Chapter 1: Chapter One
The first time Jamie’s mobile phone rang, he couldn’t possibly reach it.
It vibrated in the front pocket of his body warmer, but his worker’s hands were busy milking the cow in front of him. Tillie hadn’t fancied heading into the steel milking pen today. In fact, as Jamie had ushered the herd into the enclosure, she’d made quite a racket and kicked out, her tail whipping this way and that, dangerously.
“Shit,” Jamie muttered under his breath into the fresh air, as his phone stopped ringing for a beat, and then started again.
He gave Tillie’s final udder one last firm squeeze and pull, watching the thin spray of milk hit the metal pail, before wiping his calloused hands, as best he could, on a raggedy square of cloth. Fumble, fumble, fumble, Jamie eventually hit the bright green button on his phone, and brought it up to his ear.
“Mr Fraser. Hello. It’s Laoghaire. Would you be free to come down and have a small chat in the headmaster’s office?”
Oh, how a small, unexpected phone call could completely change Jamie Fraser’s day.
Mobile phone pressed tight to his ear with one hand, Jamie used his right hand to rub his brow bone. Ugh, he stunk of milk. “Aye, aye, after school? Or now?”
“After school,” the girlish sounding receptionist answered. “Half three, if that’s all right with you, Mr Fraser.”
“Aye, that’s fine. Is William all right? What’s he done?”
Tillie the cow, still standing in front of Jamie, shifted her hooves impatiently. Reaching out his other hand, Jamie smoothed his hand down her downy flank.
“Nothing serious. There’s been a small disagreement with another boy in his class, a Fergus Beauchamp. So we’d just like to have a chat with both boys and their parents.”
Fergus Beauchamp? Fergus Beauchamp? Jamie racked his brain for any hint of the boy, but nothing emerged.
“Thank you for your time, Mr Fraser. We’ll be glad to see you at half three.”
I’m sure you will , Jamie mused.
The blonde receptionist at William’s new primary school had been nothing but helpful to Jamie and his son as they enrolled. If anything, she’d been a little bit too helpful for Jamie’s liking.
Worries about William followed Jamie throughout the rest of his day. The receptionist had been purposefully vague about the issue, making Jamie’s anxieties even worse. William couldn’t be hurt; surely, the school would have asked Jamie to pick his only son up if that had been the case. Or called, if the little eejit had caused trouble. Ten year old William wasn’t a bad kid, not by any means. He was boisterous, sharp tongued and adventurous – as were all of the Frasers. He was a carbon copy of his Da. But he wasn’t a mean lad, not prone to lashing out or hitting others, unless prompted, just as his Da had taught him.
What unsettled Jamie more than anything was the fact this was only William’s second week at his brand new school. His second week, and already he was getting called to meet with the headmaster.
Still unfamiliar with the layout of the school, Jamie prayed he was heading in the right direction as he crested a paved hit. A sea of children were exiting the school building from a variety of different doors. The adults stood in clusters, chatting and laughing. A few other people, mainly older siblings, stood off to one side.
Jamie spotted his son immediately. Just like his Da, the bright red hair on top of Willie’s head and his growing height, set him apart from the other boys his age. Jamie was pleased to see William walking out of school with a group of three other boys. They joked with one another, backpacks thumping against their backs, as they walked. Willie called his goodbyes to them as he reached his Da. Jamie watched as the three remaining boys craned their necks up, up, up to see Jamie’s face, before shouting their ‘see you laters’ to Willie.
“We’ve been called to the Headmaster’s office, so ye better tell me what’ve ye done?” Jamie began walking in the direction of the receptionist’s office. Well, at least he hoped this was the direction to the receptionist’s office. The layout of the school was confusing, to say the least.
“I didn’t do anything!” Willie protested.
Peering down at his mini me, Jamie scoffed. “I ken for a fact ye did. Now are ye gannae tell me? Or is the headmaster gannae have to explain it to me?”
William pouted, and for a second Jamie thought his son was going to let anything slip. It wouldn’t be unfamiliar; the Frasers were known to be as stubborn as rocks.
“I was partnered with Fergus,” he began. “He’s English. A Sassenach. When I said he was a Sassenach, he hit me over the head with his ruler, so I hit him back.”
Jamie had to physically stop the corners of his mouth from rising in a smile at the way Willie told the story. He described his actions simply, and at least he’d admitted to hitting his peer in defense.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a Sassenach, Willie. I’ve told ye this before.”
“Aye, Da, but the way Fergus pronounces his vowels is funny.” Willie shrugged. “Everybody says so.”
“Does this Fergus lad have any friends?”
“I’m not sure. He usually sits by himself at lunch, but I don’t think he’s bothered by it.”
“Well.” Jamie pushed the door open, letting Willie duck under his arm and scamper inside. “Perhaps ye should try to befriend the lad. Ye might have things in common.”
Willie opened his mouth to reply, but the blonde haired receptionist beat him to it.
“Mr Fraser! Willie! You’re both right on time! Come on through.” God, Jamie wouldn’t even have an ounce of her energy if he’d downed three cups of espresso.
The two Frasers followed the young woman (if he had to guess, Jamie would have put her at 21, 22 at a push) and her swinging hips, down a short corridor, bypassing four different shut doors, until they reached the one at the end.
She pushed the door open, purposefully standing in the way so young Willie could easily slide past, but Jamie’s body would have to brush against hers. Up this close and personal, Jamie could see the lace of her bra through the thin material of her white blouse. Her perfume was sickly sweet and strong, as if she’d doused herself in it. A couple more minutes in her company, and Jamie was sure he’d have a killer headache.
“William!” Jamie heard the headmaster greet his son. With a small smile to the receptionist, Jamie skedaddled past her as quickly as he could, shutting the office door behind himself.
“And you must be Mr Fraser.” The balding headmaster had stood up, leaning over his desk, and extending his hand out for Jamie to shake.
“I am.” Grasping the gentleman’s hand with a firm grip, Jamie shook twice. “Nice to meet ye.”
“And yourself. Will Mrs Fraser be joining us?”
Willie snorted, his feet swinging above the ground in the seat he currently occupied. Jamie noticed another boy already occupied the other chair. This must be Fergus Beauchamp. From his gangly legs, Jamie could see he was also a tall boy. A shock of thick, black hair covered his head, setting off the pink undertones of his pale skin. Fergus smiled cordially at Jamie when he realised he was being watched. At least the lad had some manners.
“There isn’t a Mrs Fraser unfortunately, Mr…”
“Mr Wellman, if you please.” He supplied. “Well, how about Willie’s mother, then?”
“William’s mother isn’t in the picture either, I’m afraid. It’ll just be myself, Mr Wellman.”
A clever gentleman, Mr Wellman must have heard the final note in Jamie’s voice, for he said nothing else on the matter, but nodded once. “Well, we’re just waiting for Miss Beauchamp to arrive. She shouldn’t be long, should she, Fergus?”
The lad shrugged. “Depends if she’s gotten caught up at work.”
Jamie understood what Willie meant now he’d heard Fergus speak for himself. The lad did indeed sound English, but Jamie’s ear could detect a mixture of dialects hiding underneath the surface. The way Fergus stretched out his ‘o’ in work was definitely Scottish.
Again, Jamie didn’t know that name to put a face too. A new school for William also meant a new environment for Jamie. As busy with work on the farm as he was, five days a week – Monday through Friday – Jamie made it a priority to pick his son up from school. Standing at the gates, he’d greeted a few of the parents and teachers, and noticed a few of the kids in Willie’s class who had exaggerated hairstyles or coloured backpacks. Fergus, nor his Mam had unfortunately not caught Jamie’s eye, until right now.
Minutes passed as everybody waited for Miss Beauchamp to arrive. Fergus had fished a football book from his backpack and begun reading. Willie fiddled with the laces of his trainers. Jamie and Mr Wellman stared out the window at the rolling fields, watching as the steady stream of children and parents walking past, eventually died off.
Where on earth was this woman? Being held up at work was one thing, but this was taking the piss now…
Willie’s stomach would be rumbling any minute now, if it hadn’t already done so. There was some mince left in the fridge, perhaps Jamie could make a Shepard’s pie for their dinner. See if his own Mam, Ellen, had any of her famous apple crumble left over for the boy’s dessert…
Click clack. Click clack. Click clack.
The sound of high heels slapping against the floor could be heard. It got closer and closer, louder and louder, faster and faster, until Jamie was sure whoever they belonged too was running at breakneck speed.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, Mr Wellman!”
At the sound of the Englishwoman’s clear voice, Jamie turned around. He was glad he still had a grip on the back of Willie’s chair, because otherwise he worried his suddenly weak knees would go out.
She was naturally tall, made even taller by the stiletto points of her heels, reaching to just a few inches under Jamie’s great height of 6’4. Her hair was a deep chestnut brown, the natural wave of her strands styled into a 1940s hairdo, which sat over one shoulder. Fergus’ mother wore a light blue blouse; the white buttons holding the blouse closed gleaming from across the room. The material clung to the shape of her breasts, dipping in across her stomach and tucked into a black pencil skirt.
A skintight black pencil skirt.
As surreptitiously as he could, Jamie let his eyes move further down Miss Beauchamp’s body. The stretchy material followed the outward curve of her rounded hips, before straightening out around the tops of her knees. A slit up the back must be used to help her walk easier, but all it did for Jamie was bring to his attention to the curve of her spectacular arse.
Nobody could ever say Jamie Fraser was a breast man over an arse man. He would pick a nice, round arse any day of the week. Right now, specifically Miss Beauchamp’s.
Jamie licked his dry lips, tuning back into the conversation long enough to find William looking up at his Da. With a wink to his son, Jamie realised Miss Beauchamp was asking her son a question. That English voice of hers was hard to miss.
“What have you done, Fergus?” She sighed.
Fergus looked at his Mam, but didn’t answer. She rolled her eyes, looking towards Mr Wellman for an answer.
“There was just a small incident between Fergus, and William here.”
Jamie felt Miss Beauchamp’s eyes bore into him and his son at the sound of an incident. If it was possible, Jamie stood up even taller. He was oddly aware, for the first time all day, of his state of dress. William still looked presentable; school uniform fine except for his jumper, which looked like it had been discarded a couple times throughout the day. But at least Willie was clean, and his hair wasn’t all over the place. Jamie, however, hadn’t given much thought to the clothes he wore. A green jumper to ward off the slight April chill and a pair of holey jeans, that could quite possibly have mud along the hems. The while track of his trainers certainly didn’t look as bright and as shiny as they once had. But hey, ho – the life of a farmer, right?
“Did you start it?” The nut brown haired lassie asked again.
Fergus answered this time around, short and sweet. “Yes, I did.”
“What have I bloody told you?” The woman exclaimed, her own accent standing out against the three other Scots in the room. A small, discreet cough behind his lips stopped Jamie from laughing at her use of such an English turn of phrase. Bloody charming.
“It wasn’t all Fergus,” Mr Wellman waded in. “William here did hit him back, after the name calling, of course.”
Neither Jamie nor Willie disagreed with the Headmaster’s statement. It was true enough, to be fair.
“Say you’re sorry, Fergus.” With Miss Beauchamp’s body turned more towards him, Jamie could see her face as clearly as her body.
She was just as bonny as he knew she would be, although younger looking than Jamie had expected.
“I’m sorry, Willie,” Fergus muttered, but sounding quite sincere.
Jamie hadn’t even gotten the words out of his mouth to prompt Willie, when Willie was already talking back, “I’m sorry, too, for calling ye a Sassenach.” A surge of pride filled Jamie’s heart.
“Well,” Mr Wellman clapped his hands together. “Two fine young boys you both have, hard working and polite with manners. That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it? Thank you for coming in Mr Fraser and you, Miss Beauchamp.”
In response, she nodded once, already picking up Fergus’ backpack for him, and holding onto it tight. When nothing sparkled in the spring sunlight, Jamie realised young Miss Beauchamp wasn’t wearing any type of extravagant ring on her finger.
Jamie and William reached the door first, but as Jamie held it open for his son to pass through, he felt Miss Beauchamp’s presence come up behind him. Unlike the receptionist, her perfume was light, something botanical – camomile perhaps, with a hint of vanilla. It wasn’t too strong, nor too overpowering, yet it still clung to her skin as if Miss Beauchamp had delicately sprayed herself with the scent before she’d entered the meeting.
Miss Beauchamp slipped out of the door, waving over her shoulder at the Headmaster as Fergus ran ahead. If it was possible, her arse seemed even more enticing now she was walking, those long, lean legs of hers strutting away with purpose.
“Thank you,” she called, looking behind herself at Jamie.
Shit. He’d totally been caught staring at her arse…
When Miss Beauchamp didn’t reprimand him for his wandering eyes, Jamie breathed a sigh of relief. He offered her a tight-lipped smile, not daring to open his mouth in case something stupid, or embarrassing, came tumbling out.
Up ahead, Jamie could see Willie hanging from the monkey bars in the school playground. A number of times, throughout the past couple of days, Jamie had been subjugated to listening to his only son, as Willie complained about other children hogging the playground equipment. Now, with no other bairns in sight, Willie appeared to be taking full advantage and having the time of his life.
Fergus and his Mam didn’t stop at the playground, both of them continued on, Fergus running and his Mam eating up the walkway in her heels. Taking a seat on an empty bench, Jamie decided to let his son play for a little while longer, an easy way of burning off some of Willie’s energy. The lad would sleep well tonight.
From this point at the top of the hill, Jamie could just see the car Fergus was heading for. Both figures had become smaller and smaller with the distance, but still, Jamie could see Fergus patiently waiting by the passenger car door for his Mam to unlock it.
“Are we going home now?” Willie had managed to sneak up on his Da with near silent feet.
“Aye,” Jamie ruffled his son’s hair affectionately. Soon, Willie would be too old, too cool for his Da’s touch. For now, Jamie took in as much of this moment as possible. “Do ye want Shepard’s pie for dinner, or chicken fajitas?”
Jamie knew this routine like the back of his hand.
As he kicked off his muddy trainers, leaving them carefully by the door so as to not trek mud everywhere, Willie would be patting each of the 5 horses, before moving towards his own pony, which stood in the final block. Willie would spend hours out there if he could, but with it being a school night, Jamie would need to call his boy in early.
Growing up, Jamie had spent most (if not all) of his time in the great outdoors. His Mam had badgered him about his schoolwork, but Jamie couldn’t have been less bothered. He’d chosen instead to educate himself, by reading outdoors, anything and everything he could get his hands on. When Jamie wasn’t busy reading, playing football or making his older sister’s life a living nightmare, Jamie helped out on his own family farm.
The Lallybroch farm ran for miles upon miles. Even at the age of 29, Jamie wasn’t entirely sure how many acres his family owned in total. All Jamie knew was it had been passed down from generational hand to generational hand, and the current Frasers were determined to keep it that way. Jamie’s own home sat halfway between the forest and the road. A ten minutes walk north, through the cow’s field, a quick detour past the wildflower field, and you would find yourself at the original Lallybroch estate – the one Jamie had grown up in as a young lad. Jamie’s older sister Jenny, her husband, Ian and their three year old son, Wee Jamie (of course, named after his favourite uncle) lived a ten minute walk south of the original estate. It had been an easy, unanimous decision that all of the Fraser’s would stay close together. They were an especially close knit family, after all.
With the pan hot enough, Jamie dumped in his mixture of garlic, and onions to fry off. Willie had eventually decided on chicken fajitas for his dinner, after much humming and harring in the car ride home. The kitchen filled up immediately with the sizzling sound of frying food and a pungent aroma. The diced chicken pieces were added, and a combination of vegetables – including cherry tomatoes, Willie’s new found favourite.
“Willie!” Jamie shouted through the open front door. Little things, like being able to open the door to waft away the food smells without freezing to dead or being up to your waist in snow, were just one of Jamie’s favourite thing about spring.
“Aye?” Willie called back.
“Come and help me with ye dinner!”
By the time Willie made it inside, his hair was as messy as if he’d been dragged backwards through a bush. Jamie wouldn’t be surprised if his son had somehow ended up in one of the bushes dotted around the property.
As per their routine, while Jamie manned the pan, Willie went about finding the wraps in the bread bin and retrieving a pot of salsa and sour cream. The tiny, shrivelled bairn Jamie had once been able to hold in the palm of one hand, was now tall enough to reach the kitchen counter without any needed help of a stool or a chair. He smeared a healthy dose of both condiments onto four different wraps - two for him and two for his Da, before taking their plates over to the oak dining table.
“Can you get some kitchen roll for our fingers, and two glasses of water, please?”
Carefully filling up two empty glasses, Willie sat back down at his favourite spot at the table, just as Jamie was laying the pan down upon a chopping board so as to not burn the table underneath. Using a large wooden spoon, Jamie scooped enough mixture to fill both of Willie’s wraps.
“Thanks, Da.” Willie mumbled around a mouthful of home cooked food.
“Ye’re very welcome, son. Eat up and then we’ll try to tackle your maths homework together.”
“Do we have too?” Willie whined. A typical child.
“Yes, ye do. I’ll see if Granny has any apple crumble left as ye reward if ye get all ten questions done…”
Nothing like a little bit of bribery to help your bairns do their tasks.
“Fine. But tell Granny I deserve extra cream on the side, please. I’ve had a stressful day.”
Jamie couldn’t stop himself from snorting; it was a wonder water didn’t stream out of his nose.
Ye’re telling me, lad…
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Beyond excited to share this chapter with you all... enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Up ye get, Willie.”
As with every school day, Jamie would attempt to awaken his son at half seven in the morning. Willie would protest, burrowing under the covers asking for another ten minutes, until eventually, eyes still closed and face creased with the remnants of sleep, he would shuffle to the bathroom.
Jamie, himself, would watch this charade with a small smile on his face. He was exactly the same as a boy, and even well into his teenage years. However, that routine had long since changed since Willie had been born and thrust into Jamie’s sole protection. And only a couple of years ago, had their routine changed again, when Jamie decided to buy his plot of land from his own Da and become a full time farmer. No more lie ins for him, Jamie was usually seen up at around six to get all his jobs done, or sometimes even earlier, if there were an extra long list of things to be accomplished.
Stomping above would symbolize Willie had finished his business in the bathroom and had moved onto getting dressed in his school uniform. The young lad would bring down a small pot of hair gel as he came down the stairs. Sitting at the dining table and eating his bowl full of parritch with an added dollop of blueberry jam, Willie waited as his Da warmed a tiny amount of gel in his palms and then through Willie’s hair.
This was their school morning routine, and only on a weekend did it change, but ever so slightly. For the past ten years, since Willie had come screaming into the world, it had worked for the two of them. They were content; neither of them saw any point in changing it. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken , was one of Granny Ellen’s favourite sayings. And so far, everything seemed to be working just fine…
Spring was by far a farmer’s busiest time of year. The crops were being harvested, washed and thrown into crates. Jamie’s crop would join his Da’s and his brother in law Ian’s, before being distributed to the local greengrocers and sold on the shelves to paying customers. It was back breaking labour. Less than an hour into the process, Jamie, and the small team of lads he employed, would be stripped to nothing but their trousers as the weak Scottish springtime sun beat down upon their backs.
By the time Jamie had finished his square section, the sweat was pouring off his brow. He lifted a forearm to wipe the beads away before they reached his eyes, getting a whiff of himself as he did so. A shower would be in order before picking William up from school.
The pollen from the growing wild daffodils in the field clung to Jamie’s bare skin, as he lifted his knees high and walked to the lambing shed. A large clump of the pollen had actually stuck to the crook of Jamie’s arm, its staying power helped by the sticky, almost powdery, texture of the pollen and also the sheer amount of sunscreen Jamie had applied this morning. Curse of being a redheaded devil – sunscreen was essential to be applied all year round, not just in the summer season.
As forethought, one of the lads working on Jamie’s plot of land in exchange for money, had left the barn door of the lambing shed wide open. At least this meant the ewes could choose if they wanted to be out in the fields, grazing and watching the world pass by, or take shelter in the barn.
It was much cooler inside, and Jamie let out an audible sigh of contentment. He blinked twice, letting his eyes adjust to the dark. Slivers of sunlight through the cracks in the slates of wood, and a distorted shape of the barn door against the shadowed floor, were the only strips of light, making it possible to see the three ewes lying down inside. They each lay on the bed of hay Jamie had lain down earlier on in the month, only looking up at the sound of heavy footsteps.
Getting down to his knees, Jamie let one of the expectant mothers sniff the back of his hand. He probably smelt of greenery, an almost sour tang that would stay on his skin for days. Once the ewe had deemed him safe, Jamie skimmed his hand down her flank, feeling the roundness of her stomach.
“Not long now, lass.” He said to her, closing his eyes and picturing the wee lamb curled inside her womb. If they were lucky, the ewe might bare two lambs this time around, but Jamie was only know for certain once she started the lambing process. However, knowing these three ewes had moved away from the herd was a good sign their lambs were to be born any day now.
Jamie’s knees cricked as he stood back up to his full height. The other two ewes seemed comfortable enough, and once he was satisfied they had enough clean water in their trough, Jamie let himself wander back into the fresh air. The heady smell of hay was replaced at once by the scent of manure as the wind began to pick up speed in the opposite direction.
Jamie began walking in the direction of the house. A quick flash of his watch, told him he had less than half an hour until it was time to pick Willie up from school, hopefully, without having to visit the Headmaster’s office again. Brewing a small of cup of tea was first up on Jamie’s agenda, and then he’d get on with preparing the vegetables and potatoes for his and Willie’s Shepard’s pie.
The ‘baa’ of a sheep in the field reached Jamie’s ears, and he was reminded once again of the ewes in the shed. It was looking like at least one of the lambs would arrive this weekend. Willie would be pleased. In the mean time, Jamie would need to find a pair of rubber gloves for the pair of them, and give the vet a heads up, just in case. The work of a farmer, no matter how many helping hands he had, was never done…
“Aye, I am.”
“I’m wee Johnnie’s Da,” he stuck his meaty hand out for Jamie to shake. “Peter.”
“Nice to meet ye.” Jamie wasn’t 100% sure, but he was almost willing to bet Johnnie was one of the three lads Willie had been hanging around with recently.
As they waited for the bairns to finish school, Jamie and Peter chatted cordially. To nobody’s surprise, Peter was a massive rugby fan, and had already enrolled his son into a under elevens rugby league.
“Ye should think about signing ye’re laddie up,” Peter suggested.
“Aye, I’ll ask Willie, see what he thinks.” Jamie rubbed his thumb against his lower lip in thought. “He’s already asked me to sign him up for football, so he starts that next weekend, or is it the weekend after? I’ll have to check the…”
“Sorry to interrupt,” a distinctively feminine voice sounded next to Jamie’s right hand side. The two men turned to face the stranger in tandem. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Debbie, Katie’s Mam.”
Peter coughed what sounded rather like a choking laugh into his fist.
“Katie?” Jamie asked. He’d shifted his hand away from his mouth as soon as he’d noticed Debbie’s eyes staring at his lips. Now his left hand hung down by his side, two fingers tapping away at his thigh.
Debbie’s face dropped partially, but she recovered quickly. “Aye. My Katie sits next to ye’re William in science. They’re partnered up together. Didn’t he tell ye?”
For the second time in mere minutes, Jamie rifled through his thoughts. First, he couldn’t remember what date Willie was due to start football practice, and now, he couldn’t remember if Willie had ever mentioned this Katie lass. Surely he hadn’t. Jamie was pretty confident he’d remember if, and when, his son started taking notice of the wee lassies. Over the course of the past two weeks, there’d been no mention of any lass, let a known Katie. Willie was much too interested in telling his Da about the worm his friend had picked up and slung across the playground, and pestering Jamie with questions about when the baby lambs were going to be born.
“I don’t ken he did…”
She tutted, a ‘what can you do’ expression playing about her face. “I’m sure he did, Jamie. It must just be hard for ye, being a single parent and all, to take everything in the wee laddie says.”
How the fuck did she already ken his name? And why did the words coming out of her mouth sound very much like a back handed compliment?
Jamie said nothing, moving his head to look forward. Where the hell was the welcome distraction of ye kid, when ye needed one?
Debbie sidestepped back into Jamie’s center line of vision. She wasn’t a very tall woman, not at all like Miss Beauchamp, but something about Debbie made it very hard to ignore. Perhaps it was the sight of her blonde hair; curled, styled, backcombed and hair sprayed within an inch of its life, until it stood up around her head like something from the eighties. Or it could also have been the set of fake breasts, which jutted out from her chest in a strange fashion. The tight top she wore didn’t help matters in the slightest, Jamie worried they’d explode at any given minute.
“Any who,” she sing sang. “I just wanted to introduce myself, and also let ye ken about the spring festival.”
“The spring festival?” Jamie repeated.
“Aye.” Debbie looked smugger by the second as she realised she’d struck the jackpot. Jamie quite clearly knew nothing about the spring festival, and she was the lucky woman who’d get to explain it to him. “We hold the spring school festival around the beginning to mid May. It takes place on the big field, right over there.” Debbie pointed haphazardly over her shoulder. Jamie followed her finger enough to see the stretch of grass she must have been talking about.
“Different activity stalls, music and a few rides are usually set up, it’s just a bunch of fun for the bairns, really. But we do ask the parents to get involved, manning the stalls, keeping any eye on the donations, that sort of thing.”
“Where do the donations go?”
“Oh, back into the school. It’s shared as equally as possible between the year groups. All the money goes to extra playground equipment for the wee ones and usually, to the day trips out for the older bairnies.”
The high pitched peal of the school bell rang out, signaling the end of the school day as Jamie said, “So, all the parents help oot?”
“Aye, most of us,” Peter piped up. “Christ, I remember last year I got put in charge of the face painting stall. Ye should have seen it. The lads at the pub won’t ever let me forget those bloody photos.”
Jamie laughed, a proper, down in the depths of his stomach laugh, at the mental image of muscly Peter painting a bright pink butterfly on some wee lassies cheek. “Ye’ll have to get them oot and show me them.”
A glint of laughter shone in Peter’s eyes. “Come doon to the pub with me and the lads sometime, and I’ll show ye then.”
Debbie had been staring strangely the whole time Peter and Jamie had been exchanging laughter. She giggled a little herself, but it didn’t sound real, more like a titter, as if she were merely playing along.
“Mam! Ma!” A dark haired lassie had latched onto Debbie, pulling on her Mam’s arm.
“I’ll have to go.” Debbie smiled widely, too widely. Teeth, gums, all were on show – Jamie thought he might even have been able to see her tonsils at one point. “But I’ll add you to the Facebook group, Jamie.”
Both Peter and Jamie held their hands up in a silent goodbye. Once he was positive Debbie was out of earshot, Peter turned towards him, lowering his voice. Neither of their boys were anywhere to be seen yet.
“So there’s no Mrs Fraser?”
“What?” Jamie said. “No. No, Mrs Fraser, unless ye’re counting my own Mam.”
“And Willie’s Mam? Is she in the picture?”
“No.” As always, when Jamie thought of Willie’s Mam, of Geneva, he felt a sharp pang of guilt penetrate his heart. He swallowed hard, dislodging the sudden lump in his throat. “She passed away when Willie was young.”
“Sorry to hear that, mate.” There was honesty in Peter’s tone. “So, ye’re a complete single parent?”
“Aye, I am.” Jamie challenged Peter to give him a back handed compliment as Debbie had done, as a number of different people in the past had done. To tell him a wee lad like Willie needed a Mam, a mother figure. To belittle Jamie, and undermine him, explain how things should be done, just because he’d become a Da at the tender age of twenty.
