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Snow is Falling

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December 1st

Claire woke up feeling an amount of joy she hadn’t felt in a long time. Being self employed, she could always afford to take her favorite month of the year off to spend with Jamie Fraser, her best friend since kindergarten.

Claire owned a photo-studio, which was located in her apartment. When she rented this place, the three bedrooms were what caught her attention as it was perfect for her to have a guest room and a room for her job.

Once she got out of bed, which wasn’t hard at all that day, she chose comfortable black leggings and her white oversized sweater. It was her favorite winter outfit, and Jamie knew that as much as she did.

Jamie had moved back to Scotland when they were fourteen years old. It was the hardest time for the both of them, as they had been the best of friends on the entire planet. They used to spend every single day together and could talk about everything that had been going on in their lives. When Jamie moved away, they barely saw each other, nor did they have the time to talk every single day, which made it even more special when they spent December together.

Because they both loved Christmas so much, they had promised always to spend the whole month of December together. Jamie saved almost all his vacation days just so they could take the month off.

“I don’t want to take off during the year, I’ll make sure to have enough days left to spend Christmas with you, Sassenach.”

She smiled at the thought of those words. Claire was originally from England, which she was reminded of by Jamie every time he called her Sassenach, but after losing her parents at a very young age and being raised by her uncle, she built her life in America.

After getting ready, Claire made sure she would have enough time to grab breakfast at Starbucks. She couldn’t start her day without her Caramel Macchiato and a cinnamon roll. Only the thought of it made her mouth water. Soon, she would share this breakfast with Jamie for a whole month, and she truly felt happy.

After a two hour drive to the airport, a Caramel Macchiato and a cinnamon roll later, she got out of the car to walk to the screen that showed all arrivals. Claire looked up to find Edinburgh written beneath arrivals and walked to the door where her best friend would soon appear.

She started to feel nervous as he should have landed by now, and she tried to keep her sweaty hands as dry as possible. The last time she could hug him was one year ago, and she longed for his presence the moment he had left her at that exact same airport.

Suddenly, people started to exit the door and Claire couldn’t help but stand on her tiptoes to make sure she wouldn’t miss him, even though she knew she could never miss the red-haired giant. The door opened once more and there he was. A loud squeak escaped her chest and she ran towards him, jumping in the arms of her best friend. His arms wrapped around her waist, pressing her against him as she buried her face in his neck. She couldn’t help but lose a few tears, but it was alright, as it were only tears of joy.

After a few minutes in each other’s arms, Jamie lowered her to the ground, making them face each other. His blue gaze met her eyes and her whole body was filled with warmth.

“Finally. Let me look at ye, Sassenach!”

Claire could see that he’d also shed some tears of joy, and she wiped them away with her thumb. He held her hand and took a few steps back to look at her.

“As beautiful as always.”

“I’ve missed you so much, Jamie.” She looked up at him and hugged him once more, feeling at home in an instant.

“And I you, Sassenach. Now, let us go to yer place before we get run over by a hoard of people.”

Claire giggled a bit and walked happily to her car with him. After storing his luggage in the trunk she sat inside with him, only to look at him once again.

-

Jamie looked into her beautiful whisky eyes. He was truly happy to see her again after being away for the past year. He missed her every single day, and knowing he has a whole month with her made him feel complete.

As Claire drove, he couldn’t help but look at her with a huge smile.

“My luggage is filled with yer presents, Sassenach.”

His smile turned into a grin when he saw her face lighting up at the thought. He knew Claire would always hide her excitement for presents, saying that Christmas was about being together and not about how many presents were underneath the tree. But he could always spot that tiny spark in her face when he mentioned them.

“Jamie, I told you to not buy me anything.”

His grin only got wider when she said that.

“Sassenach, dinna take me for a fool, I ken you love presents. And, you deserve to be spoiled as much as possible.”

Jamie looked at her face, now blushing, and she gave him the cutest side smile he had ever seen. God, how he had missed her.

-

Arriving at her apartment, Claire was filled with happiness, and she waited in the living room while Jamie put his luggage into the guest room. The first day they would always sit on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and just talk about everything they had missed in each other’s lives. Of course they stayed in touch, but it was hard talking about details only by text and not being able to actually be there.

Once Jamie arrived next to her, she looked at him when he took his cup and smiled.

“You haven't changed a bit since last year. So tell me about everything that has been going on.”

So he did. He told her about his sister Jenny giving birth to another child, which Claire knew of course, but now she could watch his ocean blue eyes sparkle as he told her every single detail of it. She sipped patiently on her hot chocolate, hanging on every word Jamie said to her. And so it went for the next few hours, each filling the other in on the details of their lives. They took in each other’s presence and just enjoyed laughing together.

When they finished catching up, it was evening and they decided to order a pizza, watch a movie and put an end to the exhausting day as Jamie, of course, had to get used to the different time zone.

Once the movie had started, Claire snuggled closer to her best friend and ate her pizza. Like always, they had shared pieces as they both liked the other’s type of pizzas. During the movie, Claire didn’t realize, but she drifted off into a deep sleep, still leaning on Jamie’s shoulder. She felt peaceful, and his arms were the only place she could feel that way.

Chapter Text

December 2 nd

 

After a good night’s sleep, Claire woke up with a rush of happiness flowing through her veins. Her best friend was only a door away; he was here. Of course, she had felt like this every year he visited her, but she also missed him even more when he left. It felt like the pain grew each time they had to say goodbye to each other.

 

Claire shook her head; she didn’t want to think about goodbyes now. Today was the first full day they would spend with each other. On that first day, they would always decorate the room with new things they would buy in town.

 

Claire knew that she could re-use the decorations from last year, but she would rather donate those boxes as she loved choosing a completely new set with Jamie by her side.

 

Still in her pajamas, she put her hair up in a wild curly bun and left her bedroom only to find Jamie in his matching pajamas on the couch. In front of him was Claire’s favorite meal of the day: breakfast.

 

With a huge smile on her face, she hugged him tight and sat herself next to him.

 

“Good morning, James.” She giggled as she knew, Jamie didn’t like to be addressed by his complete name.

 

“Morning, Elizabeth.” Her giggle stopped as he teased her back with her middle name. But Claire was in such good spirits, it had been hard for her to keep a serious face and, in the next second, she had already laughed again.

 

“How was your first night in your luxury suite, Mr. Fraser?”

 

“Oh, I canna complain, but the snores of my bedroom neighbor kept me awake till dawn.”

 

Claire looked at him only to find him grinning at her and she hit his upper arm softly, knowing it wouldn’t hurt him a bit.

 

“How dare you!” She took the mug containing hot chocolate, the croissant next to it, and dug into her first meal of the day.

 

The both of them kept teasing each other until their breakfast was finished and cleaned up together. Claire knew how excited Jamie was to decorate her apartment, as it always had been his favorite thing to do.

 

-

 

Claire and Jamie walked through the town, visiting all their usual stores and buying new decoration sets. This year the color would be green, and they decided to decorate it with a Scottish touch.

 

The reason Jamie visited Claire every year and not the opposite was because they knew if they would be in Scotland, they would be consistently surrounded by people who knew them. December was their month and they just felt the need to be alone and catch up on the times they missed. A month never seemed to be enough, but with both of them having busy lives throughout the year, it was still more than they could have hoped for.

 

Jamie attempted to carry the boxes to the car, but almost dropped them when Claire didn’t open the trunk in time. She laughed at his clumsiness.

 

“That was tight, Sassenach.”

 

Claire looked at him laughing while she felt his arm around her. Her stomach fluttered at the touch of her best friend and her laugh turned into a soft smile.

 

“Now on to our favorite part, Jamie.”

 

Before driving home, Claire stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get their favorite assortment; a necessary staple during the decorating process. Entering her apartment the first thing after they removed their shoes and jackets, they went to the kitchen to prepare their coffees. Claire put the box of donuts on the table in the living room and turned on the radio where they played Christmas music non-stop.

 

“Let’s go Fraser, hurry up, your girl needs caffeine.”

 

Claire never felt as comfortable with anyone as she felt with Jamie. She could speak her mind or do whatever she wanted and so it was the other way around.

 

-

 

Jamie returned with the two mugs of coffee, where he saw Claire already visioning where the Christmas tree would stand. All of the sudden it dawned on him and he had to make sure he wouldn’t burst out into laughter.

 

“Sassenach?” his grin grew wider and he put the mugs next to the donut box.

 

Jamie waited for her to find out what was missing and then he saw her stopping suddenly in the midst of her visioning everything.

 

“Jamie! The Christmas tree! We forgot the bloody Christmas tree!”

 

And then she started to laugh and Jamie couldn’t hold himself back and just laughed with her. How he had missed the sound of her laugh next to him.

 

Jamie and Claire decided to get the Christmas tree after they had enjoyed their coffee and donuts, as it would have been a waste to throw away two cups of the hot brew they both adored so much.

 

Once they finished, they got dressed and walked to the same tree seller they went to every year, performing the same ritual used to pick one.

 

“Let us always pick out the ugliest one, otherwise he will always stand there alone and will never be picked, that is just simply sad.”

 

Claire’s remembered words brought a smile to his face. He turned to face her and she was looking at what he believed was the ugliest tree on the lot. The look on his best friend’s face told him she agreed.

 

“Perfect!”

 

It always made him happy to see her satisfied no matter the reason. Her lips when they curled up to that tiny, beautiful smile which lightened up his day the moment he saw it. Then her little giggle when they made the purchase and her head falling slightly backwards, making her curls fall behind her shoulders.

 

After Jamie carried the tree almost alone to the car and mounted it on the top of it, he sat himself into the passenger seat and looked at Claire who started the motor.

 

“Finally. Let’s decorate.”

 

-

 

Claire and Jamie were in their elements when they put on the music once again. When the first tunes of “Let It Snow” went through the living room, she started to hum with the melody while putting a Christmas ball on the tree. Looking if she placed it neatly enough, she nodded to herself in agreement.

 

She looked at Jamie, who was busy with putting up the lights on her balcony. He had always been responsible for the more technical things as she wasn’t handy at all with those.

 

Once they finished with everything, they sat on the couch, both of them letting out a sigh of exhaustion.

 

“We did it, Beauchamp!”

 

“Yes, Fraser!”

 

Claire snuggled into Jamie’s chest, looking at the candles she put on the table a bit ago, now lit in front of her. She wished every day could be like the one she had today, and it ached her already to let him go, even though she still had a few weeks with him. But as time went on, and the years went by, the harder it was for her to let him go. She got ripped out of her thoughts by Jamie’s voice next to her ear.

 

“What are ye thinking about, Sassenach? Yer grip around me got tighter. Is something bothering ye?”

 

Claire didn’t realize that the thought of letting him go, made her hold on to him even more.

 

“I was just thinking about how I don’t want you to leave.”

 

She felt his hand brushing the curl that fell into her face behind her ear.

 

“Aye Sassenach, I ken that feeling verra well.”

Chapter Text

December 3 rd

 

After an exhausting day of decorating, Claire woke up later than usual. She stretched herself, making her muscles relax. She let out a little groan that confirmed how well she slept.

 

Now that the Christmas tree is up, and her apartment is ready for further festivities, it was time for them to wrap their presents.

 

Claire already bought the majority of Jamie’s presents but knew that she would probably see more when they went to the mall tomorrow.

 

Claire bought tons of wrapping paper before Jamie’s arrival. She would always buy matching ones of different colors. This year, hers was gold while Jamie’s boasted red.

 

She stood up and hopped into her legging, which she matched with a sweater. She decided to put her hair back into a messy bun, leaving two pieces of curls falling into her face from each side. She put on her Christmas slippers and went outside. Jamie was nowhere to be found. 

 

Guessing he was still in bed, Claire turned on the coffee machine to make them some delicious brews. She took the leftovers donuts from yesterday and decided to make it for this morning’s breakfast.

 

Later that morning, the front door swung open, revealing a slightly disheveled Jamie carrying in two armloads of shopping bags. Someone went Christmas shopping, and it wasn’t her.

 

“James Fraser! I thought your luggage was filled with my presents? Why did you get more?”

 

He grinned at her as he put the bags down, taking off his jacket and shoes. He put his clothes away in his room and came back, sitting next to Claire while taking the proffered  mug of coffee and donut.

 

“I love to spoil ye, Sassenach. If I canna do it the whole year, then let me do it all at once now, aye?”

 

His grin turned into a genuine smile and Claire felt a flutter in her stomach when she looked at him.

 

“Oh Jamie, you are too cute for this world. How come you haven’t won a woman’s heart yet?” Claire always teased him but she knew she hadn't been much better.

 

No man could meet her standards and she couldn’t explain why. She also could not imagine having another man there with her during the holidays. She only wanted her best friend by her side around this time or year, and she knew he felt the same.

“Ha Ha, ye’re a funny one, Sassenach.”

 

They ate their breakfast quietly this morning. Jamie seemed a bit nervous; Claire knew that her best friend eventually would talk to her about what was going on.

 

After cleaning up, both of them were filled with excitement but sad at the same time that they had to leave each other to wrap presents. Claire had found herself in the arms of Jamie before leaving into her own room.

 

“Don’t peak, Jamie. Or I will throttle you.” Her cheek was against his chest and he could feel her grinning as she spoke..

 

“Throttle me? Aye. I think I will be too busy wrapping presents till sundown.”

 

Claire laughed and gave him all the supplies he needed before making her way towards her room to wrap his. She took out the two full bags of purchases she had made during the year and sat down on the floor. She started with the photo album she had made for him with memories during the year. This would be the one he would get last; she knew he would take his time looking at every single page, every picture, every memory, thanking her all the while.

 

Thinking about it made her giggle a little as she wrapped it up, putting it on a pile next to her. And so she went on until she had finished them all up.

 

-

 

Jamie looked at the pile of presents he had gotten her. Clothes, jewelry, a new coffee machine, Starbucks cups, and much more. He felt like he could have bought much more; she deserved everything in the world she wanted. As he started wrapping, he looked at the tiny bag filled with his latest purchase. A nervous feeling went through his body when he realized he couldn’t look away.

 

Would he give it to her?

 

This was a question he had asked himself the moment he laid eyes on it at the mall. He knew he had to get it for her, but whether or not she would ever see it remained unknown.

 

Jamie decided to put the little bag at the bottom of his suitcase; he couldn’t risk her seeing it with her usual presents. He still had time to think if he would lay it beneath the tree or if he would wait with it another year.

 

He finished a few hours later and managed to put all the presents back into the bags. He walked outside and saw Claire already putting her presents for him underneath the tree.

 

“Ye are complaining about me having much but ye have just as much as me, Sassenach.”

 

She grinned at him and he couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face in automatic response. He placed his presents among hers so that it looked like a pile of red-gold boxes underneath the tree.

 

“We were busy for three hours, Jamie.”

 

He looked at her and knew in an instant what she wanted to tell him.

“Time for yer Caramel Macchiato?” He laughed at her surprised look. He could always read that glass face of hers easily. . “Dinna look so surprised, Sassenach. I ken verra well when ye need yer Starbucks.”

 

-

 

Claire was always surprised by Jamie, he always knew what she craved, and when she craved it. He will make a girl very happy one day.

 

She waited for the day her best friend would call her and tell her all about a girl he just met and asking her for advice about their first date. But that call still hasn’t come and somehow, she felt happy about it. At the same time, Claire also had been terrified, thinking that every Christmas could be their last. She knew Jamie wanted to build a family, like his sister. With him being of age,could happen at any time. He just needed to meet the woman he wanted to do that with.

 

She was ripped from  her thoughts when she felt Jamie’s finger underneath her chin, forcing her to look into his ocean blue eyes.

 

“What’s bothering ye, mo chridhe?”

 

He always called her that when he was worried, or when he knew she needed his comfort.

 

“Nothing, Jamie. I think I’m just tired from all the excitement.”

 

“Yer eyes look sad. I may not see ye that often, but I ken verra well when something is bothering ye.”

 

She could never lie to him. He would always find out if something is wrong, or if she was overthinking her situation once again.

 

“What if this is the last year we can spend Christmas together like this?”

She saw that she wasn’t the only one worried about this.

 

“Aye, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. If yer telling me that ye’d rather spend it with someone else. Or that the distance is simply too much and we’re not able to take off any longer...I’d be hurt...but I’ll understand.”

 

She didn’t know how else to react to those words and she could no longer hold back the tears that were burning in her eyes and she felt his grip tighten around her. Sometimes it is hard to be the best friend.

Chapter Text

December 4 th

 

Claire decided that today she would only think positive after she had her breakdown yesterday.

 

Today it was time to go to the mall, taking pictures with Santa, who was there the whole of December. Jamie and Claire decided to let their picture being taken as early as possible, as the line got longer the closer it came to Christmas day.

 

She decided to wear a cute Christmas dress with black thighs and her boots. For the picture, she would leave her hair in a bun once again. She thought about Jamie’s words.

 

I love when ye’re having your hair put up in a bun, it shows ye’re beautiful face even more.”

 

She smiled at the thought of his words and left her bedroom, only to see him waiting for her so they could leave.

 

They decided to get breakfast on the way to the mall and eat it in the car. Once they arrived and Claire parked her car, they went inside.

 

Claire loved being in the mall during the holidays. The lights and decorations that got put up by the employees of each store were beautiful. There was a huge Christmas tree placed in the center where everyone would see it once they entered the mall. And many people walked with their bags filled with goods for the festivities. The whole world seems to change once a year when the Christmas spirit hits the people, and she loved that.

 

The first thing they did in the mall was take pictures. They decided it was best to do it in the morning versus the afternoon, where school ended and kids would run to the mall to meet Santa.

 

Their picture had been cute. Claire was standing to Santa’s left, while Jamie was to his right. They both smiled into the camera. For their second picture, they decided to do a funny pose. Jamie trying to steal Santa’s hat while Claire and Santa looked on in mocking shock. Pictures in hand, they laughed about them for much longer than socially appropriate. Claire could not wait to put it in her photo album. It held many years of photographic memories of the two of them.

