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After All This Time

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After All This Time:

It's strange, being here.

Scotland.

She's never been before, but memories of a time that now seems like a lifetime ago overwhelm her senses—a time when she could wrap herself up in his Scottish brogue and listen to him all night long and never tire of it.

But that was high school. That was twenty years ago. God, how has it already been two decades since she was an easy-going teenager, not bogged down by the realities of adult life?

Claire Beauchamp checks her watch, bouncing on her heels as she waits in line at the local coffee shop. The line is long, which she takes as a good sign that this is the best coffee in town, just as the receptionist at her hotel, Mrs. Baird, had declared.

She has plenty of time, she doesn't need to be there for another hour and a half, but she was hoping to get to the conference hall in time to go over her speech.

The annual Neurology, Neurosurgery and Trauma Conference is being hosted in Scotland this year, and Claire was chosen to give a seminar on the newest laparoscopic technology that had been piloted at her hospital.

As she waits in line, she runs through her speech, or, well, the parts she can remember anyway. Nerves seem to be getting the best of her today.

Words like adenoma, saccular aneurysm, and thrombus fly through her mind, and she imagines the slide show images that will go along with each point.

Before she knows it, she's at the counter, ordering the largest coffee available and a blueberry scone to tide her over. She's too nervous to eat, her stomach is in knots as is, but she knows if she doesn't at least try to eat something, she'll feel even worse under the bright lights while she's on stage.

She moves off to the side after paying, waiting amongst the other patrons for their names to be called. It's crowded in this corner, people bumping shoulders as they try to make room for one another.

It's suffocating, honestly, so she worms her way out, trying her best to slink to the other corner of the tiny establishment. She has to turn backwards to shimmy out, and when she turns about face again, a large, plaid-covered chest meets her.

"Oomph!" she grunts, raising her hand to stop herself from running face first into this stranger. She's in heels for the conference, so her nose is almost to his collarbone. "I'm so sorry!"

"'Tis no' bother," the man states, and Claire looks up at the sound of his voice, making eye contact with another person for the first time all morning; her nose has been in her phone or her mind's been too occupied with her speech to notice her surroundings until now.

But she'd recognize that voice anywhere.

Her breath catches in her throat, more suffocating than the thought of giving her speech in front of thousands of people later today. Those eyes, she'd never forget those clear, blue orbs, the way they used to look at her with so much love and tenderness.

She exhales shakily, shaking her head in disbelief. "J-Jamie?"

Claire feels like a teenager, like those twenty years she was just thinking about had never happened. How is this possible?

"Cl… Claire?" he breathes.

His eyes widen, his large hands gripping her shoulders to lean her back a smidge, trying to take her all in. She bites her lower lip, trying to squash the smile blooming on her face.

"Christ, Sassenach! What're ye doin here? In Scotland?"

She giggles breathlessly, tucking a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. She'd left her curls wavy today, styling them so they weren't as wild as they naturally are, but this one ringlet never seems to want to stay down.

"I," she starts, her voice seeming to get caught in her throat. She tugs at the collar of her black shirt, the bow that rests there suddenly feeling like a noose.

Before she can say more, a loud, "Claire!" rings out from behind the counter.

Looking over her shoulder, Claire waves a hand to the barista to signal that she's Claire, then looks back to Jamie, asking him to hang on for a second. "I'll be right back."

He nods, and she turns away, squeezing her way through the other customers to retrieve her breakfast.

When she returns, Jamie takes her hand, the gesture seeming so natural, like no time has passed in all the years they've been apart, and he urges, "Can we talk outside? Less people out there."

She grins at how sheepish and adorable he still is and suddenly she's back in high school.

Back in New York, where all the girls can't stop talking about the new exchange student that's come for their senior year before they all head off to college.

Claire giggles at the memory, remembering how excited everyone was and how shocked she'd been to see the handsome ginger walking through the doorway of her History class. His hair was longer back then, but he is just as beautiful now as she remembers him being so long ago. She was entranced by the boy, and somehow, for whatever reason, he'd navigated toward her as well.

They'd been drawn to one another like moths to a flame, maybe for the sole reason of them both being outlanders in a new country. Before the school year could even really get started, all the other girls hated Claire because the cutest boy in school was besotted with her and not them.

They'd been inseparable, Claire and Jamie, had held hands to and from each class, and were lucky enough to be lab partners, which led to study dates at her house.

Her parents had died when she was younger, something Jamie could relate to since his own mother had passed away a few years prior. Claire grew up with her Uncle Lamb in the States, who was endlessly amused by the pair of teenagers so young and in love.

Lamb was an archeologist who traveled the world, but once Claire grew old enough for school, they'd settled in New York where Lamb could study and work at The New York State Museum that had a collection of over three million different archeological finds, some of which he had contributed over the years.

Uncle Lamb always allowed Jamie to come over, so long as the bedroom door was open, which amused Claire but made Jamie's cheeks turn just as red as his hair.

Not that the open door had stopped them from exploring one another. There were plenty of dates to sneak away on—late nights in open fields, making out in movie theaters, and anywhere else the pair could find to be alone.

The school year ended, however, and after graduation everything changed...

"How have you been?" Jamie asks, leading her to a table just outside the café.

His hand is still holding hers lightly, and she's reluctant to let go. The feel of him there with her settles her nerves more than anything else has so far today.

It's warm out, a light breeze cooling things off. Jamie's plaid shirt is covered by a thin hunter green jacket, and she's thankful she chose a black suit with a matching jacket today instead of the dress she originally had planned.

Situating herself in the chair, she releases his hand and sets her coffee and scone down as well, saying, "Really well. I'm a doctor, a, a surgeon, actually."

"Aye," he huffs with a boyish grin, "I always kent ye'd be. Ye were always so fascinated by the wee beasties and what not."

Chuckling, she shakes her head with a fond smile. "They're germs, and you certainly know that by now."

Memories of helping the young Scot study Biology and teaching him all the science she knew back then flash through her mind, and she smiles wistfully at the wave of nostalgia it washes over her.

"But it's sae much more fun callin' 'em that."

They laugh lightly, and Claire can't help but stare at him in wonder.

He's grown up, for sure, who hasn't in twenty years? His hair is still just a gorgeously red, still curls on the ends like she used to love. His body has grown, his muscles much more defined than they were at eighteen, and holy hell, is he gorgeous.

She bites her lips, trailing her eyes back to his face when she realizes they've meandered elsewhere.

"Sorry," she huffs in embarrassment as she catches his gaze and notes the amused smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I just can't believe you're here."

He grins again, "'Tis me that should be shocked, no? I'm the one that lives here."

Before she can reply, his eye catches the gleam on her finger. Slowly, oh so slowly, he reaches across the small, wooden table, lifting her hand in his.

Shit.

He'd given her that ring, that thin, silver band that meant nothing, really. It had been a promise back then, so long ago, that when he returned from Scotland, after tending to his family's farm for the summer, they'd be together.

That summer, though, his father had grown ill, cancer, and had passed away before Jamie really had time to wrap his head around what his father's death would mean for him, and for them.

His mother was gone, then his father, which just left Jamie and his older sister, Jenny to run the land. Jenny was fresh out of University at the time, newly married to Ian and already with child. She was in no way prepared to take over the family business with everything going on in her life. He'd never want to put that kind of burden on her. Especially after Ian got knocked from a horse he was training one day and had his leg trampled on, injuring it permanently.

It wasn't what Jamie had planned for his life, Claire knew that. They'd spent plenty a night planning a future together. They'd wanted to move to Boston for her to attend medical school, and he wanted to go to college as well, to study linguistics.

They were going to start a life together, no matter how young they were—marriage, a gaggle of kids, graduation, buying a house… they wanted it all. They'd make it work because they were convinced they'd never love another human as much as they loved each other.

But that all changed with one phone call, one teary-eyed conversation where Jamie told her he had to put their dreams on hold, had to take care of his family's business. They'd have nothing without the farm, and he was the only one who could manage it for now.

He'd begged her forgiveness, begged her to still go to Boston, to not let this hiccup in his life stunt her own dreams.

And after months of toying with the possibility of moving to Scotland to be with Jamie or moving to Boston, her longing to attend Harvard won out… especially after Jamie completely pulled away and distanced himself. Removing himself from the equation.

Bloody bastard.

She knows now he'd done it to make her decision easier, and she's thankful for it all these years later. He knew she would've given up everything to be with and support him. But back then she'd hated him, had been so mad that she often considered tossing the ring into the trash.

But she couldn't.

Something always told her not to.

So there it sat, on her right ring finger. Just a tiny sliver of a reminder to her and only her that love was possible, even if it wasn't with Jamie Fraser, being loved so deeply again could happen.

After a while, it became like a second skin to her, often forgetting it was there after so many years.

"I never took it off," she whispers, rubbing at the back of her neck as pink tinges her cheeks.

He tugs at his bottom lip with his teeth, nodding with wide, watery eyes as he lets her hand go, his thumb trailing against her skin as he does.

She grabs her coffee, not knowing what else to do, praying that her rapidly beating heart would slow down enough to stop echoing in her eardrums.

Inhaling sharply, she bounces her leg that's crossed over the other, smiling shyly over at him.

Jamie smiles back, shaking his head. "It's verra nice to see ye, Sassenach."

Her stomach flutters at the nickname that she hasn't heard in two decades, instantly making her feel like she's eighteen again, sitting under a starry night on a blanket holding hands and peppering kisses to his neck.

"So a surgeon, eh?"

She pulls herself from the memory and nods, explaining that yes, she went to Harvard, loved it, in fact, and became a surgeon. "I had to work my ass off, of course, to become one, but it was worth it. I'm in line to be chief of surgery, actually." She smiles fondly, knowing that no matter what happened in their lives, becoming a surgeon was one of the best decisions she ever made. "What about you? Are you still running your family's farm?"

"Aye," he replies, tucking his chin to his chest before looking up at her through those long lashes of his. He tells her, "I won't bring us down with the details of the first few years, tryin' tae keep the business afloat wi'out my da, but after some time, things worked out." He tells her how with the help of his business partner and family friend, Murtagh, they've been able to expand the business. "'Tis now more than just a farm, ken? We've got horses fer people to ride, we do lessons fer kids, and we've got an apple orchard people visit each Fall. It's become a bit of a popular attraction around here."

She smiles watching him light up as he explains his business, and she's truly happy for him. It brings her great peace to know everything worked out. "Horseback riding lessons?" she asks, "My daughter would love that."

His head tilts, wonder filling his eyes. "A daughter?"

"Yes," she grins, reaching for her phone. "I was married for a little while during medical school. But," she waves her hand, not wanting to go into the details of how terrible Frank was and how his mistresses took precedence over Claire and their child. "Well, let's just say after only four short years, I realized Frank was a mistake and I went back to being a Beauchamp." She sighs, shrugging, having long since put the prick behind her. "My daughter, though, is named Julia."

"Fer yer Ma," he whispers reverently, smiling softly, knowingly, at her.

She could cry from the sincerity in his eyes, so instead she nods and unlocks her phone, clicking on a picture of the freckle-faced girl and holding it out to Jamie.

"Och, I'm afraid if I'm to see, I'll need these," he admits, pulling a pair of thin glasses from his jacket pocket. "Only fer reading an' such," he assures, a blush creeping onto his cheeks.

She grins, telling him, "You look as dashing as ever," before her own face grows pink at the realization of what she's just said aloud.

"I dinna look like an old man?" he jests, tipping the glasses to the end of his nose for good measure.

Giggling, she promises he doesn't. "Because if you do, then I look like an old woman with mine." She reaches down, retrieving her glasses case from her bag to show him that she, in fact, has a pair of black-rimmed glasses that she needs for reading as well. "And I refuse to believe that we are old. I may have some gray in my hair now, but that does not make us old."

Jamie smiles brightly, reaching across the table to cup her cheek briefly, thumb rubbing against her jawline. "Time doesna matter, Sassenach, ye will always be beautiful to me."

He says it so casually, letting his hand drop as if he didn't just spew one of the most romantic things a man has ever said to her before. As if he didn't just create a moment between them, he looks back at the picture with an air of ease about him. "This is Julia, eh? She's stunning… jus' like her ma."

She's stunned, knows she hasn't blinked since he touched her cheek because her eyes begin to sting. Claire shakes her head, the blush residing on her cheeks can't possibly get any deeper, yet she feels her skin heat as she looks down demurely, then back up to him. Wanting to focus back on Julia, she laughs, swatting at his arm playfully. She swallows thickly and informs him, "You're a flatterer, aren't you? But yes, this is her. She's seventeen now." She shakes her head in disbelief. "I can't believe I'm old enough to have a teenager already."

"Dinna fash, ye dinna look a day over eighteen." He winks, and the heat grows on her cheeks again.

Damn him. She doesn't think she'll ever not be blushing during this conversation.

Smiling, she looks down, showing him a few more photos of Julia, telling him how smart she is and how she's going to be attending MIT after graduation.

"Smart like her mother, too, I see."

Claire chuckles, but nods, before locking her phone and putting it away.

"I have a son," Jamie announces, and Claire beams, sitting up taller. "His name's Fergus. I adopted him about ten years ago when he was eleven."

"Are you married?" Her stomach drops at the thought, she hadn't seen a ring on his hand, but Christ, it's been twenty years. She wouldn't be surprised if he was.

She wants to slink away at how desperate she sounds asking that, suddenly realizing there's a voice in the back of her mind screaming, please, God, be single!

Jamie laughs softly, pulling out his phone. "Nae, I was," he confesses. "But it didna work out. Laoghaire was much more interested in my family's money than she was me, so…" he shrugs, not seeming bothered in the least bit. "We divorced a year after being wed, God, almost fifteen years ago. Havena found another lass since that I'd consider marrying, not…" His eyes widen and he trails off, shaking his head as if stopping himself from admitting something he shouldn't. She bites her lip, knowing, hoping, anyway, that he was thinking the same thing as she has all these years: No one could live up to what they had.

Clearing his throat, and breaking the growing tension, Jamie chuckles again, saying, "So now here I am, stuck with a twenty-one year old that thinks he's ready to get marrit!"

He turns his phone around, pride shining in his eyes as he shows her pictures of a dark, curly-haired boy, tall and slender but with the kindest smile she's ever seen. "He's very handsome. Just like his father."

She winks dramatically, showing him two can play this game, but she can't help the little snort that comes out when he informs her dryly, "Good looks can't rub off on someone, Sassenach, the looks come from his biological parents," before joining her in laughter.

Still chuckling, Jamie flips to the next photo, one of the young man on the beach with Jamie.

Fuck.

Jamie is shirtless in the photo, of course, they're at the beach, but good lord, the man has only gotten better with age. His chest is broad and strong, much more in shape than most thirty-eight year old men she's seen.

Granted, she's only dated a few men over the last few years, so she doesn't have much to go on, but surely this isn't the norm.

"Aye, an' he kens it, too!" Jamie chortles, swiping to another photograph of Fergus with a blonde girl. "This is Marsali, bless it all. She's eighteen and already prepared to marry the damned fool."

Claire laughs, but knows deep down she understands that feeling. Would have married Jamie in a heartbeat back then and never looked back.

"I ken back when we were eighteen, we thought we could handle marriage," he says, that sheepish smile back on his lips, "but now that I've raised th' boy, I canna imagine him married at twenty-one! Let alone Marsali at eighteen!"

She chuckles, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, we sound just like Uncle Lamb."

Jamie barks out a laugh, clearly remembering all the times Uncle Lamb forbade the two of them to run off and get married like he could see in their eyes they wanted to do. "How is Uncle Lamb?"

"Good," she breathes, taking a sip of her now cold coffee. She checks the time, knowing they're on borrowed time now as she has to get going soon. Should already be there, really. "He's slowed down in his old age, obviously," she chuckles, rolling her eyes good naturedly, "but you know to Lamb, that just means he goes on three excavations a year instead of his usual five or six."

Jamie guffaws, saying how much that sounds like good ol' Uncle Lamb.

They grow quiet for a moment, Claire sipping her coffee.

After a few moments of peaceful silence, both silently trailing their eyes over one another, Jamie takes her hand again, making those butterflies in her stomach flutter all over again.

It should feel strange, holding his hand like this, but for some reason, it feels like it's the most natural thing in the whole world.

She lets her thumb lightly graze the back of his hand as they spend the next little bit catching up even more, reminiscing about their life together all those years ago. Talking about friends they had and which one's they've kept in touch with, laughing about the pranks Jamie and their other guy friends had pulled on the principal so many times.

"It's a miracle you never got suspended," she titters, shoulders shaking in mirth.

"Och," Jamie scoffs, waving her off. "We didna ever get caught. And ye ken jus' as well as I do that Mr. Dunson loved us."

His eyes are alight with humor as if he can see their principal's reaction right in front of him, and she laughs, letting him enjoy the memory.

They fill in some of the gaps from the last twenty years, talking more about their children and careers. But after a while, with a heavy sigh, Claire lets go of the hand Jamie is still holding. She clicks on her phone screen to check the time, shoulders slumping when she sees how late it's gotten.

Nodding toward her phone, Jamie asks timidly, "D'ye need to be somewhere?"

Looking towards him with apologetic eyes, she sighs. "Unfortunately." She grins. "I'm giving a seminar this morning at the annual neurosurgeon's conference, and I should've been there five minutes ago to prepare."

"Christ, Sassenach!" he says, jumping from his chair. "Why didn't ye say anything?"

Giggling, she admits, "I wanted to catch up with you. And I'm rather nervous, if I'm being honest. I was trying to avoid it at all costs."

"Och," he scoffs, waving her off. "Ye're the smartest lass I ken, always have been. Ye'll do great!"

Her heart warms at his unyielding confidence in her, even after all this time.

"Well, thank you, but it's been twenty years since you last saw me, I could be a horrible person, for all you know, and an even worse doctor."

"Nah," he breathes, shrugging a shoulder. "Ye were the only Sassenach I kent at eighteen that already acted like a fully grown adult. Ye kent what ye wanted to do in life, and I always kent ye'd achieve that dream." He smiles, taking her hand to help her stand from the table. "I have no doubt in my mind that ye're going to have the best seminar out of anyone there."

She chuckles, a blush creeping over the skin as the warmth from his hand seems to settle the nerves floating in her stomach once again.

Sighing, Claire relinquishes her grip on his hand and grabs her still uneaten scone. "Well, then," she hesitates, not ready to say goodbye. "I guess I should be going."

"Let me drive you."

"Jamie, I," she starts to protest, but he holds up his hand, saying he won't take no for an answer. "You didn't even get whatever you came here for," she retorts, pointing behind her to the coffee shop.

He shrugs once more, waving it off. "I was just getting some snacks fer my employees. I can always come back. Rupert and Angus especially will be happy for free food no matter what time it shows up."

"Your cousins?" she asks with a smile, remembering the boisterous phone calls she'd taken part in where she got to speak with the wild cousins across the pond.

"Aye," he responds, shaking his head with a smile. "Still jus' as crazy as ye probably remember. They joined my team a few years back."

Huffing out a laugh, she concedes to the free ride, "Well then, lead the way."

His face lights up so brightly that she thinks it could generate the whole city's electricity, and she grins right back, following him, side by side, to his car.

The ride isn't long. The conference hall isn't far; she could have walked, honestly, but it's nice to have this extra time with him. They laugh and catch up in the five minutes it takes to get there, Claire feeling more at ease than she has in a long time.

Jamie parks the car, both sitting idly by, neither clearly wanting to move.

With a quiet sigh, she checks her phone when it pings. It's a text message from her co-worker and best friend, Joe, checking to see where she is. He's giving a seminar right after her, and they'd promised to run through their speeches together.

"I really do have to go, but—"

"Would ye like to have dinner tonight?" Jamie asks, cutting off her thought.

He blushes, but she giggles breathily, agreeing. "Dinner would be lovely."

She hands him her phone, instructing him to put his number in. As soon as he does, she sends him a text so that he can store her number as well.

He swallows thickly, shoulders slumping when her phone pings again. "Dr. Beauchamp is in high demand, I see."

She grins, but nods, reaching for the door handle.

When she emerges from the car, Jamie is already there, and she snickers under her breath at how he must've dodged around the car to beat her there.

"I ken we havena seen each other in a verra long time, but…" he stops, chewing on his lip. "I… I would verra much like to hug ye. May I?"

She feels as if her insides are melting at how sweet he looks asking, and honestly between all the hand holding and the way he'd rubbed his foot along hers earlier, a hug is the least of what she's ready to do with him.

This morning has been so wonderful, and seeing him, catching up, feels like no time has gone by when in reality, a lifetime has.

They're parents now, both divorced. They've lived two entire decades apart, yet she feels like this is where she was always meant to be.

Inhaling deeply, she sighs out shakily, "Yes," before blinking away the tears she hadn't realized were in her eyes.

His blue eyes are misted over as well as he steps closer, his large arms enveloping her into his chest.

He takes a deep breath, whispering, "I havena done this in a verra long time," and they both awkwardly chuckle into each other's spaces.

"What, hug someone?" she asks, hand resting on his strong shoulder blades and her voice muffled in his large pecs.

He pulls back, just a hair, to grin down at her and roll his eyes playfully. "Hug you, I mean, ye wee besom. Ye ken what I meant."

She smiles mischievously, running her hands down his back and wrapping her arms tighter around his middle as she soaks up all the warm, strong, muscled chest she can while she's here.

God, she's a grown woman. She's almost forty, she should not be this affected by a single damn hug. But, Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, it feels amazing. No one could ever compare to the feeling she has when she's with James Fraser, no matter how much time has gone by.

She sighs into the embrace, leaning up on her tiptoes to get as close as possible, her nose practically nuzzling into his neck. She can smell his cologne, and she thinks for a moment that blowing off the conference to stand here and smell this man for the rest of the day might just be the best idea she's had in a while.

His arms tighten, and he sways them a bit. She can feel his chest rumble against hers when he admits, "I dinna want tae let ye go."

She bites her lip, eyes instantly wet as she realizes she doesn't want to let him go either. "Well, you have my number," she reminds, squeezing around his middle for good measure.

"For God's sake, Claire!" they hear bellowed from a few feet away.

They break apart, long before either was ready, and Claire whips around, wrapping her arms around herself as she sees Joe running toward her. "I thought you were dead on the side of the—oh, hello," he purrs, grinning like a cat who got the cream and reaching out a hand toward Jamie. "I'm Joe Abernathy, Claire's work husband."

She rolls her eyes, but smirks, shyly introducing the two. "Joe, this is Jamie Fraser. He, uh, well… we dated back in high school."

"Ohhh," Joe drawls, and Claire could kill him, will kill him, because he adds slyly, "I've heard of the great and wonderful James Fraser before. Nice to finally meet you!"

Her face has to be completely red by now, she can feel it, especially when she locks eyes with Jamie and he's biting down so hard on the inside of his cheek that she just knows he's probably drawing blood to keep from laughing.

Fuck. This is so embarrassing.

"Nice to meet ye, too, Joe," Jamie says, shaking his hand. "Are ye giving a presentation today as well?"

Joe nods, saying he is, and that he needs to get in there to prepare. "It was really nice meeting you, though. And Claire, I don't want to rush you," he adds with a grimace, tapping his watch, "but you only have thirty minutes before you're up."

Shit.

Her eyes widen, but she nods, watching as Joe dashes away with a grin on his face, yelling from a distance, "I'll wait for you backstage!"

She waves in Joe's direction before catching Jamie's gaze, shoulders falling as she realizes their time is officially up.

"Ye better get inside, then, Sassenach."

"I know," she breathes, another giddy smile growing. "I just don't want to. Not yet."

He smiles right back, and says he understands the feeling. "Call me tonight when ye get done, and we'll get that dinner ye promised."

With that, he leans in, kissing her cheek before walking to the driver's side of the car. "Knock 'em dead, mo nighean donn," he adds with a wink before sliding into his car.

God, mo nighean donn, she never thought she'd hear that name ever again, and her heart swells at the sound of it.

She glances behind her at the scone still wrapped up and in the seat. Guess she won't eat before this presentation, after all. "Keep the scone, at least Rupert and Angus can enjoy it!"

"They'll be fighting all morning over who gets th' bigger piece, I hope ye ken that!"

"Tell me all about it at dinner tonight!" she calls before waving one last time and darting off toward the building.

Knowing she's officially out of time to really prepare, Claire floats into the conference hall and finds her stage.

She meets Joe backstage, his eyebrows bouncing playfully as he asks about Jamie.

Blushing, she whispers that she'll tell him all about her morning after their seminars. Joe takes her hand, squeezing reassuringly and smiles as he kisses her on the cheek and wishes her luck on her speech. She tugs on her suit jacket and runs a hand over invisible wrinkles, and when her name is called, she puts on a bright smile as she walks onto the stage, all the while, thoughts of James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, drift through her mind, bringing her the peace she needs to get through her speech.

After an hour long presentation, then an hour of Joe's, and another four hours of peeping into other seminars and mingling with some of the greatest surgeons around the world, some whom she's studied and looked up to for years, Claire heads to her hotel room (not before a hefty amount of teasing from Joe, of course).

The black pantsuit and matching black blouse she'd worn all day were perfectly acceptable for a conference, but now, knowing she'd see Jamie again, she wanted to be more casual and less business-like.

It's almost five by now, so she takes her time washing her face and reapplying her makeup to be a bit sexier for dinner. She does a slightly smoky eye and finishes it off with a matte red lip.

Claire spends some time rummaging through the clothes she'd brought, knowing she didn't pack anything particularly great for a date with the man she was in love with twenty years ago, but knowing Jamie, he wouldn't care if she showed up in a brown paper sack. He'd still make her feel as if she was the most gorgeous creature to ever grace his line of vision.

She's got casual clothes, jeans and some cute tops she planned to wear sightseeing. But… she does have some backup options she brought for the seminars.

So, with that in mind, she slips into a pair of black leggings, a black leather skirt and a maroon top she'd just bought last week that has ruffles on the shoulders of the sleeves. She throws on a pair of black booties to finish off the look, and decides with the cool night time weather here in Scotland, it would be perfect with her jacket later. She runs her fingers through her hair to loosen her curls a bit before plopping down onto the freshly made hotel bed.

She's nervous, maybe even more so than she'd been earlier today to give her speech.

Memories of the past flood her mind, the good and the bad, and she weighs her options. Should she really call him, or did she just get ready for nothing?

She sighs, smiling to herself as she thinks over today, of the way he'd smiled at her, the way he'd made her stomach twist in knots. There was still so much chemistry between them, and she'd be an idiot not to at least have dinner while she was in town.

She has two more days of the conference, then two days to sightsee before heading home. What is the worst that could happen?

Biting down on her lip, she picks up her phone and clicks his name.

She waits a beat, one, two, three rings, before the other end picks up. "Sassenach?"

"Hi, Jamie…"

{********************************}

End (maybe? lol)

Thanks so much for reading! I originally planned for this to just be a one shot but someone asked me if I was going to turn it into a multi-chapter fic, which got me thinking… and planning… lol so if you'd be interested in seeing more of these two, let me know! And, like always, please review! :)

Chapter Text

Chapter Two:

The next morning, Claire rolls over, feeling more rested than she has in… years.

Her presentation had gone well, and her date with Jamie had gone even better.

He'd taken her to a nice dinner, candlelit table with a beautiful view of the city. Jamie, as always, had been attentive, asking her about her time at the conference, even though she knew he didn't understand half the medical jargon she was spewing. But he'd listened anyway, a soft smile upon his face, staring into her whisky eyes as if she was the only person in the room.

It had made her stomach flutter, like a wave crashing upon the sand in a violent storm, and she couldn't help the shy way she kept biting on her bottom lip to stop herself from smiling quite so much.

They'd taken their time, savoring each other just as much as the meal before them. Having time to catch up, far more than they'd had that morning, had been wonderful.

Jamie told her more about his son, Fergus, and how he'd met him when the boy was just eleven years old. Jamie had been volunteering at the orphanage with his friend, John, when this brown, curly-haired little boy came barreling through the room, swiping toys from some of the big kids. Jamie had followed him as he ran from the room with a wicked grin on his face, only to witness the boy delivering the toys to the smaller children who didn't seem to have anything to play with.

His heart had swelled at how kind it was, and in that moment he knew he wanted to raise the boy to become a well rounded young man.

She reassured him that it seemed like he had, from what he'd told her thus far.

Jamie had grinned, shaking his head. "I canna take all the credit. Fergus has always had a good heid on his shoulders."

Opening up his camera roll, he'd spent the next few minutes showing off all the pictures he had of a young Fergus, teenage Fergus, and the more recent photographs of the strapping twenty-one year old that he was now.

She'd talked more about Julia, beaming with pride as she told Jamie how she was graduating high school early and going to college at MIT like she'd told him that morning. Claire told him of her daughter's hobbies, like horseback riding and playing the piano. Her heart swelled with pride, which was clearly written all over her face based on how brightly Jamie was smiling at her.

"Well, other than raising the lovely Julia, and becoming a world renowned surgeon," he said with a grin, which she rolled her eyes at, "what else have ye been up to?"

Sighing, Claire thought for a moment. "Not much" is what she wanted her answer to be. Truthfully, between medical school, becoming a surgeon and raising Julia, she hadn't had much time for anything else.

She bit her lip, shrugging helplessly with a breathless laugh. "That's about it, to be truthful," she admitted. She told Jamie how much time medical school took while also trying to balance being a good, single mother. "I mean, I have friends, of course, so I spend time with them." He nodded in understanding, saying he's much the same way. "Most of my friends, like my best friend, Joe, are doctors as well. It makes it easier because they understand the hectic schedule of working in a hospital." She smiled, nervous to admit the next part for some reason. "I dated here and there after my divorce, but with my schedule and… well, it just never worked out."

Jamie admitted to much the same when it came to his dating life post-divorce, joking that at thirty-eight, they should know how the dating game works. She knew it was unspoken, but that they were both thinking how no one ever made them feel the way they did with each other.

They both agreed, however, that adult life seems to be just working, spending time with friends and family, and not really having much time for hobbies.

"I will admit," she said, eyes lighting up, "that I do still love gardening and growing all types of plants."

Jamie reached across the table, taking her hand in his. His thumb began to rub the silver band on her right hand absentmindedly. "Good. Ye were always so good at that. Always had a green thumb." He smiled, adding, "And, I have tae say, I've tried tae continue learning different languages."