Instead, Peter snorted. “No wife, no girlfriend. Ye’re gonnae have to watch yeself, mate. It’s like vultures in this place, they’ll be all over ye like a rash. Debbie was only the first, just ye watch.”
Jamie wanted to say something else, something in reply, but a glimmer of copper caught his eye. Willie’s hair colour shone in the crowd of school age pupils. It wasn’t as red as his Da’s – Jamie’s was a bright red, always had been, interspersed with a few streaks of blonde and now a couple of greys. The handful of brunette strands running through Willie’s hair, courtesy of his Mam of course, stood out more clearly as he became older.
His Da could still remember vividly the day Willie had been placed into his arms. All bundled up to keep him warm, his skin turning less blue and more pink by the minute. His face had been squished up against the hard fluorescent light. Jamie could still recall the solid weight of him in his arms, his son, his actual, living son with Fraser blood running through his veins. And already a small cowlick’s of bright red Mackenzie hair sitting atop his tiny head.
So, aye, Willie’s hair might become darker as he became older and the years past. But Jamie knew he’d always be a redhead in the grand scheme of things.
A Fraser through and through.
“Thick as thieves, the four of them,” Peter said, watching as the group of four boys, including Willie and Johnnie, made their way towards their parents. “When ye come to the pub, Fraser, I’ll introduce ye to Tom and Michaels Da’s. Their Mam’s usually pick them up, ye see?”
“Aye.” Jamie had only been halfheartedly listening. Willie had broken away from the group, running up to Fergus Beauchamp, who had been walking only a little ways ahead of them. The two boys exchanged words; Jamie couldn’t make out what they were from this far away.
Fergus nodded, and Jamie’s eyes tracked him as Fergus waved goodbye to Willie. A quick search through the throng of parents showed no sign of Miss Beauchamp. Jamie was quite sure he wouldn’t have missed her. Not her height, not her voice and quite certainly, not her outfit of choice or the delicate curves it clung too.
Instead, Fergus stopped in front of a blonde haired woman. Jamie could only see the back of her, but would have guessed she was about the same height as Claire, perhaps only one or two inches shorter. She greeted Fergus with a hug, taking his backpack from him, and listening as Fergus’ mouth started moving a million miles an hour. They began to walk towards the car park without a backwards glance at Jamie.
“Hi, Da.” Willie announced his arrival.
“Hiya lad. Right, were gonnae get going, Peter. I’ll see ye on Monday.”
“Bye, Fraser,” Peter bid. Johnnie and Willie waved their goodbyes to one another, before the two Da’s and their boys, went their separate ways for the weekend.
“Did ye have a good day at school?” Jamie asked once he’d given Willie a boost into the passenger seat of the beat up truck.
“Aye.” Willie leaned forward, changing the dial to the latest football scores rather than the radio station Jamie had selected earlier. Once he was happy with his choice, Willie reached behind himself for the seat belt, pulling it taught across his lap and shoulder, before listening intently for the click of the seatbelt holder. “We got to have a longer lunch break as a treat because it’s the weekend.”
Following the same routine, Jamie only turned the key in the ignition, once his own seatbelt was safely secured. “Ah, that’s braw. I saw ye talking to Fergus before. Everything all right between the two of ye’s now?”
“Mhm.” Bent at the waist, Willie fiddled with the zip on the main compartment of his backpack. He drew the zipper back, enough room for Willie to shove his hand inside and root around.
“Fergus gave me these this morning.”
Jamie could only take his eyes off the road for a split second, but it was enough to see the clear Tupperware box balancing on Willie’s bony knee.
“What is it?” He asked.
“Homemade biscuits. His Mam made them, ye ken the Sassenach woman, with the pretty hair?”
As if I could forget her lad…
“Miss Beauchamp, ye mean? Ye thought her hair was pretty, eh?”
“Aye, well it was, wasn’t it?” Willie shrugged, breaking the seal of the Tupperware box, and pulling out a golden baked circle.
“Anyway, Fergus’ Mam, Miss Beauchamp, baked them as ‘sorry’ biscuits. Or so Fergus said.” Willie bit into the one in his hand; Jamie could hear the perfect crunch as his son chewed.
Jamie drummed his fingers along the top of the steering wheel, rolling the car slowly to a stop, as they approached a red light. “Why would she need to bake biscuits? Sorry for what?”
“I dinna ken, Da. Sorry her lad punched me…”
“Some of which was ye’re own fault.”
Willie rolled his eyes at his Da. “Or sorry she made us wait so long when we could have been home feeding the chickens. I’m not so sure why. But they taste really good, better than Granny’s… Don’t tell her I said that,” Willie tacked on as an after thought.
Jamie chuckled. “Don’t ye worry, I won’t.”
“And his sister iced our initials on them, five for me and five for you. Look.” Willie held up the rest of his uneaten biscuit. Jamie could just see the end of the letter ‘W’ piped in white frosting. While the stoplight still blared red, Jamie chanced a peek inside the Tupperware box. Indeed, a neat letter ‘J’ stared back at him, this time written in blue frosting.
“His sister?” Jamie asked, unable to stop himself as the light turned green and he put his foot back on the pedal.
“Aye, he’s got an older sister. She's twelve.”
Interesting… Miss Beauchamp didn’t look old enough to have a ten year old son, let a known have an older daughter.
And then, as an after thought… how the fuck had she known the initial of his first name?
A sharp turn and the truck trundled onto a country road, much quieter than the busy dual carriageway had been. “Did ye thank him?”
Willie had popped the rest of his biscuit in his mouth. He opened his lips, ready to answer his Da’s question, but one look of Jamie’s face had him shutting up and chewing. Don’t talk with your mouth full was one of Da’s golden rules.
Sure he wasn’t going to spray crumbs everywhere, Willie shoved the Tupperware box safely back in his backpack and then spoke up. “Course I did. That’s what I was doing when ye saw me talking to him.”
“Good lad,” Jamie praised his son. “I’ll get it washed up and ye can return it him at school on Monday.”
Willie nodded, settling his head back and listening to the football scores without any other care in the world. Oh if only, Jamie wished, his own thoughts could be that quiet, rather than spinning like a whirlpool as he pictured fit Miss Beauchamp baking in the kitchen – an apron tied around her petite waist, so as not to damage that tight, little skirt of hers.
Realising where his thoughts were going – straight down to inappropriate town – Jamie rolled down his window, allowing cold air to blow in.
God, a couple of fingers of whisky wouldn’t cut it tonight. He’d need the whole bloody bottle at this rate.
Surprise motherf*ckers!! of course i couldn't leave our wee Faith out!!
So... what did we all think? lol
Please let me know! i really do love chatting to you all and comments and kudos keep me writing! I've been working pretty hard on these chapters, with more imagery than ever before, so i really hope my hard work is paying off lol
until next sunday xx
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Please keep in mind i am not a farmer lol... i tried to do as much research as possible to make it realistic (my google search history looks very weird right now) but some things may still be fictional <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Da! Da! Wake up! Geordie says the lambs are coming!”
Saturday morning, typically Jamie’s favourite day of the week, because he allowed himself a lie in, and yet here he was being viciously shaken away by his own son.
The fucking little traitor.
Suddenly startled out of his dream, Jamie sat bolt upright in his bed, gasping for breath. God only knew what time it was. Four slivers of light poured out from behind Jamie’s blind, but the rest of his room was still pitch black.
It was definitely way too early for a Saturday morning.
Blinking hard, Jamie dislodged the sleep sticking his eyelids closed, with a firm rub of the heel of his hand. Now more conscious than he had been before, but by no means awake, Jamie could just make out the outline of his son. Willie stood at the side of the bed, hands fisted in the sheets, while he bounced up and down with excitement. What the hell had Granny Ellen fed him this morning?
“Come on, Da! You’ve gotta get up! The lambs!”
Right at this given second, Jamie couldn’t give a flying fuck about the lambs. That would probably change once he splashed his face with cold water, took a shot of coffee and woke up properly. But for now… Jamie wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep and back to his dream.
“Da! Are you coming?”
“Yes…” Jamie’s voice was all croaky and full of sleep. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yes, I’m coming lad. Go tell Geordie I’ll be out shortly. Do you ken if he’s rang the vet yet?”
“I don’t think so, he was waiting for ye or Grandda to show up first,” Willie said.
“Right, okay. I’ll be there in ten, son. Tell Geordie to hang on.”
Jamie felt rather than saw Willie stand on his tiptoes and bob his head as he listened to his Da’s important instructions. Once Willie had scampered out of the room, feet pattering against the wooden floor and down the stairs, Jamie allowed himself to fall backwards onto the mattress. He blew out a large sigh, lifting his hand to his cheeks and scrubbing up and down hard. More than just stubble, almost the beginning of a beard, greeted Jamie’s palms. He’d definitely need to find time to fit in a quick shave over the weekend, unless he wanted to show up on the school run like he’d been living in a cave.
Just another task to add to Jamie’s ever growing to do list.
Christ, there weren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week.
Right about now, he should be swinging his legs out of bed. He should be pulling on any clean clothes he touched first in his wardrobe. He should be walking across the fields, phone pressed to his ear as he talked with the vet, to greet Geordie and any of the other young lads who had come to help with the lambing process.
Instead, Jamie had let his eyes fall shut again, hands folded neatly across his stomach as he tried to fit together the bits and pieces of his dream. He first remembered he’d been in the field, sun beating down on him, his back almost at breaking point as he bent over to pull out some stubborn weeds. Somebody had called his name, his full given name, but now Jamie was unable to place the voice. The next thing he knew, he’d been in the horse’s stables. The stables were unbearably hot due to the hot weather outside, but the strangest thing of all had been the lack of horses themselves. There wasn’t any neighing or braying of hooves, but each of the stable doors were still bolted shut, as if the horses had somehow magically passed through the wood.
That same voice had called Jamie’s name, and he was sure he’d only blinked once. But now Miss Beauchamp stood in front of him. She wore the exact same outfit she’d worn to the Headmaster’s meeting (god, she must be sweltering – Jamie had thought to himself). A coy smile had played about her plump lips.
Jamie had felt drawn to her, could not stop himself from crossing the short space between them, and pressing himself up against her soft body. She’d sighed oh so sweetly, turning her body in his arms, until her back rested against his chest, and her delicious arse was pressed tight against Jamie’s pelvis. Reaching upwards with nimble fingers, Miss Beauchamp shifted all of her hair to one shoulder, leaving the other side of her pale neck bare.
Jamie wanted to sink his teeth into her unmarked skin.
The humidity from outside hadn’t touched Miss Beauchamp’s hair. The 1940s curls were still as glossy and pinned in place as they had always been.
Leaning in, Jamie touched his nose to the Sassenach’s neck, the space behind her ear. He’d expected to smell her perfume, that combination of chamomile and vanilla, which had driven him mad, but Jamie couldn’t smell anything. Not her perfume, not her body wash, not the hairspray, which most certainly should be holding the strands in place… Jamie couldn’t smell any of it. Even the scent of the horse’s stables, that warm, earthy scent, had disappeared.
Disappointment set in, hard and fast. He wanted to be able to smell her, hear her post English voice whisper his name once more. But Miss Beauchamp didn’t do any of the sort, not even her eyes would catch his. The warmth of her body has slowly been dissipating bit by bit, and Jamie was about to move away, when he noticed her fingers had moved from her hair to the hem of the damned skirt. He watched, transfixed, as her hips shimmied from side to side as she inched the hem up further and further and further.
Jamie realised too late, she was doing it on purpose, the fucking tease. Each shift brushed his crotch, until his cock strained uncomfortable against the zipper of the denim jeans he’d been wearing.
No wonder he was so incredibly hot wearing a pair of jeans in the heat of summer.
In slow motion, Jamie felt his hands move to help her inch the hem up. But his fingers felt like they were floating through molasses. They simply wouldn’t hurry up and meet the cotton material.
Hissing through his teeth, Jamie felt so close he could taste it. So close to touching the material, so close to her body, so close to coming in his pants. Just another push or so and…
“Da! Are ye getting up or what?”
For the second time today Jamie was awoken by his terror of a son, gasping for breath. Had he drifted off? Or had his mind simply transported him back to his original dream? Jamie couldn’t tell.
With a smack of his lips, Jamie shouted back down to Willie. “Aye! Won’t be a minute!”
Whether that answer satisfied William or not, Jamie didn’t know. But he no longer heard his son shouting or pottering about, banging things, downstairs.
“Shit.” Jamie muttered out loud into the darkened room.
Desire coursed through his veins. He had a hell of a cockstand, and his heart beat faster than usual. Licking his dry lips, Jamie threw out an arm to the side, grasping his phone sitting on the nightstand with the tips of his fingers. Fingers, which only a moment ago, had been trying to touch an invisible woman.
The blue light from his phone momentarily blinded him before his eyes got used to it, and Jamie could make out the time. Aye, just as expected. Way too early to be wide awake on a Saturday morning.
Jamie wanted nothing more than to have the extra time to deal with his erection in his own time, or, even better, turn around and have Miss Beauchamp in his bed, staring sleepily back at him.
But, quite clearly, neither of those things were going to happen.
With a large amount of effort, more than it usually took, even if he was just short of thirty, Jamie forced himself out of bed. His whole body protested, bones cracking as his feet met the floor.
The day had already begun, now it was waiting for Jamie to play catch up. But what a way to start the day, aye? Even if it had been just a dream…
Hours had gone by since Willie had rudely awoken his Da up. Jamie couldn’t blame him; he still remembered how excited he’d been for his own first experience lambing with his own Da. This would be the first year Willie would recall everything.
Stumbling, half awake into the barn, Jamie had seen a crowd of young lads assembled round the poor ewe, chatting about gods knows what. He’d shooed most of them away to take care of the other tasks, knowing it would do no good to spook the expectant mother by hovering all over the place.
While the others had ambled off, Willie had stayed on all fours on the ground, hand gently running down the side of the ewe as her nostrils flared in pain due to the oncoming contraction. Not a moment too soon had Jamie finished up his phone call updating the vet, did he see his Da and Ian walking side by side over the hill. Between the two of them, they seemed to be carrying a number of different items in their arms. Jamie knew from experience they would be the tools and instruments needed to help deliver the lamb, safe and sound.
Now, as the sunset and the clock just ticked past six, Jamie knew they were on the homeward stretch. The other sheep had been penned away, making sure they couldn’t escape and disturb the current lambing. Ian and Jamie had worked together to fork together a large, downy pile of hay, this way making it able for the ewe to lie down comfortably, and not on a solid, cold, concrete floor.
Willie had been given the important job of making sure the tools were ready. On a sterile mat lay a number of elbow length blue gloves, some forceps, a bucket of warm water, and a box of sterile syringes containing a low dose of anesthetic, in case Jamie though the ewe started to become over distressed.
Willie had taken his job seriously, as he should. Making sure the water was warm enough every half an hour and walking back and forth with a brewed kettle, if it was not. And ensuring his Da’s hands were properly cleaned before he checked how dilated the ewe had become.
When he thought he could wait no longer, legs cramping from where he’d been sitting on them and stomach growling, Grandda Brian had leaned over.
“Ye can run over to ye Grannie’s if ye want, lad. I ken she was making dinner for us all to enjoy, but she might have it ready early, if ye ask nicely.”
Willie had looked over at his Da who was sitting patiently beside the ewe. Jamie said nothing, but raised his eyebrow in a silent question.
“Thanks Grandda, but I want to stay. I want to see it. Then we can all go to Grannie’s together.”
Brian clapped him on the shoulder and sent him a beaming smile.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long for the lamb to make his way into the world after the two water sacks had burst. Jamie had washed his hands for a final time, choosing to forgo the gloves so he could easily grab a slimy fetlock if needs be. But that wasn’t to be expected. This particular ewe had lambed before; her body knew the process she’d been created for.
A thin foreleg was the first to emerge, quickly followed by the second foreleg. Willie stood at the ready, hand clutching the bottle of iodine, which would be poured onto the cut umbilical cord and help stave off infection. Mother ewe would certainly take care of the rest, as long as she didn’t reject her baby.
The tiny head protruded next, squished up against the front forelegs. From his angle, crouched down on the hay, Jamie could see the lamb was lying on his right side. A soft murmur from Ian, coaxing the ewe on for one final push, and then with a large exhale, the rest of the lamb slithered out.
Silence was palpable in the barn, nobody daring to move, lest their human scent touched the lamb. A mother would only nurse her lamb if it smelt like her. They ran the risk of the ewe rejecting the lamb completely, if it smelt otherwise. The lamb attempted to stand, once then twice, it’s mother had turned its head towards her baby as if coaching him to succeed. But the ewe hadn’t moved from her lying down position, a sure sign another lamb was fast on its way.
Jamie opened his mouth to suggest such a thing, but couldn’t get the words out fast enough, for another huffed exhaled and a third foreleg was emerging. While Jamie stayed concentrating on safely delivering the second lamb, and Ian kept the ewe calm, Brian knelt on the floor, showing Willie the steps of cutting the umbilical cord and where exactly to the spray the iodine.
The first baby lamb was standing by now, on shaky legs, yes, but still standing. Thankfully, the ewe had taken to her baby, tongue lolling out to clean him.
“It’s stuck,” Jamie spoke, his voice loud sounding over the quiet barn. The air was thick with the sharp tang of coppery blood and birthing delivery.
He waited for no reply, but dunked his hands up to his elbows in the water once more. The vaginal canal expanded as the ewe groaned low in her throat, enough for Jamie to wiggle his one hand inside, and the other on her leg to steady himself. It was certainly wet, warm and pulsing. Closing his eyes, Jamie imaged the cervix contracting and dilating, the helpless lamb being pushed down out of the womb. He could feel a knobbly knee, and then another. And further downwards, back towards the entrance, a solid roundness, which could only be the lamb’s chest.
“Need help, son?” Brian asked, but Jamie didn’t open his eyes. He simply shook his head, grasping onto a fetlock and giving a slight tug. Both the lamb and the ewe seemed to get the message. Three more strong pushes, Jamie felt the vaginal walls clamping around his upper arm before the second lamb entered into the world in a much more boisterous fashion than his brother.
“Good on ye, Jamie.” Brian clapped him on the foot (the only place he could reach as he still knelt on the floor). Sending his Da and his son a tired smile, Jamie sponged off the rest of the blood, as the second umbilical cord was snipped.
Everybody breathed another sigh of relief, as the mother ewe began to wash her second lamb. Ian had assured the colostrum was beginning to leak from the ewe’s engorged udders. Both lambs were sucking away happily, and mother seemed happy enough for them to fill up their tummies till their little hearts were content.
“Did everything go all right?” Jenny asked, setting down a glass of cold water in front of Willie, and hurrying to uncork a bottle of fine aged whisky. As she leaned over Jamie, pouring a couple inches of the golden liquid into his glass, he could feel the hard roundness of a three month old baby bump pressing against his forearm. The nighttime baby wash she’d washed Wee Jamie in earlier in the evening, still clung to her skin and clothes.
She smelt like home.
Reaching out, Jamie cupped her small bump hidden beneath her cosy knit jumper. Even now, with Wee Jamie sleeping peacefully upstairs, and his own son sitting across from him, Jamie still couldn’t believe an actual human life beat just underneath Jenny’s thin layer of skin and tissue.
Geneva had never wanted Jamie to touch her or the proof of their growing son – it was something to this day he’d never quite gotten over. He wasn’t sure he ever would.
Knowing his own emotions better than he knew them himself, as Jenny did for her younger brother, she lay her hand upon his, smiling warmly at him. It was a silence reassurance, one that Jamie hadn’t known he’d needed quite so badly. He wasn’t there anymore, stuck in that dire situation. His son sat whole and loved before him, thankfully none the wiser.
“Aye, it all went braw,” Brian answered, sitting at the head of the table and polishing off dinner. “Second lamb got a wee bit stuck, but our Jamie managed to help it out.”
“Ye can have a second helping of dessert then,” Ellen promised him. “For all ye hard work, sweetheart.”
“The real star of the show was our Willie here,” Brian continued. “Couldn’t of done it with ye, laddie.”
From across the table, Jamie could see his son preen with the compliment from his Grandda. But Da been right, Willie had done amazing, especially with it being his first time. No screaming, squealing, or fainting at the sight of so much blood. Jamie could remember being violently sick in the corner of the stables at his first lambing at just the tender age of 8.
Ellen did indeed bring an extra helping of dessert for both her son and her eldest grandchild. They ate mainly in silence for the rest of the meal, too tired to even open their mouths and talk. Willie’s eyes grew heavy, his blinks becoming slower and longer with each passing minute.
“I’ve set ye some clean pajamas on ye bed,” Grannie said, holding her hand out for his empty, but dirty, plate. “Thought ye and ye Da might be too tired to walk home tonight.”
“Aye, we’ll stay,” Jamie said. “As long as ye don’t mind, Mam.”
“Mind? Ye ken fine well ye Da and I don’t mind. In fact, this hoose is too empty without any of ye’s in it. I’ve already told Jenny she needs to start giving me more grandbairns – I’m got more than enough room and love to spoil them. The same goes for ye, Jamie.”
All Jamie could do was laugh into his last sip of whisky.
More grandbabies, indeed…
“I’d have to find a lass for that first, Mam.”
“Up ye go, Willie,” she prompted, watching as a weary Willie dragged his feet up the stairs. He hadn’t even the energy to dole out a goodnight kiss and hug to anybody.
“I’ll be up in a minute, lad, to tuck ye in,” Jamie promised, but Willie showed no signed he’d even heard his Da as he turned into the corridors upstairs.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Ellen started again. “Ye’re right, ye do need to find a lass. And I’m sorry to tell ye, but ye aren’t getting any younger, Jamie.”
“Aye, I ken.” The glass made a dull thump as it was placed upon the table runner. “I see it in my face every time I look in the mirror and I feel it in my body every time I move.”
“See,” Ellen hummed. “And so what are ye gonnae do aboot it?”
“Right now, Mam? Nothing. I’m going upstairs to tuck my son in, and I’m falling right asleep. Ye can focus on the grandbairn already growing in Janet’s tummy.”
Seeing she was getting nowhere, Ellen let the matter drop… for now. Jamie placed a kiss on the cheek of his Mam and Da - Jenny and Ian, having retired to bed only twenty minutes or so earlier.
His steps felt heavy, legs aching from the bottom of his shins to the tops of his hips sockets. The door to Willie’s room lay open, ajar, enough for Jamie to slip through. Clean pajamas on and teeth washed, Willie had tucked himself into bed, eyes already closed and breathing becoming steadier. He turned his head against his pillow at the sound of his Da’s sure footsteps.
Kneeling down, grimacing while he did so, Jamie smoothed back the hair from Willie’s face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. The scent of hay still sat in his hair, but at least his skin smelt warm and homely.
“Ye did well today, son, really well. I’m proud of ye.”
A sleepy smile etched itself onto Willie’s face. He cracked open his eyes a sliver to see the shadow of his Da’s figure, before whispering, “Thanks, Da.”
“Get a good night’s rest and I’ll see ye in the morning. Grannie might even make pancakes. Love ye, Willie.”
“Love ye more, Da. Goodnight.”
An early upload for you all, because i just couldn't wait!
I'm behind on comments, but i'll be getting back to you all as fast as i can - until then, please let me know what you thought about this chapter :)
comments and kudos keep me writing and posting!!
until next sunday xx
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Tissues at the ready... but Da Jamie to the rescue as always..
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After a good nights sleep, and good fuel in his stomach, Jamie eventually felt like a human again. His back still ached something rotten, but he knew that was to be expected, after leaning over awkwardly all afternoon and well into the evening.
But at least Willie had enjoyed it.
The lad’s confidence seemed to have grown a foot and a half overnight after his Da and Grandda’s compliments. Over breakfast, Jamie must have heard a million times how excited Willie was to help with the other lambs, and how he couldn’t wait to tell Johnnie and the rest of the boys about it all at school tomorrow.
“Glad ye’re excited lad, but I’m afraid I’m gonnae have to burst ye bubble.” Jamie drained his orange juice. “Ye need to make a start on ye homework.”
If he hadn’t been focusing on Willie’s face, Jamie thought he might have missed it. A quick drop in his features (was that anger? Disappointment? Or something else entirely?), before he arranged them back to neutral.
A trick Jamie knew Willie had picked up from him, and Jamie knew he’d picked up from his own Da.
“Do I have to, Da?”
“Aye, ye do. Better start it now, before ye leave it too late.”
It was so unlike Willie to whine or moan. He was strong in his likes and dislikes, but when something was important (no matter how much he hated it), Willie could usually be found getting his head down and getting the job over and done with.
But quite obviously not day.
It was pushing into the afternoon, but by the time Jamie was able to drag Willie away from his grandparent’s home and across the field to his own.
“Can we go check on the wee lambs beforehand?”
Jamie conceded. “Aye, sure we can. But ye canny take too long.”
The other lads working on the farm had kept an eye on the lambs overnight, using the spy cameras installed into the barn, while Jamie and Willie had been sleeping over at the main Lallybroch stately home.
Both lambs were doing fine, much to Willie’s delight. They were still drinking from their mother and attempting to walk further and further on their spindly legs. It would still be another week or so before the lambs could be chipped and pinned, a green colour marked upon the tip of their ear, so other farmers would ken the lambs belonged to Lallybroch. After that, the ewe and her lambs could return to the grassy field and to the rest of the flock, where, hopefully, they would be welcomed back into the herd.
“Right.” Jamie clapped his hands together. “Willie, let’s go.”
A scoff let Willie’s lips.
A very teenage sounding scoff.
“Did ye just scoff at me?” Jamie asked, folding his arms over his chest.
Willie didn’t answer as he stood up and made to walk out of the barn door.
“I’m talking to ye, Willie. Don’t ye dare walk away from me!”
His footsteps continued, taking him further and further away from his Da.
“William!” Jamie shouted, standing just outside of the barn and watching Willie’s back become smaller and smaller. “Get ye arse back here right now!”
With a muttered for fuck’s sake under his breath, Jamie walked back into the barn and plonked himself onto a spare bale of hay. Willie was acting strange; lashing out unprovoked and shouting at his Da.
He never ignored his Da, his best friend.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Jamie went through the motions of double checking the clean water in the trough, and the amount of hay lying on the ground. He needed to give himself, and Willie, some time to clear their heads. It would do no good to either of them to start a shouting match at one another. From experience, Jamie knew it always ended in tears on both sides.
Once he felt like he’d left it enough time, enough for the red fog to dissipate out of his ears, Jamie ambled along the well-beaten path to his home. He knew Willie was inside. The kitchen light shone out of the windows, even though it was still daylight outside.
A push of the door handle, and Jamie hadn’t even stepped foot onto the flagstone kitchen floor, when he could hear Willie’s tears. His son sat at the table, upon the same seat he always chose, by the right hand side of his Da. His back was hunched, elbows resting on the wooden table, as Willie buried his face into his hands and sobbed.
Jamie felt his own bottom lip wobble at the horrible sound of Willie crying. He blinked back the clear film before it could topple over.
“Willie? Lad?” Jamie’s feet moved of their own accord, hand shooting out to rub Willie’s back comfortingly. “What’s wrong, son?”
Willie’s cries became harder.
“Come on, ye all right.” Jamie pressed two hard kisses to Willie’s crown. “Tell Da what’s wrong. I’ll fix it.”
Using the hem of his t-shirt, Willie wiped his dripping nose, looking up at his Da with bloodshot eyes.
“I’m sorry I was naughty to ye, Da,” he mumbled.
“Tcha!” Willie was pulled into his Da’s warm body. A place he knew was safe. “Don’t be daft, Willie. All’s already forgotten. But what else is wrong? These tears aren’t just from being naughty.”
