Chapter 1: Surprises and Splinters
I am not, as a general rule, particularly fond of surprises. As a woman who greatly values her autonomy, I am none too keen to surrender control of my person, my environment, or my senses without strong provocation.
Knowing this about me, Jamie took great pains to catch me unawares this morning.
He came up behind me in the kitchen while I was grinding herbs, supplicant and worshipful as a sinner before the cross.
“Madainn mhath, mo chridhe,” he whispered, giving my earlobe a delicate nip before his mouth dragged open along the curve of my neck. His fingertips began to tease the thin cotton of my blouse, tracing feather-light circles until I shivered, my nipples pebbling in his hands. I tilted my head back to him with a breathless sigh of pleasure, melting into the wall of solid muscle behind me. I started to whisper something beguiling to him in return, but whatever endearment had been budding on my lips, it warped into a high-pitched yelp when – without warning – Jamie’s wandering hands suddenly clamped tight over my eyes, his fingers interlaced to form a makeshift blindfold.
No amount of protesting, threatening, squealing, thrashing, or kicking at his shins had been able to dislodge him, either.
“I have a surprise for ye,” is all he would tell me, a beaming smile pressed to the back of my neck. Then the ruddy bastard marched me forward, across the cabin, out the door, and into the woods beyond.
I’ve lost all sense of direction since then. I can’t see a damn thing, not even shades of light that might give some indication as to the sun’s position. It’s all I can do to clutch desperately to his wrists for balance, giggling and cursing in spurts as he guides me over the sloping, leaf-strewn terrain.
“How much further?” I ask for the third time in as many minutes.
“Just a few more steps.”
“You said that twenty paces ago!”
He laughs, but doesn’t deny it. “Steady, Sassenach. Almost there, now.”
“Listen. If this is about the burnt stew, there are easier ways of exacting revenge than to – aack! What was that?!”
“Only a tree root. Watch yer step through here.”
“Pick up yer feet, ye wee goose, and there’ll be nae problem!”
“Jamie, this is ridiculous! Where on earth are you t–”
“Here. Stop.” His grip tightens on my head, effectively halting me in my tracks. “Now, put your hand out straight ahead of ye.”
I hesitate, feeling irrationally afraid of whatever it is he wants me to reach out and touch. The fingers of my right hand stretch and recoil several times before finally landing upon something solid. It isn’t moving, whatever it is; I find that to be slightly reassuring. Still with some reluctance, I pat the surface and find it to be flat and rough and grainy – a plank of wood, maybe? Groping blindly down the area in question, my hand catches on a piece of curved metal. Definitely a handle of some sort.
“Um, alright. It’s… it’s a door?”
I can hear the smile in his voice. “Aye. Open it, then.”
“Oh, God. Is something going to jump out at me?” The irrational terror strikes again; apparently this is a side effect of sudden blindness, coupled with total reliance upon one’s devilishly gleeful husband/captor. I wriggle back against him, letting out a squeal. “Jamie!”
He rubs his grinning stubbled face into my neck, which only elicits more writhing and squealing. “Och, would I do that to you?”
“Well I would have said no, but I didn’t think you’d blindfold me and march me out into the woods either, so…”
“Just open it!” He laughs. “Nothing will harm ye.”
Still tittering nervously, I push once, meet resistance, and try pulling instead. The door swings outward on a squeaking hinge, and I feel Jamie lift a foot to catch and hold it for me.
“Alright, then, Sassenach. Ready for your surprise?”
“I’m not sure,” I answer honestly, but I’m grinning anyway. “Am I?”
“Aye, y’are.” He plants a kiss on the back of my head, and finally lets his hands drop away from my eyes. The sudden onslaught of light is blinding, and I squint and blink furiously to try to clear my vision.
But even when I do, I can’t make sense of what I’m seeing.
I haven’t the faintest idea how he’s managed it – or when; he’s been working from dawn to dusk with the harvest! – but we are standing in the doorway of a small, sturdy cedarwood shed that I’m fairly certain did not exist yesterday. Feeling wildly disoriented, I spin my head about, trying to get my bearings. We are several yards behind the cabin, somewhere between the smokehouse and the river. I’m not delusional; there was nothing here before! Nothing but old wooden posts…
… that Jamie placed here a year ago, to mark the spot where he promised me a “wee shed” for my herbs and physician’s knives and such.
I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten all about it. We barely managed to finish our cabin, the livestock enclosures and the smokehouse before winter struck, and then we were so preoccupied with the minor matter of survival that I hadn’t ever...
He smiles against my shoulder, and presses a kiss there. “Happy birthday, Sassenach.”
If I wasn’t shocked into silence already, that would have done it. My mind works frantically, counting... Tuesday, Wednesday, Thurs… yes. God, he’s right. Thursday October the 20th, 1768. I turn to look up at him incredulously, mouth hanging slightly open. He’s smiling down at me, blue eyes warm and twinkling.
“Have a look,” he suggests, giving my waist a little nudge. “I brought a few of your wee herbs and supplies out already. Hope you dinna mind.”
Mind? I think, but I’m not sure if the word actually makes it out of my gaping mouth. With slow, faltering steps, I step into my new shed, trying to take in everything at once.
A broad wooden beam stretches across the back wall at waist-level, forming a basic counter and workspace. Above that are three built-in cabinets, each containing ten rows of tiered shelving, spaced such that the labels on each jar or bottle can be easily read at a glance. He’s organized my collection of herbs, tonics and salves alphabetically from left to right, top to bottom, exactly as I would have done. A few of my more recent acquisitions have been taken from the mantle in the cabin and strung up to dry in the window (a window, he’s even made me a window overlooking the river!). A sturdy three-legged stool is tucked neatly beneath the counter, and a matching one sits in the corner by the door. A deerskin cot takes up the entire length of the wall to the right, a fine woolen blanket folded up at its foot.
