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Instruments of Flight

Chapter Text

I don’t know how nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you

Lyrics by George Harrison // While My Guitar Gently Weeps -The Beatles

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Dark room, clasped hands, the sound of the crackling fire.

A fifth night in a row, they'd fallen into bed together. Making love ended in heavy sleep, neither of them untangling from the other. Now, they lay side by side, awake just before dawn. A noise had woken them both, and they soon realized it was only the wind.

Claire had unfurled slowly, hesitantly, growing more comfortable with their new situation and unwilling to let it come to an end. Dinner would end, they’d retreat to the sitting room as always, and she’d hold her breath as they sat together. They shared the couch now, she being relieved when he’d let her curl up next to him like a cat, her feet touching his leg. She’d enjoy it most when his hand would find its way to her ankle, or to the sensitive skin at the bottom of her foot. He’d rub circles there with his thumb as he rewrote lists he’d made earlier in the day of things they had, things they’d need, things he knew he could get at the old man’s shop.

On a night like tonight, after a dark day of hearing her name on the news, when she couldn’t fight the depths of depression so well, she sought solace in his closeness. She’d miss him fiercely when he wasn’t inside with her, so she’d stand at the window facing the barn, and watch for a glimpse of him.

She’d wrap her arms around his neck as they set next to one another; she’d plant kisses along his jaw causing him to lose all focus; he’d pull her into his lap, pull them both down, then slide his hands under the waistband of her pants and squeeze the soft flesh of her buttocks, pressing her into him - and they’d start what would be finished upstairs. So many things went unsaid, but Claire was terrified to say any of them out loud.

I need you.
Hold me.
I love you.

That last one scared her most of all. She couldn’t pinpoint when she came to the realization, but she knew sleeping together had cemented it for her. She had that gnawing fear at the back of her mind - that ever present reminder that all things would come to an end. He’d grow tired of her, the pandemic would finally come to an end, that some other scenario she didn’t care to envision in any great detail would tear him away from her.

Or worse yet, he didn’t feel the same at all.

That all the caresses, the sweet, sleepy kisses he’d steal in the night were a figment of her imagination, a part of the fantasy world she’d slowly created for herself out of boredom and a desire for some peace of mind, no matter how tenuous.

He’d started his own ritual, and thinking of it during the day calmed her, allowed her to be productive instead of frozen with uncertainty and fear. Before she went to sleep next to him, he’d touch the bridge of her nose softly, kiss the spot once, then lay a finger on her mouth and kiss there, too. He’d whisper in her ear - usually a sweet nothing, sometimes a reassurance - and they’d both drift off.

This morning, neither was eager to get up, so they stayed, bodies pressed together from head to toe, Claire unwilling to part with him.

"What did you do before?" she asked Jamie, her mind having wandered to the past, a past where they’d lead separate lives.

She’d had a husband - sort of - and she’d had friends, had gone out on a regular basis, had loved live shows and going to the theater. She missed her full life at times, but now it was difficult for her to imagine her life without him. She’d insert him into memories she knew he wasn’t a part of: chatting with him at a bar, taking a walk in a park on a sunny day, laughing about a movie they’d just seen, stuffed with buttery popcorn as they left the theater.

Jamie shifted in the dark as he thought about her question, his hand giving hers a small squeeze.

"Same as now, I suppose. Looked after the animals, had a bit of a vegetable garden where I sold goods at the market, sold eggs and some chicks when I had them. I don’t need much here. It was enough to keep myself and, ah, Laoghaire comfortable. Until she left, we'd do things with mutual friends from time to time, and with my sister Jenny and her husband Ian. He was my best friend - still is, I suppose, though we've not had fun together in a good while."

Answering her question, Jamie took a breath, then asked his own.

"How about you - did you have anyone in your life? Before."

Claire groaned, hesitant to answer, but she did.

"Yes. I was with a man when I was younger. It got serious rather quickly. He was so charming, sweet. He did all I thought a boyfriend should. Said all the right things." She paused, laughing a little. "I thought I was head over heels, thought we'd have a family, a comfortable life together."

"What happened?"

"After we got married - I was only 20, he was ten years my senior - some switch flipped, like turning on a light. Turning off a light might be a better way to put it, though. He became increasingly obsessed with his career, and was home less and less. Well, alright, I could put up with that. What was so shocking was that-"

She stopped again trying to find the right words as her free hand rubbed her brows, trying to smooth the crease of worry that had formed. Jamie waited patiently, making patterns with his fingers on her palm.

