I listened to Jamie’s heart beating, the rhythm slowing as he caught his breath. I could still taste him — something I’d missed for twenty years and delighted in being able to do once more. With a hum I nuzzled his chest hair, enjoying the new abundance of it compared to two decades ago.
“I missed doing that for you,” I sighed softly, smiling as I felt the beginning of his laugh under my ear.
“Have to say, Sassenach, I missed it too.”
We both laughed quietly, stretching our limbs and re-settling, casually tangling our legs as we faced one another.
“May I ask ye a question?” Jamie asked, thumb gliding over my bottom lip.
Pressing my lips to his thumb, I nodded. “Anything. You know that. Nothing’s changed,” I reminded him gently.
“Aye,” he agreed quickly, giving me a soft kiss. “I only wondered…” He cleared his throat, rubbing his jaw before continuing, “What was it like wi’ Frank?”
For a moment, my mind had to process what he was asking. “Well, I didn’t do that.” It was my first thought before clarifying, “After Brianna was born, we slept in separate beds.” My eyes moved over his face, and I could feel his finger tapping against my shoulder in thought. “What else?”
“I ken I sent ye back through the stones for him to take care of ye, of Brianna. Ye’ve said as much about our daughter, that he was a good father to her. What about you, Sassenach? Was he a good husband to ye?”
Christ, what a question. I sat up, pushing myself against the headboard, covering myself with the sheet. “In some ways. Not in others. He realized quickly I couldn’t…” I paused, wetting my lips before continuing, “He realized I only wanted you, even when I was with him. It was why we began sleeping separately.”
I could tell Jamie was thinking about my words, and that his curiosity about my life without him wasn’t sated. I didn’t mind, and encouraged him with a kiss to his chin.
“How did he treat ye?” he asked quietly, dragging his fingers up and down my arm slowly.
My sigh was one of contemplation, and I turned my head to kiss his skin as I thought. “He paid my way through medical school without question. Encouraged me, even. But on the flip side of that coin, he didn’t bother to hide his mistress. The day I graduated, she came to our front door with all of my friends, with Brianna inside. I’d known about her, vaguely, and I’m not sure I could blame him for the affair, but he brought her to our home.”
Jamie was quiet as his fingers traveled over my body, across the slope of my hip, gathering his words. I could feel the heat of anger blooming on his skin, though his voice remained soft. “Was there any happiness for ye, Sassenach?”
My fingers began their own journey over the scars on his back, re-familiarizing myself with the rough dips and valleys. “Brianna made me happy. Seeing her grow and become a young woman. Once I could say I had a career, I was happy with that, and I had friends at the hospital. But...between Frank and I?”
I was able to recall a dozen fights in an instant, but had to think hard about our good moments. Most of them were from before I ever went through the stones.
“We used to take Brianna on a vacation every summer, beginning when she was around six or seven. We took her to a place specifically designed for children to have fun, and she loved it.” I didn’t try to explain the finer mechanics of Disneyland to Jamie. “I think in those moments because she was so happy, it was easy to be more genuine with one another. There were two weeks and one day each year we managed to pull it together for her sake: that vacation, the week of Christmas, and Brianna’s birthday. Everything that resulted in a happy memory between Frank and I was because of her happiness.”
Bree and I had our distance once she entered her teen years, but she was always my reason to pull myself together when all I could feel was grief in waves. I kept going for her.
“I wish ye could have kent your own joy,” Jamie spoke softly before his hand glided up my torso to press flat against my chest, over my heart. “I thought I was sending ye back to a man who could love ye above all else.”
I knew why: because Jamie could. Jamie loved me enough to forgive any perceived transgression, and he’d expected the same of another man who claimed to love me.
The only problem was, no one could ever love me the way Jamie did.
“I was never going to be truly happy without you,” I whispered to him, one hand moving to the side of his face. Turning my hand over, I let my knuckles graze the stubble on his cheek in a slow motion back and forth. “Frank wasn’t who I wanted. I didn’t make a secret of that.”
I’d hurt him too; I wasn’t innocent. We’d known how to wound one another and often used the past to fuel the fire. “I never had the chance to grieve, and he...he thought I could just move on. That wasn’t going to happen, even when he tried to force the issue.”
I felt Jamie’s grunt of confusion that was already laced with displeasure. “What do ye mean?”
Closing my eyes, I exhaled and let my body fully relax against his. “After I told him everything, he made me promise to never speak of it again. He said that he would take care of me and provide for the baby if I never…” My breath caught in my throat. “If I never spoke of you again.”
I should have stopped there. I could have. I was grateful to Frank for all he’d done, and I would always regret our final conversation being an argument. But a part of me had carried a quiet hurt for far too long.
“He took everything I arrived with except for my ring and the pearls. My clothing, scraps of paper in the pockets, your father’s ring,” I whispered, closing my eyes. “And he burned it all.”
