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Like Petals Falling

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“Where the bloody hell are you taking me, James Fraser?” I asked, handing my bag over to him to put in the back of the car he’d borrowed from Ian.

“Ye’ll see when we get there.”

“Well, seeing as how we’ll be back to work on Monday, we can’t be going too far. It’s definitely not Scotland.”

“Not yet. No.” 

No. It wouldn't have been Scotland. The whole purpose of this little weekend getaway was that we wanted to spend time together somewhere special before Jamie took a solo business trip to London, Edinburgh, and Paris over the next couple of weeks. It would be the first time we were apart for longer than eight hours, and neither of us were looking forward to it.

He opened the door for me before moving around to the driver’s side. I watched him squeeze his long body into the car with plenty of grunts and groans about Ian’s choice of tiny vehicle. I stretched my arms and legs out comfortably, ensuring my sigh of contentment was audible to my oversized companion.

After one last Scottish grunt, he started the car and pulled away from the curb. It took a moment for his phone to sync up with the car’s bluetooth, and during that time, I wondered what kind of music Jamie would choose for our trip. He had been spending a lot of time writing at my apartment, and when he did so, it was usually while listening to something wordless and classical. I wondered if I’d be forced to endure Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy or Ronald Binge’s Scottish Rhapsody for the entirety of our mini vacation.

The phone synced, and Dua Lipa came through the speakers, loud and enthusiastic. Jamie’s ears turned red as he lowered the volume, but he didn’t change the artist.

He reached over, placing a hand on my thigh and made his way to the interstate. I rested my head back against the seat and watched him expertly navigate traffic while driving with one hand.

I had grown more than accustomed to his big, solid presence in my life, and we’d only been seeing each other a few months. My heart ached at the thought of being without him for two weeks, as necessary as it was.

“I’m going to miss you,” I said, already despairing at the enormous void he’d be leaving behind.

“It pains me to leave ye, Sassenach.” His grip on my leg tightened. “Ye sure ye canna come wi’ me?”

“Next time. I promise. We’ll be fully staffed by then.”

“D’ye recall what I told ye back before we kissed? I sent ye some messages about longing.”

“Of course, I remember them all. Which ones are you referring to exactly?”

“I told ye that if the day ever came that I could touch ye and kiss ye as I pleased, then my agony would finally be sated, replaced—”

“Replaced with the exquisite bliss of desire fulfilled,” I finished for him. “You said you meant to savor your hunger for me, and the happiness that followed when we were finally together.”

“Aye. I was wrong, ye ken.”

“About what?”

“It doesna ever seem to stop…the wanting. No matter if we’re drowning in bliss…the hunger is still there. I’m never sated.” His grip on my leg was painfully tight as his eyes flashed to me briefly. They were a little sad, and his voice cracked when he spoke. “I dinna want to leave ye.”

I wrapped my arms around his bicep and kissed his shoulder, comforted by the depth of his love for me. “By how mopey we are, you’d think neither of us had ever felt heartache before. And even though I know it’s foolish, it feels like the sun will set in the east with you when you leave, and it won’t rise again until you’re back.”

He didn’t take his eyes off the road, but his thumb grazed over the soft skin of my thigh as he mumbled softly:


“I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


“The dark nights were cold and lonely wi’out ye, my Sassenach, the clouds and rain hiding any trace of light. But ye’re wi’ me now, even if far away…constant, like the stars. So,” he turned to offer a soft smile, “if things get a bit stormy again, I’ll take heart to ken ye’re there, and it willna seem so hopeless anymore.”

“You know, over the last year or so with Frank, there were many times we’d be sitting right next to each other, and I still felt alone. I can’t imagine ever feeling like that with you.”

“If ye do, have Ian take me out back and beat some sense into me for letting it happen, aye?”

“Are you sure Ian is the right person for the job? I’d think Jenny would take great pleasure in setting you straight.”

“Aye. Too much. Leave it to Ian. He kens well enough how to deal with a hard heided Fraser. He’s been at it a long time wi’ my sister.”

