’ out yer ears.”

Ian hoped the little remark would lighten his brother-in-law’s mood, but Jamie was clearly somewhere else.

“Aye, smoke.  Wait, smoke?!” Jamie stopped and looked around.

“Christ, Jamie!  It was a joke, man.  Where’s yer head?”

“I canna help it, Ian.  I love her.”

That caused Ian to stop and look thoughtfully at Jamie.  “I kent that, bràthair .  Anyone with eyes can see you have it bad for the doctor.”

Jamie looked mortified.  “Tell me yer joking, Ian.”

Ian laughed and shook his head.  “Did ye seriously think you were being that covert about it?  Come on, man!  All the men are talking about it, but they would never let on to you.”

Jamie turned a deep shade of red at that and glared at Ian.

“Calm down, mo charaid .  I would’na want ye overheating.  Although, I could take ye to the Medical Tent for an IV when we get back,” Ian teased and ducked as Jamie threw a punch towards his face.

“I dinna care what they have to say about me, but I will’na have them disrespecting Claire,” Jamie said sternly.

“No one has said anything offensive, I promise ye.  Just a little harmless banter among the men, aye?  Besides, it lightens the tension a bit.  They all know something is up.”

Jamie nodded at that.  “I’ve been trying to think of just what to say to them.  The men.  I want them to have some time to process.  Write letters,” he said, glancing at Ian. 

He wished like hell that he could keep Ian away from this mission.  However, Ian knew what he had signed up for, as did Jenny.  Jamie just couldn’t bear the thought that Jenny could possibly lose both him and Ian.  

Jamie shook his head.  “ Ye have to stop thinking like that, man.  Yer coming back...back to Claire .”

“I promised Claire I would go see her before we leave, Ian.  I have to see her again, but what do I say?” 

Squeezing his shoulder, and pointing at his chest, Ian simply said, “Whatever’s in here.”  And with that, Ian picked up his pace to catch back up with the men.

Thankfully, Jamie had three miles back to base to think about it.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-9

 

March 27, 2011 - 17:00

Claire did her best to keep busy all day, but she quickly realized that it was a waste of time. All she could think about was Jamie. What would she say to him before he left? Would he be ok? What was the actual mission? There was so much she wanted to say.  After only a month, how could she tell him how deep her feelings were? She knew he had feelings for her as well, but were they as deep as her own?

The hours dragged on and with each passing minute, Claire fell a little further into despair. Joe could sense that she was spiraling and came and sat next to her desk.

“What can I do, LJ? I would do anything to make you feel better or put your mind at ease.”

“Thanks, Joe, but I honestly don’t know. I’m upset that he’s leaving. I’m upset that I didn’t keep my feelings in check. I’m not even sure what to say to him when he stops by.”

“Be honest. Tell him how you feel.”

“I can’t do that! We’ve known each other for a month! How do you tell a man you’ve known for a month that you are afraid he won’t come back to you?” Claire asked.

“You could write him a letter,” Joe suggested. Claire thought about that idea. That might work! She could put into words how she was feeling, words she didn’t have the courage to say to Jamie’s face. ‘What if he doesn’t feel the same way?

“You know, Joe, I think that’s a great idea. Thank you!”

Joe smiled, stood up, and walked back over to his desk. Claire took out a piece of paper, happy to have something to occupy her mind. She thought for a minute, then started scribbling. After a sentence or two, she crumpled the paper and threw it away. Taking out a new sheet, she started again. This went on for several minutes, until she was on her tenth sheet of paper.

“Claire, you aren’t writing a best-selling novel,” Joe chided. “Just say what’s in your heart.”

Claire closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. While her eyes were closed, she had a clear picture of the tall, well-sculpted, red-headed Scot. She could see into his fathomless, blue eyes and all seemed to right itself. She knew exactly what to tell him, and began to put it down on paper.

 

Over in his barracks, Jamie was packed and ready to go. He was pacing up and down the aisle between the bunks. Completely lost in thought, he didn’t even notice Ian trying to grab his attention until a boot fell on the floor in front of him.

“I can hear the cogs grinding o’er here, mate. Still dinna ken what to say to Claire?”

Jamie walked back over and sat down across from Ian. “I’m afraid if I tell her how I feel, it will scare her off if I come back. When! When I come back.” Jamie quickly corrected and then paused. “On the other hand, if I dinna come back, then she’ll never ken what she meant to me.”

“Ye have to stop thinking like that, mo charaid. We will come back, but I think ye should tell Claire how ye feel. If ye canna tell her to her face, then write her a letter.”