“I wasna sure exactly how you’d want things arranged, so feel free to move anything around if it isn–”
“How?” I stammer, wheeling back to face him. It’s about the only word I can come up with at the moment.
Jamie shrugs modestly. “I built it. Young Ian helped.”
I shake my head in disbelief. “I gathered that. But when did you—? I ju – I had no idea you were—” I sound like a bloody skipping record, so I shut my mouth for a moment before trying again. “It’s just that you’ve taken me completely by surprise, is all!”
“Well, that was the idea, Sassenach.” Jamie smiles tenuously, his hands wringing the fabric of his trouser legs. The nervous anticipation on his face makes him suddenly look much younger than he is. “Do… do ye like it, then?”
“Like it?” I say breathlessly, still spinning on the spot, trying to take it all in. “Jamie, I can’t even begin to… I’m speechless!” I zero in on him, then, realizing that I haven’t actually answered his question. Grinning from ear to ear, I cross the three steps back to him and take his face in my hands. “Yes! God, it’s – it’s wonderful, Jamie. You’re wonderful.” I let out a gust of incredulous laughter, pressing my forehead to his. “I just can’t believe you managed to–”
His mouth is on mine, then, and I open to him with a moan of relief. This is a better idea anyway; much less chance of me making a rambling fool of myself, still plenty of opportunity to thank him properly for his efforts. I press him backwards into the wall, and he grunts as I crush my full weight against him, kissing him hungrily. It’s been a full two weeks since we’ve done this, I realize, suddenly conscious of just how badly I want him. When Jamie opens his mouth to gasp for air I press my advantage, slipping my tongue forward to thrust against his in a blatant imitation of what I need from him. With a strangled moan he surges back against me, his own tongue hot and urgent, while his hands fumble down to my skirts, rucking them up at the hip. He takes a rounded buttock in each palm and grips hard, pulling me flush against him so that I can feel exactly what I’m doing to him. I grin, making an animalistic noise of hunger as I take his lower lip in my teeth. Reaching behind me, I grab one of his hands and slide it down to part the slick folds further below.
“A Dhia,” Jamie pants, his breath shaking. “You’re wet.”
He isn’t wrong, and saying so isn’t helping matters any. I press my hand hard against his, urging him on, and Jamie smirks against my mouth. He slides a fingertip into me, then, just far enough to tease. A small noise of distress catches in my throat, and I grind shamelessly against him, seeking more.
“Jamie,” I whimper, and he pulls me up, bracing my weight so that I can wrap my legs around his waist. His lips crush against mine as he carries me to the middle of the shed. We break apart briefly, panting, as he looks around, considering our limited options: against the wall? The floor? The cot, maybe? That’s an inviting possibility, and both of us eye it appraisingly, guessing at its strength. It would hold either of us individually, to be sure, but the combined twenty-four stone of us, pounding frantically…
Our eyes meet in the split second before our mouths do, coming to the same conclusion: the counter will do.
Jamie shifts my weight into one strong arm, and uses the other to push my skirts back up again before he sets me down on the wooden beam. I spread my legs for him and take a single scoot back.
I realize my error immediately, eyes flying wide.
I arch off the counter with a piercing shriek as my backside sears with lancing, flesh-ripping pain. “SCHZZZ— OW! Owowowow! ” My feet hit the floor and I double over, grasping Jamie’s thighs to hold me up as I curse and hiss through my teeth. “Jesus H. ROOSEVELT—!”
Above me, Jamie is frantic. “Claire? Are ye alright? Claire! What’s happened? Did I hurt ye?!” His hands hover over me, desperately trying and failing to locate the source of my pain.
“Bloody fucking son of a—”
“I’m so sorry!”
“Not YOU!” I growl, and then my gasps of pain dissolve into sputtering fits of giggles. I lean forward, burying my head in Jamie’s thigh, my whole body convulsing. He’s gone stone-still, and it occurs to me that he must think I’m crying. I can’t bloody breathe I’m laughing so hard; I don’t have the ability to correct his misconceptions at the moment. In fact, tears have begun to stream down my cheeks, and my lungs are bursting for want of oxygen, and I think I might actually die, here and now.
At last, my husband begins to catch on. “Are you… laughing?” I nod helplessly against his thigh, shrieking for air, and Jamie lets out a choked sound of relief. His hands bury themselves in my hair, holding me steady, and after a moment he laughs, too. “Christ, lass, ye scairt me half to death! What the devil’s the matter with you, to make ye carry on like that?”
“I… my…” I wheeze, burst into another fit of giggles, make a hum of restraint, and try again. “Oh, help. It’s my… it’s my arse!”
Jamie can’t help but shake with laughter too, watching me incredulously. “What about it?”
“Oh God, I think it’s splintered to Hell.” I grasp at his arms and try to right myself, giggling and wincing in turns. “Damn you, Jamie Fraser, stop laughing at me!”
That only makes him laugh harder. Ignoring my attempts to raise myself upright, he steps around me and lifts up my skirts to inspect the injury. His warm fingers skim lightly around the stinging areas, and I suck in a sharp breath through my teeth.
“Ifrinn! You werena wrong, Sassenach. At least five splinters, by my count. Big ones, too.”
“Well take them out!”
He makes to pinch a splinter between his nails, and I screech, “Not with your fingers! Did you bring my surgical tools out here? I have needle-nosed tweezers in my pack.”
