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That One Time

Chapter Text

Lallybroch

7 years old

 

“JAMES FRASER!”

Claire huffed and stomped.  She was getting tired of looking.  

“Jamie,” she whined, “come out!  I don’t wanna look anymore.”  

She plopped down on the grounds, not minding the mud and dampness seeping into her pants.  She sat there for what felt like hours before Jamie snuck up behind her and shoved her shoulders, yelling “HA!!!  Gotcha!  Ye couldna find me again!”

“I don’t like playing with you, Jamie Fraser,” Claire grumbled, arms crossed, pouting.

“Aye ye do.  We play every day after school.  And ye say that every time ye lose.  Ye’re just a sore loser is all.”

“Shut up.  Am not.”  Claire turned away from Jamie as he knelt and leaned over her.

Jamie tipped over laughing and rolled onto his side on the ground.  

Claire started to get up and said, “You’re mean.  I’m going home and tell Mummy!”

Jamie sobered up and quickly grabbed her arm.  “Dinnae go, Claire.  I’m sorry.  I’m only teasing ye.”  He held up his crooked pinky finger.  “I pinky promise I willnae do it anymore.”  

He waited.

Grudgingly, Claire raised her crooked pinky finger, twining it around his and they squeezed pinkies.  

“I’ll push ye on my swing.”

Claire brightened up at the offer.  “Alright!”

Jamie grabbed her hand and they took off at a run.

Chapter Text

11 years old

 

Laoghaire leaned over and whispered to her friend Geneva.  They glanced across the lunchroom at Claire, sitting alone at a table eating her lunch.  Claire and Laoghaire butted heads often.  But suddenly, this school year, Laoghaire had made it her life’s goal to turn all Claire’s friends against her.  Claire didn’t much care for Geneva, either.  She was spoiled.  Laoghaire and Geneva were a proper match as friends.  

 

Claire wondered, miserably, what rumors the two of them would cook up.  She saw Jamie enter the lunch room with his friends Ian, Angus and Rupert.  They all sat down at a far table.  When Jamie spotted Claire across the room, head down munching on an apple, he got up and took his lunch to sit with her.  His friends had learned a long time ago not to tease Jamie about the fact that his best mate was a lass.  Besides, Claire was good at shinty.  She was often the reason they won.  That, and her Mam made really good cookies that she always shared.

 

Jamie sat beside Claire, noticing her sullen mood.

 

He leaned over and whispered, “What’s wrong?”

 

Claire glanced over at Laoghaire and Geneva eyeing her with narrowed looks.  Geneva held a cupped hand up to Laoghaire’s ear and whispered something.  Both of them laughed, looked at Claire, and laughed again.  They gathered up the remains of their lunch and walked off, presumably on their newest mission to ruin Claire’s life.

 

Jamie followed her eyes and spotted both of Claire’s arch enemies whispering and hmphed.  “Dinnae give them a second thought, Claire.  There’s a reason no one likes them, ye ken.  They have to resort tae meanness tae get friends.”

 

“But they tell rumors to MY friends, Jamie.  And my friends believe them!”  Unbidden tears filled Claire’s eyes.  Before thinking of what he was doing, Jamie put his arms around Claire and hugged her hard to him, just like his Mam would when he was sad.  Claire sniffled and sat there for a minute surrounded by him.

 

Claire pulled back and angrily fisted her eyes.  “I don’t like crying!  And I wanna punch both of them right between the eyes!”  Claire’s eyes blazed with anger, which to Jamie’s mind was better than being sad.  

 

“MR. FRASER!”  Mr. McGonnagal’s blustery voice rose over the din of the lunchroom noise.  “Keep yer hands tae yerself, if ye please!”

 

Jamie’s face flushed with embarrassment and got even more red, if it was possible, when several boys gave catcalls and threw teasing remarks his way.  Mr. McGonnagal quickly walked over to the table where the worst of the teasing was coming from to set things straight.  

 

Claire rose.  “Come on.  Let’s get outta here.  Shinty should be starting out on the playground in a minute.”

Chapter Text

12 years old

 

Jamie knocked on Claire’s front door.  Her mother answered with a curious look.

 

“Well, hullo, Jamie.  What brings you over here?”

 

Jamie held up Claire’s books and a notebook.  “I brought Claire’s homework from school.  The teacher said she was home sick and asked if I wouldn’t mind dropping it by.”

 

“Ah.  I see.  Well, I’ll take it up to her.  Thank you, dear.”

 

“Can...can I see her?  I mean, if she feels up to it.”

 

“Well, you see...er…”

 

“Is she contagious then?”

 

Julia laughed nervously and palmed her cheek.  “Oh, no, dear...nothing like that.  She is just feeling a bit poorly is all.  She will be back to her chipper self tomorrow.  I suppose you could see her for a bit.  Come on in.  You know the way, of course.  I’ll be in the kitchen seeing to supper.”

 

Jamie walked to Claire’s room and knocked softly.  

 

“Come in,” he heard a small voice, which didn’t sound like Claire at all.

 

Jamie entered cautiously and saw Claire laying on her bed, curled up into a tight little ball, her face screwed up in a grimace that reminded him of the time that he ate a green apple and it curdled his wame for hours.  

 

“Hey, Claire.  Mrs. Campbell sent ye yer homework.  She said ye’d gone home sick.  Are ye alright?”  He kneeled beside her bed and studied her face worriedly.

 

“Noooo...I’m not alright.”  She whimpered and then to Jamie’s horror, she began to cry.  

 

“Should I call yer Mam?”  He started to stand up.

 

“No!  She can’t do anything else to make it better for me.”

 

He sat back down, puzzled.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I can’t tell you.”

 

He and Claire shared everything.  They had no secrets.  Like that time that he broke his mam’s vase and blamed it on Jenny.  He told Claire about that.  She told him about putting itching powder into Laoghaire’s gym shorts.  So for her to say she couldn’t tell him something just didn’t ring true.  They even told each other about “the health films'' they had to watch in school when they separated the boys from the girls.  

 

“What do ye mean ye can’t tell me?  We are best mates.  We tell each other all our secrets.”

 

“I know.  But I can’t tell you this.”  She grimaced more and curled up even tighter, if that were possible.”  

 

“But why?”  And then something hit him.  He gasped, “Claire!  Are ye…,” and his voice lowered to a whisper, “are ye dyin’?”  He crossed himself because, well, because it just seemed like the right thing to do when you asked someone about their imminent death.

 

“No, you numpty.  I just can’t tell you, alright?”  

 

“But why?  I dinnae understand.”

 

She yelled, “BECAUSE YOU’RE A BOY!”

 

Jamie’s head reared back.  He didn’t even know what to say about that and what in the world it had to do with being sick.  

 

She threw a little pink heart-shaped pillow at him and turned over onto her other side.

 

His jaw dropped and was stunned into silence.  She’d never treated him like this.  Not even when she was mad at him when he ripped her favorite shirt during a particularly brutal game of shinty.

 

He heard her sniffle and then she whispered in a tear-filled voice, “I...I s-s-started.”  She began crying in earnest then.

 

He frowned and then got up to circle around to the other side of the bed.  He gingerly sat beside Claire on the bed and tentatively placed a hand on her arm.  “Ye started what?”

 

“You know!  Oh, Jamie, I don’t wanna grow up!  I don’t wanna go through this every month.  I don’t wanna hurt!”

 

Oh.  

OH.

That.  

 

He recalled what Claire had scandalously whispered to him about the changes a girl’s body goes through after their respective health films.  His face heated and turned beet red.  

 

He didn’t know what best to say to that.  

 

Suddenly Claire sat up and launched at him, crying on his shoulder.  He sat there immobile for a second and then wrapped his arms cautiously around her, patting her on her back like his Mam did to him when he had a nightmare as a bairn.

 

Claire wailed, “Mum says that I am a woman now and have to start acting like it.  She said I should start playing with the girls now, rather than with the lads.  She said I shouldn’t be rolling around on the ground at shinty with the boys anymore.  She said I’m too old for that now!”  

 

Jamie didn’t understand what she was saying.  “Does that mean we can’t be best mates anymore?”

 

“Mum says I need to find more girl friends,” Claire said miserably.

 

They clung together longer in their misery.  

 

Claire pulled away and wiped her face and snotty nose on her arm.  “I don’t care what Mum says.  Ye will always be my best mate.”

 

Jamie felt relieved to hear that.  He nodded solemnly and said, “And ye’ll always be mine.  Pinky swear?”

 

They wrapped pinkies together and squeezed.  “Pinky swear.”

Chapter Text

14 years old

 

It was a particularly warm summer day.  Many had tried to escape the heat by heading to the local swimming hole.  

 

“Hurry up, Jamie!  Everyone is already here!”  She laid her bicycle down and took her towel out of the basket secured to the handlebars.  She kicked off her shoes and began shed her clothes, her new bathing suit being underneath them.  

 

Jamie sat his bicycle down and pulled his shirt off over this head.  He glanced over at Claire and suddenly his world shifted into slow motion.

 

That’s the very singular second that Jamie Fraser knew.  Just KNEW.  

 

Claire had bent over with her back to him to shimmy out of her shorts.  Jamie gasped when he really saw...SAW...Claire’s round, firm arse for the first time peeking out of her bikini bottoms.  She stood up and turned around and his eyes went to a place they had never gone before.  He looked at her breasts.  They were rounder and her nipples stood out behind the red fabric.  He had never seen how long her legs had become.  How shapely she was under her loose jeans and tee shirts.  She had developed curves in all the right places and…

 

“Earth to Jamie!”  Claire snapped her fingers at him.

 

Jamie blinked and shook his head.  Shite.  

 

“Hurry up!  I’ll race you to the water!”

 

He quickly plopped down onto the ground and propped his knees up to his chest, pretending to have a knot in his shoe.  “Naw, ye go on ahead.  I have a knot in my shoe.  I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

She turned and took off at a run and jumped into the water with a loud squeal.

 

Jamie finished taking off his shoes and then noticed an uncomfortable tightening in his swim shorts.  He looked down at the tent that was quickly forming and quickly brought his knees back up to his chest.  He tightly closed his eyes.

 

NOT NOW!!!

 

Christ!  He tried to picture anything but Claire and all her white skin showing under that red bikini.  He tried to think of anything but those nipples.  His brain just wouldn’t STOP.  

 

He rubbed his eyes and recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Rosary.  He thought of auld Grannie McNabb, who vaguely resembled a man and had more whiskers sprouting from her chin than she did.  He thought of the foul smell that came from Rupert’s oxters after a rousing match of footy.  

 

Warily looking down, it appeared that things had calmed down.  He stood, his back to the lake, and adjusted...things… and headed down to the lake at a run.  

 

He jumped into the water and doused Claire with a mighty splash of water.  She yelled and shoved water back at him.  He finally relaxed.  Apparently cold water worked, too.

 

Well.  That was new.  

Chapter Text

15 years old

 

Claire looked at the banner hanging in the school hallway, advertising the first school dance of the year.  Geillis had told her that she had a date and so did Louise.  They had boyfriends, so it was a given that they would have dates.  But Claire had never had a boyfriend.  She’d never had time or the inclination for such things, really.  She had a lot of lads that were friends, but none of them ever approached her with any inclination other than to play a game of shinty or the like.  

 

Taking her things to her locker, she put her books away and got her bag out.  She’d finished her homework during class time today, so she had the night free to do as she liked.  Slamming her locker, she walked down the hallway to the door and exited.  She liked to walk home by way of the practice field where the boys were practicing football.  She was proud that Jamie had earned a place on the team and liked watching them after school before heading home.  

 

Today, it was an unseasonably warm early fall day.  Most of the players had shed their shirts and played in shorts, sweat dripping from their muscled torsos.  Claire had never really taken time to stare at boys.  She hadn’t really been interested before.  Generally, they stank and were just gross.  

 

Suddenly, she spotted Jamie’s mix of red and gold curls breaking away from a crowd.  He got a lucky break with the ball and ran it toward the goal.  

 

“Nice work, Fraser!  Nice!!”  Coach MacNeil shouted.  His teammates congratulated him and slapped his back.  Jamie had had a growth spurt over the year.  His mam often complained of the difficulties of keeping her youngest son in pants.  She had never really paid attention to Jamie’s body, but suddenly she saw it with new eyes.  

 

He had muscles in his arms.  His shoulders were broader.  His limbs were longer and it seemed that he was finally comfortable in his “skin”.  Claire had often teased him with “Been walking long?” when he awkwardly tripped over his own feet last summer.  But now…

 

She watched as he grinned smirkily at a teammate.  She could hear his deeper voice that no longer cracked over the din of the noise on the field.  His skin, normally as white as her own, had changed to a golden color from working out in the sun on his family’s farm.  

 

She felt tingly when he looked up her direction and spotted her watching, leaning on the fence surrounding the field.  He grinned at her and gave her a short wave and then ran back to the sidelines where the team was gathering.  She watched the play of muscles in his back and thighs.

 

Claire’s breath caught.  He was...he was...beautiful.  

 

This was the second she knew.  

 

She just knew.

Chapter Text

15 years old

 

“Claire!”  

 

Jamie hailed her as she headed out the door after school.  “Hold up a minute!”

 

She turned and waited for him to reach her.  “I thought you had practice after school.”

 

“Naw, no’ today.  Coach MacNeil gave us the night off after our big win last night.  I wanted to walk ye home for a change and talk to ye about something.”

 

“Alright.”  Claire had gotten used to spending less and less time with Jamie and more time with Geillis and Louise.  She turned back around and together they began to head toward Claire’s house.  

 

They walked in comfortable silence until Jamie took her arm and stopped her.

 

“Claire, I...I…”

 

She waited, holding her breath.  She had hoped and wished for this moment.  

 

She watched Jamie struggle and then he took a deep breath, starting again, “Claire, I wonderedifyewouldgotothedancewi’me?”  He rushed the question so fast that it almost sounded like one word.  She noticed a little trickle of sweat on his forehead and his hand on her arm felt clammy.  

 

She felt giddy enough that she could’ve squealed, but she held it together.  She’d certainly never felt like that before.  And most definitely not around Jamie.  She didn’t want to look uncool.

 

She looked at him and noticed that he vaguely looked as if he might be ill.  His eyes looked almost fearful.  

 

She smiled and said softly, “Alright.”

 

His face lit up and he smiled, relieved.  But what it did Claire’s insides was anything but relief.  It caused butterflies and sparks to travel down her spine.  

 

When they looked back, they both thought of this moment as the day their relationship changed significantly.  They became more than just mates.

Chapter Text

15 years old

 

Jamie rubbed his sweaty palms on his trousers.  He stood before Claire’s front door, took a deep breath, relaxed his shoulders and knocked.  

 

Henry Beauchamp answered.  “Well hullo there, Jamie!  Come in!”

 

He opened the door wider and motioned for Jamie to enter.  Suddenly, Jamie didn’t know what to do.  Normally, he would have bounded back to Claire’s room and they would’ve done whatever they had decided to get up to as mates.  

 

But now, they weren’t just mates.  He had crossed the line to ‘Claire’s date’.

 

This wasn’t usual.

 

He shifted feet awkwardly, hands jammed into his pockets, and stood rooted in place.  Henry crossed the room to his chair and sat down.  Motioning to the sofa, he said, “Have a seat Jamie.  She’s almost ready.”

 

Jamie sat and placed Claire’s corsage on the table (his Mam had picked out two of her best silky white roses and surrounded them with sprigs of purple heather).

 

“And how are Brian and Ellen doing?  We’ve missed seeing them lately, what with them being busy on the farm and all.”

 

“Mam and Da are fine.  Mam has been working in the garden, o’ course, and Da is working on the crops as usual.  The whisky distillery keeps them busy, otherwise.”

 

Henry nodded.  He pursed his lips and frowned a bit.  

 

Jamie dreaded this.  His Da warned him it might be coming.  

 

“Jamie, lad, I realize that you and Claire have been playmates for...well, since nearly birth.  I trust that you both have a...er...respect for each other because of that.”

 

“Aye.”  He tried to sit up straighter.  

 

“Well,” Henry cleared his throat, “I just hope you treat her like the lady that she is and remember your manners, is all.  I trust you and know you come from a good family.  I just wouldn’t like to see my little girl hurt.  See?”

 

“Aye.  I’d never hurt Claire.”

 

“I know you wouldn’t, son.  Now, I realize you are driving now and I just want to remind you that you are carrying the person I hold most precious.  So mind your speed and all that.”

 

“Aye, sir.”

 

“And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you to keep your...well,” he motioned vaguely with his hand.

 

“Aye!”  Jamie interrupted.  “Da warned me, quite severely, how to act like a gentleman...and such like.”  Jamie reddened.

 

“Indeed.  Well.  Good, good.”

 

Well, that was awkward.

