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Ughhh ,” Jamie groaned as he peeled his cheek away from his pillow.

In a dreamlike state, he managed to brush his teeth and wash his face, and not piss all over the toilet seat – which was the biggest feat in itself because the ground kept swaying beneath his feet.

A cup of coffee, not tea, but strong black coffee was needed for today and perhaps, when he could stomach it, something greasy and filling to line his stomach.

But for now, Jamie took his freshly brewed cup of coffee into the stables, sat on the first available bale of hay he saw, and allowed himself to breathe fully. It was still rather early, just passing ten in the morning. Jamie wished he’d been able to doze a little longer, allow his body to recuperate and sleep off some of the lingering hangover plaguing him. But his internal clock had decided otherwise.

Recently, nothing seemed to be going the way Jamie planned it in his head and he wasn’t too keen on being thrown out of the loop so often.

Take last night for example, to say it had been an unexpected whirlwind would have been an understatement and a half.

Never in a million years had Jamie expected to see Claire at a bar. And certainly not one like the Dog and Parrot, which had a certain reputation . A reputation that Claire and he had clearly contributed to.

Jamie tapped two of his fingers against his outer left thigh, worrying against the material of his cotton shorts, as he pondered how Claire was fairing this morning. Would she have a stinking hangover as he did? Most likely. But that wasn’t what Jamie cared about the most. He cared about whether she regretted it or not.

Was she sitting in her home right now, also nursing a cup of coffee but burrowing her head into her arms and meticulously going through every event from last night… or had it been early morning?

It had all escalated so quickly. One minute, Jamie had been content to sit with his newfound friends, and behave recklessly for just the night, before he had to become a responsible adult once more with a bairn. The next thing he knew, Claire’s inner walls were contracting around him, as she softly cried out her pent up release. A release that was all Jamie’s doing.

“Fuck’s sake.” Jamie muttered to himself, taking a long slurp of his coffee. He’d always had this impulsive behaviour around women. Something, which he thought he’d grown out of, but Claire Beauchamp was fast teaching him that he hadn’t grown out of it at all. In the heat of the moment, Jamie was unable to stop himself. Choosing instead, to slide down the slippery slope, and deal with the consequences at a later date.

With Claire in his hands, as close as she’d ever been to him, Jamie had wanted to play her own game, asking her the questions running about his mind.

Had the dessert parlour been a date without him realizing it?

How did she truly feel?

What did she mean when she said he made her feel vulnerable?

But the pleasure had consumed him like a bunch of kindling above an open flame. He’d been unable to think of anything else except Claire Claire Claire.

Sassenach.

Pursing his lips, Jamie rubbed his two hands together and sighed. His brain felt unattached, rattling freely around in his skull. It hurt to think this hard. To attempt to figure out questions Jamie didn’t have the answer to, and had no way of answering until he asked Claire.

She was the only one who could help him.

His Sassenach held more power in her hands than she was aware of, and that thought terrified Jamie right down to his core.

He needed to get moving. Get rid of the energy that was building up and up and up in his mind…

The coffee had settled Jamie’s stomach a tad, enough to make it rumble in search of food. He stood to his full height, brushing off any hay clinging to his clothes, thinking of walking to the main Lallybroch estate, hoping his Mam might have whipped something up for him to devour. On his way out, Jamie gave Donas’ muzzle a quick pat. He watched the dark horse’s ears go back in disgruntlement, lip curling upwards, but at least Donas hadn’t tried to nip him this morning.

On his quick walk through the field, Jamie decided he needed to just let everything go. He didn’t have the answers he wanted, well… so what? It would only waste his own time to be overthinking. He still had more than enough things to be grateful for in life; Willie by his side, a great family who was supportive of everything Jamie put his mind to, a warm roof over his head…

What more could he possibly need?

Jamie was just about to open the front door, noticing that nobody was in the nearby fields yet nor the dusty courtyard, when his phone vibrated in his hand.