“I… I dinna want to tell ye…”
“Willie.” Jamie’s tone took on a slightly firmer tone, but still kind. “All I ask is that ye honest with me, isn’t it? I’m not asking for much, my lad. Ye can tell Da anything, I promise.”
“It’s… it’s about my homework.” Taking a gulping breath, Willie continued to wipe away his tears. It broke Jamie’s heart into more than a million pieces to see his son like that.
“Aye, what about it? Are ye finding it too difficult? It’s no harm if ye are, lad. It’s fine, we can just tell the teacher tomorrow, I’ll write ye a note and…”
“It’s about parents.”
The sentence stopped Jamie in his tracks.
A deep breath. “Pardon, Willie?”
“My homework, my schoolwork.” Willie explained. “We’re doing about our parents and our families and… I can’t do it, can I?”
“W- why canny ye do it?”
“Because… because this week’s homework is about Mam’s and… and I don’t have one, do I?”
If Jamie thought his heart had broken before, it was nothing on how it felt now. Shattered, stamped open, cut open, smashed to dust.
Willie’s little face was so open, so raw… all Jamie wanted to do was take him in his arms and never let go. Shelter him from the harshness and evilness of the world beyond.
“Ye do have a Mam, Willie.”
What else was he meant to say?
“But she’s not here.” Willie stated plainly, detached almost. “How am I meant to write about her likes and dislikes, her hobbies and what she looks like, if… if she’s not here and I don’t ken…?”
“Ye listen to me, Willie.” Jamie squeezed his son’s small hand as tight as he dared. “Are ye listening?”
A slight bob of his head.
“Ye’re Mam loved ye Willie.” A lie . “She loved ye so much.” Lie. “Ye ken she was poorly when ye were born, aye?” Truth. “And so she died before she could meet ye or ken ye like I ken ye. Ye’re right, ye’re Mam isn’t here on earth, I’m sorry for that. But I love ye more than you’ll ever believe, lad, and I try to make up for ye Mam every day of my life.”
“I ken Da…”
“Ye don’t have to do any of that stupid school project if ye dinny want. Ye can tell that teacher of yours to stick it up her arse…”
Willie let out a tiny, watery laugh.
“Or even better, I’ll tell her.” Jamie hid the way he ground his teeth into Willie’s hair. “She’ll be more scared of me, than I am of her.”
“Feeling better?” Jamie asked.
Willie shrugged. “A wee bit.”
A glance over his shoulder told Jamie the weather was still holding up fine, and it would be a few more hours until it grew dark.
“How about we tack up the horses and go for a hack,” he suggested. “just the two of us? I’ll make us a little picnic for the journey?”
Willie agreed with the plan, running off in search of the two saddles, bridles and hats they would both need, as Jamie busied around the kitchen throwing a couple of ham and tomato sandwiches together. Two packets of crisps were added to the small bag Jamie would attach to his saddle, as well as a handful of apples and a bottle of icy cold water to be shared.
Walking upon the stables, Willie had managed to find out both saddles and tack up his own pony easily. Jamie’s saddle and bridle lay on the floor, what with Willie still being too small to reach Jamie’s favourite horse, Donas. But at least the lad had found out their pairs of horse riding boots and hats.
It took Jamie all of a couple of minutes to tack up Donas, even with the wee devil throwing his head back each and every way to deter Jamie. Willie, god bless him, had stuffed his feet into his boots, tightened the hat’s safety harness underneath his chin, and was sitting astride his pony, watching in amusement.
Soon they were off; Donas partially sated, but mainly bribed, with the three apples Jamie had fed him.
From his own experience, Jamie knew being outside, surrounded by nature, was an amazing healer. Of course, it didn’t fix everything, but being able to take in a lungful of fresh, crisp air, calmed the nervous system down magnificently. The two boys had perhaps being riding for about twenty minutes, when Jamie noticed the change in his son. Willie’s shoulders had dropped from around his ears; his whole body seemed less stiff on the pony, now moving fluidly and relaxed.
The same couldn’t really be said for Jamie. As the horses moved further away from their stables, and the minutes ticked by, Jamie found himself becoming calm and then angry, calm and then angry, all over again. It was as if a large wave of anger kept coming over him, then ebbing away to be replaced by silent calmness, before the next wave of anger appeared.
How fucking dare that teacher make Willie feel shitty.
How dare she and her fucking stupid project reduce Willie to tears.
How fucking dare…
“Da, look!” Ahead, Willie was pointing to the beginnings of a pink sunset. The clouds floated lazily across the horizon, not a care in the world, while the sun sank down, soon to be replaced by the bright white light of the moon. They must have been out riding for longer than Jamie had been expecting. Sure enough, when he checked his watch, it was creeping up to soon be Willie’s school night bedtime.
“Come on then, my lad, we’ll turn back for today, aye?”
A quick, sharp tug on the reins, and both horse and pony turned back around easily, dutifully walking the way they had come.
“I’ll race ye!” Willie shouted, his normal gleeful smile playing about his lips.
In turn, the sight of Willie’s smile made the corners of Jamie’s mouth turn upwards of their own accord.
“Ye and ye’re pony are no match for Donas, my lad! But ye can try!”
Springing out of the saddle, keeping all of his weight down into the stirrups and off Donas’ back, Jamie dug his heels in and then held on as tight as he could. Donas took off at a gallop like a shot. They bypassed Willie and his galloping pony easily, but Willie only let out a high pitched squeal of laughter as his Da raced past in a red blur. The food satchel, now containing only empty plastic wrappers and an empty bottle, smashed uncomfortably against Jamie’s inner thigh. But he couldn’t find it within himself to be all that bothered, not when he felt the wind whipping past him, as if he was flying at breakneck speeds.
Both rider and horse were lathered by the time Jamie pulled Donas into a sitting trot and they strutted into the stables. Seeing two friendly faces, the other horses kicked up a storm, whinnying and braying at their half doors.
Dismounting as gracefully as he could with stiff legs, Jamie unsaddled Donas, chucking a whole apple his way, just as Willie and his pony trotted across the concrete floor. Willie was breathing just as hard as his Da, but from sheer laughter rather than exertion.
“That certainly blew the cobwebs away, didn’t it? Did ye have fun?” Jamie said, throwing a cold bucket of water over Donas’ sweaty back.
“Aye.” Willie ran his hands through his helmet hair, scratching at the lack of wearing a hat. “I could eat for the five thousand now, though.”
“Aye, lad, me too.” Jamie agreed. “Those pesky sandwiches didn’t cut it. Get ye dirty boots off and think about what ye fancy before we get home.”
In the end, Jamie and Willie decided to cook up bacon sandwiches with the yellow yolk of an egg running throughout. Working as a team, Willie buttered the slices of bread, while Jamie cooked the eggs and crisped the bacon rashers up to perfection. Dinner was scarfed down while they watched telly, a special treat, rather than having to sit at the table.
Hair and body cleaned in the bath, and fresh pajamas on, Willie was sound asleep before Jamie even knew it.
The day had started out so good, so promising, and then taken a turn for the worst and Jamie couldn’t seem to remember any of the bits inbetween. He’d had to put on a brave face for Willie’s sake, not wanting to alarm his son, by making him watch his Da crumble before his very eyes. But now he was alone, Jamie downed the last of his whisky, and tapped his two left fingers against his thigh rhythmically.
He wished he hadn’t done, hadn’t tortured himself, but he hadn’t been able to stop his curiosity from retrieving Willie’s homework from his backpack and reading through it. A bunch of boring paragraphs met Jamie’s eyes first, explaining the assignment, which the children would be also doing at school for the months to come. This week’s homework assignment had been exactly as Willie had described.
Tell us about your Mam!
Was written in massive black bold letter at the top of the page. Typed underneath was a list of prompts to be answered.
• What does your Mam look like? Are they any similarities between you and your Mam?
• What does she like to do in her free time? Do you like to do the same things?
• What doesn’t she like? Answer the same question as stated above.
• Do you and your Mam have any hobbies you do together?
• What is your favourite thing about your Mam?
What a fucking list.
Jamie ripped it up instantly after finishing the last question.
No wonder Willie had been so hurt, but yet, surely he couldn’t be the only one without a Mam in the picture. It was the 21st century, for god’s sakes, teachers should know to be more careful about sensitive topics such as families. Either that, or Willie’s teacher was a stupid, fucking wee eejit.
Relaxation wouldn’t come to Jamie no matter how much he tried, he was much too wound up with anger and hurt. It took another three glasses of whisky before Jamie even felt his tongue thicken and the burn behind the back of his eyes begin. He wasn’t tired, but at least closing his eyes for ten minutes was well needed. As he got ready for bed, hands moving automatically, but head now fuzzy and up in the clouds, Jamie knew one thing was for certain. It might have been the anger talking, it might even have been the whisky, but nobody, no-fucking-body, reduced Jamie Fraser’s son to tears and got away scot free.
lemme know what you thought of this chapter :)
and until then, i'll see you all next week <3
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jamie huffed, raising his wrist to eye level and checking the time.
Willie was so going to be late for school.
“William Fraser! Hurry up and get ye’re arse doon here!”
Willie came thumping down the stairs, the collar of his shirt all askew. There wasn’t anytime to gel his hair, of even get some porridge down his throat. Instead, as Jamie started the engine, and Willie buckled himself in, Jamie chucked him an oats bar from his back pocket. Half of it was squished and still warm from where his Da had accidently sat on it, but Willie didn’t mind. Ripping open the wrapper, he bit and then chewed absentmindedly as Jamie put his foot down.
Of all days… Jamie fumed. Why did they both have to sleep in today? This was the fucking whisky’s fault!
Talking to Willie’s teacher and Headmaster Mr Wellman would have to wait until after school now, and Jamie wasn’t sure he would be able to his keep his anger in check all day until three o’clock.
A quick kiss on his head, and a wave, Willie practically jumped out of the truck as it swerved to a stop. Jamie watched out of the window, making sure Willie made it across the school playground – the lucky sod managed to slip through the open doors in just the nick of time, before the old fashioned school bell rang to signal the beginning of classes.
Knowing his temper was a liability, and prone to over spilling, Jamie kept himself to himself for the rest of the day. The other farm hands had taken one look at the, what must have been, thunderous expression upon their boss’ face, and decided it would be in their best interests to not disturb, not get on Jamie’s bad side, today.
The only hiccup had been in the form of Ian, who had wandered down from his own plot of land, to help Jamie mend a broken wire in the fence. Assuring his best mate, and brother in law, he could do it by himself; Jamie had fetched his tools and begun. But Ian wouldn’t let up that easily. He’d taken Jamie’s advice and decided not to help, but rather thought it was a good time to prop his arm up against a fencing post and have a wee chat.
After the third or fourth time of Jamie hearing village gossip, and Ian complaining about the price of potatoes, he snapped.
“Ian, mate.” His voice was deadly calm, even to his own ears. “I. Don’t. Give. A. Flying fuck. Buy the tatties, don’t buy the tatties, grow them yeself for all I care! But will ye just shut ye hole for one minute!”
A short pause, barely even a breath, and then Ian was laughing, a full on chortle to himself.
God, give me strength.
Jamie breathed in through his nose deeply, nostrils flaring.
“What crawled up yer arse and died?” Ian asked, still smiling.
Jamie wanted to wipe the smirk off Ian’s face.
“Nothing,” he answered. “Just piss off and leave me alone.”
Ian crossed his arms, staring down at Jamie. Jamie stared right back up at him. If Jenny were here, she’d accuse the two men of standing out in the field measuring their own cocks. Jamie’s lips twitched at the picture of it all.
“Are ye gonnae tell me what’s wrong, brother? Or am I gonnae have to drag Jenny over here?” Ian’s fingers tapped against his inner arm as he waited for Jamie’s response.
There wasn’t anyway of keeping it secret. Ian wasn’t kidding; he really would march back over to his house, grab Jenny and make her wheedle Jamie’s problem out of him. It was the best out of bad situation; at least Ian wouldn’t threaten to knee him in the balls if he didn’t open his mouth and speak. At most, Ian would threaten to throttle him, or resort to wrestling about the grass, like they had done as bairns. But his poor balls would still be intact.
“Fine. Pass me the hammer and hold this straight, won’t ye, while I talk?”
“Do ye want me to come down there with ye?” Ian suggested, anger sitting tight across his face. “I’ll give the wee wench a piece of my mind…”
Jamie spoke louder than usual, to be heard over the consistent whirr of his drill. “No, it’s fine. I’ll sort it oot myself. But I’ll have to leave early to see the teacher before the bell rings, otherwise she’ll be scarpering off home.”
“That’s fine, brother.” Ian clamped his hand down on Jamie’s shoulder. “I’ll finish fixing the rest of the fence for ye.”
Seriously? Was the universe not going to give him a fucking break?
“What a bonny surprise!” Miss McKenzie stood to her small height, walking around her desk to greet Jamie. Her blouse was bright pink today; a fuchsia colour so startling it hurt Jamie’s eyes to look at. “Is there anything I can help ye with?”
Stop batting ye eyelashes like a cow for starters…
“Aye, I need to speak to Mr Wellman, and Willie’s literacy teacher, Mrs Kay, I believe her name is?”
“I can try my best! Is there something wrong? Something I might be able to help ye with, Mr Fraser?”
The way she uttered ‘Mr Fraser’ made Jamie’s skin crawl. Seductively, soft, lewd, almost. It had never been more apparent to Jamie just how young the poor lassie was.
Jamie shot a tight smile her way. “It’s probably best if I can just speak to Mr Wellman and Mrs Kay about it.”
“You wait right there, Mr Fraser…”
Surely nobody’s hips swayed that much when they walked normally. The position must be killing her back.
“And I…” She rounded her desk, bending over to reach for the phone. Jamie got a rather long look at her cleavage. “Will pull a few strings for you.”
“I can excuse him from the project if ye would like, Mr Fraser,” the literacy teacher offered.
Jamie shook his head. “I don’t want Willie to be excluded from the tasks the other bairns are doing. I just wanted ye to be aware of the problem, families come in all shapes and sizes nowadays.”
“Aye, sure. I understand. I’ll have a word with Willie, and… um… he can do the other parts of the project.”
“Make sure ye have a word with him separately.” Jamie said. “I don’t want any of the other bairns hearing and saying anything to my son.”
“Mrs Kay will make sure she’d discreet, won’t ye, Mrs Kay?” Mr Wellman had been firmly on Jamie’s side, since the moment Jamie had explained the problem. “None of the other wee bairnies will ken about it.”
Jamie gave him one quick, short nod, enough to let the Headmaster ken he’d heard him, but offered nothing else to say.
“We’re very sorry this has happened, Mr Fraser.” Mr Wellman laced his fingers together, leaning over to speak to Jamie. “I promise, at my school, we’re always trying to grow and learn. Mistakes happen along the way, as I’m sure ye’ll understand, but I won’t let this happen again.”
“I’ll take ye word for it, Mr Wellman.” Jamie made to stand. “Thank ye both for ye time.”
Both Mr Wellman and Mrs Kay stood, too. Mr Wellman stuck out his hand, and Jamie shook it half-heartedly.
“No bother at all, Mr Fraser. If there’s anything else, please never hesitate to ask Miss McKenzie or make an appointment with me, through her.”
I’d rather run over hot coals, and then drink a hot cup of horse piss, before I’d make an appointment with Miss Mckenzie…
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” Without waiting for anything else to be said, Jamie opened the office door and strode out. The reception area was empty, a short relief, and so Jamie made the most of it, heading out of the door as fast as his legs would carry him.
The gates outside were deserted, hardly a waiting parent, or an excited child, in sight. Jamie had made sure to arrive early, so as to be able to talk to Mrs Kay, and then make it on time to pick up Willie. Quite obviously, Jamie had spent longer in that bloody office than he’d meant to. So caught up in his anger, he’d not even heard the bell signal outside.
So where was Willie?
Had he come outside, stood around waiting to see his Da, and then headed back inside when he couldn’t spot Jamie? Had Willie been panicked at being left behind?
Jamie was just about to retrace his steps back to the receptionist’s office, Leoghaire be damned, when a small voice shouted, “Da!”
A quick look over his shoulder showed Willie waving madly at him from the swing set in the playground. Another young lad stood next to him, staring at Jamie, and behind Willie stood…
Jamie’s long legs ate up the space in between until he stood in front of his son. Willie smiled at him reassuringly, his messy mop of hair all over the place.
“I hope you don’t mind,” her English voice rang out. “Willie couldn’t see you at the gates, so I offered to wait with him, until we could see you.”
She stepped to the side, moving out from behind the swing set, and walking to a stop at Jamie’s side.
Jamie couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Monday’s outfit of choice was a dress – long sleeved and tight fitting in the bodice, but skimming past her hips, before then flaring out towards the ground. The bright green colour of the dress, with patterned daisies running throughout, was distracting, to say the least. But not in the way Miss McKenzie’s had been… no, this time it had more to do with the woman wearing it than the dress itself.
With a lurch low down in the pit of his stomach, Jamie became very aware of Miss Beauchamp’s presence. He’d never stood this close to her. A few fleeting seconds as she passed through the door he held open, didn’t count.
A slight cock of his head, and Jamie had to stop his senses from overloading.
Today, her dark hair was piled high onto of her head; it only stood to accentuate the length of her pale, swanlike neck. Her perfume was the same one she’d worn in the meeting only a week ago. Yet somehow, even though they stood outside in a large open space and not a small, stuffy room this time round, Miss Beauchamp’s perfume still found its way into Jamie’s nose.
If he moved an inch, perhaps even half an inch, Jamie would be able to feel the heat of her arm pressing into his shoulder. Without the heels, she came up to his chin… Jamie’s lips twitched involuntarily at the thought of dipping his chin down ever so slightly and laying his lips upon hers. It would almost be too easy…
“Da! Do you think I could jump from this height?”
My God, he was still in the playground…
How long had he stood there not saying anything, but just simply staring at the bonny Sassenach beside him?
Willie had asked his question as he swung back and forth on the creaking playground equipment. Of course, the silly eejit wanted to ken if he jumped out of the swing and landed on his feet, would his Da still tell him off? Fergus sat next to him on the other swing, pushing his legs in and out, to make himself go higher and higher, faster and faster. At least he hadn’t wanted to pull any stupid stunts.
“Don’t ye even dare think aboot it,” Jamie warned.
Two toothy grins were shot back at him, full of mischief. Jamie was surprised to see how much a smile transformed Fergus’ face. He already was a very bonny bairn, and Jamie could see he’d grow into being a handsome lad, fighting off the lassies left, right and center. But the way his lips curved and his eyes crinkled at the corners? Fergus looked almost a carbon copy of his Mam.
The exact same smile was playing about Miss Beauchamp’s face, as Jamie turned his attention away from the boys and back to her. Feeling his gaze, she pivoted her body in towards Jamie’s. The heavy noise of her dress flapping in the sudden wind sounded a million miles away.
“Sorry.” Jamie shook his head. “I’m all over the place today. What did ye say again?”
She huffed a cute snort through her nose. “That’s all right. I was just saying I’d waited with Willie until you arrived.”
“Thank ye.” He smiled at her; hopefully without coming across as a madman, with the amount of teeth it felt like Jamie had on show. “I appreciate it, and… and the biscuits ye made us.”
Miss Beauchamp waved him off. “It’s not a bother, I’m glad you enjoyed them. Faith certainly enjoyed icing the tops. It kept her quiet for an hour, so really I should be thanking you for the peace and quiet.”
Jamie quirked his eyebrow. “Faith?”
“Yes, my daughter. My eldest.”
“It’s no possible, ye just don’t look old enough to have two bairns, let alone Fergus have an older sister.”
Miss Beauchamp let out a louder laugh this time. “Flatterer. I quite assure you I am, the wrinkles in my forehead when I frown will tell you that, Jamie.”
He opened his mouth once, closed it, and then opened it again.
“How do ye ken my name?”
A small moue of her mouth, and Miss Beauchamp cut her eyes away from his gaze, down to the ground. Jamie felt her shift her feet, testing the weight on each foot. When she finally did look up, it wasn’t to look at Jamie, but rather to where Willie and Fergus were racing each other on the wooden obstacle course.
“Hm?” Jamie prompted again.
“Because I just do.”
“Ye just do? That’s hardly fair, Miss Beauchamp. I don’t ken yer name, ye’ve not even told me yet, but ye ken mine?”
Those sharp eyes of her were back on Jamie. “My name’s Claire.”
“Claire.” He tasted part of her, her name, on his tongue. “Claire Beauchamp.” She sounded sweet. “So, Claire Beauchamp, how do ye ken my name?”
“Because, Jamie Fraser…” His eyes wanted to roll into the back of his head, at the way the vowels of his name fell off her tongue. Claire’s voice held a hint of amusement in the tone. “I’ve heard your name spoken since the first day you enrolled Willie in this school. Don’t you know the women here are like hyenas? Travelling together in packs, and then lashing out? I’d heard your name uttered a thousand times before I’d ever even seen your face.”
“Oh, and you think that’s funny, do you?”
“Yes, I do a little bit.” Claire’s eyes shone in the overhead sun, until she raised her hand, holding it above her eyebrows, to block out the light. “You would too, if you’d been there when they realised you were a single parent, no wife or girlfriend to speak of. It was like all of their Christmases had come at once.”
“And here I was,” Jamie said, a boyish smirk playing about his lips. “Thinking ye were a sweet and innocent Sassenach. I’m very rarely wrong, but,” he shrugged. “Apparently this time I am.”
Claire hummed noncommittally. “I guess that’s for you to find out later on.”
The wee vixen.
She was flirting.
Jamie hadn’t been sure at first. He’d been out of the dating scene for… well, since Geneva, really, for a number of reasons.
One, after Geneva’s death, Jamie had found himself in the sole possession of his baby. Geneva’s parents, Willie’s Grandparents, hadn’t been much of a help, other than the lump sum of money they’d gifted to Willie as a baby. They’d hated Jamie and Geneva’s relationship, which was made even worse when Geneva found out she was expecting William. A teenaged mother to be. The arguments and knife cutting words that followed would stay with Jamie for the rest of his life.
When Jamie and Geneva had broken up (not by Jamie’s choice, of course, he believed himself to have been madly in love), Geneva made the decision to move back to her family home down in England. She’d been eight months pregnant at the time. Jamie had never known heartbreak like it, watching as the mother of his child, and his unborn son boarded a train and trundled away into the distance.
Jamie had vowed to step up and be a Da, even from the moment Geneva had thrown the positive pregnancy test in his face, and then slammed the bedroom door.
Fatherhood had come at a cost, but Jamie wouldn’t change it for the world.
But the way Geneva and her family had treated Jamie still stuck with him. If by some chance Jamie got a spare moment away from Willie, dating hadn’t been something at the forefront of his mind. For a long time, the idea of approaching a woman, asking her out, opening his heart up to her… it had turned Jamie’s stomach. He wasn’t sure he could take it if his heart was broken into pieces again, if she hurled curses at him and broke down his character. But Jamie knew for certain he’d never be able to stand it if the woman in question did it to Willie.
A small string of one-night stands followed Jamie, but they’d been meaningless, a means to an end, a way to soothe an all encompassing burn. Jamie couldn’t even recall the last time he’d slept with a woman, or her name, or what she’d been wearing.
So to realize Miss Beauchamp was flirting, was a shock to the system. What was even worse was how much Jamie realized he liked it.
“Maman! Come on, your turn!” Fergus was calling out to Claire as he swung to and fro.
“I’m being summoned,” she said, feigning exasperation. “Hold my bag for me, won’t you?”
Claire placed the handles of her tiny, white handbag onto Jamie’s outstretched fingers. He wondered what Fergus wanted his Mam for, but it soon became clear when the wee lad hopped up and Claire took a seat on the swing.
“Not too high, mind, Fergus,” she warned.
Behind his Mam, Fergus pulled an over exaggerated eye roll only Willie and Jamie could see. Jamie had to stifle his laughter. That crazy bairn was in a league of his own.
Both of Claire’s delicate hands held onto the metal chain links on either side, as Fergus pulled her body back and then let go. Claire let out a whoop of joy as the momentum pushed her higher into the air, and then swinging back down. True to his word, Fergus hadn’t pushed her very hard; a gentle breeze would probably have moved her more.
Jamie held Claire’s handbag out to her son. “Here, Fergus, come hold this for ye’re Mam. I’ll give her a shove,” he whispered, only enough for the boy to hear.
“What are you doing?” Claire asked, eyes tracking him as he walked to stand behind her. “Don’t you even dare think…”
The only way to get the swing going in the first place was to grip Claire’s waist. Jamie had done just that, as quick as a flash, so he couldn’t overthink it and Claire wouldn’t twist out of his grasp. She screamed loudly, louder than Jamie had anticipated as she went flying into the air.
“Jamie Fraser! You bloody idiot!”
Laughter rumbled in his stomach, growing bigger and bigger, until Jamie couldn’t stand up straight for laughing. It must have been contagious; for Fergus and Willie were also laughing so hard tears were streaming down either laddie’s cheeks.
Unlike before, Claire had given up the pretense of crossing her ankles demurely in an attempt to stop her dress from flying up. Now, she flailed about, legs thrashing to reach the ground and still the swing.
When it eventually did stop moving, Claire stood on shaky legs, reached around the slowly swinging chain, and whacked Jamie’s upper arm.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” she declared, but there wasn’t a hint of malice in her words. Jamie saw for himself as her lips puckered and relaxed and puckered again, as Claire tried to stop herself from joining in on the laughter. She failed miserably, finally giving in and breaking out into a grin. The murderous expression she’d tried for also failed. Jamie, himself, thought Claire looked too bonny to look murderous, anyway.
“That’s a bad word, Maman.”
“Aye, well I think ye Mam deserves to swear, doesn’t she?” Jamie smiled at Fergus. “I did play a dirty trick on her.”
“Very dirty,” Claire agreed.
Jamie got the distinct feeling Claire would have said something else, if it wasn’t for Willie butting in and complaining he was starving. The lad even clasped his hands over his stomach for extra dramatic purposes.
“I suppose we should get home then…”
“Yes, yes, don’t let us keep you.” Claire turned to Fergus. “I bet Faith’s wondering where we are.”
“Och, shite. I haven’t kept ye two from her, have I?” Jamie asked, tapping his two fingers against his jean clad thigh.
“No, don’t worry. She walks home from school with her friend, Gail, I just pick her up from the house.”
Jamie nodded in understanding “Ah, good. See you tomorrow?”
“Depends when I’m scheduled to work,” Claire explained. “If not… I’m sure we’ll see each other around.”
Jamie tried his hardest to not let disappointment become clear in his features. “Aye, we will. Well, bye ye two.”
“Bye, Jamie, and you too, Willie.” She bid. “Have a good evening.”
“Ye too, Sassenach, and ye Fergus, lad.”
Claire might have thought she hid it well, but Jamie caught a mere glimpse of her secret smile at the sound of her new nickname.
Her smile … it pierced Jamie through his heart. If he wasn’t careful, that smile of hers was going to get both of them in trouble…
Happy Sunday everybody!
i think chapter five is one of my favs so far - so i'd love to know what you all thought!!
The rest of the working week passed by pretty uneventfully.
Jamie kept more of a watchful eye over Willie than he usually would, checking for anymore tears or concerns over school. But nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. If anything, Willie appeared happier than ever. He would come home from school each day, excitedly babbling on about whatever they’d gotten up to in and out of class. Jamie was glad to see his lad had made a sturdy group of friends, and even wee Fergus’ name seemed to be cropping up in a couple of Willie’s tales.