Jamie thought about that for a minute, a smile spreading across his face. “Ye ken, Ian, that’s a good idea. I’ll do that. Thank ye!” With that, Jamie went over to his bunk and started writing.

~~~~~~~~~~

18:00...2 hours before the Special Ops depart

Jamie had gathered what he would need and put everything in his pack. He told Ian that he was heading over to see Claire and would meet him at the Black Hawks at 20:00. Checking the chest pocket of his uniform, for the tenth time since putting the letter there, Jamie headed towards the medical tent.

As Jamie approached the medical tent, his heart started racing. ‘What if this is the last time ye see her bonny face’? The thought was almost too much for him to bear. Putting his hand to his pocket again, he felt the letter and calmed himself. Everything Claire would ever need to know, was in that letter. Just as Jamie was about to enter the tent, he heard a slight moan over to his left. Turning his head, he could see the silhouette of his Sassenach under the quarter moon. Her back was turned to him, but he could tell it was her...her unruly curls falling out of her bun, the long, slender fingers rubbing her lower back, and that full, round arse that he would stare at when she wasn’t looking, gave her away.

Jamie quietly made his way up behind her. He wanted to reach around and bring her to his chest, but he didn’t want to scare her either. As he reached for her, he whispered, “Sassenach?”

Startled, Claire immediately turned around and let out a sigh of relief. “Jamie!” She leaned into him and threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. Jamie enveloped her in a hug, inhaling the floral scent of her hair. God, he would miss that smell the next several days.

Mo cridhe, what are ye doing out here all alone? Are ye alright?” Jamie asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. I just needed some air and space to think,” Claire responded with a weak smile.

“Aye, I ken. I’ve been doing the same all day. I finished up as quickly as I could, so I could spend my last couple of hours with ye.”

“Jamie, I -”

“Claire -”

They both stopped and let out a nervous laugh, each nodding at the other to go ahead.

“You first,” Claire said.

Jamie swallowed and took a deep breath. This was it...his opportunity to tell her how he felt. ‘Come on Fraser, ye can do it.’ he said to himself. ‘Ye lead men through minefields, surely ye can tell the lass what she means to ye.’ How a beautiful, wee surgeon, such as Claire, could render him powerless, he would never understand, but he also hoped that feeling would never go away. Having written down what he wanted to say, gave him the courage he needed to look her in the eyes and speak from the heart.

“Weel, I just wanted to say that this past month, seeing yer bonny face everyday, has meant more to me than ye’ll ever ken. Yer on my mind all day...it’s a miracle I have’na gotten myself killed in a training exercise yet,” Jamie said with a lopsided smile. Then reaching out, he cupped Claire’s cheek in his hand and brushed away a stray tear with his thumb. “Before I met ye, I never knew what would be next for me, ye ken? I kent I would join the Army, but I never gave a thought as to what would come after. If anything would come after. And now, now, mo nighean donn, I canna imagine a day without ye. I will come back, Claire, I promise ye. Will ye wait for me?”

The tension in Claire's shoulders released as they dropped , with relief, as the stress and fear she’d been holding finally gave way, if only for a few minutes.

“Yes, Jamie. Yes, I’ll wait for you.”

Claire was pressing herself against him before her mind could tell her to stop. She didn’t care if anyone could see them. She finally knew that Jamie returned her feelings and she couldn’t have been happier!

Jamie brought his lips down firmly onto Claire’s eager mouth. Running his tongue across her lips, Claire gladly parted hers allowing him to enter. As Jamie deepened the kiss, his hands slid from her face, down her shoulders, and around to her back, bringing her closer to him. Claire moaned, encouraging Jamie. That wee noise was all he needed, before he was pulling her into the shadows and grabbing her arse with both hands.

“Christ, ye have the roundest arse I’ve ever seen!” Jamie breathed into her ear, while kneading it playfully. Claire reached down and gave him a gentle smack of her own.

“I’m not sure that’s the most romantic thing a man has ever said to me,” Claire said breathlessly, as Jamie had started kissing along her jawline, back towards her ear. “I need you, Jamie. Please,” Claire begged, as she started to grind against him. It was evident how aroused Jamie was, based on the bulge coming through his fatigues.

“Sassenach,” Jamie hissed, “Not like this. I told ye, ye deserve better.”

Claire smiled and looked deep into Jamie’s eyes. “We have our whole lives to give each other what we deserve, but I need you, Jamie, before you go. And I know you need me too.”

As much as Jamie had wanted their first time together to be perfect, hearing Claire plead for him to take her, was all he needed. He kissed her thoroughly and pressed his forehead to Claire’s.

“Come with me.” He took Claire’s hand in his and led her towards the medical tent.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-10

 

March 28, 2011 - 90 minutes before Departure

Jamie was practically pulling Claire along, behind him. He knew this wasn’t how his first time with Claire should be. He had fantasized about laying her down on a feather bed, with a white duvet, in a five-star hotel. There would be an ice bucket with champagne, a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, and a jacuzzi tub that would easily fit two. Jamie had imagined this moment several different ways, but the thought of possibly never being with her, left him feeling desperate. He tossed those fantasies out of his head and focused on the living, breathing woman at the end of his arm. Once he had her inside the tent, Jamie turned Claire towards him and was kissing her, with a desire he didn’t know he had. He had to have this woman now or he would die.

“Over here,” Claire urged, pulling him towards an area that had been partitioned off.

Once behind the partition, Claire’s mouth eagerly met Jamie’s and her hands moved towards the front of his jacket. She started working the buttons as Jamie reached for the bottom of her scrubs shirt. They broke apart briefly, as Jamie pulled her shirt over her head, and then his lips were back on hers. As Claire finished unbuttoning his jacket, she placed her hands on his chest. Even through his undershirt, she could feel his nipples tighten as her fingers grazed over his chest.

Moaning, Jamie started kissing his way down Claire’s neck, until he was on his knees and eye level with her chest. Looking up into her eyes, he reached around and undid her bra, exposing her breasts to him.

Ah dhia,” he said, almost reverently. “Your skin is like ivory, Sassenach.” Then he took a nipple into his mouth and sucked on it gently. Teasing and flicking his tongue, bringing her nipple to a tight peak, before moving over to the other side. Claire had tossed her head backwards and was groaning in delight, as she ran her hands through Jamie’s tightly cropped curls.

As Jamie made his way back up to her mouth, he hesitated slightly.

“What is it? Why are you stopping?” Claire asked breathlessly.

“I...um, ah...Sassenach? I’m not really sure what to do next.”

Even in the dim light of the medical tent, Claire could see a deep crimson making its way up Jamie’s neck. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. She knew he was embarrassed and would have loved to drag this out, but time was not in their favor.

“Well, my lad, I have not been with many men. Only one actually, but I can tell you that you are far too dressed for the occasion. Stand up.”

Jamie obeyed and with a devilish look in her eye, Claire pulled his jacket off and lifted his shirt over his head, exposing a torso that she had only ever seen on the covers of Men’s Health magazines. She pulled his mouth down to her’s and continued to kiss him as her hands made their way down his torso to his belt. Undoing his belt, and slowly pulling down the zipper, she freed his large erection. Claire gasped slightly, and Jamie pulled back.

“Is something wrong, lass?”

“Ah, no. I mean, I could feel you through your pants, but…” Claire gently wrapped one hand around Jamie and began stroking lightly. Jamie’s eyes rolled back into his head and he let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. Claire let go and took a small step backwards. “Your turn,” she said, looking up at Jamie. He reached for the drawstring of her scrubs, and the pants all but fell to a puddle by her ankles. Before stepping out of them, Claire slowly pulled her panties down as well. As she stepped to the side, Jamie took a slight step back, allowing him to fully admire the naked woman standing in front of him. Feeling somewhat self-conscious, Claire crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“You bloody well say something.”

“Christ, Claire. Yer the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

“I’m the only woman you’ve ever seen,” she teased.

“I’ve seen naked women, Sassenach, just not one that’s mine.”

Stepping forwards, Jamie cupped one of Claire’s breasts and put his other hand behind her neck, bringing their bodies together.

“Tell me what to do, Claire,” Jamie whispered. “It’ll no’ be perfect and likely short-lived, but I’ll do my best to please ye.”

“You could never disappoint me, Jamie” Claire gently pushed him backwards. “Lie down on the cot.”

Jamie followed her directions, never breaking eye contact. He was trying to memorize even the tiniest features and lock them away. He would remember this night for the rest of his life and he intended to make it as special for Claire, as it was for him.

“Come to me, mo ghràdh,” Jamie said, smiling, as he reached for Claire.

“Give me your hands, Jamie. As long as we’re touching, there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Claire straddled Jamie and placed his hands on her breasts. As Claire took Jamie into her hands, he gently ran his thumbs over her nipples, hardening them again. He tried to sit up and take a nipple into his mouth, but Claire put a hand on his chest.

“Not tonight, Jamie. Having you inside me will be enough, and I want your first time to be about you.” And with that, Claire scooted back and bent over, taking Jamie into her mouth.

“Fuck,” Jamie hissed. He threaded his fingers into Claire’s curls and resisted every urge he had to hold her head down upon himself. “Claire, stop. I’m no’ going to be able to…,” but Claire paid no attention to Jamie’s pleas. She ran her tongue up and down his shaft, and while circling at the tip, used her hand to repeat what her mouth had done.

“Claire, I’m going…” and on cue, Claire took him fully into her mouth and stroked firmly with her hand. She then started humming a bit and that was enough to push Jamie over. He spilled into her mouth and Claire slowed the stroking until he was finished. Then she slid up his torso, until she was fully laying on top of him.

“How was that, lad?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

Bha mi den bheachd gu robh mo chridhe a ’dol a spreadhadh,” Jamie mumbled.

“English, please,” Claire teased.

“I said, ‘I thought my heart was going to burst’. That was amazing, mo nighean donn, but I’ll no’ leave ye wanting.”

“Kiss me, Jamie. As soon as you’re ready, I’ll show you what you can do for me.”

Jamie sat up and wrapped his arms around Claire, drawing her into him. He kissed her eagerly and then nibbled his way down her neck. Claire arched her back, exposing more of her ivory flesh, and Jamie was quick to cover her in kisses. Claire was also aware that her inexperienced Master Sergeant was rapidly rising to the occasion of round two.

Reaching between them, to stroke his velvety smooth arousal, Claire looked up into Jamie’s eyes, with a smirk. “That didn’t take long. Ready for your next lesson?” she teased, as she scooted back and pushed Jamie back down onto the cot.

“Aye, Dr. Beauchamp,” Jamie replied in a husky tone.

Claire reached down and started rubbing herself. Jamie looked on in awe, as Claire spread herself apart and focused on her bundle of nerves. Unable to keep his hands away, Jamie put his fingers over Claire’s and took over the ministrations. Claire’s own hand retreated and went back to stroking Jamie. Eyes locked, they continued to pleasure each other, until Claire guided Jamie to her entrance. She raised herself up and then slowly slid down Jamie's length, allowing him to fully stretch and enter her. Claire gasped and closed her eyes, raking her nails across Jamie’s chest, while he grabbed her ass, pulling her down further. Claire let out a stifled scream, causing Jamie to look at her with concern.

“Are ye alright, Sassenach? Did I hurt ye?”

“No, Jamie. It’s just...umm, well honestly, you are considerably bigger than the other man I’ve been with,” Claire said blushing a bit.

“Weel, then, mo nighean donn, I’ll be extra gentle, aye?”

“Aye,” Claire mimicked. Then she began rocking her hips and Jamie’s eyes blew wide open. Claire continued rocking slowly, as she took Jamie’s hands and brought them up to her breasts. He fully enveloped them, kneading and brushing his thumbs across her nipples. Claire arched back, exposing more of herself and Jamie took it upon himself to start rubbing her again.

“Quick study, aren’t you?” Claire panted. “Don’t stop, Jamie,” she begged as she bucked her hips harder. Jamie grabbed her hip with his other hand and started matching Claire’s rhythm. As soon as Jamie started pumping, Claire could feel her release begin and she put her hands down on his chest to balance herself. As she climaxed, Claire tossed her head back and cried out Jamie’s name. Jamie was mesmerized by Claire’s beauty and as he watched her come apart, he could tell his own release was not far behind. Jamie sat up, lifting Claire more up onto his lap and she wrapped her legs around him. Keeping their bodies fully locked together, he stood up and flipped them around so Claire was laying on the cot.

“Feeling confident now, are we?” Claire smirked.

“I think I’ve figured it out, Sassenach.” Jamie replied and he thrust himself into her. Claire moaned and pulled down onto Jamie’s shoulders, bringing him deeper into her.

“Oh you do, do you?” Claire asked as she lifted her hips and wrapped her legs tighter around Jamie. He reached down to hold her up at that angle, and pumped into her a few more times. Claire, still feeling the effects of her first orgasm, was rapidly approaching climax again.

“Now, Jamie. Come to me now!” Claire begged and Jamie obliged. Pulling her hips down, he thrust into her twice more. Jamie moaned as his release was met with Claire’s climax clamping down onto him. After another minute, Jamie released Claire’s hips and almost collapsed down on top of her. Claire wrapped her arms around him and cradled his head to her chest.

Neither of them spoke for several minutes, still coming off the high of their love-making and afraid to leave the intimate bubble they had created. Claire gave a contented sigh and Jamie rose up off of her slightly.

“I dinna want to leave ye, mo cridhe, but I must. It will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I promise, I’ll come back to ye.”

Claire nodded, and despite her best efforts, couldn’t prevent the tears from filling her eyes. She had just made love to the most beautiful man and was prepared to give him her whole heart, but her brain kept warning her that he might not come back.

“I’ll hold you to that promise, Master Sergeant.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-11

March 28, 2011 - 15 minutes before Departure

Claire and Jamie slowly stood up and started looking around for their clothes. Jamie handed Claire her panties and scrubs and found it as erotic watching her put them back on as it was taking them off. ‘Christ, how am I going to survive the next few days?’ he thought to himself. It was at that moment that Jamie realized he would never want another woman as long as he lived.

“I’ll think you’ll be needing these,” Claire said as she handed Jamie his fatigues. As he went to take them from her, their fingers brushed and pants were quickly dropped to the floor, as hungry mouths met with a desperation that neither of them could deny.

Claire broke the kiss first, pressing her forehead to Jamie’s.

“Promise me you’ll be careful, Jamie,” Claire pleaded.

“Aye, that I can promise ye. I’ll do everything in my power to be back in your wee arms in a few days.” Jamie cupped her face and reverently placed a kiss on her forehead.

With a small nod, Claire and Jamie broke apart and finished getting dressed. Jamie looked down at his watch, and closed his eyes. Claire stiffened, knowing it was time for him to leave.

“It’s time, Sassenach. Walk me out to the Black Hawks?”

Fighting back tears, Claire nodded, and reached for his outstretched hand. Together, they left the medical tent and walked towards the airfield. As they got closer, Claire reluctantly tried to pull her hand away, but Jamie wouldn’t let go.

“I thought we had to keep things discreet,” she whispered to him.

“I thought so too, but Ian tells me that my entire squad already kens how I feel about ye.”

“Oh, is that so? And how do you feel about me, Master Sergeant?” Claire asked with a mischievous glint in her eye.

Instead of the playful banter she had grown accustomed to with Jamie, he met her gaze head on and stared into her eyes with an intensity she had never seen.

“Ye ken exactly how I feel about ye, Claire. But if ye have any doubt, mo nighean donn, let me tell ye again. I want ye Claire, more than I’ve e’er wanted anything in my whole life. I would lay the world at yer feet, but I’ve no’ got much to give ye, other than my heart.” Jamie reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved the folded up piece of paper. “There are things I wish to tell ye, mo chridhe, while laying naked, wrapped in yer arms, but we were cut short on time. I want nothing more than for ye to wait for me, Claire, but I will’na…”

Claire cut him off, “I will wait, Jamie. I will wait until we are lying naked, wrapped in each other’s arms, to hear you speak those words to me.” She reached into her own pocket and pulled out her own folded piece of paper and handed it to him.

“I wrote you a letter as well. I’m not good with words,” Claire sheepishly glanced down. “But I am sure of how I feel about you and I will wait.”

Jamie took the paper and put it into the pocket of his jacket, directly in front of his heart. “Do ye want me to read it, Sassenach?”

Claire tilted her head up, and looked into those sapphire eyes. “When you are lying awake, at night, you can open it and read it, but…” she paused, fighting back tears. “But it basically says that I am yours, Jamie. I will wait for you, Soldier, and when your mission is done, we will start planning our future.”

Before Jamie could respond, Ian jogged over.

“It’s time, Jamie. Kiss her and let’s go.” Ian then winked at Claire and turned to get in the Black Hawk.

Jamie looked back into those whisky eyes that he had fallen in love with a month ago. “And I am yours, mo ghràdh. I will do everything in my power to come back to ye.” Then Jamie took Claire’s face in his hands and kissed her with all the passion of a man who knew it could be the last kiss he would ever have. Claire deepened the kiss and wrapped her arms around Jamie’s neck.

Over the clapping, cheering, and whistling, Jamie heard Ian’s voice…”I said kiss her, dinna swallow her!”

Jamie slowed the kiss and reluctantly broke away from Claire.

“On your way, Soldier.” Claire whispered. Jamie took Claire’s hand and kissed her knuckles, bowing gracefully before her.  Straightening up, he grabbed his bag and turned to get into the Black Hawk.

“Come back to me, James Fraser.” Claire called after him.

Jamie glanced back and with his owlish wink replied, “Soon as I can.”

Then he was up in the helicopter and pulling away from her.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch12

March 28, 2011 - 21:15
US Army Base - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

Claire didn’t want to watch the Black Hawks pull away, carrying the man she loved with them, but similar to a train wreck, she couldn’t take her eyes off of them. Claire stood out in the warm, desert evening, until she could no longer see the lights of the helicopters. She then turned around, not sure of where to go. Back to the medical tent, where every sight would remind her of their intense love-making, or to her barracks, where she knew sleep would elude her. Neither option appealed to her at all.

'You’ll be no good to anyone, Beauchamp, if you don’t get some rest,' she thought. With a heavy heart, she turned towards her barracks and slowly made her way to her bunk.

As Claire was changing out of her scrubs, she noticed a folded piece of paper fall to the floor...Jamie’s letter! She quickly bent to pick it up and started to open it, and then stopped. Her words to Jamie, resonating in her brain, ‘I will wait, Jamie. I will wait until we are lying naked, wrapped in each other’s arms, to hear you speak those words to me.’ If he could promise her to return, surely she could keep her promise of waiting for him to speak those words to her himself. Claire carefully folded the paper and then placed it under her pillow. If Jamie couldn’t be lying in bed with her, this token of his love would have to suffice.

Claire quickly brushed her teeth, used the restroom, and then laid on her cot. She stared at the ceiling for a while, trying to focus on her breathing and calm herself into sleep. This proved to be rather difficult because whenever she closed her eyes, all she could see was Jamie kneeling over her, smothering her breasts in kisses.

Lord, give me strength to make it these next few days,’ she thought. After a deep breath, Claire considered something that was a foreign concept to her...praying. She had been baptized Catholic, but with her parents passing away at such an early age and then traveling the world with Uncle Lamb, attending any kind of church regularly, was not common practice. Yet, Claire found herself desiring to appeal to a higher body. She was well versed in many different religions, due to her world travels, and she was confident in her belief of a power greater than herself.

Claire clasped her hands and closed her eyes. Unsure where to start or what exactly to say, she decided to just go with whatever was in her heart.

This man I have come to know over the past month, has a gentle soul. He is kind and compassionate, tender and fierce, all at the same time. How can you have brought such a man into my life, just to take him away? There is a connection with this man that I have never experienced with anyone. Please, keep him safe and bring him back to me. If he suffers physical or mental injuries, let me be the one to heal him. We are meant to be together and I have never been so sure of something in my entire life.

Claire felt a small sense of peace come over her after expressing these intimate thoughts. She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled, resolving herself to get some rest. Regardless of what the next few days would bring, she knew she would need her rest to face it head on. Claire rolled over, and slipping her hand under her pillow, fell asleep with her hand on Jamie’s letter.


21:15 
In flight to location outside of the target's compound 

Jamie sat quietly as the Black Hawks made their way towards their destination. There wasn’t a lot of small talk occurring among the men, except for a few comments here or there. Jamie looked over towards Ian and saw him sitting with his hands clasped, eyes closed, and lips moving. He knew Ian was praying; praying for the Lord to bring him back to his wife. Thinking the word ‘wife’ made Jamie’s heart skip a beat. He couldn’t wait to ask Claire to be his wife. He had hinted at that in the letter he wrote to her. ‘I’ve no’ much to give ye, other than my heart, Sassenach. But if ye’ll let me, I’ll spend the rest of my days, doing everything in my power to give ye the life ye deserve. The life WE deserve.’

Jamie smiled to himself, wondering if Claire had kept her promise of waiting for him to speak those words to her, or if she had already read the letter. As much as he hoped she would wait, there was comfort in knowing she may have already let those words warm her heart. With the gravity of knowing what was to come, his heart had lightened hearing Claire say she was his and that she would wait for him.

Another glance over to Ian, told him the the man was still praying quietly. With a quick glance towards his other men, Jamie noticed everyone was in their own sort of meditative state. Knowing they still had about 90 minutes until reaching their destination, Jamie clasped his own hands and closed his eyes. Reverting back to his Gaelic, he offered up a prayer of safety and protection for his team. Then he focused on Claire.

Dia, sgiath mo ghràidh, mo chalman geal. Glèidh i bho fhòirneart agus bho chron, san àite seo, agus anns gach àite. Air an oidhche seo, agus a h-uile h-oidhche.

Speaking these words brought Jamie peace. The next 18 hours were going to be taxing physically, emotionally, and mentally. Jamie knew he needed rest so he could focus on the mission ahead. He wanted nothing more than to return to his white dove. With Claire’s face at the forefront of his mind, Jamie drifted off to sleep for the rest of the trip.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-13

March 30, 2011...18:30 - Hidden Base 3 miles from Target’s Location
After spending the last 12 hours going over the layout of the target’s compound, performing surveillance, and talking over various situations, Jamie was exhausted and amped, all at the same time. Three more hours until ‘go time’ and he was ready to get in, take care of business, and get out. Not an hour went by without Claire’s face popping into his mind, and he was ready to have his Sassenach back in his arms.

I’ll be back soon, mo cridhe,’ he thought to himself, while reverently placing his hand over her letter in his jacket pocket. His mind immediately conjured up her beautiful handwriting and the words that came from her heart.

From the day I met you, James Fraser, I was captivated by your charm and loyalty. It seems crazy that we have only known each other for a short while, when my heart feels like it has known you forever. What it is between us, this undeniable attraction, is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I want nothing more than to lie in your arms and wake up next to you for the rest of my life. Complete the mission, Soldier, and come back to me. I will be waiting with open arms.
Love always,
Your Sassenach xo’

His Sassenach. She was proclaiming herself as his. How did he get so lucky to have met the woman of his dreams at an Army base, halfway around the world? Every day since he had met Claire, Jamie had thanked the Lord for bringing her into his life. Today was no different; he had just closed his eyes and was sending up a prayer of thanks when Ian’s voice interrupted him.

“That’s the hundredth time ye’ve touched your pocket today, mo charaid. Yer not having chest pains are ye?” Ian asked, teasing.

“Och, no!” Jamie answered, blushing, and swinging playfully at Ian’s arm.

“I ken, man. I do the same thing,” Ian responded, putting his own hand over his chest, where Jamie knew he kept Jenny’s letters. “Makes me feel closer to her.”

Jamie nodded, knowingly. “Is this what it is to be in love then? Claire’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last when I lay down at night. I try to focus on our upcoming mission, but I keep seeing whisky eyes in my line of vision.”

“Welcome to the club,” Ian exclaimed, clapping Jamie on the back. “Loving someone is the most terrifying and rewarding feeling, all at the same time, but I would’na change it fer the world. Now, let’s focus on what we have to do tonight, and get ye back into the arms of that beautiful doctor of yer’s.”

“I would love nothing more,” Jamie responded and the two walked back towards the Major General’s tent.

 

US Army Base...18:45 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

It had been about 36 hours since Claire had bid Jamie goodbye and watched the Black Hawk shrink into the night sky. That first night he left, Claire had fallen asleep with her hand over Jamie’s letter, but she had tossed and turned, imagining all the horrible things that could be happening to him.

In the morning, Claire stumbled through getting ready and grabbing a quick bite to eat from the Mess Hall. When she arrived at the Medical Tent, Joe and Geillis were already there, huddled together, going over some overnight intel. They quickly glanced up, when Claire entered.

“Mornin’, Claire,” Geillis chirped. “Yer looking a wee rough around the edges, hen. Were ye able to send the Master Sergeant off properly?”

The tone in Geillis' voice was clearly teasing, but Claire felt like a rope that was being held together by three final strands. Claire gave Geillis a weak smile that was quickly interpreted and Geillis embraced her friend in a fierce hug.

“I’m sae sorry, Claire! I was just tryin’ to lighten the mood, aye? I ken yer on yer last nerve. We got a little intel, though!”

Geillis brought Claire over to Joe’s desk. There were two brief sentences: Operation Tulach Ard landed on schedule. Plans running according to timeline.

Claire simply stared at the paper, while Joe and Geillis watched Claire for any reaction.

“How did you get this?” Claire asked quietly. “And what’s Too Lack Ard?”

Tulach Ard!” Geilis cried. “It’s the MacKenzie war cry and seeing as how more than half the team is made of Scotsmen, the Major General felt it appropriate. As for how I got the information...ye ken I’m a wee bit friendly with Geordie, the Intelligence Analyst -”

“A ‘wee’ bit friendly?!” Claire choked out. “Geillis, the last time I saw you with Geordie, your tongue was down his throat!”

“Weel, I canna help if he’s a good kisser. Besides, my ‘connections’ have convinced him to keep us apprised on what is happening with our Special Forces. Strictly from a medical standpoint, aye?” Geillis winked at Claire.

Joe, who had been awfully quiet since Claire had arrived, finally chimed in. “This is the best we could do, Lady Jane. I know you’ll be anxious to hear how the team is doing and when they are headed back. And, in all seriousness, we do need to know, from a medical standpoint, what we may be dealing with.”

“You two are too much!” Claire said, looking at her two best friends. “I know this is against protocol and you could get in a lot of trouble, Geillis. You have no idea what it means to me, that you were willing to put yourself on the line, just so I could know how Jamie is doing.”

Tears started to roll down Claire’s cheeks. ‘Christ, how do I have any tears left to cry?’ she wondered.

Joe and Geillis quickly came to Claire’s sides and wrapped their arms around her.

“I’ve never seen you so happy with someone, LJ. I would do anything to alleviate some of your stress in this situation.” Joe said. “I just wish I could do more.”

“Joe’s right, Claire. The way ye light up when yer fox cub comes around gives me hope that my soulmate is still out there.” Geillis gave Claire’s hand a squeeze.

“Oh, you guys! You really aren’t helping the tears stop! How did I get so lucky to be stationed with my two best friends?” Claire cried.

The three stood hugging for a few more minutes. Knowing they needed to get back to work, Claire was the first to break off and teasingly look at Geillis.

“Soul mate, huh? You mean, Geordie isn’t in it for the long haul?”

“Seriously, Claire?! We’re in the middle of the desert and he’s a nice enough lad, but if I have to hear him exclaim ‘For God’s tooth’ one more time, I’m going to have to ask ye cut my ears off!”

Hearing Geillis’ perfect imitation of Geordie’s favorite phrase changed the entire atmosphere in the tent. All three started laughing uncontrollably. After one final squeeze, Claire pulled back.

“Well, let’s start preparing for our men to return. I don’t want to be without a single thing and I want all surgical implements sterilized, packaged, and ready at a moment’s notice.”

“Aye, Dr. Beauchamp!” Geillis said, while she saluted her friend.

Chapter Text

 

WHS-Ch-14

March 30, 2011 - 21:30 - Hidden Base 3 miles from Target’s Location 

It was the moment Jamie had trained for.  He was fulfilling his destiny...leading his team on a highly dangerous mission, one that would make the world a safer place for everyone.  This was something he had dreamed of since he was little and had heard his Da’s stories of his missions.  Jamie had never felt unsettled about a dangerous mission before.  Normally he approached these types of situations with reckless abandon, but this time was different.  

Claire , he thought.  

Jamie had never had someone depending on him to return from a mission.  Of course he worried about his parents, if the worst should happen, but this was different.  He loved his family, but not the same way that he loved Claire.  Claire had filled a void in Jamie’s heart and soul that he hadn’t known was there.  He had never felt so complete and the mere thought of not seeing her face again, caused him physical pain.

“Are ye comin’ wit’ us, then?” said a voice behind Jamie.

Pulled from his thoughts, Jamie turned and found himself face-to-face with Major General MacKenzie.

“Aye sir.  I was just going over the plan in my head again.” Jamie lied.

He had gone over the plan more times than he could count and knew exactly what he was to do and had contingency plans should something go wrong.

“Then let’s get in the BlackHawks, Master Sergeant.  I would like to stay on schedule, ye ken?” Major General MacKenzie said, as he walked past Jamie.

With a deep breath, Jamie grabbed his gear, and said to himself, ‘ Just a wee bit longer, mo ghraidh.  Then our life can begin. ’  He climbed into the helicopter and sat next to Ian.

“In and out, mo charaid . We need to get ye back in Dr. Beauchamp’s arms, do we no?”

“Aye, braithair . And Jenny would kill us both if I did’na bring ye back to her.”

“Aye, that she would.  Then let’s not disappoint our lasses then, shall we?”

“Sounds like a plan to me Ian, but there’s something I must ask of ye.” Jamie said hesitantly.  “Should a man fall behind -”

“Dinna say the words out loud, Jamie.” Ian interrupted.  “I ken what yer askin’ of me, and I would ask ye the same.  Let’s no’ borrow trouble, aye?”

Jamie nodded, but Ian could see that the matter had not been laid to rest in Jamie’s mind.

Mo charaid ,” Ian said quietly as he firmly grasped Jamie’s knee, “Should it happen, God forbid, I will speak on yer behalf; as ye will speak on mine.  We are family and long before it was official, ye were my braithair .”

Jamie placed his hand firmly on top of Ian’s, squeezing in affirmation.

“Aye, bràithrean .  I will look after yer’s, as I ken ye’ll see after mine.”

The matter settled, the two rode in silence for a short while, until the radio crackled, signaling the start of the mission.

 

US Army Base...21:45 - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

“Thank ye, Private.” Geillis said as she took the folded piece of paper.  

In exchange, she provided him with a small pack of shortbread.  Everyone on the base knew that Geills’ family sent regular care packages, filled with all things Scottish.  Among the most popular items were the packages of shortbread.  Geillis had used them to barter many times and it was no different tonight.  She knew that Geordie wouldn’t be able to bring her the updates.  He would be meticulously writing everything down, while sitting with his headset on.  So Geordie had sent Tammas Baxter with the message, promising that Geillis would repay him with shortbread.

“You’re welcome, ma’am,” Tammas had replied and assured her he would be back when more information came in.

Geillis unfolded the note and read it before handing it over to Claire.  Since the news would not directly mention Jamie, Geillis didn’t feel she was invading Claire’s privacy.  She viewed it more as looking out for her best friend, as well as knowing what support to provide.  Geillis handed the note over to Claire, who quickly read it out loud.

“Birds are in the sky.  Drop in five minutes.”

Claire was already seated next to Joe on one of the cots.  He was holding her hand and Geillis immediately sat on her other side, and started to rub small circles on Claire’s back.

“Deep breath, hen.  The team should have already dropped by now.  Should only be a few more minutes until we get another update.”

“She’s right, Claire.  The team is going to want to get in and out as fast as possible.  I’m sure we’ll get news soon.” Joe reassured her.

“You’re right.  Of course.  It’s not like they are going to sit down for tea, are they?”  Claire laughed nervously.  She wasn’t really sure how to harness this nervous energy.  “I think I’ll step out back for just a moment for a breath of fresh, desert air, hmm?”

Claire rose and walked out the back of the medical tent.  She was beyond thankful for Joe and Geillis’ support, but she felt that she needed a moment alone to process.

Deep breath, Beauchamp.  He’s strong, smart, and capable.  He’ll be in and out in about 15 minutes. ’ she told herself. After two more deep breaths, Claire turned and pulled the flap of the tent back. Just as she did so, she saw Tammas hand Geillis another note and rush quickly back out the other end.  

“What’s this one say?  Are they already out?” Claire asked hopefully.

“Ahh, no, hen.  I’m sorry.  Radio transmission got a bit garbled, with all the gunfire and was knocked out when a grenade went off.”  

Claire stared at Geillis, unable to speak.  

“Grenade?  Are there casualties?” Joe asked, standing from the desk he started to move around the tent and prepare for the worst.

“We dinnae ken yet, I’m afraid.” Geillis responded, without ever taking her eyes off of Claire.  “Claire, did ye hear me, hen?

Claire’s brain was going a mile a minute, and yet she felt like she was not processing anything.
Grenade.  
Was Jamie wounded?
Grenade
Had the mission been accomplished? 
Grenade .

Finally, Claire spoke...the only word that would not stop repeating itself in her head.  “Grenade?!”

Geillis rushed over and put her hands on Claire’s shoulders. “We kent there would be some type of explosions, aye?  It might have been our own team that threw it.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet.”

Claire released a breath she wasn’t aware she had been holding.  “Of course.  You’re right. Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

Joe had been busying himself, but seeing Claire calm a bit, allowed him to pause and come over to her.  

“Let’s keep busy, Lady Jane.  Walk through your checklist again and make sure you are ready IF we receive casualties.”

“Yes, of course, Joe.  I’ll go through my checklist again.”  Claire responded, almost robotically.  She then focused on something on the other side of the tent and walked away from Geillis and Joe.  The pair exchanged a glance that said ‘ She’s barely holding on .’  

Nodding at each other, in silent understanding that keeping Claire focused was their primary objective for the next several minutes to hours, Joe and Geillis started moving around the medical tent to show Claire that they too were focused on being prepared.

After a few painstakingly silent moments, Geillis leaned over and touched Joe on the forearm.  “We’re in for a long night, ye ken?  The fact that Tammas ran right back out makes me think something went wrong.”

“I thought the same thing, G.” Joe replied.

Then they both looked over at Claire, who was sterilizing surgical equipment, but appeared to be staring at something that neither of them could see.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-15

March 30, 2011 - 22:15...Inside the Target’s Compound

Everything had gone according to plan. The mission started off smoothly and all the intel had proved to be correct. The sentries were posted exactly where expected and had been dealt with accordingly. The details of the inside of the compound had helped immensely as the team navigated towards the back room; where outside eyes had said the target was located.

The team had gone over the plan multiple times...Ian would knock the door down and Major General MacKenzie would throw a flash grenade in to stun any of the people inside. Initially, Angus Mohr was going to throw the flash grenade, and Willie would rush in, behind Jamie. At the last minute, however, the Major General decided he would be joining the team and taking over that responsibility. Jamie had tried to dissuade the Major General, arguing this was not how the team had rehearsed the run, but Major General MacKenzie was not one to be left out of the action. Jamie had wished that the Major General would remain back at the base and oversee everything from the body cameras that the soldiers would be wearing. He may be a general but he hadn't seen action in longer than Jamie had been alive.

“Like hell I’m missing the action, Major Sergeant. I’ll be in there with the rest of my team, ensuring the bastard is taken out.” he had told Jamie.

“Aye, sir. It’ll be an honor to go by yer side, then.” Jamie had said, despite lying to the Major General’s face.

Now, as Jamie stood next to the Major General, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something felt off. The team had discussed the plan over and over again and who was responsible for exactly which task. Now it felt like things had shifted and members of the team were not as sure of their responsibilities. After the flash grenade was thrown, Jamie would rush in, flanked by Rupert and now Angus, to take down the target.

My responsibilities have not changed,’ Jamie thought. His only concern was Angus now rushing in, instead of Willie. Ever since this mission was constructed, Jamie had talked things over with Rupert & Willie and each could anticipate the others’ moves. The last thing Jamie wanted was to second-guess himself, as he rushed to take down one of the world’s most dangerous people.

“Deep breath, mo charaid.” Ian whispered “I ken that you are’na too keen with the change in plans, but everyone kens their roles.”

“Aye,yer right, mate. I just dinna want anything to go amiss.” Jamie replied.

The team stood in the hallway, right outside the door the target was behind, waiting for confirmation from the intelligence specialists that they could proceed. What felt like forever, was actually about 30 seconds, and intelligence confirmed that the team could proceed.

Jamie turned to Rupert and Angus first, giving them a nod. Both acknowledged and double checked the ammo in their weapons. Jamie then turned to the Major General to see that he was ready with the flash grenade. The Major General gave a slight nod back to Jamie, who then turned to Ian.

Nuair a bhios tu deiseil, a bhràthair.” When you are ready, brother.

Ian looked directly at Jamie and responded, “Bidh mi ceart air do chùlaibh.” I will be right behind you.

Jamie raised his hand, to signal to the group that the door was about to be knocked down. When he dropped his arm, Ian bashed in the door and Major General MacKenzie threw in the flash grenade. Just as voices inside started shouting, there was a loud explosion with a blinding flash. That was Jamie’s cue to rush in and go straight for the target. Special goggles allowed Jamie to detect movement and his eyes to adjust quickly. As he rushed the target, Angus should have been on Jamie’s right and Rupert on his left. But when Jamie glanced to his left, he saw both Rupert and Angus, leaving Jamie’s right exposed. Rupert and Angus were both engaged in some firing, but Jamie continued on towards the target. He threw himself on the man and having a considerable size advantage, quickly subdued him. But as Jamie was putting restraints on the target, he noticed a movement to his right.

There should only be three people in here! Jamie thought to himself as his earpiece crackled.

“There are additional subjects in the room! I repeat additional subjects. I have eyes on two!” Intelligence stated.

“Fuck!” Jamie yelled. “Additional subjects at three o’clock! I need back up!”

With the target now bound, Jamie pulled his gun and turned to his right. Rupert and Angus were already rushing over to Jamie, while Ian and Major General MacKenzie were rushing in to drag the target out. Clearly knowing that they were not going to make it out alive, the additional targets rushed the Special Forces with their AK-47s aimed toward the group and began firing. Jamie reached into his vest and grabbed a grenade to throw. He pulled the pin and was about to throw it, when he was tackled and the grenade fell backwards out of his hand. It rolled backwards towards the target, who was being carried out by Ian and Major General MacKenzie.

“Ian!” Jamie turned and yelled as loud as he could.

There was an explosion that took Jamie’s breath away and left his ears ringing. He felt a weight on his chest. Is that why I canna breathe, he thought to himself and looked to see one of the subjects staring at him through lifeless eyes and a bullet hole in his temple. Eventually, Jamie started to hear shouting. Ian!

Mo charaid! Where are ye? Ian?!” Jamie rolled over frantically and scanned the scene in front of him. The target had been split in half by the explosion and Ian was trapped under a wall that had partially crumbled.

“Jamie! I canna move, man! Get me out of here! I can hear more of them coming down the hall!”

Rupert and Angus, while both shell-shocked, had control of themselves and quickly set up by the door, ready to take out anyone that made their presence known. Major General MacKenzie was already trying to pull Ian out from the rubble, but was not having any luck.

“I’m here, Ian. We’ll get ye out...no man left behind, aye? Ye have my word.” Jamie assured his brother-in-law.

“My leg, man. I canna feel it.”

Jamie glanced down and could see that Ian’s leg was badly damaged. The knee had been crushed and only a few ligaments and arteries were keeping the leg attached. Jamie gave MacKenzie a look, and both men nodded. Jamie lifted the biggest piece of wall and MacKenzie pulled Ian out, who was screaming in pain. Jamie took a tourniquet out of his small med kit, to try and prevent Ian from losing anymore blood.

“We have to go now!” Major General MacKenzie bellowed. “Rupert and Angus have taken down a few, but more will be here soon.”

“I ken! But he canna walk. I’ll have to carry him.” Jamie said. “I’ll no leave a man behind.”

Ian seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness because he didn’t argue when Jamie picked him up and threw him over his shoulder. The team made their way, slowly, out of the building. Just as they cleared the door and could see the BlackHawk landing, Jamie was aware of flashes going off around them.

“Shit! Up on the roofs, they’re firing at us! Get in the bird, now!” Major General MacKenzie ordered. Rupert jumped in the helicopter, while Angus was trying to guard Jamie’s back. With his eyes only on the BlackHawk and not watching where he was going, Jamie missed the IED in the ground. The last thing he remembered was throwing Ian forwards as his back was torn apart.

 

US Army Base...22:40 - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

Tammas Baxter ran in and practically threw the latest update at Geillis before running back out. Geillis stared after him and Joe took the note from her hands.

“What does it say?” Claire asked anxiously.

“Additional undetected subjects. Second explosion. Team needs to evacuate now.” Joe read.

“Undetected subjects?” Claire asked frantically. “You mean the intel was bad? Our team was outnumbered?”

“Shhh, hen. We dinna ken that fer sure. The good news is, that it said the ‘team needs to evacuate now’ aye? They should be getting out of there.” Geillis tried to give Claire a reassuring smile.

“Yes, but I’ll feel better when we hear that they are off the ground and on their way back.” Claire replied.

For a brief moment, no one said anything and all three of them stood there. Just as Joe was about to go back to his task, Tammas reappeared. He paused, momentarily, at the opening of the medical tent and then slowly walked towards Geillis. Immediately Claire knew something was off. There was no urgency with Tammas this time. Geillis reached out her hand, silently requesting the note Geordie had written. Tammas handed it over and then turned around, without a word, and left the tent.

Geillis unfolded the paper, read it, and her breath caught. Claire snatched the paper out of her hands before Geillis could stop her.

“Claire! No, wait!” Geillis tried to grab the paper back, but it was too late.

“Ambush outside the compound. IED detonated. Soldiers down.” Claire read it so quietly that Joe had to come stand behind her and read the note for himself. Luckily, in his position, Joe was able to grab Claire and assist her down to the ground before she crumbled.

“I know it sounds bad, LJ, but we don’t know what soldiers are down. All we know is that we have wounded men on their way back to us and they are going to need us to do everything we can to help them.”

Claire sat with her head between her knees, trying to regulate her breathing.

“Joe’s right, Claire.” Geillis said as she sat next to Claire, rubbing her back. “Let’s finish prepping and be ready for when they arrive.”

Just then, Geordie walked in and came right over to Geillis and Claire. “The team is in the air and should arrive in about 30 min. All five sustained injuries, but two are critical. My captain asked that I come over and make ye aware so ye can be ready to attend to them.”

“Of course, Geordie. Thank ye for coming to tell us. Do ye ken who the critical are?” Geillis asked.

“Aye. Captain Murray and Master Sergeant Fraser.” Geordie said, as he glanced over towards Claire.

At the sound of Jamie's name, Claire’s vision went black.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-16

US Army Base...23:00 - Undisclosed location in the Middle East  

“Aye, there we are hen.  Back with us now are ye?”

Claire could hear a female Scottish voice as she started to come to, but the voice still sounded far away.  Then she noticed a strong smell of rubbing alcohol and Claire snapped her eyes open.

“Take it easy, Lady Jane.  I don’t want you getting up too fast.” Joe said reassuringly.

“Wha-...what happened?” Claire asked groggily.

“Och, lass.  Ye gave us quite a fright. Ye fainted.  Straight down to the ground ye went before we could catch ye!” Geillis explained as she brought a cool cloth up to Claire’s forehead.

Fainted? I don’t normally faint... Claire thought.  What could have possibly...Jamie!

“Jamie!” Claire cried.  “Where’s Jamie? Are they here yet?  I have to get up.  I have to start prepping, and - “

“Claire,” Joe said sharply.  “You are in no condition to start -”

“Don’t you dare tell me what I can and cannot do, Joseph Abernathy!” Claire glared at him, daring him to argue with her.

Joe could count on one hand the number of times that Claire had used that tone with him with med school.  Knowing how upset she was and not in the right frame of mind, he backed off a bit, but he wasn’t about to let her triage, let alone operate on a soldier if she couldn’t pull herself together.

Claire stood up and met Joe’s gaze straight on.  Joe took a deep breath and tried again.

“LJ, I know how upset and worried you are.  You are a brilliant surgeon, but I cannot let you work on a patient in your current state of mind.  You are too close to this and I don’t want your heart telling your brain what it should be doing.”  Joe tenderly took Claire’s hands into his own.  “When they arrive in the next few minutes, I will be running point on this and you will need to be ok with that.”

Claire looked away, knowing he was right, but she couldn’t bring herself to back down.  The not-knowing was driving her fear and that is what had caused her to faint in the first place.  She took a deep breath and brought her eyes back up to Joe’s.

“You’re right Joe, I’ll let you run point; but there is no way in hell that I am leaving this tent.  Put me to use.  You know my surgical skills are top notch, and you’ll need me.  I’ll keep it together, Joe, I swear, but I have to stay.  The unknown is what is making me a wreck right now.  No matter how bad it is, you know that I will be able to compartmentalize and get the job done.”

Joe looked over at Geillis and they had a brief conversation, without ever saying a word.  They looked back at Claire and Geillis spoke up first.

“Alright, hen.  I’ll stay with ye and we’ll work on Captain Murray.”  

Claire opened her mouth to argue, but Geillis jumped right back in.

“Absolutely not, Claire.  I will’na have ye workin’ on yer wee fox cub.  Joe will take care of the Master Sergeant.  I dinna care how well ye can push aside yer feelings, it just is’na a good idea, and ye ken it.”

Claire paused before she responded.  She knew Joe and Geillis were right.  It just wouldn’t be smart to try and tend to Jamie.  She knew her feelings might cloud her judgement and she may be inclined to provide treatment that otherwise would not normally be the course of action.

“You’re right, of course.  Treating Jamie is probably not the best idea, but I have to see him.  I’ll meet the Black Hawk when it arrives and we’ll triage the men.  Then I’ll take Captain Murray, but Joe, you’ll be treating Jamie?  I wouldn’t trust him with anyone else.”

Claire reached out and grabbed Joe’s hands and looked at him while tears filled her eyes.  Joe squeezed her hands, giving Claire the reassurance that she needed, and then leaned in to kiss her forehead.

“Alright Lady Jane.  We spent the last hour making sure supplies were stocked and now it’s time to run through your checklist and make sure that everything is where we need it when the team arrives.”

“Aye, and while the twa’ of ye are prepping, I’ll go out and look for the ‘copters.  I’ll call fer ye when I see them.” Geillis said and then made her way out of the tent.

Claire and Joe frantically made their way around the medical tent, pulling supplies out and having them readily accessible.  Word had spread quickly that casualties were arriving and a few more nurses came in, ready to assist.  Minutes felt like hours to Claire, but when Geillis came rushing back in to inform everyone that the Black Hawk was landing, she realized that only six minutes had passed.

Ok...deep breath, Beauchamp.  You can do this.   Claire repeated to herself as she made her way to the door of the medical tent.  

Geillis and another nurse brushed past Claire to grab some gauze and a stretcher, then rushed back out.  Joe came up behind Claire and put his hand on her back.

“Are you sure you can do this, LJ?”

Inhaling deeply, counting to five and then exhaling, Claire looked over her shoulder at him and nodded.  “Let’s go out and start triaging our men.”

 

The Black Hawk touched down within the limits of the Army Base and made its way over to the hangar.  General MacKenzie looked around at his team. Angus, Rupert, and Willie were banged up and bleeding from several open wounds on various parts of their bodies.  The main concerns, however, were Master Sergeant Fraser and Captain Murray...his two strongest men.  General MacKenzie had been in the Army long enough to know that Fraser and Murray were in serious danger if they were not stabilized and transported soon.

Christ...these lads are in bad shape, he thought.   How did things go so wrong?  We had perfect intel.

Before the General could carry on those thoughts, the bird came to a halt and medical personnel were rushing up.  Rupert, Angus, and Willie stood up gingerly and made their way out onto the tarmac, where they were met by nurses who quickly assessed their injuries and guided them into the medical tent and over to triage.  

Joe got to the helicopter next and quickly spoke with the General, before motioning for several nurses to climb on board with stretchers.  Joe hopped in and quickly turned around, before Claire could climb in behind him.

“Are you ready, LJ?  The General said it’s bad...some of the worst injuries he’s seen in awhile.  We can handle this, if it’s too much.”

“No, Joe.  I have seen mangled men and I won’t be able to rest until I have seen Jamie with my own eyes.”

Just then, a strangled moan grabbed both of their attention and caused them to look into the helicopter.  Claire gasped and covered her mouth.  The sight in front of her, took her breath away.  She had seen men that had been shot, men that had been in car crashes, but none of those had prepared her for the sight that lay before her now.  She wouldn’t have recognized the man in front of her, had it not been for the cropped, red curls under the helmet.  He was laying face down, exposing what was left of his back.  Tears sprang to her eyes, but before she could make her way over to Jamie, Joe jumped in front of her to see if Jamie was conscious.  It was then that Claire saw Ian, sitting to the right of Jamie.  His leg had a tourniquet just above the knee, but she could still see blood trickling down his leg.  Claire desperately wanted to check on Jamie, but she knew that she had to get the bleeding to stop on Ian’s leg.  It was as if a switch flipped and Claire went into “doctor-mode”. 

Rushing over to Ian, Claire quickly looked to see if the femoral artery had been nicked.  Luckily, for Ian, it hadn’t, but she still needed to get the bleeding stopped.  Without taking her eyes off of Ian, Claire yelled out to the nurses that were standing by.

“Geillis!  I need two rolls of gauze to stanch the bleeding and then we can put Captain Murray on a stretcher and get him into OR1.”

“Aye, hen!  I’m on it!” and Geillis took off, returning in just a few minutes with what Claire had requested.

“Thanks, G.  Let’s get the Captain wrapped and on the stretcher.”

Just as Claire started wrapping Ian’s leg, she heard Joe start to argue, but with whom she wasn’t sure.

“He needs to lay still.  I’m trying to keep the dressings on before getting him out of here.  The last thing I need is to be debriding his back first thing when we get into OR#2.” Joe was explaining to one of the nurses who was trying to keep Jamie still.

“Yessir, but he’s strong as an ox and he keeps mumbling, but I can’t make out what he’s saying.” the nurse replied to Joe.

“Is he complaining of pain?” Joe asked.

“I’m not sure, sir.  He just keeps mumbling and I can’t make it out.”

“He’s saying, ‘ Sorcha tha feum agam ort’ .” Ian said.

Claire looked up from her task of wrapping Ian’s leg.  “Are you in a lot of pain, Captain?  I can give you -”

Ian cut her off, “He’s asking for ye, Claire.  Ye need to go to him.”

Claire froze in front of Ian.  “What do you mean he’s asking for me?  He didn’t call out for me.  I didn’t even hear him say ‘Sassenach’.”

“No, he called ye ‘Sorcha’, that’s yer name in Gaelic.  He’s been mumblin’ ever since we got him in the ‘copter.  The only words he’s said are ‘ Sorcha tha feum agam ort ’...Claire, I need ye.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-17

US Army Base...23:35 - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

“He’s been asking for me?” Claire asked, as she looked over towards Jamie, who was laying face down and unconscious for the moment.

“Aye, mo ghràidh, he has.” Ian said softly. “Talked about ye the whole time we were gone and how he could’na wait to be back with..” Before he could finish his sentence, Ian slumped down and lost consciousness.

“We need to get the Captain into OR1, now!” Claire ordered and two nurses quickly picked up the stretcher he was on and slowly made their way out of the Black Hawk.

With her specialty being in orthopedics, Claire knew Ian needed her. Jamie was in good hands with Joe and she would have to check-in on him once Ian was stabilized.

Talking as much to herself, as she was Ian, Claire whispered, “Alright, Captain. Let’s get you inside, in some better light, so I can assess what we need to do about your leg.”

“I’m right behind you, LJ, with the Master Sergeant.” Joe chimed in.

Claire looked over her shoulder, with all the confidence she could muster, and gave Joe a faint smile and a nod. She then picked up pace to catch up with the stretcher carrying Captain Murray.

 

Joe turned his full attention back to the Master Sergeant. Jamie was still slipping in and out of consciousness, and noticing that he was currently not awake, Joe seized the opportunity to move Master Sergeant Fraser into OR2.

“Gently, fellas. We’re going to roll him slightly onto his right side and slip the stretcher underneath him. That’s it...now, on the count of three, we are going to lift the stretcher. I need two of you carrying him, while I keep the sheet over his back to keep out the dust and sand. Ready?” Joe looked at each of the nurses and received a nod.

“Ok...one, two, three. Easy up. There we go. Now, without jostling him, let’s get inside fast.”

The trio quickly moved Jamie inside and into OR2. Joe glanced into OR1 to see how Claire was doing. To his relief, she seemed to have slipped into full doctor-mode and was focusing solely on Captain Murray. Joe wanted to get Jamie into the second operating room, before Claire had a chance to turn around and get distracted.

 

Geillis had joined Claire in OR1 and they were quickly cutting off Captain Murray’s fatigues. As Claire was assessing the extent of the damage to his leg, Geillis was starting an IV to get both fluids and antibiotics into his system quickly. The harsh, dry desert environment was not very forgiving when it came to infection. Claire knew there was little chance of saving Ian’s leg, but she would be damned if infection set in and he became septic.

“G! Once you get the IV set up, prep him for surgery. I want to consult with Joe, before we remove his leg. See if he thinks I’m missing anything.”

“Aye, doctor,” and Geillis quickly got to work.

Claire turned to pass into OR2, noticing that a screen had been set up, so she couldn’t see into the room. Claire both cursed and thanked Joe in her head, for helping keep her focused on her patient. She badly wanted to see Jamie, but knew that the moment she did, she wouldn’t leave his side and Ian needed her...perhaps more than Jamie at this exact moment.

“Joe?” Claire called through the screen. “I need you for a minute. Are you able to step away?”

“Yes, LJ, just give me one second.”

Claire could hear him speaking to another nurse that had come in to assist.

“You have to be careful, cutting the jacket off. Parts of it have been burnt into the skin here and we don’t want to be pulling at it. I’ll be back in just a second.” Joe had told the nurse.

Claire swallowed the bile that had started to rise in her throat. His jacket had burnt into his skin? We can’t accommodate skin grafts in this environment! She had started to panic, when Joe popped out from behind the screen. Seeing the look on her face, he quickly grabbed both of her hands and pulled Claire into a hug.

“Oh, Claire. I’m sorry. You didn’t need to hear that! Deep breath...that’s it. In through the nose and count to four. Slowly out through your mouth. There’s my girl.”

Joe let Claire repeat the breathing exercise a few more times before speaking to her again. “Let’s focus on what you need to ask me. How is Captain Murray?”

After another exhalation, Claire steadied herself and looked up at Joe.

“I think we’re going to have to take his leg. It’s the last thing I want to do and luckily the femoral artery is still intact, but not much else. Can you please take a quick look? I just want to make sure that my head is in the right place.”

“Of course, LJ. Let me see him. Geillis already has the IV running with fluids and antibiotics?”

“Yes. We wasted no time there.” Claire assured him.

After examining Captain Murray, Joe came to the same conclusion as Claire. “I know what you mean. I hate to take the leg as well, but if we don’t Claire, the risk of infection is too great. I’m sure the man would rather live with a prosthetic, than the alternative.”

“That’s what I thought. If I can get him lucid for a few minutes, I’ll try to speak with him, otherwise we’ll get started. He’s lost a lot of blood and we don’t have a huge surplus for an infusion.”

Claire and Joe both stopped and looked at each other. Blood. Both of their patients were going to need it, and the supply they had might not be enough.

“We need blood!” they both said simultaneously.

Just then, Angus Mohr walked by. He had several bandages on his arm and there was a large laceration above his eyebrow that had been stitched.

“Blood, ye say? I can gather men. Do you have an area where we can set them up?” Angus inquired.

“Yes, Captain Mohr. That would be wonderful. We need O- and,” Joe looked at Claire, waiting for her to respond with Captain Murray’s blood type.

“A+” she said. “Please ask the men to check their dog tags. Anyone with those blood types, who is willing to donate, have them come to the triage tent.” Claire instructed.

“Aye, ma’am. Sir.” Angus nodded at them both and quickly left the tent with Rupert to gather anyone that could help Master Sergeant Fraser and Captain Murray.

“I’m going to need Geillis with me, to assist. Can you spare Mary to help with the blood donations?” Claire asked Joe.

“Yes, that should be fine. I’ll still have Gail with me and she has a gentle touch.” Joe blushed as he said it. Then he took Claire’s hands into his own again. “I promise, LJ. I’m going to do everything I can for Jamie. Once you are done with your surgery, we’ll discuss what Jamie’s options are. Right now, I need you to be the phenomenal orthopedic surgeon that you are, and save Captain Murray. Can you do that for me? He’ll need to be transported out of here within the next 24 hours, so we don’t have much time.”

Claire took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Yes, I can do that. And Joe, I’m trusting you to keep Jamie stable until I can get to him. Can you do that for me?” The desperation in Claire’s eyes made Joe’s heart sink. He had seen Jamie’s back, and had heard the scream of a man in so much pain, it was hard to fathom...Claire had not, but Joe couldn’t deny his best friend the single most important thing she had ever asked of him. He might not be able to save Jamie, but he could at least keep him stable, long enough for her to get to him.”

“You have my word, Lady Jane. Now, go scrub in and I’ll see you in a few hours.”

Claire squeezed his hands and then turned to go back into OR2.

 

Claire entered the OR and saw that Ian was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“Ian! Can you hear me?” Claire asked, rushing over to his side.

“Aye, lass. How’s our Jamie?”

I swear to God, Beauchamp. If your face deceives you now… “He’s stable, Ian, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.” Claire answered. She hadn’t lied, but she needed Ian to stay calm, and knowing that his brother-in-law was possibly in worse shape than he was, was not going to accomplish that.

“He saved me, Claire.”

Ian’s words had been whispered so quietly, Claire wasn’t sure she had heard them correctly. Jamie had saved Ian? What the bloody hell had happened in that compound?

Don’t go there, Beauchamp. You have a job to do. Ask the captain about his leg.

“Ian?” Claire pulled up a stool next to him. “We need to talk about your leg.”

Ian pulled his gaze from the ceiling to look Claire in the eye. His normally blonde, curly hair was dark with sweat and matted to his head. He had small scrapes and bruises all over his face, but his eyes still had that slight shimmer in them.

“Aye. I already ken, Claire. Ye have to take it, no?”

“I’m afraid so, Ian. I wish there was another way, but the risk is too great. They’re doing amazing things with prosthetics, so it will only be a matter of time before you’ll be up and moving around!” Claire tried to keep it optimistic, but she was having a hard time focusing on anything, but the fact she was going to have to take his leg.

Claire cleared her throat, “I’m glad you were awake when I came in so we could talk. I’m a surgeon, in the middle of a war zone, Ian. I would have done what was best for you, but it would have broken my heart for you to wake up and realize it was gone.”

She reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze and the reassurance she felt when Ian squeezed back, helped put her mind a bit more at ease.

“We’re going to be starting soon. Time is not on our side, I’m afraid. Nurse Duncan will be coming in to prep you while I scrub up. Is there anything I can do for you, before I go, Ian?”

“Aye, Claire. In the front pocket of my jacket are letters from my Jenny. Should anything happen to Jamie or I; would ye please be the one to write her? I could’na bear it if she just received a form letter from the Army... telling her that her husband and brother are deid. Promise me, Claire. Promise me that ye’ll write to Jenny, should the need arise.”

Claire couldn’t speak as her eyes flooded with tears. She stood up from the stool then, looking down at Ian, meeting his eyes.

“Yes, Ian, I promise. But I’m going to do everything in my power, to ensure that both of you make it home.”

Chapter Text

CH-18

US Army Base, Undisclosed Location in the Middle East

As Claire started scrubbing in, Louise de la Tour entered the room and pushed up her sleeves. Claire let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Louise was another brilliant surgeon, but she and Claire were on opposite shifts. Their paths didn’t usually cross unless there were severe casualties. Claire was thankful for whoever had woken Louise to come and assist.

“Thought you might want a little help with Captain Murray,” Louise said as she turned on the water and opened the soap.

Damn my glass face, Claire thought, but she was so relieved that she just smiled.

After a few more minutes, Claire was finished and was being helped into a gown and gloves by Geillis. Louise looked over and said, “You’re the expert Claire. I’m just here as a second pair of hands. I’ll follow your lead.”

“Thank you, Louise. You have no idea how much I appreciate you coming in tonight.” Claire responded. “I’m going to go in and make sure that the Captain is under. Join me when you’re ready.”

Louise nodded, as Claire turned back into OR1. Thoughts of Jamie kept coming to the front of her brain and she kept trying to push them back. Come on, Beauchamp. Focus for just a while longer and then you can go to him. Joe promised to keep him stable. Claire walked in to find Captain Murray fully prepped, with the anesthesiologist up by his head. His vitals flashed across the screen and considering the severe trauma his body had undergone, his heart rate and blood pressure looked good.

“We’re ready when ye are, Dr. Beauchamp.” Geillis said, coming to Claire’s side.

With a deep breath, Claire looked at Geillis and the anesthesiologist, extended her arm and said, “Scalpel.”

 

It had been two hours since Joe had spoken to Claire, and gave her his word about keeping Jamie stable. Joe knew he shouldn’t have promised something he had no control over, but he just needed her to focus on Captain Murray’s amputation. Assuming there were no surprises, Claire should be done very soon.

C’mon LJ, we don’t have much time. Please get over here soon, Joe thought to himself.

For the third time in the last ten minutes, Joe looked over at the monitor with Jamie’s vitals. Jamie’s heart rate had started to slow down and his breathing was becoming shallow. Joe was waiting as long as he could before intubating, since Jamie had continued to murmur in Gaelic. He didn’t know what he was saying, but the word ‘Sorcha’ was used repeatedly.

Just as Joe was getting ready to listen to Jamie’s lungs, he heard a gasp behind him, causing him to freeze. Before he even turned around, he calmly said her name.

“Claire. I need you to stay right there.”

“Ok, Joe.” Claire whispered back.

He couldn’t read the tone in her voice, as it was filled with fatigue, but he knew he had to brief her before she came to Jamie’s side. He quickly listened to Jamie’s lungs and was pleased to observe that there was still no fluid. Satisfied that he could step away from his patient for a minute, Joe turned to Claire.

“How did the Captain’s surgery go?”

Claire wouldn’t take her eyes off of Jamie. “Like clock-work. The femoral artery was still intact, so we had no issues and Louise is wrapping things up.” For the first time, she met Joe’s eyes. “She knew my thoughts were starting to drift and she urged me to scrub out.”

Joe nodded and took Claire’s hands in his. “I kept my promise, Lady Jane. He’s as stable as he’s going to be, but not for long.”

Claire’s eyes filled with tears, but she pulled herself up and set her shoulders back, determined to hear what Joe was preparing to tell her.

“His injuries are severe, Claire. Most of the skin has been torn from his back and what is remaining, has suffered third-degree burns. We’re doing our best to keep him comfortable and I really should have intubated, but --”

Sorcha, tha feum agam ort…”

Claire’s head snapped to the left and Joe froze.

“Has...has he been mumbling this whole time?” Claire asked as she took a step towards Jamie.

“Yes, that’s what I was just getting ready to tell you. I should have intubated, but he keeps mumbling. The only word I have heard repeatedly is Sorcha.”

“He’s been asking for me…”Claire whispered, so quietly that Joe wasn’t quite sure he had her.

“I never heard him say ‘Claire’, Lady Jane. I would have told you.”

“No, It’s ok. My name in Gaelic is Sorcha. Ian told me while we were triaging in the Black Hawk that Jamie had been asking for me. I need to touch him, Joe.”

“I know, LJ. I’ll leave you two now, but I’ll be right outside if you need me. And I’ll go check on Captain Murray.” Joe squeezed Claire’s hand and then left.

 

Claire made her way over to Jamie, but had to stop when she got next to the gurney. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at the man, who only hours ago, had been larger than life;so eager to please her and learn how to serve her properly. She wanted nothing more than to turn back time and re-live those moments all over again. She closed her eyes, and for just a moment, Claire was back behind the partitions, just a room away from where she was now, staring into those twinkling, ocean blue eyes. She could have stood there with her eyes closed forever, but a strangled moan pulled her back to reality.

“Jamie!” Claire said breathlessly and immediately pulled up a stool to sit up by his head. “I’m here, love. I’m here.”

Claire reached for his hand, thankful that it was one of the few parts of his body that wasn’t covered in cuts and bruises, and began to stroke her thumb across his fingers. She slightly lifted his hand and brought her head down the rest of the way to press a light kiss into his palm. Claire then laid her cheek into his palm and the tears she had been holding back, flowed from her eyes.

“Oh Jamie! How did this happen? What made things end up so badly? How --” suddenly Claire stopped rambling. She noticed that Jamie’s thumb was moving slowly, back-and-forth, across her cheek. Careful not to let go of his hand, Claire slowly turned her gaze towards Jamie’s face and was surprised that her whisky gaze was met with ocean blue.

“Jamie!” Claire gasped.

“Aye.” he managed to choke out. “Claire, ye came.” His voice was weak and cracked due to a lack of water.

“Of course I came. Did you think I would be anywhere else?” she asked incredulously.

“I dinna ken, Sassenach. I wish ye dinna have to see me like this.”

“I told you I would wait for you, Jamie. And I kept my promise...I didn’t read your letter. I was waiting for you.” Claire managed a smile, while she reached out to cup Jamie’s cheek in her hand. She wanted nothing more than to fall apart, but she knew she had to be strong for Jamie.

Tears filled Jamie’s eyes. “I’m glad, mo nighean donn, truly.” It was then that Jamie had briefly glanced down and noticed Claire in her scrubs and that they were covered in blood. “Christ, Claire! Why are ye covered in blood?”

Claire hadn’t planned to tell Jamie anything about Ian. He didn’t want him any more distraught than he already was, but Ian had said that Jamie saved him. Maybe it would help Jamie to know that Ian was ok.

“I’m ok, Jamie. It’s ok. You weren’t the only one injured when you all came back.” Claire said calmly.

“Ian!” Jamie said and had tried to lift his body up. “Argh!!!! Ifrinn!!!”

Alarms went off as Jamie’s heart began to race and struggled to catch his breath. His face contorted in pain and Claire placed one hand on his cheek on the other on the top of his head. She bent over and whispered calmly into Jamie’s ear, encouraging him to relax or she would have to sedate and intubate and he wouldn't be able to talk anymore. Claire noticed that Joe had come in with the alarms and was administering more pain meds through the IV. After giving Claire a nod, he quietly slipped back out. Several minutes passed and Jamie’s pulse slowed and his breathing regulated a bit, but Claire was still not happy with Jamie’s oxygen, and placed a nasal cannula under his nose and gently wrapped the tube around his ears.

“Jamie, I will tell you about Ian, but you have to promise me that you will stay calm. I cannot risk you going into A-fib. Do you understand?”

Jamie nodded and squeezed her hand.

“That’s my lad,” and Claire smiled at him. “Ian was injured badly, but was still conscious when you all landed. I was able to stabilize him and speak with him before we had to perform surgery.”

Jamie’s eyes went round and he went to open his mouth, but Claire gently placed her finger over his lips.

“Hush, love. Let me finish. I’m not sure of the details, but Ian’s leg was crushed Jamie. He was lucky...very lucky that you all were able to get them out of there as quickly as you did. You saved him, Jamie...he told me so himself. But we did have to amputate his leg. He knew it and consented, but it will take some time to fully recover.”

Claire paused, letting it all sink in. She waited patiently for Jamie to say something.

“But he’s alive, aye?”

“Yes, Jamie...because of you.”

“No, Sassenach. Because of ye.” Jamie gave Claire a weak smile. “I’m verra tired, mo ghraidh.”

“I know, love.”

“Dinna leave me?”

“Never.”

Jamie’s eyelids fluttered closed, but not before he managed to whisper one final thing…“I love ye, Claire. Read the letter.”

Choking back a sob, Claire kissed Jamie on the forehead, whispering “I love you too, you bloody hero.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-19

US Army Base - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

I love ye, Claire. Read the letter.

Jamie’s words kept playing through Claire’s mind as she sat there rubbing her thumb across the back of his knuckles while he slept. She wanted, more than anything, to curl up beside him and fall asleep. Claire had been awake for almost 24 hours and she knew she needed rest, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave Jamie’s side, and laying down next to him was out of the question. The only part of him that she could touch were his arms, hands, and face. Suddenly, Joe appeared at her side with a cot.

“How is it that you always know exactly what I need?” Claire asked while stifling a yawn.

“I know you almost better than you know yourself, LJ. I also knew it wasn’t worth the argument, asking you to leave and rest, so I figured I would just bring a cot so you could lay down here. How is our Master Sergeant?”

Claire exhaled slowly as she ran her eyes over Jamie. He was laying face down on the cot, with his head turned towards her. The only parts of his body she could actually see were his face, arms, and legs, which were still covered in his fatigues. She had been absently running her thumb across his knuckles and with this last stroke, she noticed the corner of his mouth rise up into a smile. It nearly brought her to tears.

“Well, I know the extra dose of pain meds you injected are helping because he appears to be resting as comfortably as possible, given his condition.” Claire finally answered.

“You know we don’t have much time, Claire.” Joe whispered.

“I know,” Claire responded, with a small sniffle.

“We just are not as equipped as LRMC and the likelihood of infection out here...shoot, I don’t even want to think about it,” Joe shuddered. “I know I didn’t go over the injuries in detail, LJ, but I’m sure you have figured out that he needs skin grafts. And having to lie in this position, for the length of time required to let his back heal, will result in him needing PT as well.”

Claire nodded. She was only half listening to Joe. She had known from the moment she saw Jamie, that he was going to be medically transferred as soon as his body would be able to handle that flight. Joe had done an extraordinary job triaging and Claire wanted to believe that her presence had given Jamie some mental and emotional strength.

I love ye, Claire. Read the letter.’ Jamie’s words echoed in her mind once more.

“Joe,” Claire asked softly.

“Hmmm?” Joe responded and turned his head towards her.

“I cannot bear to be away from him, knowing they’ll be transferring him soon, but I need a shower. Would you sit with him so he’s not alone? I won’t be more than 10, 15 minutes tops.”

“Of course! I would do anything for you Claire, you’re my best friend, and if that means I have to sit in for you with the Master Sergeant, I’ll be happy to. But don’t go asking me to caress his hand, the way you keep doing.” Joe teased. “I have to draw the line somewhere.”

Joe’s comment had lightened Claire’s mood, just a fraction, but it was enough for her to smile and let out a small chuckle.

“Thank you, Joe. For everything.” Claire gently laid Jamie’s hand down and wrapped her arms around Joe’s neck, burying her face in his shoulder. Once in his arms, Joe could feel some of the tension leave Claire’s body. He wasn’t sure how much longer she could go on like this, but it was his job to be her rock, until a certain red-headed Scot was able to hold her in his arms again.

Hrmpfff,” a low, Scottish grumble came from behind Claire’s back and she whipped around to see Jamie’s blue eyes boring into her.

“Jamie! What is it? Are you in pain? Do you need something to drink?” Claire asked while rushing back to his side and grabbing his hand.

“Och, no, Sassenach. It’s just...I should be the one comfortin’ ye. Plus -” Jamie paused.

“Plus what?” Claire encouraged.

“Plus, the pain seems less when yer touchin’ me, is all,” Jamie answered shyly.

“Oh, love!” Claire exclaimed as she brought his hand up to her face. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left your side.”

“Sassenach,” the firmness in Jamie's voice caused Claire to sit up a little straighter and look him directly in the eyes. “I’ll not have ye wastin’ away, just because I need ye holdin’ my hand. We have the rest of our lives for hand holdin’. Promise me ye’ll take care of yerself. Go take a shower, get somethin’ to eat.”

“No, Jamie, I’m fine. I won’t leave you.” Claire tried to sound reassuring, but Jamie could hear the fatigue in her voice.

“Aye, ye will. I love ye, mo nighean donn. I’m no goin’ anywhere, that I can assure ye.” Jamie squeezed Claire’s hand and pulled her a bit closer to whisper in her ear. “Besides, the smell of yer floral shampoo...ye ken the one you told me Uncle Lamb sent ye? That smell and the thought of running my fingers through yer curls, will be enough to calm my senses again, aye?”

Jamie gave Claire that endearing double-eyed blink, that he thought was a wink, and her heart just melted. How could she deny him the one thing he was asking for?

With a tear in her eye, Claire nodded, and leaned in the last few inches to kiss him softly on the cheek.

“I’ll be right back, Soldier,” she whispered against his lips and then laid her forehead against his and gently rubbed her nose with his.

“Ok, you two. I would say get a room, but…” Joe interjected.

Claire blushed and the tips of Jamie’s ears turned pink, but the smiles never left their faces.

“I’ll stay here with the Master Sergeant while you freshen up, LJ.”

“Thank you, Joe,” Claire said and then turned back to Jamie.

“Come back to me, Claire Beauchamp,” he said in a low, husky voice.

“Soon as I can,” Claire replied and then hurried out of OR1.

 

Back in her barracks, Claire quickly grabbed her shower caddy and a fresh set of scrubs, transferring Jamie’s letter from her current pocket to the new one. The letter! Claire was prepared to take it out and read it, but Joe had come in, followed by Jamie waking up once more. She desperately wanted to read it now, but the thought of even spending one more minute away from Jamie, while he was still here with her, prevented her from doing so. Claire quickly made her way to the showers and and relaxed immediately as the hot water cascaded down her body. She quickly lathered up her shampoo and let it sit in her hair while she scrubbed the remaining dried blood from her fingers and ran a razor quickly over her legs. Since being in the Army, Claire had forgotten how something as small as clean-shaven legs could make you feel so much better. Satisfied that she had rid herself of all the dust, blood, and grime the day had presented, she toweled off, pulled on her scrubs, and headed back over to OR1, with her hand in the pocket holding tight to Jamie’s letter.

Just as Claire was about to push open the door, she noticed how serious Joe and Jamie looked. Clearly they were in the middle of an intense discussion and Claire didn’t want Jamie to get upset again and throw his vitals into a tailspin. She quietly pushed open the door, so as not to disturb them and draw attention to her presence, and slid in and catching the tail-end of their conversation.

“Aye sir. I have nothin’ but the best of intentions when it comes to Dr. Beauchamp. She means more to me than I ever thought a single person could. I was planning to propose when we returned and then…” gesturing around, he finished with, “...all this happened.”

“That’s good to hear, Master Sergeant. I have known Claire for several years now and she wears her heart on her sleeve. I also know how much you mean to her, so I will hold you to your word, sir.” Joe stated firmly.

Just then, Jamie’s eyes caught a movement in the corner of the room and he picked his head slightly up off the gurney. Sensing they were no longer alone, Joe turned around to see Claire walking up towards them.

“Everything ok, gentlemen?” Claire inquired.

“Aye, Sassenach. I’m glad yer back and ye look bonny.” Jamie blushed.

“If all I have to do is shower, Master Sergeant Fraser, you’re an easy man to please.” Claire teased back.

Feeling like a third wheel, Joe quickly stood up and excused himself. As he made to leave, he put his hand on Claire’s upper arm, pulling her close and whispering in her ear, “I’ll be around if you need anything, LJ.”

Squeezing his arm, in thanks, Claire nodded, and Joe left.

“Come here, mo ghraidh. I’ve been dreamin’ of smellin’ yer shampoo since I left ye.”

Claire quickly sat down and Jamie reached up to run his fingers through her damp curls. His hand traveled further up and he began to massage her scalp a bit.

“Jamie,” Claire said breathlessly, “I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”

“We’ll have plenty o’ time for that, I’m afraid. Let me do this for ye, while I’m still awake, Sassenach. I’m so verra tired.”

After a few minutes, Claire took Jamie’s hand back in her’s and encouraged him to rest. Claire went back to gently stroking her thumb across his knuckles, while making smooth circles over his temple with her other hand. Jamie let out a sigh and quickly fell back to sleep. Once she was sure he was out, Claire reached into her pocket and took out Jamie’s letter. Afraid she might tear it, Claire carefully unfolded the letter and began to read.

My dearest Sorcha,
I’ve never called ye that before. It’s your Gaelic name and means light. Ye are the light of my life, Claire. I wanted ye, from the moment I first saw ye in the Medical Tent, but I loved ye when you grabbed my hands to comfort me in the Mess Hall.

As she continued to read, Claire thought it was uncanny how she could actually hear Jamie’s voice as she read the letter, until she looked up and noticed that he was reciting the letter to her, while she read it.

I dinna ken if I will return, but my heart is yours whether I do or no’. No matter where our orders send us, no matter the miles apart, my heart is yours, mo chridhe. I love ye and want ye to be my wife. I ken ye deserve a proper proposal, but until I’m back with ye, this is the best I can do. Marry me, Claire, and make me the happiest man on Earth.
All my Love,
Jamie”

Claire had long stopped looking at the letter and had her eyes locked with Jamie’s. Tears were falling from her eyes and she went to open her mouth to speak, but Jamie stopped her by raising a finger to her lips.

“I ken that I did’na keep my first promise to ye. I’m back with ye and canna even get down on one knee to do it properly, but I meant what I said, Sassenach. Will ye marry me?”

“Yes! Oh, yes, Jamie! I will marry you!” Claire exclaimed as she bent over to kiss him soundly on the lips.

“I have thought of this moment for several weeks, Sassenach. Now, with everything that’s happened, life is more precious that I ever imagined. I dinna want to part with ye lass, but I ken that I’m going to be transferred to Germany.” Jamie paused and looked at Claire, as if he was looking for confirmation.

“That’s true and probably soon since you’re stable. We cannot risk infection, Jamie, but I can’t leave you!” Claire cried.

“Dinna weep, mo ghraidh, we’ll get through this. But the one thing I canna do is go to Germany without being yer husband.”

Startled, Claire locked her eyes with Jamie. Was he actually proposing what she thought? As always, Claire’s thoughts were practically written across her face.

“Aye, that’s exactly what I’m thinkin’,” Jamie smiled. “Do ye think the Army chaplain would see us wed?”

“I’m sure that could be arranged, but I have three conditions, Master Sergeant.”

Smiling, Jamie nodded. “What are ye conditions, Dr. Beauchamp?”

“One, I am not to be wed in scrubs. At least let me change into my uniform.”

Jamie chuckled. “Aye, agreed. What’s the second condition?”

“The second condition is that when this is all over,” Claire gestured at their surroundings, “We throw a bloody fantastic reception with friends and family.”

“That’s a given. I want nothin’ more than to show you off, in a beautiful gown, for all to see and dance the night away with ye.” Jamie beamed.

“And my third condition,” Claire paused and swallowed the lump in her throat, “Is that we make sure Captain Murray can be wheeled in here to be your best man.”

Jamie didn’t think it was possible to love the woman in front of him, his future wife, more than he already did, but she never ceased to amaze him. He squeezed her hand and looked up at her stunningly beautiful, whisky-colored eyes.

Choking back a small sob, Jamie whispered, “I dinna deserve ye, Claire.”

“I know how much having Ian there would mean to you.” Claire blushed.

“Aye, it would mean the world to me, but to ken that you would understand that, just makes me love ye more.”

“I love you too, Jamie. Now try to rest a bit, hmmm? You need your beauty rest for our wedding tomorrow,” Claire said winking.

“Och! No one will even be lookin’ at me, Sorcha. Ye light up any room yer in and tomorrow will’na be any different. G’night, future Mrs. Fraser.” Jamie said, raising Claire’s hand to his lips.

“Good night, Mr. Fraser.”

Chapter Text

CH-20

US Army Base - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

Most people don’t sleep well the night before their wedding, they're a bundle of nerves, Claire wished that was the reason for a sleepless night. But it wasn't. Her concern for Jamie’s well-being was growing. He couldn't sleep more than 30-40 minutes at a time and Claire found herself having to administer more pain meds, as soon as time allowed. They didn’t speak much throughout the night, but their hands never parted, unless Claire was tending to his IV. The physical connection seemed to be the only thing keeping them both sane for the time being.

Around 5:00 AM, Joe came in to see how things were going. Quietly walking over to the pair, he saw that they were both asleep, for the moment anyway. Their fingers were intertwined and Claire was resting her head next to Jamie’s on the cot. Joe, careful not to wake either one, tip-toed around, checking Jamie’s vitals and making a few notes in the chart. He hadn’t wanted to tell Claire, but after Joe had left the couple last night, Major General MacKenzie had come to him, asking when it would be safe to send Jamie over to Germany.

My sister will have my hide if I dinna do everything I can for the lad. I trust ye and Dr. Beauchamp are doing yer best, be we canna possibly be as well equipped as Landsthul.

"Your sister?" Joe had inquired.

Aye, Jamie’s my nephew. We don’t make it public knowledge for obvious reasons, but I did promise my sister that I would watch over the lad, to the best of my capabilities.” MacKenzie had responded.

Of course. Well, he does seem to be stabilizing, so I’m expecting by this afternoon we’ll be able to transport him. I agree, the risk of infection, in this environment, is too great. His best chance will be over at LRMC.”

Thank ye, Dr. Abernathy. Get the paperwork together and I will gladly sign off. Just make sure ye give me at least an hour’s leeway, so I can get a bird ready to make the trip.” MacKenzie requested.

Yes sir.”

With that the gentleman had parted ways. Joe knew Claire would not be ready to let Jamie go, but he also knew that she was too smart and practical to argue that it was better for him to stay. Her medical knowledge and instincts would prevail and she would see that it was best for Jamie to go to Germany.

Just as Joe was jotting down his last few notes to complete the transfer paperwork, Jamie stirred and looked towards him.

“Mornin’, Dr. Abernathy,” rasped Jamie. “Could I trouble ye for a wee sip of water?”

“Of course, Master Sergeant.”

“Och...please, call me Jamie.”

“Okay, Jamie,” Joe smiled. “Did you and our girl get much rest last night?”

“Honestly, I dinna remember much after she said ‘yes’,” Jamie blushed.

Joe looked at Jamie, a bit confused. “ ‘Yes?’ ”

“Aye, Claire said yes to my marriage proposal. We’re planning to get the Chaplain to perform a small ceremony later today. I ken I will’na be able to move from the bed, but at least we'll be wed before I'm sent to Germany.”

“Well, congratulations are in order then! I think that’s wonderful, Jamie, but you’re going to be transferred to Landsthul later today. Major General MackKenzie asked me to give him an hour’s notice, so that he could prepare one of the BlackHawks to transport you.”

Jamie frowned. “Aye, we kent I would be transferred, and we thought it might be today, but I was hoping for a bit more time.” Pausing, Jamie glanced up at Joe. “I ken ye have been in Claire’s life longer than I have, Joe. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the lass and I would give anything to make this day as special as possible, given our surroundings and circumstances. I dinna even have a ring, Joe.”

“Don’t say another word. It’s around 5:30 AM now, so we have some time, but we really need to transport you no later than 15:00. You do know it’s quite a trek, correct?”

“Aye, about two days, right?”

“Correct. Blackhawk to the airfield and C-130 to Germany, so, that means we have about six hours to get the wedding of Dr. Beauchap’s dreams in order. I know one of the Engineering Sergeants...went to school with him back home. He can do amazing things with metal! I’m sure we could have him make a ring for Claire, at least until you both get back state-side and you can get her the one she wants.” Joe was starting to get excited. To see his best friend, marry the man of her dreams, was special. To be a part of helping make the day something Claire had dreamed of, was priceless.

“That would be unbelievable, Joe. Since I’m not on the front lines now, and will be with someone until I get to Germany, could you take one of my dog tags? See if he can fashion a simple, dainty, silver band for Claire?” Jamie was starting to feel more optimistic about the day. He may not be able to stand up next to her, on a make-shift altar, with the Scottish Highlands in the background, but surprising her with a ring would be enough to make his Sorcha’s eyes light up and warm his heart.

“May I, then?” Jose asked as he reached towards Jamie’s neck to retrieve one of his dog tags.

“Aye, o’course!” Wrapping the chain up and placing it carefully in his pocket, Joe looked back at Jamie. “I’m up to the task if you are, Master Sergeant.”

“Yessir, Dr. Abernathy.” Jamie went to reach his hand up in a mock salute, but the simple task of raising his arm, caused a searing pain in his back and Jamie tried to muffle his cry, but it was enough to wake Claire.

“Huh? What’s wrong?” Claire mumbled as she jerked her head up and looked around.

She met Joe’s eyes and then immediately looked down at Jamie. His face was twisted in pain, but did his best to give her a smile.

“Morning, Sassenach,” He said through clenched teeth.

“Jamie, what’s wrong? You aren’t due for more meds for at least another two hours!” Claire looked anxiously over at Joe.

“He’s ok, Claire. We were just talking for a few minutes, trying to let you catch up on your sleep, and Jamie just twisted a bit. I know he’s getting a bit stiff, lying prone like that. Perhaps you could massage his arms and legs a bit to help encourage blood flow. Of course, I would like to change the dressings on his back first. Maybe we’ll do that around 8:00 AM...just after his next dose of meds?” Joe looked from Claire to Jamie. “That will also give me time to, ahh, get some breakfast.” Joe squeezed Claire’s shoulder, winked at Jamie and then left.

Still half asleep, Claire hadn’t really noticed the unsaid things between Jamie and Joe. She was just getting ready to ask Jamie if he wanted a little something to eat, when Jamie reached out and took her hand.

“I dinna think you have given me a proper ‘Good morning’ yet, future Mrs. Fraser.” Jamie chided.

Claire blushed. “Well, forgive, Mr. Fraser,” and she leaned over to kiss him thoroughly. “I was just getting ready to ask you if you felt well enough to eat a bit.”

“Aye. I think I could handle a bit of food. The meds are helping ease the pain, but they're doing a number on my stomach.”

“Jamie! You should have said something. I can give you some lorazepam,” Claire stood to get up, but Jamie wouldn’t let go of her hand.

“I kent there was stuff ye could give me, Claire, but I did’na want to disturb ye while ye slept.” Jamie kissed her knuckles. “Plus, ye might as well get used to the fact, that I dinna plan on letting ye leave a room until ye kiss me.”

Claire smiled affectionately down at the man she was going to wed within the next few hours.

“How can I argue with a man who says such things? If you were to say that in a room, where I was surrounded by my girlfriends, you would be considered the King of All Men.” Claire bent down to kiss him. Jamie blushed and then reluctantly let go of Claire’s hand. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get you some toast and some lorazepam.”

As Claire turned to walk out of the room, swaying those beautiful hips and round arse that Jamie loved so much. Jamie groaned as he thought to himself, ‘Back splayed open, pain off the charts, and my damn cock does’na seem to care or notice that we canna do a single thing about it.’

 

On her way to the Mess Hall, Claire ran into Geillis.

“Morning, G!” Claire exclaimed and gave her friend a quick hug.

“Morning, hen! My, my for someone who’s had about 3 hours of sleep and did’na even get laid, yer awfully chipper.” Geillis smirked.

Playfully pushing Geillis’ shoulder back, Claire decided to tell her. “I can’t help, G. We’re getting married today!”

It took a lot for Geillis Duncan to be rendered speechless, and Claire was in awe that this was the second time she had witnessed it.

“What did ye say, Claire?”

“I said, we’re getting married today! Jamie asked me last night. Said he couldn’t go off to Landsthul and not be my husband first. It’s going to be just us and the Chaplin, but I was hoping that you would come and serve as my Maid of Honor. I told Jamie that we had to make sure Ian, you know, Captain Murray, could be there.”

Bringing both hands up to her chest, Geillis let out a shriek. “Of course I’ll be there! In fact, I can take care of making sure that Captain Murray is comfortable and I promise I’ll have him there, right next to Jamie! Oh, Claire! I’m so happy for you!”

“I’m happy for me too, G! Alright, I would love to chat, but I have to get Jamie some toast, lorazepam, and then go see the chaplain. I’ll catch you a bit later.”

“Wait! I’m yer Maid of Honor, let me help! I would suggest that I take Jamie his food and meds, but I ken you aren’t going to want to part with him for long, so let me talk to the chaplain.”

Claire beamed at her friend. “Geillis! That would be wonderful! Please tell the chaplain that we just want simple and any time works. I just need about a 15 minute window to go shower & change.”

“Yes ma’am, Dr. Beauchamp,” Geillis gave Claire a mock salute, then grabbed her cup of coffee and headed out of the Mess Hall.

Smiling to herself, Claire went about her business and headed back over to Jamie.

Knowing Claire would be running into Geilis, Joe waited outside the Mess Hall to snatch Geillis once she stepped outside.

“Hey, Geillis! Can I gather from the shriek I heard, Claire told you her news?” Joe smiled.

“She did and I was just about to head over to the chaplain,” Geillis said.

“Perfect, that was my next stop. I promised Jamie I would help make this day as special as we could for Claire. Mind if I join you? I can fill you in along the way.”

Linking arms with Joe, Geillis smiled and said, “Lead the way!”

 

Jamie and Claire spent most of the morning in peaceful silence, at least it was peaceful after Joe had come back to change the dressings. Jamie’s pain was increasing and it was taking the little energy he had to not let it show every single moment. He knew Claire understood, but he didn’t want her to remember their wedding day as a day that her husband had cried out in pain as if Joe had him in a torture chamber.

Around 11:00 AM, Claire was massaging Jamie’s legs while he laid there with his eyes closed. She knew he wasn’t asleep because each time she brought her hands down to his feet, his lips would rise into a small smirk and in a low, warning tone, he would say “Sassenach…”

“I’ll have to remember that spot when we get ho-,” Claire trailed off.

After a minute, Jamie realized that Claire hadn’t completed her thought. “What were you going to say, Sassenach?”

“It just occurred to me...where will we call home? It all seems so far away, but when we get back to the States, where will we live Jamie?”

“Huh...I hadn’t really thought about it either. Where do you want to live? I kent you said Uncle Lamb is currently in North Carolina, but wasn’t used to having roots. Do ye think he would mebbe come up to New York? My family has so much land, we could build him his own place and we would be surrounded by family.”

“I don’t know, but we can ask. I do love the idea of being around family and moving farther north would remind me a bit more of London. I miss the changing seasons.” Claire said longingly.

“Well then, do we agree? The plan will be upstate New York, unless something changes?”

“Sure! I love that!”

They fell back into a companionable silence. Claire was now sitting in front of Jamie and working on his arms. After a while longer, Jamie noticed the rhythm of Claire’s massage had changed. He looked up at her and she was glancing around. He was just getting ready to ask her what she was thinking, when Claire made an observation.

“Does it seem odd to you that no one has been by in the past few hours?”

“They ken what a great doctor you are and that I’m in such great care, they want to leave us alone.” Jamie replied rationally.

“Hmm, you would think, but something seems off. Will you be ok if I went and checked on Ian? I meant to stop by on my way back from breakfast, but I wanted to get some food in your stomach.”

“Of course, Sassenach. I’ll just rest a bit more.”

Claire leaned down to kiss Jamie, promising him she would be back in about 10 minutes, and then left. Jamie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was going to have to let Claire know that he was being transferred around 15:00, but he was just enjoying the time they had together. Seeing Claire, more relaxed than she had been in days, made Jamie happy and he felt it was best to let her have that for a while longer. He hoped, as a new husband, he wasn’t being too naive.

 

Claire had just opened the door to OR2, where Ian had been resting. When she was seen by Joe, Geillis, Ian, and Major General MacKenzie, who had been chatting away, the group went completely silent and stared at her.

“What’s going on here? Is everything ok with Ian?” Claire asked nervously.

“Aye, lass! I’m braw...although the painkillers they have me on might be helpin’ a wee bit with that.” Ian chuckled.