Sassenach [10:59am]
How are you feeling this morning, soldier? x

Until then, Jamie hadn’t allowed himself to want to hear from Claire. To want reassurance that last night hadn’t been a fluke between the two of them.

It would mean you want me as much as I want you.

It would mean you want me as much as I want you.

It would mean you want me as much as I want you.

Now he allowed himself, Claire’s words bounced about Jamie’s mind, constantly on replay.

All fingers and thumb, Jamie typed a reply and sent it off quickly.

Jamie Fraser [11:02am] Hangover from hell… should of stopped when I’d lost count lol ye? x

“Da!”

Before Jamie could twiddle his thumbs waiting for Claire to reply, Willie came barreling around the corner from the back door, running at a million miles an hour to reach his Da.

Their bodies collided, knocking the wind out of Jamie. “I missed ye,” Willie mumbled, arms stretched as wide as they would go to wrap around his Da’s torso.

“Och, I missed ye too, my lad.” Jamie ruffled his boy’s hair, bending over to shelter him. Willie smelt like Ellen’s particular washing powder, and the sweet smell of raspberry jam he must have eaten for his breakfast. “Did ye have a good night?”

“Aye,” Willie smiled cheekily. “Grandma let me stay up past my bedtime.”

Jamie tutted good naturedly. “I should have known. Where about is she, anyway? In the kitchen?”

Willie nodded, leading his Da to the back door. “She said she was making ye something to cure yer hangover.” Then he peered over his shoulder. “Granddad said ye will have been sick and made a pig of yerself… Have ye been sick, Da?”

Jamie laughed, shaking his head. It was typical of Brian to take the piss out of his only son, especially about the drink. “No, ye ken me Willie, I’m made of stronger stuff than that.”

“Och, good.” Willie twisted the door open. “I didn’t want ye to feel ill without me there to look after ye.” And then he slipped away back into the house.

How was Jamie supposed to even answer that?

---

“Happy birthday to ye! Happy birthday to ye! Happy birthday dear Jamie! Happy birthday to ye!”

Monday, three days after Jamie had gotten his hands on his Sassenach for the first time, saw both the beginning to a fresh new month and also Jamie’s thirtieth birthday. He was still dealing with the after effects from the hangover from hell, but that night at the bar had been a very nice early birthday present, if Jamie did say so himself.

Jamie had wanted no fuss for his birthday, just some quality time to spend with the ones he loved the most. After a grueling day's work on the farm, made all the worse by the hot and cold sweats Jamie was experiencing, Ellen had cooked him his favourite dinner and then brought out a homemade coconut sponge cake with vanilla buttercream icing for their dessert. They all sang happy birthday to him, Willie belting it out the loudest while beaming up at his Da, as they sat around the table in the house Jamie had first ever called home.

Thick slices were served, Jamie of course being first as the birthday boy, before everything was cleared away and Jamie and Willie had to bid everybody goodnight. It was still a school night, after all.

Over the course of the weekend, Jamie had heard from Claire sporadically. She’d assured him, she too, was suffering from a hangover, and was concerned about the amount of ready salted crisps she’d been eating, because it was the only thing her body would let her keep down.

Claire hadn’t wished him a happy birthday. In fact, he’d not spoken to her all day, nor seen her at the school gates. But that wasn’t a surprise. Jamie hadn’t let slip to her, or anybody else from the school, exactly when his birthday was, so it would be impossible for them to ken.

And as Jamie laid his head down that night, lying flat on his back with his hands folded neatly over his rising and falling stomach, he smiled to himself. He might have been entering a new decade of his life, with unknown challenges hiding behind every corner, but Jamie was excited to see what they were and tackle them with everything he had. The people he had around him right now, were everything he needed, could have wished for, and more.

He was beyond grateful.

As he drifted off to sleep, Jamie pictured the part of the day he’d loved the most. The large table in the Lallybroch dining room, the one where they’d all sat just a matter of hours ago. He imagined it, as it had been today, decorated cake sitting in the center, waiting to be cut. Jamie was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him back, with Willie sitting to his right and Jenny to his left.