"Of course you have," she laughed. "You were always so good at them. I'll never understand how an eighteen year old knew English, Gaelic, French, and Latin fluently. I was always quite impressed by that."

"I ken," he said with a sly grin. "But ye ken the first two were spoken fluently in my house as a lad, so I naturally learned those. My mam knew Latin and always wanted her bairns to know the old language, too." He laughed at a memory, his eyes twinkling. "And Da, weel, he was always a bit jealous Mam could teach us something he couldna, so he took it upon himself to teach us all French."

She laughed, imagining his father determined to teach them the language only he knew in the house. "I remember you telling me that," she said. They'd shared so much back then. The loss of her parents when she was five, and his mother's death when he was fourteen had bonded them in a morbid way that only the two of them could understand. "Still very impressive." She smiled in his direction, her foot running along his under the table. "You'd think Lamb would have taught me all the languages he knows from his travels, but," she scoffed a laugh, "I could never really pick it up. Just enough French to get by but that's about it." She sighed, wistfully thinking about how she wished other languages had come easily for her. "Julia knows some French; she's taken it all throughout her schooling. She's not fluent like you by any means," she grinned, "but she can get by better than I could in France."

Claire smiles to herself as she thinks about the previous night, burying her face into the pillow to sigh contentedly.

After dinner, they'd walked around downtown, stopping for ice cream and enjoying the beautiful night. It was quaint, despite being a busy city; it almost felt like a town from the past frozen in time, and she loved it. The temperature, however, was starting to get to her. It was March, in Scotland, so it was still quite chilly outside. She was thankful for the leather jacket she'd grabbed, but it still wasn't enough to keep her sufficiently warm. She'd worn black leggings, but not thick ones, so the cold air was hitting her legs more than anything.

She wasn't planning on saying anything, wanting to soak up as much time with Jamie as possible, but he'd noticed her shivering and decided it was time to head back to her hotel.

He'd dropped her off with a long hug, long enough to let her bury her face into his neck and smell his cologne that hadn't seemed to change in all these years. Or maybe it was just his natural scent that hadn't changed.

It was too soon for a kiss, despite how desperately her body longed to feel his lips against hers. Craved it. But no, they'd only been back in each other's lives for a day. And she was leaving the day after tomorrow.

It couldn't happen.

So she'd stood outside his car, their hands intertwined, unable to say goodnight. Jamie had smiled, admitting he didn't want to leave either, but he must. So with one more final hug, and a promise to text her in the morning, Jamie climbed back in his car and left.

Thinking of his promise, Claire reaches over quickly, grabbing her phone from the nightstand and unplugging it.

Want to go sightseeing today? Then lunch and a surprise.

Smiling, she responds back in the affirmative, and hopping out of bed to get ready for the day.

{***************************}

He picks her up, and her breath is lost to her once again at the sight of Jamie Fraser.

He's in a pair of dark wash denim jeans, but he's swapped the flannel shirt of yesterday for a dark beige sweater, and damn he looks good.

Claire runs her hands down her front, hoping she looks okay in her jeans and long sleeve black t-shirt. She'd grabbed her olive green pea coat to throw over it, knowing the day would probably be just as chilly as last night.

"Ye look bonny, Sassenach," he murmurs, wrapping her in his strong embrace.

She buries her nose into his chest, grinning wildly to herself where he can't see. "Thank you," she replies, pulling back from his hug. "You look wonderful too; very cozy," she says, tapping the brown button on the collar of his sweater.

They climb into his car, well, a truck today, she notes, and he cranks up the heat to warm her.

Over the next few hours, Jamie takes her to see different sites around Inverness, letting her see and take pictures of places like Inverness Castle and the River Ness. Although only the north tower is still open to the public, they were able to walk around the grounds and view the castle's beauty from the outside.

"I feel like I've been transported back in time," she laughs, looking up at the tall structure.

"Aye," he chuckles, "I forget how majestic it is tae people who dinna live here. 'Tis just a regular thing fer me to see."

Grinning, she pinches his bicep, mumbling about how he's spoiled living here to which he just laughs.

"Take my picture?" she asks, handing him her phone. "Julia would love to see that I'm actually out enjoying the country."

He grins, snapping a few pictures as she poses, smiling for the camera and then pointing behind her to show off the castle.

"Beautiful," he breathes, almost to himself as he hands the phone back to her while a blush warms her cheeks.

After the castle, Jamie drives them further from town, showing her Castle Leoch and then the battlefield of Culloden. They walk around, looking at the gravestones of all the fallen clans, all the while talking about any and everything from the history of Scotland to memories of their past they hadn't gotten to share over dinner. Conversation was easy with Jamie, and she enjoys how seamlessly they flow from one topic to the next.

When conversation does halt, it's not awkward. It's a peaceful sort of silence, letting Claire take in the sights and history around her. "I love how much history is here, and all over Europe," she notes, looking over her shoulder to Jamie. He's standing back, enjoying the view, and she can't help but to notice that the view his eyes were on was not that of the Scottish Highlands. She grins but tries to contain it. "I keep telling Julia she needs to come explore this side of the world and really immerse herself in the culture."

"Aye," he agrees easily, "it would be a lovely experience fer her. Let her see the castles and old world that's still preserved in Europe." She nods. "Ye canna beat it. America is beautiful in it's own way, ken, but no' like here."

Smiling, she walks over to him and takes his hand. "I agree."

They climb back into the truck, and Jamie drives a little ways down to the Cawdor Castle and Gardens.

Her eyes light up when she sees the beautiful garden, or what's just now starting to grow at the very start of spring. As they walk through, Claire taking pictures of the vibrant purple and blue flowers she sees, Jamie gives her a history lesson, telling her all about the castle and how it's the place where William Shakespeare's version of Macbeth murdered Duncan.

She tilts her head, narrowing her eyes at him. "That's… not historically accurate."

"No?" he asks with a smirk.

"Duncan was murdered by Macbeth at the Battle of Elgin. Julia did a whole presentation on Macbeth two years ago for a Lit class, and that, I do remember," she chuckles.

"Och, well, 'tis a fun bit of made up history to share nonetheless."

Laughing, Jamie loops his arm around her shoulders, leading her through the rest of the garden.

She snaps more pictures of the beautiful plants, having Jamie take a few more of her surrounded by the vibrant colors.

As they walk, Claire names the plants she sees, apparently amusing Jamie based on the grin he keeps plastered on his face. "That one there," she says, pointing to a group of lavender plants, "can actually be crushed into a powder and used to heal the common cold."

"Och, no need fer all yer medicines then," he jokes, causing her to swat at his arm.

"The medicines have their uses too, smartass."

He laughs, pulling her closer to him as they continue their stroll.

After another half hour, Claire's stomach begins to rumble, causing her to laugh as she places her hand over her belly. "I guess I'm a little peckish," she says, shrugging in Jamie's direction.

He checks the time, noting that it's already one o'clock. "We've been all around today, mo nighean donn. Let's go back into town and get some lunch."

He'd called her that in their past, and the term still made her smile.

With a nod, she laces her fingers through his once more, walking back toward the truck.

{**************************}

After their lunch has been cleared away, Jamie and Claire sit at the small cafe, sipping on their coffees and enjoying the people bustling around them in the village.

It's nice enough outside, their jackets keeping them sufficiently warm, and Claire is just thankful the Scottish rain she always hears so much about has kept away. The sun is providing a nice, much needed bit of warmth.

They take a few moments, enjoying the silence as they both people watch.

Claire's eyes travel back over to Jamie, and she grins when she realizes he's already looking at her. "What?" she giggles, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

"Nothin'," he mumbles, his ears growing pink. "I just still canna believe ye're here. Wi' me. Truly."

She smiles, nodding. "It's quite amazing how it's all worked out. What are the odds of running into you of all people while waiting in a cafe?"

Jamie smiles again, making her stomach flutter. She doesn't ever think she'll get over how gorgeous he is.

"So," he says, placing his cup back on the saucer. "I ken we've done a lot today, so if ye're tired and want tae just go relax in yer hotel, I can drop ye off. But… I'd love tae show you Fraser's Ridge."

She lights up, excited to see the business he's grown over the years. "Of course I want to see it!"

He beams across the table at her, looking like an excited child on Christmas morning. With one last sip of their drinks, they pay and make their way to his truck.

When they arrive at Fraser's Ridge, she has to say that she is very impressed. It's far larger than she originally thought it would be.

She looks out the window as he drives them down the long gravel road, taking in the beauty of the seemingly endless miles of rolling green hills littered with trees. She can spot some workers out in the distance, and a truck with families in the back, obviously getting a tour of the place.

"Jamie, it's beautiful," she says in awe, turning away from the window to look at him.

He's smiling, eyes still on the road as he thanks her.

He parks the truck in front of the largest building, aptly adorned with a large "Fraser's Ridge" sign and comes around to open the door for her.

Reaching out his hand, he helps her from the vehicle and looks down at her feet. "Good," he says with a chuckle, "I'm glad ye've got those on." He points at her black booties she'd worn the night before as well. "It'll make it easier tae walk the land versus those wee heels ye wore tae the conference."

Chuckling, she quips, "A girl always knows how to dress for the occasion."

He grins, taking her hand and leading her inside.

They're greeted by Jamie's brother-in-law, Ian. She takes a mental note of the limp and cane he walks with, remembering how Jamie had mentioned he was trampled by a horse right before Jamie came back to Scotland.

Ian lights up, his smile just as welcoming as Jamie's always is. "Dinna expect tae see ye today, mo dheartáir," he announces, clapping him on the shoulder and drawing him in for a hug. "And ye must be Claire."

Ian turns to her with a warm smile, and she blushes at him already knowing about her, but she confirms it nonetheless, reaching out to shake his hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Ian."

Ian laughs, "A right ol' Sassenach, ye weren't kidding, Jamie."

She rolls her eyes playfully and they all laugh before Jamie tells Ian he just wants to show Claire the farm and take her around. "I know it's my day off, but ye ken I canna stay away fer too long."

Ian chuckles, shaking his head before telling Claire that it was lovely to meet her. "Perhaps I'll see ye again soon."

"Perhaps," she replies, smiling over to Jamie.

He takes her hand, leading her out of the building. "In there," he says, pointing to the building that they just left, "are just our offices and a lobby fer guests who are waiting fer the next hay ride."

She nods, listening as he explains the different parts of his business, glad to see that he actually seems happy with the path his life has taken.

Jamie points out into the distance, to those hills she'd seen earlier. "Those are our apple trees," he explains. "No' much tae see now, ken, because of the weather, but come summer, there'll be plenty o' apples fer people tae come and pick. We also sell them tae local stores, and we've got several accounts wi' restaurants and grocery stores all o'er Scotland that we sell to."

She smiles, telling him how wonderful it all is. "You've grown this into a very impressive business, Jamie."

He blushes, but thanks her, taking her around the back of the main building to show her the stables. "And here's the horses. We use them mostly fer the workers tae get around the land, but we also do riding lessons for kids and teens. We do it year round, but the fall seems tae be the more popular time fer it. People come tae pick pumpkins and ride horses."

Jamie takes her hand, silently walking her to see the paddock for the horses. She meets and pets a few, feeding one a carrot before he nudges her to the next part of her tour.

He continues on, showing her the other parts of the ridge, all the while chatting away about his work on a day to day basis.

She finds herself smiling the whole time, just simply happy to be in his company and to see him so passionate about his vocation.

After two hours of walking and driving all around the property, Jamie parks his truck underneath some apple trees. Climbing out, he beckons her to join him in the bed of the truck.

With a grin, she climbs down, walking around to the back of the truck. He helps her climb in, and she chuckles to herself at the blankets already spread out in the back. "Had this all planned, did you?"

He snickers, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "I just figured it'd be a nice place tae end our day."

Smiling, she lays back, resting her head on her bent elbow. It's later in the day now, nearing five o'clock, so the sun has started to go down, casting the sky in an array of pinks and oranges.

It's beautiful. And romantic. And she feels nervous, but happy, as Jamie settles in next to her.

They lay there, wrapped under a second blanket, talking and laughing as the sun sets above them.

Jamie reaches over, taking her hand in his, and she sighs contentedly. "Today has been really wonderful, Jamie," she tells him softly, turning her head to look at him.

"Aye," he huffs, "One o' the best days I've had in a while."

She sits up, propping her back against the truck, and he follows suit, bringing one of the blankets up with him to place around their legs.

"I only have one more day left," she says, giving him an exaggerated pout.

He smiles reassuringly, obviously trying to make her feel better. He takes her hand again, rubbing his thumb over the top of it and giving it a light squeeze. "I'm going tae miss ye, Sassenach. I ken it's only been two days, but it feels like no time has passed."

"I know," she whispers, emotion taking over. There's a lump in her throat, but she swallows, pushing it away. She will not cry. She won't. She can't.

Silence fills the space between them, the only sounds coming from the peaceful nature that surrounds them.

Jamie sighs, resting his head against the rearview window they're propped against. His hand is still holding hers, still gently caressing the soft skin there, and she doesn't want to speak, doesn't want to burst this moment. No matter how weighted it may feel.

Looking down at his watch, Jamie sighs again. "It's getting late. Let me get you back tae yer hotel."

She nods, unsure of why she feels a knot in her stomach.

It's almost half past seven when he parks at her hotel. They both sit there, unsure of what else to say. She doesn't want to move, doesn't want to leave just yet. "Are you hungry?" she inquires, grinning at him.

He snickers, "Aye, it's been a while since we ate lunch, hasn't it?"

Biting her lip, she tells him the hotel has a restaurant that she ate at her first night in town. "It's pretty decent if you want that. Or we could go somewhere."

He nods, putting the car in reverse. "While ye're here, I'll no' have ye eatin' hotel food when there's plenty o' pubs around here tae give ye some authentic, Scottish food."

"Lead the way, then," she laughs, sitting back and enjoying her last few moments with Jamie.

{**************************}

After dinner is said and done, Jamie finally drops her off at her hotel with another lingering hug just like the night before.

They'd walked around downtown for a while again, stopping in a bakery to share a cranachan. They'd sat by a water fountain, soaking up their time together like sponges absorbing water.

It was colder tonight than last night, but Claire didn't care. She'd sit outside in a blizzard if it meant she got to spend more time with Jamie.

When she gets to her room, she sends Jamie a text, letting him know she made it upstairs safely.

Thanks for a lovely day, Jamie. I had so much fun!

She hits send, then walks to her bathroom, taking off her clothes and readying for a shower.

Her phone buzzes and she looks down, smiling at his reply.

You're welcome, Sassenach. Let me know if you need a ride to the airport tomorrow. I don't mind.

Without thinking, knowing she wants as much time with him as she can get, she sends a text confirming that she would love that. She tells him her flight is at noon, so she needs to be there around nine in the morning.

Not a problem. How about I pick you up at 7:30 and we get breakfast before we go?

She tells him that that sounds amazing, then adds I'll see you then. Goodnight, Jamie.

With that, she climbs into the shower, washing the grime from the day away, and readies herself for bed.

As she's laying there, the last two days keep playing in her mind on a loop. She turns on her left side, and images of Jamie's smiling face pop into her mind. Sighing, she flips to the right, the castles she'd seen today and the carefree way in which she laughed and joked with Jamie fill her senses.

Huffing, she turns onto her back, slapping her hands down on either side of her body as his voice, his blue eyes, his warm touch, all overwhelm her.

She doesn't want to leave. Isn't ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Groaning, she sits up, grabbing her laptop from the other bed.

She knows it's stupid, and rash, and probably the dumbest, most last minute decision she's ever made, but she opens her email and pulls up her flight information.

From there, she clicks on the airline's main page and researches her options.

Without much more thought, in the heat of the moment, Claire cancels her flight and changes her departure to be four days from now.

Because fuck this. She can't give up this feeling so soon. She needs more time… just four more days. She has the next week off of work anyway. Then she can go back to reality.

She grabs her phone, sending Julia a text to let her know that her flight has changed and tells her daughter that she loves her.

After that, she clicks over to Jamie's text, rereading his message about their plans for tomorrow and sends a text back.

Change of plans. She writes. 7:30 is a little early now that I'm staying four more days. How about you pick me up at 9:00 instead? Maybe now we can make it to all the places we didn't get to see today. :)

She smiles wickedly to herself, feeling a rush of adrenaline as she tries to sleep. Her phone buzzes with a response from Julia, saying she's glad her mother is taking more time for herself and to enjoy it.

I'll see you on Thursday. Love you!

Claire beams, turning to lay on her side. She feels like she's breaking a rule or something with the way her stomach twists and turns, but she sets her alarm early enough that she can get up and get ready before Jamie arrives. Thank god her indecisiveness when packing for a three day trip caused her to pack more than enough clothes.

Just before she falls asleep, she gets one more text message.

What?! Oh, Sassenach, I'm so happy. I'll see you in the morning!

Reading it, she grins, thoughts of Jamie Fraser and what the next four days may hold on her mind as she drifts off to sleep.

{************************}

I tried looking up things close to Inverness, but don't come for me if where all they go isn't possible all in a few hours… just go with it lol

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought 3

Chapter Text

Chapter Three:

Bliss.

That would be the only word Claire can think of to describe how the last four days have gone. And to know that today, standing here in the airport, is her last day, makes her feel uneasy—like there's a tug on her heart to stay here even longer. To never let him out of her sight.

On her first extra day in Scotland, Jamie had picked her up with a giant smile on his face and taken her to breakfast. They'd planned out all the sights she wanted to see, Jamie adding the secret gems in his country that he thought she'd enjoy.

He'd driven them out of the city for the day, all the while explaining to her the legend of the Loch Ness monster and how they could look for him. Jamie had booked them tickets on the Loch Ness and Highlands Day Tour. This gave her the opportunity to not only see Loch Ness itself, but also took them to Fort William where they could walk around, reading about the history of the place, Linlithgow Palace, as well as getting to see (and take plenty of pictures for Julia) the country's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The tour ended back at Loch Ness, allowing the visitors to explore. They sat by the bank, holding hands and talking, Claire wrapped up in his stories once again as he spoke of the legend and how as children they would visit here every summer, he and his siblings always trying to see the monster.

She loved listening to him talk, always enamored with how entrancing his stories were. She blushed when he asked for tales from her life, saying she wasn't quite as interesting as him, which earned her an eyeroll.

That night when he dropped her off, her stomach fluttered like the wings of a dragonfly. She could tell he was nervous, though she didn't know why.

"Are you alright?" she asked, brushing a strand of hair from his face.

It had begun raining on their drive back to her hotel, and she then found herself standing underneath the awning at the hotel's entrance wrapped in Jamie's arms. The rain was pattering against the vinyl of the covering, hitting the pavement with little splashes, but she couldn't be bothered by it, not when she was so close to him, caught up in his warmth.

"Aye," he breathed, "I'm fine. It's just…"

"Just what?" Her brows furrowed as a smile tugged at the corner of her lips.

Jamie dropped a kiss to the top of her head, exhaling as he pulled back and said, "I ken we've only known each other for a few days, but—"

"—bit more than a few, but yes," she grinned, knowing he meant as the grown ups they've become, the ones who have lived a life apart, experiencing things the other wasn't there for.

He chuckled softly, continuing, "but," he repeated, brows raising for effect, "I would really like to kiss ye… if that's alright with you."

She didn't think the feeling of your heart growing wings and trying to fly out of your chest was real, but there, standing so close to him, the rain a sweet accompaniment to the moment, she thought that was exactly what her heart was attempting to do with the way it beat so forcefully against her chest.

Claire could feel the blush creeping up her neck and onto her cheeks as she looked up at him through her long lashes. "I would like nothing more, Jamie."

He smiled like a madman at her response, his arms wrapping around her waist and drawing her near.

"I've been dying tae do this since the first day I saw ye," he murmured.

She giggled quietly, saying, "I've wanted to kiss you every single bloody day we've been together." Sure, it's only been five days, but that was five days too long—for she'd wanted to kiss him since the moment she realized who she had bumped into at the café on day one.

He laughed wetly, breathing out an elated, "Aye," before pulling her close once again.

Claire's arms wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him as close as their bodies could physically get, their chests both heaving with obvious nerves.

God, it's just a fucking kiss, Beauchamp. This shouldn't make you feel this giddy.

Jamie leaned in, mouth hovering above hers for the briefest of seconds to lick his lips before pressing them to hers.

She saw stars, possibly fireworks if she was being honest with herself. This was the best feeling she had experienced in a long time. Sure, she had kissed guys in the last few years, not many, but enough, but this… this was a feeling she never wanted to let go of. Their lips molded to one another's as if they were made to fit together, and she grinned into the kiss at how cheesy her mind was in the moment.

If this was what a first kiss was like, then she never wanted anything else. All kisses should be first kisses because this was intoxicating. She felt as if she'd been in chains the last twenty years, finally able to stretch her arms now that she was back in his. She never wanted this to stop.

Reaching up, she gripped his biceps as Jamie deepened their kiss. She knew that this was the one she was meant to kiss forever. No one could ever compare to the feeling she had when she was with James Fraser, no matter how much time had gone by.

She sighed into the embrace, leaning up on her tiptoes to get as close as possible. Her tongue ran along his bottom lip, finding its way inside his mouth as she tilted her head, giving him better access, and the little moan that reverberated in the back of her throat really couldn't be helped.

If anyone were to walk past the hotel at this moment, she would have no idea. Passersby be damned.

Claire could feel his wicked little grin against her mouth, damn him, so she opened her mouth, teasing him for just a bit, just long enough to make his chest rumble with a quiet moan of his own.

She came back to reality when a clap of thunder sounded off in the distance, the rain starting to pick up.

Claire pulled back, a hand reaching up to brush against her thoroughly well kissed lips as she looked up at Jamie.

"Well," he breathed, his lips tinged with red from how hard they'd been kissing. "I'll see ye tomorrow?"

"Uh-huh," she mumbled, both of them too dazed to say anything else.

Jamie smiled one of those sweet smiles, the ones that reminded her of his boyish charm he still had in him, and leaned in to press another, albeit much more gentle, kiss to her lips. "I like the feel of that," he said into her mouth, placing another kiss there before fully stepping back.

Her hands were still on his arms but traveled down to collect his hands in hers. She swung them slightly between their bodies, staring up at him as if he might disappear if she let him go. "I do, too," she told him, smiling brightly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Goodnight, Sassenach," he said, one more kiss for the road before he dashed out into the rain, hopping in his car and driving away for the night.

She'd gone to her room in a fog, everything around her seeming blurry as she replayed their first kiss over and over again as she fell asleep.

On another day, they'd ventured to Craigh Na Dun. Once a historic sight, it now belonged to a fellow farmer that Jamie knew. The hilltop where the stones resided was open to the public on some days, but this day, Jamie had worked his connections and gotten them time alone by the stones.

He had packed them a picnic, filled with fresh fruit from Fraser's Ridge and enough sandwiches to feed her three times over.

"Were you planning on keeping me up here for the next two days?" she'd asked, smoothing out the tartan blanket beneath them. She smirked, as she took his offered water bottle from his hands, giving him a soft, "Thanks."

"Och," he scoffed with a smile, "Nae. It's just so bonny up here, I dinna ken how long we'd stay. We might even get to see the faeries."

She leaned back, her back pressing against the tallest of the standing stones. "The what?" she asked with a laugh.

Jamie proceeded to tell her the story of The Woman of Balnain. "It's a story passed down from every generation, ken. 'Tis about a lass who touched the tallest stone one night," he explained, pointing to the stone she leaned against, "and was transported to a far, distant land. She met and lived with the people there, becoming friends and even lovers with them."

"Goodness," she drawled, a dramatic hand upon her heart. "I hope I don't get swept away to another time." She laughed at her own joke, twisting her torso to touch the stone behind her.

Jamie grinned, telling her how the woman eventually came back and lived with the man she'd been with before.

It was odd, really, to think how similar her life had turned out to be like this woman. Claire ended up spending the last two decades living a life she, yes, always dreamed of, but never expected to actually have. And now here she was, back with the man she'd had before her life changed.

Life was funny like that sometimes.

The tension had grown between them at that, Jamie clearly having similar thoughts. They'd sat in silence for a few moments, finishing their lunch while looking out at the lush, green hills.

They'd held hands and exchanged sweet, unhurried kisses for the rest of the afternoon before Jamie took her to their next destination for the day.

The next two days went by in a blur, Claire begging time to slow down.

She knew her heart and mind were both infatuated with Jamie Fraser all over again. Each night they'd kissed goodbye, both refusing to let it go further than that just yet. They'd agreed on her first extra night there that they both knew what was happening, that this was something real. She wanted to give in to temptation, to give her body over completely to Jamie, but he'd wanted to wait, wanted to fully know each other again so that Claire didn't regret doing something while she was just on vacation. He didn't want her to regret him.

It had been hard, and she'd found her hand wandering to her core each night, Jamie's name spilling from her lips, but she understood. Really, she knew he was right, they'd only just 'met' eight days ago. After twenty years, they needed to get to know one another again, to learn about their lives and the people they've become before taking that step.

But now, standing here at the airport, people rushing around them in a hurry to get to their destinations, Claire is cursing herself for not trying to persuade him more to give in to those feelings, those urges. She could have invited him up to her hotel room, she knows he would have agreed, but the thought of one of them having regrets held her back.

"I don't want to go," she whispers, forehead pressing against his.

He's holding both of her hands in his larger ones, and he sighs, placing a kiss to her curls. "I dinna want that either, Sassenach."

She looks up at him, whisky and ocean eyes both watery. Jamie swallows thickly, admitting, "But ye have a life ye need tae get back to, a daughter that needs ye, aye?"

Nodding, she worries her lips together nervously. "You're right." She gives him a small smile, but knows she can't leave here without at least one more kiss.

He pulls her into his chest, his strong arms wrapping around her. "I'm going tae miss ye, mo nighean donn," he whispers into her space, placing another kiss to her mop of curly hair. "I've never been very good at goodbyes," he pulls back, staring into her eyes, "but I am grateful for every day that we had."

Claire looks up at him with wet eyes, one traitorous tear slipping free. "You know you can always come visit me." She grins, reaching up to wipe her tear away.

He smirks, but clears his throat, looking up at the ceiling and blinking his tears away. He looks back at her, a tear of his own escaping.

They both chuckle sadly, trying to stop their crying.

"One last kiss for the road?" she asks, trying to lighten the mood.

Jamie sniffles but nods, his arms wrapping tightly around her waist. "Always."

She runs her hands up his biceps, circling around his neck as she pulls him closer.

Their lips meet, and it's as if she's back on that rainy night, the stars twinkling above them as they share a deep, passionate kiss. She knows this kiss is not exactly appropriate for public, she's never been a fan of PDA, but she isn't sure when she'll see him again and the thought kills her.

Claire sighs into the kiss, trying to take in a breath without ending their embrace.

Jamie tilts his head, tongue peeking out to enter her mouth. She grins into his mouth, pressing her lips harder to his. God, she doesn't want to let go.

But reality sets in, however, and the sounds of the bustling airport come rushing back to her ears. She can hear the announcements over the loudspeaker and a baby crying in the distance. It's all muted, nothing seems to matter except right here with him, but she knows time is running out.

Pressing her hands on his chest, she pushes back, smiling shyly up at him. "Well," she breathes, lighting up when she sees the large smile plastered on his face, "I really do have to go."

"I ken." He leans in once more, pressing a soft, gentle kiss to her lips, much more like the gentle ones they've shared over the last few days. Ever since that first kiss and how amorous it was, they'd restrained themselves to tender kisses, an unspoken rule not to rile each other up too much, even though his soft kisses had the exact same effect on her. "Ye better get going, Sassenach."

Nodding, she feels a lump forming in her throat. God, why is this so hard? She shouldn't feel this upset, she's only been around him for a week. But a week was more than enough time to know that the feelings she's always secretly held for him over the last twenty years never truly went away.

And she hopes he feels the same way.

With one last squeeze to her hand, he lets go, smiling and stepping back from their embrace. "I'll miss ye, Claire."

She nods silently, afraid that if she speaks, she'll burst into tears and then she'll never leave.

Smiling one last time, she reaches for her bag and turns, walking away from him and back to her reality.

{***********************}

A week later, Claire sits in her office at the hospital. She's flipping through her phone, looking at all of the pictures she'd taken while on her trip, and more specifically the selfies she took with Jamie.

There's one of them up on that fairy hill, the stones behind her as Jamie kisses her cheek, her face scrunched up in surprise with a giant smile. It might be her favorite one from her entire trip. She clicks the options on her phone, setting the picture as her background, keeping the photo of her and Julia as her lockscreen. She could never change that one.

Sighing, she closes her eyes, thinking back to the time she had in Scotland. It had been wonderful. Like something from one of those cheesy Hallmark movies Julia loves to watch every winter.

Claire pulls up her texts, smiling to herself as she reads through the string of messages she and Jamie have sent back and forth.

She was glad that he reached out, texting her before she'd even landed to ask if she made it okay. Once she was on the ground and her phone could register texts again, she responded, letting him know that she was home and safe.

After that, they'd spent the last week texting or talking on the phone every single day.

She was happy for it, really. Part of her had feared that she'd never hear from him again, as if her week in Scotland had all been a cruel dream.

How wrong she'd been, though, when on her second night back home, she was FaceTiming with Jamie and, bless him and his adorable self, he'd asked her something she wasn't expecting, but was glad for nonetheless.

"So," he said, clearing his throat, "I dinna mean tae be forward wi' ye, but…"

He was fumbling over his words, and despite his ears turning red, he looked so cute when he was nervous. "Out with it," she'd said, laughing.

"We are, that is, I mean… are we… dating?" He looked so shy that she wanted to reach through the phone and kiss him all over. She didn't think it needed to be spelled out for them to know, but it was sweet that he didn't want to assume anything. "I ken our week together was special, but, now that ye're back tae yer normal life, will ye still have me?" His eyes widen at the blush that creeps onto her own cheeks, and he stammers again, "Uh, I jus' mean… do, do ye still want me, Claire?"

She smiled, feeling bashful. There she was, sitting in her living room in her workout clothes, with her hair up in a sweaty, messy bun, being asked by the man she'd thought of for two decades if she'd date him again. "Jamie," she sighed, "of course I want to be with you." She smiled at his delighted face, adding a playful, "If you still want me now that I'm back here in my normal life."