My words seemed to hang suspended in the air, and I felt Jamie tense, his arms tightening around me. “Everything?”
I nodded as both of our bodies seemed to move at the same time, so that he could tug my legs over his hip and hold me even closer. “Everything.”
He was livid, I could feel it in the tension of his muscles, but his lips were gentle when they pressed to my forehead. “I’m no’ sorry I sent ye back, no’ wi’ how it all went after Culloden.” He’d already told me how often Lallybroch was set upon and searched by the British — there would have been no promising my safety, or our child’s. Jamie continued, and I closed my eyes to feel the vibration of his words through his body and against mine.
“That Frank was a true father to Brianna, I cannae be anything but grateful. But I’ll no’ pretend the way he treated ye makes me wish tae…”
I could feel the struggle in him to not speak ill of the man who had loved his child, and I pulled away from him just enough to be able to see his face. Stroking his jaw softly, my thumb lightly pressed against the dimple of his chin before I kissed him. When I pulled away, my nose nuzzled against the side of his until I felt him reciprocate.
“I know,” I whispered, “but it’s alright, Jamie. I’m here with you now.” And I knew he would love me back to feeling like myself again; we were already well on the road.
“I promise, Sassenach, ye’ll never feel unloved again. I’ll try to fill your days wi’ so much happiness, ye’ll no’ ken what to do wi’ it all. You are here. And you are mine.”
I was. His to make laugh, to bring joy, to hold and pleasure, and everything in between.
“I’m yours,” I vowed in return, feeling him shift his body away from mine in order to press warm kisses to my neck and then my chest.
“Do ye ken I’m yours, as well?” he asked ridiculously; how could I not? He might have received that response, but the words never had a chance to make it past my lips as his own closed around a nipple. That was the end of my ability to coalesce words into sentences, but only the beginning of Jamie’s point. Switching breasts, he sucked until he could pinch the hard peak of my nipple between his fingers, making me gasp and arch my back.
“I’m yours to ask anything of,” he said on an exhale, breath damp against my skin. His mouth made its way down my torso but his hand drifted between my thighs, finding me still slick thanks to his earlier attention. His groan reverberated against my pelvis, causing goosebumps to rise along my skin. “Yours to command, mo nighean donn.” As he moved his hand slowly, I let out a low whimper, beginning to rock my hips into his touch. When he didn’t continue as I expected, I looked up and found him staring at me.
It might have been twenty years, but that look still made my heart slam hard against my ribcage.I knew what he was waiting for.
“I want you to make me come, Jamie,” I breathed out, shivering when I was rewarded with his thumb stroking tender nerves. “Please.”
My plea was enough to put him into action, and I cried out as two fingers moved inside of me, stroking upward and causing my hips to spasm. He wasn’t trying to draw it out; he made no attempt to tease. He was apparently on a mission to see me shatter, and I had no intention of disappointing him. His free hand moved to my breast, squeezing roughly, before he added a third finger, using the palm of his hand to press exactly where I needed him.
With one of my hands holding a tight fistful of his curls and the other desperately clinging to the bedding beneath us, I felt myself unravel with a flood of warmth, my pleasure announced by half
of his name choked past my lips. It was overwhelming, almost, to have been bereft of real pleasure for so long and to now have a surplus of it.
As I attempted to catch my breath, I could feel damp fingers gliding along my inner thigh, his lips following suit before he crawled back to me, tugging me into his arms. We were on our sides again, and until my heart found its normal rhythm, I pressed my face into the crook of his neck, breathing him in. Even now, after hours of being together, I could have wept at the simple comfort of his body warm against mine.
When I finally felt as though I were in control of my limbs again, I draped a leg over Jamie’s and met his gaze. “There is no one, in any time, who could ever give me what you do.” As I spoke, my hips began a slow back and forth motion against his; I knew both of us were nearing the sleeping point, but I didn’t want to stop yet, just in case I were to wake in Boston the next morning, only to realize my mind had once again worked against me.
“We were always supposed to be together, you and I,” he murmured, pulling me out of my lingering fear. “But time wasna on our side, then.”
“No,” I agreed, reaching between us to take the heavy length of him into my hand and stroke languidly, guiding him into me with a quiet moan. “We have time now.” No more wars in Scotland, no more running for either of us. “There’s time for you to love me, Jamie.”
We made love slowly in the dark, savoring one another, the words of our silent conversation understood between us. Never again would we take for granted the quiet nights or the lazy mornings we could spend just like this, entwined and staying lost in one another. I would spend the rest of my days loving and being loved by the only person whose soul was the counterpoint to my own. There would be no more waking alone or going to bed hoping to dream of my husband.
Our lifetime together had been cut short two decades ago, but my soul reclaimed his, and now, we could begin again.
Whole, and home.