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The first time Jamie’s mobile phone rang, he couldn’t possibly reach it.

It vibrated in the front pocket of his body warmer, but his worker’s hands were busy milking the cow in front of him. Tillie hadn’t fancied heading into the steel milking pen today. In fact, as Jamie had ushered the herd into the enclosure, she’d made quite a racket and kicked out, her tail whipping this way and that, dangerously.

“Shit,” Jamie muttered under his breath into the fresh air, as his phone stopped ringing for a beat, and then started again.

He gave Tillie’s final udder one last firm squeeze and pull, watching the thin spray of milk hit the metal pail, before wiping his calloused hands, as best he could, on a raggedy square of cloth. Fumble, fumble, fumble, Jamie eventually hit the bright green button on his phone, and brought it up to his ear.

“Hallo…”

“Mr Fraser. Hello. It’s Laoghaire. Would you be free to come down and have a small chat in the headmaster’s office?”

Oh, how a small, unexpected phone call could completely change Jamie Fraser’s day.

Mobile phone pressed tight to his ear with one hand, Jamie used his right hand to rub his brow bone. Ugh, he stunk of milk. “Aye, aye, after school? Or now?”

“After school,” the girlish sounding receptionist answered. “Half three, if that’s all right with you, Mr Fraser.”

“Aye, that’s fine. Is William all right? What’s he done?”

Tillie the cow, still standing in front of Jamie, shifted her hooves impatiently. Reaching out his other hand, Jamie smoothed his hand down her downy flank.

“Nothing serious. There’s been a small disagreement with another boy in his class, a Fergus Beauchamp. So we’d just like to have a chat with both boys and their parents.”

“Right…”

Fergus Beauchamp? Fergus Beauchamp? Jamie racked his brain for any hint of the boy, but nothing emerged.

“Thank you for your time, Mr Fraser. We’ll be glad to see you at half three.”

I’m sure you will , Jamie mused.

The blonde receptionist at William’s new primary school had been nothing but helpful to Jamie and his son as they enrolled. If anything, she’d been a little bit too helpful for Jamie’s liking.

Worries about William followed Jamie throughout the rest of his day. The receptionist had been purposefully vague about the issue, making Jamie’s anxieties even worse. William couldn’t be hurt; surely, the school would have asked Jamie to pick his only son up if that had been the case. Or called, if the little eejit had caused trouble. Ten year old William wasn’t a bad kid, not by any means. He was boisterous, sharp tongued and adventurous – as were all of the Frasers. He was a carbon copy of his Da. But he wasn’t a mean lad, not prone to lashing out or hitting others, unless prompted, just as his Da had taught him.

What unsettled Jamie more than anything was the fact this was only William’s second week at his brand new school. His second week, and already he was getting called to meet with the headmaster.

Christ, lad.

---

At 3:15 on the dot, Jamie jumped in the rickety old Land Rover he called his pride and joy, turned his key in the ignition and left the farm, setting off for the school. Maneuvering his way through the throng of other cars waiting for the school pickup, Jamie swung his truck into one of the last remaining empty spots, not a moment too soon.

Still unfamiliar with the layout of the school, Jamie prayed he was heading in the right direction as he crested a paved hit. A sea of children were exiting the school building from a variety of different doors. The adults stood in clusters, chatting and laughing. A few other people, mainly older siblings, stood off to one side.

Jamie spotted his son immediately. Just like his Da, the bright red hair on top of Willie’s head and his growing height, set him apart from the other boys his age. Jamie was pleased to see William walking out of school with a group of three other boys. They joked with one another, backpacks thumping against their backs, as they walked. Willie called his goodbyes to them as he reached his Da. Jamie watched as the three remaining boys craned their necks up, up, up to see Jamie’s face, before shouting their ‘see you laters’ to Willie.

“We’ve been called to the Headmaster’s office, so ye better tell me what’ve ye done?” Jamie began walking in the direction of the receptionist’s office. Well, at least he hoped this was the direction to the receptionist’s office. The layout of the school was confusing, to say the least.

“I didn’t do anything!” Willie protested.

Peering down at his mini me, Jamie scoffed. “I ken for a fact ye did. Now are ye gannae tell me? Or is the headmaster gannae have to explain it to me?”

William pouted, and for a second Jamie thought his son was going to let anything slip. It wouldn’t be unfamiliar; the Frasers were known to be as stubborn as rocks.

“I was partnered with Fergus,” he began. “He’s English. A Sassenach. When I said he was a Sassenach, he hit me over the head with his ruler, so I hit him back.”

Jamie had to physically stop the corners of his mouth from rising in a smile at the way Willie told the story. He described his actions simply, and at least he’d admitted to hitting his peer in defense.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a Sassenach, Willie. I’ve told ye this before.”

“Aye, Da, but the way Fergus pronounces his vowels is funny.” Willie shrugged. “Everybody says so.”

“Does this Fergus lad have any friends?”

“I’m not sure. He usually sits by himself at lunch, but I don’t think he’s bothered by it.”

“Well.” Jamie pushed the door open, letting Willie duck under his arm and scamper inside. “Perhaps ye should try to befriend the lad. Ye might have things in common.”

Willie opened his mouth to reply, but the blonde haired receptionist beat him to it.

“Mr Fraser! Willie! You’re both right on time! Come on through.” God, Jamie wouldn’t even have an ounce of her energy if he’d downed three cups of espresso.

The two Frasers followed the young woman (if he had to guess, Jamie would have put her at 21, 22 at a push) and her swinging hips, down a short corridor, bypassing four different shut doors, until they reached the one at the end.

She pushed the door open, purposefully standing in the way so young Willie could easily slide past, but Jamie’s body would have to brush against hers. Up this close and personal, Jamie could see the lace of her bra through the thin material of her white blouse. Her perfume was sickly sweet and strong, as if she’d doused herself in it. A couple more minutes in her company, and Jamie was sure he’d have a killer headache.

“William!” Jamie heard the headmaster greet his son. With a small smile to the receptionist, Jamie skedaddled past her as quickly as he could, shutting the office door behind himself.

“And you must be Mr Fraser.” The balding headmaster had stood up, leaning over his desk, and extending his hand out for Jamie to shake.

“I am.” Grasping the gentleman’s hand with a firm grip, Jamie shook twice. “Nice to meet ye.”

“And yourself. Will Mrs Fraser be joining us?”

Willie snorted, his feet swinging above the ground in the seat he currently occupied. Jamie noticed another boy already occupied the other chair. This must be Fergus Beauchamp. From his gangly legs, Jamie could see he was also a tall boy. A shock of thick, black hair covered his head, setting off the pink undertones of his pale skin. Fergus smiled cordially at Jamie when he realised he was being watched. At least the lad had some manners.

“There isn’t a Mrs Fraser unfortunately, Mr…”

“Mr Wellman, if you please.” He supplied. “Well, how about Willie’s mother, then?”

“William’s mother isn’t in the picture either, I’m afraid. It’ll just be myself, Mr Wellman.”

A clever gentleman, Mr Wellman must have heard the final note in Jamie’s voice, for he said nothing else on the matter, but nodded once. “Well, we’re just waiting for Miss Beauchamp to arrive. She shouldn’t be long, should she, Fergus?”

The lad shrugged. “Depends if she’s gotten caught up at work.”

Jamie understood what Willie meant now he’d heard Fergus speak for himself. The lad did indeed sound English, but Jamie’s ear could detect a mixture of dialects hiding underneath the surface. The way Fergus stretched out his ‘o’ in work was definitely Scottish.

Miss Beauchamp…

Again, Jamie didn’t know that name to put a face too. A new school for William also meant a new environment for Jamie. As busy with work on the farm as he was, five days a week – Monday through Friday – Jamie made it a priority to pick his son up from school. Standing at the gates, he’d greeted a few of the parents and teachers, and noticed a few of the kids in Willie’s class who had exaggerated hairstyles or coloured backpacks. Fergus, nor his Mam had unfortunately not caught Jamie’s eye, until right now.

Minutes passed as everybody waited for Miss Beauchamp to arrive. Fergus had fished a football book from his backpack and begun reading. Willie fiddled with the laces of his trainers. Jamie and Mr Wellman stared out the window at the rolling fields, watching as the steady stream of children and parents walking past, eventually died off.

Where on earth was this woman? Being held up at work was one thing, but this was taking the piss now…

Willie’s stomach would be rumbling any minute now, if it hadn’t already done so. There was some mince left in the fridge, perhaps Jamie could make a Shepard’s pie for their dinner. See if his own Mam, Ellen, had any of her famous apple crumble left over for the boy’s dessert…

Click clack. Click clack. Click clack.

The sound of high heels slapping against the floor could be heard. It got closer and closer, louder and louder, faster and faster, until Jamie was sure whoever they belonged too was running at breakneck speed.

“I’m so sorry I’m late, Mr Wellman!”

At the sound of the Englishwoman’s clear voice, Jamie turned around. He was glad he still had a grip on the back of Willie’s chair, because otherwise he worried his suddenly weak knees would go out.

She was naturally tall, made even taller by the stiletto points of her heels, reaching to just a few inches under Jamie’s great height of 6’4. Her hair was a deep chestnut brown, the natural wave of her strands styled into a 1940s hairdo, which sat over one shoulder. Fergus’ mother wore a light blue blouse; the white buttons holding the blouse closed gleaming from across the room. The material clung to the shape of her breasts, dipping in across her stomach and tucked into a black pencil skirt.

A skintight black pencil skirt.

As surreptitiously as he could, Jamie let his eyes move further down Miss Beauchamp’s body. The stretchy material followed the outward curve of her rounded hips, before straightening out around the tops of her knees. A slit up the back must be used to help her walk easier, but all it did for Jamie was bring to his attention to the curve of her spectacular arse.

Nobody could ever say Jamie Fraser was a breast man over an arse man. He would pick a nice, round arse any day of the week. Right now, specifically Miss Beauchamp’s.

Jamie licked his dry lips, tuning back into the conversation long enough to find William looking up at his Da. With a wink to his son, Jamie realised Miss Beauchamp was asking her son a question. That English voice of hers was hard to miss.

“What have you done, Fergus?” She sighed.

Fergus looked at his Mam, but didn’t answer. She rolled her eyes, looking towards Mr Wellman for an answer.

“There was just a small incident between Fergus, and William here.”

Jamie felt Miss Beauchamp’s eyes bore into him and his son at the sound of an incident. If it was possible, Jamie stood up even taller. He was oddly aware, for the first time all day, of his state of dress. William still looked presentable; school uniform fine except for his jumper, which looked like it had been discarded a couple times throughout the day. But at least Willie was clean, and his hair wasn’t all over the place. Jamie, however, hadn’t given much thought to the clothes he wore. A green jumper to ward off the slight April chill and a pair of holey jeans, that could quite possibly have mud along the hems. The while track of his trainers certainly didn’t look as bright and as shiny as they once had. But hey, ho – the life of a farmer, right?

“Did you start it?” The nut brown haired lassie asked again.

Fergus answered this time around, short and sweet. “Yes, I did.”

“What have I bloody told you?” The woman exclaimed, her own accent standing out against the three other Scots in the room. A small, discreet cough behind his lips stopped Jamie from laughing at her use of such an English turn of phrase. Bloody charming.

“It wasn’t all Fergus,” Mr Wellman waded in. “William here did hit him back, after the name calling, of course.”

Neither Jamie nor Willie disagreed with the Headmaster’s statement. It was true enough, to be fair.

“Say you’re sorry, Fergus.” With Miss Beauchamp’s body turned more towards him, Jamie could see her face as clearly as her body.

She was just as bonny as he knew she would be, although younger looking than Jamie had expected.

“I’m sorry, Willie,” Fergus muttered, but sounding quite sincere.

Jamie hadn’t even gotten the words out of his mouth to prompt Willie, when Willie was already talking back, “I’m sorry, too, for calling ye a Sassenach.” A surge of pride filled Jamie’s heart.

“Well,” Mr Wellman clapped his hands together. “Two fine young boys you both have, hard working and polite with manners. That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it? Thank you for coming in Mr Fraser and you, Miss Beauchamp.”

In response, she nodded once, already picking up Fergus’ backpack for him, and holding onto it tight. When nothing sparkled in the spring sunlight, Jamie realised young Miss Beauchamp wasn’t wearing any type of extravagant ring on her finger.

Hm, interesting.

Jamie and William reached the door first, but as Jamie held it open for his son to pass through, he felt Miss Beauchamp’s presence come up behind him. Unlike the receptionist, her perfume was light, something botanical – camomile perhaps, with a hint of vanilla. It wasn’t too strong, nor too overpowering, yet it still clung to her skin as if Miss Beauchamp had delicately sprayed herself with the scent before she’d entered the meeting.

“You first.”

Miss Beauchamp slipped out of the door, waving over her shoulder at the Headmaster as Fergus ran ahead. If it was possible, her arse seemed even more enticing now she was walking, those long, lean legs of hers strutting away with purpose.

“Thank you,” she called, looking behind herself at Jamie.

Shit. He’d totally been caught staring at her arse…

When Miss Beauchamp didn’t reprimand him for his wandering eyes, Jamie breathed a sigh of relief. He offered her a tight-lipped smile, not daring to open his mouth in case something stupid, or embarrassing, came tumbling out.

Up ahead, Jamie could see Willie hanging from the monkey bars in the school playground. A number of times, throughout the past couple of days, Jamie had been subjugated to listening to his only son, as Willie complained about other children hogging the playground equipment. Now, with no other bairns in sight, Willie appeared to be taking full advantage and having the time of his life.

Fergus and his Mam didn’t stop at the playground, both of them continued on, Fergus running and his Mam eating up the walkway in her heels. Taking a seat on an empty bench, Jamie decided to let his son play for a little while longer, an easy way of burning off some of Willie’s energy. The lad would sleep well tonight.

From this point at the top of the hill, Jamie could just see the car Fergus was heading for. Both figures had become smaller and smaller with the distance, but still, Jamie could see Fergus patiently waiting by the passenger car door for his Mam to unlock it.

“Are we going home now?” Willie had managed to sneak up on his Da with near silent feet.

“Aye,” Jamie ruffled his son’s hair affectionately. Soon, Willie would be too old, too cool for his Da’s touch. For now, Jamie took in as much of this moment as possible. “Do ye want Shepard’s pie for dinner, or chicken fajitas?”

---

Thanks to the beginning of spring, it was still light by the time Jamie and Willie made it home to the farm. As usual, Willie ran off - saying his quick hellos to the chickens in their coops, the sheep in the fields and the pigs wallowing in their chosen mud troughs, before making a break for the horses’ stables.

Jamie knew this routine like the back of his hand.

As he kicked off his muddy trainers, leaving them carefully by the door so as to not trek mud everywhere, Willie would be patting each of the 5 horses, before moving towards his own pony, which stood in the final block. Willie would spend hours out there if he could, but with it being a school night, Jamie would need to call his boy in early.

Growing up, Jamie had spent most (if not all) of his time in the great outdoors. His Mam had badgered him about his schoolwork, but Jamie couldn’t have been less bothered. He’d chosen instead to educate himself, by reading outdoors, anything and everything he could get his hands on. When Jamie wasn’t busy reading, playing football or making his older sister’s life a living nightmare, Jamie helped out on his own family farm.

The Lallybroch farm ran for miles upon miles. Even at the age of 29, Jamie wasn’t entirely sure how many acres his family owned in total. All Jamie knew was it had been passed down from generational hand to generational hand, and the current Frasers were determined to keep it that way. Jamie’s own home sat halfway between the forest and the road. A ten minutes walk north, through the cow’s field, a quick detour past the wildflower field, and you would find yourself at the original Lallybroch estate – the one Jamie had grown up in as a young lad. Jamie’s older sister Jenny, her husband, Ian and their three year old son, Wee Jamie (of course, named after his favourite uncle) lived a ten minute walk south of the original estate. It had been an easy, unanimous decision that all of the Fraser’s would stay close together. They were an especially close knit family, after all.

With the pan hot enough, Jamie dumped in his mixture of garlic, and onions to fry off. Willie had eventually decided on chicken fajitas for his dinner, after much humming and harring in the car ride home. The kitchen filled up immediately with the sizzling sound of frying food and a pungent aroma. The diced chicken pieces were added, and a combination of vegetables – including cherry tomatoes, Willie’s new found favourite.

“Willie!” Jamie shouted through the open front door. Little things, like being able to open the door to waft away the food smells without freezing to dead or being up to your waist in snow, were just one of Jamie’s favourite thing about spring.

“Aye?” Willie called back.

“Come and help me with ye dinner!”

By the time Willie made it inside, his hair was as messy as if he’d been dragged backwards through a bush. Jamie wouldn’t be surprised if his son had somehow ended up in one of the bushes dotted around the property.

As per their routine, while Jamie manned the pan, Willie went about finding the wraps in the bread bin and retrieving a pot of salsa and sour cream. The tiny, shrivelled bairn Jamie had once been able to hold in the palm of one hand, was now tall enough to reach the kitchen counter without any needed help of a stool or a chair. He smeared a healthy dose of both condiments onto four different wraps - two for him and two for his Da, before taking their plates over to the oak dining table.

“Can you get some kitchen roll for our fingers, and two glasses of water, please?”

Carefully filling up two empty glasses, Willie sat back down at his favourite spot at the table, just as Jamie was laying the pan down upon a chopping board so as to not burn the table underneath. Using a large wooden spoon, Jamie scooped enough mixture to fill both of Willie’s wraps.

“Thanks, Da.” Willie mumbled around a mouthful of home cooked food.

“Ye’re very welcome, son. Eat up and then we’ll try to tackle your maths homework together.”

“Do we have too?” Willie whined. A typical child.

“Yes, ye do. I’ll see if Granny has any apple crumble left as ye reward if ye get all ten questions done…”

Nothing like a little bit of bribery to help your bairns do their tasks.

“Fine. But tell Granny I deserve extra cream on the side, please. I’ve had a stressful day.”

Jamie couldn’t stop himself from snorting; it was a wonder water didn’t stream out of his nose.

Ye’re telling me, lad…

Chapter Text

“Up ye get, Willie.”

As with every school day, Jamie would attempt to awaken his son at half seven in the morning. Willie would protest, burrowing under the covers asking for another ten minutes, until eventually, eyes still closed and face creased with the remnants of sleep, he would shuffle to the bathroom.

Jamie, himself, would watch this charade with a small smile on his face. He was exactly the same as a boy, and even well into his teenage years. However, that routine had long since changed since Willie had been born and thrust into Jamie’s sole protection. And only a couple of years ago, had their routine changed again, when Jamie decided to buy his plot of land from his own Da and become a full time farmer. No more lie ins for him, Jamie was usually seen up at around six to get all his jobs done, or sometimes even earlier, if there were an extra long list of things to be accomplished.

Stomping above would symbolize Willie had finished his business in the bathroom and had moved onto getting dressed in his school uniform. The young lad would bring down a small pot of hair gel as he came down the stairs. Sitting at the dining table and eating his bowl full of parritch with an added dollop of blueberry jam, Willie waited as his Da warmed a tiny amount of gel in his palms and then through Willie’s hair.

This was their school morning routine, and only on a weekend did it change, but ever so slightly. For the past ten years, since Willie had come screaming into the world, it had worked for the two of them. They were content; neither of them saw any point in changing it. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken , was one of Granny Ellen’s favourite sayings. And so far, everything seemed to be working just fine…

---

While Willie was at school, Jamie got straight back to work with his tasks for the day. He had the usual, everyday things he needed to get done; feeding the animals, feeding himself, milking the cows, checking the structure of the surrounding fences for any gaps or holes, and shooing the crows from his very small and pretty much depleted, vegetable patch.

Spring was by far a farmer’s busiest time of year. The crops were being harvested, washed and thrown into crates. Jamie’s crop would join his Da’s and his brother in law Ian’s, before being distributed to the local greengrocers and sold on the shelves to paying customers. It was back breaking labour. Less than an hour into the process, Jamie, and the small team of lads he employed, would be stripped to nothing but their trousers as the weak Scottish springtime sun beat down upon their backs.

By the time Jamie had finished his square section, the sweat was pouring off his brow. He lifted a forearm to wipe the beads away before they reached his eyes, getting a whiff of himself as he did so. A shower would be in order before picking William up from school.

The pollen from the growing wild daffodils in the field clung to Jamie’s bare skin, as he lifted his knees high and walked to the lambing shed. A large clump of the pollen had actually stuck to the crook of Jamie’s arm, its staying power helped by the sticky, almost powdery, texture of the pollen and also the sheer amount of sunscreen Jamie had applied this morning. Curse of being a redheaded devil – sunscreen was essential to be applied all year round, not just in the summer season.

As forethought, one of the lads working on Jamie’s plot of land in exchange for money, had left the barn door of the lambing shed wide open. At least this meant the ewes could choose if they wanted to be out in the fields, grazing and watching the world pass by, or take shelter in the barn.

It was much cooler inside, and Jamie let out an audible sigh of contentment. He blinked twice, letting his eyes adjust to the dark. Slivers of sunlight through the cracks in the slates of wood, and a distorted shape of the barn door against the shadowed floor, were the only strips of light, making it possible to see the three ewes lying down inside. They each lay on the bed of hay Jamie had lain down earlier on in the month, only looking up at the sound of heavy footsteps.

Getting down to his knees, Jamie let one of the expectant mothers sniff the back of his hand. He probably smelt of greenery, an almost sour tang that would stay on his skin for days. Once the ewe had deemed him safe, Jamie skimmed his hand down her flank, feeling the roundness of her stomach.

“Not long now, lass.” He said to her, closing his eyes and picturing the wee lamb curled inside her womb. If they were lucky, the ewe might bare two lambs this time around, but Jamie was only know for certain once she started the lambing process. However, knowing these three ewes had moved away from the herd was a good sign their lambs were to be born any day now.

Jamie’s knees cricked as he stood back up to his full height. The other two ewes seemed comfortable enough, and once he was satisfied they had enough clean water in their trough, Jamie let himself wander back into the fresh air. The heady smell of hay was replaced at once by the scent of manure as the wind began to pick up speed in the opposite direction.

Jamie began walking in the direction of the house. A quick flash of his watch, told him he had less than half an hour until it was time to pick Willie up from school, hopefully, without having to visit the Headmaster’s office again. Brewing a small of cup of tea was first up on Jamie’s agenda, and then he’d get on with preparing the vegetables and potatoes for his and Willie’s Shepard’s pie.

The ‘baa’ of a sheep in the field reached Jamie’s ears, and he was reminded once again of the ewes in the shed. It was looking like at least one of the lambs would arrive this weekend. Willie would be pleased. In the mean time, Jamie would need to find a pair of rubber gloves for the pair of them, and give the vet a heads up, just in case. The work of a farmer, no matter how many helping hands he had, was never done…

---

“Ye’re Willie’s Da, aren’t ye?” The question came from a man perhaps only a few years older than Jamie. He wore a Scottish rugby kit shirt, the material stretched tight over his broad muscles.

“Aye, I am.”

“I’m wee Johnnie’s Da,” he stuck his meaty hand out for Jamie to shake. “Peter.”

“Nice to meet ye.” Jamie wasn’t 100% sure, but he was almost willing to bet Johnnie was one of the three lads Willie had been hanging around with recently.

As they waited for the bairns to finish school, Jamie and Peter chatted cordially. To nobody’s surprise, Peter was a massive rugby fan, and had already enrolled his son into a under elevens rugby league.

“Ye should think about signing ye’re laddie up,” Peter suggested.

“Aye, I’ll ask Willie, see what he thinks.” Jamie rubbed his thumb against his lower lip in thought. “He’s already asked me to sign him up for football, so he starts that next weekend, or is it the weekend after? I’ll have to check the…”

“Sorry to interrupt,” a distinctively feminine voice sounded next to Jamie’s right hand side. The two men turned to face the stranger in tandem. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Debbie, Katie’s Mam.”

Peter coughed what sounded rather like a choking laugh into his fist.

“Katie?” Jamie asked. He’d shifted his hand away from his mouth as soon as he’d noticed Debbie’s eyes staring at his lips. Now his left hand hung down by his side, two fingers tapping away at his thigh.

Debbie’s face dropped partially, but she recovered quickly. “Aye. My Katie sits next to ye’re William in science. They’re partnered up together. Didn’t he tell ye?”

For the second time in mere minutes, Jamie rifled through his thoughts. First, he couldn’t remember what date Willie was due to start football practice, and now, he couldn’t remember if Willie had ever mentioned this Katie lass. Surely he hadn’t. Jamie was pretty confident he’d remember if, and when, his son started taking notice of the wee lassies. Over the course of the past two weeks, there’d been no mention of any lass, let a known Katie. Willie was much too interested in telling his Da about the worm his friend had picked up and slung across the playground, and pestering Jamie with questions about when the baby lambs were going to be born.

“I don’t ken he did…”

She tutted, a ‘what can you do’ expression playing about her face. “I’m sure he did, Jamie. It must just be hard for ye, being a single parent and all, to take everything in the wee laddie says.”

How the fuck did she already ken his name? And why did the words coming out of her mouth sound very much like a back handed compliment?

Jamie said nothing, moving his head to look forward. Where the hell was the welcome distraction of ye kid, when ye needed one?

Debbie sidestepped back into Jamie’s center line of vision. She wasn’t a very tall woman, not at all like Miss Beauchamp, but something about Debbie made it very hard to ignore. Perhaps it was the sight of her blonde hair; curled, styled, backcombed and hair sprayed within an inch of its life, until it stood up around her head like something from the eighties. Or it could also have been the set of fake breasts, which jutted out from her chest in a strange fashion. The tight top she wore didn’t help matters in the slightest, Jamie worried they’d explode at any given minute.

“Any who,” she sing sang. “I just wanted to introduce myself, and also let ye ken about the spring festival.”

“The spring festival?” Jamie repeated.

“Aye.” Debbie looked smugger by the second as she realised she’d struck the jackpot. Jamie quite clearly knew nothing about the spring festival, and she was the lucky woman who’d get to explain it to him. “We hold the spring school festival around the beginning to mid May. It takes place on the big field, right over there.” Debbie pointed haphazardly over her shoulder. Jamie followed her finger enough to see the stretch of grass she must have been talking about.

“Different activity stalls, music and a few rides are usually set up, it’s just a bunch of fun for the bairns, really. But we do ask the parents to get involved, manning the stalls, keeping any eye on the donations, that sort of thing.”

“Where do the donations go?”

“Oh, back into the school. It’s shared as equally as possible between the year groups. All the money goes to extra playground equipment for the wee ones and usually, to the day trips out for the older bairnies.”

The high pitched peal of the school bell rang out, signaling the end of the school day as Jamie said, “So, all the parents help oot?”

“Aye, most of us,” Peter piped up. “Christ, I remember last year I got put in charge of the face painting stall. Ye should have seen it. The lads at the pub won’t ever let me forget those bloody photos.”

Jamie laughed, a proper, down in the depths of his stomach laugh, at the mental image of muscly Peter painting a bright pink butterfly on some wee lassies cheek. “Ye’ll have to get them oot and show me them.”

A glint of laughter shone in Peter’s eyes. “Come doon to the pub with me and the lads sometime, and I’ll show ye then.”

Debbie had been staring strangely the whole time Peter and Jamie had been exchanging laughter. She giggled a little herself, but it didn’t sound real, more like a titter, as if she were merely playing along.

“Mam! Ma!” A dark haired lassie had latched onto Debbie, pulling on her Mam’s arm.

“I’ll have to go.” Debbie smiled widely, too widely. Teeth, gums, all were on show – Jamie thought he might even have been able to see her tonsils at one point. “But I’ll add you to the Facebook group, Jamie.”

Both Peter and Jamie held their hands up in a silent goodbye. Once he was positive Debbie was out of earshot, Peter turned towards him, lowering his voice. Neither of their boys were anywhere to be seen yet.

“So there’s no Mrs Fraser?”

“What?” Jamie said. “No. No, Mrs Fraser, unless ye’re counting my own Mam.”

“And Willie’s Mam? Is she in the picture?”

“No.” As always, when Jamie thought of Willie’s Mam, of Geneva, he felt a sharp pang of guilt penetrate his heart. He swallowed hard, dislodging the sudden lump in his throat. “She passed away when Willie was young.”

“Sorry to hear that, mate.” There was honesty in Peter’s tone. “So, ye’re a complete single parent?”

“Aye, I am.” Jamie challenged Peter to give him a back handed compliment as Debbie had done, as a number of different people in the past had done. To tell him a wee lad like Willie needed a Mam, a mother figure. To belittle Jamie, and undermine him, explain how things should be done, just because he’d become a Da at the tender age of twenty.

Instead, Peter snorted. “No wife, no girlfriend. Ye’re gonnae have to watch yeself, mate. It’s like vultures in this place, they’ll be all over ye like a rash. Debbie was only the first, just ye watch.”

Jamie wanted to say something else, something in reply, but a glimmer of copper caught his eye. Willie’s hair colour shone in the crowd of school age pupils. It wasn’t as red as his Da’s – Jamie’s was a bright red, always had been, interspersed with a few streaks of blonde and now a couple of greys. The handful of brunette strands running through Willie’s hair, courtesy of his Mam of course, stood out more clearly as he became older.

His Da could still remember vividly the day Willie had been placed into his arms. All bundled up to keep him warm, his skin turning less blue and more pink by the minute. His face had been squished up against the hard fluorescent light. Jamie could still recall the solid weight of him in his arms, his son, his actual, living son with Fraser blood running through his veins. And already a small cowlick’s of bright red Mackenzie hair sitting atop his tiny head.

So, aye, Willie’s hair might become darker as he became older and the years past. But Jamie knew he’d always be a redhead in the grand scheme of things.

A Fraser through and through.

“Thick as thieves, the four of them,” Peter said, watching as the group of four boys, including Willie and Johnnie, made their way towards their parents. “When ye come to the pub, Fraser, I’ll introduce ye to Tom and Michaels Da’s. Their Mam’s usually pick them up, ye see?”

“Aye.” Jamie had only been halfheartedly listening. Willie had broken away from the group, running up to Fergus Beauchamp, who had been walking only a little ways ahead of them. The two boys exchanged words; Jamie couldn’t make out what they were from this far away.

Fergus nodded, and Jamie’s eyes tracked him as Fergus waved goodbye to Willie. A quick search through the throng of parents showed no sign of Miss Beauchamp. Jamie was quite sure he wouldn’t have missed her. Not her height, not her voice and quite certainly, not her outfit of choice or the delicate curves it clung too.

Instead, Fergus stopped in front of a blonde haired woman. Jamie could only see the back of her, but would have guessed she was about the same height as Claire, perhaps only one or two inches shorter. She greeted Fergus with a hug, taking his backpack from him, and listening as Fergus’ mouth started moving a million miles an hour. They began to walk towards the car park without a backwards glance at Jamie.

“Hi, Da.” Willie announced his arrival.

“Hiya lad. Right, were gonnae get going, Peter. I’ll see ye on Monday.”

“Bye, Fraser,” Peter bid. Johnnie and Willie waved their goodbyes to one another, before the two Da’s and their boys, went their separate ways for the weekend.

“Did ye have a good day at school?” Jamie asked once he’d given Willie a boost into the passenger seat of the beat up truck.

“Aye.” Willie leaned forward, changing the dial to the latest football scores rather than the radio station Jamie had selected earlier. Once he was happy with his choice, Willie reached behind himself for the seat belt, pulling it taught across his lap and shoulder, before listening intently for the click of the seatbelt holder. “We got to have a longer lunch break as a treat because it’s the weekend.”

Following the same routine, Jamie only turned the key in the ignition, once his own seatbelt was safely secured. “Ah, that’s braw. I saw ye talking to Fergus before. Everything all right between the two of ye’s now?”

“Mhm.” Bent at the waist, Willie fiddled with the zip on the main compartment of his backpack. He drew the zipper back, enough room for Willie to shove his hand inside and root around.

“Fergus gave me these this morning.”

Jamie could only take his eyes off the road for a split second, but it was enough to see the clear Tupperware box balancing on Willie’s bony knee.

“What is it?” He asked.

“Homemade biscuits. His Mam made them, ye ken the Sassenach woman, with the pretty hair?”

As if I could forget her lad…

“Miss Beauchamp, ye mean? Ye thought her hair was pretty, eh?”

“Aye, well it was, wasn’t it?” Willie shrugged, breaking the seal of the Tupperware box, and pulling out a golden baked circle.

“Anyway, Fergus’ Mam, Miss Beauchamp, baked them as ‘sorry’ biscuits. Or so Fergus said.” Willie bit into the one in his hand; Jamie could hear the perfect crunch as his son chewed.

Jamie drummed his fingers along the top of the steering wheel, rolling the car slowly to a stop, as they approached a red light. “Why would she need to bake biscuits? Sorry for what?”

“I dinna ken, Da. Sorry her lad punched me…”

“Some of which was ye’re own fault.”

Willie rolled his eyes at his Da. “Or sorry she made us wait so long when we could have been home feeding the chickens. I’m not so sure why. But they taste really good, better than Granny’s… Don’t tell her I said that,” Willie tacked on as an after thought.

Jamie chuckled. “Don’t ye worry, I won’t.”

“And his sister iced our initials on them, five for me and five for you. Look.” Willie held up the rest of his uneaten biscuit. Jamie could just see the end of the letter ‘W’ piped in white frosting. While the stoplight still blared red, Jamie chanced a peek inside the Tupperware box. Indeed, a neat letter ‘J’ stared back at him, this time written in blue frosting.

“His sister?” Jamie asked, unable to stop himself as the light turned green and he put his foot back on the pedal.

“Aye, he’s got an older sister. She's twelve.”

Interesting… Miss Beauchamp didn’t look old enough to have a ten year old son, let a known have an older daughter.

And then, as an after thought… how the fuck had she known the initial of his first name?

A sharp turn and the truck trundled onto a country road, much quieter than the busy dual carriageway had been. “Did ye thank him?”

Willie had popped the rest of his biscuit in his mouth. He opened his lips, ready to answer his Da’s question, but one look of Jamie’s face had him shutting up and chewing. Don’t talk with your mouth full was one of Da’s golden rules.

Sure he wasn’t going to spray crumbs everywhere, Willie shoved the Tupperware box safely back in his backpack and then spoke up. “Course I did. That’s what I was doing when ye saw me talking to him.”

“Good lad,” Jamie praised his son. “I’ll get it washed up and ye can return it him at school on Monday.”

Willie nodded, settling his head back and listening to the football scores without any other care in the world. Oh if only, Jamie wished, his own thoughts could be that quiet, rather than spinning like a whirlpool as he pictured fit Miss Beauchamp baking in the kitchen – an apron tied around her petite waist, so as not to damage that tight, little skirt of hers.

Realising where his thoughts were going – straight down to inappropriate town – Jamie rolled down his window, allowing cold air to blow in.

God, a couple of fingers of whisky wouldn’t cut it tonight. He’d need the whole bloody bottle at this rate.

Chapter Text

“Da! Da! Wake up! Geordie says the lambs are coming!”

Saturday morning, typically Jamie’s favourite day of the week, because he allowed himself a lie in, and yet here he was being viciously shaken away by his own son.

The fucking little traitor.

Suddenly startled out of his dream, Jamie sat bolt upright in his bed, gasping for breath. God only knew what time it was. Four slivers of light poured out from behind Jamie’s blind, but the rest of his room was still pitch black.

It was definitely way too early for a Saturday morning.

Blinking hard, Jamie dislodged the sleep sticking his eyelids closed, with a firm rub of the heel of his hand. Now more conscious than he had been before, but by no means awake, Jamie could just make out the outline of his son. Willie stood at the side of the bed, hands fisted in the sheets, while he bounced up and down with excitement. What the hell had Granny Ellen fed him this morning?

“Come on, Da! You’ve gotta get up! The lambs!”

Right at this given second, Jamie couldn’t give a flying fuck about the lambs. That would probably change once he splashed his face with cold water, took a shot of coffee and woke up properly. But for now… Jamie wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep and back to his dream.

“Da! Are you coming?”

“Yes…” Jamie’s voice was all croaky and full of sleep. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yes, I’m coming lad. Go tell Geordie I’ll be out shortly. Do you ken if he’s rang the vet yet?”

“I don’t think so, he was waiting for ye or Grandda to show up first,” Willie said.

“Right, okay. I’ll be there in ten, son. Tell Geordie to hang on.”

Jamie felt rather than saw Willie stand on his tiptoes and bob his head as he listened to his Da’s important instructions. Once Willie had scampered out of the room, feet pattering against the wooden floor and down the stairs, Jamie allowed himself to fall backwards onto the mattress. He blew out a large sigh, lifting his hand to his cheeks and scrubbing up and down hard. More than just stubble, almost the beginning of a beard, greeted Jamie’s palms. He’d definitely need to find time to fit in a quick shave over the weekend, unless he wanted to show up on the school run like he’d been living in a cave.

Just another task to add to Jamie’s ever growing to do list.

Christ, there weren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week.

Right about now, he should be swinging his legs out of bed. He should be pulling on any clean clothes he touched first in his wardrobe. He should be walking across the fields, phone pressed to his ear as he talked with the vet, to greet Geordie and any of the other young lads who had come to help with the lambing process.

Instead, Jamie had let his eyes fall shut again, hands folded neatly across his stomach as he tried to fit together the bits and pieces of his dream. He first remembered he’d been in the field, sun beating down on him, his back almost at breaking point as he bent over to pull out some stubborn weeds. Somebody had called his name, his full given name, but now Jamie was unable to place the voice. The next thing he knew, he’d been in the horse’s stables. The stables were unbearably hot due to the hot weather outside, but the strangest thing of all had been the lack of horses themselves. There wasn’t any neighing or braying of hooves, but each of the stable doors were still bolted shut, as if the horses had somehow magically passed through the wood.

That same voice had called Jamie’s name, and he was sure he’d only blinked once. But now Miss Beauchamp stood in front of him. She wore the exact same outfit she’d worn to the Headmaster’s meeting (god, she must be sweltering – Jamie had thought to himself). A coy smile had played about her plump lips.

Jamie had felt drawn to her, could not stop himself from crossing the short space between them, and pressing himself up against her soft body. She’d sighed oh so sweetly, turning her body in his arms, until her back rested against his chest, and her delicious arse was pressed tight against Jamie’s pelvis. Reaching upwards with nimble fingers, Miss Beauchamp shifted all of her hair to one shoulder, leaving the other side of her pale neck bare.

Jamie wanted to sink his teeth into her unmarked skin.

The humidity from outside hadn’t touched Miss Beauchamp’s hair. The 1940s curls were still as glossy and pinned in place as they had always been.

Leaning in, Jamie touched his nose to the Sassenach’s neck, the space behind her ear. He’d expected to smell her perfume, that combination of chamomile and vanilla, which had driven him mad, but Jamie couldn’t smell anything. Not her perfume, not her body wash, not the hairspray, which most certainly should be holding the strands in place… Jamie couldn’t smell any of it. Even the scent of the horse’s stables, that warm, earthy scent, had disappeared.

Disappointment set in, hard and fast. He wanted to be able to smell her, hear her post English voice whisper his name once more. But Miss Beauchamp didn’t do any of the sort, not even her eyes would catch his. The warmth of her body has slowly been dissipating bit by bit, and Jamie was about to move away, when he noticed her fingers had moved from her hair to the hem of the damned skirt. He watched, transfixed, as her hips shimmied from side to side as she inched the hem up further and further and further.

Jamie realised too late, she was doing it on purpose, the fucking tease. Each shift brushed his crotch, until his cock strained uncomfortable against the zipper of the denim jeans he’d been wearing.

No wonder he was so incredibly hot wearing a pair of jeans in the heat of summer.

In slow motion, Jamie felt his hands move to help her inch the hem up. But his fingers felt like they were floating through molasses. They simply wouldn’t hurry up and meet the cotton material.

Hissing through his teeth, Jamie felt so close he could taste it. So close to touching the material, so close to her body, so close to coming in his pants. Just another push or so and…

“Da! Are ye getting up or what?”

For the second time today Jamie was awoken by his terror of a son, gasping for breath. Had he drifted off? Or had his mind simply transported him back to his original dream? Jamie couldn’t tell.

With a smack of his lips, Jamie shouted back down to Willie. “Aye! Won’t be a minute!”

Whether that answer satisfied William or not, Jamie didn’t know. But he no longer heard his son shouting or pottering about, banging things, downstairs.

“Shit.” Jamie muttered out loud into the darkened room.

Desire coursed through his veins. He had a hell of a cockstand, and his heart beat faster than usual. Licking his dry lips, Jamie threw out an arm to the side, grasping his phone sitting on the nightstand with the tips of his fingers. Fingers, which only a moment ago, had been trying to touch an invisible woman.

The blue light from his phone momentarily blinded him before his eyes got used to it, and Jamie could make out the time. Aye, just as expected. Way too early to be wide awake on a Saturday morning.

Jamie wanted nothing more than to have the extra time to deal with his erection in his own time, or, even better, turn around and have Miss Beauchamp in his bed, staring sleepily back at him.

But, quite clearly, neither of those things were going to happen.

With a large amount of effort, more than it usually took, even if he was just short of thirty, Jamie forced himself out of bed. His whole body protested, bones cracking as his feet met the floor.

The day had already begun, now it was waiting for Jamie to play catch up. But what a way to start the day, aye? Even if it had been just a dream…

---

“Willie, is the bucket still full?”

Hours had gone by since Willie had rudely awoken his Da up. Jamie couldn’t blame him; he still remembered how excited he’d been for his own first experience lambing with his own Da. This would be the first year Willie would recall everything.

Stumbling, half awake into the barn, Jamie had seen a crowd of young lads assembled round the poor ewe, chatting about gods knows what. He’d shooed most of them away to take care of the other tasks, knowing it would do no good to spook the expectant mother by hovering all over the place.

While the others had ambled off, Willie had stayed on all fours on the ground, hand gently running down the side of the ewe as her nostrils flared in pain due to the oncoming contraction. Not a moment too soon had Jamie finished up his phone call updating the vet, did he see his Da and Ian walking side by side over the hill. Between the two of them, they seemed to be carrying a number of different items in their arms. Jamie knew from experience they would be the tools and instruments needed to help deliver the lamb, safe and sound.

Now, as the sunset and the clock just ticked past six, Jamie knew they were on the homeward stretch. The other sheep had been penned away, making sure they couldn’t escape and disturb the current lambing. Ian and Jamie had worked together to fork together a large, downy pile of hay, this way making it able for the ewe to lie down comfortably, and not on a solid, cold, concrete floor.

Willie had been given the important job of making sure the tools were ready. On a sterile mat lay a number of elbow length blue gloves, some forceps, a bucket of warm water, and a box of sterile syringes containing a low dose of anesthetic, in case Jamie though the ewe started to become over distressed.

Willie had taken his job seriously, as he should. Making sure the water was warm enough every half an hour and walking back and forth with a brewed kettle, if it was not. And ensuring his Da’s hands were properly cleaned before he checked how dilated the ewe had become.

When he thought he could wait no longer, legs cramping from where he’d been sitting on them and stomach growling, Grandda Brian had leaned over.

“Ye can run over to ye Grannie’s if ye want, lad. I ken she was making dinner for us all to enjoy, but she might have it ready early, if ye ask nicely.”

Willie had looked over at his Da who was sitting patiently beside the ewe. Jamie said nothing, but raised his eyebrow in a silent question.

“Thanks Grandda, but I want to stay. I want to see it. Then we can all go to Grannie’s together.”

Brian clapped him on the shoulder and sent him a beaming smile.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long for the lamb to make his way into the world after the two water sacks had burst. Jamie had washed his hands for a final time, choosing to forgo the gloves so he could easily grab a slimy fetlock if needs be. But that wasn’t to be expected. This particular ewe had lambed before; her body knew the process she’d been created for.

A thin foreleg was the first to emerge, quickly followed by the second foreleg. Willie stood at the ready, hand clutching the bottle of iodine, which would be poured onto the cut umbilical cord and help stave off infection. Mother ewe would certainly take care of the rest, as long as she didn’t reject her baby.

The tiny head protruded next, squished up against the front forelegs. From his angle, crouched down on the hay, Jamie could see the lamb was lying on his right side. A soft murmur from Ian, coaxing the ewe on for one final push, and then with a large exhale, the rest of the lamb slithered out.

Silence was palpable in the barn, nobody daring to move, lest their human scent touched the lamb. A mother would only nurse her lamb if it smelt like her. They ran the risk of the ewe rejecting the lamb completely, if it smelt otherwise. The lamb attempted to stand, once then twice, it’s mother had turned its head towards her baby as if coaching him to succeed. But the ewe hadn’t moved from her lying down position, a sure sign another lamb was fast on its way.

Jamie opened his mouth to suggest such a thing, but couldn’t get the words out fast enough, for another huffed exhaled and a third foreleg was emerging. While Jamie stayed concentrating on safely delivering the second lamb, and Ian kept the ewe calm, Brian knelt on the floor, showing Willie the steps of cutting the umbilical cord and where exactly to the spray the iodine.

The first baby lamb was standing by now, on shaky legs, yes, but still standing. Thankfully, the ewe had taken to her baby, tongue lolling out to clean him.

“It’s stuck,” Jamie spoke, his voice loud sounding over the quiet barn. The air was thick with the sharp tang of coppery blood and birthing delivery.

He waited for no reply, but dunked his hands up to his elbows in the water once more. The vaginal canal expanded as the ewe groaned low in her throat, enough for Jamie to wiggle his one hand inside, and the other on her leg to steady himself. It was certainly wet, warm and pulsing. Closing his eyes, Jamie imaged the cervix contracting and dilating, the helpless lamb being pushed down out of the womb. He could feel a knobbly knee, and then another. And further downwards, back towards the entrance, a solid roundness, which could only be the lamb’s chest.

“Need help, son?” Brian asked, but Jamie didn’t open his eyes. He simply shook his head, grasping onto a fetlock and giving a slight tug. Both the lamb and the ewe seemed to get the message. Three more strong pushes, Jamie felt the vaginal walls clamping around his upper arm before the second lamb entered into the world in a much more boisterous fashion than his brother.

“Good on ye, Jamie.” Brian clapped him on the foot (the only place he could reach as he still knelt on the floor). Sending his Da and his son a tired smile, Jamie sponged off the rest of the blood, as the second umbilical cord was snipped.

Everybody breathed another sigh of relief, as the mother ewe began to wash her second lamb. Ian had assured the colostrum was beginning to leak from the ewe’s engorged udders. Both lambs were sucking away happily, and mother seemed happy enough for them to fill up their tummies till their little hearts were content.

---

Weary down to his bones, and starving, Jamie had never been more grateful that he was able to just crest the hill, walk into the familiar surroundings of his childhood home, and find a steaming hot meal placed in front of him without any questions asked.

“Did everything go all right?” Jenny asked, setting down a glass of cold water in front of Willie, and hurrying to uncork a bottle of fine aged whisky. As she leaned over Jamie, pouring a couple inches of the golden liquid into his glass, he could feel the hard roundness of a three month old baby bump pressing against his forearm. The nighttime baby wash she’d washed Wee Jamie in earlier in the evening, still clung to her skin and clothes.

She smelt like home.

Reaching out, Jamie cupped her small bump hidden beneath her cosy knit jumper. Even now, with Wee Jamie sleeping peacefully upstairs, and his own son sitting across from him, Jamie still couldn’t believe an actual human life beat just underneath Jenny’s thin layer of skin and tissue.

Geneva had never wanted Jamie to touch her or the proof of their growing son – it was something to this day he’d never quite gotten over. He wasn’t sure he ever would.

Knowing his own emotions better than he knew them himself, as Jenny did for her younger brother, she lay her hand upon his, smiling warmly at him. It was a silence reassurance, one that Jamie hadn’t known he’d needed quite so badly. He wasn’t there anymore, stuck in that dire situation. His son sat whole and loved before him, thankfully none the wiser.

“Aye, it all went braw,” Brian answered, sitting at the head of the table and polishing off dinner. “Second lamb got a wee bit stuck, but our Jamie managed to help it out.”

“Ye can have a second helping of dessert then,” Ellen promised him. “For all ye hard work, sweetheart.”

“The real star of the show was our Willie here,” Brian continued. “Couldn’t of done it with ye, laddie.”

From across the table, Jamie could see his son preen with the compliment from his Grandda. But Da been right, Willie had done amazing, especially with it being his first time. No screaming, squealing, or fainting at the sight of so much blood. Jamie could remember being violently sick in the corner of the stables at his first lambing at just the tender age of 8.

Ellen did indeed bring an extra helping of dessert for both her son and her eldest grandchild. They ate mainly in silence for the rest of the meal, too tired to even open their mouths and talk. Willie’s eyes grew heavy, his blinks becoming slower and longer with each passing minute.

“I’ve set ye some clean pajamas on ye bed,” Grannie said, holding her hand out for his empty, but dirty, plate. “Thought ye and ye Da might be too tired to walk home tonight.”

“Aye, we’ll stay,” Jamie said. “As long as ye don’t mind, Mam.”

“Mind? Ye ken fine well ye Da and I don’t mind. In fact, this hoose is too empty without any of ye’s in it. I’ve already told Jenny she needs to start giving me more grandbairns – I’m got more than enough room and love to spoil them. The same goes for ye, Jamie.”

All Jamie could do was laugh into his last sip of whisky.

More grandbabies, indeed…

“I’d have to find a lass for that first, Mam.”

“Up ye go, Willie,” she prompted, watching as a weary Willie dragged his feet up the stairs. He hadn’t even the energy to dole out a goodnight kiss and hug to anybody.

“I’ll be up in a minute, lad, to tuck ye in,” Jamie promised, but Willie showed no signed he’d even heard his Da as he turned into the corridors upstairs.

“Anyway, as I was saying,” Ellen started again. “Ye’re right, ye do need to find a lass. And I’m sorry to tell ye, but ye aren’t getting any younger, Jamie.”

“Aye, I ken.” The glass made a dull thump as it was placed upon the table runner. “I see it in my face every time I look in the mirror and I feel it in my body every time I move.”

“See,” Ellen hummed. “And so what are ye gonnae do aboot it?”

“Right now, Mam? Nothing. I’m going upstairs to tuck my son in, and I’m falling right asleep. Ye can focus on the grandbairn already growing in Janet’s tummy.”

Seeing she was getting nowhere, Ellen let the matter drop… for now. Jamie placed a kiss on the cheek of his Mam and Da - Jenny and Ian, having retired to bed only twenty minutes or so earlier.

His steps felt heavy, legs aching from the bottom of his shins to the tops of his hips sockets. The door to Willie’s room lay open, ajar, enough for Jamie to slip through. Clean pajamas on and teeth washed, Willie had tucked himself into bed, eyes already closed and breathing becoming steadier. He turned his head against his pillow at the sound of his Da’s sure footsteps.

Kneeling down, grimacing while he did so, Jamie smoothed back the hair from Willie’s face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. The scent of hay still sat in his hair, but at least his skin smelt warm and homely.

“Ye did well today, son, really well. I’m proud of ye.”

A sleepy smile etched itself onto Willie’s face. He cracked open his eyes a sliver to see the shadow of his Da’s figure, before whispering, “Thanks, Da.”

Another kiss.

“Get a good night’s rest and I’ll see ye in the morning. Grannie might even make pancakes. Love ye, Willie.”

“Love ye more, Da. Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

After a good nights sleep, and good fuel in his stomach, Jamie eventually felt like a human again. His back still ached something rotten, but he knew that was to be expected, after leaning over awkwardly all afternoon and well into the evening.

But at least Willie had enjoyed it.

The lad’s confidence seemed to have grown a foot and a half overnight after his Da and Grandda’s compliments. Over breakfast, Jamie must have heard a million times how excited Willie was to help with the other lambs, and how he couldn’t wait to tell Johnnie and the rest of the boys about it all at school tomorrow.

“Glad ye’re excited lad, but I’m afraid I’m gonnae have to burst ye bubble.” Jamie drained his orange juice. “Ye need to make a start on ye homework.”

If he hadn’t been focusing on Willie’s face, Jamie thought he might have missed it. A quick drop in his features (was that anger? Disappointment? Or something else entirely?), before he arranged them back to neutral.

A trick Jamie knew Willie had picked up from him, and Jamie knew he’d picked up from his own Da.

“Do I have to, Da?”

“Aye, ye do. Better start it now, before ye leave it too late.”

It was so unlike Willie to whine or moan. He was strong in his likes and dislikes, but when something was important (no matter how much he hated it), Willie could usually be found getting his head down and getting the job over and done with.

But quite obviously not day.

It was pushing into the afternoon, but by the time Jamie was able to drag Willie away from his grandparent’s home and across the field to his own.

“Can we go check on the wee lambs beforehand?”

Jamie conceded. “Aye, sure we can. But ye canny take too long.”

The other lads working on the farm had kept an eye on the lambs overnight, using the spy cameras installed into the barn, while Jamie and Willie had been sleeping over at the main Lallybroch stately home.

Both lambs were doing fine, much to Willie’s delight. They were still drinking from their mother and attempting to walk further and further on their spindly legs. It would still be another week or so before the lambs could be chipped and pinned, a green colour marked upon the tip of their ear, so other farmers would ken the lambs belonged to Lallybroch. After that, the ewe and her lambs could return to the grassy field and to the rest of the flock, where, hopefully, they would be welcomed back into the herd.

“Right.” Jamie clapped his hands together. “Willie, let’s go.”

A scoff let Willie’s lips.

A very teenage sounding scoff.

“Did ye just scoff at me?” Jamie asked, folding his arms over his chest.

Willie didn’t answer as he stood up and made to walk out of the barn door.

“I’m talking to ye, Willie. Don’t ye dare walk away from me!”

His footsteps continued, taking him further and further away from his Da.

“William!” Jamie shouted, standing just outside of the barn and watching Willie’s back become smaller and smaller. “Get ye arse back here right now!”

With a muttered for fuck’s sake under his breath, Jamie walked back into the barn and plonked himself onto a spare bale of hay. Willie was acting strange; lashing out unprovoked and shouting at his Da.

He never ignored his Da, his best friend.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Jamie went through the motions of double checking the clean water in the trough, and the amount of hay lying on the ground. He needed to give himself, and Willie, some time to clear their heads. It would do no good to either of them to start a shouting match at one another. From experience, Jamie knew it always ended in tears on both sides.

Once he felt like he’d left it enough time, enough for the red fog to dissipate out of his ears, Jamie ambled along the well-beaten path to his home. He knew Willie was inside. The kitchen light shone out of the windows, even though it was still daylight outside.

A push of the door handle, and Jamie hadn’t even stepped foot onto the flagstone kitchen floor, when he could hear Willie’s tears. His son sat at the table, upon the same seat he always chose, by the right hand side of his Da. His back was hunched, elbows resting on the wooden table, as Willie buried his face into his hands and sobbed.

Jamie felt his own bottom lip wobble at the horrible sound of Willie crying. He blinked back the clear film before it could topple over.

“Willie? Lad?” Jamie’s feet moved of their own accord, hand shooting out to rub Willie’s back comfortingly. “What’s wrong, son?”

Willie’s cries became harder.

“Come on, ye all right.” Jamie pressed two hard kisses to Willie’s crown. “Tell Da what’s wrong. I’ll fix it.”

Using the hem of his t-shirt, Willie wiped his dripping nose, looking up at his Da with bloodshot eyes.

“I’m sorry I was naughty to ye, Da,” he mumbled.

“Tcha!” Willie was pulled into his Da’s warm body. A place he knew was safe. “Don’t be daft, Willie. All’s already forgotten. But what else is wrong? These tears aren’t just from being naughty.”

“I… I dinna want to tell ye…”

“Willie.” Jamie’s tone took on a slightly firmer tone, but still kind. “All I ask is that ye honest with me, isn’t it? I’m not asking for much, my lad. Ye can tell Da anything, I promise.”

“It’s… it’s about my homework.” Taking a gulping breath, Willie continued to wipe away his tears. It broke Jamie’s heart into more than a million pieces to see his son like that.

“Aye, what about it? Are ye finding it too difficult? It’s no harm if ye are, lad. It’s fine, we can just tell the teacher tomorrow, I’ll write ye a note and…”

“It’s about parents.”

The sentence stopped Jamie in his tracks.

A deep breath. “Pardon, Willie?”

“My homework, my schoolwork.” Willie explained. “We’re doing about our parents and our families and… I can’t do it, can I?”

“W- why canny ye do it?”

“Because… because this week’s homework is about Mam’s and… and I don’t have one, do I?”

If Jamie thought his heart had broken before, it was nothing on how it felt now. Shattered, stamped open, cut open, smashed to dust.

Willie’s little face was so open, so raw… all Jamie wanted to do was take him in his arms and never let go. Shelter him from the harshness and evilness of the world beyond.

“Ye do have a Mam, Willie.”

What else was he meant to say?

“But she’s not here.” Willie stated plainly, detached almost. “How am I meant to write about her likes and dislikes, her hobbies and what she looks like, if… if she’s not here and I don’t ken…?”

“Ye listen to me, Willie.” Jamie squeezed his son’s small hand as tight as he dared. “Are ye listening?”

A slight bob of his head.

“Ye’re Mam loved ye Willie.” A lie . “She loved ye so much.” Lie. “Ye ken she was poorly when ye were born, aye?” Truth. “And so she died before she could meet ye or ken ye like I ken ye. Ye’re right, ye’re Mam isn’t here on earth, I’m sorry for that. But I love ye more than you’ll ever believe, lad, and I try to make up for ye Mam every day of my life.”

“I ken Da…”

“Ye don’t have to do any of that stupid school project if ye dinny want. Ye can tell that teacher of yours to stick it up her arse…”

Willie let out a tiny, watery laugh.

“Or even better, I’ll tell her.” Jamie hid the way he ground his teeth into Willie’s hair. “She’ll be more scared of me, than I am of her.”

---

It took Willie about half an hour in total to calm down, helped by a cold glass of milk and the soothing strokes of Da’s hand up and down his back.

“Feeling better?” Jamie asked.

Willie shrugged. “A wee bit.”

A glance over his shoulder told Jamie the weather was still holding up fine, and it would be a few more hours until it grew dark.

“How about we tack up the horses and go for a hack,” he suggested. “just the two of us? I’ll make us a little picnic for the journey?”

Willie agreed with the plan, running off in search of the two saddles, bridles and hats they would both need, as Jamie busied around the kitchen throwing a couple of ham and tomato sandwiches together. Two packets of crisps were added to the small bag Jamie would attach to his saddle, as well as a handful of apples and a bottle of icy cold water to be shared.

Walking upon the stables, Willie had managed to find out both saddles and tack up his own pony easily. Jamie’s saddle and bridle lay on the floor, what with Willie still being too small to reach Jamie’s favourite horse, Donas. But at least the lad had found out their pairs of horse riding boots and hats.

It took Jamie all of a couple of minutes to tack up Donas, even with the wee devil throwing his head back each and every way to deter Jamie. Willie, god bless him, had stuffed his feet into his boots, tightened the hat’s safety harness underneath his chin, and was sitting astride his pony, watching in amusement.