"I'll just say, he was not so charming anymore. He wasn't physical or anything, but he wasn't so kind anymore. It was frustrating because he'd parade me around events, dote on me in public with a smile on his face. Outwardly, everything was perfect. Social media accounts backed that up, too. I had to have anything I posted approved by him, by the way." Claire laughed again. "I sound so stupid, don't I? Why didn't you just leave, you ask? Well, I did. I filed for divorce. By the time the pandemic hit, I'd not lived with him for six months or so. Weren’t able to start that family, either.” She gestured vaguely to her stomach and rolled her eyes. “I suppose it was for the best.”

She swallowed hard, willing the lump in her throat to fall back down to her toes where it belonged. She refused to cry about these memories - had done so for a long time. She’d promised herself not to let that man pull her into the depths again. She shifted under the covers, glancing at Jamie as he lay next to her staring straight up.

“Do you still love him?” Jamie asked.

Claire shot him a look, disgusted at the mere thought.

“No,” she said simply, leaving it at that.

Jamie rolled over then, facing her, his head propped in his hand. She could tell he wanted to say something with the way he licked his lips, but he never spoke. Instead, he released her hand and ran his fingers along her jaw, his eyes drinking her in like she was the last oasis in a vast desert. She squirmed, darting her eyes around the room, feeling his hand fall to her neck. His fingers were in her curls, his large knuckles grazing her collar bone. She jerked slightly as he pushed her hair back from her left ear.

Sex was the easy part. It felt good, let her escape for a short while, and she craved Jamie more than she cared to admit. They’d become more comfortable together, more at ease in bed, and the feel of her eyes falling shut hard as he touched her in all the right places was more than she’d bargained for. He pleased her, without expectation, and she allowed it - though now he was exploring, and she feared the questions that would come. Like the one he asked now, finger landing on the itchy spot behind her ear.

“What’s this from? It looks like a star.” He smiled, completely unassuming.

Claire tried to maintain that control she’d practiced - ball her emotions up and stuff it deep inside her somewhere, along with the fear, with the guilt - yet she was failing to do so under his gaze, his eyes kind and his touch soft. She felt vulnerable, yet safe enough to tell him the truth. She swallowed, though her mouth was dry, and turned her head slightly, forcing him to remove his finger from the spot. It itched now, and she clawed at it briefly with her hand.

“Back,” she started, then took a breath, letting it out slowly. She wondered vaguely if he would believe her. “Early on, when the pandemic was new and everyone was scrambling to find a way to treat the virus, to protect citizens, uh, they…”

Her eyes landed on Jamie, his face blank as he listened.

“By ‘they’ I mean the NHS - this was all the government’s idea, as far as I know, and the NHS was following orders. I mean… I know I’m not making sense, but anyway, they put a small implant behind my ear, told me it was to track my vitals, to make sure I was well enough to work. I was promised they’d know early if I had the virus and, well… I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but went along with it because I was assured it was safe, that it was temporary, much like all of this. Temporary.”

She glanced at him again, her mind transitioning from her story to bring her back to the present, the faint smell of wood smoke and Jamie’s musky scent as he moved closer. Was this temporary? She felt the need to touch him, to make sure he wasn’t a figment of her imagination. She wriggled closer to him, to feel his warmth. She felt him finger the spot again, not pulling away this time.

“Is it still there?” he whispered.

“I cut it out, not long before I left. I’d discovered they were tracking my movements. So….” she replied, her mind conjuring images of the bathroom in her small flat in London. Blood in the sink, her anxiety so intense that she could taste it in her mouth. The small cuts she had to make hadn’t been very painful, but doing it to herself was slightly terrifying. She had done it almost blindly considering the location of the implant. She’d removed it successfully, carefully keeping it in a small plastic baggie in her pocket when she left the house. She recalled the feeling of being watched, like the Security Officers knew what she’d done, like she’d written it in her blood for everyone to see. But, no - apparently she’d gotten away with it. The red sink had been washed white again, and the small baggie was secure in one pocket of her pants.

She was here now, wasn’t she? With Jamie, living half in a fantasy world, half out. She eagerly changed the subject, and rolled to face him, their legs tangled now.

“Would you take me out? I mean… if we could.”

“Take you out? On a date, you mean?”

She shrugged, too shy to call it that.

“I’d love to. What would you like to do?”

“Hmmm. We could… go for dinner? Have drinks? Maybe dance?”