 

At that moment, Julia came down the stairs and announced, “She’s just coming.”  Both men issued drawn out sighs of relief, knowing that they were saved by the figurative bell.

 

Jamie and Henry stood and turned toward the stairs.  He saw a completely different Claire standing there than he had been mates with all these years.  

 

Her long dark, unruly curls were tamed into beautiful waves down her back, with the front gathered up on top and secured with a sparkly silver barrette.  She wore a short cream-colored dress with a filmy short skirt that showed her long legs to their best advantage.  On her feet were matching strappy heels.  She had the perfect amount of makeup on her face (she’d never worn makeup before, to the best of his knowledge) that highlighted her complexion.  

 

She was beautiful.  He was fairly sure he had forgotten how to breath.

 

She slowly descended the stairs, minding her step as she carefully navigated them in her unfamiliar heels.  

 

Julia and Henry, arms entwined, looked at him expectantly and smiled.

 

Jamie mentally shook himself and picked up the corsage and walked over to her.  

 

Claire studied him, dressed in his best dark navy suit, and whispered, “Hallo.”

 

He cleared his voice, lest it crack embarrassingly, and said, “Hey.”

 

He offered her the box of flowers that Mam had prepared.  “Mam sent this for ye.  She said she had talked to Julia and made this to match yer wee dress.”

 

Claire opened the box and gasped.  “Oh Jamie.  They are beautiful.  Thank you.”

 

“Would ye like me tae help ye put them on?”

 

“Yes, that would be nice.”

 

Ellen had shown Jamie how to affix the corsage to Claire’s dress straps.  They had practiced for what seemed like an hour before Jamie was able to master it without poking Jenny with the pins (he might have poked her a few times on purpose, though).  He fumbled awkwardly with Claire’s straps, trying ever so hard not to touch her creamy white skin (or take a glance at her cleavage, which was peeking over her bodice).  He finally managed to get it secure enough that it didn’t droop to the side and looked (mostly) straight.

 

He stepped back, then said, “Weel, we should be off, then.”

 

They headed for the door when Julia yelled, “Wait!  I nearly forgot pictures!  Come over here you two and let me get your picture before you leave.”  Julia lined them up where she wanted them.  Jamie and Claire nervously wrapped their arms around each other and smiled for the picture.  Julia took several shots of them, then assured them that she would text the best ones to each of them and Ellen as well.

 

Claire led the way to the door and Jamie shot around her to open it for her, mindful of his manners as Da had taught him.  Claire glanced at him startled and grinned shyly.  

 

As they walked down the sidewalk, Henry and Julia watched from the open door, arms wrapped around each other smiling as their baby walked away with their Brian and Ellen’s boy.  

 

Henry shouted, “Have her home by midnight!”

 

“Aye, sir.  I will.”

Chapter Text

15 years old

 

Jamie opened the door for Claire and reached a hand out for her to steady herself on her high (too high) heels.  She took it and slowly rose, taking care to try to keep her knees together as her Mum warned her.  She wasn’t used to wearing dresses, as Mum well knew, and had schooled Claire quickly on how to sit and be ladylike.  She smiled inwardly when she noticed Jamie’s face turning red when he looked at her legs.  He noticed.  

 

She liked it when he noticed.

 

She smoothed her dress down and took the arm that Jamie offered her once he had closed the car door.  She stood straight and tall, watching her step.  She noticed that Jamie had shortened his usual lengthy stride so she could keep up with him.  She was glad of that at least.  She was dreadfully worried that she’d break an ankle in these bloody shoes right in front of Jamie.  

She had been practicing walking in them since they bought them at the shop the day after Jamie asked her to the dance.  

 

Once inside, Jamie led them to a seat and offered to bring her a drink of punch.  She gratefully accepted, given that her feet were already aching.  Watching the crowd, she spotted Laoghaire right away making a beeline toward Jamie at the punch bowl.  Her eyes narrowed when Laoghaire grabbed Jamie’s arm and leaned into him, aiming a flirty in smile his direction.  She said something to which he politely shook his head and motioned in Claire’s direction.  Laoghaire looked at Claire, shooting daggers at her with her eyes.  Claire knew it would make her mad, so she grinned and gave her a friendly wave.  She saw Jamie smirk and then he excused himself and brought over two glasses of punch.  Claire continued to eye Laoghaire, who had stomped off in search of her next prey.  Claire decided she wasn’t going to let “Leghair”, as she had nicknamed her long ago, ruin her night.  

 

Jamie handed her the punch and sat beside her, sipping his own drink.  “Sorry about that.  I ken she was only trying tae get a rise outta ye.”

 

“I’ve already decided I’m not going to give her the satisfaction of ruining the evening.”

 

“Weel, that’s good.”  

 

They companionably sipped their punch in silence, only breaking it occasionally to remark upon couples that were there or unlikely pairs that had been thrown together just to have a date.  They watched other couples dance to the latest music on the dance floor.  Claire waited patiently for Jamie to ask her to dance.  She knew he wasn’t the best dancer, but she didn’t mind sitting by his side watching if he was more comfortable with that.  

 

In a few minutes, a slow song began playing and the deejay encouraged everyone to find a partner and come out to the dance floor.  Claire watched as chairs emptied and then hazarded a glance at Jamie.  She saw him swallow hard, take a breath, then asked, “Claire, would ye care tae dance?  I’m not verra good at it, mind ye, but I’ll try not tae look like a fish flopping on the ground.”

 

Claire giggled and rose.  “Come on.  You aren’t that bad.”  She took his hand and led him out onto the floor.  They came to a halt on the outer edge of the dance floor.  Claire placed her arms around Jamie and he followed suit.  

 

“Just rock in time to the music for now.  You’ll pick up the rhythm of it soon enough.”

 

She swayed slowly side-to-side as she smiled at him.  He kept getting out of rhythm, so Claire pulled him as close as she dared (what with all the eagle-eyed chaperones on the prowl for couples who were entirely too close) and told him to just follow her movements.  

 

Soon enough, he had the hang of it and they began to settle into the song.  She hummed along with the tune of the song and smiled encouragingly at him.  He returned her smile with his trademark smirky grin.  

 

As the night wore on, they became closer with each move and each dance.  After one dance, he led her by the hand off the floor to their chairs and he held onto her hand, placing their entwined fingers on his thigh.  Claire became breathless when his thumb suddenly drew soft circles on top of hers.  She blushed, suddenly struck shy at the intimacy that they had crossed into with just the simple circular motion of his thumb.  Her heart pounded in her chest as she glanced at him and caught him staring at her.  They both quickly looked away from each other, but invariably their eyes were drawn back to each other over and over as the night drew on.  

 

When the deejay called for the last dance of the night, Jamie (willingly) drew Claire out onto the dance floor for the final dance of the night.  He pulled her in as close as he dared and swayed in time to the music with her in his arms.  She had noticed several other girls that had placed their heads on their partner’s shoulder (without censure from the chaperones).  She slowly inched her head toward Jamie’s shoulder.  When her head finally made contact, she heard Jamie’s sharp intake of breath as she waited with bated breath to see what he’d do.  He brought their extended arms in toward his chest and rested their entwined hands there.  She could feel the steady beat of his heart against the back of her hand, in perfect time with her own.  His arm at her waist tightened slightly.  

 

As they swayed, it all felt so right, as if the fates were telling them THIS is the one.

Chapter Text

All too soon, the dance was over.   They separated slowly and walked back to their seats to gather their things.  Jamie checked his phone and realized Julia had texted pictures of them.  He quickly scrolled through them as Claire disposed of their cups and snack plates.  He stopped scrolling at one in particular where Julia had zoomed in and gotten their faces.  They were laughing at something witty Henry had said.  Claire’s eyes were sparkling and her face was glowing.  She looked so beautiful it quite literally took his breath away.  He quickly made it the wallpaper on his phone.  

 

When Claire returned, he pocketed his phone and got out his car keys.  It was only a little after 11.  They had an hour to spare before he had to take Claire home.  Some of their friends were going out to an all-night diner in the next town over, but they declined the invite, fearing that they wouldn’t be able to get home in time for Claire’s curfew.  

 

Claire suggested that they simply get drinks at the local fast food restaurant and drive around.  Jamie agreed to that readily.  They had the windows down, thanks to warmth of the early fall evening, and the radio was softly playing songs Jamie had carefully selected on a Spotify playlist.  As they drove to the outskirts of town, Jamie took a chance and chose a road off the beaten path.  The view was spectacular, though, and he always loved seeing the glow of the lights from the high point.  

 

“Would ye be alright wi’ me pulling over up here?  We could enjoy the view from up here a bit before I take ye home.  We don’t have to, ye ken...just...only if ye want.”

 

Claire eyed him and then nodded.  He could usually read her face like a book.  But this time, he couldn’t at all tell what she was thinking.  

 

He pulled into the overlook and shut the car off.  

 

“Did ye have a good time tonight?”

 

“I did.  I really had a wonderful time.”

 

Jamie smiled at Claire.  And then, “Claire, I...I ken we’ve always been mates.  But I was thinkin’, if it was alright wi’ ye, weel, I’d like to start dating.  Have a steady girlfriend, ken?”

 

Claire’s face fell, before she schooled her features and she looked quickly away.  “Well, what girl did you have in mind?”

 

It dawned on Jamie that Claire didn’t follow.  He had been watching his older brother, Will, flirt with girls for several years now and decided to give it a go. 

 

“Weel, she’d have tae be gorgeous, ken.  She’d be tall, so I wouldn’t get a kink in my neck.  She’d have long, curly, dark hair and eyes the color of my Da’s whisky.  Do ye ken anyone like that?”  

 

He turned toward Claire and inched his arm across the back of the seat.  He saw the exact second that the light bulb came on for Claire.  

 

She whispered, “Did you mean...me?”

 

He nodded slowly.  

 

He inched closer to her.  Christ, he was so scared right now.  What if she turned him down?

 

He saw her chest heaving and she looked like she was having trouble getting her breath.  She finally said, “Alright.”

 

He reached over and took her hand, relief flooding through him.  He could have taken rejection from anyone.  But not Claire. 

 

His Claire.  

 

“Claire, have ye ever kissed a lad?”

 

She shook her head slowly, then replied, “Have you ever kissed a girl?”

 

“No.  Never.”

 

He looked down at their tightly entwined fingers, swallowed and licked his lips, then looked up at Claire.  

 

“Can I kiss ye, then?”  He leaned in closer and closer until their noses nearly touched.  

 

“Yes,” she whispered.

 

He was sure his heart was going to explode right out of his chest, but he soldiered on.  He gently touched his lips to Claire’s and closed his eyes.  He pulled back slightly and looked her in the eyes.  She dragged in a deep breath, then threw her arms around his shoulders and drew him in for a second kiss, this time longer and deeper.  He felt her chest heaving against his and he could feel her breasts leaning into his chest.  Blood rushed straight to his groin and without meaning to, a deep, haggard moan came out.  He was embarrassed right up until he heard her moan in response.  

 

To hear her respond that way was everything to him.  

 

Christ, this is what it felt like.  He’d read about it.  He’d heard the older boys brag about it in the locker room.  He’d even snuck a wee keek at a dirty video or two...for science.  But no one ever talked about how it felt deep in your soul.  

 

It didn’t take long before they both became overwhelmed with how they were feeling.  Jamie, remembering his talk earlier with his Da, and then later with Henry, pulled back.  

 

“Claire, we should stop.”

 

Dazed, she opened her eyes and nodded, their foreheads and noses touching.  

 

“Did ye like it?”  He couldn’t help asking the question that was blaring in his mind.  

 

“I did, Jamie,” she said softly.  

 

“How do ye feel?”

 

She thought for a second.  Then, in a voice he hardly recognized, she said, “I feel like my heart is going to beat right out of my chest.  I feel warm and tingly all over.  And my tummy, down low, feels funny.  You?”

 

“Exactly the same.  And I feel like I want tae...tae kiss ye forever and never stop.  But I dinnae want us tae get...carried away...ye ken?”

 

She nodded, understanding.  

 

Jamie glanced at the time on the dash.  They’d have just enough time to get back in time for Claire’s curfew.  

 

“We’d better head back to town.  I dinnae want yer Da mad at me, ken?”

 

Claire giggled.  He loved that sound.  He leaned in and kissed her quickly one more time and started the car.  As they were buckling up, Jamie tried to discreetly adjust himself.  He was hard as a rock in his trousers.  Hopefully that would be gone by the time he got Claire home.

 

**********

Pulling up to Claire’s house, he got out and opened her door, offering his hand to her again to steady her.  As she got out, he couldn’t help but focus on how shapely her legs were in her short dress and heels.  She truly didn’t know how gorgeous she was.  How she hid her curves behind jeans and t-shirts.  How she had never really cared to enhance her natural beauty.

 

Closing the door behind her, he held her hand and walked her to her door, where the porch light was softly glowing in wait for them.  

 

“I had a lovely night, Jamie.  Thank you.”

 

“The pleasure was all mine, I assure ye.”  He’d heard Will say that once.  Claire looked like she was impressed, so it must have worked.  

 

“Text me later, alright?  I doubt I’ll be sleeping anytime soon.”

 

“Aye.  I will.”  

 

He hesitated, then decided to throw caution to the wind.  He leaned in and gave her a chaste kiss.  

 

“Goodnight, Claire.”

 

“Goodnight, Jamie.”

Chapter Text

Jamie and Claire texted for an hour before he was sure that Claire had fallen asleep, since she was no longer answering.  He placed his phone on his nightstand and fluffed his pillow, letting sleep overtake him.  

 

Jamie was deep in sleep.  

 

In his dreams, he was writhing with pleasure.  He couldn’t be still.  His muscles tightened, his breath quickened, and his blood flowed and pulsed like quicksilver in his veins.  He was aware of his body beating in time with something, but he didn’t know what.  He tried to press closer to that feeling and couldn’t find it, but he knew it was there, just out of reach.  There was a heaviness between his legs that he wanted to ease.  He lifted his hips, looking for something.  He pressed it back with his hand, and he found the heartbeat.  His mind cleared only for a minute and when a vision of Claire flashed before him.  She was wearing that red bikini.  Her hard nipples were rubbing against his chest.  He pressed closer and closer, the beat of the quicksilver in veins humming faster and faster.  Suddenly, it shattered and warmth flooded his entire body, spreading from his head right down to his toes.  He felt that beat and was nearly drunk with it.  

 

He jerked awake and blinked his eyes, disoriented, his heart racing.  As his senses slowly returned, he realized that his hand was tightly wrapped around his cock.  His hand and stomach were covered in a thick warm substance.  

 

Fuck.

 

Looking down to survey the damage, he’d kicked his covers down and his boxer briefs were shoved down to his thighs.  He quietly got up and walked to his ensuite bathroom and reached for a washcloth.  He dampened it with warm water and cleaned up the mess, then rinsed it and tossed it with the dirty towels.  

 

He stood at the sink and braced his hands, head hanging down, trying to get his breathing under control.  He’d had wet dreams before, but none of them had ever involved anything he could remember.  He still very vividly pictured Claire in his dream.  

 

He knuckled his eyes, trying to erase the picture painted permanently in his brain.  

 

He was tired.  

 

Sighing, he climbed back into bed and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

16 years old

 

Claire was standing in the doorway with Geillie and Louise.  There was a party tonight at Charlie’s house.  Charlie and Louise had been dating on and off for sometime now, and were currently back “on”.  Louise had invited Claire and Geillie to stay the night at her house and go to the party with her.  Both readily accepted.  

 

Claire hadn’t been to many parties like this before and was a little on the nervous side.  Several liquor bottles were open and scattered across every surface in the living room.  She could hear a lot of yelling and laughing in the house.  It sounded like a game of quarters was happening in the kitchen.  A couple sat in a wing-backed chair, wrapped around each other kissing deeply, ignoring all that was going on around them.  

 

Claire ventured, “Er, I don’t suppose Charlie’s folks are here, then?”  

 

Louise laughed.  “Oh no!  They are both away at a conference halfway across the country.  Charlie was allowed to stay home by himself and decided to have a party.  Everyone who he invited agreed that they would behave and not mess up the house.  Charlie’s afraid he’ll get caught.”  

 

Geillis gestured toward Rupert and Angus moving toward the game of quarters going on in the kitchen and said, “I can see why he would be.  Ye ken how they get.”

 

Louise nodded gravely.  “Which is why Charlie is following them around carrying a waste bin.  I’m going to go help him in the kitchen.  I’ll see you both later.”

 

Geillie’s boyfriend of the week waved at her from the corner of the room.  “I’ll bet Jamie’s here somewhere.  Why don’t ye go find him, hen?”

