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Holiday Surprise

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Holiday Surprise:

It's another busy afternoon in the A&E for Claire Beauchamp. She honestly hates the days where she can't be in surgery all the time. The fast paced, never knowing what will come in the door type of day stresses her out. She likes for everything in her life to be planned and organized, less chaotic that way.

She's been back in Scotland for eight months now, moving here after her Uncle Lamb passed away from his lung cancer. She had been heartbroken when she got the news, had just taken the kids to see him three months prior. Lamb took care of her, even in death, willing his home here in the Highlands to her. She wasn't sure about the move, but she couldn't bear the thought of someone else living in her uncle's home that she and the twins had grown so fond of over the years.

Lamb raised Claire from the time she was five, when her parents died, and she knows the lung cancer was partly due to all the smoking he did over the years. He was an archeologist, a great one, and she traveled the world with him growing up.

"What have we got this morning?" she asks, looking toward her best friend, Joe Abernathy.

She met Joe on her first day at the hospital, and they instantly hit it off. He was from America—Baltimore—and she'd lived in Boston for the last seven years for medical school.

He was a great comfort—feeling like a small piece of home—so she was glad he was working the A&E with her today.

"Dislocated shoulder," he tells her, handing her the patient file.

James Fraser. 35. Caucasian male.

Nodding, she shuts the file and looks up at her friend. "Thanks, Joe. I've got it from here."

With a squeeze to her arm, Joe smiles and makes his way to the next patient.

Taking a deep breath, Claire draws back the curtain, revealing something she never thought she'd ever see again.

The father of her children.

"Holy shit," she blurts, eyes widening as her gaze lands on the man she'd had a random—albeit incredible—one night stand with on her last night in Scotland seven years ago.

She had been living here with Lamb but was moving to America for medical school. Her best friend, Geillis, took her out as one last hoorah and well, her life was completely changed after that… although she didn't know until ten weeks after moving to the States.

Claire watches as his blue eyes, the one she looks into everyday on the face of her children, widen in shock. "G… Geillis?"

A barking laugh escapes her before she can stop it, completely forgetting that was the name she'd given him.

His arm was around her, the smooth jazz from the stage and the multiple drinks she's had lulling her into a comfortable state. Her eyes were heavy, as were his, and she wondered if they were more drunk on the feel of each other or the whisky coursing through their bodies.

"What's yer name, lass?" he asked. "I didna even think tae ask earlier."

She smiled coyly, tucking a brown curl behind her ear. She and Geillis had met the guys hours ago, giving them fake names of course. She was always Geillis Duncan, because her friend always got a laugh out of it when random men would find her on facebook looking for Claire. She said it was her easiest way of finding dates.

Geillis was always Rose Hallsen… where she pulled the name from, Claire will never know.

These aliases had served them well over the years, always wanting to protect their true identities from creeps that they were bound to meet. She didn't go out often, but it was enough to need an alias.

"Geillis," she murmured into his ear, his red hair tickling her nose. "Geillis Duncan."

"Nice tae meet ye," he said, giving her a dazzling smile. "I'm Alex McTavish."

She snuggled into his chest, both enjoying their drinks, the music, and the feel of each other's hands on their knees.

It was only a few hours later that he was inviting her back to his apartment, and she agreed. She never did anything reckless like this, usually just left it at casual flirting on the dance floor. But he was different. Something drew her to him that she couldn't explain.

"It's… It's Claire, actually," she admits, giving him a grimace. "Dr. Beauchump." She taps her name tag with her pen before walking over to his bed. "And you're…" she looks down at her file again, "James Fraser?"

"Aye," he snorts, head lolling back against the pillow. "Jamie is what I prefer, though."

She nods. "Fine then. Jamie." She smiles, reading off her chart. "Says here you have a dislocated shoulder."

He nods, telling her that he fell from his horse. "Damn thing saw a stray cheetie and freaked out. Threw me right off before I could even stop him. My nephew is more than likely too scared tae ever ride a horse again."

"Was he on the horse with you?"

"Nah," he huffs, telling her that the little boy was on his own pony, "I've been teaching him how tae ride lately now that he's getting older. 'Twas his first time out of the paddock, sae I'm sure it'll be months again before he's ready."

Wincing at the thought—knowing Faith and Fergus would've been terrified as well—Claire looks at his shoulder, trying to control her rapidly beating heart and praying Alex—Jamie—couldn't hear it.

She was close to him, close enough that she could feel the heat from his skin, smell his cologne that she swears she can still smell in her dreams from time to time.

Claire licks her lips and clears her throat, giving him a small smile. Their faces are inches apart, and the smile he offers in return is enough to make her melt.

Shaking her head, she tells herself to focus as she grabs his arm, moving it one way and then the other. He grunts, but doesn't make too much of a fuss.

"Sorry," she states, tilting her head to make sure he's alright. "This is going to hurt," she warns.

His red hair flops as he gives her a subtle nod, saying, "Couldna hurt any more than bein' thrown from a horse."

Chuckling faintly, she looks back at his arm. While she's examining just where the injury is, he explains that he'd taken his nephew horseback riding. She lifts it, twisting it and giving him one last warning, admitting, "This is the worst part," as she pops it back into the socket.

It makes a popping sound, and Jamie's eyes widen with the sensation. "Tain dhia," he groans, looking up at her in astonishment. "It doesna hurt anymore."

"It will" she tells him, pulling up the rolling stool to sit on. "It'll be tender for about a week. You'll need a sling." She reaches into the drawer closest to her, pulling one out. She wraps his arm securely in the white sling, ignoring the heat she feels between them by being this close to him.

"I'll prescribe some pain medication. You need to take it every six hours for the first few days, then push it back to twice a day once you think you can handle it."

Claire tells him that he got lucky. "It isn't as severe as it could have been," she explains, telling him that he'll only need the sling on his arm for about a week, "You mustn't move the joint for two or three days." She gives him a stern look, saying, "When you do begin to use it again, go very slowly at first." She stands back, looking at her handiwork. "You should be able to use it more fully within a week and a half, depending on how you're feeling."

He listens and nods, but his eyes don't look as if he's listening.

"Are you listening?"

"No' really, no," he admits, glancing down, then back up at her through his red lashes. He gives her a boyish grin that jolts her right back to seven years ago, but she pushes those thoughts away and gives him a stern look.

"This is serious, Mr. Fraser."

"Jamie, please. I think we're past last names, don't ye?"

Her cheeks flush and she can feel a heat crawling up her skin at his words.

Images of that night run through her mind, and she prays he can't tell—knows he can, though, because she's always been told she has a glass face. That, and the way he's smirking at her.

Bastard.

Her dress was on the floor, tossed into a pile along with his shirt and pants. She stripped him of his boxers, pausing in their frantic undressing to examine him. Her mouth fell slightly agape, and he grinned. Looking back up at him, she gave him a seductive smile and pulled him to her.

They fell to the bed, both completely naked as his hands caressed her thighs and his lips worked their magic on her skin.

"Alex," she panted, already feeling ready for him. The whole night at the pub had been nothing but little touches and kisses, hands almost inappropriate for public, riling them both up for hours. "Do it now."

He took hold of his cock, thrusting into her. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before. Sure, she'd had great sex in the past but holy shit, this was amazing. He seemed to fit inside of her perfectly, like two puzzle pieces finding each other.

She gripped his shoulders, nails digging in as his hips moved, diving his cock deeper inside h—

"Dr. Beauchamp?"

Blinking, Claire's head whips behind her, making eye contact with Joe.

He gives her an odd look, his eyes sliding over to the still shirtless Jamie. When his eyes make it back to her, there's a grin tugging on his lips that she can tell he's trying his very hardest to suppress, and she rolls her eyes.

"Did you need something, Dr. Abernathy?"

"Uh, yeah," he says, coughing to cover up a small laugh, "there was a car accident a few miles out. Ambulance is on their way with the couple."

Nodding, she says she'll be right there.

As Joe leaves, Claire turns back to face Jamie.

They hadn't exchanged numbers that night, and she'd flown to an entirely different continent the next day, and god, she's regretted that decision for years on end.

She should tell him about Faith and Fergus… but how? Oh hi, nice to see you again. Loved that one night we banged into the early hours of the morning and drunkenly forgot a condom. You look great. Oh, and by the way, you got me pregnant. With twins. Well, see you later!

Yeah, no. Not happening.

She'd been guilt ridden when she discovered the pregnancy, knowing this gorgeous Scot would never know he was a father, and her children would never know him either.

"Well," she says, her lips sliding against each other nervously. "It was great to see you."

Faith and Fergus. Faith and Fergus. Think of the children.

"Ye too, Sassenach."

They both smile at the nickname, one he'd bestowed upon her that night. He told her it meant an outsider, someone not from Scotland, and though it usually was used as an offensive term, somehow it was endearing coming from him.

"Can—" she stops, taking a deep breath.

"May I get yer number this time?"

Oh, thank god he beat her to it.

"I ken it's been years, an' ye mebbe are marrit or in a relationship—"

"I'm not."

He grins, his ears turning the slightest shade of pink. "Weel then, may I have yer number? Or a way tae contact ye?" he asks, almost sheepishly. He rubs at the back of his neck before confessing, "I've regretted not doin' sae fer many years." His eyes grow large, seemingly surprising himself. He shifts uncomfortably on the bed, reaching for his shirt. "Not tae be too forward, I jus' dinna ken when I'll see ye again tae ask."

Claire is blushing, can feel it on her skin, but nods. Taking out her pen, she scribbles her number down on a business card and hands it to him.

"Would ye want tae grab coffee tomorrow? Mebbe catch up a wee bit more." He smiles, and god, it's such an adorable smile. "I ken we canna talk much more now, no' wi' the car accident coming through."

He shrugs with his good arm, and she grins, giving him a nod. "That would be lovely." She bites her lip, adding, "text me."

Before he can say anything else, she turns on her heel, heading toward her next patient.

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

Bloody feckin' Christ.

It's her.

The woman he's dreamt about for the last seven years. And god, she's just as beautiful now as she was back then.

It's as if not a single day has gone by.

When she enters the room, it's almost as if she moves in slow motion, a glowing light radiating her from behind.

For years and years, Jamie had searched every social media outlet he could for a Geillis Duncan, but the only one that ever came up in Scotland was a strawberry blonde with a private account, so all he could see was her profile picture. But it was enough to know that she wasn't the woman he'd spent the best night of his life with.

But she's here now.

Dr. Claire Beauchamp.

She seems nervous, but so is he… though, he shouldn't be. They barely know one another. But there was always something about her.

He's thought of her almost every day for seven years, drove himself mad not being able to find her, and kicking himself for making up a fake alias.

"This is going to hurt," she warns him, and he nods, bracing himself for the pain.

Her hands are on him, warm but gentle, just like he remembers.

She cried out his name, convulsing beneath him as he reached his climax, spilling inside of her.

Her hands were soft, yet somehow demanding, pulling him to her.

Jamie collapsed beside her, one arm wrapping around her middle.

She snuggled into his embrace, and despite the alcohol flowing through him, he knew this was different. She was different.

His hand that was around her shoulder started playing with her unruly brown curls, and he could almost swear she was purring into his chest like a wee cheetie.

"Tonight was great, Sassenach," he whispered, kissing the top of her head.

She chuckled, pushing herself up on his chest to look down at him. "What does that mean?" she asked, hiccuping and laughing again.

He grinned, sitting up and resting his back against the headboard. "Nothin' bad," he said, explaining that it just meant she was an outsider, an outlander to Scotland.

"I guess I'm a sassenach everywhere then," she laughed, reaching over to the nightstand to grab the beer they'd left there earlier.

"What'd ye mean?"

She shrugs, eyes heavy in her still tipsy state. "I traveled a lot growing up," she explained, taking a swig, "never really had one place to call home."

He nodded, but wasn't able to relate. He'd grown up here in the Highlands, was currently going to school here, and planned to stay here unless life took him elsewhere.

"It'll be nice to settle down in America," she said, laying her head against his chest. Her hand softly caressed around his nipples, bringing them to peaks.

"America?"

"Mm," she grunted, "I'm leaving tomorrow night. Starting medical school over there."