Soon they were off; Donas partially sated, but mainly bribed, with the three apples Jamie had fed him.

From his own experience, Jamie knew being outside, surrounded by nature, was an amazing healer. Of course, it didn’t fix everything, but being able to take in a lungful of fresh, crisp air, calmed the nervous system down magnificently. The two boys had perhaps being riding for about twenty minutes, when Jamie noticed the change in his son. Willie’s shoulders had dropped from around his ears; his whole body seemed less stiff on the pony, now moving fluidly and relaxed.

The same couldn’t really be said for Jamie. As the horses moved further away from their stables, and the minutes ticked by, Jamie found himself becoming calm and then angry, calm and then angry, all over again. It was as if a large wave of anger kept coming over him, then ebbing away to be replaced by silent calmness, before the next wave of anger appeared.

How fucking dare that teacher make Willie feel shitty.

How dare she and her fucking stupid project reduce Willie to tears.

How fucking dare…

“Da, look!” Ahead, Willie was pointing to the beginnings of a pink sunset. The clouds floated lazily across the horizon, not a care in the world, while the sun sank down, soon to be replaced by the bright white light of the moon. They must have been out riding for longer than Jamie had been expecting. Sure enough, when he checked his watch, it was creeping up to soon be Willie’s school night bedtime.

“Come on then, my lad, we’ll turn back for today, aye?”

A quick, sharp tug on the reins, and both horse and pony turned back around easily, dutifully walking the way they had come.

“I’ll race ye!” Willie shouted, his normal gleeful smile playing about his lips.

In turn, the sight of Willie’s smile made the corners of Jamie’s mouth turn upwards of their own accord.

“Ye and ye’re pony are no match for Donas, my lad! But ye can try!”

Springing out of the saddle, keeping all of his weight down into the stirrups and off Donas’ back, Jamie dug his heels in and then held on as tight as he could. Donas took off at a gallop like a shot. They bypassed Willie and his galloping pony easily, but Willie only let out a high pitched squeal of laughter as his Da raced past in a red blur. The food satchel, now containing only empty plastic wrappers and an empty bottle, smashed uncomfortably against Jamie’s inner thigh. But he couldn’t find it within himself to be all that bothered, not when he felt the wind whipping past him, as if he was flying at breakneck speeds.

Both rider and horse were lathered by the time Jamie pulled Donas into a sitting trot and they strutted into the stables. Seeing two friendly faces, the other horses kicked up a storm, whinnying and braying at their half doors.

Dismounting as gracefully as he could with stiff legs, Jamie unsaddled Donas, chucking a whole apple his way, just as Willie and his pony trotted across the concrete floor. Willie was breathing just as hard as his Da, but from sheer laughter rather than exertion.

“That certainly blew the cobwebs away, didn’t it? Did ye have fun?” Jamie said, throwing a cold bucket of water over Donas’ sweaty back.

“Aye.” Willie ran his hands through his helmet hair, scratching at the lack of wearing a hat. “I could eat for the five thousand now, though.”

“Aye, lad, me too.” Jamie agreed. “Those pesky sandwiches didn’t cut it. Get ye dirty boots off and think about what ye fancy before we get home.”

In the end, Jamie and Willie decided to cook up bacon sandwiches with the yellow yolk of an egg running throughout. Working as a team, Willie buttered the slices of bread, while Jamie cooked the eggs and crisped the bacon rashers up to perfection. Dinner was scarfed down while they watched telly, a special treat, rather than having to sit at the table.

Hair and body cleaned in the bath, and fresh pajamas on, Willie was sound asleep before Jamie even knew it.

The day had started out so good, so promising, and then taken a turn for the worst and Jamie couldn’t seem to remember any of the bits inbetween. He’d had to put on a brave face for Willie’s sake, not wanting to alarm his son, by making him watch his Da crumble before his very eyes. But now he was alone, Jamie downed the last of his whisky, and tapped his two left fingers against his thigh rhythmically.

He wished he hadn’t done, hadn’t tortured himself, but he hadn’t been able to stop his curiosity from retrieving Willie’s homework from his backpack and reading through it. A bunch of boring paragraphs met Jamie’s eyes first, explaining the assignment, which the children would be also doing at school for the months to come. This week’s homework assignment had been exactly as Willie had described.

Tell us about your Mam!

Was written in massive black bold letter at the top of the page. Typed underneath was a list of prompts to be answered.

• What does your Mam look like? Are they any similarities between you and your Mam?
• What does she like to do in her free time? Do you like to do the same things?
• What doesn’t she like? Answer the same question as stated above.
• Do you and your Mam have any hobbies you do together?
• What is your favourite thing about your Mam?

What a fucking list.

Jamie ripped it up instantly after finishing the last question.

No wonder Willie had been so hurt, but yet, surely he couldn’t be the only one without a Mam in the picture. It was the 21st century, for god’s sakes, teachers should know to be more careful about sensitive topics such as families. Either that, or Willie’s teacher was a stupid, fucking wee eejit.

Relaxation wouldn’t come to Jamie no matter how much he tried, he was much too wound up with anger and hurt. It took another three glasses of whisky before Jamie even felt his tongue thicken and the burn behind the back of his eyes begin. He wasn’t tired, but at least closing his eyes for ten minutes was well needed. As he got ready for bed, hands moving automatically, but head now fuzzy and up in the clouds, Jamie knew one thing was for certain. It might have been the anger talking, it might even have been the whisky, but nobody, no-fucking-body, reduced Jamie Fraser’s son to tears and got away scot free.

Chapter Text

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jamie huffed, raising his wrist to eye level and checking the time.

Willie was so going to be late for school.

“William Fraser! Hurry up and get ye’re arse doon here!”

Willie came thumping down the stairs, the collar of his shirt all askew. There wasn’t anytime to gel his hair, of even get some porridge down his throat. Instead, as Jamie started the engine, and Willie buckled himself in, Jamie chucked him an oats bar from his back pocket. Half of it was squished and still warm from where his Da had accidently sat on it, but Willie didn’t mind. Ripping open the wrapper, he bit and then chewed absentmindedly as Jamie put his foot down.

Of all days… Jamie fumed. Why did they both have to sleep in today? This was the fucking whisky’s fault!

Talking to Willie’s teacher and Headmaster Mr Wellman would have to wait until after school now, and Jamie wasn’t sure he would be able to his keep his anger in check all day until three o’clock.

A quick kiss on his head, and a wave, Willie practically jumped out of the truck as it swerved to a stop. Jamie watched out of the window, making sure Willie made it across the school playground – the lucky sod managed to slip through the open doors in just the nick of time, before the old fashioned school bell rang to signal the beginning of classes.

Knowing his temper was a liability, and prone to over spilling, Jamie kept himself to himself for the rest of the day. The other farm hands had taken one look at the, what must have been, thunderous expression upon their boss’ face, and decided it would be in their best interests to not disturb, not get on Jamie’s bad side, today.

The only hiccup had been in the form of Ian, who had wandered down from his own plot of land, to help Jamie mend a broken wire in the fence. Assuring his best mate, and brother in law, he could do it by himself; Jamie had fetched his tools and begun. But Ian wouldn’t let up that easily. He’d taken Jamie’s advice and decided not to help, but rather thought it was a good time to prop his arm up against a fencing post and have a wee chat.

After the third or fourth time of Jamie hearing village gossip, and Ian complaining about the price of potatoes, he snapped.

“Ian, mate.” His voice was deadly calm, even to his own ears. “I. Don’t. Give. A. Flying fuck. Buy the tatties, don’t buy the tatties, grow them yeself for all I care! But will ye just shut ye hole for one minute!”

A short pause, barely even a breath, and then Ian was laughing, a full on chortle to himself.

God, give me strength.

Jamie breathed in through his nose deeply, nostrils flaring.

“What crawled up yer arse and died?” Ian asked, still smiling.

Jamie wanted to wipe the smirk off Ian’s face.

“Nothing,” he answered. “Just piss off and leave me alone.”

Ian crossed his arms, staring down at Jamie. Jamie stared right back up at him. If Jenny were here, she’d accuse the two men of standing out in the field measuring their own cocks. Jamie’s lips twitched at the picture of it all.

“Are ye gonnae tell me what’s wrong, brother? Or am I gonnae have to drag Jenny over here?” Ian’s fingers tapped against his inner arm as he waited for Jamie’s response.

There wasn’t anyway of keeping it secret. Ian wasn’t kidding; he really would march back over to his house, grab Jenny and make her wheedle Jamie’s problem out of him. It was the best out of bad situation; at least Ian wouldn’t threaten to knee him in the balls if he didn’t open his mouth and speak. At most, Ian would threaten to throttle him, or resort to wrestling about the grass, like they had done as bairns. But his poor balls would still be intact.

“Fine. Pass me the hammer and hold this straight, won’t ye, while I talk?”

---

Ian had been just as furious as Jamie, spitting out Gaelic curses, intermingled with English. It was nice for Jamie to ken his family members felt the same, and he wasn’t just over reacting.

“Do ye want me to come down there with ye?” Ian suggested, anger sitting tight across his face. “I’ll give the wee wench a piece of my mind…”

Jamie spoke louder than usual, to be heard over the consistent whirr of his drill. “No, it’s fine. I’ll sort it oot myself. But I’ll have to leave early to see the teacher before the bell rings, otherwise she’ll be scarpering off home.”

“That’s fine, brother.” Ian clamped his hand down on Jamie’s shoulder. “I’ll finish fixing the rest of the fence for ye.”

---

“Mr Fraser!”

Seriously? Was the universe not going to give him a fucking break?

Apparently not.

“What a bonny surprise!” Miss McKenzie stood to her small height, walking around her desk to greet Jamie. Her blouse was bright pink today; a fuchsia colour so startling it hurt Jamie’s eyes to look at. “Is there anything I can help ye with?”

Stop batting ye eyelashes like a cow for starters…

“Aye, I need to speak to Mr Wellman, and Willie’s literacy teacher, Mrs Kay, I believe her name is?”

“I can try my best! Is there something wrong? Something I might be able to help ye with, Mr Fraser?”

The way she uttered ‘Mr Fraser’ made Jamie’s skin crawl. Seductively, soft, lewd, almost. It had never been more apparent to Jamie just how young the poor lassie was.

Jamie shot a tight smile her way. “It’s probably best if I can just speak to Mr Wellman and Mrs Kay about it.”

“You wait right there, Mr Fraser…”

Surely nobody’s hips swayed that much when they walked normally. The position must be killing her back.

“And I…” She rounded her desk, bending over to reach for the phone. Jamie got a rather long look at her cleavage. “Will pull a few strings for you.”

---

Mrs Kay was indeed more afraid of Jamie than Jamie was of her. She was a tiny bit of a woman, dressed plainly with a long plait hanging over one shoulder. She certainly didn’t look like somebody who went out of her way to make bairns cry, but the fact of the matter was she had done. Jamie certainly didn’t take pleasure in making others feel inferior, but Mrs Kay had done wrong by Willie and Jamie wasn’t going to just lie down and watch it happen again.

“I can excuse him from the project if ye would like, Mr Fraser,” the literacy teacher offered.

Jamie shook his head. “I don’t want Willie to be excluded from the tasks the other bairns are doing. I just wanted ye to be aware of the problem, families come in all shapes and sizes nowadays.”

“Aye, sure. I understand. I’ll have a word with Willie, and… um… he can do the other parts of the project.”

“Make sure ye have a word with him separately.” Jamie said. “I don’t want any of the other bairns hearing and saying anything to my son.”

“Mrs Kay will make sure she’d discreet, won’t ye, Mrs Kay?” Mr Wellman had been firmly on Jamie’s side, since the moment Jamie had explained the problem. “None of the other wee bairnies will ken about it.”

Jamie gave him one quick, short nod, enough to let the Headmaster ken he’d heard him, but offered nothing else to say.

“We’re very sorry this has happened, Mr Fraser.” Mr Wellman laced his fingers together, leaning over to speak to Jamie. “I promise, at my school, we’re always trying to grow and learn. Mistakes happen along the way, as I’m sure ye’ll understand, but I won’t let this happen again.”

“I’ll take ye word for it, Mr Wellman.” Jamie made to stand. “Thank ye both for ye time.”

Both Mr Wellman and Mrs Kay stood, too. Mr Wellman stuck out his hand, and Jamie shook it half-heartedly.

“No bother at all, Mr Fraser. If there’s anything else, please never hesitate to ask Miss McKenzie or make an appointment with me, through her.”

I’d rather run over hot coals, and then drink a hot cup of horse piss, before I’d make an appointment with Miss Mckenzie…

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” Without waiting for anything else to be said, Jamie opened the office door and strode out. The reception area was empty, a short relief, and so Jamie made the most of it, heading out of the door as fast as his legs would carry him.

The gates outside were deserted, hardly a waiting parent, or an excited child, in sight. Jamie had made sure to arrive early, so as to be able to talk to Mrs Kay, and then make it on time to pick up Willie. Quite obviously, Jamie had spent longer in that bloody office than he’d meant to. So caught up in his anger, he’d not even heard the bell signal outside.

So where was Willie?

Had he come outside, stood around waiting to see his Da, and then headed back inside when he couldn’t spot Jamie? Had Willie been panicked at being left behind?

Jamie was just about to retrace his steps back to the receptionist’s office, Leoghaire be damned, when a small voice shouted, “Da!”

A quick look over his shoulder showed Willie waving madly at him from the swing set in the playground. Another young lad stood next to him, staring at Jamie, and behind Willie stood…

Miss Beauchamp.

Jamie’s long legs ate up the space in between until he stood in front of his son. Willie smiled at him reassuringly, his messy mop of hair all over the place.

“I hope you don’t mind,” her English voice rang out. “Willie couldn’t see you at the gates, so I offered to wait with him, until we could see you.”

She stepped to the side, moving out from behind the swing set, and walking to a stop at Jamie’s side.

Jamie couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Monday’s outfit of choice was a dress – long sleeved and tight fitting in the bodice, but skimming past her hips, before then flaring out towards the ground. The bright green colour of the dress, with patterned daisies running throughout, was distracting, to say the least. But not in the way Miss McKenzie’s had been… no, this time it had more to do with the woman wearing it than the dress itself.

With a lurch low down in the pit of his stomach, Jamie became very aware of Miss Beauchamp’s presence. He’d never stood this close to her. A few fleeting seconds as she passed through the door he held open, didn’t count.

A slight cock of his head, and Jamie had to stop his senses from overloading.

Today, her dark hair was piled high onto of her head; it only stood to accentuate the length of her pale, swanlike neck. Her perfume was the same one she’d worn in the meeting only a week ago. Yet somehow, even though they stood outside in a large open space and not a small, stuffy room this time round, Miss Beauchamp’s perfume still found its way into Jamie’s nose.

If he moved an inch, perhaps even half an inch, Jamie would be able to feel the heat of her arm pressing into his shoulder. Without the heels, she came up to his chin… Jamie’s lips twitched involuntarily at the thought of dipping his chin down ever so slightly and laying his lips upon hers. It would almost be too easy…

“Da! Do you think I could jump from this height?”

My God, he was still in the playground…

How long had he stood there not saying anything, but just simply staring at the bonny Sassenach beside him?

Willie had asked his question as he swung back and forth on the creaking playground equipment. Of course, the silly eejit wanted to ken if he jumped out of the swing and landed on his feet, would his Da still tell him off? Fergus sat next to him on the other swing, pushing his legs in and out, to make himself go higher and higher, faster and faster. At least he hadn’t wanted to pull any stupid stunts.

“Don’t ye even dare think aboot it,” Jamie warned.

Two toothy grins were shot back at him, full of mischief. Jamie was surprised to see how much a smile transformed Fergus’ face. He already was a very bonny bairn, and Jamie could see he’d grow into being a handsome lad, fighting off the lassies left, right and center. But the way his lips curved and his eyes crinkled at the corners? Fergus looked almost a carbon copy of his Mam.

The exact same smile was playing about Miss Beauchamp’s face, as Jamie turned his attention away from the boys and back to her. Feeling his gaze, she pivoted her body in towards Jamie’s. The heavy noise of her dress flapping in the sudden wind sounded a million miles away.

“Sorry.” Jamie shook his head. “I’m all over the place today. What did ye say again?”

She huffed a cute snort through her nose. “That’s all right. I was just saying I’d waited with Willie until you arrived.”

“Thank ye.” He smiled at her; hopefully without coming across as a madman, with the amount of teeth it felt like Jamie had on show. “I appreciate it, and… and the biscuits ye made us.”

Miss Beauchamp waved him off. “It’s not a bother, I’m glad you enjoyed them. Faith certainly enjoyed icing the tops. It kept her quiet for an hour, so really I should be thanking you for the peace and quiet.”

Jamie quirked his eyebrow. “Faith?”

“Yes, my daughter. My eldest.”

“It’s no possible, ye just don’t look old enough to have two bairns, let alone Fergus have an older sister.”

Miss Beauchamp let out a louder laugh this time. “Flatterer. I quite assure you I am, the wrinkles in my forehead when I frown will tell you that, Jamie.”

He opened his mouth once, closed it, and then opened it again.

“How do ye ken my name?”

A small moue of her mouth, and Miss Beauchamp cut her eyes away from his gaze, down to the ground. Jamie felt her shift her feet, testing the weight on each foot. When she finally did look up, it wasn’t to look at Jamie, but rather to where Willie and Fergus were racing each other on the wooden obstacle course.

“Hm?” Jamie prompted again.

“Because I just do.”

“Ye just do? That’s hardly fair, Miss Beauchamp. I don’t ken yer name, ye’ve not even told me yet, but ye ken mine?”

Those sharp eyes of her were back on Jamie. “My name’s Claire.”

“Claire.” He tasted part of her, her name, on his tongue. “Claire Beauchamp.” She sounded sweet. “So, Claire Beauchamp, how do ye ken my name?”

“Because, Jamie Fraser…” His eyes wanted to roll into the back of his head, at the way the vowels of his name fell off her tongue. Claire’s voice held a hint of amusement in the tone. “I’ve heard your name spoken since the first day you enrolled Willie in this school. Don’t you know the women here are like hyenas? Travelling together in packs, and then lashing out? I’d heard your name uttered a thousand times before I’d ever even seen your face.”

“Oh, and you think that’s funny, do you?”

“Yes, I do a little bit.” Claire’s eyes shone in the overhead sun, until she raised her hand, holding it above her eyebrows, to block out the light. “You would too, if you’d been there when they realised you were a single parent, no wife or girlfriend to speak of. It was like all of their Christmases had come at once.”

“And here I was,” Jamie said, a boyish smirk playing about his lips. “Thinking ye were a sweet and innocent Sassenach. I’m very rarely wrong, but,” he shrugged. “Apparently this time I am.”

Claire hummed noncommittally. “I guess that’s for you to find out later on.”

The wee vixen.

She was flirting.

Jamie hadn’t been sure at first. He’d been out of the dating scene for… well, since Geneva, really, for a number of reasons.

One, after Geneva’s death, Jamie had found himself in the sole possession of his baby. Geneva’s parents, Willie’s Grandparents, hadn’t been much of a help, other than the lump sum of money they’d gifted to Willie as a baby. They’d hated Jamie and Geneva’s relationship, which was made even worse when Geneva found out she was expecting William. A teenaged mother to be. The arguments and knife cutting words that followed would stay with Jamie for the rest of his life.

When Jamie and Geneva had broken up (not by Jamie’s choice, of course, he believed himself to have been madly in love), Geneva made the decision to move back to her family home down in England. She’d been eight months pregnant at the time. Jamie had never known heartbreak like it, watching as the mother of his child, and his unborn son boarded a train and trundled away into the distance.

Jamie had vowed to step up and be a Da, even from the moment Geneva had thrown the positive pregnancy test in his face, and then slammed the bedroom door.

Fatherhood had come at a cost, but Jamie wouldn’t change it for the world.

But the way Geneva and her family had treated Jamie still stuck with him. If by some chance Jamie got a spare moment away from Willie, dating hadn’t been something at the forefront of his mind. For a long time, the idea of approaching a woman, asking her out, opening his heart up to her… it had turned Jamie’s stomach. He wasn’t sure he could take it if his heart was broken into pieces again, if she hurled curses at him and broke down his character. But Jamie knew for certain he’d never be able to stand it if the woman in question did it to Willie.

A small string of one-night stands followed Jamie, but they’d been meaningless, a means to an end, a way to soothe an all encompassing burn. Jamie couldn’t even recall the last time he’d slept with a woman, or her name, or what she’d been wearing.

So to realize Miss Beauchamp was flirting, was a shock to the system. What was even worse was how much Jamie realized he liked it.

“Maman! Come on, your turn!” Fergus was calling out to Claire as he swung to and fro.

“I’m being summoned,” she said, feigning exasperation. “Hold my bag for me, won’t you?”

Claire placed the handles of her tiny, white handbag onto Jamie’s outstretched fingers. He wondered what Fergus wanted his Mam for, but it soon became clear when the wee lad hopped up and Claire took a seat on the swing.

“Not too high, mind, Fergus,” she warned.

Behind his Mam, Fergus pulled an over exaggerated eye roll only Willie and Jamie could see. Jamie had to stifle his laughter. That crazy bairn was in a league of his own.

Both of Claire’s delicate hands held onto the metal chain links on either side, as Fergus pulled her body back and then let go. Claire let out a whoop of joy as the momentum pushed her higher into the air, and then swinging back down. True to his word, Fergus hadn’t pushed her very hard; a gentle breeze would probably have moved her more.

Jamie held Claire’s handbag out to her son. “Here, Fergus, come hold this for ye’re Mam. I’ll give her a shove,” he whispered, only enough for the boy to hear.

“What are you doing?” Claire asked, eyes tracking him as he walked to stand behind her. “Don’t you even dare think…”

The only way to get the swing going in the first place was to grip Claire’s waist. Jamie had done just that, as quick as a flash, so he couldn’t overthink it and Claire wouldn’t twist out of his grasp. She screamed loudly, louder than Jamie had anticipated as she went flying into the air.

“Jamie Fraser! You bloody idiot!”

Laughter rumbled in his stomach, growing bigger and bigger, until Jamie couldn’t stand up straight for laughing. It must have been contagious; for Fergus and Willie were also laughing so hard tears were streaming down either laddie’s cheeks.

Unlike before, Claire had given up the pretense of crossing her ankles demurely in an attempt to stop her dress from flying up. Now, she flailed about, legs thrashing to reach the ground and still the swing.

When it eventually did stop moving, Claire stood on shaky legs, reached around the slowly swinging chain, and whacked Jamie’s upper arm.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” she declared, but there wasn’t a hint of malice in her words. Jamie saw for himself as her lips puckered and relaxed and puckered again, as Claire tried to stop herself from joining in on the laughter. She failed miserably, finally giving in and breaking out into a grin. The murderous expression she’d tried for also failed. Jamie, himself, thought Claire looked too bonny to look murderous, anyway.

“That’s a bad word, Maman.”

“Aye, well I think ye Mam deserves to swear, doesn’t she?” Jamie smiled at Fergus. “I did play a dirty trick on her.”

“Very dirty,” Claire agreed.

Jamie got the distinct feeling Claire would have said something else, if it wasn’t for Willie butting in and complaining he was starving. The lad even clasped his hands over his stomach for extra dramatic purposes.

“I suppose we should get home then…”

“Yes, yes, don’t let us keep you.” Claire turned to Fergus. “I bet Faith’s wondering where we are.”

“Och, shite. I haven’t kept ye two from her, have I?” Jamie asked, tapping his two fingers against his jean clad thigh.

“No, don’t worry. She walks home from school with her friend, Gail, I just pick her up from the house.”

Jamie nodded in understanding “Ah, good. See you tomorrow?”

“Depends when I’m scheduled to work,” Claire explained. “If not… I’m sure we’ll see each other around.”

Jamie tried his hardest to not let disappointment become clear in his features. “Aye, we will. Well, bye ye two.”

“Bye, Jamie, and you too, Willie.” She bid. “Have a good evening.”

“Ye too, Sassenach, and ye Fergus, lad.”

Claire might have thought she hid it well, but Jamie caught a mere glimpse of her secret smile at the sound of her new nickname.

Her smile … it pierced Jamie through his heart. If he wasn’t careful, that smile of hers was going to get both of them in trouble…

Chapter Text

The rest of the working week passed by pretty uneventfully.

Jamie kept more of a watchful eye over Willie than he usually would, checking for anymore tears or concerns over school. But nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. If anything, Willie appeared happier than ever. He would come home from school each day, excitedly babbling on about whatever they’d gotten up to in and out of class. Jamie was glad to see his lad had made a sturdy group of friends, and even wee Fergus’ name seemed to be cropping up in a couple of Willie’s tales.

Finally, after a few weeks of mayhem, Jamie was getting back up and on his feet. The farm was running steadily for the time being. Five more lambs had been born, each of them happy, healthy and added welcome additions to the herd. But just because the farm was running smoothly at the given moment, didn’t mean Jamie’s calendar, or to do list, was any less full.

The lads arrived on Thursday afternoon, ready to spray the new organic fertilizer over the freshly tilled soil. The date had been in Jamie’s calendar for months now, and he was glad another task was getting done and dusted.

Jamie supervised the whole process, to make sure it was done correctly and to his standard. For the price he was paying, Jamie wanted it as near perfect as they could get it. The fertilizer would be left to do its magic over the course of the next oncoming days, giving everybody a much needed short break. Cattle work would still need to be seen too, and any quick repairs of fences or barn doors. But the real work would begin again on Monday morning, when they’d begin the process of planting the yearly crop.

At least in this day and age, the farmhands would be able to hop in a vehicle and allow it to do all the hard work, spitting out seeds in meticulous rows. All they had to do was put their foot on the pedal and drive slowly in a straight line. When he’d been a young bairn growing up, Jamie had joined his Da, Ian and the other farmhands in a process of backbreaking labour, as they hunched over and sewed every seed by hand.

Those days were long gone. The past had its quirks and its niceties, a few particular things people wished were still around today, but Jamie could easily say planting by hand wasn’t one of them. He didn’t miss it in the slightest; the modern way was much easier and less time consuming.

So Saturday might not have been spent planting, but Jamie wasn’t to be found lounging about in the living room watching mindless telly.

Instead, he was standing in a muddy field while the heavens opened above him.

---

Twenty minutes previously…

“Right, Willie, have ye got them tied properly?”

Standing by the front door, Jamie waited patiently as Willie sat on the kitchen floor to re-lace his new football boots, excited energy pulsating off of him in waves.

Everybody knew the passage of time felt like eternity to wee children, and Willie was no different. He’d been counting down the days until Saturday arrived, for what felt like months. From the moment he’d learned there was a school football team for 9 to 11 year olds; Willie had practically begged his Da to sign him up. Jamie had signed his name willingly upon the dotted line, and the next day, the two of them went shopping for the correct football kit for Willie to wear.

Now with Willie’s boots tied correctly, both Fraser’s hopped in the truck, ready for the first practice match.

Jamie had asked around some of the other parents he’d become friendly with, mainly Johnnie’s Da, Peter, about how the football teams were usually managed and what to expect from them. He’d been told, on an average weekend, forty or so young lads usually showed up. Those forty were split into two separate groups, the blues and the reds. The bairns would play nine against nine, before swapping and changing to let everybody have a turn and make it fair.

As Willie buckled himself in, Jamie programmed his phone to show him the directions to the playing field. It only took them a handful of minutes to arrive; it took much longer to find an empty parking spot, for cars upon cars sat in neat rows, some with their doors and boots wide open as children poured out of them.

As they stepped onto the field, the football referee Christopher, welcomed Willie straight away, passing him a blue bib to wear and explaining to Willie how the game would work. Jamie stood off to the sidelines, alone, while some of the other Da’s greeted each other with a sharp beat of each man’s back. Once Willie had finished listening to Christopher, he gave his Da a double thumbs up and moved to speak to a wee lad just shorter than himself. From this angle, Jamie couldn’t see the bairn Willie was talking to, but Jamie was happy to see his son had already made one friend.

In true Scottish fashion, the heavens opened just as Christopher blew his whistle for the first game, and Willie and his team began to get into position. All around him, Jamie heard as the other parents pushed open umbrellas, shielding themselves and their friends from the downpour.

It wasn’t a regular occurrence that he forgot something. But Jamie’s mind had been so cluttered and full recently, that something as small as bringing an umbrella to hold above his head, or wearing a pair of wellies on his feet to combat the moshy mud, had slipped Jamie’s mind like water spilling down a drainpipe. Willie and the other lads didn’t mind one bit. They were much too engrossed in winning against the other team, but before long Jamie was soaked through. The cow’s lick of his fringe was sopping wet and heavy against his forehead, as he lifted a forefinger to move it out of his eyes.

A shadow fell at Jamie’s feet, perhaps a cloud, and for a second he thought the rain had stopped. It no longer dripped down his back in large, icy, cold droplets. One short inhale, and the press of a warm shoulder against his, and it became apparent to Jamie Fraser just how wrong he’d been.

“Fancy seeing you here.”

A half shuttered blink in disbelief. Another sharp inhale to get a heady whiff of her perfume… but it didn’t smell right. It was sharper today, almost medicinal.

Jamie glanced to the side to double check it was Claire. Catching his eye, she grinned back at him, repositioning her grip on the umbrella.

“Thought you could use some company,” she said, and then jiggled the umbrella a tad. “And also, you were getting sodden and starting to resemble a little soaked puppy.”

“A puppy, aye?”

“Mhm,” Claire nodded. “All fringe and startling blue eyes.”

Jamie hid his grin in his fingers as he pretended to scratch the thin lining of stubble growing along his jawline. “I didn’t even ken ye or Fergus were here, Sassenach.”

“He’s there, don’t you see him?” Stretching her hand out, Claire pointed to the young lad Willie had been talking to at the beginning of the football game. Now Jamie kicked himself for not being able to recognize wee Fergus.

Where the fucking hell was his head today?

No wonder Willie had been standing talking to him. His Da had taught him always to be polite, and from what Jamie could gather, the two lads had recently become friendly… somewhat.

Following her finger, Jamie watched as Fergus ran after the ball, reaching it just in time before the other team player. He shouted something, but it was lost in the pattering rain as it soaked into the marshy grass. Only when the ball rolled to Willie and Willie dribbled away with it, as best as he knew how, did Jamie realize Fergus had shouted Willie’s name.

Perhaps the lads were getting on better than Willie was letting on?

“Och, aye I see him now.” Jamie nodded. “Can’t believe I missed him in the first place. My head’s gone recently, feel like I’m away with the fairies most of the time.”

Claire said nothing for a minute, choosing instead to cock her head to the side as she studied him with a scrutinizing eye. “If Willie takes football up weekly, you’re really going to have to start keeping a spare pair of wellies in the boot of your truck.”

“My truck?”

“Yes, the blue one.”

Jamie raised one eyebrow independently. “How did ye ken that’s my truck?”

“I saw you pull up and get out, with hair like yours and Willie’s, it’s very hard for you to be inconspicuous.” Claire said. “Your height doesn’t help matters, you’re unmistakable.”

“Unmistakable, aye? I’m starting to think ye might be a little bit of a stalker, Sassenach.”

She jostled his shoulder a wee bit, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Oh, do wipe that cocky smirk from your face.”

Jamie let out a surprised laugh. “Me, cocky? Never, Sassenach. Anyway, talking about dressing appropriately, I thought you’d be wearing another one of your fancy outfits.”

“My fancy outfits?” Claire repeated.

“Aye,” Jamie swept a hand quickly through the air, gesturing to Claire’s current outfit; well loved skinny jeans and a light pink jumper. “Ye dresses or blouses with bows and tight skirts.”

“Tight skirts? Who’s the stalker now, Mr Fraser? Do tell me how you know my skirts are tight?”

Shit.

When Jamie gave her no reply, Claire bumped her hip with his. “Go on, enlighten me, Jamie.”

Blunt upper teeth sank into his plush bottom lip as Jamie tried to think of something quick and snappy to say whilst on the spot. Claire Beauchamp had a way of making him forget himself, like he was a young teenage schoolboy all over again. He dare not look at her face, knowing those eyes of hers would suck him in easily.

Up ahead, Fergus had taken control of the football once more. The lad’s feet were quick, his lithe figure helping him to slide past the other boys. Three metres away from the goalpost, Fergus kicked the ball with all his might. A vicious grip latched onto Jamie’s bicep, he heard Claire take a sharp inhale, and hold it. Her short nails dug into his bare skin as she nervously awaited the outcome of Fergus’ shot. A large ball of white flew through the air, touching the hard ground once, before rolling through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net.

An unexpected cheer left Jamie’s lips at the same time Claire clapped her hands loudly. Her shouted, “Go on, Fergus!” could be heard echoed by some of the other Da’s.

Fergus raised his arms above his head in celebration, whooping and hollering something in his excitement. Some of the other boys from the blue team ran to pile on top of Fergus, their voices loud with happiness, but Willie reached Fergus first, pulling his friend in for a celebratory hug.

When Fergus’ head did emerge from the group of young lads, Jamie watched as he searched the sea of unfamiliar faces until he landed on his Mam. His toothy smile doubled tenfold, the exact same proud smile reflected on Claire’s face.

“I can’t believe it!” Claire’s eyes were shining brighter than Jamie had ever seen them as the boys resumed their game with another fifteen minutes left on the clock.

She peered upwards at him. Her unguarded expression sending a sharp shooting pain through Jamie’s breastbone.

This was how Mam’s were supposed to act around their bairns. Elated, excited, proud – an ability to feel and share their own lad’s happiness.

Not sad and cold and unhappy. So unhappy, in fact, they were willing to…

The referee’s whistle blew wildly, making Jamie jump out of his skin ever so slightly. But at least it had stopped Jamie’s morbid train of thought.

“You all right there?” Claire asked, openly grinning. “I felt you nearly jump out of your boots.”

“Aye, fine.” A hard gulp. A tap of his two fingers against his jean cladded thigh. A brave face slotting back into place. “Blinked for two seconds and I missed it. What happened?”

“They’re not allowed to tackle each other without purpose. Didn’t you read the rules on the back of the permission slip?”

“Honestly, Sassenach? No, I don’t have time for wee rules.”

“Hm, of course you don’t.” Claire’s gaze was back out on the field. Time was ticking and soon Willie and Fergus’ game would be finished for the day.

Taking in a deep breath, Jamie let the strong scent of the grass enter his nose, grounding him. The rain still rebounded against Claire’s umbrella, but it had turned from a downpour into a drizzle, the sound rather soothing if you closed your eyes for long enough. Jamie’s weight felt heavy in his feet from standing in the same spot for the past half an hour. It didn’t help matters that his jeans were soaked and becoming heavier by the minute with the amount of water they had sucked up.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve gone white.” Blue met amber, as Jamie peeled his line of eyesight from the constantly moving football and to the sound of her voice.

“Do I? Och, I feel a bit peely wally, but think it’s hunger. I should be braw after I’ve eaten something.”

Claire nodded, but the concerned frown lines didn’t leave her forehead.

When the final whistle blew minutes later (with the blue team winning one nil, thanks to Fergus’ goal), both boys ran over to where their parents stood beside one another, covered in mud and rain splatters.

“Darling! I’m so proud of you!” From the depths of her tote bag hanging from her shoulder, Claire produced a clean towel, which she tucked around Fergus’ wet and muddy shoulders. Now without the worry of smushing mud into her clean jumper, Claire wrapped her arms around Fergus’ neck and gave him a quick kiss on his wet head. “You did so well too, Willie! Especially stopping the ball from hitting the goal in the last two minutes.”

She’d even been paying attention to wee Willie…

A blush coated the apples of Willie’s cheeks at Claire’s compliment. “Thank ye, Miss Beauchamp.”

“None of that,” she laughed. “You can call me Claire, or Sassenach, as your father has so fondly named me.”

Jamie tutted. “Nah, ye can’t. Come up with ye own nickname, Willie lad.”

Willie rolled his eyes good naturedly, laughing, while also trying to smuggle his way under Claire’s umbrella.

“I’ve got a spare towel in the car, if you want, Willie?” Claire offered, seeing Willie’s repressed shiver. “It’ll dry you out a little bit and stop the mud from getting all over your father’s truck.”

“I tell ye now, the trucks seen worse.” Jamie said. “But, aye, if ye don’t mind.”

“It’s not a bother. Come on, we’ll start walking to the car.”

While Claire and Fergus took off ahead, unfortunately taking the umbrella with them, Jamie and Willie walked a little bit behind.

“Ye did amazing, Willie.” Jamie laid his hand on Willie’s shoulder, bending down to allow Willie to hear over the noise of purring engines and yelling parents. “I’m so proud of ye, my lad.”

“Thanks, Da.”

“And did ye have fun? Ye up for coming again next Saturday?”

Willie looked up at his Da, smiling as if he’d caught the sun. “Aye, I wanna come back and play again next weekend.”

Jamie squeezed his son’s shoulder tightly, once and then twice. “Sounds like a good plan to me, lad.”

---

Stopping still, Jamie and Willie waited patiently as Claire handed the umbrella off to her son, unlocked her car, and popped open the boot. She pulled out a clean towel, turning around and making a fuss of tucking it around Willie’s shoulders just as she had done with Fergus’.
“There you are, darling.”

“Thank ye, Claire,” Willie muttered, using the corner of the towel to wipe a rain droplet from the tip of his nose.

“Truly, Sassenach,” Jamie repeated his gratitude. “I can’t thank ye enough.”

“Like I said before, it’s not a bother, Jamie.” She promised. “I was just saying I’d take Fergus somewhere as a reward for scoring today’s goal. He fancies this dessert place I know. Would you and Willie like to join us?”

“Och, can we, Da?” Willie asked, bouncing about the place as if he’d not just spent thirty minutes running about every which way. “I could eat a horse.”

Jamie hesitated before answering. “Only if we’re not gonna inconvenience ye…”

“I want Willie to come,” Fergus piped up.

“See.” Claire raised her eyebrows in a ‘told you’ expression. “I’ll give you the directions so you can set straight off, and we’ll meet you there after I’ve picked Faith up. Is that okay with you?”

“Aye, Sassenach, completely fine with me.”

Chapter Text

Why had he agreed to this again?

Why did this feel like a date?

Jamie’s palms felt oddly sweaty against the cool rubber of the steering wheel, as he followed the directions Claire had typed into his phone.

The dessert café in question sat on the high street Jamie and Willie had driven past on their way towards the football pitch. Jamie thought he must have driven past it a number of times on his way to run some errand or another, but he had never given it more than a passing glance.

Hitting his indicator with the side of his hand to signal he was turning right, Jamie swung his truck around the corner, and headed onwards towards the car park Claire had promised would be fairly empty. She was right. The place was deserted, especially for a Saturday afternoon – with only four cars and one motorcycle filling the spaces.

“Do ye think we should wait for them?” Willie asked as he unbuckled his seat belt. While his Da had been driving, he’d managed to use the towel to scrape off any mud splatters decorating his shins and football boots. Jamie had turned the heaters on full blast as soon as they’d gotten into the truck so Willie’s hair was bone dry now – the wispy bits standing up in each and every direction.

“Nah, it’ll be fine.” Jamie said. He passed the palm of his large hand over Willie’s cowlick in an attempt to flatten it, but it did no good. The hair was much too soft and stubborn. Instead of staying put, it sprang back up again like a springboard. “We can go in and grab the table and menus while we wait for them, aye?”

Willie waited patiently off to one side, taking pains not to stand in the middle of the road, as his Da safely locked the truck doors and pocketed the set of keys. The dessert café was only a few shops down from the car park, perhaps thirty steps or so. It didn’t take them very long to reach it. A chime above the door sounded as Willie pushed the door open, and the woman’s head from over the counter shot up.

“Take a seat.” She smiled widely at them both, “I’ll bring some menus over.”

Willie picked a vinyl booth tucked away in the corner, the seats covered in black leather and the formica table shining brightly. Jamie had only sat his arse down when the bell above the door chimed again. Fergus came bounding in first, he’d changed out of his muddy football boots into a much cleaner pair of trainers, but was still wearing his black and blue football kit. His eagle eyes spotted Jamie and Willie, not all that hard to do, as there was only one other group sitting on the other side of the café.

“Hallo, Becky,” Fergus called, grabbing the attention of the waitress behind the glass counter, before running over and taking a seat beside Willie. Becky turned around at Fergus’ voice, her entire face lighting up when she noticed Claire, who was holding the door open for somebody behind her.

Jamie could have watched Claire all day.

The way she stood on one side of the glass, Becky on the other with a stack of paper menus in her hands. The two women exchanged smiles and, most likely, pleasantries, appearing to be acquaintances. Becky cut her eyes to where Jamie sat, looked back at Claire and uttered something to make Claire throw her head back and laugh loudly.

“Bonjour.” The small slip of a girl shimmying into the seat opposite Jamie had him doing a double take; eyes no longer focused on Claire but her mini-me in front of him.

“Hi!” Willie replied excitedly. With no siblings to talk of and only one much younger cousin, it was still a novelty to Willie to be around children his age or just a tad older.

“Fergus! Stop kicking me! You’ll get my skirt dirty.” She directed at her brother and then moved her attention back to Jamie, where her gaze settled. “I’m Faith.”

Her accent was strange, not Scottish at all, not like Fergus, who had picked up a little bit of the dialect. She was definitely English, of course, with being raised by an Englishwoman herself, but something else was mixed in with it… Jamie couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

“We ken ye are, lass.” Jamie said, as Claire slid into the booth last. She sat beside her daughter, making the resemblance that much more uncanny. Sitting opposite Jamie, she accidentally knocked his knees as she crossed her legs. “If I didn’t ken before who yer Mam was, I’d ken for certain now.”

Claire looked down at the spitting image of herself while Faith smiled up at her mother. Whoever Faith and Fergus’ Da was, he’d given nothing of himself to Faith and only a very small amount to wee Fergus. The Beauchamp genes were inherently very strong.

“Everybody says that,” Claire laughed, with Faith’s exact same giggle sounding behind hers.

Christ, even the way they laughed sounded similar.

Faith tucked her hair behind one ear and then the other. All Jamie could see was Claire doing precisely the same thing after she’d gotten off the swing set only last week.

Was this how Willie and he appeared through the eyes of someone else?

“Five menus for ye.” Becky, the waitress was back, placing the menus one by one in front of everybody. “I’ll come back for yer orders, but does anybody ken what they want to drink?” She fished her tiny notebook and pencil out the front of her apron. “Normal water for ye, Claire, and ye, Faith? And a strawberry milkshake for ye, Fergus?”

“Yes, please, the usual.” Claire said. “What are you two having?”

Willie ordered a strawberry milkshake the same as Fergus, while Jamie asked for a pot of tea, desperately needing something to warm him up and dry him out.

“Bring two cups, won’t you?” Claire called as Becky turned to input their order into the computer system. “I’ll have some tea, as well.”

The menu placed in front of Jamie was full to the brim of sugary treats, not the place to be if you were watching your weight or diet conscious. Jamie had already decided he wanted two slices of French toast with a side of fruit, and Willie had picked the nutella pancakes. Trust him to pick the item with the most chocolate packed into it.

“I’ll have French toast too,” Fergus declared, putting down his menu and staring out at the rain, which had started to come down heavily again and form large puddles on the concrete pavement outside.

“Good choice.” Claire ran her tongue against her pink lower lip in thought. Jamie tried not to look as it became shiny with her saliva. “Do you want to share something, Faith darling?”

“Can do, Maman.”

Her trimmed fingernail skimmed down the page. “What about the blueberry pancakes?”

“Oui. With an extra side of hash browns?” Faith asked hopefully.

Their separate orders were placed with Becky after she’d doled out the drinks. Faith’s extra side of hash browns included of course.

“Why don’t ye speak Scottish?” Willie asked Faith, once he slurped down half of his milkshake in one go.

With her paper straw still in her mouth, Faith regarded Willie with an appraising stare. She sat up a little taller as she spoke clearly. “Because I am not Scottish.”

Claire let out a snort at her daughter’s straightforward answer.

“Well, she isn’t wrong is she, lad?” Jamie ruffled his son’s hair, biting his lip to stop from laughing too hard at Willie’s dumbstruck expression.

“I am French, '' Faith gestured to her Mam. “Tell him, Maman.”

“French?” Jamie questioned. It made sense now, the peculiar pronunciation of Faith’s words and her fluid way of integrating the French language into the English one.

“Yes.” Claire smiled at him as she poured out a cup of steaming hot English breakfast tea and pushed it towards him. “Both of my babies were born in France.”

“But ye’re English,” Willie pointed out again, face pulled into an expression of confusion.

“Yes Willie, I’m English.” Claire began to explain, stirring a hefty amount of milk into her own cup of tea. “I was born in a small town called Oxfordshire, an hour or so out of London, but I moved to France when I was quite young. Faith and Fergus were both born there, before we moved back again to England.”

“Oh.” Willie seemed happy enough with that answer. Questions forgotten, he asked his Da if he could play on his phone. Jamie unlocked it for him, and soon the three bairns were engrossed in a game of virtual snap.

Claire’s knees knocked against his again. How many times did it count before it was no longer an accident?

“How old were ye?”

“Hm?” Claire, too, pulled her eyes away from the bairns to the man sitting across from her.

“How old were ye when ye moved to France, Sassenach?” Jamie repeated his question, tone ever so slightly lowered to stop the children from butting in.

“Seventeen. Wait, no… sixteen. Seventeen?” Claire rubbed her lips together as she attempted to recall. “Oh, I’m not exactly sure. It was such a long time ago.”

“Why did ye move in the first place?”

“Family stuff…” She didn’t sound so sure, not to Jamie’s ears, at least.

“Och, do ye regret it?”

“No.” Claire shook her head, curls bouncing about all over the place. “I regret some things, but not that. I got to have my babies, and that’s the most important thing.”

Jamie nodded his head slowly. From the moment he’d found out about Willie’s tiny fetal existence, he’d fallen in love. It sounded like Claire had felt the same way as soon as she’d found out about the two tiny lives growing in her womb.

“I’m guessing ye were young then, when ye had Faith and Fergus?” The tea was just the perfect temperature as Jamie brought the rim of the cup to his lips and swallowed some of the liquid. It warmed his mouth and throat, all the way down to his stomach.

“Eighteen and twenty.” Claire watched him over the rim of her own cup.

Looking out the corner of his eye, Jamie made sure the bairns were still occupied, before finding Claire’s gaze again.

“Aye, me too. I’d only turned twenty a couple of months past, when William was born. Bit of a surprise, a happy surprise, but still a surprise.”

“Two surprises for me, too.” Claire agreed. “But like you say, happy surprises, well… at least happy surprises for me. The same couldn’t be said for the other party involved.”

“Maman!”

Jamie was saved from replying by Faith, trying to wiggle out of the booth in search of the toilet facilities. Claire stood up to let her out, and Jamie kept an eye on her as she weaved through the many empty tables.

The other party involved, Claire had said. Surely, that could only be Faith and Fergus’ Da? By the sounds of it, he hadn’t been too happy at finding his Claire pregnant, not once but twice – and partially by his own doing, mind you…

“Two French toasts!” Becky was back at Jamie’s side, placing a plate of food in front of him and leaning over the table to place Fergus’ on the table. “One nutella and one blueberry. With Faith’s extra side of hash browns! Is that everything, Claire?”

“Yes, perfect. Thank you!”

“Shout me if ye’s need anything!”

Unwrapping the knife and fork out of the napkin, Jamie seized both utensils and cut the side corner off of one of his slices. The toast slices were crisped to a lovely golden colour, topped with a sprinkling of white icing sugar to offset the savoury egg flavour. His mouth watered as he brought the morsel up to his lips and then chewed slowly to enjoy every last bit.

“How is it?” Jamie thought Claire must have been asking Fergus, or perhaps even Willie, but he looked up from his plate when she tapped the top of his foot with her own to get his attention.

“Wait, are ye talking to me?”

“Yes, I’m talking to you.” Claire giggled. She nodded to Jamie’s second, or was it third, forkful of food. “Is it any good?”

“Better than good, delicious.”

Faith appeared back from the toilet, sliding into her seat and picking up a crunchy hash brown piece whole. She popped it into her mouth, humming and bouncing about the seat in enjoyment of her food.

The boys had worked up an appetite running all over the place, and Jamie’s stomach was usually endless. But Claire and wee Faith seemed just as hungry, too. The chatter and excited squeals among the table had gone quiet, replaced by the sound of chewing and cutlery scraping across the plates.

Jamie finished his meal first, wiping his mouth with the edge of his napkin to get rid of any crumbs. He lifted the lid of the teapot, checking to see how much liquid was left, and only finding enough for one cup.

“There’s only enough left for one more cup, do ye want it?” He offered Claire, whose tea mug had only dregs left in the bottom of it.

“No, it’s fine. I’ve got some water left over.” Claire pushed the teapot closer to him, and Jamie noticed the tips of her index finger and thumb were stained a pretty periwinkle colour from the blueberries she’d been picking off the pancake stack and eating.

Pouring the last bit of strong tea into his mug, Jamie turned his head to check on Fergus and Willie. “Are ye having a good celebration, Fergus lad?”

Fergus peered behind Willie’s back to meet Jamie’s eyes. “Aye, thank you.”

“I’m glad he’s having a good time.” Claire leaned more over the table, easy to do so now there wasn’t a giant, boiling hot teapot, in the way. “But I’ll be honest, this wouldn’t be my celebration pick.”

“Oh, and where would ye pick then, Sassenach?”

“I’m more of an outdoorsy, or staying comfortably at home, kind of gal. I moved around a lot as a child, so now I’m older, I like to be in my own comforts as much as possible.” Claire shrugged. “Either that, or live on a farm somewhere, and then I could have the best of both worlds. Time to spend outside in the fresh air, and then retreat to my little home in the woods. Do you know what I mean, or do I sound crazy?”

“Nah, ye don’t sound crazy at all. I’m the same… probably why I became a farmer in the first place.” Jamie let the words hang in the air.

“You’re a… a farmer?” Claire’s eyebrows were so high up, Jamie worried they’d disappear into her hairline. “You live on a farm?”

“Aye, born and bred. It’s not a little house in the woods, mind you. But it is a little house on the farm.”

“So you’re living in my dream home? Is that what you’re telling me, Mr. Fraser?”

It was involuntary that Jamie’s right eyebrow rose at the Sassenach’s use of his surname. “Aye, I guess ye could say so. I am living my own dream life, after all.”

---

“How much do I owe you?” Claire drew one of her tote bag straps down her arm, hunting for her card to pay for their meal.

“I’ll pay,” Jamie insisted, already standing up to go get his wallet out of the car.

“You won’t. It was Fergus and I who wanted you to come with us, I’ll pay.”

Fergus and I wanted you to come with.

Fergus and I…

I wanted you to come with…

“Be quiet, both of ye’s,” Becky reprimanded. “I’m not letting any of ye’s pay.”

“Becky.” Claire admonished. “Please…”

“No, Claire. Ye’ve done enough for me and my family, and this is the only way ye ever let me repay ye. Ye aren’t paying!”

Jamie sat back down, hearing the finality in the waitress’ tone, and with a pout on her lips, Claire closed her tote bag. Becky looked rather pleased, collecting their empty plates together and making her way to the kitchen with them.

Claire shook her head. “She does this every time.”

“What? Refuse to let ye pay?”

“Yes, every single time. I treated her Grandad at the hospital, open heart surgery, and ever since then, she thinks she has to repay me in one way or another.”

“Ye performed open heart surgery on her grandad? At the hospital?” Jamie tried to not let his mouth fall open, but he didn’t think he was very successful.

“Yes… I’m a surgeon. Didn’t you know that?”

Jamie was dumbfounded, to say the least.

Never in a million years would he have put Claire Beauchamp, the delicate, petite woman sitting in front of him, the woman who wore 1940s style impeccable outfits and never had a hair out of place, as a bloody surgeon.

“But ye… ye… ye’re always dressed so nice and ye aren’t scary and…”

“Surgeons aren’t scary, Jamie,” she laughed. “We’re normal people like you, I promise. As for my dress-sense, it’s a little strange at the best of times, I know. I have to wear scrubs when I’m in theatre, performing. But for usual staff meetings and introducing myself to new patients, I’m allowed to wear whatever I please.”

“I don’t think it’s strange,” he said.

When Claire appeared confused, Jamie carried on.
“I don’t think ye’re dress sense is strange, Sassenach. Ye like what ye like, and I just so happen to think ye look good in it. Ye suit it.”

A demure sweep of the eyelashes downward, a purse of the lips and Claire smiled like the cat that’d caught the cream.

“Well, thank you, Jamie. I just so happen to think so, too.”

Jamie schooled his expression into one of disbelief once more. “Still can’t believe yer a surgeon, though.”

“Would it help if you saw me dressed head to toe in my scrubs?”

“Mhm, it might.”

At least then, that round arse of hers in those jeans and skirts, wouldn’t be quite so tempting.

Jamie could have sworn Claire winked before she spoke again. “I’ll see what I can do, then.”

---

As the bairns ran ahead, hopped up on fuel and sugar, Jamie and Claire walked behind. Twice, Jamie’s bare arm brushed against the knitted fabric of Claire’s long sleeved jumper. But she said nothing – as if it had never happened.

“How’s yer work schedule looking this week? Ye busy?”

“Yes, I will be.” Claire nodded. “I’m on afternoons all week, so no school drop pick ups for me. Is Willie coming back to football next weekend?”

Was it too forward to offer to pick Fergus up for her?

Shut up, ye eejit…

“Aye, he loves it already. He’ll be telling everybody once we get home.” Jamie smiled, picturing his Ma’s animated face, as she listened intently to Willie’s play-by-play of his game. “Guess we’ll see each other next Saturday, then?”

They’d approached their cars by now, Claire’s dinky, pristine Nissan Juke in contrast to Jamie’s large truck with rather dirty horse blankets still lying in the bed. Her keys jingled in her palm as Claire unlocked the doors for Faith and Fergus to climb inside.

“Yes, I’ll see you then. But don’t forget your extra supplies this time!”

“I’ll try not to, aye?”

“If not, I suppose we’ll just have to share again, won’t we?”

Her cheeky grin was back.

Jamie thought he’d never seen anybody look more gorgeous in all his life.

“Aye, Sassenach. It wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“No, it wasn’t bad at all, Jamie… We made it work, after all.”

“Aye, exactly.” His middle finger skimmed his upper lip. Jamie was very aware of Claire’s fixed stare, so what if he traced his cupid’s bow to see Claire’s eyes glimmer? “Made it work, indeed.”

Chapter Text

Was he imagining things, or had that been a date?

Had Jamie Fraser accidentally found himself on a date with Claire Beauchamp, without even realising it?

Could it count as a date if the bairns had been there, eating their respective body weights in sugar?

Had Claire thought it was a date?

Christ.

Jamie needed somebody to whack him over the head, to stop the hamster wheel of thoughts from running a marathon. Surely Jenny would be willing.

He’d known Claire was flirting; Jamie would be stupid not to see it. She’d been flirting at the playground, and now again at the football pitch. He liked it; he liked her, his Sassenach. But what Jamie was going to do about it, he wasn’t quite so sure yet.

---

Monday morning, Jamie and the other farm lads were back to their usual hard grind. Between the farm and daily life, Jamie didn’t have much time in the day to think about anything other than what he needed to be doing in the current moment, and what needed to be done in the future.

The organic fertilizer appeared to have done its job, the tilled soil looked dark and healthy with the right amount of salty grits embedded into it to help the growing process. But only time would really tell. The potatoes were sown first, as they would be the most planted vegetable of the year and often would need a lot of room to root and grow. Carrots were planted next, as were onions, bulbs of garlic, broccoli and beetroots.

While the lads got behind the tractors and planting machines, Jamie took his time planting the next batch of tomatoes in the newly constructed greenhouse. He hadn’t wanted to spend extra money on the four glass walls and glass paneled roof, but every time he attempted to grow something in the raised herb beds just outside the front door, they died without even sprouting anything. In the end, Jamie caved, and the greenhouse was erected in an attempt to save the poor sproutlings.

Miss Claire Beauchamp crossed Jamie’s mind now and then. And by now and then, he meant most days.

True to her word, Jamie hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her at the early morning or afternoon school gates. He knew she’d been at the hospital for the afternoons, but Jamie had no clue how Fergus got to school each morning. The same blonde haired woman, who Jamie had already seen once before, was there at the gates Monday through Thursday – taking Fergus’ backpack from him and chatting away animatedly. Jamie expected to see her Friday as well, but was surprised to see it was Faith who could be seen waiting for her younger brother.

The wee lass had managed to grab a seat on the metal bench, underneath a large oak tree, squeezed in between gossiping mothers who held squalling children in one hand and cups of scalding hot liquid in the other. She’d cracked open a book, Jamie couldn’t make out which one, but she appeared content enough – only looking up when the school bell signaled loudly.

While waiting for Willie (somehow his bairn was always one of the last ones out), Jamie took it upon himself to keep a close watch on Faith. She might have been nearly a teenager, but Jamie felt an overwhelming surge of protectiveness over Claire’s daughter.

Faith’s chestnut brown hair, so alike her Mam’s, was slicked back into a tidy ponytail, with what appeared to be a blue ribbon tied around it. She scanned the crowd quickly, bending her head back down over her book when she didn’t spot Fergus, nor did he shout out to grab her attention.

Jamie spotted Fergus before she did. He was walking side by side with Willie, something that was becoming more of a regular occurrence, Jamie had noticed.

Fergus did holler out to his older sister, waving his arm in the air to a greeting. Seeing her brother, Faith marked her page, tucked her book back into the leather bag sitting in between her feet and stood. She brushed something down from her school skirt, ensuring she looked as pristine as possible.

Oh, how like her Mam, she was.

“Da!” Willie came flying down the hill, school uniform all over the place, as if he’d been rolling around on the ground.

“Hiya, son.” Jamie picked off two separate pieces of grass from Willie’s shoulder. “Had a good day?”

“Oh, bonjour, Mr Fraser.” Her voice was softer than he remembered, almost swallowed by the noise of raucous children all around.

“Och, hallo ye two.” Jamie said. “Call me Jamie, won’t ye Faith, I feel old otherwise, lass.”

She nodded, almost shyly, hands clasped together in front of her.

“Have ye’s had a good day at school?” Jamie asked the three bairns surrounding him in a little group.

“Oui, merci beaucoup.” Faith answered, turning to her brother and prompted. “Fergus?”

“Aye, me too, thank you…”

“Fergus and I were partnered together for science, Da! We made slime!

“Did ye’s? Well, ye better not have brought any home. I’m not getting on my hands and knees to scrub it out of the upstairs carpet again.”

Willie giggled, remembering how much trouble he’d gotten into the first time around. But the fun had been worth it, and even more so to see his Da scrubbing the carpet furiously.

“Don’t worry, Jamie.” Fergus promised. “We weren’t allowed to take them home, Miss Monroe said so.”