I smacked him for his impertinence, as his sister would expect me to do in her stead.  He laughed, snagging my hand to bring it up to his lips. “I’ll try no’ to be sae glum at the thought of our weeks apart, at least for this trip. No promises once I board that plane.”

“I expect you to be at least half as miserable as me. I don’t want to feel this tragic on my own.”

“You’ll ne’er be alone in yer loneliness again, mo ghràidh.”

 


 

I stood, feet sinking into the warm sands of Nauset Beach, staring out at the Atlantic Ocean. The winds of Cape Cod were blowing my hair in a dozen directions, tickling my face as I watched the waves break on the shore.

“It’s beautiful, Jamie.”

He wrapped himself around me from behind, his large, warm body blocking some of the wind. I sank back into him, mindful of the pleasure of letting everything else in life go…if only for a weekend.

“If ye squint hard, I think ye can see Scotland.”

“Those are only storm clouds far off in the distance, my lad. Not mountains.”

“Ye sure? I think I smell haggis in the air.”

“Well, I suppose about 95% of Scotland is made up of rain, so that very well could be a bit of the Highlands.” I pointed to the largest of the clouds. “Maybe a chunk of Skye over there. Glasgow. Aberdeen.”

He reached down and pinched the bit of my arse hanging out of my bikini. I squeaked and turned in his arms. “That had nothing to do with chastisement! You’re just looking for an excuse to touch my bum.”

The cheeky bastard smirked down at me as though daring me to give him another excuse to do so again. His hands circled my waist, and I could feel the twitchiness of them, as though he was fighting the impulse to grab a couple handfuls of his favorite part of my anatomy.

God, he was beautiful. The playful curve of his mouth completely did me in, and I melted forward into his bare chest, rethinking our decision to leave our little room at the inn for a few hours on the beach. Being nearly naked in public was hardly a good idea for the present state of our relationship.

At the sound of my throaty whimper, his arousal grew swift and firm against my belly. “We should ha’ just stayed in the city,” he grumbled, burying his face in my hair. “It’s no’ too late to go back.”

“Don’t you dare take me away from here. I want to make love to you with the sound of the ocean outside the window.”

“We just did that before we came out here.”

I shrugged and pulled away. “I want to do it in the starlight as well.”

“Fine. But for every bit of torture ye inflict on me in that rigging, just ken I’ll visit it back on ye tenfold this evening.”

With an offer like that, I couldn’t resist sinking down to the blanket he’d laid out for us and holding up the sunscreen. “Then I may as well do my worst.”

I tossed the bottle at his feet, then laid back, ready for application. There was a good degree of mumbling and cursing in a variety of languages, most of which I didn’t understand, though his tone was not at all put off. I rather thought by the anticipatory excitement in his voice that he was in the process of developing a plan for his moonlit vengeance as he knelt over me and squeezed a healthy amount of lotion into his hands.

He started with my arms, overly thorough as he always was when it came to touching me. Then he moved to my face, removing my sunglasses and being careful not to get too near my eyes. He glanced around as he squirted more lotion on his hands, and I knew he was assessing to see how much of an audience we had. With an umbrella on one side of us and my bag and a chair on the other, we did have some bit of privacy carved out on this very public beach. 

And very quickly, his hands moved from my shoulders to my chest, dipping beneath my suit to massage the lotion into my breasts. 

“Protecting my nipples from the harsh UV rays?”

“Canna be too careful.”

“I hope you like the taste of SPF 50. With the sheer amount you’re applying, I won’t be able to wash it all off for a week.”

“Ye’re just so lovely and pale, Sassenach. I would begrudge the sun for turning yer skin red; only I am allowed to do so between the sheets.”

“Jealous? You?” I smiled, remembering the note he wrote long ago that I was never meant to see when he thought I was still with Frank. “He hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly.”

Mmphm. Ye’ve no’ seen the half of it,” he grumbled, rubbing sunscreen over my belly. “I was ready to break the man’s neck for touching ye that day at the library.”