For some reason, that bit of information didn't sit well with him and Jamie could feel a pit of uneasiness growing in his stomach.

"I guess we better make the most of tonight then, eh?" he asked, slinking down the bed and taking her with him.

She giggled, but those giggles soon turned to moans as his mouth found her clit and her hands found purchase in his hair.

"Are you listening?" Her gorgeous English accent draws him back from the past, and all he can do is smirk.

"No' really, no."

She tells him this is serious, and he does his best to focus on what she's saying and push images of her naked body from his mind.

Another doctor comes in, telling her of a car accident that they need to attend to, and fuck, fuck, fuck, he can't let her leave. Not without getting her number so he has a way to contact her.

It's been Jamie's biggest regret over the last seven years.

She goes to speak but he cuts her off, too eager to inquire, "May I get yer number this time?"

Her smile starts to grow as he continues, saying he's sure she's married or somehow spoken for, but his heart beats faster when she says she isn't.

His body is practically shaking with anticipation as Claire hands him the card with her real name and number on it.

Jamie tells himself to be brave one last time, and asks, "Would ye want tae grab coffee tomorrow? Mebbe catch up a wee bit more." He knows time is running out, she has patients to get to.

His heart almost leaps from his chest when she tells him, "That would be lovely." Her smile is radiant, and he knows he'll dream of it tonight, just like every night before. She tells him to text her, and before he can say anything more, she turns on her heels and leaves the room.

Christ. It's as if the sun has just returned to his life after living in darkness for all these years.

He's a bloody fool. It was one night. But god, there was a connection—one he hopes she felt as well. One his friends have made fun of him for years over because he could never let her go. He's compared every girl since to Geil—Claire. And he prays his gut instinct isn't wrong.

With a little bit of hope, he stands, grabs his jacket and leaves the hospital with a spring in his step that wasn't there this morning.

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

Claire's stomach is in knots.

She looks around, listening to the whirl of coffee grinders and mindless chatter from other patrons. Christmas music is already playing on the speakers despite it only being the second week of November, but she doesn't mind. Something about the holiday music and white fairy lights strung up on buildings always makes her happy. She closes her eyes, inhaling the strong scent of coffee and willing her nerves to calm down.

She licks her lips, opening her eyes again and searching around for Jamie. She's a little early, well, a lot early. Thirty minutes to be exact.

She couldn't sleep, though, and had been up since the crack of dawn. She'd spent the morning preparing the twins' lunches and folding laundry, before loading Faith and Fergus up into the car and dropping them off at school with extra kisses.

Sighing, Claire sits at the next set of plush chairs that open up, a small wooden table between them.

She sends Geillis a text, telling her she was here and waiting, and about to vomit.

Her first call last night had been to her best friend, telling her about who exactly she had run into at work and how they were getting coffee today.

Geillis had asked her if she was going to tell Jamie about the twins, and she said she would, but she wanted to feel him out a little bit more. Make sure he was a good guy.

Keep me posted, hen! Ye'll be fine. Deep breaths.

Smiling softly, Claire sends back a red heart emoji before glancing up at the sound of her name.

"Hey, Jamie," she greets, watching as he strides over to their seats.

God, he really is handsome. Just as handsome, if not moreso, than she remembers.

He's in dark jeans and a blue button up top. He looks nice, and she smiles to herself wondering if he dressed up just for her.

A traitorous thought speeds through her mind, wondering how he managed to spruce himself up so well with one arm in a sling… is there a woman at home to help? No, no, she admonishes herself. He wouldn't have asked her to coffee if he was dating someone else… she hopes.

Biting her lip, she watches as he leans in, kissing her cheek before sitting in the chair opposite her.

"Good morning, Sassenach," he says, taking a sip of his fresh coffee. "Have ye been waiting long?"

She shakes her head, not about to admit she'd been here long enough to be on her second cup of coffee and third mini-muffin. "Not long," she lies, "but I'm glad I got here when I did. These are the best seats in the house."

Jamie chuckles, settling against the emerald green chair. "Aye, 'tis. Great spot tae people-watch."

"Exactly!" she laughs.

Their eyes connect and she tells herself to breathe deeply, lest he see how quickly her chest is heaving up and down. She isn't sure if she's nervous simply because she knows what secret lurks in the back of her mind, or if it's because of the way his piercing blue eyes set a fire alight in her stomach. Perhaps both.

She glances down at her phone when it buzzes with another text from Geillis, smiling to herself at the picture of the twins set as her background.

It was taken a few months ago, right after they moved here. Geillis had taken them to a park, and she snapped the picture of Faith and Fergus hanging upside down on the monkey bars—Faith's long, red hair flowing down toward the ground, while Fergus' dark curls hung loosely, too, both with giant, toothy smiles on their faces.

God, she loves her babies. They are the biggest blessing she's ever been given.

Looking up at Jamie, she feels guilty. She should tell him about the kids. It's only fair.

Before she can say anything, though, Jamie asks, "Ye moved tae Boston back then, right? Medical school I think ye said."

"Yes," Claire nods, smiling. "That part was the truth at least."

They both laugh before she tells him about how she'd lived in Boston for the last seven years but moved here eight months ago. "My uncle passed away and willed his house to me."

And the kids, her mind whispers.

"I'm sae sorry fer yer loss." He reaches over with his uninjured arm, gingerly taking her hand in his. "Ye were close with him, I assume, being given his home and all."

Nodding, Claire spends the next few minutes telling him about how Uncle Lamb had raised her from the time she was five. "My parents died in a car accident and Lamb took me in," she explains, watching as his eyes grow soft.

Jamie tells her again that he's sorry, admitting that he can't imagine what that would feel like. "My mam and da are still alive, still in the same house we grew up in." He grimaces, apologizing, "Sorry, that came off as insensitive, I jus' mean—"

"No," she laughs softly, "no, I know what you meant. It's alright."

He heaves out a sigh of relief, and she asks about his family.

It's easy, talking with Jamie. He's a great story teller, and she's enthralled at all the tales he has of him and his sister, Jenny. They grew up in a place called Lallybroch, and her heart aches a bit as he describes it, knowing Faith would love the stables and Fergus would have a ball at the lake on the property. Jenny, he tells her, is married to his best friend, Ian, and they have a gaggle of children running around. The twins would love that, too—cousins to play with, to run amuck around Lallybroch, laughing and chasing one another through the multiple rooms Jamie has just told her about.

She sighs, a longing she didn't know was there making itself known in the depths of her heart.

They spend the next hour talking and getting to know one another, and Claire can't deny the spark she feels between them. It's the same spark she'd felt seven years ago—despite the alcohol clouding her judgement, the connection, the instant comfortable flirtation they shared, she knew he wasn't just your typical single guy in a bar. There was just… something there that she couldn't explain.

He's flirty, but in a subtle way, a way that makes her think this isn't how he usually is. Feels as if these little glances and his foot gliding against hers softly are just reserved for Claire and Claire only.

She pats his knee at one point, but has to sit back as she swears she felt a jolt of electricity buzz through her, wondering if he felt the same sensation.

Jamie's blue eyes sparkle, and after a while, he takes her hand in his again, explaining the best places in the Highlands to find Italian food—her favorite.

And when he lets go, she feels a pang of disappointment, wanting him to never let go for some reason.

Her guilt bubbles up, especially after Jamie says they should go get Italian food one night for dinner.

She wants to, oh my god, does she want to. This man is amazing, and she's already entranced by him, but she should tell him about the twins first.

She should. It's only right.

He seems nice enough, doesn't seem like the type to lose his cool and lash out at her for keeping this secret from him. He won't make a scene.

Biting her lip, Claire looks at Jamie, taking his hand in hers and squeezing. "I need to tell you something, Jamie."

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

She looks so serious, but his eyes fall to their hands, watching as her dainty one is engulfed by his larger one.

Her hand squeezes his, and his heart lurches.

He shouldn't be this gone for a woman after an hour together, but Christ, he is.

She's just as wonderful as he remembers, better actually, now that they can be themselves.

His eyes find her whisky ones, and his head tilts. Her face pales. She looks completely nervous, and a plethora of predictions run through his mind—Is she sick? Moving back to America? Dating someone?—the possibilities are endless.

She licks her lips, and he squeezes her hand in comfort. "What is it, Sassenach?"

Claire picks up her phone, and tells him, "I have kids, Jamie. Twins, actually."

His heart sinks, he should've known she was taken. She'd told him yesterday that she wasn't married, but that didn't mean she couldn't be in a committed relationship.

Christ, any man would be beyond lucky to be with her. He knows if God ever granted him the chance to be with her, he'd do everything in his power to keep her by his side.

He glances down as she turns her phone around, showing him a picture of her children.

"This is Fergus," she tells him, smiling proudly as she shows him a photograph of a little boy with dark, curly hair and bright blue eyes—the same color blue he stares back at in the mirror every morning… but lots of people have blue eyes, it doesn't mean anything.

He's a handsome lad, and Jamie smiles. "Braw," he tells her, "he looks just like ye."

She smiles, taking a deep breath. She swipes on the screen to reveal the next picture. "And this is Faith."

The resemblance is undeniable, this little lassie with auburn hair and crystal blue eyes that match her brother's. Her eyes slant like Fergus' as well, something Jamie hadn't put much stock into seeing Fergus' picture alone.

Claire swipes again, this one a picture of the twins side by side, and his heart skips a beat.

They look so different yet so similar somehow. Both with the Fraser-shaped blue eyes and the ears that stick out just a little bit. It seems to be just about the only similarity in those two, but it's enough.

Their noses and cheek bone structure is identical to one another, almost a mirror image to Claire's. They're beautiful children, but his eyes keep focusing on those little ears of theirs.

He reaches up, rubbing at his own ears, before looking up at Claire.

"They both have your jaw line," she whispers, those golden eyes of hers misting over, "and they're already tall for their age." She shrugs nervously. "I guess they get that from both of us."

Jamie's eyes widen, taking the phone from Claire's hands.

He can't stop staring. Can't stop finding little nuances of Fraser genes running through both of these bairns.

He should say something, he should, but he can't.

Stunned doesn't even come close to explaining how he feels.

There's a million thoughts racing in his mind, but he can't seem to focus on just one, or any of them to articulate just yet.

Faith's hair is auburn like his, but he smiles as he zooms in and sees that it still has some brown in it like her mother's when the sun hits it just right.

"They…" he clears his throat, looking back at Claire with tears pooling in his eyes. "They're mine?"

It's a ridiculous question, he knows they are. Anyone with eyes can tell these are his bairns, but his brain can't seem to process everything fast enough.

She giggles under her breath and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear nervously. "Yes." Jamie watches her take a deep breath, then another, before she takes her phone from him again. He holds her hand, not wanting to let go just yet. "They'll be seven in May. May twelfth, actually."

His smile feels as if it'll crack his face in two as he asks to see more pictures of them.

And the way Claire's face lights up at his request is like a balm to his aching soul, longing to see his children and know every detail about them.

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

Claire can't help but study him as he studies pictures of the twins.

Each time he looks up from her phone, his eyes are swimming with unchecked tears, and it makes her own well up.

He's so happy. Far happier than she thought he would be.

She thought he'd be angry, or upset, or… something.

"I'm o'er the moon, Claire," he states wistfully, laughing as he swipes to a picture of Fergus chasing Faith around the yard with a ball in his hand. "I canna get enough of them," he admits, asking if she has more pictures.

"Of course!" she says, taking the phone from his hands. She goes back to her camera roll, opening up a folder she has specifically dedicated to the twins.

She taps the top of the screen, letting it scroll all the way to the top where there are pictures of them as babies. "I think over half my phone storage is pictures of them," she giggles. "Start from the beginning, if you want." She points to the first picture, saying, "This is them the day they were born." She smiles, thinking about how Geillis, ever the true friend, had spent the last two months of Claire's pregnancy in Boston with her, capturing these new moments until she eventually had no choice but to go back home to Scotland when the twins were eight weeks old.

Jamie scrolls through all of the pictures, laughing and crying at each memory Claire explains to him.

He asks question after question, genuinely interested in learning all there is to know about his children.

