Chapter 1: Not Just for the Pancakes
I floated up so slowly from the depths of sleep that, for a moment, I had no recollection whatsoever of where I was. That wasn’t so unusual; the life of a commercial airline pilot was by its very nature a nomadic one, and I slept more often in a strange hotel room than in my own bed.
But waking to the smell of coffee — of breakfast — was a first for me in quite some time.
I lifted my head and peered around the room in confusion, smearing the back of my hand over the drool that had leaked out of the side of my mouth and left a wet stain on the pillow. Standard hotel room, blackout curtains pulled shut, my duffel bag, heels and purse stacked neatly by the door…
Jamie, my brain registered as I found my giant Scot tucked into the loveseat over by the window.
Smiling blearily, I sank back down into the mattress again, muscles slack with relief.
He was wearing a faded t-shirt and gray sweatpants, his curls whorled into the most endearing case of bedhead I’d ever seen. A Kindle was propped in the bend of his knee, leaving his hands free to cradle a steaming mug of coffee, which he intermittently brought to his lips to blow softly and take a sip. For the moment, he seemed oblivious to the fact that I was awake, and I savored the rare opportunity to watch him with his guard down: the occasional scratch of blunt fingernails over the stubble on his cheek or chin, the slight tap of the foot he had crossed over his knee, the rhythmic flicker of his lake-blue eyes as he read.
Tenderness glowed warm in my chest as memories of the previous night gradually began to filter into my consciousness. After a sixteen hour flight, I’d been dead on my feet, and slumped wearily against him as he walked me back to this hotel room. When he’d turned on the shower and climbed in with me, his strong soapy hands kneading the tension from my muscles, I’d tried to summon what little energy I had left to at least get him off before we slept. But Jamie had stopped me with a soft kiss and softer eyes, told me to go put on some comfy pyjamas, and spooned himself around me in bed a few minutes later, whispering his fingertips through my hair until I fell asleep.
A full twelve hours ago, I realized with a jolt as my gaze flicked over to the clock on the end table. Jesus H. Christ, I couldn’t remember having slept that long since I was a teenager.
Then again, I always did sleep better with a certain Scottish captain curled around me.
Stretching languidly to finally let him know I was awake, I yawned a groggy, “Morning.”
Jamie’s features softened at the sound of my voice, and he immediately set aside his Kindle and coffee mug as I slipped out of bed and shuffled toward him. “Good morning, mo chridhe,” he murmured, opening his arms in invitation. I eased down into his lap and curled gratefully into his warmth, tucking my face into the crook of his neck and breathing in his familiar scent.
“Afternoon, rather,” I amended as his hand rubbed gentle circles over my back. “You could have woken me, you know.”
He made a throaty, Scottish grunt of dismissal. “You needed the sleep. But I hope ye dinna mind that I went ahead and ate wi’out ye. My wame wasnae quite so patient.”
I lifted up from his neck to fix him with twinkling eyes and a feigned pout. “I thought I smelled breakfast! And here I was hoping it might have been for me.”
Jamie kissed the tip of my nose, then nuzzled it with his. “Yers is in the microwave. Pecan pancakes, poached eggs, and sausage sound alright? There’s fresh fruit and coffee for ye here too.”
My rumbling stomach was undoubtedly answer enough, but I beamed at him anyway, pecking him on the lips. “God, I love you.”
It was a playful quip, uttered before my sleep-fogged brain could even catch up. There was a fraction of a second in which Jamie froze, rigid with surprise, before he released a breath of a laugh, clearly uncertain whether I’d meant it in jest or…
Neither one of us had said it yet. Not in those exact words. I felt blood rush up my neck and into my cheeks, flaming with self-consciousness. Of all the ways to cross that line, leave it to me to blurt it out without thinking.
But now that the words were out there, I found I had no desire to take them back. With each passing second, the truth of them rooted deeper into my heart, taking hold until I felt stronger, more sure than I’d ever been of anything in my life.
Jamie was avoiding eye contact, hesitance and hope warring in the careworn lines of his face. The need to reassure him was enough to make me swallow my own embarrassment, and lift his jaw with gentle fingertips until he looked at me.
“I do, you know,” I said hoarsely, as my heart made a valiant effort to hammer its way out of my chest. A pause, a fortifying breath, then, “I love you. I’m in love with you, Jamie Fraser.”
He looked at me for a long moment before exhaling in relief, a bright sheen of moisture flashing to his eyes. “No’ just for the pancakes, then?” he teased gently, his voice breaking just a little.