 

Before doing their mall walk, they stopped at Starbucks so Claire could  first drink her Caramel Macchiato before more Christmas shopping. The presents underneath the tree showed more red than gold, which meant that she needed to get more gifts. Spoiling Jamie, seeing his eyes light up like blue lanterns of starlight, made her indescribably happy.

 

Claire always preferred  to give than receive, so of course she wanted to see her best friend’s gaze lighten up as many times as possible.

 

Beverage finished and caffeine need satisfied, they made their way towards the first store. She couldn’t very well buy his gifts with him right beside her, so she made a note of what she wished to purchase, then would come back later on. 

 

Once she did that and Jamie waited on a bench, being tired from walking all the way through the clothing stores, watching Claire try on different things, Claire bought everything she saw for him which mostly contained Whisky, as he could never have enough of it. She also had found something she first didn’t know if she should get it and it made her head spin and her heart race.

 

She looked at the object, fighting with herself if she should get it for him or not.

 

She could always decide to give it to him next year, right?

 

Claire decided to buy it and put the little bag into her own handbag so Jamie wouldn’t see it as she wasn’t sure if she would give it at all. After finishing her purchases, she went back to the bench she had left Jamie behind, only to find him standing up as she approached.

 

“There ye are Sassenach. I thought I might fall asleep right here.”

 

She laughed and rolled her eyes at the impatience of her best friend. Men.

 

Once they had gotten home, Claire decided to wrap the presents in an instant to even out the colors beneath the tree. She looked at the tiny bag next to her, being unsure if she should wrap it or not. When she finished wrapping the other presents first, she decided to put the little bag into her closet to make sure it wouldn’t mix up accidentally or that he would find it. Worse comes to worse, she could give it to him next year. Or the year after. Or maybe not at all.

 

-

 

Later on, they finished dinner and decided to add their new pictures into the photo album together. It was a tradition for them to look at all the photos in the album from the beginning.

 

“You look like a baby here, Jamie,” she snorted with laughter as she looked up at Jamie’s blushing face.

 

“Ha Ha Sassenach. Yer always making fun of that one.”

 

She needed to contain her bursting laughter, so she went on to the next page that showed her with a grimace. She hated this picture.

 

“Don’t say it, Fraser!”

 

He looked at her and grinned.

 

“Why not? You canna tell me to sit here quietly, while yer making fun of my faces I made.”

 

“I bloody well can, James.”

 

She grinned at him as they made commentary on every single page. Claire stopped at one page that displayed a sad Jamie and Claire a year ago, gripping each other so tight it looked like one of them was to suffocate.

 

“I was so upset the morning you left,” she said softly.

 

She started to feel the ultimate sadness that awaited her at the end of the month. Just as it did every year. She didn’t want him to leave. She wished the whole year would be December, and they could do this every day. She wished she could eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with him, without thinking that they have one meal less to share with each other this year.

 

“Aye. Me too, Sassenach. I ken verra well how you called me into yer bed the night before, to hold ye until you fell asleep. Yer cries ripped my heart out.”

 

Claire looked up at Jamie. She leaned her face into his chest, looking at the book in front of her.

 

The picture beneath that one was even worse. It was a selfie of them trying (and failing) to smile as best they could, knowing in the next second, they would have to say goodbye to each other for another year.

 

“We always end up being sad when another day has passed,” she commented glumly.

 

“Aye, because time with ye doesna matter, Sassenach. It is because of these moments that the days go by so fast.”

 

“I do not want to cry today, Jamie. But... I just miss you so much when you’re not here. The moment you leave, this apartment becomes an empty shell.”

 

She would never tell him, but the night following Jamie’s departure, she would sleep in the guest room, knowing it still held his scent. It made her feel close to him, even though he was gone. Claire was certain, if he knew this to be true, he would think her creepy. 

 

“’Tis alright, Sassenach. I feel the verra same. But we still have weeks to go, weeks to spend as much time together as we please. Let us not worry about what’s to come, but enjoy the time we have wi’ each other. I ken how it feels as I miss ye every day. But our friendship is bigger than the distance between Scotland and America. Alright?”

 

She smiled at Jamie; he somehow always found the right words to say. Her gaze lingered towards the window where she saw snow falling down.

 

“It’s snowing, Jamie!”

 

Claire’s eyes lit up at the sight. The tiny crystal snowflakes always changed her mood.

 

“Aye Sassenach, let’s build a snowman tomorrow then!”

Chapter Text

December 5 th

 

The light that shone through Claire’s window woke her up the following day. The white from the snow was reflective, brightening the room further. She smiled at the thought of going outside with Jamie to build a snowman. If they were lucky enough and there had been snow, they would always do it.

 

As she sat up in bed, she heard a knock on the door. Jamie entered before she could say anything with a small tray that contained two cups of coffee with two fresh croissants. She smiled at him.

 

“Good morning, Sassenach.”

 

“Good morning... mmm, it smells delicious.”

 

Jamie spoiled her whenever he could, and she enjoyed every bit of it.

 

“How did ye sleep?” Jamie asked, placing the breakfast tray in her lap. He made himself comfortable on the edge of her bed.

 

“Wonderful. I’m so excited to build the snowman today, Jamie.”

 

Jamie listened to Claire talk excitedly about building the snowman during breakfast. The sparkle in her whisky eyes matched the gaze of his bright blue ones. He could listen to her forever, the sound of her voice always invoking a sense of calm. He cleaned up afterwards and waited for Claire to get ready. He thought about the photo album from last night. A sudden wave of sadness hit him like a freight train. 

 

Why couldn’t they just have this all year round?

 

This wasn’t the first time that Jamie had thought about moving to America. But given he had a steady career in Scotland, not to mention his whole family was there, uprooting his whole life just wasn’t an option right now. Also, wouldn’t it be strange to move entire counties just to be with his best friend? So he pushed the thought away and decided to just enjoy his limited time with her. There was nothing he could do about it, so there was no point in worrying over it.

 

Claire came out of her room, giggling like a little child. She was so happy. December was her happy month. She walked to her wardrobe to get her shoes and her jacket on and threw a pair of gloves towards Jamie and took on her own.

 

“Otherwise your hands will freeze, James.”

 

“Oh aye Elizabeth, thank ye.”

 

Their mutual teasing earned them a mutual cheeky grin. Fully dressed and ready to go, they packed up the carrot for their snowman’s nose, and left the apartment. Once downstairs, they chose a space to start and Claire started rolling snow into a huge ball.

 

Jamie smiled as he sneakily took out his phone to snap some pictures of her; seeing her being so carefree and happy was all he needed in life. Pictures taken, this moment would now be with him forever.

 

“Jamie, don’t just stand around, help me to make his belly!”

 

“On my way, Sassenach.”

 

Jamie laughed and copied her earlier movements, making a smaller swell of snow. She nodded at him as he placed it atop the big one she made. It fit perfectly. 

 

“Now the head.”

 

Claire rolled out another piece of snow to the size of the snowman’s head and put it on top of Jamie’s snowball. They fitted the classic coal lumps and carrot to complete their snowman off. Claire looked for and found some sticks to create arms. She shoved them into the sides of their creation, and stood back a few steps to admire their masterpiece.

 

“Stand in front,” Jamie called out, pulling his phone from his pocket. “I want to take a picture of ye and yer new friend, Sassenach.”

 

Claire giggled and stood next to the snowman. Jamie rapidly snapped pictures, unable to keep from smiling.

 

“Now it’s your turn, Jamie.”

 

He gave her his phone and stood next to the snowman. Naturally, being much taller than the figure made of snow, he would have leaned into it were it more stable.

 

Pictures taken and creation made, they went back inside the apartment. They both smiled and went upstairs to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. The perfect beverage after all the time in the biting snow.

 

Claire sat down next to Jamie and handed him his mug. She relished the warmth of her own before taking a long drink. 

 

“Thank ye, Claire.”

 

In the reverie of the deliciously warm drink, she almost missed the lost expression on his face; she knew he got like that when he was lost in his own thoughts. If he hadn’t called her by her name, rather than “Sassenach,” she probably would have missed it altogether. This most likely meant it was something serious.

 

“What’s wrong, Jamie?”

 

Jamie looked at her, then shook his head.

 

“I canna talk about it, Sassenach, not yet.”

 

Her responding gaze told him she was worried, so he forced a tiny smile across his face.

 

“Dinna fash, Claire. It will be alright. But for now, I would like to be alone for a bit.”

 

Claire didn’t say anything as he stood up to head towards his room. She sat there for a bit, drinking her hot chocolate in solitude, worrying about what was bothering the man who meant so much to her.

 

-

 

Jamie lounged in bed, slowly sipping hot chocolate as he stared at the wall in front of him. His thoughts raced about Claire. His Claire. His Sorcha. His mind kept jumping back to all the things they had done since he came to town. All the time they spent together, seeing and making her happy. Her smile lit up his world. And all the while, he wanted to hold her, kiss her, love her.

 

He can’t think that way. Ever.

 

Jamie couldn’t risk the friendship they had for the feelings he has harbored for a long time. Those feelings grew every time he would see her, and each time it was harder for him to hold it all in.

 

Once he finished his hot chocolate, he placed the mug on his night table. He took his phone out, opening up the photos app. He admired the happy expression on her face in the photos. He started tearing up the more he looked at her, and the aching in his chest grew. He didn’t realize that a sob escaped him until he heard a small knock on the door; it must have been audible enough for Claire to hear him. 

 

Claire entered Jamie’s room before he could say anything. She worried about him, and that worry increased when she heard him cry out. She couldn’t just leave him alone as he wished; she knew he needed her now more than ever.

 

Her heart broke when she saw his red eyes, filled with more tears to come.

 

“Jamie?”

 

Claire all but threw herself into his arms and hugged him as tight as she could. She felt his body start to tremble from his burrowed sobs. She slipped her fingers through the red curls on the back of his head, pressing him tighter against her.

 

“Dinna leave... mo ghraidh.

 

“Shh... I’m here, Jamie. I won’t leave you.”

 

He pressed himself into her more, his cries wetting the curls that had fallen out of her bun with tears.

 

“What’s wrong, Jamie? Talk to me.”

 

She pulled away to look into his face; his usually positive disposition had been touched with sadness. She saw that he wanted to talk, but couldn’t. Why was that?

 

“I canna do it, Claire. ‘Tis no’ easy. I just want to enjoy this month with ye, and not think about what is to come. ‘Twas nothing but a moment of weakness. I’m sorry, Sassenach. I dinna want to worry ye.”

 

She knew he was being truthful. He had to be; they had promised each other exactly that years ago.

 

“When you tell me something, let it be the truth, and I’ll promise you the same.”

 

They could have secrets, but not lies.

 

Claire knew Jamie would tell her eventually, once he was ready.

 

Chapter Text

December 6 th

 

Claire set her alarm to go off early this morning in order to prepare a little surprise for Jamie. He managed to calm down last night after a bit of talking. Therefore, Claire decided that today, they should visit the Christmas Market. It was close to her apartment so the walk wouldn’t be too much. She returned his breakfast-in-bed favor by doing the same for him, a small kiss on the cheek waking him from his slumber. Jamie made a deep-sleep grunt in response; it was only 7:30 in the morning.

 

“Wake up, sleepy head.”

 

The still-sleeping smile that slowly spread across his face sent waves of happiness through her body. Claire ran a hand through his hair.

 

“I’m awake, Sassenach.”

 

His morning voice drove her wild; it was deep and raspy with grogginess.

 

“I am returning yesterday's favor. After breakfast, we’re going somewhere special, but it is a surprise.”

 

Jamie sat up, unintentionally showing off the expanse of taut muscles and chest hair. Claire had to focus hard on not staring.

 

“Dinna tell me yer shy now, Sassenach.”

 

His smile made her blush more.

 

“Of course not! I’m just being… polite.” 

 

Claire giggled nervously and handed him his tray before the situation could get more awkward. She did her best to concentrate on her food rather than her best friend’s body. She knew he had no intention of getting dressed before his appetite was sated. Though, even before she realized it, she was failing miserably. 

 

Claire cleaned their breakfast while waiting for Jamie to finish getting ready. The only clue she gave her best friend was that he should dress warm. Her thoughts wandered back to his morning voice, and she contemplated what it would be like to wake up to that every morning. She realized, in that moment, she would give anything for exactly that. 

 

“Good morning, Sassenach.”

 

“Good morning, Jamie. How did you sleep?”

 

Claire kissed him gently, and he grunted softly in response.

 

“I canna complain, knowing I have the most beautiful woman sleeping next to me.”

 

Claire pressed her body against his in response, her smile growing wider, her kisses more enthusiastic...

 

“Sassenach?”

 

Claire jumped as Jamie’s voice ripped her out of her thoughts. 

 

“Ye ready?” Jamie asked for what appeared to be the second time.

 

She shook her head, her own thoughts shocking her further. She can’t think like that about her best friend. 

 

“I- I’m sorry, I drifted off. But yes, eh… let’s go.”

 

His confused look only heightened the blush spreading across her face. She hid her face as she walked out the door, leaving Jamie to hurry after her. Once in the car, she could easily say the cold made her face red.

 

She started the car and drove in the direction of his surprise. Jamie’s face brightened into a thousand-watt smile once he realized where they were.

 

“The Christmas Market I told ye about!”

 

Claire just smiled and nodded in response. “Yes! Are you excited?”

 

He nodded back, thanking her before getting out of the car. Claire’s earlier thoughts kept the shock from wearing off. She tried to forget on the way to the market, but the pictures still haunted her. She can not feel this way.

 

While they were walking through and admiring the beautiful decorations of the different market stands, the only thing that would make this moment more perfect for Claire would be holding Jamie’s hand. Best friends did that, right? Or maybe they didn’t...  

 

She decided she didn’t care about what was acceptable or not among best friends and slipped her hand into his, intertwining her fingers snugly. He looked down at their clasped hands. Claire blushed and smiled a bit.

 

“Oh my God Jamie, look at this cute Christmas Angel!”

 

Claire pointed with her free hand and a cute, tiny angel, her other hand having no intentions of letting his go. The gesture felt so natural to her; it gave her a feeling she had never felt before.

 

-

 

Claire positively surprised Jamie when she took his hand into hers. Could this be it? Did she feel the same? His breakdown the previous night was all because of these...feelings...within him. And here he was now, holding her hand like it was the most natural thing on the planet. Could she really feel it too?!

 

She pointed out the Christmas angel without any intention of letting his hand go. His heart filled with an instant sensation of happiness. He stroked her hand with his thumb while they admired the angel, and decided she should give it a home without any hesitation.

 

“Jamie, you don’t have to do that!”

 

“But I want to.”

 

Her dazzling smile caused his heart to beat faster. She kissed his cheek as a thank you, like she had done a thousand times before. But for the first time, he didn’t let the nervous butterflies in his stomach show through when her lips touched his skin.

 

When they realized it was time for lunch, they knew their hands would have to part from their grasp. There was a small restaurant that served a variety of things in the pavilion of the Christmas Market. Claire chose Lasagna, while Jamie chose steak. They savored their meals without their smiles breaking.

 

“Thank ye Sassenach for this day. Ye dinna ken how much I wanted to go here when I told ye about it. And I couldna imagine coming here wi’out ye by my side.

 

“I feel the same. But I also know you well enough not to come without you. I saw the spark in your eyes when you told me about this place. And after what happened yesterday...well, I just wanted you to be happy and have fun.”

 

And fun he had. More than fun, actually. It was the day he felt their bond grew into something...potentially more...

 

“I had fun, Sassenach. Thank ye again, truly.”

 

Jamie put his hand atop hers, her whisky eyes glowing with admiration. Her smile only enhanced her eyes.

 

He could have kissed her in this moment.  

-

 

They decided to go home after lunch. The drive was quiet, as was their entrance into Claire’s apartment. Neither of them really know how to act in that moment. 

 

Claire decided to shower; she needed to be alone with her thoughts and that was the best excuse she could come up with. Alone in her room, she studied her reflection in the mirror. She closed her eyes, the vision of herself not leaving her. 

 

In her mind’s eye, Jamie stood behind her, softly kissing her neck. Her body trembling at the mere conjuring of his touch. When she opened her eyes again, she was alone. But her skin was on fire, her breathing fast. 

 

What is happening?  

 

She wanted him right now, right there, but she knew she couldn’t have him. She cannot think that way.

 

With Jamie still on her mind, she took off her clothes, stepped into the shower, closed her eyes once more while she relieved herself with the thought of her best friend.

Chapter Text

December 7 th

 

Thoughts of yesterday still lingered in Claire’s mind when she awoke the following day. That consistent feeling of regret hadn’t yet left her body. How could she have been so selfish, thinking this way about her best friend? It wasn’t right for her to think of Jamie like that. It especially wasn’t right for her to act upon her feeling so impulsively, privately or not.

 

She decided that she would leave the memories of yesterday, the feelings of arousal that Jamie stirred within her, tucked away within the sheets of her bed. Claire dressed comfortably in a pair of leggings and an oversized Christmas sweater. They didn’t have specific plans for the day, so Claire decided a Christmas Movie Marathon would be perfect.

 

She heard the cutlery in the kitchen as she pulled her hair into a ponytail. He was awake. She watched her reflection in the mirror as she took a deep breath. Then, she nodded to herself in  encouragement, and left the room.

 

“Good morning, Sassenach.”

 

Best Friends. Best Friends. Best Friends.

 

“Good morning, Jamie.”

 

Claire smiled and walked towards him. She was curious about what he was making, though through smell alone she could probably guess.

 

“I thought I would make some eggs for us, Sassenach.”

 

“Smells delicious,” she replied, “and I thought we could have a Christmas Movie Marathon.”

 

She could tell this was definitely a good idea as he looked like he didn’t want to leave the apartment today. They both needed a break from the cold winter air.

 

With breakfast out of the way, Claire and Jamie poured themselves each a second cup of coffee and sat on the couch. Jamie started scrolling through the Christmas Movies currently available on Netflix. Claire was a huge fan of all the Christmas Prince movies. The way those movies always portrayed falling in love captured her heart many years ago. They showed that, no matter what else happened in people’s lives, love would always win.