They spend the next two hours looking at pictures while Claire gives him every minute detail—what the theme of each birthday party has been, their favorite colors, favorite foods, least favorite foods, who their best friends are, what subjects they like so far in school…

"Faith loves writing," she tells him, beaming as she shows him a picture of some of Faith's school work. This one is a drawing of a horse with a short story about a princess riding to a prince's castle on her noble steed. Her letters are large, still learning to fit them on single lines, and most words are spelled wrong except the smaller ones, but overall, Faith is a great writer and loves to work on her handwriting each night before bed. "She says when she grows up she will be an author and a mermaid," she tells him with a smirk.

Jamie laughs, saying, "Gotta love the mind o' a bairn."

"Exactly," she chuckles, swiping to another picture. "And Fergus loves science. This is him with his art project last year in kindergarten. They got to pick their own subject and draw a picture of it." She shows him a picture of five-year-old Fergus holding a large drawing of the solar system, each planet a little wobbly and crooked, each one messily colored in with misspelled planet names underneath. "He was so proud. We had it framed and I hung it in their playroom when we moved here."

Jamie smiles, sighing as he swipes through another group of photographs—these from when they were at the airport getting ready to fly over here a few months ago.

There's a selfie she took of her and the kids, both their little faces smushed against hers, both beaming brightly with the airplane behind them through the giant window.

Jamie grows quiet, and she worries this might all be too much for him, but then he looks up from her phone and tells her somberly, "I'm sae sorry fer missing all of this."

Claire shakes her head vehemently, admitting, "I felt guilty from the moment I found out I was pregnant, not being able to tell you about them." She sighs, rubbing her forehead where she can feel a headache brewing. "I searched every social media outlet possible for an Alex McTavish, but every search brought up men that definitely were not you."

He grins, and her heart settles a bit seeing that he's not angry. "I looked ye up, too."

She laughs when he tells her the only Geillis Duncan that ever came up was a woman with strawberry blonde hair. "That's my best friend." She pulls up a picture of Geillis with the twins from their sixth birthday they'd had three months after moving to Scotland. "It was always my go-to alias. She said it got her a good handful of friend requests from handsome men."

Jamie guffaws, saying he should have sent her a friend request. "Mebbe I would've found ye a lot sooner."

She wonders briefly why he didn't recognize Geillis from that one night, but then quickly recalls that Geillis had found her male entertainment for the evening half an hour before Jamie approached Claire at the bar.

They grow serious again, and only then does Claire realize her hand is still in his.

She doesn't move it, though. It feels right.

She can't explain it… it just does.

The two of them spend another two hours holding hands, ordering fresh, hot coffee, and letting Jamie learn each and every last detail of his children. She shows him videos of school performances, birthday parties, random clips she's snapped over the years… and the whole time he watches her with such reverence that it warms her heart.

Finally, after three hours of sitting together, Claire works up the courage to ask, "Would you like to meet them?"

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

The past month has been something special.

Jamie can't explain it.

He's never felt a connection like this with any woman, ever.

He and Claire are just friends, but he knows he wants them to be more—hopes she does, too.

It's tricky, though, knowing they have the kids to be mindful of.

He hasn't met them yet. She'd asked him that day at coffee if he wanted to, and of course he wanted to meet his children more than anything in the world, but Claire said she felt like they needed to get to know one another a little more before bringing him into the twins' lives.

It was hard, but he completely understood. It would be jarring for a new man to pop up in their lives, especially when they just had a big change in their lives a few months ago by moving an ocean away from the only home they'd ever known.

So, they took some time together; he and Claire wanted to feel comfortable with one another before easing him into Fergus and Faith's lives.

Jamie has spoken to Claire every single day since that morning at the coffee shop. They text constantly throughout the day, filling each other in on what's happening at work, random BuzzFeed quizzes she wants him to take, TikToks that make him laugh… She's truly become his best friend over the last few weeks.

They're dating, without calling it dating, he supposes. It's complicated… or rather, it's only complicated because he is too scared to make the next move. Too worried that she doesn't feel the same way and their friendship would be ruined if he pursued more.

He's met Claire for lunch almost daily—it's easy with his schedule. He runs a sporting goods company, Fraser Sports, which also houses little league team sports at a partner location. It made it easy for him to meet with her when it worked with her shift schedule. Being the boss meant he could take lunch whenever he wanted. His company kept him busy, but he would always find time for Claire Beauchamp.

On the days they couldn't get lunch, he'd meet her for breakfast before she went in for her morning shift.

Everything is so natural with her. Conversation is always flowing and she is never lacking in stories about their children.

Today, though, today he is finally meeting Fergus and Faith.

He is so excited that he almost feels on the verge of being sick. He keeps willing his heart to slow back to a regular pace, telling his stomach to calm the nerves fluttering inside.

It's two weeks before Christmas, and it seems as if most people have left their holiday shopping for the last minute. Everyone is bustling around, popping in from shop to shop, going from booth to booth at the Christmas Market, all in hopes of finding the perfect last minute gift.

He loves this place, though, the Christmas Market. It's his favorite place to visit every winter.

There's a giant ice skating rink in the middle, surrounded by all the vendor's booths where people sell arts and crafts they've created. People sell jewelry, toys, clothing… any and everything.

There's a ferris wheel off in the distance, children laughing as they bop around their parents' legs, all hoping to get their most coveted toys.

Vendors are set up throughout the shop stalls selling hot chocolate. There's an area behind the stores with a collection of fire pits to make s'mores at.

It was everything a kid could wish for, and he was elated to have his children experience it for the first time with him by their side.

Jamie looks around, planning in his mind what to do with the kids today.

"Hi, there!" Claire calls, making her way through the crowd, one hand firmly grasped in each twins' hand.

When she makes her way to him, she lets go of their hands, pulling Jamie into a hug. "Just breathe," she whispers into his ear, kissing his cheek quickly before pulling away. "Guys, this is my friend, Mr. Jamie," she introduces, looking down at the boy and girl, then up at him. "Jamie, this is Fergus and Faith."

"Hi!" they both greet, sweet little smiles filling their faces as they wave up at him.

Their cheeks are red, as are the tips of their noses. It's chilly out, the snow having fallen last week, but Claire has them both sufficiently bundled up in boots and jackets.

"Are you my mom's boyfriend?" Fergus asks bluntly, giggling as Faith covers her mouth with a little gloved hand and laughs as well.

Jamie snorts, shaking his head. "No' yet, laddie," he says, giving Claire a wink.

He can see her cheeks redden, and he grins inwardly before he squats down and sticks out his hand for a handshake. "I'm Jamie, 'tis nice tae meet ye two. Yer mam has told me a lot about ye."

Fergus shakes his hand, then Faith, both laughing at the formality of it all.

Faith is clearly the more reserved one as Fergus instantly jumps into conversation, asking Jamie if he's going ice skating with them later. "Mama said we can go after we buy some Christmas presents."

"Aye, that'd be braw."

"What's braw?" Faith asks, looking up at her mother and then to Jamie. Her big, blue eyes connect with his, and he wonders somewhere in the back of his mind if his little mini-me sees the resemblance between them as well or if she's too young to realize the similarities to that extent.

"Why don't we head to dinner while Jamie explains," Claire says, taking their hands again.

He gives the twins an explanation of the word with a smile on his face, embracing the sweet smiles strangers give him as they clearly assume the four of them are a family. They make their way to the small diner that's been outlined by colorful Christmas lights and has Have a Holly Jolly Christmas playing through its speakers.

The waitress seats them at a booth, and Jamie's heart swells a bit when Faith climbs in next to him, while Fergus takes the spot on the other side with Claire.

He tries not to make a big deal out of it, wanting to just seem natural with the bairns, but he can't help the way his eyes keep trailing over to both of them every few seconds, wanting to memorize each and every feature of them both.

"You have red hair like me!" Faith says giddily, reaching up to twirl one of his red curls around her little finger. She gives him a little smile, saying, "My friend, Anna, has red hair, too…" She moved her hand from his hair, and he instantly misses the contact. "But she lives in Boston."

"Ah," Jamie hums, "and ye miss her? And Boston?"

"Boston was fun," Fergus chimes in, "but Scotland is so cool! They have cows in the streets and way more grass than Boston."

Jamie snorts a little laugh, looking from Fergus back to Faith. "I do miss Anna," she says, continuing their conversation, "but her sister was mean, so I guess it's okay."

Claire chuckles, shaking her head. Jamie catches her eye, giving her a little smile before asking Faith why the sister was mean.

"She never let us play with her when I would go over to Anna's house," she tells him, prattling on about how Louise, Anna's sister, would hog the remote and wouldn't let them watch Frozen or Moana when they wanted to. "And she had a Nintendo Switch and wouldn't let us play!"

He snickers, leaning in toward her. "Sounds tae me that Louise was the older sister."

"Yeah!" Faith says, as Fergus asks, "How'd you know?!"

Smiling, he tells them both that he has an older sister. "Her name is Jenny and she was the same way growin' up." He laughs at the memory, adding, "But dinna fash o'er Louise, lass, all older siblings act like that."

"Well, I'm glad Fergus isn't older than me, then."

"Yes, I am!"

"Only by two minutes, Fergie," she retorts, her little eyes shifting across the table from her brother to her mom. "Mama, tell him that doesn't mean he's older. We're the same age!"

Jamie grins, watching as Claire rolls her eyes playfully, telling both children that they are twins, therefore they are the same age.

Clearly, this is an argument that isn't anything new in the Beauchamp household.

"So," he chuckles, picking up his menu. He glances at Claire over the top of it before asking the table, "what do ye two want fer dinner?"

They all choose what they want, and the whole time they're gathered around the table, Jamie finds himself entranced by his children.

He feels as if he's in a daze, a dream really, watching from the outside—watching himself interact with his own flesh and blood.

They enjoy their burgers and fries, both bairns pleading for dessert, which Claire tells them 'no' to because they will make s'mores later. That seems to placate their begging, and Jamie sits back, listening to Fergus tell him all about Roblox, some new game, while they finish their meal.

It's nice, being here. It's a feeling he didn't know was missing from his heart, but now that he's experienced it, he knows he can never go back to living without these three in his life ever again.

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

Claire sits mesmerized, watching the three of them interact.

Jamie is a natural with the twins, and it warms her heart.

She's loved getting to know him over the last few weeks, and if she's being honest with herself, she wants something more with him. She just hopes he wants it too.

Thinking about the little touches, the light laughs and the numerous lunches that felt more and more like dates the more they attended, she imagines he feels the same for her.

Watching him tonight—the way his face lit up seeing Fergus and Faith walk toward him through the crowd, the attentive way he's clung to every last word each child has spoken (which they have loved), how he interacts with them even now while they sit around the diner's table munching on french fries while Faith tells them the latest jokes her classmates have come up with—it's all been so wonderful. Far better than she could have imagined.

And now she feels guilty for making him wait almost a month to meet his children. She just wanted it to feel right, and deep down she knows she was putting it off because it was terrifying. She now has to share her babies with another human, no matter how deeply he becomes involved or not, he's here. And they can't ever take it away from the kids once they know who Jamie is.

The guilt is masked, though, by a peaceful feeling washing over her at the moment. She feels as if she's in a dream, watching her life from a distance as she studies Jamie and Faith sitting together in the booth, while Fergus tosses his straw paper onto Faith's plate.

It's strange, seeing Faith and Jamie together. She always knew Faith clearly took after her father, but seeing them side by side, it's uncanny.

So much so, that even the kids point it out.

"You have red hair like me!" Faith declares, lifting a long curl up to hold next to Jamie's head.

He laughs, glancing over at Claire before focusing back on his daughter.

"My Aunt Geillis also has red hair, but hers is blonde, too."

Jamie smiles, and Claire once again falls into a trance watching him.

He's so carefree with them, doesn't seem jittery at all, although she knows he is. He'd admitted his fears and nervousness to her each day leading up to their meeting, including this morning when he told her he might vomit from nerves but also excitement.

The four of them have a lovely meal together consisting of hamburgers and fries, the most American thing the kids could find on the menu, seeing as they were still getting accustomed to some of the more interesting Scottish meals. She's eaten lunch or breakfast with Jamie almost every day over the last month, but this dinner will forever hold a special place in her heart.

He laughs with his children, telling them stories of the horses at his parents' house, Lallybroch, and how there's so much land to ride on.