 

Claire nodded.  She and Jamie had gone on a few dates and had attended several school activities together through the year.  They had slowly gotten closer as the year drew on, but she could tell Jamie was trying very hard to keep things under control.  He was always the first to stop when they kissed.  He was always the first to grab her wondering hand before it traveled too close to his belt.  And that’s not to say that he hadn’t been tempted, either.  He’d nearly touched her breast one evening but he caught himself, apologized, and backed away.  She was determined to be patient, though.  He was right, after all.  

 

She skirted the crowd gathered in the living room, standing on tip-toe to spot Jamie’s tall redhead.  Turning the corner, she followed the yelling and laughter until she found the quarters game in the kitchen.  

 

And there was Jamie.  He was flushed and laughing as he watched someone bounce his quarter across the table into the shot glass in the middle.  It landed in a cup.  The crowd yelled and the guy yelled, “Jamie!”  Jamie picked up the shot glass in front of him and he tossed it back and with a shudder and a grimace, he sat it back on the table.  Everyone cheered.  Claire watched the game for a while and during that time, Jamie had to take three shots.  Finally, the game was over and they switched players.  

 

Rupert spotted Claire and yelled for her to join the table.  “Hey-ho, Claire!  C’mon lass!  It’s yer turn!”  She glanced at Jamie, who had moved back to lean against the countertop.  He grinned his lopsided grin at her and winked at her.  

 

She took a place at the table and the game began.  By the time everything was done, she had had to take 3 shots, herself.  Her head was buzzing and she felt nearly like she was floating outside her body.  She walked out of the kitchen and wandered down a hallway in search of Louise or Geillie.  She hadn’t seen them at all since they’d arrived.  

 

Suddenly a hand grabbed her and yanked her into a darkened room, the door clicking shut behind them.  It was dark enough that she couldn’t make out anything.  She blinked her eyes, trying to adjust, and stuck out a hand reaching for the person that was in there.  She could hear them breathing.  Finally she touched a warm chest.  

 

“Who’s there?”

 

A familiar husky, whisky-laced laugh made her relax.  “Who d’ye think?”

 

He grabbed her hand that was resting on his chest and pulled her close to him.  Closer than they’d honestly ever stood.  She could feel the rise and fall of his chest.  She could feel the heat emanating off him.  She looped her arms around his neck as he slid his hands from her waist to her back.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“I had a notion to snog my girlfriend.  Ye see, she is wearing this new outfit that is driving me crazy.”

 

Claire smiled, pleased.  Geillis talked her into buying these tight, low-slung jeans and had loaned her a short form-fitting shirt.  If she raised her arms, her shirt rose considerably, but not indecently (Geillis and Louise had assured her).  They had applied their makeup a little heavier and darker than usual to appear older, she guessed.  Geillie had worked her magic and tamed Claire’s dark curls into soft, gentle waves.  She thought she looked older, at least.  

 

Apparently Jamie approved.  

 

He kissed her with a little more enthusiasm than she was used to and didn’t mind it.  Suddenly she felt his warm tongue push its way into her mouth.  She tentatively touched it with her own.  They had never french kissed before.  She’d heard tell of it, but Jamie had held back.  

 

Not this time.  

 

Stars exploded in her head and she caught her breath.  A jolt of something...she could only liken it to electricity, shot down her spine and through her veins.  She felt lightheaded.  Jamie moaned low in his throat and tangled his tongue with hers.  She tightened her arms around Jamie’s neck and leaned further into him.  She felt his hands trail down from her waist to the top of her jeans.  She could feel his bare fingers on her skin.  

 

She was acutely aware of those fingers as they kissed.  They inched underneath her jeans and met up with the waistband of her thong (another new purchase attributed to Geillie, which she was most definitely NOT going to let her mother see in the dirty laundry).  He slowly traced the outer edged, feeling that which he’d never seen or dared touch before.  Pushing a bit lower, he met with bare skin on the bottom side of the strap.  

 

He pulled back and she heard his heavy breath, panting.  “Christ Claire.  What I wouldn’t give tae see ye…”

 

She kissed him again.  This time he grabbed her arse with both hands and pulled her into his hips, squeezing his hands.  He rocked against her and she felt him hard against her for the first time.  

 

Of course she knew what men looked like.  Geillis took great delight in flashing pictures of naked men on the internet at her just to see her blush.  Her curiosity had gotten the best of her when she, Louise and Geillis looked closer at the pictures Geillie had scrolled through.  She knew the mechanics of sex, of course, thanks to sex ed in health class.  She just couldn’t imagine how all...that...well, fit.  It just didn’t seem possible to her mind.  Mum had vaguely explained things in the most general of terms.  Julia found it very difficult to talk about it to her daughter.  And Claire found it even more difficult to listen to her talk about “it”.  

 

Jamie was holding her so tightly that she could barely breathe, yet she didn’t mind.  The alcohol had dulled her senses and made her less inhibited.  

 

She felt Jamie squeeze her arse tighter and he rocked his hips into her pelvis, slowly grinding them together.  She felt that addictive jolt of electricity move through her and she couldn’t help the moan that came out of the very depths of her.  She rocked back, liking the feeling, not quite knowing what to do, yet following what felt good to her.  Soon they set a slow rhythm of back and forth like the waves of the ocean.  

 

Suddenly, Jamie pulled back, their hips still pressed together, his chest heaving.  She could still smell the sweet peaty smell of whisky on his breath as he fought to fill his lungs with air.  Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the room.  They looked at each other, their senses overwhelmed with all the new feelings they were experiencing all at once.  They knew they were roaming into dangerous territory.  

 

Jamie whispered, “C-Claire?”

 

Their hips slowly rocked together still.  She could feel the hard length of him through their jeans.  Her fingers itched to touch it, to explore.  

 

She whispered back, “Yes?”

 

“Does...does this feel good tae ye?”  He pushed harder into her pelvis and hit a spot that caused her belly to tingle, rocking harder into her.  

 

She gasped as she felt the urge to reach...she didn’t know what exactly.  It just felt too good to stop.  

 

“Uh-huhhhh.”  

 

He turned them and walked her backward to the wall.  He edged his way between her legs and found the spot again, rocking slowly back and forth.  

 

“Can I...touch...ye?  I promise tae...stay on top...of yer bra,” he panted.

 

She nodded.

 

His left hand made its way from her hip to the hem of her shirt.  His fingers dipped under and slowly made their way up to her bra.  She held her breath as he softly explored the underside of her breasts, touching and learning her shape.  

 

As he placed his palm over her entire breast, she heard his breath catch and she felt the hardness against her leap, as if it had a life of its own.  He fought for air as his hand gingerly squeezed her breast.  

 

She felt his fingers brush across her hardened nipple and she gasped and moaned.  

 

“Do ye like that?”

 

“Yesssss…,” she whispered.

 

Just when she thought she couldn’t take another minute, he took his hand away and slid it down to the button on her jeans.  

 

“Can I...only on top of...yer knickers?

 

She couldn’t talk, couldn’t have answered if she had wanted to.  She nodded shakily, almost afraid.  But she trusted him with all that was in her.  

 

He fumbled with the button and zipper and slid his hand down, hesitating when he reached the edge of her thong.  Adjusting his position, he slid his hand further down and she felt his fingers touch her between her legs.  His fingers nudged and explored, sometimes a little harder than she would’ve liked.  She whimpered and he stopped.

 

“Did I hurt ye?” he breathed out.

 

She could only shake her head.  He leaned his forehead against hers and he explored a little softer.  

 

She almost didn’t hear him softly whisper, “Christ, ye are sae wet...so warm.”

 

Embarrassed, she tipped her pelvis back and his fingers slid forward.   

 

“Jamie, maybe...maybe we should stop.”  She was getting scared.

 

He took a deep breath and pulled his hand out, buttoning her jeans and zipping them.  “Ye’re right.  I’m sorry.  I dinnae mean tae go sae far.  It’s just that ye’re sae bonny and I cannae…”

 

He sighed and took a step back.  

 

She reached forward and put a hand on his chest.  She could feel his heart pounding against her palm.  

 

“I wanted you to, Jamie.  If I wasn’t ready, I would’ve told you.”

 

He hooked a hand around her neck and pulled her forward to kiss her.  “I dinnae ken how long I can wait, Claire.  I...I want ye sae badly!”  His accent, strong already, became thicker.  

 

Claire nodded almost imperceptibly.  But he felt it.  

 

She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket.  She almost ignored it, then decided to quickly check it just in case.  

 

Geillis:  Where RU?  We’re ready to head out.

 

Claire quickly typed an answer.  “I have to go.  Louise and Geillis are ready to leave.”

 

Jamie nodded.  “I’ll text ye later, then.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“I’ll stay in here a while to cool down.”  He gave her one final kiss.  “Bye.”

 

“Bye, Jamie.”

 

Claire cautiously opened the door, checked to see that the coast was clear, and let herself out the door.

Chapter Text

16 years old

 

Claire felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. 

 

Jamie:  Meet me after practice under the bleachers.  

 

Claire:  OK

 

Checking the time, practice would be over in 10 minutes.  She yelled as she headed out the door, “Mum!  I’m going to meet Jamie.  We’re going on a bike ride.”

 

“Is your homework done?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Alright, dear.  Be home in time for supper!”  

 

“I will!”

 

She mounted her bike and took off.  She and Jamie hadn’t had much alone time lately.  She found that the more they were apart, the more they craved each other.  She felt almost jittery as she pedaled, knowing that she’d see him in a few minutes.  

 

Reaching the bleachers, she glanced around and, seeing that no one was about, she got off her bike and pulled it underneath the bleachers behind the storage shed that was underneath.  She leaned her bike up against the back of the shed and stood next to it, excitement mounting as the time drew nearer.  

 

She felt him approach before she even saw him.  Jamie rounded the corner and dropped his gym bag, reaching for her.  His red russet hair was damp and he smelled like soap and some sort of after shave.  They stood, wrapped around each other, finding relief in their nearness.  Suddenly, he lifted her and pushed her back to the shed.  She gave out a muffled squeal as he lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist.  Claire held on around his neck and crossed her feet behind his back.  He looked at her with hooded eyes and claimed her lips.  

 

They kissed, craving all the things that they knew they couldn’t have, and craving all the things that they didn’t yet know about.  Jamie’s hands shifted and slid underneath the hem of her cotton athletic shorts so that he cupped the cheeks of her bare arse.  As their kisses became deeper and more...well, just MORE, she felt him shift her so that he rocked his hard length against her core.  This time, there was less fabric in the way.  Her thin cotton shorts and his gym shorts.  It felt so much better than before.  

 

Shifting again, he slid his hand up to her sports bra-covered breast and thumbed her hardened nipple.  She moaned, feeling the sparks fly all the way down to the spot he rocked against between her legs.  It vaguely registered in her lust-drugged brain that her knickers were soaked, aiding the friction that Jamie was creating.  

 

As the tension built between them, they rocked harder and faster, panting, chests heaving.  Without warning, Jamie squeezed her nipple a bit too hard.  The feeling caused her to gasp and she whimpered as the nerve-endings suddenly exploded between her legs.  She cried out as heat flooded her entire body.  She could quite literally feel the blood pulsing in her veins.  Between her legs, where Jamie was still furiously rocking, she became quite sensitive, each movement causing her to spasm and cry out further.  She felt her insides beating and pulsing, almost squeezing.  

 

She opened her eyes, quite dazed, and saw Jamie’s eyes tightly squeezed shut, his teeth clenched, head thrown back.  Abruptly, he dropped her legs to the ground and turned away from her and fumbled with his shorts.  A sharp cry emitted from him as his body spasmed.  He leaned into a support pole, fighting for control of his breathing.  

 

Claire’s legs felt like jelly and she slid to the ground, her legs splayed inelegantly.  

 

Jamie glanced over his shoulder with a sheepish look at Claire.  He fumbled with his shorts again and then turned back to Claire.  His face was red and covered with a sheen of sweat.  

 

“I’m sorry, Claire.  I didnae mean to let things go so far.”

 

Not exactly knowing what to say to that, she just nodded and smiled shyly at him.  

 

He cleared his throat awkwardly and asked, “Did I hurt ye?”

 

Huh?  “What?”

 

“Ye ken, when ye cried out.  It sounded like I had hurt ye.”

 

“I...I...no.  I don’t really know what that was, actually.  I just felt like my entire body exploded and then melted to jelly.”

 

Jamie's face changed from one of worry and concern to that smirky half-grin he did so well.  “Sae, ye’ve never felt that before?  Like that?  Tell me how it felt.”

 

Claire colored, embarrassed.  “No I haven’t.  Well, I got all tingly, like if you stopped doing what you were doing, I’d be disappointed.  And then I got this...this clenching feeling inside.  But not just there, though.  It curled my toes and my back.  Sort of like when you pull the bow back right before you release the arrow.  Then it was like a volcano.  Lava exploded...and...and it was almost like I could, you know, feel that in my veins.  What do you suppose that was, then?”

 

The more Claire described, the bigger Jamie’s self-satisfied grin got.  

 

“Ye’ve really never felt that before?

“No, I’ve said as much.”

 

“Weel,” Jamie took her hand and squeezed it as he leaned in to kiss her nose, “it sounds tae me like ye had an orgasm.”

 

Claire’s jaw dropped.  Was that…?  That was…?

 

“Speechless, eh?  I must write this down for future reference,” Jamie laughed.  

 

“Wait!  So when you turned away from me, did you...well, you know…”

 

Jamie turned a very charming shade of red and slowly nodded.  “It’s, weel, it’s kinda messy, ken, so I…”

 

“Oh.  I see.”  

 

And then,

 

“So was that your first time, as well?”

 

If Jamie had been red before, that was nothing in comparison to the shade that he became now.  “Erm, weel, uh...nae really.  I mean, it was the first time, with a girl, ken.”

 

“So when were the other times?”

 

“Gah Claire, that’s a wee bit personal, ye ken?!”  Jamie clearly didn’t want to talk about it, but Claire couldn’t help being curious.  

 

Claire leaned over and kissed him softly on the lips.  She whispered, “Tell me.”

 

He kissed her back and leaned his forehead against hers.  “In my dreams, mostly.”

 

“What do you dream about that brings all that on?”

 

Jamie rolled his eyes and grinned, knowing she wouldn’t cease until she got the answers she wanted.  “Mostly about ye.  One time, I dreamt of ye wearing that red bikini ye have and we did...well, we did what we just did, I suppose.  Other times, I don’t really know what brings it on.  It just happens, ye ken.  It’s called ‘wet dreams’.”

 

Claire nodded then grinned as the realization hit her.  “You like my red bikini, eh?”

 

“Och,” he pinched her arm lightly, “ye ken I do.  I like seeing all yer pearly white skin.”

 

They were startled when Jamie’s phone buzzed.  He pulled back to answer it.  “Hey, Mam.”

 

“Alright.  I’m just heading home.  Bye.”

 

“You have to go home?”

 

He frowned and nodded slowly.  “Mam has supper ready.”

 

Claire rose from the ground and Jamie followed her.  “I probably need to go, too.  Mum thinks I’m riding bikes with you.”

 

“I’ll see ye home, then, so it looks like that’s what we’ve been doing.”

 

Claire bent to pick up her bike and Jamie stopped her with a hand on her arm.

 

“Did ye like it, then, Claire?”

 

She threw her arms behind Jamie’s neck and kissed him thoroughly.  Pulling away before they started something again, she whispered in his ear, “Yes, Jamie.  I did.”

Chapter Text

17 years old

 

Jamie and Claire continued meeting after school or whenever they could escape.  They always had an excuse.  Studying for chemistry.  Going on a picnic.  Riding bikes.  Anything they could cook up to find time together alone.  

 

As time drew on, their habit of dry humping became less and less satisfying as they itched for more.  On one particular Saturday afternoon, Jamie had invited her to a picnic in the country.  They were gathering species of fungus for a class science project.  Jamie had several spots already scoped out, so their collection was rather quick.  But he had another thing, more pressing, on his mind.  And his jeans.

 

He sat his backpack down on the floor of the timber where they’d been hiking and said, “This looks like a good enough spot.”

 

“For what?”

 

He reached for her and pulled her close to him, “Hmmm...I can think of a few things that would be a lot more fun.”  He leaned in for a kiss, which quickly turned heated.  

 

Drawing away, he opened his backpack and pulled out a tartan blanket and spread it on the timber floor.  Dropping down and leaning back, he patted the spot beside him.  Claire grinned and lay down beside him, snuggled up to him.  

 

“We have an hour before we have to be home.  I thought maybe we could try something a little different.  Not...weel, all the way, ye ken, but a wee bit more.”

 

He kissed her and she responded by scooting closer to him.  “What did you want to try?”

 

“Can we,” he took a deep, nervous breath, “take our clothes off?  I want tae see ye sae badly.”

 

Claire looked a bit uncomfortable at that idea.  Fear was in her eyes.  He could truly read her like a book, and this time was no exception.  