Finally, after a few weeks of mayhem, Jamie was getting back up and on his feet. The farm was running steadily for the time being. Five more lambs had been born, each of them happy, healthy and added welcome additions to the herd. But just because the farm was running smoothly at the given moment, didn’t mean Jamie’s calendar, or to do list, was any less full.
The lads arrived on Thursday afternoon, ready to spray the new organic fertilizer over the freshly tilled soil. The date had been in Jamie’s calendar for months now, and he was glad another task was getting done and dusted.
Jamie supervised the whole process, to make sure it was done correctly and to his standard. For the price he was paying, Jamie wanted it as near perfect as they could get it. The fertilizer would be left to do its magic over the course of the next oncoming days, giving everybody a much needed short break. Cattle work would still need to be seen too, and any quick repairs of fences or barn doors. But the real work would begin again on Monday morning, when they’d begin the process of planting the yearly crop.
At least in this day and age, the farmhands would be able to hop in a vehicle and allow it to do all the hard work, spitting out seeds in meticulous rows. All they had to do was put their foot on the pedal and drive slowly in a straight line. When he’d been a young bairn growing up, Jamie had joined his Da, Ian and the other farmhands in a process of backbreaking labour, as they hunched over and sewed every seed by hand.
Those days were long gone. The past had its quirks and its niceties, a few particular things people wished were still around today, but Jamie could easily say planting by hand wasn’t one of them. He didn’t miss it in the slightest; the modern way was much easier and less time consuming.
So Saturday might not have been spent planting, but Jamie wasn’t to be found lounging about in the living room watching mindless telly.
Instead, he was standing in a muddy field while the heavens opened above him.
“Right, Willie, have ye got them tied properly?”
Standing by the front door, Jamie waited patiently as Willie sat on the kitchen floor to re-lace his new football boots, excited energy pulsating off of him in waves.
Everybody knew the passage of time felt like eternity to wee children, and Willie was no different. He’d been counting down the days until Saturday arrived, for what felt like months. From the moment he’d learned there was a school football team for 9 to 11 year olds; Willie had practically begged his Da to sign him up. Jamie had signed his name willingly upon the dotted line, and the next day, the two of them went shopping for the correct football kit for Willie to wear.
Now with Willie’s boots tied correctly, both Fraser’s hopped in the truck, ready for the first practice match.
Jamie had asked around some of the other parents he’d become friendly with, mainly Johnnie’s Da, Peter, about how the football teams were usually managed and what to expect from them. He’d been told, on an average weekend, forty or so young lads usually showed up. Those forty were split into two separate groups, the blues and the reds. The bairns would play nine against nine, before swapping and changing to let everybody have a turn and make it fair.
As Willie buckled himself in, Jamie programmed his phone to show him the directions to the playing field. It only took them a handful of minutes to arrive; it took much longer to find an empty parking spot, for cars upon cars sat in neat rows, some with their doors and boots wide open as children poured out of them.
As they stepped onto the field, the football referee Christopher, welcomed Willie straight away, passing him a blue bib to wear and explaining to Willie how the game would work. Jamie stood off to the sidelines, alone, while some of the other Da’s greeted each other with a sharp beat of each man’s back. Once Willie had finished listening to Christopher, he gave his Da a double thumbs up and moved to speak to a wee lad just shorter than himself. From this angle, Jamie couldn’t see the bairn Willie was talking to, but Jamie was happy to see his son had already made one friend.
In true Scottish fashion, the heavens opened just as Christopher blew his whistle for the first game, and Willie and his team began to get into position. All around him, Jamie heard as the other parents pushed open umbrellas, shielding themselves and their friends from the downpour.
It wasn’t a regular occurrence that he forgot something. But Jamie’s mind had been so cluttered and full recently, that something as small as bringing an umbrella to hold above his head, or wearing a pair of wellies on his feet to combat the moshy mud, had slipped Jamie’s mind like water spilling down a drainpipe. Willie and the other lads didn’t mind one bit. They were much too engrossed in winning against the other team, but before long Jamie was soaked through. The cow’s lick of his fringe was sopping wet and heavy against his forehead, as he lifted a forefinger to move it out of his eyes.
A shadow fell at Jamie’s feet, perhaps a cloud, and for a second he thought the rain had stopped. It no longer dripped down his back in large, icy, cold droplets. One short inhale, and the press of a warm shoulder against his, and it became apparent to Jamie Fraser just how wrong he’d been.
“Fancy seeing you here.”
A half shuttered blink in disbelief. Another sharp inhale to get a heady whiff of her perfume… but it didn’t smell right. It was sharper today, almost medicinal.
Jamie glanced to the side to double check it was Claire. Catching his eye, she grinned back at him, repositioning her grip on the umbrella.
“Thought you could use some company,” she said, and then jiggled the umbrella a tad. “And also, you were getting sodden and starting to resemble a little soaked puppy.”
“A puppy, aye?”
“Mhm,” Claire nodded. “All fringe and startling blue eyes.”
Jamie hid his grin in his fingers as he pretended to scratch the thin lining of stubble growing along his jawline. “I didn’t even ken ye or Fergus were here, Sassenach.”
“He’s there, don’t you see him?” Stretching her hand out, Claire pointed to the young lad Willie had been talking to at the beginning of the football game. Now Jamie kicked himself for not being able to recognize wee Fergus.
Where the fucking hell was his head today?
No wonder Willie had been standing talking to him. His Da had taught him always to be polite, and from what Jamie could gather, the two lads had recently become friendly… somewhat.
Following her finger, Jamie watched as Fergus ran after the ball, reaching it just in time before the other team player. He shouted something, but it was lost in the pattering rain as it soaked into the marshy grass. Only when the ball rolled to Willie and Willie dribbled away with it, as best as he knew how, did Jamie realize Fergus had shouted Willie’s name.
Perhaps the lads were getting on better than Willie was letting on?
“Och, aye I see him now.” Jamie nodded. “Can’t believe I missed him in the first place. My head’s gone recently, feel like I’m away with the fairies most of the time.”
Claire said nothing for a minute, choosing instead to cock her head to the side as she studied him with a scrutinizing eye. “If Willie takes football up weekly, you’re really going to have to start keeping a spare pair of wellies in the boot of your truck.”
“Yes, the blue one.”
Jamie raised one eyebrow independently. “How did ye ken that’s my truck?”
“I saw you pull up and get out, with hair like yours and Willie’s, it’s very hard for you to be inconspicuous.” Claire said. “Your height doesn’t help matters, you’re unmistakable.”
“Unmistakable, aye? I’m starting to think ye might be a little bit of a stalker, Sassenach.”
She jostled his shoulder a wee bit, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Oh, do wipe that cocky smirk from your face.”
Jamie let out a surprised laugh. “Me, cocky? Never, Sassenach. Anyway, talking about dressing appropriately, I thought you’d be wearing another one of your fancy outfits.”
“My fancy outfits?” Claire repeated.
“Aye,” Jamie swept a hand quickly through the air, gesturing to Claire’s current outfit; well loved skinny jeans and a light pink jumper. “Ye dresses or blouses with bows and tight skirts.”
“Tight skirts? Who’s the stalker now, Mr Fraser? Do tell me how you know my skirts are tight?”
When Jamie gave her no reply, Claire bumped her hip with his. “Go on, enlighten me, Jamie.”
Blunt upper teeth sank into his plush bottom lip as Jamie tried to think of something quick and snappy to say whilst on the spot. Claire Beauchamp had a way of making him forget himself, like he was a young teenage schoolboy all over again. He dare not look at her face, knowing those eyes of hers would suck him in easily.
Up ahead, Fergus had taken control of the football once more. The lad’s feet were quick, his lithe figure helping him to slide past the other boys. Three metres away from the goalpost, Fergus kicked the ball with all his might. A vicious grip latched onto Jamie’s bicep, he heard Claire take a sharp inhale, and hold it. Her short nails dug into his bare skin as she nervously awaited the outcome of Fergus’ shot. A large ball of white flew through the air, touching the hard ground once, before rolling through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net.
An unexpected cheer left Jamie’s lips at the same time Claire clapped her hands loudly. Her shouted, “Go on, Fergus!” could be heard echoed by some of the other Da’s.
Fergus raised his arms above his head in celebration, whooping and hollering something in his excitement. Some of the other boys from the blue team ran to pile on top of Fergus, their voices loud with happiness, but Willie reached Fergus first, pulling his friend in for a celebratory hug.
When Fergus’ head did emerge from the group of young lads, Jamie watched as he searched the sea of unfamiliar faces until he landed on his Mam. His toothy smile doubled tenfold, the exact same proud smile reflected on Claire’s face.
“I can’t believe it!” Claire’s eyes were shining brighter than Jamie had ever seen them as the boys resumed their game with another fifteen minutes left on the clock.
She peered upwards at him. Her unguarded expression sending a sharp shooting pain through Jamie’s breastbone.
This was how Mam’s were supposed to act around their bairns. Elated, excited, proud – an ability to feel and share their own lad’s happiness.
Not sad and cold and unhappy. So unhappy, in fact, they were willing to…
The referee’s whistle blew wildly, making Jamie jump out of his skin ever so slightly. But at least it had stopped Jamie’s morbid train of thought.
“You all right there?” Claire asked, openly grinning. “I felt you nearly jump out of your boots.”
“Aye, fine.” A hard gulp. A tap of his two fingers against his jean cladded thigh. A brave face slotting back into place. “Blinked for two seconds and I missed it. What happened?”
“They’re not allowed to tackle each other without purpose. Didn’t you read the rules on the back of the permission slip?”
“Honestly, Sassenach? No, I don’t have time for wee rules.”
“Hm, of course you don’t.” Claire’s gaze was back out on the field. Time was ticking and soon Willie and Fergus’ game would be finished for the day.
Taking in a deep breath, Jamie let the strong scent of the grass enter his nose, grounding him. The rain still rebounded against Claire’s umbrella, but it had turned from a downpour into a drizzle, the sound rather soothing if you closed your eyes for long enough. Jamie’s weight felt heavy in his feet from standing in the same spot for the past half an hour. It didn’t help matters that his jeans were soaked and becoming heavier by the minute with the amount of water they had sucked up.
“Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve gone white.” Blue met amber, as Jamie peeled his line of eyesight from the constantly moving football and to the sound of her voice.
“Do I? Och, I feel a bit peely wally, but think it’s hunger. I should be braw after I’ve eaten something.”
Claire nodded, but the concerned frown lines didn’t leave her forehead.
When the final whistle blew minutes later (with the blue team winning one nil, thanks to Fergus’ goal), both boys ran over to where their parents stood beside one another, covered in mud and rain splatters.
“Darling! I’m so proud of you!” From the depths of her tote bag hanging from her shoulder, Claire produced a clean towel, which she tucked around Fergus’ wet and muddy shoulders. Now without the worry of smushing mud into her clean jumper, Claire wrapped her arms around Fergus’ neck and gave him a quick kiss on his wet head. “You did so well too, Willie! Especially stopping the ball from hitting the goal in the last two minutes.”
She’d even been paying attention to wee Willie…
A blush coated the apples of Willie’s cheeks at Claire’s compliment. “Thank ye, Miss Beauchamp.”
“None of that,” she laughed. “You can call me Claire, or Sassenach, as your father has so fondly named me.”
Jamie tutted. “Nah, ye can’t. Come up with ye own nickname, Willie lad.”
Willie rolled his eyes good naturedly, laughing, while also trying to smuggle his way under Claire’s umbrella.
“I’ve got a spare towel in the car, if you want, Willie?” Claire offered, seeing Willie’s repressed shiver. “It’ll dry you out a little bit and stop the mud from getting all over your father’s truck.”
“I tell ye now, the trucks seen worse.” Jamie said. “But, aye, if ye don’t mind.”
“It’s not a bother. Come on, we’ll start walking to the car.”
While Claire and Fergus took off ahead, unfortunately taking the umbrella with them, Jamie and Willie walked a little bit behind.
“Ye did amazing, Willie.” Jamie laid his hand on Willie’s shoulder, bending down to allow Willie to hear over the noise of purring engines and yelling parents. “I’m so proud of ye, my lad.”
“And did ye have fun? Ye up for coming again next Saturday?”
Willie looked up at his Da, smiling as if he’d caught the sun. “Aye, I wanna come back and play again next weekend.”
Jamie squeezed his son’s shoulder tightly, once and then twice. “Sounds like a good plan to me, lad.”
“There you are, darling.”
“Thank ye, Claire,” Willie muttered, using the corner of the towel to wipe a rain droplet from the tip of his nose.
“Truly, Sassenach,” Jamie repeated his gratitude. “I can’t thank ye enough.”
“Like I said before, it’s not a bother, Jamie.” She promised. “I was just saying I’d take Fergus somewhere as a reward for scoring today’s goal. He fancies this dessert place I know. Would you and Willie like to join us?”
“Och, can we, Da?” Willie asked, bouncing about the place as if he’d not just spent thirty minutes running about every which way. “I could eat a horse.”
Jamie hesitated before answering. “Only if we’re not gonna inconvenience ye…”
“I want Willie to come,” Fergus piped up.
“See.” Claire raised her eyebrows in a ‘told you’ expression. “I’ll give you the directions so you can set straight off, and we’ll meet you there after I’ve picked Faith up. Is that okay with you?”
“Aye, Sassenach, completely fine with me.”
Enjoy!! and let me know what you thought!
so will it be a date... or will it not be a date? ... you decide!
p.s - if anyone is fussed, i made a twitter account recently if you'd like it follow me there - TreasureTLT! It's full of the usual shenanigans lmao
until next week <3
Why had he agreed to this again?
Why did this feel like a date?
Jamie’s palms felt oddly sweaty against the cool rubber of the steering wheel, as he followed the directions Claire had typed into his phone.
The dessert café in question sat on the high street Jamie and Willie had driven past on their way towards the football pitch. Jamie thought he must have driven past it a number of times on his way to run some errand or another, but he had never given it more than a passing glance.
Hitting his indicator with the side of his hand to signal he was turning right, Jamie swung his truck around the corner, and headed onwards towards the car park Claire had promised would be fairly empty. She was right. The place was deserted, especially for a Saturday afternoon – with only four cars and one motorcycle filling the spaces.
“Do ye think we should wait for them?” Willie asked as he unbuckled his seat belt. While his Da had been driving, he’d managed to use the towel to scrape off any mud splatters decorating his shins and football boots. Jamie had turned the heaters on full blast as soon as they’d gotten into the truck so Willie’s hair was bone dry now – the wispy bits standing up in each and every direction.
“Nah, it’ll be fine.” Jamie said. He passed the palm of his large hand over Willie’s cowlick in an attempt to flatten it, but it did no good. The hair was much too soft and stubborn. Instead of staying put, it sprang back up again like a springboard. “We can go in and grab the table and menus while we wait for them, aye?”
Willie waited patiently off to one side, taking pains not to stand in the middle of the road, as his Da safely locked the truck doors and pocketed the set of keys. The dessert café was only a few shops down from the car park, perhaps thirty steps or so. It didn’t take them very long to reach it. A chime above the door sounded as Willie pushed the door open, and the woman’s head from over the counter shot up.
“Take a seat.” She smiled widely at them both, “I’ll bring some menus over.”
Willie picked a vinyl booth tucked away in the corner, the seats covered in black leather and the formica table shining brightly. Jamie had only sat his arse down when the bell above the door chimed again. Fergus came bounding in first, he’d changed out of his muddy football boots into a much cleaner pair of trainers, but was still wearing his black and blue football kit. His eagle eyes spotted Jamie and Willie, not all that hard to do, as there was only one other group sitting on the other side of the café.
“Hallo, Becky,” Fergus called, grabbing the attention of the waitress behind the glass counter, before running over and taking a seat beside Willie. Becky turned around at Fergus’ voice, her entire face lighting up when she noticed Claire, who was holding the door open for somebody behind her.
Jamie could have watched Claire all day.
The way she stood on one side of the glass, Becky on the other with a stack of paper menus in her hands. The two women exchanged smiles and, most likely, pleasantries, appearing to be acquaintances. Becky cut her eyes to where Jamie sat, looked back at Claire and uttered something to make Claire throw her head back and laugh loudly.
“Bonjour.” The small slip of a girl shimmying into the seat opposite Jamie had him doing a double take; eyes no longer focused on Claire but her mini-me in front of him.
“Hi!” Willie replied excitedly. With no siblings to talk of and only one much younger cousin, it was still a novelty to Willie to be around children his age or just a tad older.
“Fergus! Stop kicking me! You’ll get my skirt dirty.” She directed at her brother and then moved her attention back to Jamie, where her gaze settled. “I’m Faith.”
Her accent was strange, not Scottish at all, not like Fergus, who had picked up a little bit of the dialect. She was definitely English, of course, with being raised by an Englishwoman herself, but something else was mixed in with it… Jamie couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
“We ken ye are, lass.” Jamie said, as Claire slid into the booth last. She sat beside her daughter, making the resemblance that much more uncanny. Sitting opposite Jamie, she accidentally knocked his knees as she crossed her legs. “If I didn’t ken before who yer Mam was, I’d ken for certain now.”
Claire looked down at the spitting image of herself while Faith smiled up at her mother. Whoever Faith and Fergus’ Da was, he’d given nothing of himself to Faith and only a very small amount to wee Fergus. The Beauchamp genes were inherently very strong.
“Everybody says that,” Claire laughed, with Faith’s exact same giggle sounding behind hers.
Christ, even the way they laughed sounded similar.
Faith tucked her hair behind one ear and then the other. All Jamie could see was Claire doing precisely the same thing after she’d gotten off the swing set only last week.
Was this how Willie and he appeared through the eyes of someone else?
“Five menus for ye.” Becky, the waitress was back, placing the menus one by one in front of everybody. “I’ll come back for yer orders, but does anybody ken what they want to drink?” She fished her tiny notebook and pencil out the front of her apron. “Normal water for ye, Claire, and ye, Faith? And a strawberry milkshake for ye, Fergus?”
“Yes, please, the usual.” Claire said. “What are you two having?”
Willie ordered a strawberry milkshake the same as Fergus, while Jamie asked for a pot of tea, desperately needing something to warm him up and dry him out.
“Bring two cups, won’t you?” Claire called as Becky turned to input their order into the computer system. “I’ll have some tea, as well.”
The menu placed in front of Jamie was full to the brim of sugary treats, not the place to be if you were watching your weight or diet conscious. Jamie had already decided he wanted two slices of French toast with a side of fruit, and Willie had picked the nutella pancakes. Trust him to pick the item with the most chocolate packed into it.
“I’ll have French toast too,” Fergus declared, putting down his menu and staring out at the rain, which had started to come down heavily again and form large puddles on the concrete pavement outside.
“Good choice.” Claire ran her tongue against her pink lower lip in thought. Jamie tried not to look as it became shiny with her saliva. “Do you want to share something, Faith darling?”
“Can do, Maman.”
Her trimmed fingernail skimmed down the page. “What about the blueberry pancakes?”
“Oui. With an extra side of hash browns?” Faith asked hopefully.
Their separate orders were placed with Becky after she’d doled out the drinks. Faith’s extra side of hash browns included of course.
“Why don’t ye speak Scottish?” Willie asked Faith, once he slurped down half of his milkshake in one go.
With her paper straw still in her mouth, Faith regarded Willie with an appraising stare. She sat up a little taller as she spoke clearly. “Because I am not Scottish.”
Claire let out a snort at her daughter’s straightforward answer.
“Well, she isn’t wrong is she, lad?” Jamie ruffled his son’s hair, biting his lip to stop from laughing too hard at Willie’s dumbstruck expression.
“I am French, '' Faith gestured to her Mam. “Tell him, Maman.”
“French?” Jamie questioned. It made sense now, the peculiar pronunciation of Faith’s words and her fluid way of integrating the French language into the English one.
“Yes.” Claire smiled at him as she poured out a cup of steaming hot English breakfast tea and pushed it towards him. “Both of my babies were born in France.”
“But ye’re English,” Willie pointed out again, face pulled into an expression of confusion.
“Yes Willie, I’m English.” Claire began to explain, stirring a hefty amount of milk into her own cup of tea. “I was born in a small town called Oxfordshire, an hour or so out of London, but I moved to France when I was quite young. Faith and Fergus were both born there, before we moved back again to England.”
“Oh.” Willie seemed happy enough with that answer. Questions forgotten, he asked his Da if he could play on his phone. Jamie unlocked it for him, and soon the three bairns were engrossed in a game of virtual snap.
Claire’s knees knocked against his again. How many times did it count before it was no longer an accident?
“How old were ye?”
“Hm?” Claire, too, pulled her eyes away from the bairns to the man sitting across from her.
“How old were ye when ye moved to France, Sassenach?” Jamie repeated his question, tone ever so slightly lowered to stop the children from butting in.
“Seventeen. Wait, no… sixteen. Seventeen?” Claire rubbed her lips together as she attempted to recall. “Oh, I’m not exactly sure. It was such a long time ago.”
“Why did ye move in the first place?”
“Family stuff…” She didn’t sound so sure, not to Jamie’s ears, at least.
“Och, do ye regret it?”
“No.” Claire shook her head, curls bouncing about all over the place. “I regret some things, but not that. I got to have my babies, and that’s the most important thing.”
Jamie nodded his head slowly. From the moment he’d found out about Willie’s tiny fetal existence, he’d fallen in love. It sounded like Claire had felt the same way as soon as she’d found out about the two tiny lives growing in her womb.
“I’m guessing ye were young then, when ye had Faith and Fergus?” The tea was just the perfect temperature as Jamie brought the rim of the cup to his lips and swallowed some of the liquid. It warmed his mouth and throat, all the way down to his stomach.
“Eighteen and twenty.” Claire watched him over the rim of her own cup.
Looking out the corner of his eye, Jamie made sure the bairns were still occupied, before finding Claire’s gaze again.
“Aye, me too. I’d only turned twenty a couple of months past, when William was born. Bit of a surprise, a happy surprise, but still a surprise.”
“Two surprises for me, too.” Claire agreed. “But like you say, happy surprises, well… at least happy surprises for me. The same couldn’t be said for the other party involved.”
Jamie was saved from replying by Faith, trying to wiggle out of the booth in search of the toilet facilities. Claire stood up to let her out, and Jamie kept an eye on her as she weaved through the many empty tables.
The other party involved, Claire had said. Surely, that could only be Faith and Fergus’ Da? By the sounds of it, he hadn’t been too happy at finding his Claire pregnant, not once but twice – and partially by his own doing, mind you…
“Two French toasts!” Becky was back at Jamie’s side, placing a plate of food in front of him and leaning over the table to place Fergus’ on the table. “One nutella and one blueberry. With Faith’s extra side of hash browns! Is that everything, Claire?”
“Yes, perfect. Thank you!”
“Shout me if ye’s need anything!”
Unwrapping the knife and fork out of the napkin, Jamie seized both utensils and cut the side corner off of one of his slices. The toast slices were crisped to a lovely golden colour, topped with a sprinkling of white icing sugar to offset the savoury egg flavour. His mouth watered as he brought the morsel up to his lips and then chewed slowly to enjoy every last bit.
“How is it?” Jamie thought Claire must have been asking Fergus, or perhaps even Willie, but he looked up from his plate when she tapped the top of his foot with her own to get his attention.
“Wait, are ye talking to me?”
“Yes, I’m talking to you.” Claire giggled. She nodded to Jamie’s second, or was it third, forkful of food. “Is it any good?”
“Better than good, delicious.”
Faith appeared back from the toilet, sliding into her seat and picking up a crunchy hash brown piece whole. She popped it into her mouth, humming and bouncing about the seat in enjoyment of her food.
The boys had worked up an appetite running all over the place, and Jamie’s stomach was usually endless. But Claire and wee Faith seemed just as hungry, too. The chatter and excited squeals among the table had gone quiet, replaced by the sound of chewing and cutlery scraping across the plates.
Jamie finished his meal first, wiping his mouth with the edge of his napkin to get rid of any crumbs. He lifted the lid of the teapot, checking to see how much liquid was left, and only finding enough for one cup.
“There’s only enough left for one more cup, do ye want it?” He offered Claire, whose tea mug had only dregs left in the bottom of it.
“No, it’s fine. I’ve got some water left over.” Claire pushed the teapot closer to him, and Jamie noticed the tips of her index finger and thumb were stained a pretty periwinkle colour from the blueberries she’d been picking off the pancake stack and eating.
Pouring the last bit of strong tea into his mug, Jamie turned his head to check on Fergus and Willie. “Are ye having a good celebration, Fergus lad?”
Fergus peered behind Willie’s back to meet Jamie’s eyes. “Aye, thank you.”
“I’m glad he’s having a good time.” Claire leaned more over the table, easy to do so now there wasn’t a giant, boiling hot teapot, in the way. “But I’ll be honest, this wouldn’t be my celebration pick.”
“Oh, and where would ye pick then, Sassenach?”
“I’m more of an outdoorsy, or staying comfortably at home, kind of gal. I moved around a lot as a child, so now I’m older, I like to be in my own comforts as much as possible.” Claire shrugged. “Either that, or live on a farm somewhere, and then I could have the best of both worlds. Time to spend outside in the fresh air, and then retreat to my little home in the woods. Do you know what I mean, or do I sound crazy?”
“Nah, ye don’t sound crazy at all. I’m the same… probably why I became a farmer in the first place.” Jamie let the words hang in the air.
“You’re a… a farmer?” Claire’s eyebrows were so high up, Jamie worried they’d disappear into her hairline. “You live on a farm?”
“Aye, born and bred. It’s not a little house in the woods, mind you. But it is a little house on the farm.”
“So you’re living in my dream home? Is that what you’re telling me, Mr. Fraser?”
It was involuntary that Jamie’s right eyebrow rose at the Sassenach’s use of his surname. “Aye, I guess ye could say so. I am living my own dream life, after all.”
“How much do I owe you?” Claire drew one of her tote bag straps down her arm, hunting for her card to pay for their meal.
“I’ll pay,” Jamie insisted, already standing up to go get his wallet out of the car.
“You won’t. It was Fergus and I who wanted you to come with us, I’ll pay.”
Fergus and I wanted you to come with.
Fergus and I…
I wanted you to come with…
“Be quiet, both of ye’s,” Becky reprimanded. “I’m not letting any of ye’s pay.”
“Becky.” Claire admonished. “Please…”
“No, Claire. Ye’ve done enough for me and my family, and this is the only way ye ever let me repay ye. Ye aren’t paying!”
Jamie sat back down, hearing the finality in the waitress’ tone, and with a pout on her lips, Claire closed her tote bag. Becky looked rather pleased, collecting their empty plates together and making her way to the kitchen with them.
Claire shook her head. “She does this every time.”
“What? Refuse to let ye pay?”
“Yes, every single time. I treated her Grandad at the hospital, open heart surgery, and ever since then, she thinks she has to repay me in one way or another.”
“Ye performed open heart surgery on her grandad? At the hospital?” Jamie tried to not let his mouth fall open, but he didn’t think he was very successful.
“Yes… I’m a surgeon. Didn’t you know that?”
Jamie was dumbfounded, to say the least.
Never in a million years would he have put Claire Beauchamp, the delicate, petite woman sitting in front of him, the woman who wore 1940s style impeccable outfits and never had a hair out of place, as a bloody surgeon.
“But ye… ye… ye’re always dressed so nice and ye aren’t scary and…”
“Surgeons aren’t scary, Jamie,” she laughed. “We’re normal people like you, I promise. As for my dress-sense, it’s a little strange at the best of times, I know. I have to wear scrubs when I’m in theatre, performing. But for usual staff meetings and introducing myself to new patients, I’m allowed to wear whatever I please.”
