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Lovers In A Dangerous Time

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      J amie woke that morning reaching for Claire beside him, crestfallen when he found emptiness in the place she'd lain just hours ago. She had been right to leave, and the fact that it was for the sake of his daughters only made him love her more, but that was hardly enough to negate how badly he wanted her there. He imagined she looked bonnie in the morning, with sleepy eyes and wild curls that would tickle his face when he pulled her close. 

     When it occurred to him that the house was still quiet, he settled back in beneath the covers, content to luxuriate in the memory of her until his attention was demanded elsewhere. Their hours together still felt a little like a dream, touched with a rosy pink high that buzzed within him. He had thought that he would never know that feeling again, the warmth that spread outward from his chest when she smiled at him or nuzzled into his embrace. Worse than that, he had convinced himself that he could live without it, but he knew now that that had been a lie. One can't live without their heart.

     Thank God he could stop trying. 

     He thought of her, on the other side of the wrought iron fence, waking alone in her too-big house. Did she reach for him, too, in that space between sleeping and waking? It struck him as fundamentally wrong, that a woman so deserving of love, and with so much of it to give, should ever be alone. She was so close, it would take all of three minutes to scoop her up and bring her back home where she belonged, but while God had gifted him with love, He had not seen fit to gift him with ease. There was so much at play that required planning, and patience, before they could truly be together. It wasn't liable to get easier as time drew on, but it would all be so worth it when the end did come.

     Still aching for some kind of connection with Claire, tangible proof that the previous night wasn't a figment of his imagination, Jamie took his phone off the bedside table and scrolled down to find their text thread. The sight of their last messages sent a pang of sadness through his chest. They had been sent on Halloween, nearly a month ago, when he was still sleepless with missing her. All that time lost, and through no fault of their own. But before he could get angry—that, he would save for later—he reminded himself that amongst all the precious things Claire had given him was time. Time to wait, and keep loving her from afar, yes, but after that, time unending, to make up for what they had lost. 

     He typed out a text— Good morning, I love you❤️ — but hesitated as his thumb hovered over the send button. Was it too much, too needy? Despite the fierceness with which she had loved him the night before, her gentle reassurance that he didn't need to worry about what the morning would bring, a dark little corner of his mind wondered if it had all been too good to be true. 

     A little bubble with three dots popped up almost as soon as he had sent it and washed away all of those worries. 

      Good morning, my love. I was just thinking about you. What are my three favorite people getting up to today?

     My three favorite people tickled inside Jamie's chest like butterfly wings. 

      Come over for a cuppa and I'll tell you. The lasses are still sleeping.

     See you in ten 😘

     Claire arrived in closer to five, looking fresh faced and adorably sloppy in an oversized sweater, leggings, and bare feet when she stepped through the back door. Having heard the latch on the gate between their yards creaking, Jamie knew to expect her, but seeing her there still stopped his heart for just a moment. She had never just walked in like that, without knocking.

     "Good morning," she murmured, a soft smile gracing her lips as she came round the counter to meet him. Her arms found their way around his middle with ease as she stretched up to find his lips, a hum of content falling between them as Jamie grasped at the small of her back.

     Feeling her there, small and warm in his arms, he heaved out a sigh he didn’t know he’d been holding and clutched her tighter. 

     “Ye didna change yer mind,” he marveled quietly when they broke apart, his bright blue eyes still touched with disbelief as he looked down at her. 

     The inner corners of Claire’s brows lifted and pinched slightly as she reached up and smoothed her hands over his cheeks, holding him there to look at her. She kissed him again, unhurriedly this time, her eyes open and piercing into his. Slowly, she watched as genuine relief crept in; the grin returned little by little until she could feel him beaming against her lips, and see it in the slight crinkle of his eyes. 

      He had truly been worried she would.

     "Wild horses couldn’t keep me away," she murmured, and kissed him once more for good measure before she encircled him in her arms and laid her cheek against the steady tattoo of his heart. Jamie's lips dropped to the crown of her head, and she nuzzled against his chest, flooded with such satisfaction that she could have floated right off with the breeze. 

     "I think it might save us quite a bit of time and anxiety if we stop all this doubt," she said after a moment, laughing quietly as her eyes flicked up to meet his. 

     "Aye, I think yer right. Tis simply hard tae believe the woman of my dreams loves me back, ken?" 