While he gets up to rummage in the cabinets, I take a deep breath and try to sober myself by figuring out how many years it’s been since my last tetanus shot. They’re good for ten years, and I’m fairly certain both Bree and I got our boosters in her freshman year of high school, so I should still be all right…
Jamie drops to his haunches beside me, triumphantly holding up the little black roll of surgical tools. I motion for him to unwrap it and he does, though it’s clear by the look on his face that the term needle-nosed tweezers means nothing to him. I indicate the correct tool, and he plucks them from their strap, pinching the little tongs together experimentally.
“So I just…?”
“Use the tips to take hold of each splinter, as close to the skin as you can. Get a good grip before you pull them out; try not to leave any pieces behind.”
He sets his tongue between his teeth in concentration, and I lower myself to the floor on my hands and knees, bracing myself. There’s a long hesitation, a studious pause, and I recall only too vividly my husband’s inability to give me an injection of penicillin when I injured my arm in the Caribbean. God, I hope he can do this; unlike the injection, this is one task I simply cannot perform on myself.
Before I can open my mouth to offer words of encouragement, I feel his thumbs press into the skin around a splinter, followed by the pinch of metal and a sharp sting as he rips a shard of wood free. I clench my buttocks instinctively at the pain, which of course only makes the rest of the splinters burn viciously. Tears spring to my eyes and I bite down on my lip to stifle a cry.
Jamie crawls around to the front of me, holding the tweezers up to show me a bloody fragment of wood. Pride and concern take turns flickering over his face. “One down,” he offers comfortingly. I touch his arm, and try to smile.
“Good man. Keep going. Just keep going until it’s done, all right? Don’t mind me.”
“Oh, I mind ye, Sassenach. Dinna think for a moment I’m enjoying this. But I ken it has to be done, and no help for it, aye?”
“Correct. And I don’t particularly want to ask young Ian or one of the tenants to do it, either.”
“No, canna have that. There’d be too many questions we dinna have the answers for.”
I give a little snort. “Should have just had me against the wall.”
He blinks both eyes at me owlishly – his endearing, baffling version of a wink. “Aye, I’ll remember that for next time.” Crawling back behind me, he resumes his appointed task, digging into my flesh with quick, efficient little pinches and tugs, talking to me all the while in the same low murmur he uses to calm horses. “Although, come to think of it, I dinna reckon it would be any better that way. It’s the same wood made the walls as the counter, ye ken. ‘Twas a braw cedar we felled on Roan Mountain, near 100 foot tall. Took six of us and a team of draft horses to get it down the ridge. We used some of it to build the new paddock, and the rest for this wee shed o’ yourn. Splintered our hands bloody in makin’ it, too. Shoulda thought of that before settin’ ye on the counter, I suppose.”
“Well, they do say hindsight is – oof! – 20/20,” I agree charitably. Then, with a wince, “How many more?”
“Last one. It’s the deepest, and no’ verra big. I’ll have to dig for it. I’ll try to be gentle, but…”
“Just do what you can.” I wish I had something hard to bite down on. Lacking anything else, I take a mouthful of my shirt and clamp my molars into the wad of cotton. He’s right; he does have to dig, and it takes everything I have not to jerk away from him as he pries and twists and jabs the tweezers repeatedly into my skin. At last he manages to clinch his prize – he utters a little ‘aha!’ as he does so – and tear it free of its flesh prison. I can feel a rivulet of blood begin to trickle down the curve of my buttock, and before my husband can even think of wiping at it with his shirt tail, I rasp out, “Bandages, Jamie! Get clean bandages and alcohol.”
He’s up in a flash, digging through the cabinets again. I hear him reading labels under his breath until he finds the bottle he’s looking for, then the sloshing of liquid, and then he’s back behind me again, wiping up the dribble of blood with a startlingly cold cloth. It doesn’t burn until he reaches the open cut, but then I hiss out a string of curses that I’m sure is making him blush red straight to his ears.
“I’m sorry,” he mutters with sincerity, exceedingly familiar himself with the sting of alcohol in an open wound.
“Just—hold—it—there,” I clench out. “Until—the—bleeding—stops.”
He does as he’s told, but I can feel the tension radiating off of him, as palpable in the air as static electricity. It goes against all his instincts to inflict pain on me, no matter how necessary. I force myself to take deep, slow breaths, so that there isn’t the faintest hint of tremor in my voice when I instruct him, “Good, Jamie. That’s good. Now get a fresh bandage and a bit more alcohol, if you would, please. You’ll need to cleanse the other sites as well, so they don’t become infected.”
He’s stone silent as he goes about his task, and I bite again into the shoulder of my blouse to keep silent myself. A few more burning swabs later, and it’s done. I hear Jamie release a shuddering exhale as he carefully lowers my skirts back down. He climbs to his feet and reaches down to offer me a hand. With clenched teeth, I hiss in a breath and let him pull me up.
As soon as I’m on my feet, his arms wrap around me, clutching me to him. I realize suddenly that he’s trembling. I press a kiss to his breastbone and then nuzzle into the hollow where his neck meets his shoulder, unsure of who’s meant to be comforting whom. I suppose it doesn’t matter – I am comforted, and so is he; though his grip on me doesn’t slacken a bit, I can feel his breath coming easier, the hammering pulse in his carotid slowing gradually to its normal, steady rhythm.
“I didna like that one bit, Sassenach,” he whispers into my hair after a long while. “Hurting ye.”