“Well, that’s good! I was just coming over to check on you and report back to Jamie. Why are the rest of you here?” Claire asked while looking at Joe, Geillis, and the Major General.

The three quickly exchanged a glance, when Geillis jumped up and grabbed Claire’s hands.

“Oh, it’s nothin’, hen! Just keeping the Captain comfortable. How about we go back to the barracks and,” leaning over to whisper, “see what you have to wear for later.”

Claire appreciated Geillis being discreet, but let out a brief snort when she laughed about her clothing options. Honestly, the woman knew exactly what Claire had to choose from: green scrubs, blue scrubs, fatigues, and a dress uniform.

“Really, G? As if I have any options.”

“Well still. Let’s get you cleaned up!”

“I promised Jamie, I would be back in -”

As if on cue, the Major General jumped up and chimed in. “I was just on my way over to see the lad, let him ken the transfers are set. I would be happy to sit with him while ye take a few minutes to yerself.”

Claire froze. Geillis gripped her arm a little tighter, to steady her, and Joe stood up, clearing his throat. The Major General looked around, not sure exactly what had happened.

“Transfers,” Claire whispered.

“Aye, transfers. We’re getting Captain Murray and Master Sergeant Fraser over to Landstuhl this afternoon, so they can start healing,” MacKenzie supplied.

“Claire…” Joe started, but before he could finish, Claire looked back at the Major General and fired back.

“And just who, Major General, signed off on these men’s transfers. I’m Captain Murray’s surgeon and no one asked me if he was ready to be transferred.”

“Dr. Abernathy took care of everything. He knew you were exhausted and wanting to stay with Jamie, so he happily got the paperwork in order.”

Claire couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her best friend had prepared all the paperwork for Jamie and Ian to be transferred and hadn’t said a word to her? No, this couldn’t be true. Slowly turning towards Joe, she shifted her gaze away from the Major General.

“Is this true, Joe?” Claire asked, in barely a whisper.

“Claire, I was going to tell you, but I knew how upset you were last night and then the proposal happened and I had never seen you so happy! Jamie and I were just trying to buy you a little more time.” Joe pleaded his case.

“Jamie knows?!” Claire practically shrieked. She had spent all morning with the man and he hadn’t said a thing.

“Claire, please,” Geillis pleaded. “Don’t let this ruin what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of yer life, hen. You kent he was going to go, and soon. It’s not safe to keep him here. We won’t be able to help him fight off infection, the environment is just too unforgiving.”

Tears had pooled in the corner of Claire’s eyes, causing her vision to become blurry. How had everyone that she had come to love, kept something of this magnitude from her? She knew they had her best interest at heart, but Claire couldn't help feeling betrayed.

At this moment, Ian cleared his throat, and looked at Claire. “Come here, mo ghràidh,” and he reached out with his hand, beckoning her to come closer. Pulling her down onto the edge of his bed, Ian whispered, “Ye ken Jamie would never want to hurt ye. Are ye really upset with him and yer friends? Ye wear yer heart on yer sleeve, Claire, and I ken yer upset because ye dinna want Jamie to leave.” Ian smiled, knowingly, at Claire.

Claire sniffled and nodded her head. “You’re right Ian. I know I shouldn’t be mad, but I just can’t believe that in less than four hours, he’s going to be leaving.”

“I’m going with him, Claire. We’ll heal together and I’ll watch over him. Anytime that numpty feels like given’ up, I’ll be right there pushing him, just like he will do for me. I ken yer sad, angry, frustrated, and hurt...but Claire, Jamie needs ye to be strong right now.”

Squeezing Ian’s hand in hers, Claire leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’m holding you to all of that, Ian Murray. I couldn’t ask for a better brother-in-law.”

Claire pulled back and gave Ian a tearful smile. “Aye. And when yer Fraser spouse makes ye want to pull yer hair out, I’ll help ye through that as well...I’ve a wee bit of experience there too.” Ian winked at her.

“Thank you, Ian.” Claire whispered.

Then she turned to Geillis, “What was this about seeing what I had to wear?”

“That’s my girl!” Geillis rushed over to Claire, gave her a quick hug and then dragged her out of OR2.

“Now, gentlemen,” Joe said to the Captain and Major General, “Let’s see if our Master Sergeant is ready to get cleaned up as well.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-21
US Army Base - Undisclosed location in the Middle East

Geillis and Claire got back to the barracks, where Claire decided on taking another quick shower, enough to wash off the desert dust. When she returned, Geillis had laid out Claire’s uniform.

“I ken that we dinna even have any make-up, hen, but at least let me try to do somethin’ with yer hair. Maybe pull it up in a chignon instead of your usual work bun and leave some curls around yer face? Instead of slicking and pinning everything back.”

“That sounds perfect, Geillis! Thank you for helping me!” Despite the unusual circumstances, Claire couldn’t help her level of excitement. She always thought she would have a grand church wedding, but when it came down to it, she realized that the excitement came from the thought of spending the rest of her life with Jamie, not the pomp and circumstance that came with a wedding.

“Oh, Geillis. Can you look over in the small box that I keep next to my cot? It has a few precious items that I take with me everywhere I go. There is a picture of my parents,” Claire paused. “I would very much like to put it in my pocket,” she whispered.

“That’s lovely, Claire.” Geillis smiled at her friend, as she reached for the box. “It can be yer ‘something old’!”

“Oh, G, that’s a great idea, but what will we do for my ‘something new, borrowed, and blue?”

Geillis frowned as she thought about this. “Well, ye ken my hair is much longer than yer’s so I have a few clips. Ye could borrow one when I do yer hair! That would get ye the something old and something borrowed. I dinna ken what to do about the something new, but I have a thought about yer something blue! Let’s get ye ready and then I need to speak with Geordie!”

Claire tried not to dwell on missing out on this tradition. Marrying Jamie is what is most important, Beacuhamp. It’s just a silly tradition. Pushing her thoughts aside, Claire focused on getting dressed and then sat down for Geillis to do her hair.

 

Joe and Major General MacKenzie had headed back over to Jamie, to try and get him as cleaned up as they could.

"Jamie, lad! Let me give ye a shave. I doubt Dr. Beauchamp wants to kiss yer scruff.” General MacKenzie smiled down at his nephew.

“Aye, thank ye, Uncle.”

“While the Major General is shaving you, Jamie, I can give you a sponge bath. Wash yours legs and arms off, so at least you aren’t covered in desert sand.” Joe offered.

“Thanks, Joe.” Jamie looked at both gentlemen. “I really appreciate everything yer doing to help. I ken this is going to be an unconventional wedding, but I want to make it as special for Claire as I can. Joe, were you able to get the ring?”

“Yes, Jamie! As soon as I’m done getting you cleaned up, I’ll head over and pick it up.”

“Jamie, what else can I do to help?” Major General MacKenzie asked.

“I ken Claire is not a traditional lass; but I would love to make sure that we try and give her a traditional Scottish wedding ceremony. Would ye be willing to do the blood vow part of the ceremony?”

“I would be honored, nephew. Thank ye fer asking!”

“Joe?” Jamie asked and waited for Joe to come around so he could look him in the eye. “Yer Claire’s closest friend. I ken she would love fer ye to walk her down the aisle.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Joe nodded. “I can do that. Now, let’s get you cleaned up Master Sergeant.”

 

Geillis had been able to speak with Geordie when she finished Claire’s hair, and was waiting outside the barracks for him to come back. While she waited, Geillis looked towards the Mess Hall and saw Angus gathering up the men. She was pleased to see how cleaned up they were and all carrying their rifles. Claire will be tickled to see the pageantry, Gellis thought to herself. Given the time restraint, she was thrilled with what she and Joe had been able to pull together.

“Geillis!” Claire called. “I think I’m ready.”

“Alright, hen! Just give me another minute.” Come on, Geordie! Where are ye? As if reading her thoughts, Geordie came running over from the Comms Tent. “Will this work, Geillis?”

Geordie held up a bouquet of origami Forget-Me-Nots. “Oh, Geordie! They're perfect! We can use them for Claire’s ‘something blue’. Thank ye! I need to get back to Claire. Can you make sure the Chaplain is headed over to OR2?”

“Of course! I’ll see ye over there.” Geillis walked back into Claire, with the bouquet behind her back. “I have yer something blue, hen.” She proudly pulled the bouquet out from behind her back.

Claire’s mouth dropped open. “Where did you get these?”

“I ken that Geordie does origami as a hobby and he was more than happy to oblige. Dinna fash about the something new. I’m thinking yer wee fox cub may have a little somethin’ fer ye.”

Just then Joe appeared. “Are you ready, Lady Jane? I was hoping you would let me escort you over to OR2.”

Tearing up a bit, Claire nodded. “I would be honored for you to walk me down the aisle, Joe.”

Joe reached for Claire’s hand and tucked in the crook of his arm.

As Geillis ran on ahead, to make sure that Captain Murray was ready, Joe and Claire walked at a leisurely pace towards the Medical Tent.

“I’m so happy for you, LJ. Jamie’s a great guy and I know he’ll do anything to make you happy. He has a couple of surprises in store for you this afternoon and I want you to know they were all his idea. He wanted this to be a day you would remember for the rest of your lives, even if it is in the middle of the desert in an Army Medical Tent.”

“I know, Joe. I have to be the luckiest girl in the world.”

Just as they turned past the barrack and towards the Medical Tent, Claire stopped in her tracks. Ahead of her, was the whole squad of soldiers, in two lines facing each other, standing at attention. When Angus saw her out of the corner of his eye, he gave his first command.

“Present arms!”

All the soldiers brought their rifles up to their shoulders, in one unified motion. Claire gasped at the site and Joe gave her hand a small squeeze. Joe and Claire took a few more steps towards the two rows of soldiers. When they were about ten yards away, Angus gave his next command.

“Rifles up!”

Every soldier raised their rifle to create a tunnel for Claire and Joe to walk through. Claire did her best to smile at each one of them, but her emotions were getting the best of her. Thankfully, Joe was guiding her because she could barely see through the tears in her eyes.

“Almost there, Lady Jane. Are you ready?”

Claire looked at him and nodded.

 

Jamie was still lying prone on his stomach, but having Ian at his side was helping put him at ease somewhat. He hadn’t wanted to say anything, but he had noticed that a fever was slowly taking over his body. Every bone in his body was screaming and a headache had started. Just a bit longer, Fraser, ye can do this. Do it fer Claire. As if saying her name had summoned her, the door to OR2 opened and he saw Claire on Joe’s arm.

Ah dhia!” Jamie whispered to himself. He had never seen her in her dress uniform and he was taken aback at how beautiful an Army issued uniform could look. He noticed that she had pulled her hair up, exposing her elegant neck. How Jamie wished he could put his hand on Claire’s lower back and draw her close, while kissing his way down her neck.

“Easy a bhalaich,” Ian murmured. “Dinna get yerself worked up when there’s naught to be done about it.” Ian winked at Jamie, but Jamie missed it because he couldn’t take his eyes off of Claire, who was slowly making her way down the makeshift aisle that Major General MacKenzie had set up.

Once Claire saw Jamie, she locked her eyes with his, and a sense of peace encompassed her. With this man by her side, Claire knew they could face any obstacle in front of them. Even if that first obstacle would be presented in the next couple of hours when Jamie was moved to Germany.

Someone had set a chair up beside Jamie, so Claire could sit at his eye level and hold his hand. Joe gave Claire a kiss on the cheek and then gave her hand to Jamie.

“Ye look beautiful, mo nighean donn.”

“You look rather dashing as well since your shave, love.”

Smiling at them both, the Chaplain began, “We have gathered here today…”

 

The ceremony was simple, but full of love and promise as Jamie and Claire recited their vows to each other. Jamie surprised Claire when the Chaplain asked for the ring. Jamie glanced at Ian, who handed Jamie a simple, dainty silver ring. Jamie placed it on the Bible for the Chaplain to bless. Claire gave Jamie a questioning look, inquiring how he had a ring and Jamie simply smiled at her. There ceremony seemed to be coming to an end and just when Claire expected the Chaplain to say ‘You may now kiss your bride’, Major General MacKenzie stepped up and took a hold of Jamie’s wrist, placing a small cut horizontally. Claire gasped when he reached for her wrist.

“It’s ok, Sassenach. It’s a Highland tradition that we take a blood vow. Now place yer wrist on top of mine and repeat the words after me.”

Claire did as Jamie said and repeated his words:
Is tu fuil o’ mo chuislean, is tu cnaimh de mo chnaimh.
Is leatsa mo bhodhaig, chum gum bi sinn ‘n ar-n-aon.
Is least m’anam gus an criochmaich ar saoghal.”

After Jamie and Claire had spoken the Gaelic words, Claire fumbling a bit with the language. Jamie recited the same vow in English, for both Claire and the others in the room.
“You are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my bone.
I give you my body, that we two may be one.
I give you my spirit, ‘til our life shall be done.”

Jamie then looked at the Chaplain and gave him a slight nod.

“I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Fraser. You may now kiss your bride.”

Claire leaned down and pressed her lips to Jamie’s. While she could hear the other’s clapping and whistling, there was only one thing on Claire’s mind.

“Christ, Jamie! You’re burning up! Why didn’t you say anything?” Claire asked urgently.

Reaching for Claire’s hand, Jamie looked at her with glossy eyes, “I’m ok, mo nighean donn. I just wanted to enjoy the moment with ye.”

With tears in her eyes, Claire looked longingly at Jamie. “I love you, Jamie, so much. And I hate to say it, my love, but we need to get you to Germany.” Tears started to spill down her cheeks, but Claire knew she had to do her best to put on a brave face. “We need to get you well and home, Soldier.”

“I canna imagine goin’ a day without seein’ yer face.”

“I know my love. I feel the same way, but we can write and I promise to come see you. Before you know it, we’ll be back in each other’s arms and our lives can truly begin.” Claire was doing her best to reassure Jamie, as much as herself.

Jamie closed his eyes and nodded. He knew Claire was right, but the thought of having to leave his bride, after just promising to be by her side for the rest of their lives, seemed rather ironic. He squeezed her hand and pulled gently, bringing her down to whisper into her ear.

“I dinna want to leave ye, mo chridhe. No one’s hands can heal me like yer’s, but I ken ye dinna have the right equipment here. I trust ye with my life Claire, and if ye say I have to go, then I’ll go, but I’ll no’ like it.” Giving her that owl-eyed blink, he continued, but dropped his voice. “A piece of my heart will be missing, until I can hold ye in my arms again. I promise ye one thing, Sassenach. The first night I’m able to serve ye, as a husband should serve his wife, ye’ll not be disappointed.”

Blushing deeply, Claire whispered back, “I’ll hold you to that, Master Sergeant. Until then, know that I too will be missing a piece of my heart. I will sleep well, however, knowing that the hole in my heart will be filled by your missing piece, just as my missing piece will fill the hole in your heart.”

Major General MacKenzie came over and cleared his throat, not wanting to interrupt the newlyweds. When Jamie and Claire looked up at him, he simply said, “It’s time,” and then backed away to let the couple have their final, private moment.

Turning back towards each other, Claire and Jamie rested their foreheads against each other. Claire was alarmed at how quickly Jamie’s temperature was rising, but she tried to keep a calm, outward appearance.

Unable to bring herself to say goodbye, Claire asked, “Where did you get a ring Jamie? How could you possibly have pulled that off in just a few hours?”

Bringing her hand up to his mouth and kissing her ring, Jamie answered her. “It’s made out of one of my dog tags, Sassenach. It was one of the many things that Joe helped me with today. I feel better knowing that ye have such a good friend by yer side, if I canna be here.”

“I don’t want to say goodbye, Jamie,” Claire said, unable to contain her tears any longer.

“Neither do I, Sassenach. Just remember that I love ye with my whole heart.”

Claire nodded and bent over for one final kiss, before the nurses could lift Jamie’s gurney and carry him out to the Blackhawk. She walked next to him, refusing to let go of hand a second before she must. Once they got to the Blackhawk, Claire gave Jamie’s hand a final squeeze and watched as he was loaded and covered with blankets to protect his open wounds. Joe hopped on board and administered a dose of antibiotics, to start fighting the infection that was flowing through Jamie’s body.

As Ian was carried past Claire, he grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I promise I’ll watch over him, Claire.”

“Thank you, Ian.”

Ian was then loaded into the Blackhawk and Claire got one final look at Jamie. Without realizing what she was doing, Claire ran over, desperate to touch Jamie one last time. He took her hand and brought it to his fevered, chapped lips, and kissed it reverently.

“I love you, mo Sorcha.”

“I love you, Soldier.”

Joe then gently pulled Claire away to a safe distance and held her as the bird took off.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-22
US Army Blackhawk - somewhere over Iran
They had been flying for several hours and Jamie knew they still had quite a long way to go. He was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and was drifting in and out of sleep. Luckily, Joe had administered another dose of pain meds into the IV, before loading him into the chopper, and while that was helping with some of the pain coursing through his body. The pain in his body he could handle. Jamie was experiencing a hurt deep in his chest that he knew no amount of medicine could relieve. He had married the woman of his dreams and then left her. Left her in the middle of the desert, on an Army base, surrounded by some of the most dangerous people on the planet.

Yer such an eejit! How could ye just leave her?!” he mumbled to himself, increasing his irritability. Jamie’s arm was hanging off the cot and he balled up his fist, punching the floor of the Blackhawk. “I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to her.

Ian had been watching Jamie, when he wasn’t sleeping himself. He was deeply concerned about Jamie’s state of mind since the incident during the raid. Ian had known Jamie for almost 20 years and was quite familiar with how Jamie often processed things. Frankly, Ian was surprised that Jamie hadn’t had an outburst yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time until Jamie blamed himself for Ian losing his leg, or for having to leave Claire.

Mo charaid,” Ian called over to Jamie.

Jamie turned towards Ian. The pain and fury in Jamie’s eyes startled Ian. He thought he had seen Jamie at his lowest when Willie was killed in the training exercise, but the emotions on Jamie’s face now didn’t even compare. Ian quickly realized that when they arrived in Germany, he would need to let the doctors know that Jamie was going to need more than just treatment for his back.

“What?” Jamie growled back towards Ian. Deep down, Jamie knew it was wrong to take his emotions out on his best friend, his brother-in-law, but he couldn’t help it. He had been able to keep the rage at bay when Claire was around. He hadn’t wanted to scare her, but now Claire was miles away and he didn’t know when he would see her again. The guilt that Jamie felt for Ian losing his leg, compounded with the longing and pain in his heart for Claire, was almost too much to bear.

Knowing that Jamie couldn’t walk away in the middle of the conversation, Ian decided to dive right in.

“Ye ken none of this is yer fault, aye?”

Hrmph was all the response Ian got.

“I dinna hold ye responsible for me losing my leg. Jamie, I owe ye my life, mo bhràthair. I would’na even be in this chopper with ye, had ye no’ carried me out of that building.” Thankful that Jamie had maintained eye contact, he continued, “Every man on the team made it out Jamie, and that’s because ye refused to leave any of us behind.”

Jamie had been listening to what Ian was saying, but none of it mattered. So he had saved Ian’s life. Ian wouldn’t be able to run around and play soccer with his kids, once he and Jenny had them. Christ, Jenny! What would she think of how Jamie had handled the situation? Would she forgive him for condemning her husband to a life in a wheelchair? Sure, Ian said it wasn’t his fault, the wall had collapsed, but Jamie didn’t care. Deep down, he blamed himself for not being more forceful with the Dougal and asking him to stand down. The entire team knew their responsibilities, and then Dougal had come in and all the careful planning and training was thrown out the window.

“Any of the men would have done the same,” Jamie replied. “I’m no’ a hero. We would’na even be in this position if Dougal had’na insisted on coming in with us. Fuck, Ian! None of this went according to plan! And as the team leader, I stood by and let it happen. What does that say about me?” By now, Jamie’s face was flushed with both fever and anger.

“What does that say about ye? It says that ye followed orders. Uncle or no, Dougal’s yer superior. Ye could’na make him stay. He had it in his mind to do as he pleased, damn the consequences or who would pay for them.” Jamie looked away from Ian not wanting to hear anymore. He would rather wallow in his own pity, then have someone justify his actions.

“Look at me, Jamie.” Ian said harshly.

Being unfamiliar with that tone of Ian’s, Jamie slowly turned his head back towards his brother-in-law.

“I’ll no’ sit by and watch ye self-destruct. It damn near broke Jenny when ye spiraled after Willie died. When word gets to her, along with yer Da and Mam, about our injuries, they’ll no’ care how it happened or why it happened. All they’ll care is that we’re ok. And we are ok, Jamie. It’s going to take time for us to heal, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but that canna happen if you are’na willing to work fer it.”

Ian let that sink in for a minute, but continued before Jamie had a chance to respond or look away again.

“I gave my word, to that beautiful wife of yer’s, that I would push ye. I ken how yer mind works Jamie, and I ken that dark abyss that you are standing on the edge of. Dinna make me break my promise to Claire. Dinna make me be the one to write her and tell her that ye’ve given up, bhràthair. She needs ye, as much as ye need her.”

At the mention of Claire’s name, Ian saw what he had been looking for. If it were anyone else he may not have caught it, the brief glimpse of the compassionate man that he knew Jamie to be. As quickly as it came, the look disappeared, only to be replaced by anger and pain again.

“Exactly. She needs me and where am I? By her side...no! I’ve left my wife because I was no’ strong enough to stand up to my uncle,” and with that, Jamie turned his head the other way.

He’s further gone than I thought’ Ian said to himself. Closing his eyes and focusing on the hum of the rotors, Ian said a quick prayer for Jenny and one for Jamie. This was the first time Ian had ever been truly worried about his brother-in-law and his capabilities of coming back from the edge.

 

US Army Base - undisclosed location in the Middle East
Claire had collapsed into Joe’s arms and he brought her to the ground carefully, where he simply held her. The stress of the last 48 hours had caught up to her and she just didn’t have the strength to fight it anymore.

“When will I see him again, Joe?!” she cried out in between sobs. “How will they know what he needs? I can tell simply by looking at his face. They won’t know how to help him!”

“Claire,” Joe said soothingly, as he stroked her back. “The doctors at Landsthul are good doctors. They will be able to help heal him, even if they cannot interpret all of his Scottish grunts.”

Joe’s small attempt at lightening the mood, proved to be beneficial, as Claire’s lips curl up slightly.

“You know, I teased him about those grunts. I told him that I would need a full tutorial on all of them and what exactly they all meant.” Claire bit her lower lip. “Realistically, Joe, how soon do you think until I can see him?”

“Honestly, LJ...I’m not sure.” Claire’s lips started trembling again. “But, I do have some good news! When I was putting the transfers together, I reached out to LRMC. I wanted to speak with someone over there about Jamie’s condition.”

“Ok, and…” Claire prompted.

“You will never guess who I ended up speaking with! Dr. Hildegarde!”

Claire pulled away and looked at Joe with hope in her eyes. “Dr. Hildegarde?! From UNC? What is she doing at LRMC?”

“I didn’t exactly have time to exchange pleasantries, LJ, but I did let her know that we were both here and that your husband was on his way.” Joe paused to look at Claire and judge her reaction. She had blushed at the mention of ‘your husband’. “I’m not going to sugar-coat this, Claire. I told her that his condition was critical and he was going to need several surgeries.”

Claire nodded solemnly. “I know, Joe. I know it’s bad and I’m more concerned that he was running a fever when he left. Infection is starting to set in and I’m not sure if his body is strong enough to fight it.”

“I made sure to start antibiotics in his IV, Claire. As long as he was under my care, I was going to make damn sure that I did everything to help him. You know Dr. Hildegarde will do the same. Jamie and Ian won’t land at Landstuhl until around 7 AM. She is expecting your call. I made sure that General MacKenzie sent word of your marriage, so that you would be privy to Jamie’s medical treatment and the doctor’s could discuss them with you.”

Throwing her arms around his neck, Claire buried her face in Joe’s shoulder. “Thank you, Joe!” she whispered. “Thank you for everything you have done for Jamie and for helping make today a day I will never forget.”

“I would do anything for you, LJ. You’re my best friend and just because you’re married now,” he pulled back to wink at her, “doesn’t mean that I will stop looking out for you.”

“I’m crying for all new reasons now, Joe!” Claire kissed Joe on the cheek. “Alright. I need to change out of my uniform and back into some scrubs. They are way more conducive to this environment. Then, I’m heading over to Geordie, to have him connect me to Dr. Hildegarde.”

Both of them stood up, brushing off the sand, and wrapped their arms around each other one more time. Joe quickly noticed how some of the stress seemed to have left Claire’s body. He was delighted that he could give her some reassurance, even if it was only knowing who Jamie’s doctor would be. He knew any peace of mind he could give would help. Claire at least knew that she had a direct source to get information on Jamie’s condition and how he was doing. She could also check in on Ian as well!

Claire pulled back and gave Joe’s hand a squeeze, turned and headed to her barracks. She quickly changed into her daily scrubs and then sat down to write a quick letter to Jamie. If she was going to be headed over to the Comms Tent, she figured she could drop off a letter as well! She just wanted Jamie to know that she was thinking about him and was behind him throughout this whole process. She pulled out a piece of paper:

My dearest Jamie,
I miss you, my love! I hope you weren’t too uncomfortable on that long flight. It won’t be long until you will start to feel better. I have wonderful news! The doctor overseeing your care in Landstuhl was one of my professors at UNC! She is a wonderfully talented doctor, Jamie! I feel so much better knowing that you will be in Dr. Hildegarde’s hands.

Your uncle, Major General MacKenie (I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to call him Dougal), already reached out to Dr. Hildegarde to tell her that we are married, so she will be able to share your progress with me! I

think about you every minute, Jamie, but I feel much better knowing that you are in good hands. As soon as I can, I will come see you. You have been through so much, my love, and the strength that you have exhibited through all of this, makes me so proud of the man that you are.

Until we can be in each other’s arms again, know that I will meet you in my dreams.

Your Loving Wife (God, I love saying that!),
Claire
.

She folded up the letter, and placed it in her pocket. She would make sure that it went out with the next batch of mail. While she was missing Jamie terribly, for the first time since he had left for the mission, Claire felt a bit better knowing Jamie was going to be in good, healing hands.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-23

US Army Base - undisclosed location in the Middle East
Claire made her way over to the Comms Tent, where Geordie appeared to be waiting for her. He stood as she walked through the door and quickly offered his congratulations.

“Congratulations, Dr. Beauchamp, errr Dr. Fraser?” Geordie exclaimed tentatively.

“Thank you, Geordie, that’s very sweet of you to say. And thank you for my ‘bouquet’! The Forget-Me-Nots were stunning. I had no idea you were so gifted in the art of origami.”

Geordie blushed. “I was happy to help, ma’am, especially if it makes Nurse Duncan happy.”

“Ahhh, I see how it is,” Claire teased. “Oh, and for simplicity, let’s keep it as Dr. Beauchamp for now. I certainly won’t be upset if someone calls me Dr. Fraser, but until we can actually file for a marriage license, the Army knows me as Dr. Beauchamp.”

“That makes sense,” Geordie agreed. “Now, I’m guessing you came over to see me to reach out to LRMC.”

Claire grinned, and could feel her heart lighten just a bit more. Everyone on base seemed excited for her and Master Sergeant Fraser, and willing to help the couple in any way possible. The only person she wasn’t getting that warm, fuzzy feeling from was Major General MacKenzie, but was a Major General ever the type to outwardly show their feelings? Her stomach still clenched every time she thought about Dougal getting the transfer papers processed as quickly as he did. It was as if he couldn’t wait to get Jamie and Ian off the base. Claire hadn’t seen a strong bond between Jamie and his uncle, but it wasn’t common knowledge that they were family either. Both men were very careful to keep their relationship as professional as possible. If Claire didn’t know any better, she would have thought that Jamie didn’t care for his uncle all that much.

Not important right now, Beauchamp. Let’s focus on getting in touch with LRMC.’

“Yes, Geordie. Could you please connect me to Dr. Hildegarde over at LRMC? I know Jamie and Ian are still several hours out, but I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with her before they arrive.”

“Of course, ma’am. Just give me a few minutes to get a clear channel.”

Claire waited patiently as Geordie went through standard protocol to connect her over to Landstuhl. Claire could feel the butterflies in her stomach...excited to touch base with an old professor and nervous to hear about the next steps for Jamie.

“Good evening, Dr. Hildegarde,” she heard Geordie say. “I have you on a secure channel and will be passing you off to Dr. Beauchamp. Once you two have finished your conversation, I will ensure the line has been disconnected. Dr. Beauchamp?”

Geordie motioned for her to come over to the computer and Claire couldn’t help the smile that broke out on her face at the sight of her former professor.

“Dr. Hildegarde! It’s so wonderful to see you! You look well!”

“Claire, mon chéri, it’s been quite a few years. I always knew you were destined for great things, but to see you using your passion to serve your country, est juste magnifique!”

“Thank you, Dr. Hildegarde. You were such an inspiration to me, throughout med school, and now to hear your words of praise, simply means the world to me. When I heard that you would be overseeing Jamie and Ian’s, oops, I mean Master Sergeant Fraser and Captain Murray's care, I was so relieved.”

“Ahh, oui, I understand que les félicitations s'imposent! I cannot wait to meet Master Sergeant Fraser, or should I say ton amri?”

Still getting used to hearing ‘your husband’, Claire blushed as Dr. Hildegarde looked at her with loving eyes. “Merci beaucoup, Dr. Hildegarde. He’s a wonderful man and I wish you were meeting him under different circumstances. I’m really worried about him.”

Dr. Hildegarde could hear the fear in Claire’s voice and it broke her heart. Without assessing the master sergeant herself there wasn’t much she could offer Claire, in terms of reassurance. Instead, she offered her a warm smile and words of encouragement.

“Your husband sounds like a fighter, mon chéri, and he is not going to want to be away from his beautiful bride for long. The little bit of information that I received from Dr. Abernathy was that Master Sergeant Fraser was always at his best when sa fiancée was nearby.” Dr. Hildegarde gave Claire a wink. “My suggestion, see if you can get some R&R in a few weeks. Based on the charts that were sent over, Jamie is going to need surgery, and soon. The skin grafts are going to be painful and I have seen the strongest men brought to their knees.”

Claire swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and nodded. Dr. Hildegarde continued.

“I will assume your husband thinks he is larger than life, non?”

Claire chuckled a bit at that. “Jamie excels in everything he does. He puts his whole heart into the simplest tasks.”

“He will need your support to approach this obstacle with the same enthusiasm, Claire. In my experience, it’s not the physical pain that the soldiers struggle with, it’s the emotional pain that will take its toll. As soon as he arrives and we are able to assess him, he will start meeting with a therapist to debrief what happened during the raid. I was not given specifics, were you?”

“No, ma’am. I was so focused on tending to Captain Murray’s amputation and just being there for Jamie, we never discussed it. I don’t have the security clearance that he does, so wife or not, I’m not privy to a lot of that information.”

“That is true. I will do my best to heal him physically, but he is going to need you to help him heal emotionally. See what you can do about that R&R, Claire.”

“I will, Dr. Hildegarde. In the meantime, I’m sending a letter to Jamie. I have put in care of you, to ensure that it will get to him as quickly as possible. Oh, and one other thing. Captain Murray, Ian, is Jamie’s brother-in-law. If at all possible, I would try to keep them in the same room. If I can’t be there with Jamie, there isn’t a person in the whole world that I trust more than Ian. Plus, Ian has an uncanny ability to read Jamie. He often knows what he’s thinking, without Jamie even vocalizing it.”

“Good to know, Claire. I will keep that in mind. Now, please try and take care of yourself. You are still in an active war zone.”

“Yes ma’am, I will,” Claire replied. “And Dr. Hildegarde, I cannot thank you enough.”

“My pleasure, mon chéri. We’ll be in touch soon. Take care.”

With a single-click, Dr. Hildegarde was gone. Claire sat back and took a deep, shaky breath. She knew the obstacles that lay in front of Jamie, but she had been so focused on the physical challenges, Claire hadn’t given any thought to the emotional toll that all of this would take on Jamie.

Claire closed her eyes and sent a silent message to Jamie. ‘Oh, my love. We are going to get through this and I promise to be by your side, every step of the way.’

Claire took the letter out of her pocket and handed it over to Geordie. “Can you see that this is sent over to Landstuhl as soon as possible, Geordie?”

“Aye, Dr. Beauchamp. And for what it’s worth, I’ve added Master Sergeant to my prayers at night.”

Tears filling her eyes, Claire smiled at Geordie and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, I know that would mean a lot to Jamie. We have a long road ahead of us, and we just have to take it one day at a time.

 

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - Germany
It had been a grueling trip and Jamie was glad to be out of the Blackhawk. If he never rode in another helicopter for the rest of his life, he would be a happy man.

Jamie had not known what to expect when he arrived at Landstuhl. He had been in a war zone the past two years, surrounded by desert, so to see trees and grass out the window, felt surreal. After exiting the elevator that had brought him down from the helipad, he was wheeled through a hallway. Coming off of his current round of pain meds, Jamie’s senses seemed to be on high alert. The hum and feel of air conditioning, the brightness of the overhead lights, and the sanitizing smell that can only be associated with a hospital overwhelmed him. For the hundredth time since he had left Afghanistan, Jamie wished he was still on desert soil.

Jamie had spent the entire flight in mostly drug and fever-induced dreams that seemed to mix reality and fantasy. Claire would be there, trying to tend to him, but he couldn’t feel her touch. He would reach for her, only for his hand to fall through her apparition. Jamie’s mind was playing cruel tricks on him, but when he fought to stay awake, he was met with Ian’s eyes on him and Jamie didn’t have the strength to continue their argument.

Where is Ian now?’ Jamie wondered. He didn’t remember being with Ian in the elevator. Perhaps they had been taken to separate parts of the facility. Jamie’s injuries were now more severe than Ian’s and would require surgery. While Ian’s injury would likely take longer to adapt to, the initial amputation had been taken care of on the base. Transferring Ian to Landstuhl was important in terms of wound care and physical therapy. Jamie’s transfer was to ensure that he would survive.

The noise level around Jamie had increased and he was now very much aware of the bustling around the room he had been brought to. Not being able to raise his head up and look around, Jamie was forced to focus on the voices that were barking orders and tried pairing them to the shoes he could see. He noticed one pair of bright pink Brooks running shoes. They seemed to stay up by his head for the most part and this was where he heard a matronly, French accent that seemed to be directing everyone else.

Oui, he’s O negative, so let’s have some standing by. Laogherie, I want vitals: pulse ox, heart rate, and ask the flight nurse when his last dose of pain meds was. Marsali, he’s already got an IV started, so please get some saline going and be on standby with some morphine. I would like to speak with him first.”

Jamie heard wheels moving across the tile floor and the bright pink shoes settled right under his face.

“Master Sergeant Fraser?” inquired the French accent.

Jamie slowly turned his head to the left and his eyes fought to focus on the face in front of him. After blinking a few times, Jamie was able to see the older woman in front of him, looking at him patiently.

“Ma’am?” Jamie was able to squeak out, his voice weak from not being used.

“Ah, there we are monsieur. My name is Dr. Hildegarde, but you will hear a lot of the patients refer to me as Mother Hildegarde. I am ok with either title. Do you know where you are?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m in Germany. Where’s Ian?”

“Master Sergeant Fraser, we have taken Captain Murray to the orthopedic wing. He will be there for a day or two and then moved to the physical therapy floor. My hope is that you will be joining him in physical therapy in about a week.” Dr. Hildegarde waited for some kind of response from the Master Sergeant, and when she didn’t get one, she continued. “You are aware of the seriousness of your injuries, non? Do you have any questions?”

“No ma’am.” Jamie shook his head as best he could, but still did not engage further.

Concerned that Jamie would disconnect completely, Dr. Hildegarde decided it was time to push a little harder. “Master Sergeant Fraser -”

“Ye can call me Jamie, if ye like. Less formal”

Merci, Jamie. Do you have a family? Anyone that I could reach out to and let them know how you are doing?”

Jamie inhaled sharply and Dr. Hildegarde caught a brief glimmer in his eyes.

“Aye, ma’am. My family is back in the States, but my...my wife,” Jamie swallowed and tears came to his eyes.

“Go on, mon chéri,” Dr. Hildegarde encouraged.

“My wife is a doctor.” Jamie smiled. “Her name is Claire.”

Despite the pain he must have been in, Dr. Hildegarde could not deny the love and pride Jamie's voice conveyed when he spoke of his wife. He spoke her name almost reverently, his own special prayer encompassed in one word. Hearing Jamie speak of Claire so, sealed her decision. It was time for her to share with Jamie her connection to Claire.

“I know, Jamie, and if may, félicitations à vous! Claire shared that you were married yesterday.” Dr. Hildegarde smiled and let her statement sink in.

“Ye spoke with Claire?” Jamie asked, immediately intrigued.

Oui! Claire was one of my med students at UNC and when Dr. Abernathy reached out to let me know of your transfer, we made the connection.”

“Ye ken, Joe as well?” Jamie asked incredulously.

Dr. Hildegarde smiled, relieved to see some life back in Jamie’s eyes. “I do. Both Dr. Abernathy and Dr. Beauch-, pardon, Dr. Fraser, were excellent students. I trust that they took excellent care of you, back at the base. I also know how hard it was for Claire to send you here, and not be able to treat you herself.”

Jamie didn’t have the strength left to hold back his tears, unsure if they were tears of joy or relief, he let them fall from his eyes. Dr. Hildegarde took a tissue and wiped the tears from Jamie’s face.

“She loves you beaucoup, Jamie. You have her very worried. I promised Claire that I would look after you and personally oversee your surgeries. But Jamie,” Dr. Hildegarde paused for emphasis, “I can heal you physically. You must work hard to heal mentally and emotionally, non? Are you ready to do that?”

Jamie closed his eyes. He would do anything for Claire and it broke his heart to hear that she had told Dr. Hildegarde how concerned she was for his well-being. But he was just so damn tired. Did he have it in him to fight through the physical pain and battle the demons that had begun to creep into his head? Jamie opened his eyes and looked at Dr. Hildegarde.

“I would do anything for Claire. It pains me to ken that I have caused her this much pain. I canna promise that I’ll be the man she fell in love with, Dr. Hildegarde, I dinna even ken where he is right now. I’m no’ sure how to start healin’, but I ken I canna do it alone.”

“Jamie, you just did. Acknowledging that you need help, is when the healing process can begin.”

Dr. Hildegarde reached down and squeezed Jamie’s hand.

“And, since you were brave enough to take the first step, mon chéri, your healing begins now.  I was able to push back your debriefing a day or two.  I convinced them that we need to address the physical wounds first. so with that said, I’m ready to prep you for your first surgery. Today’s goal is to fully clean and debride your back. The whole process should take about three hours and then you will be moved to recovery for some much needed rest.  Once I am done, are you ok with me calling Claire to update her?”

Jamie nodded and then closed his eyes. He heard the wheels of the stool Dr. Hildegarde had been sitting on, roll across the floor. Before she could release his hand, Jamie squeezed and spoke again.

“Mother Hildegarde?”

Oui, Jamie?” she smiled at his use of her nickname.

“Please tell Claire that I love her and am ready to fight.”

Chapter Text

CH-24

US Army Base - undisclosed location in the Middle East
Claire had thrown herself into her work. She found that as long as she had a task in front of her, she wasn’t fretting about Jamie constantly. Of course he was in her thoughts, but as long as she had a task to focus on, Claire didn’t have time for all the “What ifs…”.

Currently, Claire was going through the weekly inventory and cataloging what supplies would need to be requested before the end of the month. She had been working in companionable silence, alongside Joe, when Geillis rushed in.

“Claire!” she panted, out of breath.

Claire had turned to look at her friend, slightly taken aback by her sudden appearance. “What is it, G?”

“Geordie sent me. He has Dr. Hildegarde on a secure channel for ye.”

The color drained from Claire’s face and she dropped her clipboard; every "what if" rushing back at lightspeed to the front of her brain. Joe rushed over to put his arm around her, to keep her from collapsing to the floor. “Deep breath, LJ. In. Out. In, hold it...two, three. Out, two three. One more time. That’s my girl. Jamie had surgery this morning, right? I’m sure she’s just calling to fill you in.”

“Yes, yes of course, Joe. I'm sure you are right, I’m ok.” Claire said, in the most reassuring voice she could muster. She had been waiting to hear how Jamie’s first surgery had gone. It would be the first in a series of several and her mind was ready to hear the medical side of it, but her heart broke a little, knowing it wouldn’t be her face he saw when he came to.

“Come on, hen. I’ll walk over wit’ ye to the Comms Tent. Geordie and I will be just outside if ye need us.” Geillis said, wrapping her arm around Claire’s shoulders.

“And I’ll wrap up the inventory, so we can grab a bite to eat when you’re done. I’ll save the two of you a seat in the Mess Hall.”

“I don’t think either of you know how much your support means to me. I truly could not do this without you both. I’m not sure how I will ever be able to thank you.”

Och!” Geillis scoffed. “Naming yer first wee foxcub after their Auntie Geillie would be a nice touch. What do ye think, Joe?”

“I’ll settle for being a godfather.”

Claire simply looked between her two best friends and shook her head, smiling. “You two are incorrigible. Before I can start making those kinds of promises, I would just like to see how my husband’s surgery went.”

My husband, Claire thought to herself, as she walked out of the Medical Supply Tent, towards the Comms Tent. She would never get tired of that phrase and the image that came to mind when she said it. She had seen Jamie at his best, right after they had made love the first time, and at his worst...coming off the Blackhawk that horrible night not long ago. The tenderness and nervousness in his eyes, as he had looked at her, eager to learn how to please her, would stay with her forever. Not much longer, my love, and I will be by your side. Claire was just waiting to see how the first surgery went and when Dr. Hildegarde was planning the next one, before she requested a short leave.

Geordie smiled at her and squeezed her arm as Claire entered the Comms Tent. “I’ve got ye all set up over there,” he said pointing at the computer. “I’ve got a headset there, so yer conversation can be private.”

“Thank you, Geordie. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.” Claire replied, as she put her hand over Geordie’s.

“Remember, hen, Geordie and I will be just outside if ye need anything.” Geillis reassured her.

Claire smiled at her friend and nodded, before sitting in front of the computer and putting on the headset. Geordie clicked a few buttons and the next thing Claire knew, she was looking at Dr. Hildegarde.  Claire did her best to put on a brave face, but she wasn’t fooling Dr. Hildegarde.

“Claire, mon chéri, comment allez-vous?” Dr. Hildegarde inquired.

Je vais bien, Mother Hildegarde. How is my husband?” Claire had reverted to using the matronly doctor’s nickname they had given her in college. She had idolized this woman, since she stepped into the lecture hall years ago, on the UNC campus. Claire respected her, but more importantly, she trusted Dr. Hildegarde. She knew Jamie was in excellent hands, but that didn’t alleviate her brain from fearing the worst.

“He did very well, Claire! We still have quite a ways to go, but I was very pleased with how the first surgery went.”

Claire let out the breath she had been holding and placed both hands on her chest. Dr. Hildegarde could see some of the stress melt from Claire and so she continued.

“You knew infection had set in, non?” she inquired.

“Yes, Mother Hildegarde. He actually spiked a fever towards the end of the wedding ceremony. We made sure to start IV antibiotics before settling him in the medical chopper.”

C'était bien penser, Claire. It may very well be the reason that the infection did not enter his bloodstream.”

Claire hadn’t allowed herself to think that was a possibility, but knowing that her quick thinking had prevented it, made her feel so much better.

“So what are the next steps, Mother Hildegarde? Is he awake? How is his pain level?”

“Jamie is out of recovery, but we are keeping him sedated for now. Due to the sedation and the pain meds administered during surgery, I would say he is not in any pain at the moment. It’s important that we keep Jamie as still as possible. I was able to debride the wounds and we will start the skin graphing at the next surgery. I will not lie, mon chéri, the wounds on his back are quite extensive. For that reason, I am going to break it into two surgeries.”

Claire nodded. She had hoped the wounds were not as bad as she had originally thought, but that wasn’t the case.

Dr. Hildegarde continued, “I will be taking the grafts from the skin on his upper legs. Your husband est un géant, non?" Claire smiled.

“He certainly is not a small man. Luckily you will only need to graft from his legs.”

It was Dr. Hildegarde’s turn to nod in agreement. “Oui. I will do the first surgery in two days. We will see how it goes and if the grafts take. Assuming all goes well, we can do the second surgery about a week after the first.”

For the first time since this whole ordeal started, Claire felt hopeful. It had been a while since she had received good news, so she clung to Dr. Hildegarde’s words as if they were a life line.

“Claire, I will be in touch after the next surgery, but I am thinking you should request your R&R for two weeks from now. That would put you here after Jamie’s second surgery and that is when the real work will begin. The physical therapy will be grueling and painful. Seeing you would be a big boost to Jamie’s morale.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Mother Hildegarde. I will speak with my superiors and let you know when you contact me after Jamie’s next surgery.”

Merveilleuse! I will speak to you in a couple of days, mon chéri. Oh, and Claire?”

“Yes, Mother Hildegarde?”

“I have a message for you from your husband. He said the next time I spoke to you, I was to let you know that he, and I quote, ‘Please tell Claire I love her and am ready to fight.’ "

Claire was unable to contain the tears that had formed in her eyes and they quietly cascaded down her cheeks. “Thank you for telling me, Mother Hildegarde. Not to make you our personal messenger, but when he is awake, please tell him I love him too and have never been happier than to hear that he’s ready to fight.”

“Of course, Claire. I’ll be in touch. Stay safe.”

Claire nodded and then Dr. Hildegarde had disconnected.

Taking a moment to center herself, Claire sent up a silent prayer thanking God for allowing the first surgery to go well, but most importantly, for giving Jamie the courage to fight the battle that lay ahead. She took a deep breath, stood, and with a lighter step than she had had in days, Claire made her way over to the Mess Hall with Geillis, to update both her and Joe.

 

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - Germany
After disconnecting with Claire, Dr. Hildegarde went back over Jamie’s file, making sure everything was in order. As she was reviewing the file, there was a knock on her office door.

Oui, entrer.”

Ned Gowan entered and gave Dr. Hildegarde a warm smile. “It’s good to see you, Dr. Hildegarde. How are things?”

Très bien, Lieutenant Colonel Gowan. What can I do for you?”

“I understand that you have Master Sergeant James Fraser here. How’s he doing?”

“He’s doing well, considering what he’s been through, but you do know that I cannot go into detail with you.”

“I know, but thought I would check-in. I will need to speak with the Master Sergeant when he’s coherent enough. I need to clarify a few things, from the mission.”

“Understood, Lt. Colonel, but please know that my priority is the Master Sergeant’s health and well-being. Under no circumstances, can I have him under unnecessary stress.”

Lt. Colonel Gowan nodded. “I wouldn’t want that either, doctor. A few things have come across my desk, in regards to the mission that the Master Sergeant was involved in, and they are going to need my attention. Do you have any timeline on when I may be able to speak with him or Captain Murray?”

“Captain Murray has been moved to the Physical Therapy wing. He will be measured for his prosthesis tomorrow and start some light exercises. We reduced his pain meds yesterday, so it might be good to speak with him today, non? As for Master Sergeant Fraser, he has at least two more surgeries in the coming weeks and will be in and out of it, based on the medication he will be on. I would say do not plan on speaking with him for at least two weeks.”

The Lt. Colonel frowned. “I will certainly go see Captain Murray today, but I am not sure we can wait that long to speak with Master Sergeant Fraser. I will let my superiors know what your recommendations are, but if it comes from higher up, I am not sure I will be able to delay them much.”

“You can always direct them to me, Lt. Colonel. My patient’s well-being is my responsibility and I will not have Master Sergeant Fraser interrogated if he is not medically fit to do so. I would think, for his information to be considered reliable and pertinent, he would need to be lucid, non?”

“Agreed. Thank you for your time, Dr. Hildegarde. I will be in touch.” Ned Gowan smiled and took his leave from Dr. Hildegarde’s office.

Je serai damné s'ils prévoient de mener un interrogatoire sous ma montre, thought Dr. Hildegarde. She stood up from her desk and made her way down the hall to Jamie’s room. Based on when the last round of meds had been administered, Jamie should be coming too and she could relay Claire’s message before he was out again.

Rounding the corner, she caught Nurse MacKenzie as she was heading into Jamie’s room.

“Ah, Laogherie. I’m glad that I caught you. Please do not administer the Master Sergeant’s meds just yet. If he’s awake, I need to speak with him briefly.”

“Aye, Dr. Hildegarde. I was’na planning to give him his meds just yet.”

Dr. Hildegarde thought Laogherie seemed a bit nervous. “Is there something wrong, mon chéri?”

“No, ma’am. Why do ye ask?”

“I just wondered why you were going into the Master Sergeant’s room with the sponge and basin of warm water.” It was rare that a female nurse would be directed to give a male patient a sponge bath without orders or another nurse in the room.

Laogherie’s face turned red. “Och! I was walkin’ in to the wrong room. I’m not sure where my heid is t’day. Tis not B-wing.” After that declaration, Laogherie quickly turned around and headed for B-Wing.

I’ll have to keep an eye on that fille, Dr. Hildegarde thought. She walked into Jamie’s room, just as he started to shift his legs a bit. Hurrying over and grabbing stool, Dr. Hildegarde sat down next to Jamie’s head.

Jamie was vaguely aware that someone had entered the room and as his eyes fluttered open, he saw the bright pink Brooks running shoes. “Mother Hildegarde?” Jamie croaked out. His throat was sore from the intubation tube and he desperately needed a drink of water.

Oui, Jamie, I’m here. Let me get you a petite drink of water.”

“Wee.” Jamie croaked.

Pardon?” Dr. Hildegarde inquired.

“We dinna say petite, in Scotland. We say wee. May I have a wee sip of water?”

“Well, someone is doing a bit better, non?” Dr. Hildegarde said with a smile. She reached the cup with a straw, down below the bed for Jamie to sip.

Merci.”

“I spoke with Claire today.” Dr. Hildegarde said nonchalantly.

“Aye?” Jamie answered with a bit more enthusiasm.

“I let her know how the surgery went and the plan moving forwards. You will have two more for the skin grafts. Assuming those go well, we should be able to move you on to Physical Therapy in about two weeks.”

Jamie nodded, but didn’t say anything, so Dr. Hildegarde continued.

“I will be honest, Jamie. These next two surgeries will be painful. Claire asked me to tell you, and I quote, ‘Please tell him I love him too and have never been happier than to hear that he’s ready to fight.’”

Dr. Hildegarde couldn’t see Jamie’s face, but she did notice a couple of drops on her shoes, which she knew to be tears. She placed her hands on Jamie’s forearms and whispered, “Vous avez une colline à gravir. Pouvez-vous faire cela?”

In a whisper, almost too faint for Dr. Hildegarde to hear, Jamie responded, “Je suis prêt.”

Chapter Text

CH-25

5 April 2011
22:30 EST

My Darling Ian,
How are ye, my love? I was thrilled to FaceTime with ye yesterday. I ken that ye told me ye were doin’ well, but it made my heart full to see yer smiling face. I’m so proud of ye, Ian! Ye have served our country and I’ll no’ lie, I’m happy ye will be medically discharged. I need my husband home.

How’s Jamie? Did he have his second surgery yet? Mam and Da are beside themselves without being able to see him yet. They are grateful for the information ye have shared, but it’s no’ the same as seeing him with their own eyes.

Attached are the pictures of the two homes that I went to see. Both are close to Da and Mam’s farm, so please look over them and let me ken which ye want me to put an offer in on. Properties close by are selling fast and I want to be sure ye have a home to come back to. Let me know your thoughts, love!

Hope to hear from you soon!
Forever Yours,
Jenny


House1 4 bed, 3.5 bath, 2.95 acres House2 8 bed, 5 bath

 


6 April 2011

10:45 CET

My Dearest Jenny,
To be able to see yer face the other day, after so many months, brought me more joy than ye’ll ever ken. In my mind, yer beautiful, but I had forgotten how rich the color of your eyes is and the silky shine of yer chestnut hair. God, the things I plan to do to ye the first night I’m home...I can hear ye now, ‘Ian William Murray! How dare ye say things over government email!’ Janet, yer my wife and I will no’ deny how excited I am to hold ye in my arms.

Now, to kill the mood entirely, I’ll update ye on yer brother. Jamie’s doing well! I was able to see him a bit yesterday and today is the first skin graft surgery. Ye ken that they are breaking it into two surgeries due to the extensive damage on his back. He was a bit out of it, thanks to the pain meds, but he spoke with me and told me to tell ye hello. He also asked that ye tell yer Mam and Da that he’s doing well and dinna fash over him. I ken that’s easier said than done, mo chridhe but do tell them to try.

I hate that I canna be there to look at houses with ye! I agree, though, it will be much easier if ye have the house before I get home. I’m worrit the 8 bedroom house does’na say how big the property is. The other house is smaller, but it has good acreage and it’s appealin’ that it’s primarily one floor. I’m no' an auld man, Janet, but steps will’na be easy for me...at least for awhile.

I trust ye, mo chridhe. The house is just a building...our love and the bairns we will have are goin’ to make it a home. Hopefully we’ll chat again next week.

All My Love,
Ian

 


6 April 2011

12:45 CET

Dear Claire,
How are you, mon cheri? I wasn’t sure when I would be available to call, so I thought I would send you a quick email. I just finished Jamie’s first skin graft surgery today and it went beautifully!

We will know more in the next couple of days, but I am confident that Jamie will come through this. He is a strong man Claire, and I can see the fight in him. There is a sadness in his eyes, though. He misses you, mon cheri, and needs you by his side. I would say it is time for that R&R. As soon as you can come, please do. You may even be able to assist on his next surgery, non? I will leave that up to you.

When you know your plans, please inform me and I will ensure I send someone to pick you up. I will speak to you soon!

Sincerely,
Mother Hildegarde

 


6 April 2011

14:15 CET

Dearest Mother Hildegarde,
Thank you so much for letting me know about Jamie’s surgery! I have been anxiously awaiting to hear from you, but I know how busy you are. You have no idea how grateful I am that you took the time to send an email. I know how busy you are, but just knowing that you are Jamie’s primary doctor has put so many of my worries to rest.

I spoke to Major General MacKenzie, he was happy to let me have some time! I believe his exact words were, ‘Anything to keep my nephew and new niece happy!’ Honestly, I was shocked that I didn’t have to push more, but I’m certainly not complaining! I will be leaving here in two days, and arriving in Landstuhl on the 9th of April at 10 CET.

I have been emailing Jamie every couple of days. I'm not sure if he has seen them. I remember you mentioning that he was going to be sedated most of the time between the debriding and the first surgery. If he has longer periods of lucidity now, I would love for him to have access to a laptop! Maybe we could even FaceTime! Of course, I will default to you, since you are there and know better than I, what he needs right now.

I’m trying to be strong, Mother Hildegarde, but it’s hard for me when I am a doctor AND his wife. I should be the one who knows what he needs and when he needs it, but I digress. I need to focus on seeing him in a few short days. Please do not share with Jamie that I am coming...I would like for it to be a surprise!

Thank you, again, Mother Hildegarde! I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for Jamie and me.

With Love,
Claire

 


6 April 2011

14:35 AFT

My dearest husband,
I heard from Mother Hildegarde today! She said that your first surgery went very well! I’m so proud of you, darling! Before you know it, you’ll be up and walking around the halls of the hospital! Perhaps we could FaceTime when you are feeling up to it. I miss those stunning blue eyes. <3

I’m so proud of you Jamie, and I miss you so dearly. I’m trying to stay strong, but I often find myself in moments of weakness and worry, where a few tears will fall from my eyes with no warning. I promise, my love, I’m doing my best. Simply knowing that you are in Mother Hildegarde’s care has been a huge relief.

I long for the day when I can wrap you in my arms and kiss you thoroughly. Until then, my darling. Know that while we may not be able to see each other for a while longer, I will meet you in my dreams.

Your Loving Wife,
Claire

 


7 April 2011

11:50 AFT

Lt. Colonel Gowan,
I hope this letter finds you well. Things have settled down over here, but we are always on alert and prepared for an attack. We have been lucky that there have been no ramifications from our raid last week. Perhaps with the removal of their leader, the group has begun to fall apart.

Have you had time to speak with my nephew, Jamie? I understand the lad has been heavily sedated while awaiting his first surgery. I dinna want him to be pushed too soon. I’m no’ sure how much weight his statement would hold, given the amount of pain mediation he is on. I can always close out my report without his statement and send it along to Washington. Let me know if that would be agreeable.

Sincerely,
Major General Dougal MacKenzie

 


7 April 2011

13:10 CET

Major General,
I am pleased to hear that all is well on the base. You run a tight ship and are confident in your ability to keep your troops safe.

I still have not been able to speak with Master Sergeant Fraser, but I was able to debrief Captain Murray. He walked me through the events of that night, as best as he could remember. There are some parts he has no recollection of, but that was primarily after you and Master Sergeant Fraser pulled him out from under the wall that collapsed.

I should be able to speak with Master Sergeant Fraser in a few days, but from what I can see so far, there is no evidence of reckless endangerment. Please keep in mind, Major General, it is standard practice for us to conduct an investigation, after a mission, that leaves soldiers wounded. I do not expect to find any issues here, but it is part of my job. As soon as I have the Master Sergeant’s statement, I will add it to the report and send it on to Washington. You may send your report at any time, as I will be interviewing the Master Sergeant. Including his statement in both reports would be redundant.

Sincerely,
Lt. Colonel Gowan

 


8 April 2011

21:20 CET

My Sassenach,
I’m sorry it took so long to reach out to ye. I ken you heard about my first surgery. Mother Hildegarde said it went well. I guess if yer back feelin’ like it is on fire is a good thing, then I’ll believe her. I dinna like how the medicine makes me feel, like I'm no’ in control of my body and my arms like they are weighted down with lead, so I try not to take the full dose. However, when I do that, all I can hear is yer voice in my head scolding me…’You bloody Scot! Stop being a hero and let the doctors help you! Take the medicine and let it bloody work!’

What I wouldn’t give to have ye cross with me to my face, mo chridhe. I miss ye more than I ever thought I could miss a single person, Sassenach. My heart aches for yer’s, and my body craves yer touch. NO’ just the way yer thinking, Sassenach. That way too, o’course, but even just the feel of you running your fingers through my hair. It relaxes me in a way I didn't think possible. Whenever I close my eyes, I see your face, mo nighean donn...the way your brow furrows when yer concentratin’ on a task, or how your wee nose scrunches up when ye laugh. Oh, to hear yer laugh again, Claire, would be like a balm to my battered soul. I miss ye, Sassenach. I’m doing my best, but I need ye. I need my wife by my side. I dinna say this to make ye feel bad, as I ken ye canna just leave and come here. I just wanted ye to ken how much I miss ye.

I love ye, mo ghraidh. I canna wait to meet ye in my dreams tonight.

Yer Loving Husband,
Jamie

 


9 April 2011
11:30 CET

Claire was exhausted from her trip, but knowing that she would see Jamie in about five minutes was enough to keep her going a while longer. Mother Hildegarde had been kind enough to send one of the nurses, Marsali MacKimmie, to pick her up from the airfield. She was pleased to hear that Marsali was one of the nurses overseeing Jamie’s care, so Claire was quickly brought up to speed on how her husband was doing.

As they pulled into the parking lot of LRMC, Marsali put her hand on Claire’s arm. “I ken how excited ye are to see yer husband, Dr. Beauchamp -”

“Claire. Please call me Claire.”

“Aye, Claire. But ye should ken that he has a lot of scars on his back and there will be more after the next surgery.”

Claire swallowed and nodded. “I have seen mangled men before, Marsali, but I do appreciate the heads up. It’s always different when it’s a family member.”

Marsali nodded her head in agreement. “Right then, ready to see your husband?”

“Aye! More than.” Claire mimicked the Scottish accent she dearly loved.

Marsali walked Claire down the hall to Jamie’s room. Claire’s stomach was a ball of nerves, anticipating what it would be like to look in her husband’s eyes again. As they came up to his door, Marsali stood back and gave Claire a nod, indicating that she should go in alone. Claire smiled and gave the young nurse a grateful squeeze on the arm.

Slowly pushing open the door to his room, Claire quietly padded over to the head of Jamie’s bed. She could see a small stool and wheeled it over to Jamie’s bedside.

“Did ye get new shoes, Mother Hildegarde? I was partial to the hot pink Brooks myself.” Jamie’s Scottish burr made Claire choke back a sob.

“It isn’t Mother Hildegarde.” She paused, letting her accent hit his ears. “It’s me, Claire.”

“Sassenach?” Jamie whispered, as he raised his head and started to run his hand up her calf.

Feeling Jamie’s hand on her leg, almost sent Claire over the edge and she closed her eyes, dropping her head back and letting out a sigh.

“Christ, Sassenach. If ye continue to make wee noises like that, yer goin’ to put me in a bad position, being face down and all.” Jamie smirked at his wife.

“I missed you, Soldier.” Claire leaned over, giving Jamie a tender kiss, one full of hope and promise.

Breaking away, Jamie rested his forehead against Claire’s. “Aye, me too, mo nighean donn. It’s the two of us now.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-26

LRMC - Germany

It felt like a dream, being reunited with one another. With their foreheads pressed together, Claire felt the need to pinch herself to ensure this was real. When Jamie’s hands moved from her calves up to her inner thighs she, was more than aware that this was not a dream.

“Jamie,” Claire moaned against his lips.

“Hmm?”

“Is this real? Are we truly here, together?”

“Aye, mo chridhe. This is real.” Jamie whispered.

A tear slid down Claire’s cheek and she sniffled, causing Jamie to tilt her chin up and use his thumb to wipe her tear away.

“What’s wrong, Sassenach?”

“I just -,” Claire paused, trying to formulate what she wanted to say. “I saw you so many times in my dreams, but you never touched me. I felt so lonely Jamie, and I was so worried about you!” Claire could no longer hold back the stress and sadness that had plagued her since he’d returned injured to the base and began to sob openly.

Jamie pulled Claire’s face towards his, resting his forehead on hers and nuzzling her with his nose. “Na gabh dragh mo ghaol. Tha mi an seo.”

“I’ve missed you so much. Your touch, your laugh, you speaking to me in Gaelic, even if I don’t understand it...I missed my husband.” Claire said shyly.

“I will never tire of hearing ye say that. And what I just said, it means ‘Don’t worry my love, I’m here’” Jamie sighed contentedly. “And I could hold ye in my arms for the rest of my days, but more than that Claire, my heart is whole again now that you are here.”

“I feel the same way, my love.”

After a few more minutes of bliss, Claire sighed and pulled back. “I should go say hello to Mother Hildegarde and find out when your next surgery is going to be. She was planning to do it when I was here, so I could assist.”

“No, dinna go just yet, mo ghraidh. Ye just got here.” Jamie whined.

Laughing softly, Claire replied, “Love, I’ve been sitting here with you for over an hour. Marsali showed me to your room and then said she would tell Dr. Hildegarde I would come to her after we had some time alone.”

“Ye’ve met Nurse MacKimmie, then?” Jamie asked.

“Yes and she seems lovely! Very attentive and knew your chart forwards and backwards, but was very respectful and professional.”

“Aye, she is. I dinna mind when she comes in to check on me, but dinna be gone long, Sassenach. I ken ye canna stay forever, so I want to have ye with me as much as I can.”

“Oh, I don’t plan on leaving your side my love, except to go to the restroom or shower. Speaking of which…” Claire placed her lips next to Jamie’s ear and whispered. “How would you like a sponge bath, soldier?”

Jamie lifted his head, his eyes met Claire’s and the usual bright icy blue of his eyes darkened to a midnight, inky almost black as he swallowed visibly. “Aye,” he choked out. “I would like that verra much.”

Claire leaned over and kissed Jamie soundly whispering against his lips “I promise, I won’t be gone long.” and reluctantly pulled away to go see Mother Hildegarde.

When the door closed, Jamie laid his head back down and allowed his emotions to overtake him. His Sassenach was here and she was going to help him on his path to recovery. He quickly said a prayer of thanks for Claire’s safe arrival and the joy it had brought him. Unaware of how long he had been silently meditating, Jamie heard the door open.

Och, that was fast, mo chridhe. I tried to be a patient lad, but I’m ready for my sponge bath.” Jamie said in a husky voice.

Jamie heard the door close and the metal basin clang on the counter. The fact that Claire hadn’t spoken yet, added a little mystery to what awaited him. Just as he was about to ask her a question, two hands started massaging his feet. Jamie let out a sigh and allowed his eyes to flutter shut. Several minutes went by and the hands continued to massage up his calves. Once the hands made their way up past his knees, Jamie could no longer help himself.

“Lass, ye ken it’s been a while and if ye keep moving yer wee hands up my legs, I’m no’ going to be able to help myself.”

Choosing not to listen, the hands continued their path up the back of his legs. Just as Jamie was about to reach around and grab Claire, he heard the door open again, followed by a startled gasp. What happened next, caused the blood to boil within him.

“Get your fucking hands off of my husband!”

Jamie’s head snapped up and he turned to look over his shoulder. Standing between him and Claire was Nurse MacKenzie. Before Jamie could register what was happening, Claire reared her hand back to slap Nurse MacKenzie, but a firm hand grabbed Claire’s wrist.

“It’s not worth it, mon cheri. I will handle this.” Mother Hildegarde’s voice was calm and steady. “Laogherie, outside. Now.”

Mother Hildegarde moved in between Claire and Laogherie, to prevent any further attempts at physical confrontation. Once Laogherie was out in the hall, Mother Hildegarde turned to Claire. “Spend some time with ton mari. No one will bother you again.” She then walked out the door, but not before turning the lock from the inside, to give the newlyweds a bit of privacy.

“Claire! I swear...I thought it was ye rubbin’ my legs.” Jaime was visibly upset. “I would never betray ye Sassenach. Ye have to believe me!” Tears threaten to spill out of Jamie’s eyes.

Claire’s anger dissipated as soon as she looked in Jamie’s eyes and saw the truth in them. Making her way over to him, she knelt down and took his face in her hands. “Shh, my love. I know, I know and I trust you, but I do not trust her. Has she tended to you before?”

“I dinna ken. Yesterday was the first day I was more awake than asleep. Ye dinna think…” Jamie’s voice trailed off.

Reading Jamie’s thoughts, Claire immediately interjected. “I pray not, but I certainly intend to find out. I hadn’t intended on leaving your side before, I sure as hell will not be leaving you now.” Claire paused before continuing. “Jamie? I do trust you, but please understand that I’m concerned about your ability to currently defend yourself.”

Jamie pulled back slightly, lifting his head higher. Clearly Claire’s words had stung. Sensing her meaning hadn’t come across exactly as she intended, Claire pressed her forehead to Jamie’s. They always communicated better when they were touching.

“Jamie, you are a strong, prideful, funny, handsome, stubborn Scot,” Claire said with a smile on her face. “You want to see the good in everyone and that is one of the things I love most about you, but sometimes it makes you blind to someone’s true intentions.”

Jamie opened his mouth to speak, but Claire gently put a finger over his lips, silently requesting permission to finish. “I trust you with my life, and my heart, but I do not trust that nurse as far as I could throw her. And I’ll be damned if I catch her in here again! Alone with my husband; her hands all over you!” By now, Claire’s hands had dropped from Jamie’s face and curled into fists by her side.

It was Jamie’s turn to cup Claire’s face as he looked into her whisky-colored eyes and smiled. “Mo chridhe, I had forgotten how cute ye are when ye get upset. Do ye remember the first day we met?”

“As if I could forget!” Claire laughed.

“Ye were hollerin’ at some soldier who was dehydrated and then ye came over to Ian and me with daggers in yer eyes. Christ, I wanted to grab ye right there and kiss ye silly!”

“Really!? You never told me that,” Claire said. “I was a hot mess that day...sweaty, overly-tired, frustrated, my hair was thrown on top of my head...I must have been quite the sight to see.”

“Aye,” Jamie’s voice dropped an octave and was thick with desire. “Ye were and I kent, in that moment, that I wanted ye to be my hot mess for the rest of our lives.”

Tears filled Claire’s eyes and she leaned in to kiss Jamie, but before their lips connected, he continued. “I love ye, Sassenach, and only ye. There will never be another woman in my life. I’m embarrassed that I could’na even tell it was’na my wife’s hand on me. But mostly I’m ashamed, mo nighean donn, that my body reacted the way it did.”

Jamie’s face had turned almost crimson in his admission and Claire couldn’t bear seeing him this distressed. Eager to make him feel better, Claire placed her lips next to Jamie’s ear, giving the lobe a quick nip, and then whispered, “It’s not your fault. Now, I think it’s time for that sponge bath, soldier.”

Claire moved over to the counter and gathered the basin of hot water and the cloth next to it. She brought the materials back over to the bed and gently spread Jamie’s legs enough to set the basin down between them. Fully submerging the cloth in the basin and then wringing it out, Claire started at Jamie’s feet.

Och! Sassenach, I do love yer gentle touch, but can ye be a bit rougher with my feet? That tickles!”

Claire pressed firmer on Jamie’s feet and he immediately relaxed and let out a long sigh. “Relax, darling. I promise, when I’m through, you’ll be as relaxed as you were on our first night together.”

Jamie lifted his head and glanced over his shoulder at Claire, his pupils blown wide. “What are ye saying, Sassenach?”

“Be a good lad, and you will soon find out.” Claire continued with the sponge bath, taking care to gently tease Jamie as she made her way up both of his legs. As badly as she wanted to pleasure him, she also knew how important feeling clean was to the healing process. Jamie had been unable to shower since before the mission. The only parts of him that had been washed were his back, neck and upper arms, where the debriding had occurred. Claire was doing her best to give him a thorough washing, but she too was anxious for the next part of her plan.

Jamie had noticed that Claire’s hands were no longer moving in the concentric, methodical motions that they had been. He was barely able to lie still, his arousal making it difficult to stay lying face down. His squirming had not gone unnoticed by Claire.

“Getting a little uncomfortable, are we?” she teased.

“Sassenach,” Jamie growled between his teeth. “Ye ken exactly what ye are doing. And what it’s doing to me.”

“Precisely,” she said and smiled as she knelt down before him. “I think it’s time we get you up into a more vertical position, but you’ll tell me if you aren’t comfortable?”

It was phrased as a question, but Jamie knew better. His wife refused to do anything to set back his recovery.

“Aye, mo chridhe. I promise”

“Then up we go, soldier. Let’s swing your legs over, so your feet are on the ground, leaving your stomach on the bed. Then you can push up with your hands. Ready?”

Jamie nodded and together, they slowly moved his legs off the bed and paused for a minute. Claire knew Jamie had been lying flat for the last week or so and didn’t want him getting dizzy once he was up. After a few moments, Claire gently touched his shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Jamie took a deep breath and as he slowly started exhaling, he began to push up with his arms. Claire stayed behind Jamie, both hands on his hips to stabilize him.

“Hold on to the bed rail, Jamie. It’s quite common to feel dizzy after lying down for so long. There’s no rush. We’ll turn you around and have you sit down on the edge of the bed in a moment.”

“It feels so good to be up, but I’ll no’ lie, Claire. I feel verra weak.”

“I know, darling, but as soon as your next surgery is done, you will move to PT and start to regain your strength. You’ll be up and moving around before you know it!” Claire said reassuringly.

Jamie looked over his shoulder, giving Claire a smile that made her weak in the knees. “I’m ready to sit and have ye finish my sponge bath, Dr. Fraser.” Jamie stood up, letting go of the bed rail slowly. He tugged on the front of his hospital gown and it fell to puddle at his feet. Turning around slowly, so he was facing Claire, he lowered himself to the edge of the bed.

Claire kept her eyes locked with his for a moment, but then couldn’t help herself. Her eyes slowly made their way down his chest and torso. Taking in the chiseled muscles, that rose and fell quickly with each breath, betraying his stoic look on his face and rippling under her touch. Her eyes continued their path south, catching the fine strawberry blonde hairs that connected Jamie’s chest to something… lower… her eyes continued down catching sight of his erection. Claire gasped slightly and bit down on her bottom lip. Seeing Jamie’s physical reaction, left no doubt of his desire for her. Subconsciously, she brought her left hand up to her breast and squeezed as her right delicately ghosted its way up Jamie’s thigh. Claire’s mind was immediately back to the night in the Medical Tent. Completely lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t realized Jamie had said her name, until he reached out and took her hand in his own.

“Sassenach, My eyes are up here. Ye ken?” he chuckled softly.

Embarrassed that she had been caught staring, Claire blushed deeply and looked into Jamie’s now midnight blue eyes. “I...I’m sorry. I was just thinking back to our first, well, our only night together.” Claire closed her eyes, biting her bottom lip.

Jamie groaned as he took her chin between his thumb and forefinger, bringing her gaze back up to his, as Claire opened her eyes. “Dinna be embarrassed, mo nighean donn. I am yer husband and ye can stare all ye want. Just having ye in front of me, Claire, is enough to make me stiff as stone. I dinna know how long I will last if you touch me right now.”

Claire reached out and took Jamie into her hands. Smiling softly she gave him a teasing smile. “Let’s find out; shall we?” At first contact, Jamie inhaled sharply. Claire looked up into his eyes, searching for any sign of discomfort, but Jamie just stared back, deep into her soul, and she knew that this was going to happen whether it caused him pain or not. They both needed this physical contact, this release, to begin the healing process.

Feeling the initial pre-cum leak onto his tip, Claire ran her thumb over it and spread it around, before lowering her head to give him a quick lick. Before Jamie could react, Claire was standing back in front of him.

“I will’na last, Claire, if ye continue teasing me.”

“We have the rest of our lives to tease, but not today, soldier. Today I need you. Jamie, let me move the privacy screen in front of the door.” Claire winked as she released Jamie and turned to walk over to the door. She moved the screen and double-checked to see that the door was in fact locked. Claire then turned back around to Jamie and slowly made her way back over to the bed.

Jamie reached up, to try and pull her shirt over her head, but Claire grabbed his wrists, setting them back on the bed. “We’re not done with the sponge bath.”

“Dinna make me wait, Sassenach, I’m at my wits end.” Jamie whined.

“You sound like a child on Christmas morning.”

“Aye and I’m more than ready to open my gift!”

“Be patient, darling. Good things come to those who wait.” Claire giggled and winked at him and began washing along his neck and under his arms. From there, she moved to scrubbing across his chest and working her way down his abdomen. Claire paused, before continuing and then decided to move to his thighs, saving her favorite part, the part he wanted her to touch most, for last.

Clearly not approving of her decision, Jamie grabbed for the cloth. “If ye scrub anymore, Sassenach, I’ll no’ have skin left on the front of me.”

Claire smiled, nervously. “I suppose I was saving the best for last, but…”

“I’m nervous too, mo chridhe. I have’na done this in a verra long time. Or, at least it feels like a verra long time. We’ll go slow, aye? I promise I will’na leave ye wanting; but we’ll have to be creative. I’m limited in what I can do or... positions.” Jamie gave her that endearing , owlish blink of his and she melted.

Dipping the washcloth back into the warm water, Claire took him in her hand and began to stroke him. After a moment, Claire abandoned the cloth and dropped to her knees. She looked up to see Jamie staring at her with nothing but love in his eyes. She smiled back, and without breaking eye contact, took him fully into her mouth. Claire had hoped to keep eye contact, but Jamie’s quickly rolled back into his head and he let out the most erotic sigh. Smiling, Claire continued to stroke Jamie, as she ran her tongue from the base and up around the tip.

Jamie pulled Claire’s hair free from its tie and ran his fingers through her curls. Everytime Claire took him fully into her mouth, Jamie would still Claire’s head by briefly clenching his hand in the hair he was holding at the back of her head. Then he would release her as he came back under his own control and Claire would continue. Knowing this was not going to last long, Claire tried to draw things out by teasing the tip of his cock with her tongue. She was enjoying this as much as Jamie and was surprised at how turned on and wet she had become. Feeling the stirring deep in her own belly begin, Claire started stroking a bit firmer and took Jamie deeper into her mouth.

“Christ, Sassenach, I’m almost there! Dinna stop! Please, I beg ye, dinna stop.”

Hearing Jamie beg was all Claire needed to double her efforts. She removed him from her mouth and stroked with one hand, while reaching below and cupping his balls with her other. “Tell me what you want, Jamie.”

“I...Christ. Claire! I…”

“I’m waiting, my love. Tell me.”

“Take my cock into yer mouth, Sassenach. Now!”

“Yessir, Master Sergeant,” Claire said, smirking, as she took Jamie into her mouth, while looking up at him under her dark, long lashes. Claire stopped stroking long enough to thread Jamie’s fingers back into her hair. Catching on quickly, Jamie grasped her curls tightly and guided Claire’s head as her tongue continued to work it’s magic. In a matter of minutes, Jamie was grunting as he spilled himself into Claire's mouth, while holding her head in place.

Mo dhia, tha thu nad bhan-dia mo ghaol.”

As she finished lapping him up, Claire reached for the cloth. “What did you say?”

Panting, slightly, Jamie brought Claire up from her knees. “I said, My God, you are a goddess, my love.”

Suddenly bashful, Claire turned away and tried to busy herself with the bathing supplies.

“Did I say something wrong? Claire?” Jamie asked, confused by her actions.

“No, of course not. It’s just that…” Claire paused. “It’s just that, well, I’ve never actually done that before. The person I was with, before you, wasn’t really into...that.”

Jamie’s mouth dropped open. “Ye canna be serious? I was yer...yer first? Christ, that was amazing, mo ghraidh. Ye ken that I was virgin, the night we first made love, but I’m no monk. Are ye saying that no one else has ever pleasured ye like that before either? Never tasted ye? ”

“Well...no.” Claire tried to go back to picking up the bathing supplies, but Jamie stopped her, grasping her wrists in his hands

“Weel, we’ll be remedying that, lass. As soon as I can have ye, where no one can see or hear, I’ll have ye screaming my name and begging for more.” Claire’s mouth dropped, but before she could say anything, Jamie continued. “But fer now, we’ll have to settle on taking care of ye in other ways. Come here Sassenach, and take off yer shirt. I want to see ye as bare as I can.”

Claire more than willingly complied with Jamie’s order and while she was pulling off her shirt, Jamie was undoing her pants. He quickly slid both hands down into her pants and back around to grab her arse.

“Have I told ye how much I love yer arse, Sassenach?”

“Not since I saw you last,” Claire chuckled.

Keeping one hand on her arse, Jamie slowly moved one around to her front, where he slid a finger through her wet folds. “Yer so wet for me, mo chridhe.”

It was Claire’s turn to let out a sigh and let her head and eyes roll back. Jamie spread her folds and slid his middle finger inside, feeling her velvety smooth walls clamp down around his fingers. How he longed to lay her down and plunge his cock into her, but that would have to wait. Claire had selflessly taken care of him and he would do everything he could to help her have that same release.

“Come now Sassenach. Make those wee noises ye ken I love sae much.”

Claire chuckled wryly at his words and started grinding against Jamie’s hand. While Jamie’s other hand was holding her firmly to him, she desperately needed more friction. Claire brought her own hand to her clit and began to rub in a circular motion.

Ah dhia, Claire. I canna watch ye touch yerself or I’ll be cumming again before ye.”

“More, Jamie. I need more,” Claire begged, as she continued to rub her clit and grind against his hand.

Jamie inserted another finger and Claire squeaked out one of those noises Jamie loved so much as her walls clenched down on his two fingers.

“Is that what ye need, mo nighean donn? Talk to me, Claire. Tell me what ye need.”

“I need you to make me cum, Jamie. I need you to take your thumb and rub my clit and make me cum.”

Hearing Claire be so forward with her needs had Jamie fully erect again. He immediately replaced her fingers with his thumb and then briefly let go of her arse, to bring her hand back down to his cock before reaching back into her pants, grabbing her arse and bringing her closer to him. Now at eye level with her chest, Jamie flicked his tongue across both of her nipples, bringing them to tight peaks. Jamie began suckling one of her breasts, causing Claire to use her own hand and knead the other one.

“I’m so close, Jamie! Please!” Claire begged as she began to stroke Jamie’s cock fervently.

“I ken, Sassenach. Let go for me, mo chridhe.” Jamie urged her as he increased the pressure on her clit and slid a third finger inside.

“Jamie!” Claire gasped as her orgasm started to overtake her body. Her walls clenched down on Jamie’s hand, just as her own hand brought Jamie to completion. Both of their bodies were shuddering and Jamie leaned his head against her shoulder.

Feeling totally spent, but afraid to put any more weight against Jamie, Claire kissed his nose and reached for the cloth to clean them up, as Jamie pulled his hands from her pants.

“That was amazing, Sassenach. Yer amazing.”

“I missed you, Jamie, but I might have missed your hands more,” Claire teased as she finished wiping them off.

“Oh, aye? Wait til I can use my tongue,” Jamie replied and wiggled his eyebrows.

“You are incorrigible, but you’re mine and I love you.”

“And I you Sassenach,” Jamie said, while trying to hide a yawn.

“Alright, soldier. I think we’ve had enough fun for now and you are due for some pain meds and a nap.”

“No, Claire, I dinna want…”

“Doctor’s orders, Master Sergeant. Besides, no one said you would be napping alone. Think I can squeeze in next to you?”

“With that arse? I dinna ken Sassenach, but I’m willing to try and make it work.”

“You bloody, Scot! How dare you -”

“Sassenach, ye ken I was teasin’. Now help me back into bed and bring that lovely, round arse over here.”

Claire quickly settled Jamie and gave him a small dose of pain meds into his IV. Jamie was starting to drift off, but Claire remained standing next to the bed, unsure as to how to get in, without making Jamie uncomfortable.

Peeking though one eye, Jamie turned towards Claire.  “I can hear ye thinking all the way over here, Sassenach. Ye are’na goin’ to hurt me. Just come lay down, mo nighean donn. I need ye next to me.”

“Jamie, I don’t know. What if I roll over and touch your back? I would feel awful and -”

“Claire. Please. Ye are my wife and we have’na even been able to share a bed yet. Please, mo ghraidh?”

Claire nodded and carefully slid in next to Jamie and under his arm. Both of them relaxed and immediately started to drift off. The last thing Claire remembered hearing was Jamie whispering to her.

“I missed ye, Sassenach. And to have ye in my arms again...let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there’s no so much I can be saying to ye while ye are awake, but the same poor words, again and again.”

Then they both drifted off into restful slumber, holding each other, as if they were the only two in the world.

Chapter Text

LRMC - Landsthul, Germany
Claire hadn’t slept this soundly since, well, she couldn’t remember when. If it wasn't for the feeling that she was being watched, she could have slept another hour. Stirring slightly and slowly opening her eyes she took in her surroundings. After acclimating herself to her surroundings, she looked down to the heavy weight that was draped across her body.

Jamie’s arm.

“I did’na mean to wake ye, Sassenach.” Jamie whispered. Claire looked over to her right and saw her handsome, sleep-disheveled husband staring at her.

“How long have you been watching me sleep?”

“Just a few minutes. Yer so bonny, but when yer sleepin’, there’s a silent beauty about ye that makes we want to stare at ye fer hours.”

“You say the most beautiful things. How did I get so lucky?” Claire asked, as she reached up to place a quick peck on his lips.

“I’m the lucky one, Sassenach.”

Amber whisky met ocean blue and they stared into each other’s eyes for several minutes. It wasn’t until there was a soft knock on the door that either of them moved.

“Just a minute!” Claire called. Looking back to Jamie and then her watch, she jumped. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! Jamie, we slept for almost three hours! It’s almost 5 o’clock!”

Quickly pulling herself together, Claire made sure Jamie was respectively covered and then she made her way over and unlocked the door. She was pleased and relieved to see Mother Hildegarde giving her a teasing smile.

“I trust the two of you rested and our patient is comfortable, non?” She winked at Claire before coming into the room.

Blushing and looking down, Claire nodded. “We were asleep for almost three hours. I made sure to give our patient his meds and then he fell right to sleep.”

Merci, Dr. Fraser. May I speak with both you and Monsieur Fraser?”

“Of course. Is everything ok, Mother Hildegarde?” Claire couldn’t keep her brow from furrowing.

Oui, but there are a few things we need to discuss.”

Claire and Mother Hildegarde made their way over to the head of Jamie’s bed, where they both pulled up a stool. One look at Claire and Jamie was feeling a bit uneasy. He immediately grabbed for her hand and laced his fingers with her. Whatever Mother Hildegarde wanted to discuss, they would face it head on...together.

“You are looking well, Jamie. I can see the effect that votre femme is having on your mind, body, and soul. All must work together to heal, mon cheri.”

Looking at Claire, but answering the question, Jamie replied, “Vous avez raison, Mother Hildegarde. Having Claire by my side makes me feel like I can conquer the world.” Jamie brought Claire’s hand up to reverently kiss the back of it, never breaking eye contact with her.

“That is wonderful, Jamie! You will need all your strength for your next surgery. That is the first thing I wanted to discuss with you both. Claire is here for a week, oui, mon cheri?”

“Yes, Mother Hildegarde.” Jamie could already hear the dread in his wife’s voice, knowing that she would have to leave him. He didn’t like it anymore than she did, but he was determined to make the most of their time together.

“Then I propose,” Mother Hildegared continued, “that your next surgery be done tomorrow Jamie. You have done quite well with the first set of skin grafts and I am confident that this next surgery will be just as successful.”

Opening his mouth to protest, Mother Hildegarde silently raised her hand and gave Jamie a look that said Don’t argue with me, Master Sergeant. This is my area of expertise. I know what I’m doing.

“I know Claire just got here, but I want her to assist in the surgery.” Mother Hildegarde glanced at Claire, who nodded in response and then looked at Jamie.

“Would you be ok with that, darling? My assisting in the surgery? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“Uncomfortable? I’ll have the two best surgeons in the world on my side! As long as it will’na upset ye, Sassenach, it’s alright by me.”

Relief washed over Claire’s face. She didn’t want to blur the lines of her marriage and her profession, but Claire wanted to be instrumental in Jamie’s recovery and this was one way to do it. And, if she was being honest, the doctor part of her was eager to see the procedure.

“Then it is settled!” Mother Hildegarde declared. “We will start at 8:00, so no eating after 22:00, is that clear?”

Jamie nodded. He was nervous for this next step, but anxious to be done with the surgeries and moving on to Physical Therapy.

“The next thing we must discuss is Nurse MacKenzie.” Mother Hildegarde felt the tension in the room increase ten-fold. Claire’s back straightened up and the hand that was not holding Jamie’s balled into a fist at her side. Jamie noticed the flush on Claire’s neck, creeping up to her face.

“Sshh, relax, mo nighean donn.” Jamie rubbed his thumb across the back of Claire’s hand. “Let’s hear what Mother Hildegarde has to say before ye go after the wee besom. I dinna want you getting into trouble unnecessarily.”

“Wee besom, indeed. More like a bloody harlot. Taking advantage of a patient as injured as you!” Claire huffed.

Clearing her throat, Mother Hildegarde looked from Jamie to Claire. “I have spoken with Nurse MacKenzie and she will be reprimanded for her actions. We have a strict policy that no nurse will attend to a patient of the opposite gender, in that capacity without another individual present in the room. She was aware of this protocol and chose to ignore it. The protocols are in place for the safety of our patients, as well as our staff. Until we are convinced that this was an isolated incident, Nurse MacKenzie has been placed on administrative leave.”

Both Jamie and Claire visibly relaxed, but Mother Hildegarde sensed Claire still wanted to say something. “What is it, mon cheri?”

“I was hoping to confront Laogharie and question if she had ever been alone in Jamie’s room before.”

“I wondered the same thing, so I had security pull the tapes from the days since Jamie has been here. There is a camera right at the end of the hall, so it would be quite clear if Laoghaire ever went into Jamie’s room. I am relieved to tell you that the only other time she made an attempt to enter his room, I caught her and redirected her.”

Hearing this, brought relief to Jamie. The thought that someone could have violated him and he not even be conscious enough to stop it, left him feeling queasy.

“Well, that’s good to hear. I’ll feel better when you are moved to PT Jamie, and off the Critical Care Unit. Plus, you’ll have Ian with you! He can keep you in line while I'm not here.”

“Aye, mo chridhe, although that means I won’t get many visits from my favorite doctor that wears bright pink Brooks running shoes.” Jamie looked over at Mother Hildegarde and gave her his owlish, double-eyed blink.

“I am pleased that I have been able to relieve some of your stress. The two of you have been through more in your first months than most couples experience in an entire marriage. I wish that was my last piece of news, but I am afraid it is not.”

Jamie looked at Claire and they both turned their gaze to Mother Hildegarde.

“I wasn’t sure if I should share this with you both, but... ever since Lt. Colonel Gowan came to see me, I’ve had an uneasy feeling.”

At this, Jamie stiffened. There was only one reason the Lt. Colonel would come to see Mother Hildegarde...to get Jamie’s view as to what had happened during the mission. And if the Lt. Colonel was involved, that meant there were discrepancies in reports.

“I’m glad ye did mention it Mother Hildegarde. What was it that the Lt. Colonel wanted?”

“He needs to record your accounts from the mission. Major General MacKenzie seems anxious to close out the paperwork and send it to Washington.”

Gu dearbh tha e iomagaineach. Is esan an adhbhar a tha mi a ’laighe anns an leabaidh seo.” Jamie muttered under his breath.

“Jamie? What is it? What’s going on?” Claire asked, clearly aware that her husband was agitated.

“There are things I wish to tell ye, Sassenach, but I am bound by an oath that does’na allow me to share parts of my job with ye. However, if the Lt. Colonel is sniffing around, it means some things are’na adding up.”

Claire looked slightly taken aback, but she nodded in understanding. “I have my own questions about what happened that night. Jamie, I don’t ever want to put you in a position where you think I will be upset if you can’t share information with me. I know special forces are at a higher security clearance than I am. I will never hold that or your job against you.”

“Thank ye, Sassenach. That means a lot. I dinna wish to keep secrets from ye, but these are no’ my secrets. They are the government’s and I am no’ at liberty to divulge them.”

“All I ask, Jamie, is that you let me help if you think I can. Promise me that you will not carry this burden alone. You told me, ‘It’s the two of us now.’ Let it truly be the two of us in this together. We can have secrets, but not lies.”

“Aye, mo chridhe, I promise.”

“Well then,” Mother Hildgarde interjected, “I will let Lt. Colonel Gowan know that you can discuss these matters with him after your next surgery.”

“Aye, I would appreciate that.” Jamie replied.

“Well, I will leave you two newlyweds to enjoy each other’s company. Shall I have food sent up?” Mother Hildergarde asked as she stood up from her stool.

“That would be lovely, Mother Hildgarde. Thank you for taking such good care of us, and providing us some much needed privacy.”

Certainement, mon cher! N'importe quoi pour vous deux.”

Claire hugged Mother Hildgarde and stood to accompany her to the door, but before they could step away from the bed, Jamie reached out to Mother Hildegarde’s hand.

“Mother Hildegarde?”

“What is it, Jamie?”

“Could I trouble ye to find a laptop and bring it back to us?”

Bien sûr, but may I ask why?”

Claire was also looking at Jamie, perplexed at his request.

“It’s time that my family met my beautiful bride.”

The smile on Jamie’s face was enough to make Claire’s heart burst. With tears in her eyes, Claire knelt down in front of Jamie.

“How, James Fraser? How is it that I wake up every day and realize I love you more than the day before?”

“I dinna ken, Sassenach, but I feel the same way and that makes me the luckiest man alive.”

-------------

A while later Jamie and Claire were eating dinner in companionable silence, when Claire thought to ask Jamie a question.

“Jamie? What did you say before, when muttering about Dougal?”

“Oh, weel, it’s just that I’m a bit sore about the whole thing Sassenach. I ken we haven’t had time to discuss it yet, but basically I think he’s tryin’ to push the investigation to close since he changed the dynamics for the mission.”

Claire took in what Jamie was saying. “Are you telling me that everything your team drilled over and over was thrown out the window by him?!”

“Not in sae many words, but aye.” Jamie grimaced.

“Jamie!” Claire gasped, horrified. “I know he’s your uncle, but he needs to be held accountable for his actions.”

“Ye think I dinna ken that?! I doubt I’d be lying here in this bed if he had’na -”

Jamie was interrupted by a light knock on the door. Claire looked at Jamie, before going to answer the door. “This conversation is not over, James Fraser.”

Claire moved out of Jamie’s line of vision and his whole body tensed, wondering who might be at the door. He relaxed when he heard Claire cry out.

“Ian?!”

“Aye, Claire! How are ye?”

“Oh, Ian! I’m well, but I really should be asking you? How are things going?”

Jamie detected a slight hesitancy in Claire’s voice. While they hadn’t discussed it, Jamie knew Claire was still worried about Ian’s feelings towards the amputation. Jamie knew that Ian didn’t blame her, but it wasn’t for him to say...it was something Claire and Ian would need to work through.