She smiled as she thought about their small dance downstairs.

“Do you think-” she paused, nervous to ask the question on her mind. “Do you think you would’ve, er, liked me… before?”

“Liked you? No. No, I’m sure of it now,” Jamie replied, licking his lips. He leaned in, whispering as though they had an audience. “I would’ve loved you.”

Claire swallowed, making a face because she was sure she’d misheard him. Yet he said it again, his hand finding its way to her face, where he cupped her cheek in his palm. His thumb gently grazed her lips; she didn’t move, but she felt the beginnings of arousal as he touched her, the act simple yet highly erotic.

“I do, you know. I do.”

Claire laid still for a moment, allowing what he’d just admitted wash over her, a warm rush of water covering her cold skin. Goosebumps formed along her arms, and she couldn’t bring herself to look Jamie in the eye.

“You couldn’t possibly,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “I’m nothing. I’m not worth it.” She felt that lump rise again, and this time she couldn’t swallow it. She shut her eyes, a few tears escaping as she escaped into the darkness. She knew she needed to respond, knew she wanted to. She bit the inside of her cheek instead, enjoying the stinging sensation over the feel of her heart beating entirely too hard. The sound of it echoed in her ears as she felt Jamie’s thumb on her chin. He tilted her head up slightly and pressed his lips to hers. She responded immediately, leaning into him and snaking an arm around his middle.

He pulled away too soon, and she chased his lips with her own. Kissing him was infinitely easier than speaking. He stopped her though, gently putting a finger to her lips.

“Do you not believe me, Claire?”

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“That I feel the same.” she stated, keeping her eyes low. She knew he was staring at her, she could feel his eyes on her, but she stared at his hand instead, resting lightly on her hip. She felt him release a sigh - of relief? Perhaps. He pushed her hip lightly, trying to get her attention again.

“I’m not one to say that lightly - I hope you know that.”

“I know.”

“I’m glad you’re here - with me.”

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she stated, looking him in the eyes now. “What will become of us, do you think?”

“Become of us?”

“Will we be okay?”

“As long as we’re together, yes.”

She ran her hand from his hip to his middle, slightly annoyed that the sun had begun to rise. They’d get out of bed, have breakfast. He’d be gone - not far, no - but it was enough to cause a tightness in her chest as she felt him begin to rise.

The morning was spent, as always, fighting Clarence for dominance, eating a quick breakfast, and then buckling down to take care of some aspect of their planned flight from Lallybroch. This morning, Jamie had maps spread out on the kitchen table, marking their route with a bright red marker.

“Here,” he said, pointing at an otherwise blank spot between Lallybroch - marked by a star - and the caravan park. “I know we’ll be safe after we reach this point - Jenny and I have family who live here. They’ll take us in for as long as we need. A bit of a respite at the halfway mark.” He nodded, pleased with his plan.

“Why can’t we simply stay at your relatives’ house?” Claire asked, eyeing the distance warily.

“We could. We can see how it all goes. None of this is written in stone, after all.” Jamie glanced at Claire, seeing the worry written on her face. “It’ll work out - I’m sure of it,” he told her, taking her hand and giving it a small shake. He wasn’t quite as confident as he sounded, but he hoped it didn’t show. He rolled the maps, lining them up on the dining table.

Jamie pulled out his lists, giving one to Claire.
“Can you go through this - double check we have it all? I don’t want to forget anything. I think it would be wise, with all we’re hearing on the news, that we make our exit quick - in the next few days.”

Claire nodded, taking the list and creasing it down the middle.

“I’ll go work on that now,” she said, sidling toward the sitting room, tension in her muscles as she let the idea that they’d be gone in a few days time - instead of the weeks she thought they had - swim around in her head. She heard Jamie leave the sunroom, and watched out the window as he trudged through the snow to the barn. He’ll be back inside at lunch, she reminded herself, sitting down on the floor with her list, one she’d gone over and over several times in the last week. It was ingrained in her mind.

Two backpacks
Two sleeping bags
Two thin foam pads
One small tent
Several rolled wool blankets
Hats, scarves, gloves (extra pairs for each of them)
Pot and Pan
Tin plates and cups
Two lanterns
One First Aid kit

It went on, and it didn’t even include the food they’d begun to set aside, placed in a sack in the pantry, ready to grab.