I reached up to smooth out the knot his frown created on his forehead. “There was no need. I was yours already, though we hadn’t officially met.”

My touch and my words softened the hard lines of his face. He turned his head to kiss my palm before moving on to lotion my legs. “You were mine then. At least, that’s how I thought of ye—as mine. I couldna bear the thought of anyone else’s hands on ye. You wi’ yer lovely pale skin, and soft, fat arse.”

His hands massaged deep into my thighs, especially in dark places the sun would surely never see. I couldn’t help purring like a kitten covered in cream. 

“Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,” he muttered, “when you surrender, you stretch out like the world.”

“What poem is that?”

“It’s Neruda. It’s actually a poem about the earth using woman as a metaphor—quite tragic, but so fucking sensual.”

“Tell me more…the sensual parts.” 

As I hoped would happen, Jamie’s touch became even more sensuous as his deep voice fell into Neruda’s seductive rhythm.


“But now the hour of revenge falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of firm and thirsty milk!
And the cups of your breasts! And your eyes full of absence!
And the roses of your mound! And your voice slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will live on through your marvelousness.
My thirst, my desire without end, my wavering road!
Dark river beds down which the eternal thirst is flowing,
and the fatigue is flowing, and the grief without shore.”


His hands were on the tops of my thighs, but his long thumbs slipped under my suit, teasing my soft, outer labia. We stared at each other, bodies melting in a way they had no right to with the cool ocean breeze on our skin. Jamie’s thumb traced down my hot, moistened lips, as though daring me to spread my legs and let him inside.

I would’ve done so if the wind hadn’t carried on it the not-so-distant squeals of children at play. “You’ve yet to do my back.”

“If ye think for a moment, my Sassenach, that I ever forget yer backside, then ye hardly ken me at all.”

 


 

Mesmerized as I was by Jamie’s touch, I hardly moved for the twenty minutes he massaged every inch of my back, and backside, that he could on a public beach without getting us both arrested. He informed me he had a most eloquent poem for my arse that he intended to save for a more private occasion when he could pay it proper attention. 

But the real joy of the afternoon was repaying him the favor. My hands were far smaller than his, and his body had a much larger surface area to cover, so it took me twice as long to ensure he was protected from the sun. He watched me as I “worked,” with his sweet, flirtatious eyes, always twinkling with a hint of mischief. He was absurdly aroused the entire time, impossible to miss when he wore so little. 

When I finished, he pulled me down for a few dozen slow and lazy kisses, sunblock and salty sea thick in the air. Stray bits of sand found their way between our bodies, reminding us of where we were with every rub of skin on skin.

“Tell everyone to go away, Sassenach,” he mumbled against my lips. “I should like to have ye on this beach right now.”

“I’m not sure they’ll listen to me.”

“Use yer librarian voice. The fierce one. None who hear it can disobey.”

I snorted and smacked his bum, trying to imagine myself clearing off a beach so Jamie could have his way with me in the beautiful June sunshine.

“Next time, I’ll have to find us a private beach,” he grumbled, rising to his knees. He put out a hand to help me sit up. “I need a dip in the cold water. Ye’ll come wi’ me?”

As if I could refuse him anything, so intoxicated as I was by his kisses. He pulled me to my feet and led me to the water. It was much colder than I anticipated, and had to stop when the peak of the waves hit my thighs. Jamie, on the other hand, kept going, dipping his whole body in an oncoming wave, as though it was as warm as a hot spring.

“You’re mad!” I called, shivering as a wave rose up and grazed my belly.

He shook the water out of his face like a dog and turned back to me smiling. “Ye’re a delicate wee thing, are ye?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a tight hug—for the first time since I met him, his body was much colder than mine.

“It’s fucking freezing, you bloody Scot!” I tried to squirm out of his grasp, but he wouldn’t let me go. “How can you handle the cold like that? You can’t be human.”

“Mebbe I’m not. There were rumors growing up that my da was a selkie.”