     Jamie slipped out of her arms to the whistle of the teapot, leaving her with a final press of his lips to her forehead.

     "I do ken the feeling," Claire echoed, taking the proffered mug and following him out onto the deck. She went to sit on the couch opposite him but a tsk stopped her in her tracks as Jamie gestured her toward him with a flick of his head. 

     "None of that, mo nighean donn," he said, his voice warm and inviting as a quilt fresh from the dryer. He opened his arm to her, and after only a moment’s hesitation Claire tucked herself into his side, careful not to spill.

     "Canna have ye so far, I'll miss ye too badly. Tis early, no one's out. Have ye told Geillis yet?"

     Claire's eyes grew comically wide at that, and Jamie couldn’t help but laugh. 

     "I don't—what do you mean?" 

     "Oh please, dinna tell me she doesn't know about all this," he retorted, shooting her a sideways glance and giving her shoulder a little squeeze. "Tis alright, I’m no' upset about it."

     "I only told her after...I couldn't just—I needed someone on my side, needed to...put that all somewhere. I haven't called her about this yet, though. I've no doubt she'll be terribly excited when I do, I think she was secretly rooting for you the whole time."

     Claire smiled to herself, knowing full well that her friend would demand a wine night and full details of their reunion when she broke the news. She'd always gotten the sense that Geillis thought Jamie was much better for her than Frank, and she’d been right. Frank had been wonderful, once, though in looking back Claire couldn't help but wonder how much of it was him and how much of it was her age and inexperience. There had been no one before Frank, not really. She had been drifting on a whim and that worked, for a time. It had been great fun in many ways, too, traveling the world with Uncle Lamb, experiencing a veritable lifetime’s worth of adventure before she could even drive a car (legally, anyway). By the time she arrived at Oxford, though, a craving had begun to blossom in her gut, for a home, and someone to tether her to it. Frank had come at just the right time. 

     "Wise woman," Jamie remarked, nuzzling his cheek against her sleep-mussed curls. Having her there felt so natural, sitting by his side as the sun rose and the girls slept upstairs. After such a late night, he figured he'd get Claire to himself for a good long while before they were up, and he intended to drink in every second of it. 

     "D'ye like the beach, Sassenach?" 

     "I do. Why do you ask?" 

     "Tis only, Jenny, Ian, and the weans are comin' in a bit and we're gonna spend the day at Sullivan's Island. I thought—mebbe ye'd like tae come with us?" 

     Jamie looked terribly endearing, not unlike a secondary student asking his crush to prom, and Claire couldn't bite back the smile that spread across her lips. 

     "Asking me to spend a day with the family! You move fast, Fraser," she teased, taking a sip of her tea now that it had cooled enough. "Damn, you make a good cuppa, too. I just might have to marry you sometime, keep you to myself."

     "Ye wouldna have tae marry me tae do that," Jamie replied, his hand smoothing up and down her arm as he held her tight to him, "but all the same, I hope ye will. I'd be lyin' if I said I hadna thought of ye in a white dress, walkin' o'er flower petals on yer way tae me."

     Claire's breath caught in her chest and she flushed pink, biting back a grin as she stared down at the mug in her lap. She’d thought about coming home to him at the end of a long day, about vacations together, putting the girls to bed, and what his sleepy eyes would look like first thing in the morning, yet she’d never allowed herself to think of a wedding. Not so explicitly as that, anyway; but the image in her mind of Jamie, waiting for her at the end of an aisle, was irresistibly exciting. 

     She and Frank had opted not to have a wedding. At twenty-two it had felt rebellious and intimate, to walk hand in hand down to the courthouse, with a passing stranger to play witness. She hadn't thought twice about it in the sixteen years since, but something about a real wedding, with a white gown and a celebration and Jamie , made her heart flutter. 

     She didn't say anything, only leaned up to press her lips to Jamie's with crushing force, pouring into that meeting of sensitive, yielding flesh all the feelings swimming behind her ribs. His tongue darted out to flick against hers and she caught it between her lips, sucking until he groaned and pulled it away to sink his teeth into her bottom lip. He tugged and she whimpered, mindless to the sloshing of her tea as she reached up with her free hand to play with his scruff. The man could kiss , and despite the growing kink that was spreading from her neck down into her left shoulder, she simply couldn't bring herself to pull away. She tried to guide them back a little so she could rest her head against his shoulder and hopefully relieve at least a little discomfort. It worked, though not in the way she had expected. In that position, her neck stretched and bared to him, and Jamie rendered the ache all but forgotten when he trailed his lips from her jaw down to the newly revealed skin. He kissed all the same spots they both loved, but even then he kept her on her toes, her breath coming faster as the familiar flutter began deep in her belly. 

