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Photographs - The Beginning

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"This is early on," she said, laying the photograph on the table, her eager granddaughter leaning in for a closer look.

"Wow. You- and Granda…" the girl ducked her head, suddenly shy.

"What?" Claire Fraser chuckled, resting her hand on Mandy's back. "What were you going to say, love?"

"You're both just so… smitten. Is that the right word?"

Claire thought for a moment, her husband's blue eyes staring up at her from the picture. They'd been in their early thirties there, blissfully unaware of things to come: their separation, the birth of their two daughters, then grandchildren. It had been only them, then.

In the photograph, she beamed up at her Jamie, tall as he was, with eyes that were only for him, it seemed. His auburn hair was cut short, his olive green beanie covering most of it. She wore her floral print dress, with violet Forget-Me-Nots embroidered on the collar. It was her favorite, and Jamie's, too. Claire was sure he loved the way the dress flowed, like liquid down her back, so if she bent over, he could make out the shape of her arse - one of many favorite bits of her body.

She chose not to share this small detail with Mandy, but pointed out the ring she wore - a silver ring, plain as anything - but special. It had been a surprise, that ring; Jamie's promise to return to her in one piece, the promise that they'd be married as soon as possible, that they'd be okay.

Some of it remained true, after all was said and done, and Claire smiled to herself as she twirled the ring on her finger now. She watched as Mandy moved onto another photo. This one was a photo of Jamie next to a small crib, bent over, affectionately smiling at the baby that laid inside.

It was Mandy's mother, Brianna, a wee thing of six months or so, smiling back at her father with boundless joy. Mandy couldn't tell from the photo, but Brianna and her Da shared the same red hair, wavy and wild.

Mandy put her finger over Brianna, then, chuckling.

"She looks like you, Grannie."

"Huh, everyone always said she took after her father," Claire responded, surprised by what Mandy apparently saw in the baby's face.

"Well, she loves Granda a lot, too. See her grinning?"

Claire only nodded, then looked out the window, her ears picking up the sound of a car on the gravel outside.

"Your brother's here, Mandy. Let's go welcome him inside."

Claire stood, brushing her dress down so the wrinkles were smooth again. She followed Mandy outside, the dogs barking and scurrying around as Jemmy got out of his car.

"Grannie! How does it feel?"

Claire gave her grandson a warm hug, then kissed him on each cheek.

"Ah, you know - it doesn't feel like 50 years,' she said, turning to see Jamie and Brianna coming from the barn.

"Feels longer, Sassenach," Jamie called, his hands dirty from the newest project for the farm.

"How's the new chicken coop coming, mum?" Jemmy asked, his mother brushing sawdust from her hands.

"It's… it's a frame. Haven't gotten as much done as we would have liked before dinner." She smiled at Mandy, who danced ok her feet, eager to get back inside.

"Have you seen Grannie's old photos? Granda, come look," she said, pulling her grandfather inside, the rest of them following.

"I'm sure I've seen them all before," Jamie chuckled, though he happily sat down to examine them.

Shuffling through them, he smiled, touching one every now and then. He paused at one longer than the others, then shoved it into his coat pocket.

"Whaf, what was it? Let me see!" Mandy pleaded with him, though he wouldn't relent.

"I dinna ken how that got there, but this one's for me." He gave Mandy a sly smile, then stood, surreptitiously patting Claire on the bottom as he headed for the sitting room.

The photo in his pocket was over 50 years old, he knew, and he wasn't sure anyone else knew the story behind it. He sat in front of the fire, the memory swimming into view.

He'd met Claire at a dance, a fete of sorts, for the war effort, and they'd danced together more than once, seeking one another out, unabashed and fearless.

The photo in his pocket was one of Claire, her hair up just so, a braid at the side, her heels dangling on her fingers as she waited outside for her uncle.

Jamie's friend had snapped that first photo, the one he'd carried with him all these years.

She hadn't gone home to her uncle that night. Instead, she'd found her way into his heart, both of them falling so hard a damn World War couldn't tear them apart.

They'd been married 50 years today, but Jamie knew it had been much longer. He'd sold his soul that first night, that first kiss by his truck, her heels falling to the ground as her hand became preoccupied with the hairs at the nape of his neck.

No… this photo was his, that beautiful brown-haired lass smiling as she bent to catch a glimpse of him, just one more time.

Chapter Text

SCOTLAND, 1936

Knees still shaky, Claire unlocked the door to her Uncle Lamb's house as quietly as she could. She felt like she was floating, her skin still burning where Jamie had touched her.

She blushed as images from that night flooded her imagination. Jamie’s fingers lingering on her jaw, his knee parting her legs as they stood in front of his truck, the feel of the cold metal against her back as he pressed her against the door. His mouth slowly explored her exposed neck as she struggled to muffle her moans, jamming her fist in her mouth as her eyes rolled back in her head. They were in a quiet spot, though they could both hear voices as people continued to pour out of the community center, the dance over. Cars rumbled to life, people laughed and giggled, talked about their plans for the rest of the evening.

Claire had disappeared, though. Into a tingly, lust-filled netherworld where all she wanted was more. Taking a deep breath was difficult, her lungs not cooperating as she took in gulps of air. She was sure her heart would stop any second, though she couldn’t be bothered to care much on way or another.

Christ, he smelled good - a deep woodsy smell that reminded her of tree bark, pine needles, and dirt. She’d been drawn to men before, but never like this, never so intensely. She felt the world might crack open, swallow them up, if they were to part ways now. So, she did the only thing she could manage: she found his lips, finally, catching them with her own; his salty skin was the most delicious thing she’d ever tasted, their tongues mingling as they breathed one another in. His stubble scratched her face, and she enjoyed the hurt that came with the pleasure, a balancing act so delicate it nearly made her weep.

She heard the click of the door handle as Jamie deftly grabbed it, tugging her out of the way to let the door swing open. He put one hand on the small of her back, their bodies still touching from head to toe, and urged her inside, the bench seat large enough for her to lay on.

He had other plans, though, pulling Claire up so she sat staring out the front. She wondered who saw them, who had seen them at the dance, nearly inseparable, the tall red-headed scot with the brown-haired English woman, strangers yet so familiar to one another. Claire watched as Jamie turned the key in the ignition, the truck beginning its rumble as the engine spit and moaned.

He smiled at her then, a shy smile, leaning in to kiss her quickly before backing away.

“Where shall we go, Sassenach?”

“We can’t go to mine,” Claire said shakily, “my uncle’s there.” She wiped a bit of sweat from her upper lip before Jamie could see, then looked at him expectantly.

“Hmm.. we can’t go to mine, either. Too crowded.”

He didn’t elaborate, but Claire was curious.
“Do...do you have a family?” she said, backing away slightly.

“Ach, no. I only mean my sister is visiting - along with my brother-in-law and nephew. The house is big, but not that big,” he said with a chuckle, as Claire sighed. She scooted closer to him, then, eager to touch him again.

“We..ah..we could go to a park near here. It’s mostly empty at this hour...there’s a...um...an old boat house…” she let herself trail off, wincing as the words left her mouth, afraid it made her sound as though she did this all the time.

“Aye, I know the place. It’s not locked?”

“Don’t think so.”

Jamie eyed her for a second, then sat back in the seat, placing a hand on the gear shift as he gave her a nod, a gesture that told her he was up for it if he was. She nodded back, smiled briefly, then settled back into the seat as the truck began to move.

///////

The old building was covered in moss, the smell of damp wood filling Claire’s nose as she and Jamie worked their way inside. She had been correct: there was no lock, only a brick resting on the ground to keep the door shut. Claire’s entire body was shaking - from cold, from nerves, from anticipation. It was difficult to see in the dark, and she thought of all the imperfections in her skin Jamie would be spared the sight of - the scar on her leg from burning herself with the iron, the large bruise on her arse - one she’d procured just a few days previous when she’d slipped on the steps outside Uncle Lamb’s house after a good rain.

The two of them entered, the small wooden U-shaped decking clearly very old. Claire took tentative steps, Jamie right behind her, worried about falling through the floor and into the loch. He gripped her shoulders to keep her steady, and at last she found a corner with a reasonably steady bit of wood beneath them, and stopped, turning to him.