“No.” I shook my head with a wavering smile, and leaned my forehead into his. I had to swallow twice against the lump in my throat before I could manage, “Not just for the pancakes.”
Jamie hummed in acknowledgment, and then we sat quietly for a time, just breathing.
“Thank Christ,” he whispered at long last, lifting a hand to hold the base of my neck. “I’ve wanted to tell ye for weeks, Sassenach, but I didna ken if it was too soon.” Pulling back just far enough to look into my eyes, he rasped, “I love you too, Claire. I love ye so much it terrifies me sometimes.”
I knew what he meant. What it was between us, it had been immediate, and intense, and had only grown exponentially stronger in the few months we’d known one another. When we were apart, it was like a physical ache — a missing limb, almost. And when we reunited, when we touched, when he moved inside of me…
There weren’t words for the magnitude of it, so I held him tighter and nodded my understanding.
My breakfast sat untouched for another hour as we divested ourselves of our pyjamas and began to rock slowly together, breathing the only words we could find into one other’s mouths and necks and shoulders until they became almost a litany, a benediction:
I love you. I love you, oh God, I love you…
Chapter 2: Peely-Wally
A/N: I'm overwhelmed by the response to this wee project of mine - I can't thank you guys enough. I wish I had the time to respond to every review individually, but I figured maybe you'd like an update instead? 😘
Edited to add: I’m bouncing all over the timeline with these vignettes, they’re not going to be in any kind of order. Last chapter was fairly early on in their relationship, this one is when they’ve been married a wee while. 😊
Fretting my bottom lip between my teeth, I set my mobile back down on the nightstand for the umpteenth time, unable to shake the gut feeling that something was wrong.
Are you asleep already? I’d texted my husband after my third Facetime attempt went unanswered. It’s only 8:15, grandpa! 👴
He hadn’t even read it yet.
I’d sent it over two hours ago.
Of course, there were any number of perfectly mundane reasons why he wouldn’t answer our scheduled nightly call. Maybe he’d put his mobile on silent and lost it somewhere. Last summer it had slipped between the driver’s seat and the center console of his car, and I’d watched him turn our London flat upside down for the better part of an afternoon before he finally found it. Surely it was something like that, and not the fact that he had flipped his car in a ditch, or fallen off a ladder whilst trying to make some foolhardy home repair, or…
I checked to make sure the volume was all the way up for when he called me back — any time now, I told myself — and switched the telly to a Friends rerun.
Two and a half episodes in, I was pacing the length of the hotel room with my heart in my throat.
“Jamie, it’s me again. Pick up, please, I… I’m starting to get scared. Even if you couldn’t find your phone, I know you would have found a way to contact me by now, and all I can think is that you’re-you’re hurt somewhere, or—”
I nearly dropped my mobile when my increasingly desperate voice was interrupted by the familiar trill of the FaceTime ringtone.
“Oh, thank God,” I breathed, quickly dashing the tears from my eyes before I swiped to answer. As Jamie’s face filled the screen, pillow-lined and rosy with sleep, I collapsed onto the edge of the mattress, caught between joint-slackening relief and more than a little exasperation.
“There you bloody are! Christ, Jamie, you scared me half to death!”
The inner corners of my husband’s brows curved up in remorse. “M’so sorry, a ghràidh,” he rasped, his voice deep and groggy. “I slept right through yer calls. Didna even hear it ring.”
I frowned, making a conscious effort to soften my tone. “That’s not like you.”
Jamie was an incredibly light sleeper; any little noise or bump in the night and he would jolt awake, rigid and breathless. He didn’t like to talk about his tour in Afghanistan, but I’d pieced together enough to conclude that it was PTSD from that period of his life. To help him cope, we slept with a fan or white noise app blasting to drown out any other noises, but even then, he’d never sleep through a ringing phone.
“No, it’s not.” He scrubbed a hand over his eyes and back into his sleep-mussed hair. “I’m… I’m no’ feeling verra well, Sassenach.”
Whatever remnants of frustration I’d retained, they dissipated entirely with that confession. Sitting bolt upright, I asked him with a deepening frown, “Why, what’s wrong? What are your symptoms?”
He moved his hand, and I could see what I’d missed at first glance: his face wasn’t just rosy from sleep, it was flushed with fever, and a fine sheen of sweat was visible in the light from his screen. There was a glaze over his eyes, and he seemed to be struggling to focus them.
“Dinna ken. Just… knackered. Heid’s thumpin’. Everything aches.”
“Fever?” I pressed.
“Mmphm.” He propped his mobile in front of him, then curled up on our bed and pulled the duvet up around his shoulders. “Think so. Couldna stop shaking earlier.”