 

Jamie chose “The Knight before Christmas” as their first pick. Movies like these, with plenty of romance to spare, always caused Claire to seek Jamie’s comfort more than usual. But this time, she knew she couldn’t think this way.

 

An hour and a half later saw the first flick done, Claire chose their next one and her second favorite. “Christmas Inheritance.” This one was always so funny to Claire, as she laughed a lot while watching. Jamie would always say the story of “the city girl moving to a small town with no internet” was equal to Claire moving to Lallybroch, his homestead in Scotland. Claire rolled her eyes as he started this discussion again; he always did this. 

 

“Don’t start again, James.” She tried to sound stern, but their teasing was always lighthearted. Jamie just smirked back.

 

“Come on, Sassenach. Ye canna tell me ye can live a day wi’out your phone?!”

 

She scoffed. “You think I’m some kind of diva who couldn’t touch dirt. But you know damn well that I’m not, James Fraser. You would be very surprised to see me live at Lallybroch, managing everything without your help. I would probably even do better than you and that’s what you’re afraid of.”

 

His cheeky grin did not diminish during her ministrations; it was making it hard for her to stay serious.

 

“What’s so amusing, James?”

 

She tapped his shoulder lightly before laughter hysterically.

 

“Yer takin’ this far too serious, Sassenach. But I enjoy that about ye.”

 

They laughed a bit more before she hit the play button once again. After their little debates, this movie had always been more fun to watch. It was fun for Claire to see some of herself in the main character, their similarities matching well.

 

Up next was “The Christmas Prince” trilogy. Claire was so excited that she decided that popcorn would be lunch, with hot chocolate as their beverage of choice. Jamie couldn’t help but agree with a laugh. Sometimes, unhealthy snacks tasted so much better with a good movie on TV.

 

Claire always cried at the end of the first movie when she saw the prince proposing to the main character.

 

“How romantic.”

 

Jamie pulled her into his arms, grinning.

 

“Ye’re always crying wi’ that one.”

 

She looked up at him, hitting him slightly as he made fun of her crying about the romance of the movie.

 

“You might be crying too once you’re in his shoes. One day you’re gonna find the girl of your dreams, James Fraser. That is how you put a ring on her finger.”

 

Her gaze went back to the finished movie as she pressed the play button once more to start the second one.

 

“I havena met the right woman yet, Sassenach. But I will try tae remember your advice once I am ready to be wed.”

 

Claire always admired how Jamie’s choice of words sounded like they came from another century. It sounded like smooth poetry, and it always had a knack for calming her when she needed it most.

 

“Good.”

 

“If I need advice on the matter, Sassenach, I’ll ask ye.”

 

She looked up at him.

 

“I think you’ll manage just fine, Jamie.”

 

-

 

Jamie smiled down at his best friend. Somewhere in his mind, as he watched that movie, he could see himself preparing to get down on one knee, holding Claire’s hand and asking her to be his wife. He shook the thought away as quickly as it came. The fact that she mentioned him proposing to someone else confirmed their hand-holding incident was nothing more than a friendly gesture.

 

Stupid friendzone.

 

Jamie was always afraid of taking his friendship with Claire to the next level. Too scared to ruin their amazing and long-lasting friendship, he bit his tongue and kept his true feelings hidden. There was just too much at stake. What if she didn’t love him back? What if it hurt him too much to be around her after that truth was revealed? He just couldn’t risk it; it wasn't worth it. He would rather spend the rest of his life trapped in the friendzone than not have her around him at all.

 

Once two out of three movies were done, Jamie didn’t even have to look at Claire. He already knew she was quietly sobbing next to him. She always cried at romantic movies, especially Christmas themed ones. 

 

“Are ye alright, Sassenach?”

 

She had been laying on his chest throughout the movie. The pressure against him lessened as she got up. His heart broke at the sad expression on her face. His smile disappeared in an instant.

 

“What if I never find love?”

 

Jamie swallowed, heart pounding. She was ready to look for love. She was ready to find a man. Was this their last Christmas together? She will find love quickly. She has everything a man wants.

 

“What brought this on?”

 

“I don’t know... maybe it is because... I’m old and I haven’t found a good man yet.”

 

The thought of her feeling “old” made him smile. He couldn‘t help it.

 

“Sassenach, yer twenty-seven, not sixty.”

 

Her mouth curled up a tiny bit at that.

 

“I always thought I’d be settled at this age, Jamie. Married...maybe with a family of my own...”

 

“Claire, there is nothing wrong wi’ what ye have now. Life doesna always work out that way we wanted it to when we were bairns. I thought I’d be settled too, but here I am. Unwed, yet happy. ‘Tis alright.”

 

He couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face when he saw her own brighten.

 

“I know you’re right. I’m probably just…” she sighed,  “scared that I will end up alone, no matter what I do.”

 

“You will never be alone, Sassenach. I’ll always be here wi’ ye.”

 

Chapter Text

December 8 th

 

This stormy Tuesday saw Claire getting ready for hers and Jamie’s facetime call to his family in Scotland. Jenny, his older sister, and Claire were always close until her big move to Boston. Since then, they would occasionally text each other about their day or lives in general, but it never went any further than that.

 

The last time Claire had seen Jenny was on her wedding day with Ian a few years back. She missed talking with her. She missed the way Jenny would look at her while they spoke, knowing she was being heard and understood. Jamie and Jenny seem to be the only ones in the world who did that.

 

Jenny, Ian and their two kids, young Jamie and little Maggie, lived happily at the family estate called Lallybroch. It was a three-story building boasting white stone and lived in grounds. The Murrays took over caring for the estate after Jamie and Jenny’s parents’ passing. Jamie always said it was so big, there was enough space to comfortably house three families.

 

Hair done the way she wanted it, Claire left the room and ventured towards the living room. There, she saw Jamie on the couch, a cup of coffee framed by his hands. Her mind wandered back to the conversation they had last night after their movie marathon. While she felt secure in the knowledge that Jamie would never let her be alone, she wished more than ever she had a significant other. One that intended to build a family with her. A small part of her wanted that with Jamie, but she shook the thought from her head.

 

“Good morning.”

 

“And a verra good morning to you, Sassenach.”

 

His shiny blue gaze lingered on her a moment, and Claire had to appreciate the amount of love he held for his family. No matter what was going on, they always made time for one another. It always brought them all closer. Jamie was very protective of Jenny and her family, especially after the sudden death of their parents, Brian and Ellen.

 

Claire remembered those days like it was yesterday.

 

A bleary Sunday morning saw Claire waking up to a dozen missed phone calls from both Jamie and Jenny. A sharp wave of worry hit her as she pressed Jamie’s name to call him back.

 

His voice was raw from crying. Goosebumps erupted across the expanse of her skin in an instinctual response.

 

“Claire, they… they…”

 

She had never heard him so out of focus before. His voice was almost always steady, never rushed, never distressed. This was bad, and she knew it would change Jamie’s life forever.

 

“Jamie, what happened? Are you alright? Is Jenny alright?”

 

The sound of Jamie breaking down into sobs on the other made her wish nothing more than to be there with him. To hold him tight until he had no tears left to cry any longer. She cursed her Bostonian residency.

 

“They’re dead, Claire. My parents are dead. They were in a car accident. I dinna ken what’s happened. I’m wi’ Jenny at hospital.”

 

Claire heard the strength in his voice as he spoke; this was not easy for him. She stayed on the phone with him as he wept. The loss of his parents had felt in some way like her own loss, many years before.

 

Despite that fateful day being a decade ago, it still felt like yesterday. Jamie had just turned eighteen, and Jenny had been twenty. 

 

“Are they ready yet?”

 

They were five time zones behind Scotland, so Jamie and Claire’s breakfast was just before The Murray’s dinnertime.

 

“They’ll be ready in about ten minutes. So grab yer coffee, Sassenach.”

 

She did just that and returned to her spot next to him in less than a minute. He’s acting differently compared to last night.

 

Claire let it go for now; the main focus was Jamie and his family.

 

Just as Jamie predicted, the sounds of an incoming facetime call filled the air. Jamie answered it as quickly as he could. When Claire saw their faces, her mood immediately perked up.

 

“Jenny! Ian! Hello!”

 

Claire didn’t realize it, but Jamie smiled dreamily at the joy his family brought to her face. This was all he wanted today.

 

“Claire! Och, how I’ve missed ye, sister!”

 

“I’ve missed you too! How are things in Scotland?”

 

“Freezing my arse off, but I bet it’s none sae warm in America.”

 

Claire giggled at Jenny’s words. Oh, how she missed her.

 

“Jenny, the kids!” Ian cried from behind Jenny. This caused Jamie and Claire to laugh a bit. Ian never liked how Jenny had used foul language in front of their children.

 

The seconds seemed to turn into hours and before they knew it, Jamie and Claire were saying goodbye to Jenny, Ian and their kids. Silence filled the room once more. Jamie looked like he was trapped in his own thoughts, therefore he didn’t speak right away.

 

“Jamie, are you alright?”

 

He looked from his phone to her, nodding absentmindedly.

 

“Aye, Sassenach, dinna fash. I just miss them, ‘tis all.”

 

Claire smiled as she placed her hands over his.

 

“I know. You’ll see them again soon.”

 

“Aye, but seeing them means I’ll have left ye once more.”

 

She realized in that moment that they wanted the same thing; for all of them to be together, sitting in the same room, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

 

Claire and Jamie always missed his family during this time, but it was important for them to spend this month with each other alone, without anyone else. Jenny was terrified of flying anyway, so it was not an option for The Murrays to visit Claire.

 

“Jamie, a year goes by very quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be back here with me. Like we were only separated for a week instead of eleven months!”

 

She tried to mean it as a joke, but she knew her words had little meaning. She shared the same feelings as Jamie. Claire knew he could read her mind and decided to not say more, otherwise there would be more tears. Neither of them wanted to cry today.

 

And with that, Claire and Jamie decided to get lunch at Starbucks. The snowflakes were falling softly on the ground, so they chose a table by the window. Claire loved cozy afternoons like this, holding her Caramel Macchiato with both hands, the warm drink doing their best to thaw them.

 

They ate in silence; something was bothering Jamie, Claire knew that much. But what? She didn’t want to ask. He would eventually talk to her. Won’t he?

 

“Was your food good, Jamie?” Her voice stole him away from his thoughts. 

 

“Aye,” he replied, “and ye liked yours, Sassenach?”

 

His forced smile ripped her heart into pieces. She wanted so desperately to ask him so many questions, but the tormented ocean-blue gaze told her not to.

 

“Yes I did.”

 

Claire sipped her Caramel Macchiato silently while she watched the snowflakes fall onto an already white covered parking lot. She ended up getting lost in her own thoughts.

 

Did she do something wrong? Did she upset him? Is it her fault he feels this way?  

 

The only thing she knew was something was bothering Jamie. She hated seeing him like this. All she wanted was for him to be happy. Knowing she could not give it to him tore her insides apart.

Chapter Text

December 9 th

 

Jamie and Claire didn’t talk much for the rest of yesterday, Jamie opting to watch television. Claire felt like it had been a waste of the day but gave him the space he needed. In an attempt to not waste the beauty that would be today, Claire decided to take him ice skating.

 

When they were younger, ice skating was on their weekly agenda. It was a lot of fun and Claire believed it was the trick to snap Jamie out of his dour mood, even if it was just for a few hours.

 

Claire left her room in a thermo legging, covered by another pair of leggings, tight and black, a warm sweater and boots completing her look. She saw Jamie sitting on the couch, and wrapped her arms around his neck from behind.

 

“Good morning, James,” she said cheerfully in his ear. “We’re going ice skating today!”

 

He turned to face her. He was practically breathing her own breath, she was so close. Claire felt his own breath on her lips and pulled back. She can’t think that way.

 

“Och aye?” He mused, a tiny smile covering his face. It was a good idea.

 

“Remember when you would always make sure I didn’t fall? I bet if we had taken classes together, we would have made it far.”

 

He laughed aloud, just as she knew he would.

 

“Sassenach, yer one of the clumsiest people I know. Ye wouldna make it verra far with yer face as blue as the ice itself.”

 

“How dare you James Fraser!”

 

They laughed together before Claire insisted Jamie get ready to go. Her hair was in a bun so she wouldn’t have to deal with it getting in her face while attempting to skate.

 

Once Jamie was appropriately dressed, they drove off to the ice rink.

 

They rented skates and a locker to store their belongings. Because the school holidays hadn’t started yet, the rink was almost empty. So they took advantage of the wide open icy space before them, enjoying the freedom of movement without the crowds.

 

The moment Claire stepped onto the ice, she felt her balance start to fail her. The barricade suddenly became her new best friend.

 

Jamie, being as multifaceted in the talent department as he was, stood steadily next to her without hesitation. How does he do it?

 

She looked up at him, her cheeks and nose rosy for them cold.

 

“Is there anything you can’t do, James?”

 

“Aye, there’s a lot I canna do. Failing is one thing.”

 

Claire rolled her eyes so hard, she swore she could see her own brain. But she giggled in the end, the hilarity of his joke growing on her. She reached out in an attempt to balance herself before pushing gently away from the barricade, the momentum gliding her forward on the ice. Her body moved in a back and forth motion, her mind concentrating with all she possessed not to fall straight onto the ice. She half halted her breath every time she saw the ice beneath her.

 

Her efforts paid off. She moved a few meters forward, and the pride showed in her face. But she was overconfident, almost cocky, celebrating too early. She stumbled under her own skates and fell. She anticipated the hard impact of cold, hard ice...but it never came.

 

She instead had fallen into her best friend’s awaiting arms.

 

He’s always there when she needs him.

 

“I ken verra well when yer falling, Sassenach. I will always watch over ye, just like in the old days.”

 

She smiled, looking dreamingly into his eyes.

 

“Thank you, Jamie. Without you, my face would probably be bruised.”

 

“I couldna let that happen.”

 

She trusted Jamie with her life. Claire knew he would never let her get hurt, no matter the cost to himself. It was just like he said. He would always be there.

 

Claire gave up any more skating adventures after a few more attempts of moving forward. Her leggings were soaked and cold from all the falling she did. But thanks to Jamie, she didn’t hurt herself once. It tired her out too; they decided it would be time for a hot chocolate to warm themselves up.

 

Inside the pavilion attached to the rink was a tiny restaurant that served snacks and hot beverages to skating patrons. They chose a table to enjoy their snack.

 

“You saved me, just like the old days.”

 

Jamie was clearly feeling better today than yesterday. He didn’t spare her on his desire to conversate.

 

“Of course, Sassenach. Do ye think this will ever change?”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe? Maybe one day, you’ll grow tired of it.”

 

Claire’s gaze didn’t leave Jamie’s as she sipped on her mug.

 

“I wouldna get tired of saving ye, Sassenach.” Jamie returned the gesture, staring at her while enjoying his drink.

 

Claire noticed in that moment that two girls sat just a few tables further; they kept looking at Jamie while giggling. Before she could say anything to him about it, a blonde girl stood up to walk towards them. She didn’t stop until she was standing right in front of Jamie, which caused him to look at her.

 

“Apologies for the disturbance, but I noticed yer Scottish, like meself. My name is Laoghaire. Laoghaire MacKenzie.”

 

Claire could tell what her intentions were just by the look in her eyes. Jamie smiled politely at the girl and took her hand in his.

 

“Jamie Fraser. Always a pleasure tae meet a Scot while abroad.”

 

Claire looked at the giggling Laoghaire and suddenly felt completely out of place, being a “sassenach.” Jamie and Laoghaire started a conversation after their introductions. Claire listened to every detail Laoghaire spoke to Jamie about. She apparently lived just twenty minutes from Inverness.

 

They swapped their phone numbers, and Laoghaire bid him farewell before heading back to her table.

 

At that moment, something broke inside Claire. She wanted to scream, to cry, and most certainly, to leave. She wanted to be alone, to get away from this place as fast as possible. Claire looked towards the satisfied Laoghaire and turned away before she could do something she would later regret. Claire could see Laoghaire telling her friend all about Jamie and their conversation, judging by her body language.

 

“Kind lassie,” Jamie mused.

 

“Sure,” Claire replied tartly, but Jamie didn’t seem to notice.

 

Claire didn’t realize until then that she’d been sipping on an empty mug. She knew the day would come where she would have to face Jamie meeting a potential girlfriend, a woman that could someday become his wife, the future mother of his children. 

 

But not here. Anywhere but here! Not after that had had such a great day together.

 

She wasn’t prepared to witness this. How would this affect the rest of their time together? Would Jamie wake up one day and decide to spend it with Laoghaire instead of her?

 

“Can we go home, Jamie?”

 

“Are ye alright, Sassenach?”

 

Claire was about to reply, reaching for her jacket, when Laoghaire’s voice rang out once again, cutting her off.

 

“Call me, Jamie!”

 

“Aye, I will.”

 

He will. When?  

 

Claire needed air, so she walked outside, ahead of Jamie . 

 

He will. Bloody when?!

 

Claire walked as fast as her tired legs would carry her towards her car.  She didn’t dare look behind at Jamie. But she knew only a few fast steps of him and he would have caught up with her, and so it was.

 

“Why are ye in such a hurry, Sassenach?”

 

“It’s cold. I want to go home.”

 

Claire knew she needed to cry. The lump in her throat grew alongside her emotions. The moment they were in the car, she drove off. Once they arrived back at the apartment, Claire immediately jumped into the shower and cried until she couldn’t anymore. 

 

The thoughts from earlier came flooding back to Claire. This could very well be the girl that Jamie would spend the rest of his life with. She could one day be living at Lallybroch with him. She could marry him, and have his children. The dread that had been building in her stomach exploded in a fit of raging sobs when she realized that this could be the girl that would spend next Christmas with Jamie.

 

And she would be the one sitting in the tree.

 

Alone.

Chapter Text

December 10 th

 

Claire chose to stay in her room last night. She told Jamie she was tired; in a way that was true, but her fatigue was her mind racing with a thousand questions about Laoghaire. Did they call each other? Are they texting right now? Will he meet her for coffee? She decided she just had to find out for herself.