“Bien.” Faith pursed her lips, changing her face to an expression much older than her actual years. “Maman had the same trouble with that slime.” She pulled a disgusted face, as if she could feel the weird texture on her fingertips. “She would have a fit and a half.”

“Yer Mam’s got the right idea, wee Faith.”

He wanted to ask… but dare he?

“Without me sounding like a madman, how are ye getting home safe?”

Jamie had tried to stage his question as least creepily as he could, if that was even possible. The two bairns didn’t even blink an eye, but Jamie rambled on anyway.

“I’m sure yer Mam has taught ye about stranger danger and…”

“Oh, you’re not a stranger.” Faith reassured him. “Mamam said so. She said if we were to see you, we were to say hello and not be rude.”

“Och, right…” Jamie wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. It hadn’t quite been the answer he’d been expecting.

Fergus bent down to re-tie his shoelaces, and tilted his head up, way up, to speak to Jamie. “Our Auntie Geillie picks us up. But we meet her at the corner shop for sweeties, instead of at the school gates on a Friday.”

Faith watched carefully, making sure her younger brother tied them properly. “Maman gives us pocket money, you see, for the chores around the house. Fergus spends his on sweets, usually sour ones so I can’t share.”

“Don’t ye like sour sweets?” Willie hadn’t even got the question fully out of his mouth, when Faith was shaking her head and pulling a face like she’d actually eaten one of the said sweets.

“Ugh, no! Disgusting!”

Fergus laughed at his sister’s reaction, but quickly hid his grin in his palm as she glared at him.

“Why, do you?”

“I think they’re nice, especially the blue raspberry ones! Don’t ye, Da?”

“Aye, I do. Think ye’re outnumbered here, wee Faith lass.”

“The blue raspberry ones are my second favourite, but I think I like the strawberry ones best.” Fergus chatted away to Willie. “Do ye think yer Da will let ye walk with us to the shop?”

“Hang on, I’ll ask…” He turned to Jamie. “Da? Can we walk to the shop with Fergus and Faith?”

“I suppose ye’ll be wanting some sweets as well, won’t ye?”

Willie had turned those cornflower blue puppy dog eyes on. The same ones Jamie saw when he looked in the mirror, bright and early in the morning, before all the stress of the day began.

“Please, Da?”

“Fine.” Jamie conceded, hand already going into his denim pocket to check how much change he had left. “Is that okay with ye two?”

The grin on Fergus’ face said it all. Both boys ran ahead, Willie following Fergus, dodging parents and other children, to reach the shop on the hill. Jamie stayed by Faith’s side, walking at a much slower pace.

“So, if Fergus spends all his money on sweeties, what do ye spend yer pocket money on?”

Faith looked up at him, a tiny smile playing about her mouth, as if she’d not expected Jamie to talk to her – let alone ask her a question.

“Books, nail polish, new ribbons for my hair.” Faith twirled her fingers round the blue ribbon in hair in emphasis. “My favourite biscuits… Oh! And baking things! Cupcakes are my favourite thing to make.”

“Well, I think yer ribbons are very bonny, Faith.” Jamie saw her whole face light up at the compliment; it warmed his heart to see. “What’s ye’re favourite flavour of cupcakes to make?”

As they walked up the hill, Willie and Fergus turning back every couple of minutes or so to check they were still behind them, Faith chatted about her hobbies. Quite quickly, Jamie was learning she might be a quiet, shy child – especially around other children and adults – but get her in her comfort zone, and Faith wouldn’t stop talking excitedly.

Willie and Fergus had already ducked into the shop, just as Jamie and Faith crested the final stretch.

“Faith!”

At the sound of her name, Faith whipped her head around. “Bonjour, Auntie Gellie!”

The blonde haired woman made her way over to them, slinking away from the wall, where she’d been leaning. “Our Fergus didn’t even see me, just ran straight past with the redheaded laddie.”

“Och aye, Willie’s mine.” Jamie stuck out his hand for her to shake. “I’m…”

Gellie took it, pumping firmly twice. “Ye won’t be Jamie Fraser, by any chance, will ye?”

“Aye, I will. How…”

Faith’s auntie shrugged “I’m just very clever…”

“Maman mentioned you!” Faith filled in the gap, ever so eager to help.

Geillie laughed, raising her eyebrows at Faith. “I think that was supposed to stay a secret, ye ken, lass?”

Faith’s whole face turned beet red at the realization, up to her hairline, even her ears were mottled red and pink.

Jamie nudged the wee girl with his elbow gently. He couldn’t wink to save his life (with either eye), but Jamie tried his hardest to soothe Faith. “How about we keep it a secret between us? I won’t tell yer Mam, if ye won’t.”

She was silent, not daring to say another peep, but at least Faith nodded her head in agreement.

“See? No harm done, Faith lass.” Geillie pulled out an edge of Faith’s ribbon, which had gotten caught in her hair bobble as she’d walked. “Do ye want some sweeties while we’re here?”

“No, merci beaucoup,” Faith said, shaking her head.

“Och, go on! Here!” In the flat of Geillie’s palm lay a pound coin. “Go in and buy a big chocolate bar for me and ye to share in the car. The fruit and nut one, if they have it, aye?”

“I have money, Auntie Geillie…”

“Don’t ye dare spend ye’re own money, my lass. Use this.”

Taking the offered money with another thank you to her auntie, Faith strode off through the same door Willie had disappeared through a number of minutes ago.

“A good bairn, aye? Both of them are.” Geillie said. “I didn’t get to introduce myself, Geillis Duncan, but ye can call me Geillie.”

“Aye, the bairns said on the way up here. Willie and Fergus wanted to share some sweets, and I wanted to make sure wee Faith was safe, so I walked up with them.” Jamie explained. “Hope ye don’t mind.”

“Och, no! Not at all!” Geillis waved his worries away with a bat of her hand. “I think it’s braw of ye, and so will our Claire.”

So will our Claire…

“How do ye ken Sassenach, then?”

“Claire? We work at the hospital together! Have since she moved up here, actually.”

“Aren’t ye related? The bairns called ye Auntie, so I assumed…” Jamie’s sentence trailed off.

“No, just best friends. Claire…”

“Da! They had those chewy bon bons ye like, so I bought ye some!” Willie came bounding out of the shop, carrying a white paper bag in either hand and stopping whatever Geillis had been about to say.

“Willie, what have I told ye about interrupting?” Jamie chided his son. “Say sorry, please.”

“Sorry.” Willie said sheepishly.

Geillis smiled at him. “Don’t worry about it, lad.”

“Good lad.” Jamie held his hand out for the bag of sweets. “But thank ye for buying me something. Pass me one out and then share them round, won’t ye?”

---

Jamie kept his eyes peeled for any sight of Claire early on Saturday morning.

For once in their lives, he and Willie had been fairly early. The young referee had only just been putting down the training cones and mini hurdles, ready to put the wee lads through their paces.

“Sorry we’re late!” Jamie heard Claire’s English voice ring out, just as the bibs had been handed out and the boys were busy warming up with twenty star jumps.

“Och, ye’re fine!” Christopher called back, sending Claire a toothy grin. “Fergus! Grab a red bib for today!”

Walking closer to the watching parents, Claire put a hand above her eyes to block out the sun, making it easier to see people’s faces. Jamie waved his hand in the air to grab her attention.

“Ye okay, Sassenach?” He asked as she spotted him and began to make her way over to his side.

“Yes. Just a little bit…” Claire grasped a stray lock of hair and tucked it behind her ear, where Jamie noticed she was without any usual earrings. “Frazzled, you could say.”

“Frazzled, aye?”

“You can say that again.” Claire let out a deep breath, closing her eyes and letting them stay closed. Jamie had turned his body in towards hers, and laid a hand on her shoulder, before he even realised what he’d done.

“Are ye all right, Sassenach?”

She didn’t answer straight away, the thin skin of her eyelids fluttering as her pupils moved underneath. Jamie wasn’t sure if he should utter anything else or wait for Claire to get herself together. In the end, just as Jamie was about to open his mouth, she beat him to it.

“It’s that fucking school project.” Her words were so quiet, almost whispered, that Jamie had to press his body into hers. He tilted his head closer to hers, as much as possible without head-butting one another.

Jamie knew exactly what Claire was talking about. He had a strange, funny feeling in the pit of his stomach, almost the texture of oil, knowing what words were going to come out of her mouth. But he dared to double check anyway, hoping to God he was wrong.

“The one about families?”

Sassenach’s swallow was thick, thicker than usual. Her eyes had stayed shut up until now, but Jamie’s proximity to her meant he could quite clearly see the glossy sheen of her eyes when she did eventually blink them open.

“Yes, the one about fucking families. Fergus was so upset about this week’s homework… I… I didn’t even think we’d make it here today.”

Jamie had known what she was going to say, had seen it already unfolding, but it still didn’t hurt any less to hear the tremble of Claire’s voice, or know how upset bonny Fergus had been.

“Ye’re all right, Sassenach.” Jamie’s grip on her shoulder tightened. “Take a deep breath.”

“I feel like a failure. Like a shit mother.”

In the distance, the boys had begun running through drills of burpees and high knees.

“Don’t ye dare, lass! Ye’re not, are ye listening to me, Sassenach? Ye’re doing yer best and…”

“But it’s not enough, is it?” Claire questioned, her eyes searching Jamie’s, as if he held the answer. “How is it enough when my child’s crying his eyes out because his father is no longer around and I…”

Jamie’s anger built steadily, coming head to head with an inexplicable feeling sitting just behind his breastbone. “That is not yer fault. If Fergus’ Da is not around, that is not yer fault, Claire. Do ye hear me? Do ye?”

Claire’s words were definitely whispered now, only for Jamie’s ears to hear. “Yes, Jamie, I do.”

He wanted to glide his lips over hers, kiss the sadness right off of her face and make a goofy smile break out.

“Willie was the same, ye ken?” Jamie said, making his lips and tongue form a sentence, rather than let them get him into trouble.

Her eyebrows knitted in confusion. “The same?”

“Aye,” Jamie nodded slowly. The two fingers not spanning Claire’s shoulder and bare collarbone, started to tap out an untimed rhythm. “The same as yer Fergus, crying, upset, whatever ye want to call it. All because of that school project. I mean, he’s been alright this week because it’s about Da’s isn’t it, and he’s got me. But how do ye explain to yer ten year old bairn that his Mam topped herself and she isn’t here for ye to ask her stupid questions for a shitty little project?”

Christ…

“Jamie…”

Cold fingers slide between his own much warmer ones.

He was at the football pitch.

He was outside, standing, taking in the fresh air and the vitamin D.

Miss Claire Beauchamp stood beside him; those were her bonny fingers interlaced though his own.

He wasn’t stuck inside that room, watching the horrific words pour out of Geneva’s Mam’s mouth, but never actually hearing her voice.

He wasn’t running up the stairs, feet slipping on the carpet, as he propelled his legs to go faster. He could make it in time, he could make it in time, he could make it in time.

He could save her.

“Jamie?” Claire tried again, this time placing her fingertips to his jawline and tilting his head down until every bit of his vision was filled with her. Sassenach. Her ever so disheveled hair, frizzy curls all over the place, and face bare of any makeup. The champagne silk camisole top, with one of the straps hanging down, her long grey cardigan, which was creased at the bottom, in her haste to leave the house and make it to the field on time. Even the casualness of her ripped skinny jeans, clinging to her lean legs.

“Fuck, sorry Sassenach,” he muttered, exhaling sharply through his nose. “I really didn’t mean to tell ye that, I just wanted to make ye feel better and…”

Claire’s arms were wrapping around Jamie’s broad shoulders, stopping him mid-sentence. She tucked their bodies in together until he could feel her soft breasts pressed up against his torso. But Jamie couldn’t smell any of her usual perfume. It didn’t permeate her body, nor transfer onto his cotton t-shirt. Claire’s hair smells vaguely like coconut, but not the usual strong hints of vanilla and chamomile that Jamie had come to expect and associate with his Sassenach.

“Don’t be sorry, it’s okay.” She promised, pulling back once to search his eyes before resting her chin on the ball of Jamie’s shoulder. “Are you okay? God that sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Of course you’re not okay, I just mean…”

Only then did Jamie realize his arms still lay down by his sides.

Here, right in front of him, was the bonniest woman Jamie had ever laid his eyes upon, a woman who’d featured in his mind night after night. Her body as closer to his as it probably would ever be, and yet Jamie wasn’t touching her back, wasn’t offering her that physical contact Claire had so obviously needed in a difficult time like today.

Bringing his arm up, Jamie banded both around Claire’s petite waist, his right palm holding her hip to keep her steady, and his left, caressing the smooth plains of her back.

“Aye, I’m fine, lass.” He answered. “It happened a long time ago…”

“Doesn’t matter.” Claire squeezed him tighter. “Doesn’t matter how long ago it was, it still hurts. Trust me, I know. Does…” She stopped and then started again. “I’m guessing Willie doesn’t know?”

“No.” Jamie moved away slightly, creating a thin sliver of space between their respective torsos. As he did so, Claire’s arms slipped away from his neck, coming back to rest at her sides. He wanted, no, needed, to be able to see her honest glass face as Jamie told Claire the truth. “I’ll tell him when he's older, when he's ready, when he understands more. Understands why it happened and that it wasn’t his fault, or anything he could do, or…”

“That sounds like the right thing to do,” Claire agreed. “The things we do for our children, eh?” A small smile played about her lips. It was infinitely small compared to her usual grin, but at least it was there, it was something.

“Aye, I ken what ye mean. We do some mad stuff, don’t we? All in the name of love.”

“Oh, definitely all in the name of love, all right.” Claire gazed out at her boy running about the field, dry grass being trampled under his feet. “Sometimes… sometimes I think I love him too much.” She confessed. “Him and Faith. Like my heart will burst into a thousand pieces if I see him and his sister laugh at something silly one more time.”

“My Mam always used to say ‘there’s no such thing as too much love’, Sassenach.” Jamie shrugged his shoulders as Claire watched him out of the corner of her eye. “Our bairns need it to grow up happy, and some parents don’t have that love to give. They don’t feel it the way we do. So who cares if ye love them that little bit extra?”

---

For the rest of the football match, both Jamie and Claire stayed relatively quiet, each of them caught up in their heads.

Neither Willie nor Fergus scored any goals. In fact the match ended up being a nil nil draw between the red and the blue teams. They might not have scored any goals, but both boys were still happy enough, showcasing beaming smiles and covered head to toe in grass stains.

One of the other parents had brought with him a Tupperware of pre-sliced oranges, and Willie and Fergus went bounding over to him as he called all of the boys for a special after game treat.

“Thank you, Jamie.” Claire said, as she watched Fergus, standing off the sidelines, stuff an orange slice into his mouth, turn to Willie and pretended to grin widely with it. “For telling me about Willie’s mother, for listening to me, for… well for all of it, really.”

Jamie bumped his shoulder against hers gently. “That’s what friends are for, Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

Jamie didn’t have any proof that Miss Claire Beauchamp was avoiding him, but he was almost certain of it.

---

He thought they’d left things on a good note at the bairn’s football match on Saturday afternoon. A good note, but not exactly a happy one. It wasn’t that Jamie regretted telling Sassenach about Geneva. Claire had clearly been upset, and in an attempt to make her feel slightly better, the words had simply slipped out of his mouth without him even thinking about it. Jamie supposed the truth would have come out sometime, it always did. But Claire had a way of making him lose his mind and his tongue. If Jamie wasn’t careful, he’d find himself offering up his heart to her on a silver platter.

It didn't help matters that the words on Jamie’s tongue had felt thick and gritty, as if he’d just swallowed a mouthful of clay-laden soil.

Jamie spent the rest of the weekend stewing, finding jobs around the farm, which required solitude. Willie didn’t appear to notice. He was much too busy giving his pony a thorough wash in the stables and then completing his maths homework assignment.

But the time alone gave Jamie that extra bit of time he needed to get his mind back into the right place.

Talking about the past, about Geneva, was never easy. No matter who Jamie was talking to. It typically took him a few days afterwards to completely calm down, center himself, and get back into the right, and present , frame of mind.

His Mam, Ellen, and Jenny could sense something was off as soon as Jamie and Willie walked over to the big house to spend Sunday morning together as a family unit. Jamie prepared himself for an onslaught of questions and sideways looks, something all of the Fraser women were experts at doing. But although they showed twin concerned expressions, neither of them said anything outright to his face. Jamie wouldn’t be surprised to learn they already knew the reason for his quietness. After living together for so long and being so close as a family – it wasn’t hard to learn the signs of Geneva’s ghost hanging about the estate, or worse, hanging about Jamie’s mind.

The only sign of something amiss was the quick squeeze Jenny gave her younger brother around his thick wrist, just as he and Willie stood up to leave. To an outsider, it wouldn’t look different or unusual, just a sister giving her brother a sign of affection. But those people quite clearly didn’t know Jenny Fraser Murray very well.

Jenny was a hugger by nature, to everyone, but especially to one of the people she loved most in this world - her brother.

But she’d seen his outbursts before. Had been there, right front and center when he told them all about Geneva’s tragic death. Jenny knew from experience that at a time like this all Jamie needed was space. He didn’t want to be coddled, to be hugged, to be told everything would be okay. He simply would ask to be left alone. Jenny didn’t exactly think it was a healthy coping mechanism, but who was she to judge? Most of all, she hated to not be able to wrap her arms around her younger brother. To pick up and stick back together the pieces of his broken heart, as she had done when they’d been younger.

From the moment baby Jamie had been brought home from the hospital, all wrapped up in a blue blanket with a white hat upon his head, Jenny had been there. She’d sat in the same chair she sat in now, baby brother held safely in her arms, cooing away to him while their Mam bustled about the kitchen, making dinner for the four of them. Jenny had been the first to run up the stairs and grab a change of nappy and some fresh baby wipes for her Mam to use, and before long, Jenny could change Jamie’s nappy all by herself. She’d paid enough attention to her Mam, standing silently by her side at the changing table, until Jenny was sure she knew the careful steps in her sleep.

As they’d gotten older, Jenny made sure to share all of her toys, even if Jamie had no interest in playing with Barbies or the latest baby doll. In fact, Jamie would usually be found destroying them; drawing all over the dolly’s faces or clothes, and cutting their hair. But Jenny couldn’t stay angry with her younger brother for very long, not when she got one look at his cheeky, toothless grin.

Jamie's first heartbreak at fourteen couldn’t even be classified as heartbreak. Ask Jamie yourself, he’d tell you; he was just being dramatic. But it had been slightly painful to learn the girl you’d just lost your virginity to, was dumping you for a lad you thought was a friend. From the moment he’d come home from school, and only picked at the ham salad sandwich she had made for him, Jenny knew something was amiss. Eventually, she’d coaxed it out of Jamie, laughing, as his face, ears, and neck turned a bright red as he told his older sister the full story. Jenny had simply patted his back, made him another cup of tea, and this time placed a blueberry muffin, still fresh from the oven and all gooey inside, down in front of him.

“They’re supposed to be for after dinner, so don’t tell Mam, will ye?” She’d said.

Jamie had stood up, ducked his head to reach his sister, who was now shorter than him, and placed a feather-light kiss on her cheek in thanks. Jenny had batted him away, listening intently as he took his muffin and ambled away to his safe haven. The stables. Once he was gone, Jenny turned back to the pot of stew she was supposed to be keeping an eye on, and let herself smile widely at the thought of cheering Jamie up, even if it was only a little bit.

Throughout her life, Jenny had prided herself on being there for Jamie, to help him through the tough turns of life. But this? This wasn’t something she’d ever expected. Something she, or anybody else, seemed to be able to help him with. It broke Jenny into pieces more than anyone knew, not even her husband, Ian.

So when the ghost of Geneva, that scornful bitch, was apparent in Jamie’s eyes, Jenny wouldn’t bring him in for a tight hug as she wanted to. No, she’d simply squeeze a part of his body that she could reach. It was a silent form of communication. A way to reassure both Jamie and herself, that Jenny was here if he needed to talk and still there, even if Jamie just wanted to sit in silence with his thoughts. Her brother wasn’t alone, no matter what he might think.

Jamie squeezed her hand back, giving her a smile, but with no warmth in his deep blue eyes. But at least he was willing to touch her and be touched. That was something in itself.

The rest of the weekend passed by in a blur, and by Monday, Jamie still did not feel his best. He’d dropped Willie off at the school car park, not feeling like he could face getting out of the car and making small talk to one of the other parents. Jamie had spent the rest of the day flitting from one task to another, not being able to concentrate on one single thing for very long, which was very unlike him. Around noon, Jenny had brought along a box full of homemade shortbread biscuits. She’d left wee Jamie at home with his Da, so it was just her and Jamie who sat at his kitchen table together, dunking their biscuits in their tea, in silence.

“Do ye want to talk?” Jenny had asked once, staring at the top of her brother’s head, as Jamie bent to reach for another biscuit.

Jamie met her stare. “No, thank ye, sister.”

Out in front of her, Jenny’s fingers twitched in towards her upturned palm, as if in a phantom grasp. “Ye ken where I am if ye do want to talk, don’t ye?”

“Aye, of course I do.”

He didn’t want to admit it to her, but Jenny’s presence was just another reminder of everything Jamie didn’t have - a loving Mam for Willie, a pregnant wife who loved him, a growing family.

By Tuesday morning, Jamie felt the grey fog from around his head begin to disappear. Outside, the sun was shining brighter than it had in days. Jamie rose out of his slumber with the stars rising, heading downstairs still in his pajamas and filling the kettle up with fresh water. He brewed himself the perfect cup of tea, with just the right amount of milk and sugar to his taste, and decided it might be nice to sit out on the step with it. Jamie hadn’t been able to do it recently, what with the Scottish weather being so temperamental, so it was a pleasant change of routine. Something his brain quite clearly needed.

Time ticked by. Jamie wasn’t exactly sure how long because he’d left his phone on the granite countertop, but he knew it was still early, when the door creaked open again and Willie appeared. He too, was still in his pajamas, feet bare, and the blanket from the bottom of his bed wrapped around his shoulders.

“What are ye doing up so early?” Jamie said, patting the space next to him. “I wasn’t gannae wake ye for another half hour or so.”

Willie sat himself down, bringing his knees up to his chest, and tucking himself into Jamie’s side as much as possible.

“I heard ye get up.” Willie’s eyes fixed on a stray yellow weed in the middle of the pasture. “Didn’t want ye to get lonely.”

“Tcha, lad.” Jamie slung his arm around his son’s small shoulders, holding him tight, holding him close. When he bent down to lay a kiss upon his bairn’s head, Jamie could smell the mixture of soap Willie had used in the bath last night, and a slight undertone of hay from the horse’s stables. “I’m never lonely with ye by my side.”

By the slight movement of the sun, Jamie would have guessed the two of them, just a Da and his lad, stayed basking in the early morning sunshine for about twenty minutes. They said nothing more to each other, but closed their eyes, tipping their heads back and feeling the heat lay on their skin.

If it was even possible, behind his eyelids, Jamie could picture the bright, golden light burning away that grey fog which had followed him around since the weekend. He could feel the hard concrete step beneath him, supporting his weight. The cold material, which hadn’t had time to warm up yet, bit into the empty soles of his feet, but it was rather a nice contrast to the rapidly warm sun on the top of his head. Around him, the birds were already busy, chirping to one another, and diving towards the grass in search of sustenance. Most of the other cattle were still in their pens, but away in the distance, Jamie could spot a lone ewe and her calf standing together in the fresh air, miles of grassy verge surrounding them.

“I’m gannae go in and get some juice, and then get ready for school. Are ye coming, Da?”

For a moment there, Jamie had forgotten Willie sat beside him. It had felt so natural to have him tucked into Jamie’s body, the two of them falling into the same breathing pattern. As they had done, when Willie had been only a baby and Jamie had chosen to wear him around his back in a sling, in order to have use of both of his hands and get the extra work done around the house.

“Aye,” Jamie nodded, corners of his eyes crinkling to see Willie’s silhouette in the sun. “Two minutes, I’ll be right in.”

---

Jamie got himself dressed for the school run, and was in the kitchen, another cup of tea steaming beside him, with a wooden spoon in hand, just as Willie ran back down the stairs. While Willie added two spoonfuls of jam into his bowl of parritch, Jamie ran a pea sized amount of gel into the palm of his hands and then through Willie’s soft locks.

“What are we having for dinner?” Willie asked, the spoon from his current meal still hanging out of his mouth. Jamie did have to laugh, a lad after his own heart - thinking about his next meal while he ate his first one.

“I was thinking of garlic chicken, chips and veg.” Jamie added a pinch of sugar to his own parritch. “How does that sound? Good?”

“Aye. But will ye ask Nana what she’s got for pudding, for afters?”

As they drove to school, Jamie and Willie listened intently to the new football podcast Ian had introduced them to. Jamie only had the intention of getting out of the driver’s seat to watch Willie get into class okay, but that changed when he spotted two familiar brunette heads.

“Are ye listening to me, Da?”

“Eh?” Jamie looked down at his son. “Och, sorry Willie, what were ye saying, lad?”

Willie lifted one dark eyebrow, clearly not very happy with his Da’s behaviour. “I said,” he repeated. “Will ye make sure not to listen to this week’s episode with me? Don’t even skip over, all right?”

“Aye, okay.” Jamie laughed. “I promise I won’t listen to it without ye, I’ll save it for when ye get back home. Now let’s go, otherwise ye’re gannae be late and…”

“But I thought ye weren’t coming to the door? Ye said ye didn’t want to socialize with dick…”

Jamie held up his hand, stopping Willie mid sentence. “Don’t repeat that word out loud, son. I’ll just drop ye off at the door quickly. I’ve seen someone I want to talk to.”

“Is it Miss Beauchamp?” Willie said mockingly, clasping his hands together at his chest and batting his eyelashes.

“Don’t be such an eejit.” Jamie gave Willie a slight bat about his head, but a smirk toyed around his lips. “And shut yer mouth, ye shouldn’t speak to yer Da like that.”

Willie stuck his tongue out; racing ahead to greet a small boy Jamie couldn’t place a name too.

Whether she meant to or not, Claire stood out in the crowd. Her natural height helped, elevating her, and making her easy to spot. But the way she was so neatly dressed, curled hair sprayed within an inch of its life and pinned back and a pretty china blue print dress highlighting her figure, even at this time in the morning, compared to some of the other parents, set her apart easily.

“Claire! Sassenach!” He called.

Claire turned around at the sound of her nickname, twisting her elegant neck to find where Jamie stood. Once she spotted him, Claire held up two fingers in the universal sign of ‘wait two minutes’, and bent down to give Fergus one last kiss. She waved her son off, checking over her shoulder to make sure he’d gotten inside okay, as she strode over to Jamie.

“I can’t stop and chat,” she said, before Jamie even had the chance to open his mouth. “I’ve got a quick meeting with Mr Wellman and that bloody English teacher.”

“Mrs Kay, ye mean?”

“Yes,” Claire nodded, crossing her arms. “I think that was her name, or at least something along those lines. Why? Do you know her?”

“Och, no,” Jamie smirked. “I had the same meeting with her last week when Willie came home upset.”

“Did you actually?” Claire grimaced, chewing on her upper lip. “I bet she hates the both of us right about now.”

“Well.” Jamie held either palms up to the shining sky, in a ‘what can you do, expression. “She shouldn’t come up with a stupid school project, then should she?”

That got a small giggle out of Claire, but her body was still strung up as if she were preparing for all out battle, arms over her chest to protect herself.

“Yes, you’re right about that. The mother bear in me has come out to play, and I won’t be going down without a fight, so…”

“Aye, I can see.” Jamie agreed. “There’s almost flames burning in ye poor eyes.”

Claire attempted to bat for his shoulder, but Jamie ducked out of the way, laughing to himself. “Shut up, won’t you? Don’t be such a clever dick.”

“A clever dick?” He repeated, breaking out into a grin.

Her lips twitched at the corners, but she resisted the temptation to smile. “Yes, you heard me.”

The watch sitting around Claire’s wrist pinged annoyingly, signaling some sort of text or perhaps a notification. Bringing it up to her face, Claire’s eyes swung from side to side as she read whatever was on the screen. “I’ve really got to get going, Jamie. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, lass. See you later?”

“Mhm.” It appeared Claire’s mind had flitted away to a different place. “I’ll, um… eh… see you in a bit.”

And then she was off.

Jamie would be the world’s biggest liar, if he said he didn’t watch his Sassenach leave. Watch intently the way the cotton material of her dress clung to her tapered waist, and round arse. How was a man supposed to resist, for God’s sake? He was only human, after all.

---

The rest of the school week followed similarly.

Each day Jamie woke up, he felt like more and more of the awful fog had disappeared. Until he was almost positive, this time around, it had gone for certain.

He was also certain his Sassenach was avoiding him at any given chance. After Tuesday, Jamie had seen Claire at the school gates only on Thursday and Friday morning. He could tell her mind had been elsewhere, he’d noticed her almost, well… scurrying about the place, was the only word for it. Claire had brushed him off both times Jamie had opened his mouth to start a conversation; holding that damn watch up to her wrist, and promising she had some hospital meeting that she must run to.

Jamie wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it.

He knew Claire was a busy woman, she’d told him directly, and with a glass face like hers, Jamie thought he’d be able to tell if she were lying. In all honesty, it didn’t feel like his ego was hurt by her actions, his feelings trampled on and pushed to the side. Jamie had experienced that particular pain one too many times with Geneva, and Claire (even if she was keeping him at arm's length) certainly hadn’t made Jamie feel like that.

He was confused most of all.

The question of ‘why?’ floated about his head, mainly as he stood in the shower, hair sopping wet, or just as he tried to drift off to sleep.

Why did she feel the need to avoid him?

Was it something he’d done?

Or did her chosen avoidance say more about her own behaviour?

From both experience and age, Jamie knew all too well that people did strange things. Behaved in a weird manner, or at least a manner, which was foreign to you and your ways. Sometimes it hurt. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes the other person meant it to hurt, acted out the way they did to get under your skin on purpose. But sometimes, and it happened more times than you would imagine, that particular person didn’t mean for it to hurt you. They didn’t go out of their way to make it burn.

Jamie didn’t believe Claire had purposefully gone out of her way to avoid him. She didn’t seem the type. So perhaps she didn’t even ken she was doing it?

But as the week drew to a close, and Willie’s Saturday football match crept ever closer, Jamie was determined to ask Claire about it as they stood together on the pitch sidelines.

Chapter Text

Jamie held the car door open for his son, taking pains to not dent the car parked tightly beside him, while Willie loosened and re-tied his shoelaces for the twentieth time in the past ten minutes.

From the second Willie had shoved his feet into his old football boots back at home, he’d begun complaining of a pinching on either side of his pinky toes. His Da knew exactly what that meant; Willie’s football boots were officially too small. Jamie thought he’d get another couple months wear out of them at least, but apparently not. Soon-to-be teenage boys grew at a rapid rate, and Jamie had a distinct feeling it was going to cost him more than an arm and a leg in the future – especially for new shoes, clothes, school uniforms and football kits.

While Willie tried to give his feet a bit more wiggle room (hopefully for just this game), Jamie gazed out, past the sea of cars, to the field. Already, straight white lines had been drawn in a large square to make it resemble more of a football pitch. This way, the lads could learn where exactly the sidelines and penalty box were situated.

So far, Jamie had been extremely pleased with his decision to enroll Willie into the football after school club. Quite obviously, Willie loved it. He would recount to anybody who would listen, exactly what had happened on Saturday morning and how good he was getting at keepie uppies. There hadn’t been any issues with any of the other lads or their Da’s, other than a few minor disagreements, which was to be expected at a competitive sporting event. They hadn’t exactly been friendly with Jamie, not like Peter and the other rugby Da’s, but they’d been civil and that was enough for Jamie.

Christopher, the referee, might have been young and baby-faced, but he was certainly very good with the kids and well prepared, always carting with him a green bag full of extras supplies. Jamie was almost sure he had the patience of a saint; always up for explaining the rules one more time, or offering more water, doling out ice packs to the ‘injured’, and holding tissues for snotty, runny noses.

What Jamie wasn’t so keen on, however, was the scene playing out right in his direct line of vision…

Christopher and Claire stood off to one of the sidelines, besides a circle of cross legged bairns. They stood close enough together for their hips and shoulders to skim one another, probably with each intake of breath. The lad, who could only be just barely out of his teenage years, said something. Something which Claire laughed loudly at.

Jamie pressed his tongue hard against a sharp, upper molar tooth in annoyance. He knew when Sassenach laughed like that her whole body shook, her eyes twinkled merrily, and her loud laugh would die off into small giggles. What had Christopher said to make her laugh so joyously? Did he ken Claire intimately enough to ken these particular tells of hers?

“Willie! Will ye hurry up?” Jamie didn’t mean to snap at his son, but his blood was unexpectedly roaring through his ears. Two fingers from his left hand tapped five times against his upper thigh.

“God, I’m coming!” Willie snapped back from the truck, sliding one long, lanky leg out of the door with only one shin pad attached.

With his head, Jamie nodded towards the other shin pad in Willie’s hand. “Make sure ye put that on properly mind.”

“Of course I will.” Willie rolled his eyes. “I’m not stupid, I ken the rules, Da.”

Opening his mouth, Jamie was about to give his son a tongue lashing for cheeky back talk, but Willie was running away like a shot, joining the group of seated lads. Exhaling loudly through his nose, Jamie ambled over to the group, feeling as if his body weighed both nothing, and also as heavy as a tonne of bricks. His feet had a mind of their own, carrying him towards Claire and Christopher, a lot faster than he intended them too, while his mind bounced from thought to thought.

Why did he feel so angry?

He shouldn’t feel angry.

Claire and Christopher weren’t doing anything wrong, both were legal, consenting adults… even if Christopher did look like he still didn’t ken his way around his own cock let alone kent a woman’s body.

Why did he feel so angry?

Angry enough to taste the copper tang of blood in his mouth from how hard he’d bitten down.

He shouldn’t feel angry.

Why did he feel so angry?

Because…

Because…

Because…

Just fucking because.

“Jamie!” Claire called, a smile lighting up her face. “Morning, are you and Willie all right?”

He didn’t want to say morning back, to be delighted inside at her smile. He wanted to ask what the fuck she thought she was doing?

Are ye flirting with him?

Is he flirting with ye?

But perhaps that wasn’t so appropriate to ask, no matter how much it stung like a bitch.

“Morning, Claire.” He replied, still standing before both of them. “Morning to ye too, Christopher.”

“Morning, Mr Fraser.” The young lad pointed towards the group of school boys. “I better start the warm ups. Bye, Miss Beauchamp.”

The eejit had the audacity to wink.

Jamie wanted to throw a punch right at his tiny, minuscule balls.

“Did he just… did he just wink at me?” Claire asked, looking to Jamie for an answer.

“Aye,” Jamie nodded. “I think he did. If I didn’t ken him any better, I’d say he was flirting with ye.”

“Flirting with me?” Claire scoffed. “God no, don’t be so silly. What makes you say that?”

Both of Jamie’s brows shot up towards his hairline. “Because I kent what I saw.”

“You’re mistaken.” She argued. Around them, the wind had picked up, blowing both of their hairs all over the place. Jamie had to take a step closer to her, to be heard over the loud whooshing.

“I ken ye ken what flirting looks like, Claire. So…”

“Why are you calling me Claire and not Sassenach?” She interrupted, a sweet pout taking shape on her lips.

It was unfair for her to look so bonny, so sweet and inviting when Jamie was trying his hardest to keep a hold of his anger leash.

“Would it make ye happier if I called ye Sassenach?” Jamie asked.

She nodded, letting strands of hair whip around her face.

“Fine. He was flirting with ye, Sassenach. Is that better?”

Claire shook her head no. “Whether he was flirting or not, it doesn’t matter. I certainly wasn’t flirting back. He’s much too young for me.”

“Too young for ye?” Jamie repeated, wondering what next was going to come out of his Sassenach’s mouth.

“Yes, much.” She agreed. “I’d probably break him in half.”

Jamie blinked hard once. His mouth had gone cotton dry.

This…

This was not turning out how he’d planned in his head…

“Break… break him?” He didn’t mean to lick his lips, but they’d gone tight and dry. Jamie didn’t miss Claire’s fixated gaze. “What… what do ye mean, break the poor lad?”

“Come on, Jamie. Use your imagination.”

He really didn’t dare.

“So if he looks like a poor lad ye’d break in half…” Jamie cocked his head to one side. “What about him makes ye think that? How do ye ken ye won’t break a man in half?”

Claire shrugged, humming in thought. “I probably wouldn’t break you in half.”

My fucking god…

Holy…

“Is that so?” Jamie queried.

Christ, he couldn’t stop himself from playing along.

“Yep.”

The front of his trainer bumped her black ballet flat. Jamie’s blood thrummed hot again, but not with anger this time. “Something to think about then, aye, Sassenach?”

“Definitely.” Her face was straight, not even an eyelid twitch. “You need to catch up, I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

---

Hot.

Cold.

Hot.

Cold.

Jamie couldn’t decide which he felt more, or which was more annoying. His body had been playing tricks against him since the moment he’d gotten in the car, driving back to the Lallybroch estate with Willie in the passenger seat, a smear of mud decorating his cheek.

That had been over an hour ago.

Upon reaching home, Willie had run straight upstairs to change out of his muddy football kit and wipe the mud from his skin. Jamie busied himself about the kitchen, fixing two ham and mustard sandwiches with crisps on the side for both of them. Running about in the fresh air gave Willie an appetite like no other. It took him only a matter of minutes to scarf down his snack, tuck his chair back under the table, place his dirty dish in the sink and announce to his Da that he was going to the stables. Once again, leaving Jamie to the loud noise of his own thoughts.

My god…

Sassenach hadn’t been flirting back, she’d said so herself.

But she’d quite clearly been flirting with him.

Again.

And this time, it was more dirty than before.

Yet, after the words had left her mouth and the bairn’s game began, Claire shut her mouth sharply. He caught her once, or perhaps it was twice, looking at him out of the corner of her eye, but Jamie pretended not to notice. If this was how she wanted to play, then he would play.

Just at the thought of it: the shape of Claire’s pink lips pouting, the flare of her shapely hips hidden underneath a ruffled light blue blouse, the way she held his gaze unblinkingly – had Jamie’s blood heating up and up and up.

In an attempt to cool down, Jamie took a sip of his icy cold water out of the glass sitting on the table, and held the liquid in his mouth until his tongue and gums had gone numb and his teeth ached. It cleared his mind, setting himself back into the present moment; alone in the kitchen, the only sound from a bird singing high up in it’s nest outside, but it did nothing to stop the fizzing in his veins.

With a loud scrape against the flagstone floor, Jamie pushed his chair back and stood up abruptly. He needed to move his body, to get rid of the stagnant energy, which was building up around him. If he didn’t, Jamie knew he was liable to sit there for the rest of the day, staring at the wood grain running through the table, and playing the sight of Claire’s amused smirk popping up, over and over again.

Willie would think him insane.

Jamie needed to find something to take his mind off Miss Claire Beauchamp. Something hands on and physical usually always worked, it kept both mind and body busy at the same time. Jamie was just about to run upstairs and grab a light jacket (the wind was still making itself known, taking a nip out of any bare skin you had on show), thinking of heading outside and getting a few miscellaneous jobs sorted, when his phone pinged obnoxiously.

He moved the bread bin out of the way, reaching for where his mobile phone lay, attached to the charging cable in the plug socket.

Peter (Johnnie’s Da) [14:44pm]

Jamie lad, ken it’s a wee late notice but me and the lads are going out the night. 9 @ the dog and parrot if ye fancy. hope to c u there mate.

On a scale of one to ten, how bad would it be to give Willie to his Grandparents, Jamie thought to himself, while he went out, got happily shitfaced and forgot all of his troubles?

Hmm…

Surely, not at all bad was the correct answer.

Dialing quickly, Jamie held the phone between his ear and chin, while placing his and Willie’s empty plates into the dishwasher.

Ellen picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Hiya Mam, it’s me.” Jamie replied.

“Och, hiya Jamie, lad. Ye and Willie okay? How did Willie’s football go?”

He moved to discard the two crinkly crisp packets. “Aye, it went fine, I’m sure Willie will tell ye all about it. Speaking of, do ye think ye could have Willie tonight?”

“Aye, of course,” she agreed. “There’s no need for ye to ask such a thing. Why? Where ye going?”

“Och, just going to the pub for a few, with some friends. I’ll drop him off around 7, is that alright with ye and Da?”

“Of course it is, ye go and enjoy yerself, my lad. But drop Willie off at 6 instead,” she suggested. “So he can have dinner over here.”

“Right, will do. Thanks Mam.”

“No bother, my lad. See ye both in a bit. Love ye.”

Jamie hung up the phone, feeling better for having something to focus on, other than the pounding and overlapping thoughts in his head. He was no further forward with how he felt or how Claire felt, but going out tonight was exactly what the Doctor had ordered.

---

“Behave for yer Grandma, won’t ye, lad?” Jamie told his son, as the two of them walked side by side over the grassy verge. At ten, Willie was old enough to walk alone, especially just over the field to the turnstile and through the gate. But there would be hell to pay if Jamie didn’t visit his parents, his Mam was constantly complaining he didn’t visit enough as is, and he only lived up the road.

Willie’s football flew into the air as he threw it up and caught it. There’d been no need for Willie to bring anything else with him to the Big House; Ellen still had a wardrobe full of Willie and Jamie’s spare day clothes and pajamas. “Of course I will, Da.”

“Ye better.”

As if she’d been waiting by the window for them, Ellen came bustling out, holding her arms open for Willie to throw himself into her grasp.

“Have ye got enough time to have bit to eat?” She asked her son as Jamie pressed a kiss to her offered cheek. Willie had already run away into the house to find his Grandda, the football he’d carried all the way over the hill was left bouncing beside the front door - he knew the house rules well; no playing football in the house.

“Aye,” Jamie returned his Mam’s hug, inhaling deeply and surrounding himself with the comforting, safe smell of home. He loved his own house, having his own space for just him and Willie, but there was nothing quite like coming back home. “What’ve ye made?”

“Ye favourite,” Ellen sent a smug smile his way as they walked up the three stone steps to the house. “Chicken pie. But ye better be quick, before ye sister serves herself the biggest slice. She’s been salivating over it all day while I made it.”

Jamie kicked off his shoes, tucking them beside his Da’s on the shoe rack. “Since when did Jenny care about chicken pie? She hated it when we were bairns, remember? When I used to ask for it, ye’d have to make her something completely different.”

The heady scent of flaky, golden pastry mixed in with gravy permeated the air, as they got closer to the kitchen. As did the sound of soft chatter, and baby babble coming from Wee Jamie.

“Yer sister said it was something about the baby.” Ellen explained. “Ye don’t want to ken how many times I had to stop her from reaching over the table and eating the raw dough. I ken there’s cravings, I wanted pickles and peanut butter when I was pregnant with ye, but raw pastry is just weird, don’t ye think?”

“Aye,” Jamie agreed, turning to look behind at his Mam before pushing open the heavy wooden door. “But don’t ye dare let Jenny hear ye say that, she’d probably try and get ye with the spatula.”

Ellen smiled broadly, as if imagining the scene in her head. “She’d have to catch me first, my lad. I may be getting on in my old age, but I’m still as fast as a whippet, and ye both better not forget it.”

---

“So, where ye going tonight?” Ian asked, a strip of cabbage partially halfway out of his mouth. Jenny gave her husband a sideways look of disgust, pushing her napkin into his hand, which held no eating utensil.

“Dog and parrot.” Jamie answered, searching around his plate for an extra bit of chicken that might be hiding under some of the pie pastry lid.

Ian smiled cockily. “Och, the dog and parrot… on the pull are we, lad?”

“Ian!” Jenny screeched. “There are bairns present!”

“Tcha,” Ian scoffed. “Like our parents didn’t say worse. The poor bairns don’t even ken what…”

Willie chose this time to pop up and ask the specific question Jamie had been dreading answering. “What’s going ‘on the pull’ mean, Da?”

Jamie just about choked on his swede mashed potato; at the way Willie delivered the question so innocently, so sweetly. Jenny’s murderous expression was back, and Ian was taking the full brunt of it, but he didn’t seem scared in the slightest.

“Nothing,” Jamie shook his head at his son. “Nothing ye need to ken about right now. I’ll tell ye when ye’re older, aye?”

“See? Look what’ve ye’ve done?” Jenny threw her hands in the air, nearly upending her whole dinner plate, and cutlery. Jamie had thought his sister to be almost finished with the severe mood swings of her first trimester… but apparently he had been mistaken.

“Shhh, Jenny.” Ellen attempted to soothe her eldest, pouring her another glass of water and resting her hand over Jenny’s.

“Da? I’m finished.” Willie’s plate was indeed completely cleared; even the broccoli stems (which he usually complained he hated when his Da cooked them) were missing. “Can I go out and play football against the wall?”

“Aye, ye can.” Jamie said, giving his lad’s hair a ruffle. “Grandma will call ye when dessert’s ready.”

Willie stood, tucking his chair in. “Promise ye won’t leave without saying goodbye to me?”

Jamie’s brow creased, it felt like the whole table had fallen silent, even Wee Jamie had stopped smacking his lips loudly.

What on God’s green earth?

“Of course I won’t, Willie.” Jamie licked his dry lips, dumbfounded. “When have I ever done that to ye? Why would I do that to ye?”

It certainly hadn’t been me to leave ye without saying goodbye, Willie. I hadn’t been that parent.

Willie shrugged his small shoulders, staring down at his feet. For all Jamie marvelled at how tall his son was shooting up to be, no real surprise with a Da who was easily 6’3”, right now Willie looked no bigger than a baby sparrow seeking comfort.

“Fergus said his Da never said goodbye to him before he left, and I… I didn’t want ye to do the same.”

“Come here, lad.” Jamie held his arms out, exhaling only when Willie tucked himself into the safe space of his Da’s body. “I promise. Willie, look at me, please?”

Willie moved his head from his Da’s shoulder, until their, almost the exact same shade of cornflower blue eyes, met each other in a trance.

“I hope I won’t ever have to leave ye, Willie. But I promise, if I do, I will always, always , say goodbye to ye first. Do ye believe me?”

“Aye,” Willie nodded, sniffing loudly. “I believe ye, Da.”

“Good.” Jamie smiled as widely as he dared, without the risk of tears over spilling and falling down his cheeks. He squeezed Willie’s body to his, one more time. “Now go and get some fresh air, before Grandma makes ye help her load the dishwasher.”

Nobody said anything else for a few seconds, not while Willie donned his shoes and coat and closed the front door behind himself with a snick . To Jamie, it felt like a long span of minutes sat in silence, but in reality it was perhaps only thirty seconds or so.

“What the fuck was that about?” Jenny broke the silence, her own eyes wide as they met her brother’s stare.

Ellen attempted to lean over and cover Wee Jamie’s ears, before he heard the slip of his Mam’s profanity, but her hands didn’t get over his ears in time. Wee Jamie didn’t appear bothered; he was too busy smushing mashed potato into the thin patch of hair sitting upon his head.

Jamie was about to open his mouth, an explanation of who Fergus was and his Mam, Claire, Sassenach. But at the last minute, Jamie decided not to give any too many details. His family would be able to sniff out how he felt about Claire in only a matter of minutes, and that would do no good. Jamie didn’t even have a proper read on how Sassenach truly felt about him , other than a few moments of undisturbed flirting, one maybe date and one lewd comment.

“He’s heard it from Fergus, some lad in his class at school.” A slurp of water did nothing to help his cotton mouth. “Scared him a bit, I guess.”

“Right.” Jenny sat back in her chair, hands folded neatly over her only-just-starting-to-show bump. There wasn’t much left for anybody to say, all Jamie could do was trust Willie believed his Da whole-heartedly, and pray to God that nothing ever happened to make Jamie break his promise.

---

After his tiny wobble, Willie seemed fine again, afterwards. He said goodbye to his Da, while eating homemade lemon drizzle cake for his dessert, without any tears or sadness in his eyes as Jamie had expected to see.

“Do ye think I’m doing the right thing?” Jamie asked his Mam, standing on the stone steps, away from Willie’s listening ears. “Do ye think I should cancel, and stay with him instead?”

Ellen shook her head, her fringe (the exact same shade as Jamie’s) getting caught in her eyelashes. “No, I don’t, I think ye should get yerself away. He’ll be fine. And if he’s not, I’ll ring ye myself.”

“Are ye sure?”

“Aye,” Ellen reached out to take her son’s hand. It was calloused from the amount of time he spent out in the field, working hard, but it was still her boy’s hand – the same one she felt she’d committed to memory ten times over. “Ye’ve gotta take care of yeself, Jamie. Ye’re not leaving Willie with a bunch of strangers, we’re family. It’ll be fine, I promise. He’ll be fine.”

“Right, okay.” Jamie let out a long, unsteady breath through his mouth. “He’ll be fine, he’ll be fine.” He repeated to himself, looking down as he twisted his foot in the sandy dirt. “What time do ye want me to pick him up?”

“Never,” Ellen joked, laughter making her eyes sparkle. “Whenever ye want, lad. Give yerself some time to… erm…” She tried to phrase it as delicately as she could, even though Jamie had never known her to be delicate before. “Enjoy yerself.”

Jamie bit down on his lower lip to stop his smirk from taking over his face, peering up at his Mam’s expression. “Enjoy myself, aye?”

“Tcha,” She rolled her eyes. “Just be safe.”

“Just be safe,” Jamie repeated, unable to hold back his amusement. “Didn’t ye tell me those exact words when I was a teenager?”

“Aye. We love Willie to the moon and stars and back again now, but ye quite clearly didn’t listen to yer Mam.” She smiled, kissing the back of her son’s hand. “I love ye. Now, get away with ye, before ye change yer mind.”

As he walked back along the beaten path, dodging a pack of flying midges, Jamie looked over his shoulder to glance back at Lallybroch. His Mam still stood where he’d left her, arms waving, but a small figure stood beside her now, too, gathered into Ellen’s side and also waving madly.

Willie would be fine; he’d had a small blip that was all. As was to be expected, not everybody had good days, not even wee bairns, no matter how happy-go-lucky they were. This would do Willie good, spending extra time with his Grandparents. And it would do Jamie good to get away for just a short amount of time, and be himself. Not son, not brother, not Da - just Jamie.

Everybody needed to be just themselves, for just a little while, at least.

Chapter Text

The sun was only just setting behind the trees as Jamie ran up the stairs and headed for the shower.

He washed quickly before stepping out of the shower tray carefully, so as not to slip and break his neck, and wrapping the fluffy towel hanging on the radiator, around his waist.

The house was eerily quiet without Willie running about, as Jamie headed for his wardrobe and picked out a pair of well-worn jeans and a smart button up shirt. He supposed he’d never given it much thought before. But then again, he’d only been away from Willie a handful of times in the lad’s life.

One of the old wooden floorboards creaked downstairs, probably swelling up as the hot water from the shower ran through the pipes hidden under the slats. On instinct, Jamie listened out for the sound of Willie’s voice, hollering something, or perhaps humming to himself as he recalled a catchy pop tune he’d heard on the radio. But no sound floated up to Jamie’s ears.

This house was much too big to be quiet…

---

From a young age, Jamie could remember the plans and dreams his Da would share with him. They’d sit together on one of the many hay bales in the stables, taking a break from their heavy workload by eating a packed lunch Ellen had made for the two of them. Da would lay out carefully curated plans; expanding the farm and employing extra lads to work on it, selling their produce to further afield greengrocers, building two large houses on either side of the property – one for Jenny and her family to grow and reside in, and one for Jamie and his family to grow and reside in.

It had been set in stone since the beginning, that Jamie would stay close to his family, on their shared patch of generational land. Only once had it ever crossed Jamie’s mind to say no and choose a different path for himself.

It had all started with one of the biggest arguments Jamie could remember ever taking place in his family.

For months upon months, behind everybody’s backs, Jenny and Ian had secretly been dating. The truth only spilled out, when Jamie caught his older sister, and his childhood best friend, in a very passionate lip lock behind the cattle shed. Ian had had his hand up her shirt, for God’s sake.

Jamie had begun shouting blue murder, launching himself at Ian, and the two boys took off in a tumble down the hill, neither willing to let the other win. When Ellen came around the corner, basket full of eggs sitting on her hip, to see what on earth was the matter, she found both boys scraping - fits flying and blood pouring from both noses – and tears streaming down Jenny’s cheeks.

Ellen, of course, had seen her daughter’s side of the story. She, herself, had fallen in love and married a man who her family did not agree with. But Da and Jamie were firmly standing against her – no matter how much Jenny pleaded she loved Ian.

It took another week for Ian to show his face again, a face, which was badly bruised and marred thanks to Jamie’s handiwork. The eejit had come bearing a promise ring, turning to Brian and asking for Jenny’s hand in marriage when the time was right for the two of them.

Jamie had stormed out by then, fuming as his fists clenched and unclenched in a repeated pattern. Still, to this day, he didn’t ken exactly what Ian had said to Jamie’s Da that day, but whatever it was, he managed to wear him down and Brian agreed to their future marriage. Jamie had been so mad; he’d packed his bags there and then. At just sixteen and with nothing but a small backpack on his back, Jamie had bid goodbye and started walking, drowning out his parent’s protests.

He’d had no particular destination in place, but he knew he’d stumbled upon the right place as he read the sign hanging above the door ‘Mrs Baird’s B and B’. He fumbled for enough cash in his pockets to pay for at least one night’s board; the fates must have been on his side, for he found an extra stash of forgotten money in the pocket compartment of his backpack.

With a mixture of sheer determination to make a stand, and pure stubbornness, Jamie stayed in Mrs Baird’s B and B for three solid days. His whole family had betrayed him, taking Ian’s side just like that ; instead of punishing him for the way he’d been groping Jenny. He simply wasn’t going back to a bunch of traitors. He’d make his own life for himself, away from the farm and the backstabbers who occupied it…

Jamie guessed he would have stayed there longer, had Jenny not knocked on his door on the third night, and demanded he let her in.

Jenny berated the shit out of him, for one of a better word, but Jamie noticed the worry etched across her features. In the end, the two of them made up, as they always did. Jamie had always found it incredibly hard to stay mad at his sister for long, the first best friend he’d ever known. And for all he wanted to stay mad at her and Ian, this time was no different than any of the others.

It had taken Ian longer to win Jamie over to the idea of him marrying Jamie’s sister and practically being allowed to do unspeakable things to her. Even the thought of it now brought bile to the back of Jamie’s throat. But in the end, Ian succeeded with a shit-eating grin covering his face.

To his memory, that had been the only time in his life that Jamie could remember not wanting to follow his Da’s plan, and live on the farm. And even then , the anger had only been brought on by teenage hormones and an urge to rebel for once in his life.

Planning permission and construction work for the home Jamie currently called his own had begun just a couple of months after Willie was born and handed into Jamie’s sole care. By no means, were Brian and Ellen kicking their only son and grandchild out, but they knew it would take a number of years, for the house Jamie would eventually make his own, to be completely finished. By that point, Willie would no longer be a baby, but a toddler, and Jamie a young adult with his life ahead of him. Of course, they’d want their own space to grow and thrive in.

Jamie had always believed he’d fill his house with his family – with a loving wife, three or even four, bairns, who would constantly cause a racket causing Jamie to good naturedly roll his eyes, but secretly he’d love.

Quite obviously, that hadn’t happened, and Jamie didn’t need the empty creak of the dusty floorboards to remind him or his own Mam to tell him time was ticking on.

As soon as the thought popped into his head, Jamie felt guilty. Even more so, as he spotted the tub of hair gel, Willie brought down to the kitchen table every school day for his Da to use on him.

Yes, Jamie’s life hadn’t panned out the way he’d thought, the way he’d expected, the way he’d hoped and dreamed.

But it wasn’t a bad life, not at all.

He had Willie, and that was enough. It always would be. And if Jamie’s life path had taken him where he’d expected to go… he wouldn’t have Willie with him. That horrible thought alone was enough to snap Jamie out of his thought process.

Christ, he needed a drink.

Tonight was supposed to be light and fun, not dragged down by the demons living in the dark depths of Jamie’s mind.

With only a pair of clean black boxers on, Jamie made his way into the kitchen, pouring himself two fingers full of whisky into a glass and knocking it all back in one fell swoop. He badly needed some Dutch courage, and perhaps if he got a little bit tipsy at home, Jamie wouldn’t find himself spending much at the overpriced bar.

---

Jamie wasn’t a stranger to the bar the other Da’s had chosen. In fact, the Dog and Parrot had stood for so long, that Jamie could recall his own Da’s stories about the place. The floor was still as sticky as it had always been. Not even the amount of mixing pheromones, perfume and aftershave could get rid of the warm, yeasty beer smell– it still permeated the air pungently.

It had been a number of years since Jamie had frequented the place himself, and he knew to expect a change inside. The arrangement of the high tables and chairs were changed, the music different, and even the dance floor had been widened to give customers more room to let themselves loose. But what Jamie didn’t expect, was to be surprised by all these changes, before he even got a foot through the door.

“Got any ID, please?” The bouncer standing on the door asked, arms crossed over his chest. He wore all black, head shaved to make him seem more menacing, but Jamie saw through his shitty disguise quite easily. It wasn’t hard to do, not when Jamie had done it himself, back in the day, to appear older.

“Are ye talking to me?” Jamie asked, pointing to himself. It had been a long number of years since his eighteenth birthday.

“Aye.” The kid held out his hand expectantly, waiting for Jamie to hand over his ID. “If I think ye look twenty five or under, I’ve gotta ask for yer ID.” The bouncer shrugged. “It’s the law, mate.”

Jamie fished about in the back pocket of his jeans, to find his wallet and stash of cards. “Aye, I quite ken it’s the law, lad. But ye canny be older than twenty-two yerself.”

“Twenty three, actually.” Laddie smiled, showcasing one gold tooth. Jamie handed over his ID, feeling a bit of a prick, standing just outside of the bar, while his small ID card was inspected. He was almost thirty, for crying out loud.

“Birthday soon, aye?”

“Eh? Och, aye.” Jamie nodded, practically snatching his ID away, as the bouncer handed it back, and stuffing it into his wallet. “The big Three O.”

“Well, have a good night, mate.” Thankfully, the red rope was now undone, and Jamie could slip right through. He gave a sharp nod of his thanks to the kid on the door, before bypassing the old cloak room that was hardly ever used and following well-worn treaded steps to the bar. At least that hadn’t changed.

“What can I get ye?” The man behind the bar asked. His hair was salt and pepper grey, matching the colour of his handlebar mustache and groomed beard. Jamie was glad to see at least somebody here was older than he was.

The coins jingled in Jamie’s palm, as he counted enough out for a full pint. “Just a house beer, please mate.”

“Coming right up.” The bartender turned away, searching for a fresh glass. While he was waiting, Jamie took the opportunity of glancing around himself, searching for Peter, or perhaps one of the other rugby Da’s he might recognize. This side of the bar, the lighting was still dimmer than outside, but just light enough to be able to make out people's faces and the group of lassies on the dancefloor. From experience, Jamie knew the other side of the bar, back up to the front door, was a lot darker. Nobody ever understood why. Surely, it should be lighter at the door of the club, so ye could see where ye were walking as ye stumbled drunk. But, nevertheless, the lighting was just another thing to Dog and Parrot had chosen not to spend extra money on and change.