Jamie quickly backed her into the corner, old fishing nets hanging on the wall, the buoys bouncing against the wood as she jostled them. The smell of the boathouse disappeared as Jamie came close, pressing himself against her as they kissed, deeply this time, slowly, knowing they wouldn’t be interrupted.

Her hips met his, an urgent movement, Jamie’s hand moving behind her back to increase the pressure. Claire let out a soft moan as she circled her hips against him. She gasped as the kiss was broken, Jamie’s hand finding its way up her dress. Her stockings were suddenly uncomfortable, and her knickers were soaking wet. She suddenly felt very warm, her cheeks burning as Jamie’s fingers explored the soft skin of her inner thighs, edging closer to her center.

“Jamie,” she whispered, suddenly shy. He withdrew his hand, looked at her with concern.

“Are you okay?”

“I've never done this before.”

“Neither have I, Sassenach.”

“Oh.”

“Do you want to stop?”

“God, no.” Claire had trouble swallowing, her throat suddenly dry. She took a shaky breath, then pulled Jamie’s hand, easing it between her legs again. “You can touch me if you like.”

He was slow, at first, easing his fingers under the band of her undergarments, moaning as he felt the wet fabric between his fingers. Claire’s mind went blank, her universe shrinking to this point, this sensation. Jamie’s knuckles grazed her folds, her breath catching. She saw sparks, knew it wouldn’t take much to push her over the edge. She pressed her hips into his hand, eager for more, and he let his thumb find her clit. Her whimpers were muffled, her head now buried in Jamie’s neck.

She felt him press himself against her, moving his hips in unison with his hand movements.She felt him beneath his trousers, hard and yearning, the mere mental picture of it enough to cause her to give way, her knees buckling with the intensity of the orgasm. She could still feel Jamie’s hand, right against her, her insides pulsating along with her heart. She’d only ever done it alone, had no idea it could feel so good with someone else. She clung to him as he held her up, kissing her hard and fast.

Withdrawing his hand, she watched as he adjusted himself, and she put a hand out, tentatively, over his. Her thighs were damp, her body still being hit with waves of pleasure, causing her to want more.

“Your turn?” she asked shyly, and he removed his hand then, allowing her to feel him, the length of him. He opened his fly, letting her in, and she felt the silky skin of him. She didn’t know quite what to do, so he helped her, wrapping her fingers around his cock, guiding her movements as she brought him closer. It was quick, Jamie’s cum covering her hand as she continued, his breath jerking, his whole body shaking, much as her own had. It took him a second, working to regroup, to find her eyes. He brought a handkerchief out, wiped Claire’s hand.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, a giggle escaping his lips as he balled the fabric up and stuffed it into his pocket. Their foreheads touched, Jamie leaning in to steal a kiss. Claire leaned into him, her arms going around his neck in a close embrace. She didn’t want to let go, to lose his warmth against her. She kissed him soundly, tugging on his bottom lip with her teeth.
“It’s getting late,” she stated, her fingers playing with his curls. Her mouth formed into a frown as she felt the night coming to an end. She’d have to get home before Uncle Lamb found out she’d stayed out so late. “I better get home.”

“When can I see you again?” he whispered, his mouth grazing her left ear, then dipping down to her neck, where he buried his face and took a steadying breath.

“Ah - um… I live off Station Road, in the middle of the row - red door. Come by tomorrow afternoon?”

Jamie nodded, finally lifting his head from her shoulder.

“Your uncle won’t mind?”

Claire gave him a grin, shaking her head.

“He won’t be home.”

Chapter Text

Scotland, 1936

One week after First Night

Claire stared at the ceiling, the plaster ceiling with the hairline crack that ran from the doorway, stopping just above her head. She’d followed that line many times with her eyes over the years, imagining it traveling down the walls behind her bed, splintering like a river into smaller tributaries. She’d imagine blood running through it, pulsating, matching her heartbeat as she had some fantasy or another, her eyes fixated and hazy.

She was thinking of Jamie, of the boathouse, of the way he’d touched her - it still made her flush, made her wriggle under the sheets. Her silk nightgown felt too much like his fingers upon her skin, and she swallowed, her throat going dry as it seemed to do every time she thought of that night.

She’d seen him only once since then - he’d come the day after, as promised, knocked on her door. She’d been too shy to even kiss him in the broad light of day. She’d served him burnt coffee instead. She’d spilled coffee grounds all over creation, swearing and going red as he watched her hastily clean it up. She’d let the percolator sit too long on the stove, having gotten distracted by his eyes, or his mouth, or, well, all of him.

He was polite, waved away her apologies, told her he loved the coffee, and was only glad to see her again. He’d surveyed the kitchen quickly, but soon his eyes fell on her and didn’t move. He told her of his family’s farm, not far away, nestled in the hills. Told of his newborn nephew, his sister, his brother-in-law. Claire listened as though he was the second coming of Jesus, rapturous and compelled to allow the coffee to sit, the burnt smell soon filling the kitchen.

They’d said their goodbyes soon after, Claire telling him that her uncle was due home any minute. They’d allowed a soft kiss between them, before Jamie stood at the end of the walk, hand up, a regretful look on his face.

Claire tugged at her nightgown, feeling suddenly rather warm, and she kicked off the quilts. She wondered if yearning for someone so intensely was healthy; was it normal to sit and daydream constantly, inserting a person into your everyday life, like an imaginary friend or a ghost? She’d go through her day, normal as ever, but she’d imagine Jamie there with her - would imagine what he’d say, what he’d do, how they’d laugh or whisper to one another. She’d walk through town, her eyes searching for a small glimpse of him, would turn corners in the corner shop, wondering if he might just be there, too, searching for her.

Sighing, she decided to get out of bed. She went to the window overlooking the back garden hearing the neighbor’s dog bark at some imaginary adversary. Pressing her forehead to the cool glass, she jumped when a small pebble hit the window.

“What?” she asked herself, edging closer again, but not seeing anything, or anyone. She waited briefly, her breath caught in her throat, before it happened again.

Tap.

And again.

Tap.

She finally leaned close enough to see him: a figure in the dark, standing just inside the shrubs surrounding the garden. His face was obscured, but she knew it was Jamie, the way he stood with his feet apart, tall and confident, his arm coming up again to form an arc as he threw another pebble.

Claire quickly rushed to the bedroom door, grabbing her bathrobe from the hook and throwing it around her shoulders. She tied the sash, making sure it was secure, and then pulled the curtains all the way back. She pushed the window up and stuck her head through, the cool night air causing her to shiver.

“Jamie?” she hissed, surprised but also unapologetically euphoric at seeing him.

“I had to see you, Sassenach,” he said, coming closer to the house and looking up at her. He tossed the rest of the pebbles to the side, and raised his hand up as though he could reach her if he only tried.

Claire felt rather like Juliet, Romeo outside her bedroom, beckoning. She held one finger up, telling him to wait. She pulled herself inside, surveyed herself quickly, then ran a hand through her hair to smooth her wild curls. She opened her bedroom door, quietly stepping out into the hall. Glancing at her Uncle’s room, she paused, listening for any sign that he might be awake. All was quiet, though, so she made her way downstairs, gripping the newel post and swinging herself around to face the back door, Jamie waiting just outside.

God, if the neighbors saw, she’d be ruined. If her uncle saw, she’d be sent to a bloody convent, but she didn’t care just then. She swung the door open, searching the garden for him, finally spotting him at the edge, where he’d tucked himself along the shrubbery, neat and out of the way of possible prying eyes. She ran to him, the few steps it took to make it, and threw her arms around his neck.

“What are you doing here? It’s past midnight!”

He didn’t answer - not with words. Instead he put his hands on either side of her head, pulling her to him. His lips caressed hers, softly at first, his tongue tasting her as though she were his last meal. She responded in kind, allowing the kiss to go on, their bodies pressed together, Claire’s bathrobe and thin nightgown offering the thinnest of barriers. She felt him press against her thigh, though she knew they could go no further - not at midnight in her back garden. She broke away from him then, reluctant as she was, breathing heavily and missing him in a way that shocked her.

“I’ve missed you,” he whispered, “I can’t stop thinking about you.” He pressed his forehead to hers, their noses brushing against one another.

