There had been a shift within her. He could see it in her shoulders and the way she was quiet while serving up their dinner.
She answered when she was spoken to, but other than that was silent in a way that was not his wife’s taste.
He watched as their daughter sat next to her on the log. Brianna placed her hands on her mother’s lap. Something was exchanged between them, he was too far away to hear, but whatever their daughter said eased something in his wife. He saw the tension leave her shoulders and the small smile return to her face.
Bree kissed Claire on the cheek and meandered off into the dimly lit campsite, presumably to her accommodations with Roger Mac on the outskirts of camp.
“Uncle Jamie,” Ian quietly started, “It seems like Auntie Claire needs ye. I can stand guard alone for a few hours until Roger Mac takes his turn.”
“Ian…” He wanted to argue, but he also knew that his nephew was right. Claire did need him, whether or not she knew it herself.
“Bonnet is dead. We have no real threat tae worry about tonight.” Ian was firm with his voice. “Go.”
It took no more convincing. He nodded at Ian, stashing his knife in its holder. He made his way through their home for the night. Claire jumped when she registered his presence which was unusual for her- she must have been deep in thought, somewhere two hundred years away.
“I have been ordered to take ye in for the night.” He got down on one knee, tilting her face up towards his. “I didna mean to scare ye, Sassenach.”
He kissed her forehead and stood up, reaching for her hand. She neither protested or said anything, but obliged, taking his hand and rising to her feet.
She didn’t speak on the way to their tent, but rather, wrapped her arms around his waist, using his body to keep herself upright.
Their tent was on the other end of the camp. Roger Mac and Bree’s tent on the opposite side. There had been an unspoken agreement between the men to set it up this way, so that the couples had as much privacy as a forest camp could give.
“Ye needn’t be scared, Sassenach. I told ye once long ago, so long as I am with you… Nothing shall ever harm ye.” He pulled her into his embrace, enveloping her as if he were shielding her from whatever was to come their way. “And not just you- Brianna, Roger Mac, wee Jem- all our children and grandchildren.”
She took a breath and nuzzled her head into his chest.
“As long as I am breathing on this Earth, ye will be safe.”
He knew he needn’t say it or remind her. They had long lived through things most people would never endure in one lifetime. Yet time and space for them, spanned years and centuries. Somehow they were always an exception to the rules of the universe. Their paths had crossed and she always made her way back to him.
“I love you.” She whispered into his neck. He could feel the warmth of her tears on his neck.
“It seems ye have something on yer mind, then.” He took a step back and examined her from head to toe. “Ye look well, though. Wee bit tired, I see the line on yer forehead.”
That earned him a laugh and a shake of her head. “I’m fine, Jamie. Really.”
She reached for the buttons on her jacket, undoing each one methodically. “It’s been an exhausting few days… I just want to be home.”
He crept down to sit on their makeshift pallet, truth was, he was bone tired too. They had spent the last two days in an exhausting adrenaline rush and it was starting to creep up on them. He followed suit, undoing his belt and own jacket, admiring the view of Claire’s routine of getting herself ready for bed.
One of his favorite parts of his day was always asking if she wanted her stays undone. It was always his way of regrounding himself to her, the simple touch and undoing of all the bad that happened during the day.
“C’mere,” He reached for her hand and pulled her back into his orbit. “I’ll undo yer stays.”
“Mhmmm.” She moaned, but she didn’t stop him. Quickly and efficiently he had her undone within seconds and once she realized he was done, leaned into his sturdy frame.
His hands found her shoulders and he massaged her in circles. Claire let out soft moans of pleasure and it put a smile on his face.
“Yer shoulders are tight, Sassenach. Ye must have been stressed.”
His hands made their way from her shoulders and upwards towards her neck and the base of her skull. She winced when he touched the right side.
“Christ, Claire.” He was alarmed, “Are ye hurt?”
She turned to face him then, taking her hair from out of the bun it had been in. “No…” She shook her head, allowing her curls to fall free. “I mean, yes but it’s nothing.”
“It didna seem like nothing, I could barely touch yer head…” He was alarmed now.
“Bonnet knocked me out on the beach with something.. Probably the handle of a gun. It was a solid whack. I’ve got a nice contusion on the back of my head.”
“Claire…” He was trying to keep his temper at bay, even though it was directed towards a dead man. “Ye winced like a horse that was scared.”
“It’s sore to the touch, that’s what a contusion is.” She reached for his hand and guided it towards the back of her head. “Feel, it’s a wee little bump on my head. Nothing a little Brufen couldn’t fix in my time.”
He shook his head in dismay. She called him daft more often than not, especially when it came to his own well-being, but he was being honest she was just as bad as he was.
“Doesna feel like nothing…” He could feel the tips of his ears turning red, “And Christ, ye couldna tell me this the day it happened!”
He could see his wife starting to go into defensive mode, “There was a lot happening at the time and I am a doctor. I knew I was perfectly fine.”
He put his hands on his face, closed his eyes, and shaking his head. Of course his wife was right, rationally he knew this, yet it was his one job to keep her safe. Whenever she was in harm’s way it scared him to his innermost being.
If anything were to happen to her.
And like always, she knew what he was thinking, without even needing to say it. Her hands were prying them away from his face and she trailed kisses down the line of his jaw.
“I am safe.” She kissed his lips, “Jamie look at me.”
He opened his eyes to find hers intently on his.
“I am safe. You are here. We are whole.”
He pulled her towards him and laid them down on the pallet, aligning it so his body was almost over taking hers. She rubbed circles on his hands until her touch dwindled down to nothing, and he knew she was asleep.
He stayed awake and vigilant, all night, praying she’d always be like this in his arms.