The silence in the house was deafening. Even Clarence had gone outside, leaving her alone. She could hear her breathing, her blood rushing through her veins. She glanced back at the window once more, but saw nothing save a blanket of snow, the top of the barn peeking over the hill. She itched to do her usual route to the loft, to watch him work, but she stamped down her anxiety, trying to focus instead on the task at hand.

She sat still, closing her eyes, letting herself believe they were simply planning a fun family camping trip, a weekend getaway to ease the stress of everyday life. She allowed herself to picture Jamie taking her on a hike, tugging her along as they admired the view from one peak or another. She smiled as she opened her eyes. It was real, at least to her. She sighed, adding to the numerous checkmarks on the list with a pen - it was all here, as usual. She rubbed her face with her hands, eager to either get the hell out of here or stay put. She just hoped things would all go as planned.

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Jamie checked the health of the two horses he was planning to bring on their trip north for the thousandth time in the past several days. He knew they’d be completely fucked if something happened to one of the animals. Any complications he could avoid now would make going a lot easier. He thought of his uncle’s house, the halfway point, and wondered if he should send word to him, Dougal Mackenzie not being a fan of surprise visits. He wondered what his uncle would make of Claire.

He heard Alec come in, then, sliding the barn door closed behind him. The man was toting a large sack, and Jamie was relieved to see he’d had some luck.

“Jamie, lad - I’ve found some outerwear, and even a few pairs of thermals for you and Claire.” He set the heavy sack down, rooting through it and pulling out a light pink thermal shirt, clearly proud of his achievement. “Think this’ll fit her?”

“I’m sure it’ll do fine. Thanks, Alec.”

Jamie took the sack from him and set it by the entrance so he’d remember to take it back inside with him later. He could, he knew, go back inside now - leave Alec to the horses. He wanted a moment, though - to clear his head and to replay the conversation he and Claire had had earlier. He turned his back to Alec under the guise of continuing his examination of Donas, and smiled to himself.

If he wanted her before, he couldn’t get his mind off her now. Knowing she felt the same as he was freeing. He could touch her without recourse, could kiss her, knowing she’d respond in kind. It took all he had to remain in the barn until lunch, when he could return to her, to bury his face in her hair, to breathe her in. He’d had to force himself out of bed this morning, wanting instead to cover her in kisses before making love to her once more. He’d refrained though, knowing they had all the time in the world now.

He fervently wished they didn’t have to leave, that they could build a life here at Lallybroch - one he’d imagined for a long time. And now, he thought while suppressing a grin, he’d finally found her - the one he’d been waiting for all these years, the one his Da had told him about. Except he knew it was too risky, and if leaving Lallybroch meant keeping Claire away from London, he would gladly make it happen.

He shook his head to clear his thoughts, doing his best to stay focused on his work. He and Claire would have time, he knew.

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Several hours later, his stomach growling with hunger, Jamie ambled back to the house, his toes freezing in his boots. The snow was wet, and he hoped it would melt completely soon. He was eager to have a normal summer, though the way things were going this spring, he didn’t think it would happen. He anticipated even more wintry weather as they moved further north on their journey, and he grimaced at the thought. He made a mental note to search in the attic for any more warm blankets laying around. He pulled the sun room door open, hearing Clarence trotting behind him, eager to get out of the snow. He smacked the mule’s rear playfully as he made his way in.

Claire was there, in the kitchen, assembling sandwiches for their lunch. She looked back at him, giving him a smile, and went about placing slices of cheese on the bread. He moved to the sink, standing next to her, and washed his hands thoroughly. He heard her humming lightly under her breath. It made him chuckle, and he wiped his hands with a kitchen towel, then snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her to him.

“What are you singing?”

“Just a tune,” she shrugged, smiling again as she sliced the sandwiches in half. Placing them both on a place, she moved to turn to the table, but Jamie stopped her, catching the plates with his hands and setting them down again on the counter. He carefully turned her to face him, arms loosely around her waist. Resting his forehead against hers, he could do nothing but grin as her eyes met his.

“It’s dangerous in that barn, you know, when my mind is entirely on you. I nearly killed myself twice,” he said with a laugh.

He felt her press her body to his in response, her nose grazing his as she moved to kiss him. He held her tightly to him as he sucked her bottom lip, the taste of her mouth entirely too sweet for him to want to release her. He did, briefly, to let his hands wander lower to cover her bottom. His need for her intensified as she let out a soft moan, grinding her hips against his ever so slightly.

He placed his hands under her thighs, lifting her bottom to rest on the table behind her. Standing now between her open legs, he pulled her hard against him, then paused again, gazing at those honey eyes he’d grown to adore.