     After a particularly lusty moan rang through the yard Jamie softened, easing her back with a few gentle kisses before tucking his head in the crook of her neck and resting there. Claire wanted badly to set her mug on the table so she could hold him fully in her arms, but that would require moving from where she was now, and that she was simply unwilling to do. She settled for taking his free hand in hers and giving it an affectionate squeeze, running her thumb over the fuzzy skin on the back of his hand. Jamie squeezed back, and she could feel his smile against her skin. 

     "I'd love to go to the beach with you," she murmured so as not to disrupt the moment. She wanted to question the wiseness of this particular idea—she worried that Jamie's own sister was liable to pick up on what was between them—but the thought of spending the day with the Fraser-Murray's was far too appealing to let responsibility win out. She'd never had a family like that, not even with Frank. He had living parents, of course, two brothers and a sister, nieces and nephews, but they didn't see them often, and when they did there was always something so formal about it. Claire had never felt entirely comfortable with them, but she imagined it would be different with Jamie's family. All those children running around was sure to bring a lightness to things, the kind of contagious joy she found whenever she was with Nora and Fiona. 

     "Jenny liked ye quite a bit," Jamie said, raising his head to sip at his tea. "She's a tough one, I was a little surprised by how well ye got on last night. She'll be happy tae see ye, I'm sure. And the girls will be thrilled, of course."

     As if on cue, they heard little feet pattering down the stairs inside, and Jamie reluctantly released Claire from his grasp so she could scoot away to a respectable distance that wouldn't raise any questions from the ever-observant Nora. 

     "Daddy?" Fiona shouted from inside, and through the screen door, both Jamie and Claire could see the girls standing at the bottom of the stairway, clearly having expected to find their father in the kitchen. 

     "Out here, a nigheans!" Jamie called back. 

     The girls turned toward his voice and hurried over to slide the screen open, both sets of eyes growing wide with excitement when they were met with their unexpected visitor. Fiona, as usual, flung herself in Claire’s direction, heedless of the tea she held as she climbed up into her lap. Nora, however, remained rooted to the spot for a moment, staring at the two of them with a strange look in her eye. 

     Though Claire’s attention had been stolen by Fiona—as was typical of the younger Fraser—Jamie watched his older daughter carefully, growing disconcerted the longer she looked between them. That girl was wise beyond her years, he knew, and he realized that ensuring that she didn’t pick up on too much of what was going on may very well become a full-time concern of theirs.  

     “Nora, come say hi,” he said finally, beckoning her to the couch where she finally climbed into his lap.

     “Hi Claire,” she said bashfully, finally giving in to the excitement of seeing both her father and their favorite neighbor together, waiting for them.

     “Good morning, darling,” Claire replied with a sweet smile, reaching over to ruffle her wild curls. 

     “We got dressed all by ourselves,” Fiona announced proudly. 

     “I can see that!” Claire replied, quirking her brow as she noticed that the neck of the little girl’s shirt seemed to hit her at an odd angle. A quick tug revealed the tag brushing up against her collarbone, and Claire stifled a laugh.

     “You did such a good job, but I think your shirt is on backwards. Would you like help fixing it?” she offered, glad that Fiona didn’t seem embarrassed in the slightest when she lifted her arms up above her head, inviting Claire to switch it around. 

     “When is Auntie Jenny coming?” Nora asked, rubbing her little palms over her father’s beard and giggling at the scratchy texture. He looked down to find a bare wrist, and caught Claire by surprise when he grasped her arm to check the time on her watch as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She hoped the girls didn’t notice the touch of pink in her cheeks.

     “In ninety minutes, so we ought tae get busy. We’ve gotta get breakfast in our bellies, get dressed, and fix snacks for everyone. Perhaps Claire would like tae have breakfast with us?” 

     The girls were alight at the suggestion, though both Claire and Jamie could tell they were surprised he had offered. 

     “I—of course,” Claire replied, reveling in how happy the girls seemed. It had been foolish of her to think that such sensitive, thoughtful little people wouldn’t notice the change in dynamic between herself and their father, and it was just as important to her to make up their lost time as it was her own with Jamie. 