But out of the corner of his eyes, Jamie could see another figure. A tall, brunette lass sitting beside Ellen, her hands clasped together and her mouth moving as she sang along to the tune of “Happy Birthday”. Those amber eyes of hers twinkled, the flicking of the candles dancing in them, as she watched with a smile on her face, Jamie leaned over the table slightly and blew out the candles sitting inside the icing. She cheered loudly, sounding exactly as she had done at Fergus’ football match.

Claire.

His Sassenach.

She’d chosen to spend Jamie’s birthday with him, with his family.

She’d chosen him.

---

“Da, ye will never guess what?” Willie announced as he came running into the kitchen.

Jamie had been stuck on the farm all day, dealing with one thing after another, and had been unable to pick Willie up from school on this Wednesday afternoon as the deadlines reached up to his ears.

“What, lad?” Jamie asked wearily, forehead resting in his hands as he gazed down at the important document down in front of him. How he was supposed to have this read, understood and signed all before tomorrow, Jamie did not know.

Willie walked over the sink, filling up an empty glass with the cold liquid and taking a big gulp. “Football isn’t on this week.”

At that Jamie raised his head up to look at his son. “What do ye mean? It must be.”

“It’s not,” Willie shook his head, dumping his backpack onto the counter, unzipping it and retrieving another piece of paper for Jamie to read.

“To whom this may concern.” Jamie began, reading out loud. “Dear Mr/Miss/Mrs…”

Jamie swore to God, if he ever saw ‘to whom this may concern’ written again, it would be too soon.

“We are writing to remind you, the football matches for Willowhead Primary School, taking place on Saturday morning, between the times of 10 and 1, are to be cancelled this week. Instead, you are all cordially invited to our yearly Spring Festival, which will take place on the big field behind the school. Parents are to be reminded there is a small fee for entering, and to be asked to double-check the Facebook page to ensure they know what time slots they have been allocated to man the stalls. Children are to be supervised at all times. Babies and small dogs are welcome. Thank you – Debbie (Head of the meeting and fundraising committee).”

“See?” Willie pointed to the crinkled paper in his Da’s hand. “I told ye.”

“The Spring Festival?” Jamie vaguely recalled Debbie chatting to him about it a couple of weeks ago, just as Willie was beginning to get used to his new school. Jamie hadn’t been paying much attention. “Shouldn’t they have sent me another letter to remind me when that was?”

Willie looked sheepish, staring down at his sock clad feet.

“Willie.” Jamie warned.

“I think the letters might be in the bottom of my bag,” Willie grimaced. “I keep forgetting to give them to ye, but I’ve read them myself, they’re not important.”

“Not important?” Jamie repeated, taking ahold of Willie’s backpack himself and rummaging through it. “They must be important if they’re getting sent home. Right…” Jamie brandished a clump of papers with ink stains all over them. They were crinkled and torn from sitting underneath Willie’s books and packed lunch for such a long period of time. “Here we are.”

In Willie defense, three of the letters were utter shit, nonsense about parking fines and a change in the school dinner menu. The fourth letter was more of a poster, indeed announcing the school’s spring festival. The A4 paper was brightly decorated; promising fairground rides, food trucks, and stalls to win cuddly toys and even a goldfish or two. The date for the festival this coming Saturday sat in big, bold letters right at the top – ye couldn’t miss it, even if ye tried.

“Right, we’ll keep that one safe, shall we?” Jamie handed the three useless bits of paper over to Willie, for him to place them in the recycling bin. The spring festival poster, Jamie kept to one side.

“And what’s this one?” Jamie scanned the fifth and last boring looking letter. “We regret to inform you that an outbreak of nits have been found… Oh! For fuck’s sake, Willie!”

Willie pulled a face, bringing his hand up to his head and itching, just at the thought.

“This was only sent home on Friday.” Jamie sighed. “Next time… Willie, are ye listening to me?”