“I love you,” he said solemnly, realizing he’d not said those words completely - not to her, anyway. He planted a kiss on the bridge of her nose as she smiled, her eyes falling shut as she let her fingers dance along the back of his neck.

“I love you, too,” she whispered, barely audible. He caught sight of her slight smile, hidden as it was in her arm.

“Are you still afraid?” he asked, his eyes trying to catch hers as she kept them hidden from view.

“Hmm. I’m just trying to make sense of it all. This all feels rather...dreamlike.” She looked at him, letting a small huff of amusement escape her lips. Jamie’s brow furrowed, and he took the chance to kiss her again, hard this time, pulling her hips against him again. She responded in kind, scooting to the edge of the table so she teetered on the edge. He held her to keep her from falling, losing himself in the feel of her legs wrapped around his waist.

“Is that not real?” he asked, pulling away. They were both breathing hard now, both their chests rising and falling in rhythm. “You came to my bed, remember? Do you not want me?”

“I know. I do,” Claire stated, running a hand lightly over his jaw. “It’s just - I told another man I loved him once. That,” she said, cocking her head to one side, “didn’t end so well for me.”

“Hm,” Jamie intoned, letting his fingers find the tail of her sweater. He worked it up slightly to find her soft flesh, making her squirm slightly. He gasped when he felt her hand cup him through his pants, massaging gently as she searched for his mouth again.

The door to the sun room slammed shut, Claire jerking violently away and jumping off the table. Jamie pulled her behind him so he was between her and whoever had decided to choose that moment to barge in. Jamie let out a sigh of relief as he soon realized it was only Alec, carrying the sack of clothes Jamie had forgotten.

Alec cleared his throat as Jamie took the sack. He went to place it in the sitting room along with the other gear, and made his way back to the kitchen. He quickly gestured to the table, silently offering Alec a seat. “Would you care for a sandwich?”

“Oh, don’t mind if I do. I’ll be heading back home after, though - before it gets dark. I’ll be back tomorrow, same time. You speeding things up makes me a wee bit nervous, but we’ll make it work.”

He sat, and Jamie passed him an already made sandwich. The old man took a large bite, shaking his head as he ate. “Damn good. Got any drink, Jamie?”

“Ah… I’m sure I do. I’ll go check.” Jamie left him alone with Claire, who was making a third sandwich, and went to the sitting room to rummage in the liquor cabinet. He came back, noticing that Claire had sat across and several spaces down from Alec, arms folded, watching the older man as he ate.

“You’re from London, then?” he asked Claire, taking another bite and nodding at Jamie in thanks for the whisky.

Jamie sat next to Claire, his sandwich in front of him, and he waited for her to answer Alec’s question.

“Yes,” she stated, brushing a bit of hair off her forehead. She slouched in her chair, trying, Jamie thought, to disappear.

“How’ve you landed here at Lallybroch?” Alec asked around a mouthful of food. He took a sip of his whisky, watching Claire carefully.

“I was sent here,” she shrugged, unwilling to elaborate.

“Jenny sent her here, Alec. Thought it would be safe enough.”

“Ah, I see.” The old man nodded then, taking another sip of his drink. “For what it’s worth, I hope you’re able to return home again, soon.”

“I am home,” Claire responded, a half smile on her face. She finished her sandwich and stood, placing her dish in the sink. Jamie heard her behind him, cleaning their mess. He could feel her nervous energy, wanted to reach back and grab her hand, calm her. He focused instead on Alec, though, and a matter he was nervous to bring up around her.

“I’ve got to make a trip to the village tomorrow, Alec. There are a handful of things we still need, and I’m thinking I can get them there without much trouble. Will you keep an eye on things while I’m gone?” Jamie finished, feeling Claire freeze in place for a brief moment before returning to her task. He hadn’t left Lallybroch entirely since that first week, when he’d run into bloody Angus and cut his hand. He ran a hand over his chin - he was due for a shave, he thought - and resigned himself to whatever fallout would follow with Claire. He had no choice - he knew he had to go.

“Aye, lad, will do,” Alec acknowledged with a nod of his head. He swigged the last of his drink, his sandwich long gone, and stood up. “I best be going then. I’ll be here bright and early, as usual, Jamie. Tomorrow’s it, then?”

“I hope so,” Jamie said, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. “We’re both more nervous as the days go by. I think it’s best if we make our exit as soon as possible.”