     “Pancakes?” Nora asked eagerly as she took Fiona by the hand and followed Jamie into the house. Claire trailed behind, her heart knotting itself up tight in her chest as she watched the three of them. It seemed far too good to be true, that this could one day be her family. But really, they already were. They had been for a long time; it was just a matter of when she’d finally have the courage to reach out and take it. Jamie glanced back at her, glowing with such happiness that she nearly lost her breath, and mouthed I love you before he set to work on the pancakes. 

     Claire noticed their dishes from the night before still strewn about the kitchen, and couldn’t help the flush that crept up from her chest at the memory of the way he’d touched her as she sat on that very counter just hours ago. Should she disinfect it? She had been fairly certain that his shirt covered everything…

     She set herself to clearing the dishes to the sink at least, to give Jamie more space to work. His hand landed on her lower back as he slipped past her to get something from the pantry and she shivered, catching him by the arm before he could get too far.

     “Should I— disinfect the counter or something ?” she whispered, leaning in just enough that the girls couldn’t possibly overhear. 

     Jamie choked a little, pressing his lips together as he shook with restrained laughter. Claire thumped him on the chest and shot him an expectant look.

     “I dinna think ye— got anything on the counter, but honestly the whole thing could use a wipe down if yer interested. Spray’s under the sink.” 

     “I think I can make that happen,” she replied with a coy smile as he returned to his work. 

     In no time at all, Jamie had whipped up pancakes for the four of them, complete with chocolate chips and whipped cream smiles. The girls were suitably distracted by a flowery coloring page, allowing the two of them to exchange glances heavy with meaning and soft smiles freely. It was so easy, moving through the kitchen together, anticipating each other and enjoying such a simple yet significant moment. When she returned the granite cleaning spray to the cabinet beneath the sink, she was reminded of Jamie’s comments the night before, that she’d live there someday and know exactly where all of their things went. 

      Cleaning products go under the sink .

     The only thing missing was touch. She wanted so badly to reach out, just to brush a hand along his arm or tuck away a curl that had fallen in his face. What she really wanted was to be able to kiss him, whenever she liked, in front of whoever may be present, but she could be patient. This was already the most wonderful morning she’d had in a long, long time.

     “We’re takin’ our cousins tae the beach today!” Nora mumbled excitedly to Claire through a mouthful of pancake.

     “I know! Your Daddy actually asked me to come with you, would that be all right with you two?”

     Claire could have sworn it was Christmas morning based on the way the girls reacted. Their eyes grew big and they grinned from ear to ear, food forgotten as they wiggled excitedly in their chairs and hung off her like drapery. 

     Jamie caught Claire’s eye over Nora’s head, the unfettered joy he found there rendering him unable to do anything but smile. After so many weeks of watching her from a distance, looking hollowed out and sad, seeing her happy was still a relief each and every time. 

     “Come on, lasses, let’s get those pancakes finished sae we can be ready in time when yer Auntie gets here.”

     The girls did as they were told, more or less, though with children eating was never terribly swift. They were so easily distracted, especially given the excitement about Claire joining them for the day, and the adults finished first. When Jamie rose to bring his plate to the sink Claire followed suit, shooting a quick glance in the girls’ direction before she sidled up beside him.

     “Who said I didn’t want pancakes?” she teased under her breath as she handed him her plate of egg remnants to rinse. 

     “If chocolate chip pancakes are yer heart’s desire, I’ll make ‘em for ye every morning,” Jamie replied, his fingers brushing hers as he took the plate. It sent a little thrill through him, and he could see in the smirk that Claire couldn't seem to secret away that she felt it, too. Suddenly, despite the time crunch and the girls behind them, the most pressing thing on his mind was getting her to himself. Not so he could slip his hand beneath the band of her leggings and listen to those luscious sounds of restraint she made, nor even to snog her with the heated enthusiasm of teenagers, simply to kiss her. He wanted to kiss her the way a husband would a wife, in front of a sinkful of dirty dishes, surrounded by the chaos that came with a home. Simple and sweet. 