“Can I meet you tomorrow? At the racetrack? You know the place?”

Claire nodded, smiling.

“Do you race, then?”

“Aye - my motorbike is all ready for a doozy tomorrow - I’ll win, dedicate it to you, Sassenach.”

“I’ll be there - what time?”

“Three - can you make it? Will your uncle allow it?”

“I’ll tell him I have shopping to do,” she said, knowing it wouldn’t be a problem.

Jamie kissed her then, hard and urgent, pulling her body into his, as though he’d like to crawl underneath her skin. Hands roaming, he sighed into her mouth, then pulled away.

“These small meetings aren’t enough, Sassenach. It kills me when we have to part.”

“Me, too,” she answered, kissing his neck as he stroked her back, holding her tightly.

“Tomorrow, then?”

“Tomorrow.”

Claire watched him duck back through the shrubs, the dog next door barking wildly as Jamie skipped through the gardens, back home. She tasted whisky on her lips, licking them, savoring the taste of him in her mouth. She rushed back upstairs, relieved to see that her uncle was none the wiser.

Taking off her bathrobe, she climbed back into bed, her eyes landing on the cracked plaster once more. Her stomach clenched, the ache between her legs too intense to ignore. She imagined him there, next to her, his hands were hers, tender and warm. She brought herself to the edge, then over, shuddering as the wind from the open window hit her back.

She fell asleep, Jamie’s whisky still on her lips.

Chapter Text

Scotland, 1936

She’d gone to see him at the race track, just as she’d promised, caught sight of him as she sat in the stands. He stood in the middle of the track, the grassy area inside the dirt track full of bikes and riders prepping for the race ahead. Jamie was posed in front of his bike, hand on the seat, beaming at a friend who held a camera. Claire heard the flash go off, Jamie relaxing again as his friend toyed with the camera, readying it for another photo of another rider.

Claire had been here before, only once, with a couple of girl friends. They’d all been curious about the roar of the bikes as they walked past, and even more curious about the riders, their leather caps and gloves oddly intriguing. Now, Jamie was slipping his cap onto his head, his curly hair sticking out haphazardly in different places. His goggles rested on his forehead, and Claire smiled as she watched him walk his bike to the starting line. She waved when he looked up, and he tripped as he paused to wave back, smiling at her as if he’d already won the race.

It had been quick, the starting gun causing Claire to jump. The noise of all the bikes whirred past again and again as the riders held their handlebars tightly, taking sharp turns, then revving their engines in the straightaways. Jamie had come in a respectable second, clapping the winner on the back as he laughed. He had parked his bike off to the side, then removed his cap, wiping his dusty face with a cloth he’d pulled from his pocket. Leaving his gear with his bike, he’d rushed over to Claire.

A shy nod, and he smiled at her. She stood, motioning to him to follow. He did, and she stopped behind the wooden seats, grinning ear to ear as she heard him running to catch up.

“I didn’t win, Sassenach. I hope you’re not disappointed,” he said, catching up to her. He took her hand, pulling her to him. She was hesitant at first, his dusty jacket less than appealing. She soon forgot her desire to remain spotless, though, as he leaned in to kiss her, his lips tasting like dirt and sweat. She fell against him, unable to remain upright, the desire to do more than simply kiss overwhelming her for the millionth time since she’d seen him the night before in her back garden.

“Oh, you know I don’t care about that. I only wanted to see you,” she responded softly, eyes at his leather boots, laced tight. He lifted her chin, then kissed her again.

“Come on. Let’s go,” he whispered, pulling away slightly. She chased his mouth with hers, but he wouldn’t give in. Instead, he pulled her by the hand, bringing her to the tall grass beyond the track, where they were hidden - out of view of other riders and spectators.

Jamie rested on his side, Claire on her back next to him. The sun was bright and hot, the long blade of grass in Jamie’s mouth was sweet, tangy, and he held it between his teeth as he smiled down at her, errant curls framing her face as she lay there, relaxed and thoroughly happy. The sky was a brilliant blue; the air was sweet with the scent of Spring. Claire swatted at a bee buzzing round her head, Jamie catching her hand midair. He dropped the long blade of grass from his mouth, then planted a kiss on her knuckles. She gave a small laugh, then brushed his hair away from his face with her free hand, dust from his motorbike race still in his hair.

“You’re all covered in dirt, Jamie,” she said, laughing again as she brushed her hands on her dress.

“It’s an unwanted side effect of the racing, though entirely worth it,” he chuckled, “and I must say, Sassenach, you’re somehow more desirable with a little dust on you.”

“Oh, be quiet, Jamie,” she responded, hoping against hope that her face was closed off, demure. However, she knew all she was doing with her eyes was begging him to kiss her again, pressing her body against the ground until she couldn’t breathe.

“Did you tell your uncle you were coming here?”

“God, no. I told him I had to go to the library. I do research for him, so that was the perfect excuse to leave the house.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s an archaeologist. Currently under contract with the university here in Inverness - studying some ancient rock formations or something of that nature. I look up names, dates, for him. That sort of thing.” Claire smiled up at the handsome man above her, his eyes so blue they rivaled the sky. She silently admonished herself for rambling on about Uncle Lamb. Jamie was probably bored. She licked her lips in a nervous fashion, letting her eyes wander to his face. He wore the same warm smile, one that reached his eyes.

“Does your uncle… does he know about…” Jamie trailed off, biting his lip, unable to complete his thought out loud.

“I truly don’t know what to tell him. I met a boy at a dance? He crept into our back garden? Are you intending to offer your hand to me, James Fraser?”

Jamie took a breath, his eyes avoiding her own, instead choosing to concentrate on a dancing leaf caught in the slight breeze.

“I suppose,” he began, before stopping again. Claire urged him on, raising her eyebrows in question.

“You suppose…?”

“Shall we make it official then?”

“Official?”

“Can I meet your uncle, I mean?”

She’d told him about her parents, having died when she was young. He’d already know it was her uncle he had to seek permission from.

“I’d love to take you out, Sassenach.”

“A date?”

“Hmm. Dinner? Perhaps the cinema? The new Charlie Chaplin picture is showing.” Jamie made his eyebrows dance while Claire held in a giggle.

They were quiet for a few moments, Jamie finding another blade of grass to stick between his teeth. Claire wanted desperately to tell him yes, to drag him back home with her to confront Uncle Lamb. It wasn’t so easy, though, she knew. She had obligations she couldn’t overlook, had expectations that Uncle Lamb would be none too happy about her ignoring.

She was supposed to start nursing school soon. She’d begged her uncle to let her remain his apprentice, become his assistant of sorts. He’d told her it wasn’t a position for a lady, that she must find respectable work, away from the dirt and politics of archaeology. She’d argued that nursing was no safer, and though she knew she’d made a point, he was relentless, demanding that she enroll. If she brought Jamie home, she knew Uncle Lamb might very well put a stop to it, demanding that she finish schooling before any sort of dating or marriage. The thought caused a wave of heat racing up her spine, and she had no idea what Jamie’s intentions ultimately were… but surely dating led to marriage.

Claire swallowed, suddenly anxious to get up and walk off some of her nervous energy. She sat up, smoothing her hair with her hands.

“I saw you, you know,” Jamie remarked, catching her by surprise. He was sitting up straight now, too, grass again gone from his mouth. He was serious now, looking at her intently.

“Saw me? What do you mean?”

“Before the dance. I saw you on the trolley - knew I was going to marry you.”

Claire’s mouth fell open, half embarrassed, half flush with that sudden longing that Jamie - and only Jamie - caused to bubble to the surface.

“Your hair was blowing in the wind, your eyes danced as though you loved everything you saw - just a city street, a few streetcars ahead, people milling about. You may not remember, but I caught your eye as you went by. I thought I’d never see you again, but then you were there, at the dance hall.”

“How long ago?” Claire was in disbelief - she couldn’t have been the one he saw, the one who had caught his attention. She had no recollection of any particular day she’d ridden the trolley, no particular recollection of catching a boy’s eye.

Jamie was blushing now, his face having gone red. Claire laid a hand on his shoulder to ease his nerves.

“Um. Perhaps six months ago,” he replied, unable to look away from the ground now.