I make a little hum of assent, pressing my lips into his shoulder. “Now you know how I feel. Do you see why I’m constantly reminding you to be bloody careful?”
“Mmphm… But ye’re a healer, no? Ye do this for a living.”
“It’s different,” I whisper, “When it’s someone you love.”
A shiver runs through him, and he nods, holding me tighter. Without a word, he drops his forehead in invitation, and I lift up to meet it, rubbing my nose against his. A large hand slides up to cradle the base of my neck, and then he kisses me, slow and tender. He makes a humming noise in his throat when I touch the tip of my tongue to his. I expect him to open to me, and am momentarily confused when he draws away. I look up at him, searching, and find his eyes moist with devotion.
“Lay down on your side, mo nighean donn,” he murmurs, with a gentle nod in the direction of the cot. “I want to cherish ye for a while.”
My mouth is suddenly dry. I swallow, breathing hard, and manage a nod.
I suppose it is my birthday, after all.
Chapter 2: Five
Immediately and unrelentingly NSFW, people. Please note that the rating has also increased.
Claire’s about to have a *verra* nice birthday.
My undying thanks and love to @happytoobservefromadistance for beta-ing, making me laugh, and offering to hold my hair while I throw up, to @desperationandgin for letting me angry caps at her and for fixing my Jamie-speak, and to @Soloh for the myriad of inspirational material, and for listening, always. ❤
Before I can take a step away from him, Jamie’s palm presses into the small of my back, as though second-guessing his own edict… as though he needs another moment to hold me.
My movements still as he bends his head to mine with quiet reverence, his fingertips drifting up to trace my jaw and sweep the riot of loose curls back from my neck. He lowers his mouth to the bared skin, but stops just a hair’s breadth away, lips parted, breathing me in. My eyes flutter shut as I reach for him, gripping the supple leather of his overcoat, needing something to anchor me.
It’s the juxtaposition of him that does me in: the powerful muscle coiled taut in self-restraint, the iron-hard length of him pressed to my belly, while his lips barely whisper over my skin, the brush of his hands so light, it’s as if he’s cradling a butterfly in his fingertips. It’s Jamie’s single-minded preoccupation with seeing me safe, and loved, and cherished, at the expense of his own need...
I remember to breathe, but only barely.
Deft fingers find and release the small copper buttons at the back of my skirt. Jamie is painstakingly careful with me as he stretches the fabric, easing it out over the swell of my buttocks to avoid the fresh cuts. When the grey wool drops to my ankles in a heap, I release a sharp breath that has nothing to do with pain. A matching shudder of warm air stirs the fine hairs on my neck, raising ripples of gooseflesh in its wake. For a moment neither of us move, the silence of the shed broken only by our ragged breathing. Then Jamie’s fingertips brush my bare thighs, skimming upwards to settle at my hips. He turns me slowly, his breath shaking in my ear.
“Go on, then,” he whispers.
The sudden absence of his warmth makes my lungs cave in with protest. I snap my eyes open and watch him take the few steps back to the door. In a split second of panic, I begin to open my mouth to tell him he’d better bloody well not be leaving me like this — not for a moment, not for any reason whatsoever — but then his hand is on a small block of wood I hadn’t noticed before, hanging loosely from a nail perhaps an inch in from the edge of the door. He flicks it up and around clockwise with a finger, and the block clicks securely into a wooden notch in the doorjamb.
He bolts the door, and then he turns back for me.
Now I really do forget to breathe.
I scamper back onto the cot rather ungracefully, landing too low — I have to lean on my elbows, lift up, and scoot before turning back over on my hip again. It all feels terribly unsexy, but if Jamie agrees, I can’t tell; his mouth is slightly open as he pulls off his leather coat, breathing hard, his eyes nearly black with desire. He rolls up his sleeves to his elbows, but doesn’t make any effort to undress further. I make a mental note to remedy that problem as soon as possible. In the meantime, I kick off my boots and stockings, then begin to make quick work of the buttons on my blouse.
Jamie is on his knees beside me in a flash, catching my hand to still it. “Och, not so fast, Sassenach.” He turns my palm over to kiss it. “Let me see to that, hm?”
“Just trying to save you a step,” I demur, eyes glinting mischievously.
“Don’t!” he laughs. “I’m verra fond of that step.” He considers me for a moment, the humor slowly dissolving from his expression as he strokes my fingers. “I want to take my time with ye, Claire. If I may.”
I swallow hard, and wonder — not for the first time — what on God’s green earth I ever did to deserve this man.
I hold his eyes as I lie back down and shift my hips to get comfortable, letting my hand dangle limp and acquiescent in his palm. Jamie doesn’t look away either; he watches me as he slowly kisses each knuckle, then turns my hand over to rest his lips at the pulsepoint of my wrist. After lingering there a moment, he draws back and smiles to himself, then presses another soft kiss there.
“Yer heart is racing, a nighean,” he tells me, his voice quiet and wondrous. “Like a wee hummingbird.”
I nod faintly. I can feel it, frantic against my breastbone, a fevered thrum in my throat and wrists and temples, an urgent throbbing between my legs.
“I want you, Jamie,” I breathe.
The smile that lights his face is unbearably beautiful. “Soon,” he promises, and lowers his mouth back to the delicate skin of my wrist.
He moves slowly, savoring and tasting as he follows the blue veins along the inside of my arm. When his tongue touches the hollow in the crook of my elbow, I gasp involuntarily, my nails seeking purchase in his scalp. He smiles against my skin, encouraged, and drags his mouth in a molten trail up my bicep, his tongue weaving and swirling, striking my nerve endings like a matchstick. By the time he suckles his way across my collarbone I’m trembling with need, breathing open-mouthed and gripping his head so hard I’m sure I’ll draw blood.