     But he forced himself to turn away, attending to the girls once more. As was usual after Saturday morning pancakes, they looked back at him with faces smeared with gooey chocolate—Fiona even had a smudge on her forehead. How that happened he didn’t quite know, but it made him smile nonetheless. Everyone—with the exception of his sister, who it seemed would have wee ones in the house until the end of her days—was always telling him how much he’d miss them being little, and in moments like this when he could be vexed by the messes or the complete disrespect for any semblance of timeliness, he reminded himself of that sentiment. Someday they wouldn’t want Saturday morning pancakes. Someday they wouldn’t even be home on Saturday mornings; not with him, anyway. They were only little for such a short while, and his most precious life’s work was to enjoy those moments, now made all the more sweet by the promise of doing it all with Claire by his side.

     “All right weans, go get yer faces washed and yer teeth brushed and let’s get ye dressed and ready for the day, aye? I’ll clean up the kitchen and meet ye upstairs.”

     “Where is Claire going?” Fiona demanded as she slid haphazardly from her stool to the floor, landing with a small thud. 

     “I’ll go to my house to get dressed and then I’ll meet you back here, okay?” Claire answered, her eyes flicking momentarily over to Jamie. She figured she’d be held up for at least a minute or two before she could set off, and she was looking forward to it. Seeming satisfied with that answer, the girls dropped off their plates at the sink and raced off up the stairs. 

    He was on her the moment they were out of sight—slightly reckless, perhaps, but if the way she pressed herself to him and interlocked her hands behind his neck was any evidence, it was a chance Claire was more than willing to take. 

     “I like this verra much,” she whispered against his lips, pecking them through their smiles over and over as quietly as possible. Jamie only hummed in agreement, giving her sides a little squeeze as their foreheads rested together. They stole another moment like that before breaking apart, though Claire held his eyes. 

     “Sticky chocolate hands didna scare ye away?” he asked with a chuckle, turning back to rinse off the remainder of the dishes.

      “ Au contraire , I found them exceptionally charming. My life is far too clean at the moment, anyway.”

     With the dishwasher right there in front of her, it only seemed natural to pull it open and start placing the rinsed dishes inside, so she did just that. Aware that Jamie had a particular affinity for her hindquarters, she may have bent slightly overdramatically. This didn’t go unnoticed by her intended audience, a wicked smile quirking up his lips as he slid into place behind her. Claire half gasped, half laughed as he pressed himself close, steadying her with one hand as he bent over her and reached into the dishwasher. 

     “I think that’ll fit better over here,” he said matter of factly as he moved a bowl from one space to another. It was pointless, she knew, just an excuse to tease her, and as usual she gave as good as she got, leaning over further to move it back. 

     “I really think it’s best where I had it,” she replied, looking over her shoulder with a cheeky smirk. She found Jamie blushing crimson, his eyes narrowing for a moment as he contemplated his next move. Claire beat him to the quick, pressing her hips back and giving them a little wiggle as she tossed her curls over one shoulder. 

     “Careful lass, or I’ll no be responsible for what I do,” Jamie warned, rolling his hips once, sharply, into hers and groaning under his breath. 

     “There are children upstairs, Mister Fraser,” Claire reminded him demurely, her lip-biting smirk hidden by a curtain of curls. 

     “Aye, I ‘spose there are,” Jamie replied mildly, pulling her up with him as he rose and pressing his lips to her shoulder before he returned to the sink. Claire couldn’t help but notice the way he adjusted himself in his pants as he did so, a quiet sense of pride fluttering low in her belly. 

     “I’ll get ye for it later, though,” he added as he handed her a small pink cup to put in the washer. 


     Claire jumped as Nora’s crystalline voice cut straight through from her room to the kitchen, and whacked Jamie on the flank when he snickered.

     “I canna reach the swimsuits!”

     “I’ll be up in a minute,” Jamie hollered back, looking a little sheepish as he turned his gaze back to Claire. “We’re loud here, hope ye dinna mind.”

     “Not a bit,” she returned with a smile, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek. “I’ll go get my things together and meet you back here?” 

     Jamie nodded his assent and she slipped out through the sliding door, looking back and offering a little waggle of her fingers. He watched her traipse through the grass for a moment, reminded of the last time he’d seen her walk away on that very path. It had been the night she left him, when she’d bolted from the house with tears in her eyes and his shattered heart in tow.

     When Nora screeched at him once more, he pulled his eyes away from her retreating form, content in the knowledge that she would come back, and hustled upstairs, knowing that his wee ones tended towards a certain level of impatience. Perhaps it was something to do with his overly doting nature, but even so, that wasn’t going to change any time soon. As a single father, he felt even more of a responsibility to be there at the drop of a hat, making sure things were taken care of and the girls had what they needed (and, more often than not, wanted), and it brought him such joy to top it all off. 