“Och, I’m well Claire, truly. It has been an adjustment, I’ll no’ lie, but I’m doin well.”

Releasing some of the tension in her shoulders, Claire smiled at Ian and bent down to give him a hug and kiss on the cheek.

“You don’t know how happy that makes me Ian. I know we talked about it before the surgery, but there was so much happening. I would have done anything to save your leg, I swear. Unfortunately, we were beyond that point. If I saved your leg, you may have lost your life.”

“It’s water under the bridge, mo ghràidh. I’ll not have ye fretting over it anymore, aye?”

“Aye, Captain Murray.” Claire smiled, warmly, at Ian.

I hope the rest of Jamie’s family is accepting and understanding as Ian, Claire thought to herself.

“Dinna fash, Sassenach.” Jamie interrupted her thoughts, after taking one look at her face. “The rest of the family is going to love ye as much as Ian.”

“How did you -,” Claire started.

Mo chridhe, you have a glass face. I can read yer feelings off of yer face as easily as words off the page.” Jamie explained.

Frustrated that her face had given away her thoughts again, Claire simply shook her head and went to wheel Ian closer to Jamie. After settling Ian, opposite of herself, the two men quickly engaged in family talk.

“Jenny sent some pics of houses! We’ve narrowed it down to two. Also, she asks about ye every day, Jamie. When are ye plannin’ on reaching out to the family? Hearing from me, that you are doing ok, is’na the same as hearing from ye.”

“Aye, Ian and ye arrived just in time. I was planning on calling the family today and introducing them to Claire!” Jamie could barely contain his excitement.

“That’s a braw idea, bràthair. I ken that Jenny was going to be with yer parents for dinner tonight. How about I text her and see if they are available to Skype?”

Grabbing Claire’s hand, and looking to her for reassurance, Jamie received it in the form of a small nod. He gave her hand a small squeeze and looked back to Ian. “Aye, it’s time the Fraser Clan met its newest member.”

Ian took his phone out of the pocket of his sweat pants and quickly texted Jenny, to see when a good time would be to chat. Ian didn’t bother to re-join the conversation with Jamie and Claire because he knew his wife had her phone by her side at all times when he was deployed. As soon as the message was sent, Ian could see the little bubbles on his screen moving, and he waited for Jenny’s answer.

Jamie took this small opportunity to reassure Claire. “They’re going to love ye, mo nighean donn, I promise ye. I ken they’ll be shocked to hear we’re marritt, but once they see how happy we are, they’ll be thrilled!”

Claire wished she shared Jamie’s enthusiasm and confidence, but she was nervous. To hear Jamie and Ian speak of this incredible, loving, tight-knit family, made Claire desperate to have something she always wanted, but would they accept her? She couldn’t do enough for Jamie when he returned from the mission badly injured, and then she had to be the one to ampute Ian’s leg. How could they love someone who had already let them down?

Kissing her knuckles, Jamie continued to reassure her, and then Ian spoke.

“Alright, they’re ready! Let’s log in and call.”

Glancing over to Claire, Ian noticed her biting her bottom lip. “Claire?”

She turned towards Ian and met his gaze full on.

“Claire, there going to love ye. I told Jenny that I was with Jamie and that he had a ‘wee surprise’. Ellen, Brian, and Jenny are just thrilled to be able to see Jamie. Once they see how happy ye make him, I ken they’ll love ye even more.” Ian winked and threw a side-look at Jamie, who was mumbling Gaelic words under his breath.

“Come closer, Sassenach, before Ian totally turns ye against me.”

Turning Jamie’s face towards her, she planted a firm kiss to his lips, “Never going to happen, soldier.” Claire stayed next to Jamie, but just out of the camera.

“Claire, yer not in the frame.”

“Jamie,” Claire said in a tone that brokered no argument, “I’m thrilled to finally meet your family, but let’s not shock them when they first answer. Let them see that their son and brother is healing and in good spirits, before dropping the bomb that he’s also married.”

Claire raised her eyebrows, as if daring Jamie to disagree with her. After holding a private, marital debate, with only their eyes, Jamie nodded in agreement.

“Shite! I’m impressed. The twa’ of ye have’na been marrit a month and are already holding full conversations without saying a word.” Ian stated incredulously.

Just then, a matronly voice came through the computer. “Jamie, my lad!”

Claire instantly turned her attention to the screen and saw a beautiful woman, with striking red hair and blue eyes, sitting next to a man with jet black hair and slanted brown eyes. Jamie’s a perfect combination of the two of them, Claire thought, with a smile on her face. She then noticed a brunette woman leaning over the older Frasers’ shoulders.

Bràthair! It’s sae good to see ye!”

Ahh, that must be Jenny, Claire concluded. The complete opposite of Jamie, Jenny had dark brown hair and brown eyes, like their father, but their mother’s delicate bone structure. Claire was in awe of the love she saw among these people. As nervous as she was, she couldn’t help praying that the Frasers would welcome her with open arms.

“I’ve missed ye all, sae much!” Jamie was saying. “I’m sorry I was’na able to speak to ye before now. There was a lot going on and the pain was unbearable, but I’m happy to tell ye, I’ve turned a corner.”

“We were so worrit, son. Yer Mam, sister, and I have been praying everyday fer both ye and Ian. To hear from him that ye were healin’ is one thing, but to finally see it with our own eyes, is another. I’m saw proud of ye, defending yer country, but to lose another son -” Brain Fraser stopped, too choked up to continue.

“Da, I ken, but I’m here and I’m healing. In fact, my next and hopefully last surgery will be tomorrow. Doctor Hildegrade is an amazing surgeon and I promise I’ll be in good hands. And,” Jamie looked over at Claire, “Dr. Hildegarde has brought in some reinforcements.”

Jamie reached over and grabbed Claire’s hand, urging her closer, until she was in the camera frame.

Claire smiled nervously and let Jamie continue. “This is Dr. Claire Beauchamp-Fraser.” He let that sink in for a minute. “Claire was the lead surgeon on our base. We met the day Ian was dehydrated and I had to take him in for an IV.”

Ellen, Brian, and Jenny were all looking back and forth at each other. Claire had a sense that this was not going as well as Jamie had hoped, but God love him, he continued.

“Da? Do ye remember when I was a lad and I asked ye how ye kent ye were in love with Mam?” Brian nodded. “Ye said ‘Jamie-lad, ye’ll just ken. She’ll walk into yer life one day and ye’ll forever be changed.’ ”

Jamie looked over and held Claire’s gaze with his own. Not looking back at his family, Jamie went on. “Well, Da, I did’na fully understand what ye meant by that until the day I saw Claire in the Medical Tent.”

Claire blushed and continued to look at Jamie, until he glanced back at the computer. Before the pause in conversation could become awkward, Ian chimed in.

“Tis true. I’ve never seen Jamie sae in love, ‘twas like a puppy, following her around. Always finding an excuse to visit Dr. Beauchamp.” Then Ian turned serious. “We talked about it, a lot. Jamie kent falling in love, on an army base no less, was not ideal. But he could’na help it. Claire was the first thing on his mind when he woke up and the last before he fell asleep at night.”

Claire’s jaw dropped and she looked from Ian over to Jamie.

“Aye mo nighean donn, Ian’s right.”

Turning back to the computer, Jamie addressed his family again. “I could’na go on that mission without asking Claire to be my wife.”

Everyone was silent for a minute. Ellen and Brian were looking at each other, while Jenny addressed Jamie.

“I dinna ken what to say, Jamie. Seems foolish to rush into a marriage, just because of a mission. What if ye had died? Ye’d leave a woman a widow, after just a day or so?”

“Not that it’s any of yer business, Janet, but we were married after the mission, before I was sent to Germany.”

It was Ellen’s turn to speak up. “Jamie? Claire?”  It was the first time Claire had been addressed, directly or indirectly, during the call. Both turned their attention to Ellen.  “While the circumstances seem to be less than ideal, yer father and I ken better than most what it’s like to have the odds stacked against ye.” Ellen smiled fondly at her husband. As if that was his cue to pick up the speech, Brain spoke.

“We’ll no’ lie and say we’re no’ sad that we missed the wedding, but to find the other person that completes ye...makes ye a better version of yerself, it is something ye canna deny.” Brain grabbed Ellens’ hand and kissed it reverently.

Jenny chimed in, “Aye, I’m sorry Claire and Jamie. I was just shocked, but I ken what it’s like to be in love. It will make ye do crazy things.” Jenny smiled only at Ian, giving him a wink.

Feeling that it was finally time for Claire to speak up, Jamie gave her a nod.

“I’m sorry that we have had to meet under such peculiar circumstances, but I want you to all know that I love Jamie with my whole heart. There is nothing I would not do for this man. Jamie will be medically discharged from the service and sent home before me. I plan to appeal for a state-side position, either at a base hospital or VA facility. I have two years left on my contract, and things will not be easy, but with Jamie by my side, I’m confident that we can weather any storm.” Claire looked over at Jamie, who brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her fingers tenderly. They looked deep into each other’s eyes for a few more seconds and then Ellen spoke again.

“Well then, I suppose that means there’s only one thing left to say. Welcome to the family, Claire!”

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-28

LRMC

Ian left shortly after they had finished the call with the state-side Frasers, but not before wishing Jamie luck with the morning’s surgery and kissing Claire on the cheek, welcoming her into the family once more.

After seeing Ian out and making sure that the door was locked, Claire came back over to Jamie’s bedside. He grabbed her hand and brought it to his mouth, gently kissing her knuckles. “I told ye they would love ye mo chridhe.”

Claire smiled at Jamie and gave a small nod of her head. “You did love, and I didn’t want to doubt it. It’s just that, we did things so unconventionally. I didn’t want them to think my motives were out of anything other than love for their son/brother.”

“Aye, I can see yer point, Sassenach, but I dinna care what they think. I ken yer heart and soul. As fer yer body, I would like to ken that a bit more, hmmm?” Jamie gave her that ridiculous owl-eyed blink.

“You are shameless, James Fraser!” Claire said, but with a clear smile on her face and love in her eyes. “How about this? We only have two hours left before you have to stop eating. Would you be up for a stroll through the halls to get your blood moving a bit?”

“Perhaps...but what’s my motivation Sassenach?” Jamie wiggled his eyebrows.

“Oh, I don’t know...not getting blood clots?” Claire replied, in her sternest doctor tone, but the twinkle in her eyes gave away what she was actually thinking.

Well, well, ‘twa can play that game, Sassenach, Jamie thought.

“Oh, aye. Blood clots, ye say? Do I only have tae worry about them in my legs, mo nighean donn?” Jamie asked as seriously as he could.

Claire opened her mouth to respond, but was cut off as Jamie pulled Claire close and kissed her passionately. When he pulled away Claire was slightly breathless as she looked into his eyes and blinked.

“What was it that ye were goin’ tae say, Dr. Fraser?” Jamie innocently asked. “My apologies for interrupting ye.”

I see what you’re doing, Fraser. Hope you can get as good as you give. Claire thought.

Claire regained her composure and spoke clearly. “The best thing for blood clots is to keep the blood flowing to the extremities followed by some light massage.”

“Oh, aye?” The tips of Jamie’s ears turned pink and he swallowed visibly.

Aye,” Claire mimicked. “The only problem is that I don’t think there are any orderlies on right now to accompany you on the walk.”

“Well then,” Jamie looked at Claire and started to push up off the bed. “I guess that means yer comin’ with me.”

 

It took a couple of minutes to get Jamie fully upright and steady on his feet. He adamantly refused to use the walker that Claire put in front of him.

“That’s fine, but there will be no massage afterwards if you don’t use it. Your choice.”

This was followed by what Claire could only assume was a string of muttered Gaelic curse words, and a glare from the Master Sergeant that would have brought any international fugitive to their knees. Not the least intimidated by her husband, Claire stood her ground until Jamie’s gaze softened and he murmured sorry.

“I dinna ‘spose I could use a cane instead?” Claire made a thin line out of her lips and shook her head slowly. Jamie sighed and nodded. Claire chuckled and together, they made their way out the door and into the hallway.

Not wanting to wear Jamie out, Claire had only planned to go to the end of the hall and back, but when they got to the point where she had planned to turn around, Jamie surprised her by continuing on.

“Jamie,” Claire started, but he raised his hand to her.

“I’m alright mo chridhe, truly. I’m glad ye suggested getting up for a bit.” He smiled at Claire and then continued walking. “Besides,” Jamie went on as Claire walked slowly next to him, “I figured the farther I went, the bigger the reward, aye?”

Claire looked over at her husband and was rewarded with a smile that would have rivaled a child in a candy store, who’s mother just said he could pick any treat he wanted.

Claire returned his smile and spoke softly to him. “I think that can be arranged, but I wouldn’t want you to be worn out from walking too far, soldier... and…” she paused, arching her eyebrow. “Unable to fulfill your duties?”

“Weel, we would’na want that, would we? Perhaps we should turn back Sassenach.”

Claire nodded and let Jamie maneuver the walker to head back towards his room. Glancing at her watch, Claire noted that Jamie only had an hour left to eat something. She opened her mouth to ask him what he might want, but then closed it. He appeared to be deep in thought as he ambled slowly back to his room. Their marriage was still new and they had spent most of it apart, so Claire was hesitant to ask Jamie what was on his mind.

“Even with my own thoughts tumbling 'round, I can hear ye thinking from over here Sassenach.” Jamie gave her a sideways smile.

“How did you -”

“I’m a Master Sergeant, Claire. I have a keen sense of what is happening around me, most of the time. I pick up on the slightest movements, sounds, changes in demeanor. It’s why I’m the best at what I do.”

“Confident, are we?” she asked in a teasing tone.

“Aye,” he answered back. “If I was’na, I’d be deid.”

That comment brought Claire up short and she looked at Jamie, placing her arm on his bicep. “Please don’t even joke about that, Jamie. I-.”

“I’m no’ joking, mo ghraidh. I dinna mean to sound conceited, but I was no’ promoted to Master Sergeant fer nothin’. I’m good at what I do and it gives me some relief to ken that while I have lost some of my physical capabilities, for now at least, that my other senses have not faded completely.”

Squeezing his arm, Claire tugged gently to make him stop. “I’m so proud of you, darling. If I haven’t told you that before, I want to make sure that you know it now.” Claire’s voice was thick with emotion. “I could never do what you do and while most of the time it terrifies me, my heart swells with pride, knowing that you are out there, leading men, and defending our country.”

Jamie took one hand off the walker, to cup Claire’s cheek. Then he straightened himself slowly, and brought his other hand up to fully cup her face. He lowered his lips down to her mouth and kissed her tenderly. When he stopped, he pressed his forehead to hers.

“Thank ye, mo chridhe, for telling me that. I ken ye might no’ like my job most of the time, but tae ken how proud ye are of me, makes my heart fit to burst! But yer wrong, Claire.”

Puzzled, Claire pulled back slightly to look into Jamie’s eyes.

“Yer wrong that you could’na do what I do. You are the strongest, smartest, most talented woman I ken. Throw in yer stubbornness and beauty and there is’na a single man who would’na follow yer orders. Christ, I’m weak in the knees most of the time yer around.” Jamie smiled and continued, “Ye dinna ken how confident I am about tomorrow’s surgery. To have ye in there, not only by my side, but healing me with those confident, tender hands? I’m proud of ye, Sassenach.”

“Well then Soldier, let’s get ye a small snack,” Claire whispered into his ear as she pressed her body into his, feeling his arousal through the hospital gown, “followed by your hard earned reward, aye?”

“Sassenach,” Jamie hissed through gritted teeth, “how am I supposed to walk back to my room in this state?” They both looked down to the quite obvious erection that seemed to be the cause of Jamie's lack of movement.

“Think about pudding, my love.” Claire said as she started to slowly walk ahead of Jamie. Turning to look back over her shoulder, she asked, “Chocolate or vanilla?”

Criosd, bean. Bidh thu na bhàs dhòmhsa,” murmured Jamie. This woman will be the death of me. Resuming his walking, he looked at her and replied, “Is there really a choice? Chocolate, and if ye dinna agree with me, Sassenach, I’m no’ sure this marriage will last.”

 

Once they were back in Jamie’s room, Claire had him sit on the edge of a chair to continue some leg exercises, while she quickly went to the cafeteria to get his chocolate pudding. She couldn’t help but smile the whole way back from the cafeteria, thinking about how Jamie said chocolate pudding was the only type of pudding.

Bloody right, Claire said to herself. What would I have done if he said vanilla?

Chuckling to herself, as she opened the door, she was heartened at the sight she saw. Jamie was sitting on the stool diligently completing the leg exercises she had shown him. He had a look of deep concentration on his face and small beads of sweat lined his brow. He was working so hard to get back his strength and she hated the thought of him undergoing another surgery tomorrow. Claire tried to push those thoughts from her head as she watched her husband. It had only been a couple of weeks since the accident, so there were no real signs of atrophy yet. Each muscle was well defined and he sat before her, looking like a Greek God on his throne. Claire’s mind started to wander to the “reward” she would give Jamie for working so hard. She would never tire of looking at him and sighed at the thought that he was all hers for the rest of their lives. Letting out a small sigh and shifting her weight, caused Claire to drop the spoon on the floor with a small clang.

“Och! I did’na hear ye come in Sassenach!”

“I’m sorry to have startled you! I was enjoying the view.” A blush had started to creep up Claire’s neck.

Jamie flashed Claire his million dollar smile and reached his arm out towards her, beckoning her to come to him. “Did ye bring me my pudding, mo chridhe?”

“I did and it’s a bloody good thing you said chocolate. I’m not sure I wanted our first fight to be over pudding.”

“Aye, especially when we canna properly make up, hmm?” Jamie’s tone was dripping with desire.

“I’m not sure you’ll make it through the pudding, darling.”

“Perhaps no’, but…” Jamie looked beyond Claire, “Bolt the door Sassenach.”

“Bolt the door?” Claire questioned. “And just why would I do that?”

Mo ghraidh, there will be nights ahead of us where I plan to tease ye until ye scream my name and beg me tae serve ye. Tonight is no’ one of those nights. Now, bolt the door, lass.” Jamie’s eyes were now the color of the midnight sky and the look in them told Claire that the teasing had come to an end.

Slowly backing up, Claire complied and locked the door. She walked back over to Jamie, swaying her hips just slightly and Jamie’s eyes dropped to her waist. Once Claire was in front of Jamie, she scooped out a small spoonful of chocolate pudding and fed it to him. Claire fed herself a spoonful as well, and made sure to slowly and fully lick the spoon clean.

Giving a low growl in his throat, Jamie pulled Claire by the waist until she was standing between his thighs. As Claire was preparing to give Jamie another spoonful of pudding, he began to undo the button on her jeans and pull the zipper down, catching a glimpse of the top of her panties. Jamie looked up at her and opened his mouth to speak. Not giving him a chance, Claire placed the spoon in it and watched as Jamie licked the pudding off, leaving his tongue chilled from the cold dessert. He then ran his cold tongue around Claire’s belly button causing her to inhale sharply.

“Jamie…” Claire whispered as she exhaled.

“Set the pudding down on the table, 'fore you drop it Sassenach.” Before doing as she was told, Claire dipped her finger in the pudding and smeared some of it across her abdomen, and pulling down her panties slightly, trailed her finger down a bit. Jamie quirked an eyebrow as he took in what Claire had done. “I canna have ye all sticky, mo nighean donn, at least not with pudding."

Claire smirked down at Jamie, "I suppose you should clean me up a bit.” Jamie was happy to oblige, licking the sweet dessert off of his wife’s ivory smooth abdomen.

After making sure Claire was thoroughly clean, Jamie reached his hands into the waist of Claire’s jeans and reached back around to grab her arse and start kneading. Claire stood back up and shimmied out of her jeans. She then ran her hands through Jamie’s hair, which she was pleased to see had started to curl on top as it had gotten a bit longer in the last couple of weeks.

“Come to me, mo nighean donn,” Jamie coaxed and pulled Claire down to his lap.

“Are you sure, Jamie?” Claire hesitated, resisting his pull.

“Yes, Claire. I need ye tonight, mo chridhe. I need to feel and pour myself in tae ye.”

“I want that too, darling, more than you know, but I don’t want to hurt you or cause you any pain.”

“I’ll be in more pain Sassenach, if I canna feel as if I’m one with ye.”

Cupping his face in her hands, Claire leaned down to kiss Jamie. She ran her tongue across his bottom lip, prompting him to open his mouth, and when he did, Claire plunged her tongue into his mouth to deepen the kiss. Jamie moaned back in response and let go of her arse, briefly enough to slide her panties down. Then he ran his hands back up the inside of her thigh and over Claire’s folds already slick with desire. Parting them with his long fingers, Jamie caressed her swollen nub, causing Claire to gently bite down on Jamie’s lip.

Claire broke the kiss first, taking a deep breath and shuddering as she released it. Her body already close to sensory overload, as Jamie continued his ministrations and focused on rubbing her clit while kissing any skin within reach. Looking down, Claire noticed he still had his gown on.

“You are far too dressed for this occasion, Soldier.” Helping Jamie to his feet, Claire reached behind Jamie to untie the strings of his hospital gown. It quickly pooled down at his feet and Claire was able to wrap her delicate fingers around Jamie’s full length. At her touch, Jamie inhaled sharply and unconsciously paused his own ministrations. Claire whimpered at the loss of friction and placed her other hand on top of Jamie’s encouraging him to continue their foreplay.

“Keep that up lass, and all we’ll be wiping up is your hand.”

Claire smiled against his lips. Jamie had begun to sit back down and attempted to pull Claire on to his lap.

“No, my love that won't do for today.” Claire said as she let go of Jamie’s arousal. She kneeled down and took him into her mouth before Jamie could protest. Claire stroked Jamie’s full length as her tongue circled his sensitive tip. Jamie grabbed Claire’s curls and held them away from her face so he could watch her beautiful lips and his cock disappear into her luscious mouth. After another minute, Claire released Jamie with a ‘pop’ and licked up the length of the underside of his cock. Never breaking eye contact, Claire stood up in front of Jamie and turned the stool so he was facing the bed. As Jamie turned his head back with a questioning look, Claire smirked and walked between Jamie and the bed then turned around so that her arse was in his face. She placed her hands on the edge of the bed and looked back over her shoulder. “I need you inside me, Jamie.”

Jamie had never been more turned on that he was at this moment. Grabbing on to her hips, he slowly stood up. He leaned over Claire’s shoulder and whispered into her ear, “Bend over, lass.”

Claire happily obliged and Jamie easily slid into her. Both released a contented sigh as Jamie stilled inside of her. Both had found ways to release their sexual tension, before and after their wedding, but this was only the second time Jamie had been inside Claire.

“Ye feel amazing, Claire! I’m no’ sure how long I’ll be able to last.”

“I’m not worried, Jamie. You’ve never left me wanting before, I can’t imagine tonight would be any different.”

Maintaining his hold on her hips, Jamie started to thrust into Claire. Slowly at first with a nice smooth rhythm. He had closed his eyes because looking at Claire from this angle was enough to make him cum in about three thrusts.

“And here I thought you wouldn’t be able to keep your eyes off my arse.”

Jamie’s eyes popped open and he found Claire looking back over her shoulder at him. “Christ, Sassenach! If I stare at ye from this angle, with your perfect, round arse under my hands and your milky white breasts bouncing with each of my thrusts, I’ll no’ last 10 seconds.”

“I’m close Jamie, I may only need five. ” Claire said, while biting her lower lip. She reached her hand between her legs and started rubbing her swollen clit. She could feel her walls beginning to tighten.

“Dinna do that, mo nighean donn,” Jamie begged. “Please. I want a few more minutes inside ye. I dinna ken when the next time will be.”

Claire stopped touching herself and reached back a bit farther to cup Jamie’s balls. They were heavy in her hand and she could feel Jamie’s rhythm become a bit more erratic.

“Sassenach,” Jamie said in a whine.

“I’m sorry, darling, but please,” Claire whined back. “Make me cum, Jamie.”

Not one to deny his wife anything, Jamie grabbed her hips a little tighter and started pumping faster. Claire responded by moaning and kneading his balls a bit firmer. When she noticed his thrusts getting deeper and more erratic, Claire removed her hand and placed it back on her clit. Rubbing in circles, Claire was quickly on the verge of her own orgasm, but didn’t want to come without Jamie.

Sensing Claire was close, Jamie let go of one hip and reached around to replace her hand with his own. Knowing exactly what she liked and the pressure to push her over the edge, Jamie brought Claire to the precipice almost immediately.

“Jamie!” Claire cried out and started bucking her hips back against him.

“Come fer me, mo chridhe. Come now!” Jamie encouraged and Claire’s slick, velvety walls clamped down on Jamie. She was still rocking against him and the vice grip that she held on his cock, caused Jamie to reach his own orgasm and spill himself fully into Claire, while calling out her name.

Bha sin iongantach mo ghaol. An urrainn dhuinn fuireach mar seo gu bràth?”

Picking her head up, from where she had laid it down on the bed, Claire looked back at Jamie. “What did you say?”

Not ready to be parted from her quite yet, Jamie leaned over and kissed the delicate spot between Claire’s shoulder blades. “I said, ‘That was amazing, my love. Can we stay like this forever?’”

Sighing contentedly, Claire gave Jamie a smile. “I would love nothing more.”

Kissing her one last time, Jamie slowly straightened himself and pulled out of Claire. “Stay right there mo ghraidh. I’ll get ye a washcloth.” Jamie walked over to the counter and turned on the sink to warm the water. He grabbed one of the clean washcloths that Claire had brought in earlier and ran it under the warm water before ringing it out. Making his way back over to her, he turned her around and gently cleaned her up, then took care of himself.

Jamie tried to stifle the yawn that came out of his mouth, but Claire was quick to notice. “You’ve had a long day, darling. I think it’s time we get you situated for bed. We both have big days tomorrow.”

“Aye.” Jamie didn’t argue, knowing it would be useless against his wife’s strict orders. They both needed to be at their best for tomorrow and a good night’s rest was paramount.

It had been about ten minutes since they had laid down and turned off the lights. Claire was on the verge of falling into a blissful sleep when she heard Jamie whisper in her ear.

“I dinna think I will ever be able to eat chocolate pudding with a spoon again Sassenach. I’ll be expectin’ to lick it off ye.” He smiled against her neck and placed a soft kiss behind her ear.

“I couldn’t agree more, my love. Always happy to be of service.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-29

LRMC
Claire had set an alarm the night before so she would be able to go through her own pre-op rituals. She needn’t set it however, she had tossed and turned for the last few hours. Giving up on sleep and not wanting to disturb Jamie she slid out from under his arm and out of bed.

There was a brief murmur from the large Scot, who was lying face down, but he settled back to sleep when she gently moved the auburn curls away from his eyes. A small smile crossed his face and her heart clenched at seeing it. She would miss these quiet morning moments, when she returned to the desert. Moments when she could wake up next to him and be able to take in all his features and his being without him asking what she was thinking.

There is too much to focus on today Beauchamp. Claire said to herself. Stop thinking about when you won’t be with him and start embracing the time you have left with him. Start thinking about the surgery.

Claire made her way over to the counter and quietly washed her face in the sink. Mother Hildegarde had dropped off a clean pair of scrubs yesterday, so she changed into those, put on her sneakers, and set about taming her curls so they would fit under her surgical cap. Just as she was turning her head to look in the mirror, she caught a glimpse of ocean blue eyes staring back at her.

“Darling, what are you doing awake? It’s 4 AM! You still have at least an hour of sleep before we need to get you prepped.”

“I sleep poorly when yer not beside me, Sassenach.” Jamie’s voice was thick with sleep.

“You silly man. This is only the second night I’ve slept with you.” Claire chided, smiling down at him.

“Aye and I dinna ken what I’ll do when ye leave, but in the meantime I’ll not miss a single waking moment with ye.”

“Jamie - “ Claire started.

“No mo chridhe. We’ve a big day ahead of us and thankfully yer here with me now.” Jamie saw the moisture beginning to glisten in Claire’s eyes. Wanting to do his best to keep her from crying, he asked, “What is the agenda for today, Dr. Fraser?”

Sniffling, Claire was happy for a change in subject. “Well, Soldier, the plan is to complete your skin grafts and then get you on the road to recovery.”

Jamie nodded. “Do ye ken how much longer I’ll be on this floor, before moving to PT with Ian?”

“I’m honestly not sure, my love. That will ultimately be Mother Hildegarde’s call, but I’m hoping it’s before I have to leave. I was given ten days of R&R and it’s only Day 3, so I’m hopeful! Moving to the PT ward does likely mean less privacy however.”

Jamie reached for Claire and she quickly grabbed his hand and brought it up to her lips. She kissed his palm and brought it to rest against her cheek. Both of them closed their eyes, soaking up the last few minutes of peaceful bliss that surrounded them. Claire was the first to open her eyes and speak.

“Jamie,” she managed in her best doctor tone, “you do know that I cannot sleep in your bed the next few nights, right? We cannot risk having me accidentally touching your back and tearing stitches or worse somehow giving you an infection.”

“I figured mo nighean donn, but, ye’ll not leave me, aye?”

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away, darling. I’ll ask Mother Hildegarde about getting a roll away brought in and I’ll be right by your side, just not in the bed with you. Besides, I’ll want to make sure your vitals are good and that you don’t go a minute longer than necessary without pain meds.”

“Claire, I dinna want to be a zombie the next few days. Dinna force those meds on me. I’d rather feel the pain. It reminds me I’m alive when I dinna have yer touch on me.”

“Jamie, I know how you feel about the pain meds, but for the first 24 to 36 hours, it is best to let your body heal. The best way to do that, is to keep you fairly sedated. Do you trust me to keep it at a reasonable dosage?”

“I trust ye with my life Sassenach. Ye ken that. Just promise me…ye’ll not leave my side, aye?”

“Aye,” Claire replied.

“Now, I dinna want a surgeon that has not had any breakfast. Go and eat, Sassenach. I need ye at yer best to put me back together.” Jamie gave Claire his double-eyed wink.

“Yessir, Master Sergeant.” Claire jokingly saluted Jamie and then bent down to kiss him. “I’ll be back to see you before they take you to pre-op. Try to relax a bit or even doze if you can, hmm? Doctor’s orders.”

Jamie returned her salute. “As ye say, Dr. Fraser.”

 

Claire went down to the cafeteria and grabbed a bowl of fruit, some oatmeal, and steaming cup of coffee. At this hour the cafeteria was empty, but she was ok with that. It gave her time to focus on the surgery ahead of her. She was grateful for the opportunity to scrub in and watch Dr. Hildegarde at work. She knew she would assist some, but this was as much of a learning experience as it was allowing her to be involved in her husband’s healing process. Claire closed her eyes and started visualizing how the surgery would go. After a few moments, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Using the visualization method I taught you, mon cheri?”

“Oh, Mother Hildegarde! You startled me.” Claire said looking up into her mentor’s smiling eyes.

Mes excuses, Dr. Fraser. I did not mean to startle you. It just warmed my heart to see you going through the motions of our upcoming surgery.”

“I have used that technique for every surgery I’ve performed Mother Hildegarde! Not only does it help me focus, but there is a calming feeling that takes over my body and mind and gives me the confidence to trust in my training and skills.”

“I am so proud of you Claire! I will be honored to have you by my side this morning.”

Claire reached across the table and took Mother Hildegarde’s hands in her own. “I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for Jamie and I. Your kindness, medical knowledge, and discretion for our privacy has been more than Jamie and I could have ever asked for. I know letting me assist is bending the rules more than a bit, but, I don’t think I make a very good bystander these days.”

A warm smile spread across Mother Hildegarde’s face and she gave Claire’s hands a squeeze. “Cela a été mon plaisir.”

The two women sat in silence for a while longer, sipping their coffee. Around 4:45 AM, Mother Hildegarde stood to take her leave. “Have Jamie in pre-op by 5:30 AM, s'il te plaît.”

“Yes ma’am.” Claire then stood as well and both women left the cafeteria out of separate doors.

 

Back in Jamie’s room, Claire was pleased to see that he had fallen back asleep. Claire checked her watch, seeing she had a few minutes, she sat and watched him sleep. Just as before, when she brushed her fingers across his hairline, his lips turned up into a smile. Jamie looked so peaceful, she hated to wake him up, but she also knew him well enough to know that he would want to get cleaned up before laying in the bed the next several days.

Claire bent over and put her lips to Jamie’s ear. “Wake up, my love.” Then she nibbled on his earlobe.

Jamie let out a contented sigh and mumbled in Gaelic, “Feumaidh mi a bhith nam chadal le aingeal.” Then he slowly blinked open his eyes and an astonished look flitted across his face.

“What is it, darling?”

Jamie wiped his hand across his face, as if trying to clear his line of sight. He looked up at Claire again, as if just seeing her for the first time. “I truly am sleeping next to an angel. I thought I was dreaming before, but then I opened my eyes and there ye were.”

“You know, when you say such things…it makes you the king of all men. I’ve never known a man that says such beautiful things. Is this because we’re still in the honeymoon period?” Claire asked, with a teasing tone.

Instead of jesting back, Jamie took her hands in his and looked at her seriously. “Every day I look at ye, yer more beautiful than the day before mo ghraidh. As long as yer by my side, I will continue to bless ye with such words, as there is no other way to speak to a woman. I will continue to worship yer body, cherish yer mind, and protect yer soul, so long as ye’ll have me.”

At a total loss for words, Claire simply took Jamie’s face in her hands and kissed him with all the love her heart possessed. Sensing things were going to move into a territory neither of them had time for, Claire reluctantly broke off the kiss and pressed her foreheads to Jamie’s and whispered against his lips, “I’ll have you until my last breath.”

A light knock on the door, brought both of them back to their immediate surroundings. Claire cleared her throat and kissed Jamie on his forehead, before moving to open the door.

“Mornin’ Dr. Fraser!” Marsali’s cheerful voice echoed into the room.

“Dr. Hildegarde said to tell ye that she is ready for ye to bring over Master Sergeant Fraser whenever yer ready.”

“Morning, Marsali! Thank you. Please tell her that we’ll be over there in a few minutes.”

“Aye! See ye soon!” Then Marsali turned and headed towards the pre-op area.

Claire closed the door and turned back to face Jamie. “Time to go, aye?”

“Yes,” Claire answered, “but I thought you might like a quick scrub before heading into surgery.”

“Sassenach,” Jamie growled. “I dinna think it’s the best time for that, hmm?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“As much as I would like to partake in such activities, you’re right, soldier. I just thought you might like to freshen up a bit since you’ll be lying in bed for the next few days. I’ll make sure that an orderly comes in and changes your sheets before we transfer you back to this bed.”

Giving her his most pathetic face, Jamie replied, “I suppose, but I would much rather a full sponge bath.”

“I’m sure you would,” Claire chuckled. “I promise I’ll give you one as soon as we’re allowed to move you around a bit. In the meantime, let’s get you up. You can brush your teeth, did you want me to shave your face? I will also warm up some water and get you a clean cloth.”

“Aye, that’s a braw idea, thank ye Sassenach. I ken I’ll feel better if I can clean up a bit. I canna wait until I can take a full shower again.”

Claire helped Jamie get up and then busied herself gathering what they needed for Jamie to clean himself up before heading over to the OR. Between the two of them, they were able to freshen Jamie up in about ten minutes. Claire grabbed his walker and they made their way out of the room and over to pre-op.

Once they arrived at pre-op, Claire and Marsali helped Jamie settle onto the operating gurney. Once Marsali had started the IV Claire pulled up a stool to sit with Jamie for a few minutes before heading to the scrub room and into the OR.

Jamie reached for Claire’s hand and held it tightly, rubbing his thumb across her knuckles. “I dinna ken why I’m nervous, Sassenach. I’ve been through this before, this time should’na be any different.”

“It’s perfectly normal to be nervous, Jamie. I would be more concerned if you were not.” Claire smiled. “Just remember, I’ll be with you the whole time.”

“Aye and that helps mo chridhe.” Jamie was silent again for a few minutes. Sensing it was almost time for Claire to go prep herself, Jamie spoke up again. “Will ye do something for me?”

“Of course darling! Anything!”

“After the surgery, once I’m in recovery, will ye email my family? Let them ken how it went?”

“Of course, I would be happy to.”

“Thank ye, Sassenach, truly.”

Just then, Mother Hildegarde came in to see how her patient was doing. After going over the surgery with Jamie and explaining what to expect this time, she looked over at Claire.

“It’s time, mon cheri. I’ll give you a few minutes and then come scrub in with me.”

Claire nodded and Mother Hildegarde left. Looking back over to Jamie, she squeezed his hand and pressed her forehead to his. “Are you ready?”

“As long as yer by my side, I’m ready to face anything. I love ye, Claire.”

“I love you too, Jamie. I’ll be right there when you wake up in a few hours.”

Their lips met in a passionate kiss for a few moments. Breaking it slowly, Claire stood up and headed to the door. With a final look over her shoulder, she smiled at Jamie and waved. He waved back and then laid his head back down onto the gurney.

 

The surgery took longer than expected, but went well. Mother Hildegarde was meticulous with her grafting and stitching. She knew that Jamie would have scars, but did her best to ensure they were as minimal as possible. Claire had practically been in a trance watching her mentor work. She assisted at the beginning, but then Mother Hildegarde had shown her how to graft the skin and Claire became engrossed in the process.

When the surgery was done, Mother Hildegarde excused herself, while Claire had remained with the nurses and anesthesiologist. She couldn’t bring herself to leave Jamie’s side. Marsali looked at her as they were getting ready to wheel Jamie into recovery.

“Go clean yerself up, Dr. Fraser. I promise, I’ll stay with him in recovery until ye get back.”

“Are you sure, Marsali? I would love to take a shower and Jamie asked me to email his family and let them know how things went.”

“Aye, I’m sure! Please, take a few minutes for yerself.”

“Thank you, you are a dear! You have know idea how much I appreciate that!” Claire quickly made her way to the doctor’s locker room and shredded her scrubs. She had set the water to almost scalding and stood under the stream for several minutes. The feel of the water cascading down her back was almost as good as visiting her favorite masseuse back home.

Home. It was amazing how different things would look when she was finally able to get back to the states. When Jamie is feeling up to it, we’ll have to Skype with Uncle Lamb. How will he take the news? Claire thought. She savored the next few minutes in the shower and then washed her hair and shaved her legs.

As Claire dried off, she continued to think about her and Jamie’s life once they were back home. Jamie would be medically discharged, of course, and head back before her tour was done. The thought of being an entire ocean away from Jamie made her physically ill. Wrapped in a towel, Claire sat down on one of the benches and took a few deep breaths. We’ll have plenty of time to figure everything out in the next couple of months. Right now, you need to focus on Jamie’s recovery. Angry at herself for taking so long, Claire pulled on some fresh scrubs and made her way back over to Recovery.

Marsali was still sitting next to Jamie, scrolling through her phone. She quickly put it away as she saw Claire coming towards her.

“Ahh, dinna take this the wrong way, Dr. Fraser, but ye look so much better after taking a few minutes for yerself!”

Smiling, Claire looked back at Marsali, after checking Jamie’s vitals. “Thank you Marsali, and no offense taken! I’m sure I looked quite frightful…I usually do after sweating in surgery for hours and taking off my cap. My curls tend to have a mind of their own.”

“Weel, the Master Sergeant is doin’ braw so far! Vitals are holding strong and he has’na even stirred yet. Did ye get the chance to email his family?”

“Actually, no.” Claire confided. “I didn’t want to be away from Jamie for too long. I promised I wouldn't leave his side, not that I want to.” Claire looked down at Jamie and ran the back of her fingers across his freshly-shaven cheek. She was rewarded with a tiny smile that caused the corner of his mouth to turn up.

“I understand,” Marsali said. “How ‘bout I find ye a laptop and ye can sit here with him and email his family?”

“Really Marsali? You don’t have to go through all that trouble!”

“It’s my pleasure, Dr. Fraser! And if ye don’t mind my sayin’...” Marsali paused and blushed deeply. “I pray that I can find a man that looks at me, the way the Master Sergeant looks at ye.”

Blushing herself, Claire smiled. “Are we that obvious?” She winked at Marsali, letting her know she didn’t really want an answer to that question. “I would love it if you could bring me a laptop, and please, call me Claire.”

Marsali smiled and went to take her leave when Claire said one more thing, although Marsali wasn’t sure she was addressing her or talking to herself. Claire was looking at Jamie with all the love in the world plainly displayed on her face.

“You’ll meet that man one day, in the most unlikely place, when you least expect it. You just have to be open to it.”

Marsali smiled and quietly pulled the curtain aside to leave.

 

------

12 April 2011 11:15 CET
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fraser, I

hope this email finds you well. It was so lovely to finally meet Jamie’s family! He speaks of you all often and with so much love. I look forward to the day that we may actually embrace.

This morning Jamie underwent what we are hoping, is his last surgery. I scrubbed in and was present the entire time. The surgery went longer than expected, but not due to any complications. Dr. Hildegarde is a world-renowned surgeon and is meticulous in everything she does. I assure you, Jamie was in extremely capable hands!

There will be extensive scarring on his back, but that was one reason Dr. Hildegarde took much longer than she anticipated. She was doing her best to minimize the scars by using additional smaller stitches.

I know Jamie will be anxious to Skype with you all soon and I will do my best to keep you posted on his progress. I will be here for another week before I have to return to my post in the Middle East.

Please do not hesitate to email me and I can relay any messages to Jamie, until he is feeling up to responding himself.

All Our Love,
Claire and Jamie

 

12 April 2011 10:30 AM EST
Dearest Claire,

Thank you for informing us of Jamie’s surgery! Knowing that you were by his side has lifted a burden off our shoulders. We look forward to speaking with both ye and Jamie again, as soon as he is feeling up to it. We certainly hope that is before ye return to your post.

Please share with Jamie that things are going well back here! He’ll be pleased to ken that his stallion, Donas, has sired another braw foal! We’ve attached a picture here for ye all to see.
Donas-Foal

W e ken that ye are busy tending to Jamie, but we do love hearing from ye and getting updates. One day, if ye and Jamie are blessed with children, especially lads, ye’ll see that information is not always forthcoming. Having ye in his corner and open to communication, warms our hearts, more than ye’ll ever ken.

Until we speak again, please ken that love and healing thoughts are heading to you both. Take care of yerself Claire, and make sure to rest. Jamie would be upset if ye started feeling peelie-wally because of him.

Love,
Mam and Da / Ellen & Brian (ye may call us either…whatever makes ye comfortable)

PS. We have been calling him neach-dèanamh trioblaid, trio for short, but havena named him properly yet. If you or Jamie have an idea do share.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-30

Landsthul Regional Medical Center
Jamie was kept sedated for almost 48 hours after surgery. The delicate sutures that Dr. Hildegarde had put in needed time to do their job untested and allow the new and old skin to bond. Claire had been careful to not keep Jamie too far under, honoring his request, but she did need him still for a bit. Another few days and the incisions would start to itch something fierce. A good sign, but a trying one to be sure.

It was on Jamie’s third day post-op, his first day of being totally coherent, that Lt. Colonel Gowan reappeared. Claire had just stepped out to grab them a bite to eat and Jamie was flipping through a magazine, while laying face down on the bed. While Jamie was out of the fog of sedation, he was still tired from the lingering effects of the sedation and morphine drip that Claire had insisted he needed.

“Master Sergeant Fraser! I’m happy to see you looking so well after your last surgery.”

Och! Ye startled me.” Jamie said, trying to turn his head around and get a good look at who had entered the room.

“I’m sorry, Master Sergeant. Allow me to come and sit on the stool in front of you, so you are not straining to look up at me.” The Lt. Colonel made his way over to the stool and pulled it up, just a few feet from Jamie’s bedside. “I’m Lt. Colonel Gowan.” He stuck his hand out to shake Jamie’s.

“Yessir. I’m pleased to make yer acquaintance. Please forgive the lack of coming to attention.” Jamie was doing his best to maintain his composure, but that was proving a bit difficult, with the constant discomfort in his back. He did not want the Lt. Colonel mistaking his expressions for concern or confusion. Shifting slightly he asked “How can I help ye, sir?”

“I’m just here to get your account of the events of the night you all were attacked. It will help me determine what, if anything, could have prevented the outcome, and who, if anyone, is at fault. It’s just standard procedure. I’ve already talked to Captain Murray. Once I speak with you, I can write up my report and send it off to Washington.”

The Lt. Colonel spoke casually enough, but Jamie’s mind was racing a mile a minute. What had Dougal already said? How much did Ian remember and share? What am I going to say? Jamie could feel his heart rate picking up and his breathing becoming shallow. Easy, Fraser. As a Master Sergeant, ye are trained to conduct yourself in difficult situations. Jamie thought to himself. If he could just rely on his training and answer the questions directly and not elaborate more than necessary, he could get through this. He had thought about what he would say when the Lt. Colonel came to visit him. Jamie wanted to stick with the facts. Claire, on the other hand, thought Jamie should speak up about what had transpired. While she wasn’t apprised of what had actually changed, she knew something significant had occurred, changing the mission to a point where soldiers had been seriously injured.

“Excuse me, Master Sergeant?” Lt. Colonel Gowan’s voice brought Jamie back to the present.

“Aye? Och! My sincerest apologies! Yessir?”

“It’s quite alright, lad. I want you to feel comfortable while we speak. Let’s drop some of the formalities.” Gowan suggested.

“Alright, sir. What is it ye want to know?” Jamie asked, hoping to complete this conversation before Claire came back with his lunch.

“Basically, I just need you to walk me through what happened that night. As much as you remember, starting with your final briefing before departure.”

Jamie nodded and took a deep breath. He knew that if this went how he expected, this wouldn’t be the last time he would have to tell this story. Honesty, Fraser. Stick to the truth and you won’t have to remember what you have said. “Well, sir, at our last briefing, the Major General went over exactly what was going to happen and who was responsible for each part of the mission…who was guarding the door, who was in charge of surveillance, etc. We had been training for months ye ken, each man could anticipate what the guy next to him was going to do. It should have gone like clockwork.” Jamie paused.

“But I’m guessing it did not?”

“No, sir. It did not. Once we got into the BlackHawk, the Major General changed some of the responsibilities.”

The Lt. Colonel looked slightly taken aback. “What do you mean, he changed the responsibilities? What was the Major General responsible for?”

“Originally, he was to stay back at the BlackHawk and provide surveillance and guide the team through the comms. However, at the last minute, he decided that he wanted to raid the building with us. He took over Willie’s position and threw the flash grenade. Rupert, Willie and I had practiced EXACTLY what we would do when the grenade went off, but now it was Angus next tae me, instead of Willie.”

Lt. Colonel Gowan had set his mouth into a tight, straight line. Jamie tried to read what he was thinking, but a man didn’t rise to the rank of Lt. Colonel, by being easy to read. He was scribbling notes on the pad he had brought with him. Once he had stopped writing, he nodded at Jamie to continue.

“I dinna want ye thinkin’ that I did’na trust Angus Mohr, because I do, sir. I trust each man on my team with my life, we have tae, but it was not Angus that I had been practicing with at my side…it had been Willie and Rupert.” Jamie took a deep breath and closed his eyes. For the first time, since it happened, he was back in that compound. So much had happened since the raid and Jamie had not allowed himself to think about the events of that night. Normally, he would have debriefed with the commanding officer, Harold Grey, but he was whisked away due to his injuries. Physically and mentally, Jamie had been in no position to talk about what had happened inside the compound, but now, with his surgeries behind him and his mind clear of pain medication, he was being forced to relive the events of that night.

As if transported back into the compound, Jamie started describing, in finite detail, what had happened to the Lt. Colonel.

“Ian knocked down the door and Dougal threw in the flash grenade. Rupert, Angus, and I charged in and I immediately engaged and subdued the target. Originally, I should have been flanked by Rupert on the right and Willie on the left, but when I looked to my right, I did’na see anyone. Both Rupert and Angus were on my left, leaving my right fully exposed.” Jamie’s face had contorted as if he was going through the raid again. It was plain to see how distraught he was, but before the Lt. Colonel could ask him to pause, Jamie continued.

“As I was putting the restraints on the target, I saw movement to my right. At the same time, intelligence came in over the comms, stating that there were additional subjects in the room…people we had not accounted for. Ian and Dougal rushed over to drag the target out of the building, while Rupert and Willie came to assist me in engaging the additional subjects. They rushed us, while firing with AK-47s, and I had just reached into my vest and drawn a grenade. As soon as I pulled the pin, I was knocked over. The grenade was knocked from my hand, rolled backwards and went off.”

Jamie sucked in a quick breath. His eyes were still closed, but at this revelation…the fact that the grenade had rolled backwards, towards Ian and Dougal, his eyelids flew open.

“It’s my fault,” he whispered, so quietly that the Lt. Colonel leaned forward and asked him to repeat what he said.

“It’s my fault!” Jamie roared, while his body shook.

Just then, Claire returned, carrying a tray with their lunch on it. At the sound of her husband’s deafening roar, she had dropped the tray to the floor. Claire stared at Jamie, who had flinched and pushed his face down into the bed, while covering his ears with his hands. Claire rushed to his side and tried to rest her hand on Jamie’s shoulder, but he pulled away. She glanced at the other man in the room and glowered at him.

“Who the bloody hell are you and what have you done to my husband?!”

“My apologies, ma’am. I’m Lt. Colonel Gowan and I was asking your husband to recall the events the night of the raid.”

Claire quickly pulled herself together and stood up straighter. “Captain Beauchamp-Fraser, sir. I’m a surgeon at the base where Master Sergeant Fraser was stationed. I am currently on R&R.”

The Lt. Colonel relaxed his face and smiled. “I believe you referred to the Master Sergeant as your husband, did you not?”

With a small smile on her face, Claire nodded. “We were wed on the base, right after he returned from the raid and before he was evacuated here to Landsthul.”

“I see. Well Captain, I need a bit more time with your husband. If you’ll excuse us?” Claire stared at the man. Even knowing he was a superior officer, she couldn’t help herself.

“You cannot be serious, sir. Look at the condition he is in.” They both glanced at Jamie who was visibly shaking and murmuring in Gaelic.

The Lt. Colonel stepped forward and took Claire’s hands in his. “I know this is difficult my dear, but I must know exactly what happened, so that I can finalize a report for Washington. There are some serious concerns with this raid and I need to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, you do not have the security clearance to be present during this conversation.”

Despite what he was saying, Claire could see the sympathy in the man’s eyes. She silently nodded and with a final look towards Jamie, slowly turned around and left the room.

After the door had closed, Lt. Colonel Gowan went back to the stool at the head of Jamie's bed. He reached out his hand and placed it firmly on Jamie’s forearm. The pressure forced Jamie back to the present and he looked up at the Lt. Colonel, who was exaggerating his breathing, so that Jamie would copy his motions. After a few more minutes, Jamie had calmed considerably. He was no longer shaking and his breathing, while still shallow, had slowed as well.

“That’s better, lad. I know how difficult this is, even more so since this is the first time you have been asked to recall the events of that night. However, it’s important that we finish, aye? Now, what did you mean when you said it was your fault?”

Jamie nodded and took a couple more minutes to compose himself. “Ian’s leg. The grenade rolled backwards, causing the explosion that made the wall collapse on top of Ian and the target. The target was killed instantly, but luckily Ian was’na. He was trapped, though, and Dougal and I worked to free him. Rupert and Angus had set up by the door by this time, taking out any other subjects that came near after the explosion.” Jamie closed his eyes again, the images of that night as clear as the fresh water stream that runs behind his parents house in upstate New York. “Ian was in and out of consciousness and could’na walk, so I threw him over my shoulder and Dougal ordered us to evacuate. When we made it outside -” Jamie’s voice caught and he swallowed visibility. Clearing his throat, he went on. “When we made it outside, Willie was hollerin’ at us from the BlackHawk. ‘On the roofs! They’re firing from the roofs!’ Dougal and Rupert were in front of me and I could see them get into the BlackHawk. Angus was guarding my six. I was so focused on getting to the bird, that…” Jamie stopped again, tears falling out of his closed eyes. “...that I did’na see the IED on the ground.”

The Lt. Colonel inhaled quickly and stiffened slightly, but nodded for Jamie to continue.

“I dinna remember anything after that, sir. I threw Ian towards the chopper and felt a pain and searing in my back that I would not wish on my worst enemy.”

The Lt. Colonel sat silently for a few more minutes, frantically scribbling on his notepad. Jamie, thoroughly exhausted from the ordeal, had laid his head down on the bed, but still had not opened his eyes.

“I know that was difficult for you, lad, but I’m glad we were able to get through it.”

Jamie raised his head and opened his eyes, looking directly into Lt. Colonel Gowan’s. “I ken that my story does’na match that of the Major General.”

“What makes you say that, Master Sergeant?” The energy in the room had changed from that of painful recollection, to a charged atmosphere, where one would have to read between the lines to understand what the other was saying.

“I ken the Major General weel, aye? He’s my uncle.”

“Yes, I was aware of that, but what makes you think he didn’t give me the same recount of events that you did, Master Sergeant Fraser?”

“My uncle did’na get to the rank that he is, without keepin’ secrets and havin’ a few skeletons in the closet, ye ken?” Jamie’s voice was no longer shaky. He spoke with conviction and an icy tone. “My uncle does’na like to be told when he’s wrong, and he sure as hell will’na admit to makin’ a mistake.”

The Lt. Colonel sat up, so that what he was about to whisper, could only be heard by Jamie. “I ken your uncle as well, lad, along with your father. We go way back, all the way to West Point. Brian Duh was two years behind Dougal and I, who were in the same class and he was a competitive, arrogant son of a bitch even back then. While I respect him, I have my orders that I must follow as well. Understood, Master Sergeant?”

“Aye, sir. Understood.”

Lt. Colonel Gowan squeezed Jamie’s forearm as he stood up from his stool. Jamie closed his eyes and laid his head back down on the bed, when the Lt. Colonel leaned over to whisper in his ear. “He will not get away with this.”

Jamie wasn’t quite sure he had heard the Lt. Colonel correctly, but he was too exhausted to give it much thought. As the door to his room opened, he heard the Lt. Colonel, tell someone it was alright for them to go in now and bid them farewell.

“Jamie,” Claire sighed, rushing to his side, after setting a new tray of food on the counter. “My love! Are you alright?”

“Yes, mo nighean donn, I’m fine. Just tired is all.” Claire put her finger under Jamie’s chin, directing his eyes to look up at her. “Jamie. You don’t have to put on a brave face for me. I know what it’s like to be in a war zone too. I -”

“Ye ken nothing of what it was like that night!” Jamie had cut her off abruptly and Claire pulled back, startled. There was a fire in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before and he was breathing heavily. They stared at each other for a brief moment and then Jamie seemed to see Claire for the first time. “I…I’m sorry, mo chridhe. Forgive me! I did’na mean to snap at ye.”

Still tentative, but relieved to see that look in Jamie’s eyes disappear, Claire leaned forward and put her forehead on his. “Forgiven. Jamie, I may not have been there, but you can talk to me. I’m your wife… for better or worse, in good times and in bad, remember? We’ll work through this together.”

Jamie nodded, but was quick to change the subject. “Were ye able to get some lunch, Sassenach?”

Distraught that Jamie wouldn’t open up to her, Claire simply nodded and gave him a half-smile. “Well, the first one ended up on the floor, but I was able to go back to the cafeteria and get you something to eat. I’ll bring it over and then clean up this mess.”

Jamie pulled Claire in for a quick kiss on the lips before letting her get up. “Tapadh leat, mo chridhe.” As Claire stood from the stool and turned towards the count, Jamie didn’t let go of her hand. “I ken ye mean well. Claire, when I’m ready, I will talk tae ye, but please dinna push, mo ghraidh.”

“I understand Jamie, that's all I ask. For you to talk, no matter how much time it takes.” Claire said and smiled.

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles, before releasing her to get the food. It was not lost on either of them, that Claire’s smile was forced and did not reach her eyes. There was clearly a wall between them that hadn't been there just a few hours prior.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-31

Landsthul Regional Medical Center

Jamie continued to get stronger, as the days passed. On his fifth day post-op, it was decided that he would move to the Physical Therapy wing. Knowing that Claire only had two more days left on her R&R, Mother Hildegarde was able to give Jamie a private room, with the understanding that he would be moved after Claire left.

Claire helped Jamie settle into his new surroundings and made sure to accompany him to his therapy sessions. She wanted to be able to ask him how the various exercises were going, once she was back on the base, and it would be easier if she knew what they were.

On the first day, Jamie struggled completing some of the simplest tasks. Claire and the therapist reassured him that he needed to give his body time to heal and that the exercises would soon be quite easy, but that didn’t stop the stubborn Scot from becoming quite frustrated. The morning session lasted only an hour, so Claire suggested that they get some breakfast and then head back to the room to let Jamie rest. They ate in companionable silence, just enjoying being together, but Claire soon realized, as she wheeled Jamie back to his room, that his mood was not improving.

“Is there anything you would like to do today, Jamie? After you rest, of course.” she asked cheerfully.

“I dinna ken,” Jamie mumbled. “Why is everyone so concerned about me resting? I’m no’ tired. I barely did anythin’ this morning.”

Claire took a deep breath, trying to decide if she should approach this as the supportive wife or the decisive doctor. Considering she was leaving the day after tomorrow, she opted for the supportive wife role. He’ll be surrounded by medical personnel after you leave and then you won’t be here to support him, Beauchamp.

“Darling, I know it doesn’t seem like you did much, but you have to remember that your body hasn’t moved much in the last couple of weeks. It’s normal to feel a bit sluggish. Please give yourself a bit of grace.”

Hrmpff, was the only sound she got out of Jamie. She hesitated to ask if he needed help getting out of the wheelchair, afraid that it might set him off, but she also didn't want him to overdoing it. God forbid he rip stitches getting out of a wheelchair. Summoning her courage, she simply put a hand out to Jamie, offering a silent suggestion. Thankfully, Jamie took it and allowed her to help hoist him up and steady him as he rotated around to sit on the edge of the bed.

“I’m no’ ready to lay down, Sassenach. I forgot how good it feels to be upright.”

Encouraged by this statement, Claire brought over a chair and sat in front of Jamie. “You don’t have another therapy session until 15:00, so have you thought about what we might do? I’m sure your family would love to speak to you if you wanted to Skype with them! Or I could take you outside to walk around a bit…the fresh air would do wonders for not only your body, but mind as well. The Vitamin D in the sunlight would be so much better for you than these fluorescent lights.”

Claire waited patiently for Jamie to decide if there was anything that he wanted to do, but he just sat there quietly. After several minutes, Claire was getting ready to say something, when Jamie finally spoke. It was so quiet, she almost didn’t hear him, but the words that stung.

“I think it would be best if ye left me for a bit, Sassenach.”

Claire stared at Jamie, waiting for his eyes to meet hers. When they finally did, she was surprised to see that they were full of tears. Claire opened her mouth to speak, but Jamie held up his hand for her to stop.

“I ken ye love me, mo chridhe, and yer only tryin’ to help. But havin’ ye see me like this? It makes me feel like less of a man. I canna even stand up on my own and every time I try to do something, ye jump in and do it for me. Please dinna think I’m ungrateful, because I am; but, I have tae do some of this fer myself…I need tae do it fer myself.”

Claire was fighting back her own tears, but nodded. She stood up and walked towards the door. With her hand on the handle, she looked back over her shoulder at Jamie. With a single tear falling down her cheek, she said, “Please do not push me away, Jamie.” Then she turned back around and left the room.

With the door closed, Jamie let his own tears fall as he hung his head in shame.

 

I have to get out of here before I lose it, Claire thought. She knew of a bench, just out in the garden, where she thought she could be alone. Walking briskly, so as to not draw attention to herself, Claire made her way outdoors. Locating the bench, she hurried over and slumped into it, while falling apart. How could the man she loved, her husband, be pushing her away? Rationally, she knew this behavior was normal…she had seen many patients react this way. She was always reassuring them that they would gain strength back, improve upon the exercises, but it was a much different experience being on the other side.

“Mind if I join ye?” a soft, Scottish-burr asked.

Claire turned to see Ian, slowly making his way around on some crutches. Wiping her face and sniffling into her sleeve, Claire simply nodded.

“Oh, lass. What has our stubborn Fraser done tae ye? Has he hurt ye? I’ll club him with my crutch if that’s the case.”

Hoping that would elicit a smile from her, Ian was pleased when he saw the corner of her mouth lift up. He slowly lowered himself down onto the bench and rested his hand on her leg. Claire leaned into Ian and rested her head on his shoulder.

“He asked me to leave him for a bit, after his PT this morning. He was frustrated, of course, since he couldn’t do everything they asked him to. The therapist and I tried to explain that it was perfectly normal, but he’s too stubborn to listen.”

“Aye. The Fraser’s are a stubborn lot, trust me. Their heads are as thick and strong as their hearts are big and soft. Did I ever tell ye about how Jenny asked me to marry her?”

“Jenny asked you?!” Claire was quite surprised. Not that she didn’t think a woman could propose, it just wasn’t something she had ever seen happen before.

“Aye, she did. Jamie and I were home on Winter Break, our senior year. Jenny and I were out in the barn, away from prying eyes,” Ian winked, “when she told me that we would be married before I had to go overseas.”

Claire’s mouth dropped open, but Ian went on.

“That was my reaction as well, and I spent the next several weeks tryin’ to convince her otherwise, but I kent I was gettin’ nowhere when I was standing at the altar in the church, as she held on tae Brian’s arm, walking down the aisle.” Ian was smiling at the memory that was so clearly embedded in his brain. “Ye see, Frasers always think they ken best. Of course, sometimes they do,” as Ian wiggled his ring finger at Claire showing off his platinum wedding band, “and other times, they dinna have a clue. This, Claire, is one of those times.”

“I’m not so sure, Ian. I have to leave the day after tomorrow, and the last thing I want is for Jamie to resent me for pushing him in therapy. Maybe it would be best if I just sat back and kept my mouth shut.”

“Since when is Captain Claire Beauchamp Fraser the meek and obedient type?” Ian asked with a raised eyebrow. “The lass I met, in a dusty, desert, medical tent…eyes blazing as she stuck me with an IV, would not have tolerated that type of behavior from anyone, let alone her husband.”

That made her laugh a bit, but she still looked skeptical. “I hear what you are saying, Ian, really I do. I’m just not sure I have the energy or emotional stamina left to make it through these next two days at odds with Jamie. Maybe it would be better if I just flew out tomorrow. I would no longer be a distraction and Jamie could focus on healing.”

“If ye think that best, lass, then I will support that decision. But ye ken that Jamie would never forgive himself if he thought ye left because of him. If I may be so bold as to offer marriage advice…talk to him. This is going to be a difficult time for the both of ye. The only way to get through is to keep the lines of communication open and be honest with each other.”

Claire threw her arms around Ian’s neck. “Thank you, Ian. I’m going to miss you so much! It’s like having my own personal ‘How to Handle a Fraser’ manual.” Ians’ shoulders shook with laughter under Claire’s embrace.

“Any time, Claire.” Ian took her face in his hands and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Walk me back in?” Claire stood and put a hand under Ian’s arm as he pushed off the bench. They slowly made their way back inside and Ian stopped when they were outside Jamie’s door. “I ken I’ll see ye before ye leave, but rest assured…I will watch over him Claire. And I’ll be the first to give him a stiff kick in the arse when he’s no’ behaving.”

“Thank you, Ian. I do feel better knowing you’ll be here with him. Not only to motivate him, but keep him in check. Perhaps we’ll see you at dinner?”

“I’ll be there, even if the ‘twa of ye are not.”

 

After bidding Ian goodbye, Claire gently knocked on Jamie’s door before opening it. Jamie was laying on his side, facing away from the door. Claire thought he was sleeping, so she quietly pulled the door shut and tip-toed over to the chair she had sat in earlier.

“Claire?” Jamie inquired as he pushed himself upright.

“I’m here, Jamie.” She rushed to his side to help him sit up.

“Thank Christ! I was afraid that I had driven ye away and that’s the last thing I meant tae do, mo ghraidh! I dinna mean it Claire. I need ye here, with me, cheering me on, picking me up when I fall. If yer not by my side, mo nighean donn, then none of it means anything.” Jamie was crying again, but admist the tears, he whispered, "How can ye have me like this?"

Claire took his face in her hands and kissed away his tears. “I'll have you any way I can, Soldier."  She then pressed their foreheads together and spoke soothingly to him.  "Please don’t cry, Jamie. This is all new to me too. I know how to treat a patient and follow through with the medical part, but I’ve never been in love with a patient before.” Claire blushed. “Your pain is my pain and your struggles are my struggles. I want to help you Jamie, but I would never want you to feel like less than the incredible man you are.”

“I ken, Sassenach, but ye must understand how hard this is for me. Ye’ll be leaving in two days and I’ll no’ be there tae protect ye. What kind of husband does that make me?”

“An injured one, that has to remain in the hospital, and should be solely focused on getting better, so that we can start our lives when we are both back home.”

“Ye always have to be practical, don’t ye, Sassenach?”

“I’m sorry, my love. That’s how my brain works and what makes me an outstanding surgeon. However, I’m learning that this may not be the best attribute for a wife.”

“I would never want ye tae change, mo chridhe. I just need ye tae not always be ‘Dr. Fraser’ while I’m going through this.”

“I can do that, as long as you are not always ‘Master Sergeant Fraser’. You have to let people help you, Jamie. There is no shame in that and it is not a sign of weakness."

“Sounds like we both have a bit of work tae do, aye?” Jamie said shyly.

“That we do, but let’s try not be at each other’s throats for the next forty-eight hours. It’s going to be trying enough when we are separated. I promise to not harp on your exercises or treat you like an invalid for the next two days, if you promise to ask for help when you need it and not push me away. Deal?”

“Aye, deal, Sassenach. Now, come here so we can seal our deal with a kiss, mo chridhe.”

Claire smiled and indulged her husband with a deep kiss. With their foreheads pressed together, they simply existed in the same space for several minutes. Not wanting to disrupt the serenity that had come back to their relationship, Claire bit her lip to hide her thoughts, but not before Jamie had picked up on it.

“I ken there’s still something ye want to say, Sassenach. Out with it, aye, and then I’d like to take ye up on the walk outside.”

Claire smiled and took a deep breath before continuing. “Jamie, there are parts of your recovery that I am well versed in…wound care, physical therapy, but there is another aspect, one just as important, that I want you to be aware of and work just as hard at; that is the PTSD part.”

Jamie pulled slightly back, but Claire kept his hands in a firm grip.

“I know this isn’t the easy part to discuss, but it may be more important than the physical therapy.”

Jamie resisted the urge to look away, and instead met Claire’s gaze straight on. He gave her a small nod to continue.

“All I’m going to say is that it’s going to be important for you to talk to someone, over the next few weeks, months, or even years. I saw the mental and physical reaction you had while re-living the events of the night of the raid in your dreams.” Claire swallowed, holding back tears. “I don’t want that to consume you, Jamie. There is no shame in talking about your fears, anger, or frustration with someone. I found it quite liberating.”

“When did ye see a therapist, Sassenach?”

“I started going a few months after my parents were killed in the car crash. I was having nightmares and was afraid to let Uncle Lamb out of my sight.” Claire paused, allowing her mind to drift back to that time in her life. “At first, Uncle Lamb thought it was typical behavior for a five year old to have nightmares and not want to be left at school, but he soon realized, especially after the nightmares increased in frequency, that my behavior was quite unusual and sought out help. I continued with that therapist until I went off to high school. We moved around a lot, so it was helpful that we were able to meet over the computer. Not only did it help alleviate the fear that I had of Uncle Lamb disappearing on me, it allowed me to vent my anger and frustration that I no longer had my parents with me. Do you have any idea what puberty was like, with no mother around?”

With a tender smile and tears in his own eyes, Jamie simply said, “I can only imagine how difficult that might be for a wee lass.”

“It was bloody awful…but, with the help of my therapist, I got through it. Just like I know you will get through dealing with your feelings from the night of the raid.”

They sat for a few minutes in silence before Jamie spoke.

“I hear what yer saying, Sassenach, but how will I even look at Ian and not feel guilty for taking his leg away? Because of me, he will’na run in the yard with his bairns or kick a football around.”

“Stop, Jamie. I mean it. Look at me.” Claire titled his chin up to meet her whisky colored eyes. “It is not your fault that Ian lost his leg. If anything, it’s mine, but that is something that I will have to deal with. When I get back to the base I will meet with one of our PTSD counselors. I have grieved for that loss every day since the amputation, but no matter how I feel, I cannot undo what has already been done. I saved Ian’s life, by taking his leg. I think he and Jenny will always be more grateful for that. Talking to him since you both have been here has helped a bit. He bears me no malice and knowing that helps. Jamie, you had to make decisions that night with all of your men in mind. Speaking with a therapist will allow you to work through that. I want you to know that you can always talk to me, but this might be one of those times where it’s easier to speak to an impartial person.”

Jamie nodded. “I think ye may be right, mo chridhe. I scare myself with some of the thoughts I've been having lately. I dinna want to ken what they would do tae ye or what ye would think of me for having them. So…” Jamie paused to focus all his energy on pushing himself up to a stand. “How about we take that walk outside and on the way back in, ye help me find out how tae schedule an appointment with a therapist, eh, Mrs. Fraser?”

“I think that sounds like an excellent plan, Mr. Fraser.”

Claire made sure Jamie was all set with his walker and then looped her arm through her husband’s and the pair headed outside.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-32

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

Jamie and Claire walked along in a slow and peaceful silence, each lost in their own thoughts. There was still much to be said, but neither wanted to go back down the road they had just come from. There seemed to be a silent agreement between the two of them that they didn’t want to argue any more before Claire had to return to the Army Base.

“You’re doing wonderful, darling! How does it feel to be out in the fresh air?” Claire inquired, choosing to finally break the silence.

“A wee bit tired, but ye were right, Sassenach. The fresh air does feel good. There’s a bench up ahead, do ye mind if we sat for a bit?”

Having just sat on that bench a little over an hour ago, Claire smiled to herself, thinking about Ian’s advice. Encouraged that he wasn’t ready to go in yet, but was aware that he needed a bit of a reprieve, she responded, “That sounds lovely, Jamie.”

A few moments later, they were sitting next to each other on the bench. Jamie with his arm around Claire's shoulders, as she rested her head on his. They had returned to their companionable silence, each truly enjoying just being with the other. Claire nuzzled into Jamie’s neck, and in turn he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.

“Jamie, I was thinking,” Claire started, “we never called Uncle Lamb to tell him of our wonderful news. Do you think you might feel up to it later tonight? I could email him when we get back to your room and see if we could set up a time.”

“Aye, mo chridhe. I would love to meet yer uncle! I’m sorry we were’na able to do it sooner.”

“He’s going to love you, Jamie! You both love history and I know you two will get along beautifully.”

“I’m sure of it Sassenach. Let’s set up a time for after dinner?”

“That reminds me! I ran into Ian earlier, while I was…erm…out walking.” Claire glanced down.

Jamie took her chin in between his thumb and forefinger, tilting her face up to meet his eyes. He gave her a sad smile and pressed his forehead to her’s. “I’m sorry, mo nighean donn, truly. I should’na have sent ye away.”

“It’s alright. I thought about it, and it was probably for the best. We each needed a bit of time to cool off. It would have been more painful if I had stayed. We would have said things to each other, in our anger, that we didn’t mean. It gave us both time to think and we had a good conversation when I came back to your room. At least I think so.”

“Aye, we did.” Jamie smiled at her, with a glint of mischievousness in his eyes. “And I apologized for sending ye away, but we did’na truly makeup.”

Claire’s whisky-colored eyes were drawn to the lust-filled midnight blue of her husband’s. Raising a single eyebrow, Claire asked, “Do you really think you are up to that, Soldier?”

“Oh I’m up for it Sassenach. Now.” Jamie said, his voice thick with desire. He gently pulled Claire’s hand down to his lap, where she could feel his erection throbbing through the thin scrub pants he wore.

“Jamie!” Claire hissed, trying to pull her hand away. “We’re out here in the gardens! Anyone could walk by, not to mention the number of windows that are facing towards this courtyard.”

“Dinna fash Sassenach. I was’na about to take ye right here. I was just proving tae ye that I was up for it.” He then gave her his double-eyed wink and Claire collapsed into a fit of giggles burying her face back in his shoulder. “What’s so funny mo nighean donn?”

“You…you handsome, ridiculous Scot. You do know that you aren’t actually winking when you do that, right?”

“What do ye mean? This is no’ winking?” Jamie did his owl-eyed blink again.

Still laughing, Claire wrapped her arms around Jamie’s neck. “No, darling. You’re simply blinking…closing both eyes.”

“Weel then, Sassenach as long as whatever I’m doing elicits this kind of reaction out of ye,” Jamie began to tickle Claire on her sides, “then I will continue to wink at ye whenever I please.” While continuing his tickling, Jamie leaned in to nip at Claire’s neck.

“Jamie! Stop! Please!” Claire was writhing underneath his touch.

Wrapping his arms around her back and pulling her close, Jamie enveloped her mouth with his and kissed her passionately. Claire sighed into the kiss, almost forgetting what they were talking about just a few minutes prior.

Jamie reluctantly, pulled away. “This is’na helping me, Sassenach.” He looked down to his lap. Claire smiled, still thrilled with the effect that she had on her husband.

“Then let’s think about something else, hmm? We were talking about Ian, before…” Claire smiled.

“Ye certainly ken how to kill the mood Sassenach.” Jamie gave her a playful pout.

“I’m sorry, but I thought you were trying to,” nodding towards his lap, “think of something else.”

All Jamie managed to muster was a Scottish grunt, in the back of his throat. Then he nodded at her to continue.

“All I was going to say was that when I ran into Ian earlier, he hoped to see us at dinner.”

“That’s a braw idea! I have’na spoken with Ian since my last surgery, so it will be nice to visit with him a bit. Then we’ll head back to our room and call Uncle Lamb, if he is available. How does that sound mo ghraidh?”

Standing up and extending her hand, Claire asked, “Shall we head back to the room then?”

“Aye, but not before we set up that counseling appointment, mo chridhe.”

Claire tried to contain her excitement, so she simply smiled. It pleased her that Jamie had remembered on his own, and she didn’t have to prompt him.

“Of course!”

Putting one hand on his walker and grasping her offered hand, Jamie pulled himself to a stand and they slowly made their way into the hospital on the opposite side of the courtyard they had entered on and towards the mental health ward. The first slow step in the right direction, for both of them.

 

Once they had returned to their room, Claire helped Jamie settle down on to the bed.

“I think I may need to take a wee rest Sassenach. So I can stay up tonight, ye ken?” Jamie wiggled an eyebrow at her.

Claire laughed quietly, but nodded at Jamie. “I’ll just sit over in the chair and email Uncle Lamb. I’ll catch up on a few other things as well.” She leaned over, brushing his curls off of his forehead, and kissed him.

Smiling to herself, Claire walked over to the armchair and sank into it, curling her feet up underneath herself. His hair has grown since the accident. She hadn’t realized how curly his hair was, since it had to be kept up to Army regulations, but since the raid, the auburn-colored locks on top had begun to grow out into the most stunning ringlets. Our poor children. They’ll never get a brush through their hair! Startled, Claire sat up straight in the chair. Children?! Where had that thought come from, she wondered. Of course Claire wanted children, but certainly that would come further down the line. After Jamie and possibly she were retired from the Army. She still had two more years on her Army contract. Jamie would be medically discharged, but he wouldn’t be the one carrying a child. Surely this isn’t something to be concerned with right now, Beauchamp. But there was an odd sense in the back of her mind. She was on the pill, as most women in the Army were, but that was the only protection they had used in the few times they had been intimate with one another.

Pushing the thought aside, Claire reached for the laptop to email Uncle Lamb, asking if he was available to Skype this evening.

17 April 2011
2:17 CET

Dear Uncle Lamb,
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your last email! Things got a little hairy over here and my attention was focused toward some of the soldiers that were involved in an incident. Let me assure you that all is well and I was never in any danger. I know how much you worry about me.

I do have some exciting news to share! Do you remember me telling you about Master Sergeant Fraser? Of course you do…you teased me about how much I talked about him in my last email. Well, Uncle Lamb, I have fallen in love with him. He is a most remarkable man! I never would have thought that I would meet my soulmate in the middle of the desert, but that is indeed what has happened.

His name is James, but he goes by Jamie. He was one of the men injured. Jamie was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical, where his injuries were tended to after getting stabilized in country. I am relieved to report that he is doing very well and is up and moving around again. Without going into too much detail, he required several surgeries to repair the damage done to his back. I have been on R&R for the last eight days, over in Germany, spending time with him.

I was hoping that we could Skype with you tonight! The two of you are the most important men in my life, and I had hoped you would meet sooner, but life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs. Will you be free around 15:00 EST? That is 20:00 CET.

I miss you terribly and cannot wait to “see” you tonight! Let me know if that time works for you!

Love,
Claire

While in her email, Claire decided to write to Ellen and Brian as well and provide them with an update on Jamie.

17 April 2011
2:24 CET

Dear Ellen & Brian,
I hope all is well with you! Jamie is resting so I thought I would take the chance to update you all on how he is doing!

I’m happy to report that we took a little field trip out to the courtyard today! He is still using the walker to get around, but I am thrilled with his progress! We sat in the fresh air for about 30 minutes and then came back inside.

We are hoping to have dinner with Ian tonight and then we are going to Skype with my Uncle Lamb! Jamie has not had the opportunity to meet him yet. Perhaps we can speak with you all as well? We are calling my uncle around 15:00 EST, would you all be available around 16:00 or 17:00 EST? I would love the opportunity to see you all before I leave the day after tomorrow.

Love,
Claire

PS - Jamie keeps calling the new foal diabhal beag dubh, which he tells me means ‘wee black devil’. He assures me that riding Donas is fine, but after hearing some of his and Ian’s stories, I’m not so sure.

 

Jamie slept for about two hours and woke up feeling refreshed, but in dire need to use the restroom. Claire had nodded off in the chair, but woke with a start when she heard the creaking of the bed, under the shifting of her husband’s weight, as he attempted to push up on to the walker.

The doctor in her, wanted to rush over and assist him, but the wife-side of her brain made her hesitate. Not wanting to startle him, Claire said softly, “You slept for a couple of hours. How do you feel?”

Jamie looked over his shoulder. “I feel much better, Sassenach, but I need to take a wicked pish.”

Smiling, Claire asked, “Do you need some help?” She truly was using all her restraint to not go right over to him or give him the plastic urinal that was on the counter.

Sighing, Jamie nodded. “I was tryin’ tae do it myself, but I’m a bit stiff from my nap. Do ye mind helpin’ me up? I would prefer to go to the restroom and not use the plastic bottle.”

Claire stood up and walked silently over to Jamie. Putting both hands around his left bicep, she steadied him as he pulled up with his right hand on the walker. “Thank you for asking me, Jamie.” Claire said quietly.

“I’m tryin, Sassenach. Truly.” He kissed her on the forehead and then slowly made his way into the restroom.

 

After helping Jamie freshen up a bit, Claire decided to take a shower. She wanted to feel refreshed before dinner with Ian and then Skyping with both Uncle Lamb and Jamie’s parents. This is the most normal night we’ve had as a married couple, Claire couldn’t help thinking. She smiled to herself as she ran her fingers through her curls.

“What has ye all smiles, lass?” Jamie asks as he meanders up behind his wife.

“I was just thinking,” Claire turned to face her husband, “that this is the most normal night we’ve had yet as a married couple. It feels like we’re going out on a date!”

Jamie smiled, but there was a sadness in his eyes. Cupping his cheek, Claire met his gaze and could see something hiding in Jamie’s cerulean blue eyes as they looked deep into her own amber colored orbs.

“What is it darling?” Claire asked tenderly.

Placing his hand over her’s, Jamie nuzzled into Claire’s palm. “It’s just that,” he paused, trying to gather his thoughts. “It’s just that, ye deserve the world, mo chridhe. I should be taking ye out to five-star restaurants, not dining in a military hospital cafeteria. It breaks my heart that this is what ye’ll remember as our first night out, as husband and wife.” He closed his eyes, too ashamed to meet his wife’s gaze.

Unsure if she should laugh or cry, Claire opted for calm and collected. Taking his face into both of her hands, she said “Look at me Jamie.”

He slowly opened his eyes, to meet his wife’s gaze, and saw the love and adoration emanating from them. “I would lay the world at your feet, Claire, but I have nothin’ to give ye.”

“You foolish man.” Claire whispered. “I didn’t marry you because I thought you would take me to fancy restaurants and spoil me with jewels. I married you because I love you. You make me a better person, Jamie, and I feel invincible when I’m with you. The two of us, together, can conquer the world.”

“Aye, but were ye no’ born to go on and do great things? I canna bear the thought that I might hold ye back.”

“Medicine and healing come naturally to me, but I was born for you, Jamie.” Claire said simply.

The weight of her words sank into Jamie’s mind and a single tear rolled down his cheek. “Aye. Yer mine, mo nighean donn. Yer mine and I’m yers.” He leaned down, pressing his forehead against hers.

Claire wiped away his single tear with her thumb and gently kissed his nose. “Now, Soldier, I believe we have reservations at Chez Landstuhl and I would hate to be late.”

Chuckling, Jamie shook his head. “I dinna ken what I did tae deserve ye Sassenach, but I will spend the rest of my life proving tae ye that I am worthy.”

It was Claire’s turn to lose a single tear. “You show me everyday my love, with your words and your actions. I have never doubted your love for me.”

There was a knock on the door and then Ian’s head popped in. “Och! Why the long faces? I half expected to catch the twa’ of ye engaged in other activities when I opened the door. I kent it was a risk, but instead catchin’ Jamie with his pants around his ankles, I find ye both blubberin’ like bairns.”

“Hold ye weesht, bràthair.” Jamie scowled, but his lip had turned up slightly.

“Hello, Ian.” Claire greeted her brother-in-law with a smile. “We were just leaving to head towards the cafeteria.”

“Sure ye were.” Ian winked at Claire, causing her to blush.

“Weel, if we’re tae be in the company of this eejit for our meal, I would hardly think of it as a date, Sassenach.” Jamie snorted out a laugh as Ian put on his best offended expression.

“A date, ye say? I would hate tae impose, but seeing as I asked the lady out earlier, I guess it’ll be me escortin’ her tae dinner.” Ian let go of his one crutch and offered Claire his arm.

Buying into the banter between the two men, Claire went to take Ian’s arm, causing Jamie to tighten his grip on her arm closest to him. He looked over Claire’s head, directly at Ian. “Och, away an bile yer heid, ye numpty.”

Ian pulled back his arm and placed both hands up in surrender. Claire looked back and forth between the two men and then burst out laughing, prompting them to start chuckling as well.

“I would be honored if both of you gentlemen would escort me to dinner. Besides, we all know who I’m going home with.” Claire smiled at Ian, before turning to wink at Jamie.

“I always kent ye had good taste, Sassenach.” Jamie bowed formally to her, before offering his arm and wiggling his eyebrows at Ian, over Claire’s head.

“The two of ye make a perfect pair, but I’m sae hungry I could gnaw off my other leg. Can we go eat now?” Ian asked impatiently.

For the first time since arriving in Germany, Jamie let out a hearty laugh at Ian’s joke. The sound caught Claire and Ian off guard and they both looked at each other. Ian smiled and gave Claire a small nod, proving what Claire was thinking…her Jamie was healing and starting to feel more like himself. Jamie’s laugh was a balm to her soul and in that moment, she knew that regardless of the trials that still lay ahead of them, everything would be alright…they would be alright.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-33

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
Never had Claire had so much fun on a dinner date. Ian and Jamie kept her in stitches, regaling her with stories from their youth. She hadn’t seen either man this relaxed since…well, never actually. Even before the raid, there was always an underlying tension among the camp. How could there not be, given their location and purpose of being there. It made Claire long for the day that they would all be home in New York. That’s interesting, Beauchamp…you defaulted to New York. How could she not? Listening to Jamie and Ian’s stories of the farm and horses made her long for wide, open spaces with rolling green hills. Before now, home was wherever Lamb was, not a place.

She must have had quite the dreamy look on her face, because the next thing she noticed was Ian and Jamie snickering at her.

“Yes, gentlemen?”

“What are ye thinking about, Sassenach? Ye look as if yer dreamin’ about our plans for later on.” Jamie said, with a hint of pride and suggestion in his voice.

Ian almost spit out his water and Claire blushed a deep crimson from her neck up.

“Jamie!” Claire hissed at him.

“What?” he said innocently. “I canna help it if I ken exactly what my wife needs. Is that no’ my job as yer husband?”

Claire could not believe how serious he looked, except for the twinkle in his eye.

“If you must know, I was thinking about after I’m discharged. I was thinking about the home we would make in New York. Hearing you and Ian talk about all your adventures, and how beautiful it is, has me longing for when we will be there… when that time will come for us.” Claire looked at Jamie, attempting to make a point that she was not thinking about the extracurricular activities that they would engage in later.

“Ye mean it, Claire? Ye want to live in New York, by my family’s farm?” Jamie asked, barely containing his excitement.

“I would like to have a conversation about it, of course, but that is what I was thinking. I know Uncle Lamb has settled in North Carolina, but I don’t think he’s so fond of the area that he would hate to leave. I mean, I’m assuming he would want to be close to us…would that be ok?”

“That would be braw, mo chridhe! Ye can never have too much family around!”

That comment caught Claire a bit off guard and she swallowed, hoping she hadn't shown any emotion, but her canny husband didn’t miss the brief moment of sadness in his wife’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, lass. I was’na thinking when I said that! I did’na mean tae upset ye.” Jamie had taken both of her hands into his own and brought her knuckles up to his lips, pressing a kiss on both hands.

“It’s alright, Jamie. I know you didn’t mean it that way. I wish I knew what it was like, growing up with family all around. Lamb did the best he could for me, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.” Claire said wistfully.

Ian was looking back and forth between Jamie and Claire, catching the gist of their conversation, but he didn’t know the details. Not taking his eyes off of Claire, Jamie spoke softly to Ian. “Claire’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was just a bairn. Five ye said, right Sassenach?” Claire nodded and Jamie continued. “She was raised by her Uncle Lamb and spent most of her childhood traveling the world. He’s an archaeologist.”

“I’m sae sorry, Claire. That must have been tough.” Ian reached out to squeeze Claire’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Ian. It was difficult, but my Uncle Lamb is wonderful and did his best to give me a childhood most would be envious of. I had visited more countries by the age of ten, then most people see in a lifetime. We had quite the adventures ourselves when we were younger.” Claire sighed deeply, thinking back on those years after her parents died. If it wasn’t for Jamie’s outburst, she would have spent the next several minutes quietly reminiscing.

“Shite! Sassenach, what time did ye say we were calling Uncle Lamb?”

“Around 15:00 his time, 20:00 here. Why?”

“It’s 20:15 now!” Jamie exclaimed as he started trying to stand up.

“Christ! We need to get back to the room and logged into the computer. Ian, I’m sorry to cut our evening short.” Claire said as she assisted Jamie.

“Tis nae bother. I was going to give Jenny a call, so I’ll head back and do that.”

“Tell her we said hi, aye?” Jamie asked.

“Of course! I’ll see ye tomorrow. I want to make sure to say goodbye to Claire.”

“I would love that, Ian. Have a good night!” Claire said over her shoulder, as she and Jamie started walking back to their room.

 

Once they were settled back into the room, Claire logged on to the computer and quickly dialed Uncle Lamb. After a few short rings, the call connected.

“Claire, darling! How are you my love? I have missed seeing your beautiful face!” Lamb greeted Claire affectionately.

“I miss you too, Uncle Lamb! I’m well, but I think I’ve become a bit soft over the past eight days of R&R.” Smiling, Claire angled the computer slightly, bring Jamie into the frame. “Uncle Lamb, I would like to introduce you to Master Sergeant James Fraser…my husband.”

“It’s nice to meet -,” Lamb stopped, staring at the computer. “I’m sorry darling, the connection is a bit garbled. I thought I heard you say ‘husband’.”

Smiling, Claire took Jamie’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “No, Uncle Lamb, you heard me correctly. Jamie and I were married a few weeks ago, right after the incident that landed him here in the hospital.”

“Hello, sir. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, face-to-face. Claire has told me sae much about ye!” Jamie was doing his best to put on a relaxed face, but Claire could see his middle finger tapping against his thigh. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you too, young man, and I guess congratulations are in order!” Lamb smiled, but it didn’t quite reach up to eyes, like it usually did.

“Uncle Lamb, are you ok?” Claire asked nervously.

“Of course dear, I’m just a bit shocked…and if I’m being quite honest, sad that I didn’t get to walk you down the aisle.” Lamb tilted his head and gave her a somber smile. “Ever since you were old enough to start dating, it occurred to me that with my brother gone, it would be my responsibility to give you away. It was an honor that was bestowed upon me unexpectedly, but one I would have proudly fulfilled.”

“Oh, Uncle Lamb!” Tears sprang into Claire’s eyes. “I wanted nothing more than for you to walk me down the aisle. It all happened so fast! I -”

“Let me explain, mo chridhe.” Jamie had interjected and Claire nodded. “Sir, I want to apologize for not reaching out to speak to you first. When I met your niece, it did’na take long for me tae realize she was the woman I was meant to marry. You have raised an intelligent, thoughtful, witty, and beautiful, albeit stubborn, young woman.” Jamie looked over at Claire and smiled. “I had every intention of asking yer permission when I returned from my mission. However, unforeseen circumstances prevented that, and in my condition, I could’na bear the thought of leaving her and no’ being her husband. I still have many obstacles to overcome, but with Claire by my side, I ken I can conquer them and be the husband she deserves.” Jamie raised her hand to kiss her knuckles. “I vow to you, Dr. Beauchamp, that I will spend the rest of my days, proving to you how worthy I am of your niece.”

Claire had done her best to keep her emotions in check, but after Jamie’s speech, she was a blubbering mess. She reached across Jamie for the box of tissues to dab her eyes and blow her nose.

“I will hold you to that James, but I would settle for another ceremony, when you are both back in the States, that would allow me to give the bride away. Followed by enjoying a stiff dram with you.” Lamb winked at Jamie.

Jamie had released his death grip on Claire’s hand and gave Lamb that million dollar smile that had drawn Claire to him in the first place. “I would like that very much sir, and that is our plan. To hold another ceremony for our friends and family when we come home.”

“Splendid! And son, please call me Lamb. You make me feel eighty years old when you say ‘sir’.”

“Deal, sae long as ye call me Jamie.”

Claire allowed herself to relax and truly enjoy the next thirty minutes with the two most important men in her life. Jamie and Lamb really hit it off, just like she knew they would and she couldn’t help but smile the entire time they were on the call.

“Well, I should let you two go. I understand that Claire is leaving tomorrow night and I’m sure you would like to spend some quiet time together.” Lamb was drawing the call to a close.

“It was sae nice to finally meet ye, Lamb. I look forward to sharing that dram with ye!”

“Yes, Jamie! You’ll take care of our girl, won’t you? I know she’ll be leaving, but I trust that you’ll be in communication with her more regularly than I will be.”

“Ye have my word.”

“Claire, darling, I couldn’t be happier for you. The love this man has for you is radiating from him and I’m a million miles away! Take care my dear, and be safe. You know how I worry about you.”

“Thank you Uncle Lamb, and I will. I will try to email you in a few days. I love you!”