Jamie grinned, leaning closer to his screen. It was late for him, almost midnight. He'd been in bed when she called, but he assured her he didn't mind staying up late to talk to her. She watched as he sat up more in the bed, his toned abs flexing with the movement. He shook his head and said, "I want ye more than anything."

She inhaled and exhaled sharply, trying to catch her breath. God, he was so sexy and she didn't even think he meant it the way it sounded, but fuck, does she want him.

He fumbled over his words, and it's adorable, really. How one man can be so equally sexy and cute, she'd never understand. Her chest heaved up and down at the thoughts that swirled in her mind, and she had to laugh at them. They were acting more skittish around each other now than when they were children.

"Well then," he murmured, grinning, "boyfriend and girlfriend, aye?"

She laughed, head thrown back. "I think I prefer manfriend, instead." She winked. "Sounds more mature."

Jamie laughed along with her, agreeing to the term. "This is really what you want?" he asked, growing serious. "Truly?"

"It is," she said with a fervent nod and a sniffle.

His eyes were wet as well, and she'd spent the next half an hour on the phone with her manfriend before finally letting him go so he could sleep.

Over the next few days, Jamie would send her pictures of the farm, and of himself at his desk looking bored, which always made her laugh. And in return, she'd send him similar pictures, some of x-rays she was going over and others of just her, smiling just for him or pretending to be half asleep at her desk during a long shift.

Sighing, she sends him a message, asking how his day at work had been. He's five hours ahead of her, so she knows he's already off work and at home, lucky bastard. She'd give anything to be home right now.

"Hey, hey," Joe exclaims, walking into her office.

He doesn't see the need in knocking anymore after so many years of working together, and she loves that about her best friend.

She'd met Joe in medical school when they were assigned to work on a project together their very first year. After that, they were inseparable, always making sure they had at least one or two classes together each semester.

They'd interned and done their residencies together, both accepting jobs at the same hospital.

Joe Abernathy was a godsend, especially once they became so close that he invited her over to his house to meet his wife, Gail.

Joe and Gail had a son, Lenny, around Julia's age which was always nice. They'd spend weekends together, letting the kids play, while the adults cooked and spent time together, unwinding from long weeks at work.

"You alright, Lady Jane?"

She smiles at the nickname. As soon as Joe heard her speak and realized she was British, he'd dubbed her Lady Jane like some fancy aristocrat from another century that just had tea with the Queen.

Nodding, she assures him, "I'm fine."

Joe's mouth opens in a silent ah as he makes himself comfortable, sinking into one of the leather chairs across from her desk. "Well, I know anytime a woman says she's fine, she's not really fine."

Claire scoffs, which turns into a small laugh as she looks at Joe and sees the skeptical, raised eyebrows.

Rolling her eyes, she drops her pen onto the desk with a clunk. "You're right," she admits, shrugging one shoulder up. "I just had a great time in Scotland and really miss it."

"You mean you really miss Jamie."

She cuts her eyes to her friend, smirking at how well he knows her. "Fine. Yes."

Joe laughs, slapping his hands onto the arm rests of the chair and hoisting himself up. "Now that you can finally admit you miss your boy—excuse me, man friend, I can give you these," he says, jogging across the hall to his office.

They can see each other from their desks, which has always been fun, especially on the longer days. "What are you doing?" she laughs, narrowing her eyes as she watches him grab a stack of… something.

Joe comes back in, slamming a collection of pamphlets onto her desk. "Here."

"What's this?"

"Information about the top hospitals in Scotland," he smiles innocently.

She rolls her eyes, but can't help the smirk that tugs at the corner of her mouth. "I can't just up and move to Scotland, Joe. I've only known him for a week."

"A week and twenty years. And you're dating."

"It's not the same. We're totally different people than we were at eighteen."

Rolling his eyes, Joe deadpans. "Yeah, now instead of lovesick eighteen year olds, you're lovesick thirty-eight year olds who can't admit how they really feel even though everyone else can see you're already in love with the guy."

Oh, she knows how she feels. She knows she'd spend every waking moment with Jamie if she could. But she can't.

"Well, either way," she tutts, sitting up straighter and taking on an air of poise. "I have a daughter. I can't move her across the world during her senior year of high school."

Joe leans in over her desk, pressing his finger onto the stack of pamphlets with a mischievous grin. "Just something to think about. For the," he coughs pointedly, "near future."

And with one last shrug, he moseys over to his office with a laugh under his breath that Claire absolutely ignores.

{***********************}

She gets home from work around five o'clock, thankful that her schedule this week didn't include too many late shifts.

"Julia?" she calls, walking into the kitchen to see if her daughter is in there.

Sending her a text, she asks where she is and Julia reminds her that she's at her best friend, Lizzie's house, studying for a test they have tomorrow.

Oh, that's right. What time will you be home?

Probably like an hour

Alright, I'll start dinner in a bit. Love you

Love you too

Setting her phone down on the counter, Claire opens the fridge, peering in to see what groceries they have left. She makes a mental note to run to the store tomorrow before her shift so they have plenty to eat. She has an overnight shift in a few days, so she wants to make sure Julia has things to cook on her own, too.

Seeing that she at least has ingredients to make spaghetti, Claire closes the refrigerator, wanting to change out of her work clothes and into something more comfortable before starting dinner.

As she was leaving the hospital earlier, she sent Jamie a text, asking if he was still awake. He'd responded, but she hadn't had a chance to look at it until now.

Yes, Sassenach. It's only 10:00, I'm no' an old man.

Laughing, she presses the FaceTime button at the top of their messages as she walks up the stairs and to her bedroom, listening as the phone rings.

The swoosh of the ring sounds, and she looks down. "Hi, there," she greets, smiling widely at him.

He's in a white t-shirt, and she imagines flannel pajama bottoms as well since he's ready for bed.

"Hey, how was work?" he asks.

Huffing, she plops onto the end of her bed, giving him an exhausted look. "I had three surgeries today, and one patient's heart rate dropped for a minute. It was terrifying." Knowing that's just part of the job, unfortunately, she shrugs, asking, "How was your day?"

She rolls her neck side to side, listening as he tells her how he and Ian rode out to another farm to meet with the owners. "They're wantin' tae sell the place," he informs her, his eyes lighting up, "and I was thinking it might be a good plot o'land tae buy. We could expand Fraser's Ridge."

"Is it close to your current farm?"

"Aye, 'tis the farm just near us that we drove by when you were here."

"Ah," she says, remembering how close it was. "That would be great for the business, Jamie."

He smiles at her, and they talk more about his chance to expand. He dreams of building more stores on the land where they could sell their products. "All the products we create on Fraser's Ridge could be sold there so the current ridge is used just for the farming and tending to the animals."

Nodding, she listens as he dreams up more ideas, and she smiles the whole time, knowing she'd listen to him read the dictionary if it meant she got to hear his voice.

"I'm sorry, Sassenach," he snickers, interrupting her thoughts, "I'm borin' ye tae death."

She laughs, shaking her head. "I assure you, you're not."

"Ach," he groans playfully, "I could see yer wee eyes glossin' o'er after a while there."

He's grinning madly, so she knows he's joking but she does feel bad. "I'm sorry, Jamie," she sighs. "I really am excited for you. It sounds wonderful."

They talk a bit longer, Claire rummaging through her briefcase while they do. She reaches in one pocket, those damn pamphlets from Joe connecting with her hand.

Rolling her eyes, she pulls them out, tossing them onto her dresser.

She doesn't want to tell Jamie about them, not yet. She knows that would only get his hopes up for a future that she isn't sure is at all possible. At least not for now.

"Weel, I dinna want tae go, but it is nearin' eleven now," Jamie says, stifling a yawn. "And I may no' be an old, old man just yet, but I am old, ken?" She laughs, nodding because she completely understands. "I've gotta be up at five tae get to the ridge. I'm lettin' Ian sleep in a bit since he covered for me while you were here."

Inhaling deeply, she nods, knowing she doesn't want to let him go, but needs to. "I should go start dinner, anyway."

They prolong their goodbyes for a few more minutes before she finally wishes him a goodnight and hangs up.

Tossing her phone beside her onto the mattress, she flops back, taking a moment to just lay there, staring at her ceiling fan.

Her hands rest on her stomach, but after a few seconds she reaches over to her phone again, grinning madly when she sees Jamie sent her one more text.

Glad we got to talk tonight. Let me know your schedule for the week so we can FaceTime again.

She grins, knowing she'll talk to him every day, but she sends him her working hours anyway.

With that, Claire sighs, finally dragging her exhausted body from the bed and into her closet. She changes into a pair of gray yoga pants and a t-shirt before truding her way down the steps and into the kitchen.

She's just started browning the meat when Julia walks in from the garage. "Hey, Mom."

"Oh, hi, darling," she greets, kissing Julia on the cheek when she comes over to the stove. Claire glances at the clock, realizing she'd talked to Jamie longer than she thought. "Sorry dinner isn't ready yet."

Julia shrugs, hopping onto the bar stool that faces the stove. "No biggie. Do you need help?"

Smiling, she tells her she just needs to add some vegetables to the sauce and cook the noodles. This is honestly one of the only meals Claire can't mess up; she's never been the best cook, but she will say her spaghetti is quite flavorful.

Julia stands anyway, going to the pantry to grab the noodles. She takes a pot out from the cabinet and fills it with water, setting it on the stove top to heat up.

Bumping her hip against her daughter's, they smirk at one another, moving with ease around one another until the food is ready.

{*********************}

As they eat, Claire notices the way Julia keeps looking at her.

They've been talking about Julia's day at school and if she feels prepared for her History test, which she promises her mother she is absolutely ready for. Throughout the conversation, Claire's been checking her phone to see if she happened to have a message from Jamie, hoping he couldn't sleep just yet. But when she looks up, Julia has a strange look on her face.

Taking her last bite of spaghetti, Claire wipes her mouth and reaches for her glass of water. "Alright," she says, taking a sip, "out with it."

"Out with what?" Julia asks innocently, grinning into her next bite.

Narrowing her eyes, Claire murmurs, "Cheeky girl," and reaches over, lightly tickling Julia's cheek and neck over and over, knowing that is her most ticklish spot.

The teenager guffaws, holding up her hands in surrender. "Alright, alright," she wheezes.

With a sigh, she takes her last bite, sitting back in the chair. Julia reaches for her water, taking a few, dramatically long sips while Claire stares at her with a raised brow.

Giggling, Julia finally speaks. "I just think it's cute that you have such a big crush on your boyfriend."

Claire's mouth falls open indignantly, and with a scoff, says, "I do not," knowing she's lying through her teeth.

"Oh, okay," Julia replies sarcastically, rolling her eyes for good measure.

Giving her teenager one more raised brow, the younger Beauchamp laughs again. "You're constantly checking your phone to see if Jamie texted you, you guys talk on the phone every night, and you giggle like I've never heard before," she explains, her smile softenting. "It's adorable."

Claire can't hide the blush that creeps up her cheeks, heating her face. It's she who feels like the teenager in this very moment, and she isn't sure how to navigate this.

"If you ask me," Julia says, ignoring her mother's blush. "I say either you go back to him or he comes here for a bit."

"Julia Elizabeth," she scoffs, trying to act offended simply because she's embarrassed that she's apparently been acting like a teenager over the last week.

"Oh, come on," Julia defends. "It's not a bad thing. Look," she huffs, sitting up in her chair and leaning on her elbows, "if you really think there is a deep connection, which obviously there is, you should go to him, Mom."

Claire tears up, but nods, thinking over the last two weeks—her time in Scotland and the week she's been home. Julia had met Jamie over FaceTime one day before rushing off with her friend to the mall, and it had warmed Claire's heart to see them interact—"I think I might need to," she whispers, swallowing around the lump in her throat. "At least for a little bit to see if this is real for both of us."

"Well, I don't think either of you need time to figure out if this is real. You've loved each other since you were my age," she says, her eyes looking off into the distance. "It's like a Hallmark movie!"

Rolling her eyes, Claire dabs at the tears forming in the corner of her eyes. "I can't believe I'm getting dating advice from my daughter."

"Well, you've given me plenty of advice over the years," Julia laughs, "so now I can give it right back!"

They both grin at one another, and Claire is overcome with a thankfulness that she was blessed with this girl as her child. She truly lucked out in the kid department.

Julia has always been so mature, but in this moment, Claire is dumbfounded with just how grown up her daughter seems.

It brings another set of tears to her eyes realizing that her baby isn't a baby anymore. She'll be graduating in just over two months at the end of May, moving out in five months for college, and it all seems like it went by in the blink of an eye.

Julia hops up from the table and dashes into the living room before running back to the table, laptop in hand.

"What are you doing?" Claire laughs, watching as her daughter types away on the keyboard.

Julia shoots her a deadpan expression as if she's just asked the dumbest question in the world. "Uh, booking you a flight… duh."

"Darling, no," Claire states, reaching for the laptop. "This is absurd." She can't help but laugh at her daughter's antics, but she knows this isn't feasible right now with her schedule. "I don't have another chunk of time off for almost a month."

"Okay," Julia shrugs as if it's so simple, "then you go see him in a month!"

Claire tilts her head, giving her daughter the same deadpan expression she'd just given her.

"What!?" Julia exclaims, "That's only four weeks!"

Claire smiles at the simplicity of her teenager's words, as if this isn't a huge thing happening in their life. Just a simple click and she'd be booked to go see Jamie again. She'd be lying if she said the thought didn't excite her, but… could she really go to Scotland, again? And so soon?

Sure, the money isn't the issue. She makes well enough as a surgeon, along with the inheritance from her parents that she's kept in savings her whole life. But… this is big. This feels like her way of telling Jamie that she's ready, that she's in this for real. Deeper than just simply dating.

And with that, she realizes… she is. Obviously. He is too, she assumes—hopes. They've been talking constantly since the day they bumped into each other two weeks ago, why would she think he feels any differently than her?

Her mind is at war with itself, the dark part of her convincing her that he doesn't feel the same... But then she thinks of their time together, the way he held her hand and spoke so softly to her, she thinks of their kisses. God, those kisses.

Claire reaches up, touching her lips lightly as she remembers how his lips felt against her own.

Sighing, she looks at Julia, who is still looking at her expectantly.

Claire hesitantly slides the laptop back to her daughter with a huff, "Fine. If you must."

Julia squeals, taking the laptop from her mother's hands and clicking around. Claire pulls up her work schedule on her phone and together they pick the perfect date for her to fly out. A little over a month from today. And she'd be able to stay just under two weeks, needing to get back in time to adjust to her timezone so she could focus on a big surgery she had planned.

"All done!" Julia declares with a triumphant smile, and Claire takes a deep breath, trying not to get overly excited.

"I don't want to leave you for two whole weeks, though. I feel so guilty."

It's Julia's turn to roll her eyes as she tells her mother. "Well, for one, I'm capable of staying home alone, I am seventeen years old, but I can always go stay with Uncle Joe if it makes you feel better," she explains, as if she's been thinking of this plan for more than just the last half hour, "Plus you'll still be here for my spring break next week, so we can go do something… and by the time you go to him, it'll be," she looks at the calendar again, "the last week of April and the first week of May! It's perfect! That's like three whole weeks away from my graduation, so all I'll be doing is studying for finals. It'll be fine."

Guilt and apprehension churn in her stomach, but Julia seems more than okay with it, excited even. "And besides," her daughter says with a twinkle in her eye, "it's already booked so you have no choice."

Grinning at her daughter's giddiness, Claire sighs in defeat, knowing Julia has won this argument.

They clean up the kitchen and watch a little television together before Claire calls it a night, knowing she's got a long day tomorrow.

Kissing Julia's cheek, Claire makes her way upstairs, reminding her, "Don't stay up too late, young lady. You have that test tomorrow."

Julia nods, saying she's going to go finish the episode they were on in her room and then go to sleep. Claire smiles, finishing her ascent up the staircase, and when she thinks about what's to come in just a month, her cheeks begin to ache from smiling so much. She's excited for her next trip to Scotland… and even more excited to tell Jamie tomorrow on the phone.

{*************************}

Side note: I know Craigh Na Dun in real life doesn't actually have standing stones (the property *according to Google lol* is actually on a farm and they've had to build a walking path for Outlander fans who want to go to the top of the hill so they won't disturb the animals and what not haha), but for the sake of the story… the stones exist lol

I hope you enjoyed this one!

Chapter Text

Chapter Four:

Whoever said time flies when you're having fun must not have ever been in a long distance relationship. Or maybe it could be the fact that Claire has not, in fact, been having fun lately.

The last four weeks have felt so torturously long that Claire isn't even sure how she's survived.

She and Jamie talked on the phone every night, either FaceTime or regular phone calls, and would text one another throughout the day.

Claire thought the time difference would make their dating situation hard, but it turns out, being a doctor with an ever changing schedule has its advantages. There were days when she was up at the crack of dawn, which was just before lunch for him, and others where she was working late, able to speak with Jamie before he went to bed and also when he woke up the next morning all during her same shift.

It was hard, but it was enjoyable.

She hasn't felt this light and free since she was… well, since she was eighteen and planning on spending the rest of her life with this very same ginger.

And now, an entire month after starting up their relationship again after twenty years apart, Claire can finally be in his arms again.

She exits the plane, making her way to baggage claim, her stomach in knots the entire time. She's nervous but excited, ready to see him and get the jitters out so she can enjoy her two weeks here with him.

Two whole weeks. It's a dream, really, and she's so thankful for her friends and daughter back home who made it possible. Julia, of course, started this whole thing by booking her flight, and Joe and Gail were nice enough to let the teen stay with them. Joe had also taken one for the team, volunteering to cover the four shifts she was scheduled for this first week she was gone. The second week was already supposed to be her time off, except being on call twice, and her friend, Louise, jumped at the opportunity to take those nights because it gave her an excuse to get away from her boyfriend she was trying to dump.

Grinning at the thought of her friends, Claire finally sees the baggage claim area just a few feet away. Her eyes scan the crowd, this being the only place people were allowed to pick up their loved ones from, and before long (because he's very easy to spot), Jamie's big grin and red hair are sticking out above the rest of the fray.

"Jamie!" she beams, rushing to him.

He drops the sign he'd been holding, collecting her into his arms. "Oh, Claire," he whispers breathlessly, "I've missed ye sae much."

She won't cry, she won't, but damn it does she feel like shedding a few right now. She's so happy. She knows her body is shaking as if she's cold, her excitement and emotion taking over.

"Ye're shakin' so hard I can feel my teeth rattlin'," he jests, pressing a kiss to her hair and rubbing up and down her biceps.

Pulling back, she laughs. "I'm just excited," she tells him, and he nods, leaning in to press his lips to hers. God, what an incredible feeling. She's missed his kisses so much, and not just over the last month.

As they part, she watches Jamie sniffle, trying to cover it with a cough, and wipes at his eye as he bends down to pick up the sign he'd dropped. It reads Welcome back, Sassenach! and she giggles as she takes it from his hands, folding it up and placing it into her bag for safe keeping.

"Are you crying?" she teases, knowing her eyes are just as wet.

He laughs, taking her hand in his. "Och, I canna lie and say no, Sassenach."

Smiling, she stands on her tiptoes, pressing a handful more little pecks to his lips and tells him she feels the same way. "I can't believe it's been a whole month."

"A month too long," he says, both smiling like mad men as they walk hand in hand toward the carousel, waiting for her bag to come around.

When it finally does, Jamie scoops it up, hefting it up and out like it weighs nothing.

He leads them over to a small nook that houses some chairs, away from the bustling crowds trying to get their luggage and leave.

She gives him a questioning look, and his smile is so much like the boy she used to know that her stomach flutters. "I just needed tae do this one more time before we get in the car," he states, "'Tis only about a twenty minute drive, but I canna help it." She smiles softly up at him as he takes her in his arms one more time. His hug is warm and makes her feel safe, and if she never left this embrace she'd be just fine.

Her arms wrap around his back, his strong shoulders moving beneath her palms as he tightens his grip on her. "It's sae good to have ye back in my arms, Sassenach."

His words are warm against her ear, just barely above a whisper, and it feels so intimate that she feels her face flush, wondering if these two weeks will also hold time for them to sleep together.

Their FaceTime's have become more and more salacious as the month progressed, but never anything too raunchy. Jamie would tell her over and over how he wanted to see more, hear more, do more, but he wanted the first time he saw all of her since they were kids to be in the flesh.

He hated it, which made the situation even funnier, because he seemed mad at his own stupid decision, but she also thought it was sweet. And she couldn't lie and say the first time she saw him naked as a grown man with his stocky frame, she didn't want it to be in person. She wanted to be able to feel and touch him, to slide her hands down his chest and feel his muscles ripple beneath her hands.

So, as tame as possible they stayed for four long weeks. There were peeks over her breasts and pictures sent of his abs or videos of him working out that always made her hot and bothered at work, but they never went all the way.

Jamie's grip tightens around her ribs and she thinks they may crack, but she doesn't care, the feel of him, here, real and in person, makes her happier than anything.

"Are ye hungry?" he asks, finally releasing her with a small kiss to her neck.

"Starved."

They go to lunch and to say it was filled with tension would be an understatement. They held hands almost the entire time, his thumb grazing the back of her hand. Her fingers intertwined with his, lifting their hands up to press a kiss to his palm.

Their longing gazes across the table made her stomach twist and turn, her breath catching in her throat, unable to hardly breathe around this gorgeous man. Her boyfriend… manfriend.

"I've decided the term boyfriend just won't do," she tells him once their dessert arrives.

He's ordered them a slice of chocolate and caramel cheesecake, and based on the size of it, she'll need to be rolled out of here. If this is how he is going to feed her for the next two weeks, she's going to need some bigger pants.

"And what's yer alternative?" he inquires with a tilt of his head and smirk on his lips.

Snickering, she moves her head side to side, pretending to think. "Manfriend seems to fit better."

"Manfriend?" he repeats, one hand landing on his stomach as he laughs. "Strangest term I've e'er heard, mo nighean donn," he says, taking her hand once more, "but if that's what ye wanna call me, then that's just fine by me."

Her eyes soften at the warmth in his voice and face, and she promptly tells him, "Feel free to use womanfriend instead of girlfriend, if you'd like."

His nose scrunches as he thinks about it, finally telling her, "Nae, somethin' about that just doesna sound right tae my ears. I'll stick wi' girlfriend if it's alright with you."

She shrugs a shoulder, smiling. "Works just fine for me."

They each dig into the cheesecake, laughing when they both go for the same spot, but Jamie, ever the gentleman, lets her have it.

It's delicious and smooth, and as they devour the sweet treat, they catch up on things they haven't talked about over the last month. It's hard, they've talked almost every day, but it's the small things they're sharing now—Jamie tells her of a new product Fraser's Ridge has come up with and how Ian was off today marketing it to stores around town, and she tells him of Louise's boy-toy and how she's been trying to ditch him for weeks but he just won't take the hint.

"She was more than glad to take my on call shifts next week," she laughs, "I truly believe she'll tell him she has to actually be at the hospital the whole time so she can hide out."

Jamie laughs, his cheeks turning red. "She's a firecracker, eh?" he says, having met and talked with her a few times over the last few weeks. "She doesna seem like the type tae keep someone like that around."

"No," she laughs, "which is why I'm surprised she hasn't just dropped him already. He must be good in bed or something."

The mention of bed seems to shut both of them up for a moment, her mind going to the possibility of what this trip might hold, and she hopes by the distant look in his blue eyes that he's thinking much the same thing.

Taking another bite of dessert, Claire slowly runs her foot up his calf, hooking it behind the muscle. She lifts her eyebrows when the movement draws him back from his thoughts, and she tries to hold in her laughter as his ears grow pink.

Jamie clears his throat, sucking in a deep breath as he picks up his wine, taking the last sip.

She sits back, foot ever so slowly releasing his calf and returning back to her side of the table.

He takes her hand, asking if she's done with the cheesecake. When she says that she is, he reaches out his other hand for her.

Placing both hands in his now, they sit in silence, eyes connected. There's so much to be said, but so much that's understood. It's as if they don't even need words sometimes to communicate.

Drawing in a deep breath, Claire glances out the window their table is in front of. The sun is starting to go down, the sky a beautiful mixture of pinks and purples. "It's so beautiful here," she says softly, squeezing his hands.

"Aye," Jamie says, "It's one o'my favorite places tae come this time of day. The sun always comes in so beautifully."

He stands, moving to stand behind her chair.

"What are you doing?" she asks, looking around to see if he's drawn the attention of other patrons.

There's no one here, not really. Their table is back in a secluded corner with only two other tables which have been vacated since they arrived. She can hear waiters taking orders in the next part of the restaurant, dishes clanking together in the kitchen just to their right, but for the most part, they're alone now.

"Just admiring the way the sun catches in yer hair, mo nighean donn," he murmurs, twisting his finger into one of her curls.

She's heard the nickname over and over when they were eighteen as well as over the last month they've been together, but for some reason she never thought to ask what it meant.

"What does that mean anyway? I never thought to ask."

"Mo nighean donn?"

"Mmhmm."

She can feel his breathy chuckle hot against her neck, causing goosebumps to rise on her skin. He twists that curl, his palm resting on the junction between her neck and shoulder as he finally whispers into her ear, "My brown haired lass."

Claire can hear the grin in his voice, and she knows it's because he just saw the shiver run through her at the response. Coughing lightly, she smiles, brows furrowing briefly. "Rather a dull color brown, I've always thought."

"No," he says instantly, running his finger through her curls again. "It's no' dull at all. It's like the… the water in a burn, the way it ruffles down the rocks."

His R's roll so seductively from behind her that she isn't sure if she'll make it out of this restaurant with her clothes on, damn him.

She breathes a short laugh, tugging on her light jacket she is wearing.

"Dark in the wavy spots," he continues, his finger no longer tangled in a curl, but she can feel it brushing lightly over her tresses, "with wee bits of auburn when the sun touches it, like it is now."

He moves from behind her just as the waitress makes her way into their section of the restaurant, and she gives the girl a smile.

Jamie takes his place back across the table from her, winking at her for good measure, and she could really kill him, she could. He knows exactly what he's doing.

He pays for their meal with a friendly smile to the waitress, thanking her for being a great server.

With that, Jamie stands, reaching out a hand to her. She blinks, still stuck in the feel of his hands in her hair. Claire looks up at him and he grins, looking down to his outstretched hand and back to her. "Let's get out of here."

{************************}

They leave the restaurant and instead of walking to his car, Jamie takes her hand, leading her to walk around the downtown area the restaurant was in. There's little boutiques and bakeries, and Claire is sincerely enjoying their time together, walking and talking like there's not a care in the world while looking in the windows at all the things she wants to buy (but won't, her luggage is already heavy enough).

The sun has settled even more in the sky, brushing the air with a crispness that wasn't there when she first arrived. She's in jeans and a black shirt, but she'd thrown a black and white striped pull over on while on the plane and she was thankful for it now. It wasn't thick, just t-shirt material really, but it was perfect for the light breeze in the April sunset.

"Oh, that looks delicious," she says, peering in at the bakery, watching as the chef works his magic with his piping bag. "Can we come back here in the morning?"

"Of course," he grins. He takes a step closer to the window, watching the man work, adding, "This place makes some o'the best chocolate croissants around."

"Mm," she moans, eyes growing wide, "You'll have to roll me back to the airport by time I leave here."

He laughs, taking her hand and leading her away from the tempting treats.

He holds her hand the whole time they meander by the stores, letting it go only to point at something down the street.

She's nervous, though she doesn't know why, excited for what's to come would be a better way of describing it, she thinks. All she wants to do is go back to his house and make out like teenagers.

As he's pointing something out to her, telling her the history of the fountain that sits in the town center, she tugs on Jamie's hand, giving him an unsure smile. He looks like he's having so much fun showing her more of where he's from and she feels guilty, but fibs a bit by saying, "I'm… a little tired. Perhaps you can finish showing me everything another day? If that's alright with you." She smiles sweetly, caressing the back of his hand with her thumb. "Let's go back to either my hotel or your house."

He smiles, leaning in to kiss her forehead. "It's more than okay wi' me, whatever ye want tae do, Sassenach." He takes her hand again, turning them in the opposite direction toward his car. "Though I dinna ken why ye ever got a hotel, mo nighean donn. Get on yer phone and cancel the room."

"My stuff is already there," she laughs, knowing they'd specifically made a pit stop at her hotel on the way to dinner so her belongings weren't sitting in his car the whole time. He shrugs at her reasoning, though, saying they can go get it now and take it back to his place.

She bites her lip, and his eyes widen, assuring her, "I'm no' tryin tae seem forward, Claire. I have more than one bedroom, ye ken, so ye dinna have tae feel pressured tae sleep in the bed wi' me, but…"

Claire can't help but to chuckle at how he's rambling, trying to explain away what he meant. God, he's so considerate… and adorable. And sexy.

"Alright, alright," she laughs, holding up her hands in surrender. "You win." He smiles triumphantly, so she adds, "But you're paying my cancellation fee."

Guffawing, he agrees, looping his arm over her shoulder just before they cross the street to his car.

The drive is short, just about ten minutes, and they're there. She apologizes to the concierge, explaining that she had found other accommodations for her stay. She reaches for her wallet, knowing she would never let Jamie actually pay for her cancellation, but he stops her hand, giving the young man behind the counter his credit card.

"Jamie, no," she protests, "I can pay for it."

"Aye," he smiles, taking his card and signing the receipt, "but it was my idea to have ye stay wi' me." He motions toward the lift, placing a hand on the small of her back as they walk toward it. "And I dinna mind at all. Ye've spent enough on the plane ticket to come see me."

Rolling her eyes as they step into the lift, she huffs, knowing she'll never win this argument.

They grab her suitcase and carry on before shutting off the light and leaving the hotel for good.

The drive to his house is filled with even more tension than dinner was, her heart is pounding inside her chest so hard that she's convinced he can hear it, too. She knows exactly what she wants to do when they get there… she just hopes he does, too.

{**************************}

On the drive over, Jamie animatedly tells her about his home, and the smile on his face is heartwarming. He tells her that it's situated on acres upon acres of land, Jenny and Ian also residing on the property. "Their house is a few miles away, ken, but we all grew up here. Ian was always around playing wi' me and Jenny. His family lives just down the road from here."