“I don’t think it’s strange,” he said.
When Claire appeared confused, Jamie carried on.
“I don’t think ye’re dress sense is strange, Sassenach. Ye like what ye like, and I just so happen to think ye look good in it. Ye suit it.”
A demure sweep of the eyelashes downward, a purse of the lips and Claire smiled like the cat that’d caught the cream.
“Well, thank you, Jamie. I just so happen to think so, too.”
Jamie schooled his expression into one of disbelief once more. “Still can’t believe yer a surgeon, though.”
“Would it help if you saw me dressed head to toe in my scrubs?”
“Mhm, it might.”
At least then, that round arse of hers in those jeans and skirts, wouldn’t be quite so tempting.
Jamie could have sworn Claire winked before she spoke again. “I’ll see what I can do, then.”
As the bairns ran ahead, hopped up on fuel and sugar, Jamie and Claire walked behind. Twice, Jamie’s bare arm brushed against the knitted fabric of Claire’s long sleeved jumper. But she said nothing – as if it had never happened.
“How’s yer work schedule looking this week? Ye busy?”
“Yes, I will be.” Claire nodded. “I’m on afternoons all week, so no school drop pick ups for me. Is Willie coming back to football next weekend?”
Was it too forward to offer to pick Fergus up for her?
Shut up, ye eejit…
“Aye, he loves it already. He’ll be telling everybody once we get home.” Jamie smiled, picturing his Ma’s animated face, as she listened intently to Willie’s play-by-play of his game. “Guess we’ll see each other next Saturday, then?”
They’d approached their cars by now, Claire’s dinky, pristine Nissan Juke in contrast to Jamie’s large truck with rather dirty horse blankets still lying in the bed. Her keys jingled in her palm as Claire unlocked the doors for Faith and Fergus to climb inside.
“Yes, I’ll see you then. But don’t forget your extra supplies this time!”
“I’ll try not to, aye?”
“If not, I suppose we’ll just have to share again, won’t we?”
Her cheeky grin was back.
Jamie thought he’d never seen anybody look more gorgeous in all his life.
“Aye, Sassenach. It wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“No, it wasn’t bad at all, Jamie… We made it work, after all.”
“Aye, exactly.” His middle finger skimmed his upper lip. Jamie was very aware of Claire’s fixed stare, so what if he traced his cupid’s bow to see Claire’s eyes glimmer? “Made it work, indeed.”
Happy Sunday everybody!
First, I have to give a massive thank you to CourageousJS who very kindly offered to be my beta for this chapter <3
Second, if you follow my on tumblr or on twitter, you'll know i got some not very nice news this week. I'll be honest it set me back mentally, and i didn't feel like doing much. I wasn't sure i'd get a chapter up this week, but with everybody's kind words, I managed too. Thank you to each and everyone of you for being so lovely, sending such kind messages, and being understanding.
Life feels quite raw at the moment, and i am taking each day as it comes - so i ask you please be gentle with me. Any further updates about upcoming chapters are always on my socials, so it's best to check there for any info you might want to know - just ask away.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Kudos and comments mean the world to me, so let me know :) x
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
Trigger Warning: Mention of Suicide.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Was he imagining things, or had that been a date?
Had Jamie Fraser accidentally found himself on a date with Claire Beauchamp, without even realising it?
Could it count as a date if the bairns had been there, eating their respective body weights in sugar?
Had Claire thought it was a date?
Jamie needed somebody to whack him over the head, to stop the hamster wheel of thoughts from running a marathon. Surely Jenny would be willing.
He’d known Claire was flirting; Jamie would be stupid not to see it. She’d been flirting at the playground, and now again at the football pitch. He liked it; he liked her, his Sassenach. But what Jamie was going to do about it, he wasn’t quite so sure yet.
The organic fertilizer appeared to have done its job, the tilled soil looked dark and healthy with the right amount of salty grits embedded into it to help the growing process. But only time would really tell. The potatoes were sown first, as they would be the most planted vegetable of the year and often would need a lot of room to root and grow. Carrots were planted next, as were onions, bulbs of garlic, broccoli and beetroots.
While the lads got behind the tractors and planting machines, Jamie took his time planting the next batch of tomatoes in the newly constructed greenhouse. He hadn’t wanted to spend extra money on the four glass walls and glass paneled roof, but every time he attempted to grow something in the raised herb beds just outside the front door, they died without even sprouting anything. In the end, Jamie caved, and the greenhouse was erected in an attempt to save the poor sproutlings.
Miss Claire Beauchamp crossed Jamie’s mind now and then. And by now and then, he meant most days.
True to her word, Jamie hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her at the early morning or afternoon school gates. He knew she’d been at the hospital for the afternoons, but Jamie had no clue how Fergus got to school each morning. The same blonde haired woman, who Jamie had already seen once before, was there at the gates Monday through Thursday – taking Fergus’ backpack from him and chatting away animatedly. Jamie expected to see her Friday as well, but was surprised to see it was Faith who could be seen waiting for her younger brother.
The wee lass had managed to grab a seat on the metal bench, underneath a large oak tree, squeezed in between gossiping mothers who held squalling children in one hand and cups of scalding hot liquid in the other. She’d cracked open a book, Jamie couldn’t make out which one, but she appeared content enough – only looking up when the school bell signaled loudly.
While waiting for Willie (somehow his bairn was always one of the last ones out), Jamie took it upon himself to keep a close watch on Faith. She might have been nearly a teenager, but Jamie felt an overwhelming surge of protectiveness over Claire’s daughter.
Faith’s chestnut brown hair, so alike her Mam’s, was slicked back into a tidy ponytail, with what appeared to be a blue ribbon tied around it. She scanned the crowd quickly, bending her head back down over her book when she didn’t spot Fergus, nor did he shout out to grab her attention.
Jamie spotted Fergus before she did. He was walking side by side with Willie, something that was becoming more of a regular occurrence, Jamie had noticed.
Fergus did holler out to his older sister, waving his arm in the air to a greeting. Seeing her brother, Faith marked her page, tucked her book back into the leather bag sitting in between her feet and stood. She brushed something down from her school skirt, ensuring she looked as pristine as possible.
Oh, how like her Mam, she was.
“Da!” Willie came flying down the hill, school uniform all over the place, as if he’d been rolling around on the ground.
“Hiya, son.” Jamie picked off two separate pieces of grass from Willie’s shoulder. “Had a good day?”
“Oh, bonjour, Mr Fraser.” Her voice was softer than he remembered, almost swallowed by the noise of raucous children all around.
“Och, hallo ye two.” Jamie said. “Call me Jamie, won’t ye Faith, I feel old otherwise, lass.”
She nodded, almost shyly, hands clasped together in front of her.
“Have ye’s had a good day at school?” Jamie asked the three bairns surrounding him in a little group.
“Oui, merci beaucoup.” Faith answered, turning to her brother and prompted. “Fergus?”
“Aye, me too, thank you…”
“Fergus and I were partnered together for science, Da! We made slime!
“Did ye’s? Well, ye better not have brought any home. I’m not getting on my hands and knees to scrub it out of the upstairs carpet again.”
Willie giggled, remembering how much trouble he’d gotten into the first time around. But the fun had been worth it, and even more so to see his Da scrubbing the carpet furiously.
“Don’t worry, Jamie.” Fergus promised. “We weren’t allowed to take them home, Miss Monroe said so.”
“Bien.” Faith pursed her lips, changing her face to an expression much older than her actual years. “Maman had the same trouble with that slime.” She pulled a disgusted face, as if she could feel the weird texture on her fingertips. “She would have a fit and a half.”
“Yer Mam’s got the right idea, wee Faith.”
He wanted to ask… but dare he?
“Without me sounding like a madman, how are ye getting home safe?”
Jamie had tried to stage his question as least creepily as he could, if that was even possible. The two bairns didn’t even blink an eye, but Jamie rambled on anyway.
“I’m sure yer Mam has taught ye about stranger danger and…”
“Oh, you’re not a stranger.” Faith reassured him. “Mamam said so. She said if we were to see you, we were to say hello and not be rude.”
“Och, right…” Jamie wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. It hadn’t quite been the answer he’d been expecting.
Fergus bent down to re-tie his shoelaces, and tilted his head up, way up, to speak to Jamie. “Our Auntie Geillie picks us up. But we meet her at the corner shop for sweeties, instead of at the school gates on a Friday.”
Faith watched carefully, making sure her younger brother tied them properly. “Maman gives us pocket money, you see, for the chores around the house. Fergus spends his on sweets, usually sour ones so I can’t share.”
“Don’t ye like sour sweets?” Willie hadn’t even got the question fully out of his mouth, when Faith was shaking her head and pulling a face like she’d actually eaten one of the said sweets.
“Ugh, no! Disgusting!”
Fergus laughed at his sister’s reaction, but quickly hid his grin in his palm as she glared at him.
“Why, do you?”
“I think they’re nice, especially the blue raspberry ones! Don’t ye, Da?”
“Aye, I do. Think ye’re outnumbered here, wee Faith lass.”
“The blue raspberry ones are my second favourite, but I think I like the strawberry ones best.” Fergus chatted away to Willie. “Do ye think yer Da will let ye walk with us to the shop?”
“Hang on, I’ll ask…” He turned to Jamie. “Da? Can we walk to the shop with Fergus and Faith?”
“I suppose ye’ll be wanting some sweets as well, won’t ye?”
Willie had turned those cornflower blue puppy dog eyes on. The same ones Jamie saw when he looked in the mirror, bright and early in the morning, before all the stress of the day began.
“Fine.” Jamie conceded, hand already going into his denim pocket to check how much change he had left. “Is that okay with ye two?”
The grin on Fergus’ face said it all. Both boys ran ahead, Willie following Fergus, dodging parents and other children, to reach the shop on the hill. Jamie stayed by Faith’s side, walking at a much slower pace.
“So, if Fergus spends all his money on sweeties, what do ye spend yer pocket money on?”
Faith looked up at him, a tiny smile playing about her mouth, as if she’d not expected Jamie to talk to her – let alone ask her a question.
“Books, nail polish, new ribbons for my hair.” Faith twirled her fingers round the blue ribbon in hair in emphasis. “My favourite biscuits… Oh! And baking things! Cupcakes are my favourite thing to make.”
“Well, I think yer ribbons are very bonny, Faith.” Jamie saw her whole face light up at the compliment; it warmed his heart to see. “What’s ye’re favourite flavour of cupcakes to make?”
As they walked up the hill, Willie and Fergus turning back every couple of minutes or so to check they were still behind them, Faith chatted about her hobbies. Quite quickly, Jamie was learning she might be a quiet, shy child – especially around other children and adults – but get her in her comfort zone, and Faith wouldn’t stop talking excitedly.
Willie and Fergus had already ducked into the shop, just as Jamie and Faith crested the final stretch.
At the sound of her name, Faith whipped her head around. “Bonjour, Auntie Gellie!”
The blonde haired woman made her way over to them, slinking away from the wall, where she’d been leaning. “Our Fergus didn’t even see me, just ran straight past with the redheaded laddie.”
“Och aye, Willie’s mine.” Jamie stuck out his hand for her to shake. “I’m…”
Gellie took it, pumping firmly twice. “Ye won’t be Jamie Fraser, by any chance, will ye?”
“Aye, I will. How…”
Faith’s auntie shrugged “I’m just very clever…”
“Maman mentioned you!” Faith filled in the gap, ever so eager to help.
Geillie laughed, raising her eyebrows at Faith. “I think that was supposed to stay a secret, ye ken, lass?”
Faith’s whole face turned beet red at the realization, up to her hairline, even her ears were mottled red and pink.
Jamie nudged the wee girl with his elbow gently. He couldn’t wink to save his life (with either eye), but Jamie tried his hardest to soothe Faith. “How about we keep it a secret between us? I won’t tell yer Mam, if ye won’t.”
She was silent, not daring to say another peep, but at least Faith nodded her head in agreement.
“See? No harm done, Faith lass.” Geillie pulled out an edge of Faith’s ribbon, which had gotten caught in her hair bobble as she’d walked. “Do ye want some sweeties while we’re here?”
“No, merci beaucoup,” Faith said, shaking her head.
“Och, go on! Here!” In the flat of Geillie’s palm lay a pound coin. “Go in and buy a big chocolate bar for me and ye to share in the car. The fruit and nut one, if they have it, aye?”
“I have money, Auntie Geillie…”
“Don’t ye dare spend ye’re own money, my lass. Use this.”
Taking the offered money with another thank you to her auntie, Faith strode off through the same door Willie had disappeared through a number of minutes ago.
“A good bairn, aye? Both of them are.” Geillie said. “I didn’t get to introduce myself, Geillis Duncan, but ye can call me Geillie.”
“Aye, the bairns said on the way up here. Willie and Fergus wanted to share some sweets, and I wanted to make sure wee Faith was safe, so I walked up with them.” Jamie explained. “Hope ye don’t mind.”
“Och, no! Not at all!” Geillis waved his worries away with a bat of her hand. “I think it’s braw of ye, and so will our Claire.”
So will our Claire…
“How do ye ken Sassenach, then?”
“Claire? We work at the hospital together! Have since she moved up here, actually.”
“Aren’t ye related? The bairns called ye Auntie, so I assumed…” Jamie’s sentence trailed off.
“No, just best friends. Claire…”
“Da! They had those chewy bon bons ye like, so I bought ye some!” Willie came bounding out of the shop, carrying a white paper bag in either hand and stopping whatever Geillis had been about to say.
“Willie, what have I told ye about interrupting?” Jamie chided his son. “Say sorry, please.”
“Sorry.” Willie said sheepishly.
Geillis smiled at him. “Don’t worry about it, lad.”
“Good lad.” Jamie held his hand out for the bag of sweets. “But thank ye for buying me something. Pass me one out and then share them round, won’t ye?”
For once in their lives, he and Willie had been fairly early. The young referee had only just been putting down the training cones and mini hurdles, ready to put the wee lads through their paces.
“Sorry we’re late!” Jamie heard Claire’s English voice ring out, just as the bibs had been handed out and the boys were busy warming up with twenty star jumps.
“Och, ye’re fine!” Christopher called back, sending Claire a toothy grin. “Fergus! Grab a red bib for today!”
Walking closer to the watching parents, Claire put a hand above her eyes to block out the sun, making it easier to see people’s faces. Jamie waved his hand in the air to grab her attention.
“Ye okay, Sassenach?” He asked as she spotted him and began to make her way over to his side.
“Yes. Just a little bit…” Claire grasped a stray lock of hair and tucked it behind her ear, where Jamie noticed she was without any usual earrings. “Frazzled, you could say.”
“You can say that again.” Claire let out a deep breath, closing her eyes and letting them stay closed. Jamie had turned his body in towards hers, and laid a hand on her shoulder, before he even realised what he’d done.
“Are ye all right, Sassenach?”
She didn’t answer straight away, the thin skin of her eyelids fluttering as her pupils moved underneath. Jamie wasn’t sure if he should utter anything else or wait for Claire to get herself together. In the end, just as Jamie was about to open his mouth, she beat him to it.
“It’s that fucking school project.” Her words were so quiet, almost whispered, that Jamie had to press his body into hers. He tilted his head closer to hers, as much as possible without head-butting one another.
Jamie knew exactly what Claire was talking about. He had a strange, funny feeling in the pit of his stomach, almost the texture of oil, knowing what words were going to come out of her mouth. But he dared to double check anyway, hoping to God he was wrong.
“The one about families?”
Sassenach’s swallow was thick, thicker than usual. Her eyes had stayed shut up until now, but Jamie’s proximity to her meant he could quite clearly see the glossy sheen of her eyes when she did eventually blink them open.
“Yes, the one about fucking families. Fergus was so upset about this week’s homework… I… I didn’t even think we’d make it here today.”
Jamie had known what she was going to say, had seen it already unfolding, but it still didn’t hurt any less to hear the tremble of Claire’s voice, or know how upset bonny Fergus had been.
“Ye’re all right, Sassenach.” Jamie’s grip on her shoulder tightened. “Take a deep breath.”
“I feel like a failure. Like a shit mother.”
In the distance, the boys had begun running through drills of burpees and high knees.
“Don’t ye dare, lass! Ye’re not, are ye listening to me, Sassenach? Ye’re doing yer best and…”
“But it’s not enough, is it?” Claire questioned, her eyes searching Jamie’s, as if he held the answer. “How is it enough when my child’s crying his eyes out because his father is no longer around and I…”
Jamie’s anger built steadily, coming head to head with an inexplicable feeling sitting just behind his breastbone. “That is not yer fault. If Fergus’ Da is not around, that is not yer fault, Claire. Do ye hear me? Do ye?”
Claire’s words were definitely whispered now, only for Jamie’s ears to hear. “Yes, Jamie, I do.”
He wanted to glide his lips over hers, kiss the sadness right off of her face and make a goofy smile break out.
“Willie was the same, ye ken?” Jamie said, making his lips and tongue form a sentence, rather than let them get him into trouble.
Her eyebrows knitted in confusion. “The same?”
“Aye,” Jamie nodded slowly. The two fingers not spanning Claire’s shoulder and bare collarbone, started to tap out an untimed rhythm. “The same as yer Fergus, crying, upset, whatever ye want to call it. All because of that school project. I mean, he’s been alright this week because it’s about Da’s isn’t it, and he’s got me. But how do ye explain to yer ten year old bairn that his Mam topped herself and she isn’t here for ye to ask her stupid questions for a shitty little project?”
Cold fingers slide between his own much warmer ones.
He was at the football pitch.
He was outside, standing, taking in the fresh air and the vitamin D.
Miss Claire Beauchamp stood beside him; those were her bonny fingers interlaced though his own.
He wasn’t stuck inside that room, watching the horrific words pour out of Geneva’s Mam’s mouth, but never actually hearing her voice.
He wasn’t running up the stairs, feet slipping on the carpet, as he propelled his legs to go faster. He could make it in time, he could make it in time, he could make it in time.
He could save her.
“Jamie?” Claire tried again, this time placing her fingertips to his jawline and tilting his head down until every bit of his vision was filled with her. Sassenach. Her ever so disheveled hair, frizzy curls all over the place, and face bare of any makeup. The champagne silk camisole top, with one of the straps hanging down, her long grey cardigan, which was creased at the bottom, in her haste to leave the house and make it to the field on time. Even the casualness of her ripped skinny jeans, clinging to her lean legs.
“Fuck, sorry Sassenach,” he muttered, exhaling sharply through his nose. “I really didn’t mean to tell ye that, I just wanted to make ye feel better and…”
Claire’s arms were wrapping around Jamie’s broad shoulders, stopping him mid-sentence. She tucked their bodies in together until he could feel her soft breasts pressed up against his torso. But Jamie couldn’t smell any of her usual perfume. It didn’t permeate her body, nor transfer onto his cotton t-shirt. Claire’s hair smells vaguely like coconut, but not the usual strong hints of vanilla and chamomile that Jamie had come to expect and associate with his Sassenach.
“Don’t be sorry, it’s okay.” She promised, pulling back once to search his eyes before resting her chin on the ball of Jamie’s shoulder. “Are you okay? God that sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Of course you’re not okay, I just mean…”
Only then did Jamie realize his arms still lay down by his sides.
Here, right in front of him, was the bonniest woman Jamie had ever laid his eyes upon, a woman who’d featured in his mind night after night. Her body as closer to his as it probably would ever be, and yet Jamie wasn’t touching her back, wasn’t offering her that physical contact Claire had so obviously needed in a difficult time like today.
Bringing his arm up, Jamie banded both around Claire’s petite waist, his right palm holding her hip to keep her steady, and his left, caressing the smooth plains of her back.
“Aye, I’m fine, lass.” He answered. “It happened a long time ago…”
“Doesn’t matter.” Claire squeezed him tighter. “Doesn’t matter how long ago it was, it still hurts. Trust me, I know. Does…” She stopped and then started again. “I’m guessing Willie doesn’t know?”
“No.” Jamie moved away slightly, creating a thin sliver of space between their respective torsos. As he did so, Claire’s arms slipped away from his neck, coming back to rest at her sides. He wanted, no, needed, to be able to see her honest glass face as Jamie told Claire the truth. “I’ll tell him when he's older, when he's ready, when he understands more. Understands why it happened and that it wasn’t his fault, or anything he could do, or…”
“That sounds like the right thing to do,” Claire agreed. “The things we do for our children, eh?” A small smile played about her lips. It was infinitely small compared to her usual grin, but at least it was there, it was something.
“Aye, I ken what ye mean. We do some mad stuff, don’t we? All in the name of love.”
“Oh, definitely all in the name of love, all right.” Claire gazed out at her boy running about the field, dry grass being trampled under his feet. “Sometimes… sometimes I think I love him too much.” She confessed. “Him and Faith. Like my heart will burst into a thousand pieces if I see him and his sister laugh at something silly one more time.”
“My Mam always used to say ‘there’s no such thing as too much love’, Sassenach.” Jamie shrugged his shoulders as Claire watched him out of the corner of her eye. “Our bairns need it to grow up happy, and some parents don’t have that love to give. They don’t feel it the way we do. So who cares if ye love them that little bit extra?”
Neither Willie nor Fergus scored any goals. In fact the match ended up being a nil nil draw between the red and the blue teams. They might not have scored any goals, but both boys were still happy enough, showcasing beaming smiles and covered head to toe in grass stains.
One of the other parents had brought with him a Tupperware of pre-sliced oranges, and Willie and Fergus went bounding over to him as he called all of the boys for a special after game treat.
“Thank you, Jamie.” Claire said, as she watched Fergus, standing off the sidelines, stuff an orange slice into his mouth, turn to Willie and pretended to grin widely with it. “For telling me about Willie’s mother, for listening to me, for… well for all of it, really.”
Jamie bumped his shoulder against hers gently. “That’s what friends are for, Sassenach.”
Massive thank you to my girl @CourageousJS for being the best beta and cheerleader i could ever even dream of x
and also to all of you for being such so lovely - massive love <3
hope you enjoy this chapter! as always, lemme know what you thought either here or over on my twitter or tumblr :)
Jamie didn’t have any proof that Miss Claire Beauchamp was avoiding him, but he was almost certain of it.
It didn't help matters that the words on Jamie’s tongue had felt thick and gritty, as if he’d just swallowed a mouthful of clay-laden soil.
Jamie spent the rest of the weekend stewing, finding jobs around the farm, which required solitude. Willie didn’t appear to notice. He was much too busy giving his pony a thorough wash in the stables and then completing his maths homework assignment.
But the time alone gave Jamie that extra bit of time he needed to get his mind back into the right place.
Talking about the past, about Geneva, was never easy. No matter who Jamie was talking to. It typically took him a few days afterwards to completely calm down, center himself, and get back into the right, and present , frame of mind.
His Mam, Ellen, and Jenny could sense something was off as soon as Jamie and Willie walked over to the big house to spend Sunday morning together as a family unit. Jamie prepared himself for an onslaught of questions and sideways looks, something all of the Fraser women were experts at doing. But although they showed twin concerned expressions, neither of them said anything outright to his face. Jamie wouldn’t be surprised to learn they already knew the reason for his quietness. After living together for so long and being so close as a family – it wasn’t hard to learn the signs of Geneva’s ghost hanging about the estate, or worse, hanging about Jamie’s mind.
The only sign of something amiss was the quick squeeze Jenny gave her younger brother around his thick wrist, just as he and Willie stood up to leave. To an outsider, it wouldn’t look different or unusual, just a sister giving her brother a sign of affection. But those people quite clearly didn’t know Jenny Fraser Murray very well.
Jenny was a hugger by nature, to everyone, but especially to one of the people she loved most in this world - her brother.
But she’d seen his outbursts before. Had been there, right front and center when he told them all about Geneva’s tragic death. Jenny knew from experience that at a time like this all Jamie needed was space. He didn’t want to be coddled, to be hugged, to be told everything would be okay. He simply would ask to be left alone. Jenny didn’t exactly think it was a healthy coping mechanism, but who was she to judge? Most of all, she hated to not be able to wrap her arms around her younger brother. To pick up and stick back together the pieces of his broken heart, as she had done when they’d been younger.
From the moment baby Jamie had been brought home from the hospital, all wrapped up in a blue blanket with a white hat upon his head, Jenny had been there. She’d sat in the same chair she sat in now, baby brother held safely in her arms, cooing away to him while their Mam bustled about the kitchen, making dinner for the four of them. Jenny had been the first to run up the stairs and grab a change of nappy and some fresh baby wipes for her Mam to use, and before long, Jenny could change Jamie’s nappy all by herself. She’d paid enough attention to her Mam, standing silently by her side at the changing table, until Jenny was sure she knew the careful steps in her sleep.
As they’d gotten older, Jenny made sure to share all of her toys, even if Jamie had no interest in playing with Barbies or the latest baby doll. In fact, Jamie would usually be found destroying them; drawing all over the dolly’s faces or clothes, and cutting their hair. But Jenny couldn’t stay angry with her younger brother for very long, not when she got one look at his cheeky, toothless grin.
Jamie's first heartbreak at fourteen couldn’t even be classified as heartbreak. Ask Jamie yourself, he’d tell you; he was just being dramatic. But it had been slightly painful to learn the girl you’d just lost your virginity to, was dumping you for a lad you thought was a friend. From the moment he’d come home from school, and only picked at the ham salad sandwich she had made for him, Jenny knew something was amiss. Eventually, she’d coaxed it out of Jamie, laughing, as his face, ears, and neck turned a bright red as he told his older sister the full story. Jenny had simply patted his back, made him another cup of tea, and this time placed a blueberry muffin, still fresh from the oven and all gooey inside, down in front of him.
“They’re supposed to be for after dinner, so don’t tell Mam, will ye?” She’d said.
Jamie had stood up, ducked his head to reach his sister, who was now shorter than him, and placed a feather-light kiss on her cheek in thanks. Jenny had batted him away, listening intently as he took his muffin and ambled away to his safe haven. The stables. Once he was gone, Jenny turned back to the pot of stew she was supposed to be keeping an eye on, and let herself smile widely at the thought of cheering Jamie up, even if it was only a little bit.
Throughout her life, Jenny had prided herself on being there for Jamie, to help him through the tough turns of life. But this? This wasn’t something she’d ever expected. Something she, or anybody else, seemed to be able to help him with. It broke Jenny into pieces more than anyone knew, not even her husband, Ian.
So when the ghost of Geneva, that scornful bitch, was apparent in Jamie’s eyes, Jenny wouldn’t bring him in for a tight hug as she wanted to. No, she’d simply squeeze a part of his body that she could reach. It was a silent form of communication. A way to reassure both Jamie and herself, that Jenny was here if he needed to talk and still there, even if Jamie just wanted to sit in silence with his thoughts. Her brother wasn’t alone, no matter what he might think.
Jamie squeezed her hand back, giving her a smile, but with no warmth in his deep blue eyes. But at least he was willing to touch her and be touched. That was something in itself.
The rest of the weekend passed by in a blur, and by Monday, Jamie still did not feel his best. He’d dropped Willie off at the school car park, not feeling like he could face getting out of the car and making small talk to one of the other parents. Jamie had spent the rest of the day flitting from one task to another, not being able to concentrate on one single thing for very long, which was very unlike him. Around noon, Jenny had brought along a box full of homemade shortbread biscuits. She’d left wee Jamie at home with his Da, so it was just her and Jamie who sat at his kitchen table together, dunking their biscuits in their tea, in silence.
“Do ye want to talk?” Jenny had asked once, staring at the top of her brother’s head, as Jamie bent to reach for another biscuit.
Jamie met her stare. “No, thank ye, sister.”