“Love you too, sweetheart. Bye, Jamie!”

“Bye!” Claire and Jamie said in unison before disconnecting the call.

Claire sank back into her chair and let out a contented sigh. “Thank you, Jamie.”

“Fer what, Sassenach?”

“For just…being you.” Claire smiled ruefully.

“I ken you took a nap so you could stay up this evening, but I promised your parents we would touch base with them, since I’m leaving tomorrow night.”

“It’s alright, mo ghraidh. After meetin’ yer uncle, my heart is yearning to talk to my da and mam. We dinna have to be on with them sae long.” Jamie leaned in and nipped at Claire’s neck.

“Stop that right now James Fraser, or you and I both know that a call to your parents won’t happen. I would hate for them to be disappointed.”

Och! They will’na be disappointed if I tell them we were working on grandchildren.” Jamie flashed her that smile again and his blue eyes twinkled.

What seemed like an innocent statement took Claire off guard, especially after her thoughts from this afternoon. What if she was already pregnant? What would happen then? They really hadn’t used protection, except for the pill. As usual, her emotions were clearly visible on her face.

“Sassenach? Are ye alright?”

“Are we ready for kids, Jamie? I mean, we haven’t exactly been careful about it. You know I’m on the pill, but that isn’t 100% effective.”

“I honestly had’na thought about it mo chridhe. I would love for us to have kids, but I ken that ye have two years left on yer contract.”

Claire nodded, still a bit distracted. “Let’s call your parents, since they are waiting, but we need to talk about this a little bit more.”

“Of course, Sassenach.”

 

Claire and Jamie spent another thirty minutes catching up with Brian and Ellen. So much was happening on the farm at this time of year. The planting was starting to get underway and based on how Jamie was speaking with his father, Claire could tell that he yearned to be home helping.

“I expect that this time next year, son, ye’ll be here shoveling shite right alongside me.” Brian chuckled.

“If I’m braw enough Da, I would’na miss it fer the world!”

Claire smiled, watching Jamie speak animatedly with his father. It caused a pain in her chest to realize that at this time tomorrow, she would be getting on a flight that would take her far away from her husband.

“Claire? Are ye alright, dear?” Ellen’s gentle voice brought Claire back to the moment. “Yer awfully quiet this evening.”

“Yes, I’m sorry Ellen. Just a bit tired, I guess.” Claire responded.

“Brian, mo chridhe, I think we should let the two bairns go. Tis Claire’s last night with Jamie, ye ken?” Ellen gave Brian a knowing look and he smiled.

“Aye, lass! I’m sorry. Here we’ve been blathering on about cow shite and the ‘twa of ye have only tonight together.”

Claire blushed, embarrassed that Jamie’s parents seem so attuned to what the two of them would be doing soon after they hung up, but Jamie didn’t seem phased by it at all.

“Thanks, Mam…Da. I would like to spend some time with my wife before I have to send her back to the base.” Jamie squeezed Claire’s hand and placed a kiss on her temple.

“Jamie, we’ll talk to ye in a few days. Claire,” Ellen started, but her voice caught in her throat. Sensing his wife’s struggle, Brian spoke up.

“Claire, what Ellen is trying to say is that we want ye to be careful, lass. It’s clear as day, even through our crummy connection, how Jamie…- how much Jamie loves ye. And -,” Brian paused to wipe a tear that had formed in the corner of his eye. “And, we love ye too, nighean.”

Jamie squeezed Claire’s hand, touched by his parents' sentiments and Claire couldn’t contain the tears that fell from her eyes.

“I love you all too and cannot wait until I can actually put my arms around you both and give you a hug! To be welcomed into this family means the world to me. I will do everything I can to be safe and come home to you all as soon as I can.”

After a few more minutes, Jamie and Claire disconnected the call.

“How are ye, mo ghraidh? I ken it’s been an emotional night, has it no’?” Jamie gave Claire a loving look as he brought her hand up to his lips for a kiss.

“Oh, Jamie! I can’t do it! I can’t leave you. The thought of being parted from you is breaking my heart.”

“Aye, I ken. It’s tearing my guts out, Claire.” Jamie brought her face closer and rested his forehead on hers. “I would give anything to keep ye here, safe, by my side, but ye have a gift, Claire. Ye must go back and take care of the other soldiers who need ye. I canna be selfish, Sassenach. There are and will be more men there that need ye more than I.”

“But you need me. How can I choose to go back to the base, when my own husband needs me?” The level of distress in Claire’s voice was enough for Jamie’s eyes to swell with tears.

“Yer right, Sassenach. I do need ye. I need ye to be the person ye were destined to be…and that is a doctor Claire. Ye have worked so hard to be where ye are and I will’na stand in yer way. I ken you want to be here with me and I dinna think ye are choosing the base over me. We are members of the United States Army. We kent when we joined that our lives would not be our own to control for a time.” Jamie placed a gentle kiss to her nose. “So, mo nighean donn, ye’ll serve yer time, but not a minute more or else.”

“Or else what?” Claire looked into those blue eyes that could see into her soul.

“Or else, I’ll come find ye and drag ye by those beautiful brown curls back to whatever place I can find. And believe me, ye won’t like it one bit, Sassenach.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t.” Claire replied, her voice now thick with desire. “But you know, Jamie…I think I might rather like you being a bit rough with me.”

Jamie pulled back, enough to see his wife’s entire face. He had been working for days, memorizing each of her features so he could call them to his mind over the next few months, but her voice? He would never forget the way her voice sounded just now.

Grabbing a fistful of her curls, at the base of her neck, Jamie gently tugged her head back, exposing her neck. “Rough ye say?” His own voice was now practically a growl as he leaned in to nip at her neck.

“Yes.” Claire said breathlessly. “Yes, Jamie.”

Jamie continued to nip and lick along Claire’s collarbone and up her neck, towards her jawline. His hands had a mind of their own, one staying wrapped in the curls at the base of her head the other having undone her jeans and had slid inside. Her entire body had started writhing under his touch and her panting only encouraged him, but when he reached her hot, aching center, he hissed. “Christ, mo chridhe! Yer so wet. I want ye, Claire. I want ye so bad and I scarcely breathe. Will ye have me?”

Claire had been kissing her way along Jamie’s jaw, but stopped to look at him. “Yes, Jamie. Yes I'll have you.”

Pulling the string at his neck, the hospital gown fell to the floor, exposing Jamie’s chiseled chest and abdomen. As Claire was pulling the waist of his sweat pants down, Jamie was trying to get her shirt over head.

Remaining clothes were shredded and tossed about the room. Jamie continued to kiss Claire anywhere he could reach and slowly walked her backwards until Claire was pressed against the edge of the bed. They broke apart briefly, Claire looking to Jamie for assurance that this would be a position he could handle. Jamie responded by simply pushing his body on to her’s, forcing her to lay back against the mattress. Jamie looked down at his wife’s body, lean and fit from her required Army work outs and her time spent in the desert…God bless the desert heat, he thought. Her skin was milky white and soft as silk, without a single imperfection.

“Yer mine, mo nighean donn. Yer mine, now and forever.”

Claire dug her nails into Jamie’s ass, pulling him closer to her, while never breaking eye contact. “And you are mine.”

Roaming hands continued their dance, as each of them caressed the other’s body, and desperately tried to remember every curve and line. It would be months before they could be this intimate with each other again and neither one wanted the feeling to end. Both of their bodies were ready and responding to the other. The tip of Jamie’s cock ran down Claire’s wet slit, searching for her throbbing core. When the teasing got to be enough to put Claire over the edge, she broke off the kiss and grabbed Jamie’s face in her hands.

“Do it now, and don’t be gentle, Soldier.”

That was all Jamie needed to hear as he drove into her, causing her to cry out in ecstasy. Rising up onto his knees a bit more, Jamie grabbed Claire’s hips and pulled her on to him, allowing him to plunge into her even further. He knew that the strength of his grip would leave marks on her tomorrow and for several days to come, but the thought that she could look down and see the reminder of their love-making drove him wild with desire.

“Ye are mine, mo chridhe, now and forever, and I mean to make ye never forget it.”

“Yours!” Claire replied breathlessly, as her head was thrown back on the pillows and her eyes were closed.

“Open yer eyes, Sassenach. Watch me as I take ye.” Claire opened her eyes and looked down to their joining. Watching Jamie’s cock, glistening in her juices, plunge into her was the most erotic thing Claire had ever experienced. She looked up to his eyes, focused on her…dark as the midnight sky and pupils blown wide.

“I’m…I’m close, Jamie!” Claire was barely able to squeak out.

“Come for me, Sassenach. I need to feel ye clench around me. I’m so close, come for me now!”

Jamie released one of her hips to rub her throbbing clit and that was enough to push Claire over the edge. She screamed out Jamie’s name and raked her nails down his thighs. Jamie, too, filled Claire with his seed as she pulsed around his cock. Jamie continued to rub her clit until the tremors of Claire’s body were too much and she pleaded with him to stop.

Jamie lowered her hips back down to the bed and leaned forward, both hands on either side of Claire’s head. “Give me yer mouth, Sassenach.”

Claire reached up and brought Jamie’s lips down to hers, and kissed him passionately. With their lips still pressed together, Claire mumbled, “That was amazing, Jamie.”

“Aye. If I kent that being a wee bit rough with ye would have turned ye on like that, I’d have tried it from the start.” Jamie smiled and gave Claire his double-eyed blink. He pulled out of her and adjusted himself comfortably on his side, while tracing his fingers between her breasts, down to her belly button, then back up.

Blushing, Claire smiled. “I honestly didn’t know it could be like that. I will admit, I rather liked it.”

“I could tell, Sassenach.” Jamie smirked.

Still smiling, Claire’s eyes filled with tears. She didn’t try brushing them away, needing Jamie to understand that depth with which she would miss him. “I thought putting you on the chopper to come here was the hardest thing I would ever have to do, but I was wrong. Leaving you tomorrow will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Jamie went to say something, but Claire simply put her finger on his lips, silently asking him to wait.

“Having this uninterrupted time alone with you Jamie, has felt like a pseudo-honeymoon. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. I have cherished this time with you, more than you will ever know.”

“I ken, Sassenach. I did’na think I could love ye more than I already do, but waking up beside ye each mornin’...tis a blessing.” Jamie leaned down to place a tender kiss to the tip of her nose. “Every day I wake up, mo ghraidh, I realize that I love ye more than the day before.”

“I love you too, Soldier.”

Jamie had continued tracing that pattern along Claire’s torso and she felt a gentle nudge on her thigh. She looked down, realizing that her husband had no intention of falling asleep anytime soon.

“I don’t expect we’ll get much sleep tonight, hmm?” Claire teased him, as she reached down to start stroking his growing erection.

“Ye can sleep on the plane and chopper, Sassenach.” Jamie rolled back on top of his wife and began kissing his way down her sternum, stomach, and then spreading her legs with his large hands before settling between her thighs. Looking up at her one last time, he said, “Tonight, yer mine.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-34

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
Claire and Jamie made love several more times that night, doing their best to make sure Jamie didn't rip any stitches. Explaining that to Mother Hildegard was not something either of them wanted to do, but they simply could not get enough of each other. Not with the knowledge that the next night would see them almost 3000 miles apart.

Usually the earlier riser of the pair, Claire had yet to stir until she felt a rather pleasant sensation between her legs. Before she could fully open her eyes, her legs were being gently spread apart and a strong, warm tongue was running along the inside of her thighs. Claire looked down and was greeted by the sight of auburn curls nestled between her thighs. She released a soft sigh as the pleasure began to build.

Sensing his wife was waking up, Jamie reached up a strong hand, from under the sheets, and began kneading Claire’s left breast, as his other hand began to rub lazy circles over her clit. Claire inhaled sharply, causing Jamie to pull the covers back and smile up at his wife.

“Mornin’, Sassenach.” Jamie's voice was still thick with sleep.

“Good morning, Soldier,” she replied, smiling back at him. “I would have thought after last night that you would be starving this morning and wanting to eat before we did anything else.” Claire’s eyes were hooded and her voice was dripping with desire, since Jamie had not ceased the massaging of either her breast or clit.

“Aye, mo chridhe. I’m famished. I figured I deserved a proper English breakfast.” Jamie then pulled the covers back over his head and replaced his one hand with his mouth.

Claire released a lust-filled groan and brought her own hand up to knead her other breast and tease her nipple into a tight peak, while her other hand tangled into her husband’s curls. She was quickly reaching her climax, but her ever observant husband seemed to have other plans for his wife. With his tongue, he stroked his wife a few more times and plunged into her once more, before retreating and kissing along her thighs and up her stomach until his head poked back out of the sheets. Rather content with himself, Jamie watched his wife’s face go from the throws of passion to clearly one of distress.

“Jamie,” Claire whined. “Why did you stop?”

“I thought ye said ye were hungry, Sassenach. I thought we would get dressed and then go grab a bite.”

Claire’s emotions were raging, but she did her best to look calmly at her husband. “James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser. If you don’t finish what you’ve started, I most certainly will ‘grab a bite’ and it won’t be of food.” She raised her eyebrow up at him, daring him to challenge her on this.

“Hmmm…I see,” Jamie looked rather thoughtful. “Well, I’ve never stopped ye from biting me before, why would I change my mind now?” Jamie had her right where he wanted her and he could see that Claire knew that as well. Christ, I’m goin’ miss teasing her like this, he thought.

Claire was writhing under him and she was so wet he could feel it on his chest as he lay between her legs with his chin on her stomach. Claire gave Jamie a warning look. "You may have enjoyed my bites in the past but the where and how hard may change. And that my love, you may not like."

Jamie watched the emotions that were flitting across Claire’s face and couldn’t decide how wound up he wanted his wife to get. Claire would be leaving after dinner and he did not want to spend their last day arguing. “How ‘bout a compromise, Sassenach? I finish my breakfast first and then I promise to see ye well fed?”

Before Claire could respond, Jamie was inching his way back under the sheets and using the week-long scruff on his chin to rake down the soft, ivory-like skin of his wife’s inner thigh. Returning his attention back to her clit, Jamie used his tongue to flick, circle, and tease his wife until her legs had totally relaxed and fallen apart and she was emitting those little squeaky noises he found so endearing.

Releasing her breast, Jamie wrapped his large hands around his wife’s hips and brought her closer to his mouth and plunged his tongue deep inside of her. Claire now had both hands tangled in Jamie’s curls as she bucked her hips and rode his tongue until her release overtook her and she cried out his name. Not willing to break from her yet, Jamie continued to press his tongue against his wife and lap up as much of her as he could. When Claire’s grip on his hair slackened, Jamie gave one final lick over his wife and then came back out of the sheets, resting his head on her stomach.

Claire opened her lust-filled eyes just enough to see her husband staring up at her. His love for her was endless and it showed across his face. She cupped his cheek in her hand and used her thumb to wipe herself from his lips. She then brought her thumb to her mouth and slowly sucked on it, causing Jamie’s mouth to fall open slightly.

“Stand up, Jamie.”

Once he was standing, Claire rolled out of bed and took his hand, turning him around and gently pushing him to sit on the edge of the bed. Claire stood between Jamie’s legs and bent over to thoroughly kiss him, still tasting herself on his lips. Without breaking the kiss, Claire began to kneel down, but Jamie reached out to stop her.

Mo nighean donn, ye dinna have tae do this. I ken yer ready to have breakfast, so -”

“I’m quite content to have my breakfast in bed, thank you very much.” Claire said, cutting him off. “Besides, you have been more active in the past 24 hours than you have been for weeks. Today will require quite a lot of bedrest…doctor’s orders, ye ken?”

Jamie adored when Claire mocked his accent and was powerless to stop his beautiful wife, with her luscious lips, from encasing his cock. She started off slowly, before taking him fully into her mouth, and then released him with a pop, then teasing the head by running circles around it with the tip her tongue. She looked up with those fire-lit, whisky eyes and Jamie almost lost himself right then and there.

“Christ, Claire! I’m close…please, I want tae…need tae, be inside ye.”

Claire stood and Jamie reached out to grab her arse and pull her down on his cock, but his wife had other plans. She spun in his grasp, giving him a full view of that round arse he loved so much, and slowly lowered herself making his cock disappear from view.

“How’s this, Soldier? Something different?”

“Aye, different enough.” Jamie grunted as Claire, still throbbing from her own release, pulsed around him.

Hoping to climax with her husband, Claire slowed her movements, leaving Jamie fully entranced by her full arse dancing up and down. “Ye have the roundest arse ever Claire,” Jamie sighed as he grabbed onto her hips, and then wrapped an arm around her waist to reach down to rub her clit, bringing her closer.

Claire threw her head back, exposing her neck, which Jamie took as an invitation to nibble and suck on. “I’m so close, Jamie.” Claire let out in a gasp.

“Come for me, mo chridhe. I’m right there with ye.”

A few more thrusts and both of them were crying out in pleasure as Jamie released his seed, deep into his wife’s womb. Could this be the time? When Claire becomes with child? Jamie had dreamed of having a family and knowing Claire would be the mother of his children almost brought him to tears.

Claire stood and turned around to face her husband. She looked at his face and could see his crystal blue eyes filled with emotion. Wrapping her hands around his neck, she brought their faces together and rubbed noses. “What is it, love?”

“Nothin’, Sassenach. I’m…just goin’ to miss ye, is all.” He didn’t want to burden Claire with thoughts about the future. It was enough that they were about to be thousands of miles apart. She didn’t need the added pressure of worrying about being pregnant. Not that there’s much we can do about it at this point, he reconciled to himself.

“I’ll miss you too, Jamie, you know that.” Claire rested her head against his forehead. “I’m just trying not to let the sadness weigh me down today. I can cry on the plane and chopper, but today, with you -” she paused. “I just want you to hold me. Whisper Gaelic to me while you stroke my hair. Hold my hand while we sit on a bench. I want to act like a totally normal, married couple today.”

Jamie smiled. His wife was asking for such simple things, so if that was all he could do for her today, then he would put all of his energy into it. His body was sore, not that he regretted it, but he knew he had pushed his limits. He had so much work to do, both mentally and physically, once Claire left. He wasn’t sure how he was going to get through it, but he was desperate to be the husband she deserved and a good father to his children, that she would some day bear. Or even be carrying now…Christ, Fraser! Ye have to stop! He chided himself. While nothing would make him happier, it would be dangerous for his wife to be carrying their child, in the middle of the desert, on an army base, with insufficient obstetric care. Not to mention he wouldn’t be able to cater to her every need and she would most likely be sent back to the states, further away from him.

“You’re doing an awful lot of thinking over there, Soldier. Deciding what you’re going to have for breakfast?” Claire teased, not wanting to get into a deep discussion.

Sensing that Claire was avoiding a serious conversation, Jamie nodded his head. “Aye, some pancakes, bacon, mebbe some eggs. The parritch here is’na quite the same, but it’s no’ so bad with some honey.”

Claire started laughing. “How will I ever keep you full when we finally are living together?” Her eyes twinkled at the thought.

“I could think of some ways…”Jamie’s voice trailed off as his hands began to roam his wife’s still naked body.

“Stop it right now, James Fraser. I would like to actually eat some food and clean up a bit. Then we can come back to the room.”

Jamie laughed, but released his wife and allowed her to stand up and head into the bathroom. He took a few moments and then slowly stood up himself and shuffled into the bathroom. Claire was just toweling off from the shower and she handed Jamie a warm washcloth. He hadn’t been cleared to take a full shower yet, so we washed himself off as best he could and brushed his teeth, side-by-side with his wife.

Claire glanced up into the mirror to take in the sight before her…domestic bliss if she had ever seen it. It warmed her heart to the point that her chest ached and a single tear rolled down her cheek. Jamie quickly spit & rinsed and wrapped his arm around Claire.

“What’s wrong, mo nighean donn?”

“It’s nothing, Jamie, really. I was just thinking how normal this seemed. And tomorrow -” Claire took a deep breath, “and tomorrow, it will just be gone.”

Jamie smiled at his wife. “I ken, mo chridhe. What’s that saying? Absence makes the heart grow fonder, aye? I dinna ken how I can possibly love ye more, but I’m willin’ to let my heart burst trying.” He leaned over and kissed her on the nose.

“Let’s get you dressed, darling. I would love to get out of this room for a little bit. Some fresh air, perhaps? We could go sit on our bench again!” Claire prompted.

“Lead the way, Sassenach.”

 

Claire and Jamie shared a quiet breakfast together and then slowly made their way out to the courtyard. Jamie had gradually started using the walker less and less, but that meant that he was a bit slower. Claire didn’t care, she was just pleased that he was progressing with his rehab. She was anxious to see what the next few weeks would bring. They made their way over to the bench and sat down. The weather was beautiful and they simply sat there, holding hands, and just enjoying sharing the same space.

After a while, Claire leaned over and gave Jamie a kiss. “Are you ready to move into Ian’s room?”

“Aye. I was actually going to see if ye could help move my few things over this afternoon. That would let ye see Ian before ye left.”

“Of course! I definitely wanted to see Ian. And your first session with Dr. Grey is tomorrow morning?”

Jamie nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“Jamie?” She waited for him to turn and look at her before continuing. “I want you to know that I don’t expect you to share anything from your sessions with me.”

Jamie looked at his wife, wide-eyed. “Are ye sure, Sassenach. Yer my wife and I have no desire to keep secrets from ye.”

“I love that, Jamie, and I don’t want to have secrets from you, but this is different. Some of the information you will discuss is classified, for one. And second, this is part of your healing process. I don’t want you to have to relive the entire session with me, especially if it was hard to live it the first time. I will only ask one thing of you.”

“Anything, mo ghraidh.”

“Truly experience the power of healing, by opening up and talking about the difficult stuff. Only then, will you be able to fully embrace life and move on from some of these difficult experiences and events.”

“I will certainly try Claire.”

They fell back into a pleasant silence for a few more minutes.

“Sassenach?”

“Hmmm?”

“The fresh air has been wonderful, but I’m a wee bit tired. Do ye want to take a nap with me?”

Claire looked at Jamie, with a raised eyebrow.

“Get your mind out o’ the gutter, Sassenach.” Jamie teased. “Someone kept me up all night and I’m actually tired. Although…”

“No, Jamie.” Claire smiled. “Let’s just spend a bit of time in each other’s arms. A nap sounds lovely.”

Jamie pushed up off the bench and reached his hand out to Claire. She took it and together they made their way back to the room.

 

They had set an alarm, so they would still have time to move Jamie’s things, have dinner with Ian, and then make sure Claire was on her way to the chopper that would take her to an airport, and then finally back to the army base. Claire stirred first and couldn’t keep her hands from wandering along her husband’s viking-like bone structure. His eyes fluttered open and he smiled at his wife.

“Ye just canna keep yer hands from me, can ye Sassenach?”

“I’m afraid not, Soldier. I’m tracing every line so that it’s imprinted in my brain and I can call your features to my mind by simply closing my eyes.”

Jamie leaned in and kissed his wife deeply. “One more time?” he asked in a whisper against her lips.

“One more time,” Claire replied.

They spent the next hour cherishing their final bits of intimacy in slow, tender love-making. There wasn’t an inch of skin that went untouched, each memorizing the other’s features. Both knew that they could write and speak over Skype, but they would not have this type of privacy until they were back in each other’s arms. At their completion, it was as if time froze. Neither wanted to be the first to break the serenity that encompassed them in this small hospital room.

Whispering, Jamie was the first to speak. “I dinna want to move, mo nighean donn, but I ken we must.”

“I know what you mean. It feels like if we just stay how we are, time will cease to exist and we’ll be in each other’s arms forever. But my heart will be the tiniest bit lighter if I know that you are settled before I have to go.”

“Aye. I dinna think I could stay in this room after ye left. It would be filled with memories of us. I would see ye, every time I turned and I dinna think I have the strength for that Claire.”

She cupped her husband’s face and brought him in for a kiss, then gently pushed up on his chest, so she could slide out from under him and help him get up. Claire went to take another shower before her long trip ahead and Jamie freshened up and got dressed. Once Claire was ready, they packed Jamie’s few things and made their way over to the Physical Therapy wing and caught up with Ian.

A charaid! I’m happy to have ye as a roommate again. Even if ye are a blubberin’ mess for the next week.” Ian winked at Claire & Jamie.

“Verra funny, ye numpty.” Jamie mumbled.

Claire rubbed Jamie’s arm and smiled at Ian. “I’m so happy to know that Jamie will have you supporting him, Ian. Especially since I cannot be here.”

“Ye can count on me, Claire. I dinna mind givin’ this clot-heid a knock upside the head if he starts feelin’ sorry fer himself.”

Claire could feel Jamie’s demeanor changing and she didn’t want to spend their last two hours in a sour mood. Quickly changing the mood, Claire encouraged the trio to head to dinner.

 

Conversation flowed freely throughout dinner. They talked about the farm and Ian filled them in on what Jenny had been up to.

“I still canna believe she’s started her own business,” Ian exclaimed.

Och, I can! She was always lookin’ fer ways to make money when we were weans. I think we had a lemonade stand every weekend, but that was’na enough. She then had to start makin’ biscuits too,” Jamie laughed.

“And you said she’s using the beeswax from the hives at the farm? That’s amazing! People must love the natural aspect and that they are locally made,” Claire added.

“Aye. Right now she’s just workin’’ out in one of the smaller barns on the property, but she mentioned wanting to get a store front in town! I can only imagine what will happen if she decides to put together a website.” Ian ran his hand through his sandy curls, causing them to stand up a bit. “Weel, at least I ken I’ll be busy when I get home.” He smiled at the thought and returned to his meal.

It warmed Claire’s heart to know that this man was still going to lead a full life with his wife and hopefully have a family before too long. She longed for this with Jamie, but the time frame was still too unsettled. She reached beneath the table and took Jamie’s hand in hers, giving it a squeeze. He smiled over at her and kissed her forehead.

Turning back to Ian, she asked, “Is Jenny using any local herbs or flowers to diversify the fragrances of the candles?”

“I dinna ken, but when I talk to her next, I’ll ask. Then Jamie can let ye know.”

“Thank you Ian! I dabbled with herbs and botanicals in college. It’s a passion of mine. I love the idea of creating herbal remedies for various ailments. Who knows, maybe Jenny and I could open a business together!”

“Do ye mean that, Sassenach?” Jamie looked at her anxiously. “I thought ye would stick with medicine when ye got out o’ the service.”

“I’m not entirely sure of anything as of now Jamie, other than knowing I simply want to be with you.” She laid her head on his shoulder before continuing. “But I do know that I have spent enough time being lonely and I’m ready to take my place in the Fraser Clan. If that means working side-by-side with my sister-in-law, I would love that. Of course, that’s if Jenny would want me,” Claire added shyly.

Jamie blinked several times, trying to make the tears in his eyes disappear before Claire noticed, but he wasn’t quick enough.

“What’s wrong, darling?”

“Nothin’, mo chridhe. I dinna mean tae wish away time, but hearing ye speak about the future has me wantin’ the next two years tae fly by!”

Ian had glanced down at his watch and then looked back at Claire and Jamie, clearing his throat. “It’s time,” he said softly.

Everyone had been having such a nice, normal conversation, they had clearly forgotten that Claire was due to leave in the next fifteen minutes. The mood changed drastically, but Claire was determined to keep her emotions in check the best she could. They cleared their trays and made their way out the door, to where a vehicle was waiting to take Claire to the hangar.

Ian pulled her into a hug first, wanting to give the newlyweds a few private moments. “Take care of yerself, piuthar. I will watch over Jamie, dinna fash. He loves ye fiercely and this will be hard fer ye both, but trust in the love ye have for each other. Before ye ken, we’ll all be sittin’ on the porch, back home, sharing a dram of whisky.” He leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek and then told Jamie he would wait for him in the lobby.

Jamie took both of his wife’s hands and brought them up to lay on his chest. “Yer face is my heart, Sassenach, and the love for you is my soul.”

Claire could feel his heart beating beneath her palm. She looked up into his sapphire eyes, filled with so much love, and in that moment, she knew that everything would be ok.

“I love you, Jamie. Being with you has made me realize that I was never a whole person until I met you. You are the piece that was missing from my heart.”

He leaned down and kissed her. Both agreed that there were no longer words needed to show what their hearts meant to one another. Their kiss was deep and passionate, filled with promise. This time apart would be difficult, but they both had things to focus on…Jamie getting stronger and working through the PTSD and Claire needed to see if she could get her assignment adjusted, now that leader of the target group had been taken out. The Army’s presence was no longer a necessity in that location and Claire wanted to make sure that she was aware of her options.

Jamie walked her over to the car and pulled the back door open. Turning to face him, one last time, Claire took his face in her hands and pressed their foreheads together.

“I love you, Soldier.”

“And I, you, my Sassenach.”

Claire gave him a quick kiss and climbed into the back of the car and closed the door. She opened the window to blow him a kiss and was then whisked away to the hangar. When she looked out the back window, Jamie was standing there, with one hand on his heart and the other clenched in a fist by his side.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Major General McKenzie paced a few steps before knocking on the door of Brigadier General Pardloe’s office. It’s been weeks since the raid. He kent the plans, had been in multiple meetings with the team, what does he want tae talk about now, McKenzie wondered.

“Come in,” Pardloe summoned.

Major General McKenzie entered and stood at attention before Pardloe’s desk.

“At ease, Major General. Have a seat please.”

Dougal took a seat, but not before noticing the envelope on Pardloe’s desk. It was from Washington. Dougal was doing his best to maintain his composure. He couldn’t know for sure, but if this was the file containing accounts from the raid, there was a good chance that people in Washington were aware of what had happened the night of the raid. There were only a handful of men there that night. I ken Rupert, Willie, and Angus would’na go against me. That only leaves two, McKenzie thought bitterly.

“I have the final report from Washington. You understand that it’s standard procedure for there to be an investigation after a mission, especially one that leaves two of our men significantly injured.”

Dougal nodded and Pardloe continued. “It seems that there was a discrepancy in the accounts of the events that night. Would you know anything about that, Major General?”

“Things did’na go as planned, sir. Our intel was off and there were additional suspects in the room.” Stick to the truth as much as possible, he told himself.

“Yes, I was aware of that Major General. You practiced with your team for weeks, however, so what I cannot understand is how things went south so quickly.” Pardloe stared at McKenzie, knowing full well the man would not break, but looking for any sign of distress in the man’s face. Pardloe continued. “Both Captain Murray and Master Sergeant Fraser had different accounts of what happened. They both stated, and I quote, ‘The Major General made some changes in the personnel, allowing for him to participate in the raid.’ Is that an accurate statement, Major General?”

Calm and collected on the exterior, Dougal was seething inside. How could his own nephew sell him out? He had broken the code among the team…duty before honor. Well, McKenzie thought, I can certainly make life miserable for him, whether he’s here or not. “Yessir, that is correct. I changed places with Willie.”

“This change in plans resulted in one man losing his leg and another being severely injured. You do understand that there will be a formal hearing to address your actions.”

“Yessir.”

“Dismissed.” Pardloe said, before turning back to the file on his desk.

McKenzie walked out of the tent. He was fuming and looking for an outlet for his anger. He was passing by the Medical Tent and caught part of the conversation.

Och! I’m so excited for Claire to come back! I canna wait to hear how her wee fox cub is doing!”

“I’m excited for her to come back as well, Geillis, but let’s be sensitive to the fact that she’ll be away from Jamie for the foreseeable future.”

“Of course, Joe! But it will’na stop me for getting up when the chopper lands around 1:00.”

Dr. Beauchamp comes in tonight, Dougal thought to himself, I’ll have to make sure and see her privately tomorrow.

Happy with this new development, McKenzie headed towards his barracks to start thinking about how he could get Claire’s contract extended.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-35

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Claire’s trip back to the base was uneventful and she had slept for most of it, the adrenaline of the past ten days fading away as the distance between her and Jamie grew. Joe and Geillis had been waiting for her when she landed and quickly embraced her. Seeing the excited looks on their faces, Claire knew they were eager to hear how Jamie was, but she was just too exhausted to have a conversation.

Claire broke apart from the hug and with tears in her eyes, looked at her friends. “I know the two of you are dying to hear how things went, and I’m happy to share some parts of it with you,” her eyes twinkled slightly, “but right now, I just want to sleep. Can we catch up tomorrow?”

“Of course, hen! Ye and I can grab coffee. I ken Joe will’na be interested in the same details I am.” Geillis winked and gave Claire’s hand a squeeze.

“I’m glad you’re back, Lady Jane, and Geillis is right. I’m interested in hearing how Jamie and Ian are doing, but I don’t need all the horny details.” Joe kissed Claire on the cheek, then reached down and grabbed her duffle bag.

Geillis linked arms with Claire and the three of them made their way towards the female barracks. Joe handed Claire her duffle and bid the two goodnight and made his way over to his own barracks.

“Yer pretty quiet, Claire. Did everything go ok with yer wee fox cub?”

Claire’s eyes twinkled at the thought of Jamie. “It was perfect, Geillis. As close to a honeymoon as we could have had. I just -,” Claire’s voice caught in her throat. “I just…miss him.” She gave Geillis a small smile, as a single tear fell from her eye.

“Of course ye do, honey!” Geillis pulled Claire into a hug. “It hurts me tae see ye sae sad, hen. I ken ye miss yer husband, but he’s in a good place tae heal and come back tae ye stronger than before.”

“He really is, G! After the second surgery, he was getting stronger by the day.” Claire smiled, remembering how Jamie had graduated from using the walker, to a cane, to eventually nothing at all.

“I want tae hear all about yer adventures, but ye need some rest. I ken ye slept on the plane, but ‘tis no’ the same. Nothing is as comfy as our five-star accommodations here,” Geillis winked.

“You’re right. We can catch up over breakfast.” Claire unpacked her bathroom items and completed her nighttime ritual of getting ready for bed. Every time she looked up into the mirror, she half expected to see Jamie standing over her shoulder, which only brought on a whole new wave of sadness. Come on, Beauchamp, you can do this. If we can weather this, our marriage will only be stronger, she told herself.

Claire laid down in bed, placed Jamie’s letter under her pillow, and closed her eyes. If she tried hard enough, she could almost hear Jamie whispering Gaelic into her ear as his warm breath tickled her neck. Smiling, Claire fell asleep seeing those baby blue eyes staring into her soul.

 

LRMC - Landstuhl, Germany
It was Jamie’s first night without Claire in ten days and his nerves were already frayed. Christ, Fraser…ye dinna stand a chance if yer already at yer wits end and it’s no’ even been 12 hours, he chastised himself.

“Come on, a charaid, I ken yer feelin’ lonely, but…” Ian paused for effect, and it worked because Jamie looked over at him. “We can pretend we’re back at the academy ye ken, when we were both bachelors.” Ian smiled.

Jamie let out a small laugh and shook his head. “Do ye no’ remember spending all yer free time on the phone with my sister? Ye haven't been a bachelor since I introduced the pair of ya.”

Och, no’, that's no’ true, and it was’na all my free time,” Ian mumbled.

“I ken what yer tryin’ tae do Ian, and I appreciate it…truly. I just need some time.” Jamie smiled at his brother-in-law.

Ian nodded and put his hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “Ye’ll get through this and it does get a bit easier, but yer always goin’ tae miss her. I’d be concerned if ye were’na sad. But, that does’na mean we have tae mope around either.”

“Yer right. Why don’t ye tell me a bit more about the house ye and Jen are gettin’? I was still on pain meds when that was all happening and parts are a bit fuzzy.”

For the next thirty minutes, Ian talked non-stop about the beautiful house and acreage that his wife had found for them to make a home and hopefully fill with children. Jamie was happy for Ian and his sister, he really was, but this wasn't helping. It was making him long for Claire even more, until he got an idea.

“Ian? I would like to see some pictures of the house and the area. Mebbe Claire and I could find something nearby!”

“That’s a braw idea! It’s getting late and I ken ye have PT followed by yer first appointment with Dr. Grey first thing in the morning. Want tae look after lunch tomorrow?”

“Aye, that sounds great. And Ian?” Jamie looked at his brother-in-law tentatively.

Ian nodded, prompting Jamie to continue.

“Ye’ve met with Dr. Grey already?”

“Aye,” but Ian didn’t elaborate further.

“I...I’m no’ quite sure what tae say,” Jamie trailed off.

Ian settled himself on his bed, resting his crutches nearby. He then opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a leather bound book, with a pen tucked inside. Ian ran his hand over the cover and took a deep breath, but didn’t look at Jamie. He simply stared at the book in his lap.

“When I first started seeing Dr. Grey, I did’na ken what tae talk about either. It took a couple of sessions tae start opening up, but once I did…,” Ian finally looked up at Jamie, “I finally started tae feel better; like myself again.”

“What do ye mean?” Jamie asked.

“C’mon, Jamie. Ye dinna have to be daft with me. I was there and yet I still did’na see half of what ye did because I was unconscious and ye were saving my ass.”

This was the first time they had ever talked about that night. Immediately following that night, Jamie’s primary focus was marrying Claire and Ian was on pain meds due to the amputation. Then they were transported to Germany, where Jamie had undergone several surgeries. Then Claire arrived and Jamie hadn’t, and couldn’t discuss that night with her. But now, with Ian, they were finally sticking their toes into the water.

Jamie swallowed and looked away from Ian. He still blamed himself for not being able to save Ian before the wall came down and crushed his leg.

“Look at me Jamie.”

Jamie turned around slowly to look his best friend in the eye.

“I dinna blame ye, but it does’na matter how many times I say it. Until ye realize that it was’na yer fault, I canna help ye. I think Dr. Grey can.”

Jamie nodded. He didn’t want to keep talking about this with Ian, not yet. Desperately looking for a more neutral conversation, Jamie asked, “What’s that?” gesturing at the book in Ian’s lap.

Ian looked down before answering Jamie. “Dr. Grey gave me this. Once we started ‘makin’ progress’, as he says, he gave me this journal. It started out as homework, sort of. He would ask me to think about something and write down my thoughts.” Ian smiled, thinking back on the first topic he had to write about. Dr. Grey had wanted Ian to be comfortable, so they focused on what made Ian happiest…his wife. “The first several entries are about Jenny. After I became comfortable with the idea of journaling, we started digging deeper into the events of that night. I was -,” Ian paused. “I was angry, confused, in pain…both mentally and physically. But I was able to channel that into my writing. Dr. Grey gave me a technique, called a 3-2-1. Each night I write down three things I’m thankful for, two things that I am still working on, and one thing that I was able to do today that I could’na yesterday.”

Jamie and Ian had never had a conversation like this before. This could be a new beginning for me, Jamie thought. Claire was right…as long as I open myself up, and be open to the therapy, I can work through these problems. “Thank ye for sharing all of this with me Ian. I’ll have a different mindset goin’ in tae the session tomorrow.”

“I’m happy to hear that bràthair. Now, I ken ye should get some rest since ye did’na get much when that wee vixen of a wife of yer’s was here.” Ian smirked.

Jamie tossed a pillow over at Ian, then made his way over and sat on the edge of his own bed. As he slid off his shoes, his thoughts were a bit lighter than they had been. He settled himself on to the bed, took Claire’s letter out of the box and put it under his pillow, then laid down. He fell asleep, dreaming of whisky colored eyes, smiling down on him.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Claire awoke the next morning, ready to face her first day back on the base. She quickly showered and dressed and had just started to make her way over to the Mess Hall to catch up with Geillis when she heard some heavy footsteps catching up to her from behind.

“There’s my favorite niece! How’s our lad?”

Claire spun around and was almost run over by Major General McKenzie. “Oh! Hello, sir.”

Och, drop the ‘sir’, lass. We’re kin now. Ye can call me Dougal, at least when we are’na surrounded by a group of soldiers.”

“Alright, Dougal. And to answer your question, Jamie’s doing well, thank you.” Claire smiled at the mention of her husband.

“He’s up, moving around then? How many surgeries did he have?”

“He had a total of three and I assisted on the last one. His back looks like hell and he has a long way to go, but I’m confident that he’ll make a full recovery, physically anyway.” Claire hoped that for once of her life her face wasn’t giving away what she was thinking. You have to get away from this man as fast as you can, Beauchamp. I don’t trust this man and I know Jamie would not want me spending time with him.

Dougal was staring intently at Claire, and sensed that she was not enjoying their interaction as much as he enjoyed watching her squirm. Relax man, he thought, ye want her comfortable around ye. Gain her trust. “Well, ye must be exhausted after travelin’ most of the night. May I walk ye to the Mess Hall? I was on my way there myself.”

“That would be lovely,” Claire lied, but put a smile on her face and feel into step with Dougal.

“I’m glad the lad is doing well. Hopefully the ‘twa of ye will be together soon. Who knows, mebbe even state-side,” Dougal smiled.

“Really?” Claire couldn’t hide the eagerness in her voice.

“Ye never ken, lass. I’ll see what I can do.” Dougal winked at her.

Still a bit taken aback by his comments, Claire wasn’t paying much attention as Dougal opened the door for her. It wasn’t until she heard her name being called by Geillis, that she realized where she was.

“I’ll let ye catch up with Nurse Duncan.” Dougal turned towards the coffee table and then looked back at Claire. “And Claire, we’re family now. If there’s anything ye need, just let me ken. I’m here tae look out fer ye, while Jamie canna.”

“Th- Thank you, Dougal,” Claire stammered. Then they parted ways, he towards the coffee, she towards her friend.

“Morning, hen! Tae what did ye owe the pleasure of being escorted to the Mess Hall by the Major General?”

“I’m not exactly sure, Geillis.” Claire was still quite flustered from her encounter with Dougal.

“What’s wrong, Claire?”

“I’m not exactly sure that anything is wrong. It’s just that -,” Claire couldn’t really disclose everything she knew about the situation with Dougal to Geillis, but she also knew that Geillis would see right through whatever excuse she came up with. “It’s just that the Major General is Jamie’s uncle, but I think you already knew that.” Geillis nodded, but didn’t say anything hoping Claire would continue. “He was just letting me know that since we’re family now, to let him know if I needed anything.”

“That was…nice, of him,” Geillis managed to get out, “albeit, totally out of character for the old coot.”

“Geillis!” Claire scolded.

“What?”

“He’s a superior. You cannot call him that.”

“No one heard and I ken ye are’na going to report me.” Geillis laughed, but then turned serious. “I dinna ken what the Major General is up tae, Claire, but I dinna trust him.”

Claire opened her mouth to argue, on the grounds that he was family now, but Geillis was quick to stop her.

“I mean it, Claire, stay away from him.”

Claire nodded to Geillis. Well Beauchamp, if Geillis doesn't trust him maybe it is time to listen to your gut. Even if he is family now.

 

LRMC - Landstuhl, Germany
Jamie was tired after his PT session, but it was a good tired, exhausted but satisfied. His mobility had drastically improved while Claire had been there. He smiled at the thought, knowing their amorous activities had pushed him a bit more than any doctor would have allowed, but Claire was a doctor and he hadn’t heard her complaining.

He grabbed a snack and then headed off to the third floor, where Dr. Grey’s office was located. Jamie couldn’t help being nervous. It wasn’t that he couldn’t share his feelings…he just wasn’t used to doing it with a stranger.

After getting off the elevator, Jamie looked at the directory and saw that he was looking for office 313, fifth door down on the left. Moving slowly, and with his cane, Jamie arrived in front of the door. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a British accent on the other side of the door.

Jamie opened the door and was a bit shocked by the office on the other side of the door. He hadn’t known what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it. There was a large window, overlooking another courtyard on the campus, letting in an abundance of light. Centered in the back of the office was a large desk, neatly organized with a laptop and a few trinkets. The shelves behind the desk were lined with accolades, both from the Army and various universities the doctor had attended. To the right, was a large leather couch, but Jamie’s gaze, however, had landed on the far, left corner where two leather armchairs were set on either side of a table. On top of the table was a beautifully carved, wooden chess set.

Following Jamie’s line of sight, the doctor asked, “Do you play?”

Jamie turned his head from the chess set to the man standing in front of him. He had brown hair, but not the color of Claire’s. This was more of a light brown, chestnut perhaps. His eyes were blue and he had a slight build. He was dressed comfortably in khaki pants and a light blue button-down shirt. Not what I was expecting of a shrink, Jamie thought. Realizing that he had yet to answer the doctor’s question, Jamie smiled and said, “I’ve been known to brood over a game or two.”

“Shall we?” Dr. Grey gestured towards the chairs.

Jamie moved towards the chair and carefully sat down. He rested his cane on the ground and looked at Dr. Grey, who had taken a seat across from him.

“I’m Dr. John Grey,” he offered Jamie his hand.

“Master Sergeant James Fraser, sir,” Jamie replied.

“Well, Master Sergeant, in here, I prefer to skip formalities. You are welcome to call me John.”

“Aye, John, as long as ye call me Jamie.”

“Jamie it is then, and please, you make the first move.”

The pair spent the next few minutes in companionable silence, taking turns and moving various pieces around the board. John loved when he had a patient that played chess. Not only did he enjoy a bit of friendly competition, but he found that it relaxed the patient and allowed him to see past the tough exterior that most of his patients possessed. I’ve worked with quite a few higher ranking men in my days, but this one is a closed book, Grey thought. He couldn’t read any of the expressions on Jamie’s face as they continued to play.

“Do you have any family, Jamie?”

Without looking up, Jamie nodded. “I have a Da and a Mam back home in upstate New York. My sister is still there too, but her husband is here…Captain Ian Murray.” That’s when Jamie looked up from the board. “And my wife, she’s still over in the Middle East.”

“Ian’s your brother-in-law? Well, it must be nice for you to have someone that close to you here while you’re recovering.”

Jamie gave a small smile, but for the first time, his guard fell a bit and John sensed an overpowering sadness. Surrounding his wife perhaps, John wondered. Not wanting to push yet, he drew their attention back to the game.

When it was obvious that Jamie was going to win, Grey smiled and conceded. “You’re quite the chess player, Jamie!”

Jamie smiled, “Thank ye, John. I have’na played in a verra long time. I enjoyed it.”

“I’m glad Jamie! You’re the best opponent I’ve come across in quite awhile. I look forward to playing again.”

“Aye, me too.”

“Well, that was it for our session today, but I will see you again tomorrow, right?”

Och! Were done already?  That was’na so bad,” Jamie said, a bit surprised.

“What were you expecting?” John chuckled.

“I’m no’ really sure,” Jamie shrugged. “I promised my wife that I would give this my all, so I guess I thought ye would ask me about things I dinna want tae talk about.”

“Wife…you mentioned her earlier. Do you want to tell me anything else about her?”

Jamie looked thoughtful. “She’s bonny with the most beautiful eyes, the color of whisky. And hair so curly I’m no’ sure how she even gets a brush through it. She’s smart and stubborn. She’s also a doctor, and a damn good one. God made her a surgeon for a reason, she has healing hands.” Jamie smiled.

“She sounds wonderful, Jamie.”

“Aye,” Jamie whispered, and turned to walk out the door. Before he opened it, he looked back once more and smiled. “Her name is Claire.” He then opened the door and leaning a little more heavily on his cane, walked slowly out and shut the door behind him.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-36

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
It took about a week, but Claire and Jamie settled into a new routine. They emailed everyday and made sure to Skype every Wednesday and Sunday. If their schedules allowed, they would try to add in another Skype session each week. Claire and Jamie tried to be conscious that most soldiers on the base were trying to have face-to-face contact with their loved ones back home at least once a week as well and they couldn't horde the computers.

Dougal had offered her the use of the commanders’ tent for these conversations with Jamie, which would have allowed Claire more frequent access and privacy. While she had been tempted, Claire didn’t feel it was right to take advantage of the situation. Other soldiers had to wait in line and were only afforded 30 minutes for their calls. Claire thought Dougal was trying to be helpful, but it just didn’t sit well with her and if she was being honest, she was trying to keep as much distance between herself and Major General MacKenzie as possible. His daily pop-ins at the Medical Tent and attempts to dine with her in various meals had left her uneasy. What was his sudden desire to be so involved? Claire knew Jamie and his uncle had a productive, professional relationship, but it didn’t extend much beyond that.

Claire hadn’t mentioned Dougal’s new-found attention to her husband. The last thing she needed was for Jamie to be upset. His primary focus needed to be on healing, physically and mentally. Lost in her own thoughts, while gathering supplies from the Medical Supply Room, Claire hadn’t realized that Geillis had been calling her name.

“Sorry, G! What do you need?”

“Can ye bring in some more gauze pads and surgical masks from the supply room, hen?”

Claire added those supplies to the cart, finished gathering the other items she had come in for, and made her way back out to the main area of the Medical Tent. While she and Geillis began to refill the supplies, Claire let her mind wander back to the dilemma with Dougal.

“Where’s yer heid today, Claire?” Geillis teased. “Ye’ve put cotton swabs in with the gauze pads!”

“I’m sorry, Geillis. I cannot stop thinking about Dougal.”

Geillis raised her eyebrow at Claire. “I thought I told ye tae stay away from that man, Claire.”

“I’m doing my best G, but he just always seems to appear by my side, at some point throughout the day. You’ve noticed how he comes in here for the most ridiculous things.”

Geillis nodded. “I’ve also seen him by yer side in the Mess Hall.”

“Yes! He’s been nothing but a gentleman, but why the sudden interest in me? He barely spoke two sentences to me on our wedding day. I find it hard to believe that he’s just ‘lookin’ oot fer ma niece’,” Claire mimicked a Scottish accent, making Geillis giggle.

“Yer gettin’ better, hen!”

Claire blushed, but continued. “Thank ye, G, but you know what I mean. It’s almost as if he’s buttering me up for something, but I have not a clue as to what.”

“Have ye mentioned this tae Jamie?”

“No, and I don’t really want to. If my suspicions are correct and Dougal is up to something, I certainly don’t want Jamie worrying about it. He has enough on his plate. Besides, I’ve been able to confide in you and Joe, so if something were to go amiss, it’s not as if no one is aware of the situation.”

“Aye, that’s true, but I still think ye should say something to Jamie.” Geillis said, then glanced down at her watch. “Ye’ve been so lost in yer thoughts today, did ye even see what time it is?”

Claire looked down at her own watch. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! I’m going to be late for my call with Jamie! Thank you, Geillis! Catch you at dinner?”

“Ye can count on it. And dinna fash about the mess ye’ve made here…I’ll clean up after ye.” Geillis teased.

“I’m so sorry, G! I owe you! Next Wednesday I’ll take care of all the re-stocking!” Claire yelled over her shoulder as she took off out of the Medical Tent.

 

LRMC - Germany
Jamie had just finished his session with Dr. Grey, and was sitting in his room with the laptop he had been provided. He always made sure to be at least fifteen minutes early for his calls with Claire. She was the one on a much stricter time-frame then he was, so he never wanted his Sorcha to be waiting.

Since establishing their daily email and calling schedule, Ian had been gracious enough to make sure that he was never in the room when Jamie was on with Claire. Jamie afforded Ian the same privacy when he talked with Jenny. It’s not as if their conversations resembled anything close to that of a 900 number, not with the Army monitoring the lines. Access to government owned computers made communication easier and far more consistent, but didn’t exactly allow him to speak to his wife in the way he desired. Stop it, Fraser. Gettin’ yerself all worked up before talking tae her will only make it worse.

Just as Jamie was reaching down to reposition himself, the familiar Skype ring came from the laptop speakers. He quickly accepted the call and was greeted by his wife’s whisky-colored eyes smiling back at him.

“Hello, my love!” Claire was looking more radiant than ever. She had a glow about her that Jamie hadn’t noticed before. Maybe it was just her return to the desert heat.

Mo chridhe! I’ve missed ye! I ken it’s only been since Sunday, but it feels like a hundred years since I last saw ye.”

Whenever they spoke, Claire found it difficult to not shed a tear at the beautiful words that flowed from her poetic husband. Despite what the desert air was doing to her hair, or how run down she was, Jamie was always quick to tell her how beautiful she was. I am the luckiest woman in the world, she thought.

“I know darling. I feel the same way. How are you today? You’re looking quite well!”

“I’m feelin’ braw, Sassenach. I was able tae bend over and touch my knees today!” Jamie beamed, clearly quite proud of his accomplishment.

“That's wonderful, Jamie! Last we talked your hands were still a good few inches above your knees. How did it feel? I would imagine you can feel the skin stretching. Is it painful?”

“I’ll no’ lie, it does hurt, but I was sae happy that I could do it, I dinna care! Oh, and I beat John in chess for the fourth day in a row!”

Claire’s cheeks hurt from smiling so much. To see her husband so enthusiastic again was priceless. She would have given anything to jump through the computer screen and hug him. “How are the sessions going with Dr. Grey?”

“Really great, actually. Ye were right, mo ghraidh, opening myself up is making the healing process happen faster.”

“I’m sorry, darling, what was that? You said I was right?” The playful tone in Claire’s voice wasn’t hard to miss.

“Aye, ye heard me just fine, Sassenach. Dinna let it go to yer heid.”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’m so happy for you, Jamie. I would give anything to simply throw my arms around you and hug you.”

“Me too, mo nighean donn. Me too, but at least we are able to see each other a couple times a week.” Jamie gave her that dazzling smile that she had fallen in love with the first time she saw it.

Turning the conversation back to a lighter topic, Claire mentioned looking at the listings that Jamie had sent earlier in the week.

“Things have been rather quiet here, so I had some time to really look at the properties that you sent! I immediately took the red brick one off the list…I just thought the layout wouldn’t really work. The property was gorgeous, but all the rooms seemed so small. I was hoping for more of an open-concept.”

“I dinna disagree, Sassenach. I think I could make that house exactly what ye want, but it would take time. What did ye think of the house with the barn on the property?” There was a glint in Jamie’s eyes that Claire had only seen when he talked of home. She knew that was the house Jamie wanted, and secretly, the one she wanted as well, but she was hoping to have a bit of fun with her husband.

“I did,” Claire replied. “The house was lovely, but would require some work. What did you think of the third one?” Claire tried to look hopeful and not give away her choice.

Och, the ranch with all the wallpaper? Please dinna tell me that ye liked that one more than the white, two-story, with the wrap-around porch. Did I mention that house came with a barn?” Jamie gave her his endearing owl-eyed blink.

Claire started laughing. “I believe you did mention that…twice today and at least five times in the email. I’m guessing that’s the property you want to go for?”

Jamie smiled, but his tone was serious. “Only if that’s the one ye want, Sassenach. I ken that ye said ye wanted tae move to New York, but ye would be leaving the area ye spent the last several years. The place Lamb and ye made home. I want ye tae love the house, mo chridhe.”

“Oh, Jamie. I was just teasing you. I’m in love with the wrap-around porch house! As soon as I saw it, I could picture myself in a rocking chair, watching you with the horses just down the way.”

“Do ye mean it, Sassenach? Should I tell Mam to put the offer in?”

“Are you sure your parents don’t mind handling that and putting the payment down until we get back stateside?”

“Are ye kidding?! She was thrilled that we would only be a few miles away. Plus, I think it gives her something tae focus on and not worry about half her family being overseas. I promise ye, Claire, last time I talked with Da & Mam they were more than happy tae help.”

“Alright then, I say we go for it, Soldier! Let’s get an offer in and see what happens!”

They chatted for a few more minutes, talking about what their plans were for the next few days, before they would be able to talk again on Sunday. Jamie assured Claire that he would reach out to his parents, as soon as he disconnected with her and would follow up in an email to her tomorrow.

As usual, their goodbyes were filled with a few tears, but this had been the most positive conversation they had had since parting a couple of weeks ago. Jamie hated to see his wife with a tear rolling down her cheek, but there was little he could do being 3000 miles away. After repeated ‘I love yous’ and promises of emailing tomorrow, they ended the call.

 

Ian came in about ten minutes later and Jamie filled him in on their house decision.

“That’s the one with the property backing up to ours, aye?” Ian asked.

“It is, but I’m no’ sure Claire kens that. I thought I’d keep that as a surprise, if we get the house. Are ye free for a few minutes before we head to dinner? I thought I would call Mam so she could get started on an offer for the house. Thought ye might want to say hello.”

“Sure! It’s been about a week since I spoke with Ellen and Brian. After, we’ll get dinner and then ye can show me the property again. We looked at sae many, I dinna remember which one ye and Claire decided on.”

Jamie and Ian spent the next twenty minutes catching up with Ellen and Brian, and letting them know which house Claire had decided on.

“Oooh! I was hopin’ that was the one ye all would go with! I ken the agent, Moira Fitzgibbons, and mentioned my son and daughter-in-law were looking fer a house! She gave me a heads up that this property was going up fer sale and sent me a few photos. I’ll reach out to her tomorrow, Jamie!”

“Thank ye, Mam! I’ll let Claire ken that ye’ve made contact with the selling agent, but I dinna want to tell her anything else, until we ken fer sure we have the house. I would love to be able to give her this as a wedding present.”

“That’s a braw idea, son. It will be so nice to have ye close again. Did ye want yer Mam to look into some smaller homes for the lass’ uncle? Ye did say that he may move up this way as well, aye?” Brian asked.

“He may, so it would be great if we had some options for him too! I’m sure Claire would be grateful for us lookin’ out fer Uncle Lamb.” Jamie smiled at his Mam and Da.

“I’ll make some calls tomorrow and email ye with any information that I can! How are ye feelin’, Ian?” Ellen asked her son-in-law.

“Pretty good, Ellen! I’m getting stronger everyday and I’m supposed to be gettin’ fitted for my prosthetic some time next week.”

“Oh, lad! Ye have no idea how happy that makes me! Brian, perhaps ye dinna have to make that ramp for the entryway now!”

“What do ye think, Ian? Do ye still want me to put the ramp in?” Brian waited a few minutes to let Ian think about it.

“Do ye have to install it right away? I thought ye were building in the barn out back?” Ian asked.

“Aye. It’s almost finished, but no, I dinna have to install it just yet. How ‘bout ye give yer new leg a week or so and then let me know.” Brian suggested.

“Sounds good, Brian. Thank ye!”

After a few more minutes, Jamie and Ian said goodbye and headed down to grab some food. The mood was light at dinner and Jamie felt as if he was truly starting a new chapter in his life. He had been blessed with two amazing parents that loved their children more than life itself. He had a supportive brother-in-law, who happened to be his best friend, by his side through some of the most trying moments of his life to this point. Most importantly however, was his beautiful wife, the love of his life, who loved him with her whole-self. Claire was self-less, kind, and deserved the world. Finding their dream home and imagining growing old with her on that wrap-around porch, while their children ran around the yard made his heart want to burst with joy. Things are finally looking up, Fraser. Dr. Grey was right…I needed to give myself a bit of grace. Focus on the positives and allow that positivity to be infectious.

When Jamie and Ian had returned back to their room, Jamie completed a few of his exercises and then he settled on his bed with his laptop. Making room to show Ian the house he dreamed of turning into a home with Claire.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Most days seemed to blend together for Claire, but she was able to keep track, based on when she had spoken with Jamie. Today was Friday, meaning it had been two days since Claire had last spoken with Jamie and it would be two more until she could hear his voice again.

While Claire had been carrying on in the Medical Tent, attending to minor injuries and illnesses, she had started to hear murmurings of another raid on the horizon. She was under the impression that when Jamie’s team had carried out their mission, the major target had been taken down, but since she was not privy to other intel, apparently that was wrong. She hadn’t thought much of it until Sunday morning, when Dougal came into the Medical Tent and asked if he could talk to her in private. Joe and Geillis exchanged a quick glance with each other, behind Dougal’s back, and then raised their eyebrows at Claire.

“Yes, Major General. Let’s step over here into OR1.” Claire ushered Dougal ahead of her and glared back at the other two. Despite their concerns, Claire could not deny speaking with a higher-ranking officer. He was a superior, whether she trusted him or not.

“How can I help you, Major General?” Claire inquired.

“Dr. Beauch -, och, I’m sorry lass. Dr. Fraser, I’m not sure if ye are aware but there will be another raid happening in the next few days. I canna disclose the location, but it will be further away than the last one. The team leaders and commanding officers have been meeting and thought it best if a doctor were to accompany the team this time. If anyone on the team sustains any major injuries, it would be best to have medical personnel on standby. I said I could’na think of anyone more qualified that ye! Ye were able to save Captain Murray and we all ken what ye did for Jamie.” Dougal waggled his eyebrows at her.

Claire stood up a bit straighter, not willing to let this man’s chauvinistic attitude take away from the fact that she was the most capable doctor on the base. “And they were ok with me, a woman, accompanying your team on this raid?”

“Aye, although it took a bit of convincing. There was concern that our best doc would be on the front lines, but I assured them ye would be under my protection.”

Claire had done her absolute best to keep her features neutral. Christ, Beauchamp, if there was ever a time to keep your emotions in check, now would be the time. Thoughts were flying madly throughout her head…anxiety, excitement, fear. She prayed that Dougal couldn’t detect any of them.

“Of course I can accompany the team. Any necessary medical treatment that I can administer early on will only be beneficial to a soldier. When do we leave?”

“We are scheduled tae depart at 15:00 tomorrow. The raid is tae take place early Wednesday morning. Pack lightly, Dr. Fraser. Only the essentials.” Dougal pressed.

“Of course, sir. I will start making a list and packing medical supplies as soon as we are done here.”

Dougal nodded and turned to walk out the door. Before leaving, he turned back to Claire and with an intense look in his eyes, spoke very directly. “Dinna mention the raid tae anyone, Dr. Fraser, not even tae yer husband.” He then walked out of the operating room and left the medical tent.

Geillis and Joe rushed in, just as Claire was sinking down onto a stool. “What was that all about, Lady Jane?” Joe asked anxiously.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Claire replied quietly.

“I dinna trust that arse as far as I can throw him, Claire. What did he want?” Geillis pressed.

“G, I wish I could tell you, honestly, but I’m not cleared to provide any information. Please trust that I can take care of myself. I appreciate your concern, truly,” and she reached out to both of her friends and squeezed their hands. “But we have all been put in positions where we cannot disclose information. As information comes out, I’m sure you will be updated, but until then, I need you all to trust me.”

“I don’t like this, Claire. Not one bit, but I do trust you.” Joe assured her.

“I’m with Joe, I dinna like it either, but I ken where yer comin’ from.” Geillis added. “Are ye goin’ tae say anything to Jamie?”

Claire had been thinking about that the minute Dougal had said she was going on the raid. She knew Jamie would be furious, but she hoped he would understand that you didn’t get to argue with orders. He should understand that better than anyone, she thought. It wasn’t until Dougal had specifically said to not tell Jamie, that her stomach had started to turn itself inside out, and at this moment, she felt the sudden need to find the nearest emesis basin or garbage can.

Luckily, Claire made it in time before losing her entire breakfast. Geillis had rushed over to rub circles on her best friend’s back. “Are ye alright hen?” Joe handed Claire a small glass of water so she could rinse her mouth. After rinsing and spitting a few times, Claire nodded. “I think I was just a bit overwhelmed by all that just transpired. I’m going to go back to the barracks and brush my teeth. I’ll be back in about ten minutes.”

Claire made her way out the door and into the hot, dry air. She took a few deep breaths through her nose and slowly let them out through her mouth. As she made her way to her barracks, her mind was racing. How can I not tell Jamie? I would be raving mad if the roles were reversed, but orders are orders, right? I don’t want to put my career in jeopardy because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. By the time Claire had grabbed her toothbrush, she had successfully talked herself into telling Jamie. However, after brushing her teeth and making her way back to the medical tent, she had talked herself out of it.

“I dinna ken how yer going to talk to that fox cub of yer’s and have him not ken something’s up. I can see it all over yer face, hen.”

Claire buried her face into her hands. “I want to tell him G, I really do, but I can’t. He should understand that, right?”

Geillis sat down next to Claire and pulled her into an embrace. “Aye, he should, but that does’na mean that he does’na deserve to ken what’s going on. Things are different now. Yer married!”

Claire sighed against Geillis’ shoulder. Her friend was right, but there really wasn’t a way to inform Jamie, without the Army finding out. All their communication was through email or Skype. After another minute, Claire came to a resolution.

“If I tell you, Geillis, you have to swear that you won’t say a word.” Geillis opened her mouth to respond, but Claire held up a hand stopping her. “I mean it G…no one can know.”

“Ok, I swear. I won’t tell a soul.”

Looking around, Claire made sure they were not within earshot of anyone, not even Joe. “I really don’t know much. I only know that I’m leaving with the Special Ops at 15:00 tomorrow. They want to have a doctor with them to attend to any major injuries.”

Geillis’ mouth dropped. “Yer going with them?!” she squawked. “That’s not protocol!”

“I know that G, but Dougal said he convinced the team leaders and CO's to have me go with them. He assured them I would be under his protection.”

The anger that flashed through Geillis’ eyes, combined with the color that flooded her face and her fiery hair made her look like a she-devil. “Why, that fecking bastard!”

“Geillis!” Claire said, shocked.

“No, Claire. I will’na have it. Ye canna go with them. It’s way too dangerous and I dinna even ken where yer goin’.”

“It was not a request, G…it was an order. I don’t have a choice,” Claire paused, “but I do feel better knowing that someone knows. Dougal was adamant that I could not tell anyone, especially Jamie.”

Am pìos sgoinneil sin de shit! Ma gheibh mi a-riamh e na aonar…” Geillis was murmuring in Gaelic, but Claire caught the meaning based on her facial expressions.

Claire reached over and squeezed her friend’s knee. “I promise, I’ll be careful.”

“I’ll no’ lie tae ye, I’m pissed about this, but I ken ye can’t go against orders. And I swear, if anything happens tae ye, I will’na keep this tae myself. I will tell Jamie and then I’ll be givin’ that piece of shite Dougal a piece o’ my mind!”

“I would expect nothing less,” Claire smiled at her friend. “Now, can you help me start packing supplies? I have no clue what the plan is, so I have to be prepared for anything.”

 

LRMC - Germany
Sundays seemed to drag for Jamie. He didn’t have physical therapy or sessions with Dr. Grey. Trying to find something to do until his call with Claire, which usually occurred around 16:00 CET, was always a challenge. He was getting around much easier, so he usually went for a long walk in the morning, then had lunch with Ian. Afterwards he would try to Skype with his family, read, or continue with his journal.

Dr. Grey had provided Jamie with a journal on his third visit. Dr. Grey had discussed the benefits of being able to freely express your thoughts and emotions in a location that was private. If Jamie felt inclined to bring the journal to any of his sessions and share his entries, that was entirely up to him, but Dr. Grey certainly didn’t expect it.

Jamie found that on most days, his thoughts centered around Claire. He would fantasize about what they would do when they got back to the states, how many kids they would have, what their house would look like. He would sketch out some ideas to improve the barn. The sketches he had shared with Dr. Grey at his session on Friday.

“These are amazing, Jamie! You have a real talent for drafting. Tell me more about your plans for the horses.” Dr. Grey had encouraged.

“I grew up with horses and always found them to be such beautiful creatures that did’na judge me.” Jamie smiled. “If I was fightin’ with Willie or Jenny, I would go out to the barn and vent to my horse. Sometimes I would take him fer a long ride, or would just be soothed by brushing him down. I was actually thinkin’...” Jamie had trailed off, and looked down to his lap, suddenly shy.

Dr. Grey was accustomed to giving his patients time to gather their thoughts, but this was the first time that he had seen Jamie Fraser be shy. He gently prodded, “What are you thinking Jamie?”

“Weel, when I get home, I was thinkin’ about startin’ some kind of therapy program…with horses,” Jamie said quietly. “But, I have’na even mentioned it tae Claire.”

“I think that is a brilliant plan! Did you have a type of therapy in mind?” Dr. Grey was clearly intrigued.

“I dinna ken, but I would definitely want it available to fellow vets. I want a place for them to come, where they can spend some time in nature and just be with the horses. If they want tae share how they’re feelin’, they can talk to the animals, but mebbe havin’ some trained personnel around as well.” Jamie shrugged his shoulders. “I have’na given it a whole lot of thought. It was somethin’ I just started tossin’ around in my heid.”

“I think you should definitely explore this a bit more and I would encourage you to share these thoughts with Claire in your call on Sunday! She may have some insight as a medical professional.”

 

Jamie had mulled over everything Dr. Grey had said, and had decided to share his thoughts with Claire today on their call. He was surprised at how nervous he was. Relax, Fraser. It’s Claire. When has she not been supportive of ye, he asked himself.

Jamie and Ian had spent some of the afternoon outside, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. About twenty minutes before his scheduled call with Claire, Jamie made his way inside, telling Ian he would meet him in the cafeteria for dinner.

Once in his room, Jamie settled himself on his bed, stretched his legs out, and rested his laptop on his extended legs, with his journal next to him. He wanted to be able to show Claire his sketches. Jamie opened up the Skype app and waited patiently for Claire to call.

The familiar ring came through about five minutes early. Jamie quickly answered. “Hello mo chridhe! I’ve missed ye!”

“Hello darling! I’ve missed you too. What have you been up to?”

It did not go unnoticed by Jamie how exhausted Claire looked. Her eyes were missing their sparkle and her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Are ye feelin’ alright, Sassenach? Yer lookin’ a bit peely wally.”

Shit, Beauchamp! Pull yourself together…you cannot be fielding any questions. “I’m fine, Jamie. Just a bit tired is all. We’ve had an uptick in injuries this week. Nothing major…just cuts that required sutures, more heat stroke, and several cases of trench foot. I will never understand what is so hard about changing your socks every time you come back from a ruck.”

Jamie chuckled at that. “Aye. It is’na hard, but there is usually sae much going on that we just forget.” He paused and looked at her carefully. “Are ye sleepin’ well, mo ghraidh? I ken even when ye were here with me, and were hardly sleepin’, ye still looked more rested.”

“I’m fine, Jamie, really. Please, let’s just talk about something else.”

It wasn’t that Claire had been short with him, or that her tone had been a little terse. It was the way her eyes were shifting, as if she was afraid someone might pop in and interrupt her. Somethin’ is off, Sorcha. What are ye no’ tellin’ me, Jamie thought. Not wanting to push, especially when they were on borrowed time, Jamie chose to ease up a bit and change the subject.

“Weel, I do actually have somethin’ important to talk tae ye about.” He pulled out his journal and flipped to the page with the barn sketches. He held them up for her to see.

“Those are impressive, Jamie! I didn’t realize you had such a talent for drawing. Wait! Did you hear back about the house?” Claire asked, excitedly.

“Unfortunately no, no’ yet anyway. Mam thought it would be sometime next week. I’m hopin’ tae have some information fer ye on Wednesday!”

Claire inhaled sharply and then quickly got herself under control. Anyone else would never have noticed, but Jamie didn’t miss a thing, especially when it came to his wife.

Jamie cleared his throat and continued, keeping a close eye on Claire. “Actually, these are drawings of the barn. I’m tryin’ to be positive about the house, but even if we dinna get that one, I ken I want a barn and horses on the property.”

“That sounds lovely! I rode a lot as a little girl, but it’s been some time since I was on a horse. It would be wonderful to get back into it. Can you imagine the picnics we could have on the weekend? We could ride to various corners of the property and pack a lunch.” Claire closed her eyes and exhaled slowly, clearly dreaming of their life yet to come.

“That’s a braw idea, Sassenach. And tae think of what I could do tae ye once I have ye layin’ on my plaid…” Jamie wiggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.

“Master Sergeant Fraser! I do not believe that is the kind of conduct that is becoming of an officer.” Claire teased.

“Yer right, mo nighean donn, plus I have more tae tell ye,” Jamie paused for dramatic effect.

“Well, do you plan on telling me or do I have to wait?”

“I want to start a therapy program, Claire. One that utilizes horses. It would be open to fellow veterans and perhaps we could even have some trained professionals on staff.”

Claire was speechless. She wasn’t sure what to say and tears came to her eyes. Jamie quickly continued on, sensing that Claire wasn’t entirely keen on the idea.

“This was just a thought, Sassenach. If ye dinna -”

“Jamie, I think this is a fabulous idea! I’m just so…stunned! I had no idea you were already thinking about what you would do when you got back to the states.”

“I have tae have a plan, mo chridhe. Ye did’na think I’d have us livin’ under a tree come winter, did ye? I promised to provide fer ye. I dinna ken how profitable this will be, and tae be honest Claire, I dinna want any vet to be deterred because they canna afford it. After everything Dr. Grey has done for me, in only a week, I want that for others who have walked in my shoes. Or in Ian’s.”

Claire was silent and just stared at her husband, slowly shaking her head. “Just when I think I cannot possibly love you more…”

“It will’na mean anything tae me Claire, if ye are no’ onboard. I need ye by my side, Sassenach, I canna do this without ye.”

“You have my full support, darling. How can I help?”

“There is’na much ye can do right now. I’m just tossin’ around ideas. If anything pops into yer heid, jot it down and we can talk about it when we’re on Skype.”

They spent the next few minutes just catching up on little things. When it came time to say goodbye, Claire seemed more emotional than usual.

“I dinna want tae push, mo nighean donn, but somethin’s is no’ right. I can tell by how ye keep lookin’ around and ye seem verra tense. What’s going on?”

Claire should have known better than to think she could hide something like this from Jamie. However, if she would have canceled their call, he would definitely know something was amiss. “I might not be able to make our call on Wednesday, darling,” she whispered.

“Ok…why no’?”

“I can’t really say, Jamie. I was given orders and I have to leave tomorrow afternoon. I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be back on the base.”

Jamie’s heart stopped. Leave?! Where the hell is she going? “What do ye mean ‘leave’, Claire? Where are ye going?”

“Jamie, please. You know I cannot give you that information, even if I knew the answer.”

Jamie tried to keep his composure, but his fists were balled at his sides and he was breathing heavily. “What can ye tell me?” he asked through clenched teeth.

“Nothing. I was given strict orders to not discuss this with anyone. I was hoping that you of all people would respect that.” Claire countered.

“I dinna like this, Claire. If ye canna tell me anything, then I ken it’s dangerous. They almost never request that a doctor accompany a team, unless they are expectin’ casualties that may no’ make it back to the base without real help. Who’s goin’ with ye?” Jamie was getting more and more agitated.

Claire was quiet. The last thing she wanted to do was argue with Jamie and lose her temper. Unfortunately, no response seemed to irritate Jamie more than making any small response at all, regardless of how short or terse it was.

“So that’s how it is, then? My wife is goin’ somewhere and canna tell me where or with who? I’m no’ even there tae protect ye!” Jamie roared and threw his notebook at the wall.

Claire jumped, clearly startled by his outburst. “Jamie! Why are you acting like this? If I could tell you, you know I would. I figured if anyone would understand my position, it would be you. You’re a master sergeant in the Special Forces for the United States Army. You have been on missions just like the one I’ll be on.”

“Aye and that’s what scares me the most! Plus, I was’na married when I was on those missions. There was’na anyone waitin’ fer me!” Too furious to notice before, Claire now saw the tear tracks running down Jamie’s cheeks.

“Jamie, listen to me. Everything is going to be fine. I’m going to do what I was trained to do and you have to trust in that. Our life is just beginning. I will do everything in my power to ensure that I come back to you.”

Jamie just looked at his wife, then quietly asked, “Do you honestly believe everything will be fine? Because I ken by lookin’ in yer eyes that yer scared tae death.”

“I don’t have a choice, Jamie,” Claire whispered. “But it would be a lot easier to do what I have to do, if I knew you were fully supporting me. You don’t have to like the situation, but I need to know that you understand my position.”

“I love ye Claire, more than life itself. I dinna ken what I would do without ye, but I do understand. I understand better than anyone what yer about tae go through and that’s what terrifies me.”

“I’m scared too, but I cannot dwell on that. I have to be strong and focused on the task in front of me. I will be in contact as soon as I can. I love you, James Fraser and I will come back to you.”

“I’ll hold ye to that, Sassenach, because if ye die on me now, I swear I’ll kill ye.” Jamie gave her a small, crooked smile. “Be careful, mo chridhe, and watch yer six. I love ye.”

They waved goodbye and the call disconnected. Jamie hurled the laptop against the wall. Releasing a shaky breath he dropped his head into his hands. “God, keep her safe.”

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-37

LRMC - Germany
When Ian arrived back at their room, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw when he opened the door. Books were laying askew on the floor and the laptop that Jamie had used was also on the floor, the screen entirely detached and most of the keys missing or at least detached. Straight up the wall from the laptop, was a large dent. Other random, personal objects had clearly been thrown around and Jamie was laying on his bed, facing away from the door.

Cautiously stepping into the room and closing the door, Ian waited a brief moment, to see if Jamie would acknowledge his presence, before finally broaching the topic.

Bràthair, what happened?” Ian asked quietly sitting on the edge of his own bed. Previous experience with the Fraser family had taught him to tread lightly and avoid physical contact for the first few minutes. When Jamie didn’t answer, Ian tried a bit of comedic relief. “Lemme guess, she was’na a fan of the barn drawings?”

Jamie made a deep Scottish sound in the back of his throat that was between a growl and a snort. “That would be the least of my worries.”

Ian waited patiently for Jamie to say something else. The ice had been broken and it was only a matter of time until Jamie elaborated on what had occurred between him and his wife.

“Somethin’ was off from the minute the call started. I could see it, but did’na want to push.” Jamie whispered.

Ian couldn’t possibly think of what Claire must have said that would cause Jamie to react this way. “Is the lass alright?”

“Aye, she says she’s fine. She looked a wee bit tired and peely wally, but said it was from being back in the desert heat. But her body language was off. She kept looking around, as if she was afraid that someone would come in while we were talking.” Jamie slowly went on, “So I finally asked her what was wrong.”

After a few minutes Jamie sat up and slowly turned around to face Ian. The anger and fear in his eyes was something Ian had not seen since the night of their raid. Ian did his best to keep a straight face so Jamie would continue. Tears were welling in Jamie’s eyes and Ian moved over to his bed and lightly put his hand on Jamie’s shoulder.

“She’s being sent on a mission,” Jamie whispered.

Of all the things Ian was expecting Jamie to say, that certainly was not it. “What do ye mean she’s going on a mission? She’s a doctor, they rarely leave the base.”

“I ken that!” Jamie roared throwing his hands up. Dropping his arms, elbows on legs again, he placed his forehead in his hands. “She would’na tell me anything!”

“She would’na or could’na?” Ian asked softly.

Jamie jerked his head up and threw an angry glare at Ian. “Sae yer taking her side then? That’s exactly what she told me. She had been given orders and that I should ken better than anyone why she could’na say more.”

“I ken yer upset mo charaid, but ye ken the truth of it. She canna tell ye. I ken Claire too, and if she could tell ye, I’m sure she would have.”

Clearly deflated, Jamie’s shoulder slumped and he looked down at his balled fists. “Why do ye always have to be the voice of reason?”

“Because if I was’na, ye would’na even be marrit to the lass! When are ye and yer sister going tae learn that Ian kens best?” That earned a raised eyebrow from Jamie, but at least he was looking at Ian now with something other than rage filling his face and eyes. With his attention, Ian went on. “I ken yer scared…shite! I’m scared as well, but honestly, more perplexed.” Ian knitted his brow together.

“Aye. Somethin’ does’na add up and I canna -” Jamie froze.

“What is it?”

“Dougal.” The name barely made it pass Jamie’s clenched teeth.

“What about him?” Ian asked nervously.

“I had to give Lt. Colonel Gowan my accounts from the night o’ the raid. I kent he had already spoken with ye and the other men, but he seemed taken aback by my recollections.”

“What did ye tell him?”

“The truth. How at the last minute, Dougal changed the roles of the men. I dinna ken if that made a difference to the outcome, but here we are. Men were severely injured and that falls on the Major General and his decisions that night.”

“I shared the same information, but if that's the case,” Ian was unraveling it all in his brain, “then Dougal would have to undergo an official hearing, or at the verra least, the file would be sent to Washington for review.”

“Aye, but in the meantime, he’s still on the base.” Jamie rationalized.

“Sae ye think that Dougal is behind Claire going on this mission?”

“I dinna ken, but I would’na put it past the bastard.”

Both men sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking over all the information that they had.

“Jamie,” Ian interrupted the silence. “If Dougal is currently under investigation, I dinna see how they would allow him to lead another mission. The Major General has proven that there might be doubt in his ability to lead his men.”

“I thought of that too. That’s why none of this makes sense and without any kind of proof or knowledge of the mission,” Jamie paused, swallowing the lump in his throat, “there’s no’ a fucking thing I can say against the man. He’s my commanding officer and to accuse him of somethin’ like this would likely get me court martialed and he would certainly see to it. It does’na matter that he's my mother's brother. His reputation, and career advancement come before anything else.”

“Aye. We need more facts. How much time do we have before Claire leaves?”

“Less than twenty-four hours.”

Ian stared blankly at Jamie. “Seriously?!”

“Aye. That’s why I was prayin’ before ye came in.”

“I’ll start prayin’ too. In the meantime, let’s pick up this mess…I’ll help.” Ian smiled at Jamie and got up off the bed.

They worked in silence as they tried to right the room. Most of the mess was easily picked up, but the laptop and the damage to the drywall would have to be addressed.

After the room was tidied, they both laid down on their beds, each lost in thought.

“I wish there was something we could do, but I’m at a loss, Jamie.” Ian said, deflated.

“I appreciate ye talkin’ with me about it. I dinna ken what tae do, but I’m hopin’ somethin’ will come tae me. I’m sae fecking tired at this point, I canna see straight, let alone think clearly. I doubt I’ll get much sleep, but I have tae try.” Jamie rolled over, pulled the covers up, and turned off his bedside lamp. “Night Ian.”

“G’night Jamie.”

 

The next morning, Jamie went to physical therapy, but his heart wasn’t in it. His therapist, Phaedre, gave him a knowing look.

“Missing your wife, sir,” she asked with a smile. “You look like you aren’t getting much sleep.”

“Somethin’ like that,” Jamie grimaced. “I’m sorry, Phaedre, I promise tae do my exercises back in my room, but I really need to see Dr. Grey. Do ye think we could end early?”

“Is everything alright?” Phaedre looked concerned.

“I hope sae, but I would feel better if I could talk it out with him.”

“Alright, but please make sure to do your exercises, Master Sergeant. You’ve been making such wonderful progress!”

“Aye, I promise. Thank ye, Phaedre!”

Jamie left the rehab room and made his way to the elevator and up to the third floor. He knew that his appointment with John wasn’t for another two hours, but this situation with Claire had plagued him all night and he couldn’t think about anything else. Knowing there was little John could do but listen, Jamie felt compelled to see if there was an earlier appointment available.

When Jamie arrived at the office door, he noticed that it was open, so he peeked inside. Seeing John with his back to the door, pouring a cup of coffee, Jamie lightly knocked.

“Dr. Grey?”

Slightly startled, John looked back over his shoulder in surprise. “Jamie! I wasn’t expecting to see you for a couple more hours.” The look of distress on his patient’s face quickly registered with John and he put the cup of coffee down. “Jamie, come in. What’s wrong?” John asked as he made his way behind Jamie to close the door.

“I’m sae sorry to barge in like this John, but I dinna ken what else tae do.” Jamie took a seat over on the couch, while John sat across from him in one of the leather chairs.

“I’m sorry something has you this upset, but I’m happy that you felt comfortable enough to come to me Jamie. That shows a lot of growth. Now, tell me what happened.”

Jamie spent the next twenty minutes going over his phone call with Claire from the night before. John was actively listening and jotting a few things down when he felt it necessary. Once Jamie had finished, John let out a low whistle.

“I know how upset you are and how helpless you are feeling. I was in a similar situation a few years back.” It wasn’t like John to share parts of his personal life, but he had grown close with Jamie in the past couple of weeks. The budding friendship between the two men had come unexpectedly, but was not unwelcomed.

“I’m sorry to bring up bad memories John, and I ken if ye dinna want tae talk about it.”

“It’s easier to talk about now, but I want to focus on Claire for a moment. I might actually be able to help.”

Jamie clearly was not expecting that and quickly leaned forward, hand clasped onto his knees. “What do ye mean?!”

“It’s not public knowledge, but my brother is Brigadier General Pardloe, although I just call him Hal.” John gave Jamie a small smile.

Jamie gasped. “I had no idea! John, I canna ask ye-,”

“Jamie, you didn’t ask. I volunteered, but we have to work quickly. When did you say Claire is supposed to depart?”

“15:00, but ye ken the base is three and a half hours ahead of us. It’s already 12:30 there.”

“Then I need to work quickly.” John turned to his phone and quickly tapped out a message, then he set it back down on the end table.

“Jamie, I do not want to give you false hope. I can try to reach Hal, but you know how things can be on a base. I’m not sure we’ll be able to stop Claire from getting on the bird.”

“Yer right, but I feel better just knowing that we’re doing somethin’. I dinna ken how tae thank ye.”

“Don’t thank me yet…I haven’t done anything.” John smiled at his friend. “Fancy a game of chess while we wait? Perhaps kicking my arse would make you feel a bit better.” John raised his eyebrow at Jamie.

“I fear ye may have me at a disadvantage, Dr. Grey. I’m clearly distracted.”

John grabbed his chest, in mock disapproval. “Why Master Sergeant Fraser, you wound me. I would never take advantage of you being distracted.”

“Aye ye would and I’m honored tae have ye as a friend who is willing to push me, even when I dinna think I can push myself.”

John smiled and gave Jamie a slight nod. Jamie grabbed the game and started setting up the chess board when John’s personal phone rang.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
12:00 CET
Claire would be departing in about five hours and it still felt like she had so much to do and pack. Her nerves were starting to get the better of her as well and apprehension was creeping in. Mumbling to herself, she went through her supplies again.

“Gauze, sutures, bandages -,”

“How are things going Lady Jane?” Joe had interrupted and she had never been so grateful for the distraction.

Smiling at her friend, Claire said “Just another day in Paradise, Abernathy.”

Joe laughed and came over to help her add a few more things to her bags. They worked side-by-side, like they had done for months, anticipating the others’ move without any verbal communication.

“You don’t have to do this Claire,” Joe whispered.

Claire stopped what she was doing, but didn’t look at Joe. “We both know that’s not true, Joe, I was given orders by a superior officer. I will admit, I’m a bit apprehensive, but that’s probably normal. I’m used to patients coming to me and I have time to prepare for their arrival. I’ll be going into an unknown environment.”

“I still don’t understand why they are sending you.”

“Are you implying that I shouldn’t be going because I’m a woman?” Claire asked with a slight edge in her voice.

“Of course not! You are the best doctor on the base, but something isn’t adding up. Why put such a valuable asset in that much danger?”

“I can’t answer that, and if I could, I’m not sure I would want to know the answer. Listen, Joe, you’ve known me since med school…I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.” Claire gave Joe a warm smile. “You also know, better than anyone, about the oath we took as doctors before we joined the service. ‘That I will exercise my art solely for the benefit of my patients, the relief of suffering, the prevention of disease and the promotion of health, and I will give no drug and perform no act for an immoral purpose.’ If I am able to treat even one soldier out there, and prevent them from further injury or infection, then I will be holding up the oath we swore at our graduation ceremony.”

“That’s admirable LJ, and I would expect nothing less from you. But I feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to you, and I know Jamie would want me to watch out for you as well. We’ve had each other’s back since we sat next to each other in A&P.” He smiled at the memory, but took on a more serious tone as he continued. “It’s no secret that Geillis and I don’t trust Dougal. Do you honestly think he’ll have your six?”

Before Claire could answer, Major General McKenzie appeared in the doorway, looking frazzled, yet determined.

“Are ye packed, Dr. Fraser? We’re leaving now.”

Claire froze for a second, then swallowed and answered. “Yessir. I’m ready to go.”

“Good. Grab yer bags and be at the bird in five minutes.” Dougal rushed out, looking frantically from side-to-side as he made his way over to the hangar.

Claire gathered her bags and gave Joe a quick hug. “I’ll be back before you know it.” Then she rushed out of the Medical Tent and disappeared from sight.

Joe was left standing there, with his mouth slightly open, when Geillis appeared.

“What was that all about?”

“The team is leaving now,” Joe replied, still looking out the door of the Medical Tent.

“What?! That’s hours earlier than planned. I dinna like it Joe. I swear, I’m ready tae go call Landstuhl and get Master Sergeant Fraser on the line.”

“And what good would that do, G? Other than upsetting the man when there is absolutely nothing he can do!”

“Perhaps, but I just feel like I need to do something. I feel so helpless and our girl is heading out on a mission with not a single person watching over her!” Geillis cried.

Joe reached out and pulled Geillis into an embrace. “I feel the same way you do, but they’ve left. All we can do now is pray that she is safe and takes care of herself. Lord knows I certainly don’t trust Dougal to ensure her safe return.”

Geillis nodded and then perked up at a thought. “Joe! I’m going to go talk with Geordie. Remember when he sent Tamas to give us updates on Jamie’s mission? I ken he’ll do it again, if I ask.”

“That’s a great idea, G!” Joe looked slightly relieved that they would at least have a heads up if something went wrong.

“But I swear, Joe Abernathy, that if we get word that our girl is missing a single hair on her heid -”

“I’ll be dialing Landstuhl before you can even open the laptop,” Joe interrupted.

“Glad we’re on the same page,” Geillis smiled. “I’m heading to the Comms Tent. Meet in the Mess Hall in about twenty? We’ll have lunch and I’ll fill ye in on what I find out.”

“See you in twenty.”

 

Claire’s stomach was doing flips and it was all she could do to keep her breakfast down. She hadn’t had time for lunch, thinking she still had several hours before they were leaving. She must have looked a little green because Angus reached out to hand her something. Claire accepted the offering and looked up at him and asked, “What’s this?”

“A little somethin’ to settle yer stomach, Doc. I take it before every mission.”

Claire took a small whiff and immediately recognized the scent of peppermint. A known natural remedy for nausea, Claire smiled at him gratefully and put one of the leaves in her mouth and sucked for a few minutes, before chewing it and taking a small drink of water.

“Thank you Angus. I really appreciate that."

Angus nodded before leaning closer so he wasn't shouting, trying to add some privacy to their conversation. "I ken yer a wee bit nervous, first mission and all, but I want ye to ken that Rupert and I talked…we’ve got yer six.”

Trying to keep the tears at bay, Claire simply reached over and squeezed his arm. “I appreciate that, Angus.” She looked over and noticed that Rupert was looking at them. She smiled and gave him a nod, indicating that Angus had let her know.

“It’s nothing,” Angus assured her. “Plus, the Master Sergeant would have our hides if we let anything happen to ye.” He wiggled his eyebrow and stuck his tongue out at her.