 

“I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.  How about if we just undressed to our underwear.  Then, it wouldn’t be quite so, you know...ehm...tempting.”

 

Jamie felt disappointed, but he knew she was right.  He nodded and he sat up on his knees.  He took her hands and she followed suit.  Slowly, he reached for the hem of her tee shirt and inched it slowly up.  His fingertips felt the edge of her bra and his breath huffed out quicker.  She raised her arms and he drew her shirt off and it dropped to the ground.  

 

She slowly lowered her arms down and he couldn’t help it. His eyes were drawn to her chest.  She had on a thin pink, lacy bra.  He could clearly see the outline of her dark rosy nipples.  He slowly reached up to trace a finger delicately along the edge of her bra down to the cleavage there.  He knew all too well that she had gotten curvier as she had gotten older.  But sensing it and seeing it were two different things.  

 

His finger dipped into the cleavage and traced back up the other side of her bra.  He watched the rise and fall of her chest as her lungs fought to fill with air.  He could feel the fast beat of her heart in his fingertips.  His hand shook a little as he trailed a path along the pink lace to trace a circle around the rosy nipple that he could just see.  As he circled closer, he noted that the nipple tightened up and got hard.  He flicked it with a fingertip, causing Claire to cry out.  

 

Launching herself at him, she wrenched off his tee shirt in record time and ran her fingers up and down his chest, much like he had done to hers.  She ran a tentative finger along his nipples and flicked them.  He caught both of her hands and then placed them around his neck and drew her to him.  

 

He kissed her deeply; their tongues circling each other and dancing together.  Her pink lace bra rubbed deliciously against his skin in all the right places.  He trailed his hands down to her waist and then circled them around to the front to the button on her jeans.  He undid it and unzipped her pants and slowly pushed them down.  

 

He pulled back and looked her in the eye, carefully watching her reaction.  He could tell she was nervous.  Hell, he was, too.  His shaky hands and sweaty palms were a testament to that.  He drew her up to standing.  As she began to remove her jeans, he quickly undid his own and dropped them as well.  She had on the smallest pair of matching pink knickers he’d ever seen.  There was a small pink triangle in the front, just covering all her bits and two pink elastic straps led to the back.  He didn’t think it was possible for his erection to be any harder, but his groin proved him wrong.

 

Speaking of his groin, Claire’s eyes were drawn there.  

 

“Can I touch you?”

 

She’d never touched him before.  Not there, least ways.  The very thought very nearly made him explode.  He reached for her hand and drew her down with him to lay on the ground.  Pulling her to him, he took her hand and slid it down to his groin.  

 

They both gasped at her touch.  Gingerly, she traced the hard line of his erection.  He arched his back at her touch, pushing harder into her hand, wanting more than her featherlight touch.  She traced the arrow of hair that went from his navel and disappeared into his boxer briefs.  He thought for a minute that she would follow it below, but she hesitated and placed her hand back on his rigid length.  Reaching down, he placed his palm on top of her hand and pushed her hard into him as his hips rose up.  He moaned low in his throat at the pressure. 

 

If she kept this up, he’d come undone right here and now.  

 

Drawing her hand away, he pulled her over so that she was stretched out prone on top of him.  He spread his knees so that hers became wider and she straddled him.  Their groins aligned nearly perfectly.  Her grin told him that she knew what he wanted her to do.  Slowly she began to rock her hips against his length.  He pulled her down and kissed her, their tongues sliding in and out in time with their hips, replacing that which they both wanted desperately but couldn’t yet have.  

 

He arched his back and groaned as she ground into his cock and he nearly saw stars.  He could feel the wetness between her legs seeping through her knickers to saturate his own.  He was so close, but he didn’t want to be done yet.  

 

He helped her to turn around so that she sat between his legs and he sat up to support her, leaning back against the tree behind them.  His back would be sore from the bark pressing into his flesh, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.  

 

Reaching around her, he palmed both her breasts in his own, squeezing and kneading them.  She cried out as he flicked them and lightly pinched them.  He had learned to take note of her wee noises, which gave him immense pleasure.  When she cried out, he learned, she liked it.  A lot.  

 

He watched over her shoulder and saw her hips rise and fall.  He’d had it in mind to ask her permission and now was as good a time as any.  

 

“Claire,” he whispered in her ear, “will ye let me touch ye?  I want to feel ye between yer legs.  Tae make ye feel good.”

 

She whimpered in response.

 

“Please, Claire.  I need tae feel ye.”

 

She went very still and slowly nodded jerkily against his shoulder.  

 

His heart nearly exploded out of his chest at the thought of finally getting to touch her delicate skin.  His hand slowly made its way to the top of that pink triangle that bedeviled his mind.  Hesitating, he asked one more time, “Are ye sure?”

 

Her hips rose minutely and she moaned out, “Yesss.”

 

Sharp eyes following his fingers, he dipped them underneath the pink lace.  His finger met with coarse curls.  Her chest heaved as she panted nervously against him.  Lifting her knickers with his knuckles, and getting a peek of those dark curls, he slid his fingers down so they fully cupped her.  

 

She gasped and moaned at his touch.  His cock leapt against her lower back and ached with need.  Gingerly, he explored with a light touch, deathly afraid of hurting her.  He marveled at how wet she was, dripping with desire.  He had no idea.  Her desire fueled his own.  He felt the tip of his cock wet with his own juices.  

 

Braver, he pushed his middle finger further in and gently explored her folds.  Her knees dropped open and raised so he pushed a little harder against her skin.  He felt a particular part of the folds harden and raise up as his fingers continued to rub.  He knew he was in the right spot because her moans got louder and her knees opened wider as she pushed up her hips against his fingers.  

 

Braver still, he dropped his fingers down to circle the opening he felt.  He was truly nervous now, afraid of not doing something right, of hurting her.  He decided to let her actions be his guide.  As he circled, her hips jerked up and his finger slid in.  He’d never felt anything like it.  It was warm and wet, the muscles inside seemingly gripping him as if to keep him there.  As he slid out, she angled her hips back up on a cry and his finger slid in deeper this time.  Her wee cries told him she liked it well enough.  He didn’t really mean to, but a second finger slid inside when she bucked her hips up.  He thought he could feel the barrier there that protected her innocence.  He eased back a bit.

 

She cried out again, and then began to frantically grind against him.  Suddenly, she felt her hand push against his thumb and it dawned on him what she needed, silently thanking those videos he’d secretly been watching in his room at night to learn what to do.  He rubbed against her swollen nub and thrust with his fingers.  The faster he went, the louder she moaned.  She suddenly arched her back and he felt her inner muscles grip him tightly and she convulsed around him on a sharp cry.  Moisture flooded his fingers as she climaxed hard against his hand.  He slowed his pace until she dragged him away by the wrist.  She collapsed against his chest on a sigh.

 

He kissed her gently along her exposed neck and licked a trail up to her ear.  She shivered and turned in his arms, kissing him.  As her breathing returned to normal, she pushed him back so that he lay flat on his back.  She trailed her fingers across his shoulders, his biceps, then down to his ribs and finally to his waist.  

 

She looked up at him questioningly.  

 

He nodded at her and she slowly dipped her fingers below his waistband.  A single fingernail traced a line along his length and he shuddered violently and bucked his hips up toward her.  She closed her small fist around him and held him gently, exploring his length.  

 

Suddenly, he couldn’t take it anymore.  He wrenched his boxer briefs back and enclosed her fist with his own, guiding her firmly.  Her free hand dipped between his legs, exploring his balls just as they were tightening up.  She gently squeezed and that was all it took.  He shot thick, hot streams onto his abdomen and hers as well.  He couldn’t help the deep guttural groan that came out on a near yell as she continued to work her hand along his cock.  

 

Pulling her away, he collapsed back onto the blanket in a stupor.  Never had it felt so good.  And certainly never like that.  

 

As he lay there, he became aware that she had been studying him.  She watched as his erection went flaccid.  She traced a warm finger in a trail of semen, exploring, discovering.  

 

Suddenly, the alarm went off on his phone.  It was time to go.  They sat up and went about cleaning up.  He sheepishly handed her a napkin leftover from their picnic lunch and she cleaned off the wet spots he left behind on her stomach.  He dug a small hole and discarded the used paper napkins, then covered up the evidence.  

 

They quickly donned their clothes and packed the blanket up.  As Claire leaned over to pick up her back pack, Jamie stopped her.  He pulled her into a tight embrace.  


And whispered so softly in her ear, that she nearly didn’t hear him, “ Tha gaol agam ort .”

Chapter Text

17 years old

 

Ellen sat Brian’s cup of tea down before him and took a seat beside him, pulling the plate of biscuits within reach.  

 

She hesitated a couple times, tapped her slender fingers on the table, took a sip of tea…

 

“Alright.  Out wi’ it.  What’s botherin’ ye?”

 

Ellen looked at her husband with worried eyes.  “Ye dinnae think the kids are gettin’ up tae somethin’ that they shouldn’t be, do ye?”

 

“Kids?  Ye mean Jamie and Claire?”

 

Ellen nodded.

 

Brian frowned and took a drink.  “I dinnae ken, Ellen.  Ye ken as well as I dae that they’ve been attached at the hip practically since birth.  But lately...I just…,” he shook his head.

 

“Do ye think we should have a talk wi’ the lad?  I love Claire like my own, but I dinnae want tae see them borrowin’ trouble sae young, like....”

 

Brian frowned and nodded, gripping his tea cup, watching the tea leaves float about in a whirlpool.  “I ken.  I suspect yer right.  I’ll talk to him.”

 

Ellen laid a comforting hand on his arm.  “I ken it will be difficult for ye.  Nae one likes to talk tae their bairn about such things.  I ken ye’ll find the right words.

 

Ellen got up and took their empty cups to the sink.  

 

Brian was worried.  The lad had a lot on the line right now, what with a very promising scholarship to the university of his choice and his whole life ahead of him.  

 

**********

 

Julia dropped her head onto Henry’s shoulder as they “watched” the movie playing on the telly.  Both were off in their own worlds, contemplating what they should do.  

 

Henry finally spoke, “Dear, have you spoken with Claire about...well, sex?”

 

Julia’s head shot up.  “Why, of course I have.  Why do you ask?”

 

“Well, I just...I don’t know...I sort of have a feeling that the kids are getting a little more deeply involved than just playmates.  I mean, did you see how they were hugging on the porch the other night?”

 

“Henry!  Were you spying on them?”

 

He huffed and crossed his arms.  “Of course I was spying on them!  What’s a father to do but watch over his little girl.  You know how teenage boys get.”

 

Julia snorted.  She certainly did.  “I remember a certain teenage boy, in particular, that…”

 

Henry interrupted, “Well, those were different times, Julia.”  He sputtered more, but Julia stopped him.  

 

“Henry, I have talked to Claire.  In fact, we had a chat not that long ago about the very subject.  She assured me nothing has happened on that front and promised she would be careful.  She said she’d let me know if things progressed to the point that she needed to go on birth control.  I in turn promised her that I’d not ask questions.  I’d just see her safe.”

 

Henry stared unseeingly at the telly and nodded his head.  

 

They had to have faith that they’d have sense and be careful.  Even the village idiot could see the way the wind blew with those two kids.

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

Jamie and Claire just had their first fight.  

 

Claire caught Laoghaire hanging all over Jamie in the school hallway and he didn’t bother to push her away.  In fact, he seemed to be encouraging her.  

 

Claire stomped out of the school after classes were over for the day and began to make her own way home.  Normally, she’d have waited for Jamie.  

 

Not today.  

 

As she began to turn the corner, she heard Jamie’s voice over the mix of voices and cars starting in the car park.  “Claire!  CLAIRE!  Wait up!”

 

She almost looked back.  But she didn’t.  She kept on walking.

 

As she heard footsteps running up behind her, she turned and faced him.  

 

“Didnae ye hear me?  I called for ye.  Why didnae ye wait on me?”

 

“Oh I dunno.  Why don’t you go walk Laoghaire home?”  She recognized the petulant, snotty tone in her voice but she couldn’t help it.  She could have dealt with anyone.  Anyone at all.  

 

Except fucking Leghair.  Damn her eyes!

 

Jamie blinked and reared back.  “Laoghaire?  What d’ye mean?”

 

“I saw the both of you in the hallway just now.  She was draped all over you like gravy on potatoes.”

 

“Claire!  No!  I can explain…”

Claire violently shook her head.  “Not now, Jamie.  I just want to be left alone.  You know full well how I feel about her.”

 

“I do!  Claire, please…”

 

Claire turned away.  “Jamie, just leave me be.”  The tears started rolling down her face.  She didn’t want Jamie to see her fall apart.  She ran home, hearing Jamie’s tortured voice call to her.

 

**********

 

Jamie:  Claire, please answer your phone.

 

Jamie:  Claire, please!

 

Claire:  I don’t feel like talking just now.  

 

Jamie:  Well, at least let me know if you still want me to pick you up for Rupert’s party tomorrow.

 

Claire:  I’m going with Geillie and Louise.  

 

Jamie:  Oh.  Alright then.  

 

Claire:  Maybe Leghair would go with you.

 

Jamie: . . . .

 

Claire shut her phone off at that point.  She rolled over and closed her eyes, having cried all the tears that she could stand to cry that night.

Chapter Text

Claire stood in the corner of Rupert’s basement with Louise and Geillie as they watched the boys play a round of pool.  Louise and Geillie opted to stay with Claire, rather than run off with their boyfriends.  They were worried about her.  She had told them both about what she saw in the hallway and both of them sat with her for several hours Friday after school as she cried and ranted.  They tried to reassure her that Laoghaire was being her trashy self and that Jamie was likely innocent.  In fact, Geillis had it on good word that Jamie had been trying to get Laoghaire off of him and that she was putting on a show all because Claire was watching.

 

Claire just wouldn’t hear it.  

 

Claire had confiscated a bottle of whisky and sat in the corner, surrounded by Geillie and Louise who were casting worried glances at her.  Geillis kept feeding her bits of food and Louise made her drink a glass of water to counteract all the alcohol.  

 

Claire stood, “I’ll be back.  I have to pee.”

 

Claire walked to the far side of the basement and shut the bathroom door, locking it behind her.  She emptied her bladder (she knew what Geillie and Louise were up to, and she was thankful she had such good friends to take care of her), then washed her hands and leaned over the sink and splashed some water on her face, then toweled it off.  She could hear voices raised and the commotion became significantly louder.  Several more party-goers had apparently arrived.  

 

Taking a deep, somewhat cleansing breath, Claire opened the door.  And saw red.

 

Standing at the back of the hallway was Jamie with his back to the wall, his palms to the wall.  In front of him was Laoghaire, plastered to him, kissing him.  

 

His eyes were open.  They widened slightly when he caught sight of Claire.  

 

She willed her feet to walk away.  So that’s how he wanted to play this, eh?  Well.  Two can play this game.

 

**********

 

Jamie was shooting daggers at her from across the room.  Good.  

 

Her laugh was a little too loud as she reacted to some stupid joke Phillip Wylie told her as he flirted with her.  She leaned into Phillip a bit as she laughed and he promptly snaked his arm around her and grinned at her wolfishly.  

 

Claire was well and truly drunk by this point.  She would never have given Phillip Wylie the time of day, otherwise.  But he was here...and Jamie hated him...and well…

 

To her alcohol-saturated mind, it just made sense.  

 

But Claire was still alert enough to know that Laoghaire was making a total move on Jamie.  By this point, she was sitting on his lap in the opposite corner and was kissing him, but this time Jamie wasn’t pushing her away.  Claire’s temperature rose in direct correlation with her temper.  This time, it was not a question.  Jamie was participating in the kiss.  

 

Abruptly, Claire rose on unsteady feet and pulled Phillip up by the hand.  She said, a little too loudly, “C’mon Phillip.  Let’s you and I go find somewhere a little less crowded.”  She saw Jamie pull away from Laoghaire’s attentions out of the corner of her eye and saw that he was watching, his jaw dropped and a look of murder in his eyes.  

 

Good, she thought.  Serves him right.  

 

**********

 

She was debating with herself about the wisdom of having invited Phillip Wylie to go to a less crowded place with her.  He was currently like an eight-armed octopus, hands everywhere, his lips too wet on her face and neck.  

 

She had drunk just enough alcohol that she almost felt slow and uncoordinated.  As she swatted away his hands, she reached air instead.  How could he move so fast?!

 

“Stahhhppp, Phillip...I don’t wanna…,” she said as he smashed his mouth to hers again.  

 

Before she could even react, she heard the door bang open against the wall and felt Phillip being pulled away from her.  She blinked her eyes several times, trying to focus on what was happening.  

 

“Get out of here before I kill ye!”  The voice was deadly quiet.

 

Oh.  She knew that voice.  That was just Jamie...her head rolled back against the wall.  She was getting a bit drowsy now.