Claire still couldn’t recall the trolley ride he described, but she grinned, flattered that he remembered her from so long ago, wishing he’d called to her, that they’d met sooner than they had.

“Come to dinner - a week from Friday. I’ll… prepare my uncle,” Claire said, shaking his shoulder slightly to get his attention. He looked at her, his auburn hair catching the sunlight. It made him look as though he might burst into flames. And take her with him.

“Really?”

“Yes. I...want to be with you.”

Claire left it like that - open and full of possibilities. She couldn’t articulate any more than that, anyway. Her head was spinning, only allowing her to imagine building a life with Jamie, blissfully in love. He moved toward her, his head angled just so, his mouth catching hers in a searing kiss. Claire was floating, unaware she was falling back until her head hit the ground. They didn’t come back up for air until Jamie noticed the light was fading, the sun going from blue to pink.

“I’ll see you soon, Sassenach,” he said, helping her off the ground. He pulled a few twigs from her hair, then dusted her back.

“When? Before dinner next Friday?”

“Aye - that’s a promise.”

The bid their farewells, Claire all too aware that their visits were too short, always leaving her wanting more.

Chapter Text



Scotland, Spring 1936

Desperation didn’t begin to describe it, both of them taking huge gulps of air when their lips parted, only briefly. Claire had half a mind to drag Jamie upstairs, Uncle Lamb be damned. No, she thought, they’d wait, as they’d discussed a day previous, when Jamie and Claire had run into one another at the corner shop. It had been an impromptu meeting, Claire’s stomach doing flips as she spotted Jamie’s auburn head unexpectedly. She’d remained calm, bidding farewell to her girl friend then making a beeline for Jamie. The two of them made their way outside, Jamie leading her to an alley beside the shop. They’d been desperate then, too, up against the rough brick wall as it began to rain. It was a brief meeting, but they’d managed to talk about dinner the next day, and after Jamie had pressed himself against her, she’d told him how much she wanted him, how her skin burned at the very thought of his fingers exploring in secret places. Yet, they’d fought the urge to give in, and both had agreed that they’d wait - until? Until they were married. Claire didn’t much care for this particular idea - it meant nothing to her to wait, but it mattered to Jamie, so she’d agreed.

Now, Claire was pinned to the chaise lounge - much like she had been pinned against the wall in the boat house. Feeling the upholstery nails beneath her fingers, she grasped for purchase. As their eager shifting moved them both, Claire had found herself getting closer to the edge of the seat as the afternoon wore on. Jamie’s large hand was there to catch her, holding her in place so she could scoot closer to the middle. This piece of furniture had never seen much use - it had sat underneath a window for as long as she could remember, but it always remained empty. Now, she mused to herself as Jamie’s hands traveled lower than strictly appropriate, its use was perfectly clear. Yet, she knew that Uncle Lamb was due home any second, and she needed to stop Jamie before they went any further.

“Jamie?” she giggled, not wanting to stop but knowing she’d be skinned alive if she didn’t. She pushed him up, gently, while at the same time going in for another kiss. It was as though they were fighting two separate forces. One that wanted them to remain locked in a warm embrace, the other that required them to part; both were painful, and neither offered any sort of satisfaction - at least not in Claire’s opinion.

She took a breath, then pushed again, Jamie having latched his mouth to her neck, he'd fallen back into things as soon as she’d removed her hands from his chest.

“Jamie - stop. We’ll be caught.”

“Okay, okay. You smell good, Sassenach. I can’t help myself.”

His sly look gave way to amusement as they both stood up. Claire brushed her apron so it layed neatly against her dress again. She sniffed as she smelled something burning. That would be the rolls, she decided, and rushed past Jamie to retrieve them from the oven before it was too late.

“Jesus Christ! They’re ruined!” she yelled, wrapping a towel around her hand to pull the hot pan out of the oven. They were, indeed, fairly well done - black on top and, well, it was hard to tell what they looked like on the bottom, but she figured it wasn’t good. She placed the pan on top of the stove, where the remainder of the dinner sat waiting, and waved a hand in front of her face to clear the smoke.

She heard Jamie coughing as he came into the kitchen. She sat in one of the two kitchen chairs, slumped over with a hand on her forehead. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder, and allowed herself a sigh.

“It’s all right, Sassenach. They’ll be good, just the same.” Jamie gave her a wink, and she reciprocated with a weak smile.

She stood and surveyed the dinner she'd prepared: a small roast, potatoes, string beans, and a nice pudding for dessert. The table was all set in the other room. She'd laid a clean white cloth over Uncle Lamb's card table, placing it in front of the hearth in the sitting room as they always did for guests. It wasn't fancy, but it would do.

Her mother's fine porcelain plates and good silverware had been set out for three, along with two silver candlesticks complete with two bright red candles, not yet lit. Claire winced as she thought it looked slightly like Christmas, but she shrugged the thought away, and went to survey the liquor cabinet.

She thought it best to keep alcohol far removed from tonight, but she knew Uncle Lamb well enough to know he'd like some brandy with dinner, so she pulled the bottle out and set it next to the crystal glasses resting on top of the cabinet.

She felt satisfied, and as she removed her apron, she heard the click of the front door.

Uncle Lamb had come home.

She'd prepared him as best she could. Told him that a boy wanted to meet him, wanted to discuss things with him. She knew Jamie wanted to make a good impression, and once she knew her uncle would be out for most of the day, she'd asked Jamie to come early, so he might feel more at ease.

Now, though, she watched him as he shifted on his feet, nervously toying with a button on his dinner jacket. He'd dressed sharply- black slacks and shoes, a smartly ironed white shirt, and a black jacket to match. Jamie's hair was short, combed neatly neatly to one one, though his curls shot out haphazardly, giving him a bit of character. At least, Claire thought so. Jamie kept swatting at them all afternoon, swearing at whoever would listen that he'd pay good money he didn't have to get rid of them. Claire had stilled his hand, assured them that she loved his red locks just as they were, and he'd finally quieted. That had been about the time they found themselves entangled on the chaise lounge, dinner rolls forgotten in the oven.

Jamie straightened his jacket, cleared his throat and stood, ramrod straight, next to Claire as they watched Uncle Lamb make his entrance, his lips puckered as he whistled an unrecognizable tune. Claire was beaming, anxious to get on with it, and she rushed to the door to help Uncle Lamb with his hat and briefcase. The thin man was dressed in a casual suit, his grey mustache tickling his upper lip as he smiled.

"Hello, my dear- it sure does smell delicious! I've been thinking about your dinner all day," he said, planting a fatherly kiss on Claire's cheek as she took his jacket. She hung it on the coat rack, then finally whirled around to face Jamie, who hadn't moved.

"Uncle, this is Jamie - er, that is, James Fraser," she began, gesturing to Jamie, ducking shyly as she caught his eye. "He lives at Lallybroch - you know of it, I think?"

"Ah, yes. Heard all about you, young man," Uncle Lamb said, holding his hand out to Jamie. The two men shook hands, and Claire made a face behind her uncle's back, urging Jamie to say something.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir,'.Jamie finally got out, his accent slightly thick. "I… thank you for inviting me into your home. It's lovely."

Jamie winced, and Claire smiled at him in an attempt to ease his nerves. His face was tight, and Claire knew he was terrified to say the wrong thing. Uncle Lamb smiled at Jamie, too, then made his way to the sitting room, where the table had been laid out.

“Oh, how splendid,” he remarked, taking a seat at the table. He looked back at the two love birds, and gestured for them to join him. Claire nudged Jamie to his chair, and she scurried to the kitchen to bring out the serving dishes.

“Hope it’s all right, Uncle Lamb. I did burn the rolls.”

“It’ll be delicious, darling,” he said, spooning a heaping helping of potatoes onto his plate. “Now. I’m not one for small talk - James, I know why you’re here - I assume you two have talked at length about this?”

Jamie cleared his throat, ignoring the food and instead taking a quick sip of water. Claire admonished herself silently: she’d forgotten any wine, and that was just what Jamie needed right now. His face was red, and he kept tapping his fingers on the table. Claire knew he didn’t even realize he was doing it, and she placed a hand gently over his own to calm him. He looked at her gratefully, and then he took a breath.

“Ah, yes...sir. We’ve talked about it. I know she’s going to nursing school…” he trailed off, unsure about how to continue. Uncle Lamb continued for him.