These small gestures had greatly reduced her anxiety and Claire settled back into her seat. Looking around, she noticed that several of the men were resting, praying/meditating, or simply keeping to themselves. No one, except for Angus, had spoken since they took off. I don’t think I would be up for socializing either, knowing what lies in front of them… us. Claire thought. She glanced over at Dougal, who had been fidgeting the entire time. What’s gotten into him? He’s normally so calm and collected. Claire chose to close her own eyes and try to get some rest. She wasn’t sure when the opportunity might present itself again, so she laid her head back and took slow, deep breaths, all while thinking of those beautiful crystal blue eyes that looked so upset when she had spoken to him last. Don’t worry darling. Everything will be fine…your team is watching over me. Claire desperately wished she could transfer these thoughts to Jamie and put him at ease. Telling herself seemed to help, and she fell into a light sleep, lulled by the hum of the rotor blades.

 

LRMC - Germany
“Hal was quite surprised that Major General McKenzie was leading a mission. He assigned him to a desk position until he received word from Washington about the…” John paused, looking at Jamie who gave a single nod, “...the raid that you were on.”

“Sae they are’na going?” Jamie asked hopefully.

“Hal was looking into it and said he would get back to me.”

Jamie seemed to visibly relax and laid his head back on the couch. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and took a few deep breaths, before sitting back up and looking at John. “Thank ye, truly, John. Ye dinna ken what it means to me that ye would reach out to yer brother, just to check on my wife.”

John smiled. “I see the way your eyes change when you speak of her. Your love for her is evident in everything you do and how hard you are working to be the man you were before the raid. You remind me -,” John stopped, clearly lost in his own thoughts.

“I remind ye of what?” Jamie prompted.

“Me.”

Jamie decided not to respond right away, as John clearly looked like he wanted to continue, but didn’t know where to start. After a few more minutes, Jamie spoke up.

“John? I appreciate all ye have done for me, as a doctor to a patient, but I canna help but think that after today, we’ve crossed the line. I think of ye more as a friend, than my shrink.”

John raised his eyebrows at that, but Jamie raised his hand, stopping John from saying anything.

“All I’m saying is that I’m here fer ye. If ye’ve got somethin’ on yer chest that ye need to say, say it man.”

Tears came to John’s eyes and he smiled. “You don’t know what that means to me, Jamie. I love what I do and how I’m able to help people, but it can get very lonely. Most of my interactions with people can be very one-sided…them speaking, me listening. And please, do not take offense to that, I do love what I do, it’s just that…” Jamie nodded, urging him to continue. “I had a life at one point. A wonderful life, with a -,” John paused, clearly hesitant, but the look on Jamie’s face gave him the courage to continue. “A wonderful man. His name was Hector.”

John let that information sink in and spent the next minute or so trying to read Jamie for any kind of reaction. When he didn’t get one, he went on. “Hector was a Navy Seal. The two of you share a lot of the same personality characteristics and would have gotten along marvelously.” The smile on John’s face was full of sadness.

“What happened to Hector?” Jamie asked quietly.

“He was on a mission. I don’t really know many of the specifics since I don’t have the security clearance. All I know is that something went terribly wrong and he didn’t come home.” John closed his eyes, before continuing. “The worst part was that the military didn’t recognize me as Hector’s next of kin because we were not married. I didn’t even find out about his death until his mother called me, and by then, he had been gone for about two weeks.”

“John, I’m sae sorry.” Jamie leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

“So when I told you that I understood how helpless you were feeling…I meant it. I would do anything to help someone avoid the pain that I experienced. That’s why I had to try reaching out to Hal. I know what it’s like to lose the love of your life. I would hate for a…friend,” John looked expectantly at Jamie, “to lose the love of his life.”

Jamie sat quietly, simply looking at John, while a tear slid down his cheek. “I dinna ken how I’ll ever be able to repay yer kindness. Words are simply no’ enough, and yet, they’re all I have.”

“Your thanks will be enough Jamie, but don’t thank me yet. We still don’t know if Hal was able to stop your uncle from leading the mission and taking Claire with him.”

Leave it to John to always be practical, Jamie smiled to himself. “Aye, but its given me more hope than I had before I got to yer office.”

John stood to refill his cup of coffee. “Can I get you anything?” He looked back over his shoulder at Jamie.

“I would love a cup of coffee, but it would go better with some breakfast. I was too upset tae eat this mornin’. How ‘bout we go down to the cafeteria? Ye can tell me how ye met Hector.” Jamie smiled and stood up, turning towards the door.

John smiled, but this time it reached his eyes. “I would like that, very much.”

The two men walked out of John’s office and towards the elevator, not a moment too soon, under the protest of Jamie’s stomach. He smiled sheepishly and shrugged his soldiers. “I told ye I had’na eaten breakfast.”

“You did, but why do I get the feeling that Jamie Fraser is never full,” John winked.

Och, now that we’re friends ye feel the need to rib me?” John looked uneasy, until Jamie gave his shoulder a light punch. “What took ye sae long?”

 

Five Miles Outside the Target’s Bunker - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Based on some of the murmurings among the team, intel had proven to be more accurate for this mission. Thank Christ for that, Claire thought. Everything should go like clockwork then.

Claire didn’t say much, only speaking when spoken to. She kept some distance between her and the team, not wanting to know more than was absolutely necessary. When Dougal made his way over to her, she readied herself to be briefed on what would be happening and what was expected of her.

“How are ye, lass? Doing ok?”

“Yessir. Just waiting for you to brief me on what my responsibilities are.”

“It’s pretty simple really. Ye’ll come in with the team and if anyone falls, ye’ll treat them as best as ye can. We’ll provide coverage fer ye, but ye’ll need tae stay close. The whole thing should take less than fifteen minutes. Any questions?”

“I don’t think so,” Claire swallowed.

“Good. Grab yer gear and be ready in five.” Dougal walked away.

Claire’s stomach had started doing somersaults again. She barely made it to the garbage can before vomiting.

“Ye alright, Doc?” It was Angus and he had gently placed a hand on her back.

“Yes,” Claire answered, wiping her mouth. “You don’t happen to have any more peppermint do you?”

Angus smiled and pulled out a small pack that he kept in a pocket on his flack jacket. “Always. Just like ye, I tend to get anxious and lose my lunch. It not only helps settle my stomach, but gives me a reprieve since I dinna have a toothbrush with me.”

“Thank you.” Claire put the peppermint leaf in her mouth and sucked for a minute before chewing it. “Alright, ready when you are.”

Angus nodded and Rupert came over. Claire would go in, flanked by both men. Rupert’s primary role was to support Willie and Dougal, who would be taking out the target. Angus was only to engage if fired upon. Intel said there should only be two men in the room.

The next several minutes seemed to pass by in a blur. The team had made their way from their hideout to the back entrance of the Target’s location. Dougal signaled for them to enter, so Willie picked the lock and opened the door. Dougal entered first, followed by Rupert. Claire went in next, followed by Angus, and Willie brought up the rear and closed the door. Claire’s eyes took a few moments to adjust to the darkness of the bunker they had entered. She was trying to remember the direction they were heading, should she need to get out by herself. Nothing wrong with being prepared, Beauchamp.

The team made their way through the hall until they came to a locked door. Claire assumed that the two targets were behind that door. Dougal and Willie conversed briefly with some hand movements, and once details were clear, everything seemed to happen at once.

Rupert had placed an explosive device on the door and when the explosion went off, Claire’s ears rang. There was muffled shouting as Willie and Dougal attempted to apprehend the targets, but there was a struggle and Rupert quickly moved in. A couple of shots were fired, by whom Claire wasn’t sure. She had done her best to flatten herself against the wall and Angus was shielding her with his own body.

Willie had restrained his target, but Dougal appeared to be struggling. He clearly had a size advantage, so Claire couldn’t figure what was taking him so long.  That's when Claire noticed the small, round object in the target's hand. Just as Dougal went to grab the arm of his target, the object was thrown in her direction.  Seeing this, Rupert yelled out.

“Incoming, Angus!”

Claire saw the object flying through the air towards her and Angus. Before Claire realized that it was a grenade, Angus had shoved her out of the way. As the grenade hit the ground and exploded, Claire slammed into a wall, head first. She slowly slid down the wall as everything around her went black.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-38

LRMC - Germany
Jamie and John had been eating and conversing in the cafeteria for about twenty minutes, when John’s cell phone pinged. Jamie paused, forkful of eggs half-way to his mouth, and looked at John with raised eyebrows. John nodded and excused himself from the table.

Jamie watched John walk towards the door and outside into the courtyard. He took in John’s pacing and nodding, noticing that he didn’t contribute much to the conversation initially. When John did speak, it appeared to be short questions and he was absorbing the answers. After what felt like hours, but was really only about ten minutes, John walked back into the cafeteria, not meeting Jamie’s eyes.

“What is it, John?” Jamie asked nervously.

“Let’s go out into the courtyard. It’s beautiful outside and we can sit on one of the benches,” John suggested.

Jamie steeled himself, knowing it must be bad if John didn’t want to tell him in a room surrounded by other people. He slowly pushed his chair out and stood up, wordlessly following John outside. Once in the courtyard, John made his way over to a bench and sat down, motioning and waiting for Jamie to do the same.

“If it’s all the same tae ye, I’d rather stand.” Jamie said tensely.

John stared slightly down at the ground. He took a deep breath before starting. “That was Hal on the phone.” Confirming their silent conversation from when the phone rang. . “He appreciated your intuition and heads up. He headed to talk to Dougal as soon as we hung up…”

Jamie tensed, “But…”

John nodded, still not looking up at Jamie. “But someone must have tipped him off because by the time Hal got over to Dougal’s office, he was gone…and so was his team.”

“Was Claire with them?” Jamie whispered.

John took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before answering, which was enough to set Jamie off into a fit of rage. He grabbed John by the collar and pulled him to his feet, inches from his own face.

“Damn it John, look at me! Was my wife with the team?” Jamie asked through clenched teeth.

“She was.” John answered calmly.

Jamie froze and released John. Shaking, he turned and looked around the courtyard. He walked slowly towards the nearest tree and leaned against it, shoulders slumped and head hung low.. Unsure of what was happening, John took a step towards him. That was when Jamie pulled himself upright, reared back, and crashed his fist into the trunk of the tree. This was repeated several times, accompanied by a ferocious cry, until Jamie fell to his knees and sobbed, cradling his damaged hand with his good one. Jamie looked down at his knuckles that were split open and oozing blood. In addition, he could feel the blood starting to seep through his shirt in a few spots, where some of the stitches had not fully healed. He could feel his shirt clinging to his back in more than one location. Fuck, he cursed to himself. Claire would kill me if she kent what I’d done tae my back.

John stood back and gave his friend a minute before stepping over and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Jamie,” John said tentatively. When there was no response, John repeated his name more firmly.  “Jamie.”

“Leave me alone,” Jamie whispered, defeated.

“I can’t do that.” John paused, trying to think of something to say. Looking down at Jamie’s back, he continued. “You’re bleeding, both on your hands and your back. Come on, I’ll take you to Dr. Hildegarde.” John reached down his hand.

When Jamie didn’t move, John decided to play his final card. “You know Claire would kill me, or anyone else, who knew you were hurt and didn’t try to help you.”

Jamie looked up then and John raised his eyebrow. “Aye, that she would,” Jamie said quietly, with a single tear rolling down his cheek.

“Let’s go, mate. We’ll get you cleaned up and then I’ll see what else we can find out.”

Jamie stood up and followed John back into the building, who accompanied him all the way down to Dr. Hildegarde’s office. John found he needed this as much for his own assurance, as Jamie would for the moral support he knew the man needed.

 

Target’s Bunker - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
It was utter chaos inside the bunker. Men were shouting and the air was thick with smoke, making it difficult to breathe, let alone make out who was where. Dougal grabbed Willie and yelled to Rupert.

“Let’s go! Back to the bird!”

Willie was being dragged along by Dougal, while trying to beak loose and scramble back to look for Angus and Claire. Rupert refused to leave any member of the team behind and was continuing to look, frantically calling for Claire and Angus.

“Angus! Man, where are ye?” Silence. “Claire! Lass, can ye hear me?” Rupert was looking from left to right, trying to make sense of the chaos in the small space. Of the two targets, one had been shot in the head and was killed instantly. The other was bleeding out, but still moaning in the corner, making it difficult for Rupert to hear anything from Angus or Claire. After what felt like an eternity, Rupert heard a moan coming from his right. He rushed over and saw Claire grabbing at her head.

“Claire! Are ye alright lass? Can ye walk? We need to get out o’here.”

“I - I think I can walk, but can you help me up?” Rupert reached down and grabbed Claire under the elbows, drawing her up slowly. Claire was extremely dizzy and immediately leaned over to vomit on the floor.

“Are ye sure yer alright, Dr. Fraser?” Rupert asked, concerned. “The Master Sergeant will have my hide an’ my heid ifin’ I dinna get ye back to the base in one piece.”

“Yes, I’m just dizzy and my vision is a bit blurry, all indicative of a concussion, but I'm conscious, so that’s a good sign.” Claire paused and then panic took over. “Where’s Angus?!” She tried to look from side to side, but the movement was too much and she vomited again.

“Was he next tae ye then?” Rupert asked, looking around.

“He jumped in front of me and pushed me out of the way, as the grenade rolled towards us,” Claire cried frantically.

“We’ll find him,” Rupert assured her. “He has’na walked out of here and will likely need our help, but we need to hurry. That explosion will have tipped off a few people, aye?”

Claire tried to nod her head, but any movement was making her queasy. “He was right in front of me.”

Rupert started moving to the left and after a few steps, he fell over a lump in the floor. Just as Rupert rolled over, the lump let out a groan. “Angus! A charaid, I’m here. Dr. Fraser!”

Claire made her way over to where Rupert was kneeled next to Angus.

“We have to get him out of here,” Rupert pleaded.

“Give me a minute…let me assess him,” Claire replied. “Angus, can you hear me?”

His eyes were closed and he wasn’t responding verbally.

“Angus, squeeze my hand if you can hear me.” Claire directed.

After a few seconds, Claire’s fingers were gently squeezed. She sighed in relief and looked at Rupert.

“He’s responding, but is still unconscious and not out of the woods yet. We need to get him on the chopper and back to base as quickly as possible. Where are Dougal and Willie? We could use their help getting him out of here.”

Rupert let out a frustrated grunt. “They left, headed to the chopper. I would’na put it past Dougal tae leave us here, if we dinna hurry!”

Claire wanted to be shocked, but anger took over. That bloody bastard! How dare he leave not one, but THREE team members behind! Claire thought furiously. No time for that now, Beauchamp. You have to get Angus out of here.

“Alright, we can carry him out, but we’ll have to be careful. It’s too dark in here to see what his other injuries are.”

Rupert stood up and then bent down to pick Angus up, but stopped to look at Claire.

“I can carry him, but ye’ll have to cover us.”

“You have to be joking! I haven’t fired a weapon since OCS!”

“Be that as it may, can ye carry a man that weighs 90 kilos, plus his pack?”

Claire knew Rupert was right, so she reached out her hand and took his M4A1. She tried to stop her hands from shaking as she took the gun, but between adrenaline and still being dizzy, there was not much she could do. Rupert forced the gun into her hands and then grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Ye can do this, Claire. Angus needs ye…I need ye. When I pick him up, ye’ll get in front of us and lead us out. We have tae go. Now!”

Despite the nausea, Claire nodded. Rupert bent down and picked up Angus, giving Claire a nod. With a deep breath, Claire got in front of the pair and led them out of the bunker. As her eyes adjusted to being outside, she looked over to where the chopper should have been. Not only was she relieved to see it still there, but was elated that Willie was arguing with Dougal, keeping the bird on the ground. When he saw the trio out of the corner of his eye, he ran over to them.

“Dr. Fraser! Yer alright!” He threw his arms around her and gave her a hug. “How bad is Angus hurt?”

“I’ll know more when we get him in the chopper and I can fully assess his wounds,”

“But right now, we need tae get out of here!” Rupert interrupted Claire.

“Willie, the doc has a concussion, at the very least. Get her in the bird. I’m right behind ye with Angus.”

As Willie got Claire to the Blackhawk, she climbed inside and looked over towards Dougal, who was glaring back at her. Not even the slightest bit afraid of the consequences, she looked him right in the eye, and above the roar of the rotor, yelled, “You fucking bastard! You left us!”

Before Dougal could respond, Rupert climbed in and laid Angus down on the floor. “Wheels up! Let’s move!” The chopper lifted into the air and turned towards the base.

Claire wanted to continue her attack on Major General McKenzie, but Angus was in desperate need of her attention and the noise was giving her quite the headache.

With one final look in his direction, she yelled, “I’m not finished with you yet!” then turned to start her assessment of Angus.

 

LRMC - Germany
Jamie was lying face down on a gurney as Dr. Hildegarde was working silently on stitching up a few areas of his back. Marsali was tending to his hands and admonishing him quietly.

“Yer wife would slap ye silly if she kent what ye did tae yerself. Ye best be thankin’ yer lucky stars that she is’na here to tan yer hide.”

What I would’na give to have her here, even if she was makin’ a stramash, Jamie thought to himself. At least with the skelloch she’d be given me, I would ken she was alright.

Jamie was quickly brought back to the present by a quick tug on his back, as Dr. Hildegarde pulled one of the wounds closed. Jamie flinched slightly, which cause Dr. Hildegarde to grunt with satisfaction.

“Serves you right, mon chéri…acting like a child and throwing a tantrum.”

Jamie turned his head away from Dr. Hildegarde, but the woman was not through with him yet.

“I know you are worried about votre femme, but she expects more of you, no? We both know Claire is strong and would not willingly put herself in harm's way.”

“I ken she would’na, but I canna say the same about my uncle.”

“Well, Dr. Grey has gone to see if he can get you some more information. Let me finish up here and we’ll give you something for the pain.”

“I dinna want anything for the pain,” Jamie said defiantly.

“Suit yourself, monsieur. Marsali, how is it coming with his hands?”

Marsali looked down and admired her work. “It’ll do, but ye’ll have to have it bandaged for a few days. Might making eating a bit difficult.”

Jamie shrugged. He simply didn’t care. It was as if life had no meaning. Until he knew Claire was safe, he didn’t care if he ate, slept, or even went on existing. Just then, there was a knock on the door and Ian came in.

“Ah, good afternoon Monsieur Murray! Comment ça va?”

“Better than this eejit, I wager” Ian winked and nodded in Jamie’s direction.

Dr. Hildegarde had just finished up and was placing the final bandage on Jamie’s back. Marsali had finished wrapping his hand and had helped Jamie into a sitting position on the edge of the gurney.

“If it’s all the same to ye, I would like tae be alone,” Jamie requested, not looking up to meet their eyes.

Dr. Hildegarde and Marsali smiled at Ian, then made their way out the door. Ian stood there for another minute, until Jamie looked up to see he was still in the room.

“Ye dinna ken what alone means?” Jamie asked, glaring at him.

“Aye, I do, but chose no’ tae listen tae ye.” Ian raised an eyebrow, daring Jamie to challenge him. “Look, bràthair. I ken yer angry and worrit…I am too. But I will’na leave ye alone. We dinna have tae speak, but let me just sit here with ye. Or we could go back tae our room.”

Looking defeated, Jamie gave a small nod and stood up slowly. “I’d rather be on my bed. Smells less like a hospital. Ye ken you’re getting pretty good with your new leg and crutches. How long until you are just on walking sticks?”

Ian humored the subject change. Anything was better than the silence he knew was coming. “No’ until I’m home for a while and used to the lay of the land.” The two men continued to make their way slowly back to their room. Once there they sat in silence, both hoping and praying they would get some answers soon.

 

John had excused himself once he knew Jamie was in capable hands to try and make a few phone calls. He desperately wanted to be able to give Jamie more news…good or bad, at least he wouldn’t be living in this purgatory.

“Christ, I didn’t expect you to answer!” John exclaimed when Hal picked up on the third ring.

“Then why did you call?”

The tension in his voice could be cut with a knife, John cringed. I shall tread lightly, but I need some answers.

“You know why, Hal,” John said quietly. “Do you have any updates? Anything I can tell Master Sergeant Fraser? He’s worried sick about his wife.”

Hal exhaled slowly and John could just see him wiping his hand down his face, just like when they were kids and he would be frustrated with something John had done. “I know that the team is on their way back to base…the entire team, but I also know there are casualties, and before you even ask, I do not know who or how severe.”

“Well, that’s better than no news. Do you know how far out the team is?” John asked hopefully.

“They should land in about 30 minutes. I promise I’ll give you a call and at least let you know about the casualties, but you know I won’t be able to tell you much more. I’m bending the rules as it is John.”

Elated that he would be able to give Jamie something within the hour, John quickly replied, “Yes, I understand Hal. Thank you. I know the Master Sergeant will be grateful to have some word about his wife. I’ll wait to hear from you within the hour.”

The two men hung up shortly after that and John tried to busy himself with some paperwork. After about ten minutes of checking the clock every two, John got up and started to pace in his office. This lasted all of five minutes, when John threw up his arms in frustration. How the bloody hell is Jamie not losing his shit right now?! John smiled to himself, I suppose the tree in the courtyard might say otherwise.

John made himself a hot cup of tea and tried once more to sit down and fill out the form. The fragrant aroma of the tea, combined with it’s warmth, soothed John and allowed him to progress through the paperwork. John was startled by the ping of his phone and nearly spilled the cup of tea all over the forms he had been filling out.

“Hal! How is Dr. Fraser?”

“She’s banged up and appears to have a concussion. She’s being evaluated in the Medical Tent now. I’ll give orders to have her come to my office as soon as she’s able and I’ll let her reach out on my phone. She can set up a time to speak with Master Sergeant Fraser.”

“You don’t know how grateful I am for you keeping me informed, Hal! I think I can safely extend thanks from the Master Sergeant as well.” John was smiling into the phone.

“I’m glad I could help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have much more pressing matters and personnel to deal with.” Hal said, with a tone that made John cringe.

“Of course. Take care of yourself and I’ll be in touch.”

John ended the call and ran out of his office to look for Jamie.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Brigadier General Pardloe was waiting at the hangar as the Black Hawk rolled in. He was flanked by military police on both sides. Never in my career have I heard of a major general blatantly disobeying orders, let alone have it happen under my command, he thought grimly.

As the chopper rolled to a stop, Pardloe advanced towards the door. As soon as Major General McKenzie peered out of the door, Pardloe gave the order.

“MPs! Arrest the Major General. He is charged with disobeying a direct order and willful endangerment of his team. Take him to the brig.”

The MPs rushed forward and took Dougal into custody. Rupert and Willie stood there, looking on in bewilderment. Angus was still laying on the floor of the chopper and Claire was slumped against the inside wall.

Rupert was first to speak. “What do ye mean ‘disobeying a direct order’? Ye mean tae tell me we were’na even supposed go on that mission?!”

He lunged towards Dougal, only being stopped by Willie grabbing his pack to hold him back. “What the hell were ye thinking, man? Ye put us all at unnecessary risk! Dr. Fraser has a concussion and Angus! I dinna even ken what’s wrong with him yet!”

Claire winced at shouting and had only opened her eyes enough to see to forms rushing towards her.

“LJ! How bad are you hurt?”

Joe! Christ, are we back at the base already? I don’t remember much after taking off, Claire thought.

“C’mon hen, can ye hear us?” Geillis reached and grabbed her hand.

“Angus?” Claire squeaked out and then grabbed her head.

“Aye, Angus is here.” Geillis reassured her.

“We have to help Angus,” Claire tried to stand up, but the world started spinning out of control and she vomited again.

“Look at me Claire. Yes, that’s it.” Joe shined a pen light in her eyes. Her pupils were blown open, all that Joe could see of her irises was a thin band. Her eyes weren’t focusing, having minimal reaction to the flashlight. “Damn it!” Joe hissed. “You have quite a concussion, Lady Jane.”

Claire wiped her mouth and then let her head fall into her hands, trying to stabilize and prevent the world around her from spinning. It took most of her strength, but she knew Angus’ life depended on her. “Internal bleeding,” she croaked, pointing towards the lifeless body on the floor in front of her.

“Are ye sure, hen?” Geillis asked, as she started assessing Angus herself.

“Yes, I’m bloody sure. He threw himself in front of me as Dougal let one of the targets throw a grenade at me!” Despite the pain in her head, Claire was becoming hysterical.

“Alright, alright…we need to have ye calm down, love. Deep breaths…that’s it. Close yer eyes, that will help keep the light out.” Geillis’ voice was like a life raft, keeping Claire afloat as her mind rolled and churned like a raging sea.

“We need to get them both into the Medical Tent, G.” Joe insisted.

“Rupert! Willie!” Geillis called.

Willie pulled Rupert away from Dougal. “There’s nought tae say to him, man. Angus and Dr. Fraser…they need us.” He was speaking calmly into Rupert’s ear. Rupert nodded and then quickly came back over to the chopper. “How can we help?” Willie asked.

“I need you to help me get Angus on the stretcher and then carry him to the Medical Tent. Nurse Duncan and I will help Dr. Fraser.” Joe felt better giving orders, as if he had some control over the situation.

With everyone moving at once, Claire and Angus were quickly escorted to the Medical Tent, where they were put into separate rooms. Word had spread quickly on the base, so Joe wasn’t surprised to see Louise walking into the room where Angus was laying.

“I’ve got him. Go be with Claire.”

“Thank you, Louise. Claire says internal bleeding. I’m inclined to believe her, but her head is like mush right now, so I just want to double-check.” Joe then turned and made his way over to the room Claire had been put in.

The lights were turned as low as they would go and people moving about the room were conscious to keep the noise level as low as they could. Joe quickly went to Claire’s side and took her hand into his own.

“Hey, LJ,” Joe whispered. “Other than your head, how do you feel?”

Claire opened her eyes and looked at Joe. “Like I’ve been through a fucking blender.”

Joe smiled and tried to stifle the laugh that had bubbled up. “Glad to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Seriously though, do you think anything is broken?”

Claire went to shake her head and moaned at the effort, choosing to speak instead. “No, I don’t think so. I remember seeing the grenade rolling towards me and then Angus threw himself on me. The force of him, combined with the explosion, threw me backwards and my head smashed into the wall. I must have lost consciousness for a few minutes, because the next thing I knew, I was vomiting and Rupert was telling me when had to get out of there.”

“How did you all get out?” Joe asked.

Claire turned and used all her strength to focus on Joe and look him directly in the eye. “Rupert carried Angus and I covered us out to the bird.”

Joe looked puzzled. “Wh-, where was Dougal or Willie?”

Not wavering, Claire held his gaze and what she said next made Joe’s blood boil. “He left us. Grabbed Willie and left us. We barely made it to the bird before wheels were up.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-39

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Joe was simply staring at Claire. The blow to her head must be worse than I initially thought. She cannot honestly believe that a commanding officer would leave his team behind. Taking her hand into his own and gently rubbing his thumb across her knuckles, Joe talked to her softly.

“LJ, you’ve been through quite an ordeal today, and we still need to run some further tests to see the extent of the damage. Let’s try not think about it anymore. I need you to rest.”

“You don’t believe me, do you?” Claire challenged Joe.

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you Claire. I’ve known you for several years and not once have you ever lied to me.” Joe countered.

“Then why would I start now?” Claire paused and let that sink in. “I’m telling you, Joseph Abernathy…Major General Dougal McKenzie, my uncle, by marriage, actually left me in a known terrorist’s bunker, while he attempted to save his own ass.”

Joe sat back in the chair he had pulled up next to her bed, but never let go of her hand. He couldn’t process what she was actually saying. Joe had never cared for the Major General very much, but he assumed he took his position seriously and carried out his duties with honor.

“However it happened, LJ, you have had quite a shock and I do not want to induce any further damage to your brain by getting you all worked up.”

Claire laid back on to the pillow and closed her eyes. Why is it so hard for everyone to imagine a Major General in the Army is such a fucking bastard, she wondered. Trying to push any strenuous thoughts aside, Claire attempted to sit up for a drink of water. Joe stood to assist her, but once she was vertical, she was reaching for the emison basin to vomit again. Once she was done and Joe gave her some water to rinse and spit, she laid back down.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! I haven’t vomited in years and in the last forty-eight hours, I’ve thrown up at least five times.”

Joe looked at her alarmed. “The vomiting started before the mission?!”

“Yes,” Claire answered weakly. “Nerves, I suppose." Between vomiting, carrying out the mission, and then trying to provide medical care to Angus, Claire realized that she hadn’t kept anything in her stomach in the last twenty-four hours. Before she could even ask him for something to eat, Louise came running into the room.

“Joe! I need help in OR2…now!”

Claire looked alarmed. “Angus? Wh- what’s happening?”

“Easy, LJ. Your BP is already elevated, let’s not make it worse. I’ll go see how I can help Corporal Mohr and I’ll come back to fill you in,” Joe assured her.

Not able to do anything else, Claire simply gave a single nod and closed her eyes. She simply didn’t have it in her to argue. All she could do now was wait. Not something I’m accustomed to, she thought. I just want to sleep and I cannot even do that. The little doctor inside her head was screaming at her to focus on something, but opening her eyes was just too painful. Ready to launch into an internal war with herself, Claire remembered what she could do for Angus…pray.

Dear Lord, please look over Corporal Mohr. He saved my life and now I cannot even be in there trying to save his. Give Joe and Louise strength and provide them with healing hands, so that Angus may live.

 

Joe returned to Claire’s bedside and found that she had dozed off. “Wake up, Claire! You must stay awake!”

“Huh?” Claire mumbled sleepily and confused.

“Why were you not monitoring her?” Joe hissed at the orderly who was writing something in Claire’s chart.

“I- I’m sorry, Dr. Abernathy. I stepped out for just a minute and…”

“Not good enough!” Joe interrupted. “Dr. Fraser is one of our top surgeons on staff and deserves the best care we can provide. Now, I suggest you leave before I -”

“That’s enough,” said a British accent that carried enough authority, everyone froze and turned in that direction.

Brigadier General Pardloe had entered the room and was making his way over to Claire’s bedside. “How are you feeling, Dr. Fraser?”

“Honestly sir? I’ve been better,” she gave him a feeble smile.

Pardloe looked over at Joe. “Is all the paperwork in order? The HH is ready to transport.”

“Yessir. We have stabilized Cpl. Mohr, for the time being, but there is still a serious risk to transporting him.”

Claire was looking back and forth between the two men and trying to follow their conversation, but everything seemed garbled.

“Understood, Dr. Abernathy, but what are his odds if he stays here?” Pardloe asked.

“Less than ten percent sir. He has extensive internal bleeding. We were able to repair the liver laceration, but his vitals dropped to dangerous levels. We’ve tied off the few bleeders we could, but had to close him back up.”

“Then it’s settled. Get them both into the chopper.” Pardloe directed.

Activity inside Claire’s room picked up. She was desperately trying to piece together what was going on, but her brain refused to make any sense of it. She looked pleadingly at Joe. “What’s happening?”

“Sshh, it’s alright Lady Jane,” Joe whispered as he pushed the sweat-damp locks back off her forehead. “We need to transport Angus to give him a fighting chance.”

Claire’s IVs were being gathered and attached to a post that would fit into the stretcher she was laying on. Her medical file was being tucked under her leg and several orderlies were coming in to pick up her stretcher.

“And you,” Joe continued, smiling softly at her, “need a CAT scan, maybe an MRI. It’s a risk to transport you, but your symptoms are worsening, indicating more than a concussion.”

Claire’s eyes filled with tears. How can this be happening? I promised Jamie that I would come back to him, safe and -. Joe’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“We’re sending you to Landstuhl Claire. As soon as you’re in the air, I’ll make the call.”

Her brain was moving as slow as molasses in winter, but after a minute, it registered and she looked up to Joe expectantly.

“Jamie?” she whispered.

Joe smiled and nodded. Then Claire was picked up and loaded into the chopper.

 

LRMC - Germany
John was racing through the halls of the hospital and when he didn’t see Jamie in the triage room, he knocked on Dr. Hildegarde’s office.

Entrer,” he heard her say through the door.

Slightly out of breath, John opened the door. “Have…have you…Christ! I haven’t run that fast in a long time.” John sat down on one of the club chairs across from Dr. Hildegarde.

“Dr. Grey, est-ce que tu vas bien? Let me get you some water.”

“No thank you. Really, I’m alright…just looking for Master Sergeant Fraser. I have news of his wife.”

Dr. Hildegarde raised her eyebrows at that. “What une coïncidence. I was just on the phone with Dr. Abernathy, another physician from her base.”

It was John’s turn to look surprised. “Then you must know more than I do. I was simply aware of the fact that she had indeed made it to the base, albeit shaken up and possibly concussed, but back safely.”

Dr. Hildegarde nodded. “I do know a bit more than you, but due to privacy I cannot disclose the information. I would, however, encourage you to find the Master Sergeant and have him come to my office. I’ll be expecting him.”

“Of course, but do you happen to know where he might be?” John inquired.

“Monsieur Murray came to escort him back to their room….#208.”

“Thank you Dr. Hildegarde! I’ll go speak with Jamie and then I’ll bring him back here.” John stood up and excused himself.

He opted to use the stairs, as opposed to waiting for an elevator, and took them two at a time. Once on the second floor, John looked at the sign and headed to the left. Jamie and Ian’s room was about halfway down the hall. Once outside the door, John took a deep breath. You’re bringing good news, Grey…his wife is alive. Battered and in shock, but alive, he told himself. He raised his hand and gently knocked on the door.

It felt like a long time before the door opened, perhaps because Captain Murray was the one to come to the door. He looked nervous at seeing Dr. Grey standing there, not sure if he was the bearer of good or bad news.

“Dr. Grey,” he said tentatively. “Everything ok? You don’t usually make room calls.”

“Yes Captain Murray! I actually have news about Dr. Fraser. Is Jai-, I mean Master Sergeant Fraser, available?”

“He finally fell asleep, but give me a minute and I’ll wake him.”

John tried to dissuade Ian from waking Jamie, knowing the man hadn’t slept well last night, but Ian assured him it would be ok.

“Any word on Claire will help settle his soul. I just hope ‘tis good news.” Ian paused, wondering if John would share, but he simply stood at the door. “C’mon in while I wake up sleeping beauty.” Ian smirked.

John came in and looked around. He hadn’t seen a patient room before; it was quaint and reminded him of a dormitory. There were two twin beds, a desk, a couple of windows, and a bathroom. John chose to take a seat at the desk and waited while Ian hobbled over and sat on the edge of Jamie’s bed. Jamie was lying on his side, facing away from Ian.

Dùisg, a bhràthair. Tha naidheachd againn mu do bhean.” Ian said gently as he placed a hand on Jamie’s shoulder.

John wasn’t sure what Ian was saying, but Jamie’s body stiffened and he raised his head to look at Ian.

“Dr. Grey is here, a charaid. He has more news.” Ian said and gestured over to where John was sitting.

“John! What do ye know?” Jamie was scrambling to sit up, but winced as the skin on his back stretched where there was new stitching.

“I’m sorry to come to your room, Jamie,” who waved him off, “but I knew you would want any information I had been able to obtain.”

Jamie straightened up on the bed, bracing for whatever news John came to bear. Ian was sitting next to him, in silent support.

“She’s alive Jamie and back at the base.” John waited as that piece of information sunk in.

“Alive,” Jamie breathed out, looking at Ian who squeezed his shoulder.

“Yes! I’m so happy to be able to bring you word of your wife,” John smiled. “According to Hal, she’s in shock and more than likely has a concussion.”

Jamie stiffened and the smile on his face faded. “Concussion? Was she conscious?”

“I honestly do not have any other details, but Dr. Hildegarde asked that you come to her office. She’s expecting you.”

Jamie’s fist balled at his side and he looked over at Ian. “Ye ken there’s only one reason why Dr. Hildegarde would want to see me, aye? Something’s wrong…very wrong.”

“We dinna ken that,” Ian reassured him. “But I’ll go with ye, just to make sure.”

Ian raised himself up on the crutches and reached a hand out to Jamie, who grabbed it like a lifeline. Ian squeezed it and gave Jamie a smile.

With a deep breath, Jamie stood as well and looked over at John. “Lead the way.”

 

When the trio arrived at Dr. Hildegarde’s office, Jamie knocked and waited for her to respond. He opened the door at the sound of her voice and stepped inside. John and Ian hung back, giving Jamie space, but he turned around to the two men. “I need the two of ye here…either tae celebrate with me or hold me up. Either way, ye can stay tae hear what Dr. Hildegarde has to say.”

Ian and John nodded and entered the room, John closing the door behind him. Ian took one of the club chairs and John motioned for Jamie to take the other one. When everyone was settled, Jamie looked to Dr. Hildegarde.

“Please, Dr. Hildegarde. What do ye know of Claire’s condition? Is she conscious?”

Oui, Jamie. From what I know, she lost consciousness initially, but has been awake for the past several hours, but her symptoms have been worsening. There has been no relief from the headache. The dizziness and nausea are quite severe and her vision is blurred. Notes in her file also indicate that she’s having difficulty hearing people clearly.”

Jamie sat very still as he listened to Dr. Hildegarde, taking in everything she was telling him. The little voice inside his head kept reminding him that she was alive, but this sounded so much worse than a concussion. Oh, Sassenach! I’m sorry I canna be with ye when ye need me the most. He simply couldn’t imagine his strong, beautiful, confident wife being so vulnerable.

Totally lost in his thoughts, he had missed what Dr. Hildegarde had just said. He was brought back to the present by Ian reaching over and squeezing his knee.

“Did ye hear that, Jamie?”

“Och, I’m sorry Dr. Hildegarde. I’m having a hard time picturing my braw wife as the one lying in a bed with people fussin’ around her. Ye ken she would hate that and is probably tryin’ tae tell them what tae do.”

Oui, but she knows better than to boss me around, no?” Dr. Hildegarde smiled and winked.

John and Ian were staring at Jamie waiting for his reaction, but it never came. “Why are the two of ye starin’ at me like that?”

“Did ye no’ hear what she said, a charaid?” Ian was smiling, as was John who had come to stand behind Ian in order to see Jamie’s face.

Jamie looked at both of them and then back at Dr. Hildegarde. “What? Am I missin’ something?” Jamie was starting to become impatient as these three people were looking at him with smiles on their faces. His wife was injured, there was nothing he could do about it, and his only support system was smiling.

“Jamie,” Dr. Hildegarde said gently. “Claire is on her way here. The base is not equipped with an MRI machine or a CAT Scan. I’ll be the one overseeing her care while she’s here.”

Jamie simply stared at Dr. Hildegarde. Claire is on her way here? I’ll be able to support her as she heals, just like she did for me? Jamie’s thoughts were going a mile a minute and yet he felt like he couldn’t voice any of them. He just sat there and looked at Dr. Hildegarde, totally stunned.

“This is a good thing, a bhràthair,” Ian was saying from over to his right.

Jamie looked towards the direction that the voice was coming from. Ian had tears in his eyes and it wasn’t until then that Jamie noticed his cheeks were wet from his own tears.

“Aye,” he croaked out. “Aye, ‘tis a good thing.” Jamie looked back to Dr. Hildegarde. “Ye’ll take excellent care of my wife.” It was an expectation, more than a question and Dr. Hildegarde nodded.

Placing her hand over her heart, Dr. Hildegarde looked at Jamie. “Je la traiterai comme si elle était la mienne.”

Jamie smiled and reached across the desk to take Dr. Hildegarde’s hands in his. “I know you will. Will I be allowed to see her right away?”

“I don’t see why not, Monsieur Fraser. She will have to have an initial assessment and any treatment that cannot wait of course, but I believe seeing her husband will be a healthy dose of medicine.”

Before Dr. Hildegarde could say more, the phone on her desk rang and she picked up the receiver. “Dr. Hildegarde.”

Jamie, Ian, and John sat quietly as Dr. Hildegarde listened to the caller and scribbled some notes. “And a crash cart standing by?” Silence filled the office. “Fifteen minutes out? Merci.” Dr. Hildegarde hung up the phone and looked at Jamie. “Are you ready to meet the chopper?

Jamie froze and looked at Dr. Hildegarde in horror. “Crash cart?!”

“Claire is stable, mon chéri, but she is not alone. Corporal Mohr is on the transport as well and his condition is not as favorable as your wife’s.”

Jamie looked at Ian, who’s brow was furrowed. “Angus.”

After staying quiet for most of this meeting, John finally spoke up. “From what I understand, Cpl. Mohr saved Dr. Fraser’s life.”

Jamie whipped around at that and looked at John. “Saved her life? Christ, John! What are ye no’ telling me?”

“I honestly do not have all the details. Hal shared very little, due to having to take care of some ‘personnel’ issues. I understand there was a grenade…”

Jamie jumped up at that. “A grenade?! Damn it, Ian! I told ye he would get her killed!”

Ian grimaced. “I did’na want tae believe it, but now, I canna see how yer wrong.”

“What is going on?” John asked.

“Gentlemen,” Dr. Hildegarde interjected. “I understand there are a lot of questions still to ask and answers to have, but I have two incoming patients who will require my attention.” Dr. Hildegarde stood up and made her way out from behind her desk.

The three men stood as well and followed Dr. Hildegarde out of her office. Jamie followed Dr. Hildegarde to the elevator so they could make their way up to the helipad. His heart was beating a mile a minute. He was ecstatic and terrified to see Claire in the next few minutes. As the sound of the rotor blades drew near, Jamie was unsure of exactly what to do, so he did the only thing he could think of…pray.

A Thighearna, tha mi guidhe gun toir thu comhfhurtachd dha mo mhnaoi na fulangas, gun toir thu sgil do làmhan a luchd-leighis, agus gum beannaich thu na dòighean a chleachdar airson a leigheas. Tha earbsa agam ann an cumhachd do ghràis, eadhon nuair a tha eagal orm, gu bheil mi a’ cur m’ earbsa gu lèir annad. Amen.

By the time he was done, the wheels were touching down on the helipad. He strained to catch a glimpse of Claire, but between the personnel on the chopper with her and Angus, and the staff on the helipad, he had been pushed towards the back of the crowd. Patience Fraser, he told himself. The medical team can do more for her than you can at this moment.

Angus was taken out of the chopper first. He looked like he had been to hell and spat back out. There were burn marks on his arms and face and he was hooked up to several tubes. When he was placed on the awaiting stretcher, a nurse climbed on top of him, straddled his midsection, and began chest compressions. There was a lot of shouting and Jamie felt a stab in his heart. That was MY team on that mission. MY men and MY wife are injured because of MY feckin’ uncle’s ego. Christ, what if Angus does’na make it? Jamie quickly sent up another prayer for Angus.

When he looked back towards the chopper, he saw Claire being brought out. Her eyes were shut against the blinding sun and her face was contorted in pain. She was covered in dirt and scrapes, but all he could see was how beautiful and helpless she looked. Mo Sorcha! I’m here lass, just open yer eyes.

She was placed on a stretcher that was wheeled towards the elevator.

“I will take it from here,” Dr. Hildegarde said and motioned for Jamie to join her. Thankful for as much privacy as he could have, he quickly made it to Claire’s side and gently picked up her hand, bringing it up to his lips and kissing her knuckles.

Claire’s eyes fluttered open and she could make out a tall figure in front of her. While she couldn’t see clearly, she would know those hands anywhere.

“Jamie,” she whispered.

“Aye, mo chridhe, I’m here.”

Claire started crying. “Oh Jamie, I was so scared. I still am and my head hurts so much.”

“Ssshh, mo nighean donn. It’s going to be alright.” Jamie leaned down to kiss her forehead, a few of his own tears falling into her hair as he whispered, “You are alive, you are whole.”

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-40

LRMC - Germany
Jamie and Dr. Hildegarde crowded around Claire’s stretcher as they got into the elevator. Jamie had yet to let go of his wife’s hand, but was surprised at how weak her grip had become.

“Sassenach?” Jamie had leaned down to speak softly in her ear.

Claire’s eyes were closed and she mumbled something incomprehensible.

“Try again, mon cheri,” Dr. Hildegarde encouraged, with a slight frown on her face, as she noticed that Claire’s hand had become slack.

“Sassenach? Claire?!” Jamie asked a bit more frantically, as he gently shook her shoulder.

This time there was no response and he began to panic. He looked up at Dr. Hildegarde, who had two fingers on Claire’s pulse. Dr. Hildegarde saw Jamie trying to keep his panic at bay.

“She’s breathing and her pulse is still strong, but her unresponsiveness, while not surprising, is concerning. I need to get her into the CAT Scan immédiatement.”

Jamie looked back down at his wife. How can this be happening, he thought, trying to stay calm. Workin’ yerself up is’na going to help Claire. Deep breath Fraser, deep breath. Jamie steadied himself and kept rubbing his thumb across Claire’s knuckles.

Just then the elevator doors opened and there were two nurses waiting to whisk Claire away. Jamie had to release her hand and he started to follow her, when Dr. Hildegarde put her hand on his arm.

“You cannot go into the room, mon cheri.”

“I canna leave her,” Jamie whispered.

“I’ll take you to the waiting area and I will come out with results as soon as I have them. Je promets.” Dr. Hildegarde squeezed his arm and then quickly caught up with the gurney Claire was on.

Jamie was left standing in the hospital corridor, watching his wife slip away. Emotion overcame him and he fell to his knees and wept.

 

Ian and John had decided to grab a cup of coffee, while Jamie had gone with Dr. Hildegarde to meet Claire. The two men hadn’t caught up in awhile, since Ian hadn’t been seeing Dr. Grey as frequently. Ian filled him in on Jenny’s new entrepreneurial adventures and John almost spit out his coffee, when Ian told him that in their last conversation, Jenny said Ian could be the CSO…Chief Smelling Operator.

Dabbing the tears in the corners of his eyes and then wiping his nose, John did his best to compose himself. “She didn’t!” He finally wheezed out.

“Aye, man, she did. I just hope she was jokin’” Ian chuckled. Then he turned a bit more serious. “I ken she’s trying tae make me feel useful and like I’m apart of it, but…”

After a moment, John gestured with his hand, “Go on.”

Ian was looking down into his lap. “But I dinna want a ‘pity job’. I wanna feel useful.” He looked up then to meet John’s eyes. “I ken it will take time tae get my feet under me, sae to speak, but there are other jobs I can surely do.”

John smiled. “You’ve come a long way since we first started talking Ian and I’m proud of you. No longer pitying yourself, you’re ready to take on the world.”

Ian smiled back at John and they sipped their coffee in silence for a few more minutes before he spoke up. “Ye ken there’s another mate, down the hall, who could use some support about now.”

“I was just going to suggest heading that way.” John agreed, as he pushed his chair back and stood up. Ian followed suit, albeit a bit slower, and the two men made their way over to radiology.

 

As they turned the corner, they saw Jamie hunched over on the floor, shoulders shaking as he wept. John looked at Ian, who nodded, signaling that John should run over to him and Ian would catch up.

“Jamie? What’s happened? Why aren’t you with Claire?” John asked in rapid-fire style, as he knelt down on the floor.

Trying to compose himself, Jamie sniffled and choked back another sob. “They're doing a CAT Scan.”

At this point, Ian had caught up. “That’s good, aye? Assess what’s going on?”

“Aye, but before we got off the elevator -,” a fresh wave of tears streamed down his cheeks, “she became unresponsive.”

Ian and John exchanged a look over Jamie’s head. Both fearing the worst.

Jamie continued, reading their thoughts. “She had a pulse but was’na conscious any longer. Dr. Hildegarde said it was’na uncommon, but concerning.”

“I’m sure it was terrifying, but if Dr. Hildegarde says it’s not uncommon, then we have to hold on to that, right?” John asked, trying to sound hopeful.

“C’mon, mate,” Ian reached out a hand. “Let’s go sit in the chairs over here. I’m guessin’ Dr. Hildegarde said she would come out with the results, no?”

Jamie nodded and took a steadying breath, before pushing himself up off the floor. When they got over to the chairs, John offered to go grab Jamie a cup of tea.

“Thank ye, John. A cup of tea would be great. Mebbe a biscuit or two if ye see any?”

John chuckled. “Never full, are you Fraser?” Without waiting for an answer, John took off for the cafeteria.

Ian scooted next to Jamie. “How are ye holdin’ up, bràthair?” He reached over to put a reassuring hand on Jamie’s knee.

“I dinna ken. Scared, worrit…angry. Angry that Claire went on the mission. Angry that Dougal put her in that position!” Jamie’s fists had balled at his sides and his breathing had quickened.

“Alright, alright,” Ian said quietly. “I’m upset too, but those emotions right now are’na going’ tae help Claire, aye?”

Jamie nodded and took a few deep breaths to calm himself. They sat in silence for the next few minutes until John came back carrying a tray with three coffees and some biscuits. Jamie and Ian thanked him and the three men continued to sit in nervous silence. After about five more minutes, the door to the radiology department opened and Dr. Hildegarde stepped out.

“Doctor?” Jamie asked as he stood up. He was having a difficult time reading her face.

Dr. Hildegarde gave Jamie a small smile and took one of the seats and motioned for him to do the same.

“Normally I would speak to you en privé, but since you two,” she gestured to John and Ian, “are his support team, may I share with all of you?” She looked to Jamie for permission before continuing.

He quickly nodded his head. “Please, Dr. Hildegarde. How is my wife?”

Dr. Hildegarde took a deep breath. “She took quite a blow to the head. Her symptoms…severe nausea, intense headache, blurry vision, and then becoming unresponsive are all indicative of a brain bleed. It’s a small bleed, but a bleed nonetheless.” She paused to let that sink in. When Jamie didn’t ask any questions, Dr. Hildegarde continued. “Our course of action will be to drill un petit hole into her skull, to relieve some of the pressure. We will need to put her into a medically induced coma for a few days to let her body heal.”

Jamie gasped and there was a look of horror on his face. “A…a coma?”

Dr. Hildegarde leaned over and took both of Jamie’s hands into her own. “Oui, mon cheri, but I promise you. This is what is best for your wife and le bébé.”

Jamie had been hunched over, but at Dr. Hildegarde’s last two words, he bolted upright. “Baby? Claire’s preg-,” he swallowed, “pregnant?!”

Oui…I assumed you knew, no?”

“I…I…,” Jamie sputtered. “We talked about it, but she’s on the pill! How did this happen?”

Dr. Hildegarde chuckled quietly and gave Jamie a smile, while quirking her eyebrow. “I can see that you all took advantage of the private room I gave you as a small honeymoon, no?”

Jamie blushed fiercely, while John laughed and Ian stuck his hand out to Jamie. “Congratulations, mo charaid!”

Jamie shook his brother-in-law’s hand, but still had a look of incomprehension on his face, as he ran his hand through the curls that were reappearing on the top of his head. “I dinna ken how this happened.”

John looked skeptically at Jamie. “Do we really need to explain to you where babies come from?” he teased.

Dr. Hildegarde stood to take her leave, but Jamie joined her and grabbed her by the arm. “This medically-induced coma, is it truly ok for the bairn?”

“Truly,” she reassured Jamie. “They are prepping Claire for the procedure now. When we are done and have her settled into a room, I will come find you. While in the coma, she will still be able to hear you, she just cannot respond. I’m sure you will not want to leave her side, so I will have a temporary bed set up next to hers.”

Jamie nodded his head vigorously. “I will’na leave her side. Not until she wakes up.”

“Ye’ll come find us then, when Claire is in her room? We’ll be in the courtyard, Dr. Hildegarde,” Ian chimed in. “I think the father-tae-be could use some fresh air.”

“How long do ye expect the procedure tae take?” Jamie turned to ask.

“It will be a couple of hours. She’s being prepped now, and then we will perform the procedure. Once she is stable, we’ll move her to a private room. As soon as she’s settled, I will come get you. Je promets.”

Jamie took both of Dr. Hildegarde’s hands into his own. “I canna thank ye enough, Dr. Hildegarde. My wife and I are indebted tae ye. Please take care of my wife and my…my unborn bairn. I dinna ken what I would do if something happened to them.” His eyes had filled with tears, but he willed them to stay put.

“Claire and I became quite close when she was in medical school. She’s like a daughter to me, so you can trust that I will do everything I can to help her heal and protect your unborn child. I may not love her the way you do, mon cheri, but I love her nonetheless.” Dr. Hildegarde smiled, squeezed Jamie’s hands, and then turned to leave.

Jamie stared, unseeing, as Dr. Hildegarde disappeared down the hall. When he felt a soft tap on his shoulder, he turned to see Ian smiling at him.

“C’mon, Da,” Ian teased. “Let’s wander outside and ye can fill us in on how it is ye were able tae make a baby while ye were supposed to be recovering from yer surgeries.” Ian’s eyes were twinkling.

Christ, he’s enjoying this, Jamie thought. A bairn…Claire and I are going tae be parents! Jamie smiled at Ian. “I could tell ye, Ian, but I dinna think yer man enough to hear it.”

John laughed at the two of them. “Let’s go you two. The fresh air will do us all good.”

 

After about two hours, the doors to the courtyard opened and Dr. Hildegarde came out, with a smile on her face. Jamie stopped, mid-sentence, and rushed over to her.

“How’s Claire?” he asked anxiously.

Elle a très bien fait! She is resting comfortably and her vitals look good. I have had an additional bed brought into the room and you may go see her, but remember, mon cheri, she will not respond to you. We will gradually start reducing the meds that are keeping her in the coma in a few days.” With a twinkle in her eye, Dr. Hildegarde added, “and we have a fetal monitor hooked up to monitor le bébé, so we can monitor its heart rate as well.”

Jamie pulled Dr. Hildegarde in for an embrace and kissed her on the cheek. She let out a small chuckle and squeezed Jamie back. When Jamie finally released Dr. Hildegrade, they both looked at each other with tears in their eyes.

“Thank ye Dr. Hildegarde, truly. I dinna ken how I can ever repay ye fer what ye’ve done fer my family.”

Le plaisir était pour moi, but don’t thank me yet. The next twenty-four hours are critical, but I have a good feeling. Now, let’s get you to your wife.”

Jamie turned around to John and Ian, ready to thank them for their support, but before he could say a word Ian waved him on.

“Go, a charaid. Give her a kiss for me. I’ll bring ye some food later.”

“Thank ye Ian. Oh, and can I ask that ye dinna mention the incident or bairn to Jenny yet? I want to be able to tell Mam and Da first. Once I ken a bit more about Claire’s condition I'll Skype them.”

“My lips are sealed,” and Ian motioned to zip his mouth shut.

Jamie turned to John. “Please tell yer brother that I am grateful for what he did. I ken it did’na change the outcome, but I also ken he had Claire’s best interest at heart.”

John nodded. “I certainly will. I’ll come by tomorrow to check-in on you and your wife.”

Jamie smiled at them both and then turned to follow Dr. Hildegarde to Claire’s room.

 

When they arrived at the door to Claire’s room, Dr. Hildegarde said goodbye and continued down the hall. Jamie stayed frozen, hand on the door handle. . He knew that Claire needed him to be strong, but he wasn’t sure if he could handle seeing his strong, beautiful wife, lying lifeless in a hospital bed, covered in scratches, hair matted down with blood, and tubes coming out of her. I can bear pain myself, but I dinna think I can bear hers. Lord, give me the strength to see my wife and unborn child through this, Jamie silently prayed.

He opened the door and was pleased to see that the room was larger than he expected, but he didn’t have a chance to take it all in because his gaze was drawn immediately to Claire. He was pleased to see her face and hands had been cleaned up some. There was no longer dirt streaked across her beautiful face. Her head was wrapped in a large bandage and it appeared that they had to shave away some of her unruly curls. Oh, mo nighean donn, he thought. I ken ye’ll be fashed about yer hair, but I would have ye bald then no’ have ye at all. He had told Dr. Hildegarde to take whatever steps necessary to save his wife and unborn child, but seeing her like this was more than he had anticipated. She’s here. She’s alive. I’ll help her heal, like she did me, was quickly becoming Jamie’s mantra. Blood of my blood and bone of my bone…until our lives shall be done. Well, our lives are not done, mo chridhe…they are jus’ beginning.

Jamie pulled a chair over to sit at Claire’s side and took her hand in his, rubbing his thumb over her wedding band. He finally took a moment to look around the room. There was a small sitting area, the additional bed that Dr. Hildegarde had assured him would be there, and a private bathroom. He really wouldn’t have to leave her side, not even to shower. He continued to look around at the machines that were all around the head of her bed. He could see her heart rate, blood pressure, and several other numbers that didn’t mean much to him, but their steady rhythm and consistency assured him Claire was safe and healing. He looked over to the machine that had a cord that disappeared under the sheets, near her abdomen, his breath caught in his throat. That machine had a rapid pulsing. was the heartbeat of their child.

Ah dhia! Our bairn! Jamie gently took one of his hands that was clasping Claire’s and placed it on her stomach. It was still flat, and would be for several more weeks, but to know that there was a life inside…a life they had created, together, was enough to make his heart burst. His eyes filled with tears, and for the first time in twenty-four hours, he didn’t try to hold them in. With one hand clasping Claire’s and the other protecting the tiny life within her, he looked at his wife.

“Ye have to pull through this, Sassenach. Without you, our whole world crumbles into dust.”

He then laid his head on the edge of her bed and wept.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-41

LRMC - Germany
For the next several days, Jamie kept a constant vigil over Claire. He hesitated to leave her side, except to visit the facilities. Whenever he was by her side, he would not let go of her hand. As long as he was touching her, he could feel the life coursing through her veins. It was also a comfort to hear his child’s heartbeat as a constant thrum in the background. Another reminder that they were both alive and here with him.

Around dinner time, on the third day, Ian softly knocked on the door and peeked his head in. “How’s it going bràthair?”

Jamie gave Ian a tired smile. “As good as can be expected. I guess.” He looked back at Claire and brought her hand up to his lips for a kiss. “The bairn’s heartbeat is strong today.”

“Aye,” Ian said as he moved closer to the bed.

Jamie smiled proudly and nodded over to the screen where you could see the steady line keeping pace with the noise that filled the room. “Dr. Hildegarde mentioned doing an ultrasound in the next day or so, to see how far along Claire is.”

Ian clasped Jamie’s shoulder and squeezed. “That’s amazing! Have ye thought about how yer going tae tell Claire?”

“Honestly, no. I’m jus’ waiting for her to wake up and look at me, so I can feel drunk on those whisky-colored eyes again.” Jamie looked lovingly at his wife. At least she does’na seem to be in any pain while in the coma, Jamie thought to himself. He then turned towards Ian. “I dinna think she has any idea about the bairn. The past few times we Skyped, she looked peely-wally, but just kept telling me how busy she was. Ye ken she canna keep a secret, sae I dinna think she has any idea.”

Ian chuckled over Jamie’s shoulder. “No she canna. I always kent when she was pissed at me. I could see it written all o’er face! Least I ken when to keep my gob shut!”

Jamie smiled at that and sat up a bit to stretch his back. “Ian, could I -,” Jamie paused, unsure how to ask his brother-in-law and best friend what he wanted to.

“Aye, mo charaid, that’s why I came by. Get up, stretch, take a pish, and get something tae eat. I’ll sit by her side and hold her hand. She will’na be alone.”

Touched by Ian’s words, Jamie nodded. Choking back a few tears, he whispered, “Thank ye, bràthair. There is’na a single person I trust more tae watch over my wife. Or my bairn.”

“Take yer time. The fresh air will be good fer ye and I ken I will’na be able to get ye out of this room verra often. Just bring me back a bite as well, aye?”

Jamie laughed, “Of course.” With that, he gently placed a kiss on Claire’s forehead and whispered into her ear, “I will’na be gone long, mo chridhe. I ken ye would fashed if I was no’ eatin’ or gettin’ a bit of fresh air. Ian will be with ye the whole time I'm gone.”

Jamie then stood and nodded to Ian, who was already holding Claire’s hand. “I will’na let go until ye return.”

 

It hurt Jamie’s heart to leave his wife and unborn child, but he also knew that he needed to maintain his strength and keep up with his PT if he was going to be the husband and father they needed. I could use my own Da right now, Jamie thought. He looked at his watch and saw that it would be around mid-afternoon back home in New York. Da should be in the barn right about now…I could call that phone. Jamie made his way to Dr. Hildegarde's office. As he was about to knock, the door opened.

Bonjour Jamie! How is our Claire today?”

“No change,” he shrugged his shoulders. “Dr. Hildegarde, do ye think it would be alright if I used yer phone? I have’na had the chance tae call my family yet.”

Oui! I was just leaving so you will have the office to yourself.” Dr. Hildegarde smiled, and motioned for him to enter her office. “I’ll lock it from the outside, so just make sure to close the door when you are done s'il te plaît.”

Merci,” Jamie smiled as Dr. Hildegarde pulled the door closed behind her.

 

He dialed and on the third ring, he heard that Scottish brogue that immediately made him breathe a bit easier.

“Lallybroch Farms, Brain Fraser speaking.”

“Hey, Da.”

“Jamie?! How are ye lad? It’s a be a couple of weeks…let me go get yer Mam -,”

“I dinna have much time, Da. Sorry to cut ye off, but I really need tae speak with ye. I’ll call back tomorrow or the next day to speak with ye both.”

“Alright lad, but what’s goin’ on? I can hear it in yer voice, something’s wrong. Are ye ok?”

“Aye, I’m ok, but…” Jamie tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but when he wasn’t able to, he simply whispered, “...it’s Claire.” That was when the tears started to fall. He had always wanted to be strong for Claire and Ian, but with his Da he felt the freedom to be vulnerable.

“Oh, Jamie! What happened? Is she alright?” Brian Fraser was doing his best to stay composed for his son, but inside his heart was breaking. He found his true love, Lord…dinna take her from him sae soon, Brian quickly prayed.

“I canna get in tae all the details now Da, but she was transported to Landstuhl. She returned from a mission with -,”

“Christ, Jamie! They dinna take doctors on missions. What the hell was she doing on a mission?!”

“Da,” Jamie took a steading breath, “dinna get me started. That is an entirely different conversation. Mebbe ask my favorite uncle.” The sarcasm was practically dripping off of Jamie’s tongue.

“Fuckin', Dougal! Alright, ye can tell me later, but what is happening with Claire? Why did they send her to Landstuhl?”

“There was an explosion and she was unconscious briefly from what I’ve been told. She has a concussion, but there were some other troubling symptoms, sae tae be safe, they sent her here for testing.”

“Well that’s good, aye? Precautionary.”

“Aye, except that they found a small brain bleed.”

Brian gasped on the other end of the line, but then quickly pulled himself together. He needed to be strong for his son. He needs ye now. Pull yerself together man! Brian chastised himself. “Weel, she is good hands, is she no’? And she has her husband by her side.” Brain tried to sound reassuring.

“Aye, but they put her into a medically-induced coma, Da. Dr. Hildegarde said it would be best for Claire and the -,” Jamie caught himself. He wanted to share their joyous news together, so he backtracked, hoping his Da would just think he was too upset to think clearly. “They think it will be best for Claire if her body does’na have to focus on doing anything, other than healing.”

“Oh lad,” Brain sighed. “I’m sae sorry yer Mam and I canna be there tae support ye both. Do ye want me to share the news with her and Jenny?”

“Aye. I dinna ken when I’ll be able tae call again. Ian is sitting with Claire now, sae I could step out fer some food and tae get some air.”

“Ye have to take care of yerself Jamie. Ye’ll be no good to Claire if ye let yerself wither away. Ye have tae eat, ye have tae sleep…ye have to keep up with yer PT. I ken it may no’ be easy, but ye have tae try…for Claire.”

“Thanks, Da.”

“Fer what? I feel pretty helpless, tae be honest. My son needs me and I’m across the damn Atlantic!”

“I just needed tae hear yer voice and confirm what I was tryin’ tae tell myself. Give my best to Mam and Jenny.”

“I will son. We love ye and if there is anything we can do, call. It does’na matter what time…day or night. We’re here for ye both.”

“I ken Da, and that means a lot, tae both of us.” Jamie paused and then thought of one thing his family could do. “Da? There is one thing ye all can do. Pray for Claire.”

"Aye," Brian paused.  "We'll pray fer ye both."

 

Jamie hung up soon after with his Da and made his way over to the cafeteria. He grabbed some sandwiches, chips, and drinks for himself and Ian. Thinking he had been gone from Claire long enough, he quickly made his way back to her room. Jamie quietly opened the door, but stopped before entering. He could hear Ian talking to Claire.

“Jenny’s excited tae work with ye! She was sae intrigued when I mentioned that ye had a passion for herbs and natural remedies. She’s already tryin’ tae think of names for the storefront the two of ye could open.” Ian smiled at Claire, but his voice was thick with emotion. “Jenny is going tae love bein’ an auntie. I canna wait fer ye and Jamie tae share yer news with the family, sae ye have to get better, piuthar. The whole Fraser Clan is praying’ fer ye.”

Jamie then stepped into the room and softly closed the door. He brought the food over to the table and motioned for Ian to come and eat. Before Jamie sat down, he went back over to his wife.

“I’m back mo nighean donn. I promised ye I would’na be gone long.” He brought both of her hands up to his lips and kissed her knuckles tenderly. “I’ll just be sittin’ over here with Ian and having some dinner. I told ye no’ tae fash about me.”

Jamie placed Claire’s hands comfortably at her sides and then went to sit with Ian. “Thank ye fer sittin’ with her.”

“Anytime, mate. I filled her in on what Jenny has been working on.”

“Speaking of Jenny, I called Da. I needed tae hear his voice and I told him to share the news with Mam and Jenny.”

“I’m glad ye called him, Jamie. It helps tae know that people back home will be praying fer her as well.”

“Aye, but I dinna tell him about the bairn. I want Claire and I tae tell them together.”

Ian smiled and squeezed Jamie’s forearm. “Then my lips are still sealed.”

Jamie and Ian spent the next thirty minutes enjoying each other’s company and then Ian excused himself fer the night.

When it was just Jamie and Claire, he readied himself for bed. Despite Claire’s current condition, Jamie knew he would sleep better than he had in days, just being near his wife.

He turned off the lights and made his way to his bed. Before laying down, he kissed his wife and then he leaned over to kiss her womb, where his unborn child rested peacefully,

“Dinna be afraid mo mhac…yer Da is here and will watch over ye and yer Mam. Ye must let her rest, though. She needs her strength tae heal and tae help ye grow big and strong.”

Jamie then situated himself on his side, so he could see both of their vitals before he closed his eyes. He fell into a deep sleep, with his wife’s hand in his and the sound of his child’s heartbeat filling the room.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Brigadier General Pardloe had been on the phone with Washington several times over the past two days. Most of the officers were well acquainted with Major General McKenzie and were finding it hard to believe that he had behaved this way.

Pardloe had been instructed to gather as many first-hand accounts as he could from both the raid that had severely injured Cpl. Mohr and Dr. Beauchamp, as well as the raid that had sent Master Sergeant Fraser and Captain Murray to Landstuhl. Luckily, Willie and Rupert had been on both raids, and their accounts had provided some damning evidence towards McKenzie’s mindset. Pardloe needed to reach out to Landstuhl to get an update on Cpl. Mohr and Dr. Beauchamp, as well as speak to Master Sergeant Fraser and Captain Murray. Perhaps I’ll make a trip over there in the next couple of days, he thought. I can personally see how they are doing and catch up with John.

After arranging the travel for tomorrow, Pardloe followed up with his contact in Washington D.C.. “I will be traveling out to Landstuhl tomorrow, to check on the soldiers from my base. If able, I will get their first-hand accounts and have it sent to you immediately. I do not want this dragged out. In my opinion, Major General McKenzie should be prosecuted to the highest degree, but that is not my call. I can only provide the evidence you need to assure that he is dishonorably discharged at the very least.”

“Thank you, sir. We will be awaiting our next steps, based on the evidence you are able to provide. Safe travels.”

Pardloe hung up and rested his head in both hands. He wanted this man off of his base. Not only was he wasting resources by having to maintain a twenty-four hour detail with two MPs outside the brig, but he simply did not care for the Major General and now he did not trust him as well. The man was clearly not in the proper state of mind to continue in his current position and he was a threat to the safety of the base.

Hopefully in the next seventy-two hours, I’ll have answers, Pardloe thought as he went to his quarters to pack a few things for his short trip to Germany.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-42

LRMC - Germany
It had been a week since Claire had arrived at Landstuhl and been placed in a medically induced coma. Jamie had stayed by her side as much as he could. There was an hour each day, where he was required to go to PT and during those times, either Ian, John, or sometimes Dr. Hildegarde, would come and sit with Claire. Jamie made sure that she was never alone.

On this particular morning, it was Dr. Hildegarde who had come to sit with Claire while Jamie went to therapy. He returned, a little over an hour later, with two cups of coffee.

“I thought ye could use a wee bit of fuel this morning.” He smiled as handed Dr. Hildegarde her coffee.

Merci beaucoup! I did not have time before I came over here.” She brought the cup up to her face and inhaled deeply, allowing the rich aroma to flood her senses and awaken her nerves.

Dr. Hildegarde had stood when Jamie entered the room, and moved over to the chair on the opposite side of Claire’s bed. Jamie liked to be on her right side, where he could observe both her’s and the baby’s vitals.

“They are doin’ verra well, aye?” Jamie inquired of Dr. Hildegarde.

“Aye, mon cheri.” Dr. Hildegarde mimicked, causing Jamie to hide a smile behind his coffee cup. “Actually, I was thinking about reducing the medicine keeping Claire under today.”

Jamie sat up at that and looked expectantly to Dr. Hildegarde. “Really? She’s doin’ that well then?”

Oui, but please do not expect her to wake up right away.” Dr. Hildegarde looked thoughtfully at Jamie, wanting to give him hope, but not let his expectations run away with him. “Her body is still healing and will continue to heal for several weeks. She will be quite tired and still require a lot of rest. By reducing the medicine, it will allow her body to continue healing, but not prevent her from gaining consciousness.”

Jamie was listening intently and nodding along. “I want her to wake up, more than anything, Dr. Hildegarde…”Jamie paused, looking at Claire, before continuing. “But only if ye think her body is truly ready.”

“She’s a fighter, our Claire, and I do think she is ready. We must be patient with her though. The whole ordeal she has been through would be a lot for anyone. To hear that she is also with child, will come as a shock, no?”

Jamie smiled and placed his large hand on top of his wife’s abdomen. “Aye, but I ken she’ll be happy.” He leaned over to place a kiss on her forehead.

Dr. Hildegarde stood and made her way towards the head of Claire’s bed, where several IVs were hanging. She adjusted the drip on the one the was keeping Claire sedated. “There we are. I will make note in her chart so that the nurses know how to proceed. I will check in on you all later. Au revoir, Jamie!”

 

John was just getting ready to make his way down to check on the Frasers, when there was a knock on his door before it opened. Standing in the door frame was his brother.

“Hal! I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. How was your flight? Can I get you a cuppa?”

“Hello John!” Hal reached out to embrace his brother. “I was able to get my affairs in order quicker than expected, so we left a tad bit earlier. While I’m happy to see you, this trip is not for pleasure. I have things to attend to.”

John nodded in agreement. “I completely understand, but I am pleased to see you. Spending a bit of time with your baby brother won’t kill you however, especially if I’m willing to buy lunch!”

“How can I say no to that?” Hal laughed.

“Would you be ok if we took a detour on our way to the cafeteria? I was just getting ready to go see Master Sergeant and Dr. Fraser. I usually grab him some lunch, and bring it back to his wife’s room.”

“Of course not! I would be pleased to see the Master Sergeant and check in on Dr. Fraser. Have you -,” Hal stopped before continuing on.

“Have I what?” John inquired.

Hal shook his head and John didn’t press him. Years in the service had taught both men that there was no need to push for information. When, and if, he could share, John was confident that Hal would let him know what was going on.

“How’s the food here?” Hal asked, clearly changing the subject.

“Some days are better than others, but anything we have here has got to be better than what you get on the base!”

“Touche,” Hal teased.

The two men walked out of the office and headed towards the Frasers’ room.

 

Jamie was using a washcloth and some warm, soapy water to wash down Claire’s arms and legs. He had started doing this a few days ago when he noticed that Claire’s skin was starting to dry out. He would wash her extremities and then rub lotion, moisturizing and working her muscles at the same time. It was little things like this that made Jamie feel as if he was helping Claire begin her recovery. He often gave her this pseudo-sponge bath after he had returned from PT and before the mid-day nurse came in to check Claire’s vitals. It was a time for the two of them to be alone and Jamie would quietly talk to both Claire and the baby in Gaelic. Sometimes it would be about Lallybroch, other times it would be about his family, but most of the time it was about what the future held for them as a family.

Jamie had just finished rubbing the lotion on Claire’s lower extremities, when there was a soft knock at the door. Glancing at the clock, Jamie smiled to himself as he wiped his hands off on the damp cloth. He made his way over to the door, and as he was pulling it open, said “Yer the most punctual bastard I’ve ever me-”. Jamie paused, mid-sentence. He had expected to see John standing on the other side of the door, but not his superior officer. Jamie immediately stood at attention.

“Good afternoon, sir. My apologies for my language. I was not expecting anyone to be with Dr. Grey.”

Hal laughed. “At ease soldier,” he teased. “I appreciate the formality, but we are in the hospital and you have been through hell with your own injuries, not to mention the mental anguish of now tending to your wife. My sincerest apologies, Master Sergeant. For both.”

Jamie relaxed a bit and shook the general’s extended hand. “Thank you sir. It has been…trying, to put it mildly, but Claire is strong and will pull through this. Just this morning, they started reducing the meds that are keepin’ her sedated. She could start waking up at any moment.” Jamie was looking at Claire with all the adoration in the world.

“Jamie! That’s wonderful news!” John squeezed his shoulder.

“I have every confidence Dr. Beauch-, I’m sorry…Dr. Fraser,” Hal smiled, “will pull through as well. I have never seen a finer doctor on base before. She is truly talented.”

The three men stood awkwardly for a moment. Jamie moved back to Claire’s side and took her hand in his, but remained standing, with an officer in the room. He tapped his middle finger against his thigh. There were questions he desperately wanted to ask, but it wasn’t appropriate for him to question his commanding officer.

“Out with it Fraser.” John’s voice pulled Jamie back from his own thoughts. He had come to know Jamie quite well in the past several weeks and he knew that something was bothering him, and he had a pretty good idea what it was.

Jamie scowled, slightly, at John. “It’s fine, John. Were you two going to grab something to eat?”

Hal looked back and forth between his brother and the Master Sergeant, not quite sure what was transpiring between them.

“Jamie, Hal may be your commanding officer, but he’s my brother. I can assure he’s a good man and can be trusted. In the confines of this ICU room you can ask him anything, and if he can,” John looked over at Hal, “he will answer you.”

Hal nodded and looked from John over to Jamie. “I’m sure you have questions, Master Sergeant, as do I. Under the circumstances, let’s dispense with the formalities. Until I leave this room, call me Hal and forget my rank. Now, what is it you want to know?” Hal motioned for him to sit down in the chair next to Claire and he moved to sit in one opposite of Jamie. Once they were sitting, Hal added, “And before you do ask, please know that there is an ongoing investigation, so some of the details I am not permitted to share.”

Jamie inhaled deeply, gathering his thoughts, and turned to Claire. He was rubbing his thumb over her knuckles and in a voice so quiet, Hall thought he was speaking to his wife. “How could you let her go?”

“Pardon?”

Jamie turned and looked directly into Hal’s eyes and in a firmer voice repeated himself. “How could you let her go?” He held Hal’s gaze with his own steely glare and waited for a response.

Hal exhaled and leaned forward slightly, on to his knees. “Fraser…I didn’t let her go. As soon as I had word that General McKenzie was planning to take her with him, I rushed over to the Medical Tent to prevent that from happening. However I was too late. Someone had tipped off McKenzie that I was aware of his plan, because he departed with his team earlier than anticipated.”

Jamie let that information sink in. Christ, my uncle truly is a bastard. I canna put anything past him at this point. He shook his head. “Ye canna let him get away with this.”

“This is where we start to get into dangerous territory Fraser. What I can share with you is that Major General McKenzie was arrested as soon as the chopper landed. At the same time the medical team ran in to assess Dr. Fraser and Cpl. Mohr.”

Ah dhia! Angus!” He whipped around to look at John. “With all that was going on with Claire, I never thought to ask about Angus!” Visions of seeing a nurse perform CPR, while straddling Angus on the gurney, flashed through Jamie’s mind.

“We’ll have to ask Dr. Hildegarde when we see her next.” John said.

Hal had fallen silent in his chair. John looked over at him and could tell he knew something about Angus, but wasn’t saying.

“What is it Hal? What do you know?” John implored.

Jamie also turned to look at General Pardloe, who was looking between the two men. “Cpl. Mohr did not make it. The call was made several days ago, so his family knows by now. I did not want to say anything until his next of kin was informed.”

The room was silent. John, not knowing Cpl. Mohr, was sorry to hear of this news, but was not as affected as Jamie, who had laid his forehead on the edge of Claire’s bed. He was murmuring, what John could only assume was a prayer, and his shoulders had started to shake slightly.

John moved over and knelt down next to Jamie and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Thank ye,” Jamie whispered. He then looked up at General Pardloe, with tears falling down his face. “Ye have tae make sure he canna harm anyone else ever again.”

Hal looked back at Jamie, slightly taken aback by the vehemence in his tone.

“Angus,” Jamie started, “was an unnecessary casualty, but Claire…” Jamie turned and cupped his wife’s cheek in his palm. “He meant for Claire to get injured. Christ! He meant tae leave her behind!”

“That is a strong accusation, Master Sergeant. How can you be sure that Major General McKenzie would be so calculated in his actions?”

“He’s my uncle! My mam’s brother and has never respected my da. Their history goes back tae my da’s decision to retire from the military, return to his wife, and start a family. Dougal never respected that decision…felt it was dishonorable.”

Hal looked slightly uncomfortable and shifted in his seat.

“I ken ye must think I’m crazy and I’m sorry to bring up my family’s bad blood. But my gut tells me that my uncle would do anything to ruin the happiness of Brian Fraser’s son.”

“Well, that will be difficult to prove, soldier, but there are several other charges against Major General McKenzie. I would imagine you will be called to testify and at the minimum, provide your statement.”

“I met with Ned Gowan several weeks ago to provide my statement, as did Captain Murray. I’ll do what I must to see that justice is served on behalf of Cpl. Mohr and my wife.”

Jamie could feel himself tensing and was trying desperately to relax. He didn’t like to be uptight or angry around Claire. He felt like his negative energy would upset her. He took several calming breaths and stared at his wife’s face. If only ye would wake up, mo nighean donn. Staring into yer beautiful eyes makes everything right in the world.

John, sensing there was no reason to continue this tense conversation, stood up and looked over to Hal. “Are you ready to eat? You must be famished after your trip. Jamie, what can I bring back for you?”

“A grilled chicken salad, John, if ye dinna mind.”

“Of course. Hal?”

The Brigadier General stood up and looked at Jamie. “I truly am sorry for the injuries your wife sustained while on the mission. I will do whatever I can to make sure that Major General McKenzie is held accountable for his actions.”

“Thank ye, sir. I appreciate that. If there is anything else ye need, please dinna hesitate to ask.”

“I’ll do that. Good day, Master Sergeant.”

Hal walked out of the room and John followed, looking back over his shoulder. “I’ll be back with your salad.” He then closed the door behind him and Jamie was left alone with Claire.

Jamie laid his hand across her abdomen again. It was quickly becoming another part of her body he couldn’t keep his hands or eyes off of. Jamie felt a comfort in the touch. In knowing that below his protective hand was a life he and Claire had created…a life that came from the love they shared for one another. His little family grounded him and Jamie was beyond grateful.

“We’ll get through this, mo chridhe. I just need ye tae wake up, so we can lean on each other. I’m no’ strong enough tae do this alone, Sassenach. I need ye.” Jamie was absently moving his thumb over Claire’s knuckles, as he leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Come back tae me, Claire. Come find me, find us.”

As Jamie’s soul was crying out to Claire’s, he hadn’t noticed that her fingers had lifted up off the bed. They lightly grazed Jamie’s forearm, causing his breath to catch. Jamie looked at his wife’s face, just in time to see her eyes flicker open and smooth whisky met ocean blue once again.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-43

LRMC - Germany
“Sassenach?” Jamie whispered in disbelief. He hadn’t expected her to wake so soon.

Claire blinked her eyes a few times, as if she was trying to focus on Jamie.

Mo chridhe, yer awake! I canna believe it! My prayers have been answered.” Jamie wrapped both of his hands around Claire’s and brought them to his lips.

Claire squeezed her hands and then a faint grunt came from her. Jamie looked up in time to see the panic set in. As Claire started grasping for the vent that had been helping her breathe.

“Ssshhh, mo ghraidh, ssshhh. They had ye on a machine to help ye breathe. Look at me, Claire…look at me.” Jamie cupped Claire’s face in his hands. Her frightened gaze locked on to Jamie. “Good, Sassenach. Now breathe through yer nose. Keep looking at me and breathe…aye, that’s it.”

Jamie went to lean behind Claire’s bed to press the call button, but as he tried to stretch for the button, Claire squeezed his hand and her chest started heaving again.

“I’m no’ going anywhere, Sassenach. I just want to press the call button sae we can get Dr. Hildegarde in here to get that tube out o’ yer mouth.”

Claire gave him a small nod and went back to focusing on breathing through her nose.

A few short minutes later, there was a flurry of activity in Claire’s room. There were a couple of nurses, along with Dr. Hildegarde.

Mon cheri! I am thrilled to see you awake! I’m sure you would like this vent removed, no?” Dr. Hildegarde was holding Claire’s free hand and smiling at her, while a nurse gently sponged the tape around Claire’ mouth to ease the pain of pulling it off. “Es-tu prêt mon cheri? On the count of three, I need you to blow as if you were trying to blow out the candles on a cake. Un, deux, trois…blow!”

Jamie sat on the edge of Claire’s bed and supported her as she sat up and blew, as Dr. Hildegarde slowly pulled out the tube. Claire began to cough and a nurse was by her side with a cup of water and encouraged Claire to sip slowly. Jamie was rubbing her back and after a sip of water, Claire fell back on to Jamie’s chest and looked up at him.

Claire’s lips began to move and Jamie was quick to stop her. “No, mo nighean donn, dinna try tae talk just yet. I’m here and I’ll no’ leave yer side.”

Claire smiled at him with tears in her eyes, and reached to bring his face down to hers. Barely above a whisper, she squeaked out, “I love you Soldier,” before claiming his mouth with a soft kiss.

 

Claire fell asleep shortly after that. Jamie had stayed by her side, holding her hand, and was not surprised to see Dr. Hildegarde come back to the room.

“It’s good that she is resting,” Dr. Hildegarde said, as she sat down in the chair opposite Jamie.

“Aye, she always said that the body heals best when it’s resting.”

“Precisely, which was why we put her in the medically-induced coma. Have you given any thought as to when you will…” Dr. Hildegarde gestured towards the fetal monitor.

“Ye would think I would have figured that out with all the time I had before she was awake, but I dinna ken. I’ll tread carefully and let Claire take the lead on what we talk about.” Jamie kissed her knuckles again. “Besides, she canna carry on much of a conversation until her throat feels a bit better.”

“That should not take long, especially if she continues to sip on the water,” Dr. Hildegarde said. “Jamie?”

He turned to see Dr. Hildegarde looking tentative. “What is it, Mother Hildegarde?” There was a hint of nervousness in his voice.

“Our Claire is a strong, determined woman, no?”

Jamie smiled and nodded.

“Which is precisely why I am going to explain to you what her restrictions are. Other than myself, there is no one else I would charge with making sure Claire follows my instructions.”

“Aye, ye can count on me! Anything tae help her recover.”

Merveilleuse! To start with, there are no real dietary restrictions, other than I want her to go slow. The more nutrients she intakes, the stronger her body will become. Second, under no circumstances is she to get up on her own. There must always be a nurse, or you, to accompany her to the salle de bain, is that understood?”

Jamie sat up in his chair and saluted Dr. Hildegarde. “Yes, ma’am. Ye can count on me.” He smiled, encouraged to hear of the things he could do to help Claire as she had helped him.

Je suis heureux d'entendre que. It will take a village to get our girl back to where she was. Please be prepared that there will be setbacks or petite things that may be difficult for her to do at first. It’s likely that she will have nightmares, now that the level of drugs in her system is reduced. I urge you to be patient with her, because we know she will not be patient with herself.” Dr. Hildegarde smiled affectionately at Claire.

Jamie looked between the two of them, full of love and admiration for both of these women. “She’s lucky to have you, Mother Hildegarde. I ken she respects ye greatly, but…” Jamie paused and reached over to grab Dr. Hildegarde’s hand, “she loves ye too. I ken she thinks of ye as a foster mam.”

Dr. Hildegarde was not a woman to show much emotion, but at this, she smiled and a tear trickled down her face. “Merci pour ça ma chérie. I will leave you two now. It’s almost 18:00, and I imagine our patient will be waking up and wanting a bite to eat.”

Dr. Hildegarde squeezed Jamie’s hand, before removing her own from his grasp. She then leaned down to kiss Claire on the brow, before turning to leave. As she opened the door, Dr. Hildegarde looked back over her shoulder. “I’ll check in on the two of you in the morning. Bonne nuit, Jamie.”

“Good night to you as well Mother Hildegarde, and thank ye.”

Dr. Hildegarde nodded and then pulled the door shut behind her.

 

Claire startled awake about fifteen minutes after Dr. Hildegarde had left. Jamie had just stepped into the restroom and heard the muffled shriek of his wife. Damn it! The one time I step away, he thought. “I’m here, Sassenach!” He quickly flushed the toilet and opened the door and ran to her side. “Let me just wash my hands, mo chridhe.”

Claire nodded and settled at seeing him and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. Jamie was quickly back by her side and took her hand back into his own. Claire looked down at their hands and then smiled up at her husband.

“Are ye hungry at all Sassenach? I ken Ian will be stopping by in a few minutes and would be happy tae get ye whatever ye want. Dr. Hildegarde said ye had not food restrictions, but we do need to take it easy. Perhaps some soup and toast?”

Claire opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Jamie held the cup up for her to sip and then after clearing her throat a few times, she managed to rasp out, “That sounds lovely. Perhaps some chicken and wild rice soup with wheat toast?”

Jamie smiled at her. “Whatever ye want mo nighean donn.”

There was a soft knock on the door and Jamie looked at Claire. She nodded, releasing his hand so he could see who was at the door, even though he knew it was Ian.

“Hello, mo charaid! Come in…I think someone would like tae say hello.” Jamie smiled at Ian as he stepped aside.

Ian came into the room and his eyes met Claire’s. He limped to her side and took her hand. “Claire! It’s sae good tae see ye back with us. Ye had me worrit and dinna even get me started on this fella.” He jerked his head in Jamie’s direction.

“I’m sorry,” Claire whispered.

“Och, lass! ‘Tis not yer fault! We’re just happy tae see ye awake.” Ian smiled down at Claire, who returned the gesture.

Bràthair,” Jamie said to Ian. “Can I trouble ye to grab us a bite tae eat?”

“Ye dinna even need tae ask. Ye kent I would be bringing ye food, what’s another tray? Is Claire on any restrictions?”

Jamie was not only grateful for his brother-in-law’s willingness to help, but that he had Claire’s best interests in mind as well.

“Claire was hoping for some soup…chicken and wild rice, if they have it, and some wheat toast. I’ll take a burger, fries, and mebbe some dessert.”

“Look who’s appetite is back?” Ian teased.

Jamie gave Ian a crooked smile and a gentle punch to the shoulder, causing Ian to increase the level of teasing. “Yer practically wasting away, man. Ye canna even push me over anymore. I best be on my way to bring ye some sustenance. Claire, I ken yer still feelin’ a bit peely wally, but do ye think ye can keep an eye on this weakling?” Ian winked at Claire, who nodded and winked back.

“I love how the two of ye have already ganged up on me! I’m wounded Sassenach, that ye would side with Ian.” Jamie exaggerated a pout, causing Claire to roll her eyes and let out a small giggle.

Jamie immediately perked up at the sound he had missed so much and knelt next to Claire’s bed. “That wee laugh of yer’s is music tae my ears mo ghraidh. To hear it again, I'll let this eejit rib me tae the end of time” He then bent forward and kissed her softly on the lips.

“Ugh, the two of ye need to get a room.”

“We have one, but yer in it. Make yerself useful and go grab some food for your favorite sister-in-law, while yer best mate gets reacquainted with his wife.” Jamie kept his gaze locked on Claire’s as he spoke to Ian, and wiggled his eyebrows, eliciting another soft giggle from her.

“As ye say, Master Sergeant.” Ian saluted Jamie and then winked at Claire, before leaving the room.

 

“Was Ian wearing a prosthetic?” Claire inquired, in a hoarse whisper.

“Aye, he was! It’s just a preliminary one, before they can fit him with something better, but he’s doing quite well!”

Claire smiled at that and settled back on her pillows, but Jamie could tell that her brain was working in overdrive, trying to process all that had happened.

“I can hear ye thinking clear over here, Sassenach. Please, mo ghraidh, try and let yer brain rest. Ye’ve been through hell and back.”

Hrmph,” was the only sound Jamie got in response.

“Sounding rather Scottish there, Sassenach,” Jamie teased, but the look in Claire’s eyes quickly had him quieting down.

“What happened to Angus?” It was asked so softly, Jamie almost didn’t hear the question. He hesitated just long enough for Claire to become slightly unhinged.

“I need to know what happened to him. Jamie, please!” Her words were direct and Jamie debated with himself if she was strong enough to hear the answer. She’ll find out soon enough, might as well not prolong the inevitable, he reasoned.

“He did’na make it,” Jamie said somberly, as he stroked Claire’s cheek.

Claire stiffened under his touch and tried to turn away, but Jamie squeezed her hand, pulling her gaze back to him. “Ye did everything you could tae save him. Christ…ye had yer own injuries and ye never even stopped tae think about yerself. Angus’ death was a reckless tragedy and Dougal will suffer fer it, but I’m sae proud of ye, Sassenach.”

Claire gave a small nod, but Jamie could see her start to retreat into herself, survival guilt already attempting to spread. She was trying to re-position herself on the bed, so Jamie thought a quick change in topic was sorely needed.

“Would ye like me tae help ye sit up a bit more Sassenach?” Claire nodded and Jamie pressed the button to slowly bring the top of her bed into a more upright position. “If ye start tae get a headache or anything, just tell me and I can lay ye back down.”

Claire attempted to get herself situated, but being more aware of her surroundings than when the vent was removed, she noticed a band that went around her abdomen. She lifted the sheet to see what that was and then followed the cord out the machine. Jamie was watching her carefully. Christ yer an eejit, Fraser! She’s a doctor…of course she’ll ken what machines she’s hooked up tae. Jamie was chiding himself for not approaching the subject earlier, but there really hadn’t been time. Mebbe it will come as less of a shock this way, he reasoned with himself. His eyes were honed in on Claire’s face, watching for any sign of comprehension or even slight realization of what the machine was. He didn’t think military doctors had much experience with fetal heart monitors, but his Claire was a canny lass and he certainly wouldn’t put it past her to figure it out.

After about a minute, Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand and her eyes became quite large. With her free hand, she pointed at the machine and croaked, “Jamie?! Why am I hooked up to this machine?” She looked to him frantically and then back at the steady heartbeat that was racing across the screen.

Jamie smiled and rested his forehead on her knuckles, before meeting her eyes. “Claire, that’s a fetal heart rate monitor.” He continued to look at her face and she teetered between the machine and his eyes.

“But why am I hooked up to it?” she whispered, tears glistening her eyes while realization sunk in before Jamie could say anything.

“Because we’re having a bairn, mo chridhe. And the wee thing is as strong as his mam,” Jamie answered proudly. “I’ve been watching over the two of ye since ye came out of surgery and his heartbeat has’na faltered once.”

“We’re having a baby…” It came out as more of a statement than a question and Jamie took her chin between his thumb and index finger and gently turned her to face him.

“Aye, we are.” The nervousness that had settled in his wife’s eyes seemed to melt away as she saw the love and happiness in her husband’s face.

“And are you happy?” Claire asked nervously, not sure of what to expect. They had briefly talked about a family, but that felt like years ago, when in reality it had only been a couple of weeks. Claire still had two years left on her contract and they had yet to hear what Jamie’s current situation was.

“I was nervous at first, ye ken? But this bairn is a gift from me tae ye. I’m verra happy, Sassenach!”

Claire pulled his face down so their lips could meet and she kissed him passionately, just as Ian re-entered the room.

“Christ! Can the two of ye no’ stop playin’ tonsil hockey for five seconds?! Claire, yer soup will get cold, if'n ye don't come up for air soon.”

Jamie and Claire chuckled, and allowed their lips to part, but they kept their foreheads against one another. Speaking in a voice only loud enough for Jamie to hear, Claire added, “And a gift from me to you.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-44

LRMC - Germany

Jamie helped Claire sit up as Ian arranged her food on the table that could be rolled across her bed.

“Just as ye asked fer Claire…wheat toast with chicken and wild rice soup. Jamie, here’s yer burger. Smells delicious!”

