“Hold your diploma up a little higher, Mummy!”
Claire chuckled to herself, and so did the man beside her, posing in the picture with her, Joe Abernathy, a fellow graduate.
“Alright, one, two, three, cheese!”
Claire’s smile widened unconsciously at John’s coaching, and then the camera flashed.
“Did you get it?”
“Excellent job, sweetheart.” John nudged Brianna’s chin.
“Now just Mummy and Daddy. And Da.”
Reflexively, Claire’s eyes swept around the room, but her colleagues were none the wiser, each engrossed in their own conversation, and their drinks.
“I want to take the next picture!”
“No.” Brianna held the camera above her head, out of reach of the little boy who was really not all that much shorter than her, but just short enough to not be able to reach no matter how many times he hopped. “You’re too little.”
“Am not,” the boy shot right back. “You’re little as me.”
“Am not,” Brianna said stubbornly. “Seven is bigger than six. Six is too little.”
“Willie,” Claire cut in. “Why don’t you go find Da? We can’t take the picture without him.”
Pouting only slightly, William darted off to find Jamie among the small throngs of people throughout the first floor of their home.
“Brianna, darling.” John bent down in front of her. “Can you do me the biggest favor?”
“Yeah, Daddy! I can!”
“Alright. Could you give your brother a turn with the camera?”
“But Daddy,” she said, exasperated. “He’ll break it.”
“No, he won’t.” John bit his lip to stop himself from laughing. Willie did have a tendency to destroy everything he touched, as did most six year old boys. “Uncle Joe will help him and make sure he doesn’t.”
“That’s right. I got him.”
She pouted, but then sighed. “Fine.”
She allowed John to take the strap over her head. “You’re a good big sister, Bree.”
She crossed her arms, but Claire did not miss the twinkle in her eye. She was always putty in John’s hands. And Jamie’s, for that matter. Everyone’s but Claire’s, evidently. Praise from her fathers could make her do just about anything. Willie came scampering back, Jamie trailing behind with a child in each arm. Four year old Alexander was thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and two year old Julia was cradled against his hip.
“Come on, Da! Picture!” Brianna called.
“Aye, I heard.”
“No babies in the picture,” she said haughtily.
“I’m not a baby,” Alex called.
“No, ye’re not,” Jamie agreed, settling him on his feet. “But ye’ll be in the next one, promise. Bree, hold onto Julie’s hand.”
Bree obeyed, and Joe crouched down to help Willie with the camera. Bree hovered a bit too close, not willing to let any mistake escape her notice.
Claire waved her arms, drawing John and Jamie into the frame, and she draped her arms around their waists, resting on the small of their backs. The men nestled in closer, then they clasped their hands behind Claire’s back, out of anyone’s sight.
“Good job, little man,” Joe tousled his hair. “Hey, don’t move; one more,” he called. “Give her a kiss.”
The three of them gave him a funny, confused look, and John leaned in to kiss Claire.
“No, no, no, on the cheek.” He looked into the lens. “Both of you.”
Claire flushed red, and the other two followed right after.
“Come on, camera’s ready,” Joe goaded.
Claire huffed in amused disbelief. “You heard him, boys.”
“One, two, three.”
And there it was, immortalized forever, both of Claire’s husbands kissing her adoringly on each cheek.
Out of every colleague and their wives in the house, Joe and his wife, Gail, were the only ones aware of the truth of their situation. Leave it to him to push the boundaries of what they should be doing in public, but Claire found herself not giving a damn.
She was too damn happy.
Claire trusted Joe with everything, clearly, including her life. When she’d started at Harvard, he was the only person in the room who wasn’t an entitled white man. They were kindred spirits, she the first woman doctor to graduate there, and he the first black man. They had much in common besides their career and the discrimination they faced, and they became fast friends. Claire had discussed at length with Jamie and John whether or not they could trust him, and Claire was beyond grateful that they’d decided they could. He was one of the only family friends they had, and the only one who was normally allowed in their home. Their two children were just Brianna and Alex’s age, and they were all thick as thieves.
“Alright, let’s get all the Grey’s and Fraser’s in there, now!” Joe called.
In private, he would have referred to them as the Fraser-Grey’s, but all understood the point.
John bent down to pick up Julia, kissing her curly brown head, identical to Claire’s. Jamie hoisted Alex onto his hip, attempting to settle some of his unruly red curls. When it came to Alex, there was really no question as to his paternity, but he was John’s, too, just the same. The neighbors assumed that the red hair was also in John’s blood, given they were “cousins,” so nobody even blinked at the glaringly obvious abnormality. Cousins and their children looking alike was nothing strange.