 

She jumped as she heard banging around and blinked her eyes again.  Then the door slammed shut.  

 

“Claire?  Are ye alright?  Claire?”

 

Oh...was that Jamie again?  She thought he’d left.  She frowned.

 

She swatted the hand that was on her cheek.  “Yesss, I’m fine.  Go ‘way.”

 

“I swear if that motherfucking bastard laid a hand on ye, I’ll…”

 

And then she remembered.  Laoghaire.  Shit.  How could she forget that?

 

“Oh, you mean like that...that...Leghair had her hands all over you and her tongue shoved down your throat, eh?  Like that?”  She moved her hands all over Jamie’s body, mimicking what she’d had to endure.  

 

“Claire, I…”

“Did you like it when she kissed you, Jamie?”  She was quickly coming out of her near drunken stupor.

 

“No!  Did you like it when that shite-faced Wylie was pawin’ ye?  And slobbering all over ye?”

 

“What if I did?”

 

“YE NEVER DID!”

 

“I DID!”  She stood up and grabbed for the wall as she got a bit dizzy.  Jamie launched himself at her then.

 

“Do ye ken what that did tae me, then?  DO YE?!  Do ye ken how it tore me up inside as he was touchin’ ye...feelin’ what’s MINE?!”

 

“I’m not yours!”

 

He roared, “YE ARE MINE!  Ye’ve always been mine!  Mine and no one else’s!”  He shook her then, almost like a ragdoll.  “Mine and only mine forever!”

 

He pushed her against the wall and kissed her.  

 

Pulling away by tilting her head to the side sharply, she reached up and slapped him in the face.  

 

They stood there looking at each other, chests heaving.  

 

As one, they launched at each other.  He kissed her savagely, breathing raggedly through their noses as their hands tore at each other’s clothes.  They stripped each other bare, too lust-filled and angry to care about anything else, where they were, or the boundaries that they had strictly observed thus far with each other. 

 

Jamie lifted Claire up against the wall and put his lips to her nipple and sucked hard.  He’d never done that before and it enflamed Claire like she’d never been turned on before.  She felt his hard cock throbbing between her legs and she rocked against it like before, but this time it was skin against skin.  She leaned her head back against the wall and moaned as Jamie rocked with her.  

 

“Christ, Claire, I need ye!  Please, please say ye’ll have me!”

 

She was drunk alright.  Drunk on him.  She needed…

 

“Claire...ye need tae say it...I cannae...oh god...please say…”

 

“Yesssss.”

 

**********

 

And he turned with her and laid her on the bed, then crawled up between her legs.  He took his cock in his hand and pumped it a few times, then centered himself at her warm, wet opening.  “Tell me it’s okay...we can stop if ye dinnae want to, but once I’m inside ye, I dinnae think I can.”

 

“Do it.  Nowww,” she whispered, breathing raggedly.

 

He eased inside her and she gasped, whimpering.  Then he took a breath and plunged in, breaking through the membrane that he had so carefully preserved previously.  

 

Claire let out a thready, almost pained moan.  He held himself still for a minute, his forehead resting on hers, his arms shaking with holding back, as they both got used to each other.  

 

When she nodded at him, he slid slowly out and back in, not exactly sure what to do, but going purely on instinct now.  He leaned down and kissed her again, the fumes from the whisky they had consumed mingling, dulling all their senses except for where they were joined.  

 

She was so tight and felt so good.  He knew he wouldn’t ( couldn’t ) last long.  He thrust inside her one more time.  And then he meant to pull out.  He really did.  

 

Except he wasn’t prepared for the grip of Claire’s muscles on his cock as she tightened around him and pulsed.  She came on a silent scream.  And he joined her.  

 

They tumbled right over the edge together.

 

It didn’t hit them until later as they lay together, breathing returning to normal, that they hadn’t used birth control.  

 

But it was only once.

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

Claire looked at the calendar and frowned.  She counted the days again, sure that she had miscounted.  

 

Stepping back, she dropped her hand limply back to her side.

 

She didn’t.  

 

47 days.  

 

She’d never been late a day in her life.  

 

She tried not to panic.  It could be stress.  It could be that she could be late a few days.  19 days to be exact.  

 

Geillis looked at her with sympathetic eyes from where she sat on Claire’s bed. 

 

“Do ye think ye are pregnant, hen?”  Her whisper was full of all the fear that Claire herself felt.  

 

Claire whispered, “I dunno.”

 

“Louise will be here in a second with the tests.  Try to relax until ye ken that ye have tae worry,” Geillis rubbed her back.  

 

**********

 

It was time.  

 

Geillis and Louise looked at Claire with wide eyes.  

 

Louise spoke softly, “Do you want me to look for you?”

 

“No, I’ll do it.”  

 

Claire looked and her stomach dropped to her feet.  

 

They were the clearest double pink lines she’d ever seen in her life.  

 

She was pregnant.

 

She felt Geillie and Lou wrap their arms around her and held her as she collapsed to the bathroom floor and cried.

Chapter Text

Claire waited on the bench in the deserted park, snuggled into her heavy winter coat.  She shoved the snow on the ground with her wellies.  

 

How was she ever going to tell him?  What were they going to do?  This would change their lives forever.  And what would Jamie do about his football scholarship?  He was lucky enough to receive a full ride playing footy at the University of Edinburgh.  She had planned to study nursing.  How could she attend uni and have a baby?  And Christ...their parents.  A tear rolled down her cheek.  It was only the one time.  

 

Just once.

 

They hadn’t really spoken much since that night.  They were both miserable.  Claire kept busy at home studying and trying to avoid Jamie.  Jamie kept busy with his sports schedule, studying, chores at home, and avoiding Laoghaire.  He had also taken a very determined stance on Leghair.  Geillie said that she had heard Jamie arguing with Leghair after school the week after “that one time”.  He told her that he was sick of her trying to get her claws into him and orchestrating things so it looked like he was accepting of it all in front of Claire.  Geillie said he was pissed that he let Leghair coerce him into a revenge snog after Claire had taken up with Phillip.  Jamie had yelled at Laoghaire two weeks ago in the hallway at school in front of everyone for sneaking up behind him at his locker and wrapping her arms around him.  Louise, who saw it all happen, had told her that Jamie told Leghair to never touch him again, that he wasn’t interested in anyone but Claire, and he’d thank her to remember that in future.

 

That little bit was what Claire clung to just now.

 

“Claire?”

 

She jumped when she heard Jamie approach.  She hadn’t even heard him arrive in his car.

 

Sitting down, he took her gloved hand in his own.  “What’s happened?”  He frowned at her, concerned.

 

She looked up at him and tears flooded her eyes.  

 

She whispered so softly that he couldn’t hear her, but he could certainly read her lips, her face.

 

“I’m pregnant.”

 

His face fell.  

 

“Noooo, Claire.  Are ye sure?”

 

She nodded.  Geillie and Louise had taken her to the free clinic in Edinburgh (under the guise of shopping) and she had a pregnancy test done.  She was most definitely pregnant.  And she knew exactly how far along she was.  Because it had been only the one time.  

 

“What are we to do, Jamie?”  She fell into his arms as the tears streamed down her face.  

 

Stunned, he whispered, “I dinnae ken.  I dinnae ken.”

 

He pulled back, taking her face in his hands, and her tears broke his heart.  “ Mo nighean donn .  I am so very sorry for what I did that night.  That fucking Laoghaire!  I shouldna have let her trap me in the hallway.  I shouldna have let her talk me into getting revenge on ye when ye took off wi’ that arse Wylie.  And most of all, I shouldna have touched ye in anger.”

 

Claire looked down at her hands shredding the tissue she held.  “Why did she trap ye in the hallway?”

“I dinnae ken.  I was walking out of the back room and she was there.  She launched herself at me and surprised me.  Ye had walked out of the bathroom right as she did that.  I pushed her away, but ye had already walked off.”

 

“And why did you let her kiss you when I was with Phillip?”

 

“Christ Claire, I dinnae ken.  I was an idiot.  I saw ye wi’ him and I...I...I guess I just wanted tae get back at ye.  Laoghaire convinced me that that was the best way to get back at ye.  I shoulda never ha’ listened to her scheming arse.”  He frowned deeper, shaking his head slightly.  Then, “Why did ye let Wylie kiss ye and touch ye?”

 

Claire sighed out on a long breath.  “I suppose for the same reason.  It was all wrong.  Just all of it.  Wrong.  So Laoghaire was pulling her usual crap to get you and to make me mad.  Big surprise.  She’s always wanted you for herself and will stoop to any level to get you.”

 

Jamie put an arm around Claire, pulling her in closer to him.  “She cannae have what isna hers.  Nor will ever be and I told her as much.  I’ve been yers since we were little, Claire.  Ye’ve always held my heart and my soul.  Can ye ever forgive me?”

 

“Oh, Jamie.  What have we done?”  She began crying again and Jamie held her and wiped away her tears.  

 

“Claire, look at me.”  He held her face gently, wiping tears away with his thumb.  “I’ve always kent my own heart.  I’ve wanted ye fer my own since I can remember.  I didnae expect tae have tae ask this o’ ye so soon, but it IS what I’ve always wanted.  Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, I’ve loved ye forever.  Will ye marry me?”

 

Claire caught her breath, then whispered, “You love me?”

 

He nodded, a small smile on his face.  “Do ye think ye could ever love me?”

“Oh Jamie, you know I love you.  I always have.  I can’t remember a time I didn’t love you.”

 

“Well, then?”

 

She threw her arms around him.  “Oh, yes, Jamie.  Yes.”

 

They were quiet for some time, clinging to each other.  Finally Jamie pulled back and reached for her hand.  “I owe ye an apology,” he gave a short hmph.  “Actually, I owe ye a whole lot o’ apologies.  I was stupid.  I was angry and I was jealous.”

 

Claire wiped a tear off her face, then tightened her hand holding his.  “And I owe you an apology.  I didn’t give you the chance to explain.  I didn’t trust you.  And I was also angry and jealous, too.  I’ll forgive you, if you’ll forgive me for being a fool.”

 

As they held onto each other, whispering that they were sorry...so sorry...they cried for all that they had lost, the snow began to fall around them.  

 

**********

 

Coming to the conclusion that they had little choice in the matter, they made plans to speak to their parents.  They decided to call their parents to meet together at Claire’s house so they could all discuss it together, just the once.  

 

As their parents sat around them, their faces betrayed a wide range of emotions when Jamie told them.  Shock, anger, fear, disappointment.  But surprise was not one of them.  Not a single parent in that room was surprised.  

 

“Julia, I told you they were getting up to something!” Henry exploded.  Claire and Jamie sat back and watched as their parents argued back and forth, aiming fault here and there.  Best friends had quickly turned on each other as they defended their child.  

 

We didn’t raise him that way!

 

She had been drinking and he took advantage of her!

 

He had just as much to drink and she could’ve stopped him!

 

Why wasn’t she on the pill?

 

Why didn’t he have a condom?

 

He’ll lose his scholarship!

 

She’ll be judged and made fun of.

 

And on and on.  

 

Jamie and Claire clung to each other, reduced to shame and tears while they watched their parents argue and sling words at each other.  

 

This is not how they imagined it.  Not at all.  

 

Finally, Jamie stood up and quietly interrupted, “I’ll be marryin’ Claire.  And we’ll no’ be giving up this baby for adoption.  This is our responsibility together.  I’ll no’ be walkin’ away from her.”

 

Four dropped jaws looked in his direction.  

 

Then four people spoke at once, informing him of all the reasons that he wouldn’t be doing any such thing.  

 

Henry aimed a finger at Jamie and shook it, “You’ll damned well NOT be marrying MY daughter!  She can...she can go to live with a relative, have the baby and then give it up for adoption.  No one will be the wiser.  And she won’t have to marry this...this...”

 

Claire stood up beside Jamie and took his hand.  “Daddy, I’m going to have this baby and I’ll be marrying Jamie.  We are in this together.”

 

“Well, I’ll be damned if I’ll support either of the two of you, then!  You’ll be doing this on your own!”

 

Julia paled, “Henry!  No!”

 

“I mean it Julia!  NO!”

 

The room became deathly quiet.  Henry stomped off and with a helpless look, Julia took off quickly after him. 

 

Ellen spoke up quietly.  “Claire, go pack a bag.  Ye’ll come home with us.”

 

**********

 

Claire packed all the clothes that could fit in her luggage and stood in the doorway looking at her room, for what might be the final time.  She could hear her parents arguing loudly downstairs in their room just below hers.  

 

She knew it would be difficult, but she never, ever dreamed her own father would turn his back on her.  

 

She quietly shut the door and went out to the car, where the Frasers waited.

Chapter Text

The air at the Fraser household was heavy enough to cut with a knife.  Ellen had shown Claire to the guest room and Brian had brought her luggage in, setting them on the floor.  

 

Jamie stood helplessly in the doorway, desperate to smooth things over with his parents.  Desperate to ease the way for Claire.  Desperate to travel back in time and to take back that one time that changed their lives forever.  

 

Finally Ellen spoke up.  “Have ye seen a doctor yet, then?”

 

Claire nodded.  

 

“And ye’re both sure that this marriage is what yer wanting?  I mean, have ye really thought through the whole thing?  This could ruin both yer chances at university.  A bairn is difficult enough, but wi’ yer studies on top of it, it could be just more than ye can both handle.  Adoption could be…”

 

Jamie interrupted, “No, Mam.  This bairn is ours.  We will no’ be giving it up.  I’ll no’ have it.”

 

Brian looked at Claire.  “Is this what ye want as well?”

 

Claire’s eyes shifted down to the floor.  “I...I…,” and she promptly fell to the floor in a faint.  

 

At once, all three Frasers leapt to the crumpled girl laying in a heap on the rug.  Ellen issued orders for Brian to get a damp cloth as she fanned Claire’s face with a magazine that was on the bureau.  Jamie fretted over Claire as he held her hand and tapped her cheek trying to get her to wake up.

 

Brian returned with the cloth and handed it to Ellen, who swiped at her clammy skin and draped it over Claire’s pale forehead.  

 

After what seemed like an eternity (it had only been 15 seconds, if that), Claire’s eyelids fluttered and opened.  

 

“Wha...what happened?”  She tried to sit up but she was held back by three Frasers, who wanted her to lay right where she was.

 

Jamie, nearly as pale as Claire, said, “Ye passed out, Claire.  Are ye alright?”

 

He patted her face gently with the damp cloth as her color gradually returned to normal.  “I think so.  I don’t know what happened.  One minute, I was fine and the next, I started to see spots and I just…”

 

Ellen took the damp cloth from her son and helped Claire to sit on the edge of the bed.  “When was the last time ye ate?”

Claire frowned, in thought.  She hadn’t had anything to eat all day.  She couldn’t eat her breakfast that morning as she was sure it would not stay down.  And she’d missed lunch since she had decided to tell Jamie at the park.  Glancing at the window in the room, it was nearly dark.  

 

“I suppose I haven’t had anything since supper last night.”

 

Ellen gasped, “Weel, Jesus, Mary and Joseph!  Ye must be starvin’ then!  I’ll fix ye a tray straight away.”  She headed for the door and then turned back.  “Jamie, ye will unpack for Claire and help her get settled on the bed so she can rest.  Brian, ye can help me in the kitchen.”  She aimed a meaningful gaze his direction.  Brian took the hint and followed, closing the door gently behind him.  

 

Jamie busied himself with fluffing the pillows and helping Claire to recline against them.  He covered her with a plaid throw and sat beside her.  

 

He picked up her hand and held it.  “Claire, I dinnae ken what tae say.  Only that I’m sorry.  I ken I’m tae blame and shoulda…”

 

Claire interrupted, “You aren’t to blame, Jamie.  We were both there.  I may have had a bit too much to drink, but I knew exactly what I was saying when you asked me if we could.  I said yes.”

 

“But I shoulda never have touched ye wi’out a condom.”

 

“And I should have never let you touch me without being on birth control.  Like I said, we are equal in this.”

 

Jamie nodded minutely, a small tear dropping from his eye.  He swiped it quickly away with the flick of a finger and sniffed.  When he could speak again, he could only manage a whisper.  “I’m scared.  I’m scared that we are too young tae do this.  I’m scared that I won’t be able tae take care o’ ye.  I’m scared of how we’ll be treated at school.  I’m scared that I’ll lose my scholarship.  I’m scared that we won’t be able to go to university like we planned.  I’m scared that I won’t ken how to be a husband and a father.  I’m just...I’m scared.”

 

He looked at Claire, misery written all over her face.  For once, he let his feelings show plain on his face.  Claire wiped a tear away and took his free hand.  “I’m scared of all those things, too.  I'm scared of all those looks I’ll get.  People staring and judging me.  I am worse than scared of giving birth.”