“Aye, Da…”

“Next time ye get a letter, ye bring it straight to me. Do ye understand?”

Willie nodded his head, still clutching his glass of water, but inching closer and closer to the stairs with each passing second. He knew what was coming…

“Can I go upstairs and do my homework…?” Willie tried.

Jamie shot his own flesh and blood a look. “No, ye can't. I ken for a fact ye don’t get any homework on a Wednesday. Now get yer shoes back on, we’re going to the chemist.”

“Do we have to Da,” Willie argued. “My head hasn’t been itchy and…”

“Shoes. Car. Now.” Jamie replied, not up for taking any more shit or unexpected surprises today.

---

Tea tree oil applied to both of their heads, Jamie made his son sit in the bathroom with him, leaning against the side of the bathtub, until it was time to wash off the treatment. Willie sat contently, his portable game device held in his hands, while he played some sort of racing car game. Jamie glanced over at him, repressing a snort at how ridiculous Willie looked with a much too large flowery print shower cap over his hair.

There had only been one cap in the pack Jamie had so conveniently picked up at the chemist. It made sense to let Willie use it, because God knew he was more likely to forget it was there, start messing about with his hair, and then place his sticky, strong smelling hands all over the place.

While Willie played about, Jamie toyed with his own phone. He’d sent Claire a text just before he’d started the process of applying the treatment to his own head, and now Jamie’s thumbs twiddled about the place as he waited for the text to flash up read and for Claire to start typing.

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [4:58pm]
Did ye ken there’s been an outbreak of nits at school? x

Not the most sexy of texts, but…

Well…

It was a conversation starter at least.

Sassenach is typing … [5:07pm]

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:08pm]
Yes…? Fergus brought the letter home on Friday, and we spent the night with that oil on our heads… Faith included lol

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:09pm]
How did you not know? X

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:10pm]
Willie didn’t give me the letter… no surprises there lol x

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:11pm]
*laughing emoji * Better late than never I guess… hope you’ve got it on your own head as well!! X

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:12pm]
Och of course… we look a right pair x

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:14pm]
Oh I bet you do! If you didn’t get the letter for the nits outbreak, does this mean you don’t know football is cancelled this week? X

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:14pm]
No, I ken that one. Was the first thing Willie said to me when he came through the door, something about this spring festival, aye? x

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:15pm]
Should have known, Fergus is the same, just a one track mind lol. If you go on the Facebook group you’ll see all the details for the festival x

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:16pm]
Facebook group?? X

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:17pm]
Yes, I’m sure you’ll have been added to it… Debbie doesn’t miss a beat… hahah x

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:17pm]
Must go, the children are shouting… honestly, some days I think about changing my name and moving to Peru… do you think they’d notice I was gone??? x

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:18pm]
I’d notice x

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:18pm]
Pls don’t leave me with Debbie she’d rip me apart lol x

Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:20pm]
More like eat you alive hahahah x

“Da, is it time to rinse this off yet?” Willie had placed his game console to the side, looking up at his Da the best he could, with the shower cap drooping in his eyes.

Jamie gave another one over on the side of the bottle, scanning for the instructions. “Aye.” He agreed. “Hop in the shower, rinse it really well, and then I’ll have to go through yer hair with this comb.”

Standing up, Willie leaned into the shower and turned it onto his desired temperature. He spoke louder than usual, to be heard over the noise of the water hitting the plastic shower tray. “Does that mean I get to comb yer hair afterwards? It’s only fair if ye do mine.”

Jamie didn’t completely trust the somewhat evil glint in Willie’s eye. The lad was planning payback for the nit treatment, probably by ‘accidently’ ripping his Da’s hair out at the root with the bloody wide tooth comb. But Jamie couldn’t fault Willie; it was only fair, after all.

“Aye, fine.” Jamie huffed. “And then we’ll have dinner after, all right? So think about what ye fancy to eat, while ye wash that gunk out.”