“Brianna, go get Faith,” Claire commanded gently, and she went right off.
Faith’s chair was settled in front of the record player, and Joe’s son, Lenny, was holding onto her hands and swaying them, dancing with her. Brianna grasped the handles and pushed her across the living room to join the family photo.
Faith was born three months premature on May 12, 1948. The doctors told them she would die, that it was a certainty. But she’d pulled through, though not entirely unscathed. Claire recognized the signs before any certified doctor did: Cerebral Palsy.
As Brianna pushed the wheelchair through the room, the people parted, tutting in sympathy. Everyone always looked at Faith like they wanted to cry, at the park, the library, in their home, and everyone talked to her like she would break any second. But anyone who truly knew her knew that they should be frightened that she would break them.
Faith had the combined tempers of both Jamie and Claire, with the combined forces of their pigheaded stubbornness to match, whether inherited or learned was anybody’s guess. Her hair was a subdued auburn, a shade between Brianna and Alex’s red and Willie’s chestnut. She was the only Fraser-Grey to have inherited Claire’s honey-amber eyes, and Jamie coveted this about her, treated her just the slightest bit different than the other children because of it, though he dared not ever admit it. Claire could just tell.
With the other four children’s blue eyes, and Julia and Willie’s ambiguous hair color, it was anybody’s guess who sired them. There were days where they could swear that Willie was Jamie’s, and days where they kicked themselves and remarked how foolish they were to not realize he was John’s. His eyes did not have Jamie’s slant, but they sometimes glinted like his did. He certainly had Jamie’s temper, but he carried himself so like John.
“Come stand by me, Willie,” Claire crooned, and he wedged himself between John and Claire, squeezing his mother around the waist. Where Brianna could not be told a damn thing by anyone but her fathers, Willie was the most insufferable mama’s-boy Claire had ever encountered. He jumped through hoops to please her, clung to her like a baby gorilla to its mother’s back. It nearly always got to the extent of smothering, but it only got on Claire’s nerves occasionally.
Brianna scooted Faith’s chair front and center, and then Faith used her arms to scoot herself all the way to the left of her seat, and Brianna wiggled in next to her. Claire often found them like this, curled into Faith’s wheelchair like they were in an armchair, looking at a book or a doll. Claire knew Brianna did this so that Faith did not feel left out. She could have easily sat on the end of the couch right beside Faith’s chair, but it wasn’t the same as sharing an equal seat. It amazed Claire to think that her daughter already possessed such emotional intelligence, such empathy. She knew this had to be true, because Brianna had no problem turning her nose up at people who treated Faith differently, had no problem telling them, “She’s not a baby, you know,” when people tried to coddle her. She was perfectly content to call Willie too little, or Alex a baby, but Faith was nothing less than her equal, full stop.
They were inseparable, and Claire prayed they always remained so.
The girls squeezed their arms around each other, and only then could the photo be taken.
“Ready!” The seven of them answered, all except baby Julia.
“Look over here, Jules,” Joe called, waving his hand. “Come on, baby girl.”
“Look at Uncle Joe, Julsey!” John bounced her, pointing at the camera.
“There she is! One-two-three!” Joe rushed through the count lest they lose Julia again. “Perfect!”
“Thank you, Joe,” Claire said, giving her husbands one final squeeze before the crowd that was their family dispersed. “Do you want to go back by the record player, Faith?”
“Yes, please, Mummy.”
Claire bent to kiss the top of her head before wheeling the chair, still holding both Faith and Brianna, back to the record player. Spirited and high-tempered she may be, but Faith could be sweet as anything when her guard was down. Claire deposited the girls by the music, and she turned to find Joe holding a drink out for her, which she took appreciatively.
“Claire!” Jamie called, beckoning her away from Joe. “I got this last week, but it’s meant for today.”
Claire opened a Hallmark card addressed to her, her cheeks sore from smiling.
“Good Sister,” she read aloud. “We are so sorry we couldn’t make it, but know that we are so proud of you, and that we love you. Enjoy the whisky. Slaínte, Jenny, Ian, young Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, Janet, Michael, Caitlin, and wee Ian.”
“Jesus. They’ve got more kids than you lot!” Joe ribbed Jamie, and Jamie lightly shoved him back.
“What’s this about whisky?” Claire said, raising a brow.
“They’ve sent over a box of the good stuff. Straight from Scotland.”
“Ah!” John sighed appreciatively. “Nothing beats that.”
“Shall we crack it open?”