He gave Alec a wave as he watched him leave, Claire having returned to sit next to him at the table. He reached his arm around, giving her shoulder a small, reassuring squeeze.

“You’re going to the village tomorrow. It’s one hundred percent necessary?”

“I’m afraid so. I want to see about any first aid items they might have, and we’re also lacking enough warm socks. Can never have too many.”

Jamie saw Claire squirming in her seat, then she shot up and grabbed Alec’s glass, sniffing it.

“Got anymore whisky?” she asked, putting the glass back down. She stood to retrieve two glasses from the cabinet as Jamie opened the bottle to pour a bit in each. The light brown liquid burned his throat in a pleasant way, and he watched Claire take a few sips, licking the flavor off her lips.

“I haven’t had a drink in ages,” she remarked, downing the rest of the drink in seconds.

“It’s only two in the afternoon. You’ll be passed out before dinner at that rate,” Jamie said, stifling a laugh.

Claire buried her face in her hands, her shoulders hunched, and Jamie reached to touch her shoulder. She didn’t move, but let his hand rest there, and Jamie began creating patterns with his fingers to let her know he was there.

“Why’d you have to say that?”

“Say what?”

Claire leaned back, her hands falling to her lap, forcing Jamie’s hand off her shoulder.

“You could’ve told me later that you were going out tomorrow. I could’ve lived the rest of the day not having that hanging over my head. I would’ve rather had a good night tonight, you know? Now all I’ll be doing is anxiously anticipating the morning alone.”

She’d never shared so much in terms of how she felt about things that Jamie didn’t know quite how to respond. He wondered if the alcohol was already getting to her. He bit his bottom lip lightly, and chose to return his hand to her shoulder, where his knuckles could graze the bare skin of her neck.

“It’ll be fine, I swear. Alec will be here, I’ll be gone maybe an hour, tops. You can keep yourself busy, keep your mind off it.”

He said these words, yet knew that him leaving for a short while tomorrow was truly only half of it. He hadn’t missed her comment to Alec about where she considered home. He thought his heart might burst hearing it, and now he knew that she was terrified of leaving Lallybroch. Not because it felt like a fortress in a way, that they’d be vulnerable going north. She felt comfortable here, and from what he’d heard from her, this was the first bit of comfort she’d been allowed in a long while. He felt a pang of guilt for coming up with the idea to leave, but at the same time, he knew they had few options.

He was constantly worried about the NHS making another surprise visit. He still hadn’t gone through that damned box sitting on the counter, though he’d intended to several times in the last few days. He mentally kicked himself for being so careless about it. He looked at Claire then, sat still as stone, staring at her empty glass. He quickly downed the rest of his drink and got to his feet.

He took her hand, pulling her up to join him.

“Fuck it all,” he breathed, “Let’s enjoy ourselves before we no longer can.” If they were caught, he figured, at least he could give her something pleasant to remember, something to ease her pain. She looked at him, confused, eyebrows raised. He pulled her to him and put his mouth to her ear, whispering.

“Can I have you? All of you?” he asked, tracing her bottom lip with his thumb. He could smell the whisky on her breath as she leaned closer.

He received nothing but a nearly imperceptible nod, but it was enough. He quickly decided to pick up where they left off before lunch, this time placing his hands under her waistband to feel her flesh under his fingers. He caressed as gently as he could, his large hands grasping her skin as she found his mouth, hungrily kissing him like it would be the last time.

He removed his hands and went immediately for the fly on her jeans, unzipping them quickly. Desperate to touch her, he pulled her pants off, holding her arms as she stepped out of them. She wore pale blue underwear, with little flowers imprinted on them. Running his fingers tantalizingly close to their elastic band, he itched to plunge his fingers downwards, but he waited, pulling away from her kiss. He heard her moan before her fingers found his belt buckle, and his pants soon fell to the ground alongside hers.

He pulled his sweater off, and helped her out of her own, before he unclasped her white bra and exposed her breasts. A chill ran up his spine as she grazed her fingers lightly down his front. She paused, looking at him, then leaned into him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she went in for another kiss. His hands found their way to her breasts, where he held one nipple between his fingers, tugging lightly, before resuming his soft strokes. She breathed heavily into his mouth as she brought one knee up around his waist, attempting to close the small gap between them. Not breaking their kiss, he took the cue, lifting her again under her thighs to put her up onto the table.