He tells her of the history, how it was once called Lallybroch by its residents, or Broch Tuarach, which meant "lazy tower." She chuckles at the meaning, but leans her head against the headrest, listening to all he has to say. Claire loves listening to him talk, he was a born story-teller, and the history is fascinating. Jamie says the Laird always lived in what is now his house so it was the largest on the property.

"Why didn't you use all of this land for Fraser's Ridge?"

"Och," he grunts, "I didna want work and my personal life to always be sae close together."

She nods. "I can understand that."

He smiles, telling her that there's a stable out by Jenny and Ian's house where they keep their personal horses, but other than that, it's just a vast plot of land with rolling hills and fields that once held his ancestor's harvests. He always thought it was gorgeous, preserved by history with no one ever building anything on it, and he wanted to keep it that way. There were a few other houses nestled in deeper parts of the property where residents used to live, but most have been torn down over time. "There's a cabin down by the lake," he tells her, "When we want a quick getaway, we'll load up Jenny and Ian's bairns and go stay there for the weekend."

"That sounds fun," she says, reaching over the middle console to take his hand. "How many children do they have?"

Her eyes widen when he laughs and says five. "They canna seem tae stop reproducing." He laughs again, shaking his head. "They range from twenty years old down to the youngest at ten, though he's adamant about saying he's almost eleven."

Grinning, she leans her head against the headrest, enjoying the view of Lallybroch's lush green grass and expansive hills that they drive past.

When they arrive at his house, he takes her hand and kisses the back of it. He nods his head toward a charming estate, situated on a large piece of land. It's off the main road, you'd have to know it was here otherwise you'd completely miss it, and it's nice. Gorgeous, really.

There's a stone archway that they drove under, and his car is parked on a gravel driveway.

"That archway is beautiful," she comments, smiling as she looks up to see the whole house.

Jamie grunts, pulling her luggage from her backseat, but informs her, "It's been here for centuries, ken, Uncle Lamb would love it."

She smiles at the mention of her beloved uncle, making a mental note to call him when he gets back from his newest expedition next month. "You're right," she laughs, "He'd have a field day out here with all this history."

Jamie grins and leads her into the house. He tells her how the house has been in his family for generations, slowly undergoing renovations with each one. It started out as a stone house in the eighteenth century, overtime being worn down by the elements. "No one lived here for a few decades," he says, flicking on the lights, "but about fifty years ago or so, my grandfather found the deed to the house, realized he owned it, and went to work."

He tells her how his grandfather worked in construction his whole life, so renovating the house was a fun side project for him. "And o'course since then, it's been updated and what not, but yeah," he shrugs, "this is home."

She smiles, fascinated with the history this country holds. "It's gorgeous."

Her eyes roam the inside, the large living room to her left, a hallway she assumes leads to a kitchen and a grand staircase to the right. The floors are hardwood and appear to be somewhat original, probably from one of the earliest renovations, though they've been sanded and stained a hue closer to gray than brown at some point. The walls are all painted in a warm greige tone that compliments his furniture nicely and makes the house feel cozy.

"Let me show ye around."

He picks up her suitcase and she grabs her duffle bag, heading up the stairs to the right. At the top of the stairs, she can see several doors, and he gives her a quick tour.

The first room on the left is his guest room, so they set her things down on the bed, spying a bathroom just across the hall. God, she really does need a shower after flying all day. If what she hopes will happen tonight does, she doesn't want to feel gross and germ infested during it.

"Um," she starts, biting her lip and thinking maybe she shouldn't be so forward.

"What is it?"

"Well," she huffs, flicking her eyes toward the bathroom behind him. "I was actually going to see if I could shower and change into something else before we continue this tour," she says, grimacing as she tugs at her shirt for good measure. "Airports and flying all day, you know."

Jamie laughs, apologizing for not thinking of it before her. He tells her he'll be down the hall in his room and just to call out when she's ready.

It's the fastest shower of her life, she washes her body off with her shower gel and cleans her face with her facewash as quickly as possible. She runs a razor over her legs, even knowing she'd shaved, well, everything, before her flight.

Stepping out, she wraps up in a fluffy towel, dashing across the hall to her room to get changed. She dries off, scrunching her hair in the towel and praying to God that her hair doesn't turn into a frizzy mess.

She rummages through her luggage, pulling out a flowy, cotton dress she'd packed. It's black with cap sleeves, and though she knows a dress isn't really necessary—she could've just put on yoga pants since they're home for the night—she felt like she needed to look nicer. Not that Jamie would care, but still.

Tossing her airport jeans and shirt into her traveling laundry bag, she pulls out her makeup bag and quickly applies a bit of tinted lip balm and a coat of mascara. Nothing major, but enough to make her feel sexier than she was feeling ten minutes ago.

She puts some taming mousse in her hair, thankful it has a nice floral aroma to it to pair nicely with the spritz of her favorite perfume she'd just sprayed.

Sighing, she looks at herself in the full length mirror that's in the corner of the room. She runs her hands down her dress, smoothing out the invisible wrinkles that only she can see.

"Okay, Beauchamp," she tells herself, "You can do this."

{*************************}

When she's ready, she opens her door, calling out to Jamie.

A bedroom door at the end of the hallway opens, and he smiles as he makes his way down the hall to her. She notices that his hair is damp and he smells clean. He's changed into jeans and a forest green t-shirt. Simple and handsome. "Feel better?" he asks, pulling her into his arms.

"Much," Claire smiles. "Thank you."

She tells him she's ready for the rest of the tour and he chuckles, walking them to the room next to hers.

This room is Fergus' old room. "Though he still stays here from time to time when he comes to visit from Edinburgh." He huffs a laugh, running his finger along a picture frame of Fergus and a blonde girl she remembers is named Marsali. "Which has been a lot more frequent lately e'er since Marsali came into his life." He leans in, a bit conspiratorially, saying, "Though he's been staying with the lass more and more with each visit."

There's the bathroom she'd used across from the guest room and an office across from Fergus' room. They get to the end of the hall, and he pushes the door open, saying, "And this is my bedroom," and turns on the light, adding with a shrug, "nothing special."

She walks in ahead of him, running her hand along his bicep as she steps in to inspect the place. It's a huge room. There's a king sized bed, a nightstand and dresser, along with a nook with two chairs, a lamp and a bookshelf. She spies his reading glasses sitting on the table between the two chairs, and she smiles at the mental image of Jamie in his glasses, late at night, reading before bed.

These rooms are far larger than anything one would find in most European homes, but she supposes because of when it was built and all the renovations it's gone through, they were able to make it nice and spacious. She'll have to ask Lamb if having large rooms in a family home was the norm back in the eighteenth century.

The room is decorated in rather neutral tones. The walls are a light gray, his furniture charcoal, and his pillows and comforter are gray, white and navy. It's masculine, but well decorated, and she wonders if he had any help picking all of these furnishings out.

"Did Jenny help decorate?" she asks with a smirk, turning to look at him. He's still leaning against his door frame, letting her inspect the place on her own for a bit.

She's standing in the middle, taking it all in.

He snorts, rolling his eyes playfully as he crosses his arms, his biceps bulging with the movement. "Aye," he confirms in a low voice, "She said Fergus and I couldna live wi' bare bones for furniture and took me shopping the first weekend we lived here."

She giggles, looking up to the large ceiling fan (another rarity in Europe, but this house seems to have all the nicest updates, along with air conditioning which pleases her little American heart), then around. There's a few picture frames on his dresser, one of him and Fergus, the other is of, who she vaguely remembers from pictures he'd shown her in the past is, Jenny along with Ian and a gaggle of children all around a Christmas tree.

His eyes are on her, she can feel them, watching her every move so carefully. She can see the way his chest heaves with nervous breaths, and she knows he feels exactly how she does.

She's been stalling, unsure of how to move them to the next phase, but finally she just sighs, and says matter-of-factly, "Take me to bed, Jamie."

He uncrosses his arms, stepping into the room finally, his pupils blown wide. He stands in front of her, so close that she has to tilt her head back to see his eyes. His voice is low and gravelly as he asks, "To bed… or to sleep?" with a wicked little grin tugging on his lips.

"Well?" she breathes, reaching up to grasp his forearms.

She raises herself up on her tiptoes, her hand snaking around his neck to pull him down to her. His lips crash against her own, each of them moaning at the contact.

Jamie's hands land on her hips, one of them traveling down to her ass. "You always loved that," she jests, raising a brow.

"What can I say, Sassenach?" he murmurs, kissing her neck, then her jaw and up to her lips. He pulls back and finishes with a, "When ye've got an ass as round and lovely as this, you canna expect me not to like it."

She giggles, shaking her head. "You are a ridiculous human being."

He laughs, but leans in for another kiss, their lips silencing his mirth. She runs her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, groaning a bit when he starts to walk them backward toward the bed.

They pull apart, and she's suddenly nervous. He's staring at her, his chest heaving just as much as hers is. "You do want this, want me, right, Jamie?"

"Oh God, yes," he says, eyes wide as the question. "O'course I do,Claire. I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe."

Her cheeks heat at his tone, and she pulls him back to her to kiss him once more.

There's a tension between them, and she understands. It's been twenty years since they last saw each other naked. They've changed a lot since then.

Jamie is standing there, observing her face like she's a Renaissance painting he's never seen before. He reaches up, cupping her jaw with his palm, and her eyes sink closed. She can feel him tuck a curl behind her ear and she smiles, opening her eyes again.

She reaches for the hem of his shirt, but he stops her hand. He looks nervous but she isn't sure why.

He bites his lip, but lifts his arms, letting her remove the garment. God, his body is immaculate and she has to remind herself to breathe.

Swallowing thickly, Claire reaches for his belt, and undoes it, tossing it to the side. It clunks to the ground as she undoes his button, sliding his zipper down. He helps her push them down, his boxers going along with them, before he kicks them off.

She steps back, mouth falling agape at the sight before her. He's beautiful. Like a Greek God carved from stone.

"Well then," Jamie says with a coquettish grin, "fair is fair." He steps closer, his eyes on her heaving cleavage. He leans down, trailing kisses down her neck to her shoulder, finally landing on the dress' neckline. It was a scoop neck, low enough to be sexy but not low enough to be inappropriate out in public. She's breathing so hard, though, that she thinks her breasts might just pop out on their own accord.

His tongue peeks out, licking along the swell of her breasts as his hands find her waist again, pulling her into his warmth.

And oh, fuck. His naked body against her clothed one just does something to her, her core growing wet at the sensation.

Jamie pulls back, reaching for the bottom of her dress. It hits just above her knees so he doesn't have far to reach. She lifts her arms, shaking her hair out once he pulls the dress over her head and tosses it into the pile of his clothes.

She reaches behind her back, unclasping her black, lacy bra. She holds the cups to her breasts, locking eyes with Jamie.

Smiling, Claire lets the garment fall to the ground. Jamie returns to where his kisses left off at the top of her breasts, moving their way down to her right nipple as his hand toys with the left. Her nipples are already stiff peaks, and she's not sure she's ever seen them this erect before.

His tongue laps at her, licking up her chest to suck a kiss to her neck. He returns the favor to the other breast before his hands find the waistline of her black thong.

Her whole body is covered in goosebumps by now, though it shouldn't be with as hot as she currently is. She's burning up for him, wanting him everywhere all at the same time.

His thumbs hook into the top of her thong, pulling it slowly down her legs. She kicks the undergarment away, standing there completely nude before him.

He steps back, inhaling sharply. He stares, his eyes roaming her body.

She knows her scar from her c-section so long ago is on display like this, but overtime she's learned not to worry about it, though it's hard sometimes. Feeling self-conscious, Claire wraps one arm around her chest and the other around her stomach. "Will you bloody well say something?"

He shakes his head as if he's pulling himself from a hazy dream. "Christ… Claire…" His eyes look glossy as he stares at her so intensely. "Ye're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

His hand reaches up, cupping her breasts. They're both breathing loudly already, and his hand leaves her breast to wrap around her neck and grip her hair, pulling her mouth to his. Her hands come up as well, landing on his chest as her toes practically lift from the ground. She can feel his erection against her thigh, and god, she cannot wait for him to be inside of her.

Pulling back, she tells him, "It's been a long time… I want to look at you."

He smirks, taking a small step back for her perusal.

Claire steps closer, one hand lifting to touch his left pec, then slowly moves it across his chest. His muscles are so hard and defined beneath her hand, and she suddenly wishes she'd been in the gym more over the last two decades.

She's so close to him that when she moves around his body, her nose and lips touch his shoulder. She gives his shoulder a little kiss before roaming her hand around to the back.

A soft gasp leaves her when she sees it. His back is covered in scars from his shoulders to the top of his rear. Her hands lightly brush against them, tilting her head to the side.

Jamie turns his head, his voice sounding ashamed when he says, "I should have warned ye about those; I'm sorry."

Shaking her head, she kisses his shoulder just above one of his scars. "You have nothing to apologize for, Jamie," she whispers, her hand brushing over the collection of lines on his back. She can tell they aren't recent, and she's so curious to know when and how he got them, but she won't ask, not yet. Claire leans up, pressing her lips to the spot in between his shoulder blades, her hand lightly grazing his ass cheek. "You don't have to tell me now," she assures, kissing his back again. "Later. Only if you want."

"Aye," he murmurs, his head moving to the opposite side, following her movements as she slinks her body around his, completing her circle. Her hands slide down his forearm, inspecting every last inch of his body.

He's so big, his one hand could cover both of her dainty ones, and the thought makes her smile.

"Are ye ready?"

Her eyes flick up to meet his, and she smiles sweetly. "Yes."

They lean in simultaneously, arms wrapping around one another as their lips meet. Jamie's calloused hands wander down, down, down to her ass, cupping it in his hands. The feel of his rough skin against her soft sends a new wave of goosebumps across her body.

He picks her up, her long legs wrapping around his torso as he walks them back the few steps to his mattress, her lips never leaving his.

Claire's hand is tangled in his red curls, and she feels as if her heart might explode from all these sensations hitting her at once.

He sits on the edge of the bed, her in his lap and legs straddling him. He stretches his arm out, reaching for his night stand. She leans with him since she's in his lap, grinning when he pulls out a condom.

"You don't have to," she mumbles against his skin, peppering kisses to his neck. Her tongue trails up the vein in his neck, going up to his jawline. "I have an IUD."

He nods, saying only if she's sure, and she smiles, assuring him that she is. With that taken care of, Jamie flips them over so her back is fully against the mattress and he's hovering above her.

She's only half way up the bed, so they move at the same time to shift her up toward the pillows. It's awkward, their limbs tangling together and causing their heads to bumps slightly together. Laughing, Claire beams up at him as they finally get settled on the bed.

Her lips make contact with his, then his jaw, making their way down his neck and to his chest, returning the favor from earlier by sucking on his nipple, giving it a little love bite.

He grunts, hands gripping her hips. "Christ, Sassenach," he breathes, kissing her again.

Jamie props himself up on one elbow, the opposite hand trailing down her body to her center. His large fingers part her slick folds, finding their way inside.

"Fuck," she rasps, the feel of just his finger alone making her want to come. She squirms beneath his ministrations as he adds a second finger, his palm rubbing against her clit as he does. "Yes."

He adds a third, and oh god, then flicks and twirls his finger around her clit, teasing the spot where she wants him most.

Jamie kisses down her body, sucking her hip bone before moving back up to her mouth again.

She's more than wet enough, she's well aware of the fact, but more than his fingers, she wants his cock. His fingers move inside her, deeper, harder this time, rutting against her g-spot with wild abandon. She could come like this, she knows she could, but she wants more, wants all of him. "Jamie, I'm ready."

He smiles down at her, biting his lip when she reaches between them and grasps his cock in her hands. He's so hard and she can't wait to feel him inside of her once again.

Spreading her legs, she nods her consent, and he smiles. "Do it now," she commands, and Jamie takes himself in his hand, guiding his cock to her entrance. Claire cries out at the sensation, hands tugging on his biceps, drawing him nearer. He's not small, she'll give him that, but he's not too big that it's painful. He fits right to the hilt, his balls slapping against her skin as he drives in and out of her over and over.

She grips his shoulders, nails digging into his skin. Her body moves beneath his, moaning and calling out for him to give her more. "Harder, yessss," she hisses into the space between them.

He listens and obeys, giving her exactly what she wants. "God, Claire," he grunts, fucking into her even deeper than before.

Reaching down, he rubs at her swollen clit, bringing her closer and closer to the edge already.

"I'm… I'm gonna come," she tells him breathlessly, her body curving up so her head can reach his neck. She bites down, sucking on the skin there and moving her lips down his neck. Her hands move all around, unsure of what or where to touch next.

She settles on his ass, grabbing his round cheeks and pulling him as close as humanly possible to her, knowing full well there will be nail marks left there for the rest of the night.

"Give me your mouth, Sassenach," he pants, leaning down as Claire moves up, their lips crashing together in a heated kiss. She cries into the kiss, pressing her lips harder against his.

With what strength she has left, she rolls them over, Jamie following without complaint.

"Fuck, yes," he says, smirking up at her as she rides his cock.

She slides against him, her juices coating his skin. Her hands are on his chest, his on her waist, gripping and squeezing as they both grow closer to release.

Leaning down, she kisses his chest and his hand tangles into her hair, pulling her face to his. Jamie kisses her lips, it's sloppy with the way she's grinding against his sex, teeth almost clashing together, but it's wonderful. Claire hasn't been fucked like this in she doesn't know how long, and she is truly convinced no one could ever come close to being this good.

"Jesus H., fuck, Jamie," she babbles when he thrusts harder into her, hitting that perfect spot. He's right where she needs him, needs more, needs him to never leave. "More, yessss, ohgodyes!" She connects with his lips once more, unable to let them go for too long. Claire moans into his mouth, then sits up straighter, rocking into him with a desperation she's never felt before with anyone, and the sensation is almost too overwhelming.

"Claire," he pants, one hand reaching up to grab her breast. He toys with her nipple, while his other hand grips her waist. "Oh shite, I'm so close," he calls.

She grins coyly, leaning down again and telling him she is, too. She rocks harder, faster against him as her muscles clench tightly around his cock, and his eyes squeeze shut. He bites his lip, his head tilting up toward the ceiling as if he's holding on for dear life not to come just yet.

It's adorable, really, but he doesn't need to hold on much longer. She's right on the edge, and when his hand moves down to touch her sex as well, she explodes, crying out in ecstasy as she finds her sweet release.

Jamie isn't far behind, giving into the aching pleasure. "Oh god, oh, Claire," he practically whimpers desperately, his lips hovering centimeters. He spills into her with two more hard thrusts as she milks his cock for every last drop. His head falls back into the pillow, rucking up into her one last time as his orgasm subsides, his body twitching in satisfaction. Her walls flutter around him, still feeling her own aftershocks of that dizzying pleasure she was just afforded.

They stay there for a while, breathing heavily while they're still joined together. Her hands rest on his chest, nails lightly scratching. She smiles down at him, leaning in to kiss his lips.

His mouth finds hers and they settle there for a little bit longer, tongues meeting and hands roaming about.

Jamie pulls back, moving his eyes down to look at where they're still joined. "I ken it's no' the sexiest thing to say right now, but I felt like my heart was going tae burst."

She giggles at how cute he is, rolling off of his body and landing on the mattress. Her hand moves to rest on her stomach while the other lays beside her, her finger tips trailing along his comforter, feeling the fabric.

That was incredible. Earth shattering. She knows she's never been fucked like that by anyone, nor does she think anyone will ever be able to live up to what James Fraser just gave her.

Jamie rolls off the bed with a grunt and pads into the bathroom. She can hear him moving about but her eyes are closed, reveling in the feelings she just experienced.

"Here," he murmurs, and she jumps, not realizing he was already back. He has a wet washcloth in his hand, and she takes it from him, cleaning herself up a bit. It's warm and she's thankful he had the good sense to not use cold water.

"Thank you," Claire tells him, smiling over at him as he climbs back onto the bed.

He tells her to put the washcloth on the night stand beside her, they'd deal with it later.

Jamie lets out a laugh that only seems to make it to his throat but doesn't actually come out before saying, "I guess we should undo the covers unless we plan tae sleep on top of it stark naked all night."

Laughing, Claire rolls onto her side. She bends her elbow and props her head against her hand, saying, "I suppose you're right." She gives him a kiss before sighing and slinking off the mattress.

He rolls the opposite way so they're on both sides of the bed and together they pull back the covers.

She climbs back in, humming as the feel of his cool sheets hits her heated body. "This feels nice," she murmurs, eyes closing.

They each roll to their sides, sharing sweet, satisfied smiles with one another. Jamie leans in, urging her to do the same and they exchange lazy kisses as their hands lightly roam the other's body, intoxicated on the feeling of one another.

They move onto their backs, each letting out a content sigh. They lay there for a while, the cool air hitting them as they catch their breath.

Glancing over, she sees his head is against his pillows, one arm bent beneath his head to prop him up a bit. His other hand is in the space between them, and she rolls over, taking up her same position from moments ago with her head propped on her hand.

Her other hand reaches out, nails gliding softly up and down his forearm.

They sit there, silent, both enjoying what they just did, before Jamie breaks the silence, asking, "I didna hurt ye, did I?"

"No," she giggles, brows furrowing, "why would you think that?"

He grunts, smirking, "Ye're just so much smaller than I remember, I didna want to harm ye."

"Smaller than when I was eighteen?" she asks incredulously, laughing at the thought.

His smirk deepens, those slight dimples he has starting to show as his head lolls to the side to look at her. He rolls onto his side to face her, propping his torso up with a bent arm on the mattress.

His smile is so cute, she could look at it every day and not grow tired of it. It makes her happy to see it, makes her stomach flutter like she has butterflies inside.

"Well, mebbe just smaller than…" He widens his eyes, stammering, "ah, nevermind."

She laughs at how embarrassed he is, comforting him by saying, "I know you've slept with other people, Jamie. I didn't expect you to be a monk all this time."

He laughs from one side of his mouth, leaning in to kiss her lips. "No' a monk, but I havena been with many others."

"Neither have I," she admits, and the comment leads them to talk about their past.

They briefly speak of their divorces and how their friends tried to set them up with people so many times once they were single. It's nice to share these missing pieces of their past, but the details can wait, maybe until tomorrow because she definitely wants to hear more about this ex-wife of his he'd mentioned, but for now, she's focused on his naked body before her.

She rolls closer, pressing her hands to his chest as she climbs on top of him, kissing her way down his torso until her mouth is at his cock. She would ask him if he's ready, but he's standing at attention already.

"Ye little minx," he says, a smirk tugging on his lips. His hand reaches down, resting on the back of her neck as she scoots further down.

With a smirk of her own, she licks her lips and takes him into her mouth. She licks up from the base to the tip, following a vein she finds there. He's thick, and god, he fills her whole mouth, but she loves it. She sucks at his tip, cheeks hollowing as they work his hardened cock.

Jamie grunts, his hips jutting up and pushing his cock deeper into her mouth. He hits the back of her throat and she moans, vibrating against his flesh which causes him to moan even louder. He's raspsing out a, "Claire," and, "fuck, oh god," which only encourages her more.

She sucks him harder until he's spilling his seed into her mouth.

Claire swallows and releases him with a wet pop, kissing her way back up his chest to lay in the crook of his arms. Placing a gentle kiss to his pec, she slides her hand up to rest there and places her cheek against it, nestled in his embrace.

They talk for a while about Fergus and Julia, swapping stories of how they were as children and young teens.

She's laughing so hard at a story of Fergus falling from a tree and giving Jamie a heart attack, which turned out to be a prank Fergus was playing on his dad, that she has to sit up to catch her breath.

God, she hasn't laughed like this in so long. It feels nice.

"Well, enough about the kids for now," she says, standing from the bed. "I'm ravenous."

Jamie's eyebrows twitch up as he reaches for her hand, "Oh, aye, I can help with that," he purrs, and she chuckles, swatting at his hand.

"I need a snack," she tells him, tugging on his arm to make him rise from the bed.

Laughing, Jamie stands as well. He walks to his dresser, grabbing a clean pair of boxers and slipping them on. He takes out a t-shirt and hands it to her, which she gratefully accepts. "I'll grab some yoga pants on the way down to the kitchen," she says, kissing his shoulder from behind.

Once in the kitchen, Jamie rummages through the cupboards, listing off the snack items he has in the house. "I'm no' a big snacker, Sassenach, so I'm no' sure what ye want."

She stands, walking around the kitchen island and opening his fridge. She spots a bowl of grapes, and her eyes light up. "Can we have these?" she asks, holding up the bowl.

Jamie grins, moving to stand behind her. "Of course," he says, kissing her neck.

He takes the bowl, setting it in the sink and letting the cold water run over them to wash them off. While the water is running, he glances up at her on the other side of the island. They stare at one another, and he reaches across the counter to take her hand. Leaning down, Jamie kisses her palm, then her wrist, before holding her hand in his. His eyes look up at her, and he says, "I dinna ken what it is between us, what it's always been, but—"

"It's still there," she finishes for him, and their smiles light up.

He comes around the counter to take her in his arms, but before long, remembers the running water. Laughing, he goes to turn it off, wiping the outside of the bowl clean before they head back upstairs.

{**********************}

They finish their snack in bed, leaving the bowl on his nightstand. Once finished, they have another few rounds of pleasuring one another—once with Claire perched upon Jamie's face, arms pressed against the headboard for support, which was thrilling. Now, as she's recovered from the aftershocks of her orgasm, they spend time slowly making love in the early hours of the morning. Bodies facing one another, eyes that glisten with tears connect as Jamie and Claire slowly rock against the other, savoring the feel of finally being together again.

They both lay there, breaths panting, as they bask in the afterglow. Jamie's hand holds hers, and she lifts their joined hands, studying how perfectly they fit together. Smiling softly over at him, Claire leans in and presses a kiss to his cheek before excusing herself to the restroom to freshen up.

When she gets back, she plops down next to Jamie. Scooting closer to him, he turns on his side to stare down at her.

"So," she says, nodding toward him. "The scars?"

She watches as Jamie's face falls and grows serious, so she tells him he doesn't have to talk about it yet if he doesn't want to.

"Nae, it's alright," he concedes, leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek. "I have no secrets from ye, Sassenach. 'Tis just hard to talk about, ken?" She nods and he confesses that his scars are the reason he never wanted to go any further on their FaceTime calls and get naked, not that she would've seen his back through the phone, but he didn't want to run the risk of turning a certain way and having her see them. "I didna want it tae ruin the moment when I couldna be there to hold ye and comfort ye at the sight of them."

"I wouldn't have been scared or in need of comfort, Jamie," she tells him sincerely, sitting up in the bed. She sits criss-cross in the middle of the mattress, facing him, and he sits up as well, propping his back against the headboard. "They're scars. Everyone has them."

She leans back a touch, lifting her oversized t-shirt and pulling the hem of her yoga pants down. "See?" she asks, pointing to the scar on her abdomen from her c-section. "I have this and you don't seem to mind."

"I dinna," he assures, reaching out to caress the scar, "I couldna."

"See?" she says again, shrugging, "Just scars."

Claire leans up to kiss him, then settles back down into her criss-cross position. With a sigh, Jamie looks at her, smiling softly. "Alright, Sassenach. Ye're right."

Smiling, she raises her brow in question and he grins, taking a deep breath.

"Well, years ago, Fraser's Ridge wasn't quite as large as it is now," he says, clasping his hands over his belly. "I still had to take on quite a lot of the responsibility, especially wi' Ian still trying tae learn how tae use his new leg."

She nods, sliding down to lay on her side, torso propped up by her bent arm.

"I was twenty when it happened," he says, huffing, "Just a dumb bairn, thinkin' I could do it all." He tells her how they were just starting to pave the roads that led up to the main building, so most of it was still gravel. "They'd been doing construction that morning on th'road in front of the building, but the workers had gone for the day and I just ken I could at least get the gravel that was left moved out of the way for them in the morning." He rolls his eyes, giving her a small smile. "I took the tractor and was collecting the gravel, tossing it into a pile off tae the side. There was glass all in it and bits of concrete that had flown into it from their construction." Sighing, he tells her how Jenny had come out, fussing and hollering for him to pack it up for the night and go home. "I stood up from my seat 'cause I couldna hear her properly. I guess I was thinkin', well, I clearly wasna thinkin', but I thought that standin' and leanin' out the side would let me hear her rant." Claire closes her eyes, having a feeling she knows what he's about to tell her. "My boot's laces snagged on the pedal though, and I dinna ken, Sassenach, just an odd set of events all happening at once, I s'ppose." He shrugs, eyes closing briefly. "I tripped and fell off the tractor, caught my back on the front tire as I did and landed in the pile of gravel and glass."

He closes his eyes again, opening them to look at her. They're glassy and she tears up, too, just imagining it. "All I could hear was Jenny screamin' fer me tae get up," he says, a tear falling from his eye. "She was sae scared."

Claire reaches up, wiping his tear away before rubbing her hand along his stomach. She leans in, placing a kiss to his abdomen before laying her head on his stomach. "I'm sorry, Jamie," she whispers around a lump in her throat, "that sounds terrifying."

She can feel his belly bounce with the little huff of a laugh he gives her, saying, "The worst part was hearin' Jenny scream. She'd already witnessed Ian losing his leg, now seein' her brother… it took her almost a year tae even go back to the farm."

"I can't imagine."

Jamie sighs, finishing his tale with how he spent weeks in the hospital, his back wrapped in bandages and having to undergo skin graphs. His arms and legs were cut and bruised but his back took the brunt of the fall.

"'Tis all in the past now, mo nighean donn," he whispers, kissing the top of her head. His hand is warm on her back as it moves up and down, soothing her and pulling her closer to sleep.

She yawns, but tries to cover her mouth before he sees. But he does, and he snickers, pulling her up from his torso. "Let's get some sleep, eh? We've got the next two weeks to reminisce about all the shitty parts of our past."

Claire chuckles groggily, shaking her head, but agrees. Her jet lag is finally catching up to her no matter how badly she wants to stay awake and talk with him all night. She cuddles closer to Jamie, his arm wrapping protectively around her as his eyes close. "Goodnight, Sassenach," he murmurs, peeking his eyes open one last time to place a lingering kiss on her lips.