 

A few days ago Claire and Jamie decided today was the day for Christmas cookie baking, and the thought of that brightened Claire’s mood a bit. She was in desperate need of coffee once she was dressed for the day.

 

She entered the living room to see Jamie with a half empty coffee mug and his eyes glued to his phone screen.

 

“Good morning,” she said coldly, walking straight towards the coffee machine.

 

He didn’t answer her.

 

“Good morning,” she repeated herself, more loudly this time. Maybe Jamie simply just didn’t hear her. It caught his attention.

 

“Good morning, Sassenach,” Jamie replied, completely unaware she had greeted him twice. He didn’t even bother looking up though; just kept his eyes on whatever was on his phone.

  

“I’m excited to bake some cookies today,” Claire said softly, trying to keep her tone light and friendly. But when she sat down next to him and saw her name on his screen, she feared any chance of friendliness between them today was out the window.
 

“Aye, me too, Sassenach. We can bake yer favorites.”

 

Claire ignored the fire building in her belly as she smiled. While she was relieved he didn’t call it off in favor of hanging out with Laoghaire, her heart ached to know what he was texting her about. Her morbid curiosity was starting to get the better of her.

 

“How is it going with the kind lassie?”

 

Claire copied his words from yesterday, hoping she concealed any ill-mannered feelings. He looked up and stared at her, analyzing her gaze.

 

“She’s alright. She was just as kind as I thought yesterday. She wants to meet tomorrow. But I dinna ken if I should go. This is supposed tae be our month. I want to spend as much time with ye as I can. I can always meet up wi’ her in Scotland any other time.”

 

Claire felt her heart crack wide open. 

 

In Scotland.

 

She knew Jamie would give this a chance; he’s wanted to settle down for a while now. And, if Claire was being honest with herself, Laoghaire wasn’t at all ugly. Claire nodded, resigned.

 

“If you want to go, you should. We could bake some extra cookies so you could bring her some?”

 

Claire didn’t know why she was encouraging this, but she figured if she didn’t start now, she never would. She was really struggling with the idea of her best friend meeting someone else. But she shouldn’t, should she? She had no right to be upset, or jealous. It was Jamie’s right to go and to do as he wished. She would never have a say in it.

 

-

 

Jamie looked at Claire, processing her reaction. After she stormed out of the rink yesterday, he knew something was up. She wasn’t acting like herself. Was she jealous of Laoghaire? Was she hurt by the exchange of their mobile numbers? Did something else happen that he wasn’t aware of? A lot of questions zoomed through his mind, but asking her seemed off limits.

 

“I will see her in Scotland, Sassenach. In three weeks’ time, I will be home. She can wait three weeks. This is the only time of the year I get with you.”

 

Three weeks left. Time was running out.

 

Jamie put his phone away to sip at his coffee, but had since gone cold. Maybe Laoghaire was put in his path for a reason; making the mistake of taking things further with Claire could ruin so much. Maybe they had to stay best friends in order to be into each other’s lives forever.

 

“Alright. But I will support you, Jamie.”

 

“I ken ye will, Sassenach. Thank ye, truly. Now let’s bake cookies, aye?”

 

-

 

She felt that somewhere, somehow, she had to count the days until Jamie told her he was going out with Laoghaire. While baking, Claire spent more time lost in her thoughts than talking to Jamie, and he let her; she clearly needed it without being disturbed by him.

 

Claire put the first tray of cookies into the oven and continued working on the second tray.

 

“They look delicious,” Claire said

 

“Aye,” Jamie replied. Neither of their tones were conversationally friendly.

 

“I’m excited to try them, with a nice cup of coffee! Maybe later watch another movie?”

 

She decided it was best to take the situation as it was; no point in making both of them miserable when they didn’t need to be. He nodded at her with a smile.

 

“I would like that, Sassenach.”

 

For the next several hours, they busied themselves with baking. Once the cookies were completely cooled off on the cooling racks, Claire put them in a nice box. She showcased them to Jamie on the coffee table. She made two cups of coffee and joined him on the couch. She started to watch the movie she had put in but a little ways into it, she noticed Jamie was more focused on his text messages.

 

“Jamie, if you don’t want to watch, then we can stop. It’s alright.” Claire’s voice was as polite as she could make it, and she tried to remain as calm, but she was very annoyed by his actions.

 

“I am watching, Sassenach. I just reply shortly, ye can keep the movie rollin’ I willna miss anything.”

 

She nodded and kept watching, nibbling on cookies. They really were delicious, but her appetite evaporated once she realized Jamie had not been following the movie for fifteen minutes straight. Angered, she stopped the film and took the two mugs – his still half full – into the kitchen. 

 

He didn’t even notice.

 

She went to her room and slammed the door behind her. Loudly. 

 

It was her home. Who was she to care?

 

-

 

Jamie looked up when he heard the door slamming, then looked around him. He didn’t realize what had been going on and decided to knock on Claire’s door as she didn’t come back anymore in the next five minutes.

 

“Sassenach?”

 

He entered only to find her laying in her bed, scrolling through her phone.

 

“Are ye alright?”

 

Jamie looked at her only to be bombarded with a pair of icy whisky eyes.

 

“Can I be alone? Please.”

 

He heard how mad she was. Why was she mad?

 

“Claire, what is it?”

 

The next thing he saw was Claire standing up and she started to talk, louder than before.

“I have no intentions on watching that bloody movie alone. If you don’t want to spend time with me, Jamie, tell me! Just fucking tell me! You can go to Laoghaire and spend your precious time here with her if you just stare into that bloody phone screen. Don’t wait three weeks, go now, as you already spend all your time with her. No need to have another person that bothers you with text messages like I bother you for eleven months a year. I told you I want to be left fucking alone so just go. Take your phone with you and just leave my bloody sight.”

 

He couldn’t comprehend what this was about and Jamie just stared at her, making him choose the wrong words.

 

“Are ye jealous, Sassenach?”

 

It was now she started screaming.

 

“Jealous?! I’m not fucking jealous, Jamie! I was excited spending those days with you but with you hanging on your phone the whole fucking day after meeting her makes me just want to be alone. So as I said leave my room! Go to her! Stay there if you like! Just bloody go!”

 

Her scream left Jamie speechless and he decided to give her some time. As he left her room, getting his shoes and jacket on he swore to have heard you breaking out in tears while his heart had shattered into a million pieces. And this time, it was his fault.

Chapter Text

December 11 th

 

Claire didn’t sleep. She waited all night for Jamie to come back to the apartment. He had left a few hours after she had lashed out at him. Had he been with her? It was probably best that she didn’t know at all. 

 

She looked outside the window to see heavy snowflakes falling to the ground. There was no sign of the streets anymore; her body filled with a tiny piece of joy, a welcomed feeling after yesterday’s events.

 

Claire quietly left her room. Jamie wasn’t up yet as the living room was empty. She knew she would have to apologize for her behaviour last night; it wasn't like he did anything wrong. She sighed, and proceeded to make a pot of coffee.

 

A few minutes later, Jamie’s door opened. Claire took out a second mug for him. He mumbled a low “good morning” to her and she set the table for them to have breakfast together. They needed to talk about what happened between them.

 

Claire looked at Jamie as he seated himself in front of the place she had just made for him, mug and plate in place, and sat herself opposite him.

 

“I’m sorry Jamie, I-” Claire choked a bit, getting emotional. “I didn’t mean to lash out the way I did. I don’t know what came over me. Forgive me, please.”

 

“Sassenach,” Jamie began, calmly, “‘tis alright. It is me who should be apologizin’.”

 

She looked at him. Why should he be sorry?

 

“Jamie, you don’t have to apologize,” Claire reasoned. “I mean, it is always exciting to meet someone new and I wasn’t lying. I will be happy for you if it all works out.”

 

She sipped her mug without taking her eyes off of him.

 

“Thank ye, Sassenach. All is forgiven. And no, I wasna wi’ her yesterday.”

 

Claire hid her smile behind another sip, satisfied with this answer.

 

After breakfast, Claire decided that instead of worrying about Laoghaire, she should think about how they could spend the rest of their days together. Given all the show covering the grounds, what was to stop them from having a little snowball fight?

 

“I challenge you, James Fraser,” Claire declared, pushing the tip of her index finger into the center of  Jamie’s chest, “to a snowball fight!”

 

“A snowball fight? Ye want to lose, Sassenach?”

 

She giggled as he grinned down at her.

 

“It will be you that loses, James!” She exclaimed, making a mad dash to her room to get ready. She felt more relaxed now that she knew he wasn’t with Laoghaire last night.

 

There was still some hope left. But, hope for what?

 

Both ready, they headed out of the apartment and out into the white expanse of the parking lot. Claire ran ahead of Jamie, bowing down to pick up some snow. She pressed the loose wintery clumps into her hands to form a tight ball. Jamie was bending over to make his own snowball when he was hit from behind the head by the one Claire made. Her cheeky grin caused him to laugh.

 

“Got you, Fraser!”

 

She ran away, her laughter carrying along the cold air as she tried to make her next round of snowballs. But before she could even begin, an ice cold layer of fluffy snow hit her from behind, the contents sliding down the inside of her jacket. She shivered against the cold.

 

“You get that back!”

 

She took a few of the balls she made into her hands, made one big one out of them, and hurled it into his face, making the both of them fall into the wet, fluffy snow. Claire couldn’t stop laughing as Jamie’s face had been covered in the white, crumbly substance. She continued laughing as she attempted to wipe it all away, her hand making soft, swishing movements at the wrist. 

 

“I told you, you get that back.”

 

He looked up at her and smiled, his face growing pink from the cold snow. She stilled atop him, her laughter growing softer into an non-existent whisper, and gazed into the ocean blue of his gaze.

 

“Aye, ye got me there.”

 

Claire removed her glove to wipe more snow away from his face. Her hand graced the skin of his cheek, the warmth of her body doing his reddening face no favors at all. But in the next moment, she was on her back being shoved into the snow by her best friend. She squeaked, looking up at him with wide eyes.

 

“Jamie!” She protested.

 

He laughed as she wiped away the snow over her eyes. When her vision cleared, she was surprised to see Jamie on top of her. His laugh evened out and faded to a small grin.

 

“And I got ye back, Sassenach.”

 

She laughed and attempted to sit up, causing Jamie to slide back a bit. Without realizing it, her body started shaking as the cold took over.

 

“Are ye cold, Sassenach?” The worry in Jamie’s voice was evident.

 

Claire nodded and before she could protest, Jamie had scooped her up into his arms. He had opened his jacket and pressed her into his chest in an attempt to share body heat. Not that it was really needed; the man was a walking, talking, breathing furnace. He was always warm.

 

They decided to head upstairs so Claire could change her clothes. She already felt warmer as she stepped inside the apartment; the snow in her hair had completely melted by the time she made it into her room. Soaked though it was, she rang it out in the sink and fashioned it into a bun. A hot cup of hot chocolate was waiting for her when she entered the living room, held out to her by her best friend.

 

“Thank you, Jamie,” she said.

 

She sipped, the warmth of its rich, lingering taste filling her senses. She closed her eyes, savoring the moment. Satisfied, Jamie sipped at his own mug, and they enjoyed their beverages in relative silence.

 

Finishing first, Claire set her mug down on the coffee table and leaned into Jamie’s chest. Despite being with her since the 1st, she felt she hadn’t truly felt his presence. She felt his arms wrapping around her, pulling her close. He had apparently felt the same way.

 

She looked up at him, still feeling sorry for yelling at him the way she did yesterday.

 

“Jamie, I’m so sorry,” she whispered,  “I don’t like yelling at you.”

 

“Sassenach, I already told ye,” Jamie replied, slipping one of her loose curls back behind her ear, “there’s nothing to forgive. Let it be.”

 

She smiled. “You are way too kind, Jamie.”

 

She was glad he forgave her that quickly. She didn’t want to fight with him anymore. They only had a short amount of time together. Usually they had small discussions, maybe a disagreement or two, but she had never lashed out at him like that. And the guilt ate at her up from the inside.

 

Lost in her thoughts, she was startled when a loud thud filled the room. She yelped as she jumped out of Jamie’s arms. The room lost all of its lights in an instant. The power went out.

 

They heard a wild storm howling outside, the snowflakes dancing fanatically in the wind. Claire didn’t realize that she had grabbed hold of Jamie and was clinging to him for dear life. She hated storms. Her eyes were acclimating to the darkness, but she was shaking. Even the streetlights were out, so the whole city must be without power too.

 

“Sassenach,” she heard his voice from behind, “‘tis alright. I’m here wi’ ye. The storm willna hurt ye.”

 

“I’m glad you are. Don’t leave me.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

Claire closed her eyes, leaning her face further into his shirt. 

 

At least in this moment, she could pretend she was trying to sleep, cuddled up with Jamie. In her mind, everything was alright. There was no storm, and when she woke up, she would be covered by blankets, her face still buried in his chest. But the howling wind outside reminded her of the difference between fantasy and reality. And reality was just a bit more complicated.

Chapter Text

December 12 th

 

The last thing Claire could think about was sleep when midnight rolled around. There was still no power, therefore the lamp on her nightstand was just as dead as the rest of the city. She would rather not have to deal with the panic attacks that would manifest.

Jamie came up with the idea of building a cozy fort in the living room. Claire loved this idea and helped him build it. They were now laying in each other’s arms under the makeshift refuge of blankets and pillows, talking about this or that. Before their phones died from lack of a means to charge them, Jamie sent Laoghaire a text explaining the situation. Claire could have sworn she saw Laoghaire text back with a kiss emoji. Jamie kept his expression neutral, so far as Claire could see.

Claire didn’t like the idea of him thinking about Laoghaire whilst lying there, waiting for electricity to return. But that was how it was, and how it would be if Jamie decided that Laoghaire was “the one.” She had no right to speak her opinion on this matter.

Hours later, Claire read that it was two-thirty in the morning on the battery-powered clock on the wall, but the storm clearly had no intention of stopping anytime soon. The streetlights were still out, and the streets themselves were void of life.

Claire went to the sideboard to take out a few candles. She placed them around the fort, lighting them as she went. Jamie watched her carefully until she returned. Claire always felt Jamie’s eyes on her. 

She looked up at him once reseated. “In a few days, we should visit the elderly home around the corner. I’ve heard people can volunteer and I’ve always wanted to go there with you.” She didn’t know how she thought of it, but it didn’t matter as Jamie’s face lit up.

“Aye, Sassenach,” Jamie said, smiling. “‘Tis a wonderful idea.”

 She smiled and nodded. Her mind flitted back to the moment where Laoghaire walked towards their table, with the intention of serenading Jamie. She knew after that encounter, the atmosphere between them had changed. Claire wanted the old Jamie back, the one that was with her before, at the ice skating rink. Claire feared Laoghaire had ruined that.

“What are ye thinking about, Sassenach?” Jamie always knew when Claire was deep within her own thoughts. 

 “I don’t know Jamie," Claire began, suddenly distraught. "Ever since Laoghaire came up to you that day, something's changed between us." She took a moment to collect herself, and her facial expression. No doubt her glass-face making something out of nothing. 

"I’m not jealous," she went on. "If she’s the right one for you, then so be it. But I don’t want any future relationships we might have affecting our friendship. You are way too important to me, Jamie. I can’t risk that. Ever.”

“Sassenach, I ken.” Jamie replied, “but while yer screaming at me all of the sudden probably wasna right, I kent I shouldna been on my phone while we were watching that movie. But still… I dinna ken what came over ye in that moment. Ye have to believe me, I’m not someone who judges easily.”

Jamie was obviously still bothered by her shouts of blatant disapproval, despite accepting her apology. The fact that she hurt him like that...it broke her heart into pieces.

“I know. I shouldn’t have reacted that way, shouldn't have lashed out. I was jealous that she is going to be able to spend time with you in Scotland, while I am sitting here waiting for another year to hold you again and to laugh with you and do all the nice things we do, while she can take a simple ten minute drive. It’s unfair.”

The tears burned at her eyes once again. She could not, no. She would not hold them back. It was becoming so much harder to be with him and not tell him how she feels.

-

Jamie looked down at Claire as tears streamed down her face once again. He knew the feeling because he felt the same. His only motive with texting Laoghaire so much was to get his best friend out of his head. But every time he hit that send button, the guilt crept up on him and he couldn't tell why.

Since he built that fort with her, his mind played tricks on him. What if they did this as a couple? They could build forts in Lallybroch. What if they kissed? Could he risk it? Risk her heart like that?

 

Jamie wrapped his arms around Claire, pulling her close to himself. No, he can’t and won’t risk it. Laoghaire would have to do. There’s nothing wrong with her, other than being clingy, annoying, and sometimes over-reactive, and she wasn’t. 

Claire.

He shook that thought out of his mind. He'd been doing that so much lately, it was a wonder he wasn't having neck problems and headaches. Once he felt Claire was calm enough, he wiped away the tears still on her face.

“Are ye alright, mo ghraidh?” Jamie asked, concerned. She nodded as she sat up.

 “Are ye sure?” He didn't take his eyes off of her. 

“I-I don’t know what to say, Jamie." She finally replied. Her breathing evened out a bit. "I have this hole in my heart and I don’t know how it could be filled. It sounds so stupid. Your presence fills it full when you're here, but it empties quickly as the days pass. I know, it doesn’t really make sense.”

“Aye it does, Sassenach. It really does. But let’s fill it with joy while we can, and worry about the emptiness another time. I willna meet Laoghaire till I am back in Scotland. I want to spend my time with ye.”

Jamie saw her sad face turn into a happy one, and knew exactly what their next Christmas activity could be.

“Sassenach, I saw a flyer outside of a Christmas Party taking place tomorrow, on the 13th. Looked verra nice. I’d be honored if ye went wi’ me.”

“Yes!” Claire exclaimed, “I’d love to go with you, Jamie.”

The smile on his best friend’s face told him all he needed to know. Sometimes, Claire just needed a push in the right direction. A gentle reminder to actually enjoy their time together rather than crying about him leaving. He’s never once blamed her for it as he always feels the same. Soon enough, these growing feelings he had inside for her would eat him alive. He needed to future out how to act on them before it was too late. 