Pulling his briefs off, he then slid his fingers underneath the elastic of her underwear and slid them down, then took his place between her legs, kneeling down to pepper her inner thighs with soft kisses. The scent of her arousal filled his senses, and he fought the urge to grab his cock. He could’ve come then and there, but he counted to ten, then began running his tongue lightly over her folds, slick as they were, it was difficult to hold back. He wanted to take her into his mouth, to feel her tremble as he held her clit in his mouth.

Jamie heard her moan, her hips thrusting slightly, begging for more. He felt a sudden tug on his hair, and he glanced up to see her eyes, heavy lids, clouded with arousal.

“I want you here, Jamie. I want to see your face,” she whispered, tugging lightly again to get him to stand.

He did, and she pulled him to her as she sat at the edge of the table again, opening her legs for him. His erection was pressed between them now, and he groaned as she rocked against him. She took him in her hand, massaging the glistening head of his cock with her thumb, then guided him into her. He filled her, thrusting once quickly as they both trembled. His mouth rested on hers now, eyes locked, breathing hard. He pulled out, then pushed himself back into her, her hips lifting slightly to increase the pressure to her clitoris. Gripping her around the middle with one arm, he let his free hand find its way between them. Letting his knuckles rest just above where they were joined, he let a smile dance on his lips as he watched her eyes close with satisfaction.

He knew she was close, her face reminding him of that first night, full of desperation. His legs were growing weaker as they moved, edging ever closer to the end.

“Claire,” he said, pulling her to him, kissing her deeply.

“I know,” she mumbled into his mouth.

He wrapped his arms around her then, pulling her close as he increased his speed. He felt her head fall to his shoulder, her mouth grazing his collarbone as the explosive sensation of their mutual orgasm caused stars to form in his eyes, his breathing slowly becoming even again as he held her in his arms. He wasn’t truly willing to let her go, but after a few minutes, she pushed herself up, smiling at him. He got a real smile this time - not shaky, eyes downcast. The smile met her eyes, her skin wrinkling slightly as she beamed at him.

It was, he figured, the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Helping her down off the table, he bent to retrieve their clothes, dividing them up between them. He slid his briefs back on, then his shirt and pants. Watching her do the same, he wanted nothing more than to take her upstairs, collapse into bed, and have a nap.

She finished dressing and came to him, taking his face in her hands. She planted small kisses along his jaw, at the corners of his mouth, then kissed him fully on the mouth, reminding him of that first time, after their dance. Had she loved him then, he wondered? He shook the thought away, letting her kiss him as long as she pleased.

--------------------------

Later that night, Claire was a tangle of nerves, gripping Jamie hard even in a light sleep. She couldn’t stop her mind from wandering to the next morning, the fateful day when they would leave this sanctuary, her entire world, and now her home. She’d done it once before, she told herself - she could do it again, and this time she wouldn’t be alone.

She’d have Jamie. Trusting him to get them safely north wasn’t something she grappled with. She knew she’d be able to cope with the journey with his help, but she feared what they’d be greeted with when they reached the park. Would the inhabitants be hostile? Jamie wasn’t exactly on speaking terms with at least two of them, she knew.

Resting atop his chest, she let his pulse echo in her ears, slightly off from her own. She breathed a sigh, his hand coming to rub the spot where her breath tickled his skin.

“Alec ate the last of our cheese,” she said, taking comfort in the mundane.

“We won’t be needing it, I suppose,” Jamie replied, giving her shoulder a brief squeeze. “Are you tired, Claire?”

“Yep,” she answered, shutting her eyes. She felt him shift beneath her, unwrapping himself from her embrace as he moved his body down the mattress slightly so he could kiss her. Her head now on a pillow, she felt his hand cup her face, then a finger traced a line down the bridge of her nose. Kissing the spot, he whispered, “Caidil m'ulaidh.” Claire briefly wondered what it meant. He didn’t speak Galeic often, but she chose not to ask for a translation, instead focusing on the sensation of his finger now brushing her lips.

He spoke again, saying, “Sùilean m' eudail dùin an suain.” He kissed her then, lightly, several times, before laying down himself.

Claire fell into a light sleep, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

---------------------

 

Next morning started normal enough, as far as Claire was concerned. They woke together, had a quick meal of toast and coffee. Jamie tended to Clarence’s every whim, and she decided that while Jamie was away she would go about sorting through the clothes in the bag Alec had brought in the day before.