She smiles into the kiss, her hand coming to cup his jaw as she delivers a, "Goodnight, Jamie," once they pull apart.

He's asleep in an instant, and she grins, taking a moment to observe how he still smiles in his sleep. It warms her heart, and with that—wrapped in her manfriend's arms—Claire feels completely at peace as she falls asleep with a smile of her own on her face.

{*************************}

Hope you liked this one! Please let me know what you thought!

Chapter Text

Chapter Five:

Claire awakes the next morning so peacefully, stretching her arms luxuriously up and out to her sides, pushing her feet down at the same time to stretch her legs. She's never been so comfortable in a bed that wasn't her own before.

She's sore. But in the best way imaginable.

Last night was amazing, wonderful, mind blowing… the list of adjectives could go on and on. It was, hands down, the best sex of her entire life.

The sun is beaming in from his bedroom window, and she yawns and turns her face to the left, letting the sunlight warm her skin. She reaches out to the opposite side of the bed behind her, searching for Jamie.

His spot is empty, so she sits up, running her fingers through her wild curls.

Claire smiles at his large t-shirt she's still in, pulling the collar up to smell his lingering cologne and laundry scent.

She can smell his shower gel wafting from the bathroom, and god, a shower sounds heavenly. She desperately needs one after last night.

As she sits up, she spies a piece of paper on the nightstand beside her.

Went to get us breakfast. Relax and shower, Sassenach. I'll be back soon.

Smiling sleepily, Claire rises from the bed and pads across the room to the bathroom. She can feel the steam from his shower still filling the room. It's not hot, so she knows he didn't just get out and she assumes he's been gone for a while to get the food. She hops in the shower, washing her body off with Jamie's body wash. She just washed her hair before her flight so she thinks she can make it another day before needing to wash it again.

Getting out, she wraps up in a towel, darting down the hall to the guest room. She grabs a clean pair of underwear and slips them on before lugging her suitcase down to Jamie's room. No sense in keeping it where she won't be sleeping.

She settles her luggage in a corner of his room, then puts on her yoga pants and another one of Jamie's t-shirts from his drawer. This one has the Fraser's Ridge emblem on it and is old and thin, a few frayed holes around the collar, but it makes the shirt even more comfortable.

Catching a glimpse of her phone buried beneath Jamie's note, she realizes she never plugged it in last night. She'd been too preoccupied. There's still 36% left on it, and she's once again thankful for a phone battery that lasts so long; it helps when she works long shifts and needs to keep in touch with Julia.

She's got a new email notification, so she quickly opens it. Seeing that it's from her boss—Dr. Rawlings, the chief of surgery—she sighs forcefully and closes out of the app. It's another message from him to her and a handful of other surgeons about his retirement, reminding them how his departure comes with an opening as the hospital's surgery chief.

It's a very prestigious position, and Claire is one of a dozen doctors in consideration for it. She'd found out only a few days before leaving for Scotland, but didn't want to mention it just yet, knowing that those pamphlets from Joe still sat in her bedroom where she looked over them each night, imagining a life working over here instead.

Suddenly, a whiff of bacon hits her senses, and her stomach growls. Making her way down the hallway, the stairs, and to the back of the house where the kitchen sits, she smiles brightly at the sight before her.

Jamie is standing there, gray sweat pants hanging low on his waist, a black t-shirt hugging his muscles in all the right places. His bum is shaking to the music softly playing from his phone while he scrambles some eggs and flips the bacon over in the frying pan.

He's trying to sing along, but he's never been able to carry a tune, and it makes her laugh silently to herself remembering all those times he used to sing to her in the car, purposely making his voice even worse to try and make her laugh.

Claire watches him for a moment, a dopey smile on her face. She's so happy, she doesn't think anything could take this feeling away from her.

He doesn't notice her, so she sneaks up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and nuzzling her nose into his shoulder blade. "Mmm," she moans, placing a kiss on his shoulder, "something smells good."

His head turns to try and see her, and he's got the same stupid smile on his face that she's currently wearing. "Good morning, Sassenach. Sleep well?"

She lets go of Jamie's torso, walking over to the bar stools at the island and climbing up into one. "Yes," she breathes, giving him a soft smile when he turns to look at her, "very well. You?"

Jamie snickers, stating, "It was nice havin' ye in my bed, that's fer sure, but I canna say I've missed the way ye move around like a wild wee starfish all night."

"I do not!" she defends, knowing he is absolutely correct.

"Aye, ye do," he chuckles, pointing at her with his spatula, "and ye ken it. I told ye that when we were bairns, and I'm tellin' it tae ye now."

He's right. There's no denying it. It wasn't often they slept the whole night together as teenagers; the family Jamie was staying with for the school year weren't always comfortable with him staying out all night with a girl. On a handful of occasions, though, he was able to tell them he was spending the night with his friend, Lambert, and would sneak to her house knowing he technically wasn't lying since he was spending the night at Quentin Lambert Beachump's house. Granted, Uncle Lamb didn't know Jamie had climbed up the tree outside her bedroom window and climbed in all those nights, but, semantics...

But they had enough nights together for him to know she rarely could stay still while sleeping.

"I can't help it that you're the lightest sleeper known to man; you'd wake up if I coughed." She grins, shrugging one shoulder up. "Besides… you love it."

He chuckles again, relenting and saying, "I do," as he turns back around to finish their breakfast.

"I thought your note said you'd gone to get food," she notes, nodding her head toward his frying pan in curiosity.

Jamie grins, jutting his chin behind her at the table. "Aye, I did." She looks over her shoulder, spying a large brown paper bag on the table. "But the bakery only has baked goods, and I wasna sure what ye'd want, sae I figured I'd make something, too."

"That bakery I wanted to go to?!" she asks excitedly, hopping down and going over to the bag. She'd seen the bakery yesterday after their dinner date, and she told him she wanted to go back to try it. It had smelled heavenly, and even now in his kitchen, the aroma is just as wonderful.

"Aye," he says with a smile. "I picked up an assortment of things. I figured after last night," his voice drops with those last two words, a clear coyness in his voice, and she rolls her eyes with a smirk, "ye wouldna want tae go out and get breakfast so early."

"We were up rather late," she declares smugly, crossing her arms over her chest. "And you are correct. I needed that sleep… especially after being up all night on top of my jet lag."

She walks around the island to where he's working. Standing on her tiptoes, she leans in to kiss his cheek before turning to retrieve plates from the cabinet he's directed her to. "Glasses?"

He points to the cabinet on his other side, patting her bum in the process, and she moves to get those as well.

Jamie plates their food while she opens the refrigerator, pulling out a jug of apple cider and filling their cups with it.

"Ah, the good stuff," he says, walking their plates to the table. "'Tis from the ridge, ken? We sell it there, but Ian and I always sneak a few bottles home fer ourselves."

Smiling, Claire joins him at the table, setting his glass down in front of him and leaning in to give him another kiss. She can't seem to stop doing that now, but he doesn't appear to mind one bit.

Jamie empties the contents of the bakery bag onto the table, and Claire's eyes widen at the choices. "Jamie," she laughs, "I could eat on this for the next two weeks!"

He chuckles, saying he wasn't sure how hungry she was or what she'd be in the mood for.

Smiling softly at his thoughtfulness, she peers at the selection—an apple muffin, a blueberry one, and a cranberry, scones, plain croissants and chocolate filled ones, along with butter tarts, nut tarts, and something she can't quite identify. "What's this?"

Jamie glances at what she's picked up, explaining that it's called an eccles cake and that it's essentially a puff pastry filled with marmalade, currants, and spices.

"Hm," she hums, placing one on her plate to try. She also takes a blueberry muffin, knowing full well between that, the eggs and the bacon, she won't be able to finish anything on her plate. She'll just be sampling it all, she supposes.

Jamie puts a butter tart and a chocolate scone on his plate, before smiling over at her. "Eat up, Sassenach!"

They talk over breakfast, planning the next few days and what all she wants to do. She definitely still wants to go to one of the boutiques she saw last night, planning to find something for Julia, but, "I think today we should stay here."

He grins provocatively at the suggestion, raising his eyebrows while taking a sip of the juice. "Is that so?"

She nods. "Yes," she says, grinning around the rim of her glass, "we didn't quite finish seeing the whole house last night, plus," she leans in, trying to contain her silly smile as she finishes chewing her food, "I want to have my wicked way with you."

"Is that so?" he laughs, kissing her pursed lips. "I think that can be arranged."

They laugh, talking together for a few minutes until Jamie's phone pings with a text.

"Ah," he says, wiping his mouth and slipping on his glasses, "'Tis Fergus." She smiles at the mention of his son, and she reminds herself to grab her phone from upstairs later and text Julia. "He says he's coming into town tomorrow fer a few days!" Jamie beams. "Would ye like tae meet him?"

"Of course!" she exclaims, eyes lighting up. "I would love that. Lunch tomorrow, perhaps?"

Jamie nods, typing out a reply to his son.

She pops the last bit of her muffin into her mouth and excuses herself for a moment, dashing upstairs to grab her own phone before joining him again. "I need to text Julia," she tells him at his questioning gaze. "I only sent her a quick text yesterday when I landed but nothing after that." She looks sheepish, knowing she'd been far too distracted by Jamie, but also with the time difference, she figured Julia was busy with friends and then asleep.

"Och," he smiles, "well Fergus says he canna do lunch fer a few more days, he's taking Marsali somewhere special for the weekend, whate'er he means by that." She chuckles at his tone, knowing she'd be exactly the same way if Julia were to be dating someone so seriously. "They'll be back Tuesday. You leave next Friday, yeah?" She nods. "So I'll see if he can do Wednesday or Thursday."

"That's fine by me, any day works," she says, reaching over to hold his hand.

He smiles, reading the response from Fergus, telling her Wednesday works with him. "There's a cafe inside the Victorian Market we always like tae go to, if ye want to try that. I can show ye around the whole place while we're there."

"Sure!" she agrees, "I'm up for anything."

She types out a text to Julia, telling her good morning even though it's only five in the morning there and she's well aware her seventeen year old is still fast asleep. She attaches a picture she took last night of her and Jamie at dinner with the view from the restaurant behind them, telling Julia that she was already having a great time and thanking her for convincing her to come back.

With a content sigh, she clicks her phone shut, looking up at Jamie. "This time difference is difficult," she laughs, "I don't know how you did it for a month."

He laughs, saying, "'Twas easy when ye work the crazy hours ye do." She laughs too, nodding in agreement. "Plus ye're an early riser so by the time ye were wakin' up, I was on my way to work so it's the perfect time tae talk wi' ye."

Nodding, she smiles, picking up her phone to send Joe a text as well, asking if Julia had been fine and if he needed anything. He must be at work already or about to head there because despite the early hour in Boston, he sends back a text.

All is well, LJ :) Julia was at Lizzie's for a while yesterday but came home a little after dinner. She helped Gail clean up the kitchen and then went to her 'room'

Claire smiles at the thought of Julia being so helpful, and she writes back, thanking him again.

A few seconds later, though, another text from Joe comes in.

I wasn't gonna say anything but I know Julia will… Frank called her last night.

What the fuck… she looks to the ceiling and huffs, replying back to him.

Oh no. What did he have to say this time?

Last time he'd reached out to her or Julia was four years ago, wishing her good luck as she started high school and sent her some money for new clothes.

Frank's been out of their life completely since Julia was five. They divorced when Julia was four and he tried to act like a good father for the following year until he married his mistress and started a new family.

He reaches out once in a blue moon, she supposes to assuage his guilt for being a shit father, and sends Julia money every month which she keeps in a savings account to use after college. Smart girl.

Asking if she wanted him to send extra money for graduation.

Claire shakes her head, grunting in disgust at the man she once thought she loved.

He can keep that money and shove it up his ass.

"Everything alright, Sassenach?" Jamie asks, folding his glasses as he removes them and setting them beside his plate.

She looks up from her phone, forcing out a smile. "Just dealing with my ex," she tells him, sighing and rolling her eyes as she takes a bite of her eggs.

The comment leads them to talk about their pasts, both of them starting with their ex-spouses.

"I met Frank when I was a sophomore in college getting my undergrad." She shakes her head at the memory of how infatuated she'd been. "He was older, and I thought he was fascinating," she laughs and Jamie smiles, both taking a few more bites of their breakfast. "It was a whirlwind romance, really," she explains, telling him how Frank wanted to be a history professor and was enthralled with Uncle Lamb's stories. They'd spend hours with Lamb, the two of them sharing stories and talking of the past. "We got married when I was, Christ, twenty. I got pregnant and had Julia by the time I was twenty-one."

"Then what happened?" he asks, "Ye said that first day that ye werena married verra long to him."

Claire scoffs, drinking from her cup. This should feel awkward, not only talking about her previous marriage, but doing it with Jamie of all people. But, for whatever reason, it doesn't. "Frank discovered that he liked the thrill of cheating on me," she declares, and she can see the anger flash in Jamie's eyes. She smiles softly, comfortingly, reaching across the table to take his hand. "It's fine, really. I was obviously really angry when it happened." Claire tells Jamie how Frank fell in love with his mistress, Sandy, and asked for a divorce. "The divorce was final just five years after we wed."

She sighs at the memories, wondering how much different her life would have turned out if she'd never married Frank. She wouldn't have Julia, though, and a life without her wasn't an option. "So, there I was, a single, divorced mother of a toddler by the time I was twenty-five." She shrugs, thankfully able to smile about it now. It is what it is.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," she assures sincerely. "I was honestly too focused on medical school and Julia to really comprehend what had happened. I was in my second year of medical school, and was on track to graduate early if I took enough courses over the summer, too." She goes on, telling Jamie how she was too hurt after the divorce to date for several years. "I was really angry, and hurt, but I just focused on school and Julia, school and Julia, that was my motto."

Jamie smiles, saying that he just knows she's a wonderful mother.

"What about you?" she asks, "You said you were married before?"

"Aye," he grunts, standing up from the table. He stretches his back, walking to the counter to grab the apple cider. He brings it to the table, refilling both their glasses.

Smiling, she thanks him, and he leans down to place a soft kiss to her lips. Jamie takes the jug and returns it to the refrigerator, then joins her back at the table, reaching for the last nut tart. He breaks a bit off, popping it into his mouth with a grin. "Laoghaire was her name."

She smiles back, nodding in acknowledgement of what he's just said, but asking with a mock offense, "And what if I wanted the last one?"

He snorts, taking the other half not eaten yet and hands it to her.

Snickering, she takes it, adding it to her plate where she still had a piece of bacon and part of the eccles cake left to eat.

"Anyway," she snorts, "tell me about Laoghaire."

Jamie tells her, with some disdain in his voice, that he met his ex when he was twenty and married her when they were twenty-two. "And quickly divorced by time I turned twenty-three."

"Oh, no," she chuckles, unable to hold it in at the face he's making talking about this.

"Aye," he huffs, "I ken now she was more interested in my family's money. Fraser's Ridge was starting to take off, slowly but surely, and everyone knew it would be a success." He rolls his eyes, adding, "And she did, too. She wanted in on the gravy train, I s'ppose, but luckily, Jenny saw right through her."

He says Jenny caught Laoghaire in a lie and before long, Jamie uncovered more and more secrets about who she really was as a person.

They share a laugh, saying how unlucky they've been in love. Both dated a few other people, Jamie going out with a girl named Mary for a few years, but, "It was mainly just convenient, no real feelings involved," he admits.

Claire chuckles, saying, "I know the feeling. I dated a guy named Charles when I was about twenty-nine or thirty, but it was the same thing." She shrugs. "Just convenient."

She mentions how Louise set her up on a few dates but nothing ever clicked, and he says the same about his dates. He only dated one other girl, Annalise, a few years ago but he's been single for the last three years.

She can relate, and tells him so, saying she dated a man named Tom a few years prior, but for the last two years she's been single as well.

It's nice, here with him, settled at the kitchen table and talking about their pasts. She thought it would be weird, but she finds it helps her put the pieces of who Jamie has been for the last two decades together.

Her phone goes off again, and it's Joe.

Haha about along the lines of what I told Jules last night. Don't worry about it, Lady Jane. She knows how to ignore her father like the rest of us.

Smiling, and knowing her best friend is right, she sighs, sending one more text.

You're right. Thanks, Joe. Tell Julia to text me when she's awake.

Looking up from her phone and taking her last bite of bacon, she says, "So, show me the parts of the house we didn't get to explore much of last night."

Jamie beams, clearly excited. "I didna get tae show ye the best part yet," he announces, collecting their dishes and putting them in the dishwasher while she cleans up the baked goods still left. She puts them back in the bag and takes it over to the kitchen counter while Jamie dries his hands off. He meets her half way to the door, wrapping his arms around her middle and pulling her close. Her arms loop around his neck as he leans in, their lips molding together in a tender kiss. Pulling apart, Jamie rests his forehead against hers, both taking a moment to breathe the other in before he says, "Come on."

She follows beside him as he walks her to a room just off of the living room. It's a massive library with an entire wall of built-in bookshelves. There's a plush couch with oversized cushions and throw pillows and two chairs on the opposite side of the room, surrounded by two other shelves of books.

"Oh my god," she breathes in astonishment, walking along the wall of books and letting her finger delicately skim across the spine on each one. "Jamie, this is amazing."

"'Tis my favorite room in the whole house," he declares, smiling as he takes a seat on the couch. He pats the spot beside him, beckoning her over.

She joins him, curling her feet up on the cushion beside her as Jamie's arm wraps around her shoulders. Claire lays her head on his chest, both sitting and enjoying the silence for a few moments.

Jamie reaches over to the small table beside the couch, lifting a book he'd left there. He opens to where he'd left off, softly reading to her about the tales of some fictional character. She has no idea what's happening in the book, seeing as he's several chapters in, but she closes her eyes nonetheless, letting his voice rumble in his chest against her ear, surrounding her in a comfort she hasn't felt in a very long time.

Her eyes scan the titles of the books on the shelf in front of her as he wraps up his chapter, and she notices they are mostly all in French. When he finishes the chapter and looks down at her, she asks, "Do you still study different languages?"

Jamie closes his book with a thunk, placing it back on the table and setting his glasses atop it. She can feel his heart beating beneath her ear as he tells her, "Aye, Fergus is originally from France, ye see, so we speak it a lot. When he was younger, it made him happy tae hear me say things in his native tongue, so I would speak it more and more."

"How did he end up in Scotland?" She presses on Jamie's chest to push herself up, turning to look at him.

He chuckles, saying, "No one really kens how." He shrugs. "The orphanage just told me he was dropped off there when he was a baby, no note or anything, and they'd taken him in. They searched fer a while fer his family, but no one e'er came tae claim him."

"Well, he's lucky to have found a family with you," she states, taking his hand in hers. Their fingers link together and she lets their hands rest against her thigh. "I bet he loved having Jenny and Ian's kids close by growing up."

"Aye," he laughs, saying Fergus and Jenny's oldest, "Wee" Jamie, are only a year apart and were always causing trouble together.

She laughs at the image, knowing Julia was just as mischievous with little Lenny Abernathy.

"Do you miss it?" she asks suddenly, squeezing his hand. "Linguistics?"

She watches as his chest rises and falls with a hefty sigh, and she waits patiently for his reply. "Aye," he finally confesses, eyes scanning the foreign books before them. "I still know French, obviously, and Gaelic and Latin from growing up," he tells her, looking back into her eyes. "But I canna lie and say I dinna miss studying it."

Her lips twist, knowing he had been so excited in the past to go to college to major in linguistics. He'd always wanted to be an interpreter for a big business, saying it would give him the chance to learn and use more languages than what he already knew. There were of course multiple jobs he could have taken, knowing that a linguistics major could be needed anywhere from working in a school to a hospital or even being an editor of books written in foreign languages. The possibilities had been endless for him.

He sighs again, running a hand through his red curls. "I learned Spanish a few years ago, but the most challenging one so far has been Chinese."

"You speak Chinese?" she asks, her voice rising in pitch from sheer amazement.

He smiles, saying, "It's a fascinating language, and I've gotten a good bit of it down but I still have a lot tae learn before I vacation there."

God, he's so intelligent. It makes him even hotter, and Claire can't control herself any longer. She slides closer, looping her leg around him so she's straddling his waist. He grins, hands landing on her hips as she takes his jaw in her hands. He's scruffy now, not having shaved, and she loves the feel of it beneath her palms. Leaning down, she whispers, "Your brain is so sexy," before kissing him deeply.

He grunts into the kiss, his hands making their way to her ass as she moves her hips against him. "Is it now?"

"Mmhmm," she giggles, pressing a kiss to his ear, then biting his lobe. "I love listening to you talk about your job," she murmurs, kissing his neck, "You're so knowledgeable," another kiss to his lips, "and when you talk about the languages you know," she purrs, grinding her hips harder against him, "God, I don't know," she chuckles breathlessly, "it's just so… sexy."

He groans into her neck, biting lightly at her skin. His lips move up to her jaw, then her lips, and finally to her ear, whispering into it, "Tu es si belle."

She gasps, pulling back to look down into his beautiful blue eyes. She bites her lip, saying, "I know that one." She grins, kissing him once more. "And I think you are beautiful, too."

He laughs, reaching for the hem of her shirt. He makes quick work of removing it, her nipples instantly hardening as the cool air reaches them. Jamie lays her down on the couch, hovering above her. "Mm," he moans, placing a kiss to her neck and moving down to her chest, peppering kisses all around her breasts but not actually taking a nipple into his mouth like she likes so much. "How about… Da mi basia mille," he whispers, lifting his head to kiss her lips.

She bites her lip, trying to contain her smile before it makes her face explode. "Our poem," she whispers back, eyes growing wet. It was a Latin poem that he'd taught her back then, a love poem that he said was just for them. "Dein mille altera," she whispers in response. She only knew a loose translation of only a portion of the poem: Then let amorous kisses dwell, on our lips begin and tell. A thousand and a hundred score, a hundred and a thousand more.

It had been theirs; Jamie used to write it in the notes he would pass her in class, and she'd blush, knowing it was their secret that no one else could understand.

"I'll give you a thousand kisses," he recites huskily, leaning in to kiss her lips.

She's staring at him, whisky eyes wide as they admire him. "And I'll give you a thousand more," she finishes, wrapping her hand around his neck and pulling him down to her. Her other hand presses against his chest, making its way down to the hem of his shirt to lift it off his body.

Jamie leans up just long enough to toss the shirt aside with hers on the floor before bracing himself above her again. Slowly, oh so slowly, he leans down, giving her a deep, lingering kiss that practically pulls her torso from the couch. "One," he says lowly, grinning as he pulls away. Her hand is on his side, the other moving to caress his cheek as she sighs a moan into the space between their bodies, never wanting him to leave.

She watches him intently as he kisses the right side of her neck, his mouth sucking on her skin before adding, "Two," then sliding to the left side, placing another kiss there. "Three." He grins, a husky little laugh leaving him and vibrating against her heated skin. His mouth moves lower, into the space between her breasts, placing a kiss there as well. His tongue peeks out a bit to lick, giving her one, two, three more loving pecks before she sighs, whispering, "Five," oh so breathlessly as her eyes close in pleasure.

He tilts his head up, smirking. "Five?"

Her eyes open, connecting with his and they both laugh at how she'd already lost count.

Claire's eyes roll back in satisfaction with a wide grin, shrugging. She looks into his eyes, and reaches for his neck, pulling him into her fully and kissing him again.

"So often I've burned for ye," he tells her before another kiss, one calloused hand reaching up to caress her breasts. "God, so long."

"I'm here now," she assures, smiling up at him. "Now come here and give me the rest of those kisses."

With a seductive smile, Jamie leans in, doing just that.

After several other well placed kisses, Jamie makes his way down, kissing between her breasts, then her stomach, belly button and stopping at the hem of her yoga pants.

He fingers the top of the pants, looking up at her through hooded eyes. Jamie cocks his eyebrows, and she grins, her eyes drift closed as he pats her hip to get her to lift up.

Making quick work of her pants, now tossed to the side with their shirts, Jamie continues his descent. He presses a kiss to her c-section scar, then her right hip, trailing so close to her skin to get to the left hip that his nose brushes against her softly, causing goosebumps to flare up all over her body. Her back arches as he slides down her body, a blissful sigh escaping her.

She moans, reaching down to run a hand through his hair. "Jamie," she breathes, "I want you inside me."

"No," he grins, and she heaves a heavy exhale, "no, mo nighean donn, I want to taste you." He scoots further down, kissing the inside of her thigh. And thank god for this perfectly oversized couch, one she knows was purchased with the idea of spending hours here surrounded by pillows and warm blankets as he read, but god is she ever thankful for it for this purpose as well.

Claire widens her legs slightly, accommodating his large frame as he settles himself between them. His hands are warm, soothing her skin as he caresses up her calves and over her waist, cupping her ass in his hands.

She giggles, smiling down at him. He loves her ass so much, and she loves that he does.

Her hands glide against whatever bit of skin she can reach, delicately gripping his biceps as he drifts down her body, leaving kisses in his wake.

Jamie plants a path of kisses from her thighs, up to where she needs him most. Her core is aching, she can already feel herself growing wet, and knows it won't take much to make her come.

She breathes out his name again, and fuck him, because he is dragging this out just to torture her, she knows it. "You bloody bastard," she laughs, and the way his breath tickles against her thigh when he laughs at her outburst almost sends her over the edge as is.

Shaking his head, he mumbles, "Feisty wee one." Jamie slides two fingers through her slit, spreading her lips apart slightly. Christ, she's wet. Really wet. And she needs him to touch her more.

"Do you like that?" he asks, adding a third finger. He swirls them around, finding her g-spot with an ease that takes her breath away. Fuck.

"Yes," she responds, nodding as she reaches for his head again, tugging him closer. "But I want more."

"More?" he asks, eyebrow lifting in amusement.

He moves his fingers a certain way just then, hitting her most sensitive spot and making her cry out. "I won't last much longer, Jamie."

"Tell me what you want, mo nighean donn."

Oh, god. Why is everything he says so damn hot?

"Mmm," she moans, gripping his hair in her hand, "I want you to eat me out."

Jamie practically growls at her response, his fingers immediately leaving her and being replaced by his mouth.

He kisses her inner thighs, taunting her as he peppers short kisses, accompanied by a loving little bite to her skin before moving his face over to where she currently needs him more than life itself.

Jamie's nose brushes against her pubic hair as he moves, his hands coming to spread her open. He peers down at her, placing a kiss right to her clit which makes her convulse at the sensation. "Sae beautiful," he whispers, leaning in again.

His tongue peeks out, running from the bottom all the way up to the top, flicking and sucking in all the right places. They'd spent time going down on one another last night, and she knew Jamie was smart, but damn is he a quick study. He seems to have learned her body better in one day than her other partners ever did.

"Christ, Jamie," she moans, hips twisting beneath his ministrations.

He makes his way back up to her clit, licking all around it like the tease that he is. Her eyes have been shut, but she glances down, growing even wetter when she sees his lust filled eyes boring into hers. One hand is on his shoulder, nails pressing into his skin as if she needs an anchor to keep her from floating away, but she brings her other hand up, gripping at the plush pillow beneath her head. Claire's fingers twist the soft material, pressing her head harder into it as Jamie continues to explore her body.

His tongue makes contact with her clit again, this time staying there to flick his tongue over it. "Jamie!" she cries, hips lifting off the couch.

He mumbles something into her skin or groans, she isn't quite sure, but she swears she can feel his smirk against her skin as his hands come up to grasp her hips, holding her in place, hovering above the couch cushion.

Jamie's fingers massage her rear as she grinds her sex against his face, and oh god, oh god oh god, she won't last much longer.

His tongue presses harder against her, building her up, up, up, almost careening into her orgasm any moment now.

He lifts his mouth from her clit barely long enough to murmur, "S'feel good?" And the sensation of his breath against her wet and throbbing center makes her shiver.

He lowers her hips as she nods frantically, panting, "Mmm! Feels… feels so good." She gyrates against the couch, begging him for more. "Harder, go harder."

With a noise that almost sounds like a primal growl, Jamie dives back in, his tongue swirling around, then up and down, before his lips clasp onto her clit once more, this time sucking even harder like she'd instructed.

Oh, Jesus H. Roosevelt fucking Christ, this is amazing.

"Yesss," she hisses, gripping his hair again to hold him in place. She never wants him to leave this spot. "Right there, yes, Jamie, ohgodohgodmmm," she's rambling, she knows it, but it cannot be helped as Jamie Fraser's tongue works her up so close to her sweet release that she just knows this orgasm will be one of the strongest ones she's ever had.

She feels his rough hand reach up, tweaking her nipples, but she bats his hand away, gripping her nipples for herself and twisting them just slightly enough to send another jolt of pleasure through her.

Jamie grunts against her skin, and she looks down, his blue eyes once again trained on hers, and she gets completely lost in them. She can see just from his eyes how turned on he is, how hot he finds her touching herself, and she grins, thrusting her hips against his face.

While she's working on her top half, he runs his hands down her thighs, squeezing, then cupping his hands behind her knees and tugging her further down the couch, giving him an even better angle than before.

She moans, encouraging him to keep going.

At her moan, Jamie takes one hand, inserting a finger just below where his mouth is working her up. He runs his finger up and down her slit, his mouth releasing her clit briefly to check that she's okay with the finger.

"More than okay," she pants, grinding her hips and causing his finger to go deeper.

Jamie goes back to working on her clit, this time his finger swirling inside of her as well. He curls it up like a hook, pressing on her g-spot as he massages her with his tongue. He lets up on the pressure for a bit, letting her catch her breath, as he peppers light kisses to her swollen bud before she nods, telling him to finish her.

He grins, kisses turning back into him sucking her clit into his mouth. Jamie moans when she tugs on his hair harder, her legs hooking around his waist to hold him in place, and the vibrations of his moans bring her so close to the edge she wants to scream.

"I'm c-close, Jamie," she rasps, throat dry from all the noises she's been making the last few minutes.

He must nod because she feels his nose move against her skin, and he deepens the pressure of his tongue on her. Swirling around her clit once more, he flicks it with his tongue, his hands pressing into her hips and pulling her as close as humanly possible to his mouth.

She's there, she's about to come, and bless him for staying exactly where he is. No need to change it up when she's this close. With two more perfect sucks to her clit, Claire is coming harder than she thinks she even did last night.