She grins, observing the way Faith and Fergus both get lost in Jamie's stories of different adventures he went on as a child, and all the crazy things he and Jenny did together which makes the twins laugh conspiratorially.

"We like to play tag, too," Fergus tells him, tossing a fry over to Faith's plate.

She swipes it up, popping it into her mouth and nodding up at Jamie. "Hide-n-seek, too," she says, giggling. "We especially like to do it in our new house."

"Why's that?" Jamie asks, and Claire rolls her eyes, knowing exactly why her children prefer the game in the house inherited from Uncle Lamb.

"Because it's so big!" Faith cries, gesturing her hands out wildly.

"Yeah," Fergus laughs, "There's lots more places to hide in this house." He shrugs, adding, "Our house in Boston wasn't as big. Me and Faith had to share a room there, but now we have our own rooms!"

"And there's a playroom just for us!" Faith adds. "I like to hide in there because there's a really big closet full of baskets of our toys, so I can climb in and camouflage with the stuffed animals."

Jamie looks impressed at her usage of the word camouflage and her daughter's face lights up when he points it out to her.

"I learned it in school," the little girl explains. "It's when an animal blends into its surroundings so a predator doesn't eat it." Faith gives the table a proud little nod, clearly impressed by herself for having so much knowledge on the subject.

"Oh!" Fergus chimes in, "Like the cuttlefish." He goes on, telling the table how the cuttlefish lives in deep and shallow waters. "It can change its color, size, or even its texture!" Claire grins, listening to him recite the facts he knows, having basically memorized them herself after his class studied ocean animals in first grade. "And guess what? It can also pretend to be the other kind, like… a male can pretend to be female, or a female can pretend to be a male, if they feel unsafe passing each other."

"Och," Jamie huffs, "that's verra interesting, lad. How'd ye ken all this?"

Fergus' little face lights up, telling Jamie that last school year his class studied sea creatures. "We did informational writing so we got to research different animals!" Fergus beams over at Claire, then tells Jamie, "But I also just really like science. I'm kind of smart like that," he shrugs.

Claire and Jamie both chuckle, turning to face Faith as she tells them all about how her class so far this school year has done narrative writing.

"We got to make up our own characters," she tells the table excitedly. "And we could choose what adventure to send them on." She rattles on, telling them how she wrote about a superhero dog and cat who saved New York from a villain.

"Cool!" Fergus exclaims, bouncing a little in his seat. "My teacher did the same thing, but I chose a gingerbread man who was looking for Santa in outer space when his sleigh went off course."

"They both sound fascinating," Claire says, reaching over to run a hand through Fergus' wild curls. "I think we're about done here, though. Are you all ready to go and see what the market has?"

Everyone acquiesces, and after paying, they make their way out into the large market.

There are booths with different vendors lined up along the walkways, music from the skating rink filling the space as children rush by, laughing and talking with their parents.

Fergus and Faith are both bouncing up and down excitedly, saying they want to go ice skating. They used to go all the time in Boston, so she's happy this can give them a little slice of home for the time being. "We can after we shop for a little bit." She looks around, knowing there's a vendor with children's toys that she wants to look at.

She glances at Jamie, whispering to him while the kids are distracted by a carousel of sunglasses sitting on the edge of the nearest booth, "I need to go get them these Roblox puzzles. The vendor down there," she points, leaning closer to him, "has them. I saw it as we were walking to dinner. Do you mind staying over this way with them while I go grab it?"

His face lights up brighter than all the Christmas lights hanging up as he nods.

Grinning, Claire gets the twins' attention. She takes their hands and says, "Why don't you two stay here with Mr. Jamie and I'll pop down the store over that way? I've got to get Uncle Joe and Aunt Gail another Christmas present."

She gives Jamie a wink, and he smiles, sending her an almost imperceptible nod.

The twins agree, each obeying their mother as she tells them to behave and stay where Jamie can see them.

Faith and Fergus each slide a little hand into Jamie's larger ones, and for a split second, Claire wishes she had her camera out to capture the way his face practically melts off at the gesture.

Before she can pull her phone out, the twins are tugging Jamie in the opposite direction from Claire. Jamie is hunched down as they walk briskly, listening as Faith says something to him while Fergus bounces on his heels.

She doesn't know what they're up to, but she finds she doesn't care. She's just glad the three of them are getting to spend some time together without her.

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

"We wanna get Mama a present," Faith says as the twins tug him down the path.

Fergus is bouncing on his heels on the other side of Jamie, agreeing wholeheartedly. "Usually Uncle Joe or Aunt Gail takes us to pick something out for her," he explains, "but they're in Boston."

"And Aunt Geillis probably won't remember."

Jamie laughs at Faith's bluntness, but tells them he thinks it's a fine idea. "Lead the way."

Each twin beams brightly, pulling him to the next stall.

He smiles at the vendor, giving a polite hello, while the kids peruse the option at the table―there's bracelets, necklaces, scarves, a small selection of sweaters, and a few hand painted canvases the vendor had made.

Fergus and Faith chatter away about what to get her, and Jamie stops an argument before it can fully begin by saying they can each pick something for her.

Faith studies the table carefully, picking up a few necklaces and reading the words on each one.

"I made those me'self," the older woman tells her, pointing to the beading around the chain. "Hand painted those beads, ye ken."

Faith nods, smiling shyly before leaning in to look at more options. There's one with words inscribed to small gold or silver plates—Mhamó, mam, deirfiúr, leannán…

"What do those say?" she asks, brow scrunching as she looks up at Jamie.

He smiles, telling her those are words written in Gaelic, an old language that's been spoken here for generations. "That one there means granny," he says pointing to the first one, "that one, mam, is jus' mom, then we have sister, and this last one, leannán, means sweetheart."

Faith smiles, head tilting to the side. "I think I like the ones without words for Mama."

Nodding, Jamie encourages her to pick the one she thinks her mam would like the best before turning to see what his son has chosen.

Fergus rummages through a bin of hand crafted rings with different shapes on them. He settles on a gold ring with a flower on it. "Mama loves to plant flowers and work in her garden," he explains, showing Jamie and Faith the ring of choice.

Faith nods her approval, finally selecting a gold necklace with three small heart beads, two white ones with a teal marbled one in the middle. "One heart for mama, one for me, and one for Fergie!"

The hearts are flat, nothing gaudy, so he thinks Claire will wear it. She already wears a gold necklace with a thin chain and a tiny scalpel pendant on it, so this will go nicely with it since she never takes that one off.

Jamie smiles, saying, "That's a fine choice, lass, yer mam will love it."

He pays for the items, not missing the way the lady behind the counter eyes Faith and Fergus, clearly seeing the resemblance between the three of them. He smiles her way, taking the bag from her hands.

"I hope ye and yer family have a great holiday!" she declares, handing him the receipt.

Smiling politely, and pushing down the swell of happiness at the thought of someone calling him and his children a family, Jamie gives the woman one last nod of goodbye.

Taking a little hand in each of his, he says, "Why don't we go find yer mam and head tae the skating rink?"

The twins hoop in excitement, Fergus asking if they can also get hot chocolate when they finish.

Laughing, he gives them each a dramatic shrug, their hands lifting with his as he says, "Why no'?"

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

Claire waves when she sees the three of them approaching, her heart warming at the sight of their little hands still tucked inside Jamie's larger ones.

"Everyone ready?"

Faith and Fergus nod, while Jamie says he is as well.

He gives her a questioning look, and she knows it's his silent way of asking if she got what she needed for the kids.

Giving him a small nod and hoisting the bag up a little higher, she smiles.

Jamie leads them over to the skating rink, the twins dropping his hand as soon as they see the stand where they rent skates in front of them.

The adults make it there a few seconds after the kids, telling the man their shoe sizes. Jamie rents a locker, all of them storing their newly bought presents inside before finding a bench to sit on and change into their skates.

"Have ye lot ever been ice skating?"

He looks nervous, and Claire really does feel bad for him. Kids can be intimidating on any given day, let alone the day you meet them for the first time, knowing they're yours, and they're hyped up on excitement and food.

"We have!" Faith says excitedly. "Remember, we told you that when we were over there."

"Faith," Claire admonishes lightly, "that wasn't a very polite way to tell him that."

Her little cheeks grow pink as she apologizes to Jamie. "I didn't mean it in a mean way…"

Before she can say more, however, Jamie is waving her off with a gentle smile. "Dinna fash, a leannán," he soothes, tapping the end of her nose.

"Hey!" Faith cries, her face splitting into a wide grin, "That means sweetheart!"

Claire looks impressed, and Jamie chuckles, explaining that they'd had a miniature Gaelic lesson while shopping.

Faith circles back to the original question like only kids can do, telling Jamie how her friend in kindergarten had an ice skating party. "Mama had to go with me and hold my hand most of the time, but it was still a lot of fun!"

"Gee, thanks," Claire laughs, tying up the last of Faith's laces and giving her foot a little pat.

Her red curls dangle around her shoulders as she giggles. She announces that she won't need a hand anymore since they've gone so many times since that party. "I'm really good now!"

Looking from Faith to Fergus, Jamie bends down. "Can I help ye out there, lad?"

Fergus is concentrating, tongue stuck out between his teeth as he tries to pull the top laces tight. He gives a little sigh—more of relief than anything, Claire thinks—and nods at Jamie. He thanks him as Jamie bends down to lace up his skates for him.

Minutes later, the four of them make their way out onto the rink. Faith's gloved hand is wrapped in his, while Fergus' is holding Claire's, and the image of the four of them makes a warmth settle in the pit of her stomach.

Claire watches as Jamie lets go of Faith's hand and skates further out to do a twirl, causing both kids to cheer and clap.

She laughs, enjoying the sight of this oversized man trying to skate gracefully on the ice.

He's a little wobbly, and so are the kids, so Claire makes her way over, taking Fergus' hand in hers again while Jamie holds Faith's.

"Ye're a braw skater, Sassenach."

She thanks him, explaining, "I grew up going skating every year. It was always mine and Lamb's favorite thing to do when it got cold enough."

The twins eventually get their footing again, having been almost a year since they last ice skated, and they spend the next hour racing each other around the rink, holding hands and skating along when they get tired, and helping each other up when they fall.

She and Jamie spend the hour in much the same way. They skate along, watching as Fergus and Faith laugh and play.

At one point, Claire stumbles and Jamie reaches out to steady her before she can fall. Her hand slips easily into his, and she doesn't let go for the next ten minutes as they make their way around the rink, talking easily as the kids whizz by, giving them a little wave each time.

Eventually, two tired, curly-haired children slowly skate their way toward Claire. Their tired eyes tell her all she needs to know, and she snickers softly, knowing they'll sleep soundly tonight.

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

They make their way off the ice and back to the benches, each adult helping the kids unlace their skates and turn them in.

"Jamie said we could have hot chocolate after skating," Fergus informs her as they collect their items from the locker. "Can we?"

"Of course," she laughs, taking Fergus' hand. "Are you sure you two are up for it? You seem pretty worn out from all the skating."

Both twins protest indignantly, saying they're fine. "The hot chocolate will wake us back up!" Faith cries, taking Jamie's hand as they start to leave the rink.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Claire jokes, tugging on Fergus' hand playfully as her children laugh and roll their eyes.

They make their way from the rink to the area marked off for fire pits and s'mores. There are a few vendors just on the outskirts of the fire pits selling the hot chocolate, so Jamie orders one for each of them before gesturing toward the fires. "Anyone up for s'mores?"

Twin yeahs echo around them, and Claire smiles to herself—something she can't seem to stop doing tonight—watching Faith and Fergus gingerly take their beverages from Jamie with a natural, paternal warning to be careful despite the cups having lids. They each nod, following along by Jamie's side toward the fire pits.

There's an open one that they snag, and she's glad they don't have to be around other families for this. It's nice, just being the four of them, getting to enjoy their holiday memories.

Each fire pit has pre-packaged s'more ingredients, so Claire hands everyone a bag.

Fergus tears into his bag, while Faith carefully peels hers open, each pulling out two shortbreads, a giant marshmallow, and a piece of milk chocolate.

