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Claire woke up abruptly sometime in the early hours of the morning. Quietly, she rolled toward the clock on the nightstand and squinted at it. 3:00 a.m. in the bloody morning. Yawning, Claire rolled back toward Jamie and watched him as he slept. As they hadn’t bothered to close the curtains before falling into bed together the night before, the full moon shone brightly through the window, illuminating Jamie’s face in an ethereal icy blue glow. 

She reached out and traced his jaw with her ring finger, wondering if her light touch would wake him. His lips were parted, and he sighed deeply before his face relaxed into a smile that made Claire’s chest constrict with sudden emotion. 

She rolled back onto her back and sighed herself, feeling all at once relieved and disappointed that he hadn’t woken. Her mind racing, Claire quietly extracted herself from the blankets and shivered as the chilly nighttime air hit her naked skin. She tiptoed carefully over to a chair where she’d earlier spotted a tartan blanket and picked it up, pausing to bring it up to her nose out of habit. She inhaled slowly, closing her eyes to concentrate on the scents she could identify. 

A faint hint of chimney smoke. Something comforting and fresh; perhaps the blanket had been hung out to dry in the cool air of the Highlands. The smell reminded her of something like home. 

At that thought, she turned automatically to look back at Jamie, who was still sleeping deeply. Jamie. Home. Family.

Tears stung at her eyes as she unfurled the blanket and wrapped it tightly around herself. A little dramatic, Beauchamp, Claire chided herself before shaking her head in an attempt to clear it. Knowing full well that she wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep now, she made for the kitchen. Tea, then. 

Claire filled the kettle with fresh water and set it to boil on the stove, watching it carefully to avoid waking Jamie with the noise. She flitted around the kitchen, gathering a mug and tea leaves before returning in time to remove the kettle before it began to whine. 

Shuffling across the floor into the living room, Claire set down her tea and went to build up a small fire. While Claire knew how to build excellent fires in her own right, she silently thanked Jamie for having built up the fire last night before bed, making her work quick and easy. Satisfied, she nodded and stood to retrieve her steaming mug of tea.

Instead of sitting down, Claire ambled toward the large window, admiring the tranquility of the moonlit landscape. As she breathed in the soothing steam of the tea, she replayed the day she spent with Jamie and his family at the main house.  

For most of her life, her uncle had been her home and family. After he passed away, she’d built her own family with dear friends like Joe and Geillis. Even so, she hadn’t ever been enveloped by a family in the traditional sense – until now. Ellen and Brian opened their arms to her solely on the knowledge that she’d meant something to Jamie. Jenny and Ian had teased her like she was already a sibling to them, which, Claire reflected, was something rather marvelous considering how formidable she now knew Jenny to be. Wee Jamie treated her like she hung the moon. And then there’s my Jamie, she thought, her chest tightening once again at the thought of him. 

As if summoned by her thoughts, the man himself appeared at the doorway of the living room. “Couldn’t sleep, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, his voice rough with sleep. 

Claire jumped slightly at his voice and turned to watch Jamie as he sauntered toward her from the door frame, his bare chest partially illuminated by the moon and firelight. He’d taken the time to dress back in his gray pajama pants — the very same pair that he’d worn in New York. Claire shivered slightly at the sight, remembering exactly what had transpired after seeing them on Jamie the first time. 

“Jamie,” Claire whispered, her voice sounding shaky to her own ears. She coughed, trying to clear her throat. “I didn’t want to wake you.” 

“Ye didn’t,” he said, gathering her in his arms as he approached her from behind. “Weel, no’ directly, anyway.” He sighed and placed his chin on her shoulder. “I ken I must be spoiled already, but I think I do sleep better wi’ ye by my side, Claire.” 

Claire swallowed thickly, unable to form a coherent sentence without betraying the unchecked, wild emotion in her voice. She leaned back into Jamie, hoping her body language would suffice for the moment. 

Jamie loosened his grip on Claire’s waist and brought one hand up to trace his fingers along the tartan she was wearing. “Mmmmm,” he sighed, “I ken there’s no’ much light, but I can see that ye look beautiful wearing the Fraser tartan, mo nighean donn.” 

Claire swallowed again before daring to speak. “What do you mean?” she whispered. 

“The colors of the Clan Fraser, ye ken. This pattern dates back centuries.” Jamie smoothed his hands along her arms and turned his face to kiss her temple. He buried his nose in her hair and breathed in deeply. “Tae have ye here in my arms again, tae see ye in this tartan…it’s everything.” 

At Jamie’s words, the dam finally broke, and Claire began to sob freely; the large, fat tears falling quickly down her face and into the plaid. She sniffed loudly and set her tea on the windowsill. 

“Sassenach!” Jamie exclaimed, the surprised panic evident in his voice. “What’s wrong, a nighean ?” 

Claire shook her head, trying valiantly to stop the flow of tears and to extricate herself from Jamie’s embrace, but stopped when she realized she was failing brilliantly at both. “It’s nothing,” she sobbed, pulling the corner of the tartan up to hastily wipe at her tear-streaked face. 