Crying out, her hips jut up in pleasure and Jamie wastes no time in gripping her ass again, pressing his face harder against her as he continues to suck, letting her ride out the wave of ecstasy currently drowning her.

Fuck. That felt incredible.

She shudders as her release comes to an end, and she slumps back into the couch with a content huff.

Smiling down at him, she watches as Jamie slowly, sweetly, licks her clean. It makes her quiver as she's still recovering from her orgasm. She's sensitive, but in the best way possible. His hands are massaging her hips as he presses kisses to her core, then moves the kisses to her thighs.

Jamie's lips trail their way back up her body, and he takes a moment to swirl his tongue around each nipple, licking his way to her neck. He sucks on her pulse point as her hands travel along the lines of his body, pulling him closer by his biceps. He's laying between her legs again, hovering slightly above her as his mouth finally reaches her own.

He presses his lips to hers, the tangy flavor of her sex coating her mouth, but she doesn't mind. The taste of her own wetness on his mouth just does something to her, and she can already feel herself wanting another round once her body isn't quite as sensitive.

Claire moans into his mouth, pressing her tongue against his as they kiss passionately.

She can feel his hardness beneath his sweatpants, knows he's just as turned on as she is, and with a wicked grin, she decides to repay him in kind, wanting him to experience the amount of satisfaction that she just did.

Turning on her side, Jamie joins her, and she's once again thankful this couch is practically a bed so they both fit side by side.

She gazes at him, feels drunk on him, and he looks much the same. Jamie's hand comes up, pointer finger grazing down her cheek to her plump lips. He drags his finger down, her lips parting slightly with the movement. Grinning, she cups his jaw, leaning in to kiss him. "That was unbelievable," she says softly, scratching at his scruff that's grown in. "And don't shave your beard."

Jamie guffaws, beaming like a kid on Christmas. "Oh, aye? Ye like it?"

Nodding, she kisses his jaw again, turning his head so she can kiss the other side as she rests her fingers under his chin. "It felt fantastic against my skin."

He moans, pulling her closer. "Then I'll ne'er shave again, Sassenach," Jamie mumbles, wrapping his arm around her as she settles against his side.

His heart is beating beneath her palm, pounding is more like it, and she knows he's still excited. "These need to go," she demands huskily, running her finger along the inside of the rim of his pants.

Sitting up, she moves so that she can pat his side like he did to her earlier, silently asking him to raise his hips.

He does so dutifully, cock springing free as she lowers his pants and plaid boxers. Claire throws his garments aside, reaching for him and moving her hand up and down, giving him the pleasure he'd just given her moments ago.

She massages his balls, smiling in delight as he grows harder, and before long her mouth is on his cock, licking up from the base to the tip and working her mouth around him the way she knows he likes. Within minutes, he's coming in her mouth, and though the taste isn't particularly wonderful, she swallows his seed. Her hand gently strokes his cock as he comes down from his high, and he pulls her to him, kissing her soundly, then pulling apart.

They stay there for a while, silently cuddled together as they listen to each other's breathing. Her hand caresses the patch of his back she can reach, fingers lightly grazing against his scars as he brings her closer. She loves this feeling, feeling so safe in his arms, and she's glad they decided not to go anywhere today.

Bringing her head out from the crook of his neck, Claire kisses his cheek, her finger toying with the little dimple in his chin and sighing happily as they both doze in and out of a nap, content to just be in each other's arms.

And for the rest of the day, with her suggestion from earlier that they stay home in mind, they stay right there on the couch for the next several hours. The pair eventually move, christening each room in the house save for Fergus' with their love making, and by the end of the night, they're completely spent.

They shower and snuggle up in the living room with a bowl of popcorn as a movie plays, and Claire can't keep the smile off her face as she thinks what a magnificent day it had been indeed.

{**************************}

What did we think? lol

Chapter Text

Chapter Six:

After the day they spent enjoying each other in Jamie's home, Claire's trip seemed to fly by.

She's been here for eleven days thus far, and her heart aches knowing she only has three more days with Jamie. They've officially been back together as a couple for six, going on seven weeks, and she can't believe that she's become one of those women who actually tracks it.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she sits on the edge of Jamie's bed, slipping on her shoes and thinking about the last few days.

Some of her first days there, she and Jamie had opted to spend a majority of the day in bed, watching television, eating, and exploring each other's bodies.

One of their first full days of staying home, Claire had made a discovery that brought tears to her eyes.

Unpacking her things, Jamie watched her with a smile on his face. He was folding laundry on his bed as she moved around the room and bathroom, placing her toiletries beside his own for the time being.

She padded over to the bed, flopping down on her side, arms folding beneath her head as she watched him fold his clothes. The television was on, providing a low hum of background noise that she was barely paying attention to.

It was all so domestic that she thought she'd cry, but Jamie interrupted her thoughts by tossing an item of clothing onto her chest.

"What's this?" she laughed, pulling it away from her body.

It was a t-shirt—one she hadn't seen in decades.

"Cairo University" it read, and memories of Uncle Lamb buying it for her when she was in middle school flashed through her mind's eye.

She'd worn it to sleep almost nightly once her uncle came back from Egypt on one of his digs, and by the time she'd met Jamie, the shirt had started to grow thin and the writing was just beginning to fade after one too many washes.

Now, however, the words were almost completely faded, just a shadow of what they once were. She hadn't thought about the shirt in a very long time; it hadn't even really occurred to her that it was missing.

"This is my Cairo shirt… you kept it?" she asked, head tilting to look up at him. "Why didn't you just throw it away or give it to a charity shop or something?"

"Throw it out?" His tone made it seem like the suggestion was the most foolish thing she could have ever suggested. "Memories of you? Never."

Her heart melted at the sincerity in his voice, and her eyes must have softened as well because Jamie smiled his boyish smile and walked around to her side of the bed. He leaned down, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him as close as possible. She rubbed her nose against his, breathing him in, before pressing her lips onto his.

"You're such a romantic," she teased, pressing her forehead to his when they broke apart.

Jamie grinned, pecking her forehead before shrugging and going back to his side of the mattress to finish folding the laundry.

Once the laundry was done that day, she'd effectively pulled him onto the bed with her, straddling his waist and having her way with him just like he liked.

When they weren't in his bed, they were on the couch, or the kitchen counter, or his office desk… and it was thrilling. But eventually, Jamie decided that she needed to see more of his town while she was here.

They'd done most of the touristy things, but he wanted her to experience the local gems that made his town so special as well.

He'd shown her different cafés and shops, they'd gone horseback riding on Lallybroch's land, letting her see the very edges of his property. He'd given her a tour of the cabin by the lake that he'd mentioned before, where they promptly made love before riding back to the house, and they also enjoyed multiple picnics on the days it wasn't raining.

Jamie had to work, of course—he couldn't miss two whole weeks after missing so many days lately. But Jenny and Ian had been willing to help out so he could spend as little time as possible at the Ridge while Claire was in town.

She'd met Jenny on her fourth night there, she and Ian coming over for dinner. They'd stayed up late laughing and drinking far too much whisky, and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. It was nice that they lived on Lallybroch's property as well, just within walking distance from Jamie's house, so visiting was easy.

On day six, Jamie had finally gone into work for the first half of the day. Jenny came over to pick up Claire and keep her entertained. They had a lovely girls day out, going to lunch and shopping where Claire picked out a new dress for her and Jamie's next date night out on the town.

Jenny was lovely, and Claire was glad to know that Jamie's sister accepted her. They'd spoken over lunch of the past, Jenny telling her that Jamie had been heartbroken when he came back.

Their father had passed away just after she and Jamie graduated high school, prompting his move back home to take over the family business.

"I dinna think he e'er wanted it tae be permanent," Jenny said, giving her a small grimace and placing her coffee on the table as they sat down in the café for lunch. "I was pregnant with my first bairn, and Ian had just had his accident. It was just… a perfect storm, I guess ye could say."

Claire nodded, knowing the events back then were unavoidable, and after a while, she'd accepted that things would never go back to how they were. "It seems rather permanent now," she grinned, taking a bite of her sandwich.

"Aye," Jenny laughed. "After the first few years, things settled down and the farm started growing. He and Ian were sae busy with everything," she huffed, "and I was trying to keep up, mind ye, tae help out as much as I could, but I also had wee Jamie underfoot, Maggie was one, an' I was carryin' Kitty."

They laugh together at the thought of her now grown children running around the farm and wreaking havoc on anything they could get their pudgy little hands on. "I hope Julia can meet your girls one day," she said, knowing Julia was just a few months younger than eighteen year old Maggie.

"They'd love that," Jenny smiled, sighing.

They talked for a while more about the past, Jenny telling Claire that he talked of her all the time, which broke Claire's heart, knowing she'd been in much the same state on her end of the world. Jenny said Jamie talked for years of getting back to Claire somehow, but then he'd had his accident and was in a depression for months upon months. "And then he met that gold-digging nurse, Laoghaire," Jenny said, rolling her eyes. "I always kent that girl was trouble, and I couldna understand what my brother saw in her."

Claire grinned at Jenny, shrugging and said, "We both made mistakes in our past. I was married as well."

They spoke of Frank briefly, and Jenny scoffed, saying he and Laoghaire would've been perfect for one another. "All that girl cared about was our growing business. She saw the money starting to flow in an' thought she'd hitch a ride on the Fraser's success train."

After lunch, they'd spent the day shopping and getting to know one another more, and Claire was happy to have a friend in Scotland now other than Jamie.

She and Jamie spent their days wandering around and enjoying just being together, but a few days after her lunch with Jenny, he'd had to go to work again, this time for the whole day. He'd been apologetic, and upset with Ian that he couldn't handle it on his own, but they'd had a business meeting scheduled for months to finalize the purchase of fellow farmer Hank Mackenzie's land, and he couldn't miss it no matter how much he wanted to.

She'd shooed him off with a kiss and swat to his rear, saying she was an independent woman and could handle being alone for one day.

It turned out to be a very nice day, actually. She'd needed to catch up on some paperwork, so she logged into Jamie's laptop, completing her work for a few hours. She'd had a video call with Joe while he was at the hospital, discussing a few surgeries they had coming up (and of course, her best friend asking all the details of her trip so far.). She'd napped, and spoken to Julia on the phone, then ventured outside to walk around the open fields of Lallybroch. She enjoyed looking at the different flowers and herbs on the property, excited to tell Jamie all their medicinal properties.

They'd settled into a domestic little routine so quickly that it made her cheeks warm with happiness. She was completely content to be on her own for a few hours when he had to work, but she also enjoyed every waking moment with Jamie.

Today, however, with just three days left on her trip, she was finally meeting Jamie's son, Fergus. She'd been looking forward to this over the last week and a half, and her stomach felt nervous as she finished getting ready.

"Claire?" Jamie asks, stepping into the bedroom. "Are ye ready, Sorcha?"

She grins at the nickname, just one of many he had for her. He told her one night in bed that her name in Gaelic meant light, and he thought it was perfectly fitting for her.

"The day I saw ye in the café, it was as if I'd stepped outside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out," he purred, pressing a kiss to her unclothed stomach.

She shook her head. "God, you're so cheesy," she joked, pushing his shoulder playfully.

He laughed, sitting up in bed. "What?" He looked at her with wide eyes, pretending to be offended. "It's true! Ye were sae bonny."

Pulling herself from her reverie of the last few days, Claire zips up her black boot, smiling at Jamie and tells him, "I'm ready." She's wearing knee high boots with dark wash jeans, a black and white polka dot blouse with a leather jacket over it. It was a jacket she'd bought with Jenny one day, and she was excited to have something to wear it with.

She straightened her hair today, and without the curls, it sat beautifully at her shoulders. Her makeup was done, a light rose shade of blush and dark lashes. She wanted to look her very best to meet Fergus, and she felt like she'd accomplished that.

Jamie had dressed up a bit as well, donning a dark pair of jeans with a light blue, long sleeve button up collared shirt. His hair was pushed back a tad with some gel, and all she wanted to do was run her fingers through it. He looked so handsome.

"Sae bonny," he whispers, stepping further into the room and winding his arms around her waist. Leaning down, he presses a kiss to her neck, then her lips, smiling into the embrace. "I want tae take you around the Victorian Market before we meet Fergus. The café we're going to is there as well."

Nodding, she smiles, reaching down to grab her cross body purse from the bed. "Alright, lead the way!"

They spend the next two hours exploring the shopping center. It was a beautiful, historic building that now houses multiple clothing stores, cafés, and other various shops.

Their first stop was City Florist, where Claire could walk through aisle upon aisle of different colored flowers. "They're all so beautiful," she tells Jamie, bringing a collection of pink flowers to her nose and inhaling their scent.

Looking at him over the tops of the flowers, she grins, asking why he's staring at her like he is. "Just enjoying the view," he laughs. "Ye should pick some out fer the house. I've got a vase we can put them in when we get home."

Her eyes light up, excited to put together a bouquet for his home.

She takes his hand with a little squeal, a sound she's never heard herself make before—at least not as an adult—and walks him over to the next aisle.

The feel of his hand on the small of her back as he steps behind her, reaching for a flower to her left, warms her soul. She's been fighting for days with herself not to tell him how she feels. Not yet. It's too soon, she thinks, but she believes—hopes anyway—that he feels the same.

Biting her lip to keep the three little words from spilling out right there in the middle of the florist shop, she smiles at him, holding up a few light blue flowers. "Forget Me Nots."

"What?" he asks, brows scrunching.

She giggles, putting the flowers more in his line of sight. "Forget Me Nots; that's the name of this flower. I think they'd look beautiful in your kitchen."

"Aye," he agrees, leaning down to inspect the little flowers. "Let's get a whole bouquet of them, then."

Nodding, she scours through all of the Forget Me Nots the florist has, picking out the most vibrant ones. "Now you'll remember me even once I go home in a few days."

His lips twist, pulling her to him in the secluded aisle they're on. She looks around, seeing that they're all alone. "Dinna fash, Sassenach, I willna be forgetting ye anytime soon," he murmurs, gently rubbing his nose against hers before closing the space to kiss her fully on the mouth.

She smiles into the kiss, pressing her free hand to his chest. She kisses him back, then pulls away. "Someone will see," she giggles, hitting his chest lightly with her newly arranged bouquet.

He shrugs, not caring at all if someone were to catch them kissing. He laughs, though, winding his arm around her waist and leading her to the counter to pay for the flowers.

From there, Jamie takes her by Inverness Souvenirs, one of the gift shops in the market. She's been telling Jamie for days that she has to make sure and get Julia a souvenir, along with Joe, Gail, their son, Lenny, and of course, Louise.

"Julia collects magnets," she tells him, slowly spinning the metal carousel that houses the store's magnets. "She has one from every country or new city we've visited."

She picks up one magnet that's in the shape of a man in a kilt playing a bagpipe so forcefully that his cheeks are puffed out comically to match his bulging eyes, saying Julia would hate that one. "Too juvenile, she'd say."

Jamie laughs, too, holding up another. This one is in the shape of a highland cow, it's body painted like the Scottish flag with the country's name printed underneath it. "What about this one?"

She peeks around the carousel of magnets to see and smiles. "That one's cute. It's definitely a contender."

He gives her a crooked little smile, holding on to it until she makes her final selection. "Uncle Lamb always gets her a magnet from his travels," she tells him.

"Your refrigerator must be completely covered by now, with as often as he travels."

Laughing, she says they have acquired quite a collection over the years. "The ones from our trips are on the fridge—London, Barcelona, Greece, New York, just to name a few," she grins. "The ones from Lamb we keep in a keepsake box with all the other souvenirs he's brought us over the years. We like to go through it every now and then and laugh at all our memories we have with him."

"That sounds fun."

"It is," she chuckles, peering at a few more magnets. "When Lamb comes to visit, we get it out along with all his photo albums and we listen all night long as he tells us of his latest dig and what all he found." She smiles at the thought of her uncle, reminding Jamie to make sure she gets something for him as well. "Julia loves history and science, and I have to attribute that to Lamb. She's always loved sitting with him, hearing all of his wild stories about countries she's never been to."

Jamie holds up a magnet of a green, cartoon looking Loch Ness monster with a plaid hat on his head and "Nessie" written beneath his smiling face. "For Lamb?" And she laughs, nodding her head.

"I think he'd get a kick out of that one."

Jamie hands it to her, saying, "D'ye think Julia will become an archeologist like him?"

"I don't know," she muses with a shrug. "Maybe!"

They browse the store for a bit longer, Claire eventually selecting a little kilt for Lenny and tartan scarf for Gail and Louise. For Joe, she decides before she leaves, she'll pick him up a bottle of Scottish malt whisky and a jar of honey from Fraser's Ridge. Along with the magnets for Lamb and Julia, she adds the other gifts, before paying for everything.

Once they leave there, Jamie loops her bag of souvenirs around his wrist, taking her hand with the other. "It's almost time to meet up with Fergus," he says, "but there's one more place I want ye tae see."

He leads her down the walkway, finally stopping in front of Story Chocolates. He tells her they have some of the best chocolates in Scotland and she has to try them. He orders a white chocolate truffle while she selects a hazelnut one.

They step off to the side, tasting their treats before heading to the café. "Oh my god," she moans, eyes rolling to the back of her head. "That's incredible."

"See?" he laughs, "I told ye."

He licks his lips, popping the rest of his into his mouth, telling her once he swallows, "Ye canna be making those wee moaning sounds, though, or else I have a mind tae take ye home and have my way with ye."

She laughs, saying she wouldn't mind that, giving him a wink.

Jamie grins, rolling his eyes as he steps back to the counter to order a half dozen more of their truffles.

"We will, however, ruin our appetites if we eat any more of these." She points to his box, raising a brow.

"Och," he scoffs, waving her off. "Ye canna ever have too much chocolate, mo nighean donn, but these are fer tonight when we get home."

"Oh?"

"Aye, I wanna hear those little moans again," he murmurs into her hair, kissing her curls.

"Jamie!" she laughs, swatting his chest and looking around. There's no one save for an older couple at a table a few feet away and people walking by, too caught up in their own shopping to notice them. She leans up, whispering into his ear, "You don't need chocolate to make me moan."

She steps back with a grin, biting her lip as she watches his ears turn pink. "Christ, Sassenach, ye canna say such wicked things to a man when he's out in public."

They laugh, Claire taking the box of chocolates and placing it into the souvenir bag still around Jamie's wrist. Her bouquet is also in there, the blue flowers sticking out above the bag, and she shakes her head, realizing this won't work.

"Hang on," she tells Jamie, going to the counter to ask the teenager working for a bag. She puts the chocolates and flowers in the new one and places it around her wrist.

Once all their items are settled, Jamie takes her hand and leads her to Ambience Café.

{***********************}

Fergus is sitting at a table already just outside the restaurant, waiting for them when they arrive.

He's in jeans and a dark blue polo. She smiles, hoping that he wanted to look nice just like she did to make a good impression.

She's nervous, more nervous than she'd been to meet Jenny. This is his child, and getting his approval would mean everything.

He stands, his six foot frame almost as tall as Jamie's, and embraces his father in a tight hug. "It is so good to see you, Da."

"You too, mon fils, you too."

Claire smiles at Jamie's pet name for Fergus, and watching the two hug makes her heart ache to see Julia and hold her in her arms.

"And this is Claire," Jamie says, pulling her from her thoughts of her daughter. "Claire, this is my son, Fergus."

She holds out a hand to shake, but Fergus scoffs and smiles, opening his arms. "I am much more of a hugger if it's alright with you."

"Of course," she laughs, looking from Jamie to the younger Fraser. She hugs him back, patting his back softly. "It's wonderful to meet you."

"You as well."

They take their seats at the round table, Jamie and Claire placing their souvenir bags down on the ground. She sighs, much more relaxed now that they've gotten the introductions out of the way.

A waitress comes and greets them, depositing a pitcher of water on the table and taking their orders before moving on to her next table.

"So, Claire," Fergus says, a friendly smile on his face as he pours water into a glass and hands it to her. "My da tells me you are a surgeon?"

She smiles and thanks him when he hands her a glass. "And yes," she says with a nod, taking a sip of her water. "I've been a doctor since I was twenty-seven, but I've been a neurosurgeon for the last, God," she huffs, thinking back of the years, "seven years."

She was just about to turn thirty-one when she accepted the position as surgeon, and it was the best birthday gift she could have ever received that year.

Fergus beams, "My girlfriend, Marsali, wants to be a doctor."

"Does she?" Claire inquires, an excited smile on her face. "It's a great profession. It takes a lot of work, but it's worth it."

She asks what field of medicine Marsali wants to go into, and he says she isn't quite sure yet. "She is only eighteen, you see," he says, a blush covering his cheeks. He rubs his neck as he looks at Jamie sheepishly. "But she'll be at University starting in June, right after she turns nineteen next week," he adds with a more pointed look at his father, "so she can make more decisions about it then."

Claire tries her best not to laugh at the unspoken conversation happening between father and son, knowing Jamie thinks Marsali is too young. Not for Fergus, he's only twenty-one, but for them to be as serious as Jamie has made them out to seem.

He'd told her the day they bumped into each other that the two were ready to get married, and the other night they'd discussed it in more detail. Marsali was a sweet girl, Jamie had assured, but he didn't want them to rush into anything and have regrets later on.

"Well," Claire says, patting Fergus' hand just as their food arrives, "tell her to be thinking now what area of study she wants to go into. She'll do her undergraduate courses, of course, but then for actual medical school, she'll need to have a clearer idea of what field she wants to focus on."

Fergus nods, smiling in thanks. "She is verra good with kids," he tells her, his adorable accent that is a mix of French and Scottish coming out thicker. "She's thinking of doing something with that."

Claire cuts her salmon, nodding. "Pediatrics is a great field," she assures him. "It takes a very special and patient person to work with sick children."

"Aye," Jamie mumbles, "she's patient alright. No one else would keep this old dolt around." He clasps Fergus' shoulder, the trio all laughing at his words.

They eat in silence for a few moments, each enjoying their meal. They discuss what all Jamie and Claire have done while she's been here, and Claire tells him about meeting his Aunt Jenny as well.

"I took her out tae the farm," Jamie informs his son, biting into his cullen skink before continuing. "Let her meet Donas."

"Did you ride him?" Fergus asks, an incredulous look upon his face as he looks at Claire.

She laughs, shaking her head. "God, no. He was terrifying."

Jamie chuckles, saying he wouldn't have hurt her, but it was better for them all that she rode Skye instead. "She's much gentler, ken, Donas has only ever really taken to me."

"He almost threw me off of him when I was younger," Fergus tells her, saying he was around thirteen and had gone out to ride with his dad. He thought he could handle the big stallion, but Donas had other ideas. "He reared back to throw me, ye see, but luckily Da was close enough to grab the reins and calm him down before he did anything."

"Oh my," she breathes, "I'm glad I stuck with Skye then."

Fergus and Jamie laugh, the younger man saying, "Aye, Skye is my horse. She's always been a gentle soul."

Claire smiles softly, finishing her chips and starting on her salad as the boys discuss the expansion deal Jamie has been working on lately. "Old Mackenzie finally sold us the place," Jamie says, scooping up a bite of his soup. "His land has that old still we're gonna fix up, finally start makin' whisky like Ian and I have been plannin' fer years."

Jamie had mentioned the other night that part of expanding Fraser's Ridge included beginning to make and eventually sell their own brand of whisky. His eyes lit up as he told her, and she was happy knowing he was so satisfied with this passion of his.

They finish their meal and the waitress clears their plates, all of them ordering a scoop of ice cream, and Claire getting a latte to enjoy.

"So, Fergus," she says, settling against the iron chair. "I never asked, but what do you do? You live in Edinburgh right?"

He smiles and nods. "Oui, yes, I am studying at the University of Edinburgh."

"That's wonderful. What do you study?"

"Business management," he tells her, smiling over to Jamie. "I might one day help run Fraser's Ridge once this guy gets too old to do as much." He laughs, thanking the waitress when she delivers their desserts. "But I also have opportunities for anything, really, with my degree."

"Is running the farm something you would want to do?"

"Aye, it has always been a part of me," he tells her sincerely. "It would be an honor to keep it in the family for as long as we possibly can. I want to help with the whisky business once Da and Uncle Ian create a flavor good enough to sell, as well."

Claire smiles at his words, glad that Jamie was blessed with such an amazing young man as a son.

"And how is Murtagh, by the way?" she asks, looking at Jamie. "You mentioned the day we first ran into each other that he helps with the farm?"

Jamie grins, saying, "Aye, he helped me keep it afloat once my da passed." He tells her that Murtagh, along with being his family's oldest friend, was also quite adept in business so he was able to loan Jamie money to help keep the farm running. "He came up with the idea of offering horseback riding lessons, ye ken," he says, finishing his ice cream. "It was the first extra thing the farm offered, aside from the usual farming dealings, and when we saw how interested people were, it just sort of took off."

"And now look at you, trying to expand to more land just to sell your products. People love them that much."

He blushes at her compliment, reaching over to take her hand. He picks it up, kissing her palm before setting their hands on his leg.

The feel of his hand on hers grounds her, settling the butterflies still fluttering around in her stomach.

"Well," Fergus says, dropping some money on the table. "I better head out. I've got plans with Young Ian."

She smiles at the thought of Jenny and Ian's fifteen year old, the only one still living at home and how sweet he'd been the other night when she and Jamie went to the Murray's house for dinner.

"Ye keep him out o' trouble, ye ken?"

Fergus rolls his eyes at his dad, laughing. "Always. He has a crush on a girl at school and wants my help on how to… flirt… with her," he says, winking at Jamie.

She chuckles under her breath and Jamie out right laughs, standing to hug Fergus goodbye. "And keep yer money, mon fils, lunch is on me," he whispers, handing the money back to his son.

He stuffs the bills back into his pocket, turning with a bright smile to Claire. She stands as well, saying, "It was so lovely to meet you."

"It was very nice to meet you, as well, Milady," he says, gallantly picking up her hand to kiss the back of it with a smirk.

Claire grins, glancing over to Jamie, then to Fergus, asking, "Are you staying with us the rest of the time you're in town?"

The young man lets out a loud snort, sharking his head. "No, Milady," he smiles over at his father, "I figured you two would want some… privacy… while you're here." He laughs again, presumably at the way Claire's cheeks heat at the comment. "I will be on Lallybroch's property, you see, but I'll be down at the cabin by the lake." Claire tries to subtly flick her eyes to Jamie, memories of what they'd done in that cabin recently flooding her mind.

Jamie pushes his shoulder good naturedly, declaring, "Get out o' here, ye wee mongrel, and go make doey love eyes at Marsali."

"Well I only learned how to make those eyes from the best, Da," Fergus teases, batting his eyelashes dramatically before winking at Jamie. "And I told you, I am going to Aunt Jenny's now to pick up Ian."

Jamie nods, rolling his eyes.

Claire laughs at the pair, telling Fergus in her most mothering tone to be safe while he drives. "Call your father when you make it to Jenny's, alright?"

"Oui," he grins, ducking his head to his chest, "I will."

He leans in, giving Claire one last hug, saying, "Again, it was great to meet you." He smiles, a cheeky gleam in his eye as he looks to Jamie, then back to her. "I have heard of you my entire life." It warms not only her cheeks but her heart to hear Jamie has spoken of her in the past, but Fergus winks and laughs when Jamie chokes on his latest sip of water, adding, "so it is nice to finally put a face to the name."

"Alright, alright," Jamie says, thumping Fergus on the ear. "Enough with you, you eejit."

Fergus laughs, turning in her direction. "Have a safe flight back home, Claire."

"Thank you. Feel free to come by anytime while you're here," she says, pressing her hand to her heart, "I don't want to take away any time the two of you get together."

Fergus smiles softly, but shakes his head. "I see the old man enough as is," he laughs, clapping Jamie on the shoulder, "I have plans the rest of the time anyway, but I may come by for breakfast one day."

"That would be lovely."

The younger Fraser smiles, then hugs Jamie one last time, his father getting one good rib in for good measure. "Tell Marsali I said hello, but make sure ye have her home before curfew."

Fergus rolls his eyes and shakes his head, laughing. "Bye, Da."

"Bye, son."

{************************}

They sit back down at their table, watching as Fergus makes his way through the crowd of people.

"He's wonderful," Claire giggles, picking up her mug. She's only got a few sips left, but her latte is delicious and she wants to get every last drop.

"I have to say, I am quite proud of my boy."

They smile at one another, Claire admitting that seeing the two of them together made her miss Julia. "I'm going to miss you, obviously," she says, taking his hand, "but it will be nice to have my baby girl back in my arms."

Jamie nods, his face going soft. "I completely understand, Sassenach."

"You'll have to come visit soon."

His eyes light up and he gives her a beaming smile. "I'd love that," he replies, linking their fingers together. "I was actually thinking o' comin for her graduation. It's in about three weeks, aye?"

Claire nods, eyes misting over at the thought of him coming to Boston. "Yes," she whispers, leaning in to kiss his cheek. "I would love that! And Julia would be so excited! I could show you around Boston as well, and you can help me set up Julia's graduation party," she giggles, winking at him.

"Ye jest, Sassenach, but I'd love to," he says sincerely. "I could bring some goodies from the Ridge wi' me if ye want me to."

Beaming, they spend the next few minutes planning his trip to Boston, Claire telling him of all the historical sights she could show him, and Jamie pulling out his phone to Google more about the city, his excitement growing. "That's around the time my deal for the still should be wrapping up, but it should be fine for me tae come then."

"That would be wonderful," she says, her voice going soft. She loves this man so much and wants to shout it from the rooftops.

With that, she finishes her latte and Jamie pays before they pick up their belongings and head out.

Their hands find one another's as they meander through the market, Jamie asking her if there's anywhere else she wants to go.

She taps the large bag he's holding, saying, "I think I've gotten plenty," with a laugh. "I'm not sure I'll be able to fit all of this, plus the clothes I got with Jenny, in my suitcase as is."

Jamie snickers, squeezing her hand and leading her to the car.

The drive home is quiet, peaceful, and Claire is so relaxed that she thinks she could fall asleep right there.

Jamie has the radio on softly, just loud enough to faintly make out the words as he drives them back to Lallybroch.