“Yes, she is. And I ask that you two wait-” he was stopped by Claire, who’d gasped and sat up in her chair. “Now, now. Hear me out. It’s a twelve month program-”

“But, Uncle! What if-”

“You two have been glued at the hip. I mean, at least that’s what I understand. Perhaps it will be good for you to have some time apart - really make sure you do want to follow through with marriage eventually.” He gave his niece a stern look, her pained expression frozen on her face. Jamie sat quietly, hands in his lap, stunned.

“We have not! We’ve met up here and there, but-”

“You don’t go to nursing school for another four months, darling - don’t fret. Enjoy the coming summer together. I’m not doing this to make you miserable, but I just… I want you to be sure.”

“May I at least... take her out, sir? We certainly haven’t been on a date. Not yet.”

“Certainly, young man - if only to stop you from sneaking around my back garden at night.”

Uncle Lamb raised an eyebrow at Claire, his face going up in a smile as she covered her face with her hands.

“It’s all right, dear. I may be old, but I’m not deaf. Or blind. James, come through the front door next time, yes?”

“Oh---okay. You can call me Jamie, sir.” Jamie licked his lips, glancing at Claire who kept her face hidden. He was relieved, everything out in the open. He’d been terrified of meeting her uncle, afraid he’d shoot down any hope they had of getting married. Instead, he’d told them to wait, something Jamie was more than happy to do if that meant being with Claire. He smiled, nudging Claire’s leg under the table with his own.

“It’s all right, Claire - we’ll make it work.” Claire peeked at him through her fingers, then lowered them completely, her face a bright shade of pink. She finally sighed, and smiled at her two boys. She spooned some string beans onto her plate, then some roast, and began to eat. Uncle lamb took a bite of food, then chucked to himself. Claire looked up, a questioning look on her face.

“It’s just… why you thought you had to keep this all a secret from me, I’ll never know. I just want you to be happy, dear.” He gave Claire a warm look, then continued. “I think twelve months in London will do you good. You two can write, at any rate. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Claire nodded, unable to come up with any sort of response, and she noticed Jamie’s face fall, his fork freezing in mid air as he absorbed Uncle Lamb’s words.

She was going all the way to London, and his pockets felt light already - he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make many trips to see her. He swallowed his fear, and began to eat again. There was nothing to be done, and at least they had four months until then.

Dinner was eaten in relative peace, Claire and her uncle chatting about work, Jamie learning more than he ever thought possible about the old stone circles dotted here and there. It was fascinating, and he was in constant awe of Claire’s ability to keep up with her uncle - she was smart, and no doubt she’d be a wonderful nurse.

Once they finished dinner, Claire served her uncle his glass of brandy, and he took it with a smile. He sat in a red velvet armchair, watching while Jamie cleared the table with Claire’s help. They pulled it out of the way of the hearth, then they sat together, legs touching, on the couch. Uncle Lamb cleared his throat after a sip of brandy, and sat up.

“Claire, I believe I’ve left my smoking tobacco upstairs on the dressing table - will you get it for me?”

Claire made her way upstairs, Jamie half wishing he’d followed her. He eyed her uncle who had leaned toward him, a gleam in his eye. Jamie was suddenly boiling, his collar much too tight. He felt he might pass out right there in the middle of the sitting room, so he took a steadying breath, trying to keep himself together. Uncle Lamb rubbed a hand over his mustache before speaking, letting Jamie know he meant business.

“Do you have any idea how you’ll support a family, Fraser?” The question caught Jamie off guard, and though it hadn’t been said unkindly, Jamie knew he better not cock the answer up.

“Yes. Yes sir - my family owns Lallybroch - I’m due to inherit it some day. We’ll live there. We generate money through rent, and through the selling of animals and goods. You know.”

“Yes, I do. I must ask - what’ll Claire do? She’s got a little bit of a green thumb, but I can’t say she’d be happy as a farmer’s wife.”

“It’ll be good to have someone with medical training on a farm - someone’s always getting hurt.”

“I don’t want her mind to go to waste, you know - she’s clever, and industrious. She’ll make a good mother, surely, though I hope you know she’s got a strong will, that one.” Uncle Lamb chuckled, shaking his head. Jamie wondered what sort of grief Claire had given him growing up, and smiled at the thought of a wee girl giving her uncle what for. Jamie could picture it clear as day,and as Claire returned with the tin of tobacco, he smiled at her, wanting nothing more than to engulf her in his arms right there.

They’d bide their time, make the best of nursing school and Claire being in London, then start their life together at Lallybroch. It warmed Jamie’s heart, knowing what lay ahead, and he clasped her hand in his as she sat beside him once again.

Chapter Text

Scotland, Summer 1936

Claire held the silver spoon between her fingers, watching the ice cream begin to melt. Smothered in warm, gooey fudge, the vanilla ice cream was just the right end to a perfect night.

Jamie had knocked on the door at around seven, Claire bounding down the stairs, her hair only half brushed. She grinned, ushering him into the living room where they'd had dinner a week before. He was in the same black slacks, but wore a loose fitting white shirt, fastened with tiny silver buttons that made Claire's fingers twitch.

She bit her lip as she ascended the stairs again, wondering just how difficult they'd be to undo. She hurried with her hair, cursing only a few more times at her reflection in the mirror as she dabbed some perfume on each wrist, then behind her ears.

Slipping on her heels, she was ready to go - out with Jamie, for as long as they liked.

They'd gone to dinner, then the cinema; had allowed their hands to mingle, though each seemingly innocent touch was charged, suggestive.

Now, they were in a booth at the ice cream parlor. Overrun with children during the day, at night it was swarming with couples, and Jamie and Claire blended in, sharing a spoon, each leaning over the table so their heads touched.

"When we get married, we can do this every day, if you like," Jamie remarked, pulling a napkin from the stack that sat between them. He wiped a bit of fudge from the corner of Claire's mouth as she began to laugh.

"We can do other things too, surely. I'd like to keep my girlish figure… at least for a while."

Jamie took a breath, his eyes lighting up as he smiled at her. “We could travel - go to America? See Niagra Falls, New York, Chicago.”

“Oh, I’d love to - on a motorbike, I presume?” she laughed, the thought of clinging to the back of his bike both thrilling and terrifying.

“Only if you want to, of course,” Jamie said.

Claire spooned ice cream into Jamie's mouth, watching him savor it, licking the sweet cream off his lips.

"You don't care for the fudge?" She asked, carefully avoiding it to scoop up another bite for him.

"I thought I'd let you have it."

Claire giggled, feeling rather lightheaded, her stomach fluttering. It had been all night, and as the evening grew dark, she silently wished for a way to do it all over again.

She didn't want to say goodnight to Jamie. It felt too good, just to be near him. The ice cream was suddenly uninteresting, and she put the spoon down.

"Are you finished, Sassenach?"

"I think so," she replied, leaning back in her seat. She swallowed, her eyes glued to Jamie's as he smiled at her.

"Don't want the night to end," he remarked, seemingly reading her thoughts. He put his hand atop hers, caressing her skin with his calloused thumb.

Claire shook her head, scrunching her nose as she realized how silly it was. She'd see him again soon, after all. She felt, though, that time was precious, that that year in London would last an eternity, that they'd never make it. Well, she wouldn't. It hurt already, to think of it.

Jamie got up, pulling her with him. He tugged her along, and they soon found themselves outside, the cool night air making Claire shiver after the warmth inside.

Wrapping his arms around her, Jamie surrounded her with his warmth; he smelled of earth, rich and sharp. Claire let him lead her down the street, to the waterfront. The lake shimmered under the moonlight, the water lapping against the rocks not far from where they stood. She took a deep breath, letting her hand find his. Her sudden change in mood hadn’t gone unnoticed, and he placed his hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him.

“Did I do something wrong, Claire? If you don’t want to go to America, we can stay here - it’s fine with me - I’ll do whatever you want.” Jamie asked, worry etched on his face.

She shook her head, giving him a smile, and his face softened.

“Not at all. I’m just… I wish we didn’t have all this waiting ahead of us - that’s all.”