Jamie decided to take his own advice and worry about the present; just enjoy Claire’s company in the moment rather than dwell on the future. A lot can happen in a few weeks anyway. He had time to worry about that before leaving for Scotland again. But he needed to think and choose his actions carefully; whatever he did could make or break their relationship. What would he decide? Would he choose risk or will he choose to hide?

Jamie felt Claire’s weight against his chest once more. The clock struck five in the morning. Happiness filled him at the thought of not having any plans for tomorrow. He was looking forward to sleeping the whole day.

Chapter Text

December 13 th

After their lazy day yesterday, Claire couldn’t wait to get ready for the party Jamie had mentioned during the storm. Electricity found its way back to her building around seven in the morning. That meant they could go to their actual beds and sleep; Claire’s living room was nice to look at but not all that comfortable, fleece blankets notwithstanding. 

Claire laid out the clothes she would wear that evening. A short, white dress with gold heels would look great with her hair pinned up neatly. No messy bun for her tonight. 

But until the time came to get showered and dressed up, comfortable clothes were in the cards for the first part of the day. Jamie was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, sipping it leisurely and staring at his phone, waiting for her. Laoghaire.

“Good morning, Jamie,” Claire announced as she walked towards him. “How did you sleep?”

To her surprise he immediately looked up to her with a sleepy smile.

“Good morning, Sassenach,” Jamie replied with a smile. “I slept verra well, and yerself?”

“Me too.” She made her way towards the coffee pot to pour herself a cup. “I’m excited for the party tonight.” 

“Aye, me too.” Jamie looked towards her and something in his expression changed. “There is something I need to tell ye, but please dinna get mad and yell at me.”

Claire was already expecting this, and schooled the emotions on her face to remain neutral. She didn’t say anything as she looked up at Jamie, awaiting his response.

“Laoghaire, well, she’s coming to the party tonight too. I tried to tell her I was going with ye, but, there wasna any chance.”

Claire swallowed the sip of coffee she had just taken hard.

“That’s alright.” Claire said in as convincing a tone as she could muster. “I mean, we’re all adults. It’s an open party as well, so she has every right to come and spend time with you.” 

She was surprised at how well she was handling this. Her pride swelled a bit at the sight of Jamie’s own surprised expression.  

“Thank ye, Sassenach.” Jamie sighed with obvious relief. “Truly.”

She nodded her acknowledgement. and grabbed a book off her shelf to read. This would certainly pass the time until it was time to get ready. It was going to be a long night for them. 

Showered and dressed, Claire admired herself in the mirror for a bit. She rarely wore dresses and she loved this one the most, given it was only for special occasions. 

She went to greet Jamie, who was waiting for her near the front door, and her jaw nearly dropped from her face. Casually dressed, he still looked every inch of amazement. Somehow, without ever discussing their outfit plans, they still matched perfectly. 

“Ye look beautiful, Sassenach,” Jamie said.

“Thank you, Jamie,” Claire replied, a slight blush creeping up her neck. “So do you.”

Silence hung in the air between them for a few moments before they made their way towards the car. Claire was still smaller than Jamie, despite wearing the tallest high heels she owned. He’s a beautiful giant.  

The party was a twenty minute drive from Claire’s home. The building they entered resembled a renovated ballroom, complete with Christmas decorations, tables laden with drinks and food, a dance floor, and Christmas trees that stretched from floor to ceiling. Claire couldn’t help but fall in love the moment they entered.

Famous Christmas songs filled the air space from large speakers placed around the room, and she smiled at Jamie, as if to tell him without words that she was grateful for him bringing her there.

“Jamie!”

Claire turned around to see Laoghaire lightly jogging towards them. She looked beautiful.  

 

“Laoghaire,” Jamie replied, cheerful enough. “How are ye lass?”

Claire made her way towards the drinks table once Jamie and Laoghaire were engrossed into a conversation. Whisky was on the agenda to start off the night. She smiled at the bartender as he handed her a glass tumblr filled a third of the way with what smelled like top-shelf whisky.

Claire enjoyed the drink as its fiery taste glided down the back of her throat. She walked around the room, taking in the historical paintings hanging on the walls. Wow.

Before she could go any further though, a stranger’s voice called out to Claire from behind. 

“Is the lady all alone this evening?”

Claire turned around to find a man she’d never seen before approaching her. He seemed friendly enough, rather attractive, and, like her, appeared to be English.

 

“No,” she smiled, “I came with my best friend.” 

The man’s eyes brightened at the sound of her voice. “Oh, an English lady. Where are my manners?” He extended his hand in a formal bow. “My name is Frank Randall.”

What a gentleman.

She took his hand as he straightened back up and shook it slightly. “I’m Claire. Claire Beauchamp.”

Frank kissed the back of her hand, his lips ever so gentle against her skin. She swore the men she had come to know all came from a different century. One where honor and chivalry were very much alive. Not that she minded.

“It is very nice to meet you, Claire.”

-

Jamie discovered that Laoghaire was very easily to get bored of, but did his best to listen to whatever story she was telling. She was too clingy for his liking, and hung on his arm like a bad habit when he got too close to her. But ten minutes into Laoghaire’s yammering, he noticed Claire was gone. Probably her trying to be polite and give them some space, but he assumed she would have been back by now.But thirty minutes had passed by now.

He looked around to find her and when he did, he saw she wasn’t alone. In fact, she was with another man. And not at all bored like he was, if looks were any indication.

Anger and sadness swam through Jamie like he was about to explode. Just the idea of another man giving his best friend all the attention made him want to do unspeakable things to the fellow. The man touched Claire’s arm, and all he could think of doing was punching him in the face. But he knew this wasn’t his right to do.

He tried his best to focus on Laoghaire’s story instead, nodding here and there as she droned on. Laoghiare, for her part, didn’t seem to notice that Jamie wasn’t paying any attention to her. 

Another half an hour passed and Jamie noticed the man had given Claire her third drink of the night. It wasn’t until the man moved closer to Claire that Jamie decided he had seen enough. He tried to tear his eyes from the scene before him, but all that changed when the man went in to kiss Claire. The Scottish noise of anger that ripped from his throat and his loud footsteps coming towards them caused them to stop in their tracks. 

“Jamie, is everything alright?” Claire asked nonchalantly.

Jamie saw the man staring at him and he could swear there was anger in that man’s eyes. He didn’t know if it was towards him or the world, but that guy gave him a horrible feeling.

“Aye,” Jamie tried to keep his temper in check. “I’m tired and would like tae leave now. If ye dinna mind.”

Claire’s expression turned from one of curiosity to outright worry. She didn’t have to worry. For a moment he felt bad for taking such a lovely evening away from her, one she was clearly enjoying, but watching another man make a play for her was more than he could bear.

“No, I don’t mind at all,” she finally said. She finished her drink, bade her companion goodnight, and they went home.

-

Claire looked up at Frank and was thankful Jamie came along to interrupt them before things went too far; she was starting to get rather bored of Frank’s impromptu history lesson. 

“Sorry Frank,” she told him, “I have to go.”

A slight pressure of paper filled her hand. When Claire looked down, a contact card with Frank’s details on it was left behind as he pulled his hand away.

“Call me sometime, Claire,” Frank said, not impolite at all. “I’d love to continue this conversation.”

She nodded shortly, gave a curt smile, and went with Jamie back to the car. It wasn’t until they were walking through the parking lot that she felt how tense Jamie was.

Claire looked up to Jamie, but he refused to make eye contact with her. She tried to touch his arm to check up on him, but he jerked away, startling her.

“Dinna touch me, Claire.” Jamie hissed, seething. “I want tae go home.” 

Claire was confused by her best friend’s reaction, and a little hurt. Did something happen with Laoghaire?  

“Alright then,” she breathed, “let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

December 14 th

 

Jamie and Claire didn’t talk to one another once they got home. They immediately just went to their rooms and slept. Claire hoped Jamie was in a better mood today; her curiosity was getting the better of her. They were only at the party for an hour before Jamie suddenly wanted to leave; Claire didn’t think to ask further questions. 

But now...

If Laoghaire hurt him, she would lose her mind.  

Claire didn’t know what the plan was today, so she stayed in comfortable clothes and went out to the living room. The snow was still falling outside, keeping the Christmas spirit alive within her. Eleven more days until Christmas.  Her smile was unstoppable with the thought of spending it with Jamie.

“Good morning, Sassenach.”

She jumped at the sound of his voice. She almost didn’t recognize his voice. Was he drunk? She couldn’t else but stare. She stepped closer and could only see now the half empty bottle of whisky in front of him.

“Jamie, are you alright? What happened?” She eyed the half empty bottle of whisky at his feet, the blankets at the foot of the couch, and his disheveled appearance. Did he sleep here? She had so many questions.

“Just a wee bit hungover, Sassenach,” he slurred slightly, “nothin’ a pureblooded Scot canna handle.”

Claire sat next to him, realizing now that after she went to bed, he stayed up to drink alone. Too drunk to even stand, he made a place to sleep for himself on her couch. 

“What’s wrong?” She asked, worried for the answer. 

Claire knew she would never forget the way Jamie looked at her in that moment. His glazed-over expression lacked their usual warmth, replaced instead with a cold stare that sent a shiver down her spine. Her skin erupted in goosebumps and her heart suddenly ached. He had never looked upon her with such emptiness. She needed to know why.

“Jamie,” she pried, anxiety gnawing at her gut, “talk to me.”

He stood and started to leave the room, avoiding her gaze this time. 

“I need tae shower and sleep, Claire. After that, we’ll speak.”

His voice was just as void of emotion as his eyes. So, without saying anything more, he left her there. The thousands of questions buzzing around her mind would have to wait to be answered.  

-

Jamie closed his bedroom door behind him, and exhaled slowly. He just couldn’t face her right now. When she went to bed last night, his thoughts were consumed by that man, and his hands practically all over her. He was about to kiss Claire when Jamie had showed up. Would she have kissed him back, if Jamie had never intervened? 

All Jamie wanted to do was punch something. Or someone.  

His sadness had not dissipated with the reality of their time together getting shorter and shorter with each passing day.  He was greatly upset at not being able to touch her the way he wanted to; the way her male companion at the party had. He was driving himself crazy; they couldn’t keep up this game for much longer before breaking down completely and Jamie was worried for their future over it. So he took a shower and went to bed, drifting off into a deep sleep.

Claire stared at the card Frank had given her while Jamie slept. Should she text him? Well, it’s not like she had anything to lose.

She really needed someone to help get her mind off of Jamie. It wasn’t like he could be mad at her, with him meeting up with Laoghaire. The last thing she wanted was to be alone. Maybe Frank could be the answer to her apparent Laoghaire problem. Maybe he was the sign she needed, telling her she shouldn’t risk taking things to the next level with Jamie. 

She sent Frank a text.

 

10:22 AM: Good morning Frank. It's Claire from the party last night. I’m sorry for leaving so abruptly. My best friend wasn’t feeling well.

She figured it would take Frank some time to respond, so she put her phone away. But his reply came in only a few short minutes.

10:25AM: Good morning Claire, I’m so happy to hear from you. It’s alright, no worries. I hope to see you soon again, it was after all too short yesterday night.

 

Claire was elated at Frank’s prompt reply. Though she had been bored by Frank’s rambling last night, he was a good distraction from Jamie. However, if she was being honest with herself, Jamie never left her mind the entire evening. 

The day wore on with Claire texting Frank back and forth a few times; she didn’t really have the energy to keep his attention much longer. Her worry for Jamie was starting to eat her insides away. 

By dinnertime, Jamie finally emerged from his room. Finally. Claire could see how sleepy Jamie still looked, as if he wasn’t ready to wake up fully.

“I’m only getting food, Sassenach,” he said tersely, the sleep still evident in his voice. “I’m no’ ready to give up on sleep yet, if ye dinna mind.”

Claire very much did mind, and she wasn’t going to let him go until she got some answers.

“No Jamie, please talk to me!” She stepped in front of him, preventing his escape. “I’ve been worrying about you all day. We used to tell each other everything, and now you’re hiding from me in your bedroom. I just want to know what’s bothering you. You can tell me.”

She knew her words would only agitate him more, but she needed him to hear her. 

Jamie made a dismissive Scottish noise and attempted to go around her. “Claire, I canna talk to ye about it. I want tae be by myself. Is that so hard fer ye tae understand?”

Claire’s own annoyance rose up in defiance. She no longer recognized the man before her. The Jamie she knew would not run from her. The Jamie she knew would have shared his heart’s burden with her, without her asking of it. Where was the Jamie she could laugh with every day? No matter what, she needed that Jamie back with her. Otherwise she would have her own breakdown.  

Claire decided she had had enough skirting around the issue and came right out with it. “What happened with Laoghaire yesterday? I left you two to talk, and met a man named Frank, and before I knew it you were there, clearly upset.” She saw him flinch at the mention of Frank’s name. She took a breath, trying to calm herself. “Please, Jamie, help me to understand what’s going on with you. I’m supposed to be your best friend. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”

A heartbeat or two passed before Jamie finally spoke.

“Laoghaire did nothing, Claire.”

Jamie finally looked up at Claire, his hands clenched into tight fists when she spoke the man’s name aloud. That simmering rage only grew when he saw her phone light up with a text notification. That name appeared below the number.

“Is this him?” He stared down at her, as if daring her to lie. His voice sounded calm, but anything but raged on the inside.

She texted him. She liked him.

It was then that he lost control over his emotions. He lashed out, and for the first time in his life, he lied to Claire. 

“Ye looked so happy, that I didna want tae ruin that. Laoghaire and I talked about it. It’s alright, Sassenach. I think ye should be happy. I dinna want tae destroy that.”

His body was aching as he stood there and lied to her face. He regretted it the instant the words left his mouth. But before she could say anything in response, he held up his hand, silencing her.

“I- I’m sorry, Claire, please dinna say anything. I-I canna talk tae ye, and I canna keep deceiving ye either. I...I think it’s best I go back home to Scotland. Ye can spend the rest of this time getting to know Frank. I’ll stay wi’ Jenny, Ian and the bairns during the festivities. I know this is our month, but we’re clearly no’ havin’ fun anymore. I think this is the best way for us going forward.”

The burning sensation of tears in the back of his eyes crept up as he spoke, and he saw Claire was failing to keep her own at bay. Her tears were flowing like rivers from her eyes, and it broke his heart. It broke him. He had broken her heart, and he didn’t think he could ever mend it.

“Jamie…” Claire’s voice broke as she spoke his name, a sob escaping her chest.

Jamie knew now that he had to leave. He couldn’t bear the sight of her being hurt because of him. Jamie went to his room, this time without Claire stopping him, slammed the door behind him, and cried over the mess he made.

Chapter Text

December 15 th

 

Claire got no sleep that night. She was too afraid of waking up and finding Jamie gone. When morning arrived, she was very much sleep deprived and her eyes were puffy from crying so much. Jamie was not in the living room. She peered into his room and found his suitcase open, his back turned to her as he emptied the dresser drawers. 

 

Panic-stricken, she burst into his room, not bothering to knock.

 

“No!” She cried out, this time literally. As here she thought she couldn’t cry anymore, the salty wetness sliding down her face.

 

“Jamie, please don’t leave,” she begged pathetically.

 

He couldn’t look her into the eyes, which were just as puffy as hers. Evidently, he had been crying too. She approached him tentatively, placing a hand on his arm. He finally looked down at her, and the sight of his own tears rolling down his cheeks broke her heart. She let out a small sob , unable to hold back any longer. One sob turned into two, two became three, and then they came in waves, one after another. She allowed herself to collapse into his arms, feeling his own sobs through the wall of his chest.

 

They sat there holding each other for an unknown amount of time, crying in each other’s embrace. They slowly calmed down around the same time, the room silent once more. Neither one let go of the other. Claire’s hands were still grasping his arm, and she let her thumb gently caress the the feather-like hairs. Her body shook slightly in the aftermath and she brought herself up from his embrace to look at him.


“You can’t leave.”

 

She could barely speak; her sobbing had made her voice nothing more than a raspy whisper. She was surprised she had the strength to speak at all.

 

“I have tae, Sassenach.” His voice was just as hoarse as her own.

 

“But why?” She begged. “Why now? You know you can always talk to me, and I’ll never judge you!”

 

She reached up to wipe away his tears. Jamie closed his eyes to her touch. Their eyes met once more, whisky amber washing up against ocean blue.

 

“Claire, I want nothing more than yer happiness. Laoghaire and I havena spoken since the party. She isna the woman I want tae have. I want someone like...weel, I don’t want her. I’m sorry I lied. I ken it was wrong, I wasna myself. I’ll stay if ye’ll still have me, but let’s enjoy the time we have left together. Let’s just be us, the two of us. I’ll put my phone away if ye want. Just you and me. Aye?”

 

 

Out of everything he had just said, only one part stuck out in her mind. She had spent the whole night thinking she did something wrong. And it turned out, he hadn’t been truthful with her.

 

Was this true? Did he really do that?

 

“You lied?”

 

They had made a promise, and Jamie had broken it. But hadn’t she been doing the same thing? Not being truthful about her own feelings for him, day in and day out? The look on Jamie’s face told her he regretted it more than anything else in his life.

 

“I’m sorry Sassenach,” Jamie said softly.

 

“Forgiven,” she said without giving it another thought. “You’re right though. No more phones. It’s the two of us now until you leave again.”

 

Claire saw Jamie’s look of surprise. But it evaporated into a broad grin.

 

“Thank ye, Claire. Truly.”

 

Claire gave him her best smile curled herself back into his arms. She was so full of love for her best friend, she didn’t know how much longer she was going to be able to hide it. She wanted nothing more than to touch him, kiss him, hold him closer than she was now. The price of being his, and only his, was just too high for her though.

 

Claire made an effort to push his suitcase back under his bed. 

 

“I don’t want to see this until it’s time for you to go back to Scotland.”

 

Claire could tell that Jamie agreed with her, the smile widening on his face.

 

“Aye Sassenach, it isna time yet. So, what do ye want to do today?”

 

She took his hand, pulled him up from the bed, and led him towards the living room couch, where she promptly pushed into the seat. She sat down next to him and hugged his side.