"Um," Faith says softly, tapping Claire on the shoulder, "Mama, what is this?" She holds up the shortbread, and Claire chuckles.

Looking over at Fergus, she sees him examining the cookies with a confused expression as well.

"Is there a problem?" Jamie asks, seeming confused as well as he gears up his marshmallow to be toasted in the fire.

Laughing, Claire explains to all three that s'mores are a more traditional American delight. "They don't have graham crackers in Scotland, little loves," she says, pointing toward the shortbreads. "So they use these for digestives instead."

Each child glances at the other, seemingly wondering who will try it first.

Fergus gives his sister a shrug, both of them sticking their marshmallow on a metal skewer and placing it in the fire to heat up.

They all work to create their s'mores, Claire cooking her marshmallow the longest so that it's almost completely burnt, claiming it was the best way to eat it.

Jamie dives in, mumbling around a bite that he hasn't had a s'more since he was last in America. "I went there when I was a lad," he explains, wiping the corner of his mouth. "I was wi' my family visiting some family friends, ye ken, and they took us camping. We sat around the fire and made them." He tells the kids, who are once again completely enthralled by his stories, that it was his first time having s'mores. "Nothin' here has e'er truly lived up tae using a graham cracker," he chuckles, "but these shortbreads get the job done."

Faith and Fergus both nod, taking a bite of their s'mores now that the chocolate has melted more.

Their matching set of blue eyes light up, each exclaiming around a far too large bite that they're delicious.

They spend the next half hour sitting around the fire pit, laughing and listening as Faith and Fergus entertain them with stories from school, more jokes, and telling Jamie the entire set of rules of Roblox and Pokemon Go.

The twins' faces get completely covered in chocolate as they make another dessert, but Claire can't find it in her to reprimand them tonight. This is all too perfect.

After the kids' bellies are full of s'mores, she suggests they walk off all their food by looking at the Christmas lights.

"Yeah!" the kids call, rushing ahead of Jamie and Claire to look at all the lights.

The crowds have died down some the later it's gotten, and she's thankful for it.

The market has each store lined with lights, but there's also a path where they've put up large Christmas light displays—Giant Santa on his sleigh, nutcrackers the size of the trees around them, little reindeer ones that kids were allowed to go up to more closely, oversized poinsettias...

"Mama, take our picture!" Faith pleads, taking Fergus' hand and running toward the reindeer light display.

Smiling, Claire takes her phone, snapping a few pictures and telling Jamie quietly, "I'll text these to you tonight."

"Thank ye, Sassenach."

The twins rush ahead again, but still close enough that they can see them.

She and Jamie meander through the lights, talking about the kids and how much fun today has been. Jamie tells her about his time alone with them while she was grabbing the puzzles and other stocking stuffers, saying, "'Twas sae much fun." He beams, telling her how the lady at the stall thought they were a family. "It warmed me right tae the backbone, ye ken?"

Nodding, she sighs contentedly, thinking how wonderful it would be to call them a family one day.

As they walk, Jamie reaches for her hand, and she doesn't pull away. Instead, she links their fingers and gives him a shy smile before focusing back on their children.

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

A/N: There we have it (for Part One)! I hope you enjoyed it… Thank you so much for reading! Part Two will be posted later today, so stay tuned! :)

Chapter Text

Chapter Two:

He's been spending time at Claire's house almost daily since meeting his children. It's been wonderful, and he's so thankful for the moments he has with them, even if they don't know just yet that he is their father.

He's built Lego towns with Fergus, had tea parties with Faith, played tag in the backyard with both of them… he's eaten every dinner with them and been there while Claire put them to bed.

He'd wait downstairs while she did, not thinking it appropriate just yet to partake in bedtime since he's just "Mama's boyfriend" right now.

Boyfriend.

He and Claire had been worried after taking their relationship to this level that the kids wouldn't accept it, or wouldn't want it. But they had not only accepted it, they had been excited about it. Their little faces lit up when he and Claire sat down to tell them, both hugging him and saying they were happy.

"Yeah!" Fergus called, "You're fun and I can teach you how to play Mario Kart."

He could've done that before, Jamie thought, but he wouldn't question the mind of his son. He would just gladly accept the fact that Fergus was happy to have him in his life as more than his mom's friend, not her boyfriend.

One step closer to telling them he was their father.

He'd told Claire the other night that he wanted them to be more comfortable with him before revealing such life altering news, and she'd agreed.

"And I can show you my LOL Dolls!" Faith squealed, rushing up the stairs to her room. She'd come down with an arm full of dolls, showing him each one.

He'd inspected them carefully, commenting on their brightly colored hair and outfits as Faith explained who they were and what jobs she had decided they had—singer, actress, YouTuber… the normal six year old aspirations, he supposed.

As he sat around the coffee table with the twins, Claire busying herself in the kitchen, he'd fiddled with the video game controller that had been left out from earlier, asking, "Are ye two sure ye're okay with me and yer mam dating?"

"Sure," Faith said happily, smiling over to Fergus. "Mama deserves a boyfriend!"

"And you're cool," Fergus added with a shrug, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "You like us, and we like you, so it works."

It was so simple. That's the wonderful thing about children.

He still can't believe that he gets to call Claire his girlfriend. It only took a few days after the night they all went ice skating for him to put voice to what they both were feeling.

The moments after the bairns were asleep were some of his most precious. He and Claire would sit together, cuddled on the couch, talking lowly with one another as the television hummed quietly in the background.

They would pretend to pick a movie each night, but minutes into the film, it was all but forgotten.

It had started out as innocent flirting, the occasional brush to her cheek, her hand on his knee, but he knew they both couldn't deny this feeling between them. The same feeling they'd had back when they first met.

They were in the kitchen, washing the dishes from dinner together, but as he put the last dish into the washer, Claire asked him if he wanted to watch the next episode of Schitt's Creek. They'd been watching a few each night, laughing together at the ridiculousness of the tv family.

He grinned, saying, "Sounds like a solid plan, Sassenach."

He reached out his hand, and she easily accepted it. He led her over to the living room, both of them taking a seat on the couch, Claire moving closer into his space.

Her eyes connected with his, and with a shy smile, the air around them seemed to grow thicker.

She licked her lips, his eyes flicking down to watch the motion as she leaned in—cautiously, sweetly—whispering, "Is this alright?"

"God, yes," he groaned, "I've ne'er wanted anything more." He pulled back just as she went to lean in, giving her an apologetic smile. "No' that I jus' want this," he gestured between their lips, "It isna just sexual fer me, Claire. I ken it's quick, but I ken there's something between us. Do ye feel it too?"

She nodded with a watery smile, and his heart soared as she said, "I want this, Jamie. I want us." And his body went pliant as her lips touched his.

He moaned into the kiss, head tilting to deepen it.

It was everything and more. Somehow exactly as he remembered from years ago, but better now that they were sober and had more of a connection.

Pulling back, the corner of his mouth twitched on one side before he leaned in, pecking another kiss to her lips.

Sure, it was quick, but when two halves of the same soul find one another, time isn't anything to worry about.

Claire had shyly leaned in that night, and he met her halfway, their lips connecting in a kiss more soul stirring than any he'd ever had before.

Her soft, pillowy lips fit together with his like two pieces of the same puzzle.

Their kisses each night soon grew to roaming hands, and a week into their newfound relationship, Claire was asking him to come upstairs with her.

"Do you want me, Jamie?" she breathed, kissing his earlobe and giving it a little nibble.

"Oh, God, yes," he growled, capturing her lips roughly. "I want ye so bad I can scarcely breathe."

She grinned wickedly, leading him up the stairs, quietly past the twins' rooms, and into her bedroom, his hands cupping her ass the whole way.

They quickly made work of each other's clothing, both stepping back to admire the other. Her body was just as he remembered, save for the few stretch marks on her stomach that he found far too enticing.

Knowing they were from her creating the lives of their children did something to his body and soul that he couldn't explain.

She'd begged him to say something, self consciously covering herself up, but he stepped closer and took her hands away from her chest. "Dinna cover yerself," he murmured huskily, "ye're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

With that, they connected once again, falling into the bed. He explored her body with his hands and mouth before his cock buried itself into her wet heat.

Her hands gripped at his shoulders, nail digging into the skin and leaving impressions marked there, not that he minded.

His back was full of scars from a car accident years ago that sent him skidding across broken glass, tearing his back to shreds. He'd been worried, having had the accident a year after their one night stand, but just as he'd assured her of how beautiful her marks were, she told him they made him even more beautiful.

She'd kissed each one as they lay in their afterglow, tracing them lightly with her finger tips.

The touching led to more exploring, her mouth capturing his cock and enveloping it while he cried out, gripping the headboard as he found release in her mouth.

He returned the favor, lips latching onto her clit and sucking as she rode his face from atop him.

Listening to her come undone was his favorite sound in the world, and he spent the rest of that night—cock, finger, or tongue inside her—bringing her to that sweet oblivion over and over again.

It had been amazing, better than anything he'd ever experienced before, save for their one drunken night together seven years ago. Their bodies seemed to remember exactly what to do with one another, as if no time had gone by at all.

Today, though, is Saturday, and he is here for lunch with Claire and the bairns.

He is thankful that the store doesn't need him for too long today. He'd gone in at seven and was done by noon, his business partner, John Grey, clocking in to cover the rest of the day.

He would do some paperwork tonight, but now, now is for his children and his Sassenach.

Faith and Fergus greet him excitedly at the door, ushering him inside and asking him to help make their homemade pizzas.

"Like this?" he asks once they're settled into the kitchen, spreading the sauce across the dough.

"No!" Faith laughs, stepping up on the stool beside Jamie. "Like this!" She takes the ladle, spreading the sauce more evenly across the surface. "You have to make sure the whole thing is covered."

"Ah," he huffs good naturedly. "Makes sense."

Just then, Claire rushes in, telling someone on the phone that she has to go.

She huffs, slamming her phone down on the counter. She leans in, pressing a kiss to his cheek, then one to each twin. "That was the hospital," she grumbles to the three of them. "One of my patients is being rushed in for emergency surgery and I have to be there." She looks between him and the twins, and before she can even ask, he's volunteering.

"I can stay here wi' the bairns, if ye'd like, Sassenach."

Claire glances at Faith and Fergus, as does he, and their smiling faces bring a joy to his heart knowing they want to spend time with him as well.

She smiles, acquiescing, "If you're sure you don't mind. Don't you have to go back to work?"

"Nah," he shakes his head. "John is there th' rest of the day. I just need tae do some work on the books when I get home late tonight." He gives her an assuring smile. "Dinna fash, Sassenach."

With a grateful sigh, she tells him, "You can use my office upstairs if you need to do anything before I get back," then rushes to place a kiss to each of the twins' heads and another one to his cheek. "I'll be back before dinner. Remember we're going to see Santa tonight before we eat!"

The twins whoop and holler, hopping down from their stools and running to the living room, saying they need to work on their lists some more.

"So just me to make the pizzas, then, aye?"

Claire chuckles, "Wash your hands first!"

Faith and Fergus huff but rush back in, stepping onto the stool in front of the sink to wash their hands quickly. After a speedy inspection from Claire, they're dashing off to the living room once again.

When they're out of eyeshot, Claire steps into his embrace. "I'm sorry about this."

Shrugging, he kisses her lips, lingering just briefly. "'Tis no problem, mo nighean donn." He smiles, glancing toward the living room, then back down to her. Her amber eyes are bright and God, he would kill to have her stay here with them all day, but he knows she has a job to do. "I dinna mind spending the day wi' the bairns, I welcome it, actually. We'll keep ourselves entertained until ye get back."

With one last smile, and a sound kiss to his lips, she dashes out of the door.

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

Jamie walks into the living room, watching Faith and Fergus huddle together around the coffee table, furiously scribbling items down on their lists.

He looks around, seeing the tree that is still only half decorated and snickers. "What happened tae the tree?"

Fergus' head shoots up, glancing toward the Christmas fir, then to Jamie. "Mama was busy with work and we just kinda forgot, I guess."

"The ornaments are in the hall closet," Faith adds sweetly, giving him a wicked little grin—one so alarmingly similar to Claire's when she's being sneaky and wants to get her way.

Laughing, Jamie stands, slapping his thighs as he does. "Alright, then. What do ye say we finish this tree before yer mam gets home?"