She reaches over, taking his left hand from the steering wheel and lacing their fingers together as she sets their hands on the middle console. "I feel so lucky to be here with you," she murmurs quietly, squeezing his hand.

Claire watches as Jamie's eyes slide over to hers briefly, smiling softly. He picks up their joined hands, kissing the top of hers. The silver ring he gave her as children still resting there on her right hand. The band is thin, and there's a little knot molded in the middle that she often finds herself rubbing her thumb over to soothe her nerves at work or anytime she needs to calm down. "This afternoon was great."

"Mm," she sighs contentedly, her hand beginning to caress up and down his exposed forearm. "It really was." She pauses, sadness crossing over her face for a brief second. She can tell Jamie notices because he gives her a questioning gaze. Smiling sadly, she tells him, "We have to… treasure these moments."

They come to a red light and Jamie leans over, kissing her soundly. Her hand comes up to cup his jaw, moaning into his mouth when he deepens the kiss. Her hand trails down to his neck, scratching lightly while her tongue peeks out to play with his.

"Don't ye see how small a thing like the Atlantic Ocean is between us?" he asks, and she can't help but to grin, and nods. "After I left the last time, came back here, to Scotland, part of me was dead," he admits in a gravelly voice. "Yet all that time I lo—" He cuts himself off, eyes widening for the briefest of seconds, and Claire's heart stops. She breathes in deeply, she can hear her blood rushing through her ears in anticipation, hoping he was about to confess the feelings she longs to hear.

Clearing his throat, Jamie looks back at the light to check that it was still red, then looks back at her, saying, "I… longed to be wi' ye again."

Disappointment fills her, and confirms her fear of saying it first, especially so soon into their relationship, no matter how deeply she knows she loves him already. She smiles sympathetically, reaching up to run her fingers beneath his chin, his scruff scratching at her skin. "I longed to be with you, too. I never stopped."

He hums under his breath, cupping the back of her neck to pull her closer, lips crashing together in a heated kiss, but before long the car behind them is honking its horn.

They pull apart, Claire wiping at the corner of her mouth and they laugh like children who just got caught by the school teacher doing something wrong.

The rest of the drive back home is weighted, a tension filling the space that wasn't there before. She knows as soon as they get inside, their clothes will be off, and she silently wills Jamie to drive faster.

She's got her legs pressed tightly together, trying to contain herself. The touch of his hand on her thigh sends a shiver down her spine and she groans like an impatient toddler, making Jamie laugh.

"It is okay to drive a little faster, you know," she tells him with a chuckle.

Jamie laughs, his cheeks heating up as he steps on the gas.

She holds his hand the rest of the drive, her other hand's fingers scratching lightly against the back of the hand she's holding.

As soon as they get inside, they head to the kitchen first, and Claire drops the chocolates and her souvenir bag on the counter. Jamie takes the Forget Me Nots and grabs a dark blue and white vase from under his counter, filling it with water. He sets about cutting the stems and placing them in the water before walking around the kitchen island and taking her in his arms.

"Now that that's taken care of," he rasps huskily in her ear, "let's go upstairs."

"Why go upstairs?" she purrs, kissing his ear before walking backwards until her arse hits the kitchen table. She spins them around, his body pressed against the wooden surface. Reaching for the buttons on his shirt, Claire makes quick work of it, starting to undo his zipper while he tosses her shirt aside. She steps back, removing her jeans and thong, discarding them before placing her hands on Jamie's chest. "We've got a perfectly good surface," she says, her hands urging him to sit on the table, "right here."

He grins seductively, scooting back while she climbs up to straddle his lap. It's a tad awkward, she didn't quite think through the logistics of riding him on the large kitchen table, but they make it work. Jamie moves back further so Claire has more surface beneath her, and she cries out as his cock enters her, hitting that spot she loves so much perfectly from this angle.

Claire grinds against him, each of their faces buried in the other's neck as he thrusts up into her. Jamie's teeth graze her skin, biting lightly as he succumbs to the pleasure. They both come sooner than planned, moaning and panting, their voices echoing slightly in the silent kitchen.

And so the rest of the afternoon is spent together, naked, before they eventually decide to get cleaned up and venture back out into the real world for dinner.

There may not have been any I love you's exchanged tonight, but it was still perfect, and Claire wouldn't change a thing.

{*************************}

I hope you enjoyed this one! Please let me know what you thought! Outfit inspiration for their lunch with Fergus, as well as the magnets they looked at, are all posted on my Twitter if you're curious! lol

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven:

After their little tryst on the kitchen table, she and Jamie fumble their way upstairs, clothes collected in their arms as they scurry through the house.

Claire puts the souvenirs into her carry-on bag she'd left in the guest room before Jamie comes up behind her, taking her just like that on the bed.

Sometime later, they make their way down the hall to his room, collapsing into his king size bed. They eventually doze off, napping for the better part of an hour, wrapped in each other's arms, before deciding they need to actually shower and get ready. They have plans to stop by Fraser's Ridge so Jamie can meet with Ian about their new property deal before she and Jamie head to dinner.

She gets into Jamie's shower, letting the warm water heat her skin before he joins her. Their hands roam, cleaning each other's bodies off and sharing kisses the whole time.

"We should get dressed," Claire says, turning off the hair straightener. "We don't want to be late meeting with Ian."

Jamie smirks, "Ye mean, ye dinna want us tae miss our dinner reservation."

"Well, obviously."

He snickers, zipping his jeans and walking back into the bathroom to brush his teeth and spray some cologne.

God, if anyone can make the cowboy look work, it's Jamie Fraser. They were going casual to run to the Ridge, and he'd chosen a flannel shirt with a navy vest to go along with his jeans. And Claire was instantly turned on—maybe missing the reservation wouldn't be so bad after all.

She throws on her outfit—jeans and a simple white, long sleeve shirt with a light jacket—and finishes her makeup.

"All set?" Jamie asks, stepping back into the bedroom and grabbing his keys off the dresser.

She gives him a quick kiss and a nod in reply and they make their way down the stairs and out the door.

It's a quick visit to Fraser's Ridge. Jenny is there, too, so Claire spends some time with her walking around and petting the horses while Jenny tends to the goats. Before long, Ian and Jamie emerge from the main office, mega watt smiles and arms thrown around each other's shoulders as they laugh and make their way to she and Jenny.

"I take it it was a successful meeting?"

"Aye," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her head. "I'll tell ye all about it on the way home."

Smiling, they hug the Murrays goodbye before heading back to Jamie's house to get ready for dinner.

{**************************}

It was nearing seven now, and Claire was thankful she'd already straightened her hair

. Their reservation is at eight, so she runs the straightener through her hair one more time for good measure before spending time on her makeup. She wanted a more done up look to match the dress she was hoping would knock the air out of Jamie's lungs when he saw her.

She was planning on wearing a black dress that she'd gotten the other day at a boutique. It lands just above her knees and hugs her in a way that isn't too tight, but is sexy enough and doesn't leave much to the imagination. She pairs it with a pair of black pumps, thankful she brought them since they were walking to dinner tonight. These were one of the only pairs of heels she had that were comfortable enough for a long period of time.

Claire feels vindicated in her splurge of a purchase on this dress when she comes down the stairs, Jamie waiting at the bottom with his mouth hanging agape.

He looks so handsome. And for a moment she considers not going to dinner at all and just having him right there on the wooden staircase. He's in a pair of hunter green dress pants with a black button up. His sleeves are rolled up, exposing his muscular forearms and God, does she have a weakness for a man dressed like that. If she thought cowboy Jamie was hot, business suit Jamie was even better.

When she gets to the bottom of the stairs, he takes her hands, his eyes bulging out when he takes a peek at her chest. "Christ, Sassenach."

"What?"

"I can see all the way down tae yer third rib."

She laughs, swatting at his chest. "No, you can't."

He grins, saying, "Nah, but I will be seeing those wee ribs of yers later tonight," before pulling her to him. His hands slide down to her ass, cupping her cheeks in his palms. "Ye look sae gorgeous." Jamie kisses her again, groaning against her mouth as he exclaims, "God, ye've got the roundest arse I've ever seen."

She laughs as he brings his lips to hers again. "Why Jamie," she giggles, taking a step back and giving him a mock-curtsey, "you do flatter me so." She sighs, leaning in to kiss him once more. "You look handsome, yourself." Reaching around, Claire takes his rear in her hands, giving it a squeeze. "You say I have a nice arse, but look at yours." They both laugh, drunk on the feel of each other. "Are you sure we have to go to dinner?" she asks, hands gripping his ass again and pulling him closer.

His head tilts back on a laugh, taking her hand and handing her her purse. "Aye, we need some food to restore our energy."

"Okay, fine," she huffs, smiling over to him. "Lead the way."

{*****************************}

The restaurant is just outside the property line of Lallybroch, in the same town she'd walked to several days thus far. It had actually been her suggestion to eat there, having smelled it's aroma several times over the last two weeks.

Jamie had smiled, saying she sounded like a local and that he'd make the reservation.

When they get there, she's stunned. This place is so much prettier at night. They have music softly playing that can be heard from the outside, the roof is lined with white fairy lights, and the lights are set to a low dim, casting a nice ambience around the building.

She's glad that she grabbed her black jacket just before they left because the temperature has dropped a good bit since this afternoon. They stand outside for a few moments, waiting for their table to be ready.

"It's so pretty here at night," she comments, hooking her arm through Jamie's as she peers out around the town square. "This little area is nice."

He smiles, kissing her cheek. "I do like this place," he tells her. "I like that at night all the restaurants open their windows and have sae much outdoor seating. It's nice tae watch people mill about the town as ye eat."

She giggles, "So you like to people watch."

"Who doesn't?" he laughs, turning them back toward the restaurant when their name is called.

Fraser, party of two

She ignores the way her stomach flips at hearing them both referred to as Frasers.

Dinner is lovely, and it's nice and warm inside, making her more comfortable with her spaghetti strap dress.

Jamie orders them a bottle of red wine and an appetizer of fritto misto, and she smiles across the table at him, that feeling from earlier today of wanting to tell him how she feels bubbling up inside of her again.

She pushes it down, picking up the menu to peruse.

The fritto misto arrives before long, and they both savor it while making their selections for dinner. The food here is delicious, she can already tell just from this one dish.

The waiter comes back, pouring them each a glass of Tempranillo, telling them this bottle is from Spain, 2018.

She smiles, thanking him before she and Jamie order. He goes with steamed filet of shetland halibut, while she picks the linguine alla norma.

As the waiter retreats to put their orders in, Jamie takes her hand, his thumb caressing the top of it. "I'm sae glad ye were able to come fer this long."

She smiles, a bit sadly knowing it's almost over. "I am, too, Jamie. It's been lovely."

They reminisce over their favorite parts of her trip, Claire deciding that the days they rode the horses all through the farm were her favorites. "I just enjoyed being out in nature, with you, and getting to see where you spend your days."

He grins, saying, "Aside from, well, ye know," and bounces his eyebrows up and down, making her laugh, "I really loved earlier today when ye got tae meet Fergus."

Her eyes soften and she squeezes his hand. "I loved that, too. And I loved getting to know Jenny," she tells him. "You used to tell me so much about her when we were in high school. It was nice to really get to know her." She smiles, laughing softly at herself. "I was actually scared to meet her."

"Why?" he asks, eyes lighting up with mirth.

Shrugging, Claire says, "I don't know. She's your older sister, she's bound to be protective, and I was just worried she wouldn't like me."

"If anyone dislikes you, Sassenach, then that's their loss."

She smiles, clearing her throat of emotion. She separates their hands as the waiter brings their dishes, setting them in front of them and telling them to enjoy.

They drink their wine, savoring the meal before them, laughing and just enjoying each other's presence.

She can feel her face growing hot, mind a bit fuzzy the more wine she drinks, but she doesn't care. They're walking home so they can enjoy themselves as much as they want. A light buzz won't hurt anything.

Jamie offers her a bite of his food, leaning into the table and looking around conspicuously as he murmurs, "Don't go makin' those wee moaning noises again."

Rolling her eyes, she swishes her hand in front of his face, making him sit back with a laugh. She picks up his fork, taking a piece to taste. It's delicious, of course, everything tonight has been. She then gives him a bite of her food and he says they need to come back again so he can order that dish.

At one point, their waiter returns, offering them a complimentary taste of the house oysters and Claire accepts, curious to see how they taste.

"Ye're a daring woman," he smirks as the waiter walks away, "I s'ppose that makes me a verra lucky man… But, Sassenach, oysters?" Jamie asks, face twisted in disgust

She laughs, giving him a shrug. "When in Rome!"

"Ye're in Scotland," he deadpans, "and ye ken just fine that oysters are just slimy wee suckers in yer throat."

She leans in, eyeing the waiter coming back, and lowly says, "You know, they say oysters are an aphrodisiac."

Sitting back, she smiles both at the waiter and at the look on Jamie's face. His eyes have gone a shade darker, and she knows he's imagining all the wicked things they'll do to one another tonight when they get home.

"Here ye are," the waiter says, "compliments o'the chef."

They thank him and Claire takes a deep breath. She's always been a daring eater, having traveled so much with Lamb as a child to different countries and cultures, but oysters were always one thing she could never really enjoy.

She's always heard about Scottish oysters, though, and how fresh they are, so, why not?

Picking one up, she looks at Jamie, declaring, "Geronimo!" before shooting the oyster into her mouth and swallowing.

She tries not to cough as the slimy meat slides down her throat, trying her very hardest to taste it so she can give an apt description.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ," she mumbles, squeezing her eyes shut at the onslaught of flavors still in her mouth after swallowing.

Reaching for her wine to wash the salty flavor away, she gulps down a sip, looking at Jamie. His mouth is hanging open just a bit, a small grimace on his face. "Christ, ye're a brave wee thing," he laughs in disbelief, shaking his head when she offers him the other one. "I'm nice and full from my meal."

It wasn't the worst thing she's ever eaten, and tells him so, saying she'd try it again to get used to the taste.

They stay there for over two hours, their wine finished, and dessert ordered. They choose to share the vanilla ice cream with caramel drizzle along with a glass for each of them of the dessert wine.

She's indulging, she knows that, can tell Jamie is feeling the effects of the wine as well, but she just giggles, loving how free she feels with him.

They pay, finishing off their third and fourth glasses of wine, before heading out.

Jamie slips Claire's jacket onto her arms as they step outside, and she thanks him, the air having grown just a touch cooler since they were first outside.

She stumbles a bit on her feet, chuckling when Jamie catches her arm.

They laugh all the way down the street and up toward Lallybroch, Jamie's arm coming around her shoulders to catch her when she trips on a rock. "I think ye're a wee bit drunk there, mo nighean donn."

She can hear how inebriated her own laugh sounds but she still protests, saying, "I am not drunk!" She swoops out from underneath his arm, pretending to punch him in the stomach. "I could knock you off your feet, sir!"

Jamie guffaws, trapping her hands in his and spins her around in a circle. "Ye canna even walk in a straight line."

"Well, can you recite the alphabet backwards?" she sasses, knowing he's had just as much to drink as she has.

He smirks, his arm looping around her shoulders again. "I expect so," he boasts, chest puffing out. "English… or Greek?"

She snorts, moving out from under his grasp again, catching his hand in hers and swinging them between their bodies. "Well, nevermind. If you can recite either of those forwards, then you're in a better condition than I."

He laughs, spinning her so she lands against his chest, and she purses her lips, leaning up to place a smacking kiss to his lips.

"I'm going to miss ye sae much, Claire," he admits suddenly, the air growing serious between them. "These last two weeks have been some of the best of my life."

She looks up at him, arms still wrapped around his waist. Her eyes water, knowing she feels the same way. It's been wonderful, and though she wants to get home to Julia, she doesn't want to leave Jamie. "I am thankful for every day that we have," she tells him, giving him a soft smile.

Leaning in, Jamie kisses her lips, then the tip of her nose. He pulls out of her embrace, taking her hand and bowing dramatically. He kisses her hand before righting himself and continuing their journey home.

They giggle and stumble all the way back to Lallybroch, fumbling inside the door at the same time. Jamie, in trying not to knock her down, ends up falling on his bum, a wheezing laugh coming out of both their mouths.

"Shhh," she shushes, a finger raising to her lips. "You'll wake the house."

"No one is home but us, Sassenach."

"Oh… right," she laughs, helping him stand to his feet.

Jamie has sense enough at least to grab them both a bottle of water before following her upstairs. When they get to his room, she falls face first into the mattress, her legs still on the ground.

Claire turns her face to the side in order to talk, saying, "I need to change out of this dress… put my pajamas on." She flips onto her back, grinning stupidly up at Jamie. He's somehow already gotten his shirt off and is standing there in just his pants, his sculpted chest on display for her. "Help me up, Jamie," she commands with a hiccup, kicking her heels off.

She giggles as he takes her hands, hoisting her from the bed.

Claire lands against his chest, both of them delivering sloppy kisses to the other. "I need to change," she states again.

She starts to move, but Jamie captures her by the waist, pulling her to him from behind. "There'll be no need for clothes tonight, Sassenach," he tells her, whispering it into her ear. She can smell the wine still on his breath, but she doesn't care and turns in his arms.

Both hands lift to cup around his neck, pulling him to her as they fall with breathless giggles onto the bed once again. No clothes needed for the rest of the night, indeed.

{*************************}

Three days later, her trip has sadly come to an end. It's Friday morning, and she knows she needs to get back in order to recover from her jetlag and get prepared for work on Monday.

But that doesn't seem as fun as staying in bed with Jamie for the rest of the day.

She wakes up in Jamie's arms, one leg slung over his hip, and they make love one last time before she has to go.

They piddle around town, Claire buying a few last minute provisions to stuff into her carry-on. When they get back home, she decides to hop in the shower so she feels fresh for her flight later this afternoon.

Once she's clean and dressed for the airport, she makes her way downstairs with her luggage. She drops it off by the front door, then heads to the kitchen where Jamie has been preparing lunch for them.

"Smells good," she says, sliding next to him at the table.

Jamie smiles, placing a hamburger onto her plate. "Thank ye, mo nighean donn."

There's a sadness in the air that's thick and looming, and she hates this feeling. She knows she has to get back home, she has a daughter and a job waiting for her, but fuck, this is so hard.

She'd finished some more work yesterday, having another video chat with Joe for apparently no other reason than for him to tell her to research Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

"There's a few others," Joe grinned. "But that one looks the best."

"Oh, you've been researching, have you? The brochures you gave me weren't enough?"

"Well, someone had to."

She laughs at the memory of Joe, always so persistent.

They'd spent yesterday at home all day, just enjoying their last few hours together. They'd gone out for dinner, going to Jenny and Ian's afterwards to have a drink and say goodbye.

But now, there's no more time left. Her flight is in five hours, so they need to leave within an hour to get there with enough time.

She sighs, sipping her water, listening as Jamie tries to fill the silence by telling her about the jams and marmalades Jenny and her team were creating using their farm's fruits and how his sister wants to think of a new label design.

"That'll be nice," she replies distantly, looking at him sadly.

Jamie smiles in understanding, reaching over to hold her hand. "I ken, Sassenach. I dinna want ye to leave either. But ye must."

She nods, sighing. "You know," she starts, hoping to sound casual about it. "Scotland has some pretty great hospitals; Joe gave me a few pamphlets after my first trip here, and he and I looked some up yesterday." She smiles behind the rim of her cup, looking sideways at him with a gleam in her eye.

Jamie straightens in his seat, eyes lighting up. "Wha—Sassenach," he breathes, taking her hand again. "I would love that more than anything, but," her stomach drops with that one word, and her smile falters, "I would never, in a million years, ask ye tae give up yer life and career over there just fer me." He sighs, looking down at his plate, then back to her. "What about Julia?"

She smiles at his concern for her child, and stands, collecting their plates and walking them over to the sink as she comments, "She'll be graduating within the month, and moving away to college after that."

Jamie joins her by the sink, turning her in his arms so her back is pressed against the counter. He leans in, kissing her lips and down to her neck, moving her hair out of the way to get better access. She sighs at the contact before Jamie pulls back, saying, "I dinna want ye tae make a big life decision wi'out truly thinking through it. Through all of it."

She worries her lips, breathing out deeply through her nose and knowing he's right. Claire wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him down for another sound kiss. She knows it's a big decision, but, "I'm not saying I want to move right now," she chuckles, her hands trailing from his neck to his shoulders, rubbing lightly. "It's just something to think about as a possibility. I obviously can't move now, not with Julia still in high school." She grows nervous, asking with wide eyes, "But would… would you want me here, though? Eventually?"

Jamie leans in quicker than her brain can comprehend, peppering her lips with kisses over and over again as he cups her cheeks. "Sassenach, o'course I would." He smiles, shaking his head. "I ken it sounds beyond crazy, we've only been together fer two months, but," he pauses, looking at her so tenderly that his gaze alone makes her want to weep, "I know this is something real, mo chridhe. I always have."

She smiles, hoisting herself onto her tiptoes to kiss him one more time, too excited by the possibilities opening up before them to even inquire about the newest pet name in his apparently long list of names for her.

"It's a lot to think about for sure," Claire admits, looking down at her phone when it begins to ring. "Oh, it's Julia's FaceTime. Ready?"

Jamie takes a deep breath but nods, saying he is.

Claire grins. Since she'd met Fergus, Jamie had spent the last three days saying it was only fair that he meet Julia, even if it was just over FaceTime. She's seen him once before, weeks ago, but in passing as she ran out of the house to Lizzie's.

But this would be… more official.

She'd talked with Julia last night, confirming that they could FaceTime today. It was only seven in the morning over there, but Julia had to be up early anyway for school.

"Hi, darling," Claire greets, stepping out from between Jamie and the counter. "How are you?"

Julia huffs and yawns, saying, "I'm fine, tired as always this early. But I'm glad I get done at noon today for early release!"

Claire laughs, eyes watching as Jamie joins her at the island, sitting in the barstool beside her.

"Well, before you head to school, sweetheart, I wanted you to meet Jamie."

She turns the phone so Jamie is in view, and she beams as she watches his face, his eyes lighting up as he truly gets to see Julia as more than a photograph or a blur of curly dark hair rushing out of the house. His ears are turning pink, and she chuckles under her breath at how nervous he is. "Hi, Julia."

"Hi, Jamie!" Julia calls, and Claire scoots her chair so they can both be on the screen. "How are you?"

Jamie smiles, telling her that he's well, except he doesn't want her mother to leave.

Julia laughs. "I'm sure Mom doesn't want to leave either."

Jamie looks to Claire, both grinning at the other.

"Well, you're right and you're wrong," Claire pipes in with a laugh. "I'm not ready to leave him, but I am ready to see you."

Julia rolls her eyes but smiles, saying, "It's always hard to leave your manfriend behind."

Claire laughs, shaking her head. "Alright, missy, none of that."

Jamie laughs at the pair of them, his hand that isn't holding the phone landing on her thigh and squeezing supportively.

Julia and Jamie talk for a few minutes, Jamie inquiring about her college coming up and what she wants to study. She explains to him that she isn't completely sure. She loves science so she thought about doing something in that field, research or something of the sort. But she also loves History, saying she's also thinking through majoring in that so she could maybe teach it one day. "But that sounds… kind of boring," she chuckles, "so I just don't know. I think I'm leaning more toward the science field, maybe anthropology so I can combine my love of understanding people's histories and science!"

Jamie grins, looking over at Claire. "Ye sound like quite the smart lass, just like yer mam." Julia chuckles, but agrees, and Jamie tells her he wouldn't be surprised if she became an archeologist like Lamb.

"It's not totally out of the realm of possibilities," the teen replies with a beaming smile on her face. "That would actually be really cool."

Claire smiles, imagining Julia going off with Uncle Lamb on all his adventures and the stories they would tell.

"Darling, we have to go soon, but are you sure you're still alright to pick me up at the airport?" she asks in concern, "I know I get in pretty late, Joe can just do it if you want."

Another teenage eye roll as Julia huffs, "Mom, it'll be like… ten o'clock. I stay up later than that on any given Friday night anyway."

Claire chuckles but sighs, saying she still wants Joe to at least go with her so she doesn't worry the whole flight home.

"Fine," Julia sighs, smiling at her mother. "Is he not working, though? I thought he had a late shift."

"I don't believe so, but I'll double check."

Julia shrugs, saying, "I think he's taking all the late shifts so you can be front and center when the bosses come by." She giggles. "He wants you to shine since you're up for the chief of surgery position!"

Jamie's hand leaves her thigh, and she looks to him, smiling. Claire laughs at Julia, saying neither she nor Joe have control of the schedule. "That's just how it's worked out lately."

"Sure, sure, whatever you say, Dr. Beauchamp."

Now it's Claire's turn to roll her eyes. "Alright, love, well I'll see you later tonight. I love you."

"Love you too. Bye, Jamie! It was nice meeting you!"

Jamie smiles brightly at the screen, saying much the same to her. "I'll see ye in person soon fer yer graduation!"

"Yeah!" Julia exclaims, calling out, "Bye, guys!" before she blows Claire a kiss and hangs up.

Setting her phone down, Claire leans against the backrest of the barstool. She rubs her neck and yawns, knowing she needs at least two coffees to wake up fully, despite it already being quarter after noon.

Claire opens her eyes, looking over to Jamie.

He's looking at her with the oddest expression, like she's betrayed him in some way. "What?" she asks, sitting up again and placing her hand on his knee. "What's wrong?"

"Ye… ye're up for a promotion and ye'd give that up just tae move here?"

She bites her lip, not wanting to say too much. She doesn't want to confess that she loves him enough that she'd give up the next step in her career. But she doesn't want to admit that, doesn't want to say it in so many words, because what if he doesn't love her yet? What if she's getting ahead of herself?

"I… I don't know, Jamie," is what she settles on flimsily, standing from the stool and pulling him with her. She draws him into a hug, saying, "It's not a guaranteed thing, there's a lot to consider. But let's not think about all of that right now. Let's just enjoy our last few moments together, alright?"

"Aye."

He's quiet after that, and she can tell there's more he wants to say but won't voice it, which bothers her—worries her, too.

She tries to make the most of their last hour together, trying to pass the time by talking about Fergus and Young Ian and what advice he thinks Fergus gave the young boy the other day.

But it's to no avail. Things are… off. And Claire isn't sure what to do or say.

{*************************}

Jamie drops her off at the airport, both with tears in their eyes. He holds her close, and she nuzzles her nose into his neck, not wanting to go, especially with this awkwardness between them.

"I've never been very good at saying goodbye," she whispers tearfully, kissing his cheek. "I'll call you when I land."

He nods, pressing a kiss to her lips. "Alright, Sassenach."

She kisses him again, squeezing his hand before reluctantly letting go.

"I'll see you in a few weeks in Boston."

"Aye," he grunts, picking her hand back up and placing a kiss on her old ring. "Goodbye, Sassenach."

The way he says goodbye makes her stomach drop, and she feels uneasy with the way things are being left. But there's nothing she can do now, there's no time to talk things through or figure out what's wrong. She has a flight to catch.

With one last kiss, Claire takes her bag and heads toward the counter at her airline's section of the airport.

I really like him! is what Julia's most recent text reads, and as Claire waits in line to check her bag, she grins, typing back and telling her daughter that she really likes him, too with a little wink face emoji.

Julia sends back an eye roll emoji and the laughing face before telling her she loves her and to have a safe flight.

She gets to her gate and the closer it draws to boarding time, there's an announcement that the flight is going to be delayed by an hour due to inclimate weather.

Claire takes out her phone, texting Julia and Joe to let them know, and she silently curses the weather. She could've had an extra hour with Jamie had she known; they could have talked about whatever strange discomfort was lingering between them this afternoon.

Texting Jamie, she keeps him informed about the delayed flight, but receives no answer.

She busies herself by reading and grabbing a snack, and by the time she's finally boarding her flight, still with no reply from Jamie other than him giving her message a dismissive thumbs down, she can't ignore the knot in her stomach and wonders what it all means.

{**************************}

The whole flight home, she stews over their conversation in his kitchen.

Things had been going so well, but he seemed to completely shut down once he found out about her promotion.

Her mind races, going over their goodbye and how tense it seemed, and she hates that her wonderful trip had to end on such a sour note.

She knows what he's doing. Because he's done it before. He's trying to protect her, to let her become the chief of surgery. It wouldn't be the biggest loss to her if she didn't get it, it wouldn't set her back in her career by any means. And the position isn't even guaranteed. There's eleven other doctors up for consideration, including Louise, so it's not like she definitely has the job in the bag. She'd be staying in Boston on a gamble, whereas moving to Scotland guarantees her multiple hospitals to choose from and Jamie.

But she's getting ahead of herself. This is crazy. She's only been dating him for two months.

And twenty years, her mind traitorously whispers back.

It's madness, and if anyone else were considering taking such a big leap so early into a relationship, she'd tell them not to. Tell them they were insane.

She blames Joe for this, honestly, putting these thoughts in her head. But now that they're there, and after spending two whole weeks with Jamie, she could honestly imagine what life in Scotland might look like.

With a huff, she pulls down her eye mask, chugs the tiny bottle of vodka and passes out, hoping her brain can shut off at least for a few hours.

She lands eight and a half hours later, having slept the first half of the way, occupying herself with movies the rest of the time.

Joe and Julia are both there to pick her up, and she cries in her daughter's arms, thankful to have made it home safely and to have her child with her once again.

Claire smiles at Joe and wraps him in a hug as well, thanking him for taking care of Julia while she was gone.

Once they've retrieved her luggage and gotten settled in the car, Claire takes out her phone, sending Jamie a text.

I'm home. I know you're probably just now waking up so I hope you have a great day at work. I miss you already.

He replies back, which gives her a little hope, and he asks for her to call him when she's settled.

Over an hour later, with Julia fast asleep, Claire starts to unpack, her nerves keeping her awake even though it's close to one in the morning now.

Picking up her phone, she clicks on Jamie's name, waiting while it rings. She picks up her travel laundry bag, walking it into her closet and dumping all of her worn clothes into her hamper.

"Hi, Sassenach."

She smiles into the phone even though he can't see her. "Hey, there. Are you at work?"

"Aye."

Silence. He apparently doesn't have anything else to say, and she listens to him breathing for a moment, trying to calm her fears.