It took only moments for my skin to adjust to the frigid temperatures…or maybe it was only that Jamie felt so bloody nice when he was soaking wet. My limbs quickly stopped fighting and began wrapping themselves around him, finding warmth against his skin where only moments before there was none.

“How d’ye make it so easy, Claire?”

“How do I make what so easy?”

“Loving you.”

“Should love be difficult?”

“I never thought so, but it always turned out that way…until you.”

I thought of Frank, and how hard loving him often was. How tiring. He demanded so much of me, and it was never bloody enough. I couldn’t make him happy, no matter how hard I tried. It took a long time for me to grasp the futility of my efforts. He was determined to find fault in everything I did, and even if I could give him what he wanted, be who he demanded me to be, his desires would then change, and all would be for naught.

Jamie asked nothing of me, save to bask in the joy of being with me. He wasn’t looking for the worst in me, because he was too busy enjoying the best.

He was right. It was easy loving each other.

“Do you think it will always be this way for us?”

He stared at me, eyes a bit sad, a bit serious. I watched them turn red around the edges as they misted over. He nodded with absolute certainty, then kissed me thoroughly, bodies rising and falling mindlessly with the waves of comfortable, warm water.

“What are we doing out here?” I asked as his teeth scraped the line of my jaw. “I need you, Jamie. Take me back to bed.”

“Ye dinna want to swim any longer?”

“No,” I kissed him, deep and hungry. “I just want you.”

 


 

We didn’t leave our bed for the rest of the afternoon, not even to find food. We had bowls of chowder delivered to our door, and we paused our love making and napping only long enough to nourish our bodies to do it all over again.

Just before sunset, Jamie’s lips trailed down my spine, rousing me from an orgasm-induced slumber.

“You can’t possibly have the strength for more,” I protested.

“Let’s get dressed, lass. I’d like to walk wi’ ye as the sun goes down.”

I was about to object again, but I could feel the excitement in his body at whatever it was he had planned. I rolled over to find him smiling down on me, already dressed. He was lucky his face was so fucking adorable when he was happy.

I forced myself up and found a maxi dress to put on that didn’t require me to wear anything beneath it. It was donned with Jamie watching, hoping to entice him to bring me back to the room quickly, after he got this bloody walk out of his system.

“God, ye’re bonnie, Sassenach.” He took my hand and led me outside, stopping only to grab his Fraser blanket along the way.

We walked along the shoreline, letting the waves caress our feet. I tried to remember another time in my life where I felt so happy, so at peace, but nothing came to mind. It only made the coming weeks that much more daunting. It took all the restraint I had to stop myself from begging him to give up his career so he could stay home and be available to me and my every whim.

“Ye’re thinking about our time apart, are ye no’?” I looked up to find him smiling down at me. “Ye’re gripping my hand wi’ all yer might, like ye’re trying to keep me close to yer side.”

I tried to relax my hand, but Jamie just chuckled and just released it altogether, only to put his arm around my shoulder and tuck me comfortably into his side.

“Come up here. This should be a nice spot.” He walked me up to the top of a little sand dune that had a lovely view of the ocean on one side, and the tall grass on the other.

“For what? The sunset? I think we’ve already missed it.”

“No’ the sun. Come.”

He sat us on the ground and gathered me into his arms, wrapping the blanket around us like a cocoon. “It gets brisk after dark.”

“How long do you intend for us to stay out here? You’re not planning to sleep on this dune, are you? I would’ve worn something a bit more…well, a bit more.

“Dinna fash, mo nighean donn. We’re only waiting for the dark. Trust I’ll keep ye comfortable and warm.”

And it was as simple as that. I no longer had any concerns, so long as I was with Jamie. I settled my head against his chest and savored his gentle caresses up and down my arm. The ocean always seemed loudest at night, as though wanting those nearby to remember it was the most dangerous beast on the planet, no matter that the lack of light meant you could hardly see it.

“I should like to sleep under the stars wi’ ye one day, lass. Mebbe in Scotland, should ye come wi’ me in the summer months next year.”

“Do you miss home?”

“Aye. I’ll be happy to return next week, save missing you, of course.”