With gleeful cheers from all three of them, they rush to the closet, little socked feet sliding against the hardwood floor.

Jamie pulls out the boxes, reminding the children to be careful.

They get it all to the coffee table, and Jamie gingerly opens the rubbermaid containers.

The ornaments are organized neatly, of course, and he smirks, knowing Claire more than likely has a system to how they are arranged.

"These are the Disney ones!" Faith whoops, pulling out an ornament of Ariel sitting on a rock. "Uncle Lamb used to send us one every year."

Her face falls a little, eyes going sad, and Jamie rushes to comfort her. He places a hand on her shoulder, murmuring, "'Tis alright, a leannan, ye had lots o' years wi' him tae get such braw ornaments," as she climbs into his lap.

She nods, giving him a sad smile before resting her head in the crook of his neck.

He embraces the feeling, but looks over at Fergus. His face is sad, too, but when he sees Jamie is looking at him, he perks up. Jamie can tell he's trying not to show his grief, but Jamie shakes his head, telling him, "'Tis alright tae be sad, mo ghille. Ye miss yer uncle, too, I imagine."

Fergus nods, and the three of them talk for a few moments about Uncle Lamb. Faith tells him how Lamb would always come visit them in Boston and bring them gifts. "He also had a lot of funny stories," she tells him, giggling to herself at some memory he can see flashing through her mind.

"He was an arch… archee… ugh," Fergus huffs, "That word is always hard to say."

Jamie chuckles, reminding him, "Archeologist."

"Yeah, that!" Fergus exclaims, making his way over to sit next to Jamie. "He would tell us about the caves he explored and digs he went on. It was really cool."

"He sounds like a great man," Jamie says, smiling at both children.

They nod, faces starting to grow sad again, so he quickly changes the subject. He points to the ornaments still waiting to be placed upon the tree, and asks, "Which one is yer favorite?"

Faith's face seems to light up at the question, and she hops from his lap, searching through the box. Fergus has already pulled out a small box containing Star Wars ornaments and is placing them on the spots on the tree that he can reach on his own. "I like this!" he announces, turning to smile brightly at Jamie. "Do you like Star Wars?"

"Aye," he chuckles, "I've seen them a few times."

"This one is my favorite!" Faith interrupts, holding up an ornament of Mickey and Minnie ice skating, wrapped in each other's arms. "It's so cute," she gushes, "and now it reminds me of when we all went ice skating!"

"That it does," he agrees, beaming as Faith giggles and hangs the ornament on a branch.

They spend the next hour hanging all the ornaments they could find, then turning on the lights and stepping back to admire their work.

"Bonny," Jamie whispers, his heart melting when Faith and Fergus each take one of his hands in their own.

He encourages them to go stand in front of it so that he can take a picture to send to Claire.

They both happily agree, posing themselves quickly enough to make Jamie laugh. Clearly they've been staged to take plenty of twin pictures over the years. They instantly stand in front of the tree, wrapping their arms around each other so their cheeks are smushed against the other's.

It's adorable, especially with their matching dark jeans and Christmas shirts—Fergus' an emerald green and Faith's red, both with a vintage Santa face on their bellies.

He takes a few pictures, letting them move around and do silly faces or ones of them pointing excitedly at the tree, before sending them all to Claire with a text that reads: Tree is done and they had a blast!

"It looks great!" Fergus says, stepping back to admire their handiwork, "but can we finish making our pizza now?"

Snorting, Jamie nods, following them both back to the kitchen. "We jus' need tae make sure we clean up the boxes in the living room before yer mam gets home."

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

Four hours after dashing off to work, Claire finally makes it back home.

Walking in, she can still smell the pizza aroma lingering in the air, and if she's not mistaken, it smells a bit burnt.

With a grin, she slips her shoes off and drops her bag on the entryway table. Padding inside, she stops when she notices the tree is lit up and fully decorated.

She had seen Jamie's text earlier, but the photograph hadn't done it justice. They did a wonderful job. It must stand out more now since it's grown closer to 5:30 causing the house to be a little darker.

There's a fire going in the fireplace and Christmas music humming from the kitchen.

She makes her way inside, leaning against the door jamb as she watches Jamie and the twins working on a puzzle at the kitchen table.

"That one is a corner piece."

"No, it isn't!"

"Yes, it is!"

"Alright, alright, mo ghaoil," Jamie says gently, holding up a hand in between the soon-to-be-feuding twins. "Why dinna ye each try yer piece and see who is right."

They do just that, Faith smiling triumphantly when her piece fits perfectly into the corner.

Fergus rolls his eyes, but quickly moves on to finding where his piece belongs.

Smirking, she asks, "Save any pizza for me?" breaking their concentration.

"Hey, Mama!" the twins greet together.

Fergus points toward the counter, telling her, "There's a few slices of our pizza from lunch. We added pepperoni and onions!"

"And green peppers!" Faith adds.

Jamie stands, patting both kids on the head before joining her at the kitchen island. "We saved some fer ye, I wasna sure when ye'd be home."

"I guess I need to eat a little something since we won't eat until after meeting Santa," she concedes. "Who knows how long that'll take at this point. I really wanted to be home earlier."

"It's alright, mo nighean donn," he soothes, "They've had plenty tae eat, they each just ate another slice fer a snack half an hour ago." She nods, and he tells her, "We'll bring some snacks jus' in case they get hungry while we wait in line, and then we will go tae dinner like planned."

She smiles at how natural he is at being a father, planning to bring snacks and making sure they were plenty well fed to stop as much hangry-bickering as possible.

"You're very good with kids," she notes.

He gives her a sheepish shrug, "Weel, Jenny has a few sae I've been around them."

Leaning in with a small smile, Claire kisses his lips quickly, both ignoring the giggles coming from behind them. "Alright," she sighs, "I'll eat some right quick."

He nods, picking up two slices and putting them in her air fryer. Turning it on, he spins, wrapping his arms around her shoulders so her back is pressed against his front. "I missed ye," he whispers, and she bites her lip, ignoring the shiver that runs down her spine.

She glances over to the table, and she catches Faith's eye who then leans in and says something to Fergus before they both giggle some more and focus back on their puzzle.

Chuckling, she turns in his arms, pressing a kiss to his lips before pulling the pizza from the fryer. "Let me eat right quick and then we can go see Santa," she announces so the kids can hear. "How does that sound?"

Faith and Fergus both agree, scurrying upstairs to change into the outfits Claire had picked the night before and to get their lists.

"Will you go help them?" she asks, giving Jamie a pleading look. "I trust my children can dress themselves, but their hair is another story."

Laughing, he pecks a kiss to the crown of her head, saying he's had plenty of practice with Jenny's bairns.

"Thank you," she says around a bite of pizza, grinning to herself as Jamie makes his way up the stairs.

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

She has to say, she is quite impressed with Jamie's skill when it comes to the twins' hair.

When they all came down the stairs an hour ago, Faith and Fergus were both beaming with pride, as was Jamie.

Faith's hair was braided into pigtails with little red and black plaid bows tied to the end to match her dress. It was an adorable plaid overall dress with a white long sleeve underneath that has ruffles on the shoulders. She made sure to get matching tall white socks and black shoes to complete the look. Fergus' hair had been gelled to the side, giving him a cute little swoop in the front. His plaid pants, white button down and plaid bowtie matched Faith's dress, and their outfits were just as cute as when she'd bought them months ago.

Now, though, they're next in line to meet Santa and each six year old is bouncing on their heels.

Claire is trying to keep them calm, managing to smooth down Fergus' hair that he'd somehow already mussed from the car to the line. She distracts the twins by having them pose for a picture for Aunt Geillis, each of them tugging on her arms and begging to see their Aunt's reply.

She pulls out the bag of grapes she'd brought in her large purse, giving each twin a small handful.

"What're ye gonna wish fer?" Jamie asks, doing his part to keep them entertained while the children in front of them talk to Santa.

Faith glances at Fergus who gives her a look, and Claire slides her eyes over to Jamie. Clearly the twins are having a silent conversation that only the two of them are privy to.

"Toys," Fergus says flippantly, "and some other stuff."

Faith giggles, then huddles together with her brother in front of the adults.

Jamie smirks, shrugging over at Claire. "Sneaky little boogers."

Laughing, she agrees, and pushes Faith's pigtail that has fallen behind her shoulder to sit in the front with the other before ushering them up to Santa when the teenager dressed like an elf sends them up to the big guy.

Claire takes out her phone, but Jamie takes it from her, telling her that he will take the pictures so she can concentrate on the kids.

Her heart skips a beat at the gesture, but she quickly turns her attention back to the twins.

Faith is on Santa's left knee, with Fergus on the right. She hears Fergus say he wants the Star Wars Lego set, which Claire knows is currently hiding in her bedroom's walk-in closet, hidden beneath a large blanket.

Claire snickers as she hears Faith tell him that she wants, "All the LOL Dolls and Pop-Its at Target!"

Those, while not all of them, are also currently hidden in her closet.

Jamie had found her stash of Santa presents the other night, tripping over the corner of the blanket as he went to put his clothes in the hamper. She had simply shrugged and told him it was the only place in the house the kids wouldn't find their presents.

Claire is pulled from her thoughts when she hears Santa and Jamie both laugh at something the twins said, and she looks to Jamie, giving him a questioning look.

"Fergus told Santa that he could have all the cookies in th' house if he brought him an iPad to play Roblox on."

Chuckling, Claire shakes her head, knowing full well that the twins already have an iPad they share. But Fergus is always begging her for his own.

Before time runs out, they also ask the rosy-cheeked man for a slime kit, Faith asks for a "cute notebook" to doodle in, while Fergus slips in a request for a Nintendo Switch. "I'll share with my sister!"

"Or we can each have one so we can play Animal Crossing with each other." Faith's eyes grow wide, looking up at Santa and saying, "I mean, if that's okay with you, Santa!"

Santa gives a hearty ho, ho ho laugh at that, making both kids sit up straight and stare at him excitedly.

Before they slip off of his lap, Faith and Fergus give each other a look, then nod together. They both lean into Santa's ears, whispering something that causes the old man to glance her way.

She looks at Jamie, then the scene before her, wondering what her children could have possibly said.

Faith grins over to her, while Fergus gives Jamie a thumbs up.

"What is that all about?" she asks, but Jamie shrugs, looking just as confused as she feels.

The teenager elf motions for them to walk up to Santa and retrieve the children, and when they do, Santa gives them a jolly laugh, then says, "And ye must be Mr. Jamie, aye?"

She cocks her head to the side, her eyes glancing at Jamie, then Santa, and then the twins who are each grinning from ear to ear with pink cheeks.

Faith tugs at Santa's beard delicately, and thank God this man's beard is real, before hopping off of his lap. "Bye, Santa!" she calls.

Fergus sits for a moment, looking contemplative. He gives Santa a little nod, then joins his sister off to the side.

Confused, Claire looks at Santa, who simply touches the side of his nose and gives her a little wink, before waving goodbye to them and greeting the next excited child in line.

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

On the way home, Claire can't take the suspense anymore.

Turning around in the passenger seat to get a better look at her children, she gets their attention away from their movie and asks, "What did you two ask Santa for at the end?"

The twins look at one another, another silent conversation passing between them.

Jamie gives her hand that he's holding a little squeeze, lifting it to kiss her knuckles before setting their hands back down on the middle console.

Faith and Fergus are quiet, and she notices their eyes are fixated on her and Jamie's hands.

She thought this whole time that the twins were okay with her and Jamie dating. They seem to love him; on the rare night he has to work late and can't come over for dinner, they are more sullen and ask for him. But their eyes watching her hold Jamie's hand worries her.

Claire slips her hand from Jamie's, giving him a sympathetic smile when he glances from the road to her face.

"We just… asked him for something that only Santa can give us," Fergus says, grinning at his sister.

Faith nods proudly, smiling back at her brother.

"Are ye no' goin' tae tell us, then?" Jamie asks with a chuckle. "The suspense is killin' yer mam up here."

The twins giggle, little feet bouncing against their booster seats. A few more moments of twin-versation, as she's come to call it, before Fergus finally sighs, admitting, "We… we asked Santa for a dad."