“I don’t like it either, but - your uncle is right. You should focus on nursing school. I’ll be here, waiting. In the meantime, we can spend time together, just like tonight. I spoke to my Da, actually - he’d like you to visit us at home, get to know you.”

“Hm, that’d be lovely.”

Claire said nothing else - she wasn’t in the mood to talk anymore, not tonight. She leaned into Jamie, wrapping her arms around his waist, trusting him to hold her as she buried her face in his shirt, the fabric soft and warm. She fiddled with one of his buttons for a moment, before letting her hand fall back down to his hip.

“I don’t know what I’ll do, way down in London without you. I suppose I’ll hope the saying is true: distance makes the heart grow fonder? Hmm, well, I can’t even bear to say goodnight, knowing I’ll see you again in a short amount of time.”

Claire felt Jamie’s hand fiddling in her curls, the touch so delicate that she wondered if it was possible to fall asleep standing up, here on the waterfront. She thought she might, until Jamie’s movements stilled, his finger finding its way under her chin.

“Don’t be unhappy, Sassenach,” he said, nudging her so she’d lift her head to look at him. “I couldn’t bear it.”

“I'm not unhappy - quite the opposite,” she replied, giving him an unconvincing smile. He planted a soft kiss on her cheek, then moved to her mouth, where his lips lingered. Claire’s knees began to shake, and she felt that familiar knot in her stomach. It was all too much, the desire that welled up inside her. She pulled away, knowing she wouldn’t have the strength to pull away if they kissed any longer.

Claire pulled Jamie’s left arm toward her, glancing at his watch. She sighed.

“I know you have an early start tomorrow-”

“All mornings are early at home,” he chuckled, shrugging away her worry.

“Well, I’ll say goodnight, anyway - even though I don’t want to.” Claire stood on her tiptoes, bringing her mouth in close contact with Jamie’s ear. “I’d much rather go home with you,” she whispered, barely audible, though she could tell by the way Jamie blushed that he’d made out what she’d said.

He crushed his lips to hers one last time, then they parted - only for the night, though for Claire, it was as painful as though they were parting for years.

Chapter Text



Scotland, Late August 1936

Claire’s friends had surprised her, Uncle Lamb letting them into the house before Claire got home from running errands. They’d made a banner, placed it on one wall of the sitting area. FAREWELL, it read, in big red lettering. They’d bought trays of food, a small cake, and bottles of soda.

Coming home, Claire had opened the door to a group of smiling faces, and though she searched for the one she most wanted to see, he wasn’t there. She hid her hurt, though, carried on with the party as though no one was missing. The cake was cut, and her friends patted her on the back, wished her luck in nursing school. She appreciated their support, and the fact that they’d gone to all this trouble warmed her heart.

Later that evening, after everyone had gone home, she sat by herself on the couch. She’d tried ringing Jamie, but got no answer, and she stared at the phone as though it held the answer to his absence. If it would only ring, she thought. She jumped when Uncle Lamb rattled his newspaper, signaling that he was going upstairs to bed.

“Have a good night, darling. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Uncle Lamb came over, placed his hand on her head, and gave her a pitying look.

“I rang Jamie, just yesterday,” he said, “and he said he’d love to come - sounded thrilled, even.”

“So what happened?”

“I don’t know, darling. Perhaps he’ll get in touch with you tomorrow? Get some rest, now.”

Claire soon took his advice, crawling into bed at some late hour, where she lay awake for a time, imagining all sorts of scenarios: Jamie in an accident, or lying in bed ill, or... with another girl?

No, she thought angrily, that was ridiculous. Claire dragged her hands across her face, willing sleep to come. Eventually it did, though she slept restlessly.

The following morning, she lay awake, unwilling to get out of bed right away. She listened as her uncle prepared for the day, scurrying from lavatory to bedroom, and back again. She could picture him: his white shirt, brown slacks, and a pair of dark blue suspenders. He’d comb his mustache, brush his teeth, and finally look at himself in the mirror, satisfied.

She’d miss him, she knew, and she was glad when she heard him knock on her door, then poke his head in.

“Ah, young lady - you’re not up and about yet?”

“No,” she answered, her voice partly muffled as she hid under the blanket.

“You might be interested to know that there’s a very distraught young man down stairs, eager to see you.”

Claire sat upright, confused. She hadn’t heard the doorbell, or a knock. Uncle Lamb smiled at her, then chuckled.

“I was leaving when he came up the walk, so I let him in. Get out of bed, now - it’d be rude to leave him waiting.”

Claire was suddenly angry, and she gritted her teeth, shook her head.

“Tell him to leave, please?”

Uncle Lamb smothered a laugh behind his hand.

“What’s funny?”

“You, my dear. I know you’re hurt, but doesn’t he deserve to defend himself? I am almost certain you’ll regret it if you don’t hear him out.”

Claire crossed her arms in defiance. “Fine. But I won’t be quick. I’ll make him wait.” She watched as her uncle shook his head and sighed.

“Well, I suppose that’s better than nothing. Remember - you’re leaving for London tomorrow. You don’t want to leave Jamie like this - I’m certain of it. Go on, get dressed. I do believe he’s got a bouquet of flowers in his hand - wouldn’t want them to wilt.”

Claire’s face softened a bit, but she rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay. I’m going.” She nodded at her uncle to leave, and he did, his footsteps getting quieter as he made his way downstairs and out the door.

Throwing her robe around her shoulders, she went to wash up, quickly running a brush through her wild hair. She examined her face, the dark circles under her eyes all too obvious. She sighed, thinking about the day ahead, and whether she might have time for a nap. Forgoing getting dressed, she tied the sash of her robe, then put her feet in a pair of slippers. She counted to ten, then opened her bedroom door, knowing Jamie would hear the creak of the hinges as she did so.

She took her time descending the stairs, running her hand on the smooth wood railing, feeling justified in her anger, ready to ignore any excuse he made. It was, however, impossible not to melt at the sight of him - sat there with a handful of flowers in his hand, dirt under his fingernails, his red hair tousled. He stood when she came into the room, his eyes reminding her a bit of a puppy, wide and sorrowful. Bypassing any sort of greeting, Jamie launched right in, eager to tell her what had happened.

“There was a sick calf - I couldn’t leave her - I wanted to come, I did.”

Claire was only slightly annoyed that the righteous anger that had filled her just moments ago disappeared entirely, her feet moving more quickly as she made her way to him. She threw her arms around his neck, not caring just then that the bouquet of flowers was being crushed between their bodies. She could smell the sweet perfume, and as she pulled away, she looked down, noticing that Jamie had clearly pulled these himself, and he held them out to her, relieved.

“They came from the farm - my mam’s old flower garden still grows a bit, though no one looks after it much these days.”

“That’s sweet, Jamie. Thank you.” Claire took the flowers, then gestured for Jamie to follow her to the kitchen, where she placed them in a vase of water. She then turned, smiling at him, noticing for the first time that he smelled a bit like a barn animal.

“You missed a fun party,” she said, clasping his hand in hers. She gave it a squeeze, both of them leaning against the sideboard.

“I’d have much rather been here, with you. Had to spend the night in the barn.”

“How’s the calf?”

“She’ll make it,” Jamie said, nodding.

Claire noticed he still looked rather nervous, the red curls at his neck damp with sweat.

“Are you okay?”

“Hmm, of course, now that I’m here with you.” He fidgeted a bit, then stuck his hand in the pocket of his trousers to pull something out. His fist was clenched tightly, and he turned his palm up, opening his hand. Resting in his hand was a small silver band, simple and plain.

“I...had this made for you,” he said. “It’s not much, but I wanted you to have something to take with you. Look, I made one for myself, as well.” He pulled a chain out of the other pocket, a silver ring dangling from the end. “I can’t wear it when I’m working, so I put it on a chain to keep it from getting lost.”

Claire was still, staring at the ring that still rested in his hand. She felt her eyes well up, and swallowed as her chin wobbled.

“Jamie, I...I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything, Sassenach. Let me put it on you - see if it fits.”

Jamie slid it onto her right ring finger, relieved when it went over her knuckle to rest snugly at the base of her finger. “Ah, perfect,” he said, and Claire admired it for a moment, then leaned in to kiss him. They lingered there, his hand in hers, her skin tingling with the cool of the metal on her hand, Jamie’s fingers interlocking with hers.