Out in front of her, Jenny’s fingers twitched in towards her upturned palm, as if in a phantom grasp. “Ye ken where I am if ye do want to talk, don’t ye?”
“Aye, of course I do.”
He didn’t want to admit it to her, but Jenny’s presence was just another reminder of everything Jamie didn’t have - a loving Mam for Willie, a pregnant wife who loved him, a growing family.
By Tuesday morning, Jamie felt the grey fog from around his head begin to disappear. Outside, the sun was shining brighter than it had in days. Jamie rose out of his slumber with the stars rising, heading downstairs still in his pajamas and filling the kettle up with fresh water. He brewed himself the perfect cup of tea, with just the right amount of milk and sugar to his taste, and decided it might be nice to sit out on the step with it. Jamie hadn’t been able to do it recently, what with the Scottish weather being so temperamental, so it was a pleasant change of routine. Something his brain quite clearly needed.
Time ticked by. Jamie wasn’t exactly sure how long because he’d left his phone on the granite countertop, but he knew it was still early, when the door creaked open again and Willie appeared. He too, was still in his pajamas, feet bare, and the blanket from the bottom of his bed wrapped around his shoulders.
“What are ye doing up so early?” Jamie said, patting the space next to him. “I wasn’t gannae wake ye for another half hour or so.”
Willie sat himself down, bringing his knees up to his chest, and tucking himself into Jamie’s side as much as possible.
“I heard ye get up.” Willie’s eyes fixed on a stray yellow weed in the middle of the pasture. “Didn’t want ye to get lonely.”
“Tcha, lad.” Jamie slung his arm around his son’s small shoulders, holding him tight, holding him close. When he bent down to lay a kiss upon his bairn’s head, Jamie could smell the mixture of soap Willie had used in the bath last night, and a slight undertone of hay from the horse’s stables. “I’m never lonely with ye by my side.”
By the slight movement of the sun, Jamie would have guessed the two of them, just a Da and his lad, stayed basking in the early morning sunshine for about twenty minutes. They said nothing more to each other, but closed their eyes, tipping their heads back and feeling the heat lay on their skin.
If it was even possible, behind his eyelids, Jamie could picture the bright, golden light burning away that grey fog which had followed him around since the weekend. He could feel the hard concrete step beneath him, supporting his weight. The cold material, which hadn’t had time to warm up yet, bit into the empty soles of his feet, but it was rather a nice contrast to the rapidly warm sun on the top of his head. Around him, the birds were already busy, chirping to one another, and diving towards the grass in search of sustenance. Most of the other cattle were still in their pens, but away in the distance, Jamie could spot a lone ewe and her calf standing together in the fresh air, miles of grassy verge surrounding them.
“I’m gannae go in and get some juice, and then get ready for school. Are ye coming, Da?”
For a moment there, Jamie had forgotten Willie sat beside him. It had felt so natural to have him tucked into Jamie’s body, the two of them falling into the same breathing pattern. As they had done, when Willie had been only a baby and Jamie had chosen to wear him around his back in a sling, in order to have use of both of his hands and get the extra work done around the house.
“Aye,” Jamie nodded, corners of his eyes crinkling to see Willie’s silhouette in the sun. “Two minutes, I’ll be right in.”
“What are we having for dinner?” Willie asked, the spoon from his current meal still hanging out of his mouth. Jamie did have to laugh, a lad after his own heart - thinking about his next meal while he ate his first one.
“I was thinking of garlic chicken, chips and veg.” Jamie added a pinch of sugar to his own parritch. “How does that sound? Good?”
“Aye. But will ye ask Nana what she’s got for pudding, for afters?”
As they drove to school, Jamie and Willie listened intently to the new football podcast Ian had introduced them to. Jamie only had the intention of getting out of the driver’s seat to watch Willie get into class okay, but that changed when he spotted two familiar brunette heads.
“Are ye listening to me, Da?”
“Eh?” Jamie looked down at his son. “Och, sorry Willie, what were ye saying, lad?”
Willie lifted one dark eyebrow, clearly not very happy with his Da’s behaviour. “I said,” he repeated. “Will ye make sure not to listen to this week’s episode with me? Don’t even skip over, all right?”
“Aye, okay.” Jamie laughed. “I promise I won’t listen to it without ye, I’ll save it for when ye get back home. Now let’s go, otherwise ye’re gannae be late and…”
“But I thought ye weren’t coming to the door? Ye said ye didn’t want to socialize with dick…”
Jamie held up his hand, stopping Willie mid sentence. “Don’t repeat that word out loud, son. I’ll just drop ye off at the door quickly. I’ve seen someone I want to talk to.”
“Is it Miss Beauchamp?” Willie said mockingly, clasping his hands together at his chest and batting his eyelashes.
“Don’t be such an eejit.” Jamie gave Willie a slight bat about his head, but a smirk toyed around his lips. “And shut yer mouth, ye shouldn’t speak to yer Da like that.”
Willie stuck his tongue out; racing ahead to greet a small boy Jamie couldn’t place a name too.
Whether she meant to or not, Claire stood out in the crowd. Her natural height helped, elevating her, and making her easy to spot. But the way she was so neatly dressed, curled hair sprayed within an inch of its life and pinned back and a pretty china blue print dress highlighting her figure, even at this time in the morning, compared to some of the other parents, set her apart easily.
“Claire! Sassenach!” He called.
Claire turned around at the sound of her nickname, twisting her elegant neck to find where Jamie stood. Once she spotted him, Claire held up two fingers in the universal sign of ‘wait two minutes’, and bent down to give Fergus one last kiss. She waved her son off, checking over her shoulder to make sure he’d gotten inside okay, as she strode over to Jamie.
“I can’t stop and chat,” she said, before Jamie even had the chance to open his mouth. “I’ve got a quick meeting with Mr Wellman and that bloody English teacher.”
“Mrs Kay, ye mean?”
“Yes,” Claire nodded, crossing her arms. “I think that was her name, or at least something along those lines. Why? Do you know her?”
“Och, no,” Jamie smirked. “I had the same meeting with her last week when Willie came home upset.”
“Did you actually?” Claire grimaced, chewing on her upper lip. “I bet she hates the both of us right about now.”
“Well.” Jamie held either palms up to the shining sky, in a ‘what can you do, expression. “She shouldn’t come up with a stupid school project, then should she?”
That got a small giggle out of Claire, but her body was still strung up as if she were preparing for all out battle, arms over her chest to protect herself.
“Yes, you’re right about that. The mother bear in me has come out to play, and I won’t be going down without a fight, so…”
“Aye, I can see.” Jamie agreed. “There’s almost flames burning in ye poor eyes.”
Claire attempted to bat for his shoulder, but Jamie ducked out of the way, laughing to himself. “Shut up, won’t you? Don’t be such a clever dick.”
“A clever dick?” He repeated, breaking out into a grin.
Her lips twitched at the corners, but she resisted the temptation to smile. “Yes, you heard me.”
The watch sitting around Claire’s wrist pinged annoyingly, signaling some sort of text or perhaps a notification. Bringing it up to her face, Claire’s eyes swung from side to side as she read whatever was on the screen. “I’ve really got to get going, Jamie. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right, lass. See you later?”
“Mhm.” It appeared Claire’s mind had flitted away to a different place. “I’ll, um… eh… see you in a bit.”
And then she was off.
Jamie would be the world’s biggest liar, if he said he didn’t watch his Sassenach leave. Watch intently the way the cotton material of her dress clung to her tapered waist, and round arse. How was a man supposed to resist, for God’s sake? He was only human, after all.
Each day Jamie woke up, he felt like more and more of the awful fog had disappeared. Until he was almost positive, this time around, it had gone for certain.
He was also certain his Sassenach was avoiding him at any given chance. After Tuesday, Jamie had seen Claire at the school gates only on Thursday and Friday morning. He could tell her mind had been elsewhere, he’d noticed her almost, well… scurrying about the place, was the only word for it. Claire had brushed him off both times Jamie had opened his mouth to start a conversation; holding that damn watch up to her wrist, and promising she had some hospital meeting that she must run to.
Jamie wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it.
He knew Claire was a busy woman, she’d told him directly, and with a glass face like hers, Jamie thought he’d be able to tell if she were lying. In all honesty, it didn’t feel like his ego was hurt by her actions, his feelings trampled on and pushed to the side. Jamie had experienced that particular pain one too many times with Geneva, and Claire (even if she was keeping him at arm's length) certainly hadn’t made Jamie feel like that.
He was confused most of all.
The question of ‘why?’ floated about his head, mainly as he stood in the shower, hair sopping wet, or just as he tried to drift off to sleep.
Why did she feel the need to avoid him?
Was it something he’d done?
Or did her chosen avoidance say more about her own behaviour?
From both experience and age, Jamie knew all too well that people did strange things. Behaved in a weird manner, or at least a manner, which was foreign to you and your ways. Sometimes it hurt. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes the other person meant it to hurt, acted out the way they did to get under your skin on purpose. But sometimes, and it happened more times than you would imagine, that particular person didn’t mean for it to hurt you. They didn’t go out of their way to make it burn.
Jamie didn’t believe Claire had purposefully gone out of her way to avoid him. She didn’t seem the type. So perhaps she didn’t even ken she was doing it?
But as the week drew to a close, and Willie’s Saturday football match crept ever closer, Jamie was determined to ask Claire about it as they stood together on the pitch sidelines.
here is a pile of brain mush that my bff @CourageousJS ever so kindly read and smushed together to make it readable <333
I'm excited to hear what you think will happen in next week's update when Jamie can finally gets Claire all to his self... lemme here thoughts and theories pls either here or over on my socials!!
Jamie held the car door open for his son, taking pains to not dent the car parked tightly beside him, while Willie loosened and re-tied his shoelaces for the twentieth time in the past ten minutes.
From the second Willie had shoved his feet into his old football boots back at home, he’d begun complaining of a pinching on either side of his pinky toes. His Da knew exactly what that meant; Willie’s football boots were officially too small. Jamie thought he’d get another couple months wear out of them at least, but apparently not. Soon-to-be teenage boys grew at a rapid rate, and Jamie had a distinct feeling it was going to cost him more than an arm and a leg in the future – especially for new shoes, clothes, school uniforms and football kits.
While Willie tried to give his feet a bit more wiggle room (hopefully for just this game), Jamie gazed out, past the sea of cars, to the field. Already, straight white lines had been drawn in a large square to make it resemble more of a football pitch. This way, the lads could learn where exactly the sidelines and penalty box were situated.
So far, Jamie had been extremely pleased with his decision to enroll Willie into the football after school club. Quite obviously, Willie loved it. He would recount to anybody who would listen, exactly what had happened on Saturday morning and how good he was getting at keepie uppies. There hadn’t been any issues with any of the other lads or their Da’s, other than a few minor disagreements, which was to be expected at a competitive sporting event. They hadn’t exactly been friendly with Jamie, not like Peter and the other rugby Da’s, but they’d been civil and that was enough for Jamie.
Christopher, the referee, might have been young and baby-faced, but he was certainly very good with the kids and well prepared, always carting with him a green bag full of extras supplies. Jamie was almost sure he had the patience of a saint; always up for explaining the rules one more time, or offering more water, doling out ice packs to the ‘injured’, and holding tissues for snotty, runny noses.
What Jamie wasn’t so keen on, however, was the scene playing out right in his direct line of vision…
Christopher and Claire stood off to one of the sidelines, besides a circle of cross legged bairns. They stood close enough together for their hips and shoulders to skim one another, probably with each intake of breath. The lad, who could only be just barely out of his teenage years, said something. Something which Claire laughed loudly at.
Jamie pressed his tongue hard against a sharp, upper molar tooth in annoyance. He knew when Sassenach laughed like that her whole body shook, her eyes twinkled merrily, and her loud laugh would die off into small giggles. What had Christopher said to make her laugh so joyously? Did he ken Claire intimately enough to ken these particular tells of hers?
“Willie! Will ye hurry up?” Jamie didn’t mean to snap at his son, but his blood was unexpectedly roaring through his ears. Two fingers from his left hand tapped five times against his upper thigh.
“God, I’m coming!” Willie snapped back from the truck, sliding one long, lanky leg out of the door with only one shin pad attached.
With his head, Jamie nodded towards the other shin pad in Willie’s hand. “Make sure ye put that on properly mind.”
“Of course I will.” Willie rolled his eyes. “I’m not stupid, I ken the rules, Da.”
Opening his mouth, Jamie was about to give his son a tongue lashing for cheeky back talk, but Willie was running away like a shot, joining the group of seated lads. Exhaling loudly through his nose, Jamie ambled over to the group, feeling as if his body weighed both nothing, and also as heavy as a tonne of bricks. His feet had a mind of their own, carrying him towards Claire and Christopher, a lot faster than he intended them too, while his mind bounced from thought to thought.
Why did he feel so angry?
He shouldn’t feel angry.
Claire and Christopher weren’t doing anything wrong, both were legal, consenting adults… even if Christopher did look like he still didn’t ken his way around his own cock let alone kent a woman’s body.
Why did he feel so angry?
Angry enough to taste the copper tang of blood in his mouth from how hard he’d bitten down.
He shouldn’t feel angry.
Why did he feel so angry?
Just fucking because.
“Jamie!” Claire called, a smile lighting up her face. “Morning, are you and Willie all right?”
He didn’t want to say morning back, to be delighted inside at her smile. He wanted to ask what the fuck she thought she was doing?
Are ye flirting with him?
Is he flirting with ye?
But perhaps that wasn’t so appropriate to ask, no matter how much it stung like a bitch.
“Morning, Claire.” He replied, still standing before both of them. “Morning to ye too, Christopher.”
“Morning, Mr Fraser.” The young lad pointed towards the group of school boys. “I better start the warm ups. Bye, Miss Beauchamp.”
The eejit had the audacity to wink.
Jamie wanted to throw a punch right at his tiny, minuscule balls.
“Did he just… did he just wink at me?” Claire asked, looking to Jamie for an answer.
“Aye,” Jamie nodded. “I think he did. If I didn’t ken him any better, I’d say he was flirting with ye.”
“Flirting with me?” Claire scoffed. “God no, don’t be so silly. What makes you say that?”
Both of Jamie’s brows shot up towards his hairline. “Because I kent what I saw.”
“You’re mistaken.” She argued. Around them, the wind had picked up, blowing both of their hairs all over the place. Jamie had to take a step closer to her, to be heard over the loud whooshing.
“I ken ye ken what flirting looks like, Claire. So…”
“Why are you calling me Claire and not Sassenach?” She interrupted, a sweet pout taking shape on her lips.
It was unfair for her to look so bonny, so sweet and inviting when Jamie was trying his hardest to keep a hold of his anger leash.
“Would it make ye happier if I called ye Sassenach?” Jamie asked.
She nodded, letting strands of hair whip around her face.
“Fine. He was flirting with ye, Sassenach. Is that better?”
Claire shook her head no. “Whether he was flirting or not, it doesn’t matter. I certainly wasn’t flirting back. He’s much too young for me.”
“Too young for ye?” Jamie repeated, wondering what next was going to come out of his Sassenach’s mouth.
“Yes, much.” She agreed. “I’d probably break him in half.”
Jamie blinked hard once. His mouth had gone cotton dry.
This was not turning out how he’d planned in his head…
“Break… break him?” He didn’t mean to lick his lips, but they’d gone tight and dry. Jamie didn’t miss Claire’s fixated gaze. “What… what do ye mean, break the poor lad?”
“Come on, Jamie. Use your imagination.”
He really didn’t dare.
“So if he looks like a poor lad ye’d break in half…” Jamie cocked his head to one side. “What about him makes ye think that? How do ye ken ye won’t break a man in half?”
Claire shrugged, humming in thought. “I probably wouldn’t break you in half.”
My fucking god…
“Is that so?” Jamie queried.
Christ, he couldn’t stop himself from playing along.
The front of his trainer bumped her black ballet flat. Jamie’s blood thrummed hot again, but not with anger this time. “Something to think about then, aye, Sassenach?”
“Definitely.” Her face was straight, not even an eyelid twitch. “You need to catch up, I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”
Jamie couldn’t decide which he felt more, or which was more annoying. His body had been playing tricks against him since the moment he’d gotten in the car, driving back to the Lallybroch estate with Willie in the passenger seat, a smear of mud decorating his cheek.
That had been over an hour ago.
Upon reaching home, Willie had run straight upstairs to change out of his muddy football kit and wipe the mud from his skin. Jamie busied himself about the kitchen, fixing two ham and mustard sandwiches with crisps on the side for both of them. Running about in the fresh air gave Willie an appetite like no other. It took him only a matter of minutes to scarf down his snack, tuck his chair back under the table, place his dirty dish in the sink and announce to his Da that he was going to the stables. Once again, leaving Jamie to the loud noise of his own thoughts.
Sassenach hadn’t been flirting back, she’d said so herself.
But she’d quite clearly been flirting with him.
And this time, it was more dirty than before.
Yet, after the words had left her mouth and the bairn’s game began, Claire shut her mouth sharply. He caught her once, or perhaps it was twice, looking at him out of the corner of her eye, but Jamie pretended not to notice. If this was how she wanted to play, then he would play.
Just at the thought of it: the shape of Claire’s pink lips pouting, the flare of her shapely hips hidden underneath a ruffled light blue blouse, the way she held his gaze unblinkingly – had Jamie’s blood heating up and up and up.
In an attempt to cool down, Jamie took a sip of his icy cold water out of the glass sitting on the table, and held the liquid in his mouth until his tongue and gums had gone numb and his teeth ached. It cleared his mind, setting himself back into the present moment; alone in the kitchen, the only sound from a bird singing high up in it’s nest outside, but it did nothing to stop the fizzing in his veins.
With a loud scrape against the flagstone floor, Jamie pushed his chair back and stood up abruptly. He needed to move his body, to get rid of the stagnant energy, which was building up around him. If he didn’t, Jamie knew he was liable to sit there for the rest of the day, staring at the wood grain running through the table, and playing the sight of Claire’s amused smirk popping up, over and over again.
Willie would think him insane.
Jamie needed to find something to take his mind off Miss Claire Beauchamp. Something hands on and physical usually always worked, it kept both mind and body busy at the same time. Jamie was just about to run upstairs and grab a light jacket (the wind was still making itself known, taking a nip out of any bare skin you had on show), thinking of heading outside and getting a few miscellaneous jobs sorted, when his phone pinged obnoxiously.
He moved the bread bin out of the way, reaching for where his mobile phone lay, attached to the charging cable in the plug socket.
Peter (Johnnie’s Da) [14:44pm]
Jamie lad, ken it’s a wee late notice but me and the lads are going out the night. 9 @ the dog and parrot if ye fancy. hope to c u there mate.
On a scale of one to ten, how bad would it be to give Willie to his Grandparents, Jamie thought to himself, while he went out, got happily shitfaced and forgot all of his troubles?
Surely, not at all bad was the correct answer.
Dialing quickly, Jamie held the phone between his ear and chin, while placing his and Willie’s empty plates into the dishwasher.
Ellen picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hiya Mam, it’s me.” Jamie replied.
“Och, hiya Jamie, lad. Ye and Willie okay? How did Willie’s football go?”
He moved to discard the two crinkly crisp packets. “Aye, it went fine, I’m sure Willie will tell ye all about it. Speaking of, do ye think ye could have Willie tonight?”
“Aye, of course,” she agreed. “There’s no need for ye to ask such a thing. Why? Where ye going?”
“Och, just going to the pub for a few, with some friends. I’ll drop him off around 7, is that alright with ye and Da?”
“Of course it is, ye go and enjoy yerself, my lad. But drop Willie off at 6 instead,” she suggested. “So he can have dinner over here.”
“Right, will do. Thanks Mam.”
“No bother, my lad. See ye both in a bit. Love ye.”
Jamie hung up the phone, feeling better for having something to focus on, other than the pounding and overlapping thoughts in his head. He was no further forward with how he felt or how Claire felt, but going out tonight was exactly what the Doctor had ordered.
Willie’s football flew into the air as he threw it up and caught it. There’d been no need for Willie to bring anything else with him to the Big House; Ellen still had a wardrobe full of Willie and Jamie’s spare day clothes and pajamas. “Of course I will, Da.”
As if she’d been waiting by the window for them, Ellen came bustling out, holding her arms open for Willie to throw himself into her grasp.
“Have ye got enough time to have bit to eat?” She asked her son as Jamie pressed a kiss to her offered cheek. Willie had already run away into the house to find his Grandda, the football he’d carried all the way over the hill was left bouncing beside the front door - he knew the house rules well; no playing football in the house.
“Aye,” Jamie returned his Mam’s hug, inhaling deeply and surrounding himself with the comforting, safe smell of home. He loved his own house, having his own space for just him and Willie, but there was nothing quite like coming back home. “What’ve ye made?”
“Ye favourite,” Ellen sent a smug smile his way as they walked up the three stone steps to the house. “Chicken pie. But ye better be quick, before ye sister serves herself the biggest slice. She’s been salivating over it all day while I made it.”
Jamie kicked off his shoes, tucking them beside his Da’s on the shoe rack. “Since when did Jenny care about chicken pie? She hated it when we were bairns, remember? When I used to ask for it, ye’d have to make her something completely different.”
The heady scent of flaky, golden pastry mixed in with gravy permeated the air, as they got closer to the kitchen. As did the sound of soft chatter, and baby babble coming from Wee Jamie.
“Yer sister said it was something about the baby.” Ellen explained. “Ye don’t want to ken how many times I had to stop her from reaching over the table and eating the raw dough. I ken there’s cravings, I wanted pickles and peanut butter when I was pregnant with ye, but raw pastry is just weird, don’t ye think?”
“Aye,” Jamie agreed, turning to look behind at his Mam before pushing open the heavy wooden door. “But don’t ye dare let Jenny hear ye say that, she’d probably try and get ye with the spatula.”
Ellen smiled broadly, as if imagining the scene in her head. “She’d have to catch me first, my lad. I may be getting on in my old age, but I’m still as fast as a whippet, and ye both better not forget it.”
“Dog and parrot.” Jamie answered, searching around his plate for an extra bit of chicken that might be hiding under some of the pie pastry lid.
Ian smiled cockily. “Och, the dog and parrot… on the pull are we, lad?”
“Ian!” Jenny screeched. “There are bairns present!”
“Tcha,” Ian scoffed. “Like our parents didn’t say worse. The poor bairns don’t even ken what…”
Willie chose this time to pop up and ask the specific question Jamie had been dreading answering. “What’s going ‘on the pull’ mean, Da?”
Jamie just about choked on his swede mashed potato; at the way Willie delivered the question so innocently, so sweetly. Jenny’s murderous expression was back, and Ian was taking the full brunt of it, but he didn’t seem scared in the slightest.
“Nothing,” Jamie shook his head at his son. “Nothing ye need to ken about right now. I’ll tell ye when ye’re older, aye?”
“See? Look what’ve ye’ve done?” Jenny threw her hands in the air, nearly upending her whole dinner plate, and cutlery. Jamie had thought his sister to be almost finished with the severe mood swings of her first trimester… but apparently he had been mistaken.
“Shhh, Jenny.” Ellen attempted to soothe her eldest, pouring her another glass of water and resting her hand over Jenny’s.
“Da? I’m finished.” Willie’s plate was indeed completely cleared; even the broccoli stems (which he usually complained he hated when his Da cooked them) were missing. “Can I go out and play football against the wall?”
“Aye, ye can.” Jamie said, giving his lad’s hair a ruffle. “Grandma will call ye when dessert’s ready.”
Willie stood, tucking his chair in. “Promise ye won’t leave without saying goodbye to me?”
Jamie’s brow creased, it felt like the whole table had fallen silent, even Wee Jamie had stopped smacking his lips loudly.
What on God’s green earth?
“Of course I won’t, Willie.” Jamie licked his dry lips, dumbfounded. “When have I ever done that to ye? Why would I do that to ye?”
It certainly hadn’t been me to leave ye without saying goodbye, Willie. I hadn’t been that parent.
Willie shrugged his small shoulders, staring down at his feet. For all Jamie marvelled at how tall his son was shooting up to be, no real surprise with a Da who was easily 6’3”, right now Willie looked no bigger than a baby sparrow seeking comfort.
“Fergus said his Da never said goodbye to him before he left, and I… I didn’t want ye to do the same.”
“Come here, lad.” Jamie held his arms out, exhaling only when Willie tucked himself into the safe space of his Da’s body. “I promise. Willie, look at me, please?”
Willie moved his head from his Da’s shoulder, until their, almost the exact same shade of cornflower blue eyes, met each other in a trance.
“I hope I won’t ever have to leave ye, Willie. But I promise, if I do, I will always, always , say goodbye to ye first. Do ye believe me?”
“Aye,” Willie nodded, sniffing loudly. “I believe ye, Da.”
“Good.” Jamie smiled as widely as he dared, without the risk of tears over spilling and falling down his cheeks. He squeezed Willie’s body to his, one more time. “Now go and get some fresh air, before Grandma makes ye help her load the dishwasher.”
Nobody said anything else for a few seconds, not while Willie donned his shoes and coat and closed the front door behind himself with a snick . To Jamie, it felt like a long span of minutes sat in silence, but in reality it was perhaps only thirty seconds or so.
“What the fuck was that about?” Jenny broke the silence, her own eyes wide as they met her brother’s stare.
Ellen attempted to lean over and cover Wee Jamie’s ears, before he heard the slip of his Mam’s profanity, but her hands didn’t get over his ears in time. Wee Jamie didn’t appear bothered; he was too busy smushing mashed potato into the thin patch of hair sitting upon his head.
Jamie was about to open his mouth, an explanation of who Fergus was and his Mam, Claire, Sassenach. But at the last minute, Jamie decided not to give any too many details. His family would be able to sniff out how he felt about Claire in only a matter of minutes, and that would do no good. Jamie didn’t even have a proper read on how Sassenach truly felt about him , other than a few moments of undisturbed flirting, one maybe date and one lewd comment.
“He’s heard it from Fergus, some lad in his class at school.” A slurp of water did nothing to help his cotton mouth. “Scared him a bit, I guess.”
“Right.” Jenny sat back in her chair, hands folded neatly over her only-just-starting-to-show bump. There wasn’t much left for anybody to say, all Jamie could do was trust Willie believed his Da whole-heartedly, and pray to God that nothing ever happened to make Jamie break his promise.
“Do ye think I’m doing the right thing?” Jamie asked his Mam, standing on the stone steps, away from Willie’s listening ears. “Do ye think I should cancel, and stay with him instead?”
Ellen shook her head, her fringe (the exact same shade as Jamie’s) getting caught in her eyelashes. “No, I don’t, I think ye should get yerself away. He’ll be fine. And if he’s not, I’ll ring ye myself.”
“Are ye sure?”
“Aye,” Ellen reached out to take her son’s hand. It was calloused from the amount of time he spent out in the field, working hard, but it was still her boy’s hand – the same one she felt she’d committed to memory ten times over. “Ye’ve gotta take care of yeself, Jamie. Ye’re not leaving Willie with a bunch of strangers, we’re family. It’ll be fine, I promise. He’ll be fine.”
“Right, okay.” Jamie let out a long, unsteady breath through his mouth. “He’ll be fine, he’ll be fine.” He repeated to himself, looking down as he twisted his foot in the sandy dirt. “What time do ye want me to pick him up?”
“Never,” Ellen joked, laughter making her eyes sparkle. “Whenever ye want, lad. Give yerself some time to… erm…” She tried to phrase it as delicately as she could, even though Jamie had never known her to be delicate before. “Enjoy yerself.”
Jamie bit down on his lower lip to stop his smirk from taking over his face, peering up at his Mam’s expression. “Enjoy myself, aye?”