 

Jamie nodded, understanding.  He looked down at their joined hands.  “Somehow, this isn’t how I imagined any of this for us.  I saw our first time so differently when I dreamed of it.  I saw ye laid out on a bed, wi’ yer hair all around ye.  There would’ve been candles and soft music.  I would’ve taken my time wi’ ye and learned all the things ye liked.  Ye didna deserve tae be taken on a bed in a musty basement when we had both been drinking and angry.  

 

“Ye deserve tae have been cherished.  I didna do right be ye, Claire.  I fucked up.  I’m that sorry.”  

 

“And I fucked up, too,”  Claire insisted.  “We are in this together.”  

 

He nodded, enveloped her in his arms and they held each other, crying for all that was lost...all that could have been...until Ellen softly knocked on the door, bringing in trays of food for both of them.

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

Claire placed her lunch tray on the table.  Picking up her fork, she shoved the food around on her tray, trying to ignore the eyes that stared at her.  She felt them.  Every last one of them was boring down on her.  The sly glances.  The downright scandalized stares.  She felt the reactions as if they were almost a sixth sense.  The dropped jaws as she passed by.  The whispers.  The gossip and rumors.  The judgement.  The hushed conversations as she entered the room.  The raised brows of her teachers and the looks of pity and disappointment.

 

She felt each and every one of them.  

 

She had hidden her pregnancy well.  She had been very clever about wearing loose clothing until the day that even those wouldn’t work.  Ellen had taken her to purchase the dreaded maternity clothing and today was the first day she had no choice but to wear them at school.  

 

It was the first day that everyone knew without the shadow of a doubt.  

 

Geillis, Louise and Jamie had all taken great pains to be at her side, throwing daggers with their eyes at those who dared to stare too long or gossip too loudly.  

 

That is, until now.  She was alone.  

 

She’d never felt so alone in all her life.  

 

She heard a whispered conversation behind her between three 15-year old girls.  One whispered in a scandalized voice, “Did ye ken she was...pregnant?” 

 

Then another.  “Nae!  It’s a wonder she got away wi’ it for sae long.”

 

“Do ye ken who the father is?”

 

“I heard it was that Jamie Fraser...ye ken...the tall red-headed dreamy dish that ye’ve been drooling over.”

 

Claire frowned.  

 

“Oh, hush ye!  I have nae been drooling over…”

 

“Shhhh!  Here he comes!”

 

Claire looked up as Jamie set his tray down beside her.  “I’m sae sorry I’m late.  I didnae mean tae leave ye alone tae deal with all…,” he trailed off.  She knew exactly what he meant.  He felt and heard all that she had.  Her face was red with shame.  Jamie had always said she had a glass face and today was no exception.  

 

He reached up a tentative hand and brushed the hair behind her ear.  “Are ye alright?”

 

Claire nodded.  

 

“Ye don’t look alright.”  

 

Misery washed over her as she heard more whispers and titters.  

 

“Here.  Eat yer lunch.  Our bairn needs nourishment.”  They had been reading a book on pregnancy and birth that Jenny, who already had one bairn, had loaned them.  Jamie had taken his role as father rather seriously as they were enlightened on the finer points of having a healthy pregnancy.  He made sure she ate.  He made sure she took her prenatal vitamins.  He held her hair back when she threw up each morning and passed her a cool cloth and a glass of water to rinse her mouth.  He made sure she got rest and that she put her feet up.  He carried her backpack full of books and refused to let her bear the burden of it.  

 

He had done everything right.

 

But this?  For this, he had no answers.  The book didn’t address how to handle the shame one felt.  The book didn’t address how to shut out the looks of judgement and the whispers.  The book didn’t address how one handled something that should have been a joyous situation when it was laden with regret and shame instead.  

 

As the months wore on, she grew accustomed to the tiny being growing within her.  She often laid her hands on her tummy and spoke to it, telling it stories of the dreams she had, how she envisioned their life as a family of three had life gone as it should’ve.  

 

But those were just dreams.  Reality was much darker.

 

She jolted out of those thoughts when Geillis and Louise arrived at the table.  Geillis was busy telling off a tableful of nosy Nellies to mind their own business when the school’s guidance counselor walked up to the table.  Mrs. Graham was a kindly sort who got along with all the students.  She sat down beside Claire and offered her a sympathetic smile. 

“Hello, Claire.  I ken that today might be a little rough fer ye.  Would ye and yer friends like tae have lunch in my office?  We could chat a bit and ye could have some privacy for a bit.”

 

Relieved, Claire quickly accepted.  She would do anything to get out of this room.  

 

Geillis and Louise had begged off, stating their need to cram for an upcoming test in the afternoon.

 

Jamie and Claire took their lunch trays and followed Mrs. Graham, prying eyes staring at them as they walked by.  Claire could imagine the conversations that would begin as soon as the door closed behind them.  

 

As they settled in the counselor’s office, Mrs. Graham made them feel at ease with conversation.  They discussed the weather, the new shelf of books in the library that had been donated by a local organization, the prospect of finding Mr. McDonald’s glasses (which he frequently misplaced), and the likelihood that they would beat the local rival in the big game on Friday.  

 

After a small lull in the conversation, Mrs. Graham finally drew in a breath and leaned back in her chair.  “Alright.  Enough o’ that.  Let’s get down tae brass tacks here.  I see yer about tae be a new mother, Claire.  Am I correct in the assumption that Jamie here is the father?”

 

Jamie spoke for them both.  “Aye.”  

 

Mrs. Graham nodded.  “I’ve suspected so for a few weeks now.  Have ye both discussed how ye are going to proceed, then?”

 

“Aye, we have.  We’ll be married as soon as school is out.  Claire is staying at my house.  Her Da isna speaking tae us right now.”

 

“I see.  So, ye have support, then?”

 

“Aye.  My parents are helping us fer now.”

 

“And what would be yer plans for the future?  Are ye still planning on going tae University and continuing on wi’ yer schooling?”

 

Claire spoke this time.  “We are.  I know it will be difficult.  I don’t have any doubt about that.  I don’t want Jamie to lose his chance at his scholarship.  I don’t want to hold him back.”

 

Mrs. Graham smiled, “O’ course no’.  But what about ye, Claire?  What about yer dreams and yer plans?”

 

Jamie began to reply but Claire held him off.  “I decided that I won’t be going to University.”

 

Mrs. Graham frowned and Jamie turned to her, “No!  Ye had plans tae be a nurse.  I’ll no’ hear o’ it!  Ye’ll go until the bairn comes.  Ye have yer college fund, sae we’ll be able tae afford it.”

 

Claire shook her head.  “I haven’t told you yet, but Mum called me.  She said that she had tried to smooth things over with Dad.  He’s dug in his stubborn heels and he refuses to give us one dime of assistance.  And that includes my college fund.”

 

Jamie and Mrs. Graham both gasped, both equally disturbed by the news.  

 

“So you see, I’ll be looking for a job instead.”

 

Mrs. Graham scoffed at that.  “Now, see here, Claire Beauchamp.  Ye are too smart tae be working some low-paying job.  Ye could easily qualify for scholarships wi’ yer grades and I can help ye get more financial aid.  Ye just put that idea right out o’ yer mind.”

 

Jamie agreed with her and started to argue when the bell rang for the next classes.

 

“Well, that’s that.  Ye can leave yer trays here and I’ll see that they get back to the lunchroom.  Ye go on tae yer next classes.  In the meantime, ye both think about what we discussed.  And please, feel free to stop in anytime ye need tae talk or just need a private space to escape.  I ken it can be difficult.  I’ll be here tae help ye both in any way I can.”

 

Mrs. Graham squeezed both of their arms and patted their backs.  “Chins up.  There’s the twa o’ ye now!”

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

Claire looked at the invitation she held.  The prom.  

 

She had dreamed for years of THE dress.  She had always known it would be red.  That was her favorite color.  Through the years, the dress had morphed into different styles as fashion changed, but the dress had always been red.  

 

As she got older, she often entertained the vision that her best friend would be her date.  After all, who else would she have gone with?  Jamie was always the one constant in her life.  Much like the fact that the color red had always been her favorite.  

 

She pictured him in a black tuxedo with shiny shoes.  She pictured his face when he first sees her in her fancy red dress and how his jaw drops, leaving him speechless.  She pictured them posing for a picture together at her parents’ house, where he picked her up in a fancy car.  She pictured her mother fussing over her corsage and wiping a tear as she kissed her cheek, promising to behave.  She pictured her father good-naturedly warning Jamie to take care of his baby girl and have her home at a decent hour.  She pictured them dancing together on the dance floor, surrounded by their friends.  She pictured them laughing and drinking sparkling grape juice out of a fancy champagne flute.  She pictured him kissing her goodnight in the soft glow of the porch light.

 

Then she pictures her swollen belly in that red dress.  The zipper won’t close.  She pictures the empty table that she sits at because her friends are afraid to sit with her, as if pregnancy is a disease that is highly contagious.  She pictures her best friend, the father of her baby, who hasn’t touched her since that one time .

 

In a fit of anger, she rips the invitation in half and tosses it on the floor.  She muffles her crying in her pillow, sobbing until she falls asleep.

 

**********

 

Jamie knocked on Claire’s door, expecting her to answer.  He hadn’t seen her since they got home from school.  She said she needed to study for her chemistry exam.  

 

He bought her up her favorite snack, a sliced apple with peanut butter, and a glass of milk.  As he quietly opened the door, he found her asleep on her bed, her face tear-stained.  Setting the tray on her bedside table, he noticed a pile of torn paper and soggy tissues on the floor.  Bending to pick it up to put it in the trash bin, he realized what she had shredded.  

 

Her prom invitation.  

 

His heart hurt for her...for them.  He knew just how she felt.  

 

He covered her up with a blanket and tip-toed out of the room, closing the door. 

 

This was the final straw.  He went back downstairs in search of his Mam.  

 

He’d fucked up.  But this...THIS he could set right.

Chapter Text

Claire knew something was up when Jamie asked her to have supper with him tonight.  

 

She had been distant of late and spent a good portion of her time in her room.  Jamie still did what he could to see to her needs, but she could tell he had something weighing heavily on his mind.

 

As the date of the prom drew nearer, she fell deeper into a depression that even surprised her.  She was moody.  She cried at anything and everything.  She slept (a lot).  She ate (a lot).  She yelled at Geillis and Louise when they offered to take her shopping for a fancy dress.  

 

It was during that week that she had found an unusual ally in Jamie’s father.  Brian had dismissed Geillis and Louise when they showed up to drag her out of the house.  He had shooed away Ellen and even Jenny when they had tried to get Claire interested in dresses online.  

 

On the day of the prom, he had found her out in the barn sitting in the hay as she held Adso the cat, tears streaking down her cheeks.  

 

He sat beside her and patiently listened to her as she poured her heart out to him.  How she missed her parents.  How she missed being a teenager and going to parties.  How she missed wearing her favorite jeans.  How she missed just being a kid that blended in and didn’t look different.  How she hated the staring and the whispers.  How she missed her best friend, despite the fact that he lived in the same house that she did.  How she regretted that one time .  How she wanted to go to prom but couldn’t.  How she had dreamed of being a princess for a day, but wouldn’t be able to because life wasn’t fair.  

 

Brian patiently listened to her and helped her dry her tears.  

 

“Aye, lass.  I ken how ye feel.”

 

Claire shook her head.  “No you don’t.  No one knows how I feel!”

 

“Ah, but that’s where yer wrong.”

 

Brian began to tell her about how he and Ellen had met at Hogmanay.  They were 18 years old.  They fell head over heels for each other and Ellen quickly ended up pregnant.  Ellen’s family was very much against the idea of marriage to Brian, who they deemed beneath their daughter’s station.  On the eve of being shipped off to her sister, Jocasta, in America, where she would live until she had the baby, Brian and Ellen stole away in the night and fled to Edinburgh where they eloped.  By the time that Ellen’s brothers found them, they were already married and had found a small flat.  Brian worked two jobs to earn a living.  At three months, Ellen suffered a miscarriage.  

 

They had never told Jenny nor Jamie about it.  

 

They sat in silence for a while, listening to the sounds of the barnyard around them.  

 

“Sae, ye see why we didna want ye both tae end up in the same situation that we did, aye?”

 

Claire nodded.

 

“I do understand, Claire.  I ken exactly how ye and Jamie feel.”  

 

He pulled Claire to him and hugged her warmly as she sniffled on his shoulder.  

 

“Now.  I believe our Jamie has something planned for ye.  I ken it won’t be the prom ye envisioned, but it’s as close as we can get tae it.  He’s worked hard on it these last few weeks.”

 

“You mean all this time, he knew?  That’s why everyone is pushing me to look for a dress?”

 

“It is,” Brian smiled and squeezed her to him with one arm.  “His mam and Jenny got ye a dress and yer friends are coming over to help ye get ready.  He has a night planned at the cottage that just might be tae yer liking.  Now, what do ye say?  Shall we get ye inside and get this party started?”

 

Claire laughed, truly laughed, for the first time in a long time.  She hugged Brian hard and nodded, brushing away the tears.

Chapter Text

Claire stood before the full-length mirror in her room, admiring the vision that met her gaze.  Geillis and Louise had done her hair, nails and makeup to perfection before heading off to prepare for their own dates.  Claire hugged them and thanked them for all they had done and wished them a lovely evening, with promises to send pictures.  Despite her own problems, she was excited for them to enjoy prom.  Jenny and Ellen had taken over and had helped Claire get dressed.  Jenny had found a beautiful long, off-the-shoulder gown with a deep-cut neckline.  The waistline was gathered just under her breasts with a band of glittering rhinestones, where the folds and pleats cleverly disguised her ever-expanding waistline.  And best of all?

 

The dress was red.  She was certain she had never mentioned her dream of a red prom dress to anyone.  Well, anyone but Jamie.  But would he…?

 

Ellen had loaned her a glittering matching diamond and ruby set.  The necklace sat perfectly with the diamond-encrusted ruby falling down to just above her swelling cleavage.  Complementing it was a bracelet and draping earrings.  Jenny had topped it off with a diamond tiara that she slipped into her up-do.  

 

“I ken it’s a bit over the top, but every prom has a prom queen, right?”  

 

Claire laughed and hugged both of them.  They left her to the final bits of her preparations.  Claire sat on the corner of the bed and slipped on her strappy glittering silver heels.  She smoothed on a last bit of lotion on her legs and arms and touched up her lipstick.  

 

She stood before the mirror and marveled at her reflection.  

 

She had never, in her wildest dreams, have imagined this.  She was beautiful and glowing.  

 

It was even better than she had dreamed.  

 

**********

 

Jamie stood at the bottom of the stairs and was awestruck at the vision that approached him.  He had never seen his Claire as radiant.  She had always been beautiful to him.  But tonight, she glowed.  

 

His Sorcha.  

 

He stood before her in his Da’s tuxedo.  They were of a like size, so he opted to borrow it.  He saw, with some satisfaction, how Claire’s eyes widened when she saw him.  She smiled at him and it was as if the sun came out and melted all their troubles away.  He hadn’t seen her smile like that since...well...since “before”.

 

As she reached the final step, he held out a hand to her and she took it.  

 

He’d always known, in some way.  She was his.  

 

And he was hers.

 

**********

 

After the flurry of traditional picture-taking and the pinning on of flowers, Jamie led Claire outside to their conveyance.  Da had helped him dress up the old carriage.  They had attached two of their best matched Friesian horses to pull it.  Jamie himself had brushed their coats and manes until they were shining flawlessly.  Jenny had attached tiny silver bells to the reins so they jingled as they moved.  

 

Jamie assisted Claire up into the carriage and then got in after her.  With a hitch of the reins, they took off, waving to his family that stood on the porch (his Mam, who was NOT crying, still taking pictures).

Chapter Text

Despite Claire’s begging, he wouldn’t tell her any details.  

 

As they pulled up to the old cottage, he looked over at Claire’s face, noting with satisfaction the delight that showed as she took it all in.  

 

He, Brian, Ian, and several friends had fixed up the cottage.  Jenny and Mam had decorated the back deck and garden with fairy lights, flowers and streamers.  A table had been laid with Mam’s best china and silver.  Mam had cooked a meal fit for royalty, complete with all the fancy trimmings.  Rupert and Angus had even managed to hang a glittering silver ball atop a makeshift dance floor.  Ian and Jenny had hand-picked the music softly playing over an unseen speaker.  

 

As Claire took it all in, tears sprang to her eyes.  

 

She whispered, “Oh Jamie.  You did all this for me?”

 

“Aye.  I’d do anything for ye, Claire.”

 

He kissed her softly on her cheek, then thumbed away a tear on her pearlescent cheek.  

 

“Now, no more tears, aye?”

 

Claire sniffed and laughed.  “Aye.”  