“Mummy, Mummy, let me see.” Willie was pawing at her skirt, not relenting until she handed down the card for his inspection.
Jamie opened one of Jenny’s bottles with Alex wrapped around his leg like a monkey, and they toasted Claire, Doctor Beauchamp, Harvard Graduate.
She was euphoric.
The rest of Joe and Claire’s colleagues had reservations at Fontaine’s, and when they left, Jamie got started on the grand supper he had in mind to celebrate the two and feed both of their families. They’d managed to corral all of the children into the backyard to run around like the heathens they’d been acting like all day. Faith was sitting in the swing that Jamie had built from scratch to accommodate her disability, and Brianna and Lenny were taking turns pushing her.
John smiled fondly at them, then rolled his eyes heavenward at the sight of Alexander chasing Delia Abernathy with a stick.
“Alexander John!” He cracked the back door open. “Stop terrorizing this instant, or you’ll get none of Mummy’s cake.”
He hurled the stick over the fence with an animal growl, and John shook his head.
“Alex is mad,” he whispered to Julia, still in his arms. “You’re quite lucky you’re not big enough to be out there yet.”
John melted, smiling. “That’s right, of course you are.” He forgot how self-aware she was becoming.
His baby would be a baby no longer sooner than he knew.
Julia had to be their last, full stop. Claire could not keep pushing out babies for the rest of her life, not now that she was a doctor. She’d gone through all of medical school pregnant and nursing with anywhere from two to four young children, putting school on hold for three different maternity leaves, Faith’s being longer than normal. It had not been easy on her, and not a day went by that John did not thank his lucky stars that he’d been lucky enough for Claire to take it all in stride, to want every single one of their five darlings just as much as he and Jamie had. Jamie and John were constantly taking turns holding textbooks in front of her to read while she breastfed, or quizzing her with flashcards while she “rested her eyes” after midnight when one of the babies had finally quieted for the night.
God, she was brilliant, and he had the honor of calling her his.
Perhaps he was daft, or just clueless, being that his Monday through Friday nine to five job had him in the house the least out of the three of them, at least while Claire was home on leave, but he was going to miss having babies around. He practically already did. But, John and Jamie had agreed to Claire’s terms of their getting vasectomies after they found out about Jules, and he couldn’t ask her to reconsider.
So he’d cherish his baby girl as much as he could, while he still could.
“Ye middle-named him, John?” Jamie called from the kitchen.
“Yes, I thought he was going to bludgeon Delia with a tree branch.”
John gave the kids outside one final glance before rejoining the cooking or, if you were Claire, drinking happening in the kitchen.
Alex was Christened Alexander John almost against John’s will. It had seemed so silly to name one of the children after him.
“It’s not like I’m dead,” he’d grumbled.
But when Claire and Jamie had drawled on at length about how they had Brianna Ellen for Jamie’s parents, William Henry for Jamie’s brother and Claire’s father, Faith Janet for Jamie’s sister, and Alexander for one of Jamie’s middle names, they said it was only fair that John have a namesake.
“William is one of my given names,” John had shrugged.
“Aye, but it’s for my brother. Come on, John. I ken ye dinna want to use your family like we do. And I ken well why. So use yer own name. You are the only thing yer family did right, even if they didna do right by ye. Give our lad yer name.”
And so, weeping, John had kissed the baby’s head and called him Alexander John.
John swept into the kitchen and Jamie beckoned him over, holding out a spoon. “Taste.”
John grinned and opened his mouth. “Oh, it’s perfect, love.”
Jamie beamed proudly. “Good.” He pecked John sweetly, then kissed Julia’s cheek.
“Where’s my Julsey?” Claire’s ears were flushed pink and her words slurred. “Give me my baby…oh, yes, hello.”
“Mama sleepy,” Julia declared as she settled into Claire’s lap. “Mama nap.”
Joe snorted. “Mama drunk.”
“Mama will nap later,” Claire assured her. “Mama will sleep very good tonight.”
Jamie hummed mischievously. “Aye, I’ll see to it.”
“Christ, Jamie!” John cried, aghast, blushing fiercely to have heard such a blatant innuendo in front of their friends. Claire just snorted, smacking Joe on the arm, who hooted himself.
“Lord help us,” Gail declared.
Oh, but He had.
John was married to not one, but two loves of his life. In his boyhood, when he realized who and what he was, he resigned himself to never marry the one he loved. It wasn’t possible. But Jamie had made it possible, and Claire had been his only exception. He’d resigned himself to be childless, and now here he was with five beautiful, healthy children. Yes, Faith struggled, but she was healthy. Claire was a perfect mother, Jamie a perfect father. He was devoted to their homeschooling like a professor teaching college. He was thorough and patient and firm when he needed to be. He was incredible.