 

“I just want to be with you, Jamie.”

 

-

 

Jamie processed Claire’s words as he continued to look at her in amazement. She wanted to “ be with him.” Jamie knew he would have interpreted something different, so he just kept her in his arms.

 

“Ye stay here, Sassenach,” he said a few minutes later, standing up, “I’ll go make us some coffee.”

 

Jamie didn’t take his eyes off her as the coffee machine made its brew. He brought back two steaming cups, already taking a sip of his own.

 

“I’m sorry Sassenach,” he said, “I didna want tae upset ye, saying’ things I didna meant.”

 

“Jamie, I already said it’s alright,” Claire reminded him, sipping her own coffee. “let’s just enjoy our time together.”

 

He was disbelievingly happy that she had forgiven him, and left the subject at that. 

 

-

 

Claire sat closer to Jamie and sipped at her coffee, their arms touching.

 

“If you like,” she finally broke the silence a few minutes later, “we can go see if they need help at the volunteer center.”

 

“Aye,” he replied with a smile, “sounds like a plan to me.”

 

Claire was glad he agreed, and couldn’t wait to see the excitement on the faces of all the people they would help tomorrow.

 

“Maybe you’ll find a lucky lady there,” she said with a laugh, thinking about all the potential elderly suitors lining up to have Jamie’s attention. She thought at first he would be a bit miffed at the suggestion, but he laughed with her, his smile easing the tension between them.

 

How she had missed the sight of his smile.

 

“Aye, Sassenach,” Jamie replied dryly, “we’ll find ye someone too, then.”

 

Their laughter filled the air, and they realized how much they had missed making each other laugh. The happiness Claire felt was more than welcomed, after not knowing what the future held for them the last few days. Tears, heartbreak, and fear of losing Jamie had become overwhelming. Their eyes sparkled with cheerful brilliance, and in that moment, all she wanted was for him to be happy forever, no matter how it made her feel. She would do anything to help him find what he was looking for, his laugh and smile only fueling that desire.

 

“I’m happy because of you, Jamie,” she whispered.

 

He was, and is, her happiness.

 

“And I you, Sassenach,” he whispered back.

 

She was, and is, his happiness.

Chapter Text

December 16 th

 

Claire was in good spirits when she awoke this morning. Her and Jamie had talked things out the previous night. Their good deed for the day was to go and volunteer at the local nursing home. Her excitement about it had not waned in the slightest. One of her favorite pastimes was to spread Christmas cheer wherever she went. It was much more fun to give than to receive.

 

Dressed for the day, she went into the kitchen to see that Jamie had already made breakfast. Their meal was enjoyed mostly in silence, save for the sounds of chewing and utensil usage. They made jokes and laughed as they cleaned up their mess. They wasted no time in making their way towards the elderly home as they had planned to volunteer the whole day.

 

Upon arrival, they were greeted by one of the organizers. Their task for the day was to help with wrapping Christmas presents. They had a wonderful time, wrapping cute things to put under the home’s tree. Claire smiled at the thought of these presents making the home’s residents smile on Christmas morning.

 

Claire and Jamie more or less did this task every year. They wrapped presents people brought over, helped serving the food, and decorated the few residents’ rooms that wanted it. They played games with the residents too, talked with or just sat with the residents who maybe didn’t have family to visit with. Claire always enjoyed this day each year. It was why she and Jamie volunteered annually.

 

An elderly woman approached Jamie and Claire’s table, laughed, and sat herself next to Jamie as if it were completely normal.

 

“You’re a lucky guy to have this beautiful woman by your side.”

 

The woman chuckled, looking between the two of them.

 

“Och, we’re just friends madam,” Jamie attempted to correct. “We're no’ a couple.”

 

Claire felt giddy on the inside; they were mistaken as a couple every year thus far. The older woman didn’t seem too convinced on the matter though.

 

“I hear some Scots in you, sir,” she said, placing a hand on Jamie’s arm. “Me and my Robert, oh, how I miss him dearly, were also best friends when we were younger. But friendship wasn’t enough in the end. We were so afraid to ruin what friendship we had, and that fear separated us for forty years. Feelings can get complicated. We found ourselves back in each other’s lives by coincidence only a few years ago, when I found out he was dying. I still wish I had said something all those years ago. We could have had it all.”

 

By the time the woman had finished telling her story, she was holding onto Jamie and Claire’s hands firmly.

 

“My granddaughter brought me to him, ill and on death’s door, and I couldn’t let him go without telling him how I truly felt. I told him how I regretted wasting all those years staying quiet because I was so afraid of my jealousy, seeing him with anyone else, fearing arguments with him about it.”

 

The woman’s lip trembled. She was close to crying. Claire admired her strength as the women kept speaking, feeling her own tears start to give way.

 

“I’ll always remember what he said to me that day as I held his hands,” she went on, “he said, ‘Clara, why didn’t you tell me? I felt the same. I left because I wanted you to be happy. I couldn’t be close to you without wanting your touch. I felt I couldn’t love you in that way. I thought a lifetime of happiness for you meant being without me.’”

 

Clara took a deep breath, and Claire felt a few more tears fall away. She didn’t have to look at Jamie to know he had the same look. But she knew Clara needed to finish her story. Claire waited with bated breath for the old woman to find the strength to continue.

 

“Robert and I missed out on a lifetime together because of our own silly fears. I could have been there for him through his illness, but we were obstacles blocking our own happily ever after. When I look at the two of you, I can see myself and Robert. I see the glances you give each other when the other isn’t looking. I see how he makes your eyes sparkle, and how she makes you the happiest man alive.”

 

The grip on Claire’s hand grew tighter. She didn’t dare look at Jamie, for fear she would start crying for real; she wanted Clara to finish saying her peace.

 

“We had both married, I told him about my children and grandchildren, and how my marriage wasn’t as happy as it should have been. I know it ripped him apart to hear that, but it was just as heartbreaking to learn that his own wife had left him for another man, childless and unhappy. In the end, if I hadn’t been there, he would have died alone. He passed away the following day, and I didn’t leave his side until his nurse told me he was gone.”

 

Claire didn’t realize that she was openly sobbing, nor that Clara had slipped her hand into Jamie’s while she was talking. She squeezed his hand as tight as she could.

 

“I regret not sharing my true feelings to Robert every single day of my life. There isn’t a day where I don’t think about him or the last time I saw him. I daydream about our younger selves, telling each other about our true feelings, and living a happy life together. I wouldn’t wish this regret on my worst enemy. I can tell you two are facing the same fate. Your eyes look exactly like mine and Robert’s did the day he died.”

 

Claire felt Jamie’s thumb caress her hand. She felt his stare on her too,  but once again didn’t dare look back at him. She kept looking at Clara, waiting for her to say more. But instead, she took Claire’s face into her hands and wiped away her tears.

 

“It is scary, my child. Love can be a scary thing. But let him love you. Let him give you the happiness you deserve. Let him be yours. Because he can.”

 

Claire didn’t know how to answer that. How did Jamie feel about all of this? He was still holding her hand, surely that was a good sign? She had many questions now. What if love failed them, and she wound up without him? She knew she would have to risk their friendship for the sake of love, and she didn’t want that. She wanted Jamie in her life forever and if that meant only being his friend, then so be it. Claire needed to think about what Clara said. She removed her hand from Jamie’s grip and laid it on Clara’s hands.

 

“Thank you for your story Clara.” Claire told the older woman. “I wish you and Robert could have lived the life you both deserved. Don’t feel guilty though. All you wanted was to protect him, to have him in your life forever, and your friendship wasn’t worth the risk. It was never your fault.”

 

And with that, Claire stood up to leave, gently dragging Jamie with her. She needed to go home and process Clara’s words, and figure out how they applied to her and her best friend.

Chapter Text

December 17 th  

 

Claire’s mind kept wandering back to Clara and her story from yesterday. It had touched her deeply. She found that she identified with the older woman’s story more than she previously realized. Volunteering had never been that intense in the past. Despite wanting to leave, she knew she couldn’t. So her and Jamie filled the day yesterday with activities to pass the time. But once they got home, they didn’t speak on the subject further.

 

Claire knew they would probably have to talk about it sooner or later, but she didn’t want to push Jamie if he wasn’t ready. For all she knew, he didn’t have the same feeling about Clara’s story like she did. She was all too readable for her best friend, so she kept her focus on Clara’s face the whole time. If she had looked at him, even for a second, Jamie would have easily figured out that she cried because she was in love with him.

 

Claire decided breakfast was the first item on today’s nonexistent agenda. She was going to need strength if she and Jamie were to have this talk; Claire wasn’t exactly ready to share her true feeling just yet, but wouldn’t shy away from him if he asked. When she entered the dining area, Jamie was already there, a mug of hot chocolate at his lips in one hand, a second mug in the other for her. She took the proffered cup and sat down across from him.

 

The silence dragged on, neither of them knowing what to say. They were both thinking the same things though; Clara’s story was in fact resonating with them. Change the names and the old woman’s story could easily be their fate. Would they end up like Clara and Robert, if neither of them ever spoke up? Would they die alone and heartbroken forty years from now, knowing they could have been spared by talking? By being honest with each other? 

 

Claire looked up from her mug the same time Jamie did and knew she had to say something. But Jamie beat her to it.

 

“Sassenach,” he began, “do ye remember that one day we were ice skating, the week before I moved back to Scotland? 

 

She blinked. He smiled a bit.

 

“We had so much fun that day. We pretended there was no one else in the world, just you and me, together forever. Ye said to me ‘we’ll skate away until we don’t know where we are, and I don’t care where we end up as long as we’re together!’”

 

She smiled then; of course she remembered that day. 

 

It was a cold winter’s day in January when they were fourteen. Those times were painful for Claire, knowing The Frasers were moving back to Lallybroch, the family estate in the Scottish Highlands. It left her feeling empty and, to this day, she still wished her dream could have been a reality. 

 

“Yes. I remember,” she replied. “How can I forget the goodbyes we said the following week? Your parents, Jenny and you...you were my family too. Your absence was felt long after you were gone.”

 

“I ken,” he said in a low voice.

 

“But I also remember,” she went on, as if Jamie hadn’t spoken, “this one day in first grade. You had thrown a ball at a boy’s head because he kissed my cheek after giving me his lunch. You were clearly jealous.”

 

She had to laugh at the memory. Jamie as a six year old boy, defending what he thought was her honor, in a fit of jealousy. The memory itself was as clear as day, like it happened yesterday. Jamie grinned at her in reply.

 

“I was the only lad that could give ye lunch, Sassenach,” he remarked, causing her to roll her eyes at him. 

 

“You were always possessive over me,” she giggled, “and it only got worse. Do you remember my eleventh birthday?”

 

They laughed aloud, Jamie all but choking on his drink.

 

“Oh God, that poor lad,” he gasped, pounding a wadded up fist to his chest. “I saved ye from kissin’ a frog that day. Otherwise, ye woulda ended up marrit to the lad now!”

 

Claire laughed harder. “I was eleven! You were just jealous.”

 

Jamie smirked. “Maybe a bit.”

 

He finally admitted it. He was capable of jealousy! Claire beamed at his honesty. She sipped casually at her hot chocolate, eyeing him with faux contempt.

 

“Oh were you, James?”

 

She couldn’t else but tease him; it was the first time he had ever admitted to being jealous. Jamie was always too stubborn to admit anything of the sort.

 

“Aye, aye, will ye stop now, Sassenach?” Jamie grunted, but smiled all the same, seeing Claire blush.

 

“I can’t say that I wasn’t either, though.” Now it was his turn to look surprised. His curiosity grew as she took a nervous sip from her mug.

 

“When were ye jealous, Sassenach?”

 

It was a normal day in eighth grade, except when lunchtime came around, there was a girl sitting in her usual spot next to Jamie. Claire ended up sitting somewhere else for lunch, alone. She had been upset the rest of the day, making up scenarios in her head about how Jamie would eventually tell her that the girl was his new girlfriend. She was a mess. Claire relayed this memory to him, smiling all the while, as if it were a good memory.

 

“So that’s why ye wouldna talk tae me that day!”

 

Claire giggled as she saw Jamie’s upset face when she didn’t say a word.

 

“That lassie quickly left when I told her I was waiting fer ye.”

 

“You told her that?” Claire asked, stunned slightly.

 

“Aye, but ye never came.”

 

They laughed and continued to recount the best days from their childhood. They realized that even back then, their lives were far from perfect. Each of them suffered equally from jealousy. How didn’t they know this?

 

Claire went to make them both coffees, their mugs of hot chocolate having been empty for at least the last hour.

 

“Sassenach,” Jamie began hesitantly. 

 

“Yes?” Claire answered from the kitchen.

 

“Clara’s story. Do we need to talk about it?”

 

“Oh, ehm...” That caught Claire off guard. “It was a very sad story.” She was fortunate she didn’t have to face him while filling their mugs.

 

“I dinna mean it like that, ye ken,” Jamie said in a hurry, as if he had insulted her by mistake, “aye...‘tis a verra sad story, but...do ye think that will be us?”

 

She placed the coffee mug in front of him and returned to her seat. He quietly thanked her and she gathered the courage to meet his eyes..

 

“Why should it be us?” She countered. “I mean, our friendship is wonderful right now how it is, right? I don’t see a reason for us to split up for forty years, despite the distance we are in. Do you?”

 

Jamie let out a deep sigh. “Aye. No, ye’re right.”

 

They left the conversation at that. Neither of them dared to say more, fearing one or both of them would choose the wrong words. 

 

Jamie and Claire filled the rest of the day playing board games and cards until it was time for bed. But the memories they shared that day would be the moment they both realized they were officially in love with each other.

 

And neither of them had the courage to say it aloud.

Chapter Text

December 18 th

 

Claire wasn’t feeling well when she awoke the next morning. Her face felt hot, yet her body shivered with chill, and her throat ached when she swallowed. She hoped she wasn’t getting sick. She decided on tea over coffee as she made her way to the living room, a sure sign that she was feeling sick.

 

Mug in hand, she started to make her way back towards her room, and met Jamie in the process. The smile on his face vanished the moment he laid eyes on her.

 

“Sassenach,” Jamie began, “are ye alright?” He placed the back of his hand across her forehead, winching slightly. “Yer burning wi’ fever. Back to bed wi’ ye, lass.”

 

Jamie took her mug, which was slipping dangerously from her hands, and slipped his arm around her waist to guide her back to her room. He deposited her mug onto the nightstand and helped put her back to bed. He wanted to cover her with as many blankets as possible, but also knew it would make her fever worse.

 

“Do ye need anything else, Sassenach?” Jamie asked softly, running a finger across her cheek in a soft caress.

 

Claire just shook her head, not daring to speak lest her sore throat be aggravated further. All she wanted was to sweat off this fever in the form of a deep, restful sleep. But her fever had other plans, inducing horrific nightmares.

 

She was surrounded by her favorite flowers in a beautiful garden but was alone. A stranger appeared before her out of nowhere. He showed her a creepy smile, but didn’t speak for a few long minutes.

 

”Jamie is looking for you, Claire. He lost you. He is looking for you.”

 

”Where is he?” Claire replied, breathing harder and faster by the second. She whirled around to see the lush expanse of green die away to darkness and shadows. Her screams echoed in the air. “Jamie?! Where are you?!”

 

The stranger vanished just as soon as he appeared, leaving Claire alone once more. A hand grabbed her by the shoulder from behind. At first, she thought it was Jamie, but there was nothing there. 

 

”You missed your chance, Claire,” the voice sounded out around her, “Jamie’s gone back to Scotland for good this time. You will be alone forever. In forty years’ time, you will only meet once he’s on his deathbed. Laoghaire will become his wife, live unhappily ever after, and he’ll blame you. He will always be looking for you because you didn’t find him first. He was looking for you but you didn’t find him! He was looking for you but you didn’t find him!

 

Claire woke up with a scream and started to cry. She could still hear the voices from her dream telling her that Jamie was gone. When Claire looked around and couldn’t find him, she shoved the blanket aside, wondering how long she had slept.

 

Before she could get out of bed though, Jamie burst through the door with an agonized expression on his face, breathing hard.

 

“Christ, Sassenach,” he approached the bed hurriedly, “I heard ye scream. What happened?”

 

She let out a sob of relief at his presence. It was only a nightmare.

 

“Jamie,” she croaked “just hold me, please.”

 

So hold her he did, her feverish body wrapping around him as she wept.

 

“Do ye want to talk about it?” He asked tentatively. 

 

Once calmed enough to speak, she nodded. She told him everything, sparing no detail no matter how scary it was. She could almost feel him listening intently.

 

“’Tis alright, Sassenach,” Jamie assured her in between soothing Gàidhlig phrases, “I’m here. I havena left and I willna leave ye.”

 

She nodded, pressing herself harder into his body. “Please stay with me.”

 

Claire moved aside to make room for him on the bed. He covered the both of them with her blanket, ignoring how warm he already was.

 

-

 

Jamie’s Gàidhlig mutterings always calmed Claire no matter what was going on, whether she was in fever or upset. He could see the terror in her face. He held her close in his arms and ran his fingers through her sweaty curls, feeling that her fever hadn’t gotten any better or worse. It didn't matter right now, though. This dream must have been awful. He did not cease his attempts at soothing her until he felt her body weight and breathing grow heavier. She had fallen back asleep.

 

Jamie felt his heart swell as he looked down at Claire’s sleeping form. Oh, how he loved her so, feeling it was his sole purpose in life to do everything to make her happy. The dam was close to breaking; he couldn’t hold back much longer. Clara’s story hadn’t left his mind since that day at the elderly home. The urge to be as close to Claire as possible grew and grew.

 

He didn’t want to waste another moment away from her than he already had. He remembered Claire’s face when she listened to Clara’s story. Her tears were consistent the whole time. He could sense that Claire was seeing herself in the old woman’s eyes. She was afraid they would end up like Clara and Robert. That one day, it would be too late. 

 

The little present Jamie bought for Claire that day at the mall came to mind. He knew it was time. He was now ready to risk it and give it to her.