 

**********

 

Together, they enjoyed the sumptuous meal and danced under the stars and the glittering lights cast around the yard by the light ball.  Jamie sang in Claire’s ear, albeit a little off-tune, and held her close as they danced.  

 

He pulled her to a stop and took a deep breath.  She could tell he was nervous, having noted his clammy palms.  

 

He lowered down to a knee.  Claire breathed out, “ohhh” as Jamie took out a small blue velvet box that held a small shiny diamond ring.  

 

“Claire, I think I have loved ye forever.  I asked Da once how I’d ken when I was in love.  He told me I’d just ken.  It wasn’t something that would just hit me.  It would grow over time and suddenly, there before my very eyes, there it would be.  

 

“And so it was.  Suddenly, one day, there ye were.  But ye’d always been there.  However, ye were more.  Ye were everything tae me.  The breath in my lungs.  The beat of my heart.  And now,” he touched her belly, “the two of us have made this bairn.  We are now forever tied together heart and soul.  

 

“I’d consider it my greatest honor if ye’d consent to be my wife, Claire.  Will ye marry me?”

 

Claire stood before him, her quivering hands covering her mouth.  Despite his ban on any further tears for the evening, she felt them fall unbidden from her eyes as she nodded yes.  

 

Jamie’s face beamed brilliantly as he took the ring and placed it on her finger.  He kissed it, then rose and took her face in his hands.  

 

“I love ye, Claire.  My Sorcha.”

 

“I love you, too.”

 

**********

 

Jamie led her to one of the set of French doors that spanned the back of the deck.  Upon opening it, he led her into a bedroom that glowed softly.  The bed was framed by entwined willow branches, intertwined with fairy lights and lacy tulle.  The bed was invitingly turned down with pristine white, lace-edged sheets and a thick matching duvet.  Throughout the room, sat candles in lanterns that softly flickered.  The warm late spring breeze drifted in through the open French doors.  

 

“Oh Jamie,” Claire breathed, “this is beautiful.”

 

“I ken that our first time wasn’t what we wanted it to be.  But, I was hoping, if ye were alright wi’ it, that we could maybe have a redo.  I wanted our first time tae be so much more.  Would ye let me make it up tae ye?”

 

Jamie held his breath as Claire looked around, taking it all in.  

 

“Who did all this, then?”

 

Jamie tugged her closer to him and threaded his arms around her waist.  “I did.  I didnae want anyone else tae see this part.  It’s...well, it’s private.  My gift from me tae ye.”

 

“What about your parents?”

 

“I dinnae care anymore.  This is just for ye and me.  No one else.”

 

Claire was overwhelmed.  She reached her arms up around his neck and drew him to her and sighed.  It was the first time they had been this close since...since that one time .  He had avoided anything resembling intimacy with Claire, not because he didn’t want her.  Because, Christ, he did.  He avoided it because he wanted to give her space.  And frankly, he wasn’t comfortable with it, given that his parents were there under the same roof.  Then there was the guilt.  So much guilt that he’d done this to Claire and made her suffer so, despite all her rejections of any notion that it was anything but the both of them, together, that held the blame for the fix they were in.  But tonight, it was just the two of them.  

 

And a fresh start.  A do-over.

 

He slowly leaned in and gently kissed her lips.  

 

He tried to go slow.  He really did.  But having gone months without her touch, he was more than primed.  Their kisses quickly became heated, their touches inflamed.  

 

He reached behind her and slowly eased the zipper down on her dress.  He had gazed all night at her swelling cleavage.  It hadn’t escaped his notice that her breasts were growing plumper and filling out.  He ached to touch them.  He eased her dress down to the ground and helped her step out of it.  

 

What greeted him was a vision beyond words.  

 

She stood before him in a matching red strapless lace bra and red lacy thong.  Her skin shone in the light.  Their child lay protected in her swollen belly, that he had finally seen uncovered for the first time.  

 

He stared at her for so long that Claire finally wrapped her arms around herself and burst out, “Will you bloody well say something?!”

 

All he could manage was, “Christ, Claire, ye’re beautiful.”

 

Her face transformed and she smiled.  She reached for him and began to undress him, as he had her.  Once his jacket, shirt, tie, shoes and socks were removed, he stood before her in just his trousers.  She went to remove them and brushed against his swollen cock, causing it to twitch.  

 

He had to get control of himself.  He wanted this to be better.  

 

He closed his eyes as she lowered his trousers and his boxer briefs.  He counted to 10.  And then 20.  

 

His hands trailed up and down her arms and traced a path across the top of the red lace covering the swells of her breasts.  Pulling her closer to him, he threaded his left hand into the back of her hair and tipped her head to the side.  He ran soft kisses up and down her neck, stopping occasionally to suck on the spot that he knew drove her wild.  

 

Running both hands down her back, he reached to unclasp her bra and dropped it to the floor.  He took a step back and feasted his eyes on her.  Her nipples were larger and darker.  Beneath the surface, delicate blue veins showed that he’d never noticed before.  Taking her hand, he stepped backward until he reached the foot of the bed, where he sat before her, pulling her in between his spread legs.  

 

Slowly, he lowered her thong, kissing a path along their way to the ground.  She leaned to slide off her heels when he stopped her with a hand.  “Nae.  Leave them on.  I like them.”

 

His hands slid back up to cradle her tummy and he kissed it.  Softly he explored her rounded shape, getting acquainted with it.  He noticed the barely there silvery marks where her skin had stretched.  He noticed how hard it felt in comparison to the softness of it before that one time .  Snaking his fingers up, he cupped her breasts and wondered at the fullness of them.  Not only that, he caught on rather quickly that they were now extremely sensitive.  He had barely touched the nipples when he had drawn a breathy, threaded sound out of her.  

 

Leaning forward, he drew one into his mouth and she drew him tighter to him with a loud moan, clutching his curls in her fingers.  He switched to the other side, lavishing it with the same attention.  

 

Suddenly, she pulled him to his feet and dragged him to the bed.  

 

“Wait,” he whispered. 

 

He reached up and released her hair from the pins that held it up, followed carefully by the tiara.  Her curls fell in a perfumed cloud that drugged him.  He eased her backwards onto the bed and crawled up beside her.  

 

There before him was his Sorcha.  Her hair spread out on the pillow.  Her skin glowing in the soft light.  His dream became reality before his eyes..  

 

She reached for him and wrapped her small hand around his cock, then dragged his hand down between her legs.  His breath caught at the sheer amount of heat that he felt there between her legs.  She was so wet for him.  

 

Christ.  1...2...3...4...5…

 

Her hand moved faster and he moved his faster in time with the rhythm she set.  Their quickened breath, their racing hearts fueled the fire even further.  He kissed her, tangling his tongue with hers, panting open-mouthed against hers.  

 

She pulled back.  “Now, Jamie.  Please, now!”

 

He positioned himself between her legs and nearly expired as the glow from the fairy lights above them reflected on the wetness between her legs and practically running down her thighs.  Grabbing his cock, he slowly slid inside her, giving her a moment to get used to the girth of him before moving in further and further.  

 

When he was inside her buried to the hilt, he couldn’t hold back the ragged groan that came out of him.  She thrust up against him and he almost came then and there as her inner muscles grabbed him and pulsed around him.  

 

Three more thrusts and they both came together, crying out as they pulsed together and clung to each other.  

 

Basking in the afterglow, Jamie felt the baby shift against him.  He reared away and looked in wonder at Claire.  “Was that…?”

 

Claire nodded.  “Umm-hmm.  I’ve been feeling little flutters for a while now, but just lately, I’m starting to feel her shifting and kicking.”

 

Jamie placed a hand gingerly on her tummy and waited.  Soon enough, he felt a little ripple against his hand.  “Do ye think it’s a girl, then?”

 

“I don’t really know.  I just think of her as a girl, I suppose.  Maybe it’s mother’s intuition?”

 

He frowned a bit and then said, “Claire, I ken I haven’t really been involved lately, but I really do want to be a real Da.  Will ye tell me when things like this happen so I can share in it wi’ ye?”

 

Claire looked at him searchingly.  He wondered what she was really thinking in that head of hers.  Despite her glass face, sometimes she could be hard to read.  

 

“Alright.  Do you really mean to marry me and stay with us?  Be a real family?  Will you be happy and not feel...I don’t know...maybe ‘trapped’?”

 

Ahh.  So that was it.  

 

“Claire, I told ye I would.  I’m not trapped, as ye say.  Yes, I wish it had mebbe happened a bit more conventionally, but it is what it is.  Fate brought us together and fate is keeping us together.  Tae me, marriage is forever.”

 

Claire smiled and relaxed visibly.  “It’s forever for me, too.”

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

It was graduation day.  It was most definitely not what Claire had envisioned.  She pictured her family in the front, beaming as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.  Instead, she saw Jamie’s family.  She had spotted her mother out in the audience, but there was no sign of her father.  

 

She stood in line, awaiting her turn to walk and rubbed her belly.  Her center of balance had changed, so she often walked with her back arched to account for the shifting of the baby.  Just standing in the line made her back ache.  

 

She shifted back and forth on her feet.  

 

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp

 

Finally, it was her turn.  She walked carefully up the stairs, accepted her diploma, moved her tassel from the right to the left and posed for a quick picture.  She saw Jamie’s mother take several pictures and gave a small wave to the Fraser family, who cheered for her.  

 

She carefully walked down the stage and returned gratefully back to her seat.  As uncomfortable as the folding chair was, it was better than standing on her feet.

 

What she failed to notice in the back of the room was the person standing in the shadows, who exited before he was spotted.

Chapter Text

18 years old

 

James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser was wed to Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp on an early June day in a small, intimate ceremony in the garden at Lallybroch Farm attended by family and a few close friends.  Father Bain reluctantly agreed to do the wedding (after a significant donation to the church from Brian that went towards a new heating system).  

 

The Fraser family was in attendance, but much to Brian and Ellen’s disgust, Henry and Julia chose not to attend.  Brian gave the bride away in Henry’s place.  

 

The bride wore a lovely gauzy dress in cream with a sash made from the Fraser tartan.  The groom wore the traditional Scottish formal kilt.  

 

The ceremony was short and sweet, given the bride’s advanced pregnancy and swelling feet.  

 

A small family dinner was held, cake was cut and toasts were made.  There was no other celebration.

 

The groom whisked his new bride away to the same cottage where they held their prom celebration.  Given the advanced stage of her pregnancy, they decided it was best to stay as close to home as possible.  

 

The groom helped the bride out of her formal wear and tucked her into bed, where she promptly fell asleep on her wedding night.  

 

All in all, it wasn’t very memorable.  

 

Until the following morning…

Chapter Text

Claire was startled awake by a swift kick in her belly followed by a gushing of water between her legs.  She gasped and leapt from the bed as more fluid trickled to the floor.

 

“Jamie!”

 

He rolled onto his back and mumbled, going back to sleep.

 

“JAMIE!”

 

He sat straight up, disoriented, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings.  When the fuzz had cleared, he saw his girlfriend wife standing with bowed legs holding her white nightgown up and a grimace of pain on her face.  

 

Claire could tell the exact second that Jamie finally pieced it all together.  

 

He bounded from the bed and shouted, “Christ, Claire!  Is it time?!”  

 

She panted, scared out of her mind, and nodded as a pain like nothing she’d ever felt before shot from her abdomen, into her back and down into her thighs.  

 

“What do I do?!  Isn’t it too early?”  He grabbed his phone and began to dial his mam.

 

“I don’t know!  I’m not due for another month.  You don’t think we’re going to lose her do you?”  Claire was clearly headed for a panic attack and she tried to get her breathing under control and took several deep breaths.

 

“Mam!  It’s Claire.  She’s...I dunno...I think her water broke!”

 

Claire listened to the one sided conversation as a distraction while she breathed through another pain.

 

“No, it’s clear.  I dinnae see any red or pink.”

 

Claire looked at her thighs (or what she could see beyond her tremendous belly) and didn’t see any blood.  That was a relief, at least.  She and Jamie had signed up for childbirth classes, but wanted to wait until after graduation to attend, given that their evenings were consumed with studying and homework.  Now, it was too late.  They would be going into this blind.  

 

And she began to panic again.  She had NO idea how to do this!

 

Tears sprang to her eyes as she heard Jamie hang up and then dial the hospital to alert them that they were on their way.  She heard the exchange of various questions asked and answered (when is she due, how far apart are her pains, is she bleeding, do not wait...come immediately).

 

She heard a car pull up to the door of the cottage and Brian and Ellen rushed in carrying old towels and a change of clothes for Claire.  Brian took Jamie, who reluctantly left Claire’s side, out to the car, where they prepared the back seat for Claire to sit with a layer of old blankets.  Ellen had grabbed their suitcase from its place by the door, where it had sat for several months in preparation for this day.  

 

Claire stood as Ellen took over and helped her strip off her sodden nightgown and clean up a bit before hurriedly putting on clean clothes.  Ellen tossed a wad of old towels on the wood floor where the fluid stood in a puddle and quickly mopped up what she could then tossed it all in the bathtub to be dealt with later.  

 

Ellen soothed Claire’s nerves as best she could as she got in the car, where Jamie and Brian waited.  Claire grabbed hold of Ellen’s hand and held tightly as Ellen called Jenny and Willie to alert them to what was happening.  Claire whimpered as another pain hit her and Jamie turned around in the front seat, worry painted all over his face.  She saw Brian’s eyes frequently shift to the back seat in the rear view mirror and felt the car shift as Brian pressed down on the accelerator.  Claire knew they were speeding and was glad of it.  

 

Before she was even aware of it, they pulled into the hospital A&E, where Claire was whisked away to the maternity ward and admitted in a flurry of activity.  Jamie was left to sort out the admitting paperwork with his parents.

 

A kindly nurse took her arm and began to hook her up to a blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter.  

 

“Hello, dear.  I’m Nurse Fitzgibbons.  Ye can call me Mrs. Fitz.  I’ll be taking care of ye today.  What is yer name, then?”

 

“Claire Beauchamp.  Oh...wait.  That’s Claire Fraser now, I suppose.”

 

Mrs. Fitz’s eyebrow raised slightly and typed in the information.  In her years of experience in labor and delivery she had seen it all.  Not much surprised her anymore.  

 

“And how old are ye?”

“18.”

 

“Is this yer first birth, then, dear?”

 

“Yes.  We were supposed to begin our childbirth classes next week, so I don’t know anything about all this, I’m afraid.”

 

“Och now, don’t ye worry about that dearie.  We’ll see ye through this just fine, ye ken?  How far along are ye?”

 

“35 weeks.”

 

“Alright.  We’ll get ye set up and comfortable, then we’ll find Da and get him in here.  Did ye have anyone else in mind tae be in with you during the birth?  Like yer Mam, perhaps?”

 

Claire, for the first time, missed her mother more than words can ever express.  She burst into tears.  “Noooo…”

 

Mrs. Fitz turned to her and scooped her up into a motherly hug.  “There, there, dear.  Ye’ll be in good hands here.”  She reached for a tissue in the nearby box and wiped away Claire’s tears.  “Dinnae worry yer heid about anything.  I’ll be here tae walk ye through everything.  Women have been giving birth since time began.  Ye can do this!”

 

Claire nodded and wiped another trickle coming down her cheek with the tissue Mrs. Fitz handed her.  As her nurse continued to hook her up to various pieces of equipment and take note of her vitals, Claire gritted as another pain hit her.  

 

“Ah.  I see ye are having quite a time wi’ that one, eh?”  

 

Claire could do little but nod.  

 

“Why don’t we get ye out of yer clothes and into a hospital gown, and we’ll get the doctor in here to check ye.  Then we’ll have a better idea of where ye stand.”

 

Matter of factly, Mrs. Fitz helped Claire change out of her clothes and took all her valuables, placing them in a bag provided by the hospital.  “I’ll just be popping out tae get the doctor, then.  If ye need anything, ye just hit that button by yer side.”

 

Claire leaned back on the bed and concentrated on just breathing in and out with the pains.  She hadn’t learned anything about lamaze breathing or anything of the sort, so she just simply worked on trying to relax her tensed up muscles.  

 

Just as a contraction passed, there was a soft knock on the door and Jamie walked in, followed by Brian and Ellen.  They all had identification badges.  

 

Jamie walked around to the far side of the bed and took Claire’s hand, looking pale and worried.  He brushed back a stray hair behind her ear.  

 

Ellen rubbed her arm, from the opposite side of the bed.  “How are ye feeling, love?  Can I get ye anything?  Maybe help ye put yer hair up?”  

 

Claire nodded at that.  Ellen busied herself with the task and did her best to distract the young couple with good-natured chatter.  

 

**********

12 hours later

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hello, Henry, this is Brian.  I just wanted tae phone ye tae say that Claire is in hospital.  Her water broke this morning but she’s having some trouble.  Ellen asked that I phone ye and, well..  Christ, man, I’m no’ asking.  I’m tellin’ ye, come tae the hospital.”