I could feel my features softening as I watched him snuggle into my pillow, breathing deeply of its scent — my scent. “Sounds like influenza.”
He made a guttural Scottish noise and a weak attempt at a smile. “Mm. And this is where ye get tae tell me ‘I told ye so’ cos I didna get my flu shot this year.”
“Oh, I plan on it,” I quipped, though my gaze remained tender. “But I’ll wait until you’re feeling better. You don’t seem like you’d retain the lecture just now.”
“Nn-nnhn,” he grumbled in agreement. The two of us fell silent for a moment as he clutched his head with a shaking hand, then opened bleary blue eyes to stare at me longingly.
“I miss ye, mo nighean donn,” he whispered.
With what I hoped was a comforting smile, I scooted up to the head of the bed and lay down facing my mobile, mirroring his position. “I’ll be home tomorrow,” I soothed. “What can I do to help you in the meantime, love? Do you want me to Doordash you some soup? Hm? From that little place on 8th you like?”
He looked as though it was a struggle to keep his eyes open. “Nah. Just… talk to me, a ghràidh. Like ye would if you were here wi’ me.”
“All right.” I cleared my throat and readjusted on the pillows, getting comfortable. “What would you like me to talk about?”
“Anything,” he breathed.
And so I did.
For over an hour, I spoke to the image of my husband’s flushed, dewy face, watching as the tension in his features slackened. Once or twice I trailed off, thinking he’d finally fallen asleep, only for his eyes to crack as he softly implored me to keep going. It truly seemed to make no difference to him what I spoke about: the weather where I was staying, the MRI results from my coworker’s mother-in-law, the terribly disappointing character arc on a show he didn’t even watch. It was the sound of my voice he craved — more soothing than any white noise machine — and I was happy to oblige him.
At some point, we both must have drifted off, because I woke sometime in the middle of the night to the rustle of his covers as he got up to use the restroom. Squinting at the screen, only half-awake, I smiled when he returned to bed carrying a large glass of water.
“Good lad,” I murmured groggily.
“My wife’s always on me about stayin’ hydrated,” he said between gulps.
My smile broadened, and I burrowed my face in the pillow, wishing I could be snuggling into his chest instead. “Smart wife.”
“Don’t I ken it.”
“Did you grab some—?”
“Motrin, aye. I took two.”
Peeking an eye open, I murmured around the edge of my pillow, “See, now what do you even need me for? You’ve got this covered, soldier.”
He glanced over at the screen, his eyes shining with such unexpected, raw emotion that it took my breath away. “Do ye really not know?” he asked very softly.
I shifted a bit so he could see my face; he’d always been able to read me like a book. “I do,” I promised. “I do know, Jamie.”
And I did.
The next day, when I shouldered through our front door, arms laden with my luggage and purse and keys and mobile and take-away container of soup from that restaurant he loved, I dropped everything on the dining room table and went straight to my husband. He was burning to the touch, even hotter than his usual radiator self, and shivering beneath the blankets. Stripping down to my skin, I climbed in with him and wrapped him up, bringing his head to rest between the soft swells of my breasts.
“Sorcha,” he breathed.
I pressed a kiss to the crown of his head, and snuggled him closer. “It’s alright now,” I murmured into his curls. “You’re alright. I’m here.”
I felt his sigh of relief reverberate through my bones.
Chapter 3: Mile High
“They called it the ship of dreams,” Jamie warbled in his best old-Rose impression, “and it was… it really was.”
Grinning, I smacked his backside as I climbed up into the crew rest area after him. The Boeing 787 Dreamliners were aptly named, and while Virgin Atlantic boasted a fleet of the massive planes, Delta hadn’t yet purchased any.
“Och, aye.” He glanced around in open admiration before reaching down for my hand to help me up the last couple of steps. “This is bigger than some of the flats I’ve rented in Manhattan.”
I snorted in amusement. “Hopefully the ceilings were a bit higher.” Jamie had several inches on me, and even I had to stoop to avoid hitting my head; he was practically folded in half as he made a beeline for one of the two beds that occupied the space.
“Doesnae matter.” With a smirk at me over his shoulder, he dropped to his knees on the mattress and bounced a few times for effect. “I dinna plan to spend much time standing, Sassenach.”