“Tcha,” She rolled her eyes. “Just be safe.”
“Just be safe,” Jamie repeated, unable to hold back his amusement. “Didn’t ye tell me those exact words when I was a teenager?”
“Aye. We love Willie to the moon and stars and back again now, but ye quite clearly didn’t listen to yer Mam.” She smiled, kissing the back of her son’s hand. “I love ye. Now, get away with ye, before ye change yer mind.”
As he walked back along the beaten path, dodging a pack of flying midges, Jamie looked over his shoulder to glance back at Lallybroch. His Mam still stood where he’d left her, arms waving, but a small figure stood beside her now, too, gathered into Ellen’s side and also waving madly.
Willie would be fine; he’d had a small blip that was all. As was to be expected, not everybody had good days, not even wee bairns, no matter how happy-go-lucky they were. This would do Willie good, spending extra time with his Grandparents. And it would do Jamie good to get away for just a short amount of time, and be himself. Not son, not brother, not Da - just Jamie.
Everybody needed to be just themselves, for just a little while, at least.
As usual, thanks to my bestie @CourageousJS for being a beta for this chapter <333
things are amping up now, so let me know what you think will happen next either in the comments here or over on my socials ;)
sending love to you all x
The sun was only just setting behind the trees as Jamie ran up the stairs and headed for the shower.
He washed quickly before stepping out of the shower tray carefully, so as not to slip and break his neck, and wrapping the fluffy towel hanging on the radiator, around his waist.
The house was eerily quiet without Willie running about, as Jamie headed for his wardrobe and picked out a pair of well-worn jeans and a smart button up shirt. He supposed he’d never given it much thought before. But then again, he’d only been away from Willie a handful of times in the lad’s life.
One of the old wooden floorboards creaked downstairs, probably swelling up as the hot water from the shower ran through the pipes hidden under the slats. On instinct, Jamie listened out for the sound of Willie’s voice, hollering something, or perhaps humming to himself as he recalled a catchy pop tune he’d heard on the radio. But no sound floated up to Jamie’s ears.
This house was much too big to be quiet…
It had been set in stone since the beginning, that Jamie would stay close to his family, on their shared patch of generational land. Only once had it ever crossed Jamie’s mind to say no and choose a different path for himself.
It had all started with one of the biggest arguments Jamie could remember ever taking place in his family.
For months upon months, behind everybody’s backs, Jenny and Ian had secretly been dating. The truth only spilled out, when Jamie caught his older sister, and his childhood best friend, in a very passionate lip lock behind the cattle shed. Ian had had his hand up her shirt, for God’s sake.
Jamie had begun shouting blue murder, launching himself at Ian, and the two boys took off in a tumble down the hill, neither willing to let the other win. When Ellen came around the corner, basket full of eggs sitting on her hip, to see what on earth was the matter, she found both boys scraping - fits flying and blood pouring from both noses – and tears streaming down Jenny’s cheeks.
Ellen, of course, had seen her daughter’s side of the story. She, herself, had fallen in love and married a man who her family did not agree with. But Da and Jamie were firmly standing against her – no matter how much Jenny pleaded she loved Ian.
It took another week for Ian to show his face again, a face, which was badly bruised and marred thanks to Jamie’s handiwork. The eejit had come bearing a promise ring, turning to Brian and asking for Jenny’s hand in marriage when the time was right for the two of them.
Jamie had stormed out by then, fuming as his fists clenched and unclenched in a repeated pattern. Still, to this day, he didn’t ken exactly what Ian had said to Jamie’s Da that day, but whatever it was, he managed to wear him down and Brian agreed to their future marriage. Jamie had been so mad; he’d packed his bags there and then. At just sixteen and with nothing but a small backpack on his back, Jamie had bid goodbye and started walking, drowning out his parent’s protests.
He’d had no particular destination in place, but he knew he’d stumbled upon the right place as he read the sign hanging above the door ‘Mrs Baird’s B and B’. He fumbled for enough cash in his pockets to pay for at least one night’s board; the fates must have been on his side, for he found an extra stash of forgotten money in the pocket compartment of his backpack.
With a mixture of sheer determination to make a stand, and pure stubbornness, Jamie stayed in Mrs Baird’s B and B for three solid days. His whole family had betrayed him, taking Ian’s side just like that ; instead of punishing him for the way he’d been groping Jenny. He simply wasn’t going back to a bunch of traitors. He’d make his own life for himself, away from the farm and the backstabbers who occupied it…
Jamie guessed he would have stayed there longer, had Jenny not knocked on his door on the third night, and demanded he let her in.
Jenny berated the shit out of him, for one of a better word, but Jamie noticed the worry etched across her features. In the end, the two of them made up, as they always did. Jamie had always found it incredibly hard to stay mad at his sister for long, the first best friend he’d ever known. And for all he wanted to stay mad at her and Ian, this time was no different than any of the others.
It had taken Ian longer to win Jamie over to the idea of him marrying Jamie’s sister and practically being allowed to do unspeakable things to her. Even the thought of it now brought bile to the back of Jamie’s throat. But in the end, Ian succeeded with a shit-eating grin covering his face.
To his memory, that had been the only time in his life that Jamie could remember not wanting to follow his Da’s plan, and live on the farm. And even then , the anger had only been brought on by teenage hormones and an urge to rebel for once in his life.
Planning permission and construction work for the home Jamie currently called his own had begun just a couple of months after Willie was born and handed into Jamie’s sole care. By no means, were Brian and Ellen kicking their only son and grandchild out, but they knew it would take a number of years, for the house Jamie would eventually make his own, to be completely finished. By that point, Willie would no longer be a baby, but a toddler, and Jamie a young adult with his life ahead of him. Of course, they’d want their own space to grow and thrive in.
Jamie had always believed he’d fill his house with his family – with a loving wife, three or even four, bairns, who would constantly cause a racket causing Jamie to good naturedly roll his eyes, but secretly he’d love.
Quite obviously, that hadn’t happened, and Jamie didn’t need the empty creak of the dusty floorboards to remind him or his own Mam to tell him time was ticking on.
As soon as the thought popped into his head, Jamie felt guilty. Even more so, as he spotted the tub of hair gel, Willie brought down to the kitchen table every school day for his Da to use on him.
Yes, Jamie’s life hadn’t panned out the way he’d thought, the way he’d expected, the way he’d hoped and dreamed.
But it wasn’t a bad life, not at all.
He had Willie, and that was enough. It always would be. And if Jamie’s life path had taken him where he’d expected to go… he wouldn’t have Willie with him. That horrible thought alone was enough to snap Jamie out of his thought process.
Christ, he needed a drink.
Tonight was supposed to be light and fun, not dragged down by the demons living in the dark depths of Jamie’s mind.
With only a pair of clean black boxers on, Jamie made his way into the kitchen, pouring himself two fingers full of whisky into a glass and knocking it all back in one fell swoop. He badly needed some Dutch courage, and perhaps if he got a little bit tipsy at home, Jamie wouldn’t find himself spending much at the overpriced bar.
It had been a number of years since Jamie had frequented the place himself, and he knew to expect a change inside. The arrangement of the high tables and chairs were changed, the music different, and even the dance floor had been widened to give customers more room to let themselves loose. But what Jamie didn’t expect, was to be surprised by all these changes, before he even got a foot through the door.
“Got any ID, please?” The bouncer standing on the door asked, arms crossed over his chest. He wore all black, head shaved to make him seem more menacing, but Jamie saw through his shitty disguise quite easily. It wasn’t hard to do, not when Jamie had done it himself, back in the day, to appear older.
“Are ye talking to me?” Jamie asked, pointing to himself. It had been a long number of years since his eighteenth birthday.
“Aye.” The kid held out his hand expectantly, waiting for Jamie to hand over his ID. “If I think ye look twenty five or under, I’ve gotta ask for yer ID.” The bouncer shrugged. “It’s the law, mate.”
Jamie fished about in the back pocket of his jeans, to find his wallet and stash of cards. “Aye, I quite ken it’s the law, lad. But ye canny be older than twenty-two yerself.”
“Twenty three, actually.” Laddie smiled, showcasing one gold tooth. Jamie handed over his ID, feeling a bit of a prick, standing just outside of the bar, while his small ID card was inspected. He was almost thirty, for crying out loud.
“Birthday soon, aye?”
“Eh? Och, aye.” Jamie nodded, practically snatching his ID away, as the bouncer handed it back, and stuffing it into his wallet. “The big Three O.”
“Well, have a good night, mate.” Thankfully, the red rope was now undone, and Jamie could slip right through. He gave a sharp nod of his thanks to the kid on the door, before bypassing the old cloak room that was hardly ever used and following well-worn treaded steps to the bar. At least that hadn’t changed.
“What can I get ye?” The man behind the bar asked. His hair was salt and pepper grey, matching the colour of his handlebar mustache and groomed beard. Jamie was glad to see at least somebody here was older than he was.
The coins jingled in Jamie’s palm, as he counted enough out for a full pint. “Just a house beer, please mate.”
“Coming right up.” The bartender turned away, searching for a fresh glass. While he was waiting, Jamie took the opportunity of glancing around himself, searching for Peter, or perhaps one of the other rugby Da’s he might recognize. This side of the bar, the lighting was still dimmer than outside, but just light enough to be able to make out people's faces and the group of lassies on the dancefloor. From experience, Jamie knew the other side of the bar, back up to the front door, was a lot darker. Nobody ever understood why. Surely, it should be lighter at the door of the club, so ye could see where ye were walking as ye stumbled drunk. But, nevertheless, the lighting was just another thing to Dog and Parrot had chosen not to spend extra money on and change.
“Here ye go, mate.” The pint, with a mouthwatering head of foam, was placed on the bar countertop. “That’ll be three pound eighty, please.”
Jamie handed over his coins, taking his icy cold pint in his left hand. He was about to take a sip, when a meaty hand clapped over his shoulder. “There ye are, Jamie lad! I told the other lads ye’d make it!” Peter stood just behind Jamie, a half finished pint clung in his own hand and a rolled up cigarette perched precariously behind one ear.
Jamie greeted his friend back, picking up his drink and following Peter, to where he and a group of burly men had secured a table. A rare thing indeed, but especially rare on a Saturday night.
The hours ticked by, without Jamie picking up his phone to check the time.
The other rugby Da’s were just as welcoming as Peter had been, taking interest in Jamie’s work life on the farm, and happily buying rounds of pints for one another. Before he knew it, Jamie found some of the faces around him blurring, a sure sign of the amount of strong alcohol sitting in his system. To try and qualm the dizziness, Jamie searched for something in the bar to focus upon. The group of lassies who’d once been up and dancing the multicolored dancefloor, were now sitting at a table not too far away.
It was hard not to miss them.
The one in the bright blue dress, who Jamie recognized from her dancing on the dancefloor, was sitting facing Jamie and the group of lads. Her high heeled feet swung from her bar stool seat, barely brushing the metal rung at the bottom of the stool. She sipped on some orange looking cocktail, mouth dipping down to catch the paper straw, while listening to her two friends who sat opposite her. Jamie couldn’t get a glance at the two lassies sitting with their backs to him, not unless one of them turned their head or stood up to move. But he could see the blonde on the left was wearing some red, skin tight… it might have been PVC. While the brunette, on the right, wore something cream and strappy.
“Jamie, lad.” Peter was standing up, bending over to put his mouth to Jamie’s ear and be heard over the loud music, but still somehow towering over Jamie. “I’m going outside for a smoke, do ye want one?”
Jamie wasn’t usually a smoker, but something about the alcohol in his bloodstream, called out to the addictive, bitter taste of nicotine.
“Aye, if ye’ve got one spare?”
“Course I’ve got one spare, come on,” Peter tilted his head towards the door, just past the group of laughing lassies and to the left of the dancefloor, to the smoker’s corner. “Ye wee red headed devil.”
On weightless legs, Jamie followed behind Peter, focusing intently on not bumping into anything or anyone. Behind the fire safety door, the small smoker’s area was deserted, not a soul even passed out on the picnic bench. Jamie was rather glad for the silent reprieve from the bass of the music, which was making his heart race, watching as Peter placed a cigarette stick between his lips, and brought the lighter up to the end. It might have been nearing the end of April, almost into May, but as the night turned into early morning, the chilly winds found themselves picking up. Peter cupped his hand around the tiny flame, so as to not let the wind blow it out, exhaling sharply through his nose when the cherry of the cigarette finally caught.
Holding it between his thumb and forefinger, Peter plucked the cigarette from out of his mouth, and held it towards Jamie. “Here ye are, lad.”
“Ta.” Jamie settled himself against the concrete wall; taking his first drag, holding it for a second, and then tipping his head back, to blow the white smoke coming out of his mouth, into the darkened sky. He took a gulp of fresh air (well, as fresh as you could get in the smoker’s corner, but at least it was better than the man-made fog from the fog machine, which poured out over the dancefloor every half hour), before taking another pull.
Once Peter had his own nicotine stick lit and balancing between the webbed v of his middle and forefinger, he took a seat on the edge of the bench, and attempted to unlock his phone with a very uncoordinated thumb.
“Ye all right, there?” Jamie asked, laughing through his nose.
“Och, just the wife. Two missed calls, and…” Peter squinted, shoving the phone further into his face. “Can’t even make out how many texts.” He shrugged, smiling and slipping it back into his pocket. He didn’t seem to be too bothered about facing his wife’s wrath. “I’ll be in the doghouse tomorrow, but it was worth it.”
Jamie smirked back at him. “Aye, sure it will be. Not so much when…”
The safety door snicked open and then shut, noisily, and a broad Scottish voice rang out. “Neither of ye laddies happen to have some gum on ye, do ye?”
At the question, Jamie turned his head to face the lass, burning cigarette still in hand.
It was the blonde from the table, indeed wearing something bright red and resembling PVC - the shiny material was easier to see under the golden outdoor lights, instead of the constantly moving multicoloured strobes, coming from the DJ booth inside. Jamie blinked two long blinks, trying to figure out if it was his eyes, or her dress, which made everything, including her face, dull and fuzzy in comparison.
Her legs shifted, grabbing Jamie’s attention, as her black wedge heels clicked against the uneven, concrete stone floor.
When Peter began to answer for the both of them, Jamie returned to attention back to the starry sky sitting peacefully above him. “Sorry, lass. I dinna…”
The lass in red cut Peter off before he could finish. “Jamie fucking Fraser?”
At the sound of his given name, Jamie turned to glance at her again, eyes narrowed. Heels clicking, she moved closer to him, as if wanting to get a better look. “Is that ye?”
Jamie got a waft of her body spray, something classic and expensive. “Depends on who's asking…”
“It’s me!” She pointed to herself, when Jamie still didn’t register. Shit, how much drink had he consumed? “Me? Geillis Duncan? From the hospital?”
“Don’t remember her, lad?” Peter chuckled, shaking his head in mock disappointment.
The words from her mouth were floating about Jamie’s mind, flashing big and bright in a rather endless dark cavern of nothingness.
How did he…?
Jamie just caught the tail end of something Peter was saying, something that caused this Geillis to shoot him a scathing look.
“ I’ve never slept with him,” she pointed over her shoulder, with her thumb to Jamie, but continued talking to Peter as if Jamie wasn’t there. “ye stupid eejit. Ye think I’d just be letting him stand there, if he couldn’t remember sleeping with me? Don’t be so daft.”
Dr Geillis Duncan…
Dr Claire Beauchamp…
“Aye, Claire, exactly.” Geillis nodded, smiling smugly at her best friend’s name. Jamie guessed he must have accidentally said that last bit out loud.
“Shit, sorry, Geillis.” Jamie threw the dying cigarette butt onto the floor and ground it in with the heel of his shoe. Once it was out completely, he stooped down to pick it up and flicked it into the waiting bin. “Dinna ken how I missed it was ye.”
Geillis gripped his forearm and just laughed good naturedly. How on earth had he missed it? “It’s okay, laddie. I won’t take no offence, but I think our Claire will if ye don’t notice her .”
“I’m going back inside before I freeze my bollocks off,” Peter interrupted, the loud sound from the bar pouring out from the slightly ajar fire exit. “And then the wife really won’t have a use for me. I’ll meet ye back at the table, Jamie lad.”
Jamie waved Peter away, much too focused on what Geillis had to say.
Sassenach was here?
“Is she still…”
“Aye,” Geillis nodded. “She was in the cloak room last time I checked.”
“I’ll take ye to her,” Geillis held the door open again; looking over her shoulder to make sure Jamie was still listening. “I’m walking that way anyway to go home with the hot bartender.”
Jamie just got the words ‘good for ye’ out of his mouth and heard Geillis laugh brightly, before they were drowned out once more by the music and humdrum of many voices overlapping.
A couple practically dry humping the table and eating one another’s faces off now occupied the lasses table, which had still been full when Jamie had made his way to the smoker’s corner. If they weren’t careful, the whole table would be tipping over at any rate, their drinks - a beer and a hardly touched syrupy cocktail - adding to the stickiness of the floor.
The lad’s table was just as Jamie had left it. But Peter, and his big mouth, must have mentioned something to the other Da’s, because as Jamie and Geillis walked past, he could hear their raucous whoops and whistles, even over the nineties rave anthem blaring overhead. Jamie rolled his eyes, but soon wished he hadn’t as the floor swam beneath him. It didn’t help that the lights above were becoming dimmer, as they walked to the old cloak room.
Geillis stepped ahead of him, shoving a drunken man out of the way, and taking a hold of the doorknob.
“Claire, lassie.” Jamie heard her say. “I’ve brought ye a surprise.”
“A surprise?” Sassenach repeated, the smile on her face, apparent in her voice. Well… at least to Jamie anyway. “Please tell me it isn’t another drink. I think I’ll be sick if you force feed me another apple flavoured shot.”
“Apple, Sassenach?” Jamie stepped into the cloakroom behind Geillis. The box room was tiny usually, but add in Jamie’s viking stature… let’s just say the cloakroom was definitely not built with three people in mind. “Everybody kens strawberry is the only drinkable flavour.”
Shock coloured Claire’s face, before it morphed into pure elation.
Happy Sunday all!
as always here goes my mushy gushy love - first, to mrs @courageousJS (who by the way has an awesome fic out that you should totally read if you're not doing so already!) your one of the best friends that i can also call a rock in my life as well <3
second, to all of you who leave the nicest comments either here or on my socials, who squeal with me, leave kudos, reread, and send my amazing gifs... i love each and every one of ya faces.
and lastly to the second member of the girlypops who is both also a bestie and my rock - the smutty chapter you (and everybody else) has been waiting for is coming on Wednesday hopefully... STRAP YOURSELVES IN NOW ;)
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
Warning: NSFW - DOM! Jamie
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Geillis had the right idea to move out of the way, pressing herself into the suede covered wall, as Claire stumbled forward and flung her thin arms around Jamie’s neck easily, thanks to the knife point stilettos she wore. As if they had a mind of their own, Jamie’s hands settled on Claire’s tapered waist, keeping her warm, solid body pressed against his.
“Will ye be safe if I leave ye two, Claire?” Geillis spoke up asking her best friend and then focusing on Jamie. “How much have ye had to drink?”
“I stopped counting after the sixth.” Jamie answered truthfully, grimacing slightly.
Claire tapped her hands against Jamie’s broad shoulders, peering at her best friend. “We’ll be fine, Geillie.” She assured her. “Jamie and I can share a taxi or something, can’t we?”
“Aye.” Jamie agreed, squeezing Claire’s waist in his palms. The satin material of her dress bunched up under his hands, making them slip and slide along her hips.
“Promise?” Geillis said. “I think Mary’s still at the bar if ye need her, or give me a ring.” Jamie just caught the playful smirk Geillis sent Claire. “But I’m sure ye’ll be fine, lass. Or maybe even better than fine.”
“Oh, shush!” Claire clicked her tongue. “Now go away.”
“I’m going, I’m going!” Geillis giggled, poking just her head just through the gap between the door and the doorframe to send Claire an air kiss. She shouted a cheeky “Have fun ye two!” before Jamie and Claire were eventually left alone at last.
Claire smiled softly at him, those large bambi eyes of hers, glazed over ever so slightly. She pressed the open toe heel of her shoe to the front of his right dress shoe, applying pressure, before pulling away out of Jamie’s grasp.
“Sorry,” Claire mumbled. “I didn’t mean to be so… forward, I guess. I get a little, perhaps handsy is the right word, when I’m a few sheets to the wind.”
“It’s all right, Sassenach.” Jamie assured her. “I don’t mind. I like having ye close by.”
She said nothing else; because Jamie had shocked her into silence or because her tongue had grown so heavy and thick in her mouth from the alcohol she’d consumed, that it was impossible for her to form words.
Jamie used the period of silence to look at her properly for the first time all night.
How had he missed her?
How had he missed that it was his Sassenach?
The cream satin dress she wore was short - hitting just above mid thigh and certainly shorter than Jamie had ever seen Claire in before. It clung to the soft curves she had, highlighting her delicate collar bone structure, and toned, mile long legs. Claire had styled her hair into those 1940’s curls that Jamie was coming to love – all voluminous and thick, scraped all to one side, to leave the other side of her neck bare and mouthwateringly untouched.
That lilt in her voice, caused Jamie to pick his eyes off the ground, from where they’d been studying her perfectly painted purple toes.
“Aye?” It could have been the cigarette he’d smoked only minutes ago (which, with every second the alcohol dissipated from his bloody system, he was beginning to regret) or the tension building in both his body and the cloakroom, but Jamie found his voice sounded husky and low to his own ears.
She licked her lips. “Kiss me.”
He breathed in deeply and quickly, his chest skimming Claire’s with how close they had migrated back to one another. It was almost like watching himself from above, as Jamie reached out a finger and stroked down her butter soft cheek. “Why should I kiss ye?”
Claire’s eyes fluttered shut, her lips parting enticingly. “Because I want you too. Because I can’t stop thinking about you, picturing you, touching you. I want you to touch me.”
“Are ye sure that’s what ye want, Sassenach?”
“Yes,” she said breathily. “I want it so bad.”
Jamie pressed his lips as close to her ear as he would allow himself, gripping her waist to hold Claire in place. Everything inside of him screamed to take her earlobe into his hot, wet mouth and suck. His cock laid heavy and pulsing against his inner thigh, begging to be let free from the confinements of those bloody jeans he’d decided to wear.
But not quite yet…
Jamie hadn’t been this close to his Sassenach in a week or so, other than only hours before at the football match. He’d never been able to catch her alone. She’d tried her hardest to evade him, constantly slipping through his hands.
But not this time…
He’d wanted to play along with her game but Jamie had her right where he wanted her, and he was determined to get answers.
“Ye ken what I want so bad, Sassenach?” He whispered into her ear. “I want ye to stop avoiding me.”
Claire bit down on her bottom lip, opening her eyes slowly.
They were almost nose-to-nose; Jamie could have bit down on her bottom lip for her, if he felt so inclined.
“Tell me the truth, Sassenach. Have ye been avoiding me?”
“Tell me why?” He asked.
“Because…” Claire swallowed audibly. “I haven’t lied to you, I have been busy with work. It’s just…”
Like Jamie’s, the alcohol was loosening Claire’s tongue.
“Just…” she repeated, staring down at her shoes, eyes hooded. “I feel vulnerable around you, and I haven’t felt like that in years.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
When Claire didn’t answer straight away, Jamie chucked his index finger under her chin, tilting her head up to look at him. “I asked ye a question, Claire. Is that such a bad thing?”
She shook her head slowly from side to side, never once tearing her eyes away from his.
“So, if it’s not so bad.” Jamie continued. “Then, ye need to stop running from me and just feel it, don’t ye?”
A bob of her head.
Jamie finger travelled to caress the soft, feminine curve of her jawline. “I want to hear ye say it, Sassenach.”
The words left her mouth, covered in sugar. “I need to stop running from you and just feel it.”
“Too fucking right ye do.” Jamie bit out, and then he was grabbing the back of her head and laying his lips on hers. Claire moaned into the kiss almost instantaneously, allowing Jamie’s tongue to sweep inside her mouth. She tasted fruity, probably one of the cocktails she’d been sipping on all night, highly addictive with a sugar rush kick.
“Jamie… fuck …” She muttered, tipping her head back as far as it would go, still supported by his hand, as Jamie trailed his lips down her neck. The chamomile vanilla concoction Claire usually wore was still apparent on her skin, as Jamie got closer to the pulse point behind her ear. He supposed the yeasty beer in the air had overtaken the delicate scent but now he’d found it again. Jamie wanted to burrow his nose into her skin and breathe it in forever.
He sucked just beneath her ear, bringing the blood to the surface and then smoothing away the sharp sting with the flat of his tongue. Claire shivered, goosebumps erupting over her chest at Jamie’s undivided attention.
The hand not cupping the back of Claire’s neck, travelling until it settled just underneath her breast. Jamie could feel the weight of it sitting in the skin beneath his thumb and forefinger.
It had been quite some time since Jamie had last lain with a woman. And even more time since he’d lain with a woman and cared more about her pleasure than he did his own. But Jamie wanted to please his Sassenach, to make her feel good, to hear his name tumble out of her lips, helpless and needy.
Did this feel as good to her as it did to him?
Did her skin feel as hot and tight as his did, like at any moment, his heart would beat right out of his chest?
A smaller, softer hand touched the back of Jamie’s, lifting it up and placing it over her breast in silent permission.
Through the thin material of her dress, Jamie could feel Claire’s nipple standing out, pressing into the center of his palm. He couldn’t help himself; pinching her through the satin to elicit a response, and smiling into her neck, when Claire let out a throaty whimper.
Of its own accord, one of Claire’s legs hitched up, wrapping around Jamie’s waist in an attempt to get closer and closer and closer to him. He was about to lend her a hand, reach down and palm her plump arse; when Jamie’s whole world went spinning and he found his back hitting the carpeted floor with such force it expelled any of the air he did have left inside his lungs. Which, to be honest, after kissing his Sassenach, wasn’t very much in the first place.
“My God, are you okay?” Claire giggled, legs either side of him as she straddled his covered cock. Her hands lay flat on both sides of his head, as she bent over, making her hair swing away from her shoulder and creating a curtain for just the two of them.
“I…I think so.” Jamie’s hands perched on her hips to ground himself, brow furrowed. “What the fuck happened?”
A callous-free thumb smoothed over his brow. “Well, I think I tripped, and brought you down with me.”
A coy smile and then Claire was bumping her hips backwards and sliding her kiss swollen lips against his. “Mhm.”
She was solid above him, leaning forward more to gift Jamie more of a view of her cleavage.
“Please, Jamie,” she panted, hand creeping up until it reached a bare patch of skin underneath his shirt above his belt. “Please, touch me.”
Tracing what was soon becoming a familiar path; Jamie cupped both of her breasts this time, listening for a kitten-like whimper to leave her lips. The tips of his long fingers skimmed past the material, reaching the swell of her bare skin.
Jamie was unsure where his newfound confidence was coming from. Was it an after effect of the drink, or did it have more to do with the bonny lass in his lap? Whichever one, Jamie was more than content to go with the flow for the time being – allowing his fingers to dip under the neckline of her dress and then stop to gauge Claire’s reaction.
Up above him, she had taken a hold of her hair with one hand, lifting it away from her collarbone as if her skin felt prickly with desire and she couldn’t bear anything but Jamie touching her. Claire’s other hand rested on Jamie’s lower stomach. Using it to prop herself up and direct her movements, as her hips began to swivel.