“Here ye go, mate.” The pint, with a mouthwatering head of foam, was placed on the bar countertop. “That’ll be three pound eighty, please.”

Jamie handed over his coins, taking his icy cold pint in his left hand. He was about to take a sip, when a meaty hand clapped over his shoulder. “There ye are, Jamie lad! I told the other lads ye’d make it!” Peter stood just behind Jamie, a half finished pint clung in his own hand and a rolled up cigarette perched precariously behind one ear.

Jamie greeted his friend back, picking up his drink and following Peter, to where he and a group of burly men had secured a table. A rare thing indeed, but especially rare on a Saturday night.

The hours ticked by, without Jamie picking up his phone to check the time.

The other rugby Da’s were just as welcoming as Peter had been, taking interest in Jamie’s work life on the farm, and happily buying rounds of pints for one another. Before he knew it, Jamie found some of the faces around him blurring, a sure sign of the amount of strong alcohol sitting in his system. To try and qualm the dizziness, Jamie searched for something in the bar to focus upon. The group of lassies who’d once been up and dancing the multicolored dancefloor, were now sitting at a table not too far away.

It was hard not to miss them.

The one in the bright blue dress, who Jamie recognized from her dancing on the dancefloor, was sitting facing Jamie and the group of lads. Her high heeled feet swung from her bar stool seat, barely brushing the metal rung at the bottom of the stool. She sipped on some orange looking cocktail, mouth dipping down to catch the paper straw, while listening to her two friends who sat opposite her. Jamie couldn’t get a glance at the two lassies sitting with their backs to him, not unless one of them turned their head or stood up to move. But he could see the blonde on the left was wearing some red, skin tight… it might have been PVC. While the brunette, on the right, wore something cream and strappy.

“Jamie, lad.” Peter was standing up, bending over to put his mouth to Jamie’s ear and be heard over the loud music, but still somehow towering over Jamie. “I’m going outside for a smoke, do ye want one?”

Jamie wasn’t usually a smoker, but something about the alcohol in his bloodstream, called out to the addictive, bitter taste of nicotine.

“Aye, if ye’ve got one spare?”

“Course I’ve got one spare, come on,” Peter tilted his head towards the door, just past the group of laughing lassies and to the left of the dancefloor, to the smoker’s corner. “Ye wee red headed devil.”

On weightless legs, Jamie followed behind Peter, focusing intently on not bumping into anything or anyone. Behind the fire safety door, the small smoker’s area was deserted, not a soul even passed out on the picnic bench. Jamie was rather glad for the silent reprieve from the bass of the music, which was making his heart race, watching as Peter placed a cigarette stick between his lips, and brought the lighter up to the end. It might have been nearing the end of April, almost into May, but as the night turned into early morning, the chilly winds found themselves picking up. Peter cupped his hand around the tiny flame, so as to not let the wind blow it out, exhaling sharply through his nose when the cherry of the cigarette finally caught.

Holding it between his thumb and forefinger, Peter plucked the cigarette from out of his mouth, and held it towards Jamie. “Here ye are, lad.”

“Ta.” Jamie settled himself against the concrete wall; taking his first drag, holding it for a second, and then tipping his head back, to blow the white smoke coming out of his mouth, into the darkened sky. He took a gulp of fresh air (well, as fresh as you could get in the smoker’s corner, but at least it was better than the man-made fog from the fog machine, which poured out over the dancefloor every half hour), before taking another pull.

Once Peter had his own nicotine stick lit and balancing between the webbed v of his middle and forefinger, he took a seat on the edge of the bench, and attempted to unlock his phone with a very uncoordinated thumb.

“Ye all right, there?” Jamie asked, laughing through his nose.

“Och, just the wife. Two missed calls, and…” Peter squinted, shoving the phone further into his face. “Can’t even make out how many texts.” He shrugged, smiling and slipping it back into his pocket. He didn’t seem to be too bothered about facing his wife’s wrath. “I’ll be in the doghouse tomorrow, but it was worth it.”

Jamie smirked back at him. “Aye, sure it will be. Not so much when…”

The safety door snicked open and then shut, noisily, and a broad Scottish voice rang out. “Neither of ye laddies happen to have some gum on ye, do ye?”

At the question, Jamie turned his head to face the lass, burning cigarette still in hand.

It was the blonde from the table, indeed wearing something bright red and resembling PVC - the shiny material was easier to see under the golden outdoor lights, instead of the constantly moving multicoloured strobes, coming from the DJ booth inside. Jamie blinked two long blinks, trying to figure out if it was his eyes, or her dress, which made everything, including her face, dull and fuzzy in comparison.

Her legs shifted, grabbing Jamie’s attention, as her black wedge heels clicked against the uneven, concrete stone floor.

When Peter began to answer for the both of them, Jamie returned to attention back to the starry sky sitting peacefully above him. “Sorry, lass. I dinna…”

The lass in red cut Peter off before he could finish. “Jamie fucking Fraser?”

At the sound of his given name, Jamie turned to glance at her again, eyes narrowed. Heels clicking, she moved closer to him, as if wanting to get a better look. “Is that ye?”

Jamie got a waft of her body spray, something classic and expensive. “Depends on who's asking…”

“It’s me!” She pointed to herself, when Jamie still didn’t register. Shit, how much drink had he consumed? “Me? Geillis Duncan? From the hospital?”

“Don’t remember her, lad?” Peter chuckled, shaking his head in mock disappointment.

Geillis…

Geillis…

Duncan…

Hospital…

The words from her mouth were floating about Jamie’s mind, flashing big and bright in a rather endless dark cavern of nothingness.

How did he…?

Jamie just caught the tail end of something Peter was saying, something that caused this Geillis to shoot him a scathing look.

I’ve never slept with him,” she pointed over her shoulder, with her thumb to Jamie, but continued talking to Peter as if Jamie wasn’t there. “ye stupid eejit. Ye think I’d just be letting him stand there, if he couldn’t remember sleeping with me? Don’t be so daft.”

Geillis…

Geillis Duncan…

Dr Geillis Duncan…

Dr Claire Beauchamp…

Claire.

“Aye, Claire, exactly.” Geillis nodded, smiling smugly at her best friend’s name. Jamie guessed he must have accidentally said that last bit out loud.

“Shit, sorry, Geillis.” Jamie threw the dying cigarette butt onto the floor and ground it in with the heel of his shoe. Once it was out completely, he stooped down to pick it up and flicked it into the waiting bin. “Dinna ken how I missed it was ye.”

Geillis gripped his forearm and just laughed good naturedly. How on earth had he missed it? “It’s okay, laddie. I won’t take no offence, but I think our Claire will if ye don’t notice her .”

“Sassenach’s here?”

“I’m going back inside before I freeze my bollocks off,” Peter interrupted, the loud sound from the bar pouring out from the slightly ajar fire exit. “And then the wife really won’t have a use for me. I’ll meet ye back at the table, Jamie lad.”

Jamie waved Peter away, much too focused on what Geillis had to say.

Sassenach was here?

“Is she still…”

“Aye,” Geillis nodded. “She was in the cloak room last time I checked.”

The cloakroom?

“I’ll take ye to her,” Geillis held the door open again; looking over her shoulder to make sure Jamie was still listening. “I’m walking that way anyway to go home with the hot bartender.”

Jamie just got the words ‘good for ye’ out of his mouth and heard Geillis laugh brightly, before they were drowned out once more by the music and humdrum of many voices overlapping.

A couple practically dry humping the table and eating one another’s faces off now occupied the lasses table, which had still been full when Jamie had made his way to the smoker’s corner. If they weren’t careful, the whole table would be tipping over at any rate, their drinks - a beer and a hardly touched syrupy cocktail - adding to the stickiness of the floor.

The lad’s table was just as Jamie had left it. But Peter, and his big mouth, must have mentioned something to the other Da’s, because as Jamie and Geillis walked past, he could hear their raucous whoops and whistles, even over the nineties rave anthem blaring overhead. Jamie rolled his eyes, but soon wished he hadn’t as the floor swam beneath him. It didn’t help that the lights above were becoming dimmer, as they walked to the old cloak room.

Geillis stepped ahead of him, shoving a drunken man out of the way, and taking a hold of the doorknob.

“Claire, lassie.” Jamie heard her say. “I’ve brought ye a surprise.”

“A surprise?” Sassenach repeated, the smile on her face, apparent in her voice. Well… at least to Jamie anyway. “Please tell me it isn’t another drink. I think I’ll be sick if you force feed me another apple flavoured shot.”

“Apple, Sassenach?” Jamie stepped into the cloakroom behind Geillis. The box room was tiny usually, but add in Jamie’s viking stature… let’s just say the cloakroom was definitely not built with three people in mind. “Everybody kens strawberry is the only drinkable flavour.”

Shock coloured Claire’s face, before it morphed into pure elation.

“Jamie!”

Chapter Text

Geillis had the right idea to move out of the way, pressing herself into the suede covered wall, as Claire stumbled forward and flung her thin arms around Jamie’s neck easily, thanks to the knife point stilettos she wore. As if they had a mind of their own, Jamie’s hands settled on Claire’s tapered waist, keeping her warm, solid body pressed against his.

“Will ye be safe if I leave ye two, Claire?” Geillis spoke up asking her best friend and then focusing on Jamie. “How much have ye had to drink?”

“I stopped counting after the sixth.” Jamie answered truthfully, grimacing slightly.

Claire tapped her hands against Jamie’s broad shoulders, peering at her best friend. “We’ll be fine, Geillie.” She assured her. “Jamie and I can share a taxi or something, can’t we?”

“Aye.” Jamie agreed, squeezing Claire’s waist in his palms. The satin material of her dress bunched up under his hands, making them slip and slide along her hips.

“Promise?” Geillis said. “I think Mary’s still at the bar if ye need her, or give me a ring.” Jamie just caught the playful smirk Geillis sent Claire. “But I’m sure ye’ll be fine, lass. Or maybe even better than fine.”

“Oh, shush!” Claire clicked her tongue. “Now go away.”

“I’m going, I’m going!” Geillis giggled, poking just her head just through the gap between the door and the doorframe to send Claire an air kiss. She shouted a cheeky “Have fun ye two!” before Jamie and Claire were eventually left alone at last.

Claire smiled softly at him, those large bambi eyes of hers, glazed over ever so slightly. She pressed the open toe heel of her shoe to the front of his right dress shoe, applying pressure, before pulling away out of Jamie’s grasp.

“Sorry,” Claire mumbled. “I didn’t mean to be so… forward, I guess. I get a little, perhaps handsy is the right word, when I’m a few sheets to the wind.”

“It’s all right, Sassenach.” Jamie assured her. “I don’t mind. I like having ye close by.”

She said nothing else; because Jamie had shocked her into silence or because her tongue had grown so heavy and thick in her mouth from the alcohol she’d consumed, that it was impossible for her to form words.

Jamie used the period of silence to look at her properly for the first time all night.

How had he missed her?

How had he missed that it was his Sassenach?

The cream satin dress she wore was short - hitting just above mid thigh and certainly shorter than Jamie had ever seen Claire in before. It clung to the soft curves she had, highlighting her delicate collar bone structure, and toned, mile long legs. Claire had styled her hair into those 1940’s curls that Jamie was coming to love – all voluminous and thick, scraped all to one side, to leave the other side of her neck bare and mouthwateringly untouched.

“Jamie.”

That lilt in her voice, caused Jamie to pick his eyes off the ground, from where they’d been studying her perfectly painted purple toes.

“Aye?” It could have been the cigarette he’d smoked only minutes ago (which, with every second the alcohol dissipated from his bloody system, he was beginning to regret) or the tension building in both his body and the cloakroom, but Jamie found his voice sounded husky and low to his own ears.

She licked her lips. “Kiss me.”

He breathed in deeply and quickly, his chest skimming Claire’s with how close they had migrated back to one another. It was almost like watching himself from above, as Jamie reached out a finger and stroked down her butter soft cheek. “Why should I kiss ye?”

Claire’s eyes fluttered shut, her lips parting enticingly. “Because I want you too. Because I can’t stop thinking about you, picturing you, touching you. I want you to touch me.”

“Are ye sure that’s what ye want, Sassenach?”

“Yes,” she said breathily. “I want it so bad.”

Jamie pressed his lips as close to her ear as he would allow himself, gripping her waist to hold Claire in place. Everything inside of him screamed to take her earlobe into his hot, wet mouth and suck. His cock laid heavy and pulsing against his inner thigh, begging to be let free from the confinements of those bloody jeans he’d decided to wear.

But not quite yet…

Wait…

Jamie hadn’t been this close to his Sassenach in a week or so, other than only hours before at the football match. He’d never been able to catch her alone. She’d tried her hardest to evade him, constantly slipping through his hands.

But not this time…

He’d wanted to play along with her game but Jamie had her right where he wanted her, and he was determined to get answers.

“Ye ken what I want so bad, Sassenach?” He whispered into her ear. “I want ye to stop avoiding me.”

Claire bit down on her bottom lip, opening her eyes slowly.

They were almost nose-to-nose; Jamie could have bit down on her bottom lip for her, if he felt so inclined.

“Tell me the truth, Sassenach. Have ye been avoiding me?”

She nodded.

“Tell me why?” He asked.

“Because…” Claire swallowed audibly. “I haven’t lied to you, I have been busy with work. It’s just…”

Like Jamie’s, the alcohol was loosening Claire’s tongue.

“Just…” she repeated, staring down at her shoes, eyes hooded. “I feel vulnerable around you, and I haven’t felt like that in years.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

When Claire didn’t answer straight away, Jamie chucked his index finger under her chin, tilting her head up to look at him. “I asked ye a question, Claire. Is that such a bad thing?”

She shook her head slowly from side to side, never once tearing her eyes away from his.

“So, if it’s not so bad.” Jamie continued. “Then, ye need to stop running from me and just feel it, don’t ye?”

A bob of her head.

Jamie finger travelled to caress the soft, feminine curve of her jawline. “I want to hear ye say it, Sassenach.”

The words left her mouth, covered in sugar. “I need to stop running from you and just feel it.”

“Too fucking right ye do.” Jamie bit out, and then he was grabbing the back of her head and laying his lips on hers. Claire moaned into the kiss almost instantaneously, allowing Jamie’s tongue to sweep inside her mouth. She tasted fruity, probably one of the cocktails she’d been sipping on all night, highly addictive with a sugar rush kick.

“Jamie… fuck …” She muttered, tipping her head back as far as it would go, still supported by his hand, as Jamie trailed his lips down her neck. The chamomile vanilla concoction Claire usually wore was still apparent on her skin, as Jamie got closer to the pulse point behind her ear. He supposed the yeasty beer in the air had overtaken the delicate scent but now he’d found it again. Jamie wanted to burrow his nose into her skin and breathe it in forever.

He sucked just beneath her ear, bringing the blood to the surface and then smoothing away the sharp sting with the flat of his tongue. Claire shivered, goosebumps erupting over her chest at Jamie’s undivided attention.

The hand not cupping the back of Claire’s neck, travelling until it settled just underneath her breast. Jamie could feel the weight of it sitting in the skin beneath his thumb and forefinger.

It had been quite some time since Jamie had last lain with a woman. And even more time since he’d lain with a woman and cared more about her pleasure than he did his own. But Jamie wanted to please his Sassenach, to make her feel good, to hear his name tumble out of her lips, helpless and needy.

Did this feel as good to her as it did to him?

Did her skin feel as hot and tight as his did, like at any moment, his heart would beat right out of his chest?

A smaller, softer hand touched the back of Jamie’s, lifting it up and placing it over her breast in silent permission.

Oh.

Through the thin material of her dress, Jamie could feel Claire’s nipple standing out, pressing into the center of his palm. He couldn’t help himself; pinching her through the satin to elicit a response, and smiling into her neck, when Claire let out a throaty whimper.

Of its own accord, one of Claire’s legs hitched up, wrapping around Jamie’s waist in an attempt to get closer and closer and closer to him. He was about to lend her a hand, reach down and palm her plump arse; when Jamie’s whole world went spinning and he found his back hitting the carpeted floor with such force it expelled any of the air he did have left inside his lungs. Which, to be honest, after kissing his Sassenach, wasn’t very much in the first place.

“My God, are you okay?” Claire giggled, legs either side of him as she straddled his covered cock. Her hands lay flat on both sides of his head, as she bent over, making her hair swing away from her shoulder and creating a curtain for just the two of them.

“I…I think so.” Jamie’s hands perched on her hips to ground himself, brow furrowed. “What the fuck happened?”

A callous-free thumb smoothed over his brow. “Well, I think I tripped, and brought you down with me.”

“Ye think?”

A coy smile and then Claire was bumping her hips backwards and sliding her kiss swollen lips against his. “Mhm.”

She was solid above him, leaning forward more to gift Jamie more of a view of her cleavage.

“Please, Jamie,” she panted, hand creeping up until it reached a bare patch of skin underneath his shirt above his belt. “Please, touch me.”

Tracing what was soon becoming a familiar path; Jamie cupped both of her breasts this time, listening for a kitten-like whimper to leave her lips. The tips of his long fingers skimmed past the material, reaching the swell of her bare skin.

Jamie was unsure where his newfound confidence was coming from. Was it an after effect of the drink, or did it have more to do with the bonny lass in his lap? Whichever one, Jamie was more than content to go with the flow for the time being – allowing his fingers to dip under the neckline of her dress and then stop to gauge Claire’s reaction.

Up above him, she had taken a hold of her hair with one hand, lifting it away from her collarbone as if her skin felt prickly with desire and she couldn’t bear anything but Jamie touching her. Claire’s other hand rested on Jamie’s lower stomach. Using it to prop herself up and direct her movements, as her hips began to swivel.

Fuck.

His vision went blurry as Claire bucked her hips up - testing the movement. It shifted his hand further down into her dress, whether on purpose or by accident, Jamie didn’t know and nor did he care. All he could concentrate on was his Sassenach’s hot thighs wrapped around him, and the direct slide of her covered cunt against his hard cock.

Sober thoughts were beginning to filter into his brain, fighting for attention, against the pleasure skyrocketing through Jamie’s body. Mind at war with itself, Jamie opened his mouth to speak, to say anything.

He didn’t want it to end up like this. He’d pictured touching his Sassenach, getting his hands on her, a hundred times or even more – and none of them had involved a grubby pub carpet that hadn’t been properly cleaned since the 1970’s.

“Sassenach?” His hands formed grabby fists, holding whatever skin or dress material he could find to slow down her grinding. “Sassenach, Claire?”

“What?” Her front teeth dug into her bottom lip, hard enough to restrict the blood flow and cause the skin to turn white. “What’s… hm … wrong?”

“We’re…” Jamie closed his eyes for a second to regain his composure, physically having to stop his eyes from rolling into the back of his head at the sharp tingling in his balls. He tried again. “We’re not doing this here, on this dirty floor. Christ, Sassenach …”

“Please, Jamie.” She pleaded, hips still rocking from side to side. “I can’t bear another second without you touching me, I can’t concentrate at work, I can’t sleep without touching myself and imagining it’s you, your fingers inside of me. Please…”

Any self control Jamie thought he possessed had been snapped away at the words pouring from Claire’s mouth. But his dignity wouldn’t be quite so inclined to piss off as quickly.

He managed to grit out, “Stand up, lass.”

“What? Jamie…”

“I told ye to stand up.” He repeated.

Jamie couldn’t watch Claire stand up, for focusing on his own task. As he reached his full height, Jamie felt his knees go jelly like, as if every pint of blood in his body had drained southwards to his cock. When he did eventually take a peek at Claire, it felt like the air had expelled from his lungs again, but this time for a very different reason. Her once pristine hair was all mussed up, the curls facing in every other direction. The slinky material of her dress had helped it fall back into place, as if it had never been touched, or bunched up, or had Jamie’s hand down inside of it.

It was a far cry from Sassenach’s usual look, but Jamie thought he’d never seen her look more bonny, and it was all for him.

Two small steps were all it took, for Jamie to pin Claire up against one of the walls and then pin himself to her body. The heavy rise and fall of her chest was apparent, and Jamie suspected if they’d both been naked, he might have been able to feel her heartbeat pounding against his chest.

“Did ye mean what ye said?” He asked, this time allowing himself to lick the shell of Claire’s delicate ear. “Have ye really got yerself off imaging it was me?”

“Yes,” she whispered raggedly.

Over the top of her dress, Jamie’s hand skimmed along Claire’s natural curves, stopping only when it met the skin of her bare thigh. He gazed down, entranced, as his fingers tiptoed around the outer flesh, to graze the softer, warmer inner flesh.

Claire’s forehead pressed against his, drawing his eyes to her face for just a millisecond, before resuming the trail of his fingers. Her breath was still fruity, hitting Jamie’s upper lip, in a natural wave motion.

“Were you jealous today at the football match?” Her question was so quiet and unexpected; Jamie had to strain his ears to listen.

Jamie swallowed thickly. “Do ye want me to be jealous?”

“A little,” Claire admitted. “It would mean you want me as much as I want you.”

The tips of his fingers had reached the lacy hem of Claire’s knickers. She was hot, unmistakably so, but Jamie wanted to wait to have her full attention on him when he did apply pressure to her aching center for the first time.

A loud bubble of laughter left Jamie’s mouth before he could put a stop to it, causing a strand of his Sassenach’s hair to dance with the force of his breath.

“Och, I want ye lass, more than ye’ll ever ken.” Jamie promised. “Can’t ye feel it?”

“I can feel something.” That delicate hand of hers shimmied down between their two bodies, squeezing the shaft of his cock, which was pressing incessantly against his jeans until the thick outline was apparent.

“I didn’t exactly mean that ,” Jamie groaned. “But aye, aye I was jealous.”

Claire hummed a wet kiss against his sharp jawline. “Good.”

“I liked ye better when ye were placid with pleasure, and not plotting against me,” Jamie joked, pinching her thigh in warning.

She blinked twice, a dirty smirk growing over her lips, as she let go of his cock in protest and pushed her breasts further into Jamie’s face. “Make me placid again, then.”

With a cheeky smile about his face, Jamie pulled the gusset of Claire’s knickers to one side, and, forming a ‘v’ with his index and forefinger, parted his Sassenach.

Her lips looked too irresistible, kiss swollen and red raw, Jamie just had to let himself have another taste, letting his fingers do the work. “Is this what ye wanted? Is it?” He panted into her mouth.

Before Claire could answer or get a word in edgeways, Jamie was using the pads of his fingers to dip into her heat, finding her dripping.

“Christ, Sassenach.” His teeth took hold of her bottom lip, nipping ever so slightly. “Is this what ye wanted me to find? Ye’re absolutely soaked. Surprised ye haven’t been dripping all down yer thighs.”

Slick covering his digits; Jamie glided his way upwards without any resistance, practically searching in the dark. He knew he’d found the right place, when Claire’s hard bud met his fingers, and her hips jerked away from the wall of their own accord. Her own hand gripped his wrist tightly, fingers circling, as if wanting to direct him herself. But Claire would soon learn Jamie had the upper hand in this instance, and he wasn’t willing to let go.

A peck behind her ear, and a quick swipe of his tongue to taste the sweat beginning to build on her collarbone, as Jamie traced light circles over her clit. “Is this for me, lass?”

Claire’s head tipped back against the wall, neck extended, and so at odds with the rest of her body, which offered itself forwards for Jamie’s taking. Her eyes lay closed, peacefully, but as Jamie switched the direction of his circle, her eyelids fluttered in quick succession.

“Be a good girl and answer me, Sassenach, and then I’ll reward ye.”

Uh – yes!” Claire’s free hand twisted itself in the collar of Jamie’s shirt. If it was even possible, bringing him closer, for another bruising kiss. She opened her eyes enough to nudge their noses together, her pupils blown wider, and the amber iris darker in colour than Jamie had ever noticed it to be. “Yes, it’s for you, Mr James Fraser.”

A pained groan left Jamie’s throat.

The way his given name rolled off his Sassenach’s tongue…

In retaliation, Jamie bit down on the ball of her shoulder, not all too gently. He replaced his two fingers with his thick thumb, continuing to follow the cues of Claire’s body, and sliding back towards the entrance to her heat. Wetness pooled there, making it easy for Jamie to work a single finger inside of her.

“Jamie, more .” Claire pleaded, body wiggling from side to side.

His second finger joined his first, crooking inside of her, as they stroked her ribbed walls. Claire’s inner muscles contracted at the sensation, squeezing around Jamie’s hand, and then releasing. She moaned out her pleasure, breathing coming in a now stuttered rhythm, and hips chasing the every bend of Jamie’s fingers.

The sound of his Sassenach’s wet pleasure, leaking down until it covered Jamie’s knuckles, mixed in with her whimpers, echoed around the tiny box room. As Jamie allowed his own hips to grind against Claire’s lower stomach, giving himself some reprieve from the uncomfortable throbbing happening in his cock, he gave his mouth room to babble on, distracting himself from blowing his load in his trousers like he had done as a young teen.

“Look at ye, my lass. Riding my hand when anybody could open that door, walk right in, and see us both.”

Claire tightened around his fingers automatically. “ Jamie .”

“Shh.” Jamie pinched her tapered waist through her dress, as he pulled down the neckline of her dress, and nuzzled his face to catch a hard nipple in his mouth. “I ken ye want to, but ye can’t be too loud, Sassenach. They’ll hear us.”

Her eyes shut tightly, the delicate skin around her eyes scrunching to cause creases.

“Close?” Jamie asked, biting down on her breast softly. Claire was so slippery, Jamie’s thumb was beginning to slip and slide away from her clit with every pass.

Yes .”

That’s it , all over my fingers, Sassenach. Let it out…”

Her whole body tightened up, nails biting the skin around his wrist, but Jamie didn’t care. Not one little bit. He kept his gaze trained on Claire, watching, as her nose scrunched up and a flood of warm wetness ran over and down his fingers.

She trembled beautifully in his grasp, breath short and little aftershocks racking her body, as Jamie slowed down the movement of his hand, but didn’t stop completely.

“Ye okay?” Jamie pushed her hair back from her face.

Claire nodded, her eyes glazed over with pleasure. She placed a feather light kiss on the tip of Jamie’s nose, pulling back and sending him a satisfied smile.

“Do ye think anybody heard?”

She tilted her head to the side, studying him. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck.”

“Fair enough,” Jamie laughed low, easing his fingers out of Claire, while she hissed. He brought his left hand up to their faces, a trail of slick coating them until they shone underneath the lights as if Jamie had dipped his fingers in baby oil. Without another word, he painted Claire’s lips with both of his fingers, tracing her cupid’s bow messily.

That sharp tongue of hers stuck out, catching the tip of Jamie’s thumb and sucking it into her mouth. Jamie cupped the bottom half of her face, still wet fingers now resting on the apple of her cheek. Claire’s cheeks hollowed, closing her plush lips around the base of his thumb and allowing her tongue to swirl around and around.

“Ye’re something else entirely.” Jamie praised her, losing himself in the colour of her eyes and the long bats of her eyelashes.

As if he were in a dream, Jamie heard the door snick open breaking the moment, but if Jamie thought Claire was going to step away or even take his thumb out of her mouth, he was very much mistaken. “Claire!” A woman called out, sticking her head through the space gap between the door and the doorjamb that she had created. It took Jamie a couple of seconds to recognize her as another one of the women his Sassenach had been sitting with at the table.

“Are you getting in the taxi home with us, or are you mmhm-ing ?”

Jamie wasn’t exactly familiar with the term mmhm-ing , but he was certain he could work it out.

“Go home with ye friends, Sassenach.” Jamie said, lowering his voice so as not to be overheard. He freed his tongue from between her lips, and continued. “That way I won’t be tempted to have my wicked way with ye.”

“Don’t you want to have your wicked way with me?” Claire asked, pouting.

“Of course, Sassenach.” He kissed her cheekbone. “I thought I’d made that quite clear, but not while we're both not exactly sober, aye?”

“You’re right,” Claire agreed. She stared down at their shoe covered feet, licking her lips as if to say something and then stopping short. Jamie couldn’t help but lay his lips upon hers, groaning into the kiss as he found the tangy taste of her slick still sat on her mouth like a ripe peach.

“What? What we’re ye going to say?” Jamie asked, punctuating four quick kisses on her lips and then pulling away.

“How…how did you know I was going to say something?”

He shrugged, no real answer to give her. “I just ken ye.”

“Well, I was going to say… God, it sounds so silly.” Claire shook her head. “But you make me feel like a teenager again, all fingers and thumbs and hormones… I don’t even know if what I’m saying makes any sense. I just feel a bit juvenile asking for your phone number after the mind blowing orgasm and all.”

Jamie smirked openly. “Mind blowing ye say?”

Claire attempted to look fed up, but her ever growing smile betrayed her. “Shut up.”

He laughed, shaking his head no. “Nah, I don’t think I want to shut up. Not when it provokes ye like that and…”

A whack in his stomach shut Jamie up quite effectively.

Feigning nonchalance, Claire tried again. “You annoy me to no end.”

“Och, do I?” Jamie goaded, basking in their shared banter, a moment shared between just the two of them. He’d missed this. “I annoy ye to no end, but ye still want my number? Why, what gives? Is it the mind blowing orgasms again? Or my height? Och, I ken what it is; it’s my eyes isn’t it? It’s always the eyes.”

“Claire! Are you coming or not?” That voice called out again from behind the closed door. Somewhere in between the kissing and the flirting, Claire’s friend had politely closed the door shut. “Well, I mean I know you’re coming,” she sniggered. “but like, with us or…?”

“I’ll share a taxi with you, Mary.” Claire called back, raising her voice to be heard through the wood door. “Just give me two minutes.” Then she turned back to Jamie. “You better hurry up and give me your number, James Fraser, or so help me God.”

Laughing while he did so, Jamie fished his phone out of his pocket, handing it over to Claire and waiting as she keyed her number into his contacts list. A second later, Claire’s phone pinged with an incoming text, sounding from a tiny leather handbag on the floor that Jamie hadn’t even noticed was there.

“There, I’ve texted your number to myself.” Claire explained, fingers curling around the handbag handles. “Kiss me one last time?”

Jamie obliged her, tongue sweeping over the roof of her mouth and lingering. “Text me when ye get home safe, okay? And promise ye won’t be a stranger anymore, Sassenach?”

Her hand rested on the door handle, peering over her shoulder with kiss bitten lips and freshly fucked hair. “I promise, Jamie.”

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

Jamie didn’t get around to checking the primary school’s social media page until Friday afternoon.

He didn’t ken what was in the air recently, but the workload around the farm seemed to have tripled in size over the course of only a couple of days. Jamie could easily be found running about the place, in an attempt to get everything sorted and ticked off his imaginary list. Time appeared to just be running away with itself, and for most of the week, Jamie had to ask his Mam or Da to pick Willie up from the school gates.

On Friday, Jamie bribed two of the farmhands to take on some extra work, in exchange for extra pay, while he drove to pick his lad up. It was the least he could do after not seeing much of Willie all week. And if he got to see Claire as well, the first time since the bar, then that would just be the cherry on top of the cake, something nice to break up his seemingly hellish week.

Until the little lassie skedaddled up to him, Jamie had forgotten all about their usual Friday predicament.

Of course Sassenach wouldn’t be here. It was a Friday, remember…

Instead, her mini me stood beside Jamie, looking up at him with eyes just a tad shade darker than her Mam’s. “Bonjour, Jamie.”

“Hiya, wee Faith.” Jamie smiled at her. “Here to pick Fergus up for yer Mam?”

She nodded, twisting her hands together as she stared out to the closed school doors. “Are you… are you coming to the Spring Festival tomorrow?”

Shit.

“Och, thank ye for reminding me, lass.” Jamie pulled out his phone, firing up the social media app that he hardly ever used, unless it was to wish somebody a happy birthday.

Faith turned to him. Jamie noticed her hair was in two neat pigtails today, tied off with a pair of lilac ribbons. The hairstyle made her appear younger than her actual age, but showed off her fine bone structure. “You’re welcome… What exactly did I remind you of?”

“I’ve gotta check to see what stalls I’m supposed to be on.” Jamie flicked past marriage and baby announcements, until he saw he had indeed been added to the group, just as Claire promised he would be. “Does yer Mam ken where she’s gonnae be?”

“I don’t think so.” Faith shrugged. “Maman hates it. Well, not when I was dancing last year. She told me she liked it the best then, but I won’t be doing that this year, so I’m sure she’ll hate it again.”

Jamie looked away from his phone to glance at Faith. “Dancing?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “You know, like the way Fergus and your Willie play football? I was in the dancing after school group. They taught us a dance and then we performed it at the Spring Festival last year, I even got a voucher to spend for doing so well.”

The little lassie glowed with pride, growing another couple of centimeters with confidence.

Even though he hadn’t managed to click on the specific link and find where he was supposed to be tomorrow, Jamie still turned off his phone and slid it back into his pocket. He’d never seen Faith look so happy before, other than a couple of weeks ago when they’d been walking up the hill together, and she’d begun to show Jamie her true personality.

At times like these, Jamie knew how important, how crucial it was to give the bairn your utmost attention. On an emotional level, it would show to them that you cared about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, just as much as they did. It made bairns feel good about themselves, to express who they were, and ken they had people in their corner, supporting their dreams.

Jamie had a funny feeling that Faith and Fergus’ Da hadn’t done any of those things.

It made him feel sick to his stomach just toying with the idea.

No bairn should ever be made to feel silenced, or shitty about who they truly were and their desired passions in life.

“What did ye spend yer voucher on?” Jamie enquired, purposefully relaxing his Viking features to appear less intimidating.

“Maman and I went shopping and I bought myself a small bottle of perfume.” Faith smiled to herself, as if remembering the moment. A sudden prick started behind Jamie’s eyes, and he had to blink hard to dislodge the tears. He wasn’t sure what it was, but something about the little lassie made his heart cry out.

“I think Maman was happier than I was,” Faith continued. “I was always stealing her perfume, so it made sense to have my own. But she helped me pick it out, she says it smells similar to hers, so we always smell alike but different at the same time.”

God, Sassenach…

“That’s braw of ye Mam, isn’t it? So was it worth it, all that dancing to get yer perfume?”

“Oh, yes.” A quick nod of Faith’s head. “I still love dancing. Maman enrolled me in classes next to the swimming baths down the road, do you know the ones?”

Jamie nodded silently. He’d driven past there just this afternoon.

“I go there every Monday night.” Faith explained, picking a piece of fluff from her starched white shirt. “We do all sorts. Jazz, tap, ballet, freestyle.”

“Do ye have a favourite?”

“No, I couldn’t possibly pick.”

“Well it’ll be a shame to not see ye dance tomorrow,” Jamie said, “But maybe next time, aye. I’m sure me and Willie will still see ye tomorrow.”

The school bell peeled, and the first door was opened, allowing some of the bairns in the younger years to come out first, without being squished by the older, more boisterous, children.

“I’ll make sure to tell Maman to keep an eye out for you.” Faith’s eyes were firmly focused out in front of herself, scanning for any signs of Fergus. Jamie could tell she took his safety very personally; Fergus had his own little second Ma. It was beyond sweet. “Last year they had the nicest pizza van, and you could get all sorts of toppings. We could all get something together.”

Why, ye little matchmaker…

“We’ll have to see.” Jamie extended an arm upwards, grabbing Willie and Fergus’ attention. It made sense for him to wave to both laddies. The crowd of parents swallowed Faith up, and she would have been there for a while otherwise, standing on her tiptoes to be seen over people’s heads. “But eating pizza together sounds like my type of deal.”

The smile Faith shot him was blinding, hitting Jamie right in the middle of his chest.

---

One hand stirring the pot, Jamie used his other hand to scroll through the Spring Festival pdf file that he’d downloaded onto his phone.

“Willie!” Jamie hollered. “Yer soup’s ready!”

Pouring the steaming tomato soup into the bowl, Jamie placed both bowl and plate containing cheese toasties onto the table, ready for Willie to dig into.

“What do ye want to drink?” He asked, zooming in on the tiny spreadsheet, as Willie thundered down the stairs like a herd of elephants.

“Water, please.”

Jamie filled up a glass, pressing it into Willie’s outstretched palm.

It took another two swipes of his thumb downwards, until Jamie found his own name typed into a tiny box.

Jamie Fraser – Cake Stall 1:20 – 2:00pm

“I’m supposed to be on the cake stall for forty minutes tomorrow,” Jamie told Willie, snagging a lone bread crust from his son’s plate. “Starting just after one.”

Willie's cheeks were bulging with food as he asked. “What will I do while yer busy?”

Using his hand, Jamie dusted away the crumbs that Willie had just sprayed all over the table. “Well, ye can either stand with me, or ye can play about on the grass where I can see ye, until I’ve finished. That sound okay to ye?”

“Aye,” Willie nodded, gulping down his water like it was going out of fashion. “What are we having for dinner?”

---

“So it’s a pound entry for adults, and fifty pence for bairns.”

A small queue had formed next to the barrier surrounding the field, as one of the parents manned the entry fee and another held a stamp to keep track of people who had already paid. Jamie thought they had quite a good system going – the money that had been already collected was kept safely in a bright yellow fundraising bucket. Once you paid, the back of your hand was stamped to allow you to come in and out of the barrier, without having to pay over and over again.

The line moved quickly, and before they knew it, Willie was placing one pound fifty into the bucket with a rattle, and holding out the back of his hand for a stamp. Jamie held out his own hand, noticing the little grey stamp was in the shape of a tree, as it met his skin.

“Da, look!” Willie pointed up ahead. “A ferris wheel!”

The flat greenery had been transformed. Small stalls, selling everything from food, to toys, to jewellery, stood dotted around the outer perimeter. Allowing more than enough space in the middle for the adults to sit about chatting, and the bairns to run about. Indeed, a small ferris wheel sat in between a coffee van, offering artisan decorated drinks and a face painting stall. It wasn’t massive, nothing at all like the ones at playground fairs, but still enough to hold twenty or so people. Already, some bairns and their parents were boarding, strapping themselves in and waiting for the ride to begin it’s slow ascend upwards.

Willie turned to look at his Da, delight apparent in his eyes. “Do we have time to get a milkshake before ye’ve got yer slot for the stall?”

“Of course, my lad.” They began their walk towards the milkshake stand that offered all kinds of flavours, some even Jamie had never heard of. “What flavour are ye wanting?”

“How can I help ye, laddie?” The woman behind the stall asked. She already held an empty cup waiting in her hand to be filled up.

“Can I have a raspberry and white chocolate one, please.” Willie said. “Da, are ye getting one?”

Jamie shook his head; he didn’t feel he could stomach anything quite so sweet right at this very moment. “Nah, not right now, son. But ye get yours.”

He might have been ten minutes early before his allocated time slot at the cake stall, but Jamie didn’t mind all that much. He was more than happy to relieve the other helper.

It was quite clear the cakes and brownies decorating the stall, safely stored under clear cloches to keep them fresh and away from unwanted germs, were homemade. A different touch was added to all of them. Some of them had been kept simple, not much decoration, just a few piped dollops of flavoured buttercream here and there. The others were covered in decoration, lashings of icing, coloured sprinkles, and chocolate drops. A stack of salted caramel brownies even had a tiny pretzel on every square brownie slice, to help add some saltiness to cut the ooey gooey chocolatey goodness.

From his position behind the stall, Jamie made sure he still had his eyes trained on Willie. The lad sucked his thick milkshake through his straw, while striking up a conversation with a lass and her Mam that Jamie didn’t recognize. At least for the next forty minutes, Willie would be safe and out of trouble.

Jamie served two pre cut slices of cake to an older lady, placing her extra donation money into the jar on the counter as he was supposed to, as he waited for the other helper to arrive and man the stall with him.

By now, Jamie wished he’d double checked the spreadsheet so he’d ken who he would be standing with for the next forty minutes.

Christ, he hoped it wasn’t that Debbie.

Although, Jamie couldn’t see her actually getting her hands dirty with the work. No, no she was just the ‘brains’ of the experiment…

It could still be one of Debbie’s friends, though. Sent to harass and get on every one of Jamie’s last nerves…

“Busy?” That English voice that plagued Jamie night and day, sounded behind him.

Searching over his shoulder, Jamie found Claire standing there looking as bonny and fresh faced as she always did, with a silk scarf wrapped around her swan-like neck. A timeless white blouse covered her top half, sleeves rolled up to show off her forearms, and partially tucked into a pair of denim skinny jeans. Jamie had seen her wearing the same pair of jeans, or something similar at one of the football matches. He knew from past experience that the material clung to her body like a second skin.

If it was even possible, they made her arse look even more spectacular than it already was. And that was saying something.

“What on earth are ye doing here?” Jamie asked incredulously.

Claire moved to stand by his side.

Jamie was unsure what the protocol was here. He wanted to lean over and give her a kiss, on the cheek, or on her lips? But would Claire allow him to?

He was still making his decision, when Claire leaned over and planted a peck on his cheek.

She smelled delightful.

Like home.

Claire’s eyes sparkled as she spoke. “I’m working here.”

“Here?” Jamie repeated, not understanding. “At the cake stall? With me?”

“Yes, with you, you silly.” She giggled.

“Were ye supposed to?” Jamie paused, trying to recall the spreadsheet in his mind’s eye. “I’m sure I would have seen yer name if we were partnered up together and…”

“I traded.” Claire explained, as if it was as simple as pie. “Gary the electrician – do you know him?”

Jamie shook his head.

Claire batted her hand in the universal doesn’t matter expression “That’s okay, I think you’d know his face, if not his name. Anyway, I traded places with him in exchange for something he wanted.”

Jamie cocked an eyebrow. “And what was it that Gary wanted?”

Claire smiled at a passing customer. “A date with Geillie. I’m sure she’ll kill me when she finds out… But,” she shrugged. “It’s worth it.”

The corners of Jamie’s lips pulled up a millimeter. “Aye?”

“Of course,” she said. “I was supposed to be…”

“Maman!” Jamie hadn’t even seen Claire’s two bairns walk towards them, let alone start arguing. “Fergus tripped me up on purpose and I spilt my drink before I even got to have any and –”

Fergus protested at that, a polystyrene cup full of something, still in his hand. “I did not! Shut up, Faith!”

“Me, shut up?” Faith shouted back, her back foot itching to stamp petulantly. With nothing in her hands, her tiny fists balled up down at her sides. Jamie wasn’t even aware Faith had it in her to get angry or shout, but it was soon becoming apparent how wrong he had been thinking like that. “You shut your mouth you little shit –”

“Faith Julia!” Jamie thought Claire’s eyelid might be twitching, like on one of those exaggerated cartoons from when he was a bairn. “We do not use swear words like that, and you know it!”

She didn’t let out a wail, but it was something close to it. “But, Maman!”

“Fergus.” Claire turned to her son. “Did you trip your sister up on purpose?”

The lad chewed on his straw. “No.”

“Maman! He did!” Faith had walked to stand by Jamie at this point, around the counter of the stall. Her chest rose and fell in quick succession, two rosy red circles appearing on the apples of her cheeks in sheer frustration.

“Fergus.” Claire warned. “Tell me the truth, or no football next week.”

“You can’t do that!” Fergus declared.

Claire held her ground, arms crossed over her chest. It was completely the wrong time to notice that her position made the swell of her chest more prominent. Jamie quickly looked away. “Well, tell me the truth then and I won’t make you miss it.”

Fergus puckered his mouth up as if he were sucking on a lemon. “Fine.” He muttered. “She was annoying me.”

“Say you’re sorry to your sister, Fergus.” Claire prompted him, taking in a large breath like it would give her extra patience.

The bairn thought about disregarding his Mam for about a second, before the want to play football won out.

“I’m sorry, Faith.”

“Good, Fergus.” Claire nodded. “Now, Faith. Say sorry to your brother for swearing at him.”

Faith stared down at her feet, but mumbled, “Sorry, Fergus.”

It wasn’t the most sincere apology Jamie had ever heard, but what did you expect from a pre-teen and her little brother?

Claire held her hands out in front of her. “Right, all sorted. See? Do you want some money to buy another drink, Faith?”

“Ye can have the rest of my milkshake if ye want.” Willie piped up.

Jamie hadn’t even heard him approach. Where on earth was his head today?

Faith looked unsure, as if this were some sort of prank or jest that did not include her. She softened a little, when Willie held out the rest of his cup.

“What flavour is it?” She asked, nervously biting down on her lip. Jamie thought this might have been only the second or third time Faith and Willie had even really spoken to one another.

“Raspberry and white chocolate. It’s a little too sweet for me.”

Taking the cup from him, Faith peered inside to check how much milkshake was left and then brought the rim of the cup to her lips. She took a small sip, swallowing and then nodding. “It’s nice. But are you sure you don’t want the rest of it?”

“Nah, it’s okay.” Willie said flippantly. It might not mean much to him, to share and be polite. But Jamie knew it would mean a hell of a lot to Faith. “Ye can have it. Hey, Da? Can I have some change to try and win a goldfish?”

“Where are we gonnae put a goldfish?” Jamie began, but soon stopped. He would be on the losing side of the battle. “Never mind, aye, here ye go. Take Fergus, with ye.”

“Faith, are you going too?” Claire asked her daughter. “Or are you staying here with us, until we go get some food.”

She might have still been angry with her brother, but Jamie knew Faith still cared about him an awful lot. Enough to still follow him around and keep an eye on him.

It reminded him something rotten of Jenny.

“I’ll go with them and keep them safe until you’re finished.” Faith promised, slipping away from behind the counter and joining the lads to form a trio.

Claire propped her elbows along the counter and massaged her temples, as the three bairns walked along the way to one of the playing stalls.

“I think ye handled that quite well.” Jamie snorted.

Claire scoffed, peering up at him. “She gets more and more like me everyday.” As an afterthought, Claire tacked on. “I’ve really got to try and stop swearing in the house.”

“Faith picked that up from ye?” Jamie asked in disbelief, his cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. “I thought she learnt it at secondary school.”

“Don’t think so… In case you haven’t noticed I’ve got a bit of a pottymouth.”

“Och, no, I noticed.” Jamie jested. “How did you even ken Fergus was lying?”

“Faith never gets angry or shouts unless it’s something important.” Claire explained, finally taking her hands away from her face to look at Jamie properly. “I think you’ve guessed she’s pretty placid, always has been, even when she was a newborn.”

“Really? What about Fergus?”

“Oh, no, he was a little hellion.” She said, “Still is. My uncle always says it’s second child syndrome.”

Jamie had heard that saying a thousand times. He and Jenny were a perfect example of second child syndrome, Ellen could account for. He told Claire as such.

“It was made even worse by the hair.” Jamie carded his hand through his locks on instinct. “Jenny’s is like my Da’s. Nut brown. But everybody used to say I’ve got hair like the devil and I acted like one, as well. I stood no chance with Willie, did I?”

“Nope.” Claire popped her ‘p’. “Does Willie not have any of his mother?”

“I’ve seen a couple of Geneva’s mannerisms – ”

It felt too personal, even a decade later to use the nickname Jamie had coined for Geneva, or even the use of the word ‘her’. It was best to stick with Geneva’s given name.

“ – pop up here and now, mainly when he was younger, really. I think because he’s getting older, and he’s always surrounded by me and my family, he’s just picking up on our traits and mannerisms, ye ken?”

“That makes sense.” Claire agreed. “It’s his learning environment and the only one he knows.”

“Aye, exactly.”

Chapter Text

With his Sassenach by his side, the forty minutes of manning the cake stalls passed by in a blur. Jamie didn’t keep track of how many cakes, brownies and biscuits they’d sold, but he was quite happy with how heavy the fundraising bucket was growing.

Claire had pointed out some of stalls she’d liked last year; the one that sold handcrafted jewellery, the one with premade bouquets of flowers, the one with hand-poured candles and wax melts.

“Have you bid in the raffle yet?” She questioned Jamie, packaging up four different flavours of cakes into a box, and then handing it over to the paying customer with a sunny smile.

“Can’t say I have.” Jamie said. “Why? What’s on it? Anything actually good, or do they just say that, and then ye win and it turns out everything is…” he waited for the customer to leave, “shite,” he finished.

“Don’t let Debbie hear you say that.” Claire smirked. “No, there’s some pretty good stuff on it. You’ve got your usual things, like hampers and a bottle of wine. But I heard there were also a couple of spa days, day trips out for the kids, and the big prize is a two… or is it three nights? All paid trip to Paris.”

“Paris?” Jamie hummed. “How fancy. Are ye buying any tickets?”

“I think I’ll buy a few, I usually do.” She shrugged her shoulders “The money raised goes back into the school, and the surrounding community, so it’s for a good cause.”

“How about we buy some before we go get some food?” Jamie wondered. “On Friday, Faith mentioned this amazing pizza van that was here last year.”

“Oh, yes!” Claire exclaimed. “I forgot how good that pizza was, now you say it. Yes, it sounds like a plan.”

---

“Gosh, I’m boiling.” Claire exclaimed, as two new parents took their places behind the cake stall. Faith, Fergus and Willie had returned to their parents five minutes before the time slot was up, empty handed and without any bags of goldfish.

Jamie nodded to the material wrapped around her neck. “Take yer scarf off.”

On reflex, Claire reached up, messing with the silk edge. “It’s part of my outfit, I’ll just keep it on…”

“She’s said that all week.” Faith piped up, staring at her Mam with a confused expression. “It’s not cold Maman, and yet, you’ve worn a scarf all week.”

“I have not!”

Faith’s expression didn’t change. “You were wearing a turtleneck on Tuesday.”

“Hush.” She tutted.

Jamie thought Faith was going to say something else, but Fergus chose that moment to elbow his sister in her side and point out one of the stalls to her. The three bairns ran ahead, Faith’s hair flying out behind her.

Why are ye wearing that scarf?” Jamie walked close enough to his Sassenach to allow their fingers to skim one another with every well timed step. It was a small secret between just the two of them. “I ken ye like yer fashion sense, but I’ve never seen ye wear one before. And not in weather like this, Sassenach.”

Claire stared at the side profile of his face, letting out a soft sigh. “I’m covering the love bite you gave me on my neck.”

Jamie stopped still in his tracks.

“Eh?” He choked out, all saliva vanishing from his mouth.

“You heard me.” Claire flattened her lips in a straight line and raised her eyebrows. “Don’t act so coy now, Mr. Fraser, it doesn’t suit you. I don’t recall you being so coy on Saturday night. I’ve got to keep it covered up, otherwise people are going to start asking questions. Faith, in particular.”

Jamie pressed his tongue into the fleshy side of his cheek, allowing his eyes to rest on the scarf Claire had chosen to wear. The blush coloured material was light, and probably actually very sheer, if it hadn’t been for the amount of times Claire had wrapped it around her neck. She’d tied it off gracefully, like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, as if his Sassenach had stepped right out of an old Hollywood film set.

But if Jamie thought about it hard enough, he could imagine the way the bruise would look, the one he’d sucked into her skin at the side of her neck. It was nearly a week old, not fresh anymore, so the skin wouldn’t be red or even purple. It would probably be more green, perhaps a tinge of yellow around the edges as the cells healed themselves and returned to Claire’s natural skin colour.

A peculiar part of him wanted to unravel the scarf with his fingertips, right here, right now, and use the ball of his thumb to graze over the mark.

His mark.

Jamie had only seconds to ask her something, something to reassure himself with, before the bairns came back.

He stepped as close to her as he dared. Their jean clad thighs brushing one another, and the want to rip off Claire’s scarf more apparent than ever. “Do ye regret it?” He whispered.

The tip of Claire’s tongue darted out to wet her lower lip. Jamie knew what she tasted of now. How her lips tasted, slightly waxy from her chosen lipstick, and her tongue, with remnants of the last thing Claire had eaten or drank. How tangy and sweet her desire tasted on his fingers, on her own lips, as he’d smeared it all over her. Jamie knew now what his Sassenach tasted of, and it had only heightened his desire, his want, for her.

For her to be his.

“Of course I don’t regret it.” Claire’s eyes darted to the side, checking how far away the children were. “Do you really think I’d be switching places at the cake stall, and standing with you all day, if I regretted it?”

Jamie shrugged his shoulders, still feeling unsure. God, how he wished he didn’t, how he wished he could just believe Claire. But that just wasn’t the way his brain worked, not anymore, anyway.

His Sassenach’s voice was as clear as water coming from the Highland springs. It was as if she could hear the storm of tormented thoughts coming to life inside Jamie’s mind, and already knew what he was thinking and the reassurance he was looking for. “No, Jamie, I don’t regret it.” She breathed in fully enough for their chests to glide over each other, and her fingers toyed with his, hidden, shielded by their bodies. “Do you?”

“No… Christ, Sassenach.” Jamie grabbed Claire’s hand more firmly. “Of course not.”

“Good.” That smile of hers was back, the one that lit up her entire face. “Then, we’re on the same page, aren’t we? Let’s just…” She swallowed. “Just see where it takes us.”

“Why are ye two just standing there and not buying the raffle tickets?” Willie asked loudly, standing still at Jamie’s side. His eyes cut between Jamie and Claire, suspiciously. God, that lad had a terrible habit of sneaking up on people, even his own Da.

When Claire offered no explanation, Jamie said smoothly, dropping Sassenach’s hand as he did so. “We were just waiting for ye three, need to keep an eye on ye and all that.”

Willie nodded his head, but didn’t look certain. He cast a glance over at Faith whose, Jamie noticed, features resembled his own. At least Fergus appeared as uninterested as you could get.

In a bid to distract the bairns, Jamie started towards the busy raffle stall. Once he’d managed to squeeze himself in between parents with pushchairs and an elder gentleman, Jamie purchased five tickets for £2, as did Claire, from the short woman behind the counter.

With the bright red squares safely tucked into his back jeans pocket, the two adults and three bairns made their way over to the pizza van next. Two customers were already in the line, waiting to order, but Jamie didn’t mind. It gave him extra time to mull over the menu chalkboard and decide what he was going to have.

He heard Faith ask her Mam if they could share something again, to which Claire agreed.

Willie and Fergus had run off in search of a spare picnic table for all of them to sit on as they ate their food. As they waited, Claire sent her daughter over to ask if the two laddies were sharing a pizza, or if they wanted two separate ones.

“They said they’d share.” Faith puffed, running over from their spot at the clean picnic table, back to her Mam.

In the end, three pizzas were ordered – one ham, mushroom, and pineapple for Claire and Faith to share, one extra cheesy for Willie and Fergus to share, and one meat feast for Jamie to devour all to himself.

Jamie couldn’t resist opening up his box and stealing a slice as he, Claire and Faith walked across the field, over to the table. The triangle was still steaming hot, as Jamie brought the tip to his lips and took a bite.

Shit.” He moaned, chewing through the extra crispy stone baked base, and the chunk of spiced beef that had been on the top.

Claire shot him an amused look. “I take that to mean it’s good?”

He nodded. “Very.”

Thankfully, the weather above held up beautifully as the pizza slices disappeared one by one. Willie and Fergus had eaten their pizza in record time, and were already swinging their legs around, off the table, and asking to go on the Ferris Wheel before wee Faith could even start on her third slice.

“Be careful, you two.” Claire shouted at their backs, as they walked off towards the multicoloured wheel.

“Do ye not want to go on, Faith?” Jamie asked the lassie who had chosen to sit next to him. Compared to his size, Faith looked like a precious, little doll.

It wasn’t that Jamie wanted rid of her, he just supposed every bairn liked fairground rides, didn’t they?

Faith shook her head, swallowed down her bite and then answered politely. “Non, merci beaucoup. I like my feet firmly on the floor, where they belong.”

“Like mother, like daughter,” Claire joked, taking a sip out of her water bottle. “I can’t say I like them very much, either, my darling.”

“Cannae believe it.” Jamie shook his head in mock disbelief. “Ye don’t ken what ye’re missing out on.”

Claire scoffed, opening her mouth to retort but Faith got there first.

“Fine. But don’t come crying to us when you’re being sick on the side of the road, because that stupid ride –” Faith cast a glance over her shoulder at the Ferris Wheel in distain. “- has upset your tummy.”

Jamie just about choked on his last bite of pizza, as he inhaled too sharply, and laughed instinctively at Faith’s adult tone. The crust triggered his gag reflex, blocking his airwaves. That was, until a small hand beat the space between his two shoulder blades with some force.

Christ…” He retched.

Claire pushed her water bottle to him, sliding it across the table. “Right, that’s enough, Faith.” The beating on Jamie’s back stopped. “We don’t want to puncture one of Jamie’s lungs.”

As he took a couple slow sips of water, the urge to vomit subsided immediately. Jamie took a deep breath in, allowing the fresh air to fill his lungs and expand without anything trapped in the way.

“Better?” Claire asked, head tilted to the side as she scanned over his face for any other signs of distress.

“Aye.”

“I’m sorry, Jamie.” Faith said, apologetically, her tiny hand resting on his bare forearm. “I didn’t mean to -”

“Don’t ye worry.” Jamie assured her. “Ye sounded so like yer Mam, I couldn’t help but laugh. Ye’ve got a sharp tongue on ye lass, and an even harder whack.”

Once she was happy that she hadn’t choked him to death, Faith returned to picking a large chunk of cooked pineapple off of her current pizza slice. She said nothing else, but sent a sideways smirk to Jamie, secretly pleased with herself, as she watched his reaction out of the corner of her eye.

Why was it always the quiet ones that ye had to look out for?…

---

“Aren’t you excited to see what you’ve won?” Claire joked, as they stood side by side, amongst the growing crowd. To an outsider, nothing would be amiss, but Jamie could feel the hard press of Claire’s hip against his cushiony thigh.

Right near the entrance gate, a small podium had been built with a working microphone attached. Currently, Debbie was busy hyping up each and every prize available to win on the list, bouncing about on her corkscrew wedges as if she had ants in her pants.

Jamie lowered his voice to answer Claire, knowing she was only doing it to take the piss, but still not wanting anybody to overhear him. “Not really.”

“Don’t be such a spoilsport,” Claire tutted, knocking her shoulder into his.

Jamie’s heart soared at how easily Claire threw her affection around like confetti, whether it was at Jamie, or her bairns. Geneva had never been like that. If anything, it had been like getting blood out of a stone to try and get even a random hug out of her. Jamie could only imagine what Claire was like with her patients at the hospital; probably very understanding and supportive and…

Speaking of doctors…

“Hey, yer a doctor – “

“Surgeon,” Claire corrected him, amused. “But do go on.”

Jamie threw his hands in the air. “Sorry, surgeon. How much do ye think it would take to make Debbie’s fake tits pop? I mean… they look like they could detonate at any given moment. Don’t ye agree?”

Claire shot him a sideways glance. “A way with words you have.” She crossed her arms, shifting her weight to favour her right leg. “What are you doing looking, anyway?”

“Yer joking aren’t ye?” Jamie gestured to Debbie, who was still standing at the podium, as discreetly as he knew how. “I’m not looking on purpose, Sassenach. Ye cannae miss them.”