“Oh, neither do I,” I deadpanned as I flopped down next to him. Arching an arm up over my head in an exaggerated stretch, I faux-yawned, “I’ve only got four hours, so I’d best get straight to sleep if I’m going t—”
Whatever cheeky remark I was going to make was smothered into a giggling hum as his lips crashed against mine, hungry and insistent. Any pretense of disinterest crumbled when his tongue swept over the seam of my lips, begging entrance; I opened for him on a panting breath, tasted him like a woman starved. Neither one of us could get our clothes off fast enough, or even decide who was undressing whom — lips locked, we clawed and writhed and kicked our way out of my pristine uniform, his leather jacket and jeans and henley. Jamie didn’t even have the patience to get me out of my bra; once I was wearing nothing else, he finally detached from our kiss to latch onto my breast instead, licking and biting at the nipple through the delicate red lace, then scooping it out from the cup so he could suck the full areola deep into his mouth.
I must have been making a fair amount of noise — I couldn’t bloody well think, let alone hear myself — because he released my breast with a wet popping sound and returned his grinning lips to mine.
“We’re going to have to do something about yer wee noises, Sassenach, if we mean tae do this wi’out getting caught.” His eyes swept over my heaving torso darkly. “I havena even begun.”
“I do not,” I insisted, raising my chin loftily, “make wee noises.”
His eyebrows twitched and his smile lines deepened. “Do ye not?”
There was no warning whatsoever: in one swift movement, he took his shaft in hand, kneed my thighs apart, and rammed into me so hard and so deep that he immediately made a liar out of me.
Technically speaking, though, I was right; the noises I made were not particularly wee.
Jamie’s calloused hand clamped over my mouth to stifle a long, low, guttural moan as he began to roll his hips, pushing up and in, exactly where I needed him. Lips smeared against his palm, I panted hard through my nose as I began to buck against him, giving as good as I got. Our eyes locked, black and glittering, and then we were off — two competitors in our favorite sport: fucking one another mercilessly in a race to see who could finish the other first.
Granted, Jamie had a decent head start on me, and by mid-game the odds were stacked overwhelmingly in his favor. He had me glistening with sweat before he’d even broken one himself, having found just the right angle to graze my clit with every thrust. Arching higher off the bed each time, I sunk my bottom teeth into the fleshy part of his palm as I choked out a muffled string of obscenities.
“That’s it,” he murmured against the curve of my neck. “That’s it, a nighean. Fuck, ye’re so tight when ye’re about to come, do ye know that?”
His hand was so slippery with sweat that I was able to wrench my mouth away with ease. “So are you,” I shot back breathlessly.
Jamie barely had time to furrow his brow in question before I’d snaked a hand around him to cup the heavy weight of his balls. All at once he froze, his whole body going rigid as a board. He held his breath, his face flushed almost purple, his tendons straining and his veins standing out like cords.
Smirking like the cat who got the canary, I moved the pads of my fingers gently — very, very gently — like I was rolling dice.
“That’s it,” I echoed hoarsely. “There’s a good lad.” Twining my free hand in his hair, I tugged his open mouth down to mine and whispered against his lips, “Let go, Jamie. I want to feel you come inside me.”
“Fuck,” he sobbed brokenly. I slid my tongue over his in a quick kiss like the excellent sportswoman I was, knowing full well I’d won; I could already feel his bollocks contracting in my hand. Fortunately, he’d done an admirable job of getting me right to the edge, and as he began to thrust erratically, I slipped my fingers between my thighs to finish myself in a frenzy right behind him.
Neither one of us had the wherewithal to smother the noises we made as we broke one right after the other, cursing and trembling and spent.
Flopped over onto our backs, side by side, chests heaving, we both grinned at the ceiling for a while before Jamie wheezed, “Is it… just me or… does the thinner air… make it feel more…” He paused to swallow, wetting his dry lips and gesticulating as he looked for the right word. “Euphoric, somehow?”
I hummed, dropping my head to the side so I could kiss the cap of his shoulder. “Well, they do call it the Mile High Club.”
His whole body shook with a belly laugh as he rolled over to face me. “I… I think I need an… oxygen mask. A Dhia...” Still panting out little huffs of laughter, he threaded his fingers into the hair at my nape and drew me in until our foreheads touched.
“I do believe that makes it eighteen to sixteen, soldier,” I murmured, beaming as I nuzzled the tip of his nose with mine.
“Sixteen? I have seventeen, ye wee cheat!”
“No. We called Dubai a draw, remember?”
He paused for a moment, considering, then relaxed against me again. “Alright, sixteen.”
Sighing contentedly, I twined our fingers together, then brought his fingertips to my lips. “Not such a terrible game to lose anyway.”
“No,” he whispered against my hairline. I could feel my eyes growing heavy, my body going slack against his as the sweat cooled on our skin. “No, mo chridhe, it isn’t.”