Would serve him right, I think dizzily as he picks up where I left off with my blouse. That languid, scorching mouth follows his fingers down the line of my sternum, unbuttoning as he goes. When he reaches the last one, he pushes the neckline into a broad V, splayed open to my shoulders. The sudden exposure to cool air raises goosebumps across my skin and puckers my nipples, and Jamie moans deep in his throat as he latches greedily onto a hardened peak. I arch into him with a breathless whimper that turns into a sob when he bites down.
Utterly consumed with the shooting bolts of pleasure his mouth is creating at my breast, I don’t even notice his right hand gliding downward until his thumb begins to roll lazy circles over the most sensitive part of me, eliciting even stronger, more violent shocks of pleasure. I rear up into his hand and slam back down again, and to hell with my stinging arse; if anything, the pinpricks of pain only serve to heighten the burning, blissful surges Jamie is expertly stoking in me. Incoherent noises of distress hitch in my throat as I beg him wordlessly for more. He plays me like a trained musician, until staccato whimpers and gasps give way to hard, rhythmic panting.
The closer I edge to oblivion, the more desperately I want to taste him, to bite him, to breathe his air. I tug on his hair, trying to pull him up to kiss me.
“Ja — mmm… come here, I want your mouth...”
He gives one last, deep suck at my breast, then indulges me. I barely have time to crush my lips to his before I come apart, gasping and mewling into his smile.
He waits until I regain the ability to breathe before pulling back slightly, drawing my lower lip down with his thumb.
“That’s one,” he murmurs cryptically, and kisses me breathless again.
I can’t think straight, let alone form words. I don’t bother to ask, and the offhanded comment is forgotten within seconds.
II / III
Sometime later, Jamie reaches up from his spot on the floor to push softly at my hip, urging me up onto my opposite side. I roll over obligingly, still lethargic, complacent, and utterly spent.
“You didna do a verra good job of staying on your side, Sassenach,” he chides, tracing a finger around what I can only assume are much angrier, more reddened cuts than the ones he tended a few minutes ago.
“And whose fault is that?”
I don’t need to see him to know he’s grinning. “Hm. Weel, I’ll have to be more careful in the future, then.” His lips drop to the rounded underside of my arse, kissing circles around the sliver sites. “Canna have my favorite part of ye harmed again."
I prop myself up on an elbow so that I can raise my eyebrows at him over my shoulder. “Your favorite part?”
Jamie has the good grace to blush.
“Second favorite,” he corrects sheepishly. He thinks for a moment, then reaches a hand over me to cup one of my breasts. “Er, tied for second.”
“With my eyes, I presume,” I tease him, batting my lashes. “Windows to the soul and all.”
“Och, aye. Ye’ve the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen, Sassenach.” He climbs up onto his knees so that he can take my face in his hands. He kisses each eyelid lightly, then pulls back to consider the rest of my face. “And a bonny nose, too, especially when it’s all covered over in these wee cinnamon sprinkles.” He chuckles as I scrunch said nose at him, and kisses it smooth again. “Dinna make that face. I like the freckles.”
“Glad someone does.”
“And yer cheeks are like perfect wee appl—”
“You know,” I interrupt with a giggle, “It might be easier if you just make me a list of what you don’t like.”
“Och, aye, that’s a verra short list indeed. Nothin’ on it.”
“Nothing?” My eyebrows shoot up. “I thought we promised to be honest with one another.”
He looks at me as though I’m certifiably insane, but gives a grunt. “I’ll think on it and get back to ye. May I continue now?”
“Oh, sorry. By all means.”
Grinning, he moves lower. “That’s good, because I was just gettin’ to yer mouth.”
“Mmm,” I hum as his lips whisper over mine. “And what is it you find so alluring about my mouth?”
“Oh, it’s a verra talented one.”
“Aye. Yer tongue especially.”
I reward him with a delicate little flick of that talented tongue. “Mm. Pot: kettle.”
“Oh, aye?” he asks between increasingly fevered kisses. “Ye think so?”
“Mmhmm,” I assure him, followed by an appreciative moan when he glides his tongue over mine. I melt into him as he kisses me, agonizingly slow, stroking my cheeks with his thumbs as he softly explores every line, dip, and ridge of my mouth.
“Like that?” he says breathlessly a moment later, breaking away from me.
I can feel the flush warm my cheeks. “Just like that.”
He drags his tongue down the muscular line of my neck, and I arch my head back to give him easier access. “And this?”
I sigh happily. “Yes...”
Jamie’s hand is on the bend of my knee, lifting gently. I let him part my legs, shivering when he dips his head to lick up the inside of my thigh. When he reaches the soft, wet curls, he dips his tongue briefly inside me for a taste. A soft, vibrating mmm of admiration sends me arching up off the cot with a gasp. He smiles, hitches my knee up higher over his shoulder, and takes hold of my hips to steady me.
“And this?” he asks again, touching the tip of his tongue to the little bud of nerves that is desperately aching for his attention.
“Jamie,” I sob, bucking against him. The edges of my vision blur to white when he begins to work me in earnest.
I know exactly what he’s doing, too.
He confessed to me once, curled up under the covers in a daze of post-coital bliss, that his favorite trick (of which I had been very vocally appreciative) was to sign his full name on me with his tongue — to mark me, to claim me for his own in the most intimate way imaginable. Once I learned that, I couldn’t very well unlearn it; I notice each time now, and can’t help but fixate on the swirling letters of his name as he sears them on me with careful deliberation.