     “Nora can’t reach the swimsuits!” Fiona groaned, sulking out of their room to meet him in the hallway. 

     “Dinna whine,” he reproached, shooting her a no-nonsense look. That was a penchant they could all do without. 

     He noticed that there were still smudges of chocolate covering her small face, and after neglecting help, the littlest Fraser trudged off to the bathroom to wash her face a second time. 

     In her room, Nora stood before the closet, looking expectant and slightly annoyed as she pointed up toward the fabric box full of her swimsuits, and though Jamie knew he should probably reprove the rudeness of the gesture, all he could do was stifle a laugh. 

     “Where did Claire go?” she asked as Jamie took down both her and Fiona’s boxes and set them on the floor. 

     “She’s gettin’ ready for the beach and then she’ll be back,” Jamie answered, watching as she tossed swimsuits on the floor around her in search of the perfect one. 

     “She looks happy now,” the little girl added a moment later, her work slowing to a stop as she looked up at her father. She had a contemplative look about her, the one that passed over her features when she was trying to puzzle out grown-up matters. 

     “Aye, she did seem verra happy this morning,” Jamie replied, biting back a prideful smirk at whatever hand he (and, frankly, his lovemaking) may have had in the matter. “I think she’s verra happy tae be spending the day with us, a leannan.”

     “Mebbe she doesn’t need the fairy dust we made her anymore,” Nora pondered, sounding slightly disappointed that they might not get to present her with the gift.

     “Och, I think ye should give it tae her anyway. I bet a present from her two favorite lasses would make her even happier.”

     “You think we’re her favorite?” she asked after a moment, cheeks pink and eyes shining with delight. 

     “I know you are,” Jamie answered truly, pleased by how clearly overjoyed his little girl was at the thought.  

     “She’s my favorite,” Nora said softly, squirming happily where she sat, and the answering clench in Jamie’s chest nearly brought him to his knees. 

     Not for the first time since the developments of the previous night, he thought about the day he and Claire would finally get to tell the girls they were together, and that one day Claire would never have to go away again. Not to get a swimsuit, not for bedtime, never. He hadn’t been lying when he told her that there wasn’t a single thing that would make them happier. He knew what loving Claire felt like, and he’d seen over and over in his daughter’s faces that they were just as taken as he. 


      A fter shooting off a quick text to Geillis about getting together, Claire found herself staring with pinked cheeks at the bikini sitting at the top of her swimsuit drawer. It had been years since she’d worn one, a fact that Geillis saw fit to remedy as soon as she’d learned it. She’d dragged Claire to yet another boutique opening, snatching one piece after one piece from her hands and tutting something about how she was “too hot to be like this.” After trying on a few, with varying levels of skin revealed, Claire settled on the black bikini that managed to be generously cut without feeling inappropriate. She’d never really planned on wearing it, was certain that Frank would have a cutting remark or a raised brow at the very least, but something told her that a certain red-headed Scot might have a different opinion. In fact, she thought she’d rather enjoy seeing his face when she stripped off her sweater and jeans to go swimming. All that skin he praised so often revealed to him, and nothing he could do about it…

     This is a family day at the beach, not a seduction, she reminded herself as she gathered her beach supplies and tossed them into a large woven tote. Still, she couldn’t help but imagine the way his eyes might linger. Never in all of her life had she felt so completely, shamelessly wanted. It was intoxicating, to say the least, to know that she of all people could bring a man like that to his knees. Just as it was to know that it went so far beyond that, that he wanted her, loved her, for all that she was. 

     Surprisingly, all three Frasers were dressed and ready downstairs by the time Claire returned. The girls stood on stools at the counter, each with a butter knife and a jar of peanut butter and jelly, respectively. Jamie stood between them, putting the sandwiches in what Claire noticed were the reusable equivalent of plastic bags. 

      Of course the bloody man is eco-conscious, of course he is.

      Having gone unnoticed, she watched through the glass for a moment, playing voyeur on such a sweet moment.  It was not unlike a dream, the image of the three of them. She’d never believed in perfection, but this...this was something else altogether. Something she’d never thought she could have. But when the feelings of inadequacy began to creep in, instead of shying away like she had done before she pulled open the door and stepped inside, basking in the three crooked smiles she was met with. Yes, she belonged right there.