God, she hates this. It's so stilted and strange, a feeling she's not used to having with Jamie. She knows something is wrong, but he isn't opening up about it, isn't being up front.

Since he's not going out of his way to make conversation, she awkwardly fills in the silence. "Well…" she draws out, adding lamely, "my flight was good. I slept half of the way."

"That's good."

"Yeah." She huffs, taking her cosmetics bag and walking it into her bathroom to unload her things. She takes out her deodorant, setting it back in it's rightful place, then her perfume and makeup. He still isn't saying anything, and the awkward tension continues to grow, so she asks, "Do you have a busy day today?" trying to make conversation.

He grunts, seeming like he's distracted. "Nay, not really. Just a few meetings."

She rolls her eyes, annoyed now at how he's acting. "Okay," she elongates with a bit of sass, "so what's wrong, Jamie?"

Claire walks back into her bedroom, sitting on the end of her bed, crossing one leg underneath her as she listens to him sigh. She can't see him, but she knows him. Knows he's running a hand over his face and through his scruff like he does when he's stressed.

"I dinna ken," he admits, sounding dejected.

She pulls the phone away, clicking on the FaceTime button. If they're going to talk about this, she wants to be able to see him.

He accepts and his image pops up. He looks worn and exhausted, like he didn't sleep last night.

"Did you get any sleep?"

Jamie gives her a sad half-grin, shaking his head. "Only a few hours."

Inhaling, Claire closes her eyes, opening them on an exhale. "Jamie…"

"I dinna ken, Claire. I dinna ken what ye want me to say."

Claire

The use of her name irritates her more than anything, so she can't help the attitude in her voice when she responds. "I want you to be honest with me instead of being so short with me."

He sighs, sitting down at his desk. He looks at her for a moment, her chest heaving as she tries to control her emotions. "I want ye tae achieve yer dreams," he confesses, his eyes misting over with the words. "Ye ken I canna move there because of the farm, no' anytime soon anyway, otherwise I would in a heartbeat, but it's just not possible right now."

She scoffs, shaking her head. Her insecurities from earlier flaring back up. What if he really doesn't feel the same way about her? What if these two months have just been fun for him and nothing else and he's just using this as an excuse? Claire narrows her eyes, retorting with, "Sounds to me like you just don't actually want me there."

His eyes bug out, and she can see the vein in his neck starting to pop out. His telltale sign that he's getting angry.

"God, Claire," he says, taking deep breaths. "I just wouldna want ye tae regret it. Moving away from Julia, yer friends, it's a lot, and I would hate fer ye tae be miserable over here." He sighs, his eyes softening, and she can feel her annoyance dissipating as she sees what this is doing to him as well. "I can bear pain, Sassenach, but I canna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have," he admits quietly, adding, "And I ken it would cause ye pain tae be away from everything ye know, especially Julia."

She huffs, trying her best not to roll her eyes. "Well, I think you should let me make that decision," she snaps. "Like I said earlier, the position isn't even guaranteed, but that's not what this is even about. You don't seem to be listening to what I'm saying." Her ire is growing again, and she tries her best to calm her heart rate. He looks so passive, like he doesn't even care (she knows he's just trying to put up a wall, but that bothers her even more.) "For Christ's sake, Jamie, I just told you before I left that I wasn't making any plans to move or stay in the near future."

He doesn't say much, just shrugs and sighs, repeating himself once more about not wanting to hold her back and whatever weak, half-assed excuse he can come up with. It's irritating, and she's miffed, and finds all she wants to do is get off the phone with him before one of them says something they'll regret even more.

"I willna give ye cause tae have regrets," he says, adding a short, "I should go. Gotta get out tae the farm."

"Fine," she clips, exhaling sharply. She tries to smooth out her features, knowing her face can never hide her true feelings. "Call me later?" she asks, trying to extend an olive branch despite how badly she doesn't want to be the bigger person right now.

"Aye." He nods, giving her a quick ghost of a smile before ending the call.

She blinks dumbly; he got off the phone quicker than she could even take a breath to say bye and it stings her pride, or rather her heart, even more than their conversation did.

Claire locks her phone, knows there wasn't much resolution, and she closes her eyes, tossing her phone on the mattress behind her. She wills the tears away, the image of Jamie's face as he said he didn't want to cause her pain burned into her subconscious.

Standing, she quickly tucks her suitcase away in her closet and hops in the shower, rinsing off the airport grime before crawling into bed.

She doesn't feel hopeful, she's terrified in fact, and feels exactly how she did twenty years ago when there was no clear resolution to their problem.

Sighing in defeat and exhaustion, she sets her alarm, then curls into a ball, crying herself to sleep that night as images of a teenage Claire doing much the same fill her mind.

{***********************}

Eek… trust the process, y'all. Lol

Let me know what you thought of this one! 3

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight:

It's been three days since Claire returned home, and other than their one phone conversation where they argued, she hasn't spoken to Jamie except through a handful of texts.

And even those have been short answers—the bare basics to get by. And it's irritating her.

Jamie is pulling away, she can feel it. She's tried calling him, but he always sends a text back saying he's busy at work and will call later, but never does. Only texts. Bastard.

She should be heartsick—and a part of her is—but more than anything, she's angry. This is exactly what he did two fucking decades ago when he thought pulling away was the only way to get her to go to medical school.

He'd been right, damn him. But still. This is not how problems should be resolved between people, even two as stubborn as they are.

Memories of the past swirl through Claire's mind, which just stirs up even more emotion in her.

"How was the funeral?" she hesitantly asked Jamie, situating herself on her bed.

Brian Fraser had passed away from cancer last week, and though she wanted to fly over there to support Jamie, she wasn't able to. She'd already committed to working at the museum for the summer and couldn't get out of it no matter how much she begged Uncle Lamb.

"It was fine," Jamie said, though she could hear the emotion in his voice. "Lots of friends and family showed up."

"That was nice of them. How's Jenny doing?"

He sighed. "Fine. She and Ian just found out they're having a boy."

Claire smiled, telling Jamie how wonderful that was.

He went quiet, and she wasn't sure what to say. She just sat there, letting him collect his thoughts.

"Claire…"

Claire? The use of her name shook her, worried her. He never called her by her name. It was always some sort of pet name like Sassenach or mo nighean donn.

Her brows furrowed and she shifted up on the top of her bed, crossing her legs beneath her. "Jamie, what is it?"

She listened to him sniffle, her own eyes misting over as her stomach dropped. "I canna come back to the States."

"Wh… why?"

Jamie sighed, crying as he told her that he was responsible for the farm now. "Jenny canna do it. Ian just got out of the hospital after his accident, they've got the babe coming…" he exhaled shakily, "it's jus' too much fer her right now. I have to do this."

She completely understood wanting to support his family, but surely he'd come back for college in the fall. They were going to move to Boston together, start school in September and have a life together. It's what they'd been planning for months.

"What about Boston? You'll come back in August or something to move our things?"

"No, Sassenach," he said softly, like he was comforting a small child. "I willna be comin' back."

Anger flared in her, taking over the sadness trying to consume her soul. "What do you mean?" She started to cry, unsure if it was from being upset or being angry. "We have a plan, Jamie. We're moving to Boston together for Christ's sake. Starting school… we have so many dreams."

Jamie sighed again, then sniffled, crying to her, "I have tae put our dreams on hold." He groaned, as if upset with himself or tortured by this decision, and selfishly she hoped he was. "I have to take care o' my family, o' our business. We'd have nothin' wi'out the farm, ye ken that." He cried, taking a moment to collect himself. "Especially wi… wi' Da gone now," he choked on that last bit, and guilt swarmed in her stomach along with every other emotion she was feeling. "I'm th' only one who can manage it all right now."

"But… you'll come back, right?" She doesn't want to sound weak, but she can feel the future she'd dreamed about for the last almost year slipping away from her. "Eventually? Maybe you can start in January, or… or next fall, spend some time there until then."

"I'm sae sorry, Claire," he cried, "Oh god, please forgive me. I dinna ken what things will look like in a few months, I canna promise ye anything." He sniffled, and added, "Ye go to Boston, ken? Dinna let my bad fortune stop ye from achieving yer own dreams of bein' a doctor."

She'd cried and he had, too, both sobbing together as they knew their dreams were crashing and burning right before their eyes.

Claire had a decision to make. She could either do what Jamie said, move to Boston and become a doctor, or… or she could move to Scotland. She could be with him, maybe go to school there and help on the farm where she could.

After their phone call, Claire tried calling Jamie every day, to let him know she was considering going to school in Scotland instead. They could make it work. She'd dreamt of attending Harvard her entire life, her parents had gone there as well, and she always felt a connection to the place. But… but Jamie wouldn't be there. Could she live with that?

He answered once, was on the phone with her long enough for Claire to relay her thought process about moving overseas.

After that, however, he'd stopped taking her calls. It was as if he had never even existed in her life.

She called every day for weeks, the first month of summer break flying by in a blur of tears. By July, she'd started to accept that it was over, that he was never going to speak to her again. She'd call every week in hopes that he'd pick up, but he never did.

{*********************}

"Still no word from him, honey?" Lamb asked, bringing a plate with something for lunch into her room and handing it to her.

Claire smiled sadly up at her uncle, shaking her head as she reached out for the sandwich and grapes. "No," she huffed, whisky eyes filling with tears again. Her voice trembled as she told him, "He won't answer my phone calls."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Maybe give him a few days," Lamb reasoned, "His dad just passed, I'm sure he's going through a lot right now."

"Yeah," she sighed, knowing this was different. If Jamie was just simply busy with his family's business, he would have at least answered her calls, talked through their options together more.

Claire thanked her uncle for her lunch, leaning her back against her headboard as she took a bite of the turkey sandwich, letting Will & Grace fill the quietness of her bedroom.

Lamb leaned down, placing a light kiss to the top of her head, and telling her he'd be in his office if she needed anything.

Once the door was closed, Claire sat her plate down on the bedside table. She curled under a blanket and cried into her pillow, hoping the sounds of audience laughter as Jack and Karen bumped chests would drown out her sobs so Lamb couldn't hear.

The next day, Claire rang Jamie again, and once again got his voicemail.

"Jamie," she said with a shake to her voice. She cleared it, not wanting to sound weak, but this was torture. "I just want to talk to you, Jamie. I need to know what is going on." She pulled her head away from the phone long enough to sniffle, hoping that he couldn't hear it on the message. "Please call me back. I love you."

Hanging up, she had accepted her fate and a decision was made. He'd forced her hand without giving her a choice in the matter.

She was going to Harvard.

She'd start school next month and would have to learn to live with the other half of her heart missing.

By August, she'd completely stopped trying to contact Jamie, enraged now more than upset. She and Lamb packed her belongings and moved her into her first dorm room at the end of the month, and with a giant kiss and lots of tears, Lamb left her to go back home to New York.

Since she was in college now, Lamb was going to start going on more excavations and she was happy for him. He'd always missed it, but she would miss him terribly. He'd promised to never miss a birthday or holiday, though, working his digs around her school schedule. He'd also be home every few weeks so there were weekends she could drive up for a visit.

Settled into her dorm, Claire eventually established a life without Jamie as well. She thought of him often, anger flaring up when she did, but also a level of love she thought she'd never have with anyone else. It was confusing, and the fact that she still loved him, despite being rejected and heartbroken, made it even worse.

She learned, however, to move on and live life without Jamie Fraser.

{***********************}

On this bright and early Monday morning, Claire has her first shift at the hospital since coming home from Scotland, so she shakes thoughts of the past away and readies herself, deciding to focus on work instead of Jamie.

She's exhausted, but she isn't sure if it's from jet lag or from the emotional rollercoaster she's been on since leaving him Friday afternoon.

While in surgery, she misses a call from him. But two can play the avoidance game, she decides, so she shoots him a text when she gets out, letting him know she'd been in surgery and would call after her shift.

No response.

She finishes another surgery—Joe assisting with it this time, all the while asking her what's wrong. Claire just shakes her head each time he asks, telling him not to worry. She didn't want to discuss it in front of the nurses and other doctors in the operating room, anyway. Her personal life would be the hottest gossip to spread like wildfire if she did that.

"It's nothing," she tries to assure, glancing toward the nurses.

Joe must catch her meaning because his eyes crinkle with a smile behind his mask and nods. He gives her a little wink and she grins, focusing back on their patient.

Once they are both cleaned up and changed from the surgery, Joe catches her before she can dash out of the door to head home.

"Talk to me, LJ," he says gently, taking her hand and leading her back to the chairs in his office.

Sighing, she closes her eyes and rubs her hand across the back of her neck. She's exhausted. Physically and emotionally drained.

"It's Jamie…" she starts, eyes misting over as she relays the events to Joe.

He listens intently, like always, and when she finishes, Joe tells her not to worry. "He'll come around, Claire," he assures, "He's trying to do what he thinks is best, I suppose."

With a scoff, she rolls her eyes. "That's what I'm afraid of." Glancing at her phone, which still has no text from Jamie, she looks up at her friend. "I need to get home to Julia."

Nodding, Joe stands, pulling her into a hug. "Alright, Lady Jane. Have a good night and I'll see you tomorrow." He gives her an affectionate squeeze, adding with a playful wink, "Try not to worry. He can't avoid you forever, who could?"

She smiles sadly, kissing his cheek before heading out for the night.

{*************************}

Claire walks into her house, immediately trudging up the stairs to her bedroom.

She tosses her briefcase onto her bed before stripping down as she makes her way to her bathroom.

Showering takes longer than planned. She was going to just hop in and wash her body off, but she's plagued by what is happening. She lets the water run over her skin as memories from the past fill her mind.

She cries into the shower's mist, hoping Julia cannot hear her.

She's angry at Jamie, misses him at the same time, though. And more than that, she's angry with herself. She is a thirty-eight year old woman, she should not be pining away for a man like this. She has a child, a steady career, she has everything people want in life… except love. She thought she had that, but…

Claire finally pulls herself from the warm shower, drying her tears and her body before throwing on yoga pants and a t-shirt and heading downstairs.

Julia is in the kitchen and the smell of something delicious hits Claire's nostrils before she's even inside the room.

"Something smells divine," she declares, plastering on a smile and walking to stand beside Julia at the stove.

Wrapping her arms around her mother, Julia smiles and thanks her. "I'm making us enchiladas."

"Sounds delicious," Claire says, hugging her daughter. She moves with a practiced ease, pulling out plates and silverware. "Thank you, darling. I'm sorry you had to cook tonight."

Julia shrugs, "You had a long surgery today. And besides, we both know your cooking isn't that great, Mom, so it really was no trouble at all."

Claire chuckles, but even she can tell it doesn't sound as genuine as it should.

"What's wrong?" Julia asks, eyeing her mother skeptically.

She doesn't want to burden her child with boy problems, that's her job when Julia has an issue, so she shakes her head, saying it's nothing.

Julia tilts her head, giving Claire a look that clearly says she doesn't believe her. Reaching for the oven mitts, Julia pulls out their dinner. Claire begins to plate their food while Julia pulls out glasses and fills them with water.

Once at the table, Julia tries once again to coax it out of her. "Spill," she demands, taking a bite of her food. She tells Claire that she's been there for her when she's upset, "especially when it comes to boys," the teenager grins wryly, "which I have a feeling that's what this mood is all about." She reaches for her mother's hand, adding, "You haven't been yourself since you got back from Scotland the other day."

Claire grins, albeit half heartedly, and sighs.

"It's nothing. Really, sweetheart." She glances up at Julia and swallows around the lump forming in her throat. "Let's just enjoy these delicious enchiladas and then we can watch a movie before bed." She smiles brightly, a false smile, but one she hopes convinces her daughter that she's alright.

"Okay…" Julia drawls, clearly not believing her but letting it go for the time being anyway.

She picks up her fork, taking a few bites before saying, "Are we still going to get stuff for my dorm tomorrow?"

"Of course," Claire smiles, emotional now over the fact that her baby is all grown up more than her issues with Jamie.

With a sigh, Claire decides to focus on the positives in her life, at least for now, and they spend the rest of dinner planning what Julia wants her dorm to look like, and things she'll need like dishes and a small television.

{**************************}

The next day, she has a day shift at the hospital, so with a kiss to Julia's cheek as the teen heads off to school, Claire makes her way to work.

It's Tuesday, just four days since she's been back, and the pit of dread in her stomach has only grown. Jamie didn't respond to a single message yesterday, and she doesn't know what to do.

She meets Joe at their offices, both having a mound of paperwork and patient files to get through before they perform a surgery on their patient's brain tumor. They've been preparing for it for weeks on end, the tumor is in a tricky spot and will take a lot of concentration, so Claire tells herself to put her boy troubles out of mind and focus on the task at hand.

"You good in here, LJ?" Joe asks, walking across from his office to hers. He's got a stack of files under his arm, and he drops them on the small table in her office.

He sits down, making himself at home.

Claire smiles, nodding. "Something wrong with your office?"

Joe snickers, looking over at her. "Nah," he shrugs, "I just figured this way I can get some work done and get you to open up about Jamie."

She rolls her eyes, looking back at her latest file with a huff.

"But work can come first," Joe declares, going quiet as he looks over his paperwork.

She appreciates him, really, she does. He's a comfort to her right now, and even though she doesn't want to talk about it, wants to just put Jamie behind her for the time being, she knows she'll open up to her best friend.

They work in companionable silence for half an hour, Joe's eyes glancing over to her every now and then.

Despite telling herself she wouldn't, Claire can't help but check her phone for any messages.

I have that massive tumor surgery today I told you about. Wish me luck and have a good day… call me later. is what she sends, cursing herself for being weak and reaching out after she told herself she wouldn't.

Another ten minutes, and still no response, she huffs, tossing her pen down on her wooden desk.

Claire looks over at Joe, who is already staring at her, his eyes so sympathetic that it makes her want to cry. "He hasn't answered my texts at all since Sunday. I know that's only two days, but..." she trails off, rolling her eyes at her own weakness.

Joe's lips purse, and she can tell he's trying to choose his words wisely. "Do you think giving him some space would make him see reason or do you think it'll push him away?"

She shrugs, telling him honestly, "I don't know. Last time this happened, he stopped answering my calls and I didn't hear from him for two whole decades." Her eyes grow wet, but she blinks the tears away. "I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want to have to chase after a man. I feel pathetic." She scoffs, picking up her mug to take a sip of coffee. "Like a desperate little girl chasing after the only boy she's ever loved."

"Would you go to him?" Joe asks, clasping his hands together and resting them on his belly as his legs stretch out in front of him.

Claire looks at him incredulously. "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because that really would be desperate. I just got back from Scotland four days ago." She scoffs in derision once more. "That would be rather piteous of me—a grown woman, to chase a man halfway around the world, don't you think?"

Her friend shrugs, casually asking, "Do you love him?"

She sighs, closing her eyes briefly to collect herself. "Of course," she tells him. "I—I don't know how to explain it. It's crazy, Joe, but loving Jamie…" she shakes her head, "it's the most powerful thing I've ever felt in my life."

Joe gives her a soft smile, saying calmly, "Let me ask you this then," he pauses, gathering his thoughts, "Would you rather fly across the ocean one more time to try and fight for your relationship, or are you okay just letting him go with no resolution? Never to speak to him again." He gives her a look that says he knows what she truly wants but won't admit it to herself. "Because I don't know if I could if I were you; I didn't in fact."

"What do you mean?"

He grins, telling her how before he married Gail, she'd broken up with him and gone back to her ex. She was scared, afraid of how serious they were getting, and Joe eventually went across the country to Seattle and begged her to come back. "It made me feel weak, and pathetic, but you know what? I knew I was in love with her, that she was my person, and I'd do it all over again to end up married to my girl."

Claire smiles, she never knew that about her friends. And she can't lie, it does give her some hope.

"Joe," she sighs, closing her eyes and tilting her head back, trying to reel in her emotions. She opens, looking back at her friend. "I don't want to lose him," she admits, voice growing thick with emotion, "But like I said, I just got back a few days ago."

"So?" Joe asks, as if that's the silliest excuse he's ever heard. "I'd rather you get on another plane and try to find the happiness I've seen radiating from you for the last few months, than have you mourn a relationship for years to come, especially when you could've done something about it."

She sighs, his words cutting to her core. She tears up, squeezing her eyes tight, causing a lone tear to cascade down her cheek. She doesn't want to cry, doesn't want anyone to see her falling apart over this. God, she feels so ridiculous. An independent woman shouldn't be this heartsick over a man. But, when it's love, she supposes there are no rules.

Joe gets up at the sight of her tears, sliding into the chair on the other side of her desk. He reaches out, and she takes his hand, sniffling and apologizing.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Lady Jane," he tells her softly, giving her hand a squeeze, "but let me say this." His brown eyes connect with hers, making sure she's really listening before adding, "I've watched you for years put your daughter and your career first. You've always put yourself on the back burner in order to give Julia the best childhood possible." He smiles, "and you have. You've made that little girl beyond happy. But you deserve the same type of happiness, too." He sighs, leaning back in the chair and looking at her pointedly. "If you have a second chance at love, you should take it."

Damn. His words hit her full force, and she thinks her heart might actually be splitting in two.

He's right… she still feels desperate, pathetic, not the woman she knows herself to be. But she also knows she'll spend the rest of her life with only half a heart if she doesn't talk to Jamie.

Joe's words definitely give her a lot to contemplate.

But she has to focus on work right now, she can't be distracted.

With that, she gives Joe one last grateful smile and takes the last two swigs of her coffee.

Standing, Claire comes around the desk to hug her friend. "Thank you, Joe," she murmurs, "I'll think about it, I will."

He smiles right back, "Good. Plus, you know," he draws, giving her a devious little grin, "I've told you time and time again that Raigmore is close to Jamie's house. It would be an easy commute when you move there."

She rolls her eyes, swatting at his shoulder. "You're never giving that up, are you? Convincing me to move to Scotland."

"Is it working?" he asks with a silly gleam in his eye.

Shaking her head, she can't help the blasé smile she gives him. "Goodbye, Joe," she asserts with a straight face and a raise of her eyebrows, pointing in the direction of his office.

He chortles, patting her on the shoulder before picking up his files and walking back to his office.

Sighing, she picks up the last bit of the protein bar she'd been munching on and gathers her first patient's file.

As she passes Joe's office, she calls out, "I'll see you in surgery at noon."

He smiles and waves her off, and Claire grins, feeling much better now that she's unloaded her feelings on Joe and gotten some advice.

{***************************}

After work, she heads home, showering and changing into jeans and a plain black shirt while she waits for Julia to get home from school.

Once she does, they load up in the car and head to the nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick out all the accessories that Julia will need in her dorm room.

"You'll need bed risers," Claire informs her, pulling into the parking spot. "That way you'll have more space under your bed for storage."

Julia nods, adding it to her ever growing list of things to look for.

Twin size bed comforter, pillows to match, a small tv, under bed storage containers, bed risers.

She taps her notebook, saying, "I think we should be able to find all of these things here, except the TV."

Claire smiles, glancing over at her daughter as they make their way inside the store. "Don't worry, darling," she tells her, "Joe and Gail said they wanted to get one for you as a graduation gift."

Julia beams, bouncing on her heels as she flits from aisle to aisle, touching everything and adding more items to her list.

Claire laughs, knowing she'll get most of these things at her graduation party, but she's glad Julia is having fun.

Thinking of her graduation party just leads her mind to wander to Jamie. They'd talked about him flying to Boston for the graduation and staying for a week or so.

Her heart physically aches with the thought that he might not be there now.

Even though she told herself she wouldn't, Claire takes out her phone, tapping on the screen to see if Jamie has replied to her earlier message.

She'd done her best to stay busy at work today, only checking it a handful of times, which just ended up being torture for her so she eventually shut it off until the end of her shift.

No unread texts. Fuck.

"Mom?"

Claire glances up, locking her phone and sliding it into her back pocket. "Hmm?"

"You alright?" Julia asks, an uneasy laugh bubbling out of her. "I was asking what you thought of this comforter."

She holds up a light blue and green plaid bedding set, and though it instantly makes her think of the tartan scarves she'd gotten for Louise and Gail, she swallows down the lump in her throat and tries to stay present in the moment with her daughter. "It looks nice, I like the colors."

Julia nods, giving Claire a small, dubious smile. "I like it, but I think I might want like, a plain color so I can add all different decorations."

"That makes sense," she replies, smiling as Julia puts the plaid one back and proceeds to look at the solid options instead.

They shop for the next hour, collecting all the items they'd gone after, plus a few more.

After shopping, they head to dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. They're seated in a booth near the back, and as they receive their garlic knots from the waiter, Claire checks her phone one more time.

Sighing, she closes her eyes, her heart breaking a little bit more. It's only seven in Boston, and she knows there's every possibility he's asleep since it's midnight, but he could have answered her at any point today.

"Are you okay, Mom?" Julia asks sincerely, reaching over to pat Claire's hand. "You seem like you're a million miles away."

Claire wills herself to smile, knowing her heart certainly is. She takes a sip of her water as she nods. "Yes, darling," she assures, "I just haven't heard from Jamie in a few days."

"You haven't?" the teen asks, eyes widening. "That doesn't sound like the two of you."

Claire grins humorlessly, taking a deep breath to try and calm her racing heart. She doesn't want to talk about this, not with her child, so she tries to brush it off. "He just seems to be pulling away ever since he found out about the chief of surgery promotion." She shrugs, trying to act like it isn't vexing her as much as it really is. She doesn't want her daughter to worry about her. "He hasn't really answered my calls, and he barely responds to my texts."

Julia's brows furrow, and Claire can't help but to chuckle at the protective gleam in her child's eyes. "Well that's annoying."

"Yes," Claire smirks, "it really is." She sighs again, saying, "I know he's doing it to show me how much I love my work, but…"

"You love him more than being chief of surgery."

Claire looks up from her plate, glossy eyed. "When did you get so smart?"

Julia snickers, "I've always been this smart. You're just the one usually trying to help me solve my boy problems."

They both laugh, and Claire reaches out, taking Julia's hand in hers.

"Is it my fault?" Julia asks softly, a look of guilt on her face. "I was the one who said something about the promotion to him on the phone."

"Oh, no, darling," Claire assures, squeezing Julia's hand and tugging it a little closer. She kisses the hand she's still holding, telling her, "He would have found out one way or another, it doesn't matter which one of us it came from."

Julia nods, but Claire can tell she still feels bad. And shit, that is exactly why she didn't want to involve her daughter. She would never want her to be burdened by her mother's dating issues.

But, well, she's involved now, so Claire relents, admitting, "I… I don't exactly know what to do."

Julia is aware of Claire and Jamie's past, of how everything went down when they were her age, so Claire knows that she understands fully when she confesses, "I'm just scared it'll be another twenty years before I see him again."

"Well, that," Julia says with a soft smile, "is not an option."

Claire huffs a soft laugh, shaking her head. "I can't just keep calling him in hopes that he answers, nor do I want to stop talking to him completely." She lets out a long, deep sigh. "It's complicated."

"So… go to him." She shrugs, picking up a garlic knot and taking a bite.

"What?"

"Go to him!" Julia repeats, sitting up in her seat. "He's clearly just being stubborn, so if he won't answer your calls or texts, force him to talk to you by showing up on his doorstep… Like not in a creepy way, of course, but in a romantic movie, I can't live without you, type of way," Julia chuckles, then gasps, eyes going wide. "It'll be just like a movie!"

Grinning, Claire rolls her eyes. This is ludicrous. Julia sounds just like Joe this morning. Shaking her head, she tells her daughter, "I've been gone so much lately between my business trip to Scotland, work, and then going back to Scotland. I don't want to leave you again." She huffs softly, slumping back against the booth's seat. "You move out in two months, I want all the time I can get with you!"

"It's just a weekend, Mom. I'll be hanging out with Lizzie and them anyway; we have Lizzie's slumber party on Saturday, remember? And I can go stay with Uncle Joe again on Friday night if it makes you feel better."

The irrational part of her wants to jump at the opportunity, wants to leap up from her seat, book a flight and go right now. Her heart is screaming at her to do it, to go to him, to fight for them, but her mind is swirling, telling her how foolish this is, how desperate she seems.

She's torn. But she knows that Jamie is just as stubborn as she is, if not more, and if they're going to make this work, really and truly work, she'll have to be the bigger person and give in first.

She's pulled from her thoughts when she hears Julia saying, "You know you're gonna end up moving there eventually!"

Her daughter laughs, but Claire's heart stops for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, come on, Mom," Julia snickers. "I know Uncle Joe gave you those brochures you pretend not to look at every night." She smirks, reaching to take Claire's hand. "You love Jamie, and I'll be off at college in a few months. It would be like so perfect!" She claps her hands together excitedly, continuing, "It would also give me a great excuse to come visit Scotland… I mean, as long as you're paying for the flight, of course. I'll be a broke college student after all."

Claire laughs at that, shaking her head. "Darling, I…"

"It would be so romantic!" Julia interrupts, eyes growing wide. "You have to do it! Or at least think about it."

The teenager shrugs, grinning into her glass as she sips her water. "But you can think about that after you go to Scotland this weekend and make up with him. Listen to your heart, Mom!"

She swears her seventeen year old and Joe have been conspiring together, have to have been, and god, her daughter is just as sappy and romantic as Jamie is. She chuckles to herself at the thought, heart stinging just a bit more at thoughts of him.

Joe's words from earlier, and his story of chasing after Gail and how much it was worth it all swarm her mind, like a constant buzzing she can't seem to shake.

Closing her eyes, she takes in a long, steadying breath to calm her heart. She makes a decision that gives her even more anxiety, but she has to believe is for the best. Pulling out her phone, she looks to Julia, admitting, "Alright… if you're sure."

"Yes! Absolutely!" Julia claps her hands together excitedly, practically bouncing in the booth.

With a nervous stomach and a shaking hand, Claire books a last minute flight for Friday, just three days from now. She feels like a fool, feels as if she's making a mistake, but she pushes those fears down, telling herself that it'll be worth it.

It could all blow up in her face, she could come back on Sunday a broken hearted mess, but Joe's words keep playing on a loop in her mind.

If you have a second chance at love, you should take it.

She just hopes Jamie is open to a second, or rather, third, chance at love as well.

{***********************}

It's crazy y'all, but love makes you do things you never thought you would so *shrugs* lol… I hope you liked this one. Please let me know what you thought!