And John…well…he didn’t think he was a bad father himself. His children adored him, he knew that much. They clambered all over him when he got home from work, and he read to them, taught them chess.
If he could find his fourteen year old self, sobbing in an alley, beaten bloody by his classmates because they knew before he did, he would pick the lad up and kiss his head, tell him that someday it would all be worth it. If he could find himself in the trenches, practically shitting himself with terror, praying for death rather than go on knowing that Jamie did not love him…God, the things he would tell that shaking young man.
“You’re going to be happy beyond measure someday. You’re going to have it all, even the things you thought you didn’t want.”
“You’re going to have a family again.”
That night, Jamie made good on his promise to Claire. He and John took turns kissing her senseless until she was panting and quivering with need. They undressed her together, piece by piece, kissing each new bit of exposed flesh as they went. They devoured her in tandem, pausing to kiss each other and taste her on their tongues on occasion. They brought her to climax, and then they undressed each other, something Jamie knew Claire enjoyed watching. Then Claire was pinning Jamie into the mattress, stuffing pillows under his lower back, exposing him for John. Grease thoroughly applied, John sheathed himself to the hilt, and Claire lowered herself onto Jamie with a shuddering sigh, kissing him as she did.
After a few moments, they settled into a rhythm, John thrusting, Claire riding. She sat straight up like a queen, leaning against John’s chest like he was her throne. This was one of Jamie’s new favorite positions. Watching her writhe on his cock while John touched her was one of the most erotic experiences of his life. It was like watching her pleasure herself for him, but watching someone else do it for her…it was indescribable. And then there was the fact that John’s growing arousal and pleasure from touching Claire was causing him to thrust harder and deeper into Jamie…they were all connected in that way, always. Whatever one did had an effect on the other two, however direct or indirect.
John pinched and tugged on Claires nipples none too gently, bit her neck and shoulders. The more times Claire gave birth, the more violent she’d begged them to be with her in their bed. She needed to feel everything so much more deeply than she had before five children had stretched her in every impossible direction.
It was why they’d used with more and more frequency the position where one of them had her from behind, on her hands and knees, and the other thrust into her mouth. She received no end of torment from both sides, one man tugging mercilessly on her hair, the other spanking her firmly and loudly.
But Jamie knew she craved it, needed it, loved it. So he felt no guilt in bringing her this delicious pain, not when it made her scream for them both.
Now, one of John’s hands left one of her breasts to trail down her stomach and disappear into her dark curls. She gasped raggedly, throwing her head back onto his shoulder, clenching around Jamie. The sound propelled John’s hips faster, and Jamie groaned.
He was teasing her, not taking up the pace he knew she needed, not yet. John liked to make her beg, and Jamie loved to watch him make her.
“John…” she whined, circling her hips, as if that could get her what she needed, and Jamie growled at the sensation.
“What’s that, my dear?” He squeezed her breast and did something with his fingers between her legs that made her squeak; likely pinched that little bud. Jamie knew all of her sounds anywhere.
“I…” She cut herself off with a humming little moan. “I need…”
“You need only ask,” he purred, and Jamie tightened his grip on Claire’s thighs, holding himself back from slamming up into her and ending everything right there and then.
“Please…” she whined, clenching around Jamie again. “Please, John, my love, my darling…”
John chuckled darkly, and Jamie nearly lost his vision as John dug his nails into one of her nipples. “That’s my girl.”
The speed of his hand between her legs practically tripled, and she cried out appreciatively, hoarsely.
He groaned and pumped faster and faster into Jamie, and Jamie moaned loudly. The very second Claire found release and clamped down around him with the strength she only found in oblivion, he would be done for.
“Oh, Claire…” he groaned, digging his nails into the soft, pliable flesh of her thighs.
“Jamie…” she whined, bouncing up and down on him with renewed fervor.
“Aye, lass…that’s it…”
Claire spread her hands over the expanse of Jamie’s chest and mercilessly pinched his nipples, and he yelped, thrusting up into her. She was now bent over slightly, riding Jamie’s cock and John’s hand, grinding against his circling, pressing, pinching fingers.
“I’m…” she choked.
“Ye’re close…” Jamie panted. “I can feel it.”
“Hurt me, John!”
John groaned into her neck, fucking Jamie impossibly faster. And then Claire screamed. Jamie knew what John had done, he himself did it all the time. When Claire was close, but not close enough, and she begged for pain, they roughly pinched her bud with their middle finger and thumb, maintaining the circle motion that she needed, then dug the nail of the pointer right into the center.