“Thank you Ian. I really appreciate you getting some food for us. It worries me that Jamie has not been eating or taking care of himself.” Claire gave Jamie a stern look, “Especially since he is still recovering as well. Thank you for forcing what food you could down his gullet.”

Ian chuckled at that. "Not a problem Claire, after all what would my wife, his sister, say if I let him wither away?"

Jamie, clearly feeling the need to defend himself, chimed in. “How was I supposed tae eat, Sassenach, when I was sae worrit, I could barely keep food down? Dinna fash, though. My appetite is back with a vengeance!” Jamie smiled as he took a huge bit of his burger.

Claire gave a weak smile, before turning green and reaching for the nearest container to vomit in. Jamie jumped up, putting his burger and fries on her tray, as he rubbed Claire’s back and spoke soothing Gaelic to her.

“Are ye alright, mo chridhe?” Jamie asked soothingly.

“Jamie, darling, I know you need to eat, but please get that pile of grease out of here. The smell is not helping my morning sickness, which appears to happen all bloody day!” Claire’s teeth were clenched, as she tried to breathe in and out of her mouth and avoid smelling the burger and fries.

“Lass, I’m sorry! I’ll throw it out -,”

“No you won’t. You need to eat, but please take it outside.” Claire immediately put her hand up, as Jamie started to open his mouth. “I’ll be fine. Besides, Ian is here with me.” Claire looked over at Ian and smiled. Ian, clearly enjoying the show in front of him, nodded to Jamie.

“Go, mo charaid. I’ll stay with them.”

Jamie looked from Ian back to his wife, clearly at war with himself. Claire smiled at her husband. “Jamie, I love you and your child loves you, but if you do not get that burger out of her in the next five seconds, I will be vomiting again and everyone is going to lose their appetite.”

Jamie grabbed his food and rushed out of the room. With the pile of grease gone, Claire leaned back on her pillows and inhaled deeply a small smile spreading across her face.

“Ian, would you be kind enough to hand me a small glass of water? I would like to rinse my mouth and then try some of that toast.”

Ian obliged and in the next few minutes, Claire was nibbling on her wheat toast while conversing freely with Ian.

“Any word on your status Ian? Of course you will be medically discharged, but do you know when?”

“I have’na heard yet. The doctors and therapist here are pleased with my progress, but would like to send me home with a better prosthetic.”

“I can see you are making wonderful progress. You can hardly tell. Back in the States, resources for veterans can be scarce and I am not familiar with what is located near Saratoga Springs. I still wish-”

“Claire, enough of that now. Ye saved my life, I may be a little slower now, but at least I’m still here. Now, there’s a naval medical facility, but ye ken how weel the Army & Navy get along.” Ian winked at her. “Besides, I have a bit more work tae do with Dr. Grey. I’m sure he’ll stop by tae see ye both soon. Jamie and John have struck up quite a friendship.”

“Dr. Grey?” Claire knew she had head the name, but couldn’t quite place it.

“Aye, the psychiatrist on campus here. I started seein’ him first and then Jamie started going not long ago.” Ian paused, thinking something over, before he continued. “I ken it’s no’ my business, but after Jamie started talking tae Dr. Grey, he really started tae come around.”

Claire smiled. “I’m happy to hear that!”

Just then Jamie reappeared, but hesitated by the door. “Can I come in, Sassenach? I scarfed the food down and then ran tae my room to wash my hands and brush my teeth. There should’na be any trace of that smell on me.”

“You bloody Scot! Of course you can come in. That was very sweet of you to go to those lengths.”

Jamie walked in and sat back down by Claire’s side and immediately grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss. He then glanced at her tray and notice that two of the four pieces of toast were gone and half of her soup.

“Ye’ve done a braw job with yer food mo nighean donn! How are ye feeling?”

“Like I would like to eat another piece of toast and then nap for a bit,” Claire answered honestly.

“Then I’ll be taking my leave for the evening,” Ian smiled as he stood up. “It’s great tae see ye awake and eating Claire.” He leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you for everything, Ian. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Ye can count on it!” Ian then turned to Jamie. “Ye ken John will be asking about the two of ye at my session tomorrow morning. May I share that Claire’s awake?”

“Aye. I ken Brigadier General Pardloe is still here and I would imagine he’ll want to check on Claire as well.”

Claire choked on a small piece of toast and as Jamie went to pat her back, she raised her hand to stop him and then coughed a few more times and took a drink of water. “What is Pardloe doing here?!”

“He came to check on ye…and us,” Jamie gestured towards Ian. “Dr. Grey is Pardloe’s brother, sae it was’na just business that brought him here.”

“I see,” Claire murmured.

“What is it, Sassenach?”

Claire looked at Jamie and then down at her hands in her lap. She brought a piece of toast up to her mouth and took a bite, giving herself a few more minutes before answering. “I’m not looking forward to having to give my account of what happened on the mission,” Claire answered quietly.

Jamie knelt down next to her and took her chin gently in his large hand, turning her face towards him. “I ken that, mo chridhe. Ian and I ken better than anyone, but ‘tis part of yer job. Dougal was no’ only reckless with the team, but he knowingly put ye in danger, and fer that…he must be punished. I’ll no’ let him get away with this, Claire, I promise ye that.” Jamie’s touch was gentle, but his words were filled with anger.

Claire nodded and closed her eyes and she rested her head against his.

“I’ll see you two in the morning, after therapy.” Ian bid them goodnight and closed the door behind him.

Claire and Jamie sat in silence holding hands, but there was clearly a charged energy in the room.

“I dinna want ye tae stress over this Claire. I’ll be by yer side through it all, just like ye were for me.”

“I know Jamie, but I don’t think I can tell the story in front of you. You weren’t even there and you are ready to tear your uncle limb from limb. You once told me that you could bear pain yourself, but not mine. I feel the same way. I don’t want to be responsible for that look in your eyes when I have to recount what happened on that mission.”

Jamie placed his hand over her womb and stroked it with his thumb, never breaking eye contact with Claire. She placed her own hand over his. “It’s the three of us now darling. We cannot forget about this precious life we have created. We must listen to our doctors, but more importantly, we must listen to each other and respect the other’s decisions.”

“Yer right, Sassenach…of course. I’ve kent of the bairn for over a week. Ye have known for only a couple of hours, but already we love him more than ourselves. The two of ye have my name, my family, and the protection of my body as well. No harm will come tae either of ye as long as I live.”

“I know that James Fraser and we are the luckiest lasses in the world.” Claire teased as she squeezed his hand.

“The bairn’s a boy, Sassenach.” Jamie gave her that owlish blink she had missed so much over the last few weeks.

“Oh love, the sooner you realize your wife is always right, the easier things will be.” Claire pulled his lips down to her and kissed him thoroughly.

After a couple of minutes, Jamie broke the kiss. “It’s been a long day Sassenach. Ye and the bairn need rest." He stood to help Claire lay her bed back down and assist her in maneuvering around the bed until she was comfortable.

“You’ll pull the cot over so you’ll be right next to us all night?”

“I would’na have it any other way.” Jamie smiled at his wife.

“Goodnight, darling.”

“G’night, mo ghraidh.”

 

Despite being checked on every couple of hours, Claire slept pretty well. Her vitals had stayed stable for over twenty-four hours and when Dr. Hildegarde came in for her morning rounds, she made her pleasure over Claire’s well-being quite known. Dr. Hildegarde even mentioned being able to take Claire’s bandage off in a few days. She stayed for about twenty minutes, so they could all catch up, before excusing herself to finish her rounds.

As she reached for the door handle, she pulled away briefly and turned back to Jamie and Claire. “I didn’t want to mention this, but I don’t see how much longer I can put it off.”

“What is it, Mother Hildegarde?” Claire sat up a little straighter in bed, concerned at the look on the older woman’s face. Jamie had a firm grasp on Claire’s hand.

“Lt. Colonel Gowan stopped by early this morning. Seems word traveled rather quickly that Dr. Beauchamp was awake and doing plutôt bien.”

Claire stiffened next to Jamie…she knew what this meant. Gowan wanted her statement.  Jamie, always attuned to his wife’s emotions, squeezed her hand and brought it up to his lips for a quick kiss.

“He wants my statement.” Claire stated.

Oui ma chérie, I am sure that is what he wants. I told him that you were not ready for that yet.”

“I’m not sure I will ever be ready,” Claire whispered.

“Aye, ye will Sassenach,” Jamie whispered back.

“I shall leave you two alone. If you need anything, just call for me.”  Dr. Hildegarde opened the door to leave.

Claire looked to Jamie for reassurance, which he gave in a small nod. Claire responded with a small nod of her own. “Mother Hildegarde?” Claire called.

Oui?”

“In your trusted opinion, am I medically sound enough to handle the Lt. Colonel’s questions?”

Excusez-moi?”

“Is there any medical reason as to why I should put off meeting with Lt. Colonel Gowan?”

“Well…no, but -”

“Then please tell him I will be available this afternoon after lunch.” Claire requested.

“Are you sure, Sassenach?” Claire turned towards Jamie and was immediately swept into those ocean blue eyes.

“We will never truly be able to start our lives with this constantly hanging over us. If I’m medically cleared to answer these questions, then I want to get it out of the way.”

“Yer a brave wee thing, mo nighean donn. If ye are ready tae do this, I will support ye.”

Claire turned back to Dr. Hildegarde. “Will you ask Lt. Colonel Gowan?”

“If that is what you wish ma chérie, then oui.”

“Thank you Mother Hildegarde.”

The doctor nodded and then left the room. Claire turned to Jamie, who immediately took his wife’s face into his hands and kissed her on the forehead. The strength and warmth from his large hands enveloped Claire and she leaned into him, attempting to draw his strength into her own body.

“Is this a mistake Jamie?” Claire whispered.

“The truth will set ye free. Claire, ye can do this and I ken that by dinner tonight, ye will feel a weight has been lifted from yer shoulders.”

“I hope you’re right.”

 

The day passed slowly, especially since Claire wasn’t ready to get up and walk around. She still found that after about an hour, she was ready to rest. Jamie used this time to complete his exercises and maintain his own therapy regiment. Jamie was just wrapping up and attempting to put his shirt back on when he heard a gasp from behind him.

He quickly turned to see Claire pointing at him. “What, what happened to your back?! Why are there fresh bandages on them?”

Realization quickly set it as Jamie remembered that Claire had no idea Jamie had torn some of his stitches during his outburst.

Och, that? It’s noth-”

“If you tell me it’s nothing, James Fraser, I swear I will get out of this bed and force you into it so I can examine your back.”

The tone in Claire’s voice made Jamie believe every word she had said. “Alright, alright Sassenach, but ye have tae promise me that ye’ll listen and no’ get upset. Can ye do that?”

“That depends on what you tell me, now doesn’t it?” Claire crossed her arms and leaned back against the pillows.

“John, Dr. Grey ye ken, tried verra hard to let Pardloe in on the mission Dougal had planned. There was something about the way ye were acting on our call that day that had me worrit and I ken my uncle better than anyone. He was up tae something and John could tell I was upset at our session that morning.”

Jamie paused and looked up to Claire, who simply nodded and motioned with her hands for him to continue.

“So I told John what I was thinkin’ and he put two and two together that I had been stationed at his brother’s base. He offered to reach out and share what I had told him, to see if Pardloe kent why a doctor would be going on the mission.” Jamie’s hands fisted at his sides and he began to pace a bit. “Of course, Pardloe had no clue that Dougal was planning a mission. He had been assigned to desk duty, while our mission was under investigation.”

At this revelation, Claire uncrossed her arms. “Seriously?! He was on desk duty?”

“Ye did’na ken?”

“No! We aren’t usually privy to that type of information. We only hear it from the soldiers who come in, but after your mission…”

“After my mission what?”

“After your mission, I had a hard time focusing. I didn’t really pay attention to anyone or anything for that matter. I was worried sick about you! So no, I had no clue that Dougal wasn’t supposed to be going on any more missions!”

“Weel, John tipped Pardloe off in time, or so we thought. By the time he got over to the hangar, the bird was gone.”

“So that’s why we left earlier than scheduled,” Claire said to herself.

“What?” Jamie turned back to face Claire.

“Right after I got off the phone with you, Dougal came in and said to grab my things, we were leaving. We weren’t supposed to leave for a few more hours, but since this was new to me, I didn’t think much of it, so I grabbed my bags and got in the blackhawk.”

Jamie resumed his pacing and was mumbling to himself in Gaelic. As Claire watched him, she realized that if he had been a cartoon, smoke would have been coming out of his ears and he would have been up to his knees in the floor from wearing it down with all that pacing. At that image, she let out a small giggle.

Jamie jerked around. “What’s sae funny?”

Clearing her throat, Claire composed herself. “Nothing, really. I was just picturing you with smoke coming out of your ears.”  Jamie looked at her, confused.  "You know? Like in the cartoons when they get really upset?”

“Aye,” Jamie’s fist unclenched and he sat back down next to Claire and took her hand.

“So what does all of this have to do with your back, Jamie?”

“Oh right. Weel, after we were unable to stop Dougal from taking ye on the mission, I lost it and decided to um…um, punch a tree.” Jamie looked at the floor.

“You what?!”

“I could’na exactly hit another person Claire, so a tree felt like the next best thing.” Jamie stood and shoved his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants.

“Christ Jamie! I get that you were upset, but to be so careless that you would risk opening up all those incisions? That was just reckless!”

“Reckless?! RECKLESS ye say? I did it because I was grieving fer ye! I did’na ken if I would see ye again Claire!”

Claire had pushed herself up and was sitting on the edge of the bed. She was attempting to stand up when Jamie rushed over to her. “What the hell do ye think yer doing woman? Ye canna be getting out of bed!”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie! I will bloody do what I want to do!” Claire stood up and glared into her husband’s eyes. “It’s not just you anymore! Our actions have consequences…trust me, I understand that now too.”

They were both huffing and puffing, Claire with her fists clenched and Jamie had a tight grip on both of her arms. They were glaring at each other, until Jamie pulled her to him and forcefully kissed her. Claire pushed off his chest, but Jamie’s grip tightened.

“If I ever thought I was goin’ tae lose ye again, I would do a hell of a lot worse then punch a fucking tree!” Jamie pulled her to him again and kissed her hard.

When Claire was able to pull away, she punched Jamie in the chest. “You’re a brute and fool!”

“Aye, I may be those things, but my wife is as hard-heided as they come. We make quite a pair…feared even more than Bonnie & Clyde.” Jamie’s lip curled ever so slightly, but enough that Claire noticed and she immediately touched the part of his chest that she punched.

“I’m sorry I punched you. I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Her whisky-colored eyes were no longer full of fire, but of tenderness.

“Yer a braw lass Sassenach, but I would be more concerned that ye hurt yer own delicate hands, than damaging me.” He double-eyed blinked at her. “Can ye forgive me, mo chridhe? I came at ye like a mad man.” He leaned down and kissed her tenderly on the lips.

“I rather liked that part,” Claire blushed. “And as much as I would love to continue this,” she gently reached down and cupped her husband firmly, “I definitely need to clear doing that with Mother Hildegarde.”

“Aye,” Jamie said, his voice full of lust as he reached around and took two fistfuls of his wife’s round ass "Soon mo chridhe, but we'll no rush yer healing just to tame my cockstand. Ye and the bairn will always come before my comfort."

Just then, there was a knock on the door and the two sprang apart from each other like two teenagers left home alone and caught by their parents. When no one entered immediately, Jamie called out. “Who is it?”

“Lt. Colonel Ned Gowan, sir.”

Claire inhaled sharply. Jamie looked at his wife, but quickly replied. “Yessir. Just give us a moment.”

Claire had started to tremble and Jamie placed her hands on his forearms and he held on to her elbows.

“I’m not sure I can do this Jamie,” her voice shaking.

“Yer the bravest woman I know, Claire. To kent that our bairn has the fiercest Mam in the world makes my heart fit tae burst. I can stay here with ye, or leave ye with the Lt. Colonel…it’s yer choice.”

“I want you…I need you with me, but swear to me James Fraser, that no matter what you hear me say, you will keep that bloody Scottish temper of yours in check or you will be dealing with me when this is over. And don’t think you’ve escaped a thorough checking over. Can I assume that the new bandage on your hand has something to do with the tree?” Claire put on her bravest face and raised a menacing eyebrow at her husband.

Jamie had the good sense to look sheepish at her question. “Yes ma’am.”

Jamie assisted Claire back on to the bed and ensured that she was properly covered. He fluffed her pillows so she was sitting upright and could feel as authoritative as possible, given the circumstances.

With a final kiss from her husband and a deep breath, Claire folded her hands in her lap and looked at the door. “Let the Lt. Colonel in and let’s get this bloody well over with.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-45

LRMC - Germany

Jamie opened the door and Lt. Colonel Gowan extended his hand, which Jamie shook firmly.

“It’s good to see ye up and moving about lad.  The last time we spoke, ye were still layin’ flat in the bed.”

“Yessir.  I’m doing much better, thank ye fer noticing.  Let me introduce ye to my wife, Dr. Claire Beauchamp/Fraser.”

Jamie escorted Gowan over to Claire’s bedside, where she sat up straight and extended her own hand.

“Pleased to meet you sir.  My apologies for not standing up.”  Claire gestured to all the wires running along the bed to various machines stationed nearby.

“Please Dr. Fraser, no apologies are needed.  I must say, I was a wee bit surprised that Dr. Hildegarde sought me out to let me know that you were ready to speak with me.  She initially said ye needed more time.”

“I have known Dr. Hildegarde since medical school, and I believe she was just being protective, no harm meant.  Considering the circumstances, I’m feeling quite well, thank you.  My husband and I would like to put this matter behind us.  I thought it would be best for us to speak sooner rather than later, get it over with.”

“Aye of course.”  Gowan looked toward Jamie, “Will ye be staying for the formal interview.”

“Yessir.  I fully support my wife’s decision to speak with ye today, but if at any time I think that she is in danger from the stress or anxiety of having to relive the mission, then I will be the one asking ye tae leave…sir. I will’na risk the life of my wife or my unborn child.”  Jamie sat stoically next to Claire’s bed and kept her hand between his the entire time he spoke.

“Unborn child?  Am I to understand that Dr. Fraser is with child?”  Gowan looked from Jamie to Claire.

“Yessir, we are.  It came as quite a surprise, but these types of things typically do.”  Claire smiled at her husband.  “We are quite happy about it, but the baby is just another reason why I would like to put all of this behind us.”

“Congratulations to you both!  I can certainly understand why you would want to move along with this process.  I will do my best, but you do understand that the purpose of today is to simply gather your account of what happened on the mission with Major General McKenzie.  The information you provide Dr. Fraser, will be added to what we have heard from Cpl. Rupert McKenzie and Cpl. Willie McKenzie.  Ye are aware that Cpt. Mohr did not survive his injuries, correct?”

Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand and there was an increase in the frequency of the beeping coming from the machine monitoring Claire’s vitals.  Jamie glanced at the screen and then back to Claire, looking for some reassurance that she and the baby were ok.  She smiled at him weakly and turned back to the Lt. Colonel.

“Yessir, I am aware of that.  I was the first to treat Cpl. Mohr, on the bird and inside the compound.”

“That coincides with what both Cpl. McKenzies told us, along with Major General McKenzie, but I believe we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Please start at the beginning, when you were still on the base,” Gowan encouraged.

Claire asked Jamie for a glass of water, which he quickly handed her.  She took a long drink before adjusting herself on the bed. Taking Jamie’s hand back in hers, she looked directly at Lt. Colonel Gowan.  “I will tell you every bloody detail, but I hope you are listening, sir, because I will not be telling this story twice.”

Lt. Colonel Gowan smiled knowingly at Claire.  “Understood, Dr. Fraser.  I know this may be very difficult and we can take a break as often as you need if necessary.  Also, may I ask ye tae call me Ned?  I would like us to speak freely with each other and I find that dropping the formalities can make it an easier and smoother conversation.”

“Thank you…Ned.  Please call me Claire,” was all Claire managed to say before looking at Jamie one more time.  In the space of a heartbeat, they carried out an entire marital conversation.

Ye can do this Sassenach.  I’m here, draw strength from me.  It's the three of us now. What ye carry is too much for one person to bear, share it with me. 

I cannot do this without you Jamie.  Please give me the strength I need to recount the horrible events of that day.

They nodded to each other and Claire turned back to Ned and started from the beginning.

 

Since deciding to speak with the Lt. Colonel, Claire had been going over every interaction she had had with General McKenzie since she had left Jamie in Germany.  It had occurred to Claire that Dougal’s offers to watch over her and ensure her well-being were more than likely misplaced.  That was where she started her recount to Ned.  Jamie sat next to her, stroking the back of her hand, but she could feel him tense when she mentioned certain accounts or conversations she had had with his uncle.

That fucking bastard , Jamie thought to himself. After listening to Claire tell Ned how Dougal had offered to watch over her while he was in Germany. Even going as far as to promise arranging for Claire to be transferred back to the states to finish out her contract. Jamie was seething.  If I ever see that man again, I swear I’ll tear him apart Christ!  I wonder what this’ll do tae Mam?  I ken she’s never been fond of the man, since he became one, but he is her brother.

Claire had reached the point in her re-telling of the mission, where Dougal had rushed into the Medical Tent, urging her to grab her things and leave a couple hours earlier than planned.  “Initially, I thought that was peculiar, after having spent time with Jamie leading up to his mission.  Of course, he was never able to divulge the intricacies of what they were planning, but Jamie had always said that for a mission to be successful things had to be timed out, practically to the minute, if not the second…leaving very little room for error.  I suppose I was naïve, this being the first time I had ever left the base to go on a mission, and I certainly was not going to question the commanding officer of the mission.”

“Of course no’, my dear,” Ned said as he feverishly wrote down notes as to what Claire was saying.  “Did General McKenzie give any reason as to why ye had to leave earlier than planned?”

“No, he didn’t say, but he certainly was frantic.  Not the demeanor that I have seen from him in the past when leaving for a mission.  Looking back, I can assume he was trying to take off before Pardloe came to stop him, but I had no way of knowing that at the time.”

Ned was nodding along.  “And ye were not aware that McKenzie had been placed on desk duty?”

“No.  Jamie and I talked about that earlier.  If I’m being quite honest Ned, my mind was not focused on the mission at all.  My husband was half a continent away, recovering from major surgery, and I was beginning to feel the early effects of the pregnancy.  Of course I didn’t know it then, but looking back, that must have been why I was so ill at odd times during the day.  I had just assumed it was nerves. My first mission combined with orders to not tell anyone about it.”

At this brief lull in the conversation, Jamie jumped in.  “Are ye doin’ alright, Sassenach?  Perhaps a wee break…mebbe something tae eat and then ye could finish after lunch?”

Claire looked over to him and smiled.  “I could certainly use some more water and perhaps a couple pieces of toast?  That seems to be the only thing I’m keeping down lately.”

Thankful that he didn’t have to push, Jamie was relieved to see Ned stand up.  “This seems like a natural time to break.  After lunch, we can go over the mission itself, aye?  It’s about 11:30 now, would it be alright if I came back around 13:30?  Perhaps ye could even have a wee rest Claire.”

Claire smiled at the Lt. Colonel.  “That is very thoughtful of you, and yes, very much needed.  I appreciate your patience with me, Ned.  This next part of the story will be more difficult to recount, so a little rest and sustenance will go a long way.”

Ned patted Claire’s knee and nodded to Jamie, who stood as the Lt. Colonel made his way to the door.  “I’ll see ye two in a couple of hours.”  Then he closed the door quietly behind him.

“Ye did a braw job, mo chridhe !  I’m so proud of ye!”  Jamie leaned over and kissed Claire’s forehead.

“Thank you darling, but that was the easy part.  Having to relive the mission, step-by-step, is going to be difficult.”

“Aye, it will be, but I promise ye, it will be worth it when it’s all over.  And -,” Jamie stopped, looking down shyly.

“And…what?” Claire prodded.

“I dinna want tae push ye Sassenach, but I thought after ye were finished with Ned, I could introduce ye to John…Dr. Grey, ye ken?  Mebbe in a few more days, ye would want to speak with him,” Jamie paused, “about some of the stuff that has happened.”

Claire reached up to cup Jamie’s face in her palm.  “I think that would be a good idea,” she smiled.  “I know I encouraged you to speak with someone, and I have started to have flashbacks that are causing me to wake-up.”

Jamie pulled back to look at Claire, a slight bit of alarm showing on his face, but she reached for him again and he came back to her.

“Nothing quite awful yet, but I know they are building.  Not an hour goes by that I don’t think about Angus and what else I could have done for him while in the compound.”

“Don’t do this tae yerself Claire, ye had a concussion, and ye were hardly fit tae be caring fer anyone. Ye heard Mother Hildegarde, is a miracle ye were conscious as long as ye were.” 

“I know that, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  Plus, I think it would be good if I could talk to someone and fully explain my feelings.  You are my husband and due to the nature of our jobs, we may have secrets, but not lies.  I need to be able to express some of the survivor’s guilt I’m feeling and not worry about how you may react to it.  Does that make any sense?”

“Two months ago, Sassenach, I would have said no, but now…I understand better than anyone what it means to be able to speak with someone. Someone who is’na goin’ tae judge ye fer how ye feel.  Someone who encourages ye to let out those selfish emotions.  I’ll set ye up with John later today or tomorrow, but right now…” Jamie reached down and caressed her womb with his large hand.  “Ye and the bairn need some food and a wee rest.”

“I cannot argue with that,” Claire smiled.

 

After a light lunch of some toast and more soup, Jamie urged Claire to rest.  He could see the exhaustion in the lines of her face and was thankful she didn’t argue.  While she rested, Jamie went through his therapy regiment and was pleased to notice that he was progressing.  Certain stretches no longer caused as much discomfort as they once did.

I’ll need tae get with Phaedre and see how we can adjust my regiment , he thought to himself with a smile.

Just then, there was a light knock on the door.  Jamie looked at the clock, which read 13:29.  “Leave it to a serviceman to be right on time,” he mumbled, realizing that Claire was still dozing.  He hated to rouse her for this, but also knew how important it was for her to get it over with.

Jamie went over to the door and greeted Ned.  “Can ye give me a few minutes to wake her up?  Perhaps ye could grab some tea and biscuits?”

“That’s a braw idea!  I’ll return in about fifteen minutes,” Ned declared and turned towards the cafeteria.

Jamie made his way back over to his wife’s bed and took a moment to watch her sleep.  They had both been so exhausted these past couple of days, that he realized he hadn’t taken any time to simply stare at her and take her in.  She seemed so frail lying in that bed, and pale…practically the color of the sheets.  Claire had always been fair, but the slight glow that the desert sun had given her, made her skin radiant.  “I need tae get ye out in the fresh air, mo ghraidh .  I think it would do wonders fer ye,” Jamie whispered.  He continued to watch her face, noticing the twitching of her eyes increase some and that crease between her eyebrows grow deeper.  He could see her transitioning into a state of unrest, right before his eyes.  Hoping to spare her any additional pain, Jamie leaned over and gently rubbed her furrowed brow with his thumb while cradling her cheek in his palm and whispering to her.

“It’s alright, Sassenach.  I’m here…just open yer eyes and ye’ll see that yer with me.  No harm will come tae ye.”

Claire’s head rolled slightly on the pillow, but her eyes fluttered open.  “Jamie?”

“Aye, I’m here.”

“What time is it?”

“It’s 13:33.  Ned was already here, punctual bastard,” Jamie smiled.  “I asked him to grab ye some tea. He’s coming back in about fifteen minutes.”

“Tea,” Claire sighed, breathlessly.  “That sounds heavenly.  I haven’t had a cup of tea since…we’ll, I’m not really sure.  The base only had coffee.”

Jamie smiled, pleased to know that something so simple would please his wife.  They spent the next few minutes enjoying each other’s company and talking to the baby.  They were still in disagreement over the sex of the child, but thankfully there was a knock on the door, prompting them to drop that argument for now.

Jamie kissed Claire, before going to let Ned back into the room.  He nodded at the Lt. Colonel, as he took the tray from his hands.

“How was yer rest, Claire?  I hope some tea and wee snack will be appreciated.”  Ned smile at Claire.

“They certainly will be Ned, thank you!  I haven’t had tea in quite a long time.  Did you happen to bring any cream or sugar?”

Ned smiled at her, “Both!”

“Bless you Lt. Colonel.”  CLaire reached over and poured herself a cup of tea, then looked to Ned to see if he would like one as well.  He nodded and she poured him a cup and passed it over.  Claire then looked to Jamie, who declined, but quickly took a couple of biscuits off the plate.

“I should have thought you would rather have the biscuits than the tea,” Claire teased her husband.

“Nonsense, Sassenach.  I do appreciate a good cup o’ tea every now and then, but no’ today.”  Hoping to elicit a slight giggle from Claire, Jamie gave her one of his infamous double-eyed blink.  When he was rewarded with the sound he had hoped for, Jamie motioned for Ned to reclaim his seat, while Jamie sat down next to Claire’s bed.

The three sat in companionable silence for a few minutes appreciating their afternoon snack.  As Claire took another sip of her tea, she rubbed her hand across her abdomen and for a moment, she forgot where she was and why she was here.  It simply felt that she was enjoying afternoon tea.  The thought startled her and she put her cup of tea down a bit more firmly than she had intended.

“Are ye alright, Sassenach?  What’s amiss?”  Jamie reached for her, but she shook him off.

“I was just thinking I shouldn’t be sitting here enjoying afternoon tea, while my fellow soldiers are out in the field.”

Before Jamie could contradict his wife’s statement, Ned jumped in.  “And do ye no’ think that ye have’na served yer country, as they continue tae do?  Everyone’s journey is different, Claire, but no’ less important.”

Claire was looking down in her lap, but nodded slightly at that.  Watching this interaction made Jamie even more certain that it was time for Claire to speak with John.

“Are ye alright tae continue with your recount Claire?”  Ned asked gently.

“I suppose so.”

“Good, so let’s begin with when ye got to the compound.”

Claire spent the next several minutes telling Ned everything that had happened.  Her eyes were closed for most of it, as if she was physically walking through the compound again and it pained Jamie to see the expressions change on her face throughout the re-telling.  Claire had just gotten past the point where the grenade had gone off and Angus had shoved her out of the way, while throwing himself in front of her.  She had a death grip on Jamie’s hand at this point, and he squeezed back.  She looked at him, with tears in her eyes.

Ye can do this mo chridhe.  I’m right here, dinna let go.

He’s dead because of me, Jamie.  Angus saved me, and in turn, got himself killed.

“And what happened after that Claire?”  Ned’s voice caused her to look in his direction.

“For the next few minutes, I’m not really sure.  I must have been unconscious briefly, but when I came to, there was quite a bit of shouting.  I could hear Rupert, as he was yelling at Angus to get up, but of course Angus never moved.  But then-,” Claire stopped.

“But what?” Ned prompted.

Jamie gave his wife a questioning glance, but Claire was having trouble meeting his gaze.  “But what, mo nighean donn ?  Why did ye stop?”

Claire brought her eyes up to Jamie’s.  “I didn’t tell you this part before, but I want you to remember what you promised me Jamie.  You promised that if you stayed here with me, during the re-telling of the mission, that you would not get upset.  Now, I know you are a man of your word James Fraser, and I ask you again…will you be able to keep your temper in check as I finish up the details of this mission?”

Jamie was taken aback, unaware of what Claire could possibly say that would make him any more upset than he already was at the situation or with his uncle.  He knew he couldn’t get up and leave now.  What kind of man or husband would that make him?  No, whatever Claire was getting ready to say, he would just have to sit here and do his best to keep himself calm.

“Ye have my word, Claire.  Please, let’s just finish sae we can move past this.”

Claire nodded and looked back to Ned.  “I came to after a few minutes and saw Dougal and Rupert arguing with each other in the doorway we had come through.  I heard Rupert yell ‘No way in hell am I leavin’!’ and then that was when he turned towards me and tripped over Angus.  Rupert tried to rouse Angus, but when he didn’t respond, Rupert called over to me for help.  I tried to shake off the fog that had settled in my brain, and made my way over to them.  I knew there was no way that I would be able to help get Angus on the chopper, so after a brief assessment, I asked Rupert where Willie and Dougal were.  We needed to get Angus out of there and quickly, but I couldn’t see them anywhere.”

Claire paused and looked back at Jamie, who had an expression on his face that she hadn’t seen before.  She couldn’t tell if he was confused or angry, but whatever the look was, she knew it was only going to morph into rage with what she was about to say.

Claire turned back to Ned.  “I asked Rupert, again, where Willie and Dougal were but he still wouldn’t answer me.  I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and forced him to look at me, while I screamed for Willie and Dougal.  ‘They aren’t coming,’ Rupert said.  I must have looked confused because that was when he said, ‘General McKenzie told me to leave you and Angus and to get my ass on the bird.’”

Jamie stiffened in the chair next to Claire and he let go of her hand before clenching his own into a fist.

“Jamie, you promised.” Claire whispered.

He whipped his head in Claire’s direction.  “Aye, I did, but that was before ye said that my uncle…yer commanding officer, told another member of the team tae leave two of ye behind.”

“I can see this is going to be quite difficult, on many levels, but Claire…I need you to be certain.  Rupert told ye that General McKenzie instructed him to leave both ye and Cpl. Mohr behind?”

“Yes Ned.  That is exactly what I said.  That was when Rupert hauled Angus up, threw him over his shoulder, and yelled for me to follow him.  When we made it outside, Willie was arguing with Dougal and when he saw us, he broke away and rushed over.  He helped Rupert get Angus onto the bird and then reached out to pull me up as well.  The blades were already moving, so had we been a minute or two later, we truly would have been left behind.”

Am bastard fucking sin. Reubaidh mi a bhuille bhon bhall e, agus an uairsin gearraidh mi a chridhe a-mach agus bheir mi dha na madaidhean-allaidh e. ” Jamie hissed through his teeth as he stood up to pace around the room.  Seeing the look on Ned’s face, Jamie quickly straightened up.  “My apologies sir.”

“None needed.  I canna say I disagree with ye, but my job is to gather and present the evidence.  I will say that Claire’s statement is directly in line with both Cpl. McKenzies accounts.”

That seemed to upset Jamie further.  It wasn’t that he had doubted his wife, but a part of him had hoped that due to her concussion, she had remembered it wrong.  As he paced, he saw Ned lean over to Claire.

“We’re done Claire.  Thank ye fer giving me yer account of the events.  I ken it was’na easy, but ye are brave.  Yer wean is lucky tae have such strong parents.  If ye’ll excuse me, I will take my leave now.  I will be in touch with you both when we are ready to move forward.”

“Thank you Ned.” Claire said softly.

Ned showed himself out and when the door closed there was a deafening silence in the room.

“Jamie?” Claire called to him tentatively, but he did not turn around.  “Jamie, please.”

“Claire, I made ye a promise and I will’na break it.  But what ye just told Ned?  I canna forget that, no forgive it.  My uncle will pay for what he did tae ye…and before ye say that he did’na actually do it, yer wrong.  As commanding officer, it’s his job to ensure that all members of the team make it back to base…dead or alive.  He made the choice tae leave ye and I canna respect that.”

Claire nodded.  “I understand and agree with you, but Jamie…I can’t have this hanging over my head for the next few months.  I know we’ll have to deal with it again, but in the meantime I want to be able to focus on my own health as well as the health of the baby.”

Jamie came back over to Claire’s bed and sat on the edge of it.  “I’m sorry, Sassenach.  I’m just sae angry and hurt.  I canna help tae think what this will do tae my mam.  He’s her brother after all, whether she gets along with him or no’.”

“I know darling, but speaking of your mother, perhaps we should try to call them after dinner?  We could share our news with them and end this day on a happier note.”  Claire smiled at her husband.

“That’s a braw idea, mo chridhe .  I would like nothing more than tae end this day on a happier note and I canna think of anything better than telling my mam she’s going tae be a granny!”  Jamie leaned over and gave his wife a gentle, but thorough kiss, which went on longer than either of them intended to.

Claire hummed against Jamie’s lips as he started to pull away, but she grabbed his face in her hands and kept their foreheads touching.  “And remind me tomorrow to have that conversation with Mother Hildegarde.  I’m not sure how much longer I can be in the presence of my handsome husband and not have his hands roaming my body.”  She then ran her tongue across Jamie’s bottom lip.

“I ken what ye mean Sassenach.  I crave yer touch as well, but I fear that beautiful round arse of yer’s is dwindling with all this morning sickness.  What can I get ye for dinner?”

“Are you concerned with the amount of nutrients your unborn child is receiving or the size of your wife’s ass, because I can assure darling, I’m only going to get bigger.” Claire smiled.

“Aye and ye’ll be the most beautiful woman in the world  Of course, I’ll probably spend most of my time walking behind ye, what with that glorious view and all.”  Jamie smiled and kissed her again.  “Now dinner?”

“Sometimes I cannot tell if you think more with your cock or your stomach.”

“Weel it’s tough tae say, but since only one will be getting any action tonight, I propose we focus on food Sassenach.”  Jamie raised his eyebrows at his wife.

“Of course Soldier,” Claire agreed, but not before she reached out and gave a playful squeeze of the previously mentioned cock.

Jamie’s eyes rolled back in his head and he moaned.  “Yer a tease, Sassenach.”

“Aye,” Claire mimicked.  “And my husband loves it.”

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-46

LRMC - Germany
Once Claire decided what she wanted for dinner, she encouraged Jamie to go over to the cafeteria and bring it back.

“Are ye sure, Sassenach? I dinna want tae leave ye.” Jamie’s brow was furrowed in concern.

“I’ll be fine darling, I promise,” Claire smiled at her husband. “Besides, after the afternoon I’ve had, a few minutes of peace all to myself sounds heavenly.” She closed her eyes and laid her head back on the pillows.

Jamie took a moment to look at his wife while her eyes were closed. He knew what it was like to have to go over every single detail of a mission, and it was always more difficult when things did not go as planned or a soldier paid the ultimate price. Jamie was well aware that a few moments to herself was probably exactly what Claire needed, but he just wasn’t ready to be away from her yet. What if something happened or she needed him?

Claire opened her eyes to find her husband looking at her thoughtfully. She smiled, perhaps the most genuine smile since she had come out of the coma, and patted next to her on the bed, beckoning her husband to take a seat.

“I will be alright you know,” Claire said quietly as she wrapped her hand around Jamie’s.

“I ken, but I just got ye back Sassenach. I canna bear tae be away from ye for even a moment.”

“You’ve been like my shadow ever since,” Claire whispered, “but if I’m to get better, I will have to do some of this alone. There are some things that no matter how much we talk about them, you cannot fix.” Seeing the look on her husband’s face, Claire cupped his cheeks and brought him closer, kissing him on the nose. “And that’s ok. Just like there are parts of your recovery that I cannot help you with.”

“Aye, I suppose yer right. But yer sure ye’ll be ok if I’m gone for about twenty minutes?” Jamie still looked concerned.

Keeping her frustration at bay, Claire simply nodded. She knew a bumpy road was ahead, but they could both start down it, tonight, by taking this small step. “We have to trust each other. Trust me when I tell you we’ll be ok…I'll be okay, just like I trust that you will go to the cafeteria and come right back.”

“Well when ye say it like that mo chridhe, it sounds sae simple.” Jamie smiled at his wife and kissed her knuckles. “Alright, I’m off then. Enjoy some peace and quiet and I’ll bring ye back some chicken, rice, and steamed vegetables. It warms my heart to hear ye ask fer more than just toast Sassenach.”

Just then, Claire’s stomach let out a low grumble. They both laughed and Claire added, “Then let’s stop talking about it and actually eat!”

 

After Jamie left, Claire laid her head back and closed her eyes. She took a deep, relaxing breath…probably the most relaxing breath she had taken in months. Her husband had only been gone for about five minutes, but that was long enough for Claire to feel some tension begin to leave her shoulders. She loved Jamie dearly, but this was the first that she was consciously aware of being alone. Alone in a private space, with a door, that wasn’t the latrine, in almost two years. Despite the hospital smell, Claire inhaled deeply again and smiled as she slowly blew out.

A girl could get used to this, she thought, but then heard the constant whooshing from the machine next to her and smiled. Or at least until you arrive, little love. Before I know it, Jamie and I will likely not have a moment to ourselves. Claire was thrilled with the pregnancy, despite it coming as a complete, unexpected surprise. Her heart did ache a bit, however, at the thought of not having as much alone time with her husband as she would have hoped for in the beginning of their marriage. Immediately feeling guilty for thinking that, Claire patted her still flat stomach and spoke lovingly to her unborn child.

“Had circumstances been different, my little love, your Da and I probably would not have had much alone time during our first few years of marriage anyway. You have come at just the right time and I cannot believe how much I love you already.”

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Leery of giving up her peace and quiet, Claire hesitated to answer, but then the door creaked open, just slightly before she could make up her mind, and Dr. Hildegarde stepped in the room.

“Oh Mother Hildegarde! What a pleasant surprise! Do come in.” Claire said enthusiastically.

Bonjour, ma chère! It looks like you are feeling well. I am surprised to see you here alone. That beau mari of yours rarely leaves your side, no?”

Claire laughed at that and nodded her head in agreement. “You are not wrong, Mother Hildegarde. Jamie just went to get us some food for dinner. I’m famished tonight and he was more than pleased to get me whatever I wanted.” Claire paused before continuing. “I spoke with Lt. Colonel Gowan this afternoon and was just enjoying a few moments of peace and quiet when you knocked.”

“Oh, je suis désolé! I did not mean to interrupt your solitude. I shall go and leave you with your thoughts.” Dr. Hildegarde turned to leave, but Claire pleaded with her to stay.

“It’s alright, Mother Hildegarde, really. Please don’t go. I was actually hoping to speak with you privately and this is the perfect time. I do not want to have to ask my husband to leave again. That would make him méfiant, no?” Claire winked and Dr. Hildegarde laughed.

“And what is it you wish to speak with me about privately?”

“Well,” Claire blushed, “I was hoping you could let me know when I would be able to…well you know, ummm…be intimate with my husband again?” Before Dr. Hildegarde could answer, Claire rushed on. “I know it hasn’t been very long, but I’m really feeling quite well Mother Hildegarde, despite the morning sickness, but that’s normal right? It’s just that I’m hooked up to so many -,” Claire stopped when Dr. Hildegarde put up her hand.

“Breathe ma chère. How can I answer your question when you keep rambling?”

Claire folded her hands into her lap and looked up to Dr. Hildegarde.

“It is true that you are doing remarkably well and I could not be more pleased with your progress. I actually stopped by to see if you were ready to be disconnected from some of the machines. Le bébé is doing quite well, so we can definitely take off the fetal monitor.”

Claire looked taken aback by that. “Are you sure?”

Oui! You are a doctor, Claire. You know that women do not walk around hooked up to fetal monitors. That was more so we could see how the child was doing while you were in the coma,” Dr. Hildegarde stated matter of factly.

“Of course, you're right Mother Hildegarde.”

“We do need to keep the IV going, to administer your antibiotics. I am quite pleased with the incision on your head, but I would like to keep you on antibiotics for at least three more days. I do not see any harm in removing the bandage however.”

Dr. Hildegarde stood and made her way to the head of Claire’s bed. She gently began to unwrap the large bandage that had been around Claire’s head for the past ten days. Claire hadn’t realized the amount of pressure that the bandage had been applying until it came off. She let out a contented sigh, as Dr. Hildegarde came around to the side to examine the incision once again.

Oui, it is healing rather nicely. Would you like to see ma chère?” Dr. Hildegarde had reached for a mirror that was laying on the counter and was handing it to Claire, who tentatively reached for it.

Claire closed her eyes and without looking, brought the mirror up in front of her face. It’s alright Beauchamp. You know they had to shave part of your head…small price to pay for your life, she was rationalizing with herself. Ok, on the count of three…one, two, three. Claire opened her eyes and let out a gasp. She was shocked by what she saw before her. Staring back from the mirror were the same amber-colored eyes she knew, but they were slightly sunken into her head and her skin was the palest she had ever remembered it being.

“I look like death warmed over,” Claire murmured.

“You look like a woman who has seen combat and lived to share their story, no?” Dr. Hildegarde responded quietly.

A single tear fell from each of Claire’s eyes and she closed them again, not wanting to see her own reflection. She placed the mirror face down in her lap and turned to Dr. Hildegarde. Without saying a word, a brief conversation passed between the two of them.

Will I ever look like myself again? Be the strong, confident doctor that I once was?

In time, ma chère…in time you will recognize yourself and be that woman once again.

“Perhaps Mother Hildegarde,” Claire was choosing her words carefully, “the question should be…when may I get up and start working on getting my strength back? Would small walks outside, in the fresh air, be ok?”

Dr. Hildegarde smiled. “Doctors can be the toughest patients, but you Claire, you were always able to determine the best course of action for your patients. To help them realize what it was that was best for them and why. It pleases me ma chère, that you are doing this with yourself.” She leaned over to kiss Claire on the cheek. “And in answer to your questions…yes, fresh air would do you a world of good.”

Just then the door opened and Jamie appeared. “I got everything ye asked for Sass-... oh, Dr. Hildegarde! I’m sorry, I did’na see ye there.” Jamie set the tray down on the counter and then turned towards the bed and froze.

Claire could see the look in his eyes as he took in her appearance. She immediately tried to bring her hands up to cover her face, but just as her eyes closed, she felt two large hands grasp her wrists and bring them back down to her lap. When Claire opened her eyes again, deep ocean blue eyes, brimming with tears, were staring back at her. “I know, Jamie! I’m hideous! I cannot possibly resemble the woman you-,”

“Hush, mo chridhe. I will’na hear talk of ye being ‘hideous’. Ye are the most beautiful woman in the world, Claire. I’m no’ crying because I think yer ugly…I’m crying because I’m just so grateful that ye are even well enough to take the bandage off.” Jamie cupped her frail face in his strong hands. “Hair will grow back Sassenach and your skin will shine once again. I dinna love ye fer yer looks, but for what’s in here.” Jamie removed one of his hands and placed it over her heart.

Claire covered his hand with her own, while allowing him to support her cheek as she relaxed into his touch. Several more tears slipped out of her eyes and fell down her cheek. Jamie used his thumb to wipe them away and then kissed her on the nose.

Dr. Hildegarde had made her way silently to the door, but said before she left, “I will check on you tomorrow Claire. And in answer to your other question…you will know when it’s time.” Then Dr. Hildegarde turned and left, closing the door behind her.

“What was that all about Sassenach?”

Claire smiled. “Nothing. Dr. Hildegarde was just letting me know that it would be ok to start getting up and moving around a bit every day. Between that and eating proper meals, I should start to regain my strength. Now, let’s eat…it smells delicious!”

 

Claire and Jamie enjoyed a quiet meal and he even surprised her with a piece of pound cake covered in strawberries. Seeing as how Claire loved strawberries and hadn’t had one in over two years, she savored each and every bite of her dessert. Once they had finished, Jamie cleared the dishes away and came to sit on the edge of Claire’s bed.

“I do not remember the last time I had a meal like that. I don’t think I could eat another bite if I tried.” Claire smiled contentedly as she rubbed her hand over her stomach.

“I’ll gladly feed ye like that every night mo nighean donn. I’m just sae happy to see yer appetite coming back.”

They sat for a few more minutes and then Claire raised herself up. “Before we call your parents, do you think you could help me walk, just around the room, for a minute?”

Jamie immediately got up and went to assist his wife. “Are ye sure Sassenach? Dr. Hildegarde said it was ok?”

“She did. She even said going for a walk outside would be ok, but for tonight, just around the room will do. I have been laying in bed for ten days, so we’ll take it slow, but I need to get up.”

Jamie smiled and slowly helped his wife to her feet. She had a death grip on his arm and he could feel her muscles trembling with each step, but the look of determination on her face was enough to keep him from protesting that she sit down. Christ, yer a braw wee thing Sassenach, he thought to himself.

They had just completed a second loop in the room when Claire spoke up. “Will you help me to the bathroom before I lay back down? I would like to wash my face with real water and not just a washcloth.”

Jamie nodded, but insisted on standing right behind her with his hands on her hips to keep her steady. As his wife washed her face and brushed her teeth, he watched every movement of her’s in the mirror. She eventually caught his eye and raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

Locking eyes with his wife, Jamie reached up to caress one of her cropped curls and gave a crooked smile. “Ye look like a boy Sassenach. Though damned if I’ve ever seen a lad with an arse like yours.” Keeping one hand on her hips to steady her, Jamie reached down to squeeze one cheek of the aforementioned arse.

“Thanks so much,” was all Claire managed to squeak out. It was the most absurd comment and had caught her completely off guard, yet it had tickled her to the marrow of her bones that her husband still found a way to make her feel sexy when she felt far from it. Emboldened by her husband’s comment, Claire pressed her arse into Jamie’s hand and shimmied enough to rub across his hardened cock.

Jamie inhaled sharply and grabbed her arse cheek tighter, while leaning over to whisper in her ear, “I told ye ye were a tease Sassenach.”

Leaning her weight back against his solid torso and tilting her head up, to expose her neck, while she nibbled on his earlobe, Claire replied, “And I told you, you like it.”

Knowing that she had the support of his entire body, Jamie removed the hand on his wife’s hip and brought it up to caress one of her breasts, which he immediately noticed seemed fuller and based on Claire’s reaction, more sensitive as well.

“Does it hurt, mo ghraidh? Tell me tae stop if it does.” His voice was husky in her ears and had Claire right on the edge.

Breathing heavily, Claire had brought her other hand up to caress her free breast as she panted for Jamie to keep going. With her other hand, she pulled up her hospital gown and reached for his hand that was on her arse.

“Claire, we should’na. Dr. Hildegarde-,”

“Dr. Hildegarde said when I’m ready, I would know. Now, based on this,” she took Jamie’s hand and guided his fingers through her slick arousal, “I would say I’m ready.” Her whisky eyes were filled with lust as she met his gaze in the mirror and bit her lip.

“Aye, ready ye are.” Jamie continued to run two fingers through her folds and Claire’s panting increased. Without realizing it, she had pushed her arse further back into his groin. “Christ lass, ye’ll be the death of me.”

La petite mort, no?” Claire pulled her hospital gown up further with one hand, fully exposing herself in the mirror, while reaching around behind her to stroke her husband’s now full erection.

Jamie quickly pulled his sweatpants down, giving his wife easier access and then untied the knot holding her gown around her neck. Pulling the gown away, and allowing his wife’s beautiful body to be on full display was almost enough to make him come on the spot. It had been a couple of months since he had seen her like this and no matter how hard he called to mind what she looked like, the images in his mind could never do her flesh justice.

Eyes locked in the mirror, Jamie moved his fingers closer to her entrance and slowly inserted one finger, as his thumb pressed lightly on her clit. He kept his eyes focused on her face, for any sign that she was in pain, but all he could see was pure ecstasy in her features. He continued to pump his finger in and out and then added a second, stretching her further. Claire let out a groan and stroked Jamie’s cock harder.

It had been weeks since they had been touched by one another and both knew this wasn’t going to last long. Tonight was not for being tender or truly worshiping one another…tonight was about coming together as husband and wife once again, and finding the release each knew the other needed. Jamie increased the pressure on Claire’s clit and began to rub circles, as a third finger entered and stretched her fully. The noises his wife made when he was pleasuring her began to fill the small bathroom and she was no longer in control of her own body. Leaning against him for support, Claire rode Jamie’s hand as the waves of pleasure began to overtake her. She released Jamie’s cock and put both hands on the sink to steady herself and lean into the pressure of his hand. This new angle had provided Jamie with some much needed friction as his cock glided along the crease of Claire’s arse.

Just as Claire reached her climax, she threw her head back and started to close her eyes when her husband’s voice filled her ears.

“Open yer eyes Sassenach and look down. Watch me claim ye and make ye mine.”

Claire opened her eyes and looked down as her husband’s large hand claimed her body and she was no longer in control. His hand brought her over the edge and as Claire rode the waves of her orgasm, she pushed her arse onto Jamie’s cock and started grinding her hips and Jamie followed close behind her.

Both stood in front of the mirror panting, and Jamie bent down to kiss along Claire’s collarbone. He could feel her trembling and he immediately wrapped one of his arms around her waist. “I’ve got ye, mo chridhe. Let me clean ye up.”

Claire reached for a washcloth and ran it under the warm water. She handed it to Jamie, who took it upon himself to wipe her whole body down before focusing on the areas that needed the most attention. He then bent down to pick up her hospital gown, but Claire shook her head.

“Let’s get a fresh one out of the drawer. Now that I’m sort of clean, I would feel better putting on a crisp gown.” Jamie smiled and helped his wife out into the room and fastened the fresh gown behind her neck. Then Jamie turned his wife towards him and claimed her mouth in a passionate kiss.

“I did’na get tae do that before,” he smiled into the kiss. “One of my favorite parts of making love tae ye Sassenach, is kissing ye.”

“Oh Jamie,” Claire looked at her husband with tears in her eyes. “Damn hormones. I seem to cry at everything these days.” Jamie wiped away her tears and kissed her on the forehead.

“Now, I thought we were ending the day on a happy note. Shall we call my parents or Lamb first?”

“I would say the day could end right now and I would be quite content,” Claire winked at her husband, “but I do want to share our news with the family. Would it be alright if we called Lamb first? I’m not sure when he was last updated.”

“Of course Sassenach! When I kent ye were coming here, I was crazy with grief, but I ken ye would want Lamb tae be aware of what was going on. I made a quick call tae him and told him that a doctor would follow up since I would’na be leaving yer side. Dr. Hildegarde has spoken tae him a couple of times, but I ken it was only to relay how ye were doing in regards to the brain injury. He kens nothing of the bairn.”

Weeping again, Claire reached out to grab her husband’s hands. “You thought of everything, didn’t you? Thank you for making sure he was kept up to speed. The last thing I would want is for him to worry, so you have no idea how much it means to me that you thought to contact him.”

“Claire, yer my wife and he’s yer family…my family. Of course I made sure he knew that ye were ok. Now, if yer going tae be crying all night while we share our news, then we best get started. This box of tissues is almost gone.” Jamie held it up and tossed it at her.

Claire laughed and moved over so there was room for Jamie to sit next to her on the bed. He grabbed the laptop and pulled up the contacts, selecting Quentin Lambert.

 

Skype rang only twice before Uncle Lamb’s face appeared on the screen. Claire immediately felt guilty for how run-down he looked. The amount of worrying he’s been doing, and all because of me. She tried to put on a cheerful face and immediately greeted him.

“Uncle Lamb!”

“Claire, darling? It’s really you! How are you my little love?” He had tears in his eyes, tears of joy at seeing his beautiful niece awake and talking to him.

“Now don’t start that, Uncle Lamb. Seeing you cry will of course start me crying,” Claire sniffled and Jamie handed her the box of tissues and kissed her temple, but that was only so he could whisper in her ear without being rude to Lamb.

“Christ lass, keep it together. We have’na even told him yet.” Jamie smiled at his wife, who elbowed him in the ribs.

“I was so worried about you darling. When Jamie first called…” Uncle Lamb paused, gathering himself. “It was the first time I ever thought that I might lose you. You are my whole life Claire-bear, and the thought of never seeing your beautiful smile or hearing your soothing voice, it was just too much.”

Claire was full out sobbing now and Jamie had to wrap his arm around her shoulders to keep her from shaking. He pulled the table over, that goes across the hospital bed, and placed the laptop on that, to keep it from bouncing in her lap.

“I’m so sorry I put you through that Uncle Lamb, truly I am. I would never want to upset you that much. There were…circumstances beyond my control, things I cannot discuss with you now, maybe ever, but trust me when I say that everything is going to be alright,” Claire promised her uncle.

“Just seeing you awake and talking to me is enough. How are you feeling?” Uncle Lamb was eager to change the subject and focus on the positives of Claire’s recovery.

“Surprisingly well! Mother Hildegarde took the bandage off my head just a little bit ago.” Claire blushed at the memory that flooded her brain of Jamie telling her how beautiful she was and all that it led to. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to fix my hair up a bit.” Claire reached up self-consciously.

“You look lovely darling. Actually, you're glowing, but that must be the hospital lights.”

“Actually,” Claire looked over at Jamie and smiled. “I might be glowing just a bit.” Jamie leaned in to kiss her temple again. “Uncle Lamb? You're going to be a GrandPappy! Jamie and I are pregnant!”

Uncle Lamb’s jaw dropped and began to sputter. “But…how, when…what does this mean?”

Jamie laughed. “Weel, we are’na quite sure what it means yet, in terms of her contract. We’ve had tae deal with some other things first. As fer when…,” Jamie trailed off.

“Nevermind that, son…I truly don’t need to know.” Uncle Lamb winked at Jamie, who flushed pink all the way to the tips of ears. “When did you all find out?”

“Well, I’ve only known for about three days,” Claire laughed.

“'Tis true. When they brought Claire over from the base, they assumed all the nausea and vomiting was from the head injury, but it turns out she’d been feeling peely-wally for a while before the mission.”

Claire interjected, “I assumed it was nerves.”

“Sae,” Jamie continued, “when Dr. Hildegarde felt it necessary tae do an ultrasound to check for other internal injuries, that’s when she heard the heartbeat.”

“The baby is doing quite well Uncle Lamb! I’ve been hooked up to a fetal monitor until about an hour ago. It’s still here in the room; would you like to hear the heartbeat?”

“Does an archaeologist like to play in the sand?! Of course I want to hear my grandchild’s heartbeat!”

Jamie laughed and got off the bed, to bring the monitor closer. Claire was smiling, ear-to-ear, and was the happiest and most relaxed that Jamie had seen her since she arrived at Landstuhl. She’s absolutely glowing and bursting with joy, he thought as he looked at his wife like she had hung the moon. He handed her the strap and Claire hooked up the monitor and the reassuring whooshes started up.

Uncle Lamb’s face took on a look of awe as Claire turned the laptop towards the monitor and he could see the baby’s heartbeat on the screen.

“He’s going to be a braw lad, don’t ye think Uncle Lamb?” Jamie gave his owl-eyed blink and Claire rolled her eyes.

“Yes, she’s quite healthy,” Claire was quick to add.

“Do I detect a bit of stubbornness between the two of you?” Uncle Lamb tried to keep a straight face, but he was so happy for his niece and her husband, that he couldn’t find it in his heart to be stern. “Of course, all that matters is that the child is healthy.”

“Of course, Uncle Lamb. You’re right, it’s just that Jamie is so sure the baby is a boy and my mother’s intuition says it’s a girl.” Claire rubbed her abdomen affectionately.

“What did your parent’s say Jamie? They must be over the moon about a grandchild.”

“Weel, we’ll find out soon. We’re calling them after you.” Jamie smiled.

“You…you called me first?” Lamb choked up a bit.

“Of course Uncle Lamb. I wanted to speak to you, see your face so you could see how well I’m doing.”

“Thank you, my little love. That means the world to me.” Lamb wiped his eyes and blew his nose in his handkerchief. “Well, I won’t keep you. I’m sure Ellen and Brian are anxious to hear from the two of you. Please tell them I am anxious to meet them. Claire, darling, take care of yourself and my grandchild. Do not push yourself too hard and give yourself grace while you are healing.”

“I will Uncle Lamb, I promise.” Claire blew him a kiss.

“And Jamie my boy, do take care of our girls will you?”

“Of course Lam-, wait!” It took Jamie a minute to catch on to what Lamb had said.

“Gotta run! Love you both!” And with a wave a kiss, Lamb disconnected the call.

“Weel, that wee -,”

“Choose your words carefully, James Fraser. That is our child’s GrandPappy you are talking about."

Jamie gave Claire a sideways glare, but quickly gave in. “Oh alright, but I dinna want tae be the only one who assumes the bairn’s a boy.”

“Well, let’s see what your parents have to say about darling.”

 

It only took a few minutes for the call to connect and Brian and Ellen’s faces to appear on the screen.

“Claire! A leannan! How are ye feeling?” Ellen was leaning in too close to the screen, as if she could hop right through it and be in the hospital room with Jamie and Claire.

“Mam, back up. I ken yer excited tae see us, but I dinna want tae see up yer nose.”

Brian gently pulled Ellen down next to him and squeezed her thigh. “She’s just excited tae see ye both.”

Claire couldn’t help but smile every time they spoke with Brian and Ellen. She couldn’t remember much about her parents’ relationship, but to see Brian and Ellen together, was watching love personified. To know that these two people now cared for her as if she was their own was enough to get the water works going again.

“Again, lass?” Jamie asked, while he handed her a tissue.

“Are ye alright Claire?” Ellen asked anxiously.

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Claire blew her nose before continuing, “I’m just so happy to see you both again.”

“Ye gave us quite the scare a leannan,” Brian added. “I’ve never seen my lad sae upset that he could’na do anything fer ye.”

Claire looked over to Jamie, who was looking down in his lap. He hadn’t wanted Claire to know the extent of his grief and worry when she had arrived at Landstuhl, but his dad had just put it out in the open for all to see.

“Thanks Da,” Jamie grumbled.

Claire reached for his hand and placed it over her womb, a silent message of reassurance from her and the baby. We’re here now…with you, and we’re ok.

“Yes, I’m sorry to have worried you all. There is so much I wish we could tell you, but you understand Army protocols.”

Ellen and Brian both nodded.

“But, after my debrief earlier today, I am feeling much better! Jamie and I are ready to start focusing on our future.” Claire smiled at her husband.

“Aye, we are.” Jamie smiled back and then looked at his parents. “Mam, any word on that property? Sae much has happened since I first asked ye tae look into it, I nearly forgot that we put an offer in.”

Ellen smiled and looked at Brian. “I’m glad ye asked mo mhac, I received a response from the realtor yesterday.”

Claire looked from her husband to her in-laws, then back to her husband. “What is she talking about Jamie? You put an offer in? On a house?”

Jamie blushed. “Aye Sassenach. Do ye remember me talking about the barn and what I wanted tae do when we get back tae the States?”

Claire furrowed her brow in thought. “Kind of, but that was right in the middle…of everything.”

“Weel, I put an offer in on some property that backs up to Mam and Da, with Jenny and Ian bordering us on the east. Several acres, a barn, and a house that could use a bit of work, but I’m looking forward tae it.” Claire turned back to Ellen, who looked as if she was about to burst.

“Well, please do not keep us in suspense, Ellen. What did the realtor say?”

“It’s yer’s!” Ellen blurted out. She was positively giddy on the other end and Brian was trying to keep her from jumping out of her seat.

“We have a house,” Claire whispered and then turned to Jamie. “We have a house!”

“Aye, mo chridhe, and just in time.” Jamie gave her that endearing double-eyed blink, then turned back to his parents.

“Da, Mam…we have some news,” Jamie started.

“Yer coming home!” Ellen did jump out of her seat this time, but Brian was quick to pull her onto his lap.

“Perhaps if I hold ye, mo ghraidh, ye’ll let the bairns tell us their news?” Brian raised a teasing eyebrow at his wife, who swatted his shoulder, but settled onto his lap just the same.

“Yes, Mam, we’re coming home, but we have not been given our orders yet so I dinna ken when and under what circumstances.”

“We will both most likely receive medical discharges. Jamie for certain, I could be transferred stateside for the duration, but until that happens, I do not want to get anyone’s hopes up.” Claire chimed in.

“Then what’s the news lad?” Brian looked at his son.

“The two of ye are going tae be grandparents…we’re pregnant!”

Ellen clasped her hands over her mouth and let out a shriek, jumping off of Brian’s lap and dancing around the living room.

“Congratulations! Claire, how are ye feeling?” Brian asked.

“I’m doing quite well, thank you. The baby is doing remarkably well and was monitored very closely while I was in the coma. She’s quite the fighter.”

“She?!” Ellen squeaked. “Do ye already ken it’s a wee lassie?”

“No Mam. Claire is just assuming it’s a lass. I truly think the wean’s a boy.” Jamie said proudly.

“Weel, it does’na matter…sae long as the bairn is healthy.” Ellen said firmly.

“Aye,” Brian agreed.

The four Frasers chatted for a bit longer, but after Claire tried to hide a jaw-cracking yawn, Ellen was the one to suggest ending the call.

“Ye and the bairn need rest, a leannan. Jamie, make sure she’s eating well and let the lass get some sleep,” his mother stated rather firmly.

“Yes ma’am.” Jamie chuckled.

“We’re thrilled by yer news mo mhac, but more importantly,” Brian turned his gaze to Claire, “that ye are up and feeling well mo nighean.”

“Thank you! I’m so happy to be able to share this news with you both. Please give Jenny our love and we’ll talk to you all in a few days.”

The two couples bid each other good night and then disconnected the call.

Claire leaned into Jamie’s shoulder and sighed contentedly. “What is it Sassenach?”

“For a day that started out so horribly, it sure ended perfectly.”

“I could’na agree more.” Jamie kissed his wife and rested his head against her forehead.

“We’ve taken the first step on the path to our future, Jamie. Tomorrow I would like to take the second…could you please introduce me to Dr. Grey?”

Jamie wrapped his wife into his arms and kissed the top of her head. “That’s a braw idea Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-47

LRMC - Germany
Claire woke up the next morning feeling more at peace than she had in weeks. With her official statement behind her and finally sharing their happy news with their families, Claire felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She stretched and was pleasantly surprised when she realized she was no longer hooked up to all the machines. She reached over to the table and grabbed a couple of crackers. She had started to notice that if she ate some crackers as soon as she woke up, the morning sickness wasn’t quite as bad. After a few crackers, Claire leaned back onto the pillows, smiled to herself, and rubbed her still flat abdomen.

“Yer lookin’ radiant this morning, mo chridhe.” Jamie was pushed up on his elbow and staring at his wife.

“Oh!” Claire exclaimed. “You startled me darling. I didn’t know you were awake.” She leaned over and Jamie met her halfway with a kiss. “How did you sleep?”

“Like I was dead tae the world. I did’na realize how much stress I had been holding in, by not tellin’ ye about the house or our families about the bairn. With everything out in the open, I slept like a rock.” Jamie gave her a lop-sided smile.

“I know what you mean. I slept better than I have in weeks,” Claire smiled back at her husband. “And…I’m actually rather hungry for breakfast.”

Jamie stretched and got up out of the bed, which was next to Claire’s. “Really Sassenach?”

“Yes, really. Actually, would it be alright if we went to the cafeteria for breakfast? I’m still a bit slow, but Mother Hildegarde said it would be good for me to start moving around a bit more. And, I want to make sure my balance is back before my equilibrium starts to shift.”

“Nothing would make me happier, Sassenach. Let’s freshen up and then we’ll go get breakfast.”

 

It took longer than Claire had hoped, but they eventually made it to the cafeteria. Jamie found a nice table by the window and helped Claire sit down. While he went to get them some food Claire looked out into the garden area outside the window, enjoying the bit of warmth making its way through.

“Dr. Fraser?”

Claire was surprised to hear another English voice behind her and she turned around. She was looking into a kind face, with blue eyes and chestnut colored hair. “Yes?”

“We haven’t been introduced. My name is John Grey.” He extended his hand for her to shake.

“Dr. Grey!” Claire went to stand up and shake his hand, but John quickly sat next to her.

“Please do not get up on my account. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Jamie has told me so much about you.”

Claire smiled, but was a bit taken aback. I didn’t realize Jamie and John had become so close. She quickly composed herself, knowing all her thoughts could be read straight from her face. “Well…all good I hope.”

“He speaks as if you have hung the moon. Nothing but glowing remarks, I assure you.” John smiled. “Speaking of your husband, it looks like he’s making his way over with your breakfast.” John went to stand up, but Claire put her hand on his arm.

“You are more than welcome to join us. I was hoping to get an appointment with you in the next day or so. Meeting you in a more casual setting, will certainly help put my mind at ease.”

“John! I did’na expect tae see ye here at this hour. Yer usually up much earlier and in yer office by now.” Jamie shook his friend’s hand.

“I was just introducing myself to your wife.” John smiled at Claire. “She invited me to join you both for breakfast. I certainly do not want to impose. I’m sure you two are still enjoying spending time alone.”

“Please John, join us. I ken Claire would like tae get tae know ye. The two of ye have so much in common.”

“Yes, Dr. Grey. We would be delighted if you stayed.” Claire smiled at her husband.

John looked between the two of them. “Alright, but only if you call me John, Dr. Fraser.”

“Deal…as long as you call me Claire.”

John stretched out his hand and Claire took it firmly in her own. “I can do that.”

 

The three of them enjoyed several cups of coffee and pastries over the next hour. Claire thoroughly enjoyed watching John and Jamie banter back and forth. The two men clearly had developed a close friendship and Claire was thankful that Jamie had both Ian and John with him during the past couple of weeks. She knew how stressful it had been for him and he was still working through his own recovery.

The two men had just finished laughing at a joke and there was a lull in the conversation. Claire took this opportunity to ask John about setting up her own appointment with him.

“John, how would I go about setting up an appointment with you?”

John smiled. “Well, normally I would have you stop by my secretary to set something up, but since I’m here now and know that my schedule is clear today, we could meet this afternoon. Would that be ok with you?”

Jamie looked expectantly at Claire, who had a surprised look on her face. “Oh! I wasn’t expecting today, but I supposed that would be ok.” She looked at Jamie, who nodded. “The sooner I start the path to mental recovery, the better. Physically I’m already heading in the right direction.” Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand and he brought hers up to his lips for a quick kiss.

“That’s a great attitude to have Claire. I look forward to meeting with you this afternoon. How does 14:00 sound?” John asked.

“That should be perfect,” Claire smiled.

“Well, I will leave you two newlyweds alone. I have some paperwork to catch up on, and a new patient to prepare for.” John winked at Claire and as he stood, Jamie joined him, sticking out his hand.

“Thank ye, John. I ken Claire will be in good hands.”

“My pleasure,” John smiled and shook Jamie’s hand. “I’ll see the two of you later.”

John grabbed his cup of coffee and left the cafeteria.

“He seems like a lovely man,” Claire said casually.

“He’s a good guy, Sassenach. I could’na believe the difference in just a couple of visits. And as ye told me, I’m here for ye, but I ken that some of what ye share with John will just be between the two of ye.”

“Thank you, Jamie. That means a lot. How about a short walk outside, for some fresh air, and then I think I’ll be ready for a nap.”

Jamie helped Claire stand up and motioned towards the doors. “Lead the way.”

 

After a short walk out in the garden, Jamie and Claire headed back to their room. Jamie helped Claire settle in the bed and she was asleep in a matter of moments. Jamie smiled at his wife. That was the most activity ye have had in almost two weeks, mo chridhe. No wonder yer exhausted. He pulled the blanket up a little higher and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.

Jamie took the next thirty minutes to go through his exercises. He was determined to continue progressing in his rehab. He knew that Claire was going to need him, especially as she started her own physical therapy and continued to get bigger throughout her pregnancy. Once he was done with his exercises, he checked on Claire and was happy to see that she was still sleeping peacefully, so he decided to get on the laptop and check his emails.

He quickly responded to the one from his sister, promising that they would speak with her over Skype in the coming days. Then he opened the one from his mother, with the contract that they would need to sign for the property they were buying. He made himself a note that they would need to head to the business center later that afternoon to print the paperwork, sign, and then scan back. There were two other emails in his inbox, one from the medical board and one from JAG.

Jamie opened the med board email and was shocked to see his discharge notice. He had trouble reading the brief communication, due to the tears in his eyes. Of course this was not the formal paperwork, but his medical discharge had been approved. He knew the entire process would take months, but was hopeful he would be back stateside in a matter of weeks! Surely Claire received hers as well! I canna wait for her tae wake up sae we can check! Jamie thought to himself. The other email from a JAG staff member was a bit more cryptic. He had to read it several times, but the gist was that his formal statement had been reviewed, but further testimony would be required. There was no indication as to the time frame of when that would occur, but he was to be ready when the summons arrived. The joy that had enveloped him just moments ago, was quickly dashed away by the thought of having to testify against his uncle in court. What would this do to his mother? He would have to speak with her before the trial started. He couldn’t bear that thought that the first time she heard about all of this would be on the way to Washington.

Jamie had been staring out the window, completely lost in thought, and hadn’t noticed that his wife had woken up.

“Don’t think too hard Soldier, or smoke will start coming out of your ears.” Claire was smiling, but when Jamie turned to face her, her demeanor changed. “What’s wrong darling?”

“While ye were asleep, I was going through my emails. We need tae stop by the business center later sae we can print up the contract for the house. Mam emailed it over.”

“Well that’s exciting! Was there something wrong? You don’t seem very happy about it.”

“No, it’s not that Sassenach. I received an email from the medical board informing me, unofficially of course, that my medical discharge has gone through.”

“Oh Jamie! That’s wonderful news! Did it give any indication as to when it would officially go through?”

“Ye ken the Army…a matter of weeks or a few months.”

Claire looked rueful. “Really! Well, that’s wonderful darling! I’m happy for you! I know it wasn’t in your original life plan but you…well, we, have a new plan and dream. I can’t wait to see it come true.”

Jamie smiled at his wife. “Thank ye Sassenach. I’m sure yer discharge will be following shortly.”

“Jamie, we’ve been separated before. It’s not ideal, but we’ll manage. I don’t want you to think that I’m holding it against you.”

“No! I would never think that mo ghraidh! I just dinna want to be parted from ye.”

“Well, it’s nothing to be concerned about until we have heard about my own paperwork.” Claire paused, wringing the blanket in between her fingers, before tentatively speaking up again. “Jamie?”

“Aye?”

“You do understand that if I were to be medically discharged, I wouldn’t be able to practice medicine back in the states. I would most likely be considered ‘unfit’ to handle my responsibilities. As much as I want to be sent home with you, a medical discharge would not be ideal.”

Jamie was silent for a minute before responding. “I did’na realize that. I guess I had’na thought about ye practicing medicine when we got home. I honestly had’na thought much about anything, other than us going home.”

Claire smiled at him and rubbed her thumb across his knuckles. “Like I said, we’ll figure it out. But I still think there is something else bothering you. You didn’t realize that a medical discharge would not be in my best interest until I told you…so what else is it?”

Jamie took a deep breath and moved to sit next to Claire on the bed. “I also received an email from JAG, one of Ned’s colleagues, I guess. My formal statement about Dougal was reviewed.” Claire’s grip tightened on his hand and he let that information sink in for a minute before continuing. “However, I will still be required to testify when the time comes.”

Claire gasped. “After living through it, then have to re-live it again, you still have to tell your story in front of a jury?!”

“I suppose so, Sassenach.” The look on Jamie’s face was grim. He had been lost in thought about how this would affect his mother. Not once had he thought about Claire! If he had to testify, surely she would as well! He couldn’t let that happen.

As if she was reading his thoughts, Claire started to panic. “No, no, no…Jamie! I don’t think I can tell that story again.”

Jamie brought Claire into his arms and whispered Gaelic in her ear to try and calm her down. “Bidh e ceart gu leòr. Tha mi an seo còmhla riut agus cha bhith agad ri seo a dhèanamh leat fhèin.” Her breathing had become more of a pant and her heart was racing. “Ye have to calm down, mo chridhe. ‘Tis no good for the bairn or ye to be this worked up.”

After a few minutes, Claire’s breathing returned to normal and she was able to focus on Jamie again. “I’m not strong enough, Jamie. I don’t see how I can testify if I’m asked,” Claire whispered.

“Aye, ye are strong enough, Sassenach. Yer the strongest woman I ken. Ye can do anything and I’ll be by yer side the whole time. Besides, do ye really want to spend time in Leavenworth for contempt?  We canna let that bastard win…we will’na let him win, Claire.”

Claire looked into Jamie’s ocean-blue eyes and was instantly calmed. She took a deep breath and steadied herself. “Of course. You’re right. I cannot be in contempt of court. Dougal is not in control of me anymore. I cannot, no, I will not let him dictate our lives any longer.”

“There’s the feisty lass that I love!” Jamie brought Claire’s lips up to his and he kissed her thoroughly. He then pulled back and took Claire’s face into his hands. “He will’na get away with this, Claire. I swear tae ye, he will not get away with almost leaving my wife fer dead, along with my unborn child.”

Claire stared back at Jamie. She had never heard him speak like that before and found it rather unsettling. “Can we change the subject, darling? I do not want to waste any more of my day thinking about that awful man.”

“I could’na agree more. Would ye like to grab a small bit tae eat and then I can walk ye to John’s office? I was thinking I would go see Ian while ye had yer appointment.”

“That sounds like a wonderful plan. I would just like to freshen up a bit.”

Jamie helped Claire to the bathroom and gave her another kiss before she shut the door. Jamie moved over to sit in the chair by the window. He leaned forward and raked his fingers through the lengthening curls on top of his head. Just when things started to take a positive turn, something would sneak up on them and infringe on the happiness that he and Claire so deeply deserved. I wonder if Ian received similar emails? I’ll need tae speak about this with him. I canna keep upsetting Claire.

Just then, the bathroom door opened and Claire stepped out. She had washed her face, changed her clothes, and had gathered what was left of her unruly curls and pulled them into a low, side ponytail that rested on her shoulder. It never failed, Jamie’s wife took his breath away whenever she entered the room.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” Claire asked, with her eyebrow quirked.

“Yer just sae beautiful, mo nighean donn.” Jamie kissed his wife on her forehead, took her hand and put it in the crook of his elbow and asked, “Shall we?”

“We shall.”

Jamie opened the door for his wife and they stepped out into the hall. They would face all of this head on and they would win. They had to because Jamie wasn’t sure he could handle it if Dougal was free to come after his wife again and finish the job he had attempted in the first place. 

Chapter Text

CH-48

LRMC - Germany
Jamie and Claire enjoyed a quiet, but brief lunch. Neither one was very hungry, both had too much on their mind.

“After the information we just received, I’m glad ye’ll be meeting with John this afternoon Sassenach. I found the idea of bein’ able to just empty my brain of everything I was thinkin’ tae be rather liberating.”

“I hadn’t really thought about it that way before, but you’re right. Although I must admit, I’m not used to sharing such things with a stranger,” Claire admitted, as they walked along the corridor to Dr. Grey’s office.

Jamie laughed and Claire shot him a dirty look, accompanied by a gentle slap on the upper arm. “Och! Ye dinna need tae be sae feisty lass. I was just thinking about the first couple of times that I met with him. I felt the same way, but John has this ability to put ye at ease and let ye tell things at yer own pace.”

Claire entwined her arm with Jamie’s and using her other arm, rubbed the spot she had swatted. “I’m sorry, darling. I’m just nervous about all of this. I understand how important it is for the healing process, but I just feel so out of my element.”

Jamie brought Claire’s hand up to his mouth and placed a gentle kiss on the inside of her wrist. “I ken, mo nighean donn. If anyone understands what yer going through, it’s me, and I want us to heal together…grow stronger, together. But I also ken the importance of facing some of yer demons without me.” They had just arrived at John’s door and Jamie turned Claire towards him. “It’s going to be alright Sassenach. I’ll go and visit Ian and then I’ll come back fer ye in about an hour and a half. The first session is always a bit longer, sae ye can get acquainted. Dinna be scared, just speak. And mebbe do a wee bit of listening too.”

Claire looked and gave him a glare but couldn’t hold it. Cuffing him softly on the shoulder she leaned into Jamie and gently wrapped her arms around his back, low enough to not have to worry about bothering the skin grafts. She looked up into her husband’s calming eyes and lost herself in them, for just a moment. She stood up on her tiptoes and softly kissed his lips. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Jamie bent down to place his forehead on hers. “Fer what,” he whispered back.

“Knowing what I need, even when I don’t realize it myself. Knowing the words and actions to put me at peace. Loving me unconditionally. Just being you, James Fraser.”

Jamie smiled at his wife. “Yer welcome, but it’s I who should be thankin’ ye, mo chridhe. My life began when I met ye. I did’na think it was possible tae love another person, as much as I love ye…and yet, I wake up everyday and find that I love more than I did the day before. Today is the first day of our new lives together.” He gently turned Claire away from him, so she was facing Dr. Grey’s door. “Go ahead, Sassenach. Take the first step.”

Claire took a steadying breath and raised her hand to knock on the door.

 

US Army Base - Undisclosed Location in the Middle East
Brigadier General Pardloe walked up to the guardhouse and gave a slight nod to the soldier standing guard, who saluted in return.

“Good morning Staff Sergeant Lindsey. How is Major General McKenzie this morning?”

“Still refusing to eat, sir. That’s five meals in a row now,” Lindsey replied.

Pardloe nodded, but kept his face expressionless. “I’m going to have a few words with the Major General. He’ll be transferred off the base at 20:00. It’s a long trip to the brig in Chesapeake and will be much more pleasant, for all of us, if we can get him to eat.”

Lindsey stepped aside to let Pardloe in. The guardhouse was small, not designed to hold many inhabitants, certainly not one that required the attention that McKenzie did. It was rare for a soldier, one of McKenzie’s rank especially, to be charged with such crimes that he was to be removed from the base and sent stateside. It was warm inside, without much airflow in the stifling desert heat. The Army was careful to make sure that all prisoners, foreign or US persons, were well looked after with food and water. When Pardloe got to McKenzie’s cell, there was a tray of uneaten food outside, along with a glass of water.

Bloody hell! The man is refusing to drink?! The last thing I need is his blood on my hands. Thankfully he’s being transferred out tonight, Pardloe thought to himself. He knocked on the door and the interior guard unlocked the door. “Thank you sergeant, please wait outside.”

The sergeant relaxed from standing at attention, turned, then walked through the door. Turning back to Pardloe he stated “Right outside if you need anything, sir,” before shutting the door.

McKenzie was laying on the cot, wearing just pants, with his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling.

“I guess we have given up on standing for a superior officer?” Pardloe asked sarcastically.

“Aye…sir.” McKenzie replied, but didn’t move.

“I just came to inform you, Major General, that you are being transferred to Chesapeake tonight. All the paperwork has been completed. The flight leaves at 20:00”

It was silent in the cell for the next few minutes, while Pardloe waited for McKenzie to say something. Not being able to handle the power-struggle anymore, Pardloe spoke up. “Have you nothing to say, Major General?”

“Sae I guess they went through with it.” It was said as a statement, but Pardloe could tell that McKenzie was waiting for confirmation, but was unwilling to play into his games.

“I’m not quite sure what you mean.”

McKenzie swung his feet over the edge of the cot and stood up to face Pardloe. “I guess my traitorous nephew and his sassenach wife sold me out. Oh, and that Murray fella, ye ken the one that lost his leg.”

Luckily Pardloe had had many years of training and experience in keeping his emotions and reactions in check. The fact that the man standing in front of him could act as if he didn’t remember the name of one of his soldiers, made his blood boil. To hear him speak of his own family the way he did, made Pardloe want to be physically ill.

“Yes. Captain Murray, Master Sergeant Fraser, and Dr. Beauchamp-Fraser, who is doing quite well by the way, despite the Grade 1 brain injury she suffered, have given their formal statements. The statements were sent to Washington and reviewed. Orders came from Washington to have you sent to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Virginia to await trial at JAG headquarters. A benefit of your rank, is your right to be judged by your peers and impartial ones at that. I fear we just couldn't muster that here.” Pardloe never broke eye contact with McKenzie and attempted to keep an even tone, but couldn’t resist the sarcasm. “Now, before you leave, can I bring you something to eat? I understand that you haven’t touched your last several meals.”

“I’m no’ hungry,” McKenzie said.

“I can assure, Major General, the food here will be better than what you will be given in the brig. Are you sure I cannot, personally, bring you anything from the Mess Hall?”

I cannot believe I am bending over backwards for this man. I just need him off my base ASAP, Pardloe thought as he waited for McKenzie to answer.

“Weel, if yer offering…” McKenzie rubbed his hands together. He was putting on quite a show, knowing he had Pardloe in the palm of his hand. “I guess I would eat a double cheeseburger, medium. Some of Cook’s famous onion rings and some steamed broccoli.”

Pardloe raised his eyebrows at the last request.

“I promised my mam, God rest her soul, that I would still eat my vegetables when I joined the Army. I will’na disrespect her by no’ following through.”

The man is quick to sell out his nephew and niece, but still honors his dead mother by eating vegetables? He’s certifiably insane! Was all Pardloe could think about.

“I will see what I can do, Major General. In the meantime, can I encourage you to at least drink the glass of water you left on the tray outside?”

McKenzie gave a mock salute. “I guess while I’m still on yer base, I must follow yer orders.”

“It would be much appreciated, Major General.” Pardloe leaned out of the room to pick up the glass of water and handed it to McKenzie, who quickly downed the entire glass. “Thank you. I will go see to your food requests.” Pardloe backed out of the cell, while McKenzie laid back down on the cot, not even acknowledging that his superior officer was leaving the room.

Pardloe passed by Lindsey, who saluted the Brigadier General, and thanked him for letting him in and promised to bring him back a snack when he came with the Major General’s food. As he walked to the Mess Hall, all Pardloe could think about was how he had misjudged McKenzie. He had known the man for years and had always thought himself a good judge of character. How could he have been so wrong?

In less than ten hours, he will no longer be my concern. My biggest issue right now is pulling Cook back into the kitchen to make a cheeseburger and onion rings, right after he cleaned up breakfast. Pardloe made his way over to the Mess Hall, ready to tackle one challenge at a time.

 

LRMC - Germany
Jamie leaned down and kissed the crown of Claire’s head before John opened the door and gave her a small squeeze on her plump ass. He leaned over and whispered in his wife’s ear, “Hmm, I’m happy to see this part of ye fillin’ back out.” Claire turned around to swat at him, but that was when John opened the door to his office.

John looked between the two of them. “You two look like high-schoolers who just got caught making out by the headmaster.” Claire turned a deep shade of crimson and the blush started creeping up Jamie’s neck. Before John could continue his teasing, Jamie pretended to look at his fake watch.

“Would ye look at the time?! I promised Ian I’d be by tae see him. I’ll come back fer ye Sassenach.” He brushed a kiss on her cheek “About an hour and a half?” Seeing John nod out of the corner of his eye he kissed Claire’s forehead one more time then turned and walked down the hall.

“Bloody Scot,” Claire murmured to herself, but relaxed when she saw John trying to keep his laughter to a minimum.

“Please, come in Claire. I hope you don’t mind my teasing. You two are married adults, I could honestly care less about the PDA. I’m just happy to see Jamie acting more like himself and I know that is because of you. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my patients happy.”

Claire was pleased by how genuine John’s smile was. He truly cared about her husband’s well-being, and she was hopeful that she could develop a similar relationship with John as well. Claire moved into the space and looked around the room. It was large, for an office, but it was nice. He had a desk for paperwork, and a seating area to speak with patients more comfortably. She noticed a coffee/tea station and perked up slightly.

“Could I interest a fellow Englishmen in a cuppa?” John winked at her.

“That would be lovely, John. Thank you.” Claire made her way over to the sofa while John filled the electric kettle with some water and turned it on to boil. He then joined Claire in the seating area, sitting down in one of the club chairs.

“How are you feeling today, Claire?”

“Better than I have in weeks.” There was a slight hesitation in her voice, that she hoped he hadn’t noticed.

“But?” John gently prodded after a minute.

Claire gave him a weak smile. “I have been cursed with a glass face. I can hardly keep my emotions to myself and playing poker is pointless.”

John smiled. “While that may be true, I could hear the hesitation in your voice.”

“I feel better than I have in a few weeks, that’s true, but I’m still getting headaches daily. Dr. Hildegarde said that was to be expected, but it’s still frustrating. Knowing the human body the way I do, I have a different outlook on how my recovery is going.”

The tea kettle whistled and John stood up to make their two cups of tea. “I get that, as a doctor myself. I have never been in your position, of course, but I can see where that might be frustrating for you. It’s almost as if you are cursed with too much knowledge.”

“Yes! Exactly!” Claire reached out and took the mug that John was offering her. He then brought over a tray with cream, honey, sugar, and a couple of scones. They spent the next few moments silently doctoring their teas and Claire helped herself to a blueberry scone. John took silent notice of that, glad, like Jamie, her appetite was returning.

“So physically we know that you are progressing nicely. How are you feeling emotionally?”

Claire had just taken another bite of her scone and was welcoming the time it gave her to think before answering. “Well, that is more of a rollercoaster. The pregnancy hormones are wreaking havoc, but coupling that with all that I have been through…,” she took a minute to gather her thoughts. “I don’t know that I’m doing as well as I expected. Again, I can’t help but think as a physician, I hold myself to a different standard. I’ve spent my whole life working towards being a surgeon and I’m damn good at it. But, after everything I’ve been through, with Jamie’s mission, then my own, finding out that we’re expecting...I just feel like my life has spun out of control, and that, I am not ok with.”

John set his tea down on the table and relaxed back into the chair. “Recognizing your feelings is a very important step and I’m pleased that you are already there. Dealing with them can be much more difficult, but that is why I’m here. After all you have been through in the past couple of months, I would be more concerned if you felt that you had control of everything.”

“I thought I had a pretty good handle on all of it…until this morning,” Claire whispered, looking down at the cup of tea in her hands.

“What happened this morning? Claire? When I had breakfast with you and Jamie everything seemed fine. Did something happen afterwards?”

“Jamie had several emails waiting for him and he was going through them while I was taking a nap. He received his medical discharge. Of course, we don’t know when it will be finalized, but it has been approved.”

“Well, that must be a relief! You had to know it was coming, but it’s always nice to know that it was approved.”

“Certainly, but Jamie’s first fear was that he would be sent home before me. Then I really threw him for a loop when I told him that a medical discharge would not be in my best interest.”

“Ahh, because the AMA would see you as unfit to practice.”

“Exactly, but…” Claire could not believe the following words had actually run threw her brain and were making their way out of her mouth. “Given the headaches and knowing that I’m going to be a mum, has me rethinking things.”

John let that sink in for a moment. “I’m guessing you haven’t mentioned that to Jamie.”

“No. That man is so full of life, and positivity, I don’t want to give any hope of me coming home with him, until I’m sure that it is what I want.”

John looked confused and Claire waved her hand. “No, no…I would love to go home with him. Nothing would make me happier! What I mean is that I have to be sure that I would want the medical discharge. That I would be ok with not practicing medicine at a level that I am accustomed to. Or possibly, never practicing again.” Claire let out a long, low sigh; the weight of what she just admitted out loud finally hitting her.

“That is a lot to work through Claire. Remember, whatever we discuss here is only between the two of us. I would encourage some dialogue between you and Jamie, but not before you are ready and have had time to think about what you want to do. I don’t say this to scare you, but this kind of decision has life-altering effects. You have to be settled with it completely before you share it. This decision, while it affects others, has to be yours entirely. It’s your life. You share it with Jamie, faster and more wholly than any other two people I know, but it is your life.”

“I know that. Saying I’m ok with a medical discharge, is basically saying that I’m ok with giving up my identity and the life I've known. Being a surgeon was all I ever wanted. Well actually, all I ever wanted was to help people. I suppose that could still be achieved, just not by being a surgeon.”