Jamie gripped her firmly and turned her body until she was facing him. His thumb grazed her cheek as he tried to brush her tears away. He continued stroking her face for several moments, his touch gentle and light. Claire heard him swallow hard.  “Do ye – do ye regret coming here, Claire?”

Claire finally forced her eyes open to look at him. “No, Jamie, of course not.” She sighed heavily. “I just — oh, God, I just — I didn’t expect any of this, and now I’ve gone and fallen for you — for you and your family — and I —and I…” Claire broke off as a fresh wave of sobs rendered her incapable of speaking. 

Jamie wrapped his arms around Claire and gathered her up in his arms, ignoring her protestations as he carried her the short distance to the couch. Sitting down, he situated Claire to cradle her in his lap. Jamie didn’t say anything at first, choosing to give Claire a few moments to catch her breath; even so, Claire could feel his gaze on her, anxious and watchful. Finally, he brought his hand under her chin and lifted her face to look at him. “Talk tae me, please,” he begged, his voice sounding ragged with worry.

“Well,” Claire said with a loud sniff, “this is all happening so fast, and it just hit me at once. I was just thinking about how comfortable I feel with you and your family, and I — and I — well, what happens next? I’ve narrowed down my job options, but we haven’t even been out together on a proper date — how do you even know that I’m not quite boring in real life? Or that I work too much? Or what if you’re gone all the time because you work too much? Or that aside from my two close friends, I’ve been quite alone and independent for a long time and maybe that’s not what you signed up for?”  Claire knew she was rambling, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “I don’t even have a pet, you know?” Claire wiped at her face as more hot tears fell down her cheeks. “I’ve always wanted to get a cat, and I haven’t even done that, Jamie. I can’t even commit to getting a cat . And now I have you in my life, and I just…”

Jamie stopped her abruptly with a harsh kiss. “Oh, Claire, my Sassenach,” he said, the humor evident in his voice as he kissed her face and kept saying her name over and over.

Claire pushed back, feeling ruffled. “It’s not funny, Jamie.” 

Jamie hugged her closer to him and kissed her on the forehead. “I didna say it was, Sassenach, but please listen for a moment, aye?” He looked at her, brows raised in question. Claire nodded and sniffed loudly again. 

“I didna tell ye about the first time I saw ye, did I?” Jamie asked. 

Claire furrowed her brow. “I mean, you came up to the bar when I was talking to Glenna about whisky, I remember that.” 

Jamie shook his head, smiling shyly down at her before looking away. “I saw ye before you went into the bar, ye ken,” he said with a crooked smile. 

Claire leaned back so she could better look at Jamie’s face. “What are you talking about?” 

Jamie shrugged, now looking more embarrassed than shy. “Weel, I was done wi’ work fer the day, and I was waiting in the lobby area fer the car I ordered when I saw ye come out of the elevator, all curls and legs, wearing that tight black dress, and then there was that arse ,'' Jamie said, illustrating his point by fondling the aforementioned body part. 

Claire scoffed. “We can talk about my arse later, Fraser. Go on.”  

Jamie laughed under his breath. “Weel, it’s quite simple. I watched ye go into the bar and waited a few moments — I think mebbe I counted tae ten — and then I followed ye into the bar.” Jamie smiled down at Claire again, licking his lips before continuing. “An’ then I got close enough tae hear ye talkin’ wi’ Glenna about whisky…and I took my chance,” Jamie shrugged again, looking somewhat unmoored by his confession. 

Claire breathed out a laugh, feeling her body relax a bit. “Jamie! You made it look so casual, and it turns out that you were methodically stalking me like prey!” 

Jamie laughed earnestly at Claire’s comment, the vibrations reverberating through Claire’s body, putting her further at ease. “I dinna care fer that comparison, but I didna want to let ye out of my sight all the same,” he said easily. 

“I couldna help it,” Jamie continued, his voice rising in mock defense. “I couldna miss the chance tae just talk tae ye…and mebbe…” Jamie trailed off, unable to find his next words. 

“And maybe take me back to your hotel room for the night?” Claire supplied, poking him in the ribs. 

“I willna pretend that I didna want ye,” Jamie admitted. “And mebbe I’m flatterin’ myself, but I could tell verra quickly that ye wanted me as well,” he added in a low, flirtatious tone, bringing Claire’s knuckles up to kiss them. 

“Fine,” Claire sighed, her voice light with amusement. “I’ll not pretend otherwise, but go on, what are you trying to say?” 

“I ken we both thought we were just having a fun weekend in a random hotel on another continent,” Jamie said with a nod. “An’ that’s how it started. But the moment I told ye to get out of my room, I lost my mind o’er ye, Claire.” Jamie swallowed hard. “That’s when I realized I’d gone an’ fallen fer ye, and then I thought I had wrecked it all.” He nudged Claire until his forehead was touching hers. “I told ye I’m yers, Sassenach, an’ I meant that.” He kissed her forehead again and ran his hand through her hair, massaging her scalp with great tenderness. 