“Hmph.” Claire’s lower lip disappeared into her mouth, as she attempted to appear serious. But the laughter in her eyes gave her away. “To answer your very important medical question, I would say she’s probably fine. She’s quite obviously found someone to put the implants in, so as long as she takes good care of them and follows the rules… I can’t see it being an issue.”

“I ken ye’re the professional, between us two.” Jamie hummed. “But, I’m gonnae have to respectfully disagree with ye there, Dr Beauchamp. Those things look like they’re dangerous.”

Claire bobbed her head slowly. “Oh, they’d have your eye out, for sure.”

“Ye little…”

“Everybody!” Debbie spoke loudly into the microphone. “I think pretty much most people have gathered round, so I think it’s best if we start. Can ye all hear me? Right, good!”

It was probably only a few minutes, but Jamie felt like he’d been standing there for hours, as Debbie welcomed everyone for coming and participating in the fun.

“As I’m sure ye all ken, our Spring Festival is all for a good cause. And I’m excited to tot up our total at the end of today, and let ye all ken on next week's newsletter exactly just how much we have raised!”

More of Jamie’s precious time was wasted, as Debbie made a show of reading through a list of the prizes one more time.

“And last, but by no means least, we have our three night stay in Paris!” Debbie clapped her hands together wildly. Jamie wondered if she’d bought any tickets herself, or had she somehow managed to rig the system to make sure she won… Jamie wouldn’t put it past her.

“Now, I don’t want to give away too many details.” Debbie giggled, that blonde hair of hers not even budging an inch with every toss and shake of her head. “Those are strictly for the winner of course, but I can say, it will be a three night stay for two people over eighteen. No bairnies allowed I’m afraid.” Malibu Barbie winked dramatically, in a sordid type of fashion. “So just some adult-only time, in a luxurious five star hotel only minutes away from the Eiffel Tower… How does that sound?”

A few people at the front cheered and clapped, but it didn’t catch on.

Beside Jamie, Willie and Fergus were playing a secret game of rock, paper, scissors – no surprises there; neither lad could stay still for very long. But even wee Faith, who stood just in front of Claire and had more of an attention span than the boys, was shuffling her feet and braiding and then unbraiding her hair in boredom.

Claire caught Jamie’s eye. What could only be described as a mischievous smirk had taken over her face, and Jamie had to look away from her sharply, lest he burst out laughing. The laughter felt hot, starting in the base of his throat and traveling down into his stomach. Made all that worse by the thought of not being able to let it out.

Jamie felt like a schoolboy all over again. It was as if he had been caught messing about with his friends, and already warned twice about creating a distraction. But the urge to laugh just couldn’t be stopped. It started in his throat like the carbonated bubbles in a fizzy pop can.
The breathy snort Claire let out made everything all the worse.

“Will ye stop it,” Jamie whispered to her, lips twitching uncontrollably.

“It’s not me, it’s you.” She chatted back quietly, as if she were a teenager herself.

Debbie spoke louder than before into the microphone. “If everybody is still listening…” Busted. “If ye could all take out your red prize tickets. I will read off the prize, pick out a number from this bowl –” She held it up for emphasis. “ – and then if it’s yer number, can ye please raise yer hand? That way, we can see who has won and write yer name down. It’ll make everything easier when ye come to collect yer prize at the end of the raffle. Okay? Everybody understand? Right, good.”

Even if Jamie hadn’t understood, there was no time to ask Debbie to repeat herself. She was already off, reading off the first prize, (an at home gardeners starter kit) fishing out a number and writing down a name when the first person stuck their hand in the air.

More and more prizes were rattled off, until Jamie was sure only a few could be left. Surely, not everybody could win something. He certainly hadn’t won anything yet, and neither had Claire.

“A posh bottle of merlot worth £30 is up next.” Debbie announced. “And the winner is… number 434!”

Claire’s arm shot into the air.

“Ye lucky…”

“Congrats, Miss Beauchamp!” Unlike some of the others, Debbie didn’t have to ask Claire for her name, she already knew it off the top of her head. “For everybody that does not ken, Miss Beauchamp here, is our resident surgeon at the local hospital.”

A few people craned their heads to find Claire in the crowd.

“She works very hard, I think she’s very deserving of that bottle of wine.” Debbie continued. “Thank ye, Claire. Could ye wait in the line afterwards to collect yer prize. Next, we have…”

“Of course ye would win the wine.” Jamie said, once Debbie moved onto embarrassing the next winner.

“What can I say,” Claire moved her shoulders up and down. “I’m taking one for the team. If you’re nice to me, I might let you share it.”

“Och, aye, of course.” Jamie answered sarcastically. “I’m sure there will be loads left by time ye give me the bottle.”

She smiled back, coquettishly, with a slight flutter to her eyelashes.

“Two prizes left, everybody! We have our spa day for two adults still up for grabs, and our trip to Paris.” Debbie pronounced it as if she were French, Paree. But with a Scottish twang. Faith snorted, sounding exactly like her Mam, and then covered her mouth with her hands when she realised she’d let the sound be heard.

A woman standing off to the left hand side won the spa day trip. She squealed with delight as Debbie took down her name, already turning to her friend and asking if she’d come with her.

“Lastly, is the prize ye’ve all been waiting for. To make it as fair as possible, the numbers already called out will not have a chance to win the trip, as they’ve already won something else. But there’s always next year, aye? So, the winner of the stay in Paris is…” The crowd held their bated breath.

“Number 446!” Debbie called out. “Which lucky bugger has number 446?”

Fuck off.” Jamie couldn’t help himself from muttering as he gazed at the strip of five tickets still grasped in his hand.

“What…” Claire started, before following Jamie’s line of view and seeing the number Debbie had just called out, staring right back up at her in big, bold, black block letters.

“Number 446 are ye out there? If not, I’ll be more than happy to take it off yer hands.” Debbie joked, getting one or two low laughs.

With a shaking hand, Jamie inched his hand into the sky.

“Mr. Fraser!” Debbie shouted excitedly. “Are ye telling me ye have ticket number 446?”

It was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Charlie finds the golden ticket.

“Aye.” He said.

“Well, a massive congratulations to ye, Mr. Fraser! Everybody, give him a round of applause.” The clapping of hands around him sounded deafening. Willie bounced up and down on his toes, holding onto his Da’s arm in excitement.

Debbie closed the raffle, ending with another well practiced speech about where exactly the money would be spent, and how grateful the whole school board would be for everybody showing up. Jamie tried to tune into what she was saying, but that was rather hard to do, when his body felt like it was floating around up above.

Had he really just won a fucking trip to Paris?

“Da! Who are ye gonnae take?” Willie asked excitedly, dancing about on one spot. The lad couldn’t give a flying toss what else Debbie was spouting on about.

“Aren’t ye going to go?” Fergus questioned.

“No, you silly.” Faith rolled her eyes at her younger brother. “The two tickets are for adults only, Willie isn’t an adult.”

“Ye could take Grandma, or how about Auntie Jenny?” Willie was away in his own little land. “Wait, can Auntie Jenny fly or not with the bairn in the tummy?” He didn’t wait for an actual answer. “Or Grandda, he would go, wouldn’t he? But then who would look after the farm?”

The other people in the crowd were dispersing now, some of them headed for the other stalls trying to make the last of the festival before it shut up for the year. Others, mainly the ones with smaller, younger bairns, were pushing prams towards the exit barrier, shouting to friends about meeting up for coffee next weekend. The group of winners were lining up beside Debbie’s podium, as instructed, waiting to show their ticket and claim their respective prize.

Before they knew it, it was just the five of them left.

Faith spoke over Willie’s fast rambling. “Aren’t you going to take Maman?”

Claire’s head whipped from her daughter to Jamie so fast, he worried she might develop whiplash.

“I was thinking about it.” Jamie said to Faith honestly. He bent down to be more at her and Fergus’ level. “How would ye feel if I took yer Mam with me?”

“I would miss her, of course. But if she would like to go…” Faith looked up at her Mam. “You could even visit Auntie Louise! She might give you some of that tea I liked so much the last time, to bring home with you!”

“I can’t go see Auntie Louise without you, my darling.” Claire said. “I’d feel guilty and…”

“It would be okay, Maman. I don’t mind, this time around.” Faith assured Claire. “I can video chat with Auntie L, and we can make plans to go home again for Christmastime, can’t we?”

Home.

Faith still called her birthplace home.

“What about ye, Fergus?” Jamie turned his attention to Claire’s son. “Would ye mind me and yer Mam going to Paris for a couple of days?”

A typical Fergus answer left his lips. “No, not really.”

Jamie didn’t have to ask his own lad, to see if Willie would mind. He knew he wouldn’t. Willie would be more than happy to spend a few extra days with his Grandparents; filling up on junk food and staying up late, on days his Da would never usually let him do so.

Knees cracking loudly, Jamie placed his hands on his upper thighs and pushed himself back up into a standing position, turning himself into Claire’s side.

“What do ye say, Sassenach? Will ye come with me for a few days?”

Claire’s arms around his neck, her lithe body pressed up against his until there was virtually no room left between the two of them, was the answer Jamie wanted. The one he needed.

“Yes, Jamie.” She whispered, laying a secret, butterfly light kiss in the delicate skin behind the shell of his ear. “You don’t even need to ask.”

Chapter Text

“Have ye come to ask me to accompany ye to the city of love then, Mr. Fraser?” Debbie asked, fake eyelashes fluttering, while she held the white envelope containing Jamie’s two tickets and important information to her meaty chest.

Jamie laughed uncomfortably, his body not knowing what else to say or do. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Faith giving Malibu Barbie a dirty look.

Either she didn’t notice, or she didn’t care, but Debbie carried on. “Ye’ve still got time to decide, don’t ye worry, Jamie.” Those dangerous claws she called nails, reached out and wrapped around his bare bicep, where his t-shirt had ridden up. “I’ll just stand by my phone, shall I?” She let out a girlish giggle and waved about the paper envelope. “Anyway, everything ye’ll need to ken is in here. The flights are already paid for, generously, and are pre-booked for next Friday morning. That’ll mean ye get as much of the weekend as possible on yer getaway, before the flights home, which are booked for Sunday evening. We’ve even thrown in a paid dinner in the hotel restaurant on the Friday night, but anything else afterwards that ye want to do – sightseeing, any extra trips or dinners out – will have to be paid for by ye.”

With as much as thanks as he could muster, Jamie took the paperwork out of Debbie’s hand and safely into his own. It wasn’t that he wasn’t grateful, it was simply he couldn’t stand to stay and chat with Debbie for one more second.

Claire didn’t waste any time collecting her prize bottle of wine either. Jamie heard the low tone of her voice, as she said something to make Faith giggle, but he didn’t quite catch what she said and couldn’t risk asking while still in front of Debbie. Only God knows what had come out of Claire’s mouth.

As the bairns ran ahead, Claire resumed her usual spot beside Jamie. Wordlessly, they were leaving the festival behind and making their way towards the car park. “I thought she was never going to let us leave.”

“Tell me about it.” Jamie said, bravely linking his fingers through hers, in a silent message. “So… ye’re coming to Paree with me?”

“Don’t.” Claire laughed loudly, putting up the palm of her hand to make him stop. “I didn’t know who was going to laugh more, me or Faith. But, oui, I’m coming to Paris with you.”

“Will ye even be able to get the time off work?”

“I’ll figure something out.” She said, “I’m sure they’ll understand when I tell my boss the circumstances, but if not, I know I’ve got some holiday days I could take.”

Jamie nodded, glancing down at their swinging, joined hands.

“Are ye sure Faith and Fergus will be fine with ye and me going together?” He was worried. “I ken for a fact Willie is gonnae have a few questions for me when we get in the car, but…”

“I’ll have a talk with them together and then separately.”

“And what will ye tell them?”

Claire paused, taking time to think of her answer, before saying anything. “I’ll tell them the truth. That I like you and you like me, and we’re… we’re…”

“Seeing where things go?” Jamie supplied.

“Yes.” She agreed. They’d come to a standstill on one side of Jamie’s old truck. “I suppose other people don’t introduce their children to one another until they know they’re serious.”

Jamie smiled as his Sassenach talked. “Aye, but I’ve never done anything the way ye’re supposed to, Sassenach. As long as we’re happy and so are the bairns, then nothing else matters, does it?”

“No you’re right, of course nothing else matters.”

Jamie moved his thumb back and forth over Claire’s knuckles in a gentle caress as he watched her face. “Will I get to see ye before we get away or…?”

Claire admitted that she didn’t know what she was due to be working yet, but she’d keep Jamie in the loop throughout the week.

“I’ll have to start packing now,” Claire called through her open driver’s seat window, as she buckled herself into the car.

She’d let Faith and Fergus get in first, while she gave Jamie a peck on the cheek, acutely aware of the three watching children around them.

Jamie narrowed his eyes, hooking his hands onto the edge of the car door. The paint was hot under his hands after sitting in direct sunlight for hours on end. “We’re only going for three days.”

“What you don’t know yet, is I’m a terrible packer –”

“She really is!” Faith called from the passenger seat.

Claire continued on as if her own daughter hadn’t just insulted her. “- And I need options. Surely, you don’t want me to show up to our pre-paid dinner wearing a black bin bag, do you Jamie?”

“I guess not.” He smirked, pressing his body into the doorframe. “I do want a proper kiss, though, before ye go.”

“A proper kiss, you say?” Claire asked, hands still holding onto the steering wheel in a relaxed fashion, but craning her neck further out of the window.

“Ugh, they’re gonnae kiss!” Willie announced, disgust plain in his voice.

“Look away, lad.” Jamie instructed his son, allowing his eyes to close and his lips to glide over his Sassenach’s. He vaguely heard an exaggerated gag from behind, but Jamie was too preoccupied with the heat of Claire’s tongue, as she swept the tip of it across Jamie’s lower lip teasingly.

“There.” She pulled back enough to smile at him, before putting her foot down on the pedals and making the ignition of the car vroom. “I’ll give you a call. Have a lovely rest of your night, Willie darling.”

Willie bid goodbye back, but for the first time all day, Jamie detected an unsure tone in his voice.

After a couple hours of fun, Jamie and Willie were alone together, just Da and son, for the first time since the clock had struck noon.

“Come on, my lad.” Jamie rested his hand on Willie’s bony shoulder, holding the passenger door open to make it easier for him to climb inside. “We’ll have a chat, just me and ye, aye?”

Inside the car, Jamie waited until he heard the telltale click of Willie’s seatbelt in the holder, before putting the car into drive. He expected Willie to say something, anything, to ask a million and one different questions. But he didn’t. Instead, he remained deadly silent. The little lad who’d been so happy only minutes before, who had jumped about in excitement at his Da winning, was nowhere to be seen. It was as if he’d simply disappeared into thin air.

“Did ye have a good time today, Willie?” Jamie tried, taking his eyes away from the road for less than a millisecond to glance at his son. Willie sat with his knees knocking against the car door, as far away from his Da as he could get, his eyes trained to the outside scenery whizzing by.

Jamie felt the familiar feeling of uncertainty take hold of his bones. “Willie, lad?”

Still nothing.

Throat uncomfortably clogged, Jamie let out a long sigh in an attempt to calm down his central nervous system and hold back the overwhelming urge to vomit all over the place. His clothes felt too tight. Sounds Jamie had never noticed before; the ticking of his indicator, the whizzing of the cars on the dual carriageway, even his own breathing, annoyed him to no end.

For the first time in a very long time, Jamie dreaded going home. He wanted to continue driving until the sun had set, and the evening looked brighter.

Willie was unbuckling his seat belt, and jumping out of the truck, before Jamie could even bring the vehicle to a rolling stop. Legs, arms, body, mind, feeling like lead, Jamie watched out of the window, as Willie ran like a bat out of hell to their blue front door, whipped the mat up to find the spare key and forced his way inside.

Jamie didn’t expect to find his son waiting for him, or sitting at his spot at the kitchen table. Sure enough, Jamie heard the telltale signs of life inside William’s personal bedroom as he slowly untied his trainer shoelaces and left the shoes beside the still open door.

Feeling like he was close to losing control, Jamie automatically set the kettle to boil, thinking of making himself a strong cup of tea just as his Mam always suggested when something went awry.

By the time the hot water had been poured in the mug, and the tea bag set to steeping, Jamie had already forgotten it in favour of sitting with his head in his hands.

How had such a lovely day gone so wrong, so quickly?

What had he done to make Willie not want to speak to him?

Had it been him and Claire?

Jamie’s hands were already fumbling for his mobile phone before his brain could play catch up. The dial tone to Jenny’s number rang exactly twice until she picked up.

Wee Jamie appeared to be making a right racket on the other end, resulting in Jenny's, “Hallo?” rather muffled.

“Are ye busy?” Jamie wondered, not having the energy in him to make pleasantries or small talk – he was sure Jenny wouldn’t mind either way.

“No, not really.” She said, shushing Wee Jamie. Something rustled loudly, and it only took Jamie seconds to realize she’d moved into a different room to be able to hear her brother better. “I’m at home, do ye want me to come over?”

“Aye.” Jamie’s voice cracked. “Please.”

“Give me five minutes.” Jenny said swiftly, simply ending the call.

When it came to matters of her family, especially her brother, Jenny’s time management between what she said, and what she meant, became two completely different things.

It couldn’t have been more than three minutes, perhaps three and a half if Jamie was being precise, since they’d ended their shared phone call, and yet Jenny stood to her full height in Jamie’s kitchen. Her breathing came a little bit quicker than usual, and a flush had settled on the apples of her cheeks – making it apparent just how fast she’d walked across the grassy verge.

Jamie physically held back his flinch, as the chair Jenny pulled out from underneath the table, screeched across the floor loudly. She sat down with a large sigh, hands splayed and coming to rest on her bump, which was becoming more and more noticeable by the day.

“Are ye okay?”

“No,” Jamie mumbled truthfully, allowing his forehead to once again rest in his hands.

“What’s happened?”

“Willie’s not speaking to me.” Jamie spoke the words aloud, letting them sit heavy on the air.

He wasn’t sure what he expected his sister to say, but when Jenny didn’t say anything straight away, Jamie untucked his chin and risked a peek at her. The hands that had been resting across her rounded abdomen were now stretched out along the table, mere inches away from where Jamie’s elbows dug into the woodwork.

Just looking at them, those tiny workers' hands, which had seen more spilled milk and blisters from touching hot pans, made Jenny’s right pinky finger twitch reflexively.

Jamie took his sister’s hand in his own, larger and more calloused than the hers, as he swallowed thickly and said, “I’ve met someone.”

Almost comically, Jenny’s eyes searched her brother’s face, saying nothing. Eventually, she settled on a stuttered, “Wh- where… where at?”

“At Willie’s primary school.”

“Ye’ve met a woman at Willie’s primary school?” Jenny repeated slowly.

Jamie nodded his head, lips thinning out into a straight line. “Aye.”

“I…I…” Jenny breathed in sharply. “I… what’s her name?”

“Claire. Claire Beauchamp.”

“Claire.” Jenny said his Sassenach’s name after him, tasting the name in her mouth, seeing how the vowels formed upon her tongue. “Does she… I’m guessing she has bairns then.” Jenny let out a breathy laugh, one Jamie knew she only did when she didn’t ken what else to say. “Unless she's a teacher, in which case…”

“No, she has bairns.” Jamie flicked up two of his fingers. “Two, actually. A wee lassie, Faith, she’s twelve and Fergus, he’s the same age as Willie. The lads are in the same class and everything.”

“It’s serious then, between ye and Claire? It must be if ye’ve met her bairns…”

“We’re seeing where things go, trying to make things work.” Jamie bit down on his bottom lip. “But, I really like her. More than anybody else since… since…” He couldn’t even bear to say Geneva’s name, not in the same sentence as his Sassenach.

Jenny tipped her head down an inch, filling in the blank space of her brother’s story. “And does Claire feel the same way?”

“Aye, she told me she did.”

“So, Willie… does he think ye’re…”

“I don’t ken what Willie thinks, because he won’t speak to me.” Jamie blinked hard, twice, clearing his once blurry vision. “We were all having a nice time at that fucking spring festival and then…”

Jamie told his sister how the day had unfolded; how Claire had gone out of her way to swap her shifts, and while he spent time in her company, the three bairns had been content to sit and play and chat with one another.

“It all went wrong at the bloody raffle…”

Jenny covered her mouth with both hands as Jamie told her he’d won the trip to Paris. About how excited everybody had been, even Willie himself.

“I thought he’d be okay, I don’t ken why… I guess… I wasn’t thinking properly.” He admitted, gazing out of the open door. The evening had quickly drawn in, bringing with it a much colder air front than expected for this time of year, even up in Scotland. The last few birds chirped to one another, before they’d settled in for an early night. “I kissed Claire in front of him, high off excitement and selfishness and… Now he won’t speak.”

“It’s not selfishness to find yer own happiness, Jamie.”

“But I shouldn’t need anybody else, I have Willie and…”

“It’s okay to find more than one source of happiness, brother. I ken ye’ve gone a long time without a woman, but… Well, ye don’t love us any less than Willie and ye don’t love Willie any less than us. Ye can share yer love around, ye ken.”

“I’m scared, Jenny.” Jamie confessed, unable to meet his sister’s soft cornflower blue eyes. “I’m scared of Willie hating me for it, I’m scared of the change, I’m scared of being broken again and…”

Both of Jenny’s hands found her brother’s this time, holding onto him and squeezing tightly until he looked at her. “But ye’re not alone. Ye weren’t alone the first time, and if it happens again ye won’t be alone the second time, either. I’ll talk to Willie if ye want, or Mam will. Any one of us will have a chat with him if ye want. But all ye have to do is explain it to him, be honest with the lad. As for picking up the pieces… what happens if Claire is worth it? Have ye ever thought of that?”

“Of course I have, it’s just…”

“For too long brother, I’ve watched ye single yerself out. Distance yerself when things become serious. Not allow yerself to be truly happy. At first, I ken it was because Willie was too young, he needed all of yer attention.” Jenny shook her head gently. “But he doesn’t now he’s older, and ye ken that as well as I do. That’s what scares ye the most, that he won’t need ye, that he’ll leave ye like she did.”

The large pit was back, building itself up in Jamie’s stomach.

“But ye’re always gonnae be his Da, brother. Nothing will ever change that.”

If he glanced at himself in the mirror, or the front facing camera of his phone, Jamie imagined his eyes would be bloodshot beyond belief. “Do ye think it’s the thought of me and Claire going to Paris together that’s upset him?”

“No, Jamie lad. I think he’s afraid he’s gonnae lose ye to Claire and her bairns. That ye’re gonnae leave him like his Mam did.”

---

After sharing her opinion with Jamie, Jenny had stood up, fished the sopping tea bag out of the forgotten mug and thrown it away into the bin, hearing it meet the black bin liner with a splat. She took hold of the mug’s handle and poured the now cold, and rather unappetizing, brewed water down the sink, watching as it created a tiny whirlpool and disappeared down the plug hole.

Jenny busied herself with setting the kettle to boil for the second time, opening cupboards and hunting about for two suitable cups and finding where on earth Jamie had moved the sugar bowl to. On the outside, she might seem calm, cool and collected. But on the inside, Jenny was anything but.

‘I’ve met someone.'

It had been over a decade since Jenny had heard those exact words tumble out of her brother’s mouth.

She was as elated for him as she had been all those years ago, as Jamie introduced them all to Geneva. But now, more than a hint of concern and a dash of sisterly protectiveness took hold of her bones.

Jenny knew how her brother was, a hopeless romantic at heart, who wore his heart on his sleeve, even if he denied doing so. And yes, those were good qualities, but she didn’t want to see her brother hurt like he had been before – taken advantage of, ripped apart and then stomped on.

Jamie lifted his head up enough to mumble out a quiet ‘thanks’, as Jenny placed a cup of steaming hot tea down in front of him. She resumed the seat she’d taken before, wrapping her hands around her own mug for comfort and blowing over the top of the liquid to help it cool down faster.

“Go and see him,” Jenny prompted, after making sure Jamie had at least supped a couple mouthfuls of her tea. He nodded, silently agreeing with her. Jenny kept a close eye on him as he started up the stairs, feet eating up each carpeted step, until he rounded the corner at the top and vanished from sight. She was unable to make out exact words, but Jenny strained her ears enough to hear the opening of Willie’s bedroom door and the low intonation of her brother’s voice.

‘I’ve met someone.’

‘I’ve met someone.’

‘I’ve met someone.’

A someone who already had two bairns…

No matter how much he tried to hide it, Jenny had always known her brother wanted a larger family, more bairns to love and cherish and spoil.

Every night for as long back as she could remember, Jenny could recall diligently saying her prayers before she fell asleep. For the past ten years, Jenny could recall asking the Lord to gift unto her brother happiness. To gift to him a wife who would love him unconditionally, and be faithful to him until her dying day. To gift to him a chance to expand his family, in whichever way was meant to be.

And although she would never ask, Jenny suspected her Mam, Da and perhaps even Ian, asked the Lord for the very same thing.

‘The wee lassie is called Faith and the lad, Fergus.’

Faith and Fergus.

Faith and Fergus.

“Faith and Fergus,” Jenny repeated under her breath as she closed the front door, and then returned, once more to her seat. She interlaced her fingertips; taking up the prayer position she knew so well and bowed her head ever so slightly.

“Heavenly Lord, I thank ye for answering my prayer. May Claire, and her two bairns, Faith and Fergus be…”

---

“Willie? It’s Da.” Jamie spoke as he pushed open his son’s bedroom door and crossed the threshold.

The lad lay on his bed, head resting on his pillow and blanket covering his body, as if he were asleep. But Jamie’s fatherly instincts were flashing, telling him Willie clearly wasn’t.

When he didn’t complain, or shout, or tell his Da to get out, Jamie continued walking slowly across the floor. His knees bent as he took a seat at the end of Willie’s bed. Willie’s feet shifted out of the way, taking pains to not be squashed, and his eyelids cracked open at his Da’s presence.

“We’re gonnae have a little talk, okay?” Jamie allowed his hand to shoot out and smooth back Willie’s hair from his forehead. “Ye ken I love ye very much, my lad. So I need ye to tell me what’s bothering ye so we can tackle it together.”

Jamie wasn’t surprised that it took Willie a few minutes to sit himself up in the bed, and begin to talk. He may act and appear older than his age, but he was still a little bairn. One, who was still learning and understanding how to communicate with people on a daily basis.

“Is Claire yer girlfriend?” He asked.

Jamie paused to think about his answer, Jenny’s wise words of being honest with Willie, rang in his head.

“I haven’t asked her to be, no.” Jamie shrugged his shoulders up and down ever so slightly. “But I like her a lot, and I’d like for her to be in our lives.”

Willie nodded once.

“How would ye feel about that?” Jamie asked, staring down at his son’s small hand clutching the duvet cover. That small hand that had once clung onto Jamie’s pointer finger like it was his lifeline. That small hand which still sometimes slipped into Jamie’s on reflex, as they crossed a busy road, but soon he’d grow too old, too independent, to do.

Jamie choked back his tears, for fear of scaring Willie, at the thought of never being able to ken when the last time of holding his son’s tiny hand would be.

“Will ye love Claire more than me?” He whispered.

Jamie wasn’t sure how many tears he could physically hold back any longer.

“Never.” Jamie shook his head vigorously, licking his dry, cracked lips. “Never, ever ever ever.”

“What about… what about Faith and Fergus? Will ye love them more?”

“No, Willie. I can’t… I won’t…”

Jamie took a large deep breath to steady himself.

He took hold of both of Willie’s hands.

“I don’t ken what’s gonnae happen about a lot of things, Willie. Things completely out of my control. But I promise, through anything and everything, I’ve always got ye and ye’ve always got me. Nothing is ever gonnae change that.”

“Promise?” Willie whispered once more.

“Promise.” He squeezed his son’s hands as tightly as he dared. “Do ye… do ye like Claire and Faith and Fergus?”

“Aye.” Willie stared up at his Da, his little voice sounding so uncertain. “But will they be our new family? Will Claire be my Mam, and Faith and Fergus my brother and sister?”

“I don’t ken yet, Willie.” Jamie answered truthfully. “But would that be such a bad thing?”

The bairn shrugged, but Jamie knew it wasn’t a bad shrug. It was the type of silent answer one gave, when they didn’t want to say no, for fear of coming across too bothered, or caring too much.

“Sassenach and I are simply seeing where things go, okay? But I promise ye Willie, I won’t let ye get hurt, or… or… or… I will always protect ye, my lad. I will always be there for ye. I will always be yer Da.”

“I ken.” Willie shuffled down the bed, until he could easily curve his arms around his Da’s neck. Jamie tucked his son into his body, breathing in the scent of his hair, and the feeling of Willie’s warm body against his as they hugged. “I love ye more than anybody else in the entire world, Da.”

“Don’t let Grandma hear ye saying that.” Jamie tried to joke, but it came out rather wet and sniffled. “And I love ye more than ye’ll ever ken, Willie.”

Chapter Text

“You’re not an ill flyer, are you?” Claire asked, taking a hard seat beside Jamie at airport terminal number four. “Because I really don’t want you to be spending the flight vomiting all over me.”

Jamie glanced at her sidelong, raising an eyebrow independently. “Isn’t it a bit late to be asking me now?”

Claire shot him a ‘don’t get funny with me’ look, and said, “Are you or aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Thank God.”

Together, they’d arrived at their terminal in the allocated time with enough time to spare to not have to worry about missing their flight. Right after having sufficiently perused duty free until their heart's content, and also eating their body weight in the all you can eat breakfast buffet.

While Claire fussed about on her phone; most likely updating Geillis and making most of her air time before she had to put the device on airplane mode, Jamie leaned back in his seat and people watched. It only took a few minutes of staring into nothingness for Jamie’s mind to wander, as it so usually did when it wasn’t occupied.

A few meaningless problems cropped up in his head; how the sheep were faring today as it was sheep shearing day, whether the tomatoes in his greenhouse were going to have turned in colour by the time he made it back into the country, and if he’d remembered to pack aftershave in his suitcase, which would be rolling on a conveyor belt right about now.

But mainly concerns about Willie took center stage.

Late one evening in the middle of the week, a couple of days after Willie’s emotional outburst, Jamie had rung up Claire to tell her what had happened. Well, actually, he had rang her just to hear her voice. The two glasses of whisky Jamie had consumed before he’d dialed her number hadn’t helped matters, but they had loosened his tongue quite a bit. Before he knew it, Jamie had told Claire everything.

“We don’t have to go to Paris, if you don’t want to.” She’d said. “I don’t mind whichever way you choose, Jamie.”

“I ken ye don’t.” Jamie sighed loudly, enough to hear his own breath crackle on Claire’s line. “It’s just…”

“Do you want to take some time apart?” She’d asked quietly, sounding more morose than Jamie had ever heard, even more so than when she’d been upset at Fergus’ football match.

“No! Absolutely not. Not at all what I want to do, it’s just hard, ye ken…”

“I know…”

Neither of them said anything for a minute or so, until Jamie spoke up. “I don’t want to not see ye, Sassenach. Not at all. I’m keeping a close eye on Willie, so I’ll just… I’ll just see how he is.”

Not waiting for Claire to say anything else, Jamie changed the subject, “So, how much packing have ye got done?”

Claire had gone along with the subject change, and for the rest of the week, she’d hadn’t mentioned anything about it again. Jamie had a sneaky suspicion; she might be waiting for him to say something. But how was he meant to explain the trauma he had faced at Geneva’s hands which made him so apprehensive for their potential future together? Or even begin to explain how Willie was dealing with the trauma of never knowing his own birth Mam, and that it most likely contributed to his worries about his Da leaving him, or loving him any less?

“Jamie?” Claire sang song his name, placing her hand on his knee and squeezing. “Are you okay? You looked a million miles away.”

“Just thinking about Willie,” he explained, slipping his hand into Claire’s upturned palm.

“He’ll be fine,” Claire smiled reassuringly. “You text him in duty free, didn’t you?”

“Aye.”

Before he’d left for the trip, Jamie had sent Willie a text through Jenny’s phone, promising to ring him once he and Claire got off the plane on the other side, telling him to have a good weekend at Grandma’s and that he loved him very much.

“If anything’s wrong, we can get on a plane for home, earlier,” said Claire. “It won’t bother me.”

Jamie kept his eyes trained on their interlocked hands, noticing the trimmed cuticles of Claire’s neat nails. For their trip, she’d painted her nails a light pink, something classy and ladylike, which made her look even more polished. Jamie wondered if her toes would match.

He looked up enough to gauge Claire’s raw reaction, as he asked, “How did Faith and Fergus react?”

Claire chewed on her lower lip in thought. “Pretty much the way they did at the festival. Fergus truly wasn’t fussed either way. Faith…? I don’t think she was as upset as Willie, but it’s still different for her, you know? She hasn’t really had a man around, or a father figure for most of her life, so I think having you close is just a bit of a change for her.”

Jamie hummed in agreement. There wasn’t much he could say to that. He might still not know what exactly had happened between Claire and the bairn’s Da, but Jamie suspected a walk out of sorts. Something Geneva probably would have done, if she’d still been alive to see Willie’s first month.

Jamie and Claire were able to share a few more moments of silence, and then the small bus was arriving, to carry the passengers from the airport terminal, towards the plane that sat on the gray tarmac. Whoever had been in charge of booking the plane tickets had obviously paid extra for Jamie and Claire to sit together. Something Jamie was extremely grateful for as soon as the seatbelt sign flashed above his head.

Ahead of him, the air hostesses were performing the usual safe exit dance, showcasing how to put on imaginary oxygen masks and how to blow up a standard life jacket that was hidden underneath the seats. The plane hadn’t even begun to shake to life, before Jamie was gripping both of the arm rests for dear life.

“I thought you said you weren’t an anxious flyer?” Claire mumbled, quite clearly confused, but taking Jamie’s hands in hers anyway.

“I said I wasn’t an ill flyer.” Jamie repeated himself through gritted teeth. “Not that I’m not anxious, in fact, I feel like I could shit myself at any time.”

Claire snorted through her nose, those skilled hands of hers, rubbing tiny circles onto his calloused manual labour skin. Jamie guessed it was supposed to be soothing, but it wasn’t helping his accelerating heart rate.

“Is it all of it you hate or…?”

“I’ll be fine once I get up.” The plane was gaining speed, front wheels beginning to lift off and tuck underneath in the hidden compartment. “Talk to me, Sassenach.”

“About what?”

“Anything.” Jamie pleaded.

“Erm…” Claire stuttered, flustered, as her mind whirled to find something on the spot. “Did I ever tell you why I called Faith, Faith and Fergus, Fergus?”

Jamie shook his head, concentrating on breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth as Jenny had taught him the first flight they’d ever taken as teenagers.

“Well,” Claire began. “I had a really traumatic birth with Faith. Back and forth, in and out of the hospital in France, I thought I was going to lose her a number of times. I’d never been that devout before, but I started talking to God…higher power, the universe, whatever you want to call it. I would ask over and over again for her to be delivered safely to me and… then she was. I chose her name because I kept my faith and my prayers were answered.”

“Sassenach…” The back wheels were off the ground now, the body of the plane at an unnatural angle as if ascended into the clouds.

“Frank chose Fergus’ name,” Claire carried on as if Jamie hadn’t spoken, tracing the tiny lines of Jamie’s knuckles now. “Both Frank and I were born in England… I think I’ve mentioned that before, haven’t I?”

Jamie nodded, even though he couldn’t really remember either way.

“But Frank had a friend who lived just outside of Inverness, Reverend Wakefield he was called. I only met him a handful of times, but he was always a lovely man.” Claire took a hold of her tiny bottle of water that the air hostess had given out before the flight began, and allowed a sip to trickle down her throat. “Anyway, once Fergus had been born, Frank sent a letter to Reverend Wakefield telling him of his birth. We still hadn’t picked a name by then, so as a joke, Frank asked the Reverend to suggest something. In his letter back, he suggested Fergus and it just stuck. It sounded right when I looked at this squalling pink bundle in my arms.”

“Perhaps ye always did ken ye’d come back?”

“Perhaps.” Claire traced the sharp line of Jamie’s jaw, where a thin layer of stubble had grown. “Well, Faith, Fergus and I, at least.”

True to his word, Jamie was indeed ‘alright’ by the time the plane had steadied out and the seatbelt sign was turned off. He wasn’t feeling that amazing by any standards, his nerves still jittery and stomach still slight on the turn, but he was okay enough to make it through the hour and a half flight. Claire’s presence beside him was the only thing making Jamie feel semi-human. He focused on the soothing tone of her voice, as crisp as fresh water flowing straight out of the spring. The calming scent of her signature perfume, which he smelt strongly each time she touched his face, and the pressure point of her wrist came closer to his nostrils. The feeling of her soft skin against his as Claire paid attention to any bare skin Jamie had on show; his hands, his forearms, the back of his neck.

With his Sassenach beside him, Jamie was sure he’d be fine.

He’d be fine.

Now all he had to deal with was the descent down…

---

“The name is Fraser, you say?” The French girl, acting as concierge, asked for the fourth time.

“Oui,” Claire repeated, one of her hands resting on the cold metal handle of her suitcase, and the other on the top of the desk.

The two of them had thought it best for Claire to check in. What with her being fluent in the language and all, and with Jamie having a very strong foreign accent, which was going to be hard to understand. However, even with Claire’s French accent and knowledge of the language, something was quite clearly wrong on the hotel’s end, because he and Claire had been standing in the lobby for the last ten minutes, desperately trying to check into their pre-booked room.

The young lass held up her finger, muttered something in French that Jamie didn’t quite catch, and toddled off into the back room.

While they waited, Jamie glanced around at the hotel he’d be staying at for the next three days. Certainly, no expenses had been spared when the place had been booked for the winner of the school raffle. Debbie had promised the hotel was only a few minutes walk away from the Eiffel tower, but Jamie hadn’t quite believed her. That was until the taxi that had picked him and Claire up from the airport, sped along a tiny side street, and parked outside of a grand hotel with shiny gold awnings, the famous Paris landmark sitting right in front of them.

Inside, the gold trim had continued, with cream furnishings to match. Beneath his feet, the black and white checkered floor was so shiny, Jamie could almost, just almost, see his own reflection staring back at him. Vases full of decorative white and light pink roses sat on any available shiny surfaces, contributing to the scent surrounding Jamie. He couldn’t say exactly what the scent was, but whatever it may be, it smelled rich and powerful.

Surprisingly, the noise from outside couldn’t be heard in the lobby. Only once or twice did the tiny street sounds filter into the room, as the two well-dressed doormen doffed their bowler hats and held the door open. Something that was much louder, however, was the low hum of chatter and tinkle of china. Jamie suspected there might be some sort of lounge situated around the corner from the lobby, tucked away to give paying residents some privacy to enjoy one another’s company, and read the daily newspaper in peace.

The concierge was back, fingers flying across the computer keyboard in front of her, as she spoke rapid French to Claire.

“Un moment,” Claire said to her, turning to look over her shoulder at Jamie.

“She says she’s really sorry - ”

Jamie had caught the word ‘désolé’ but everything after that had been gibberish.

“ – for the inconvenience, but the power’s gone out in the room they were scheduled to give to us, and they have no idea when it’ll be back on. All of the upgraded suites are gone, but she can give us another room with a complimentary bottle of champagne in exchange. Will that be okay?”

“Aye.” Jamie chuckled, more to himself than anybody else. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Claire held his gaze as she explained further. “The original room had two beds, this one only has one king sized.”

Oh.

“I…I’m fine with that.” Jamie swallowed roughly. “If ye are, Sassenach?”

She didn’t answer, but rather turned back to the concierge and said, “oui, nous allons le prendre.”

The girl behind the desk smiled gratefully, and even though Jamie didn’t speak a lick of French, he had his answer. After the initial confusion had passed and everything sorted, it only took a matter of minutes for a bellboy to arrive, loading their two suitcases onto his cart, and promising Claire that he’d place their luggage inside.

As he disappeared down the corridor and to the left, Claire held up two white key cards for Jamie to see. “We’re on the eighth floor.”

“That’s fine. Do ye just want to keep the cards in ye’re bag, to keep them safe?”

“Are you sure?” Claire asked. “I would have thought you might want to lie down for a bit after the flight?”

“No.” Jamie scrunched up his face in disagreement. “Don’t feel too bad now, get some food in me and I’ll be braw again.”

“I know this little place down the road,” suggested Claire. “Well, it used to be down the road, not sure if it is now, but we can still try if you want?”

“Aye, Sassenach.” Starting back towards the glass doors, Jamie held his arm out behind him, hand turned upwards and fingers twitching in a ‘come here’ gesture. He couldn’t help but sigh a little in happiness when Claire’s fingers slipped into the space between his. “Let’s go see if yer little café’s still there.”

---

The little café was no longer there.

“Not really all that surprising,” Claire said, still holding on Jamie’s hand, but tilting her head up to see the quaint bakery that had taken it’s spot. “I mean it has been years since I visited.”

Jamie squeezed Claire’s hand twice. “Do ye fancy still going in and getting something to eat? This weather’s scorching, we could find a bench somewhere?”

Scorching was an understatement. Jamie wasn’t sure of the exact temperature, but it was certainly a lot hotter than Scotland had been when they’d left it behind. As a farmer, he wasn’t a stranger to working in all weather, but Scotland didn’t get direct sunlight, like the one heating up Jamie’s bare lower legs as they stood to the side of the pavement. Usually the direct sunlight at home was watered down, with a hint of wind in the air, coming from the highest point of the remote highlands. If Jamie wasn’t careful, he’d be burnt to an actual crisp before the weekend trip was even over.

As if she’d read his mind, Claire smiled over at him, pointedly looking at Jamie’s bare forearms. “I know a small place we can sit at, and I’ve got some spare sunscreen in my bag. I thought I was the one going to need it, what with the English fair skin and all, but I think you’re going to need it more than me.”

“How are ye always so prepared, Sassenach?” Images of Claire pulling out spare towels for the lads at their rainy football match, the clean pair of shoes in her car boot, that handbag of hers, which seemed never ending in the amount it could hold, filtered through Jamie’s brain quickly – joined now by the bottle of sunscreen she just happened to have on hand.

“I haven’t always been,” she laughed. “I used to be a bit of a scatterbrain, all over the shop. But that all changed when Faith was born and suddenly I had, what appeared to be, a thousand and one things that I needed to carry with me on a daily basis. I guess I just started keeping extra bits and pieces lying around as they grew up, and they’ve always turned out handy in one way or another. So…” Claire shrugged her shoulders.

It sounded to Jamie, that motherhood had come quite easily to Claire. A learning curve for all parents, of course, but Claire seemed to have sailed through rather smoothly. Unlike Jamie, who had clung to the rocky waters for a handful of years, until he eventually learned some sort of knack.

On the steps above them, a man entered out of the bakery door, holding it open for the wee lad that trotted out behind him, carrying some sort of sandwich. With the fear of the flight still fresh in his mind, and the fuss with the hotel, Jamie hadn’t gotten around to texting Willie yet. He would need to do so as soon as he and Claire sat down in her chosen spot.

Jamie was quite surprised to see that the outside of the bakery didn't do the inside justice. The shop itself was tiny, with two glass counters lining one wall and taking up the majority of the space. Three small tables covered the other side of the wall, each with two chairs tucked underneath, and all occupied by someone or other.

A heavy set woman standing behind the first counter, which boasted all sorts of deli meats and salad ingredients, rested her hands on her plastic apron covered hips and directed to Claire, “Puis-je aider?”

“On regarde juste le moment,” Claire replied back impeccably, pulling Jamie back until his back met the white washed wall and he stood out of the way of any passing customers who knew exactly what they wanted to eat.

The woman nodded her head silently, reaching forward into the deli counter, pulling out a large wheel of crumbly cheese and proceeding to cut it into thin slivers.

“What do you fancy?” At the sound of his Sassenach’s question, Jamie tore his eyes away from the sharp knife currently in use, and followed Claire’s eyes, which were resting on the menu boards written on the wall behind the deli counter.

“I’m not sure yet, what were ye thinking?”

“Probably something light,” she suggested. “We’ve got our complimentary dinner tonight, remember?”

“Aye, Sassenach, at half nine tonight,” Jamie laughed low down in his throat. “I’ll have wasted away by then.”

In the end, and after a hushed argument between the two of them, Jamie paid for the fresh looking caesar salad Claire had picked out, and his own chicken salad baguette with two packets of crisps for them to share.

It took only a matter of moments for the woman working there to whip up their food. Picking up a large plastic bowl with an attached lid, she added in a couple handful of romaine lettuce, more than enough diced grilled chicken, a tiny amount of thin bright green chives, drizzled all of it in a homemade white dressing, and then dashed a pinch of cheese onto the top. Pulling out a brown paper bag from underneath the counter, she placed the salad bowl into the bag first, adding two plastic forks wrapped into square napkins on top. Two packets of organic crisps were added into the mix, before she moved onto making Jamie’s sandwich. Baguette cut in half; lettuce, succulent chicken strips, onions, cheese and sauce were all tucked inside the bread. It too, was wrapped up in greaseproof paper and napkins.

“Do you want something from the bakery counter?” Claire asked, once Jamie had handed over a bunch of Euros and hoped it was the correct amount. Her head tipped towards the second counter that took up space in the back of the shop, showcasing a large amount of golden delicacies.

“Aye.” Jamie pocketed the two coins in change that was given back to him, and grabbed the brown bag by the handles. “I’ll wait outside while ye pick something, and it can be a surprise.”

He’d only been on the street by himself for a matter of seconds, before Claire was back, bounding down the stairs and looking extremely happy with herself. Another much smaller, brown paper bag, dangled from her own fingertips. Taking the large sunglasses out of her hair, she slotted them back onto her face and intertwined their hands together once more.

She started back down the street they’d come from, but instead of tracing their exact steps back to the hotel, Claire took a detour to the left, sidling through two different high rise buildings. Jamie was more than happy to let her take the lead, his footsteps in time with Claire’s, as his head craned in both directions to take in as much of his surroundings as possible.

A couple of minutes later, the buildings began to level out, until well trimmed and quite obviously well kept green grass took over. Groups of people sat on the grass in clusters, some eating, some reading, and some laughing loudly.

“Look.” Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand; yanking his attention away from the people enjoying the light May sunshine and up, up, up to Paris’ most notorious landmark.

The Eiffel Tower.

It towered above everything and anything, even the Seine, which flowed along beside it, the tiny wave currents highlighted by the sun.

“I thought we could sit here,” Claire gestured to the greenery around them. “In the sun for a little bit, maybe catch a bit of a tan if I’m lucky.”

“Aye, sure.” Jamie chuckled, crossing his legs and coming to sit down upon the freshly mowed earth. “Ye can catch a tan till yer heart's content, Sassenach. While ye do it, I’ll need ye to pass me that sunscreen ye mentioned.”

Chapter Text

“How do ye feel about being back in France?” Jamie asked, watching his and Claire’s joined hands swing in front of them, as they walked.

After finishing up their food, basking in the sun like cats (well, Claire at least) and applying copious amounts of sunscreen to Jamie’s bare skin; where he felt like the delicate red hairs covering his forearms, were already beginning to singe off – they’d decided to make the most of the rest of their day and have a walk about.

Large numbers of people had had the same idea; many were tourists, who leaned against the thick metal railings built into the river banks, in order to get a closer look and that perfect picture. Others, however, were walking with purpose, either back towards work and an important meeting, or dressed in bright running gear with the idea of getting their daily step count in.

Claire’s neck had been turned to face the fast moving river Seine, but at the sound of Jamie’s question, she twisted to see his side profile.

“It’s strange, very strange.” She admitted. “I keep expecting somebody I used to know to pop out of the bushes or something.”

She’d tried to pass off the last part as a joke, but Jamie had been able to hear just how much she meant it, in her tone.

“Is that a good or a bad thing?”

“Both,” answered Claire. “I rang my old friend, Louise. Faith always calls her Auntie L,” she giggled, looking at Jamie expectantly. “She’d love to see us on Sunday morning before we leave for home again, but I understand if you don’t want to or -- ”

It felt natural, too natural almost, as Jamie pulled Claire into his body and kissed the side of her temple. “If ye want to, we’ll go on and see her. Anybody else ye want to go and visit, Sassenach?”

“No, I wouldn’t even begin to have a clue where Master Raymond resides now.” Claire stared back out at the river. A trio of tourists were posing for a photo, the arm on the man on the left, stretched out widely to fit everybody into frame. “He was the gentleman I worked for, part time at a pharmacy, while I studied for my doctorate.”

Jamie sidestepped a jogger, who mumbled something in French that Jamie chose to ignore. “When was the last time ye saw him?”

“Gosh,” Claire sighed. “I went to see him to tell him I was leaving, and for good this time. Faith would have been around seven, so Fergus must have been four, coming up to five. I tried to send a few letters to him when I returned to England, but I was told he could no longer be found at his original address, and I had no other contact information for him.”

“What do ye mean leave for good? Leave yer job?”

“Hm?” Claire had been busy watching a flock of seagulls take their perch on the railings and squawk noisily, downing out Jamie’s question.

“What do ye mean leave for good?” Jamie repeated. “Leave work, or --”

“No, I’d left that job by then,” she explained. “I meant leaving… Frank.”

“But… so… ye and the bairns,” Jamie stuttered over his words. “…ye mean ye’d try to leave before?”

Claire’s attention was back on Jamie, those full lips of hers flattening. “Yes. I attempted it perhaps three or even four times, before I eventually plucked up enough courage.”

Jamie couldn’t help but ask. “W-why did ye --”?”

“Why did I leave?” She said, “Frank and I stopped seeing eye to eye, enough for things to turn pretty ugly around halfway through our relationship. I lived in denial of his betrayal for a very long time, trying to tell myself I was happy, you know?” Jamie swallowed hard, nodding. Up ahead, he noticed a small van selling icy cold drinks. Suddenly his mouth felt like the desert. “I had a job, I had money, I had a roof over my head with warmth and I had my two babies. But in the end, I just couldn’t take it any more.”

“His betrayal?”

“The other women,” Claire nodded, using her spare hand, which only two hours before had held a brown paper bag containing delicious chocolate and hazelnut croissants as their surprise shared dessert, to fiddle with the backs of her diamond studded earrings. She’d stopped walking; tucking herself into a stone made alcove, which bent inwards to follow the bend of the river. Jamie stood in front of her, protecting her, as he took the brunt of the wind current coming from the rather murky water.

“I don’t think I ever told you, but I was very young when I met Frank. Probably too young, in fact. But I thought I was grown up, old enough to know my own head and what I wanted, what I deserved. We were never married, Frank and I. I remember asking about that, a couple of years later, both Faith and Fergus were born by then, and he spouted off some lie about waiting till the children were older so that they could be a part of the ceremony. It was all a bunch of shit.”

Jamie reached out to hold onto Claire’s elbows from where she’d crossed them over her body, the sharp points digging into the meaty flesh of his palm. He’d seen her do the same thing before when she felt the need to protect herself. “Claire, ye don’t have too…”

“He was a selfish man, Frank. Not cut out to be a husband, let alone a father.” She spit out. “Always much too busy to spend time with Faith and I, or annoyed at the crying she made in the night when she was hungry.”

Invisible creatures crawled over Jamie’s skin as Claire talked, making his whole body shiver. A flash of red hot unmistakable anger, landed in the pit of Jamie’s stomach.

Claire spoke so simply; it was as if she was enquiring about the weather above. “I found Frank cheating on me when I was pregnant with Fergus. He said he was sorry, and promised he wouldn’t do it again, but of course he did. It made me feel unwanted, unloved… After the fourth or fifth mistress… I- I left.”

“Did Frank not try to stop ye, or the bairns at least?”

“No,” Claire shook her head. “We weren’t what he wanted by then. I served him custody papers a year down the line, after I’d moved back to Oxfordshire, and just like that, he sighed sole custody over to me without a fuss.”

“I ken it’s not exactly my place, Sassenach, but Frank sounds like a right knobhead.”

Claire snorted unexpectedly, bringing a small smile to both of their lips.

“I’m sorry for dumping it all on you like that, and being a downer and…”

“Don’t be sorry, Sassenach. Ye’re not dumping anything on me, or being a downer.” Jamie argued. “Being here is gonnae bring things back up for ye.” His eyes skirted the horizon beyond. “Anyway,” he returned his gaze back to Claire. “I like getting to ken ye better.”

“I like getting to know you better, too,” Claire agreed, taking a miniscule step forward, allowing their chests to touch without arms, elbows, or hands being in the way. “You know what else I’d like to know?”

“What, Sassenach?”

The tiny appearance of the tip of Claire’s tongue as it whetted her lower lip, was enough for Jamie’s brain to feel as if it were short circuiting. “If you kiss as good as I remember, or if it was all some sort of fever dream.”

“A fever dream, aye?” She might have been teasing, but Jamie wasn’t one to so easily let her win. “Does that mean ye think of me in ye’re dreams, then?”

“Maybe,” she answered coyly. “My answer depends on whether I star in any of yours.”

Jamie ducked his head, purposefully bringing their faces together close enough for his lips to ghost over hers, as he whispered. “Aye, more than I can count, Sassenach.”

The sound of Claire inhaling sharply played like a loop in Jamie’s brain, even as he laid his lips upon hers for the first time in over a week, tasting the chocolate flavour sitting on those lips of hers from their shared meal. Those arms of hers reached up to twist around his neck, locking him into place. That wicked tongue tangled with his as she moaned into Jamie’s mouth, who swallowed it down happily.

“As good as ye remember?” Jamie asked, unable to resist one more chaste peck, before he rested his forehead against Claire’s.

“Better,” she told him, smiling toothily.

---

The tired feeling taking over Jamie’s body, couldn’t be described as jetlag, surely not? The flight to Paris from Scotland had been less than two hours, perhaps enough to fuck with his body clock a little, but not enough to feel as exhausted as he did.

Without realising, the first full day spent in Claire’s company had run away with itself.

They’d walked for hours upon hours. So much so that when Claire suggested heading back to the hotel for a much needed nap for Jamie (perhaps she must have seen his drooping eyelids) and a bath for herself, the two of them had to board two different tourist buses to get back to their original starting position.

Two doormen, dressed head to toe in black formal attire, which Jamie thought they must have been sweltering in, opened the glass double doors for them again with a pointed smile and a ‘bonsoir’. This time around the reception area, not even a concierge sat behind the desk, waiting. As Jamie rounded the corner just a step behind Claire, in the direction of the glass lifts, he saw his earlier wonderings about a lounge area had been correct. From just a quick glance, Jamie could only see three different patrons occupying the plush looking sofas; one busy typing away at his phone, another reading a tome looking book and a third, fixing his drink that sat on the low mahogany coffee table in front of him.

The ride up to the eighth floor was incredibly smooth, no jolting or jarring of the lift as it glided upwards. Instead of a silver metal box being built, the hotel had decided to install glass lifts, making it accessible to see the horizon and far away sights as you travelled past the lower floors.

Again, Jamie noticed as he and Claire stepped out of the lift side by side, the hotel corridor was decked out in the continuing gold and cream detailing. The carpet underneath Jamie’s trainer covered feet was so plush, it sank and bounced back ever so slightly as he followed behind Claire, who was busy counting the numbered doors until she found the one assigned to them for their stay.

“Here.”

Claire had stopped outside of room number 404, as she rummaged around in her handbag for the white plastic key card. Upon finding it, she held it up to the scanner underneath the door handle, until it flashed green and then pushed the door open with a flourish.

As posh as the hotel might be, with their five star reviews and helpful staff, a hotel bedroom was always just a hotel bedroom. Unless, you were very well off indeed, and could afford to buy one of those rooms, with a sitting area and kitchen.

Jamie, unfortunately, was not one of these people.

The open plan area widened out to reveal a clean and freshly made bed, which took center stage, flanked by two bedside tables with lamps sitting atop. A large window sat directly in front of the bed, covered by a pair of gossamer looking curtains. Jamie drew them back in excitement, finding the backdrop to Paris staring right back up at him. A warm breeze kissed the side of his face, as he threw open the windows and clicked them onto their latch.

Claire emerged from the bathroom hidden away in the corner, just as Jamie was about to call on her to come and see.

She skirted her away around the edge of the bed, before sitting herself down on the edge of the mattress, and pulling Jamie down to do the same.

As if answering some silent question that Jamie had on the tip of his tongue, the Eiffel tower winked in the pink toned, golden sunlight.

It might have taken all day to sink in, but he was actually here.

Jamie Fraser was actually in Paris, sitting with the woman of his dreams, while the sun warmed his shins comfortably.

For the first time in a long time, his brain quieted down.

He didn’t have to be here, there and everywhere, sorting out a million and one problems that called his name.

This was enough.

Sitting here was enough.

Slinging his arm over his Sassenach’s shoulder, Jamie allowed his body to stretch out fully, pulling Claire with him. They landed on top of the feather down duvet with a hollow sounding thump.

“What are you doing?” Claire giggled, as Jamie wriggled about in an attempt to move further up the bed and get his head on a pillow, without having to actually get up. Not his most alluring of moves, but it seemed to be doing the job.

“There,” Jamie sighed, as his head hit just underneath the pillow. His feet might still be dangling off the edge, but Jamie couldn’t find it within himself to care. Not when Claire snuck her hand up under his t-shirt to hold his bare skin and snuggled herself further under his arm.

“This is nice.” Jamie breathed into the top of her head.

“It is,” Claire agreed. “But I still really need a bath to wash off the plane germs before dinner.”

“Do it later.”

Feeling brazen, Jamie slid his right hand down the flank of Claire’s body, cataloguing the curve of her breast against his palm, but bypassing it entirely to land somewhere else. That light blue poodle skirt she’d worn; one, for comfort on the plane, and two, for comfort when walking around, molded to her waist and then flared out around her legs. But Jamie knew what was hidden under there.

She choked out a laugh, already guessing his destination, as he pinched some fabric between his thumb and forefinger, and then began to bunch it up.

“Jamie… someone could see…”

It was true; their open hotel windows faced another set of windows, perhaps in another hotel, or an apartment block. But Jamie wasn’t bothered. He was too happy, too content, and too warm to care. He’d waited long enough for this moment.

“I’m really not that bothered,” he answered; fingertips meeting a silk material, which he guessed must have been her slip. “Are ye, Sassenach?”

Skin.

Bare skin met bare skin.

Calloused palms met soft and supple.

“Jamie,” she whined, voice sounding high but muffled into his chest, as she shifted to press more of her thick flesh into his palm.

Jamie’s cock grew heavy between his legs, lying against his inner thigh, pulsing. His left hand twitched, from where it lay down by his side, wanting to… to… to…

Heaviness weighted against Jamie’s eyelids, making them close of his own accord. The breeze from outside was back, bringing with it a scrumptious scent of strong coffee. Voices, it sounded like three or four, drifted up to Jamie’s ears – whatever they were saying, completely unintelligible, but the sing-song melody of their voices, soothing nonetheless.