They sat in silence for the next few minutes. John was trying to let Claire process most of what she was saying on her own, only guiding her when necessary. Of course, he couldn’t make this type of decision for her. He just wanted her to think about all the avenues available. Possibly discover a few that weren’t apparent. John discreetly looked at his watch and noticed that their hour and a half was almost up and Jamie would be waiting for Claire outside the door.

“Believe it or not, our time is almost up…I wanted to give you something that I give all my patients after our first session.” John got up and moved to the credenza next to his desk and pulled open a drawer, taking out a leather notebook. He brought it over and handed it to Claire. “It’s a journal. A large part of healing, is being able to express what you are feeling at any time of day. I have found that writing those feelings down can be quite liberating. In your case, I can also see it as a great way to organize your thoughts and make some notes about your options.”

Claire took the notebook and ran her fingers over the cover. “I haven’t had a journal since I was in middle school.” She smiled at the thought. “Thank you, John. I will certainly take advantage of this and make some lists.”

Just then, there was a light tap on the door and John walked over to open it.

“I hope I’m no’ interrupting,” Jamie said as he looked past John to see his wife still sitting on the couch.

“No, Jamie. We had just finished up, but Claire was still enjoying her cuppa,” John smiled and stepped back to let his friend into the room.

“Hello darling! How was Ian?”

“He’s braw Sassenach. Received the same emails I did.”

“We expected that,” Claire said, slightly dejected.

Jamie looked to John. “I received my medical discharge, and an email from JAG.”

John’s eyebrows rose at that, but he let Jamie continue.

“My statement, along with Ian’s, was sufficient in charging the Major General, but we’ll still be required to testify.” Claire stiffened next to Jamie, but tried to cover it by bringing her cup of tea up for another sip. She wasn’t fooling either of the gentlemen in the room.

“I see,” John started. “And I’m guessing that means Claire will more than likely have to testify as well?”

Claire was still sitting silently on the couch with Jamie beside her. He had reached over and placed his hand on her knee and gave it a squeeze. “More than likely,” Jamie answered for her.

John looked to Claire. “Use the journal, my dear. I believe we’ll have more to talk about soon. Would you like to meet again tomorrow?”

Claire looked up to meet John’s eyes. “I would like that very much John. Thank you.”

“Alright you two, as much I love your company, I’m sure your idea of a lovely evening does not include me. As one of your doctor’s, I’m ordering you to take a walk through the gardens later this afternoon. The spring blooms are gorgeous this time of year.”

Jamie stood up so that he could help Claire off the couch. They both thanked John for his time and then left, hand in hand.

When they got back to their room, Jamie closed the door and then turned to find Claire sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping.

Jamie knelt at her side, taking her face into both of his hands. “What’s wrong? Sassenach, tell me?”

“I need you to do something for me, Soldier.”

“Anything mo chridhe.”

“Just hold me.”

And Jamie did just that. Praying to whatever god may listen that his wife, his life, would be whole again.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-49
upload images

LRMC - Germany
Jamie held on to his wife as she released all the pent up emotion from her first therapy session. He remembered all too well how liberating and exhausting his first session had been. He was pleased to see that Claire was holding a small, leather-bound journal to write her thoughts down. Jamie had continued with his journaling, and planned to do so even after he went home. He loved the feeling of clearing his thoughts each night before laying down to sleep and felt that it was a healthy habit to adopt moving forwards. He hoped Claire would as well.

Claire’s weeping had subsided and she lifted her head off of Jamie’s chest. He handed her a couple of tissues and she blew her nose and wiped her eyes. After a few breaths, she looked at Jamie, who met her eyes with a concerned gaze.

“I’m sorry darling. I don’t think I was fully prepared to think about some of the things that John and I discussed. Couple that with my pregnancy hormones and I’m a hot mess.”

“Ye dinna ever have tae apologize fer yer feelings, Sassenach. I would be more concerned if ye did’na show any emotion.” Jamie reassured her.

Claire simply shook her head and looked lovingly at her husband with a fresh wave of tears in her eyes. “What did I do to deserve you? You are covered in my tears and snot, a third of my head is shaved and what’s not, is sticking up like I’ve put a fork in a light socket. One minute I’m in full control of my emotions and the next I’m a blubbering idiot. I’m not sure -”

Jamie had taken his wife’s face in his hands and silenced her with a passionate kiss, which he quickly deepened when he felt her relax in his arms. Claire wrapped her arms around his lower torso and gave in to the kiss. When they both pulled away, Claire smiled against Jamie’s lips.

“Hmmm,” she hummed. “Again, you always seem to know just what I need.”

“Yer body might be changing because of the bairn, and I ken there’s a million thoughts running through yer heid, but what it is between us Sassenach, this…feeling,” he touched his chest and then hers, “never changes. It seems that I canna possess yer soul without losing my own.”

“How can I not love a man who says such things?” Claire asked incredulously. “I hope you know how much I love you.”

“And I…you. Loving ye is as easy as breathing, mo chridhe. My heart does’na remember anything before ye.”

Claire settled back into Jamie’s chest and they enjoyed their cocoon of blissful peace for a few more minutes.

When it felt appropriate, Jamie spoke up. “Ye ken I will’na pressure ye, but if sharing what ye talked about would lighten yer burden, I’m here tae listen.”

“I know you are, and while I’m not ready to talk about anything related to Dougal, there is one thing I wanted to discuss with you.” Claire straightened up and went to move to the other chair. Jamie was reluctant to let her go, but wanted to give her the space she needed. She pulled her chair closer to him and reached for his hand.

“I can tell it must be serious if ye could’na stay on my lap,” Jamie teased.

“That is one of my favorite spots, but it is kind of serious. Not in a bad way,” Claire quickly added, when Jamie’s expression wavered, “but something that I would like to be able to see your reaction to.”

Jamie squeezed Claire’s hand and leaned forward to show her that she had his full attention. She took a deep breath and started in.

“All my life, I have known that I was destined to be a doctor. Ever since I was a little girl, traveling the globe with Uncle Lamb, I have been drawn to people that needed healing. It consumed me, in the best way possible, but now…” she paused to gauge Jamie’s reaction. He sat there, hanging on her every word, and it was then that she realized how jealous she was of not being able to refrain from her emotions from dancing across her face.

“And now…” Jamie prodded.

“Now, I think I might have a different destiny. I love my independence, but being a doctor has become my identity. Do I want my legacy to be Claire Fraser, world-class surgeon, or Claire Fraser, devoted wife and loving mother?”

“Why can it no’ be both? Why can ye no’ be Claire Fraser, devoted wife, loving mother, kick-ass surgeon?” Jamie countered.

Claire laughed at that, thankful that they were able to have this conversation and still keep it light. “I said ‘world-class’, but ‘kick-ass’ does have a nice ring to it! It’s not that I can’t be all of them, but do I really want to be all of them?”

Jamie thought about that for a minute before answering. “Weel, I suppose that’s up tae ye Sassenach. But before ye make a final decision, have ye thought about all the pros and cons? This is the first ye’ve said anything about this, sae I just want to make sure ye are making an informed decision.”

“You’re right. I have been thinking about this for about a week, but when your medical discharge came through, I really started contemplating what I wanted. Professionally, I have never considered anything else. I don’t know what I would do if I can’t be a surgeon or doctor any longer, but I’m open to the possibilities.”

“Would ye share yer thoughts with me?” Jamie asked hopefully. “This is our first serious marital conversation and I love that we can work through it together. It’s nice to have a problem to solve that does’na have tae do with the Army, but with our own lives. We control this destiny.”

Encouraged by Jamie’s enthusiasm and eagerness to work through this first marital issue, Claire smiled. “Of course, darling! I don’t know why I was so nervous to have this discussion with you and I’m thrilled that you are open to discussing the pros and cons!”

Jamie leaned back and gave Claire a serious look. “Did ye honestly think I would’na support this?”

“I - I wasn’t really sure. You have only ever known me as a doctor,” Claire answered shyly, while looking down at her hands.

“Look at me Claire.” Claire raised her gaze up to Jamie’s. “Yer my wife and I will support ye, no matter what. We may no’ always see eye to eye, but I will support ye.”

“I never doubted that, honestly. I just didn’t think you would be as eager to discuss as you are, but like you said, it’s our life. Let’s make this decision together.”

“I’m full of surprises,” Jamie said and squeezed her upper thigh. “But like I told ye…this is yer decision. Now, what have ye been thinking?”

 

For the next hour, Jamie and Claire talked through a variety of scenarios, some of which Claire hadn’t even thought of. She was grateful for Jamie’s insights and how free they were to express their thoughts without judgment. Neither had any intention of stopping the discussion, but Jamie’s stomach clearly had other plans and made its needs known.

Claire started giggling and then realized she couldn’t stop and Jamie eventually joined her. When they both were sprawled on the bed, holding their abdomens, Claire looked over at her husband. “I suppose we need to feed you, Soldier.”

“Aye and I’m sure the bairn could use a snack as weel.”

“You aren’t wrong there! Afternoon tea?”

“Only if it’s followed by a walk in the courtyard, per doctor’s orders. I canna lose my entire manhood in one afternoon, Sassenach, by attending afternoon tea.”

Claire raised her eyebrow at her husband, but thought better of teasing him further. “A walk sounds lovely.”

 

They made their way to the cafeteria and found a table off to the side, next to the window. After letting their tea steep for a few minutes and Jamie’s third helping of biscuits, they picked up their prior conversation.

“Are ye sure, mo nighean donn? It’s yer’s tae have final say on the decision. Ye ken my views on the two different scenarios.”

“I think I am! It kind of gives me the best of both worlds…I can still practice my healing, just on a much smaller scale and I can pursue my other passion of botany!”

“Sae we’ve made a decision then? Ye want to be a private-practice doctor for the family farm, pending medical clearance, and dabble with Jenny in her candle business by selling some herbal remedies?”

“I do…I really do! I know the employees of the farm will keep me busy enough, but I’m really looking forward to partnering with Jenny! I will speak with Mother Hildegarde and explain to her where I’m coming from. I’ll have her put in for the medical discharge, but set up an evaluation state-side, to show that I am competent to continue practicing. With any luck, we’ll get to head home at the same time!”

Jamie reached across the table and took his wife’s hands in his, bringing them up to kiss her knuckles. “I’m proud of us Sassenach! Working through things like an auld marrit couple!”

“Who are you calling old?!”

“I just finished using a walker and ye still canna walk for more than thirty minutes. We’re no’ exactly spry at the moment.” Jamie gave her his owl-eyed wink.

Claire tossed a scone at Jamie who easily caught it and then took a large bite. Claire simply smiled and shook her head taking a few more sips of her tea. Each felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders and they were the happiest they had been since first meeting back on the base.

When both cups of tea were gone, Claire stood and reached out a hand to Jamie. “Let’s go, Soldier. Time for our walk.” She winked at him, pleased when he simply stood and wrapped her hand into the crook of his arm. Walking slowly, they made their way to the courtyard and sat down on the bench they had each visited previously.

“You know,” Claire started. “This is where I came to find some peace and succumb to my emotions when you were first brought to Landstuhl.” Claire was staring off, not really seeing what was in front of her.

“Aye, I spent some time here as weel, when ye were in surgery. I did’na want tae be away from ye, but Ian brought me out here and we just sat.”

“Ian was with me as well! We owe him so much Jamie. I want to be able to do something for him and Jenny when we are all back home.”

“That’s a braw idea Sassenach! We’ll have tae brainstorm, but I definitely agree with ye. He has seen both of us at our lowest points and there is no one, other than ye of course, that I would want by my side.”

Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand in agreement. They sat in silence, for the next twenty minutes, each internally reflecting on all they had been through since arriving at Landstuhl. Both had faced challenges, and were still learning how to deal with the ramifications of them. There were trials that awaited them, but there was comfort in knowing they would be facing those trials together.

Claire reached over and gently traced her finger along the lines in Jamie’s hand, and moved slowly up his forearm, causing him to shudder.

“That tickles Sassenach!”

“Hmm,” was all she managed to say, but the tone in which she said it made Jamie turn his head to look at her. He was met by hooded, whisky-colored eyes, looking up at him through long lashes. “Perhaps it’s time to go back and lay down… before dinner.”

“Lay down…or sleep?” Jamie asked with a glint in his eyes.

“Well…,” was all Claire could manage.

“Either way, you’ll no’ be napping out here on the bench.” Jamie stood and reached out his hand to help his wife up. When they were both standing, she wrapped her arms around her husband, but her hands traveled a bit farther south than normal and playfully squeezed.

Christ woman! Can ye no’ wait until we get back tae the room?!”

“Aye,” she mimicked and squeezed again, before she started walking towards the door. Jamie remained where he was for a moment, allowing his wife to walk ahead of him, giving him a perfect view of her round arse. “I ken what you’re doing back there,” Claire said without turning around.

Jamie cleared his throat and hurried to catch up to her. “I’m no’ sure what yer talking about,” he said as he pulled open the door for her.

“Well, if you need a closer look when we get back to the room, I would be happy to oblige.”

That was all the confirmation Jamie needed as he practically pulled his wife back to their room. Jamie grinned as he closed the door, sliding the lock in place.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-50
online photo host

LRMC - Germany
Jamie turned around from locking the door and was greeted by his wife’s round arse up in the air. She appeared to be bending over to pick something up from the floor, although Jamie couldn’t see anything that she may have dropped. He crossed his arms and simply leaned against the door to admire the view.

When Claire glanced over her shoulder and saw the look on her husband’s face, she asked “Did you bolt the door?”

“And just why would I do that?” Jamie asked innocently.

“So you can have your way with your wife, without concern for potential interruption.” Claire responded matter-of-factly as she stood up.

“Do I look like the kind of man that would take advantage of his pregnant wife, who is also recovering from a head injury?” Jamie did his best to look appalled, but he wasn’t fooling her.

Claire turned around and pulled off her shirt and undid her bra, revealing herself to her husband. “Only when she asks you to.” Jamie visibly swallowed, but kept his expression neutral. “That’s no’ verra respectable of a surgeon in the United States Army, Captain Fraser.”

“I’m respectable,” Claire replied, straightening her posture.

“Are ye now? Standing before me, fully exposed from the waist up…yer nipples the size and color of beautifully ripe cherries.” Jamie licked his lips as his gaze slipped down to admire his wife’s beautiful breasts.

Knowing she had her husband right where she wanted him, Claire reached up to fondle one of her breasts, delicately squeezing one of her nipples in between her thumb and forefinger, while never breaking eye contact with Jamie. “It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, Soldier.”

“Aye,” he responded, but didn’t move from his position against the door. Two can play at this game Sassenach, he smiled to himself.

Claire slowly walked towards Jamie, swaying her hips slightly, and pulling on the drawstring of her scrubs. The pants fell to the floor and puddled at her feet. She stepped out of them and took the final two steps to her husband.

Jamie smirked when Claire stepped out of her scrubs, realizing that she hadn’t been wearing anything underneath. “Full of surprises, aren’t ye Sassenach?”

Claire raised an eyebrow as she pulled on the drawstring of Jamie’s scrubs, but was disappointed when she realized he wasn’t going commando as well. “Sorry lass. These pants canna be any thicker than a piece of paper Sassenach. Walking behind ye everywhere, I’d have an awful cockstand for all to see.”

The pout on his wife’s lips was enough to break his resolve. Jamie pushed off the door and cupped his wife’s sex in one hand, while the other made it’s way to the back of her neck. He brought her lips dangerously close to his and when she tried to lean in for a kiss, he pulled back slightly. “No’ tonight lass. I plan tae take my time with ye.” Claire whined slightly and Jamie continued, rubbing his nose against hers. “I plan tae have ye writhing beneath me, making yer wee noises.” Jamie’s fingers had begun a steady rhythm of stroking while he was whispering to his wife and her body was keening against his hand. “And when I finally make ye cum, it’ll be my name falling from those beautiful lips.” Jamie dipped his head and captured his wife’s lips in a searing kiss.

Claire had snaked her hands up into Jamie’s hair and was tugging at the curls that had started to appear in his lengthening hair. Claire preferred the close crop look on him but was starting to see the benefits of longer hair. She was rocking against his hand, desperately seeking more friction, but the more she rocked, the slower his ministrations became. Jamie could sense Claire was becoming frustrated, but he knew what he was doing. “I said I was goin’ tae take my time with ye, mo chridhe, and I meant it.”

He backed his wife up to the counter that was across from the bed. He deepened the kiss, distracting her from the movement of his hands. He reached around to her backside, fondled her arse thoroughly and then grabbed both of her cheeks and lifted her onto the counter. Never had he been so thankful of the time he spent in the gym prior to his injury. It was helping him recover quicker than expected and right now, his wife deserved everything he could give her.

Jamie knelt before Claire and spread her legs. He looked up at his wife, to find her smiling down at him. “Yer beautiful a nighean. Let me serve ye.” Jamie then leaned in and went straight to work. Within minutes, Claire was gripping the counter and attempting to arch off of it, but Jamie had a firm grip on both of her thighs, keeping her right where he wanted her. He paused for just a moment, kissing along the inside of her thigh.

“Christ, Jamie! Don’t stop!” Claire grabbed his curls and forced him back to her center. The slight chuckling from Jamie caused enough of a vibration to send Claire over the precipice she had been dangling from. Pleased with the sound of his name coming from her lips, Jamie continued to tease and pleasure his wife beyond her limits until she was arching away from him.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Claire panted, while Jamie kissed his way up her torso to her neck. Claire grabbed his face and brought him to her lips, still tasting herself on him. She hummed into the kiss, her entire body feeling like jello after the release he gave her, but that didn’t stop her from reaching for her husband and taking his length into her hands. Cocking her head to the side, Claire asked coyly, “Now, what can we do for you my lad?”

Jamie pulled back from his wife’s face, with a playful glint in his eyes. “On yer knees, lass.”

 

Jamie and Claire lay wrapped together in the sheets, both completely spent after their love-making. It was the first time they were truly able to take their time with one another. Their first time in the medical tent had been rushed with Jamie’s impending mission, and every time since then had been centered around one pleasing the other. A release from the pent up stress or frustration they were feeling from injuries and lack of control over their current situations.

“Sassenach?”

“Mmm,” was all Claire managed to respond as she rested peacefully with her eyes closed and head on his chest as Jamie rubbed his hand along her back and over her arse.

“I canna wait until we get home and I can have ye all tae myself in a king size bed, without anyone close enough tae hear. I ken ye can be louder than that.” Jamie kissed her shoulder.

“That sounds heavenly darling,” Claire sighed and snuggled further into her husband. They continued to lay there for a while longer, each unsure if the other had fallen asleep, but the gurgling sounds that started coming from Claire’s stomach had Jamie sitting up in the bed and raising an eyebrow at his wife.

“And ye say that I’m always hungry.”

“Well, I am eating for two now,” Claire blushed. “And we have not had any dinner yet.”

“Aye, we have’na. What sounds good, Sassenach?”

Claire looked deep in thought and then smiled at her husband. “A grilled chicken salad, some onion rings, and a milkshake.”

Jamie laughed and shook his head. “Whatever ye say mo chridhe. Let’s get cleaned up and grab some food. After that, I would be more than content to just lay here with ye in my arms.”

“I cannot argue with that!”

 

Claire and Jamie made their way to the cafeteria to have dinner and were pleasantly surprised to see Ian sitting there by himself.

"Can we join ye, a charaid?”

Ian looked up and smiled, seeing his family standing in front of him, he responded. “I would be delighted! Claire, ye look lovely tonight. Ye have that pregnant glow about ye and it suits ye well.”

“Thank you Ian! That was kind of you to say,” Claire replied as she sat down. “I’m thrilled that we ran into you. Jamie and I have some news to share.” Claire looked at Jamie and reached for his hand, which he gave, and smiled.

Ian looked between the two of them, anxious to hear what they had to say. “Weel, dinna keep me in suspense. What’s yer news? I ken yer married, expectin’ a bairn…what else is there?”

Claire laughed. “Yes, we have had a lot of news lately, but this has to do with when we get home.” She looked to Jamie again for confirmation and he nodded, so Claire continued. “I plan to ask Dr. Hildegarde for the medical discharge, but to set me up with a consultation to still be able to practice back in the states.”

“That’s wonderful Claire! I ken it was weighin’ on ye, no’ quite sure what ye were going tae do when ye got home,” Ian replied enthusiastically.

“Thank you Ian! It is a relief to have some semblance of a plan for what I can and will do after the service, but that’s only half of it. While I want to still practice medicine, I want it to be on a much smaller scale. I’ll have an office on the farm and focus on just tending to the farmhands and family members.” Claire paused, a bit nervous for the next part of the plan. “The rest of the time, I’m hoping to work with Jenny in her candle shop and sell some herbal remedies. I have dappled in medicinal botany and would love to pursue that more.”

Ian looked at Claire and then over to Jamie. “Are ye serious?”

Nervously, Claire nodded her head and squeezed Jamie’s hand, looking for reassurance.

“I dinna ken what tae say, except for…’tis a wonderful plan! Tae have our two favorite lasses working side-by-side,” Ian looked to Jamie, “How did we get so lucky?”

“I dinna ken, mate, and I hate tae question it. I’m just sae happy that Claire has found a way tae still practice medicine, but pursue her other passion as weel. I’m a proud husband, that’s fer sure.” Jamie pulled Claire in and kissed her temple.

“I will speak to Dr. Hildegard in the morning,” Claire declared. “Perhaps I will get to head home with you two and then the next time we all sit down to dinner Jenny will be with us..and we’ll be in a restaurant!”

“Aye that’s the dream Sassenach.” Jamie gave her his owlish-blink.

“Ye ken ye are’na winking right man?” Ian tried to hide his smile behind his hand.

Jamie looked between Claire and Ian, who were desperately trying to keep their composure.

“I find it endearing, darling, really.” Claire said as she reached out to cup Jamie’s cheek.

“And that’s the only opinion I care about,” Jamie nodded decisively.

Ian simply shook his head and turned his attention back to his food, but not without saying, “Yer completely under her power.”

Jamie had brought a bite up to his mouth, but without missing a beat, he added, “And happy tae be there.”

 

The Frasers slept peacefully all night and awoke to the sun beaming in through the window. Claire stirred first, enjoying the view of her husband asleep for a few brief moments. The sunlight brought out the array of colors in his hair and she was truly in awe of the man before her. Knowing he would be by her side, from this day forward, gave her the boost she needed to go speak with Mother Hildegarde this morning. She had been going over that conversation in her head for the past thirty minutes.

Without even opening his eyes, Jamie murmured, “It’s too early tae be thinking that hard Sassenach.”

“I’m sorry love, I didn’t mean to wake you. I was enjoying watching you sleep.”

“I was already awake, mo nighean donn, just enjoying the feel of ye in my arms.” Jamie pulled her in for a kiss. “G’mornin’.”

“Good morning, Soldier. What do you have planned for the day?”

“Weel, actually today may be my final evaluation. With the medical discharge coming though, Phaedre said we would be doing my final PT evaluation.”

“Jamie! Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I’m sorry mo chridhe, I did’na mean tae keep it from ye. We were just so focused on deciding what ye are going tae do when we get home -”

“Jamie, I never want that to be an excuse. I want us to both share what is going on in our lives. This is big news, darling, and I want to hear all about it!”

“I ken Sassenach, I did’na hold back on purpose..it actually slipped my mind, but now that we are talking about it, I am excited about the possibility of being released!”

“What time is your evaluation? Perhaps that is when I will go speak with Mother Hildegarde.”

“10:00…does that time up fer ye?” Jamie glanced at the clock on the wall. “We still have time tae grab some breakfast.”

Getting out of bed and moaning slightly, Claire smiled and leaned down to kiss her husband. “That sounds like a great plan!”

Before Claire could pull away, Jamie grabbed her wrist. “Was I too rough on ye last night?” There was a small glint in his eye, but some concern as well.

“I’m certainly sore, but in all the right places. I’m fine, the baby’s fine…I just need to get used to making love to my husband. Not just the quick but pleasurable romps we had before last night. I suppose that means we’ll have to do it a bit more frequently.” Claire winked and then pulled away to go get ready in the bathroom.

Jamie followed her in there and gave her a quick smack on the arse. “Yer the doctor, so ye’ll ken what’s best. I just hope I’m up to the task.”

“I’ve never doubted you before Soldier…no need to start now, but we both have important meetings this morning. Perhaps a wee celebration will be in order later this afternoon?” Claire wiggled her eyebrows.

“Aye, lass. Even if we’re just celebrating having lunch.”

 

Claire and Jamie ate quickly, so they could take a quick walk out to their favorite bench. They sat for a few minutes, holding hands, and just enjoying the peace the garden provided. At 9:45, Jamie stood up and brought his wife into his embrace.

“Regardless of what happens Sassenach, we’ll be here for each other. As long as yer in my corner, I ken I can overcome any obstacle in my path.”

Claire rested her head on her husband’s chest and he kissed the crown of her head. “You’re going to be great, I just know it. Please promise me though, that you won’t push too hard. I would rather you be here an extra week, than hurt yourself trying to get out of here.”

“I promise Sassenach.” Jamie kissed his wife and then took her hand. “Come…I’ll walk ye to Mother Hildegarde since it’s on my way to the PT room.”

When they got to Mother Hildegarde's door, Jamie turned Claire towards him and tilted her chin up to meet his eyes. “Now I need ye tae promise me that ye will’na take no for an answer. This is what ye want, mo chridhe, dinna let anyone tell ye otherwise.”

“I’m not worried about Mother Hildegarde. It will be the eval back home that I’ll have to pass, but I have time before that. I’m thinking I won’t go back to officially practicing until the baby is born. We still have to get home, go through all the discharge steps, settle in the house,” Claire smiled at that and then looked down, “and deal with the trial.”

“And we’ll take it one step at a time…together. First, go speak with Mother Hildegarde while I go slay my PT Eval.”

“Slay?”

“Aye, it means kill, rock -”

“I know, I’ve just never heard you use that term before,” Claire laughed. “Good luck darling. I’ll come to the PT room when I’m done. Wait for me there?”

Jamie brought his wife’s hand up and kissed her knuckles. “Aye and good luck tae ye too.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-51

LRMC - Germany
Claire knocked on the door and waited for that matronly French accent to answer.

Entrez.”

Claire opened the door and smiled at Mother Hildegarde. “Good morning!”

Bonjour, ma chérie! How are you doing this morning? You look well rested.” She winked at Claire.

How does she always seem to know, Claire thought to herself, blushing. “I’ve slept well the past couple of nights and seem to be making strides every day! Jamie is at his, hopefully, last PT evaluation. He’s hoping to be released! His discharge came in.”

Mother Hildegarde smiled. “That’s wonderful! I will look over the final evaluation and give my recommendation as soon as possible. Now, what can I do for you?”

“Well,” Claire was wringing her hands. “I was hoping to have a conversation with you about my release as well.” Claire looked up at Mother Hildegarde, hoping to read her thoughts by looking at her face, however, Mother Hildegarde shared Jamie's trait of a stone face.

Mother Hildegarde set down her pen and clasped her hands on her desk. “I’m going to treat you differently, seeing as you are a doctor yourself, no? Would you release yourself today?”

Claire thought about that carefully. “I would want to see updated scans and pass a thorough comprehensive work-up. I am hopeful that neither of those would prevent me from being released…”

“But?”

Claire laughed. “How did you know there would be a ‘but’?”

“You are like a daughter to me, ma chérie, but more importantly, I know what kind of doctor you are, because I was instrumental in shaping you. I know you must have a concern, but of what, I am not sure.”

Claire sighed. “I am concerned about the amount of flying that it will take to get home. I’m not sure how the pressure might affect me. Will it induce a possible small bleed? Will I have an excruciating headache? There are just some unknowns that I am uncomfortable with.”

Mother Hildegarde smiled and nodded. “Those are valid concerns and I would be lying if I said that I hadn't thought of those as well. We cannot be certain of what will happen on the flight, but a thorough scan will show if there are any small leaks that could cause a problem. I wish we could see any weaknesses in the walls of the veins and arteries but as you well no that is not possible ma chérie. If there are no leaks, then I have no reason to believe the pressure of flying would cause one. A headache, now that is another question altogether.”

Claire nodded in understanding. “So be honest with me, Mother Hildegarde. What is the earliest you could see me going home? I know Jamie would love for us to go together, but if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t see that happening.” Claire smiled, but couldn’t hold back the tear that slipped out of her eye. Quickly wiping the tear off her cheek, she looked back at Mother Hildegard, slowly meeting her eyes.

Mother Hildegarde came out from behind her desk and sat next to Claire, taking both of her hands into her own. “Truthfully, if the scans and tests go well, I could see you being here for just another week. I would love for your strength and stamina to improve as well, but that will happen with time. I cannot speak to Jamie’s discharge, since I have not seen the final PT evaluation. Why don’t we set up your scan and comprehensive test for tomorrow? Then I can meet with both of you on Wednesday and we will discuss your options.”

Claire squeezed Mother Hildegarde’s hands. “Thank you, Mother Hildegarde! I truly do not know how I would have made it through all of this without you.”

De rien Claire, but I do think there is a handsome, red-headed Scotsman that some would argue played quite the role in helping you recover as well, no?” She winked at Claire.

“Yes, of course, but we cannot let it go to his head.” Claire was laughing, but she did thank God every night for the strength of her husband and Mother Hildegarde during this time. “Speaking of the red-headed Scotsman, I promised I would meet him over at the PT room. He should be about done with his test.”

Claire and Mother Hildegarde stood up together and embraced. “I will miss seeing you everyday, ma chérie. The circumstances for which you have been here have been most unfortunate, but I am still grateful for the time I have been able to spend with you.”

“I am as well. You will have to come visit us, once le bébé arrives.” Claire rubbed her stomach, which seemed to have expanded just slightly overnight. The elastic on the scrub pants she had been wearing was the slightest bit snug. Good to know you are thriving lovey, Claire thought and hoped the baby could hear her thoughts.

“I would love nothing more! Now, your scan is scheduled for 10:00 tomorrow and the comprehensive text will be at 14:00. It will be an exhausting day, so please try and get some rest today.” Mother Hildegarde raised her eyebrow at Claire, who again, blushed a deep shade of red.

“If I don’t see you tomorrow, we will both see you on Wednesday to go over our results. Have a good day, Mother Hildegarde! And thank you again.” Claire gave her mentor another quick hug and then left the office.

 

Jamie was sweating profusely, but was confident that he was demonstrating what would be needed for him to be discharged. Christ man! Yer more out of shape than ye thought, he chided himself, vowing that once he was released he’d be back in the gym.

Phaedre had been feverishly writing notes as she put Jamie through a series of both strength and flexibility tests. He had been able to successfully complete each test, some faster than others, and he had only winced twice. That had come with more of the flexibility assessments and he assumed it was because of the skin grafts. The worst thing that can happen is ye have tae stay a bit longer and go through the eval again. they would’na let ye do the eval if they thought yer back needed more time to heal and not rip open again. he reasoned.

Claire walked in, just as he was wrapping up and laying on one of the beds, with Phaedre stretching him out. Claire smiled at the sight of her husband’s glistening skin. She knew how hard he must have worked to prove that he was ready to be discharged.

When Jamie rolled over and sat up, he saw Claire walking towards him and jumped right up off the bed and lifted her up for a kiss. Claire was laughing when he put her back down on the ground. “I’m happy to see you too Soldier! How did your evaluation go?”

“Really well, I think,” he said and glanced over at Phaedre, who just smiled. “I guess I’ll find out in a few days.”

“Wednesday.”

Jamie looked confused. “What’s Wednesday?”

“That is when we are meeting with Mother Hildegarde about our discharges.”

Jamie's face transformed into one of pure joy. “Do ye mean it, Sassenach? Yer getting discharged too?”

“I’m not sure if either of us will be discharged…all I know is that Mother Hildegarde wanted to go over your eval and she is sending me for a scan and a comprehensive test tomorrow. She wants to speak with both of us on Wednesday to go over our results and discuss our next steps.”

“Oh, mo chridhe! Ye mean we could have answers in just two days?!” Jamie picked her up and spun her around, much to Claire’s delight. “I believe this calls fer a celebration. How does a milkshake sound Sassenach?”

“Before lunch? Like heaven,” Claire laughed. She reached for a towel and threw it at him. “Clean up a bit, hmm? I’m practically sliding off of you.”

Jamie leaned in close. “Ye’ve never complained about sliding across my sweaty body before.” He whispered huskily, raising an eyebrow at her, daring her to contradict him. Instead, he got the exact response he was hoping for…a flush that started at her chest and crept up her neck to her cheeks, followed by her tongue slipping out and running across her bottom lip. “Do that again Sassenach, and I’ll have ye right there on that bed.” Jamie inclined his head to the left.

“Do not make a pregnant woman choose between sex with her ruggedly handsome husband and a milkshake.” Claire was desperately trying to look stern with Jamie, but was failing miserably.

“My apologies Sassenach. I dinna ken what I was thinking. Now, let’s get ye that milkshake and take it back to our room, aye?”

“Might be a bit messier than the chocolate pudding,” Claire whispered back.

“Ye ken Sassenach, I dinna think I care,” he responded and then leaned in for a quick kiss. Jamie took her hand as they left the PT room and walked to the cafeteria.

 

A vanilla milkshake and thorough shower later, Jamie and Claire decided to take a walk out to their favorite bench. There was something so peaceful about this spot on the campus that they both found comforting.

“You know, when we get home, I would like to have a similar bench on one of the far corners of the property. Do you think we could do that darling?”

“Aye, that’s a braw idea Sassenach. A place where we can go to sort our thoughts together, or alone. I ken how important it will be for us each to still work through some stuff.”

Claire nodded. “I was thinking about asking John if he had any recommendations for therapists back in New York.”

Jamie nodded. “Not only would it be a good idea fer us tae keep seeing one, at least until the trial is done, but I would like one fer the organization we plan tae set up. Ideally, we would find someone who has experience with animal therapy and veterans. Mebbe John will know someone in that field as weel.”

“Did I hear someone say my name?” An English accent was making his way around the bushes.

Jamie stood to greet his friend and shake his hand. “Aye, ye did! I swear John, sometimes I think yer a genie and just appear when yer name is mentioned.”

“Well,” John said laughing, “I don’t know about that. Perhaps I’m just in the right place at the right time.”

“The weather is beautiful today.” Claire chimed in. “Were you out for a lunchtime stroll?”

John looked at both Jamie and Claire, immediately deciding he could trust them with his news. “Actually, I was trying to clear my head a bit. I’ve just made a rather big decision.”

Claire and Jamie remained silent, but were listening and looking at John intently. Neither wanted to push John to share his news, thinking if he had brought it up, he would share on his own time.

“I’m going to go into private practice. I would like to maintain working with the military, specifically veterans. Perhaps start a non-profit that would truly help those who may not be able to afford help.” Claire and Jamie shared a quick look and then turned their attention back to John. “Growing up, my parents owned a very large estate. My youngest brother was born with a disability and my mother took it upon herself to start up a program for children with disabilities to come to our stables and work with the horses. It was, well…is, a huge success and I would love to be able to do something like that for veterans.”

Jamie and Claire were simply staring at John. They couldn’t believe that they had just been talking about asking him for any recommendations on a therapist they could speak to about working with their own non-profit veterans program, and yet, here was a man they both trusted and knew would be a perfect fit. Jamie turned to Claire, who smiled and nodded. Jamie then looked back at John.

“Do ye have any idea where yer headed yet? Have ye committed to anything?”

“Not yet…that’s the beauty of private practice. I can go where I see fit and where I want to be. I have loved working for the military and served dutifully, but feel it is now time we part ways. I have enjoyed my service to our country, but want to help more than I am in uniform.”

“Weel, then we have a proposal fer ye John. Claire and I have bought a house with some land in upstate New York. The property borders my parents’ farm, as well as Ian’s, ye ken he’s married to my sister. We have about a hundred acres amongst the three properties. Claire and I have been talking about starting a non-profit veterans program that would focus on making sure veterans have access to quality mental health programs.”

Claire jumped in. “We were thinking of calling it Horses, Hounds, and Heroes. The idea would be to use the animals to assist in the veterans’ therapy.”

Jumping back in, Jamie concluded. “The only problem was that we did’na have a therapist tae help us. We were going tae ask ye fer a recommendation, but…” Jamie smiled and took Claire’s hand. “Ye just shared with us a little about yer background growing up. What do ye say, John? Think ye could live in upstate New York?”

“We would love to have you be a part of this. It’s because of you that Jamie and I were so inspired to create a program like this. You’ve done so much for us. We would be honored if you would join us on this journey.” Claire was smiling with tears in her eyes.

John was looking between Jamie and Claire. A tear slid down his cheek and Claire reached out to squeeze his hand. “You two are serious aren’t you?” John asked incredulously.

“Aye, we are.”

“I…I don’t know what to say,” John stammered.

“Please, think about it,” Claire urged. “The last thing we would want to do is put you on the spot. It’s just that Jamie and I were talking about it when -”

“Yes!”

Claire and Jamie stared at John. “Yes?” Claire squeaked out.

“Yes!” John replied enthusiastically. “Yes, yes, yes!”

Claire hugged John and then Jamie reached out, shaking his hand and smacking him on the back.

“We’ve so much to talk about! Would you care to brainstorm over dinner tonight?” Claire asked.

“That sounds like a wonderful plan. I’ll let the two of you enjoy the rest of your afternoon and will meet you in the cafeteria around 18:00.”

Jamie wrapped his arm around Claire as they watched John walk away, but he suddenly turned around.

“Claire? What’s the caliber of men in New York?”

Claire laughed. “Honestly, I’ll be moving there the same time that you are, but if they’re anything like this fine specimen,” she looked up at her husband and pinched his firm arse cheek, “I’m sure we’ll be able to set you up in no time.”

John smiled and nodded, then turned around and went into the building.

“Wife, mother, surgeon, botanical entrepreneur…now we’re adding match-maker tae yer list of many talents?”

Claire simply shrugged her shoulders and rested her head on Jamie’s shoulder. “What can I say? I clearly have the eye for attractive men.” She leaned up and kissed him, then settled back into his side to enjoy the warm, spring sunshine.

Chapter Text

WHS-CH-52

LRMC - Germany
Jamie and Claire headed back to their room after being outside for about an hour. The warm sunshine and fresh air had been a balm to their exhausted psyches. Once they were back in their room, Claire sitting on the bed and Jamie in the chair, they sat in companionable silence as Jamie went through some emails and Claire flipped through a pregnancy magazine that one of the nurses had dropped off for her earlier.

“Och, I was hoping these would show up today! Come look Sassenach!” Jamie turned and pulled Claire down onto his lap.

“What are we looking at?” Claire was peering at the computer screen and trying to determine what all the pictures were.

“Mam went over to our house and took a bunch of pictures, so we could get a sense of the rooms and think about what we might want done before we move in.”

“That was very thoughtful of her! I would love to go over each room. I wonder if it’s possible to have a few rooms painted in the next couple of days? That way, if we get to go home within a week or so, the paint fumes will not be as strong.”

“I’m a step ahead of ye Sassenach. Mam has a crew standing by to get as much done as possible before we get home.”

Claire turned towards her husband with a look of awe across the features of her face. She simply shook her head and then took his face into her hands and gave him a tender kiss. “You are so thoughtful darling. I’m not sure what I did to deserve you.”

Jamie smiled back. “I dinna ken what I did tae deserve ye either, but we’ve both been through more than any one person should be in a lifetime. It’s time we start focusing on each other and,” rubbing his hand on Claire’s stomach, “this little one that will be here before we know it.”

Claire kissed Jamie again and then turned back to the computer screen. “So, which room are we looking at here?”

For the next hour and a half, Claire and Jamie went through all the rooms downstairs and wrote out recommendations on colors, cabinets, and flooring. They emailed the list to Ellen and decided to take a break.

“Who kent that trying to decide on paint and carpet could be sae exhausting?” Jamie said as he laid down on the bed, motioning for Claire to lay beside him.

Claire laughed, as she rested her head on his shoulder. “I feel like downstairs is a bit more difficult since those are the rooms that everyone sees when we have visitors. Upstairs should be a bit easier…just bedrooms and bathrooms. We could go neutral all over if that would be easier.”

“Absolutely no’! I want our master suite tae be a sanctuary. We’ve slept on cots fer the past few years, sae I fully intend to have a stunning four-post bed, separate walk-in closets, and a luxurious bathroom that’s the size of one of the other bedrooms.”

Claire looked up at him. “As wonderful as that sounds, you do know that I do not need all of that. Simply being with you and our baby will be enough. Not to mention surrounded by our families.”

Jamie leaned down to give Claire a kiss on her nose. “That reminds me, I had Mam look for a place for Uncle Lamb. She found a few options and sent them his way. I dinna ken anything else.”

Claire rolled over so she was face-to-face with Jamie, a look of surprise on her face. “You’ve thought of everything Soldier.” Claire leaned in and kissed Jamie thoroughly as her hands began to wander further south. Once they reached their intended destination, it was Jamie’s turn to look surprised.

“Mrs. Fraser! I thought we were taking a nap?”

“So I led you to believe, but I really just wanted to get you into bed,” she smirked at her husband.

“Ye wee vixen! I canna believe ye tricked me into bed.” Jamie did his best to look appalled, but Claire knew better.

“Well, if you truly need your rest-” Claire tried to turn over, but Jamie’s strong embrace held her in place. She looked into his fathomless blue eyes that were piercing her own.

“Ye ken ye need only ask my love. We’ll both need our rest after I finish what ye started.,” Jamie said as he pulled his wife beneath him and began kissing along her neck.

Claire gave a blissful sigh as her husband’s hands began to work their magic across her body. She pulled off his shirt and lightly caressed his healing scars.

Jamie stopped kissing Claire just long enough to pull her shirt over her head and then focused his attention on her chest, releasing her breasts from their confinement. While one hand kneaded her breast, the other traveled further down and undid her pants, allowing him to slip his hand inside. Claire opened her legs a bit further, allowing Jamie’s hand to reach her throbbing center, causing her to groan in ecstasy. He smiled around his wife’s nipple, he was currently sucking The surge of pride he felt hearing the noises coming from Claire, caused him to double his efforts with both his tongue and hand. He needed to hear more, to drive her to a finish and see the look of pure pleasure and bliss cross her face.

Claire’s hands made their way up Jamie’s back and into his hair. Pulling lightly on his hair she brought his face up to her’s. Kissing him fiercely she nibbled on his lower lip, all while Jamie’s fingers were plunged deep within her. Claire arched her back, pressing her breasts into her husband and then broke the kiss to look into his eyes.

“I need you inside me Jamie.”

Jamie loved when his wife was direct in bed, and ready as he was, he couldn’t help but tease her a bit longer. He kept up his ministrations with his hand and leaned down to whisper in her ear, as he gently bit her earlobe. “Tell me what ye want mo chridhe.”

Claire was gasping, trying not to climax yet. “Inside me…now…I’m…close.”

“Aye, I ken, but that means I’ll have tae stop doing this.” Jamie added a third finger and increased the pressure of his thumb on her clit. Claire arched up off the bed and bit her lower lip to keep from screaming. “Christ woman! What I would’na give tae have ye where no one can hear.”

Jamie withdrew his hand, grabbed his cock and drove home in one swift motion. This time Claire did cry out, causing Jamie to smile. “Give me yer mouth Sassenach.” He leaned down, a hand on either side of her head and kissed her deeply, never breaking their rhythm. It was a matter of minutes before Claire was falling over the edge, her release dragging Jamie with her. Not willing to break the connection, Jamie leaned his weight on his forearms and rested his forehead against Claire’s.

They were both breathing heavily and were covered in a thin layer of sweat. “I promise ye Sassenach, when I get my stamina back, I’ll last more than five minutes.”

Claire laughed, but one look at Jamie’s face let her know that he was being serious. She kissed him tenderly and looked back into his eyes. “Darling, you must know, that when it feels as good as it does with you, I have no complaints on how long it lasts. If you recall, I was the one who got there first.”

“Aye, but-”

“But nothing. How long our love-making lasts makes no difference to me. It’s about the connection we have before, during, and after. I have never once felt short-changed. You are the most tender, generous lover, and are very intune with my needs. No more of this talk about stamina, alright?”

“Yes ma’am,” Jamie kissed her nose and then pushed off of his wife, making his way to the bathroom to wet a washcloth. When he was confident that it wasn’t too cold, he brought it back to the bed and cleaned his wife up and then took care of himself.

Claire glanced at the clock and realized they were supposed to be meeting John for dinner in about thirty minutes. No time for showers, they made themselves presentable and then headed to the cafeteria.

 

The trio enjoyed dinner and talked for a couple of hours. They all agreed that it was best to not make any definitive plans until Claire and Jamie had received their results from Dr. Hildegarde and knew when they would be going home.

“One thing we are sure of, when we get back home, is that we plan to continue on with our individual therapy. Especially as the trial approaches, it will be important to have an unbias outlet for those feelings.” Claire added to the conversation.

“And, John…ye are now not only a friend, but will be an employee, sae we would appreciate any recommendations ye may have for therapists up near the West Point area,” Jamie concluded.

“Are you sure? I’m happy to continue seeing you both and keeping doctor/patient confidentiality.”

“We never thought that would be an issue,” Claire quickly replied. “We just feel that it would be best to keep our personal appointments separate from the business side of things.”

John smiled. “I can tell that you have really thought about this and I do think that is a good idea, but I wanted to let you know that I would’ve been happy to continue being your therapist.”

It was Jamie’s turn to smile. “We ken John, but to us, and with us…we just want ye tae be John.”

Claire attempted to hide a yawn, prompting John to look at his watch. “My dear, no wonder you are yawning! We’ve been sitting here for over three hours! Jamie, get this wife of yours into bed. She needs some rest…tomorrow is a big day for the both of you if my memory serves me well.”

“Aye, big day indeed. No matter what results we get, we ken the road ahead may no’ always be easy, but we’ll weather it together.”

The trio stood from the table, John leaning over to kiss Claire on the cheek and then extending his hand out to Jamie, who shook it heartily.

“Good evening Frasers! I will touch base with you two tomorrow and I am praying that you receive the news you are hoping for.” John then left the cafeteria.

 

Jamie and Claire headed back to their room and got ready for bed. Once the lights were out, Jamie pulled Claire tightly to his chest and kissed her temple. “I love ye mo chridhe.”

“I love you too, darling.” Jamie wrapped his arm around Claire and she gave it a little squeeze. “I need you to promise me something.”

“Anything Sassenach.”

“Promise me, that no matter what results we get, we will make it work. We have been separated before, and I know that our love is strong enough to endure it, but I want you to know that I would never resent you if you were able to go home and I was not.”

“I promise ye mo nighean donn, but no more of that talk. I want ye tae have positive thoughts as ye fall asleep. Whatever tomorrow brings, we’ll face it together, aye?”

“Aye,” Claire replied with a sleepy smile. She nestled back into Jamie, inadvertently gently rubbing her arse against his cock, causing it to twitch eagerly. “You cannot be serious,” Claire said with her eyes closed.

“I canna control it when you go shoving that plump arse against him! I can tell ye that my mind is half asleep, but the body is always willin’.” Jamie leaned in and gave Claire one last kiss on her neck, before they both fell into a peaceful sleep.

When they awoke, Claire and Jamie enjoyed a lazy morning in bed. Jamie had moved further down the bed and rested his head on Claire’s abdomen. He was speaking softly to the baby in Gaelic, as Claire ran her fingers through Jamie’s lengthening curls.

“I hope our baby has your beautiful hair. I had no idea how curly it was!”

“Weel, I dinna think ye have tae worry about our bairn having curly hair, but as fer the color of it…that’s a different matter entirely. I honestly dinna care as long as they have yer whisky colored eyes.”

“Really? But your blue is simply stunning.” Claire smiled, and continued running her fingers along his scalp. “Either way, our baby will be beautiful.”

“Aye, just like her mother.” Jamie placed a kiss on her abdomen and then started a trail of them downwards. Claire closed her eyes and sighed. “So you’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s a girl have you?” Her breath caught in her throat as Jamie had reached his destination.

“MmmHmm,” he answered, humming against her.

For the next thirty minutes they took turns teasing one another, bringing their partner right to the edge, only to back down and draw out their pleasure. After several minutes Jamie suggested finishing in the shower, at Claire’s nod he picked Claire up and carried her to the bathroom.

“Ye ken when we move into our house, I’ll have a shower big enough tae serve ye in any manner I wish.” Jamie said as he was lathering Claire up with the soap and running his hands all over her body, while her back was pressed against his stomach.

Claire hummed her agreement and then looked back over her shoulder, with hooded eyes. “But for the time being, we’re a little confined on space Soldier.” Claire bent over and wiggled her arse against the tip of Jamie’s hard cock. Jamie needed no further invitation before he grabbed her hips and thrust inside.

Thirty minutes later, Jamie and Claire were dressed and headed to grab a quick breakfast before meeting with Dr. Hildegarde. Both were a bit nervous, so despite their extracurricular activities that morning, neither had much of an appetite. Claire had a cup of tea and a croissant, while Jamie opted for coffee and a bagel. They attempted to make small talk, but after a few minutes, they both realized that the other was lost in their own thoughts and they finished silently.

Jamie was tapping his two fingers on the tabletop, while Claire held her mug with both hands and was chewing on her lip. She would glance at her watch every couple of minutes, wishing time to both speed up and stop. If the meeting never came, neither had the opportunity to receive bad news, however, they also didn’t have the opportunity to receive good news either. Claire reached over and placed one of her hands on top of Jamie’s to stop his fidgeting. He looked up at her and smiled. Claire returned his smile before saying, “It’s time darling.”

Jamie nodded and then stood up, reaching for Claire’s hand. He brought her hand up to his lips, kissing her knuckles, before they headed towards Dr. Hildegarde’s office.

 

The door to Dr. Hildegarde’s office was open when they arrived. She welcomed them warmly, hugging them each and offering them chairs, closing the door before returning to her desk. Claire and Jamie had moved the chairs close enough that they could continue holding hands and looked at each other nervously.

“Oh mes chéris! Please do not fret! You do understand that you will not be stuck in Landstuhl forever, non?” Dr. Hildegrade had attempted to make a joke, but she could tell that both Claire and Jamie were too high strung for it at the moment. She thought it best to just share their news and not make small talk.

“Jamie, we shall start with you. You scored very well on your physical therapy tests! Phaedre is pleased with how far you have come and knows that you will continue to work diligently on your exercises. There are a couple incisions on your back that we would like to keep a close eye on, since they are taking longer to heal then the rest, but overall…you have been cleared to return home! We will set you up with a physical therapist near your home so you can continue to regain your strength and mobility.”

Tears had welled in Claire’s eyes and she looked over to Jamie, who was shaking slightly. She smiled at him before saying, “You’re going home darling! Isn’t that wonderful news?”

Jamie turned to her and nodded. He pulled her in for a kiss, looking back to Dr. Hildegarde, never letting go of Claire’s hand.

“Thank ye, Dr. Hildegarde, for everything. I ken this is a happy occasion, but I will feel better when ye go over my wife’s results as well. Does she get tae come home with me?”

Dr. Hildegarde looked from Jamie over to Claire. She was trying to keep her expressions neutral. Claire had known this woman for years and could see there was something wrong. She squeezed Jamie’s hand before asking.

“What is it Mother Hildegarde? I can tell by your face something in my test results did not come back the way you wanted them to.”

“You always were very astute, ma chérie.” She paused before continuing. “You passed all of your tests. I would like to see you score a little higher on the fine motor skills. That will take some time and practice, so I would like to set you up with some physical therapy.”

Claire let out a slow breath. “Ok, but then something must be wrong with one of my scans,” she whispered, clinging to Jamie’s hand.

Oui. I’m not pleased with some of the pressure readings I saw and I am not comfortable putting you on a plane yet without some further testing.”

Claire sat in silence. She was not entirely surprised, but it still hurt to actually hear her fears expressed out loud. Jamie was still trying to process everything that had transpired, but he was clinging to one word. “Yet.”

Mother Hildegarde and Claire both turned to look at Jamie. “What did you say darling?”

“Yet. Mother Hildegarde said she was’na comfortable putting ye on a plane yet. What further testing is required?”

Mother Hildegard smiled. “I do admire your positivity Jamie! You are correct…if Claire passes this additional test, then I would allow her to fly home with you.”

“Well, I suppose that is better than being told ‘no’ outright. What is the additional test?” Claire inquired.

“I would like to conduct a spinal tap, since both the CT and MRI were not as conclusive as I would have liked them to be.”

“Is it safe for the baby?” That was Jamie’s only thought. He silently prayed, Lord, even if I have to leave Claire here, please don’t put our baby at risk.

Oui! I promise, I would never suggest something that I did not think was safe for le bébé.”

“Let’s do it.” Claire was emphatic and ready to put this all behind her.

“Are ye sure Sassenach? Perhaps it would be better tae just wait a while longer.”

Claire could tell that Jamie was nervous about this procedure, but she wanted to reassure him, but before she had the chance, Mother Hildegarde jumped in.

“I promise you, Jamie, Claire will be perfectly safe. I love her as if she were my own daughter and would never put her life or your unborn child’s life in jeopardy.”

A tear slipped from Claire’s eyes, as she stood up to hug the woman. They embraced and let some of the fear and frustration out.

“I know how much you want to go home ma chérie, but I would never forgive myself if something happened to you on that plane. Please bear with me a bit longer.”

Claire nodded and sat back down with Jamie, who was doing his best to keep his emotions in check. He swallowed the lump in his throat, to clear it before speaking. “Mother Hildegarde, may I stay until we get those test results? I understand if I have tae leave shortly after, but I would like tae at least be with my wife for the test.”

Assurément! I knew you would want to stay, so I have already arranged for that. We will not be scheduling your flight home, until we have Claire’s results.”

Merci beaucoup, Mother Hildegarde. We will be forever in your debt for all that ye have done fer us.”

Mother Hildegarde smiled and nodded. “I understand all of today’s news was not what you were hoping for, but as Jamie pointed out, the answer was not ‘no’, just ‘not yet’.”

Both Claire and Jamie stood up and thanked Mother Hildegarde before leaving her office.

The pair was silent as they walked out into the hall and back to their room. As the door closed, Jamie turned towards his wife, catching her as she fell into his arms, sobbing.

Chapter Text

CH-53

LRMC - Germany
Jamie was unsure of how long they had been standing in the hall. He could feel the fear and frustration flowing out of his wife and he wanted nothing more than to absorb it all for her, just as she had done when he had begun to heal.

Mo chridhe? Come, let’s go fer a walk,” Jamie gently suggested.

Claire sniffed and nodded her head. Some fresh air and privacy would certainly be appreciated. She was not surprised when Jamie gently sat her down on their bench. This place had become very special to them, so Claire was not surprised that this was where he had brought her.

“Would ye care fer some tea?” Jamie was rubbing her back.

“That would be wonderful love, thank you.”

“Will ye be alright while I’m gone?” Jamie was hesitant to leave her, but knew how much she would like a cuppa and a few minutes alone to process all that they had heard.

Claire smiled at her husband. “I’ll be fine. I appreciate how thoughtful you are. Hurry back.”

Jamie stood up, but leaned down to place a kiss on Claire’s forehead, before heading off to grab some tea.

Claire had sat on the bench for the last five minutes, eyes closed while practicing some breathing exercises. She knew this wasn’t the end of the world, and as a doctor she really wasn’t surprised at all. However, the other part of her had allowed herself to believe that she would be going home with her husband.

Even with her eyes closed, Claire was aware that someone had stopped in front of her. The warmth of the sun temporarily blocked as a shadow was cast upon her. She opened her eyes and smiled seeing Ian standing before her.

“May I sit down a leannan?”

“Of course,” Claire said as she scooted over to make room for Ian. As he went to sit down, Claire gasped.

“Ian! You got your new prosthetic?!”

Ian returned the smile before replying, “Aye! I was fitted fer it yesterday. My final eval is scheduled fer tomorrow, tae see if I’m healed enough to return home and continue with my therapy there.”

Claire leaned over to hug Ian whispering in his ear, “I’m so happy for you! Jenny will be thrilled to have her arms around you again.” Despite the happiness of her voice, Ian felt a tear land on his neck. He pulled back to look Claire in the eye.

“What’s amiss lass?” He looked around and noticed that Jamie was nowhere tae be seen. “Has that numpty of a brother-in-law done something? I swear, I’ll grab him by the bollocks and-”

“Good heavens no!” Claire had started to laugh, as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “He just went to get me a cuppa. We met with Dr. Hildegarde this morning.”

“And?”

“Jamie was cleared to return home, but I will need to undergo one more test to see if I can go with him or I need to stay.” Claire’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She was happy for her husband, truly, but she was nervous about this final test.

At this time, Jamie had returned to the courtyard, but saw Claire and Ian engaged in conversation. He knew they were close, so he chose to not interrupt right away. Deciding to stay back and give them time. Jamie knew sometimes an unbias ear was what was needed most.

Ian took her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. “Sae it is’na a no, but a no’ yet?”

“Exactly. I was foolish to let myself believe that I would be cleared to go home with Jamie.”

“Weel, I’ll no’ have ye talkin’ about my sister-in-law like that! Claire Fraser is many things, but foolish is no’ one of them. Does this final test have tae do with the bairn?”

Jamie smiled at that. Ian was certainly right…his wife was a smart, talented, stubborn woman. Foolish was not an adjective he would ever use to describe her.

“No. There is some concern about the pressure in my brain and that it would be unsafe for me to fly home. We need to do a spinal tap to get a more accurate reading of the pressure.”

Ian nodded, listening intently. He had very little medical knowledge, but that didn’t matter. He was simply supporting a loved-one. “And when is this test?”

“Tomorrow. It’s safe for the baby, but will definitely hurt. Honestly, I’m scared Ian.”

This final statement had made Jamie’s breath catch in his throat. Claire would know better than most what a test like this would entail. To hear that she was scared was rather unsettling.

“Aye, but it must be done. I ken that one day we will all look back on this time and be able tae think on it fondly, but no’ yet. We have all experienced sae much…and share a bond that no one else will ever understand. Regardless of what that test says Claire, ye will’na be alone. Ye have Jamie, me, yer uncle, and the rest of Clan Fraser.”

“Thank you Ian. You always have a way of putting things into perspective for me.” Claire said as tears started running down her cheeks again.

Jamie took the opportunity to step forward at this time. “Christ! I leave my wife alone fer some peace and I find her here cryin’ with ye!” The tone in Jamie’s voice let Ian know he was teasing, as did the slight quirk of a smile. Quickly changing the subject, Jamie glanced at Ian’s legs. “Mo charaid! Yer prosthetic came in!”

Jamie handed Claire her cuppa and then reached out to shake Ian’s hand and help him up.

“Tis braw, no?”

“Aye. I hear they can actually make ye faster, but dinna fash, I’m sure I’ll still be able tae beat ye.” Jamie blinked at Ian and started laughing.

Ian simply shook his head, but couldn’t help laughing at his brother-in-law. “Congratulations, Jamie. Claire mentioned ye passed yer final eval and are slated to return home. My eval is tomorrow.”

“Good luck mate! I ken ye’ll do just fine.”

Ian smiled. “Thank ye. I’ll leave the two of ye tae absorb yer own news.” He reached out to Claire and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll touch base tomorrow and see where we all stand.”

They bid Ian farewell and sat on the bench holding hands. Jamie was debating telling Claire that he had heard her conversation with Ian. He didn’t want her to think he was eavesdropping, but he wanted to be able to face their fears and trials together. After a few minutes, Claire rested her head on Jamie’s shoulder and he leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.

“Sassenach?”

“Hmm?”

“I heard ye talking tae Ian as I was coming back with yer cuppa. I just want ye tae ken that I’m here fer ye. Yer fears are my fears, but I will be strong fer both ye and the bairn.”

Claire looked up at Jamie and blushed a bit. “You heard me say that I was scared?”

“I did and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m scared too.”

“I know the procedure is safe for both me and the baby, but there is just so much riding on this. I don’t want you to be disappointed if the readings do not come back in a range that would let me fly home with you.”

“I’ll no’ lie Claire. If ye dinna get tae come home with me, I’ll be disappointed and sad, but I’ll understand. I would never want tae put ye or the bairn at risk.” Jamie rested his hand on her abdomen. “The two of ye are worth more tae me than no’ having to fly home alone."

“Thank you for saying that. I’ll be sad and disappointed too, but I just want the baby to be ok.”

“Then all we can do is pray that the test will go well.”

Claire smiled. “Tomorrow morning cannot come soon enough.”

 

Claire didn’t sleep well that night. She tossed and turned most of the night, thinking about all that could go wrong with the test. Finally at 05:00 she chose to get up and check her email. She was pleased to see one from her Uncle Lamb and another from Ellen.

She opted to read Uncle Lamb’s first. He was letting her know that he had reviewed the properties that Ellen had sent his way and narrowed it down to two. He was traveling up there this weekend to meet Brian and Ellen Fraser and look at the two houses. The Frasers had been gracious enough to put Uncle Lamb up for the weekend and he was looking forward to getting to know their family. He would be in touch and let her know his decision early next week. Uncle Lamb then wished her well and hoped they could touch base soon.

Claire smiled at the thought of her family and Jamie’s finally getting the chance to meet and get to know each other. She rubbed her slightly protruding abdomen and couldn’t help but smile at the fact that her family was growing. All Claire ever wanted was to be surrounded by family and her wish appeared to be coming true, finally.

Next, she opened Ellen’s email. It was updating them on how things were going with the house. Ellen had been able to get a crew in there this morning and the painting was already starting. She had attached a few pictures and it warmed Claire’s heart to see her house transforming before her eyes. Ellen wrapped up the email by letting them know Uncle Lamb was coming this weekend and she and Brian were thrilled to be meeting Claire’s family. Ellen had planned to show him the two properties, take him out to lunch, and then spend the evening at home, drinking whisky around the firepit.

Claire’s eyes filled with tears. The kindness and generosity that the Frasers were bestowing upon her uncle, whom they had never met, made her heart flutter. She had been blessed with a wonderful husband and a loving extended family. This made her long to be released even more. Please let the test go well this morning, she repeated to herself for the hundredth time.

Jamie then rolled over and reached for his wife. When he noticed that the bed was empty, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Sassenach?”

“Right here love.” Claire reached out for her husband.

“What are ye doing, mo chridhe?”

“I couldn’t sleep anymore so I thought I would check my email.” Claire stood up and made her way back to the bed. She laid down on her side, allowing Jamie to spoon her and place his large hand over her growing abdomen. He stroked it with his thumb as Claire continued to talk. “I had one from Uncle Lamb and another from your mother.”

“And what did they say?”

Claire filled Jamie in on both emails and when she finished, she wiped a tear that was running down her cheek.

“Why the tears lass? All of that sounds like wonderful news.”

“It is, but it just makes me want to go home with you even more. I fear I’ll only be disappointed after today’s test.”

Jamie kissed her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. “We have no control over the results, aye? As much as I want ye next tae me on the plane, we just have tae wait and see what happens. Like ye keep telling me…we may not be happy with the results, but we will get through this together.”

Claire rolled over to kiss her husband before nestling into his chest. Both fell back to sleep, praying for strength to face the day ahead of them.

 

When the time finally came, Jamie and Claire met Dr. Hildegarde outside her office. She went over the procedure and then took Claire to get prepped. Jamie had been given the option to stay with Claire, which he readily accepted, but that meant that he had to put on his own set of scrubs and a mask since it was a sterilized room. After changing, Jamie was taken back to the room by a nurse and given a stool to sit on that would be at eye level with Claire. Claire was already laying on the table on her side. She smiled at her husband as he sat down and reached for his hand. Jamie squeezed it in reassurance giving Claire a weak smile.

Mother Hildegarde had explained to them the entire procedure would take less than an hour, but Claire would have to remain lying down and monitored for at least another hour after that. Jamie was aware of the medical staff moving around the room, but he refused to take his eyes from Claire’s. He was trying to give her as much of his strength as possible, if strength could be passed between people he would will it into being. The results of this test would affect the immediate future of their family. Please Lord, keep her and the bairn safe, Jamie prayed for the tenth time since entering the room.

When Mother Hildegarde entered, he knew they were about to start the procedure. She came to the head of the bed, where she could look both Jamie and Claire in the eye.

“I will start with a numbing needle so that you will not be bothered by the one used for the spinal tap. We cannot numb you completely, but we can ease the pain of it going in a bit. Jamie, once we begin, it will be imperative for you to keep her as still as possible. You’ll put one arm around her knees, pulling them up towards her chest. That will allow me to have a better angle.” Jamie nodded, taking his directions very seriously. “Claire, ma chérie, you have one job…lay as still as possible and just focus on breathing.” Mother Hildegarde gave her a reassuring smile and cupped her cheek, before returning to the other side of the table.

Claire looked at Jamie, who simply gave her a small nod, which she returned. They placed their foreheads together and Jamie softly whispered a Gaelic prayer. “Feuch a Thighearna. Coimhead thairis oirre agus cùm i sàbhailte bho chron chan ann a-mhàin an-diugh ach fad làithean a beatha.”

Claire wasn’t sure what the words had meant, but the way in which Jamie said them, let her know the feeling behind them. Taking a last deep breath, she relaxed into Jamie’s arms and focused on her breathing.

 

Mother Hildegarde assured them the procedure had gone quite well. She also mentioned they would have preliminary results within the hour…conclusive results within 24 hours.

“Rest now. The hard part is over. I will come back with the preliminary results as soon as I have them.”

Jamie stood to embrace the woman. “Thank you Mother Hildegarde,” he whispered into her ear.

Mon plaisir,” she replied and left the room.

Jamie sat back down next to Claire and took her hand into his. “How are ye feeling Sassenach?”

“A little sore and rather tired. I’m still nervous about the results, but it feels like a large weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I just want to sleep.”

“Then close yer eyes mo chridhe, I’ve got ye. I’ll wake ye when Mother Hildegarde returns.”

“I love you Soldier,” Claire whispered before closing her eyes.

Jamie leaned down to kiss her nose. “Tha gaol agam ort.”

 

Jamie hadn’t realized that he had dozed off as well, until Mother Hildegarde gently tapped him on his shoulder. He awoke with a start, but was instantly put at ease when he saw the look on her face. Her smile was soft and her eyes were glistening with tears.

“Shall I wake Claire?” Jamie asked quietly.

Non. If she’s resting peacefully there is no need to disturb her, even with good news.”

Jamie’s eyes filled with tears. “Good news ye say?”

Oui…your wife will be flying home with you. We must wait for the final results but the preliminary results look promising.”

Jamie didn’t even try to hold back his tears. Mother Hildegarde gave his shoulders a squeeze and quietly left the room.

Jamie immediately fell to his knees and clasped his hands. Bowing his head he leaned his forehead against the exam table. “Deo gratias.”

“What are you thanking the Lord for?” Claire’s voice was soft and serene.

“For the sight of ye Sassenach, the health of our bairn, and that ye’ll be coming home with me.”

Tears flowed down Jamie’s cheeks as he leaned in to kiss his wife. He kissed away her tears before sealing his lips to hers.

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-55

Saratoga Springs, NY
Jamie and Claire had been in New York for three months and had started to settle into a routine. They enjoyed waking early and going for a walk around their property. Claire was now six months pregnant, forcing the distance to decrease as of late; still she enjoyed the fresh air and being active. After their morning stroll together Jamie would go on a run, while Claire completed a yoga routine. Jamie’s stamina had drastically improved once they returned home. The fresh mountain air, along with the much needed rest, had allowed his body to heal fully. He was still attending physical therapy twice a week, focusing primarily on flexibility and strength training. The wounds on his back were fully healed and Claire had been rubbing a homemade salve on them every night to minimize the scars. The salve was more for him than anyone else. Claire had hesitated showing it to him, reassuring him that she didn’t care about the scars.

Jamie took her hand in his, “I ken ye dinna care my love. Though I am not planning to take my shirt off anywhere but here. Still, ‘tis nice to know, I will’na scare the weans.”

Claire chuckled, “You wouldn’t scare them, but it may be more explaining than you want to do.”

Claire had fully recovered as well. A little over a month ago, she had had her final test and the pressure in her head was staying within the normal range. The doctors were confident that it had stabilized and would not need continual monitoring. At her latest prenatal appointment, Claire had been told she was in overall excellent health. The baby was thriving and she would start coming into appointments every two weeks as the due date rapidly approached. The OB had determined the sex of the baby, but Jamie and Claire had agreed to wait until the delivery to find out. After all Claire had been through, both were just pleased to know that the baby was healthy. Why not enjoy one of the few mysteries left in life.

As part of their routine, Claire had breakfast ready when Jamie returned from his run. She had cut up some fresh fruit, brewed coffee, and warmed some pastries she had bought earlier in the week and had everything sitting out on the counter, just as Jamie came through the door.

“I’m back Sassenach,” he hollered from the mud room as he was taking off his shoes and wiping off with a towel.

“Perfect timing,” she called back. “I’ve just set out breakfast.”

Jamie made his way into the kitchen and kissed Claire on the nose. “Thank ye mo chridhe. I added an extra half mile today and I’m starving!”

Claire smiled at her husband, pleased that he was making such great strides in his recovery. “That’s wonderful darling! I’m so proud of you.”

Jamie smiled back, behind a mouthful of danish, causing Claire to giggle. “Let’s hope the baby doesn’t inherit your lack of table manners.”

“Ye wound me Sassenach,” Jamie said with a mouthful, then swallowed. “We are’na even sitting at the table, sae it’s actually ‘counter manners’ that I lack.”

Claire simply rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of her husband’s antics and took a sip of coffee. “What do you have planned for today?”

“Ian, John, and I are meeting the crew over at the stable tae go over some things. Then I have some interviews lined up for the stable manager position. We’re on pace tae be ready fer horses in about six weeks and I would like that individual tae be in place by then.”

“How exciting!” Claire exclaimed and clapped her hands, then she paused. “I thought we weren’t planning to open until after the first of the year.”

“Aye, but we want the horses tae acclimate to the barn and the lands. The more familiar they are with the terrain, the calmer they will be with the vets.”

“That makes sense. I hadn’t really thought about that.” Claire took a couple more bites of fruit. Once she had swallowed, she continued. “Any good prospects for the stable manager?”

“A couple are coming highly recommended, sae we’ll see. What are yer plans fer the day mo nighean donn?”

“I have an appointment with Dr. Miller today and since I’ll be in town, I was planning on stopping at the Farmer’s Market to grab some more fruit and vegetables. This wee one,” Claire said rubbing her belly, “is just craving fruit, vegetables, oh…and milk! I need to make a list or I will never remember everything I have to pick up.” Claire reached for a pad of paper and pen.

“Give that tae me Sassenach. Ye look in the fridge and pantry and just holler what ye want and I’ll make the list fer ye.”

Claire raised an eyebrow at Jamie. “I would say thank you for the help, but in reality, I feel like you will just be adding in all the snacks and sweets that you want.”

“Nothing gets past you, Dr. Fraser.” Jamie gave his wife the endearing owl-eyed blink which always brought a smile to her face.

“I will never get tired of watching you try to wink. Never change my love.”

For the next few minutes, Claire and Jamie worked on putting together a shopping list and coming up with meals for the next few days. They were planning on having the family over for dinner tomorrow night, and Claire didn’t want to have to run back out for anything.

“There’s a lot on this list Sassenach. Do ye think mebbe we should see if Jenny is free tae go with ye? Or maybe Mam?” Jamie was very concerned about Claire overdoing it. To say he was cautious when it came to Claire and the baby was an understatement.

Claire came over and stood between Jamie’s legs, as he sat on the barstool. She took his face in her hands, as he wrapped his arms around her torso, pulling her close. She rested her forehead against his and rubbed her nose along the side of his. “I know you worry Jamie, but we’ll be fine. Pretty soon I’ll be too big to get behind the wheel, and I am enjoying the little bit of freedom that I still have. I promise, if I get tired or it’s too much, I’ll call. Besides, Jenny cannot even keep her breakfast down. Why on Earth would I try to take her to the Farmer’s Market?”

Jamie smiled. “Sure did’na take them long to try and catch up tae us! It will be nice tae have the bairns so close in age.” Jamie took a deep breath and gave Claire a kiss. “I’m sorry that I worry, Sassenach. Even after three months, it’s hard tae be apart from ye. I ken it’s healthy fer us tae do our own things and I’m sure ye’ll be fine. It’s one of the things I’ve been talking tae Dr. Miller about.”

Dr. Miller was the therapist that Jamie and Claire had found since returning home. They both saw her regularly, but usually at individual appointments. Both were pleased with how far they had come, but it was still a comfort to speak with someone privately about any lingering fears.

Claire smiled as she pressed her lips against Jamie’s. “Thank you for sharing that with me. I will keep that in mind and try not to cause you unnecessary stress. I should only be gone for a few hours and I promise to come straight to the barn to see you when I get home.”

“Will ye at least promise that ye will’na carry all the groceries in? Let me help.”

“That is certainly a promise I can keep. Now, I would like to take a shower before my appointment and seeing as how I’m getting too big to bend over and wash my legs, perhaps I could have some assistance?” Claire looked at him under her long eyelashes.

“And ye teased me fer wanting tae put in that ‘ridiculous’ shower I believe ye called it?”

“I have never been more grateful for the size of that shower. I now fully appreciate the phrase ‘bigger is better’.” Claire winked at him, turned and sashayed her hips towards the stairs.

Jamie let out a low growl and then sprang from his seat, reaching out to pinch his wife’s full arse as he followed her up the stairs.

An hour later, Jamie and Claire walked out to the front porch and down the steps. Jamie helped Claire into the car, making sure that the reusable bags were in the back seat for all her purchases. He closed the driver door and waited for Claire to put on her seatbelt and roll down the window.

“Ye’ll come fer me as soon as ye get home? I want tae help carry everything in.”

“Yes, darling, as long as you are not in an interview. How about I text you when I pull into the driveway?”

“Aye, that works fer me. Tha gaol agam ort.”

“I love you too, Soldier.”

 

Ian was waiting for Jamie in the barn, looking over the resumes again. He was making some notes when he saw Jamie enter.

“I think we’ve got some good prospects here.” Ian commented, tapping the resumes that were spread out on the makeshift table. The barn would be complete in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Jamie and Ian had been working off of a large piece of plywood that had been laid across two barrels.

“Aye. I especially like this one.” Jamie tapped the resume that had been at the top of the list for the past week. “Not only does he have a lot of experience with horses, I liked that he was a fellow veteran. Speaks tae what we are doing here, ye ken?”

“Oh aye! When is John getting here? Didn’t his furniture arrive yesterday? I was’na sure if he would be able tae join us.”

“I think he was lookin’ fer any excuse tae not unpack.” Jamie chuckled, picturing a frenzied John Grey, who thrived on order and neatness, staring at the mass of boxes. “I’m afraid the poor guy is going tae have a stroke before he’s settled.”

Ian and Jamie were both laughing when John walked in. “I must have missed the joke,” he smiled.

Jamie turned a bit red and looked towards Ian, who was trying not to make eye contact.

John looked back and forth between the two of them. “What’s so funny?”

Och, it’s nothin’ mate. I was just telling Ian how ye’d rather be here than unpacking.”

“I see. Well, that’s certainly the truth. I cannot stand when things are not in their proper place…except now, everything is out of place and it’s going to drive me mad!”

Jamie put his hand on John’s shoulder. “Calm down a charaid. Ye ken Claire and I would be happy tae help, although…” Jamie paused. “I dinna want her lifting much these days. Perhaps Ian would want tae help. Might give him an excuse to get some fresh air after Jenny’s morning sickness.” He gave Ian a sympathetic squeeze on the shoulder.

“Is it still bad?” John asked. “I thought she had started to feel a bit better.”

“Aye, ‘tis not lasting all day anymore, but she’s still sick as a dog when she wakes up. The bairn is already wreaking havoc and they are’na even here yet!”

John smiled. “I am so happy for the two of you! You have come so far in just three months. And therapy? Still going ok?” John never asked about their sessions. That was between them and their new therapists, but he was always conscious of their mental health.

Both men nodded. “Claire’s actually at Dr. Miller’s now,” Jamie added.

“Good! Well then, let’s have a look at these resumes, shall we?”

The men spent the next hour going over the resumes and making notes. They also came up with a series of six questions to ask each prospective candidate. Just as they were wrapping up, a truck pulled up outside.

“Must be our first interview,” Ian said.

“And ten minutes early. I like him already,” Jamie added.

“Shall I go out and…” John stopped mid-sentence. He had looked over to the truck where the gentleman was exiting. The man had on a nice pair of jeans, a flannel button-down, and was putting his Stetson on with one hand as he shut the truck door with his other. He grabbed a portfolio and turned towards the barn. “Dear Lord in Heaven,” John whispered.

Jamie choked back a laugh and Ian smiled. John turned quickly towards them and blushed a deep shade of red.

“Think ye’ll be able tae keep it together during the interview?” Jamie asked with a crooked grin.

“Of course! I’m nothing if not professional,” John said, but then turned back around to see the man standing by his truck. He let out a low whistle and looked back at Jamie. “Please tell Claire that she was right about the men in New York.” He then winked at Ian and Jamie and went out to bring in their first candidate.

 

Claire walked out of Dr. Miller’s feeling refreshed and energized. Her sessions lately had been quite productive and she felt as if she had truly turned a corner. Both Dr. Miller and Claire agreed that there was no need to continue discussing the trial until they had more information. It wasn’t worth the undue stress on Claire’s body, or healthy for the baby, to be worrying about something that could be months down the line. Instead they focused on Claire’s success in adjusting to civilian life and looking forward to her new role of mother. Her fingers itched every now and then for a scalpel or a suture kit, but that time would come again. She had spent the past couple of weeks trying to work with Jenny on the candles and herbs that they would be selling in their shop, but Jenny couldn’t talk about smells, let alone be anywhere near them without covering her mouth and running for the nearest toilet.

Claire’s good fortune continued as she found a parking spot close to the Farmer’s Market. It had become one of her favorite places in the short time she has been in New York…so many fresh ingredients, a variety of herbs for both cooking and medicinal purposes, and a plethora of items that had been painstakingly crafted by the seller. The vendors were hard working people and she was pleased to be able to contribute to their livelihoods.

Grabbing her bags, Claire started off with the produce. Knowing Jamie would be upset if she was carrying too much, and because her parking spot was so close, Claire decided to fill a bag and then drop it off in the car. After her fourth, and final, trip to the car, Claire noticed that her feet were quite sore and her ankles were a bit swollen. She had a dull ache in her back as well, but that seemed to improve once she was seated in the car.

“I think we’ve had a little too much excitement today lovey,” Claire said as she soothingly rubbed her belly. “What do you say we go home and ask Da to rub Mummy’s feet, hmm?”

Claire started the car and eased out of the parking spot and made her way back home. She was looking forward to a cool glass of lemonade and laying on the porch swing with a book. It wasn’t uncommon for ankles to swell in the sixth month of pregnancy, but Claire needed to start listening to her body and taking it easy. “Christ, I’ll never hear the end of it if Jamie sees how puffy my ankles are,” she muttered to herself.

Just as she was about to turn into the driveway, Claire paused to grab the mail. She figured it would save her a trip down the driveway later and she knew Jamie was busy. She tossed the stack of envelopes onto the passenger seat, drove up the driveway and parked the car. Claire grabbed her purse and the stack of mail as she got out of the car. She was just reaching for her cell to text Jamie when she noticed a car stopped at the end of the driveway and a young man was walking towards her.

“Captain Beauchamp-Fraser?”

Claire froze and nearly dropped everything in her hands. “Yes, that would be me,” she choked out, nervous as the man in uniform stopped in front of her.

“You have been served, ma’am, along with your husband. Is he here? I must give this letter to him.”

Claire wasn’t listening any more. Her hands were shaking as she tried to open the letter that had just been given to her. She had barely gotten to the end of the letter, before black dots had started to appear in her field of vision. I’m going to pass out, she thought to herself and tried to reach for the car. The last thing she remembered was the first sentence of the letter:

‘This subpoena is an official notice that Claire Beauchamp Fraser, Captain United States Army retired, must appear in court as a witness to testify against Major General Dougal Makenzie on the 12th day of August in the year 2011 at the U.S Army JAG Corps in Washington, D.C.’

“Jesus H Roosevelt Christ,” she muttered before crumbling to the ground.

Chapter Text

WHS-Ch-56

Saratoga Springs, NY
Jamie, John, and Ian were just walking out of the barn, when Jamie noticed Claire’s car in the drive, followed by an unfamiliar car further down. He quickly scanned the area, looking for his wife. His heart nearly stopped when he saw Claire crumpled on the ground and a man he had never seen cradling her head and attempting to speak with her.

“Claire!” Jamie roared and took off at a full sprint.

John and Ian startled before they realized what was happening and took off after Jamie, who was just reaching Claire and the stranger kneeled beside her.

“Who the hell are ye and what in the devil have ye done to my wife?!” Jamie bellowed as he knelt beside Claire. “Claire! Claire! C’mon mo chridhe, wake up fer me.” Jamie was gently rubbing her sternum with his knuckles when she started to stir.

Her eyes fluttered open and she started mumbling. “Jamie? Jamie, what happened?”

“You fainted ma’am,” the young man had finally found his voice. Everyone looked at him and he flustered a bit.

“I - I - I was just serving Captain Fraser papers. May I presume you are Master Sergeant James Fraser?”

“Arghhh!” Claire screamed and rolled over into the fetal position before Jamie could answer.

Jamie’s eyes flew back to his wife and he was gripped with fear watching her hold her abdomen where their unborn child was residing.

“I’m calling 9-1-1!” John said before standing up and stepping away.

As John was on the phone, Jamie tried to calm his wife. Ian looked at the young man knowing it was up to him to get answers. “Ye said ye served her papers?”

“Yessir.”

“And ye have letters fer both Captain Fraser and Master Sergeant Fraser?”

“Yessir, along with a Captain Murray.”

Ian froze. He had been dreading this moment since the day of the mission that had torn his best friend’s back to shreds and caused him to lose his leg. The day where one of their men hadn’t made it out alive. Ian quickly regained his composure and cleared his throat. “I’m Captain Murray.”

Reaching into the folder he had brought with him, the young man pulled out another envelope. “You have been served Captain Murray.”

Ian took the envelope and stared at it. The young man rose up and attempted to hand Jamie the envelope with his name, but Jamie was focused solely on Claire. “Bugger off, will ye!”

“But I need to put it directly into your hands, Master Sergeant Fraser,” the young man was pleading.

“Ye heard the man. He’s focused on his wife. I’ll take the letter fer him.”

“Captain Murray, that would be going against orders,” the young man explained.

“Christ! Just give him the goddamn envelope!” Jamie yelled.

The young man jumped, then quickly deposited the envelope into Ian’s outstretched hand. He then gave a quick salute and took off running for his car.

John came back over with his cell still to his ear, “They’re about five minutes out.”

Jamie nodded and then turned his attention right back to Claire. “They’re almost here, Sassenach. I promise, no’ much longer. Just try and breathe through the pain.”

“It’s too soon, Jamie!” Claire wailed. “If the baby comes now, it will be too soon!” She was crying and still curled up on her side. Since the initial onset of pain, Claire had had two more contractions shoot through her abdomen.

Jamie was caressing her hair and whispering to her softly in Gaelic. Unable to fully contain his emotions, a single tear dripped off the end of his nose and onto her cheek. He could just make out the sound of the sirens rapidly approaching and the pain in his chest eased slightly. Help would be here in a few minutes and they would know what to do. He had never felt so helpless in all his life. He was the leader on missions, which meant he was in control. The team looked to him for their next move and he made decisions quickly. Now, with his wife and unborn child at risk, Jamie was at a loss on how to help them. Luckily, for everyone, the EMTs pulled up a minute later.

 

Ian had offered to go let Brian and Ellen know what was going on. John had stayed back with Jamie and Claire, knowing that he may have to follow with a car to bring them home, or at the very least, drive Jamie if he was not able to ride with Claire.

Jamie had reluctantly moved out of the paramedics way, but was still holding tightly to Claire’s hand.

There was a lot of medical terminology being thrown around and most of the words were simply going over Jamie’s head. Claire’s eyes opened wide a few times at the words ‘hypertension’ and ‘preeclampsia’, causing her blood pressure to rise even further.

“You need to try and relax Mrs. Fraser, for your sake and the baby’s.” one of the paramedics said as they started an IV. Another had placed an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth.

“My wife’s a doctor, so she kens more than most, and some of what yer saying is putting her in further distress,” Jamie tried to explain.

The paramedics nodded knowingly and decided it might be best to extend some professional courtesy to Dr. Fraser and explain what was going on. Sometimes the fear of the unknown made the situation worse.

“Dr. Fraser, my name’s Lizzie. We certainly were not trying to put you in further distress, but as a doctor, you understand some of what is happening right now. Your blood pressure is dangerously high, even for someone that is not pregnant. I understand that you are about six months along?”

Claire nodded, tears still spilling out of her eyes and down her cheeks.

“Then you need to try and focus on your breathing, so we can get your blood pressure to drop,” Lizzie said soothingly. “Have you had any more contractions since we arrived?”

Claire shook her head and Lizzie smiled. “That’s a good thing! We are still going to transport you to Saratoga General. I would rather be safe than sorry.”

Relief flooded through Jamie, as Claire nodded her agreement. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Everything’s going to be alright, mo chridhe. We’ll get to the hospital and they’ll call Dr. Conner tae come check ye.”

Claire was still focusing on her breathing, but made eye contact with Jamie and gave him a weak smile.

 

A couple hours later, Claire was resting comfortably in a hospital bed. She had actually managed to drift off to sleep. Her body was exhausted. She had had a couple more contractions since arriving at the hospital, so in addition to the fluids in her IV, a medicine had been added to prevent pre-term labor.

Jamie was sitting in a plastic chair, holding Claire’s hand, while resting his head on her bed. There was a soft knock on the door and he looked up to see John standing there.

“How is she?” John quietly stepped into the room.

“She’s had a few more contractions, so they’ve added medicine to the IV bag tae help stop those.” Jamie ran his hand over his face.

“Your parents and Lamb are out in the Waiting Room. They know it’s only one visitor at a time. I thought I would offer to sit with Claire while you talk with them. I know they're anxious to hear about what happened.”

“Christ, I’ve barely had time tae process all that’s happened!”

John placed his hand on Jamie’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Come on, mate. Go talk to your family and grab a bite. I promise, I will not leave her side until a family member comes and relieves me.”

Jamie stood up and grabbed John for a hug. He slapped him on the back twice and then made for the door, but turned around to look at Claire. It was unsettling to see her hooked up to so many monitors. The doctors were monitoring her vitals, along with the baby’s. He then looked at John, “Thank ye. Yer always there when we need ye.”

John smiled. “There’s nowhere else I would be.”

 

Jamie headed to the family lounge and was greeted by both of his parents, Uncle Lamb, Jenny, and Ian. They all stood when Jamie walked in. Ellen rushed over to him first.

“Oh, mo mhac! Claire and the bairn, how are they?” Ellen was doing her best to remain calm for her son’s sake, but Jamie could hear her voice trembling.

“Claire has finally fallen asleep, John’s with her now. The bairn seems to be doing alright. Good strong heartbeat.” Jamie ran his hand through his lengthening curls. “They gave Claire something tae stop the contractions. She’s had a few more since we got here.”

“What brought this on?” Lamb asked. “She seemed fine when I spoke to her this morning.”

“I dinna ken.” Jamie said. “She ran some errands this morning and I asked her tae take one of ye along,” he said, nodding at his mother and Jenny, “but she would’na. She said Jenny was still feeling peely wally and that Mam was busy.”

“I would never be too busy to run errands with either of my lasses.” Ellen said emphatically, wrapping her arm around Jenny.

“I ken that Mam, truly I do, but ye ken how independent Claire is.” Jamie smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “She kens pretty soon she will’na fit behind the steering wheel and just wanted tae be able to do this on her own.”

Ian had been quiet until now, but he felt the need to speak up at this point. “I ken what caused her tae faint. It was’na the errands.” It was said in barely whisper.

All eyes shifted over to look at Ian. He remained still, hands clasped in front of him. His head was bent down and eyes locked on the floor, not wanting to meet anyone’s gaze. Jenny cupped Ian’s face and tilted it up to look him in the eye. “Tell me love. What happened with Claire?”

“Aye man,” Jamie said, reaching to turn Ian towards him. “What made her pass out?”

Ian reached into his back pocket and pulled out the three envelopes. He silently handed two of them to Jamie and the third to Jenny. Everyone looked at the two envelopes. Seeing the return address, Brian inhaled sharply and Ellen gasped, covering her mouth with both hands. Lamb looked between the two of them. “What is it?”

“JAG Corps in D.C.” Jamie responded, not taking his eyes off the envelope.

“What does that mean?” Jenny asked.

“They’ve been served,” Brian answered. “They must appear in court tae testify.”

“Testify?!” Ellen exclaimed. “Against who?”

Jamie finally looked up and directly into his mother’s eyes. “Yer brother, Dougal.”