Claire's breath hitches in her throat, and she inconspicuously slips her hand back into Jamie's, his grip immediately tightening on hers at Fergus' declaration.

They're pulling into the driveway, thankfully, and Jamie parks the car in the garage. He puts it in park, but leaves the garage door open, letting the car run as the four of them sit in silence for a brief moment.

"You did?" Claire asks, eyes welling up with tears.

She's never felt like her babies needed a father, thought she was doing a great job on her own. But apparently they've been missing something that even she didn't realize.

"Well not just any dad," Faith corrects, giving her brother a look. "We asked Santa to make Mr. Jamie our dad!"

She can hear him breathe out a wet chuckle before he clears his throat. He turns to face them, reaching between the front seats to take their small hands. "Ye did?"

Faith and Fergus grin, but she can tell they feel shy from the attention. They both nod, Fergus adding, "Yeah, you and Mama are boyfriend and girlfriend—" He stops, long enough for both he and his sister to cover their mouths and giggle, "—and you like us. You play with us, and ask us about our days."

"You help us make food and decorate the Christmas tree!" Faith adds, causing the adults to chuckle.

"You make us happy," Fergus says, shrugging as if to brush it off, like this isn't a big deal.

Looking over at Jamie, she can see his blue eyes are brimming with tears, and she takes a deep breath. "Well," she announces, clearing her throat, "that is a very nice wish, you two." She smiles at them, not wanting to tell them right here in the car who Jamie truly is. She wants it to be special when they do, especially now knowing how much the kids approve of him. "Why don't we go inside and make dinner, hm? We can eat in the living room and watch a Christmas movie."

Fergus and Faith unbuckle their seats and climb from the SUV faster than she can blink. Laughing, she and Jamie take a moment, watching from inside the car as their children open the door that leads from the garage to the kitchen and rush inside.

"Wow," he breathes, smiling brighter than the Christmas tree he'd decorated earlier. "I dinna ken what tae say."

He wipes at the tears under his eyes, and Claire leans over the console, kissing him square on the lips. "C'mon," she whispers, "let's get in there before they decide to make dinner on their own."

Laughing, Jamie nods. They unbuckle and join the kids in the kitchen, a new rightness filling every bit of her soul.

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

Jamie didn't think he could ever be this happy. It's a type of elation that he didn't even know existed.

His children wanted him as their dad.

It was the best feeling in the world.

All through dinner, which ends up just being heated up pizza from earlier with the fruit Claire insists they need, Jamie simply sits back and watches.

Watches as Faith tosses a grape at Fergus across the coffee table, ducking as he throws one back at her. Watches as Fergus stuffs a way-too-big bite of cheesy pizza into his little mouth. Watches as Claire gently reprimands them, saying they won't get to finish Home Alone if they keep it up.

It is all so wonderful. So real. So right.

An hour and a half later, far past their normal bedtime of eight o'clock, Jamie is still lost in his thoughts as he says goodnight to his children. It's ten o'clock already, and the kids have had a long day—from decorating the tree this afternoon, playing all day until Claire got home, Santa, dinner, a movie… even he was exhausted. He is still lost in his thoughts as he says goodnight to the children, Fergus asking if Jamie can read them their bedtime story tonight.

He has to swallow down the lump in his throat as he agrees, following Claire and the children up the stairs.

She works so effortlessly to get them cleaned, teeth brushed, and into pajamas before Faith climbs into Fergus' bed, both snuggling under the covers together as Jamie perches on the edge with Claire at the end of the bed.

He reads the next chapter of Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying that they had apparently been working their way through, but according to Faith, he wasn't doing the voices correctly.

They spend far longer than needed teaching him the different voices for the multitude of characters until he finally gets it right, able to successfully finish the chapter just as Fergus' eyes grow heavy.

He picks Faith up, already asleep, and carries her across the hall to her bedroom. He places a sweet kiss on her cheek before going back to Fergus' room to do the same for his son.

After all the tucking in is said and done, he and Claire shower and go through their nightly routines before climbing into bed.

"I need tae go home tomorrow," he says ruefully, pulling the covers back for her to join him. "It's been a few days, ken, I need tae check my mail, make sure my house hasn't been broken into."

She snorts, swatting at his chest. "You're ridiculous."

Grinning, he gives her a kiss before picking up his book.

They settle in, the lights off save for the two lamps on the nightstands. He reads while she scrolls through her phone, looking at all the pictures and videos he took earlier today of the kids with Santa.

"I'm sending this one to G," Claire tells him, grinning as she turns her phone so he can see a photograph he took earlier of the twins bouncing up to Santa, little hands waving at the old man.

He smiles, murmuring, "That's a good one."

Claire gives him a nod of agreement, returning back to her texts and pictures. He picks his book back up, finishing the chapter he started earlier tonight.

As he reads, his mind drifts off, thinking of Christmas coming up in a few days.

He knows his mam and da are expecting him, they want Claire and the twins to join them, but is it too soon?

He had told his family about Claire a few weeks after seeing her at the hospital and learning about the twins.

He wants them to go meet his family at some point, and Christmas would be perfect. It would be a good distraction for the twins, having presents to open and Jenny's kids there to play with. There wouldn't be so much attention on just them, which would probably make the twins feel more comfortable.

Jamie thinks about Christmas morning, and how Faith and Fergus had excitedly told him earlier all their Christmas traditions—Running downstairs to see what Santa brought, making pancakes, watching Christmas movies and staying in their pajamas all day… he didn't want to change that for them.

Taking off his reading glasses, he sets them on the bedside table, mind sifting through the possibilities.

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

She's looking at the pictures from today, grinning to herself at how cute the twins looked in their red and black plaid outfits.

"They looked so cute today," she gushes, turning her phone around to show Jamie.

He gives her a little grunt, glancing toward the phone.

He's been quiet the last fifteen minutes, a shift in the air between them that she can't understand.

"Jamie?" she asks, clicking her phone shut. "Is everything okay?"

"Hm?" He blinks, clearly pulling himself from deep thoughts. "Aye, mo chridhe, everything is fine."

He leans over, kissing her lips briefly. He still looks off, though, so she gives him a look that clearly says she doesn't believe him.

Huffing, he closes his book. He shifts a bit to get a better look at her and takes her hand in his. "I was jus' thinking about Christmas this year."

She nods, admitting that she had been thinking about it too, lately.

"'Tis jus'," he sighs, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, "I ken wi'out Uncle Lamb here, and wi' Joe flying back tae America fer the holiday, and Geillis off tae some Caribbean island with her latest man," he smirks, "ye and the twins willna have anyone tae celebrate wi'." He pauses, then quickly corrects, "no' that I think that's a bad thing. Faith and Fergus ha' been verra adamant about telling me how much they love Christmas morning with just the three of ye."

She grins, but urges him to continue. "Out with it."

He takes her hand, and she's grateful for the gesture. It's always easier between them when they touch. It seems to ground her, and she hopes it does the same for him.

"My mam and da ken about ye and the kids, ye ken," he says, and she nods again, knowing that he'd told them days after finding out they existed. "And they would really love tae meet them, and ye as well."

She inhales deeply; she hadn't really thought about having to meet his family just yet. But it makes sense, being Christmas and all.

"I don't want to take them away from home on their first Christmas in a new place," she starts, feeling guilty.

"No, no, no," he cuts off, shaking his head. "I wouldna e'er want tae do that tae them. 'Tis just…" Another nervous sigh, his ears growing pink in that adorable way they do when he's nervous, "I was jus' thinkin', wonderin' really, if I could sleep here Christmas Eve, wake up Christmas morning with ye all." He smiles, saying, "We could let them see what all Santa brought, mebbe go play in the snow, watch some movies… but mebbe go out tae Lallybroch later in the day, fer dinner, perhaps. Mam and Da would love tae meet ye, and I ken my mam already has gifts bought fer the kids. She canna help herself."

She giggles, but warmth fills Claire's heart at the thought. Christmas morning with Jamie sounds perfect, and she'd just naturally assumed he would be here with them. But she knows he still has family, still has traditions with them that she doesn't want to interfere with.

"Jamie," she breathes, leaning in to kiss him. "Wild horses couldn't keep me away," she grins. "That sounds like a lovely idea! I would love to meet your parents, and Jenny and Ian and their kids," she rambles, "but only if you're sure, I don't want to impose on any Fraser Christmas traditions and—"

"Dinna fash, Sassenach," he assures, giving her a sweet smile. "Mam would have my hide if I didna bring ye three 'round. She's more excited tae meet ye than she is tae see me."

Giggling, Claire nods. "Alright. If you're sure."

"Aye, I am."

They grow silent for a few moments, long enough for Jamie to pick his book back up, but Claire is still lost in her thoughts. She watches the video on her phone of the twins whispering to Santa, now knowing what they were telling the old man.

"I was thinking," she states, tossing her phone onto the mattress and turning on her side to prop herself up on an elbow. "I know exactly what we can give the kids on Christmas morning."

"Aside from the Star Wars Legos, LOL dolls, clothes, Barbies, the new scooters…"

"Alright, alright," she laughs, slapping his chest playfully. "Yes, aside from all of that, I was thinking it would be special if we could grant them their wish to Santa."

She looks into his eyes, giving him a little smile.

"Ye mean…?"

Nodding, and fighting back more tears, she tells him, "I want to tell the kids that you're their real dad… if that's alright with you."

"Are ye kidding?" he asks, choking on a wet laugh, "O'course it's alright wi' me, Sassenach!"

He leans in, their tears mingling together as they kiss.

That night, with soft sighs, quiet tears, and gentle touches, they make love, knowing that in a few days, Faith and Fergus will know who Jamie truly is.

His hands glide over her skin, lips sucking and licking in all the right places, bringing her to the edge of oblivion faster than ever before.

She loves this man, knows it's crazy to feel this way already, but she does, and as he comes with her name on his lips, Claire decides she knows exactly what the perfect gift from her to him will be this year.

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

Two days later, Christmas morning comes, and Jamie is just as excited as his children waiting to see what Santa brought.

They're telling Faith and Fergus today, and the thought of these two children that he already loves wholeheartedly knowing he's their da brings him an unimaginable joy.

"Good morning," Claire murmurs, rolling onto her side to face him.

Her hair is a mess and she's got crust in the corner of her eye, and she's never looked more beautiful to him.

"Merry Christmas," he tells her, leaning in for a kiss. "I'm surprised the bairns havena come barreling in already."

She laughs, which turns into a yawn. "It's still early," she tells him, climbing from the bed. She taps her phone on the nightstand, saying, "It's only 6:30, they'll be up soon though. They normally sleep until 8 or 8:30, but Christmas morning is always different."

Jamie smiles, rolling out of bed and pulling on a t-shirt. "We better get breakfast started."

He walks to the bathroom, splashing his face with cool water and brushing his teeth. Claire is beside him, washing her face with her face wash and brushing her teeth as well, and it strikes him how natural this is. It's so right between them that he's amazed he ever even dated anyone else.

They make their way downstairs, Claire straightening some of the toys they'd put out last night, wanting it all to be perfect.

They'd spent hours drinking whisky and laughing until their sides hurt while setting up all the Santa gifts.

"Shh," Claire drunkenly shushed, holding a finger up to her lips. She took out the three-pack of LOL Dolls, setting them out amongst Faith's other toys. "You'll wake the kids."

Jamie laughed, taking another sip of the whisky they'd gotten into. "Ye're the loud drunk one, Sassenach, no' me." He took the scooters, one blue and one green, setting them against the twins' respective pieces of furniture that their gifts were displayed on.

Claire said in their household, Santa didn't wrap gifts. It was all displayed in a beautiful fashion, so the kids were able to see everything when they came downstairs.

He straightened the bow sitting on the green scooter's handlebar, laughing as Claire tripped on an empty box. "Oops," she hiccuped, making her way over to him, box now in hand. "I think we're just about done."

She leaned in, pressing a sloppy kiss to his lips. Grinning into the kiss, Jamie wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close. "Aye, everythin' looks bonny, mo nighean donn."

They quickly cleaned up all the boxes the gifts had been stored in for the past few months, Claire giving everything one last straightening, before they stumbled upstairs, sobering the other up with their scorching kisses and wandering hands.