“Stay, Sassenach.” He managed to mumble out, lips feeling like lead. “Just for a little while.”

For a second, Jamie thought Claire might have drifted off before him. But then she spoke, her own voice, soft. “Okay, Jamie. I’ll stay with you.”

---

Was he dreaming?

“Jamie.” Claire said, one hand resting on his shoulder to gently shake him awake.

He must be dreaming.

The Claire in his dreams had, at first, been lying across a bright, white beach. With nothing but a tiny bikini decorating her body. He’d gone to approach her, with some sort of fruity cocktail in hand as an offering, when she’d turned into a mermaid and slithered away back into the sea. Without a second thought, Jamie had jumped into the water after her, but found it wasn’t water after all, but full of small plastic balls – the same kind found in a bairn’s ball pool. If nothing but determined, Jamie had continued on his search, shoving balls away in his haste. He felt like he’d been at it for ages, when normal human Claire, not mermaid Claire, appeared at his side. Rather than the bikini she’d been wearing earlier, she now donned a light pink silk dressing gown, with lace trim at the cuffs and hem. Her usual curly hair was straight and still wet from her dip in the ocean.

“What the fuck…”

“Jamie.” Her fingers were warm as they touched his cheek. “Jamie, you’re dreaming.”

He startled awake with a sharp intake of breath.

“I don’t know what on earth you were dreaming about,” Claire giggled, still hovering over him. “But your eyelids were fluttering like crazy and you kept making fists and then relaxing.”

“I…”

Jamie’s mouth felt dry from his nap, and his throat scratchy from lack of use. Blinking sluggishly, Jamie scrubbed a hand over his hair, trailing it down to his jaw and itching at the stubble there, absentmindedly.

Sometime between him falling asleep and waking up, Claire had drawn the curtains to block out some of the light, but kept the windows open to allow the balmy, fresh air into the room. The gossamer curtains billowed and swung in tandem, as an unexpected, large gust of wind travelled along the air. Coolness kissed Jamie’s still sleep swollen cheeks, delightfully.

“What time is it?” He croaked out, desperate for a drink, preferably something icy and not carbonated.

“Just before half eight,” said Claire, grabbing the already filled water jug from the bedside table and filling up a glass, before handing it over to him. With a nod of silent gratitude, Jamie held the glass aloft, while he propped himself up in bed.

Claire returned back to her task of hanging up their clothes in the wardrobe, talking as she did so. But Jamie couldn’t say that he was paying all that much attention to the words coming out of her mouth.

With her back to him, Jamie took full advantage of Claire’s lack of notice. The short, pink, silk dressing gown that she’d worn in his dream, looked even better in person. It hit above the back of Claire’s knee, leaving those shapely legs of hers bare. Jamie didn’t get to see them often. The weather in Scotland didn’t offer a large window of opportunity for summer clothes, and neither did the old fashioned aesthetic that his Sassenach wore so well.

So Jamie was determined to look his fill.

The silk material looked so soft as it skimmed down her figure in folds, that Jamie’s hand involuntarily tightened around his glass, as he fought to stop from standing up and ripping it away from the body.

He wondered if she wore anything else underneath it?

Or if she was bare?

Her nipples forming into sharp points as the silk rubbing against her delicate skin caused a delicious cool friction. It would be a startling contrast to the feel of her knickerless cunt, which Jamie knew from memory, was hot and wet around his fingers.

Christ, how easy would it be to stand up right now, coerce Claire into widening her stance, and to skim his fingertips up her soft inner thigh. Would her mons be as smooth and as bare as it was last time Jamie had touched his Sassenach, with just a small triangle of well trimmed hair to accentuate her womanhood? Would she be as wet and as willing as Jamie imagined her to be, allowing her head to fall back against his collarbone, while his fingers brought her to orgasm?

Jamie had only taken a small taste of her in the cloakroom of the bar, but would his Sassenach be as sweet as he remembered?

His mouth watered with just the thought of…

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?” Claire asked, twisting her head to peer at his figure on the bed, from over her shoulder. A plastic coat hanger with a pair of white cigarette trousers still dangled from her hands, waiting to be stored away.

“Aye, of course I am,” Jamie replied, abruptly interrupted out of his daydreaming fantasy.

Placing the coat hanger out of sight, Claire turned around to face Jamie, her hands resting on her hips. “What was I saying, then?”

Jamie’s mind drew a blank, unable to recall anything that had been coming out of Claire’s mouth, except for her imaginary moans and sighs of pleasure. Like a schoolboy caught out in the act, Jamie settled for smiling cheekily at her, in hopes of getting away with not listening.

“Don’t smile at me like that,” she chastised, without any real bite to back it up. “What on earth were you thinking about?”

Finishing up with his water, Jamie set it back onto the bedside table and swung his legs out of bed. Claire must have unlaced his trainers for him. For they sat in a pair by the door and his sock covered toes sank into the carpet underneath as he stood to his full height.

At six foot four, Jamie was much taller than Claire. Tall enough in fact, that as he brushed up against her, enough to feel the warmth of her body through the thin silk material, he could quite clearly down into her cleavage.

Definitely no bra.

Most likely, no knickers either.

“Jamie,” Claire prompted, when he didn’t answer straight away. “What were you thinking of?”

“Nothing,” he said, using his forefinger to tilt her chin up for a kiss. She swept her tongue along his lower lip, happily, opening her mouth to let Jamie in. When he was sure she’d be panting for me, something harder, something to grind upon, Jamie stepped back.

Claire stared right back at him, those amber eyes of hers, blown wide with desire and her chest rising and falling rapidly.

“I’ll just go and get in the shower then, in time for our dinner.” Jamie sidestepped to the door leading to the bathroom, still watching Claire watch him. “Leave ye in peace to get ready, Sassenach.”

Purposefully not shutting the bathroom door properly, Jamie shucked his clothes off, before leaning into the shower cubicle and turning on the boiling hot water. But not before he heard Claire mutter to herself, “You’re a tease, Jamie Fraser. That’s exactly what I was telling you to do, if you’d been listening in the first place.”

Once in the privacy of the shower, with the stream running down his face, blocking out most of his other senses, Jamie allowed himself to grin broadly.

A tease, he thought. Well, ye’re one to talk, Miss Beauchamp…

Chapter Text

“Will one of the tables here do?” The French waiter asked, gesturing to one of the many tables sitting out on the patio.

Jamie hoped his French accent wasn’t all that terrible, as he said, “Oui, merci beaucoup.”

The waiter nodded his head once, “Bon. Un moment, s’il vous plait.” His finger held a place marker in his seating plan book, as he called over another waiter. They talked back and forth in rapid French for a few seconds, before the second waiter turned on his heel and sped off towards one of the many tables.

“I think they must be clearing a table for us,” Claire whispered, as they moved over to the side, allowing the restaurant manager the space to greet another couple.

“Probably.” Jamie answered, eyes focusing on the small, raised mole sitting on Claire’s upper back.

The dress she’d chosen to wear tonight, was more risqué than Jamie had ever seen her in, even including the little white number she’d worn to the bar all those weeks ago. He’d seen that this one was backless and slinky from the moment he’d exited the bathroom with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist, and noticed Claire perched on a makeup vanity stool with a lipstick tube in her hand.

Jamie had collected his clothes from the wardrobe, but not before taking a moment to see his own items of clothing mixed in with Claire’s; a long red dress interspersed with his dark denim wash jeans, a skimpy camisole top beside his much larger t-shirt.

Warmth settled in the center of his chest.

“Ye look so bonny, Sassenach.”

Lipstick tube still in hand, Claire met his eyes in the vanity mirror. He could see a blush coating her upper cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Jamie didn’t think the blusher that she’d applied caused it.

“Thank you, Jamie.” Claire tipped her head to the side, looked him up and down and then pursed her lips together for a kiss. Crossing over to the other side of the room, Jamie obliged her happily, caressing the bare skin of her back as he did so.

At every opportunity he’d had so far; from the moment he’d waited beside her, as she pocketed their hotel room keycard to the journey downstairs in the lift, Jamie had brushed his skin against hers. Never missing a beat, Claire’s eyes tracked his constant movements, smirking as she did so.

However, this close to his Sassenach, Jamie noticed something he’d not seen before.

A sharp exhale from him, and the curling of his hands around her material covered hips, gave Claire the reaction she’d probably been waiting for all evening.

The lower portion of Claire’s dress pooled around her lower back, leaving the lacy waistband of her thong on show.

It was a different coloured thong compared to the one she’d been wearing before her bath; black this time, rather than the light blue scrap he’d found on the bathroom floor. But Jamie would bet his left arm it was the same style of underwear.

Molding his front body to her back, lest anybody else spot Claire’s little surprise, Jamie placed a feather light kiss to that mole.

The whole body shiver Claire let out made Jamie ridiculously happy with himself.

“You’re a witch, Sassenach,” he breathed into her thin skin beneath her ear, smelling her signature perfume. It made Jamie’s eyes close of their own accord, as he licked the blue vein thumping away there under her skin.

“Jamie,” she moaned quietly in that unique way of hers.

One of the hands resting on her hips snaked around to the front of Claire’s body, landing on lower stomach. Possessively, Jamie pushed her back, until he was sure she could feel his growing erection in the cleft of her arse.

Right on time, a different waiter appeared. “Just this way, if you please.” Perhaps, it wasn’t a different waiter after all, but all the faces were beginning to blur into one, as Jamie found he could concentrate on nothing but his Sassenach.

Stopping in front of an empty table, with a starch white tablecloth and cutlery already in position, the waiter placed a leather bound menu in front of each of the chairs and then left them to it. Jamie held out the chair with it’s back to the patio doors for Claire to sit down in, before taking his own seat opposite her.

The glossy red lipstick coating Claire’s lips distracted him once again.

Jamie wanted it smeared all over his cock and Claire’s face.

He wanted to get out of there as fast as possible and back up to the privacy of their own room.

“Any drinks to… erm… start?” The waiter stood to the right of Jamie, pad and paper poised.

“Beer,” Jamie choked out.

“Une bière, s’il vous plaît," Claire corrected, nails curling around her menu to open it. She scanned the drinks list quickly. “et une star de porno martini, pour moi.”

“Certainement.”

A fucking pornstar martini?

Claire knew exactly what she was doing, as she winked and brought a finger up to her lips to fix lipstick from collecting in the corners.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She asked, tearing her eyes away from Jamie’s to glance at their backdrop.

Of course Jamie had known they were sitting outside for their dinner. He’d been able to see the dark sky, with small stars littered throughout it and feel the cool night air, which was a welcome relief to the heat that had been prominent in the daytime. In fact, the air was a little bit too chilly, but the tall lamp heaters dotted next to each individual table took most of the bite away.

What Jamie had failed to see, his gaze too focused on the woman in front of him, was the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, disappearing as it blended into the darkened horizon.

“What till it’s ten o’clock,” said Claire, draping her napkin over her lap.

“What happens at ten o’clock?” Jamie asked.

“You’ll see.”

When the waiter arrived back with their chosen drinks, Jamie nodded gratefully, taking a long draw of his alcohol beverage. The sharp tang of good beer cut through Jamie’s taste buds.

“Que diriez-vous de la nourriture?” The waiter said, scribbling something out on his pad of paper.

“Recommandez-vous quelque chose?” Claire replied.

Something unintelligible to Jamie’s ears was said, before Claire translated what had been said. “He says they have some tapas sharing bits as their specials tonight. Do you want me to just order some plates, and we can share?”

“Aye,” Jamie agreed, wiping away the condensation from the beer glass onto his trouser covered thighs.

The sound of Claire speaking in rapid French again, her particular accent, a tad deeper than her usual standard clear English, and the way her lips curved around the words, dropping most of the vowels – had Jamie’s cock twitching inside his boxers.

Once the waiter had passed through the glass doors and back towards the kitchen to put in their order, Claire turned her attention solely back on Jamie. She took a delicate sip of her cocktail, before speaking, “Did you say you’d spoken to Willie?”

A fantasy image of Claire wrapping her fingertips around his cock, in the same manner as she did the martini glass stem, filtered through Jamie’s mind before he dismissed it.

“Mhmm.” Jamie pulled his phone out of his dress pants pocket in order to check the time. It was quarter to ten. “He should be asleep by now, but I bet ye, he isn’t the little bugger. I’ll send him another text to say goodnight.”

It took four sips of beer, and a total of two minutes, before Jamie’s phone was vibrating noisily against the tablecloth. The black bold letters of Jenny’s name stared up at him; as the mobile phone continued to silently ring.

“That’ll be Willie.” Jamie’s thumb hovered above the bright green circle. “Do ye mind if I answer him while we’re out?”

Claire’s face screwed up in something akin to confusion. “Of course not, Jamie. Why would I mind? He’s your priority.”

“Ye’re my priority as well, Sassenach, it’s just…”

“He’s your son,” she said, filling in the blank. “Answer the phone and speak to him, Jamie.”

Jamie clicked the answer button. “’’ello?”

“Hello, brother.” Jenny’s broad voice filtered back to him. “How’s yer trip going? How was the plane?”

“Stop laughing, Jenny.” Jamie wasn’t amused by his elder sister’s titter. “The flight was fine.”

“Jenny?” Claire mouthed over the top of her glass, raising both of her eyebrows.

“Sister,” Jamie mouthed back. “Can I speak to my son, or are ye ringing just to give me the usual abuse?”

“If I don’t take the piss oot of ye and kept ye head from swelling up to the size of a balloon, then who will?”

“Ian, probably. Or our own Mam.” Jamie toyed with the gleaming silver fork on his right hand side. “Now, can I speak to Willie?”

“Och, goodnight, love ye too, brother,” Jenny muttered. “Willie! Ye Da wants to speak to ye!”

“Night, love ye, Jenny.”

She grumbled something else, but Jamie just smiled at his sister’s antics.

A breathless, little voice popped up. “Hiya, Da.”

Something inside of him, that Jamie hadn’t even known was tense, relaxed at the sound of Willie’s voice. “Hiya, lad. Ye okay?”

“Aye, me and auntie Jenny are just about to watch a film. What are ye and Claire doing?”

“I won’t keep ye long, then. We’re oot for dinner. What film are ye’s gonnae watch?”

Willie kept his Da on the phone longer than Jamie had expected, wanting to ken every detail of his Da’s day, and then regaling Jamie with a tale of the homemade dinner he’d helped make with Grandma Ellen.

“That’s braw, lad,” Jamie said, watching closely as Claire drained the last dregs of her drink, delicate throat bobbing with each small swallow. She grinned at him over the rim, showcasing pearly white teeth, with a slight imperfect crook in one of her front teeth. Jamie thought it was endearing to say the least.

“Is Fergus going to football tomorrow?” Willie asked, pulling Jamie’s attention back to him.

“I don’t ken. Hang on, I’ll ask Claire.” Jamie held the phone away from his ear for a millisecond. “Willie wants to ken if Fergus is still gonnae go to football tomorrow?”

She nodded. “Yes, he’s going.”

Jamie put his phone back to his face. “Aye, Willie lad, he’s going tomorrow.”

Claire signaled over the waiter for another pornstar martini, while Jamie promised his son that he’d ring him again tomorrow.

“Goodnight, love ye, Da.” Willie spoke softly.

“Love ye even more, my lad. Speak to ye soon.”

When he’d put the mobile phone back in his pocket, Jamie found Claire staring at him.

“Was he okay?” She wondered, licking the foam from her martini off of her upper lip. Somehow she managed to do it without smudging any of her lipstick.

“Aye, braw. I ken he asked about what we’d been up to today, but I think he was more bothered about Fergus playing football with him on the field.”

“Willie needn’t worry, Geillie will definitely be taking him.” Claire crooked an eyebrow. “She’s already texted me, saying how excited she is to try and chat up some of the single Dads that she never gets to catch in the school playground.”

“Of course she is,” Jamie chuckled. “Is she looking after the bairns then while we’re away?”

“Yes. I’m guessing your sister is looking after Willie?”

Jamie took a sup of his own beer, quenching his thirst. “The whole family is, really. We all live near each other on the Lallybroch farming estate.”

He explained how the farming land had been passed through the Fraser generations for as far back as time would allow, and how he and Jenny’s family lived only a couple of minutes either side of the original Lallybroch main estate.

“Does your sister have any children?”

“Just wee Jamie right now, but she’s about five months along with her second bairn, so the poor lad’s not gonnae be an only child for much longer.”

Claire exhaled breathily through her nose. “You must all be close, to live so near each other on a daily basis, and for your sister to name her first born after you. Is she older, or are you?”

“Aye, we’re very close,” said Jamie. “She’s older by two years. Faith, actually, reminds me a lot of our Janet. Except when I was Fergus’ age, she’d already had many years practice of bossing me around, and I’d already had many years practice of whacking the shit out of her without our Mam or Da finding out.”

She smiled. “Oh, I can imagine.”

“Do ye have any siblings, Sassenach?”

“No, I don’t.” Claire’s voice was clipped, short and sweet.

“Och, did yer parents…”

“Please don’t make a big deal out of this, Jamie.” She pleaded. The deep breath Claire took in was visible, the creamy swells of her breasts making an appearance over the top of the neckline of her dress. “Both of my parents died in a car crash when I was very young. No, I don’t have any siblings, and my uncle, who looked after me for many years, passed away a month before we relocated to Scotland two years ago. Not everybody has a big family like you, Jamie and that’s okay…”

That balled fist of hers, sitting beside her cutlery, said otherwise.

“…I made my peace with it a very long time ago.”

Leaning over the table, Jamie covered her fist with his palm. “Sassenach…”

Claire’s lips parted to say something else, when gasps sounded around Jamie, some even applauding.

“It’s ten o’clock,” Claire smiled softly, rubbing her thumb over Jamie’s bare wrist.

In front of him, the once dark and disappearing Eiffel Tower, had transformed itself into a glittering landmark. Once again, making itself known.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Beautiful was an understatement. The tower reflected off the water below, highlighting the golden city lights of passing cars and wide awake humans inside their homes.

“It lights up for five minutes every hour,” Claire explained, still looking at Jamie rather than the exquisite sight over her shoulder. “I used to stare at it out of my window for hours on end when I was nursing Faith and then Fergus. I don’t know about you, but… it makes you feel something inside, doesn’t it?”

“Aye, one of those times where the sight of it provokes a different emotion for different people. It means something different to everyone; happiness, or something to signal the end of a shitty day, or…”

“Hope.”

“Hm?” Jamie hummed.

“Hope,” Claire said. “That’s what I used to feel when I looked at it. Hope for something better, a better life for me and the children.”

“And do… do ye think ye’ve found it?”

“Yes, I think I might have.”

- - -

It was nearing eleven o’clock by the time the jazz band set up their stations just outside of the patio door, and began playing softly.

Jamie was pleasantly buzzed, not enough to be anywhere near drunk, but enough to feel a slight tingling through the tips of his fingers and less self aware of his actions than usual.

The food he and Claire had shared had been delicious; the right amount of lemon juice squeezed over the freshly caught calamari, perfect crispness to the potato skins, and a mouthwateringly tangy relish to dip the grilled halloumi sticks into.

Across the other side of the room, behind Claire’s left shoulder, Jamie spotted an elderly couple stand up, clasp one another and begin to dance as the trumpet player picked up speed.

“Dance with me.”

“What?” Claire choked out, polishing off the last of her third martini.

“Get up and dance with me, Sassenach.” Jamie offered again, palm outstretched and facing up to the darkened night sky.

Her amber eyes, which were ever so glassy from the alcohol, cut this way and that, glancing at the other patrons of the restaurant.

“Nobody else is dancing,” she hissed.

And, Sassenach?” He persisted, fingers curling inwards and outwards in rapid succession. “What does it matter what everybody else is doing?”

Jamie knew he’d won her over, when Claire shook her head at him, but that smile of hers was taking over the rest of her face.

Pushing herself up and away from the table; Claire pressed their chests together, noses nudging with the added height of her red heeled shoes. Claire’s left hand threaded through Jamie’s leading one, while her right reached up, behind his back and hooked over his broad shoulder. The warmth of Claire’s body radiated through the thin fabric as Jamie allowed his free hand to rest on her nipped in waistline.

It wasn’t anything like those books and movies, where the rest of the diners seem to melt away. Instead, Jamie could feel their sets of eyes boring into the back of his skull and his body. But the difference was that he simply didn’t care.

He didn’t care what they thought, or what they saw, as he kissed his Sassenach’s lips with an utmost softness, just to see what she’d do.

He didn’t care what they thought, or what they saw, as Claire stared back at him, and then, with more confidence and a dash of neediness, kissed him back.

His feet were moving in a minuscule circle, careful not to tread on Claire’s toes. Jamie had always thought himself to be an all right dancer, especially when it came to the old Scottish Gaelic steps. But it was rather difficult to do, when his senses were being consumed, burned and eaten up alive by the English woman in his arms.

“I want to go back up to the room,” Claire whispered, laying her head upon his shoulder, and letting her breath tickle his ear.

“Why? Are ye tired, Sassenach?”

“No, not in the slightest,” she replied.

There went Jamie’s brain function.

“Take me upstairs, Jamie.”

Jamie certainly didn’t need to be told twice.

Taking a firmer grip of Claire’s hand, Jamie attempted to be as discreet as possible as they exited the restaurant.

Did he usually walk this fast?

Should he slow down?

Why did it feel like the route to the lifts was getting longer rather than shorter?

A waitress holding three plates piled high with food shifted out of their way, as Claire’s heels clacked quickly against the marble floor. Typically, Jamie would have let the server pass through first, but not tonight. Not when his blood was thrumming hot through his veins, and his body seemed to have taken on an animalistic mind of its own.

“Excuse moi, merci beaucoup,” Jamie threw over his shoulder, ushering Claire in front of him and towards their hotel room.

The lift was thankfully empty.

Jamie took full advantage, crowding Claire into the space beside the lift buttons and then practically pouncing.

Chests, stomachs, hips, legs – Jamie glued his own to Claire’s, wanting to feel every inch of her. Those hands, which had stayed in perfectly decent places for the whole dinner, now spread out, reaching underneath her dress.

As his right hand travelled the length of her thigh, starting at her knee, Jamie used the thumb on his left hand to punch in their floor number.

Behind her, Jamie could see Claire’s knuckles were turning white as she grasped the metal holding bar, and widened her stance to allow more of his hand space to roam.

“Are ye wet, Sassenach?” Jamie gasped out, pulling away from where he’d been sucking at her neck, to find his answer.

“Sopping,” she nodded with a groan, head tilting back to rest on the tops of her shoulder blades as Jamie brushed his index finger against the gusset of her thong.

“Would ye let me finger ye here, right where anybody could see ye, like at the bar? Hm, Sassenach?”

Jamie’s fingers drew tight circles against her cloth covered clit. He knew he’d found the right spot, when Claire moaned, the sound vibrating loudly in the glass box, and her heeled feet skittered on the floor. “Ugh…Yes. Just fucking touch me, Jamie…”

“Say please.” He teased.

If his Sassenach would just say please, Jamie would be more than happy to bring her to orgasm like this. With her legs spread just for him, those ruby lips of her parted on a pant, cotton material of her knickers adding friction, until she, she, she…

“Ah hem.”

A throat cleared behind Jamie.

Peering over his shoulder, Jamie found four or five people, both men and women, patiently waiting for the lift to arrive. Without another word, they stepped into the lift, squishing themselves in the available space.

“Haut ou bas?” The gentleman asked, finger hovering over the buttons.

“Haut,” Claire answered from behind the shield of Jamie’s body.

With a nod, the gentleman pressed the button for the ground floor, before folding his hands behind his back and staring up intently at the red floor counter, which was steadily climbing towards the eighth floor.

Jamie swallowed dryly, turning back to Claire, who was frantically trying to fix her dress from riding up any further. Jamie knew he’d moved the gusset of her knickers to the side, seconds from touching her bare heated flesh. Without rearranging herself under her dress, Claire would have to stay uncomfortable and aware of her underwear being in the totally wrong area.

Light fingers passing his pulsing groin, made Jamie look down to see Claire trying to redo his belt as quietly as possible. So caught up in the moment, he’d been unaware that she’d even been fiddling with his belt. But now she moved with purpose, to stop the metal buckle from making too much of a racket, and highlighting exactly what they’d been about to do.

Jamie felt like a teenager caught in a compromising position. He dared not even look in Claire’s direction for fear of bursting in helpless laughter and never stopping again. She must have felt the same, for when the lift doors opened on their chosen floor, both he and Claire just about threw themselves into the deserted corridor.

High on adrenaline, Jamie turned back to Claire with a huffed laugh, as the doors shut with a clank behind them and began to descend.

“You okay?” He asked, taking her back in his arms.

“Yeah…” she hummed, holding tightly onto Jamie’s forearm, kicking up one of her legs and removing one high heeled shoe and then the other.

“What on earth are ye doing, Sassenach?”

“Racing you.”

Jamie had only seconds for his brain to process what Claire had said, before she was running, running, running with her hair streaming out behind her figure. His feet moved instantly to catch up with her, laughing loudly as he did so.

“Are ye drunk?” He called.

Claire danced on the spot to look back at him, the backs of her shoes still hanging from her fingertips. “No!”

His Sassenach looked so sweet when she giggled, nothing but pure happiness radiating out of her. Jamie had seen Claire take on a number of roles; friend, mother, protector, flirt. But this one; carefree Claire who could be just herself without trying, was one of his newfound favourites.

“Good,” Jamie breathed, catching his hands on her hips. “Because I can’t do all the things I want to do to you, if ye’re a drunk Sassenach.”

She bit down on that damned bottom lip, getting some of the glossy lipstick on the sharp edge of her front teeth. Jamie wanted to lick it off. “And what do you want to do to me?”

“Fuck ye senseless until we both can’t walk tomorrow.”

Claire cocked her head to the side, studying him, provoking him. “That won’t be very good if we want to go sightseeing tomorrow.”

“I’ll sightsee from our bed, then.” Jamie could hear his own cocky, know it all tone, but didn’t stop. “It’ll give us a good incentive to come back sometime, won’t it?”

“Hm. If you say so, Mr Fraser.”

---

“Take yer dress off, Sassenach.”

Jamie pressed his own back into the door, palms biting into the thick, cold wood. He wanted to rip it off her, but made himself stay back, allowing Claire to reveal herself to him on her own terms.

Standing in the middle of the room, with what appeared to be a forced smile playing about her mouth, Claire hooked her hands into either side of the dress’ neckline and pulled down ever so slowly. It slipped across her skin, pooling at the bottom of her feet in seconds.

She was bare other than the black, lace thong covering her sex.

Those nipples that Jamie had pinched and plucked, drunkenly, at the bar, stood to full attention, begging for his touch.

On near silent feet, Claire crossed the room to where Jamie stood, attempting to get his breathing in control. She looked at him, eyes bouncing from one part of his face to another, cataloguing.

“I know I don’t look perfect, after having two children, your body…”

“Sassenach,” Jamie puffed against her skin, not yet daring to touch. “Shut up, won’t ye? Ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen -- ”

“I don’t think that’s quite true,” she retorted, forcing out a breathy laugh.

“Let me pay ye the compliment, won’t ye, lass?” A strand of her fine, curly hair settled itself along her bare collarbone. Jamie wanted to move it out the way, and suck Claire’s skin until it was red raw and bruised again. “Ye’re gorgeous, Claire. No matter what ye think, or see when ye look in the mirror.”

The tip of her tongue poked out as she wetted her lower lip, something poised on her tongue. When she said nothing else for a moment, Jamie’s control snapped.

His fingers sunk into the thick flesh of her hips, bringing Claire in and coaxing her to jump up and wrap her legs around Jamie’s waist. The material of his shirt rubbed against Claire’s sensitive breasts, making her groan lowly in her throat, head hanging backwards.

Feet unsteady, Jamie sat down on the edge of the bed, taking Claire with him.

It was almost an exact reenactment of earlier in the day, when he and Claire had sat together, watching the sun begin to set. Except now, Claire was almost completely naked, grinding in his lap and Jamie was trying his hardest not to blow his load in his trousers like a teenager.

Wrapping his arms around the insides of Claire’s thighs to stop her from falling off, Jamie licked a strip between both of Claire’s breasts.

Fuckkk,” she moaned, hips stilling, as both of Jamie’s thumbs ran over the lace edge where her underwear met the crease of her thigh.

“Ye gonnae let me fuck ye, Sassenach?”

Uh huh.

Another buck of her hips and Jamie felt Claire’s hot center press down onto his cock in the most dizzying of ways.

Those plush lips of her descended down upon Jamie’s, mouth opening up instantly, as their tongues fought for dominance.

Cold air met the bare skin of Jamie’s lower abs, followed by the warmth of Claire’s delicate long fingers. His shirt was being pushed further and further up, giving Claire more skin to explore. Jamie let go of Claire’s thighs for a moment; just enough to pull his shirt away from his body and throw it somewhere unimportant.

Jamie fought to keep his wits about him.

Now that his chest was bare, Claire’s lips were following the trail of his collarbone, and across each defined pectoral muscle, placing perfect red lipstick marks all over his upper body. Her nimble fingers busied themselves with unbuckling his belt for the second time that night. This time, however, she managed to get her hands on his cock, interrupted.

Sassenach,” Jamie ground out, looking down at where her hand cupped him. The mushroomed tip of his cock peeked out from above the waistband of his boxers, thin skin already red with the sheer amount of blood flow.

Jamie gently tapped Claire’s thighs to get her attention, from where she’d been staring at the hard to miss bulge pressing up against the black cotton material of his underwear. “Go get on the bed properly.”

As she scampered off, Jamie stood up quickly. With his jeans still around his knees, Jamie fished a spare condom out of his wallet, and then stepped out of the rest of his clothes in record time, before rejoining Claire amongst the pillows.

Christ, she still looked bonny, as she swung her leg back over Jamie’s, and settled herself back into his lap, this time without a cotton barrier, or two, between either of them.

Claire snatched the square foil wrapped from out of his hand, and with some difficulty, ripped it open, as Jamie’s fingers found her aching center.

Jamie…” she sighed, rocking her hips against his hand. “I can’t wait. Please… Just --”

A figure eight over her hard bud made Claire’s toes curl on either side of his red dusted thighs. “Just what, Sassenach?”

Just fuck me already.”

Jamie didn’t need to be told twice.

He stayed as still as he dared, hardly even breathing for fear of embarrassing himself, while Claire braced her delicate left hand on the center of his chest. The position brought her breasts together invitingly, swaying with her slight movement. Her dominant hand grasped the root of Jamie’s cock; keeping it steady as she pressed a soft, barely there peck to the ruddy tip.

It was as if Jamie had died and gone to heaven. A very hot, very filthy heaven, indeed.

His skin only seemed to get tighter, watching Claire sit back up and roll the condom down his pulsing cock without any hesitation.

It took only seconds for her to line her entrance with his cock, but Jamie didn’t dare breath, only letting out a grunt when she swallowed the tip.

His voice was strained to his own ears. “Sassenach.

“I know.” A whine slipped from between Claire’s smudged lip line. “Fuck, Jamie, I know…”

The flesh of Claire’s skin around her hips was warm beneath Jamie’s fingers, which would soon be causing divots if he didn’t let up the amount of pressure. He used the sensation to keep himself grounded, while Claire sank further and further down, taking more and more of him inside of her.

“You feel fucking huge like this,” his Sassenach moaned, head falling forward and obscuring her face with a messy halo of hair.

Jamie knew he wasn’t exactly small. He’d seen enough of Ian’s cock as he pissed outside, or inside the lad’s changing room at his old football stomping grounds, to ken he was slightly bigger than average.

But hearing the words tumble from Claire’s lips, high with neediness and pleasure… Jamie tilted his hips up, meeting Claire’s thrust and sliding the rest of the way inside her.

Wanting to see her pleasure written all over her face, so bad it almost hurt, Jamie pushed some of Claire’s hair behind her ear. Those amber eyes of hers were dark with desire, lips pinched with the force of staying still as she allowed her body to become accustomed to Jamie’s size stretching her inner walls.

Fuck, she fit him like a glove, like she was made to take his cock inside of her.

Jamie swallowed dryly, biting down on his lower lip and tasting a hint of the vanilla vodka from Claire’s cocktails. “Tell me when I can move.”

She nodded minutely, grasping his hands on both sides of her hips, and squeezing in silent confirmation.

He bucked upwards, allowing Claire to slide back down easily and then do something with her inner walls that had Jamie nearly choking.

“Are you… ungh… all right?” Giggled Claire, not letting the rhythm they’d so quickly found change.

The movement made her breasts, and the tight spiral curls hanging over between her shoulder blades, bounce.

“What the fuck… shit, don’t laugh, ye’re doing it again.”

“What, this?” She asked, all innocence with doe round eyes. As the tops of Jamie’s thighs met the flesh of Claire’s arse, his whole cock buried inside of her, until there wasn’t any inch of space between either of them, Claire squeezed her inner walls, causing an immobilizing, red hot spike of pleasure to radiate through Jamie’s balls.

Tightening his abs, Jamie sat up just enough to nuzzle his head against Claire’s chest, hair sticking up all over the place and tickling the underside of her chin.

“Are ye trying to kill me? Ye little minx.” He bit down on Claire’s nipple, enough for her to let out a gasp bordering on pain.

Jamie didn’t allow her to answer. Instead, laying wet kisses on any inch of skin not yet marred by his presence, while his fingertips strummed across her clit.

Claire’s voice was cracking. “My fucking god, Jamie Fraser…”

“Ye’re right, Sassenach.” He mumbled into her smooth jawline. “Ye do have a ridiculously dirty mouth. Think I’ll have to fill it later to shut ye up.”

The broken moans falling from Claire’s lips sounded sweet to Jamie’s ears. Her stomach contracted, breaths becoming shallow and fast, hips stuttering, losing the rhythm and then finding it again.

He nipped her earlobe, diamond stud and all. “Are ye close to coming all over my cock, Sassenach?”

She nodded her head yes, biting her lips, and then releasing the messy, red, plump flesh, as if she couldn’t make her mind up whether to stay silent or not.

Little bit late for that, Jamie thought to himself. They’d made enough noise in the lift, in the hotel corridor, and then in the bedroom already – that surely by now, anybody passing by would ken exactly what they were up to.

“Don’t be quiet,” Jamie freed her lower lip with a tug of his thumb. “I want ye to remember who fucked ye like this, Sassenach, whose cock ye came all over.”

Claire’s breath was warm against Jamie’s neck when she leaned further into him, no longer able to keep up with the bucking of Jamie’s hips, and the spots his cock were hitting with each glide. Her curls stuck to the dusting of sweat, which coated her temples and the back of her neck.

“Are ye close, lass?”

She gasped her answer into the hollow cavity of Jamie’s collarbone.

The persistent dull in Jamie’s balls travelled up towards the bottom of his spine. A sure sign he was only seconds away from finishing behind Claire.

A few more passes of his calloused fingertips across her sensitive bud, and Claire’s whole body tightened against Jamie’s. Her painted toenails tucked underneath his thighs, arms wrapping around his neck to keep him close, even a vein on the side of her neck began to pulse.

Jamie,” she whined, high in her throat, walls clenching and then relaxing around his cock, releasing gushes of her arousal. “Mmm.

He wasn’t far behind her.

Five more thrusts upwards, in which Claire let out tiny gasps each time with the glide of his cock against her swollen walls, and Jamie was emptying himself out in the latex condom, her name groaning out into the surrounding four walls.

Claire still lay on top of him, the most placid he’d ever seen her, allowing time for their respective breathing patterns to return back to normal. Once the hot puffs of air below his ear had ceased, Jamie pulled back enough to search Claire’s face.

Her lipstick was indeed smeared all over her lips and chin and Cupid’s bow. Jamie kent for a fact it was all over his chest. But with the way Claire had her bare breasts smushed up against him, it had most likely transferred onto her alabaster skin, as well.

“Ye okay?” asked Jamie, slipping from Claire, as he rolled them both over to lie down on their sides. Rather than having her back to his chest, Claire turned herself around to face him, long legs thrown over his and feet all tangled together in the crumpled bed sheet.

“Of course,” she answered, tipping her head forward to kiss him. “Are you?”

“Mm, aye.” Using his thumb, he wiped away a smudge of mascara from underneath her eyes. “I think we’ve stepped into dangerous territory though, lass.”

The cautious tone in Claire’s voice was thick and apparent. “What makes you say that?”

Jamie pecked another kiss onto her lips, and another on the tip of her nose, leaving it as red as Rudolph’s, in reassurance. “I don’t mean it to be a bad thing, Sassenach. I kent before I wasn’t gonnae be letting ye go, but after that performance, I’m starting to think I might become obsessed with ye.”

“Then I’ve done my job right, haven’t I? She smiled, lipstick stained teeth and all. “I want you as obsessed with me, as I am already with you.”

Chapter Text

Standing in the pissing, pouring rain was something Jenny Fraser Murray was very used to doing. In fact, the rain was her favourite type of weather; best spent indoors, baking or reading, or simply watching the trees bend in the wind, the grass and greenery happily soak up the beads of liquid and the satisfying splatter of water hit the window panes and roll down.

However, she couldn’t say it was exactly her favourite, standing in a marshy, boggy field, getting soaking wet.

As Jamie was still away on his romantic trip to Paris, as their Mam was calling it, or his fuck fest, as Ian was so politely calling it – Jenny had decided she would be the one to take Willie to his beloved football practice.

Of course, she wanted to go to see Willie in action, to see his face light up with happiness with every chance he got to kick the ball.

Seeing Claire Beauchamp’s little boy would be just the icing on top of the cake.

Jenny certainly wasn’t there, acting as a spy…

On the car ride towards the football field, Jenny had put her well used skills to practice, and easily wrangled the information from her nephew, who was none the wiser to the things he was letting slip.

“Ye excited?” Jenny had asked, hands resting on the ten and two position on the wheel.

Willie chowed down on the rest of his banana. “Aye.”

“Ye made many friends?”

“A few,” Willie shrugged. “The lads I play around with in school usually do rugby, but I don’t fancy it this year. But at least I have Fergus.”

“Fergus?” Ah ha! Gotcha!

“Aye, Fergus…” He repeated, unwrapping a homemade cereal bar.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a Fergus, it’s not a very common Scottish name--”

“He and his sister were born in France.”

“France?” Jenny indicated to turn left. “Is their Mam French?”

“No,” Willie blinked slowly, chewing. “Claire’s English.”

“She’s English!?”

“Aye.” Willie drew out the word. “Why are ye so bothered, Auntie?”

Jenny rearranged her features to appear unfazed. “I’m not, lad. I’m just interested if yer friends, that’s all. What did ye say Fergus’ sister was called?”

So with more information under her belt than Jamie had probably wanted her to ken, Jenny scoured the field for any sign of the Beauchamps.

Except, she didn’t really have a grasp on what either of the bairns would look like. Willie was no help, whatsoever, too busy showing how fast he could run the hurdles to the young coach, rather than standing next to this wee Fergus and giving his Auntie Jenny a chance to get a stalkerish glance at the lad in question.

A young lass had set up camp a few meters away from where Jenny stood, wrapped up warm in a number of thin layers, in order to stay warm and dry.

Neither parent nor guardian to the brunette haired lass was anywhere to be seen, to Jenny’s eyes, at least, but the bairn didn’t appear too bothered with the fact. Instead, she’d set up a spot on the fold up camping chair she’d brought along with her, her eyes glued to the paperback book that she held in one hand, and a large umbrella in the other to shield her from the drizzling rain above. A reusable bag full to the brim sat on the grass beside her. Jenny was wondering what on earth could be inside of it, when a brunette laddie ran over from the pitch and scooped his water bottle out of the bag.

“Here.” Jenny heard the lad say. Gulping down his water at an alarming speed, he’d then proceeded to strip off his jumper, until he was wearing just a thin football t-shirt and hand said soggy jumper to the lass.

“Fold it up and put it in the bag, Fergus.” Jenny’s blood felt like it had frozen in her veins. Her breath seemed to be caught in her throat.

“Can’t ye?”

“Non. Can’t you see I’m reading?” With an audible huff, she took the jumper from her brother anyway. “Don’t you think you should keep wearing it? Maman won’t be very happy if she comes back from Paris, and you’ve caught a cold. Or even worse, the flu.”

Fergus shook his head. Rain splatters from his hair must have gone everywhere, akin to something a dog might do, because Faith squealed and held his sodden jumper up to her face for protection.

“Fergus!” She reprimanded, much to Jenny’s amusement. Her peculiar accent sounded thicker, the angrier she got.

Without saying anything else to his sister, the lad ran back towards his team, t-shirt sticking to his skin with a combination of sweat and rain.

Jenny breathed in a lungful of the earthy air, which was permeated with the occasional shouts from excited parents.

She dared sneak another side glance at Faith Beauchamp, who had folded her brother’s jumper and placed it neatly inside the bag rather than the floor, lest it get even wetter and dirtier. A final glance at her brother, who was now doing a cartwheel, and Faith returned back to the sanctuary of her book.

A canny little lassie was she, bonny too. Her hair, Jenny noted, was simply pulled back into a bouncy ponytail with a silver ribbon tied to hold it into place.

From what she’d seen of him, Fergus was a braw lad, too. Tall for his age, not as tall as Willie, of course, most bairns weren’t because they didn’t have a Viking for a Da. But still Fergus stood heads and shoulders above most of the other lads. Perhaps his own Da had been tall, or even his Mam.

His English Mam…

---

Fuck, Jamie!” Claire groaned, head thrown back against the pillows, as she squeezed around the three thick fingers that Jamie had crooked inside of her. His thumb continued to play a gentle gliding back and forth across her clit, as she came back down to earth from her climax.

“You don’t play fair,” she huffed, once Jamie had tucked her head underneath his chin.

“Who said anything about playing fair, Sassenach?” He kissed the top of her head. “If yer that fussed, ye can make it up to me when we get back to this bed, later on.”

“Later on, hmm?”

“Aye, I thought we could go out this morning, get some food, have a bit of a look round and then…”

Claire glanced up at him; sleep still crusted in the inner corners of her eyes, and a pillow crease embedded into the apple of her cheek. “And then what?”

“And then I can fuck ye silly in the jacuzzi bath, obviously.”

The tail end of Claire’s laugh was taken over by a sharp inhale as Jamie pinched her nipple between his forefinger and thumb. But he still saw her nod in agreement with his plan.

This unexpected trip to France was fast becoming Jamie’s favourite holiday he’d ever taken, for a number of reasons. Most of which were very dirty, indeed.

---

Jamie couldn’t seem to keep his hands away from Claire from the moment she’d slipped out of the bed and declared she needed a wee. He’d attempted to follow her into the bathroom, only for Claire to laugh loudly, and shut the door firmly in his face. The last thing Jamie had seen was her body, still naked as the day she was born, bruised and marred with evidence of his presence.

He was, strangely, rather proud.

Once Claire had finished, Jamie slipped into the bathroom after her. He caught a hint of minty freshness from the toothpaste and mouthwash Claire had used, as he stood inside the shower tray, and turned the heat up to high. Jamie was typically a night time showerer. He didn’t have much time in the mornings, choosing to sleep in as much as possible instead, and he would only become sweaty again once he got stuck into the farming work, anyways.

But Jamie’s muscles were sore after last night's (and this mornings) activities, and he thought it best to at least let Claire get semi-dressed.

Well, either Jamie had taken longer than he’d thought, which could be possible. After all, he’d spent most of his shower time staring at the tiled walls, fantasizing about what he wanted to do to Claire next, and ignoring his morning erection (a useless talent that Jamie had gotten very good at doing over the years).

Or, Claire had rushed through her dressing, because as he padded out of the bathroom, nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist, he found her perched on the edge of their now made bed, her mobile phone glued to her ear.

She smiled at him silently, listening intently to whoever was on the other end of the line.

“Very good, darling,” Jamie heard her say, as he collected his clothes for that day and his canister of deodorant. “Can I speak to your sister now, please?”

Returning back to the bathroom, Jamie closed the door behind himself. This was Claire’s private time with her two children, and Jamie didn’t want to interrupt or take away from that.

Claire’s divided attention was something he’d have to learn and get used too. Neither of them were teenagers or young adults, with little to no responsibilities anymore. They didn’t have time to just pay attention to each other, and zone out the rest of the world, as Jamie himself had once done when he was young and foolish. Now, he had people other than himself to take care of, and so did Claire.

It wasn’t a bad thing, whatsoever, just… different.

But Claire was worth it.

She’d always be worth it.

---

“Do you want to do anything in particular today?” Claire asked, slipping into a pair of corkscrew espadrilles. For today’s outfit, she’d chosen a fitting pair of chequered black and white trousers, paired with a frilly, lace blouse. If Jamie stood close enough to her, and in the right light, he could just peek at a cream coloured bralette covering her breasts.

Jamie had stuck with another pair of chino shorts – light blue this time, and a white shirt. Saturday’s weather was supposed to be even warmer than Friday had been, especially for May. Apparently, Paris was experiencing a fluke heat wave for the weekend.

That would be right, Jamie thought to himself. Fluke heat wave just as the redhead, who burns like a bitch, decides to come for a trip.

“I’m not fussed.”

“Do you want to go down the touristy route,” Claire cocked her head. “Or we could hop on the metro and I could take you someplace I think you’d like?”

“Ye pick somewhere, Sassenach.”

Being surrounded by a hustling and bustling crowd had never been Jamie’s style, made even worse by his solitude job on the farm.

“Metro it is then,” Claire beamed.

The hotel had sent up a complimentary breakfast platter this morning, which Jamie and Claire had snacked on until they were full. The plate had been complete with pre-cut fruit and golden pastries with fruit compote fillings. With his stomach full, Jamie followed Claire out of their hotel room, into the lift, and out into the yellow sunshine.

They walked, side by side, hands clasped between themselves, towards an underground metro station. Claire paid for two adult day tickets, before tugging Jamie into the small, enclosed carriage. It reminded him of the tube he’d rode a couple of times whilst in London, except with more people. But it was a Saturday, he supposed, and a sunny one at that. Most places would probably be packed to the rafters.

Jamie still had no clue, not even a little inkling where they were, as they stepped off the metro and up the stairs, back into the blinding light.

A short walk followed, in which sweat ran down Jamie’s back due to the heat. He was about to complain to Claire, when he noticed the lush greenery surrounding him. It was even more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower had been yesterday.

The palace sitting in front of him was like something out of a film.

“Luxembourg Gardens and palace,” Claire explained, holding her hands out in front of her. “Gorgeous, aren’t they?”

“Aye, bonny…”

Words stuck in Jamie’s throat as he stared at the pure magnificence of the place.

The grass had been trimmed short, with a border of bright pink flowers already in full bloom. A man-made gravel path wound between the patches of greenery, making it accessible for people to walk through and admire the horizon, without trampling everywhere. Stone balconies were dotted here and there, as were benches, and tall bust like statues of figures. The palace itself had been built using a light brown stone, with, what could only be, more than a hundred windows facing outwards.

“Do you want to go inside?” Claire nodded her head towards the palace. “Or we could just walk around for a bit, get some fresh air into our lungs?”

It was too nice a day to be stuck indoors, even with air conditioning, stuck behind a group of slow walkers.

Jamie wrapped his arm around Claire’s shoulders, allowing their hips to bump together. He pushed away a strand of hair, to stroke his thumb down the side of her neck. “Walk with me for a little bit, Sassenach.”

---

“Do ye think ye’d ever want more bairns?”

Jamie watched Claire’s head whip around to face him, as he voiced his question.

After walking around half of the estate, Jamie had spotted an empty bench, beneath a large weeping willow. It was shaded enough to get a nice breath of crisp air, without breathing in muggy, car exhaust fumes, or the overwhelming sweet scent of the pink flowers. As the cool air kissed the skin on Jamie’s face, forearms and lower legs, he allowed a sigh of relief to pass his lips. It felt glorious to not be overheating for just a moment or two.

In front of them, a couple with a pram and a toddler, had stopped to admire one of the taller, stone statues. Their older child, a young lad who couldn’t have been any older than four, peered inside where his baby sibling lay, not in the least bit interested in his parents or the statue.

A pang of longing hit Jamie right in his heart.

He missed Willie more than he’d ever thought possible.

The couple and their children moved away, unaware of Jamie’s gaze, or the thought they had provoked inside of his mind.

They were the family unit Jamie had always wanted, had always dreamed of, had always aspired to be and have. The sad fact was he could imagine it as clear as day, even now. Willie had always been a kind little lad, even as a toddler. Jamie could imagine him peering into his own sibling’s pram, checking on him, looking after him, as an older brother should.

Perhaps in another life, in another time, Jamie could still have his lifelong wish.

He didn’t mean for the question to slip out, but surprisingly Jamie didn’t feel worry or horror at the heat from Claire’s eyes boring into the side of his face. Rather, he was more interested in what her answer would be. A yes, or a no?

“If the person was right,” she started slowly. “And the timing was right and they wanted to as well, then yes, I would be up for trying. Although, I’m getting older by the minute, so…”

“Ye’re only thirty, Sassenach.”

Claire raised her eyebrow independently. “Excuse me, I’m twenty nine actually. My birthday isn’t till October.”

“Sorry, twenty nine, then,” Jamie chuckled. “Ye’ve still got plenty of time, lass.”

“I had Faith and Fergus so young, though…” She shrugged. “I guess it’s up to God really, isn’t it?”

“Aye, something like that,” Jamie mumbled, watching a bee as it landed beside a clump of flowers growing at the weeping willow tree stump.

“Would you, Jamie? Want more children, that is?”

It took Jamie longer to decide how he wanted to answer than he had expected it to.

“Aye, I do. But after what happened with Geneva, I’m just…”

“Just what?” Claire prompted after a beat of silence passed between the two of them, and Jamie seemed to offer no other explanation.

“Scared.”

“Of what? Jamie, you're a great Dad! Willie looks up at you like you’ve hung the moon, and even Fergus…”

“It isn’t that bit.” He shook his head, jaw ticking with the sheer amount of force he was clenching with. “It’s the bit before, the bit in between, the bit Geneva never let me help with. I wouldn’t even have a clue where to begin.”

Claire’s fingers curved around his thigh, just resting there lightly. “May I ask what happened between the two of you?”

“We were just wrong from the start,” Jamie sighed, two fingers tap tap tapping against the outside of his thigh, and then the slats of the wooden bench beneath him.

“Geneva was a student, fresh into university. She was studying to be a veterinarian. Being young myself, I needed the extra money at the time, so I volunteered to be a stable hand. Caring for the horses, keeping them calm, that sort of thing – while the new students learnt how to spot an oncoming heart attack and how to monitor the horses’ vitals. Geneva sought me out from the beginning, a bold little thing, asking me to take her out on a date. I was in love within weeks.”

“And Geneva?” Claire croaked out. “Did she love you?”

“I don’t think so.” Jamie cut his eyes quickly to Claire and then back again to the gardens in front of him, when he saw physical pain etched into her facial features. He wondered if hearing about Geneva made Claire as angry and upset, as Jamie felt when she had talked about Frank just a day ago. From her open expression, he would guess, yes.

“Geneva was cleverer than anyone gave her credit to be, we were all akin to puppets on a string for her. When she found out she was pregnant with Willie, she told me by throwing her pregnancy test in my face and then slamming the door – like an actual child.”

Claire’s tightened, almost painfully, nails digging into his bare flesh.

“To this day, I still don’t ken how I managed to do it, or even why… well, I do ken why, for the unborn child that she carried, my unborn child, that I already loved… Months went by and--”

“Didn’t she think about getting an abortion?”

“No, she didn’t. She never mentioned it, and I didn’t ask.”

“Oh…”

“Anyway,” Jamie continued. “Months went by, and I think for the most part, Geneva tried to just forget she was pregnant. But her plan didn’t really work out that way. We started fighting, even more so than usual. She pushed me away, she wouldn’t let me touch her, she wouldn’t let me even mention anything about the bairn. I offered her a place to live with me, where we could bring the lad up, but she didn’t want to hear it. I still remember the argument we had that changed everything.”

“If you don’t want to--”

Jamie smiled sadly at the bonny lass sitting beside him, pressing her leg into his, in a silent show of support. “If we’re gonnae make this work, ye deserve to ken, Sassenach.”

“Geneva was far enough along by then, that there was no hiding it anymore. Wherever we’d go, people would comment on her bump, asking when her due date was, if she was excited, telling us to get all the sleep we could now before he arrived. We’d just got back from shopping that day. Geneva had decided to just try everything on when she got home, but nothing fit. I mean, of course they wouldn’t fuck fit, she’d bought everything in her pre-pregnancy size. She was just screaming and shouting how this was my fault, I’d done it on purpose… I couldn’t take much more, I stormed out, not really thinking much about it, other than I needed to leave, get some air, clear my head.”

An elderly couple hobbled by, she with a walking stick clasped firmly in her grip and a very pronounced limp. Her husband, who himself walked with a stoop, held her brown leather handbag from his right hand. That way, they could both use their free hands to intertwine with one another.

Jamie could just picture him and Claire being the same way.

Still madly in love no matter how many years passed them by.

“So, you left to clear your head?” Claire prompted, interrupting Jamie’s train of thought.

“Aye, I left.” He cleared his throat, folding his hand over Claire’s, protecting it. “And I ended up not hearing from her for two and a half weeks…”

Weeks?!

“Aye, weeks. I tried to see her, to talk to her, believe me I did, but she didn’t want to and how could I change her mind? Eventually, Geneva did ring me back, asking me to meet her in her uni dorm. When I got there, she was surrounded by boxes, and wearing a massive oversized t-shirt of mine.”

“She was leaving?”

“Aye, she was leaving,” Jamie confirmed. “I didn’t even ken that she’d told her parents about expecting a bairn. They didn’t approve of us being together, hadn’t since day one. They’re very well off, ye ken and to them I was just a lowly stable boy with not much to show for my hard work. Now that I look back, Geneva probably thought the same thing too, I was just a way of pissing off her parents, of teenage rebellion, really.”

“I…” Claire said, helpless, a comforting phrase on her tongue, but Jamie plowed on, wanting to finish and get it over with.

“Geneva asked me to drive her to the train station. Like a wee eejit, I did, foolishly thinking I could stop her.” Tap tap tap went his two fingers, this time along Claire’s bare, bony wrist. “She boarded that damn train, her and my unborn son, and I didn’t see either of them again until about a week before Willie entered the world. Geneva’s Mam rang her myself, Geneva couldn’t even be arsed to do that. The doctor had said her pains were becoming stronger, her cervix was dilating nicely and if I wanted to see the birth of my first child, then I needed to get down to Hellswater quickly. I left Scotland that night, like my cock was on fire.”

Jamie kent Claire kent was would happen next, but he forced the words out anyway.

“Willie was born at 11:45 at night, weighing 7 pounds and 3 ounces. He had a shock of red hair on his head, already sticking up all over the place, and a squalling set of lungs on him. They let me hold him; comfort him, while they stitched Geneva up. The wee lad had given her a fucking three degree tear--”

Claire winced, sucking in a lungful of air.

“I know.” Jamie pressed his own lips in sympathy. He hadn’t been able to feel the pain, but he’d certainly heard Geneva’s uncontrollable screams. “So the doctors gave her some pain medication after they’d stitched her up. I don’t remember what it was, something with a long complex name that I’d never heard of, so I don’t think you can just pick it up in the shop. Within three days, she’d overdosed herself and was gone.”

A bird chirped happily in another tree to Jamie’s left. Christ, how he wished he could that bird, flying away from its problems and responsibilities, without another care in the world.

“What happened to Geneva wasn’t your fault, Jamie.” Claire brushed away his fringe from getting in his dry eyes, her fingers cold against his heated skin. “You know that, don’t you?”

“If I’d just tried a little harder to speak to her, if I’d just stopped her from getting on that fucking train, if I’d just not walked out--”

“Listen to me.” Using her index finger, Claire turned Jamie’s face towards hers. “Geneva made her own decisions, you can’t change that, Jamie. No matter how much you want to. I won’t let you live the rest of your life feeling this much guilt, letting it weigh upon your shoulders. Do you hear me, James Fraser?”

“Aye, I hear ye loud and clear, Sassenach.” Jamie stole a kiss from Claire’s lips, feeling the stickiness of her clear lip gloss transfer onto his, smelling a combination of her feminine deodorant and calming perfume.

He was here.

He was now.

He was sitting with his Sassenach, safe and sound and in love.

Shit, he was in love…

“Do you really?”

“Aye, I do.” Jamie tucked Claire to lie her head down on his shoulder, placing a kiss to the back of her hand.

“Good,” Claire tipped her head up to look at him through her long eyelashes. “You’re a wonderful father, Jamie, and I know for certain you’d be just as wonderful if we did it all over again.”

We.

If we did it all over again.

Chapter Text

“I think I’ve got sunstroke,” Jamie groaned, head tipped back to rest on the glass behind him.

“No, you haven’t,” Claire said, her finger tracing down the center of his throat, along his Adam’s apple and towards his chest. “You’d have a temperature, and be vomiting your guts up right about now.”

Using her position, from where she stood in between his legs, Jamie rested both of his hands on either side of Claire’s hips. His thumb rubbed back and forth over the breathable cotton material, wishing it were her bare skin.

Hopefully, in – Jamie glanced at the climbing floor counter – four floors it would be.

“Vomiting my guts up, eh?” He peered down the bridge of his nose at his Sassenach. “Way to lower the mood, Dr Beauchamp.”

Claire fingers tiptoed over his lean forearms. “It might be sunburn.”

“Might be?”

“Yes, it’s hard to tell with you being a natural redhead, don’t you know? The red dusting of hair on your arms and legs makes it very hard to actually tell.”

“And if it is a sunburn?” Jamie squeezed her waist, harder than he had before.

“I’ve got a few home remedies to help fix it,” Claire whispered, biting down on her plump lower lip.

Jamie pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, bending down, until his lips brushed the delicately curved shell. “Home remedies, aye?”

---

After practically spilling his heart out to her and offering it up on a plate, Jamie had worried that Claire would begin to tread on eggshells around him. He was beyond glad that that obviously wasn’t the case.

They’d walked in almost near silence for the rest of the way around the Luxembourg Jardins and Palace, but still hand in hand. Jamie had felt rather drained afterwards. He still wasn’t totally sure whether it was a good type of drained; the one you get after releasing something you’ve carried around with you for so long. Or whether it was the type of drained that would send you on a slippery slope downwards into a depression spiral.

Rather than try and change the things he no longer had control over, or hyper focus on wishing he’d never let any of those things slip from his mouth, Jamie grounded himself with his unfamiliar surroundings.

He noticed the slimness of Claire’s fingers, her knuckles protruding against the thin skin covering the important bones, tendons and veins. These fingers which held peoples lives in them on a daily basis, were now holding onto Jamie's like her own personal lifeline.

He noticed the different pitches in people’s tones, as they walked by. Some were distinctly happy, even if Jamie couldn’t make out what they were saying, like the mother and daughter, who held a numerous amount of brown paper shopping bags hanging from the crooks of their arms. The two of them chattered away like birds, content in their own little bubble of two.