 

-

 

Hours later, Claire felt Jamie’s hand in her hair. Her fever hadn’t yet broken and she grunted in response. That got Jamie’s attention.

 

“Feelin’ any better, mo ghraidh?” He inquired. 

 

She nodded, and nuzzled into his chest further, indicating she did not want to leave the bed yet.

 

“Thank you, for staying here,” she muttered into his shirt.

 

“Of course, Sassenach.”

 

Claire smiled, and reached up to kiss his cheek. She felt his hand on her cheek and closed her eyes, reveling in his touch.

 

“Don’t leave me Jamie, ever.” Her words were solid as steel, the need to say them aloud stronger than anything else in the world. “I couldn’t live a life without you, no matter where you are. I need you.”

 

Her nightmare still haunted her, but his presence dispelled the monster from her subconscious. Her greatest fear was that, when Jamie eventually did leave to go back to Scotland, the nightmares would begin again. He wouldn’t be there to calm her mind with his gàidhlig words. Nor would he be able to hold her close to his body, his heartbeat her own personal loving lullaby, a solid confirmation that she was not alone. 

 

Was she ready to risk it? Give up the chance to be best friends forever over the small chance they could be more?

 

She decided, then and there, that she would give Jamie the present she purchased for him at the mall weeks before. She had a strong feeling that Jamie felt the same way about her as she did for him.

 

But was she completely ready for what that truly meant?

Chapter Text

December 19 th

 

Claire felt much better the next morning; her fever broke and she slept nightmare free. In fact she felt so great, she wasted no time throwing back the covers, getting out of bed and making a bee line straight for the coffee machine in the kitchen. Even if it was just for one day, how she ever survived without it she’ll never know. 

 

Jamie found his way towards the sounds of the coffee machine whirling and hissing with steam and pouring liquid. Claire could tell by the look on his face that he was happy to see her doing well. Something had changed between them yesterday. He didn’t seem to be hiding as much, but there was an air of nervousness emanating from her person. 

 

Claire handed him his coffee, fresh and hot, and he nodded his thanks as he took a sip. A few more days until Christmas, and the tiny box hidden in her closet would be in Jamie’s hands.

 

She suddenly felt nauseous; the risk of potential rejection was so high. But Claire had come to the conclusion that, if she could have him the way she needed, she wouldn’t have him at all. 

 

Claire lost herself in her thought as she sat down in the living room. She really could not bear the thought of seeing him marry anyone else. The thought of him giving another woman a child, seeing him love it. But that’s what was at stake here. There was a lot for Claire to think about, but once Jamie received his gift from her, there would be no turning back.

 

Both of them were lost in their thoughts, sitting in the living with their cups of coffee long since drained. This month is a complete rollercoaster. Claire would have never predicted when Jamie got off the airplane on the first that it would be so overwhelming for her. She remembered how her heart raced at the sight of him; she was the happiest woman alive. He was her home.

 

Christmas had always been special to Claire. The moment the shops got into the Christmas spirit, with their decorating and seasonal items being put on display, something in her changed and she finally realized what it was. It had all led back to him. The beginning of Christmas for Claire was the moment Jamie stepped off the airplane. She could just enjoy his presence with that same spirit. She had always been in love with Jamie for longer than she cared to admit, but fear got the better of her.

 

Clara’s words refused to leave Claire’s head. She thought about missing out the chance with Jamie. She thought about missing her chance with Jamie; if they didn’t risk it, they would end up the same way Clara and Robert did. The thought of that was unbearable. Claire loved Jamie so deeply. He was worth every bit of the risk she was taking.

 

-

 

The longer Jamie looked at Claire, the more intense his love for her bloomed inside him. He was finally letting his feelings take over. Hiding these feelings for years was torture. Clara’s words that day now resonated with him, and knowing there was a chance that Claire felt the same way gave him the strength to finally stop holding back. He decided it was time to prepare the tiny box he kept separate from the other presents. Jamie wanted it wrapped neatly so Claire would know it was special; after she opened it, there would definitely be no doubt in her mind just how special it was. How special she was.

 

-

 

Claire told Jamie she had something important to do in her room, knowing this would only fill him with curiosity. The thought made her giggle a bit. If he only knew.

 

She took the bag out of the closet and opened the tiny box to look at it once again. Taking the bag out of the closet and opening the tiny box inside, a sudden wave of fear washed over her. A thousand “what if’s” drowned out any sense of reasoning.

 

What if she lost him?

 

What if this was a huge mistake?

 

What if the risk was too great?

 

What if she was reading too much into Clara’s story and projecting that outcome too strongly?

 

What if he insisted on maintaining their friendship?

 

The anxiety became overbearing and she closed the box. Her feelings felt mixed up;  suddenly she didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. Tears sprang from their ducts at this prospect and she let them roll down her face. Claire kept staring at the little box in her hands, abruptly uncertain if giving it to Jamie was such a good idea after all. 

 

Claire’s mind repeated Clara’s story over and over again in different scenarios. In one of those scenarios, it ended happily for both of them. But in another, there’s nothing but fighting about how they should have just stayed friends and end up never seeing each other again. She knew she needed to figure out her next move, but how could she do that if she wasn’t even sure what was the right move? 

 

The question linger in her mind for several hours.

 

Risk it or not? 

 

Wrap it or not?

 

-

 

Unbeknownst to Claire, Jamie had been doing the exact same thing in his room, his own brand of “what if’s” plaguing him as he held his own tiny box. He thought about the last few years with Claire in his life. He knew this could make or break their relationship; it would either bring her closer to him than ever before, or make her disappear completely. All because of a tiny box. Was he actually ready to risk it?

 

Now or never, he thought as he solidified his decision. He took the tiny box and wrapped it neatly, then placed it back in its bag. Then he quietly slipped it underneath the tree.

 

-

 

Claire came out of her room empty handed. She immediately saw the tiny bag under the tree and swallowed. Her curiosity grew the longer she looked down at it. She wanted to open it right away. Then she noticed Jamie looking at her with humorous fascination.

 

“Ye just have to wait a wee bit longer, Sassenach,” was all he said, a sly grin on his face.

 

Chapter Text

December 20 th

 

Another day of agony had passed, and Claire wanted to know what special present Jamie placed for her under the tree. In the spirit of fairness, she wrapped her own little box for him and placed it next to his, hoping it would draw his own curiosity out. She used what little wrapping paper she had left, and noticed something.

 

They looked identical.

 

It didn’t take long for Jamie to notice it too. 

 

“Jamie, I want to know,” she said, sounding childish. 

 

He smiled at her. “Christ, Sassenach,” he mused with a laugh, “ye ken how to get me. Let’s make a deal, aye?”

 

Claire looked up at him with her big bright whisky-eyes, sipping on her coffee waiting for her best friend to speak out the deal they were supposed to make.

 

“We’ll exchange these tiny presents today, but only these presents. The rest will have to wait til Christmas morning.”

 

Claire swallowed. Today. She wasn’t sure she was prepared to do this today, this big step, her gift to him being what it was. Should she just let things happen naturally? He was leaving in a week and a half. No time like the present?

 

“Alright,” she replied at last. “Let’s do it.”

 

Their nerves started to overtake them, causing them to suddenly feel nauseous. Who would go first?

 

“Sassenach, before I give ye this present,” Jamie began hesitantly, “please know that no matter what, I want ye to be happy. Please be truthful with yer reaction once ye open it. I ken it may be overwhelming. I dinna want ye to feel pressured. I do hope ye like it.”

 

Claire took a deep breath and removed the small wrapped box from its bag. She held it between her fingers. It felt like the one she had for Jamie. She slowly tore the paper away until the gift was completely unwrapped. She noticed Jamie’s breathing had changed, and he rubbed his hands together, as if the anticipation was actually killing him. She never had seen him this nervous.

 

Her eyes widened as she opened the box. It was a keychain bearing the Scottish flag. But his intentions with it had yet to be revealed. Jamie spoke before Claire could even form words.

 

“Claire, I- I want ye to come back to Scotland wi’ me. I canna bear another day without ye. I want to be with ye, Sassenach. I want to hold ye, to kiss ye, I want ye to be mine. I dinna want to waste another year. I want ye tae be the only woman tae have me.”

 

He started to silently cry, the tears sliding down his face. He brought her hands into his, warm and solid.

 

“Claire, ye don’t have to say something now. Ye have some time to think on it. But I want ye to know that I truly love ye. I’ve known, for a verra long time, that you are the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Yer the only one I can see in my future. I’ve never managed to make dating work because...none of those women were ye. I’ve only known one love in my life. And that was with you. If ye come home with me to Lallybroch, I’ll promise to lay the world at yer feet, Claire. I promise to do anything in my power to make ye happy. I promise to be yours, and only yours, Sassenach.”

 

His words went straight through her heart, making her weep softly. She felt the same. Without saying anything she shoved her present into his hands. He looked slightly confused, but her gaze nudged him to open it. Present opened and laying in the palm of his hand, he let out a heavy sigh, then smiled. It was the same thing he got her. 

 

“Jamie,” Claire began slowly, “when I saw this, my instincts told me to get it. At first, I didn’t know if it was right, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I was planning on asking you to take me to Scotland. Take me back home with you. I can’t bear to be without you anymore. When you stepped off the plane this year, I think subconsciously I knew that I could never let you go again. I need you like I need to breathe, James Fraser. I was scared of rejection. But our bond is too strong to only be friends. I love you.”

 

She wept as she spoke, her eyes never leaving his. She wanted to tell him everything in her heart. All the feelings that had been building over the past years. It was almost hard to believe now; they loved each other. They could make this work. 

 

Jamie’s expression was usually unreadable, but this time it was obvious what he wanted. Claire had never felt like this before. She loved it. 

 

“I want…” he hesitated for a beat, before going on to say, “I would verra much like to kiss ye, Sassenach. May I?”

  

Her smile grew wider as another tear slid down her cheek. “Yes.”

 

They slowly inched closer to each other. They waited for this for a very long time. First their skin made contact, then Jamie pressed his lips to Claire’s warm and soft. His kiss lingered, his tongue darting around as if to seek permission for something. This moment had been years in the making. Claire snaked her fingers through Jamie’s hair. She grabbed at him roughly to bring him closer. She had always imagined this moment, but nothing she could have conjured up compared to the real thing. To Jamie Fraser actually kissing her. They broke apart, their eyes boring into one another. Their breathing was heavy, but their hearts were light for the first time in a long time.

 

“Christ, Sassenach,” Jamie chuckled, “I wanted to do this for so long. To kiss ye like this.”

 

“Me too, Jamie.”

 

They longed to hold each other this way; to be together like this. For the first time ever, Jamie didn’t sleep in her bed because of a nightmare. He slept there because of the love they had for each other. They wanted to be close to one another. It felt like nothing could take that from them.

 

They found each other, over and over again, until there was no more unexplored territory. Neither one could look away from the other. Almost as if one would disappear the second they looked away.

 

“God, Sassenach,” Jamie said, breathless, “I think my heart’s gonna burst.”

 

Claire kissed the tiny hairs on his chest and laid her head against it. She let the sound of his heart soothe her, like it always did.

 

“No, your heart is alright,” she said after a moment. “It’s beating strong and steady.”

 

She felt his hand underneath her chin, forcing her to look up at him. His eyes were an ocean so vast, one couldn’t help but drown in it. Jamie smiled at her. 

 

“My heart beats strong and steady for ye, and only ye, Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

December 21 st

 

Claire woke up that morning thinking she had been dreaming. The presence of Jamie still sleeping beside her told her she wasn’t. It was real. She would be going back to Scotland with him.

 

Claire took this chance to actually watch Jamie as he slept. Her boyfriend. It was hard to believe she could say that now. She let a finger caress his face, the tiny hairs across the expanse of his chin resembling fine sandpaper against her soft fingertips. Claire couldn’t resist placing a few kisses across his cheek, his chin, and finally his lips. Those lips curled up in a sleepy smile, and without warming, his warm hands were snaking around her body.

 

“Good morning, Sassenach,” he said lazily, opening one eye.

 

A good morning indeed.

 

“Good morning, Jamie,” she replied.

 

Her love for him showed in her eyes, and he reciprocated. They decided to celebrate Christmas early. They made their way to the living room without bothering to change out of their pajamas. Claire couldn’t possibly think of a time where she was happier than right now. 

 

“For a moment,” Jamie began, slowly, “I thought I dreamt the whole thing. But when I woke to find ye peppering my face wi’ kisses, I kent it was verra real. Especially with yer wee squeaking noises.” He let out a deep belly laugh and she was rewarded with that cheeky grin she loved so much.

 

 

“I do not make squeaking noises!” Claire protested, throwing a pillow in his face. That didn’t deter Jamie’s laughter. He knew he couldn’t win with her.

 

“Jamie, I need a Caramel Macchiato,” she unintentionally whined. She cleared her throat before saying, more maturely, “it’s been way too long!”

 

He laughed as he kissed her palm. “Aye, it has,” he replied. “It will be our first real date, will it ‘no?”

 

That thought made her even more happy. Her dreams had finally come true; Jamie was hers now. This was her actual Christmas wish. 

 

They each headed back to their own bedrooms to get dressed for the day. Claire managed to make one of Jamie’s shirts look like a dress. She fitted a wide belt around her waist to complete the look, pinned her wild curls into a bun and slipped on a pair of stockings and boots. Something told her they would not make it out of the apartment quickly. When Jamie walked out of his room in nothing but boxers, she bit her lip.

 

Damn, he looked good.

 

 

“I see my shirt fits ye nicely,” he remarked.

 

Jamie pushed  himself against her, causing her to back into the kitchen counter. Claire could see (and feel) what he truly desired. They shared a passionate kiss before they ended up in her bedroom for the next few hours.

 

Claire changed her mind and changed into a more weather appropriate dress, leaving the same boots and stockings on, and fixed her hair. When she made her way towards the front door, keys and purse in hand, Jamie was waiting for her. 

 

“Are ye ready, Sassenach?” He asked.

 

“Yup,” she replied. He took her hand into his, and they walked to the local Starbucks around the corner. They placed their orders once they got there, but Jamie refused to let her pay.

 

“I canna, in good conscience, allow ye to pay fer yer own drinks, Sassenach.”

 

How could she argue with that?

 

Claire sat down at a table and admired Jamie as he waited for their drink orders to be ready. She couldn’t believe it; this beautiful, wonderful, perfect human being was hers. And she was completely and fully his in return.

 

-

 

Jamie still couldn’t believe his luck. Claire was finally his! He would do everything in his power to ensure she never left him again. He needed her more than air, or life, itself. He was completely under her power and more than happy to be there. The drinks were ready and he headed back to the table, handing hers off. He took her hand into his, admiring its softness.

 

“Claire, I have never felt this way before,” he took a deep breath, “I didna think it possible.”

 

“Me neither, Jamie.” Claire brought his hands to her lips. “I’ve always felt this way about you. I feel like we have many years to make up for.”

 

Like a ghost, Clara’s words invaded Jamie’s head. The pain the old woman still carried with her every single day was evident. The thought of him missing out on not being with Claire this way made him want to die. Clara was one of the strongest women he had ever met. There was no doubt about it.

 

“Are you thinking about Clara, Jamie?” Claire asked.

 

How does she do that?!

 

“Aye,” he replied softly, “I couldna bear the pain she carries wi’ here every single day. To touch ye, Sassenach, in this way, is more than I ever dreamed.”

 

“Yes,” she agreed. “You will never have to wonder what life is like without me now. You’ll always be able to touch me this way.” 

 

Jamie was certain he was the happiest man alive right now, and he felt his future was much brighter with Claire by his side.

 

-

 

Claire and Jamie finished their drinks and walked back to her apartment, hand in hand. Holding Jamie’s hand was like wearing gloves; he always seemed to be warm.

 

“I love you,” she said. Claire felt like she’d been saying too much lately, but she had no other way to express what she’d locked away in her heart for too long. 

 

“And I, you,” Jamie replied, reciprocating her feelings. 

 

As they walked into the apartment together, everything just seemed right with the world. Everything finally made sense.

 

“I have something for ye, Sassenach,” Jamie said, catching her off guard.

 

When did he have time to get her something?

 

“It isna much,” he said shyly, “but I couldna pass up the opportunity, given its the holidays and all.”

 

Her curiosity was piqued now. “Jamie, what is it?”

 

She saw him reach into the pocket of his pants and pull out a tiny green plant. It was tied in a beautiful red ribbon. 

 

Mistletoe.

 

She smiled at him.

 

“You don’t need that plant as a reason to kiss me, Jamie,” she mused.

 

“Aye, I ken,” Jamie chuckled, “but I like the tradition. I may not need it tae kiss ye, but it can encourage the behavior.”

 

Claire giggled at his poetic notion.

 

“If you want more than that,” Claire said, an edge of mischief to her voice. “you don’t need a plant.”

 

He attached the wee plant to the ceiling.

 

“Come here Sassenach,” Jamie said, reaching out for her, “kiss me underneath the mistletoe.”

 

Chapter Text

December 22 nd

 

Claire and Jamie woke up next to each other. She thought about how, soon enough, she would be immigrating to Scotland to be with him; she was more than ready for that to happen. Jamie kissed her the moment she opened her eyes. He must have been watching me, she thought. 

 

“How did ye sleep, mo ghraidh?” Jamie asked with a yawn and a smile. Claire pecked him on the lips. 

 

“Wonderful,” Claire replied, “and you?”

 

And another kiss.

 

“Me too, Sassenach.”

 

Neither wanted to leave the bed just yet, so they wrapped themselves around each other. Though comfortable, Claire’s thoughts were starting to become tumultuous. There was a lot that needed to happen in a short time if she was going to move to Scotland. She had dual citizenships with the US and the UK, so she wouldn’t technically be an immigrant, but her photo studio and her clientele would be taking the biggest hit. To say it was daunting was an understatement.

 

“What are ye thinking about?” Jamie asked, snapping her out of her reverie. 

 

“There are a lot of things I have to do before moving to Scotland with you. I’ll have to pay my landlord to end my apartment lease early, and inform my clients that I’ll be moving, so that means canceling future appointments. I mean, you’re going to have to go on without me while I handle all this. I won't be ready to go next week.”