He starts in with a flourishing cursive J now, and I grab white-knuckled fistfuls of his hair, trying and failing to brace myself.
J… a… m… e… s…
I whimper on a loop, clutching his head between my thighs and trying to rock him closer, but he’s got such a firm grip on me that it’s useless.
A… l… e… x… a… n… d… e… r…
It’s the e’s, the bloody e’s that have me drawing in shrieking gasps through my teeth. Not for the first time, I recognize that there are a blessed lot of them in his name. Cresting on the most recent of them, I arch my back, gasping.
M… a …l —
I make an unintelligible noise as the waves of release break, and Jamie smiles, drawing back just slightly. He licks his lips, then presses a kiss to my inner thigh. “Two,” he murmurs, the scruff of his beard rasping against the sensitive skin.
And suddenly I understand just exactly what it is he’s counting. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ…
“Ye’re making this too easy on me, Sassenach,” he teases. My head is still thrown back, eyes screwed shut, but I feel his smile broaden as he kisses his way back up my thigh again. “Usually ye last through half of Mackenzie, at least.”
I make a little whimpering sound, and he chuckles, nuzzling affectionately at my coarse curls. He lets me have a moment to come down from the rapture – to settle, to breathe – before his tongue parts me again, sliding back up to its dedicated task.
My eyes fly wide, and I try to scramble back, to push him frantically away. “No-no-no-no-Jamie, I can’t…”
“Aye, ye can,” he assures me, peeking his head up from between my legs just long enough to give me an owlish double-blink. “I havena finished yet, have I?”
I still struggle in vain to wriggle out of his grasp, so he releases his left hand from its bruising grip on my hip and instead lays his whole arm over me, pinning me down to the cot with the full force of his considerable muscle. I start to pant before he even begins, unable to move an inch, caught between white-hot panic and trembling anticipation.
c… o… l… m…
“Fuck,” I swear violently, already undone. He doesn’t stop.
M….a… c… k… e…
“JAMIE!” I curl my body instinctively around his head, trying to arch away from the pleasure so searing it threatens on the verge of pain. I pull at the roots of his hair and rip at his neck, to no avail.
n… z… i… e…
“FRASER!” I shriek. “For the love of God, Fraser! Fuck, Jamie—”
Relentless, he seals his lips to me and gives a little suck, making the blood explode behind my eyelids. I’m incoherent, stretched so far beyond the point of endurance that I’m sobbing and shaking brutally against him. Steadfast in the wake of my violent spasms, he slides two fingers inside of me and sets a complimentary rhythm while his tongue scrawls out the last letters of his impossibly long name with slow, elongated strokes.
F...... r …… a …… s …… e …… r.
“Three,” he pants smugly as he finishes his work, with an innocent kiss just below my navel.
When the shed stops spinning and I recall how to make my diaphragm function again, I look down to find Jamie lying quietly on the floor beside me, flat on his back, fingers tangled with mine. His eyes are closed, and to anyone else he might look peaceful. I see it, though: the pulse throbbing in his carotid, the faint tightening of the lines around his eyes… not to mention the rather blatant erection straining at his breeks. He is not naturally a man to restrain his impulses; I realize with a sudden clench of my heart that all of this must be taking concerted effort on his part.
God, he can’t even look at me.
Trying to coordinate my gelatinous limbs into any semblance of motion requires concerted effort on my part, but I make a go of it anyway. Before he can open his mouth to object, I slide sideways off the cot and onto the floor beside him. He’s warm — a bloody radiator even in late October — and I mold myself gratefully to him as the chilly air prickles over my skin. When I run a hand over his chest, he shivers and slowly turns his head. Bleary eyes open to look at me, and Jesus H. Christ, there’s no iris left, only dilated pupils.
He’s waited quite long enough, I think.
He makes a choking noise when I slip a hand beneath his waistband, taking the velvet length of him in my palm.
I mold my mouth to his and capture a shuddering breath. When I press my tongue lightly to the seam of his lips, he opens wide with a half-sob. It’s a fevered dance I begin to choreograph, a mirrored duet of tongue and hand, stroking in tandem. Very quickly, it’s too much for him. He pulls away from me sharply, his large hand crushing the bones of my wrist.
“No, mo chridhe. No. I willnae make it long like this, and I need to—”
“You need to stop being a bloody hero and let me have my way with you,” I scold, and am on my knees, straddling him, in one fluid movement. He opens his mouth to answer me — to argue or to agree, I’m not entirely sure — but then I roll my hips over his, and whatever he was about to say is lost in a strangled groan. He grabs onto my waist with one hand, but the other doesn’t leave my wrist; his grip loosens just enough to let me move my hand again. As soon as I have that freedom of motion, I release the flies on his breeks, grab hold of his shaft firmly, and guide him to my slick, heated core.
A string of Gaelic curses rips from his throat as I sink down in a slow slide until he’s sheathed to the root. Drunk on the power I have over him, I take both of his hands and trail them up my sides. I bring his left hand to my breast, which he latches onto like a lifeline. The right I bring up to my mouth, sucking at his knuckles until he twitches and bucks up against me, unable to control himself. He’s at just the right angle, and his cock finds the spot deep inside me that makes me throw my head back with a moan. I begin to move on him then, obsessively seeking friction at that spot, circling and rocking my hips to keep him there.
It’s not enough for Jamie. He’s physically shaking underneath me as I writhe on him, his grasp on my skin bruising. He clenches his teeth, the veins straining in his temples and neck. After a few more gentle rocks he grips my hips with both hands to stop me, biting down on his lower lip, eyes widening with desperate apology.