 

There was silence on the line for a minute.  Brian thought he’d hung up.

 

Finally, he heard, “Will she be alright?”

 

“The doctor didnae tell the kids, but he talked frankly to Ellen and me.  He’s afraid she’s fading too quickly and feels like surgery might be necessary.”

 

“I see.”

 

“She’s been asking fer her mam.”

 

Brian heard what might have been a stifled sob on the other end.  

 

“Please, Henry.  Yer daughter needs ye both.”

 

“We’ll be there in ten minutes.”  

 

Click .

 

**********

 

Claire drifted in and out of oblivion.  She heard sounds of activity around her, but couldn’t focus on what they were.  She was racked with pain after pain.  She could hear Jamie beg her tearfully to push just once more.  She could voices that morphed from Ellen, to Julia, to Mrs. Fitz.  But Mum wasn’t there, so she must be dreaming.  

 

Suddenly she felt another rush of pain and pressure and she pushed with all she had left, feeling a gush between her numbed, shaking legs.  

 

She heard a small, thready cry, amidst the beeping and screeching of alarms.  

 

Jamie’s voice in her ear saying, “She’s here!” was the last thing she heard before she succumbed to the darkness.

Chapter Text

Claire blinked slowly, her eyes grainy and dry.  The room was darkened and quiet, the only sound was a steady beeping of machine charting her vitals.  

 

As her senses slowly returned, she took stock.  She was buried under several warm blankets, her hand attached to an IV.  The blood pressure cuff beeped and expanded, constricting her arm almost to the point of pins and needles as it beeped, beeped, beeped, getting the measure of her blood pressure.  As it released, she heard typing as someone entered in her vitals.  

 

Mrs. Fitz.  That was her name.  

 

Her free arm reached toward her tummy, searching for the familiar hardness of her child.  

 

She was met with a softened, almost flabby tummy instead.  

 

And then her memories returned to her.  

 

“Where’s my baby?”  Then louder, “Where’s my baby?!”

 

“Shhhh...there, there dear.  All is well.  Yer bairn is just fine.  Ye had a darling wee lass.  They took her to the NICU to monitor her for just a wee bit.  Her Da is wi’ her and the grandparents are all four down getting coffee while ye rest.”

 

Wait.  Four?

 

“Four?  Who?”

 

Having been apprised of the situation quietly by Ellen and Brian, a distant cousin, Mrs. Fitz knew exactly what Claire was asking.

 

“Aye, dearie.  Yer Da and Mam came a few hours ago, just in time tae see their new wee granddaughter.  I dinnae mind tellin’ ye that yer Da is quite taken with the wee lass.”

 

“Daddy?” Claire whispered.

 

Tears came to Claire’s eyes as Mrs. Fitz reached for a tissue and blotted them dry.  “Now, now...all is weel dearie.  Dinnae worry.  Things will be just fine, ye’ll see.”

 

**********

 

4 days later

 

Claire moved slowly to sit (very gingerly) in the wheelchair, watching as Jamie changed the final diaper before they left the hospital.  Their daughter, Brianna Ellen Fraser, was less than happy about it.  She filled her little lungs with air and howled her displeasure.  The doctor waited patiently as Jamie finished dressing her and preparing her for her trip home.

 

“Aye, that’s a braw wee lassie!”  The doctor listened once more to her lungs and gave a nod.  “She’s coming right along.  She may be a wee bit early, but she’s gaining weight and has met all the goals for release.”

 

Shifting in her chair, the doctor turned to Claire, “And you, Mam, are coming along weel, too.  The bleeding is under control and ye’ll feel more the thing in no time.  Until ye are able to get around wi’out feeling faint, Da will be in charge of seeing to the bairn.  And Da,” she turned to address Jamie, “ye’ll be certain to watch fer all the signs we discussed while Mam recovers.  She had quite the time wi’ this birth and will need a lot of help.  Be sure tae bring the bairn back to the clinic in a week for her first checkup.  I’d like to see ye, Claire, as weel, to be sure yer healing properly.”  

 

With that, Nurse Fitzgibbons handed Claire’s luggage and the baby’s bag to Jamie and handed Briana to her.  

 

Her daughter looked up at her with gray eyes that held a tinge of blue.  Brianna Ellen Fraser definitely had her father’s look about her.  His cat-shaped eyes, his ears that stuck out just the tiniest bit, his red hair.  Brianna looked at her with unfocused, big eyes.

 

“Well, hello, lovey.”  Claire lightly booped her on the nose as Brianna’s eyes crossed, then blinked, and returned to normal.  Claire laughed softly and her heart filled and overflowed.  

 

She was a Mum now.  Truly a Mum.

Chapter Text

19 years old

Edinburgh

 

Claire cursed as she removed the now scorched spaghetti sauce from the burner with one hand as she bounced a grumpy Brianna with her other.  She had tried to cook a decent meal as a surprise to Jamie after his classes, but she had proved time and time again that she was not anything approaching a decent cook.  

 

She had just gotten off a Facetime call with her parents, who wanted to say hello to baby Brianna.  It had taken a bit of time, but they were slowly repairing their relationship.  Henry had apologized to Claire and Jamie, admitting he should not have reacted the way he did.  It was the biggest regret of his life.  Julia, for her part, was ashamed that she hadn’t supported Claire despite Henry’s feelings on the matter.  Claire recognized that Julia had been caught in the middle.  Despite all that, Claire still loved her parents and had accepted their apologies, but Jamie wasn’t quite so quick to warm up to them.  It was a slow process, repairing their relationship, but time sometimes does heal all wounds.  And, after all, there was Brianna to consider.  She deserved a chance to know all her grandparents, with which Jamie completely agreed.  Henry and Julia absolutely doted on their granddaughter and often Facetimed with them now that they had moved to Edinburgh for college.  

 

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Jamie was overdue to return from his study group for supper.  She might have just enough time to try to redo tonight’s ruined supper.

 

**********

 

They had settled into a tiny on-campus married housing flat.  Jamie attended business classes full-time and played football for the university.  Claire had taken an on-campus job at the wellness clinic to help pay for the bills.  Jamie had secured a position at the on-campus day care for Brianna while they were both away.  It had all worked out rather well, surprisingly.  

 

Most of it, anyway.

 

They didn’t expect the long, sleepless hours that being new parents entailed.  They didn’t expect the feelings of resentment that Claire had because Jamie was free to go to university and “act like a normal student”.  They didn’t expect the resentment that Claire felt when she remained at home with their daughter as Jamie went to the pub for a wee drink with the lads on the team after a game.  

 

Jamie didn’t anticipate the awkwardness of explaining that he had a wife and daughter when he turned yet another girl away with her advances toward one of the university’s up and coming new star players.  Claire didn’t suspect any of them, of course, as he was very protective of her in that respect.  One girl in particular, Annalise, was particularly forward in her pursuit of Jamie.  He had done his best to avoid her, but she was sneaky and would often turn up where he was, despite his best efforts.  

 

It was tonight that Annalise found him as he was turning the corner to go to their flat.  

 

“Jamie!  Fancy seeing you here!”

 

Jamie closed his eyes and cursed under his breath.  

 

He turned and said, “Hello Annalise.  What brings ye tae this side of campus?”

“Oh, I was out for a bit of a jog.”  She was wearing tight spandex shorts and a tiny sports bra, most of which didn’t leave much to the imagination.  Jamie noticed she hadn’t broken even the smallest hint of a sweat and immediately doubted she had done any jogging at all.  

 

“Aye.  Weel, I…”

 

“There’s a party at my place.  Everybody will be there.  Are you coming?”

 

“Weel, I cannae…”

 

“Oh no!  I won’t take no for an answer.  You have to come!”

 

“Ye see, I…”

 

Annalise held up a hand and advanced on Jamie as he backed up against the trash bin for the married housing.  She moved up closer and closer and stood on tip-toe, whispering in his ear, “Please, Jamie.”

 

He leaned back as far as he could and put his hands on Annalise’s shoulders and began to push her away.  

 

He opened his mouth to tell her to back off when he was cut off by the cry of a baby nearby and the plop of a garbage bag onto the ground from an upstairs balcony.  

 

“Jamie, if you’re quite finished there, maybe you could be bothered to throw that in the bin.  Our supper is ruined and your daughter needs to be fed and put to sleep.”

 

Annalise looked with a dropped jaw and backed away.  

 

Shite.  

 

**********

 

“Claire, please talk tae me.”

 

Silence.

 

“I told ye, Annalise and I are no’ doing anything.  She has been coming on tae me.  Ye can ask any of the lads!  I’ve been trying tae avoid her.  Please, Claire, dinnae do this again.  Ye promised me that we would always communicate with each other.”

 

Silence.  

 

Claire continued to wash the dishes from the ruined supper and remained faced away from him, ignoring him and his pleas to listen.

 

“I truly didnae want her attentions.  Ye ken I only want ye.”

 

Claire slammed a pan back into the sink and turned, seeing red.

 

“Is that so?  It sure didn’t look like you wanted ME, when you were canoodling with that...that hussy outside for all the world to see.  It sure didn’t look like you wanted me when you hang out at the pub after every game with the lads instead of coming home to see me and your daughter.  It sure doesn’t look like you wanted me when you say you’re too tired to do...to do...anything at night with me.  Christ, you didn’t even notice that I had spent hours cooking a special candlelight supper for us and had planned a nice romantic evening for us.”

 

Jamie looked around, finally seeing what he should’ve seen before.  

 

Claire had set the table with a pretty tablecloth, candles and a small bouquet of flowers.  He noticed that she had a new outfit on (with a shoulder stained with baby spit up).  He saw that she had taken pains to tidy the house.  

 

She dried her hands off and grabbed her purse and her keys.  

 

“I’m going out.  You can deal with it.”

 

She walked out and slammed the door.  

 

Jamie walked back to their bedroom and his face fell.  She had fairy lights strung up over their bed and had little candles scattered around the room.  

 

He collapsed to the ground and put his head in his hands.

Chapter Text

Jamie had called Jenny and begged her to watch Brianna while he tried to remedy the situation with Claire.  Jenny called him several choice names when she learned the whole story, but readily agreed to helping them out for the night.  

 

Jamie ran around their flat, packing an overnight bag for Brianna and filling a thermal bag with frozen breastmilk so Jenny could feed the baby.  Ian had arrived soon after.

 

“I told ye that Annalise would be trouble.  Ye should put an end tae that mess straight away.”

 

“I ken, Ian.  But I’m serious when I say that I havena done anything wi’ her.  She’s like a barnacle on my arse, she is.”

 

“Weel, maybe now that she kens ye have a wife and a bairn, she’ll leave ye be.”

 

Jamie nodded.  But she was the least of his worries just then.  

 

**********

 

After searching for over an hour, he finally found his wife sitting on a bench overlooking the river.  He quietly sat beside her and waited until she talked.  He could have said he was sorry.  He could have said he had done nothing wrong.  

 

But he’d already done all that.  

 

Finally, after what seemed like an age, Claire spoke.  

 

“I apologize for all that back there.  I said more than I meant.”

 

Jamie reached for her hand and held it, scooting closer to her. 

 

“I ken, mo chridhe .  All that shit wi’ Annalise is…”

 

Claire interrupted.  “I know, Jamie.  I know you aren’t encouraging her.  In fact, Annalise isn’t even the issue, if I really think about it.  No matter what I’ve set my mind to, I can't help but feel left behind.  You have your life back, while I…,” she sighed heavily and looked down at her hands.  

 

“I ken, Claire.  I do.”  He slid over to her and put his arm around her shoulder as she cried again.  

 

She told him of battling with the feelings of loss.  Not the loss of ‘anyone’, but the loss of her life.  The loss of what she had expected.  The loss of her college years and, more specifically, her education.  In fact, maybe she did grieve the loss of someone.  She grieved the loss of herself.

 

She had always known exactly what she was going to do with her life.  All her plans had been waylaid by that one time .  She shared her frustrations and her fears.  She shared all her regrets.  

 

She also shared her thoughts on what she needed to do to fix things.  

 

Her parents, who had been thoroughly and completely enamored with their new granddaughter, were back in their lives.  Claire shared that her mother had mentioned thoughts of moving to Edinburgh to help with the raising of Brianna so that Claire and Jamie could go to uni full time.  Henry and Julia had laid out a plan to Claire, but she had resisted accepting it (or discussing it with Jamie) because she wanted to do this on her own, with Jamie.  

 

But she was finding that she couldn’t.  She was committed to being a wife and a mother at 19, but she was finding that just wasn’t enough for her.  She wanted to be a nurse.  She wanted the life of which she had dreamed.

 

Finally, when she was talked out, Jamie spoke.  

 

“Why didnae ye tell me about yer parents’ offer tae help?”

 

“We had a plan, you and I.  I thought we needed to do this thing on our own.  And I felt it was sort of my own personal penance that I needed to pay.  I dug my own hole, so to say.”

 

“Claire, ye are not in this alone.  I am here in this wi’ ye.  But ye ken, we dinnae have to do this alone.  It isn’t a terrible thing to want more in life.  It isn’t a terrible thing to need to live out yer dreams.  If we accept their offer, ye can go to uni.  Is it so awful to want that for yerself?”

 

Claire shook her head.  

 

“Do ye want to do this?  To go to school, wi’ their help?”

 

Claire looked up at him with an almost defeated look.  “I didn’t want to fail in this.  I wanted to prove that we could do this.”

 

Jamie took her hands and shook his head firmly.  “ Mo chridhe , we are doing this.  We are still Brianna’s parents and are still responsible for her.  We are still raising her.  But think about it.  Jenny and Ian have the help of my parents.  Mam watches Jenny’s bairns all the time.  And they wouldn’t have it any other way.  Not everyone has the opportunity to have their grandparents in their life.  Don’t ye think that this would be good for our bairn?  To have the memories of her grandparents being close tae her?  It isn’t a crime to accept help when it is given with your happiness in mind.”

 

Claire nodded slowly.  “Do you think we should accept?”

 

“I do.  I want ye tae be happy.  I want ye to be content wi’ our life together.  And if this is what it takes, then I’ll do it and gladly.”

 

Claire reached out and pulled Jamie to her in a tight hug, as she felt the weight of the world falling away from her shoulders.

 

“Ye ken, there’s the twa o’ us now.  There always has been and there always will be.  Now, let’s go home while we have some quiet time for just us.  Jenny and Ian are watching the bairn over night.  We can get take-away and then maybe ye could show me exactly what ye had in mind tae do in the bedroom tonight.”

 

Jamie pulled his wife to him and took her home.  Then proceeded to show her how much she meant to him.

Chapter Text

10 years later

 

Jamie and Claire were sitting on the veranda of their hotel suite, celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary, sharing a bottle of wine while watching the sunset.  The Fraser siblings had all been shipped off for the week to Ellen and Brian’s house.  Jamie had planned a much needed surprise weekend getaway with his wife.  They needed a break and Jamie had planned to pamper his wife.

 

Jamie had finished uni with a business degree and had taken over the operations at the distillery.  Claire had finished her nursing degree a year later and had taken a position at the hospital.  They had settled into life as busy parents, complete with both sets of grandparents.  When Jamie and Claire had graduated, they moved back to the cottage at Lallybroch, which has been added onto and remodeled through the years to accommodate their growing family.  Claire’s parents had returned from Edinburgh to their home near Lallybroch, as well, and had settled into their retirement, following their grandchildren around, cheering them on in sports and all their various school activities.  

 

Jamie had always felt that Henry and Julia were determined to make up for their “complete lapse in judgement” as Henry put it when he had shunned his pregnant daughter.  Through the years, he had more than made up for his mistakes and Claire had forgiven him (and her mother) for everything. 

 

That night, as Jamie held Claire close to him, twined together on the lounge chair under the stars, they reminisced about their life together.  

 

They remembered the prom night that Jamie had created for them.  Claire reminded him of how fierce he was when he tossed Phillip Wylie out on his arse that night that their daughter was conceived (and how much that secretly turned her on now).  Jamie fondly recalled that red bikini and confessed how he held it in such high regard.  Claire didn’t point out that she had a new red bikini that showed much more skin that she had purchased recently and tossed in her luggage for their getaway.

 

He kissed her lingeringly, then pulled back and frowned.  “Do ye ever regret that things worked out the way they did for us?”

 

Claire reached up and smoothed out the wrinkle on his brow and shook her head.  “No, as much as we both went through, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  We were meant to be exactly where we are, together forever, no matter what.”

 

He grinned and held up his pinky.  “Pinky swear?”

 

She smiled at him softly and fit her pinky to his, squeezing it.  “Pinky swear.  Forever.”

 

He then proceeded to seal the deal with a kiss.  And much, much more.

 

THE END