 

“Aye, I ken.” He rubbed at his chin, pensive. “But now, we know we won't be waiting a year to see each other again, Sassenach.”

 

Claire agreed, sad that she wouldn’t be going with him next week. But he was right; she wouldn’t have to wait a whole year to see him again. She would be with him always now. They now had a lifetime together. I won’t let him go.

 

“Imagine the pictures I can take at Lallybroch for my studio, Jamie,” she giggled, “I might have a bigger market there.” That thought kept her in positive spirits. The Scottish Highlands were magical in and of themselves. She could potentially make a better living there.

 

“Aye,” Jamie agreed, “all of Scotland will see yer talent, Sassenach. I’ll make sure of it.”

 

She beamed at his support for her. Claire started mentally making a list of every task that needed to be done before the big move and it only fueled her excitement.

 

Dressed and breakfast eaten, Claire stood before the window with a mug of coffee in her hands. Jamie came up from behind and wrapped his arms around her. She felt his breath on her neck, and leaned into his own warmth. They took a moment to admire the winter wonderland outside, the snow falling heavier than ever before.

 

“Do you want to go for a walk,” Claire asked, gesturing towards the blanket of white outside. Jamie agreed and they both got dressed as warmly as they could and headed out the door. Their walk took them towards the outer edge of the city. That would allow them a bit more privacy.

 

“It is beautiful to be here wi’ ye, Sassenach,” Jamie said, and Claire leaned into his side. Jamie wrapped an arm around her waist, crushing her into him further. Not that Claire minded.

 

“We can take walks like this in Scotland,” she said.

 

“Aye, Lallybroch is surrounded by nature,” Jamie agreed, “we can take those walks in the mornings. Watch the sunrise if we’re early enough.”

 

Claire’s excitement was evident on her face. “I hope everything works out the way we want it to, Jamie. With me moving to Scotland and us…” She took a deep breath before concluding, “I hope you don’t regret your decision.”

 

There it was. Claire didn’t speak her fears aloud often, but this one really needed a voice. She sometimes let her fears get to her. Honesty was always best in her mind, so she needed to be truthful with Jamie. About everything. Especially now, before she relocated her entire life to be with him. 

 

He had stopped after her saying those words, and turned towards her, holding her hands.

 

“Sassenach,” he began, bringing her gloved hands and placing them on his chest. “My only regret is not telling ye how I felt sooner. That I missed years of being wi’ ye like this. But I willna ever regret asking ye to be wi’ me. I canna.”

 

She looked up at him, meeting the blue gaze that looked at her with deepest admiration.

 

“But what if you will, Jamie?” She replied after a few moments, her worried amber gaze meeting an ocean of admiration. “What if you find out that we were better off as friends, even best friends? What if, somewhere down the road, you miss having me as your best friend, and it ruins everything?”

 

The uncertainty of the last few days were finally escaping from her mind. She wanted him to know her fear of losing him, but she didn’t want to scare him away in doing so. She needed his word that no matter what, short of death, they would never lose each other.

 

“Claire,” Jamie reassured her, his voice like warm honey on her battered soul, “I see my future only wi’ ye. You have, and will forever be, my heart and my soul.”

 

She didn’t know she had been crying until Jamie removed his glove to wipe her tears away.

 

“Dinna cry, Sassenach.” Claire pressed herself into Jamie’s being as hard as she could. He responded by wrapping his arms around her more tightly. “I will be wi’ ye and I promised ye I wilna leave ye, ever.”

 

The look he gave her sent a shiver down her spine that had nothing to do with the wintery temperatures. Claire and Jamie both knew that if they didn’t go home right that instant, they would both end up naked in the snow together.

 

-

 

A nap in Claire’s room followed after they got home. Jamie woke up before Claire did, and decided to serve her a beautiful candlelit dinner. He made his way towards the kitchen as quietly as he could. An hour later, with the table decorated and set, he heard Claire making a ruckus trying to get out of bed. He rushed back to the bedroom to find her sitting up, her clothes askew and her curly hair a frizzy messy around her face. 

 

Because of her hair, Claire couldn’t see the mischievous smirk forming on Jamie’s face. “Mo nighean donn.” He walks over, bends down and moves some curls out of her eyes.

 

She smacks his hand away, irritated. “What?” Claire grumbled sleepily. “English, James.” He knew she loved it when he spoke in the Gàidhlig, but she still had no idea what he said.

 

“My brown-haired lass,” Jamie lovingly translated. She smiled at him, irritation all but forgotten.

 

“Jamie, which year were you born?”

 

He rolled his eyes and laughed out loud. He always blamed his parents for raising him with an old fashioned edge, but he didn’t mind. If Claire was happy with it, then he would be too.

 

“Dinner’s waiting fer ye, Sassenach.”

 

As in response, her stomach gave an audible growl, causing them both to laugh as they made their way towards the dining room. The end of dinner would certainly not be the end of their night.

Chapter Text

December 23rd

Claire was excited to wake up one day closer to Christmas Eve. It was tradition for Jamie and Claire to celebrate their Christmas on the 24th, and reserve the actual holiday for FaceTime with the inhabitants of Lallybroch. Jenny and Ian would always angle their camera towards their Christmas tree so Jamie and Claire could watch everyone unwrap their presents. Plus, there was something magical about Christmas Eve between the two of them; something either could ever explain.

Jamie went out to run errands and specifically told Claire she was not invited. Humming with indignation, she powered her phone back on so he could text her to let her know when he was coming back.

Once Jamie was home though, both of their phones lit up like the Christmas tree in the living room. The sounds of text messages went off every five minutes. Laoghaire wouldn’t stop messaging Jamie, and Frank wouldn’t stop messaging Claire. Both of them felt the fires of jealousy spark in their bellies. But no matter how much they tried to ignore it, the two distractions wouldn’t go away.

“Jamie, what have we been doing the last few days?” Claire attempted to reason with Jamie, “there was never anything between Frank and me.”

“I saw how he looked at ye, Claire!” Jamie bit back, against his better judgement. “He wanted ye, and if I wouldna have come in between ye probably would have hanged on that bastards lips.” He gritted his teeth, trying to get a hold of his anger.

Claire looked at Jamie who clenched his jaw and his hands were squeezed into fists. She placed her hand on his.

Claire placed her hands over his clenched fists. “Jamie, you know I wouldn’t have.”

“That is what ye are saying now! But I saw how ye looked at him!”

“Then what can be said of Laoghaire, the ‘kind lassie’ you were so certain about?” She crossed her arms across her chest in frustration. She knew Jamie had a jealous streak, but now he was just being unreasonable. Two can play at that game.

To prove her point, she pulled out her phone, and proceeded to delete and block Frank’s number. “See Jamie? I’m yours, only yours, and forever yours. There never was Frank and there never will be.”

Jamie’s stubbornness sometimes got the better of him. He sighed, pulled his phone out from his pocket, and proceeded to do the same to Laoghaire’s number. He angled his phone so Claire could see it in action.

“Aye, Sassenach, yer right,” he grinned sheepishly, no doubt feeling foolish. “There’s only ye. The ‘kind lassie’ willna come between us. Ever.”

If she needed a reason to believe in Jamie’s fidelity, this was it. No more Laoghiare, and no more Frank. No more anyone, for either of them. Jamie was Claire’s, and Claire was Jamie’s. Both of them would fight for that if the need arose. But Claire knew it wouldn’t be a problem today Jamie couldn’t seem to keep his hands or eyes off her.

She stood up with the intention of sitting on his lap. Positioned comfortably, she wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed his cheek, and noted internally that it was still warm from their heated discussion. And it made her wonder: what would have happened if Frank had actually kissed her? As much as she knew it would have ended with Jamie going to jail for assault, Claire shook the thought from her mind. It didn’t matter anyway.

-

Jamie enjoyed seeing Claire act like an excited child who had had too much sugar right before bed. He knew she just wanted the day to end already so they could sleep and wake up on Christmas Eve. They spent the rest of the day lazing around on the couch, watching a Christmas movie marathon and stealing kisses from each other like lovesick teenagers. But even laying together at night, Claire’s excited energy had not waned.

“I can’t sleep Jamie,” she bounced “I’m too excited! Food, presents, you and me.” She expected to see a similar expression of joy and excitement on his face, but was instead met with a pensive frown. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you excited?”

He turned onto the side to face her. “Of course I am excited, Sassenach. I was just thinking about something.”

“Oh? And what would that be?”

“I canna tell ye yet. It’s a surprise.”

She groaned but before she could verbally protest, Jamie booped her nose with a smile.

“Dinna fash, Sassenach,” he clarified. “Ye’ll find out tomorrow.”

She rolled her eyes; as if she didn’t need another reason to be too excited to sleep.

“Jamie,” she protested, “how can you do that to me?”

He couldn’t hide the grin on his face, and was rewarded with a smack on the arm from Claire. He laughed, and wrapped those arms around her, pressing up against her.

“Sleep now, mo ghraidh,” he whispered soothingly. “It’ll be tomorrow ‘afore ye know it.”

That was the last thing she heard from him as she drifted off to sleep, beautiful dreams keeping her subconscious company.

-

Jamie had enough energy left in him to watch the love of his life sleep peacefully in his arms. It was like this every year; even with an ordinary amount of coffee in her system, her excitement for Christmas overshadowed all other feelings. He couldn’t exactly disagree with her sentiment; it was his favorite time of year too. The happiness that radiated from her was infectious. If she was happy, then so was he. But then he remembered the shopping he did that day, and nerves started to creep up on him.

He originally wanted the keychain to be her special present, but since she thought of the same thing, he had to do something else. His gut was telling him it was the right thing to do. It was that “something else,” however, that had his nerves all in a bunch. Jamie knew it was the right answer, and it would be the ultimate present for her. He just hoped she would accept it. If she didn’t, he would smile and accept her decision, and love her exactly the same way. Nothing would ever change that.

Claire snuggled closer to Jamie in her sleep, and he smiled as he ran his fingers through her hair. As he watched her sleep, all his worries seemed to evaporate. She was his best Christmas present and nothing could possibly ruin the happiness and excitement that tomorrow would undoubtedly bring.

He kissed Claire’s forehead gently, his mind still a busy raceway. Usually, Claire was the one in this position, lying awake all night without the ability to turn her thoughts off.

He wasn’t sure when he finally fell asleep, but his dreams weren’t memorable enough for him to remember the following day. This only proved just how anxious he was to present Claire with his final gift.

Chapter Text

December 24 th

 

The dawn broke way too early for Jamie’s liking, but he knew he would do anything for his Claire, including letting her jump on the bed.

 

“James! Wake up! It’s Christmas Eve!”

 

She peppered his face with kisses and shook him softly. He groaned exhaustedly, knowing for a fact he did not get enough sleep overnight. But it was Claire, so of course he would put up with a bit of sleep deprivation if it means she had a wonderful Christmas. He cracked an eye open.

 

“Good morning tae ye too, Sassenach,” Jamie croaked, but not unkindly. “‘tis Christmas Even indeed.”

 

Her smile said it all, and he knew it was going to be a great day.

 

-

 

Today was the day. Jamie’s anxiety hadn’t ebbed much from last night, but it didn’t feel so bad now. Today was the day he was preparing to lay it all out for her. Everything he was, everything he owned. But was she ready to take it?

 

Everything had to be perfect.

 

Despite all the risks he had already taken, Jamie knew this was the big one. The one that would determine if it was all worth it. Maybe he was so edgy because they had only been an official couple for a few days. Nae matter, he thought. Enough time had been wasted on “what if’s” or “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” It was obvious both of them wanted to settle together. There were no more barriers between them. He hoped those facts would be enough. He would forever hope that he would be enough. 

 

Together, they prepared their traditional Christmas breakfast of fresh croissants, toast and egg, and coffee. Of course, coffee. They savored every bite of their meal, and each other’s company. She eagerly looked at the presents, which she no doubt wanted to open immediately after cleaning up breakfast, but Jamie had other plans.

 

“Sassenach, wait,” Jamie called out as she made a beeline for the Christmas tree, “we should wait with presents till tonight. I have something planned for ye.”

 

Claire’s impatience had not waned in her sleep. She furrowed her brows to the deepest scowl she could make. “Jamie, please! I can’t wait any longer!”

 

“Ye can, Sassenach,” Jamie assured her, smiling. “Just wait and see.”

 

 

The discontent on Claire’s face only intensified as she stood her ground, not moving a muscle. Jamie realized this wouldn’t end well, or at least how he wanted it to. He changed tactics to satisfy them both. 

 

“Ye should go change into that Christmas outfit ye got yesterday, Sassenach,” he suggested with confidence. Usually, he didn’t care how she was dressed. But, for this moment, it was necessary. 

 

Task complete, with both of them as presentable as they would ever be, they gathered around the tree to open presents. No matter which gift Claire was given, she thanked Jamie profusely with a kiss on the cheek. He reciprocated in kind. The tree void of its yearly bounty, Claire sat back and admired her gifts. Jamie’s swallowed, his heart racing.

 

It’s time.

 

Claire was about to start collecting all the torn wrapping paper scattered at their feet when Jamie stood up suddenly, holding her by the arm to stop her from leaving.

 

“Claire, wait,” he breathed.

 

“What is it?” She looked at him as though he were ill. “Are you alright?”

 

His nerves were starting to get the best of him so he distracted himself by taking one of her hands into his. “There is one present left, Sassenach.”

 

The curiosity in her eyes grew the longer she looked at him. Then she nodded with a smile. She remembered the “special present” he talked about last night. The one where he refused to speak to her about. The giddiness returned as she realized he was about to reveal it to her. Jamie took the deepest breath his lungs would allow. 

 

No turning back now.

 

“Claire,” he began, his words feeling unsteady in his throat, “I have loved ye fer years. And wi’ every day I wake up, I realize that I love ye even more than the day before. There isna anyone else I’d ever wanna spend my days with. Knowing ye love me back, I haven’t been this happy ever in my life. I want to make ye the happiest woman alive, Claire. To build a future wi’ ye.”

 

Speech completed, Jamie’s shoulders relaxed as he removed the tiny box from his pocket. A small engagement ring shone through the natural light from the living room window as he got down on one knee.

 

“Will ye marry me, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp? Will ye do me the honor of becomin’ my wife?”

 

-

 

How did he always make me cry?  

 

Even though they were tears of joy and elation, that didn’t stop Clarie from thinking it. She looked from the ring, to Jamie, and back again, almost to make sure this was all real and not another dream. Or worse, a dream that would turn into a nightmare. The ring itself was simple, yet beautiful. This man knew her heart inside and out. 

 

Claire looked into the box in front of her, held by the man she loved so deeply. The ring was beautiful, simple, but beautiful. Whatever the read was made of, it gave off a lovely brushed nickel appearance, the seal connecting the piece of metal had created an oval shaped sphere. Looking at it again, the term ‘beautiful’ didn’t do this ring justice.

 

When she looked up, she could see Jamie was getting antsy, and studied every expression she made. She noticed that her speechlessness was not helping matters, but how else was she supposed to react?  Everything she’s ever wanted for the last several had all transpired in the last several days. The man she never wanted to part with was now asking her to marry him.

 

There was only one answer.

 

“Yes Jamie,” she cried, “of course I’ll marry you!”

 

His exclamation of relief turned to happiness. He shed a few tears himself as he slipped the metal symbol of commitment over her left ring finger.

 

Jamie rested his forehead against Claire’s. “Is mise an duine as toilichte a tha beò, Sassenach.”

 

She knew once he talked Gaelic he couldn’t express himself differently. Her forehead was pressed against his and her voice a whisper.

 

“What did you say?” she whispered, not recognizing some of his Gàidhlig words.

 

“I said, I am the happiest man alive, Sassenach.” He studied the ring for a bit longer. Time seemed to freeze, just for them.

 

“I love you, James Fraser.”

 

“And I love ye, Claire... Fraser.”

 

She had to admit, despite it not being official yet, it had a nice ring to it. Claire Fraser. She remembered the days where she would repeat it back to herself, lost in a daydream filled with a life of being Jamie’s wife. <i>God, how could she hide her feelings this long?</i>

 

“As long as we both shall live?” She asked, albeit knowing the answer.

 

“Aye Sassenach,” Jamie confirmed, “as long as we both shall live.”

 

-

 

Months Later - Epilogue

 

 

Jamie ended up delaying his trip home by a few weeks to help Claire prepare for her move to Scotland. He would have stayed longer if he didn’t have to go back to work. This time, though, would be their final separation before embarking on a lifetime together, soon to be as husband and wife.

 

Sitting on the plane, Claire couldn’t wait to share the big news she had been keeping to herself with Jamie, and everyone else. She knew this could only heighten their relationship going further.

 

It was lucky for her that she didn’t have to wait long to collect her luggage once she deboarded the plane. She was tired, achy, and a bit nauseous, but the sight of the entire Fraser family greeting her made most of that disappear. 

 

Jenny, Ian, Maggie, young Jamie and her Jamie wasted no time greeting her and helping her with her bags. She couldn’t have imagined a better arrival. Everyone she loved in one place, all waiting for her.

 

Lallybroch was a welcomed sight after all the traveling she had to endure. She was looking forward to relaxing, but knew it would have to wait a bit longer. Her and Jamie had their own living space. Good thing it was spacious, too. They would need it.

 

”Jamie?” She began, nervously rubbing at her stomach.

 

”What is it, Sassenach?” Jamie approached her, seeing her unease.

 

Out with it, I guess, she thought. “I’m pregnant.”

 

It took him a few moments before he showed any reaction, facial or otherwise. This worried Claire greatly. Would this ruin everything? Was it too soon? Did... oh God... did he not want this?

 

Bracing for the answer, she tentatively asked, “well...are you happy?

 

Jamie blinked up at her, and realized his reaction was scaring her. He relaxed, and smiled as wide as he could. “Aye, Sassenach, I’m verra happy indeed.”

 

What started as an annual visit for Christmas turned into the start of the rest of their lives. Or so they would evidently tell their children, and grandchildren. Their future forty years from now looked pretty darn joyous.