I understand. I slide off of him with a trembling breath and climb to my feet. Three steps back and I’m pressed against the wall. I look down at him, my breasts heaving, eyes glued to the heart-stopping sight of that magnificent erection, slippery and glistening with the remnants of my own arousal. I spread my legs slightly and lean back against the wall, giving him an unobstructed view of where he’s just been — and where I very urgently want him to return.
He launches himself off the floor and into my arms with a primal, guttural sound that’s too ancient to have a name. He manages to get his arm wrapped around my lower back before the full weight of him crushes me to the wall, kissing me with all his might. My body responds instinctually to the animalistic power of him, and we sway and buck against one another in a fever, teeth and tongues slashing at one another, punctuated by gasps and grunts and savage growls. There’s nothing gentle left in us — or at least not in me.
Jamie, however, shocks me for the umpteenth time today when he suddenly wrenches himself away, leaving me panting against the wall as he crosses the shed in a few long strides. I don’t even have time to take a breath to ask him what the bloody hell he’s doing before he snatches his discarded leather coat from the stool by the door and then crosses back to me.
Tucking the coat under an arm, he takes the hem of my blouse in trembling fingers and gestures at me with his chin. Obediently, I lift my arms over my head and allow him to strip me. I manage to tug his own shirt free of his unlaced breeks and peel that off, too, and then we collide, knocking the wind out of one another, kissing desperately as we relish the sensation of being skin-to-skin. Needing more, I push down the waistband of Jamie’s breeks, wriggling them over the muscular curve of his buttocks. A few more downward tugs and the breeks fall loose around his ankles. Jamie toes off his boots and kicks the discarded items away impatiently without breaking our kiss.
I begin to wrap my right thigh around his hip, to brace myself on the wall, but Jamie stops me with a hand on my shoulder as he holds the leather coat out to me, arm-first.
I raise an eyebrow at him, smiling and breathing hard. “Doesn’t that – defeat the – purpose of…?” I gesture to the discarded clothes in a heap at our feet.
He kisses my collarbone as he slides the jacket over my back and holds it out for me to get the other arm in. “To protect ye from the wood. Dinna have any interest in picking more splinters out o’ ye when we’re done.”
“Good thinking,” I admit, testing the leather by sliding my back up and down the grainy wall. It’s good thick hide, and nothing’s getting through. I nod my approval to Jamie, and the last of his restraint finally goes up in flames.
He picks me up by my buttocks and I hiss out a choked breath that’s somewhere between pain and pleasure as he grips the stinging flesh. I manage to bend my knees up, wrap my thighs around his hips, and cross my ankles behind his back in the split second before he spears me to the wall with a deep, violent thrust. We both cry out brokenly, then hum into each other’s mouths as he withdraws partially, and then slides slowly back in again. Jamie reaches up to pin my wrists over my head, the press of his body the only thing keeping me against the wall. I open my eyes to look at him, and find him looking back. We watch one another, faces contorting with pleasure, as he settles into a merciless rhythm, pounding into me with everything he has. The world focuses in, and there’s only the two of us — the sounds of our joining, the slide of his flesh against mine, the feel of his powerful muscles straining, trying to get deeper, deeper, until there’s nothing separating his blazing soul from mine.
It doesn’t take long before our grunts and groans give way to breathless, ragged cries, begging one another, blaspheming the Lord’s name. As Jamie closes in on the final sprint, he pushes his pelvis hard into mine and narrows his thrusts, purposely angling himself so that my pleasure builds with each movement. Between that and his unrelenting pace, I start to fly apart in seconds, my neck arched back against the wall, mouth open in a silent scream. Three more hard thrusts and Jamie follows, spilling hot and deep inside me in shuddering bursts. He drops his head to my shoulder, sobbing my name, and we ride out the waves of ecstasy together, rocking slightly until we can both breathe again.
“Four,” he whispers a few seconds later, a triumphant smile pressed to my skin.
I roll my eyes, but can’t help but choke out a breathless laugh. I uncross my ankles and shift myself down off of him, but bring my hands up to tangle in his beautiful red curls, clutching his head to me, unwilling to let him go. Jamie sighs blissfully and lets his arms drop from the wall to hang limp at his sides. He catches his breath for a moment before chuckling and wrapping me snugly around the waist.
“Ye’re going to be the death of me, Sassenach. I’m no’ sure my heart can take this abuse much longer. I’m an auld man now, but damned if I’ll let a thing like that stop me.”
I give another little huff of laughter, bringing my lips down to taste the pulse in his throat. “Mmm,” I hum happily. “I should think there are worse ways to go.” Raising my head a little, I give him a playful swat. “Besides, I’m older than you, and I’ve managed to survive… what did you say, four –?”
“Four, aye. So far.”
“Mmphm.” Laughing, he reaches down to grab the woolen blanket that I apparently kicked off the end of the cot at some point. He gives it a good shake, scattering a bit of fine sawdust, and then drapes it out on the floor underneath us. Taking the cue, I sit down on the blanket with my back against the wall, and hold my arms out for him. Jamie settles beside me and pulls the edge of the leather coat back so he can lay his head on my breast.
We’re quiet for a while, luxuriating in the afterglow of sex, stealing lazy kisses as our fingertips trail lightly over bare skin. Even bundled in Jamie’s leather coat, the crisp autumn air quickly begins to steal the heat from my veins, and I ease down to the floor, dragging my own personal heater with me. He spoons himself around me, and lacking anything else, grabs my discarded woolen skirt and drapes it over the two of us as a makeshift blanket. He slips his hands under the leather coat to wrap me tight, and then we both drift, dozing in and out in a cocoon of perfect peace.