His vision went blurry as Claire bucked her hips up - testing the movement. It shifted his hand further down into her dress, whether on purpose or by accident, Jamie didn’t know and nor did he care. All he could concentrate on was his Sassenach’s hot thighs wrapped around him, and the direct slide of her covered cunt against his hard cock.
Sober thoughts were beginning to filter into his brain, fighting for attention, against the pleasure skyrocketing through Jamie’s body. Mind at war with itself, Jamie opened his mouth to speak, to say anything.
He didn’t want it to end up like this. He’d pictured touching his Sassenach, getting his hands on her, a hundred times or even more – and none of them had involved a grubby pub carpet that hadn’t been properly cleaned since the 1970’s.
“Sassenach?” His hands formed grabby fists, holding whatever skin or dress material he could find to slow down her grinding. “Sassenach, Claire?”
“What?” Her front teeth dug into her bottom lip, hard enough to restrict the blood flow and cause the skin to turn white. “What’s… hm … wrong?”
“We’re…” Jamie closed his eyes for a second to regain his composure, physically having to stop his eyes from rolling into the back of his head at the sharp tingling in his balls. He tried again. “We’re not doing this here, on this dirty floor. Christ, Sassenach …”
“Please, Jamie.” She pleaded, hips still rocking from side to side. “I can’t bear another second without you touching me, I can’t concentrate at work, I can’t sleep without touching myself and imagining it’s you, your fingers inside of me. Please…”
Any self control Jamie thought he possessed had been snapped away at the words pouring from Claire’s mouth. But his dignity wouldn’t be quite so inclined to piss off as quickly.
He managed to grit out, “Stand up, lass.”
“I told ye to stand up.” He repeated.
Jamie couldn’t watch Claire stand up, for focusing on his own task. As he reached his full height, Jamie felt his knees go jelly like, as if every pint of blood in his body had drained southwards to his cock. When he did eventually take a peek at Claire, it felt like the air had expelled from his lungs again, but this time for a very different reason. Her once pristine hair was all mussed up, the curls facing in every other direction. The slinky material of her dress had helped it fall back into place, as if it had never been touched, or bunched up, or had Jamie’s hand down inside of it.
It was a far cry from Sassenach’s usual look, but Jamie thought he’d never seen her look more bonny, and it was all for him.
Two small steps were all it took, for Jamie to pin Claire up against one of the walls and then pin himself to her body. The heavy rise and fall of her chest was apparent, and Jamie suspected if they’d both been naked, he might have been able to feel her heartbeat pounding against his chest.
“Did ye mean what ye said?” He asked, this time allowing himself to lick the shell of Claire’s delicate ear. “Have ye really got yerself off imaging it was me?”
“Yes,” she whispered raggedly.
Over the top of her dress, Jamie’s hand skimmed along Claire’s natural curves, stopping only when it met the skin of her bare thigh. He gazed down, entranced, as his fingers tiptoed around the outer flesh, to graze the softer, warmer inner flesh.
Claire’s forehead pressed against his, drawing his eyes to her face for just a millisecond, before resuming the trail of his fingers. Her breath was still fruity, hitting Jamie’s upper lip, in a natural wave motion.
“Were you jealous today at the football match?” Her question was so quiet and unexpected; Jamie had to strain his ears to listen.
Jamie swallowed thickly. “Do ye want me to be jealous?”
“A little,” Claire admitted. “It would mean you want me as much as I want you.”
The tips of his fingers had reached the lacy hem of Claire’s knickers. She was hot, unmistakably so, but Jamie wanted to wait to have her full attention on him when he did apply pressure to her aching center for the first time.
A loud bubble of laughter left Jamie’s mouth before he could put a stop to it, causing a strand of his Sassenach’s hair to dance with the force of his breath.
“Och, I want ye lass, more than ye’ll ever ken.” Jamie promised. “Can’t ye feel it?”
“I can feel something.” That delicate hand of hers shimmied down between their two bodies, squeezing the shaft of his cock, which was pressing incessantly against his jeans until the thick outline was apparent.
“I didn’t exactly mean that ,” Jamie groaned. “But aye, aye I was jealous.”
Claire hummed a wet kiss against his sharp jawline. “Good.”
“I liked ye better when ye were placid with pleasure, and not plotting against me,” Jamie joked, pinching her thigh in warning.
She blinked twice, a dirty smirk growing over her lips, as she let go of his cock in protest and pushed her breasts further into Jamie’s face. “Make me placid again, then.”
With a cheeky smile about his face, Jamie pulled the gusset of Claire’s knickers to one side, and, forming a ‘v’ with his index and forefinger, parted his Sassenach.
Her lips looked too irresistible, kiss swollen and red raw, Jamie just had to let himself have another taste, letting his fingers do the work. “Is this what ye wanted? Is it?” He panted into her mouth.
Before Claire could answer or get a word in edgeways, Jamie was using the pads of his fingers to dip into her heat, finding her dripping.
“Christ, Sassenach.” His teeth took hold of her bottom lip, nipping ever so slightly. “Is this what ye wanted me to find? Ye’re absolutely soaked. Surprised ye haven’t been dripping all down yer thighs.”
Slick covering his digits; Jamie glided his way upwards without any resistance, practically searching in the dark. He knew he’d found the right place, when Claire’s hard bud met his fingers, and her hips jerked away from the wall of their own accord. Her own hand gripped his wrist tightly, fingers circling, as if wanting to direct him herself. But Claire would soon learn Jamie had the upper hand in this instance, and he wasn’t willing to let go.
A peck behind her ear, and a quick swipe of his tongue to taste the sweat beginning to build on her collarbone, as Jamie traced light circles over her clit. “Is this for me, lass?”
Claire’s head tipped back against the wall, neck extended, and so at odds with the rest of her body, which offered itself forwards for Jamie’s taking. Her eyes lay closed, peacefully, but as Jamie switched the direction of his circle, her eyelids fluttered in quick succession.
“Be a good girl and answer me, Sassenach, and then I’ll reward ye.”
“ Uh – yes!” Claire’s free hand twisted itself in the collar of Jamie’s shirt. If it was even possible, bringing him closer, for another bruising kiss. She opened her eyes enough to nudge their noses together, her pupils blown wider, and the amber iris darker in colour than Jamie had ever noticed it to be. “Yes, it’s for you, Mr James Fraser.”
A pained groan left Jamie’s throat.
The way his given name rolled off his Sassenach’s tongue…
In retaliation, Jamie bit down on the ball of her shoulder, not all too gently. He replaced his two fingers with his thick thumb, continuing to follow the cues of Claire’s body, and sliding back towards the entrance to her heat. Wetness pooled there, making it easy for Jamie to work a single finger inside of her.
“Jamie, more .” Claire pleaded, body wiggling from side to side.
His second finger joined his first, crooking inside of her, as they stroked her ribbed walls. Claire’s inner muscles contracted at the sensation, squeezing around Jamie’s hand, and then releasing. She moaned out her pleasure, breathing coming in a now stuttered rhythm, and hips chasing the every bend of Jamie’s fingers.
The sound of his Sassenach’s wet pleasure, leaking down until it covered Jamie’s knuckles, mixed in with her whimpers, echoed around the tiny box room. As Jamie allowed his own hips to grind against Claire’s lower stomach, giving himself some reprieve from the uncomfortable throbbing happening in his cock, he gave his mouth room to babble on, distracting himself from blowing his load in his trousers like he had done as a young teen.
“Look at ye, my lass. Riding my hand when anybody could open that door, walk right in, and see us both.”
Claire tightened around his fingers automatically. “ Jamie .”
“Shh.” Jamie pinched her tapered waist through her dress, as he pulled down the neckline of her dress, and nuzzled his face to catch a hard nipple in his mouth. “I ken ye want to, but ye can’t be too loud, Sassenach. They’ll hear us.”
Her eyes shut tightly, the delicate skin around her eyes scrunching to cause creases.
“Close?” Jamie asked, biting down on her breast softly. Claire was so slippery, Jamie’s thumb was beginning to slip and slide away from her clit with every pass.
“ Yes .”
“ That’s it , all over my fingers, Sassenach. Let it out…”
Her whole body tightened up, nails biting the skin around his wrist, but Jamie didn’t care. Not one little bit. He kept his gaze trained on Claire, watching, as her nose scrunched up and a flood of warm wetness ran over and down his fingers.
She trembled beautifully in his grasp, breath short and little aftershocks racking her body, as Jamie slowed down the movement of his hand, but didn’t stop completely.
“Ye okay?” Jamie pushed her hair back from her face.
Claire nodded, her eyes glazed over with pleasure. She placed a feather light kiss on the tip of Jamie’s nose, pulling back and sending him a satisfied smile.
“Do ye think anybody heard?”
She tilted her head to the side, studying him. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck.”
“Fair enough,” Jamie laughed low, easing his fingers out of Claire, while she hissed. He brought his left hand up to their faces, a trail of slick coating them until they shone underneath the lights as if Jamie had dipped his fingers in baby oil. Without another word, he painted Claire’s lips with both of his fingers, tracing her cupid’s bow messily.
That sharp tongue of hers stuck out, catching the tip of Jamie’s thumb and sucking it into her mouth. Jamie cupped the bottom half of her face, still wet fingers now resting on the apple of her cheek. Claire’s cheeks hollowed, closing her plush lips around the base of his thumb and allowing her tongue to swirl around and around.
“Ye’re something else entirely.” Jamie praised her, losing himself in the colour of her eyes and the long bats of her eyelashes.
As if he were in a dream, Jamie heard the door snick open breaking the moment, but if Jamie thought Claire was going to step away or even take his thumb out of her mouth, he was very much mistaken. “Claire!” A woman called out, sticking her head through the space gap between the door and the doorjamb that she had created. It took Jamie a couple of seconds to recognize her as another one of the women his Sassenach had been sitting with at the table.
“Are you getting in the taxi home with us, or are you mmhm-ing ?”
Jamie wasn’t exactly familiar with the term mmhm-ing , but he was certain he could work it out.
“Go home with ye friends, Sassenach.” Jamie said, lowering his voice so as not to be overheard. He freed his tongue from between her lips, and continued. “That way I won’t be tempted to have my wicked way with ye.”
“Don’t you want to have your wicked way with me?” Claire asked, pouting.
“Of course, Sassenach.” He kissed her cheekbone. “I thought I’d made that quite clear, but not while we're both not exactly sober, aye?”
“You’re right,” Claire agreed. She stared down at their shoe covered feet, licking her lips as if to say something and then stopping short. Jamie couldn’t help but lay his lips upon hers, groaning into the kiss as he found the tangy taste of her slick still sat on her mouth like a ripe peach.
“What? What we’re ye going to say?” Jamie asked, punctuating four quick kisses on her lips and then pulling away.
“How…how did you know I was going to say something?”
He shrugged, no real answer to give her. “I just ken ye.”
“Well, I was going to say… God, it sounds so silly.” Claire shook her head. “But you make me feel like a teenager again, all fingers and thumbs and hormones… I don’t even know if what I’m saying makes any sense. I just feel a bit juvenile asking for your phone number after the mind blowing orgasm and all.”
Jamie smirked openly. “Mind blowing ye say?”
Claire attempted to look fed up, but her ever growing smile betrayed her. “Shut up.”
He laughed, shaking his head no. “Nah, I don’t think I want to shut up. Not when it provokes ye like that and…”
A whack in his stomach shut Jamie up quite effectively.
Feigning nonchalance, Claire tried again. “You annoy me to no end.”
“Och, do I?” Jamie goaded, basking in their shared banter, a moment shared between just the two of them. He’d missed this. “I annoy ye to no end, but ye still want my number? Why, what gives? Is it the mind blowing orgasms again? Or my height? Och, I ken what it is; it’s my eyes isn’t it? It’s always the eyes.”
“Claire! Are you coming or not?” That voice called out again from behind the closed door. Somewhere in between the kissing and the flirting, Claire’s friend had politely closed the door shut. “Well, I mean I know you’re coming,” she sniggered. “but like, with us or…?”
“I’ll share a taxi with you, Mary.” Claire called back, raising her voice to be heard through the wood door. “Just give me two minutes.” Then she turned back to Jamie. “You better hurry up and give me your number, James Fraser, or so help me God.”
Laughing while he did so, Jamie fished his phone out of his pocket, handing it over to Claire and waiting as she keyed her number into his contacts list. A second later, Claire’s phone pinged with an incoming text, sounding from a tiny leather handbag on the floor that Jamie hadn’t even noticed was there.
“There, I’ve texted your number to myself.” Claire explained, fingers curling around the handbag handles. “Kiss me one last time?”
Jamie obliged her, tongue sweeping over the roof of her mouth and lingering. “Text me when ye get home safe, okay? And promise ye won’t be a stranger anymore, Sassenach?”
Her hand rested on the door handle, peering over her shoulder with kiss bitten lips and freshly fucked hair. “I promise, Jamie.”
here's a special wednesday treat for lovely lot ;)
big love to the two v v special gals (the best cheerleaders i could as for) in my life... yous ken who ye are <333
“ Ughhh ,” Jamie groaned as he peeled his cheek away from his pillow.
In a dreamlike state, he managed to brush his teeth and wash his face, and not piss all over the toilet seat – which was the biggest feat in itself because the ground kept swaying beneath his feet.
A cup of coffee, not tea, but strong black coffee was needed for today and perhaps, when he could stomach it, something greasy and filling to line his stomach.
But for now, Jamie took his freshly brewed cup of coffee into the stables, sat on the first available bale of hay he saw, and allowed himself to breathe fully. It was still rather early, just passing ten in the morning. Jamie wished he’d been able to doze a little longer, allow his body to recuperate and sleep off some of the lingering hangover plaguing him. But his internal clock had decided otherwise.
Recently, nothing seemed to be going the way Jamie planned it in his head and he wasn’t too keen on being thrown out of the loop so often.
Take last night for example, to say it had been an unexpected whirlwind would have been an understatement and a half.
Never in a million years had Jamie expected to see Claire at a bar. And certainly not one like the Dog and Parrot, which had a certain reputation . A reputation that Claire and he had clearly contributed to.
Jamie tapped two of his fingers against his outer left thigh, worrying against the material of his cotton shorts, as he pondered how Claire was fairing this morning. Would she have a stinking hangover as he did? Most likely. But that wasn’t what Jamie cared about the most. He cared about whether she regretted it or not.
Was she sitting in her home right now, also nursing a cup of coffee but burrowing her head into her arms and meticulously going through every event from last night… or had it been early morning?
It had all escalated so quickly. One minute, Jamie had been content to sit with his newfound friends, and behave recklessly for just the night, before he had to become a responsible adult once more with a bairn. The next thing he knew, Claire’s inner walls were contracting around him, as she softly cried out her pent up release. A release that was all Jamie’s doing.
“Fuck’s sake.” Jamie muttered to himself, taking a long slurp of his coffee. He’d always had this impulsive behaviour around women. Something, which he thought he’d grown out of, but Claire Beauchamp was fast teaching him that he hadn’t grown out of it at all. In the heat of the moment, Jamie was unable to stop himself. Choosing instead, to slide down the slippery slope, and deal with the consequences at a later date.
With Claire in his hands, as close as she’d ever been to him, Jamie had wanted to play her own game, asking her the questions running about his mind.
Had the dessert parlour been a date without him realizing it?
How did she truly feel?
What did she mean when she said he made her feel vulnerable?
But the pleasure had consumed him like a bunch of kindling above an open flame. He’d been unable to think of anything else except Claire Claire Claire.
Pursing his lips, Jamie rubbed his two hands together and sighed. His brain felt unattached, rattling freely around in his skull. It hurt to think this hard. To attempt to figure out questions Jamie didn’t have the answer to, and had no way of answering until he asked Claire.
She was the only one who could help him.
His Sassenach held more power in her hands than she was aware of, and that thought terrified Jamie right down to his core.
He needed to get moving. Get rid of the energy that was building up and up and up in his mind…
The coffee had settled Jamie’s stomach a tad, enough to make it rumble in search of food. He stood to his full height, brushing off any hay clinging to his clothes, thinking of walking to the main Lallybroch estate, hoping his Mam might have whipped something up for him to devour. On his way out, Jamie gave Donas’ muzzle a quick pat. He watched the dark horse’s ears go back in disgruntlement, lip curling upwards, but at least Donas hadn’t tried to nip him this morning.
On his quick walk through the field, Jamie decided he needed to just let everything go. He didn’t have the answers he wanted, well… so what? It would only waste his own time to be overthinking. He still had more than enough things to be grateful for in life; Willie by his side, a great family who was supportive of everything Jamie put his mind to, a warm roof over his head…
What more could he possibly need?
Jamie was just about to open the front door, noticing that nobody was in the nearby fields yet nor the dusty courtyard, when his phone vibrated in his hand.
How are you feeling this morning, soldier? x
Until then, Jamie hadn’t allowed himself to want to hear from Claire. To want reassurance that last night hadn’t been a fluke between the two of them.
It would mean you want me as much as I want you.
It would mean you want me as much as I want you.
It would mean you want me as much as I want you.
Now he allowed himself, Claire’s words bounced about Jamie’s mind, constantly on replay.
All fingers and thumb, Jamie typed a reply and sent it off quickly.
Jamie Fraser [11:02am] Hangover from hell… should of stopped when I’d lost count lol ye? x
Before Jamie could twiddle his thumbs waiting for Claire to reply, Willie came barreling around the corner from the back door, running at a million miles an hour to reach his Da.
Their bodies collided, knocking the wind out of Jamie. “I missed ye,” Willie mumbled, arms stretched as wide as they would go to wrap around his Da’s torso.
“Och, I missed ye too, my lad.” Jamie ruffled his boy’s hair, bending over to shelter him. Willie smelt like Ellen’s particular washing powder, and the sweet smell of raspberry jam he must have eaten for his breakfast. “Did ye have a good night?”
“Aye,” Willie smiled cheekily. “Grandma let me stay up past my bedtime.”
Jamie tutted good naturedly. “I should have known. Where about is she, anyway? In the kitchen?”
Willie nodded, leading his Da to the back door. “She said she was making ye something to cure yer hangover.” Then he peered over his shoulder. “Granddad said ye will have been sick and made a pig of yerself… Have ye been sick, Da?”
Jamie laughed, shaking his head. It was typical of Brian to take the piss out of his only son, especially about the drink. “No, ye ken me Willie, I’m made of stronger stuff than that.”
“Och, good.” Willie twisted the door open. “I didn’t want ye to feel ill without me there to look after ye.” And then he slipped away back into the house.
How was Jamie supposed to even answer that?
Monday, three days after Jamie had gotten his hands on his Sassenach for the first time, saw both the beginning to a fresh new month and also Jamie’s thirtieth birthday. He was still dealing with the after effects from the hangover from hell, but that night at the bar had been a very nice early birthday present, if Jamie did say so himself.
Jamie had wanted no fuss for his birthday, just some quality time to spend with the ones he loved the most. After a grueling day's work on the farm, made all the worse by the hot and cold sweats Jamie was experiencing, Ellen had cooked him his favourite dinner and then brought out a homemade coconut sponge cake with vanilla buttercream icing for their dessert. They all sang happy birthday to him, Willie belting it out the loudest while beaming up at his Da, as they sat around the table in the house Jamie had first ever called home.
Thick slices were served, Jamie of course being first as the birthday boy, before everything was cleared away and Jamie and Willie had to bid everybody goodnight. It was still a school night, after all.
Over the course of the weekend, Jamie had heard from Claire sporadically. She’d assured him, she too, was suffering from a hangover, and was concerned about the amount of ready salted crisps she’d been eating, because it was the only thing her body would let her keep down.
Claire hadn’t wished him a happy birthday. In fact, he’d not spoken to her all day, nor seen her at the school gates. But that wasn’t a surprise. Jamie hadn’t let slip to her, or anybody else from the school, exactly when his birthday was, so it would be impossible for them to ken.
And as Jamie laid his head down that night, lying flat on his back with his hands folded neatly over his rising and falling stomach, he smiled to himself. He might have been entering a new decade of his life, with unknown challenges hiding behind every corner, but Jamie was excited to see what they were and tackle them with everything he had. The people he had around him right now, were everything he needed, could have wished for, and more.
He was beyond grateful.
As he drifted off to sleep, Jamie pictured the part of the day he’d loved the most. The large table in the Lallybroch dining room, the one where they’d all sat just a matter of hours ago. He imagined it, as it had been today, decorated cake sitting in the center, waiting to be cut. Jamie was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him back, with Willie sitting to his right and Jenny to his left.
But out of the corner of his eyes, Jamie could see another figure. A tall, brunette lass sitting beside Ellen, her hands clasped together and her mouth moving as she sang along to the tune of “Happy Birthday”. Those amber eyes of hers twinkled, the flicking of the candles dancing in them, as she watched with a smile on her face, Jamie leaned over the table slightly and blew out the candles sitting inside the icing. She cheered loudly, sounding exactly as she had done at Fergus’ football match.
She’d chosen to spend Jamie’s birthday with him, with his family.
She’d chosen him.
Jamie had been stuck on the farm all day, dealing with one thing after another, and had been unable to pick Willie up from school on this Wednesday afternoon as the deadlines reached up to his ears.
“What, lad?” Jamie asked wearily, forehead resting in his hands as he gazed down at the important document down in front of him. How he was supposed to have this read, understood and signed all before tomorrow, Jamie did not know.
Willie walked over the sink, filling up an empty glass with the cold liquid and taking a big gulp. “Football isn’t on this week.”
At that Jamie raised his head up to look at his son. “What do ye mean? It must be.”
“It’s not,” Willie shook his head, dumping his backpack onto the counter, unzipping it and retrieving another piece of paper for Jamie to read.
“To whom this may concern.” Jamie began, reading out loud. “Dear Mr/Miss/Mrs…”
Jamie swore to God, if he ever saw ‘to whom this may concern’ written again, it would be too soon.
“We are writing to remind you, the football matches for Willowhead Primary School, taking place on Saturday morning, between the times of 10 and 1, are to be cancelled this week. Instead, you are all cordially invited to our yearly Spring Festival, which will take place on the big field behind the school. Parents are to be reminded there is a small fee for entering, and to be asked to double-check the Facebook page to ensure they know what time slots they have been allocated to man the stalls. Children are to be supervised at all times. Babies and small dogs are welcome. Thank you – Debbie (Head of the meeting and fundraising committee).”
“See?” Willie pointed to the crinkled paper in his Da’s hand. “I told ye.”
“The Spring Festival?” Jamie vaguely recalled Debbie chatting to him about it a couple of weeks ago, just as Willie was beginning to get used to his new school. Jamie hadn’t been paying much attention. “Shouldn’t they have sent me another letter to remind me when that was?”
Willie looked sheepish, staring down at his sock clad feet.
“Willie.” Jamie warned.
“I think the letters might be in the bottom of my bag,” Willie grimaced. “I keep forgetting to give them to ye, but I’ve read them myself, they’re not important.”
“Not important?” Jamie repeated, taking ahold of Willie’s backpack himself and rummaging through it. “They must be important if they’re getting sent home. Right…” Jamie brandished a clump of papers with ink stains all over them. They were crinkled and torn from sitting underneath Willie’s books and packed lunch for such a long period of time. “Here we are.”
In Willie defense, three of the letters were utter shit, nonsense about parking fines and a change in the school dinner menu. The fourth letter was more of a poster, indeed announcing the school’s spring festival. The A4 paper was brightly decorated; promising fairground rides, food trucks, and stalls to win cuddly toys and even a goldfish or two. The date for the festival this coming Saturday sat in big, bold letters right at the top – ye couldn’t miss it, even if ye tried.
“Right, we’ll keep that one safe, shall we?” Jamie handed the three useless bits of paper over to Willie, for him to place them in the recycling bin. The spring festival poster, Jamie kept to one side.
“And what’s this one?” Jamie scanned the fifth and last boring looking letter. “We regret to inform you that an outbreak of nits have been found… Oh! For fuck’s sake, Willie!”
Willie pulled a face, bringing his hand up to his head and itching, just at the thought.
“This was only sent home on Friday.” Jamie sighed. “Next time… Willie, are ye listening to me?”
“Next time ye get a letter, ye bring it straight to me. Do ye understand?”
Willie nodded his head, still clutching his glass of water, but inching closer and closer to the stairs with each passing second. He knew what was coming…
“Can I go upstairs and do my homework…?” Willie tried.
Jamie shot his own flesh and blood a look. “No, ye can't. I ken for a fact ye don’t get any homework on a Wednesday. Now get yer shoes back on, we’re going to the chemist.”
“Do we have to Da,” Willie argued. “My head hasn’t been itchy and…”
“Shoes. Car. Now.” Jamie replied, not up for taking any more shit or unexpected surprises today.
There had only been one cap in the pack Jamie had so conveniently picked up at the chemist. It made sense to let Willie use it, because God knew he was more likely to forget it was there, start messing about with his hair, and then place his sticky, strong smelling hands all over the place.
While Willie played about, Jamie toyed with his own phone. He’d sent Claire a text just before he’d started the process of applying the treatment to his own head, and now Jamie’s thumbs twiddled about the place as he waited for the text to flash up read and for Claire to start typing.
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [4:58pm]
Did ye ken there’s been an outbreak of nits at school? x
Not the most sexy of texts, but…
It was a conversation starter at least.
Sassenach is typing … [5:07pm]
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:08pm]
Yes…? Fergus brought the letter home on Friday, and we spent the night with that oil on our heads… Faith included lol
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:09pm]
How did you not know? X
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:10pm]
Willie didn’t give me the letter… no surprises there lol x
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:11pm]
*laughing emoji * Better late than never I guess… hope you’ve got it on your own head as well!! X
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:12pm]
Och of course… we look a right pair x
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:14pm]
Oh I bet you do! If you didn’t get the letter for the nits outbreak, does this mean you don’t know football is cancelled this week? X
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:14pm]
No, I ken that one. Was the first thing Willie said to me when he came through the door, something about this spring festival, aye? x
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:15pm]
Should have known, Fergus is the same, just a one track mind lol. If you go on the Facebook group you’ll see all the details for the festival x
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:16pm]
Facebook group?? X
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:17pm]
Yes, I’m sure you’ll have been added to it… Debbie doesn’t miss a beat… hahah x
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:17pm]
Must go, the children are shouting… honestly, some days I think about changing my name and moving to Peru… do you think they’d notice I was gone??? x
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:18pm]
I’d notice x
Jamie Fraser to Sassenach [5:18pm]
Pls don’t leave me with Debbie she’d rip me apart lol x
Sassenach to Jamie the Giant [5:20pm]
More like eat you alive hahahah x
“Da, is it time to rinse this off yet?” Willie had placed his game console to the side, looking up at his Da the best he could, with the shower cap drooping in his eyes.
Jamie gave another one over on the side of the bottle, scanning for the instructions. “Aye.” He agreed. “Hop in the shower, rinse it really well, and then I’ll have to go through yer hair with this comb.”
Standing up, Willie leaned into the shower and turned it onto his desired temperature. He spoke louder than usual, to be heard over the noise of the water hitting the plastic shower tray. “Does that mean I get to comb yer hair afterwards? It’s only fair if ye do mine.”
Jamie didn’t completely trust the somewhat evil glint in Willie’s eye. The lad was planning payback for the nit treatment, probably by ‘accidently’ ripping his Da’s hair out at the root with the bloody wide tooth comb. But Jamie couldn’t fault Willie; it was only fair, after all.
“Aye, fine.” Jamie huffed. “And then we’ll have dinner after, all right? So think about what ye fancy to eat, while ye wash that gunk out.”
Happy Sunday !
As always, big thank you and love to my @CourageousJS - she's a gem and more <3
Lemme ken in the comments and over on my socials what ye all thought... :) xo