“You’ll write, and come visit if you can, won’t you?” she asked, pulling away as the loud roar of a car outside broke their reverie.

“‘Course - wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll ring too, when I can.”

Claire merely nodded, then pulled her to him again.

“We have the house to ourselves,” she said, her lips against his. Desire caused her stomach to clench and her toes to curl in her slippers. She was suddenly very aware that she was wearing nothing but a sheer nightgown and a blue cotton robe.

Jamie laughed a bit, pressing his forehead to hers. He shook his head as he smiled.

“Oh, my Sassenach, I want you, too. But you know we can’t. I don’t think your uncle would be too terribly happy with us, anyway.”

Claire huffed, quickly wiping a few stray tears from her cheek, then pulled away.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, shuffling her feet. “How ever will we make it through this coming year? You’ll come to the train station, won’t you? Say goodbye?”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” he replied, “though I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.”

“Hmm,” she hummed, admiring the ring on her finger once more. “At least I’ll have a bit of you to take with me.”

“It’s not a wedding ring - not just yet. You’ll have my mother’s ring soon enough.”

“Your mother’s?”

“Aye. It’s the one she wore - my Da gave it to me a few weeks ago, knowing I’d want to give it to you.”

“Oh, stop being so damn sweet. I’m going to flood the kitchen,” she laughed, throwing her arms around him once more, clinging to him as though holding onto him tightly would stop time, keeping them there, holding one another as the morning sun danced on the floor beneath their feet. She let herself cry, burying her face in his neck as her tears dampened his skin.

Chapter Text

 

London, September 1936

The showers were packed with girls, all humid from the steam of the hot showers. Claire’s hair dripped down her back as she stood in front of one of the sinks, carefully prying off her silver ring. She hadn’t taken it off since Jamie had given it to her, but she felt the need to clean her hands well after having dissected a frog in an anatomy class. She’d showered, but it wasn’t enough, so she pulled out her nail brush to scrub her hands well. She’d worn gloves, but still felt disgusted by the activity. She hoped this wasn’t a sign that she wasn’t cut out to be a nurse. The head nurse teaching the lesson told them all they’d get used to it, and Claire hoped she was right.

She pulled the ring off, gently resting it at the edge of the sink, making sure it wouldn’t fall down the drain. The thought of having to write to Jamie to tell him she’d lost his ring was enough to make her feel ill, so she kept her eye on it while she worked.

She scrubbed her left hand first, rinsing it then switching the brush and beginning on her right. The brush felt good against her skin, even as it began to sting a bit. She glanced at her nails, then nearly dropped the brush as a hand slapped down over Jamie’s ring, one of her fellow nursing students having grabbed it.

“Hey! Give that back!”

Claire whirled around to face the ring snatcher, a smug look on the older girl’s face. She vaguely recalled that the girl’s name was Anna, and that she had always seemed a bit obnoxious. Anna held the ring between her thumb and forefinger, daring Claire to take it back. She tried, reaching for it as Anna moved her hand away just before Claire could get it.

“What are you doing? That’s mine!”

Claire was getting angry, her voice rising, her face going red. She clutched the towel tied around her so it wouldn’t fall as she moved, trying to grab the ring to no avail. The girl smiled, then, turning her back on Claire to face the other girls in the washroom who were now watching with great interest.

“Everyone! Let’s ask Beauchamp about her lover boy!”

Claire huffed, rolled her eyes, then moved to stand in front of the girl again, holding her hand out for the ring.

“I don’t have to tell you anything. Give me my ring, please, Anna.”

“Give her the ring back,” another girl said, Claire shooting her a grateful look.

Anna smiled again, examining the ring up close, then she gasped.

“What’s JAMMF mean?” she asked, eyeing Claire with some suspicion.

“What?”

Claire was dumbfounded. She knew what the letters meant of course, but she had no idea the ring was inscribed. And she’d found out like this. She sighed, impatience flowing through her veins as she did her best to hold her temper.

“You didn’t...wait. You didn’t know? Or… you don’t know what the initials stand for? Did you steal the ring or something? Or...maybe it’s a dead relative’s, and you don’t have a boy back home at all!” Anna laughed, apparently amused by her observations. Claire bit the inside of her cheek, desperate to explode and let Anna have it.

“That’s none of your business! Give. Me. My. Ring.”

Nursing School is off to a great start, Claire thought. Only a week in and she apparently had an enemy. She fought the urge to roll her eyes again, and just stood, staring Anna down.

“No, I saw her start a letter one night, addressed to a ‘Jamie’…” one girl spoke, the girl whose bed was right next to Claire’s.

Okay, that’s two enemies. Claire narrowed her eyes at the girl, then threw her hand up at Anna’s, catching her by surprise. Claire grasped the ring, clutching it tightly in her fist so it wasn’t taken again. She held it against her chest, wanting to wait til she was alone to look at the inscription.

She suddenly wanted to sit down.Wanted to be in her old bedroom, curled up on the window seat, gazing at the back garden. Claire shut her eyes momentarily, before hurriedly gathering her things and racing from the lavatories.

She got dressed, then quickly made her way out to the courtyard, where she'd have some privacy to write a letter. She had to know: was Jamie's ring inscribed, too?

Chapter Text

The hotel’s lobby was swarming with people, some carrying bags, others pulling children behind them as they rushed out the door, or to the lifts. It was organized chaos, and it made Claire’s eyes blur as she searched in vain for her red-headed Scot. She stood still amidst the crowd, tugging at her dress, patting her hair, as she waited for him to appear.

Their eyes met, finally, after months of communicating through letters and the occasional phone call. Claire wasn’t breathing, she was sure of it, and as Jamie pulled her into his arms, she thought she might die right there, happy and whole once again.

She wanted to kiss him, wanted to lean in and give it all up. Wanted him to pull her to the train station, take her back to Scotland and marry her. Nursing school could wait, or she could forgo it all together. It didn’t matter now, not with Jamie in front of her. She fought the urge, though, instead giving him a warm smile, unable to conjure up any words that would convey her longing for him, the dread that already hung over her head at the thought of him leaving again the next day.

She’d thought of a million things they could do together today, none of them coming to mind now that she was toe to toe with Jamie. She’d wanted to regale him with tales from her time at nursing school, about the girls, about what she did in her different classes; she wanted to hear about Lallybroch, about what he’d been up to.

But the words never left her lips - she just gazed up at him, his blue eyes twinkling with mischief and something else she couldn’t - or wouldn’t - name.

“Come with me, Sasseanch.”

Before she knew it, Jamie was pulling her back to the lifts, tugging her inside with such urgency that she fell into him. He caught her, not letting her go as they rode up several floors. She knew in the back of her mind that they should be out on the street right now, strolling around a park, or walking through a museum.

She had no will to break the spell though, and as they made their way to the room door, Claire’s breathing was already quick, her skin tingling. She clung to him as he pulled her inside, not waiting to hear the click of the lock before his lips met hers, hungry, desperate. She felt his fingers against her back, dancing along her zipper, causing her knees to go weak.

Jamie held her up, though, his body sturdy and sure, and as his tongue began running along her lips, she could feel nothing but him. The wall, the room, the noises outside disappearing as she gave in to her desires, kissing him back as hard as she could.

She wanted him, desperately, her whole body humming with need. She pulled away, only briefly, to give him a questioning look. She had to know: what was his intention bringing her up here? Had he decided he couldn’t wait, either? She rather hoped this was the case, but she didn’t want to push him.

“I just..just wanted to say hello to you. Properly,” he finally said, his breathing erratic, much like hers.

She kissed him again, lighting her body afire again, the heat pooling between her legs. It somehow felt worse with him right here in her arms than it did when she laid in bed alone, merely thinking about him.

Claire sighed as she felt his hands wandering again, over her shoulders, into her hair. This was the closest they’d come to the night in the boat house and Claire silently begged him to keep going, to touch her again at the very least. A noise outside caused them both to freeze: someone speaking loudly, calling down the corridor to someone else. Jamie winced, pulling away. He straightened his necktie, cleared his throat.

“I’m-I’m sorry Claire. I got carried away.”