“Jamie,” Claire whispered, “I think that’s so romantic, but is it realistic?” 

“Aye,” Jamie answered without pausing to think. “We’re not teenagers wi’ unrealistic expectations, Claire,” he said patiently. “Nor are we foolish adults with silly notions of life.” He laughed. “Do ye think Jenny would put up wi’ havin’ a fool fer a brother?” Jamie asked pointedly.

Claire burst out laughing at this. “I do not think Jenny would put up with that, truly,” she readily admitted. 

“Then ye must believe me when I say that I’m yers, just as I believed ye when ye said the same tae me,” he explained, licking his lips and leaning down to kiss her. “I’d marry ye tomorrow if I kent that it wouldna send ye running through the walls of this cottage. I’d rather not explain that tae my family, if it’s all the same to ye.” 

Claire scoffed, but didn’t contradict him. They spent a few minutes in quiet contemplation before Claire finally spoke. “That’s true, and I fully believe Geillis would be after you. Immediately,” Claire said, somewhat seriously. 

Jamie laughed. “Not to mention what John and Minnie would do,” Jamie added fairly. 

Their laughter died away and the pair kept silent for a few beats more before Jamie spoke again. “I ken ye’ve not been brought up in a large family, and I ken ye worked hard tae earn yer career as a surgeon.” Jamie smiled. “Yer face lights up when ye talk about yer work, ye ken? That’s rare — tae ken what yer supposed tae do — tae have a true calling, and tae be talented at it.” 

“Yes, but,”  Claire started. 

“Let me finish, Claire, please,” Jamie begged, a determined look in his eyes. “I think I’m right when I say that ye have always kent ye’d be a doctor, aye?” 

Claire nodded, considering Jamie carefully as he spoke. “It’s always existed for me — within me,” she explained. “I’ve just always known in my gut that I was meant to be a surgeon.” 

Jamie smiled widely, his features suffused with joy. “I like my career just fine, but I never felt it in my gut that it was what I was supposed tae do.” Jamie kissed her roughly before speaking again. “But I know exactly what ye mean because I had a gut feeling about ye, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, and now that I’ve kent that feeling, I’ll not settle fer anything – or any one – else.” 

Claire looked at him, slack-jawed and speechless. The tightness in her chest had returned, but the anxiety and worry that had previously taken up residence was nowhere to be found. 

“And that’s why I’m no’ worried that this has all happened too fast, mo chridhe — that means ‘my heart,’ by the way — because it’s just right, ” Jamie said with honest conviction. 

Claire nodded, her vision blurring again. “When you know, you know,” she whispered softly, taking Jamie’s face in her hands and kissing him for all she was worth until they were both breathless. 

Jamie broke apart from Claire and gathered her back in his arms. Claire moaned at the loss of contact and desperately tried to reclaim his lips. “Patience, Sassenach,” Jamie said with a satisfied smirk. Standing up with Claire in his arms, he walked her the short distance to the hearth and placed her gently on the ground. Without saying a word, he gently unwrapped Claire from the tartan blanket and laid it out over the large rug, leaving Claire standing naked in front of the fire. 

Once Jamie was satisfied with the arrangement, he went to his knees in front of her. “I dinna think ye’ll be needin’ the extra warmth of the plaid right now,” he whispered as he began kissing, nipping, and licking his way up her left leg. “We canna waste a good fire.” 

Claire moaned, but said nothing, prompting Jamie to stop his journey north. “Isn’t that right, Sassenach?” He asked, smirking as she looked down at him with glazed eyes. 

“What?” Claire said, her voice thick with arousal. 

“Did ye hear what I jus’ said?” Jamie asked, amused. 

Claire grabbed his hair and rolled her hips forward in supplication. “Yes, no, I don’t know what you said,” Claire choked out. “I don’t care. Please put your mouth on me again.” 

Instead, Jamie ran his hands up the back of her thighs and hoisted her into his arms. Claire cried out in frustration, but Jamie ignored her. He swiftly brought her down to the floor until she was lying on the plaid, watching him with eyes half-closed in pleasure. He kissed both breasts languidly before sitting back on his heels to pull his pants down, his cock finally springing free. 

Claire opened her legs wide as she watched Jamie undress. He locked eyes with her as he leaned forward to drape himself over her body. Claire started to move her hands down toward Jamie’s hips, but he deftly captured her wrists and pinned them down on either side of Claire’s head, making her moan loudly. 

“Let me love ye, Claire,” Jamie whispered. “Let me own ye.” 

“Yes,” Claire whispered back, relaxing her body as a silent gesture of surrender. Jamie bent to kiss her breasts, her neck, her earlobes, and lips, aiming to draw out Claire’s desperate arousal as long as possible. Finally, she rolled her hips forward and began writhing underneath him, desperately seeking friction. “Please, Jamie,” Claire begged, biting his lip. “Please.” 

Jamie plunged into her, gasping and groaning as her wetness engulfed him. “Aye, Sassenach, I willna deny ye anything, I promise,” he said breathlessly as he began to move within her. “I’m completely under yer power an’ happy tae be there.”