The dappled afternoon sunlight is slanting low through the window by the time I feel Jamie begin to stir at my back. He snuffles into my hair and stretches a bit, and I yawn, and join him in stretching languidly. When we settle together again, his lips touch the downy spot behind my ear, and there’s a smile in his sleep-groggy voice.
“I thought of one.”
I let my eyes remain closed, smiling softly. “One what?”
“I promised I’d try to think of somethin’ about ye I dinna like. I thought of one.”
“Well that’s a romantic way to wake me up,” I grumble, giving him a well-aimed elbow in the ribs. He chuckles, pushing it away and nuzzling deeper into my hair. Still smiling, I shake my head. “All right, my interest is piqued. Pray tell.” I crack an eye open and arch a brow at him, caught between genuine curiosity and vague terror.
He gives my head another kiss, then gently peels back both the woolen skirt serving as our blanket and the collar of the leather coat, baring me down to the elbow. With great deliberation, he presses a finger into a bit of flesh just below my deltoid. “There. That’s always bothered me.”
I glance down at my arm, then back at him, trying to decide if he’s joking. “Um…”
“Ye see these wee marks?”
“There’s four of them,” he explains patiently, as though speaking to a particularly dim-witted child. He begins to trace them lightly with a fingertip, as though he’s mapped them out a thousand times. He makes a little whooshing noise as he touches each one. “Ye see? They almost make a perfect five-pointed star, but it’s missing the one wee dot to the right, there.”
I blink at him, completely dumbfounded. He shrugs, grinning sheepishly. “I spend a lot of time staring at this shoulder, ye ken. When you’re sleeping, you usually face that way. So sometimes when I canna sleep, I make drawings out of the wee marks on your skin. And this one has always troubled me. I’ll admit, I’ve been tempted more than once to get up in the middle of the night and fetch a quill to make that last dot. I never have, though.”
“Mm?” He grins even wider, pressing a kiss to the wee marks that have apparently caused him so much anguish.
“James... Alexander... Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.”
“Aye, that’s me.”
“You are telling me… that I am covered in stretch marks and cellulite, and I have crow’s feet, and-and spider veins, and the only thing that bothers you on my entire body is a damn mole on my shoulder?!”
“Well, the lack thereof, if ye want to be technical about it,” he corrects, dodging a playful swat. He pins the hand I aimed at him and half-lays on top of me, staring down into my face with his blue eyes twinkling. “And yes, Sassenach. That’s all that bothers me. All the rest only mean you’ve been my wife for twenty-five years, and I thank God for that. Every day, I thank God.”
I blink a few times to clear the moisture that’s sprung to my eyes, releasing a breath of a laugh. I lift up to him in the same moment that he dips to me, and our lips touch softly somewhere in the middle.
“You’re a hopeless romantic, Jamie Fraser,” I murmur when we part. I trace a thumb over the curve of his mouth and pull his lower lip gently down. “I do love you for it.” I replace my thumb with my lips again, and feel him smile against me. A large hand comes up to hold the nape of my neck, so that our kiss is unbroken as he rolls over onto his hip, taking me with him. Lying on our sides, face-to-face, we tangle together in a knot of warm limbs and wandering hands, taking the time to relish the simple pleasure of touching one another.
Though the wild urgency that gripped us earlier has smoldered to embers, it’s not long before the evidence of rekindled desire is pressing against my belly. I make a small, tender hum of acknowledgment against Jamie’s mouth, and shift my knee up to drape over his hip in wordless invitation. He eases forward to close the last of the space between us, and our foreheads drop together with matching, blissful sighs as he fills me completely.
Our joining this time is languorous, peaceful: a quiet communion of souls. As Jamie begins to move in me, we lock eyes, blue into gold. I twine the fingers of one hand into his curls, and reach the other out to him. He slides his palm against mine until the ghosts of our J and C scars are pressed together. Flooded with remembrance, we instinctively draw closer.
Jamie’s lips brush over my forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and chin before coming home to meet me in a languid kiss. Lapping waves of pleasure start to build in me as he rocks slowly back and forth, and when he breathes “I love you” against my lips, I break around him with a hitching sigh. He follows just behind me, but we continue to sway gently long after the glowing warmth spreads and spills between us.
When we finally still, Jamie shifts himself down onto his back, and I settle on his chest with a bone-deep sigh of contentment.
“Five,” I whisper on his behalf, unable to help but smile. I look up just in time to watch his face split in a grin, and then I burrow my nose in his chest, pressing a kiss to the solid pectoral muscle.
“Mmphm… that’s a record, ye ken,” he murmurs, trailing his fingertips up and down the curve of my back. “Was hopin’ to break it for ye today.”
I can feel myself blushing, and turn my face further into his skin. “Oh, God. Is that what this was about?”
Jamie gives a hum of laughter. “Och, aye. Thought we should christen yer wee shed properly. Especially after I made such a disaster of the first go.” He stretches his fingers down to give my arse an apologetic little rub.
“Mm, it’s alright,” I assure him, stretching my heavy limbs and then collapsing limp against him again. “You’ve more than made up for it, I’d say – there were five splinters, weren’t there? And besides, if I can’t move at all tomorrow, it certainly won’t be from a stinging arse.”
“Glad to hear it, mo gràdhaiche.” He lifts my chin with a finger, and brings my smiling mouth to his. When we break apart for air, he chuckles softly and nuzzles his way back to my ear.
“For yer next birthday,” he says in a conspiratorial whisper, “We’ll make it six.”