As predicted, the sudden tightness around Jamie’s cock, combined with John’s continual slamming right there had him following her right after, mewling like a kitten at the overstimulation. John did not follow, he kept pumping so desperately that, were Jamie a woman, he might have orgasmed again.
Instead of collapsing onto his chest as Claire usually did, broken and boneless after such intense release, she dismounted, letting his softening cock slip out of her. He watched in awe as she dipped her fingers between her legs, coating her fingers in her own natural wetness, moaning quietly as she touched herself. She moved behind John, and Jamie swore his cock stood right at attention again when he realized what she was doing.
“Bend over, John,” she said huskily. “Kiss him.”
He did, capturing Jamie’s lips fiercely, running his hands all over his chest, tangling them in his hair. When John choked against his mouth, Jamie knew Claire had found her target.
“Feel that, darling?” she crooned. “They go in so easily…because of you. That’s mine, not from a jar.”
“Oh, Christ…” Jamie groaned. If he wasn’t hard again before, he was now.
“Claire…” John choked, and then he yelped, likely because she put in more fingers. It was not long after that his hips stuttered, crying out to both his loves, and Jamie was filled with his hot seed.
John tended to Jamie’s newest erection while Claire cleaned herself up in their ensuite bathroom. He kept his eyes locked on John’s and held onto his face while he pumped Jamie with his hand. He was close, so close, with John alone, and then Claire came strutting back, naked and glorious, smelling of her soaps and herbs and mint toothpaste. She lay beside her men, swirling her tongue with John’s, moaning into his mouth like she was singing an aria, and that was what put him over the edge.
He shot his seed onto his stomach, and Claire kissed him sweetly and lazily while she cleaned him up with a warm rag, smelling sweet with soap. She cleaned up John next, and then she tossed the rag aside and flopped herself down onto Jamie’s chest. He hummed happily, kissing her head.
“D’ye feel properly celebrated, Doctor Beauchamp?”
She kissed his chest and laced her fingers with John’s as he settled on the other side of Jamie, facing her. “Quite.”
She was not Doctor Grey because she could not be doctor Fraser-Grey. So she chose to use her maiden name as her professional name. It suited her, anyway, Jamie thought. She didn’t need a man’s name to succeed in the workplace. He loved watching her stick it to everybody that doubted her.
“I really am so proud of you,” John whispered. “You’ve worked so hard, wanted it for so long.”
Jamie felt her smile against him, and then felt her body warm, like a hot water bottle on his side.
“Thank you, darling,” she whispered.
“Ye’re a marvel, Sassenach,” Jamie agreed.
“I couldn’t have done it without either of you.”
“You probably could have actually done it quite easier and faster without us.” John smirked. “Without our constant pawing, you wouldn't have needed all those leaves, all those breast feeding study sessions…”
Claire did not laugh, did not move a muscle. “Those were some of the best moments of my life.”
Jamie’s heart ached. God, it hurt how much he loved her.
“I wouldn’t change a damn thing,” Claire said fervently. “Feeding while either of you desperately fed me information, trying to cram shit into my brain while you both did the most ridiculous things to keep the children out of my hair…” She shook her head. “I cherish those moments more than you could ever know.”
Jamie dipped his head to kiss her, then kissed John, then watched as Claire kissed John over his chest.
“I cherish you more than you could ever know,” John said, looking Claire in the eye, but tracing his fingers over the hairs on Jamie’s chest.
After seven years of marriage, they’d each learned that when one said those sorts of things, they were saying it to both of them. They needn’t clarify anymore. It went without saying.
Jamie laid awake long after John’s and Claire’s breathing slowed and deepened, and he relished in the peace of their rest. Someday, it might not be so simple. The children would have to go to public school eventually if they were to have any sort of future. Someday, they’d learn about biology and genes and traits, and they’d look in the mirror, then at their three parents, and they’d wonder. Someday, they’d ask questions.
But for now, all they needed to know was that they were all loved beyond measure, and all three of their parents loved each other unconditionally in whatever way made sense to their young minds.
Someday, perhaps, it wouldn’t matter. Maybe not in his lifetime, maybe not in the children’s lifetimes. But maybe his grandchildren could marry, truly, legally marry, whoever they wished. Maybe his grandchildren could tell their children to call them whatever they pleased in front of anyone. Maybe they would not live in fear.
There'll be love and laughter, and peace ever after.
Tomorrow, When the world is free.