Another voice, this one male, spoke low and directly to the person on the other end of the phone, which clung to his ear. An untouched coffee cup sat in his other hand.

The third voice was high pitched, and distressed. It came from a young mother, whose newborn baby lay sleeping in a sling across her chest. Her older two children were running dangerously close to the large, murky pond, without any heed of caution.

“Fergus used to do that,” Claire said, breaking the silence between them for the first time in minutes.

“What? Run away from ye?” By now the woman had reached the two older children, and was practically tugging them away by the scruffs of their necks.

“Yeah,” she giggled breathlessly. “Only when he was little mind, but I had to buy some of those reins.”

“Aye, I ken the ones. I don’t think they had them around when we were young, but if they did, my Mam probably wishes she had some for me. Thinking about it, she probably wishes she still had them.”

Claire laughed louder at that, her upper teeth peeking from behind her always-kissable lips.

Feeling lighter in himself, Jamie carried on with getting back into a positive mindset, a here and now mindset. Usually, at times like these, he’d ring Jenny, needing to hear her voice, even if it was just to talk absolute shit. But Jamie thought it rather rude to do that when Claire was beside him, squeezing his hand every so often, to reassure him of her presence.

He could feel the grey fog lifting, by the time Claire suggested they stop at a little café, and order some slushy looking smoothies as a treat to cool them down.

The icy cold blueberry smoothie Jamie had chosen was delicious on his taste buds, a hint of citrus lime hitting the back of his throat perfectly.

Jamie was pretty proud of himself, something he didn’t admit too often. Before, it had sometimes taken days, even weeks to feel even an ounce of the fog lifting. Half an hour to an hour was nothing compared to that.

Perhaps Claire had been able to sense the change, the shift, the openness in his energy, once more, as she wrapped her lips around his straw and sucked up an icy chunk.

“Mm, that’s good,” she’d uttered, holding out her strawberry monstrosity “Want to try some of mine?”

“Aye, go on, then,” Jamie rasped, pursing his lips to use Claire’s straw, but never taking his eyes away from hers.

“How does it taste?”

“Mouthwatering,” was Jamie’s answer.

The deep breath Claire took in made that cream bralette covering her breasts, strain against the pearlescent buttons, clasping her frilly blouse closed.

“I think so too,” she agreed, taking another steady sip. Jamie watched as her throat bobbed, eyelashes fluttering. “What do you feel like doing now? We could--”

“I want to go back to our hotel room.”

She blinked owlishly, the straw denting the pillowy cushion of her lips, from where it sat in the middle.

Jamie moved a step closer to her, his semi hard cock pushing up against her hip. “Do ye, Sassenach?”

“Of course I fucking do,” she breathed out, lacing their hands back together and striding towards the metro, with Jamie’s uncontainable laughter ringing in both of their ears.

---

“Clothes off, now. Bathroom.” Jamie ordered as soon as they stepped over the private threshold of their own room. He kicked the door closed with the flat sole of his foot, hands reaching out to undo the cold metal zipper, which held Claire’s trousers closed.

She sighed into his mouth as his hand slid into her trousers, cupping her cloth covered mound possessively.

“I thought… oh... I thought we were testing out the jacuzzi bath?” Claire panted, head tilting back to allow Jamie to pull apart the collar of her blouse and nuzzle into her neck. His fingers busied themselves with tracing her lips through the gusset of her knickers.

Jamie wanted his third day old stubble rash to redden Claire’s skin, to leave behind a marker of his presence. “We are.”

“This doesn’t look like the bathroom,” she replied cheekily, her own hand flattening over Jamie’s groin. His hard cock jerked against its unwanted confines, pressing insistently through the layers of his boxers, and shorts, until it met Claire’s hand.

With a hot huff to the skin covering the ball of her shoulder, Jamie pulled his hand out of her trousers and took four steps to the left, into the bathroom.

“When I come back,” he spoke over his shoulder, clutching onto the door frame for dear life, lest he faint with the amount of blood surging towards his cock. “I expect ye to be naked, Sassenach.”

Two large red spots decorated the apples of her cheeks, the humidity in the Paris air had tripled her hair density, and the fly on her trousers lay spread open. But still, Claire stood to her full height, no longer looking shy or embarrassed at Jamie seeing her body, nor his request. “And if I’m not, Mr. Fraser?”

“Well then ye’ll just have to accept yer punishment, won’t ye?”

Back in the bathroom, Jamie set a mixture of hot and cold water to run through the tap, and added a good dollop of complimentary bubble bath that the hotel had so nicely supplied.

He stripped himself down to his bare skin, leaving a neat pile of inside out clothes in the corner, and then went back to find Claire.

She was sitting on the edge of the bed; hands folded neatly in her lap, and still fully dressed.

Jamie watched her watch his movements, her eyes ping ponging from where his cock bobbed in the air as he walked towards her, to his bright blue eyes.

“What are ye doing?” He asked, staring down at her.

“Waiting for you.”

“Fully dressed?”

Claire stared right back at him, unwavering, her lower lip jutting out. “Mhmm.”

The inner rim of her lips were stained a deeper red than usual, Jamie guessed it was most likely caused by the red berries in the smoothie she’d drank. He was just wondering if her tongue might be the same colour, when she stuck it out, flat, to give him his answer.

“What are ye--?”

His Sassenach’s dainty fingers wrapped around the base of his cock, as she bent her head downwards a touch, and rested the ruddy tip of him on her wet tongue.

Jamie felt his mouth pop open, her name stuck in his mouth in a pained groan, but audible words wouldn’t form.

Not breaking eye contact, Claire gripped the root of him more firmly than she had before, swirling her tongue around the rim of the head and dipping into his leaking slit. She moaned around him, the vibrations of her mouth sending shockwaves through Jamie, until he couldn’t hold back his own groan of appreciation.

”Sassenach…”

His right hand balled into a fist by his side, while his left hand rested on the back of Claire’s head, soft strands slipping through each web of his fingers.

At the image of Claire’s other hand reaching forward to caress his balls, and her tongue licking a long strip up the underside of his cock, paying special attention to the purple vein that throbbed there, Jamie’s eyes rolled into the back of his head involuntarily. He felt Claire’s rumble of laughter all the way to his bones, paralyzing him from doing anything else but staring down at her in admiration.

Jamie’s toes curled in the cushiony carpet beneath them, abs flexing and his hand tightening in Claire’s curls, as she took more of him into her hot mouth, swallowing around his tender flesh.

The wet sounds she made had Jamie flaring his nostrils, breathing coming faster and louder, with each shiver of pleasure up and down his spine.

He was well and truly done for when the hand Claire had been twisting the flesh of his cock with, moved to hold the muscular flesh of his thigh, and the last few inches of him disappeared into her mouth like a magic trick.

“Are ye fucking joking me…” He exhaled forcefully, the sensation of Claire’s hot breath from her nostrils, tickling the trimmed patch of curls covering his groin.

She swallowed three times, the back of her throat ripping around him, until she pulled off, strings of saliva still connecting the two of them.

“Claire…” The lapping at his tip resumed, until Jamie felt his balls grow heavy in Claire’s soft palm and begin to draw upwards. “Lass, I’m gonnae…”

Once again, she took him inside her mouth, lips only getting halfway, when Jamie’s first spurt of seed coated her tongue. Exhaling sharply, so much so he felt partially lightheaded, Jamie tipped his head back groaning up to the ceiling, the hand down by his side spasming.

A hard poke in his thigh made him look down again.

Nothing could prepare Jamie for the sight before him.

Claire parted her lips wide, sticking out her tongue and showcasing how filled her mouth was with his seed. She spat it back, messily blowing a transparent bubble, onto his still dripping cock, saliva and come mixing together until it dribbled across Jamie’s toned abdomen and his inner thighs. She caught more than a couple of drops before they could hit the floor, or her trousers, swallowing down audibly.

When he no longer felt like he’d pass out, Jamie rumbled out a choked laugh.

“What the fuck was that--”

“I don’t have a gag reflex,” Claire stated simply, tongue probing the corner of her mouth for any spots she might have missed.

“Ye don’t have a gag reflex,” Jamie repeated. He could hear the shocked wonder in his own voice. “Don’t ye think ye should have mentioned that beforehand?”

Claire blinked up at him, all big doe eyes and innocence.

Innocence Jamie’s arse.

“Do you think I should have mentioned it beforehand?”

“Aye, I do.” He nodded. “Then I could have prepared myself better.”

She stood to her full height, shorter without her heeled wedges on. “But I didn’t want you to be prepared,” said Claire, speaking softly. “I wanted you to fill my mouth, and you did.”

With that, she stalked off into the bathroom, leaving Jamie feeling more hot and bothered than when he’d started.

By the time he’d walked back into the bathroom, wafts of steam were pouring outside the door and Claire had submerged herself, naked, into the bubbly water. Her clothes had joined Jamie’s in a pile on the tiled floor.

“Enjoying yerself?” He asked, fingers curling around the lip of the bath. The mixture of Claire’s salvia and his own come had dried along his skin, leaving it itchy and taught.

“Yes.” Her hand shot out to touch his. “I’d enjoy it more if you got in, though.”

“I’m just admiring the view.” Indeed, the tops of Claire’s breasts rested just above the water level, her nipples covered by bubbles as if she were in some sort of kinky photo shoot. Her painted toes were visible too, legs parted just enough, that Jamie would easily be able to slot his hand in the space between the apex of her wet thighs.

“You can watch me all you want.” Claire’s other hand was submerged in the water, hidden. Too busy focusing on his own insistent twitch of his cock, which was quite clearly ready for a round two, Jamie missed the graze of her own hand across her nipple.

He didn’t, however, miss the gentle sigh that passed her lips, nor the sloshing of the water as Claire’s hand settled between her own legs.

“Shift over.”

“Hmm?”

“I said, shift over.” Jamie nudged Claire’s shin with his foot. “Face the other way.”

“The other way?”

“Aye,” Jamie dipped his feet in. “Face the side of the bath so I can get in behind ye.”

“Behind me?” Claire questioned, screwing her face up into one of confusion. “But you could still get in and sit behind me the normal way, what on earth--”

“Just trust me, Sassenach.”

Claire did as she was asked, legs stretching out into an almost side straddle split, while Jamie slid in beside her. He boxed her in, hands coming to rest on either side of the bath. His chest pressed to her back, stopping Claire from wriggling about too much, and pinning her up against the porcelain bath.

“Comfy?” He whispered into her ear, gently moving heavy, wet strands of her hair away from her neck, to make it easier for him to place a light kiss there. The musky scent of the bubbles clung to Claire’s wet skin, so much darker and heavier than the usual scent she wore for perfume. Jamie breathed it in, getting high on the wet glide of her body against his in the perfectly warm water.

“Not really,” Claire answered truthfully, craning her neck to look over her shoulder at him.

“Mm.” His hand came up to cup both of her breasts, feeling the weight of them in either palm. “Ye’ll be braw in a minute.”

“I’ll have to take your word for it, because right now it feels like my legs are about to cramp and shhhit…”

Large frothy bubbles began to form underneath the water, as Jamie pressed the first small black button beside his shoulder, and turned on the jacuzzi currents.

“What’s wrong, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, bringing a hand up to rest on Claire’s neck.

“Ngh..”

“What was that?” Beneath the pad of his thumb, Claire’s pulse thrummed like a wild animal that had just realised it had been caught. “Come on, lass, use ye words.”

“Jamie…”

“Does that feel good on yer clit? Hmm, my Sassenach?”

The water current swirled around Jamie’s legs, tickling the flesh there. He could only imagine what it was doing to Claire and her sweet little cunt. From the way she bucked in his arms, she couldn’t seem to decide whether the pleasure was just the right amount or too much.

“Feels fucking amazing,” Claire practically purred, the hands that Jamie had caught and pinned to the cold edge of the bath, preventing her from touching either herself or Jamie, dug into his calloused worker’s flesh.

“See? This is what happens when ye’re a good lass.” Jamie stole a kiss from the corner of her mouth, tasting a slight remnant of salt from his own arousal.

“Oh, god. I’m gonna… I’m close… shit…”

“Is that cunt of yours wishing ye had a cock stuffed up inside it for ye to flutter ye walls around?”

“Only yours.”

“Only my what?” Jamie twisted one of Claire’s nipples, pulling on it harshly.

“Only your cock.”

“Hm, yer words are sweet, Sassenach, but yer actions say differently. Only good lasses get to come, and ye haven’t been a good lass.” Jamie’s hand slipped purposefully under the water, cupping Claire’s wet and slippery cunt in his hand, and stopping the conveniently placed jet from shooting water to her sensitive clit.

“Jamie! Don’t be such a fucking tease…” Her breathing came out harsh, her body trembling on the edge of a much needed release that it hadn’t yet realised it wasn’t going to get.

“I wouldn’t have to be if ye’d been a good lass. I told ye there’d be a punishment, but ye still wouldn’t listen to me, so now--”

“I’ll be good,” Claire bobbed her head up and down. “I’ll be good next time, just please…”

Jamie hummed beneath her ear, pretending to think about it. “Fine, Sassenach. But only because you plead so nicely…”

The second Jamie removed his hand, allowing the water current to once again hit her over-stimulated bud, Claire let out a high pitched whine. She squirmed about in his arms, torso twisting this way and that.

Each passing movement of her body shifted Jamie’s cock to press against a different patch of her skin. First her lower back, then the crease of her fleshy hip. A pained grunt of his own tumbled out of Jamie’s mouth, as his cock slid between the cleft of her round arse. Each slide of her silken skin, rubbed against the velvet feeling skin covering Jamie’s cock, making his own toes curl underneath the mass of bubbles with just how good it felt.

It would be so easy right now to bend Claire forward a tad more, to take his cock in his hand, and to slip through her folds. So easy to bury his cock inside of her wet heat, and lose himself to the mindless pleasure that sex typically offered.

But it would also be so easy to keep up with the little game that Jamie had decided he wanted to play.

“Ye ken, I don’t actually think ye believe the words coming oot of yer own mouth.”

Usually so eloquent, so put together, Claire had been reduced to a pile of mush, incapable of saying anything but, “Huh?”

Jamie smiled secretly against her skin, imprinting his lips and teeth and tongue there.

“I said, I don’t think I believe ye because ye’re a bad girl, Claire and--”

“My fucking god, I’m coming--”

“Mm, no ye’re not, Sassenach.” Jamie cupped her mound again, the jet of water penetrating the root of his middle finger, rather than her clit.

“James fucking Fraser!” The dark murderous glint in those usually light eyes of hers, when she craned her neck to see him, was enough for Jamie to loosen a grasp on his tightly held control for just a millisecond. Enough to grab the side of her face and kiss her roughly.

“That’s it, say my name, Sassenach…”

“I’m being fucking serious,” she panted into his mouth, biting down on his bottom lip with her teeth and pulling it out ever so slightly. “Stop torturing me.”

“I can’t be torturing ye that bad if ye can still talk and form words.”

“You are…”

Jamie twisted her other nipple, wanting it to be as pink and as puffy as the one he’d been paying the most attention too. He delighted in another broken gasp he managed to wrangle from her.

“Tell me what ye want, Sassenach.” Jamie brought one of her wrists to his face, mouthing kisses across the back on her hand and soft, creased palm.

“I want you to let me fucking come,” she gritted out, body ridged.

“Use my correct name and I might just let ye.”

“Please let me come, Jamie…”

“Nope.” He popped the ‘p’ in time with a gentle tap to the hood of Claire’s clit with the pad of his finger. She bucked up out of Jamie’s grasp; so much so, he could feel the tightening of her inner thigh muscles as they strained.

“Ugh, fuck… please let me come, Mr. Fraser.”

“That’s better, Sassenach.”

Removing his hand, Jamie secured Claire’s wrists again and watched her body succumb to the pleasure he was bringing her. She twitched and gasped, whined and moaned, head thrashing against Jamie’s collarbone, leaving behind wet, heavy tendrils of her hair.

His name had only been sobbed from her lips a few seconds and then Claire was growing placid, muscles contracting and relaxing as her orgasm rushed through her. Water slopped over the edge of the bath, with every harsh jerk of Claire’s legs, as Jamie stroked down the side of her neck calmly.

“Shh, ye’re all right, lass. I ken it’s a strong one.”

She whined in his arms, kitten-like, eyes screwed tightly shut and lips parted.

“Ye’re okay, Sassenach, I’ve got ye, always.”

Jamie continued to whisper sweet nothings into Claire’s skin, listening for the brief split in time that her breathing became normal, before it was speeding up again. The water pressure continued to beat down upon her already pulsing clit, sending Claire into another pleasure spiral that she had no control of.

“Jamie, I can’t--”

“Aye, ye can.” He promised, banding an arm across Claire’s abdomen this time around, to stop herself from bruising herself on the hard plastic of the bath. “Just one more, Sassenach and then I’ll take care of ye.”

Without any teasing, Claire’s second climax snuck up on both of them much quicker than the first. She writhed against Jamie’s body, a guttural sound leaving her mouth, which echoed loudly off the white marbled tiled walls. Only once she was twitching, and her body had gone slack for the second time, did Jamie turn off the jets of water.

A much calmer silence descended over the two of them, not even a small drip from the tap could be heard.

“Sassenach? Ye okay?” Jamie mumbled, tracing her soft jawline with his nose. Claire was so beautiful like this, more placid than usual, softer, and it was a side only Jamie was getting to see. Something secret between just the two of them.

“Y-yes.” Her poor voice was hoarse from straining her vocal cords.

“Ye did so good, lass. Can ye move ye’re legs, or are they dead?”

With a slight noise of discomfort, Claire managed to uncurl her legs, straightening them out in front of her. The water surrounding them was now a tepid temperature, boarding on cold. Only God knew how long they’d actually been in there.

“How about standing?” Jamie queried.

Claire pushed herself up into a standing position, teeth chattering as she did so. Jamie himself wasn’t far behind her, water droplets travelling all the way down his body and onto the floor.

“Start a warm shower for us to heat up in,” he suggested, pulling the bath plug out for the water to drain, and then stepping in behind her. Thankfully, the shower was also big enough for two, just enough for Jamie to gently push Claire up against the wall, beside the shower rack full with complimentary items.

Jamie rested his hands on both of Claire’s shapely hips, and flitted his eyes across her face, searching. “Ye sore?”

“A little,” she admitted, shifting at the weight of Jamie’s cock against her lower stomach.

“Turn around then,” Jamie reached for her bottle of peach scented body wash.

“Don’t you want to…or for me to…” Claire swallowed down the rest of her words, but the glance at his erect cock, was enough for Jamie to catch her drift.

“Aye, of course I do, Sassenach.” With a dollop of shower gel in his hands, Jamie began to soap up Claire’s shoulders, watching mesmerized as the suds slipped and slid down parts of her body. “But only when ye’re less sore.”

“Are you sure?”

“Course I’m sure, lass. I said it would look after ye, didn’t I? So just relax and let me do my job.”

Chapter Text

“You ready?” Claire glanced down the stairs at Jamie, where he stood with each of their suitcases. Her hand held aloft the knocker on Louise’s new door.

Jamie nodded his head, the harsh sun reflecting from the pewter plant pots outside of Louise’s home and shining directly into Jamie’s eyes.

As they waited patiently for Louise to open the door, Jamie took time to look up and down the bonny street. Most of the terrace houses appeared to be occupied, what with the sheer number of cars and motorbikes parked down the street and against the curb, but not a soul could be seen walking or running. It wouldn’t be such a bad place to live, Jamie thought to himself, hearing the chain on the other side of the door, being rattled. The street was clean enough, most gardens had some sort of plant or flower growing outside of it and a scenic park was only a couple minutes walk away.

Was this the type of home Claire had lived in with Frank?

The type of home she’d started her family in and envisioned living in forever, even when Faith and Fergus had flown the nest?

Did she miss the place, the country, the people other than Frank, who she'd bonded and made friends with?

“Mon cherie!” A woman, with brunette hair only a few shades lighter than Claire’s and tied back into an intricate braid, came bounding over the threshold, arms held wide. She engulfed Claire into a bone crushing hug, mumbling terms of endearment in French that Jamie didn’t understand a lick of, but he could hear the love and the excitement pouring forth from them.

“Come in, come in!” She said, practically shoving Claire inside and then turning to welcome Jamie.

“Jamie? Isn’t it?” Her accent was thick, even thicker than some of the locals that Jamie had listened to over the course of the weekend.

Louise only came up to the middle of Jamie’s chest, but that didn’t stop her from placing a loud kiss on either side of Jamie’s stubbled cheek and squeezing in a quick hug around his waist. “You can just… um…” Her hands waved toward the hallway. “Leave them here, if you like. I’ll go start on tea for us all.”

Following the two women further inside the terrace house, Jamie found himself in a beautiful white kitchen with silver accents. Louise had positioned herself at the counter, filling the kettle with water and setting it to boil, while Claire had taken a seat at the booth-like table, covered in a light blue leather. The double doors beside the table had been pulled open wide, allowing the natural golden sunlight to stream in and highlight the marble tiles.

A comfortable breeze kissed Jamie’s skin, as Claire patted the space next to her.

“I got a few special treats for us to share, while I was out the other day,” Louise said, adding sugar to her own cup. “Jamie, do you take sugar?”

“Just one, please.” He answered.

Louise nodded, adding a spoonful to his cup, which had gorgeous lilac flowers decorating the side of it.

“You really didn’t need to buy anything for us, Lou,” Claire said, fingers dancing over the glossy cover of a magazine that sat on the table. Jamie didn’t recognize the cover model, or any of the slang the editors had used to draw the reader's attention, but Claire seemed intrigued enough.

“Shush,” Louise shot a look over her shoulder. “It isn’t every week that my best friend comes back to our beloved city and brings her new boyfriend with her. So you will allow me to indulge.”

Jamie’s gaze was drawn to Claire’s face at Louise’s use of the word boyfriend. Claire said nothing, but smiled broadly and without restraint, simply reading his mind and then going back to flicking through the makeup articles inside the magazine.

“Here iz ze tea.” The fine china cups clinked down the surface; one in front of Claire, another in front of Jamie and the third one in the seat leather bar stool beside either of them. A different flavour wafted out of Claire’s cup, the tea a lighter grey colour, rather than the golden colour of Jamie’s breakfast tea. “I used zat honeysuckle and elderflower one you used to like, cheri. You still like it, oui?”

Claire delicately gripped the handle and the rim of the cup, keeping it steady, as she inhaled in the fragrant steam. “Christ, I haven’t had a cup since you sent me my last box at Christmas. Of course I still bloody well like it, I used to be addicted to the stuff.”

“I remember,” Louise padded back to the fridge, drawing it open and rummaging about for something. “It was the only thing you could keep down.”

“Yes, when I was pregnant with Faith,” Claire explained, more for Jamie’s benefit, than for anyone else’s. It warmed his heart to ken Claire wanted to include him in an inside memory between best friends. She obviously thought him worthy enough to recall happy memories with him; something Geneva had never been very fond of doing – instead, leaving him to figure things out for himself.

“I couldn’t keep any other liquids down, other than this,” Jamie’s bonny English lass carried on. “I first tried it in a tearoom, and then we had to go back for boxes upon boxes, remember Lou?”

“Oui, but at least zat was better than when you were with poor Fergus. I truly thought your insides were going to… ah… rot.”

“I wanted nothing but lemonade with Fergus,” Claire giggled. “I--”

“Nothing else, I tell you, Jamie.” Louise had found whatever she’d been looking for, and now straightening up, she held in her hands a platter containing some delicious fruit tartlets. “I had to listen to her burp for the full nine months.”

Jamie snorted into his tea.

“I only wanted the sugary ones, as well.” Claire moved Louise’s cup out of the way to make room for the food. “Some days my teeth ached with the amount of sugar I was consuming, but nothing else would quench my thirst.”

“Bless ye, Sassenach.”

“So,” Louise’s head was back in the chilled fridge. “I bought the pastries from that little market we used to visit… did you take Jamie to see it?”

“We haven’t really had enough time…”

“Oh, sure you did not,” Louise said, both her tone of voice and facial features, as she peered at the two of them, sitting cozily at the table, were unbelieving of Claire’s lie. “I’m sure you two were busy doing… other things. Or perhaps just each other--”

“Louise!”

She shrugged, unbothered by Claire’s outburst. “I only say ze truth. Anyway, I bought food in, but I did make these.” Another platter was placed onto the table, this one filled with orange-coloured champagne flutes. “Mimosas!”

Jamie grabbed ahold of the stem of the glass, not quite as gingerly as Claire could with her dainty fingers. He was about to bring the drink up to his lips and taste it, when Louise whacked the back of hand from across the table.

“We need to make a toast before you drink it!”

“Och, aye, sorry.”

“I can see why you didn’t leave your bed all trip, cheri. With an accent like that, I wouldn’t either…”

Claire rolled her eyes good naturedly, but beneath the table, she tapped Jamie’s knee twice. “You were saying something about a toast, Lou…”

“Ah, oui.” Louise raised her glass; closely watching to make sure Jamie and Claire did as well. “To best friends finding their back to one another and,” Louise winked at Jamie. “Hot boyfriends.”

Jamie repeated the words happily, clinking his glass with Louise’s and taking a sip. A burst of citrusy orange juice burst along his tongue, as did the sharp bite of vodka.

“Is there vodka in this?”

“Oui,” Louise took her own gulp. “I’m not a fan of champagne, it tastes like piss, so it’s vodka instead.” She explained simply, as if nothing were wrong with adding a very strong spirit to your morning drink. “Now, Claire,” she reprimanded, over the rim of her glass. “you did not say ze toast.”

“To best friends finding their way back to one another…”

“And?” Louise asked, expectantly.

“To hot boyfriends.” Claire mumbled into the alcohol.

“Bon! I knew you could say it, cheri!”

“Don’t worry, Louise.” Jamie reached across to help himself to a raspberry tartlet. “She tells me in private, she just doesn’t want to share it with the class and give me a big head.”

Louise flickered her gaze between the two of them for a moment and then threw her head back and laughed heartily. When she stopped laughing, the apples of her cheeks were still a rosy red colour. “Oh, you’ve picked a good one here, mon cheri.” She laid her tanned hand across Claire’s. “He’s a keeper for sure.”

---

A keeper he might be, but that didn’t save Jamie from Louise’s interrogation, the moment Claire stepped out of the room.

“Claire won’t be very long, so I’ll get down to business,” Louise wiped her blueberry stained fingers onto a clean napkin. “I like you very much Jamie, but I still need to make sure that you are treating my best friend right.”

“Aye, of course.” Jamie swallowed harshly, mouth made all that more dry by the two mimosas he had consumed. “I--”

“Do you love her?”

“Aye.” He looked down at his feet beneath the table, tapping two fingers on his left hand against his outer thigh. “But I—I’m not ready to tell her just yet.”

“Understandable, although soon, oui? She loves you too, so--”

Louise said it so off the cuff, as it was unremarkable, but Jamie’s head snapped up. “What did ye say?”

“What? Oh, um… Claire loves you too. I have known mon cheri for a very long time, I remember how she looks when she is in love. Exactly how she peers up at you, when she thinks nobody is looking.”

“I--”

“But the most important thing is how you treat her, Frank Randall was nice once…”

A pang of something hot and fiery landed in the center of Jamie’s stomach at the sheer thought of being compared to the man who’d broken Claire’s heart a number of times. Jamie worked hard to keep the venom out of his tone, but still said it forcefully enough for Louise to get the clear cut message. “I’m not like him at all.”

“Mhmm,” Louise hummed. “I never said you were. But I’m making it clear to you now, that if you hurt her or one of her children, I will be on that plane to Scotland, faster than you can blink. Do you understand?”

“Aye,” Jamie said, tip of his tongue probing the sharp incisor of his back upper tooth to stop himself from swearing.

“You understand why I am saying this to you, oui?” Louise rested a hand over her heart. “I say it out of love from Claire. I never want to see her go through all that pain and heartbreak ever again.”

“Neither do I.”

“Bon,” Louise agreed. “Then we are both on the same page, oui?

“Oui.”

---

“How are you feeling?”

“Grim,” Jamie replied.

Stupidly, he’d thought he would be okay on the plane ride back home. This time around he kent what to expect, Claire would still be beside him and in the end, he’d be reunited with his son.

However, Jamie hadn’t taken into consideration the three strong mimosas he’d consumed back at Louise’s home.

They hadn’t even made it away near the plane, and barely just through duty free, when Jamie had to make a mad dash for the loo, saliva filling his mouth. He’d emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet bowl, feeling a cold sweat break out over his brow.

As best he could, Jamie had washed his mouth out with the water from the sink tap, and then took Claire up on her offer to sip from her peach iced tea.

Once both of them had taken their plane seats, Jamie’s clammy hand already gripping in Claire’s, he’d shoved two pieces of gum into his mouth and chewed ferociously, hoping the minty flavour would get rid of; the disgusting taste in his mouth, stop his ears from popping from the air pressure, and help ground him.

Claire smoothed his fringe away from his sticky forehead.

“You’re not burning up, so that’s a good sign,” she murmured. “Do you want me to keep talking to take your mind off of it, or should I just--”

Jamie shuffled down in his seat, as far as his long legs and extra small leg room would allow, and laid his head down upon Claire’s shoulder. “Keep talking, Sassenach.”

“Well, I got an email this morning,” Claire started, tracing the outline of Jamie’s hand, his knuckles, his trimmed nails.

“Och, aye? About what?”

“There’s a celebratory work function being held at the Hummingbird Hotel for the hospital next weekend. It’s usually where we give thanks for our yearly donations, and we do a little ceremony to give awards to some of the most deserving staff. I was… well…”

Jamie peered through his blonde eyelashes to find Claire already staring at him. “Spit it out, Sassenach.”

She smiled, shaking her head at his antics. “I was going to ask if you’d come with me?”

“Course I will, Sassenach.” Jamie smacked his gum as he repressed an awful tasting burp. “I’d be a shite boyfriend, if I didn’t.”

Claire nails scratched against his skull so pleasantly Jamie’s eyes closed involuntarily. “Oh, so you’re my boyfriend now, are you?”

“Aye,” he practically purred. “I’ve decided I’m gonnae stick to ye like glue.”

“Like glue, eh?” Claire pressed her smooth temple to his fringe and whispered for only just the two of them to hear. “Well, I’m not sure I want it any other way as long as I get to stick to you too.”

---

“Da! Da! Da!”

Jamie hadn’t even stepped foot into the main Lallybroch estate house, when Willie was sprinting down the stairs in a mad dash to reach his Da.

“Ye’re back!” Willie exclaimed gleefully, giggling as Jamie lifted his son off of his feet and spun him round.

“I said I would, didn’t I, lad?” Jamie smacked a loud kiss to Willie’s hair. “Where’s everybody else?”

Willie opened his mouth to answer, when Jenny’s voice called from the back kitchen. “Brother? Is that ye?”

“Aye, it’s me,” Jamie called back, taking a hold of Willie’s hand and starting down the hallway. “Put the kettle on, won’t ye? I’m dying for a cup.”

“Don’t ye want a whisky, darling?” Ellen stuck her head out of the living room door, her latest cookbook held fast in one hand and a pen to mark her favourite recipes in the other.

Jamie gagged, unable to suppress it, as he and Willie entered the kitchen. “Please don’t mention whisky to me right about now…”

“Why? What’s wrong with ye?” Jenny asked, hands resting on her apron covered hips. It didn’t nothing but accentuate the curve of her growing body. Four different mugs had been set out on the counter, tea bags waiting inside, as the kettle began to whistle signaling it had finished boiling.

“Made the fatal mistake of drinking before we got on the plane.” Jamie felt his lips grimace, shuddering as he remembered the hot and cold chills that had begun to take over his body for just a couple of seconds while he knelt on the dirty bathroom floor and vomited his insides out. “Everything came back up before we’d even boarded.”

Ellen patted his shoulder, tucking her pen inside the pages to mark her place and then laying the thick bound cookbook onto the wooden table. “Och, bless ye, Jamie.”

Jamie was sure he heard Jenny snorted under her breath, as she poured the same amount of water into each mug.

“Other than that, did ye have a nice time?”

“Aye.” Jamie accepted his milky tea from his sister with a silent nod. “I saw the Eiffel Tower on the Friday we landed, and then spent Saturday exploring the Luxembourg gardens.”

“Da?” Willie hopped about on one leg, a permanent smile etched upon his face. “I’m really excited ye’re back and all, but I promised wee Rabbie I’d practice his footie with him. Ye don’t mind if I see ye later, do ye?”

“Course not, son.” Jamie winked at his lad. “Ye and wee Rabbie be good, mind. I’ll call ye to come home in an hour or so, okay?”

With a nod, Willie scampered off to meet with one of the farmhand’s young laddies, Rabbie. Huffing, Jenny sat down in the seat opposite Jamie, taking a large and rather loud, slurp of her tea.

“I tell ye, brother. Willie’s been happy all weekend, hasn’t he, Mam?”

“Aye,” Ellen agreed, pushing tins apart in the pantry to find the beloved biscuit tin.

“But nowhere near as happy as when ye came through the door. Thought he’d fall down the stairs, trying to get to ye that fast. Anyone would have thought he missed ye, or something.”

“If it’s possible, I missed him even more than he missed me.” Jamie took a homemade shortbread from the offered tin, and dunked it once, twice, three times in his tea. The biscuit dissolved on his tongue perfectly, buttery and filling, with just a hint of crunchy sugar. “So what did ye’s get up to while I was gone?”

“Well, Willie was absolutely fine.” Ellen said. “As good as gold.”

Jamie guffawed into his tea, making the golden liquid ripple. As good as gold? Willie? Only sometimes could William Fraser be described as that, and it was only when the mood suited him.

“He did all of his chores,” continued Ellen, not hearing a bad word said about her eldest Grandbairn. “The homework assignment this week was about grandparents, so--”

At once, Jamie was alert, another biscuit poised in his hand for dunking. “Was he all right?”

“Braw, son. It only took him a couple of hours, writing down things about me and yer Da, and then as a treat we took him to the beach for ice cream.”

“Right, aye.” Jamie took a deep breath, and exhaled, smelling Claire’s perfume, even though he’d parted ways with her at the airport almost an hour ago. “Good.”

“I took him to football training on Saturday morning,” Jenny spoke up. “He was braw then, as well.”

“Did ye enjoy it?”

“Getting stuck in the rain? No, brother. Seeing Willie have fun, even though it was pouring? Aye, that made up for it.”

Something else hung in the air as Jenny spoke. Jamie felt as if his elder sister had something else to say, so wisely kept quiet.

“I saw Fergus.”

There it was.

“And wee Faith.”

Jamie leaned forward in his seat, left hand slithering under the table, to rest on the top of his thigh. His two fingers began their usual rhythm when he felt an overwhelming amount of emotions. “Ye didn’t go up to them did ye?”

“Of course I didn’t, Jamie.” Jenny pulled a face, setting down her mug with a dull thump. “What do ye take me for? An eejit?” She scoffed.

“God knows what goes through that pregnancy brain of yours,” Jamie mumbled.

“What was that, brother?”

“Nothing.” Jamie smiled as sincerely as he dared.

Jenny crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s what I thought. Anyway, I was gonnae say they’re bonny bairns.”

“Bonny Mam, as well,” Jamie said, raising his glass in a mock salute to Claire and then gulping down the rest of his perfectly brewed tea.

“We ken, lad,” said Ellen. “Yer sister looked her up on facebook.”

“Ye did fucking what?

“Language, Jamie Fraser!” Ellen reprimanded.

“Me, language?” He pointed at himself, voice thick with disbelief. “Janet, here, thinks it fine to stalk my girlfriend.”

“Yer girlfriend?” Jenny’s eyes glinted with something indescribable.

Fucking shit balls.

Jamie grinded his teeth together. He could feel the tips of his ears becoming redder and hotter with each passing second. “It’s not okay to stalk her, Janet.”

Jenny fixed her brother a look she had honed and perfected over many years. “What Claire doesn’t ken won’t hurt her.”

“Fucking well will when I tell her…”

Ever the mediator, Ellen held both of her hands up in a placating manner. “Yer sister and I were only curious, lad. Jenny was only looking out for ye, weren’t ye, Janet?”

“Aye,” said Jenny, nodding along with every word spouting from Ellen’s mouth. “It’s only because I care, brother.”

“Ye’ve got a funny way of showing it…”

“Jamie, stop.” His Mam demanded, her tone becoming harsher and sharper. “Yer sister and I merely looked at Claire’s profile. We didn’t follow her or like any of her pictures, or do any of that other crap ye’re all up to these days.”

“I just wanted to see what she looked like, Jamie,” Jenny said quietly, nervously crossing and uncrossing her hands together. “Is that such a bad thing?”

“No,” Jamie sighed. “But only if ye promise not to do it again. It’s an invasion of her privacy, Janet. I don’t think ye’d like it, if Claire did it to ye.”

“How do ye ken she hasn’t?”

At the sight of Jamie’s glare and furrowed brow, Jenny decided it might be best to shut her big mouth, at least for the time being.

“There! All sorted.” Ellen clasped her hands around her practically empty mug. For a minute or two, three-fifths of the Fraser family sat in companionable silence, before it was broken. This time by Ellen.

“She is very bonny, Jamie.”

Jamie raised his eyebrows, bobbing his head in agreement. “I ken, Mam.”

Ellen didn’t miss a beat.

“As well as her first two bairns, ye and her would make really bonny grandbairns for me and yer Da to spoil.”

Jenny’s resulting laugh was so loud and so hearty, that her ever growing bump jolted up and down in time with her inhales.

“Oh, piss off,” Jamie replied, much to Jenny’s utter delight.

“Nothing quite like being back with yer family, eh, lad?” Ian asked, roughly rubbing his knuckles over Jamie’s head, as he walked into the kitchen. He must have been able to hear parts of their conversation from the hallway, and managed to pick up the gist. Either that, or Ian too, had sat with Jenny and scrolled through Claire’s social media profile.

“Aye,” Jamie admitted. “Nothing quite like it, indeed.”

Chapter Text

Jamie might have enjoyed every second he’d spent in Paris, but Ian had been correct.

There was nothing like being back home, surrounded by rolling hills, solitude and the loud squealing of a sheep as he was held down and castrated.

Nothing around the farm had really changed over the course of the weekend that Jamie had taken off. The border of pink tulips, that surrounded the green area directly outside of Jamie’s front door, had begun to bloom beautifully, petals opening up to allow the bees to feast upon the sticky nectar.

All of the newborn male lambs had been ear tagged with a fetching bright green colour. Once that had been done, Jamie, six of his farmhands and the two vets turned their attention to castration. While the other remaining farmhands continued working their way through the newborn female lambs, making sure they too, were tagged.

The thick coppery scent of blood clung to the hairs inside of Jamie’s nose as he knelt in the hay, running his hand along the flank of a comatose sheep to check for a pulse.

There.

Pulse.

Pulse. Pulse.

Faint, but there, nonetheless.

Much to Jamie’s surprise, they’d actually managed to get most of the multiple castration processes over and done with in one day. Hopefully, they’d be finished before Willie got back home from school, so the lad didn’t have to see the sheer quantity of blood and other fluids that coated the concrete floor, clogging up the hay in wet piles.

Jamie’s phone vibrated in his front pocket, jingling against the spare change that he always kept there for emergencies. Thankful for the distraction, and an excuse to step outside and get some fresh air, Jamie fished his phone out from between the denim material and held it up in a silent alert for his disappearance.

He didn’t even wait to see if Ian nodded in understanding before slipping away around the back of the barn and into the shaded willow meadow.

Brian had built the weaving meadow maze by himself a number of years ago as a birthday present for Ellen. But in all honesty, it had been Jamie, Jenny and their cousins, who’d admired the winding maze and got the most use out of it. They used to split up into teams, racing each other to find who could reach the middle, where a solitary bench stood, the fastest.

A number of times Jamie had happened upon the maze, wound his way through it by muscle memory, and found Jenny already sitting on the bench. Sometimes she’d been lost in thought, other times she’d taken a book out with her, or her damned diary that Jamie had been dying to read since the age of twelve.

It had been her own little private spot.

But now, Jamie was pretty certain it was deserted. Putting one foot in front of the other, he walked through the maze, dodging dead ends and overgrown thickets. The bench stood as it always had done, except this time with a slight crumbling of the wood on a couple of the slats that hadn’t been there only a couple of years ago.

Jamie took a seat right bang in the middle, obscuring the sentimental plaque that Brian had handwritten in silver, promising his everlasting love to his beloved wife.

In the distance an owl hooted for a second, before the sound was taken over by a passing bee and then the subtle creaking of the woven willow branches.

Turning his phone over, Jamie found a missed phone call from Sassenach, and a time-stamped voicemail she had left. Double checking the time at the top of the screen, Jamie found it had just gone past two o’clock in the afternoon. He’d spoken to Claire, over text, just yesterday. They’d messaged each other sporadically throughout the day, making jokes about how tired they were, and what they were planning on making for dinner – simple, monotonous conversations that Jamie had missed talking to somebody about, having somebody to share those things with.

For a split second, as Jamie typed in his passcode and brought up Claire’s voicemail, he wondered how Fergus had fared with this week's family homework assignment. She hadn’t brought it up within their text messages, but Jamie’s heart did go out to the wee lad.

“Hi.” Claire’s voice echoed through the speakers of Jamie’s mobile phone. “I tried to ring you, but you must be busy. I’m just on my lunch break. I don’t know why I’m ringing really…” She giggled breathlessly, nervously, words all a jumble. “I just… Christ, I know it’s only been two days since I saw you last, but I miss you. Yes, that’s why I’m ringing, to say I miss you. I’ll have to get going soon, but ring me when you get this, won’t you? Bye.”

Jamie felt a smile overtake his face at the stuttered girlishness of Claire’s voicemail. By no means did Jamie think her a girl; immature, stuck up and selfish – the way Geneva had been. But Jamie was glad to hear the living proof that Claire was as nervous, and as hung up on him, as he was on her.

She’d told him, of course. But for some reason… it just felt different this time, like they were heading towards some unknown destination. For one of the first times in Jamie’s life, he wasn’t too scared about the future. Naturally, he was still terrified, but the feeling wasn’t all-consuming, as it had been once. Mainly because Claire stood beside him.

Clicking her name from the top of his most recent contacts list, Jamie heard two dial tones ring before she answered.

“Jamie.”

“I miss ye too,” was the first thing he said to her. Not hello. Not how are you? Not how’s work going? No, Jamie uttered the truth, the thing most on his mind.

As Claire laughed into the phone, Jamie could picture her, and he closed his eyes. He hadn’t been inside a hospital in years and never in the staff room, but he could imagine her sitting at a long table, lunch and an added snack with a cup of steaming hot tea waiting in front of her.

Okay, so the staff room she currently sat in might be a blur. But Jamie could quite clearly see in his mind’s eye, what his Sassenach would be wearing. If it were surgery day, she’d be kitted out in her boxy blue scrubs, a rather fetching hat covering all of her hair and a white lab coat. If she were in a meeting, either with her boss, co-workers, or new patients, Claire would be wearing her standard outfit of tight fitting pencil skirt, patterned blouse, heels and white lab coat.

The white lab coat in particular (since Claire had shown him a photograph of her in it over the past weekend, the first day she’d started the hospital in town) had begun to star in many of Jamie’s fantasies.

“Ye still on yer lunch break?”

“Mhmm.” Claire took a sip of something. “What are you doing? I didn’t—”

A loud rustling blocked out the rest of Claire’s sentence, followed by another voice that was muffled.

The broad voice, which Jamie identified as Geillis’ only a second before she took over the phone, piped up. “Hallo, loverboy.”

“Geillis,” he answered, raising his brow even though neither lass could see him.

“Has Claire told ye about the work party on Thursday night? Ye are coming, aren’t ye?”

“Aye, she’s told me and aye I’ll be there.”

“Good, because--”

“Christ,” Claire’s voice was back, sounding more posh than usual in contrast to Geillis thick Scottish accent. “I’m sorry about her. She needs to learn when to shut her fucking mouth and…”

Jamie heard the word hot mixed in there somewhere, before Claire was huffing hotly.

“Right, she’s left. My God, I feel like I’m thirteen again, and I’m talking to my crush, when she does that.”

“So I’m not yer crush, Sassenach?” Jamie feigned mock hurt. “Heartbreaking news that is.”

“Don’t you start as well.” She scolded. “First her, now you, next it’ll be Fergus, my own bloody child.”

Jamie clicked his tongue, the sound loud and very human in the near-silent natural surroundings. “Hush, Sassenach. It wouldn’t be Fergus, it would be wee Faith who’d rip ye apart.”

“Wouldn’t be surprised. So am I?”

“Are ye what, Sassenach?” asked Jamie. “I couldn’t hear yer question over all the racket Geillis was making.”

“I was asking if I was interrupting you while you were working on something important,” Claire clarified, taking another gulp of a liquid.

“Och, no, not really. The vets are here for the castration of a couple sheep, so they’re doing most of the hard work. Ian and I were just supervising to make sure everything goes over smoothly.”

“Sounds lovely.” The grimace in Claire’s tone was so apparent, Jamie did have to laugh.

“Aye, lovely indeed.” Jamie slid further down the bench, uncrossing and crossing his legs at the ankles in an attempt to find a comfy position. Jamie couldn’t really see the appeal to why Jenny liked to sit in here. It wasn’t comfy on yer arse, whatsoever. “I didna ken what ye’re getting squeamish over, ye see blood everyday.”

“I don’t cut off sheep’s testicles for a living.”

“Ye might cut off other testicles,” said Jamie.

“Can you please stop saying the word testicle?”

“Ye don’t seem bothered when they’re mine, Sassenach. In fact, I vividly remember--”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” Jamie could picture Claire biting down on her plush lower lip, trying to stop her blush from rising. “Where are you now?”

“Sitting in the willow maze.”

“The willow maze?” She asked.

“Aye, Da built it for one of Mam’s birthdays, I canna remember which one. I spent a lot of my childhood running through here with my cousins, or hiding from Da with Jenny.”

“Sounds delightful.” Claire’s own voice sounded as fond as Jamie’s did retelling the family story. “I--”

“I’ll have to bring ye and the bairns sometime, I think ye’d all ready enjoy it. Actually, ye’d probably like the whole estate, filthy pigs and horse manure, included.”

“How about this weekend?”

“What?” Blood roared fast in Jamie’s ears. He sat up straighter, mouth dry. “This weekend?”

“Yes.” Claire sounded breathless. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but work says I can have this weekend off, as well as last. I thought we could go to the work function together on Thursday night, spend part of Friday just the two of us and then I can pick Faith and Fergus up on Friday night from school and we could all stay over yours… that is if you have enough room… or if you even want us all too--”

“Aye, yes, I want ye to stay over.” Jamie felt his head bobbing like a nodding dog toy. “Ye and the bairns. This weekend sounds perfect.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose or--”

“Yer not imposing, Sassenach.” Jamie pressed his feet flat in the solid earth supporting him to ground himself. This was really happening. Claire wanted to come and spend time with him. She wanted to bring the bairns. She wanted to see parts of him that Jamie hadn’t shared before; the intimate details of how he worked, the way he cooked, the way he acted in his own territory, his own home.

She wanted to make a fine go of things.

“The weather is supposed to be really lovely this weekend,” Jamie continued, feeling that if he stopped, he might either be sick or shout aloud with sheer happiness. “It’ll all be a special treat.”

“I’m so excited,” Claire admitted, quietly. Jamie could hear the smile in her voice.

“Me too, lass. Me fucking too.”

---

Even with just the long weekend off, it still took Jamie a rather difficult time to settle back into the daily farming routine. It didn’t help that since his phone call with Claire on Tuesday afternoon, a band of nervous energy had settled itself inside of his bloodstream, and nothing Jamie did seemed to quell it.

The rest of Tuesday, all of Wednesday and part of Thursday passed Jamie by in a blur of coffee, sunshine (which was becoming stronger by the day as summer edged closer and closer), back breaking work and sleep. Each night, Jamie had been pretty much dead to the world, practically conking out before his head even hit the pillow.

Arrangements were made on Thursday morning, while Jamie had his head in the back of his wardrobe, furiously searching for his only suit.

Ding!

Ding!

Ding!

“Fucking hell, I’m coming,” Jamie muttered under his breath, taking a break from his search to check his mobile phone notifications.

Sassenach [11:23] to Jamie x
is 7:30 all right for you to pick me up? Xxx

Do not anger pregnant lady [11:22] to Brother
Mam told me about date w/ Claire… do ye wanna borrow one of Ian’s suit’s??

Mother dearest [11:21] to Darling lad x
Aye having Willie is fine by me and yer Da, son. What time? Xx

Typing quickly, Jamie composed a text to each of the favourite women in his life.

Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [11:24]
Aye 7:30 is braw… c u then Sassenach xxx

Wee redheaded devil to JFM [11:24]
I haven’t fitted in Ian’s clothes since I was 13, Janet… but ta for offering… I guess x dare I even ask if that was that Wee Jamie I could hear screaming at the cows this morning? Xx

Jamie to Mam [11:25]
Seven if ye dinnae mind mam, picking Claire up at half past and dinnae wannae be late xx

When nobody replied for another minute or so, Jamie dumped his phone on his bedside table and resumed the hunt for something black tie appropriate. Claire had asked him to be there for half seven, or just before, so that meant Jamie had just over seven hours himself to find something to wear, eat, clean his car out so it was at least semi-presentable for Claire to sit in, feed the animals, pick up Willie from school, and try to get rid of his nervousness without vomiting everywhere.

So… not a lot really.

At this rate, if he wasn’t careful, Jamie really would be eating his own words and borrowing an ill-fitted suit from Ian…

Chapter Text

“Your destination is on the right,” announced Jamie’s sat nav.

Claire’s current home was one of the newer builds, with an estate built within an estate. Jamie felt rather claustrophobic as he peered outside his cracked open window to see houses upon houses. He much preferred green open space. His hands rested loosely onto the steering wheel, as he rolled to a slow stop outside number 108.

The door was painted a dashing red, with a shiny golden letterbox. A tiny garden sitting out front, housed one side of already bloomed flowers - peonies, pansies, freesias. While the other, was home to tiny thin sprigs of lavender and rosemary, and perhaps even mint, if Jamie wasn’t much mistaken.

She’d never mentioned it before, unless it was Faith and Fergus who planted and tended to the little garden, but Jamie’s Sassenach appeared to be a little green fingered of her own. She obviously had a way with the wee herbs that Jamie had never mastered and been able to keep alive. They were a little too delicate for his liking, often being overshadowed by the bigger, tougher ones that Jamie had to show for his accomplishment.

A twitch of the cream curtains covering Claire’s window drew Jamie’s attention away from the garden and back towards the door. The matching brass doorknob turned, and before Jamie could unbuckle his seatbelt and slither out of his seat to greet her, Claire was already turning on the step to lock the house up behind her.

As she busied herself with the important task at hand, Jamie got a quick look at his Sassenach without her knowledge. The weather had certainly picked up these last few days, so Claire had forgone a cardigan, jacket or coat.

The light blue colour of the dress she’d chosen made her dark Hollywood curls stand out more than usual, as they were swept over to one shoulder, the way Jamie liked them best. The evening gown’s silk-like material shifted as Claire moved, showcasing every inch of her slight curves and the small train on the back of her evening gown.

Holy fucking…

Christ…

Jamie didn’t ken what he wanted to focus on first as Claire turned around, keys clutched in her palm. She sent Jamie a blinding smile through the car window, before grasping either side of her dress with both hands and lifting the hem away from the muddy ground.

His Sassenach looked like Cinderella out of those children’s books that Jamie could recall reading to Willie only a couple of years back.

If it was possible, the gown she’d chosen to wear looked even better from the front. The sleeves of the dress rested on her upper arms, leaving her décolletage bare.

“Hi,” she said, breathlessly, holding out a tiny white clutch bag and a tote bag for Jamie to take. He did so willingly, placing the tote bag in the backseat, but not before seeing a change of clothes and a phone charger resting on the top. The clutch bag Jamie kept in his lap, while Claire carefully maneuvered herself into the front seat, taking pains to get herself comfy and stop the extra material of the dress from covering Jamie’s gear stick.

“Hi, yerself,” Jamie uttered against her skin, as he pressed his cheek to hers and caught the corner of her glossy mouth. Claire’s skin was butter soft against his own, her signature scent potent in all the best way. “Ye got everything?”

“Yes,” Claire jerked her thumb back to the tote bag sitting in the back. “I bought some spare clothes with me to wear tomorrow at yours, hope you don’t mind.”

“Course I don’t.” Jamie took his foot off the break, twisting his body towards Claire and resting a hand on the back of her headrest, as he turned the car back around on itself. “Ye look absolutely gorgeous, Sassenach.”

Her hands reached out to smooth the open collar of his starch white shirt, where Jamie had unbuttoned the top two buttons in a nervous attempt to sweat less.

Claire’s forefinger wiggled its way past his button down to rest on his bare neck. Her hands were cold, but deliciously so, reminding Jamie of her steady presence beside him. “So do you, Mr. Fraser, so do you.”

---

The drive to the Hummingbird hotel, where Claire’s work function was being held, took only a matter of minutes as they drove from Claire’s street. A matter of minutes in which Jamie imagined every possible scenario of reaching under Claire’s billowy skirts and finding out what she wore (or didn’t wear) underneath.

Currently, his hand rested innocently on Claire’s covered knee, her own hand on top of his, keeping both of them connected even as Jamie followed the directions to the bank of the hotel and into an empty car parking space.

“Stay there,” said Jamie, pocketing the car keys. “I’ll help ye get out.” Rounding the car, Jamie cracked open the passenger side door and held both hands aloft to catch Claire’s waist before her feet met the floor. For the first time in almost a week her body was solid in his arms.

“Thanks, Prince Charming.”

Jamie beamed, feeling more at peace, and less nervous, than he had done all week. Claire was by his side and everything would be all right. “Prince Charming, aye? Well, ye do look like Cinderella, Sassenach.”

“Faith thought the same thing.” The pointed toe of Claire’s white heels pressed against the pointed edge of Jamie’s loafers. “Although, Cinderella was a bit of a goody two shoes, wasn’t she? Never telling anybody her identity, only allowing the prince one dance, being back home before midnight struck.”

“Are ye trying to tell me that ye’re not a goody two shoes, Sassenach?”

“Nope.” Laying a light hand upon his shoulder, Claire leaned in until her lips just brushed the curve of Jamie’s ear. “I distinctly remember someone telling me I was a bad girl.”

He had a semi already.

“And,” she continued, trailing her hand down his side, stopping only when it rested on the swell of Jamie’s arse. “I won’t be home for midnight, in fact, I won’t be going home at all.”

Jamie couldn’t stop himself. He cupped the back of her neck with one hand, feeling the heat radiating from her scalp. The other he used to forcibly grab her waist, sending Claire stumbling into him, before she rightened herself with ease. His heavy breath washed over her upper lip and prominent Cupid’s bow, and then Jamie was kissing the life out of her. Feeling her lips, her body, her hands move over his, with his, for the first time since the airport.

God, did it feel good.

Right.

Pure.

Soul consuming.

Claire was giving back as good as she got, hands cupping Jamie’s fine cut jaw, to keep him in place.

When they separated, and only because Jamie felt his lungs were burning as if they were likely to combust, both of them stood panting – the small swells of Claire’s breasts heaving up and down with sheer exertion.

Jamie smacked his lips together, feeling a peachy tasting gloss coat them. He was about to say something, when a voice called out from across the car park, standing, silhouetted, in a back door frame.

“Oi!” The unmistakable sound of Geillis’ voice reached Jamie’s ears. “Could ye two stop eating each other’s faces for just a minute?”

Jamie’s head swiveled from Geillis, to Claire and then back again, the corners of his mouth twitching all the while, even if the tips of his ears did feel hot from embarrassment.

Claire began to hurry forward across the car park, holding her skirts aloft as best as possible.

“Sassenach,” Jamie grasped her bare forearm. “Wait.”

In her haste, the train on the back of Claire’s evening gown had become tangled over itself, part of the inside stitching on display. Bending his knees, Jamie steadied himself, and then picked up either side of the rounded train.

“There.” He said, straightening up, the train of her dress and all its under layers and petticoats, held safely in his palms. “Wouldn’t want ye to get all messy, Cinderella.”

“Thank you,” Claire replied, her facial features soft, but those eyes of hers dark with something less innocent.

In tandem, the two of them walked the short way to the back door where Geillis still stood, holding the fire exit door open with her foot, a look of happiness about her feminine features as she watched the pair of them approach.

“How did you even know we were here?” Asked Claire, while Jamie busied himself with laying the beautiful train back on the carpeted floor, smoothed out this time without a tulle petticoat or hemline showing. It occurred to him for a split second, that he would be performing the same act on his wedding day if Claire was his bride; smoothing out her lace train and veil to make it perfectly presentable for pictures, swishing it out of the way to make sure neither of them stepped on it while they took their first dance as husband and wife.

The thought physically choked him up, causing his throat to close up and a harsh cough to sound in the back of his esophagus.

“Jamie? Are you okay?” Claire’s concerned voice sounded above him, her free hand coming up to rub soothing circles on the middle portion of his back.

“Aye,” he sniffed, tapping his left hand against his chest three or four times to dislodge the burning blockage. Around him, the rest of the lobby came back into focus; the dark blue accents of the tablecloths covering the tables in the next room, the gaudy golden ribbons that were tied on the back of every chair, the deafening noise of a thousand voices all talking at once. “What were ye saying, Geillie?”

“I was just saying Mary,” she began walking out of the lobby, and through an arched downway, into the main event room, which housed the tables, a makeshift stage and a fair number of people all standing around in groups. “and her date had seen ye’s sitting in yer truck, that how I kent ye would be outside.”

Thankfully, Geillis didn’t seem to be leading Jamie straight in the lion’s den, but rather towards the bar, shoving her way through a throng of suited and booted men, until she could easily sway one of the bartender's attention.

Leaning her elbows and forearms onto the sticky bar, Geillis turned her gaze over her shoulder, her pin straight hair sliding over her upper back. “What do ye want, Claire?”

“Just a…” Claire searched behind the bar for a menu, and upon finding none, blew out a breath as she thought. “I’ll just have a… a strawberry daiquiri if they can make one.”

“Mm,” Geillis pursed her lips also in thought. “I might have one of those too, Jamie?”

“Eh?” He was busy watching the men in suits show each other their minted watches hanging from their meaty wrists. “I’ll have a shandy, if ye don’t mind, just because I’m driving and all.”

Geillis nodded, ordering the two cocktails and shandy from the next passing bartender.

Putting his hand into his back pocket, Jamie fiddled with his old leather wallet. Parts of it were falling apart by now, mostly from old age and the amounts of constant use. The leather was beyond buttery soft, the inside stitching holding it together, fraying away. “How much do I owe ye?”

“Owe me?” Geillis handed him his drink first. It was perfectly ice cold, the bubbles from the lemonade and shot of beer mixing together to create a thin foam upon the top. “Ye don’t owe me anything, lad, it’s a free bar.”