“No, don’t,” Claire begged, not caring that she sounded childish. “Can’t we at least…” She stopped herself, instead choosing to lean into him again, kiss him, pull him back under with her.

It was quiet for a few moments, both of them lost in one another again. Jamie's hands were low, and Claire took a chance, pushing them down further. She half wondered if Jamie would pull away, but was relieved when his hands cupped her buttocks, lifting her slightly. She let out a small moan, unable as she was to hold it in. Her heart sank again, though, as Jamie pulled away once more, breaking their lingering kiss.

“I’ve been doing some thinking, Sassenach.”

She nodded, pressing her forehead to his.

“What?”

“If you came home for Christmas - which is only one month away…”

Claire interrupted him with a sigh, though she nodded at him again, urging him to continue.

“Perhaps we can persuade your uncle and my da to allow us to marry then - wherever you’d like, of course - however you’d like. You could come back and finish nursing school, and I could visit, like we do now, only…” Jamie trailed off.

Claire was silent for a moment, chewing her top lip. She took a breath, knowing she was about to break Jamie’s heart.

“I don’t think I’ll be coming home for Christmas.”

“What?” he asked, shocked. He took a small step away, but Claire clung to him, urging him not to let her go.

“I...I have an opportunity to shadow a nurse, just over the holidays - it would be a good experience for me. So...I agreed to do it.” Claire let him go, then, instead feeling more comfortable folding her arms around her middle, suddenly rather cold.

“You didn’t think to ask me? Did you tell your uncle?”

Claire flinched, then saw Jamie’s face do the same, knowing he regretted the question as soon as it had left his lips. She wouldn’t let it slide, though.

“Why should I ask you? It’s not like we’re married. It would be nice to-”

Jamie cut her off, his usually calm demeanor changing in a second.

“And here I am offering a way for us to get married - so we can be together sooner than we hoped - is that not what you want anymore?”

Claire huffed, irritated, knowing Jamie knew the answer to that.

“You know it’s what I want. How was I supposed to know you were up in Scotland making plans? You didn’t ask me, did you? Before deciding all this?”

“I didn’t decide anything, Claire,” Jamie said firmly, “it was merely a suggestion.”

“Then why can’t we just wait - like originally planned? Marry after I’m back in Scotland for good?” Claire’s face softened a bit as she sighed, thinking about what marrying him over Christmas would truly mean. They’d have to part, less than a week after their marriage, her coming back here reluctant and unfocused, nothing on her mind but Jamie. She knew it would be even more difficult than it was now. “Please?” she asked again, pleading with him.

“I suppose,” Jamie said, though he sounded uncertain.

“I don’t want to leave it like this, Jamie. I don’t want you to leave tomorrow unhappy. I’m sorry - I should’ve told you about Christmas, but-”

Jamie waved a hand, quieting her.

“It’s fine, Claire. Let’s just...go out. I came to see you, not argue with you.”

Following him silently out the door, they walked together out onto the street, the noise swallowing up any words they may have said to one another. It was a welcome distraction, and they both wandered, neither of them sure where they were going.

“Come on,” Claire finally said, taking his hand and tugging him along, “I’ll show you a gorgeous park. Evil geese, though, so watch out.” she smiled up at him, hoping he’d calmed a bit.

She was relieved when he nodded, willingly letting her take the lead as they went. She trusted that he’d come around, that he would not be so upset over Christmas by the time he left tomorrow.

And still it pained her to imagine waving goodbye as he boarded the train.

Chapter Text


London - Mid-December - 1936

Claire sat in her bed, the dim lamp giving her just enough light to read by. The one other person in the room, her friend Mary Hawkins, was fast asleep one bed over, her light snoring only a minor nuisance.

Claire had no trouble ignoring it as she pored over Jamie's latest letter. Written in black ink, his penmanship was steady if not exactly beautiful. He wrote carefully, never straying beyond margins. The cursive letters were written just as he'd been taught, no more and no less. At times, ink would be smeared in a spot, or there'd be stain from a spilled drink at one corner. She loved these small bits of him that would come with his words, and she'd try to imagine him at the desk in his father's study, bent over, pen in hand, occasionally pausing to sip his coffee, or tea.

Claire wasn't above smelling the paper either, and tonight she smelled a bit of wood smoke - perhaps he'd written this one while sitting in front of a fire, and she would swear she could almost feel its warmth.

Jamie wrote to her about his daily life, tending to sick animals, weeding his late mother's garden, doing repair work as needed. Tonight's letter, however, was slightly less mundane, as he'd apparently been in a rather emotional mood when he'd sat down to reply to Claire's most recent letter.

They'd bid farewell to one another weeks ago, Jamie finally insisting that he understood about Christmas, about Claire's desire to improve at nursing school. He was adamant that she was already the best nurse he'd ever seen, but let her know that he'd wait for her, for as long as was needed.

The words Claire read tonight were nothing short of romantic, and he waxed poetic about their future, about how he'd love nothing more than to build her a home, have her do as she pleased all day every day. How he'd do anything to see her smile.

'...those eyes of yours carry enough light to guide me through the darkest night, Sassenach. Our separation breaks my heart, but it warms me to know that it's temporary, and that soon you'll be here with me, and we'll talk about our day, and I will be able to hold you, to feel your warmth on a cold night like this…'

Claire sighed, letting her eyes wander back to the beginning of that particular paragraph yet again. Letting the words wash over her once more, she was irritated to hear the door open, someone poking her head inside to tell Claire she had a phone call.

Taking the time to fold the letter back up and stuff it into its envelope, Claire huffed as she got off the bed, the cold floor a shock to her warm feet. She felt a niggle of excitement as she slipped on her warmest robe and a pair of slippers, thinking perhaps that Jamie had called - unplanned but certainly a welcome surprise. She made her way to the small table down the hall, where the black phone receiver sat on its cradle. She made a face, wondering why someone had ended the call before she could get to it.

Walking to the building's front office, she rapped on the door, the administrator of her dormitory ushering her inside with a quick nod at the phone resting on her desk. Claire looked at her, not at all sure what was going on.

"I thought I had a phone call - but it’s been hung up," she explained, confusion still etched in her features.

The woman's face was odd, Claire thought, but she wrote it off as general exhaustion - it was getting late - but as the usually cheerful woman lifted the phone's receiver, Claire's stomach began doing flips.

"The call came to my office. Here you are," the woman said softly before handing Claire the receiver. She gave Claire another odd look, then quietly stepped outside, shutting the door behind her. Had she known ahead of time who was on the other end of the call, she would’ve asked the woman not to leave her alone. As it was, she sat in the chair in front of the desk that filled almost the entire room, and spoke into the receiver.

“Hello?” she asked tentatively, having become anxious as the minutes wore on.

“Yes, hello,” the person on the other end said. The connection was fuzzy, and the person’s voice broke slightly. “Is this Claire Elizabeth...Beauchamp?” the voice asked, clearly unsure about the pronunciation of Claire’s last name.

“Yes. This is Claire Beauchamp,” she answered, eager to get on with whatever this person was about to tell her. Or ask her. Or whatever.

“Are you the niece of one Quentin Lambert Beauchamp?”

Claire didn’t care for the person’s tone - not that it was unfriendly, but it was rather ominous. Claire’s free hand gripped the arm of the chair, her palm going sweaty against the cold metal.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but your uncle has passed away-”

A low hum filled Claire’s ears as the person on the other end rattled on, Claire not hearing a word of it. A loud thunk startled her as the receiver hit the desk, Claire’s shaky hand unable to hold it to her ear any longer. She slowly got up, and somehow made her way out and back to her room, where her mind caught up with her body. She stared at the quilt on her bed, an inconsequential thing that she couldn’t seem to make sense of. The seams were crooked, the patchwork was messy and uncoordinated. She shook her head as her hands hit the mattress, and she was entirely unaware that Mary had woken up.

Claire felt as though she was floating above herself, and though she managed to pack a bag without any help, she knew she would need Mary to accompany her on the train journey back home. She wouldn’t recall asking, but Mary made sure Jamie met them in Glasgow.

He was standing on the platform as she stepped off the train, dressed in his black suit, shoes shined, a solemn look on his face. He was accompanied by his sister, Jenny, and Claire was able to hold herself together long enough to climb into the backseat of a car - one that would take her home.