They kept each other awake for the next few hours, each bringing the other to an orgasmic release, before finally cuddling up together and falling deep into slumber.

Now, they just wait for the kids to join them, both starting to make breakfast to pass the time.

Before long, they've got a pile of cheesy scrambled eggs made. He's flipping the next batch of pancakes on the griddle when they hear the pitter patter of little feet upstairs.

Claire grins, swatting his rear and kissing his cheek, before rushing out to meet the twins at the stairs.

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

The kids know to wait at the top of the steps for her, not wanting them to see anything before she had her camera ready.

"Merry Christmas!" Claire squeals, feeling overjoyed by their elated little faces. "Are you ready to see what Santa brought you?"

"Yeah!" they cheer in unison.

Fergus takes Faith's hand and together they toddle down the stairs as fast as possible.

Once at the bottom, they each rush to their side of the living room—Faith on the left, Fergus on the right. It's always been their place for presents. Faith's are displayed neatly over the large couch and coffee table while Fergus' are laid out over the love seat, arm chairs and end table that sits between the chairs.

Jamie is there, watching with a beaming smile on his face. The twins both hug him quickly once they notice him but rush back to their new belongings, causing her and Jamie to catch each other's eyes and giggle.

He laughs at their excitement, saying he feels like a kid all over again from how excited he is, before settling on the floor next to her. Jamie hands her a steaming mug of coffee and she thanks him, scooting over on the pallet of blankets so he has more room.

"We'll have a place to sit later today, aye?" he laughs, pointing to each piece of furniture that's covered with gifts.

"Yes," she snickers, taking her phone out to capture more of their merry, beaming faces.

She watches as Faith and Fergus notice a new VR-set propped on the entertainment center. Their gasps ring out as they both rush to it.

"You have to share or that goes straight back to," she stops, about to ruin the Santa magic, "the North Pole."

The twins nod seriously, Fergus letting Faith try it on first, planning with her what games to get for it.

"Nice save," Jamie whispers with a laugh that he tries to cover up by taking a sip of coffee.

Claire smacks his chest playfully, telling him to hush before pressing a kiss to his cheek.

She takes his hand in hers, letting the kids explore their new toys and gifts for another twenty minutes, before announcing they need to get some food in their bellies before it gets cold.

"You can come right back and play as soon as you eat," she tells them when they start to complain. She knows how grumpy they get when their bellies are empty, so better to be the bad guy now than have to deal with two grouchy six-year-olds later.

"Okayyyy," Fergus moans, rolling himself up from the floor and running over to the kitchen table.

Faith sighs, giving Jamie a high five as she excitedly runs past him to join her brother.

"And dinna forget ye two have somethin' fer yer mam." She turns in time to see Jamie giving the twins a wink.

They both go wide-eyed, giving Jamie a sneaky thumbs up.

Narrowing her eyes at them all, she grins to herself, making her way to the cabinets to grab plates.

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

Jamie follows behind the kids, helping Claire plate their food before the four of them sit together at the kitchen table.

Faith and Fergus are chattering on about all the toys they got from Santa, while he listens intently, pretending to be just as surprised as them.

"I got a Nintendo Switch!" Faith exclaims, "I'll show you after breakfast. We can play all sorts of games on it!"

"And I got a slime kit!" Fergus adds, stuffing another bite of syrupy pancake into his mouth. "We can make some later! You get to choose what colors you want, you can add glitter—"

"—No glitter in the house," Claire reminds with a stern look, telling Jamie about her immense hatred of the shiny craft supply. "It gets everywhere!" she defends adorably. "You can never get it to go away."

Fergus laughs at her but agrees, telling Jamie, "We can use the glitter outside or something."

Before the kids can get another word in, Claire looks between them excitedly. "And there's one more present Santa left," Claire says coyly, giving Jamie a subtle wink.

Both twins perk up, looking at each other, then him, and finally settle on Claire.

"What is it?!" They shout in unison, causing the adults to laugh.

"Well…" Claire drawls, setting her fork down slowly for effect. She picks up her coffee, taking a nice, long sip, while the twins rock back and forth in their seats with eager little smiles lighting up their faces. "Wasn't there something specific you two asked Santa for?"

The twins' lips twist and brows sinch as they think for a second, a silent communication passing between the two of them as their matching blue eyes meet and then sparkle as it comes to them.

Faith grows shy, giving Claire a nervous shrug and saying tenderly, "A dad?"

Claire nods, smiling brightly as her golden eyes illuminate with her excitement. "Well, Santa granted that wish!"

"He did?" Fergus asks, a little furrow to his brow, clearly confused.

Claire nods quickly again, glancing over to Jamie.

He sets his fork down, standing to go squat between the Faith and Fergus on the opposite side of the table.

"I ken I've only known ye fer a few months," Jamie starts, a lump growing in his throat, "but I love ye two sae much." He pauses, clearing his throat. "Yer mam and I kent each other years ago, when we made the two o' ye, but we got separated," he explains, "and I lost yer mam fer a while, but aye… I'm yer da."

The twins stare at him for a moment, long enough to scare him, to make him think that maybe this was a mistake after all. But before he can try to soothe the awkward situation, both bairns launch into his arms at the same time.

"We were hoping it would be you!" Fergus tells him, Faith nodding and adding, "We told Santa again last night that we didn't want just any dad, we wanted you to be our dad!"

"Wait, so you made us?" Fergus asks, pulling back from Jamie's neck to look at him in confusion.

Jamie chuckles, "Aye, aye, I did."

"But you lost Mama?" Faith asks, "She was in Boston!"

Claire laughs, and when he looks up he sees her wiping a tear from her eye.

It's complicated, and a story he obviously cannot share with the twins, so saying she was lost to him seemed the easiest way to explain it.

Faith sniffles, bringing his attention back to the children still wrapped in his arms. "What is it, a leannan?"

She shakes her head, burying it into the crook of his neck. He glances at Fergus and sees that his eyes are wet too.

Fergus sniffles as well, tucking his head into the other side of Jamie's neck. "You told me the other day that it's okay to cry if we're sad," Fergus whispers close to his ear, "but is it okay to cry if I'm happy?"

Jamie can hear Claire taking soft, shuddering breaths from where she sits, and Jamie glances over to her for a second. Looking back at his son, he assures, "'Tis always alright tae cry, lad. 'Tis good fer ye tae express yer emotions." He tries to point at his own tears despite his arms being full of children, and says, "See, I'm cryin' too. 'Tis a great thing tae ken we're family!"

Fergus nods, looking at his sister on Jamie's other leg. He reaches over, taking his sister's hand, and the sight alone makes Jamie want to cry all over again.

His legs are going numb from sitting in a squat with both six year olds atop him, so he maneuvers to sit right there on his bottom on the floor at the kitchen table. He situates both son and daughter so they are cradled in his lap, and he kisses the top of both of their heads.

Claire joins them on the floor, rubbing their backs gently. She's crying as well, and Jamie blinks away his own tears to get a better look at her.

They share a smile over the twins' heads before Claire asks, "Are you two happy?" and giggling softly as both twins nod their heads vigorously, still tucked into Jamie's embrace.

"This is the best Christmas present ever," Faith announces, voice muffled against Jamie's skin.

She pulls back, face red and wet from tears and Jamie kisses her little cheek, telling her not to cry. "I love ye, m'annaschad, and ye too, mo mhac," he tells them, kissing Fergus' cheek when his tear streaked face pulls away from Jamie's neck. "It would be the greatest gift tae me if ye two would like tae call me Da."

"Really?" they both ask reverently, as if stunned that they would be allowed to do so, and both Jamie and Claire laugh.

"O'course!" he assures, "I am yer da, after all."

The rest of the morning is spent in the living room, both his bairns showing off each new toy and trinket they received from Santa. He acts surprised at each one, laughing and playing games throughout the day.

Faith and Fergus both take time teaching him how to use the Nintendo Switch, and eventually move to the iPad to show him their beloved Roblox.

He reads a few chapters from one of Faith's new books, then Fergus takes his turn, reading his new shark book to everyone and teaching them all there is to know about the hammerhead.

Before he forgets again, he whispers to Fergus to grab Claire's gifts.

He scurries over to the tree, rooting around until he finds the little gift Jamie had wrapped for them.

"Merry Christmas, Mama!" Faith and Fergus call out, huddling together at Claire's feet to watch her reaction.

She smiles, tears shining in her eyes as she opens to find a golden necklace and ring.

Each twin takes a turn explaining why they picked their piece of jewelry, and Claire listens with a sweet look upon her face. She slips the jewelry on, thanking the kids with giant hugs and lots of kisses.

Jamie and Claire exchange gifts as well—a vintage stethoscope and book about medicinal properties of different herbs dating back to the eighteenth century for Claire, which she sufficiently freaked out over, and a new collection of books for Jamie to keep here at her house along with a suit jacket for when he has business meetings.

"For your nightstand here," she tells him when he examines the literature, "and… I also made space in my closet." She hesitates, biting her lip. "You know, in case… in case you want to leave clothes here."

He grins like the cat who got the cream, leaning in to pepper her with kisses along her lips and jaw. "That's a wonderful gift, Sassenach, truly."

Hours later, they pause to make an early lunch, then cuddle up on the now-free couch to watch Home Alone 2: Lost in New York—everyone's favorite.

The twins are beyond thrilled, using any and every excuse to call for "Da" when they want to show him something else, and he can't say that he minds one bit. Hearing the term flow so easily from his childrens' mouths is a feeling he will never tire of.

Claire jokes that she could've saved a lot of money if she'd known he was going to be their best gift, but she kisses him soundly to punctuate her sentiment before snuggling further into his chest, one twin on either side of them. "But I wouldn't change this Christmas present for anything," she assures, beaming up at him.

He glances around—the tree illuminated in the corner with more presents yet to be opened, some for them to take to his family, the fire is lit, the movie is playing, and he wouldn't change a single second of this day.

The fire may be warm, but his soul feels warmer, as he sits with his family. His children. And soaks up every last minute of their Christmas morning together, knowing this is the first of many to come.

Tonight, they'll all load up and go to Lallybroch to see—and meet—his family. For now, though, he's going to stay right here, wrapped up in a fuzzy snowman blanket with Claire as the twins sit on a pallet on the floor watching Christmas movies and eating far too many sweets.

"I love you," Jamie murmurs into Claire's ear, kissing the top of her head.

She looks up at him, tears in her eyes as she smiles at him brightly, brighter than the tree lit up in the corner. "You beat me to it!" she exclaims teasingly, swatting at his chest as she cries. She buries her face in his chest, clearly trying not to disturb the finally-settled six year olds in front of them. "That was going to be my Christmas present to you," she laughs.

Leaning in, he gives her a long, hard kiss. Pulling back, he bites his lip, attempting to squash the mega-watt smile that feels like it will split his face in two.

"I love you too, Jamie," she declares, leaning back in to kiss him just as soundly as he had just done.

He meets her half way, pressing his lips to hers, thankful their children are distracted as he deepens the kiss again. His hand cups her jaw, pulling her closer, but the sound of Faith and Fergus' laughter as Kevin McCalister drops a brick on a bad guy's face, breaks the moment.

He smiles down at Claire, pressing one more soft kiss to the tip of her nose before wrapping his arm around her tightly and enjoying the rest of the movie with his family.

And that night, after everything is said and done—tears cried from his family and Claire, the twins sufficiently spoiled with gifts from their new family members, new toys strewn about the living room—Jamie climbs into bed beside Claire, wrapping his arm around her torso and placing his head on her shoulder.

"Merry Christmas, mo ghraidh," he breathes sleepily, leaning up to kiss her one last time.

He can feel her smile into the kiss, saying, "Merry Christmas, Jamie," when she pulls back.

As they drift off to sleep, Jamie thinks how unexpected the last two months have been.

He had gone into this holiday season thinking it would be just like all the others—he'd spend time with family, drinking coffee and watching Jenny's children rip through present after present, and eat way too much food. But instead, his life had been completely changed for the better.

He found his children, and the love of his life. It had been the biggest holiday surprise, but one he wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

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

A/N: And that's the end! Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little family coming together for Christmas… Please let me know what you thought!

Happy holidays!