“A free bar?” Jamie took a small sip, the lemonade hitting the back of his tongue and making his cheeks hollow in with the amount of sugar in it. “I feel sorry for the poor buggers who have to work tomorrow.”

“Well, it isn’t us,” Geillis passed Claire her strawberry daiquiri back, the glass full to the brim with red liquid, half a strawberry sitting on the white sugared rim and even a tiny orange umbrella. “So who gives a fuck.”

Jamie chortled into the rim of his glass, at Geillis’ expression, taking another sip and then licking the cold foam that had settled just under his nose.

With no concept of how tonight would usually plan out, or when they’d all be called to sit down and wait through the upcoming award ceremony, Jamie politely followed behind Geillis and Claire, until they stopped beside another mixed group of well dressed people. This time three suited men stood around, two of them holding half empty pints of beer, and the other holding a practically flute of golden champagne. Jamie noticed him first, what with his shock of black hair sitting upon his head, and his arm wrapped around the waist of a petite, rather timid looking, lass.

Geillis slotted herself between the two beer drinking men, easily, as if she’d not been missing for minutes. Claire, however, grabbed Jamie’s hand with her free one, sliding sideways into a spot between the slight lass, so as to give Jamie room to stand in the circle, as well.

“Ye look very bonny, Claire,” the man standing on Geillis’ left spoke. He was tall, not as tall as Jamie, but not far off. His suit fit far better than Jamie’s ever did, even when it had been newly bought and tailored. Taking a drink, Jamie allowed his eyes to travel down the rest of the man’s body – even his shoes were ridiculously shiny, the kind you might be able to see your reflection in if you tried hard enough. In contrast, Jamie wiggled his toes within his tight fitting leather loafers. It had been a while since he’d worn them. Like everything in his wardrobe that may be considered his Sunday best or dressy, Jamie didn’t get a lot of wear out of them. The life of a full time farmer wasn’t about style or trends.

“Thank you, Tom.” Claire replied, smoothing the ball of her thumb along the web between Jamie’s own thumb and index finger. “You haven’t met my boyfriend, Jamie, yet, have you?”

Brazenly, Tom looked Jamie up and down, his gaze settling on his and Claire’s intertwined fingers for a little longer than Jamie appreciated. “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure yet.” The doctor stuck his hand out. “Doctor Tom Christie.”

Letting go of Claire for just a second, Jamie clasped his palm against Christie’s. The doctor’s handshake was strangely limp, and palm wet from what Jamie hoped was the condensation from his beer glass, and not sweat.

The second man standing on Geillis’ right pointed at himself. “I’m Matt. It’s nice to meet ye.”

“Likewise,” said Jamie.

At least Matt hadn’t introduced himself as a doctor, and his handshake was neither limp nor wet.

“And I’m Alex,” the black haired champagne drinker spoke up. “This here is my Mary.”

The wee lass, Mary, smiled with her lips still sealed together. She fidgeted with her hands out in front of her, devoid of a glass, or a clutch bag.

Jamie slid his fingers back through Claire’s, grateful for her touch and dry palm pressed to his. He looked around at the small circle, taking stock. “So, do ye’s all work together?”

Tom chose to answer the question, rocking back and forth on one heel of his shiny toed shoe. “On and off, it all depends on what shifts we do.”

“I meant are ye all doctors, or nurses, or…”

The tip of Tom’s nose turned red, Jamie could see the veins from where he stood decorating the bulbous tip, as Jamie corrected his own question.

“Aye, we’re all doctors.” Geillis said, slurping down the rest of her drink noisily, before continuing. “Our wee virgin Mary here is still in training.”

Mary piped up, much to Jamie's surprise. She hadn’t seemed the type. Nor the type to let Geillis’ nickname for her just pass her by, but the lass didn’t bat an eyelid. Jamie supposed she must be used to it by now, especially if she’d been working beside Geillis for a while now. “But I’m already a qualified nurse.”

Jamie nodded, repositioning his grip on his glass. “Och, good for ye, lass.”

Mary opened her mouth, but was beaten to it.

“And what do ye do, Mr…?” Tom asked, licking his lips in a rather strange manner.

“Fraser. Jamie Fraser,” Jamie supplied. “I--”

“Fraser?” Matt wondered aloud. “Fraser?” He repeated. “I ken that name. Why do I ken that name?”

Tom sent his work colleague a strained look much to Jamie’s amusement. He couldn’t quite get a read on why Tom was acting… strange, for want of a better word. But whatever the reason, Jamie had made his mind up in seconds, that he simply wasn’t keen on the man doctor or no doctor.

Matt scratched at his prominent Adam’s apple. “Yer no relation to Fraser produce, are ye?”

“Fraser produce?” Tom’s tone dripped with something unpleasant.

Jamie squinted his eyes in Tom’s direction, as he answered Matt’s question. “Aye, I co-own Fraser Produce.”

“Ye don’t! Really?” Matt exclaimed. “I try and buy all my meat and dairy from ye, when I can. Christ, yer Wensleydale cheese is to die for. Put it in a toastie with some cut up onion.” Matt smacked his lips together. “Delicious.”

“Och, thank ye.” Jamie felt his cheeks heat with pride. It had taken blood, sweat and tears to get Fraser’s Produce up and running, with a good name for itself. “Can’t say I can take all the glory, though. My sister’s in charge of a lot of the dairy process, and then obviously we sell it on to a proper cheese parlour. But I’m glad ye try and shop our sustainable produce, means a lot to hear that.”

“What is this Fraser Produce?” Tom’s voice cut through Jamie’s speech. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“Jamie owns a farm,” said Claire, clearing her throat. “Him and his family. Together they sell their meats and dairy produce to some of the local larder’s around town. The brand is called Fraser’s Produce.”

Jamie smiled openly, turning to face Claire as she spoke. Here she was. His Sassenach openly standing up for him against one of her own work colleagues.

Tom’s tongue dug into the fleshy part of his cheek, distending it. “So ye own the farm?”

“Aye,” Jamie nodded, allowing an icy sip to travel down his throat. “I’ve a third. My Da and brother-in-law own the other two thirds.”

“And does it pay well?”

Jamie blinked once, and then again, his mind whirring with Tom’s question. Mainly, the undercurrent in Tom’s tone, which he hadn’t really bothered to be polite, and try to hide.

“That’s a bit too much of a personal question, no?”

Tom said nothing in reply, choosing instead to hide in unguarded expression in the last dregs of his drink. Down by his side, Claire’s hand tightened against Jamie’s twice in quick succession. It was more than nice to hear her verbally speak up for him, to verbally show her support. But it was also nice to have an unspoken agreement between the two of them that only the other understood. Just their little secret.

Above, a voice spoke over the tannoy. “Ladies and Gents, if ye could all take yer seats, the ceremony is about to begin.”

“Do ye ken where we’re sitting, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, joining in on the fray of people who were all trying to find their designated seats at the same time.

“I’m pretty sure it’s table five, but let me just double check.” Fumbling about with her clutch bag, Claire drew out two cream stock cards, each with intricate lettering decorating one side. Jamie only got a quick glimpse as Claire flattened out the creases she’d had to make to get the square cards to fit in her tiny bag, but the cards definitely appeared to have Claire’s doctorate credentials written upon them.

She tucked them back in and started towards a table situated not too far away from the edge of the stage. “Yes, it’s definitely table five. I think Geillie and Mary and Alex are sitting with us two, but I’m not certain.”

Jamie peered over his shoulder to find Mary and Alex walking in the same direction as he and Claire, their hands sweetly held together. Thankfully, Tom and Matt appeared to be at table eight, on the other side of the room. And Geillis…? Well, she was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Geillie gone too? She was here only a minute ago,” said Jamie, pulling the chair with Claire’s place card in front of it, out.

“Bar,” Claire and Mary answered simultaneously.

Of course, Jamie should have known.

While the rest of the seats were filled, the lights built into the surrounding walls dimmed, leaving the lights above the stage to appear brighter. Jamie’s eyes focused on a man who was still standing at the bar, seemingly unbothered about the instruction to sit down. He was much too busy trying to chat up a lass. From her closed off body language, and short nods, he didn’t look like he was getting away with it.

“I’m sorry about Tom back there.” Claire’s lowered tone, and the way she was playing with his fingers, brought Jamie’s attention back to himself and his own bonny lass sitting next to him. “He was just being plain rude and--”

“It’s all right, Sassenach.” Jamie stole a kiss from her lips, gloss and all. He couldn’t help himself. “He was just being a knobhead.”

Claire looked down at the table where her hand appeared so much smaller laying against the back of Jamie’s. “I don’t know why he was doing it, though.”

“It doesn’a matter.” He pushed a lock of her unruly hair back behind her ear, smiling, when it didn’t want to stay put. Reaching forward, Jamie plucked the cocktail umbrella from Claire’s barely-touched drink. The decoration looked miniature in his hands, as if he were a giant. Taking pain not to stab the delicate skin behind her ear, Jamie settled the mini umbrella until it rested in the spot above Claire’s ear.

She looked adorable.

Even more so when the corners of her eyes crinkled, the usual wrinkling pattern of her skin showing, as she laughed.

Christ, she’d even look bonny when she was old and wrinkly, with laughter lines to show her amusement and brown age spots to show a well-lived life in the sun.

Claire laid a cupped hand against his cheek; thumb rubbing his prominent cheekbone back and forth. “You’re ridiculous,” she giggled.

“And ye’re gorgeous, Sassenach.” Jamie closed his eyes for a split second longer than usual, soaking in this moment. If everything went well, he’d have more than a thousand of these moments with Claire, but for now Jamie wanted to remember this one in particular. When he did open his eyes, he found Claire gazing back at him, her eyes flitting between his cornflower blue irises and to his lips. Jamie stuck out the tip of his tongue, licking the side of her wrist. Being serious for very long wasn’t something that Jamie Fraser was very adept at doing. “With or without the tiny umbrella.”

---

Much of the rest of the hospitals’ fundraising ceremony was a blur to Jamie.

Of course, he kent it was for a good cause. However, glancing around at a lot of the bored expressions, Jamie suspected most of the attendees had only chosen to show their face, because they worked there, and didn’t want to get a telling off from their boss.

For most, if not all of the ceremony, Jamie found his attention drawn to his Sassenach sitting beside him. She’d kept the mini umbrella tucked behind her ear, making Jamie’s heart grow warm and fuzzy every time his eyes caught on the bright colour standing stark against her dark hair.

The awards for the night had been given out. Jamie kent none of the people except wee Mary, whose names had been called out to take to the stage. But he loudly clapped along with the rest of them as Mary bowed her head shyly, held onto the stage handrail tightly and accepted her award for ‘most hardworking nurse.’

Claire’s name wasn’t called out, which Jamie thought a little bit unfair. He was certain his Sassenach worked fucking hard at her job, but she didn’t seem too bothered by her lack of award.

She had, however, turned a lovely shade of pink when Jamie bent to reach her ear, and whispered that he’d give her a proper reward later. So much so, Claire had choked on her strawberry daiquiri, provoking Geillis to thwack her back thoroughly with a dirty smile about her face. She may not have been able to hear him word for word, but Jamie guessed that Geillis knew the gist of what he’d uttered.

As the main boss on the stage, who’d introduced himself as Graham, gave thanks to the lab workers for their recent developments in a specialized drug, which would provide more of a chance for children born with a rare stunted growth gene, Jamie watched Claire for the fiftieth time tonight. Her chin rested in the palm of her hand, all soft and relaxed. A delighted smile played about her mouth.

Feeling his gaze, she cut her eyes to Jamie’s quickly, back to the stage and then again to Jamie.

“What?” She mouthed, her foot under the table continued to play with the sliver of ankle that his too-short trousers offered.

“Nothing.” He mouthed back, smiling as if he had a secret.

Jamie kent he was fast running out of words to describe just how breathtakingly beautiful his Sassenach was. But when he was around her, surrounded by a presence that was so simply Claire, Jamie found he just couldn’t help himself.

She was bonny beyond his wildest dreams.

She was gorgeous, both inside and out.

She was the most beautiful lass Jamie had ever seen.

And right about now, as the crowd laughed at a joke Jamie hadn’t been paying enough attention to catch and laugh at, he wanted to ruin her.

He wanted that pretty dress she wore, to cover his filthy actions. Her creamy thighs wrapped around his head as he ate her out. Her hands gripped onto his hair, almost painfully, as she came and came and came.

Once he’d done that, Jamie wanted to take her dress off, get her completely naked, flip her over and sink into her from behind. He wanted to grip the thick flesh of her arse with his hands and hear her uncontrollable cries as she burrowed her head into the pillow.

Behind the placket of his trousers, Jamie’s cock twitched. Made worse by the weight of Claire’s other hand as it rested on his upper thigh, her fingers curled around the muscle inwards towards the sensitive inner portion of his skin.

Claire was right beside him; soft, steady and smelling perfectly like herself. Jamie worried soon he’d been developing a Pavlovian response to her scent, if he hadn’t done so already.

Just a little while longer, Jamie said to both himself and his putting cock. Ye can hold on just a little while longer.

As if the god above had heard his plea, the ceremony only lasted another twenty minutes or so. Twenty minutes or so that Jamie didn’t even try to hide that he was tuning out.

It took another ten minutes or so to navigate their way through the crowds, some of which were doing the same as Jamie and Claire, desperately trying to get out of the hotel and back into their cars. While the others were content enough to stand around chatting again, leaning up against the bar, and blocking off the exits.

From across the room, Jamie waved goodbye to Matt, who was standing on his tiptoes, to be seen over the moving crowd, and waving madly to say goodbye. Tom stood beside his friend, saying nothing, but rather staring at a spot just above Jamie’s head. That was fine by Jamie. The knobhead of a doctor could go fuck himself for all Jamie cared.

Geillis, as expected of her, had situated herself back at the bar, smelling strongly of tequila as Jamie bent to press two kisses to either side of her cheeks.

She winked, rather lewdly and then fondly patted Claire on her arse. “Have a nice night ye two.”

Claire spluttered something indistinguishable, but Jamie just smiled back at her, taking ahold of Claire’s hand, so as not to lose her in the throng of people.

“I’m sure we will,” he called. “Ye enjoy yer night as well, Geillie.”

Outside, the balmy air was a welcome reprieve to Jamie. He wasn’t used to being cooped up inside, surrounded by an enclosed space with hardly any natural lighting, and a mass of bodies, all giving off a different type of energy.

While Claire said her final goodbyes to Mary and Alex, who were also crossing the car park to their car, Jamie pulled his keys from the back of his pocket. The metal jingling that the multiple keys made as they hit one another, plus the clacking of the school photo of Willie encased in a hard plastic, helped Jamie to ground himself.

He felt much better in nature, even if he was in a polluted car park with the heavy scent of car fumes still hanging in the air. It was better than being inside somewhere, unable to move around and release the negative energy that twats like Tom Christie gave off.

“So, what did you think?” Claire asked, wrapping herself around Jamie’s right arm, as they ambled away from the horde and back to their own private spot, just the two of them.

The golden light from the setting sun rebounded off the side of Jamie’s truck, showing some of the silver bodywork underneath. Christ, he needed to book it in for a touch up and a repaint, and while he was at it, dust his rearview mirrors.

“Jamie?” Claire prompted, as the backlights of the truck flashed amber, signaling that the doors were unlocked. “You hated it, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t hate it.” Opening the side door for her, Jamie held onto Claire’s waist tightly as he boosted her up and inside. He fussed with her skirts, tucking them away from the door and further into the foot well, in case they got caught.

“But?”

“It’s just not my type of thing.” He rounded his own side, hopped in and started the engine in one, well-practiced, fluid motion. “Ye ken I’m outside a lot, especially at this time of year when the sun is still shining in the sky. I guess I’m just not too good with being inside for long periods of time.”

Claire strapped herself in. “Are you outside when it’s the middle of winter and you’re freezing your bollocks off?”

“Sometimes,” Jamie hit his turn signal to turn right. “Not all the time.”

“So you’re indoors then,” Claire argued.

He changed gear. “Aye, but it’s different when ye’re in yer own home, ye ken.”

“Would you come again if I asked you too?”

Taking his eyes away from the road for a millisecond, Jamie glanced at Claire, finding her already looking at him. With his free hand, he squeezed her knee, and left it there.

“For ye, Sassenach? I’d do anything.”

Chapter Text

“This?” Claire gestured out of the front window, to the gate in front of her. “This is where you live?”

The drive from the Hummingbird Hotel to the Lallybroch estate took a little while longer than it had from Claire’s home. That included driving along the long and deserted country roads, which Jamie had gone over the speed limit by just a tiny amount.

He’d turned the radio on low to allow some background music to float into the car, one of the old pop songs beginning to play, that had been very popular back in Jamie’s youth and was now called a throwback.

Claire had stayed pretty quiet throughout the entire ride, but Jamie hadn’t thought it a bad thing. He supposed she’d just been busy soaking in the Scottish countryside, back roads included, that she didn’t really get to see, what with her living with the town center right on her doorstep.

He kent she’d caught the signs on the side of the road with Lallybroch Family Farm and Estate written on them, as they drove closer and closer. The large block writing was rather hard to miss. With each passing minute, the number of miles beside the directions to Lallybroch dwindled, until Jamie turned down a deserted, dusty track and stopped in front of a large wooden gate.

Jamie kent the gate well. After all, he helped maintain it year round; trimming the bushes on either side to keep them all one level, and ensuring the metal spikes on top of the gate were still pristine black and not rusty – intruders or thieves were simply not welcome at Lallybroch and the Fraser’s had worked hard to make that as plain as day.

At the sound of Claire’s exclamation, Jamie stopped to turn and look at her. His hand hung out of his open window, as he readied himself to punch in the specific key code and open the gate.

“Aye…” He said, uncertainly.

“God, I remember you said you lived in my dream home, but Christ, Jamie.” Claire laughed breathlessly. “I can see now why you’d never want to leave.”

“Wait till ye see inside.”

Keying in the four-digit code, Jamie wound his window back up and waited, while either side of the gates began to angle themselves open. He inched the car forward a touch, enough to cross the trip wire hiding underneath the ground, and signal to the gates that the car had passed through. Up head, the road appeared - long and straight with large, fluffy trees lining either side.

Never had Jamie seen his home through the eyes of somebody else, but Claire’s jaw-dropping expression was worth the wait.

“Oh my God,” she whispered under her breath, her seatbelt straining across her lap and shoulder as she leant forward as far as possible in order to try and take everything in.

Thankfully, the sun still hadn’t fully set yet, perhaps in another ten minutes or so it would. But Jamie was glad Claire got her first view of Lallybroch in the daylight, with the golden sun sitting behind it, kissing everything in its path. The view of trees lit up with fairy lights strung around them and the rocky path, highlighted by solar powered lights, was also a very bonny sight to behold.

A fork in the path appeared, one in each direction of the three homes that decorated Lallybroch’s grassy acres. Jamie took the first path, the one on the right, the one which would lead him home.

Up ahead, the sheep continued to graze in the field. One or two of them stopped chowing to crane their necks, and see what all the loud purring noise coming from Jamie’s truck was about. After the farmhands had finished work for the day, at around seven, the only noises on the farm that could be heard were from the Fraser family – and even then, they were usually few and far between.

Claire pressed the palm of her hand up against the glass. “Fucking hell…”

Another copse of trees opened up, oak this time, and the home behind it revealed itself.

His and Willie’s home.

“Fucking hell just about sums it up,” Jamie agreed, killing the engine and shifting in his seat to look at Claire.

He’d never seen her look so gobsmacked.

Unbuckling his seat belt, Jamie took Claire’s hand over the center console. Her hand slipped into his easily, as if it were made to be held there.

“Ye ready to go inside?”

“Yes…” Jamie saw her swallow. “Yes, of course I am.”

---

Within seconds, Jamie had unlocked the front door, and ushered Claire into his safe space. He fiddled with placing his keys in the designated bowl, while Claire spun around in a circle, taking in the old farmhouse style, tiled kitchen before her.

With the sun now setting rapidly, Jamie kent he’d need to turn on a light to be able to see, but he didn’t dare move. Claire had walked through the old arched wooden beams, dividing the kitchen from the hallway and the formal living room. If he leaned to the left a little bit, Jamie could still see the end of her train crossing into the threshold of the kitchen.

A lass, other than Jenny or his Mam, was standing in his home.

A lass Jamie was fairly certain he was in love with.

She was here.

In his home.

In his space.

Wanting, of her own accord, to ken more about him.

“Jamie.” Her voice called, as it so often did, breaking him out of his reverie. “Will you give me a tour?”

“A tour?” Jamie started towards her, the words only just making sense. “Och, aye, sure. Well, this is the kitchen.”

“Mhm, I can see that.” Claire’s hands skirted along the backs of the dining room chairs, triggering a vision to pass Jamie’s eyes. Perhaps, this weekend, they’d all be able to sit there as a family - Jamie, Claire, Faith, Fergus and Willie. Perhaps, they’d actually get to fill up five of the six chairs, which were typically left empty.

Feeling a thick emotion make its home in the back of Jamie’s throat, he swiftly moved away from the table and into the hallway.

“Here’s the hallway and the staircase.” Jamie tapped the heel of his shoe against the smooth wooden floorboards, listening for the satisfying hollow click. When Claire didn’t answer, Jamie turned to look at her, finding her eyes fixed to the old grand staircase, with its main carpeted staircase standing tall and proud, and then the two sections that branched off, leading into two different wings upstairs. The mahogany banister gleamed, in the golden hour light, emphasized by the two large windows that sat on the landing above.

Like the chairs, Claire’s fingertips reached out to glide along the decorative balusters at the end of either side of the banister. “Did you buy the staircase like that, or did you build it?”

“We built it,” Jamie answered, proudly. “Took us all ages, but it was worth it. Even Mam was jealous when she saw it, so Da built her a mini one leading up to her sewing room.”

Just like Jamie, Claire smiled at the fond memory that he painted. “How kind of him.”

“Aye, he does all kinds of things for her. Guess ye do when ye’re besotted with someone, don’t ye?”

“You sure do,” Claire hummed, sending a toothy grin his way.

Next up was the formal living room, which was situated just down the hall from the kitchen. It was decked out in light shades of mint green, with two white calling sofas and a matching chair, taking center stage. From here, a set of double French doors opened out into the grassy verge at the side of the house, letting in streams of watery light. But, just like the whole room, they were hardly ever used. The formal living area was more of a place to entertain, and Jamie didn’t really feel the need to do that for his family members and close friends.

Jamie had wondered once or twice about whether to change the open space to something else, but none of the ideas that cropped up in his head seemed to stick. There weren't enough people living in the house to deem making it into a separate dining room. If the whole family ever did eat together, it was always up at his Mam and Da’s home - the main Lallybroch estate, where there was a large formal dining area. Otherwise, Jamie liked the coziness that eating his meal in the warm kitchen offered.

The second idea that had popped into Jamie’s head was to turn it into a playroom. But Willie was old enough now not to warrant needing a full room. At ten years old, Willie was more into his football, playing outside and his games console. Plus, he was only one child. Even if he had been younger, Jamie supposed he might have gotten bored just playing in there by himself, without a sibling or cousin close in age.

So instead of sitting around in the formal living area, any of Jamie’s family that had come round, usually spent most of their time in the snug, a little room tucked away behind the back of the staircase.

It was obvious that this room was used more often than the other. The sofas were a brown leather, slightly sagging in spots and dinting in others from the weight it took on a daily basis. A lone glass sat on the homemade wooden coffee table, remnants of Willie’s morning orange juice staining the sides.

“Shit, sorry,” Jamie said, reaching for the dirty glass to place inside the dishwasher, but Claire caught the cuff of his sleeve.

“No need to apologise, Jamie.”

“It’s Willie,” he huffed. “I told him to--”

Her grip tightened. “Jamie, you don’t have to explain it to me. I know what children are like, remember?”

“Aye,” he sighed. “Force of habit, ye ken?”

“Of course I do.” The hand resting on his cuff, travelled up to draw a line across Jamie’s jaw. “Is there anything else downstairs for you to show me?”

Jamie drew closer to her, his Sassenach, like a moth drawn to a flame. She was simply irresistible, like the tales of the selkie women that his Mam used to tell him to drift off to sleep.

He cupped the curve of her hip, feeling her body heat radiate through the silk material of her evening gown. “Not unless ye want to see the downstairs loo?”

As Claire’s index finger stretched out to draw a line close to his earlobe, her thumb rested on his lower lip, pulling it down ever so slowly. “Then, take me upstairs, won’t you, Mr. Fraser?”

Jamie bit down gently on the tip of her thumb. “Ladies first.”

Like a giddy school child, Claire rucked up the hem of her dress, shucked off her heels for the night, and raced up the right hand side of the staircase. She rounded the corner, standing smack bang in the middle of the upstairs landing, and gazing down. It reminded Jamie of those old black and white films, where the elegant host looks down at all her guests attending her fancy dinner.

“So, what’s this way?” She called, toes curling and uncurling in the soft grey carpet. Claire’s hand caressed the wallpaper as she walked, stopping only when she reached a closed door.

Without her noticing, Jamie managed to sneak up on her. He felt her jump ever so slightly as he placed one hand on her waist to steady himself, and another on the door handle.

He cracked it open just a touch, enough for Claire to see the blue paint, the hastily made bed and the new, shiny, football posters decorating the walls inside. “This is Willie’s room.”

Claire stepped further into the room, holding her hair away from her face as she bent down to examine a recent picture of Willie and his Da, standing with their arms wrapped around each other. “Gosh, Fergus would love it if he could hang posters on his walls.”

Jamie re-tucked the bedcover (purely out of habit) and re-arranged Willie’s beloved stuffed rabbit to sit up in the middle of the pillow. “Why can’t he?”

“I’m still renting the house we live in.” Claire explained, stroking the rabbit’s soft ear. “I know it’s a silly rule, but the landlord doesn’t want anything hung up on the walls in case they get damaged.”

Looking down at his bare feet, Jamie nodded. He didn’t really ken what to say, and standing in his son’s room, while Claire peered about so fondly, stroking the stuffed toy with a mother’s gentleness, was starting to make him feel nervous.

Stripped back.

Bare.

On show.

Taking a hold of the door handle again, Jamie pulled it closed a bit, enough to send a clear, but silent, message. “Do ye still want tae see the rest of the rooms?”

With one last look at the bedroom behind her, Claire slipped through the gap Jamie had left her, and padded further down the corridor. It ended rather abruptly, with only two other closed doors left.

“Are these--?”

“Guest bedrooms,” Jamie swiftly opened and closed the doors, one by one. Both were decorated pretty much the same; light wash walls, a large, dark, wooden bed taking up much of the room and two bedside tables on either side.

“They don’t get much use,” said Jamie, watching the highlighted dust motes fly through the air at a rapid pace. “Mam and Da, or Jenny and Ian, are the only people who ever really use them, and that’s only when they can’t be arsed to walk home.”

Behind him, Claire rested her chin on Jamie’s shoulder. Not an easy feat with her skyscraper heels on. “Is this where Faith and Fergus will sleep?”

“Aye.” Just the thought of opening the doors to find two sleeping children in either bed, brought a grin to Jamie’s face. “They’re both clean. I have a cleaner who comes to help with the miscellaneous jobs, so both bedcovers have been washed and the sides dusted down and--”

“Jamie.”

Shit, he was nervously waffling again.

“Faith and Fergus are going to love it here, I have no doubt about that.” Claire’s blunt nail scratched pleasantly along the back of his neck. “Please try and stop worrying, darling.”

Turning his face to the side, Jamie stole a sweet kiss from her lips, taking Claire’s hand and leading her back down the corridor.

“I always thought about extending it, ye ken?” He said, throwing open the first door on the left hand side wing of the house, which turned out to be a very luxurious bathroom, including a clawfoot bathtub and white marble tiles.

“So why didn’t you?”

The second door down from the bathroom was a study, darker in colour than any of the other rooms. The walls were painted a muted blue, and the furniture; desk, chair, bookcases – were all an almost purple mahogany that matched the staircase banister.

“In the end, I didn’t need the space.” Jamie pushed down on the handle to the last door, glancing over his shoulder at his Sassenach as he spoke from his heart. “The house is big enough with just me and Willie in it. What else could I possibly need to build for just the two of us?”

At the comforting sight of his own bedroom, his own space, Jamie breathed a quiet sigh of relief out of his nose. The room was perfectly cool, dark forest green walls with a light trim, helping to make the room feel more cozy and inviting. To Jamie, it reflected his favourite place in the world – being outside, with green green grass all around.

With the sun well and truly gone from this side of the house, Jamie moved around to turn on the lamps sitting on the bedside tables and then closed the door with a snick, choosing to ignore all of his worries and wishes.

Claire had gone to the large window, looking out in the paddock and dilapidated herb garden.

For a moment, Jamie admired his girlfriend, his Sassenach. Even with all the sitting and socializing that she’d done tonight, she didn’t have a hair out of place, her dress still impeccable, her makeup still perfect other than a slight reddening of her lips from Jamie’s attention.

She looked so fucking bonny.

So fucking put together for the whole wide world to see.

And yet, he still wanted to fucking wreck her.

Selfishly, he wanted to bring out the side of Claire that only he got to see.

The side that made her his Sassenach.

Coming up behind her, Jamie brushed her hair to one side, and pressed his lips to her ear. “Turn around.”

She turned around with a smile about her mouth.

Oh, how predictable.

Claire had quite clearly forgotten that she was the prey tonight.

Nudging his nose with hers, Jamie allowed his breath to wash over her plush lips, his eyes flickering between staring at her mouth and staring at her colour changing eyes.

“What on earth are you doing?” She giggled, attempting to lean in to kiss him, but Jamie stopped her by tilting his face the other way.

“I’m thinking,” he answered, fingers twisting the ends of her hair into a rope.

Her voice was breathless, her brain finally catching up with what was about to happen. “About what?”

Using the rope of her hair as leverage, Jamie pulled Claire’s head back. The gasp she made caused his blood to run hot, thick and fast.

Oh, his Sassenach didn’t ken how sweet she really was.

“How much I want to eat you up,” he choked out, firmly pressing his lips to hers and sliding his tongue into her mouth. Jamie licked the roof of her mouth as Claire moaned, her fingers spasming around his straining biceps.

“Take this off,” she panted into Jamie’s mouth, urgently plucking at the material of his suit jacket. Lips never leaving hers, Jamie wrangled with his own sleeves, getting himself free and flinging the jacket somewhere into the room behind. Who fecking cared where it landed, the bastard thing didn’t even bloody fit properly.

Dipping his head, Jamie laid a trail of kisses along Claire’s jaw, that spot underneath her ear, down the straight edge of her neck. His dexterous fingers skirted the neckline of Claire’s evening gown, before pulling it down forcefully - enough for both of her bare breasts to bounce out over the top. Sucking one nipple into his mouth, Jamie twisted the other one, listening for the soft whimper of need that Claire usually let out when he played with her breasts.

Underneath her full skirts, Claire’s feet slipped and slid against the wooden floorboards. Her body squirming this way and that as tingles of pleasure shot up and down her back.

“Christ, I could suck on yer tits all day.” Jamie mouthed red marks into the tender skin around her areola, paying special attention to the delectable curve of her flesh.

Bending her hand behind her back, Claire attempted to fiddle with the back of her dress, presumably searching for the zip that held the whole thing together. With a flick of his wrist, Jamie stopped her in her tracks.

“Please.” Claire all but begged. She looked thoroughly wrecked already; curls becoming frizzy, lips red, breasts sitting out proud, over the neckline of her dress – and Jamie hadn’t even properly started yet. “I need to feel you, take it off.

“I’m asking ye nicely to leave it on, Sassenach.”

“But--”

Jamie shook his head, whipping his soft fringe out of his eyes. “No buts, Sassenach. Now widen yer stance for me.”

He could see the questions in her eyes, but Claire wisely kept quiet, doing as she was told.

In his mind, Jamie was going for sexy and seductive. He’d had all night to come up with the scenario, the perfect picture in his mind. He’d slide his hands down every inch of Claire’s body, before draping her skirts over his head, pulling down her lacy knickers and then burying his face in her sweet cunt. Above him, Claire would writhe and moan, hands white knuckling on the old windowsill ledge, in order to keep herself upright.

Keeping his eyes trained on hers, Jamie succeeded in the first part of his well thought out mission - sliding his hands down her body. He bent his knees ever so slightly, thinking about taking things slow so Claire got the idea of where this was going…

Crack!

And there went his knee.

“Holy shite!” Jamie gasped, hitting the floor like a heavy sack of potatoes and clutching his right knee.

“Are you all right?” Claire asked, stooping over him. The concern in her tone made Jamie look up at her, finding her bent at the waist, her breasts practically swinging in his face.

A bubble of unexpected laughter burst forth from Jamie’s lips.

The pain, mixed in with the absolute absurdity of what had just happened, was starting to take shape in the form of hilarity.

“If I mistakenly thought I was twenty-one before.” Jamie rocked front and back on his arse, still holding onto his knee, to try and make the pain fade faster. “I certainly dinnae now.”

Claire let out a small giggle at that, crouching down onto the floor even further. “Let me have a look.” Her hand covered Jamie’s, moving his fingers out of the way to replace them with her own, determining if the joint or socket were bulging in any places they shouldn’t be.

Prod. Poke. Prod. Poke. “It might be better if you roll up your trousers, or take them off completely.”

Jamie hissed through his teeth at one particular hard jab of her finger. “Do ye say that to all of yer patients, Sassenach?”

He wasn’t sure how she managed to do it, but raising an eyebrow, Claire managed to still look fierce with her breasts spilling out. “Shut up. You must be feeling fine if you can make jokes, you great big Scot.”

“Aye,” Jamie agreed with a smile, as he shifted his weight back into the soles of his feet. “Go and stand back over there, Sassenach, and we’ll see if I can move.”

Straightening up, Claire moved back to lean against the windowsill, once again. “So I’m going to stand here, while you do what exactly?”

On his hands and knees, Jamie crawled, tentatively, towards Claire – stopping only when he reached the hem of her skirts. Gripping the tulle in either hand, he peered up at her and her mouthwateringly hard pink nipples.

“The thing I’ve thought about doing to ye all evening, Sassenach.”

Claire’s tongue prodded one of her upper teeth, as she stared Jamie down with a definite look. “Which is?”

“Eating you out, until you come apart on my face.”

And with that, Jamie disappeared underneath her gown.

Wasting no time, Jamie hooked his thumbs into the lace waistband of Claire’s knickers, and pulled them down her legs. She stepped out of them, one leg and then the other, leaving her cunt bare for Jamie’s taking.

Steadying himself by wrapping both of his hands around Claire’s thighs, Jamie stuck out the tip of his tongue, and parted her folds. The taste of her burst into Jamie’s mouth immediately, as he flattened his tongue and rocked his head from side to side.

Above, Claire’s whispered “shit” was so quiet that Jamie almost missed it.

He drew one of her labia into his mouth, sucking gently, and then switching to the other side. All around him, the skirts of Claire’s dress frothed, replacing the darkened room of his bedroom, with a light blue and white light.

Closing his eyes, Jamie flicked his tongue along the wet seam of her slit. But rather than stopping this time, he carried on, catching the sensitive hood of her clit with the blunt edges of his teeth.

Claire’s hips bucked, hard and fast, her moans becoming louder and more prominent.

Travelling his hands up from her thighs, Jamie settled them on the round, thick globes of her arse. Making it easier to control Claire’s movements. Drawing three figure eights upon her clit, Jamie latched on, closing his lips around the bud and sucking hard.

“Fuck fuck fuck, Jamie!”

If only she could see him now… His smile was feral as he pressed it into her inner thigh, and then bit down. Snaking his left hand away from her arse, Jamie trailed his fingers through her crack, over the puckered rim and through her petal soft folds. His teeth punctured the skin of Claire’s thigh, while he slid a finger up into her wet heat. Her inner walls clamped around at the sudden intrusion, sending a gush of arousal to coat Jamie’s finger and dribble down past his knuckle.

More.

“Well, as ye asked so politely, Sassenach,” Jamie rumbled from between her legs, pressing another, thicker, finger into her. He crooked these into a ‘come hither’ motion, before finding the spongy spot behind Claire’s clit and holding a certain amount of pressure over it.

Using the pad of his thumb to play with her hard clit, Jamie placed a sweet, but sloppy, kiss to the slight curve of Claire’s stomach, just underneath her tummy button. A couple of silvery stretch marks dotted the skin, mainly on either side, towards Claire’s hips, where her skin had expanded outwards to make a home for her two bairns. Paying special attention, Jamie kissed those, too. A silent appreciation to her miracle of a body that kept Claire alive on a daily basis and had also created not one, but two, human lives.

The squelching of Claire’s inner walls around Jamie’s pumping fingers increased, as did her seductive moans. As his thumb strummed her clit quicker, Claire’s hips bucked once more, riding Jamie’s face. He could feel her quickening heartbeat echoed in the pulse of her cunt… and the pulse in his own, almost painfully hard, thickening cock…

Shit.

Stop it before ye blow yer load in yer pants, Fraser.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes,” she chanted. Claire’s hand came over the top of her dress, cupping the back of Jamie’s head underneath the silk and tulle material. “I’m… fuck… Jamie! I’m fucking coming…”

Slipping his fingers from inside her, Jamie sealed his mouth over her sopping slit so as not to miss a single drop and, adding a tiny bit more pressure, sped up the toying of her clit. Jamie moaned into her at the first wet drop of her hitting his tongue. He swallowed her down, the tangy taste of Claire’s cum coating the back of his throat with each contraction of her cunt.

Jamie knew her arousal was all over the tip of his nose, and had dripped down onto his chin. But he didn’t bother to clean it up, instead feasting on Claire until she was spent, back bowed against the window and she nudged his calf with her big toe to get him to move.

He kent she was sensitive, but Jamie couldn’t stop himself from parting Claire’s quivering folds with either of his thumbs and blowing cold air onto her red clit.

She gasped, the sound bordering on almost painful. Certainly more than Jamie had expected. As Claire’s legs tried to close of their own accord around Jamie’s ears, a silent sign that she needed time to recuperate before they did anything, he squeezed the thick flesh of her arse one last time and then slid out from underneath her gown.

Claire’s head was tipped back as far as it would go, resting on the tops of her shoulder blades and only rising when Jamie got to his feet, slightly unsteadily, and with nothing but sheer determination making him succeed in not buckling.

Her eyes were dark.

Her lips red and raw.

“Ye all right, Sassenach?”

She made a purely satisfied noise, bringing him closer into her warmth by wrapping her arms around his neck.

“I can’t feel my legs.” She whispered, tongue flicking out deftly, to lick the taste of herself from the middle of his shiny chin.

“That’s okay, lass.” Using the distraction of his mouth, Jamie pulled down the zipper of Claire’s dress, without her noticing, finally freeing her from her confines. “I’ll take care of ye and ye won’t even need them.”

Her fingers played with the extra hair at the base of his skull, but Jamie couldn’t focus on how good it felt. All he could focus on was the jerking of his cock against Claire’s inner thigh, wet and warm with her own arousal. “And tomorrow?”

“Well ye’ll have to choose between walking funny,” Jamie pinched the flesh of her arse until Claire squealed. “Or me carrying ye around. It’s yer tough decision to make, my Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

Rather than letting Claire answer, Jamie banded an arm against Claire’s lower back and his other behind her kneecaps. In one fell swoop he picked her up, bridal style and then chucked her onto his bed. No mean feat for a thirty-year-old man, whose knee had just given away mere minutes ago.

And if the joint twinged in both pain and protest? Well, Jamie certainly wasn’t going to let it stop him or tell Claire.

Unless of course that meant they got to play patient and sexy nurse and…

“What on earth are you thinking about?” Claire giggled, bouncing back onto Jamie’s bed, so much so she had to catch herself on her elbows. Slithering up after her, Jamie settled his weight right above Claire. “You better not be picturing another woman.”

Was she joking?

Or had somebody done that to her before?

Had it been Frank?

Burying his head in the space between her shoulder and neck, Jamie blew a loud raspberry, and then another. Claire wriggled, laughing, as she tried to get away, covering the side of her neck. “Stop it! Jamie Fraser, you stop it right now!”

“Why would I be thinking of other women when I have ye in my bed, Sassenach?” Tucking his hips, Jamie pressed his thick, and very prominent, erection up against Claire’s dripping seam. She groaned, low in the back of her throat, giving in to Jamie’s attention. “I’ll have ye ken I was thinking about playing patient and nurse with ye…”

“Oh, you were, were you?” She smiled cockily. “And which one would you be, then?”

Jamie lowered his lips to hers, just for a quick taste. Christ she was irresistible.

“I’d be the nurse, obviously.” He answered, forefinger from his right hand drawing a straight line between the valley of her dress, along her stomach, and circling the divot of her tummy bottom. “And I’d make ye call me, Mr. Fraser.”

A light weight settled on Jamie’s ankle. Claire’s foot. Her toes curling and uncurling as they inched the hem on Jamie’s trouser cuff up and up, until a millimeter more of his skin appeared. “I call you that anyway, and you certainly make me.”

Jamie scrunched up his nose, grinding his hips down infinitesimally. A wet spot brushed up against Jamie’s cock, his own wet spot as precome pooled out of him and soaked into his boxers and tight trousers. He needed them off. Soon, yesterday, fucking now.

Huffing, Jamie willed some blood to return to his actual brain, the one residing in his skull, and to his mouth to make him able to communicate in human words other than caveman grunts.

“Shit.” He gritted out. “Let’s see if I can make ye do it tonight then, shall I?”

Shall he indeed…

Pushing himself onto a tall knee, Jamie busied his fingers with undoing the placket of his trousers first. Another set of deft fingers began to work their way down his buttoned shirt. Claire, her abs tight as she crunched upwards, to reach him.

Standing up, so quickly he felt slightly dizzy, Jamie’s shirt and trousers joined the wardrobe building on the floor. Letting his eyelids droop closed, Jamie cupped his cock through his cotton boxers, a groan ripping from between his lips as he squeezed and liquid heat pooled at the base of his spine.

“Mmm.”

Through his lashes, Jamie could see Claire spread out amongst his pillows, humming, eyes fixed on the way Jamie touched himself. Claire’s legs had splayed open, relaxed, painted toes burrowing into his duvet. While her hands had come up to play with the ends of her hair, fingertips tickling the tops of her own breasts.

Licking his desert dry lips, Jamie stripped himself of his last remaining article of clothing, feeling his cock bob in the air, before crawling back onto the bed. Claire stared up at him, past the curves of her rising and falling breasts, as Jamie took his thick cock in his left hand and traced the seam of her slit with his tip.

“Holy fuckkk…”

Claire whimpered, back arching to meet his every move, as Jamie tapped the mushroomed head of his cock on the hood of her clit.

His eyes flickered between focusing on Claire’s face, the way the lines around her mouth tightened and then relaxed as she moaned. Or the red and purple splotches that decorated the inside of Claire’s thighs, the markings Jamie had left behind. This time tomorrow they’d be even more prominent. Or watching Claire’s slit wrapped around and swallow his cock whole. Or…

God he couldn’t choose.

“Come and fuck me, Mr. Fraser.”

Dear God…

How was he supposed to keep his head about him when filthy words like that dripped from her mouth?

Savagely, Jamie stole a kiss from Claire’s willing lips, sweeping his tongue into her mouth. He needed to taste her again. He needed to breathe her in. He needed to consume her as much as she already consumed him. “Condom.” He gasped, getting a large inhale of Claire’s coconut shampoo-scented hair. “We need a--”

“I got the coil fitted last week.” Jamie was glad to hear Claire’s voice was just as breathless as his. “And I’m clean, we don’t need to use a condom if you don’t--”

He bit down on the shell of her ear, stopping her rambling. “Yer something else entirely, ye ken that, right?”

Under the compliment, Claire seemed to glow, her smile becoming so wide, Jamie kent for a fact her cheeks must be aching.

“Open yer legs wider for me, Sassenach.”

Settling himself between her soft thighs again, Jamie pushed the tip of his cock inside Claire’s wet heat, groaning at the white hot flash of pleasure already building behind his eyes as her folds enveloped him.

“Fuck, Jamie… Fuck…” Claire’s legs had wrapped themselves high around Jamie’s waist, crossing over at the ankle. With the heel of her foot, she prodded Jamie’s backside, a silent confirmation to carry on and hurry up.

Sliding in further, Jamie pumped his hips three times before he was fully seated inside of his Sassenach. He kent he was gripping Claire’s hips maybe a bit too harshly, and he kent his bottom lip was hanging open, probably making him look a bit gormless – but Jamie couldn’t find it within himself to care.

The wet, hot, slide from Claire’s cunt surrounded him on all fronts, making Jamie’s brain feel as if it were short-circuiting. He was unable to focus on anything but Claire, Claire, Claire… and his own cock.

Experimentally, he pulled out a hair's breadth, before sinking back in with a sigh of relief. “Holy shit. Ye feel so good, Sassenach.”

“So do you,” she agreed, laying one cheek against his pillow and giving Jamie access to lavish kisses along the side of her neck. “But I need you to… to… fucking move, Jamie.”

It didn’t take Jamie very long to find his rhythm, pulling out until just his tip remained inside Claire, and then bucking his hips forward to slide his cock along both of her tight inner walls. Soon, his bedroom was filled with the sounds of soft pants and moans, the rustling of the cotton bed sheets as their bodies danced together, writhed together, as if they were designed to do just that.

A fizzing sensation of pleasure was radiating along the front and backs of Jamie’s thighs, his vision tunneling more and more with each thrust. He chanced a glance down, finding the shaft of his cock shiny and coated in Claire’s translucent arousal, as he pulled back.

Like before, Jamie’s thumb applied pressure to Claire’s clit, drawing circles one way and then the other, until her moans grew in pitch.

She just needed a little more of a push…

“Ye feel so good wrapped around me, Sassenach.” He whispered, throat raw and scratchy. Her walls fluttered at the first syrupy words dripping from Jamie’s lips. “Do ye feel good?”

“Yesss…” She hissed.

“Who’s making ye feel good? Hm?”

“Ungh… you are.”

“Say my name, Claire.”

“You are, Jamie Fraser.” Her words were panted, coming in great big gulps as Claire sucked down oxygen. “You’re going to make me fucking come.”

“God, Sassenach.” Jamie choked out, looking down at Claire’s thrashing body, the way she took him in so perfectly. “Ye look so bonny saying my name like that. Are ye gonnae let go fer me?”

“I’m…” Tipping head back against the pillow as far as it would go, and baring the long, straight column of her throat, Claire whimpered out her second orgasm.

It felt stronger than her first. At first, Jamie could feel Claire’s toes furling and then unfurling against the skin of his lower back. Followed by the tightening of her abs as her whole body seized up, and then the contraction of her inner walls as Claire’s arousal gushed out of her.

Breathing heavily through his nose, Jamie felt the burning hot sensation in his back travel down his balls. He tried to keep up the steady rhythm he’d found, prolonging Claire’s orgasm while her lower body and hips moved with him, but that was rather hard to do when she was squeezing him so tightly that Jamie thought for sure his cock was going to fall off.

The tingling in his balls grew, the white sparks of pleasure behind Jamie’s eyes tunneling, until all he could think about was coming inside of his sweet Sassenach. Dropping his body weight into his forearms, Jamie pressed the damp, sweat-laden skin of his body along Claire’s, and gently tucked his palms beneath Claire’s head at the base of her skull, cradling it as you would a newborn bairn.

He tucked his head into the crook of Claire’s shoulder, feeling somewhat shy for a strange reason. The last time he’d shagged Claire they’d both been ever so slightly inebriated and high on joy of being on holiday, away from the mundane tasks of everyday life. Jamie had taken her while in a hotel room. Not in his own bedroom, in his own home, on his own land – where his soul felt bare.

Scarily so.

Jamie couldn’t explain it… but his coupling with Claire felt different this time.

The sound of his own breath sounded loud in Jamie’s ears, as Claire’s hands came up to rest along his shoulders, holding him to her; safely, protectively. Jamie’s pulse grew faster, his blood hotter, his vision blacker, until…

“Sassenach.” He groaned out, pinching his eyes shut as he felt ropes of his cum coat the inside of Claire’s walls, filling her up without the layer of latex to separate them.

Once Jamie pumped his hips lazily four more times, drawing out his own pleasure, he practically collapsed on top of Claire, the muscles in his arms shaking with the adrenaline rush careening through his body.

A steady and soothing brush of a hand down his back, and along the flank of his ribs, had Jamie closing his eyes in contentment. Claire’s lips pressed against his forehead, his temple, and the highest point of his cheekbone that she could reach.

God only kent how long Jamie laid there, nothing else seemed to matter.

The only thing that he cared about was that he had his Sassenach in his arms, and Jamie was determined to keep her there.

“Jamie, darling,” Claire mumbled into his skin. Imprinting herself there.

“Hmm?” Jamie’s eyelashes fluttered open, tickling the sensitive skin of Claire’s neck.

“You’re squashing me.”

With an oomph, Jamie (rather ungraciously) rolled to the side, taking his weight off of Claire, and slipping his soft cock out of her at the same time. He slung his arm over Claire’s torso, happy enough to stay there, in this exact position until he drifted off, but the wiggling of her body kept sleep at bay.

Opening one eye, Jamie peered over at Claire. “What’s wrong, Sassenach?”

She tugged on his forearm; her thighs clamping together enough to make her lithe muscles stand out. “Can you let me up? I’m leaking all over the bed.”

Leaking?

Oh, right. No condom, remember?

With a breathy chuckle escaping his lips, Jamie removed his arm from where it was banded around Claire’s torso. He watched her, an amused expression on his face, as she stood, and hobbled more than walked towards Jamie’s en suite bathroom.

Jamie rested his eyelids closed for just a split second while he waited for Claire to come back into their little cocoon that they had made. It was comforting to hear the sound of somebody pottering about in his space, to know they were there.

He must have drifted off for a number of seconds, relaxed into a dream-like state by the rushing noise of the bathroom sink tap. Only when Claire slid back into bed, pulled the duvet cover up over both of them and wriggled her way into Jamie’s chest, did he come to, still sleepy enough for his brain to work slower than usual.

“I did have a good time tonight,” Jamie whispered, pressing a slow kiss to Claire’s lips. “No matter what I’m doing, I always seem to have a good time with ye, my Sassenach.”

Inside their cocoon, Claire’s words felt louder than usual. Or perhaps it was just what she was saying. “I feel the same way, Jamie. The exact same way.”

---

Throughout his life, Jamie had done a number of stupid things. But right now, forgetting to close the blinds properly in his bedroom was at the top of his list.

Bright, shining sunlight woke Jamie up as soon as the ball of gas crested over the clouds. With sleep still crusting his inner eye corners closed, Jamie had checked the time on his alarm clock beside the bed, finding it to be just after quarter past five in the morning.

Typical.

Just absolutely fucking typical.

The one time Jamie hadn’t set his alarm because he wanted to spend time with Claire. The one time he was getting a lie in without having to feed a hungry child, or a hungry farm animal and yet, here he was, fucking wide-awake.

Knowing he wouldn’t get back to sleep no matter how much he wanted too, Jamie huffed aloud, and forced his legs to swing out of his warm bed, the floor beneath him creaking loudly. Holding his breath, Jamie dared to take a glance out of the corner of his eye at Claire.

So far, the sunlight hadn’t seemed to have awoken her, but had Jamie’s loud movements? He wasn’t used to somebody sleeping beside him, in his bed, let alone being quiet on purpose to avoid waking said person.

When he was sure Claire hadn’t stirred, Jamie tip-toed silently towards the window, drawing the blinds as quietly as he kent how to.

For a moment, he stood still, staring down to appreciate his Sassenach in all her morning glory. Her face was turned away from the window, facing Jamie’s side of the bed. His eyes traced her feminine features; arched brows still tinted with leftover makeup, a slightly upturned nose, which appeared to fit Claire’s face perfectly, a prominent cupid’s bow and plushy lips that were chapped from all the kissing they’d done last night. Those long legs of hers were tucked half in and half out of the duvet. A lone foot hung over the side of the mattress as Claire contorted her body into a strange shape, curved, as if she fit herself around Jamie.

His fingers twitched from where they dangled by his side, itching to trace his finger around the bonny ankle of Claire’s foot, along her sole, and up to her painted toes.

But she looked so peaceful, sighing gently in her sleep and smacking her lips, that with a clench of his fist, Jamie managed to tear his sight away.

He willed his feet to walk to the en suite, where, in a matter of minutes, he used the loo, washed his hands and face, and was just hunting about for the dropped toothpaste cap, when a sleepy presence pressed herself into his body; warm breasts meeting his bare back.

Sassenach.

“What are ye doing awake so early?” Jamie asked, turning around to find Claire’s sleep creased face staring up at him. A warm smile played about her lips, one of her hands coming up to tug at the collar of the button up shirt she wore.

Jamie’s button up shirt, the one from last night.

Christ it looked better on her than it had ever done on him. The soft material swamped her body. She’d had to roll the sleeves up, lest they drape over her hands and render them useless.

“You kind of woke me up.”

Jamie felt his face drop. “Shit, I’m sorry, Sassenach. I’m not used tae somebody sleeping next tae me and then--”

“Shush, you don’t need to apologise.” Claire’s fingers reached out to trail across his jaw. “I’m used to getting up at all hours with the children or when I’m on the early shift at the hospital. Anyway,” her smile seemed to triple in size, “this means we get more time for you to show me around the estate.”

“Mm, I suppose so,” Jamie mumbled into her hair, which resembled a small bird’s nest. A bonny bird’s nest, though. He still felt incredibly guilty that he’d tired her out the night before and then accidentally awoken her at stupid o’clock in the morning.

“Stop worrying, I promise you it’s fine. Now find me a toothbrush so I can give you a proper good morning kiss.”

“A good morning kiss, aye?” Jamie questioned, already crouching down to rummage through the bathroom cabinet underneath the sink. Finding one, he handed it over to Claire. “Do I get a good morning anything else?”

Ripping open the packet, Claire thrust the toothbrush under the tap, squeezed a blob of blue toothpaste on the bristles and then wetted the brush again. She poised it before her lips, winking, “Once I have a cup of tea you just might.”

Laughing, mostly to himself, Jamie couldn’t stop himself from pressing up against Claire’s body - his front to her back. He watched her in the mirror with a smile, feeling so happy in this moment that he could be sick.

“What?” Claire gurgled around the toothbrush in her mouth. A glob of toothpaste and spit landed on her chin, making Jamie smile even wider. His Sassenach was bonny even when she didn’t try and especially when she didn’t feel like it.

It was the natural animal instinct inside of him to rub his semi-erection against Claire’s gloriously rounded arse as she bent over to spit into the sink. She glared at him in the mirror, silently reminded Jamie of her promise to get nothing before her first cup of tea.

“How about ye go make the cups of tea, Sassenach,” Jamie whispered, nipping the top of her ear. “while I get dressed? I’ll show ye my favourite place to sit in the morning and then we’ll see if we can fit in a quickie between feeding the animals.”

“Fine,” Claire conceded, hanging onto the door frame as if to leave. “But don’t take ages, I want you for myself.”

He gripped her hips, preventing her from walking away another step. “And I want a good morning kiss first, Sassenach. Don’t ye think I deserve one?”

With a good-natured eye roll, Claire stood on her tippy toes, meeting Jamie’s puckered lips. His hands slithered down to cup both of her arse cheeks, his tongue probing between his lips and sliding along hers. Jamie could tell he could easily win her round by the same, she’d begun to grind down upon his thigh, her breathing becoming heavier. But two could play at that game.

“Tea, Sassenach.” He slapped his hand down upon the bare flesh of her arse, making Claire’s body jerk as if she’d touched an electric current. “Ye can get a reward later.”

The look she sent him was ever so slightly murderous, but she did as asked, giving him one last look over her shoulder before she flounced away down the hall. Jamie heard her begin to descend the stairs, before he rifled through his bedside drawers for a clean pair of underwear, shirt and shorts.

Only seconds later did he hear footsteps starting back up the stairs, sounding as if they were running.

“I ken ye said tae be quick, Sassenach.” Jamie called out into the hallway. “But come on, ye only left seconds ago and--”

Claire burst through the bedroom door, frantically redoing the buttons of his shirt that she hadn’t bothered to do earlier - leaving most of her breasts and stomach on show – and tugging down the hem at the same time.

“Your sister’s sitting at the kitchen table.”

Jamie felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown over him.

He turned, old, soft, cotton t-shirt still in hand. “What did ye just say, Sassenach?”

“You heard me.” Claire repeated herself, two bright red spots appearing on her cheeks. “Your sister, Jenny, is sitting downstairs at the kitchen table waiting for you, and by the looks of it, about three different men were waiting outside of your front door pretending to look busy.”

“Shite,” Jamie mumbled softly, shoving the shirt over his head.

“Shite sounds about right.” Claire had taken up pacing now, swerving to avoid the number of clothes and unmentionables lying about the floor. “It’s not even six in the morning, what on earth are they all doing? And me,” she turned to face Jamie, hands coming to itch nervously at the hairline. “walking downstairs practically naked!”

Jamie was stepping into his blue shorts now. “Well ye’re not totally naked, Sassenach.”

“I had no bra or knickers on,” she hissed, sounding (and looking) rather like an angry cat. Jamie had to repress his laughter. “Are you listening to me, James Fraser? I’ve just met your sister for the first time without any clothes on! And only God knows what those men think! Probably that's a good day, seeing as they’ve all gotten a peep show!”

Crossing the room, Jamie gathered Claire into his arms. “Sassenach, Sassenach, listen, it’s fine. Jenny won’t care, and the farmhands won’t say anything either.” He promised, knowing his words were true. “They’re only outside because I’m sure Ian must have told them that I was bringing ye home and they all wanted a glance. I’ve never brought a woman home before, ye ken. I’m sure they think it’s just as special as I do.”

“Are you sure?” Claire peered up at him, chin resting in the center of his chest.

“Aye, Sassenach. Jenny’s family, and she’d done way worse, let me tell ye, so she won’t say anything. As for the farmhands, I ken most of them since I was a wee lad, we only pick the most trustworthy and hardworking to be here. I won’t let anything leave their lips.”

“Okay,” Claire nodded, swallowing hard. “Will you go make the tea while I get dressed properly this time? I can’t face your sister, or those farmhands again, unless I’ve got proper clothes on.”

“Aye, I will.” Jamie laid two pecks onto Claire’s forehead. “Take yer time, there’s no rush.”

While Claire moved away to retrieve some clothes from her tote bag, Jamie began to walk towards the stairs.

He was going to fucking wring Jenny’s neck for coming into his home unexpected and uninvited, knowing full-well Claire would be upstairs, in his bed.

Christ, when Jamie got his hands on her…

He rounded the corner, finding Jenny sitting just as Claire had described her, a mug of something cradled in her hands. She looked up at the sound of somebody entering the kitchen, an expression so innocent that butter wouldn’t melt, painted about her face.

Jenny raised an eyebrow independently. Fraser eyes flashing and her lips slanting into a smirk. “Good morning, Brother.”