“Of course.”

“I miss my family most. Da used to take us camping every summer. Made sure we kent how to build a shelter and a fire if e’er we got lost. How to find food and water. And at night, he’d bring us bairns around the campfire and tell us stories. Some stories he heard from his father as a bairn himself, and some he made up on the spot to teach us a lesson.”

“Got your penchant for storytelling from him?”

“Oh aye. Few can spin a yarn as well as my da.”

“Seeing as how you’ve made a living doing so, I’m sure he’s very proud of how you put that particular gene to use.”

Jamie chuckled and nuzzled my hair, quickly becoming distracted by whatever scent he caught there. He breathed deeply, over and over, pleasure humming in his chest with every exhale.

My eyes moved over the darkened landscape. We were surrounded by the sounds of nature: the endless ocean on one side and the chirps and buzzing of insect nightlife coming from the grass on the other.

Just as I was about to comment on the level of noise, I was distracted by a flash of greenish-yellow light in the distance.

“Did you see that?” I asked, sitting up and pointing toward the source.

“The wee lightning bug in the grass? Oh, aye.”

Another flash of light danced a bit closer, then another farther away.

“I had no idea they were out here. Is this why we came out tonight?”

“They’re bonnie wee bugs, lass, but no. They’re no’ why we’re here.”

I turned to face him, his face a pretty grey in the moonlight. He smiled sweetly and caressed my cheek.

“Then why?”

“Gi’ it a moment. Enjoy their shiny wee arses in the meantime.”

As time went on, more and more fireflies lit the landscape. It was a thrilling sight to see, especially since it had been so long since I’d had a chance to do so. Not since my travels with Uncle Lamb. Frank didn’t care to spend much time in nature. 

Fireflies lighting the night

“Do they have lightning bugs in Scotland?”

“Not much. They like it a bit warmer. I spent a good bit of time in the south of France, and there are a few places there where you can find them in abundance. Different color though.”

It was all so magical, little sparks of life in the apparent nothingness. It reminded me of something I’d read in the library long ago. “Life is a spark between two identical voids,” I whispered, “the darkness before birth and the one after death.”

“Aye. That’s the thing about them…how quickly they fade…”

“Some might say it’s what makes them special.”

Jamie turned my chin up to meet his gaze, the light of the fireflies flashing in his eyes. “I prefer something more constant…more substantial.

“What do you mean?” And then I saw the sky behind him and sucked in a breath. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I was a child.

I took in the glorious sight of the starry night sky, the unthinkably vast Milky Way cutting through the darkness, yet only a blip of all the known universe. The magic of it was reflected in the dark sea below, giving the illusion of the heavens embracing us on this tiny sand dune on the pale blue dot.

The Milky Way reflecting off the oceas

A rare feeling of majestic awe grabbed me by the throat, a feeling only present in moments when one was reminded of their own beautiful insignificance in the grand scheme of existence. What were my trivial worries in life when glimpsing Elysium?

Jamie’s rumbling voice filled my ears and brought tears to my eyes. 

“Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

“Love was never easy before ye, Claire. The burning I felt in my heart was little more than a spark shorter-lived than the life of a glowing gnat. But with you, I burn with the heat of a thousand suns. Yer light doesna flicker in and out of existence. It’s there, constant and sure, whether I’m near to ye or far. I was once enamored with the flash of temporary light, but after seeing you, it was never clearer that it couldna sustain the part. Ye’re so easy to love, my lass, because everything about ye is exactly as it seems. Ye’re no’ playing the part of a star…ye are one to the depths of yer heart. My true, honest, faithful lass.”

 


 

Jamie was finally able to make love to me on the beach that day, though it wasn’t in the light of our planet’s sun, but the starshine of a billion other suns twinkling off in the distance. He said he liked the silver of moonlight on my skin better than the burning of the sun's rays anyway. 

 


 

In the morning, I woke to a delivery of flowers, white favourite daffodils. Jamie said they were for truth and authenticity. Such a sweet, happy flower. 

 

White-Favourite-Daffodil