Gathering the list he’d made at the kitchen table over breakfast, Jamie gave Claire a quick kiss goodbye at the door, reassuring her that it would be no more than an hour and he’d be back. Reminding her that Alec was working in the barn, he left, Claire watching carefully from a slightly parted curtain.

She went straight to work, attempting to keep her mind from thinking too much about the emptiness of the house. It was quiet, Clarence having been forced outside by Jamie. She expected him to come knocking against the sun room door any moment, and she smiled at the thought. She’d miss him, she knew, even though more often than not she was rolling her eyes at the mere thought of him.

She chuckled to herself, letting her mind wander off to her dream world. She and Jamie, vacationing overseas - she wouldn’t mind seeing him in the sunshine, sand in his toes. She could hear the waves crashing on some distant beach, could taste the salty air. She could feel their bodies as they swam together, limbs entwined, unwilling to let go of one another.
Coming out of her reverie a little later, the clothes were in neat piles, ready to pack away for their journey. She felt satisfied, ready to open the packs and place what she could in. She glanced at the clock, then, the gold one above the mantle. Her breath caught, unwilling to believe that two hours had passed since Jamie had left. She folded her arms, willing herself to remain calm. She glanced out the window to her right, to the barn. Alec was there, she told herself. It would all be fine, Jamie would come home, they’d finish their last minute packing, and and then… leave.

She spotted the phone Jamie used to play music sometimes, resting on a bookshelf. Turning it on, she decided to play some music, hoping to drown out the voices in her head urging her to begin panicking. Hitting shuffle, she let whatever song came out play on, uncaring about the tune or the tempo. She only wanted noise to fill the space.

She pulled a pack toward her, gathering some of the clothes in her arms and stuffing them in as well as she could. It was tight, and she wondered if perhaps she could wear some of this in layers, as she had when she’d traveled in the van way back when. It seemed like ages ago now, and it only made her more grateful for the solace Lallybroch had brought her.

THe first song having ended, a second song played. She recognized it right away, the piano and percussion hitting her with a warm nostalgic feeling. The opening sequence of While My Guitar Gently Weeps began, and soon the sharp sound of the guitar rang in her ears as she hummed the familiar tune. It was one of her favorites, and she smiled to herself as she continued with her packing.

The music was loud, blaring from the speaker resting on the top shelf, sandwiched in by books. Filling the room, she couldn’t hear Clarence busting the sunroom door open in a panic, or the people entering the house from the front.

I look at you all, see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps

She sang along with the melancholy voice, looking up only to see two men in dark black suits staring at her, clearly just as surprised by her presence as she was theirs. Her jaw dropped, her body froze, unable to decide whether to run or to attempt to fight them off. She quickly saw that it would be a losing battle and made a dash for the kitchen. She could hear the men follow her with shouts in her direction. They ordered her to stop, to turn around, but she refused to hear them.

The cellar door beckoned, but she bypassed it, knowing they would only follow her down the steps and she’d be trapped. She went instead for the sun room, the chickens clucking in the frenzy and Clarence shifting around nervously, his loud brays echoing in her ears as she saw the third person, the one who had startled Clarence. He was directly in front of her; she saw his face, saw his lips moving, but the loud music still rang in her ears as she attempted to maneuver herself behind Clarence.

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

Being skittish with the unknown men in his sun room, Clarence panicked, knocking her down to the floor, where her head met stone. She groaned, freezing with the pain of it. She heard the last warbling chords of the guitar play through the house as she drifted away, unable to fight anymore.

--------------------

“It’s her, right?” one of the men asked.

“Positive ID, I’d say,” another said, holding up the photo he’d kept in his pocket. Comparing the face in the photo with the face of the woman laying on the floor, he nodded, pleased with his team. “We got lucky, I guess. I know they didn’t want her harmed, but the bump on her head saved us from a skirmish.” He chuckled, pulling out the syringe with the sedative. Snapping on latex gloves, he began to remove the woman’s pants.

“She wet herself,” he remarked, not entirely surprised - he’d seen it before in these sorts of situations. “Can we get her something else to put on? Michael? I saw some clothes in the other room.”

“Ah, sure. I’ll get something, Dan.”

Pulling off the woman’s pants and underwear, he held his breath as the ammonia scent filled his nostrils. He readied the syringe, then stuck it in her outer thigh, just as he was taught. This would keep her asleep for a good while, to help in her transport to London.

Michael came back holding some gray jogging pants, stretching out the waistband as though he was shopping in a department store.

“These work, you think?” he asked, handing them to Dan, still kneeling on the floor in front of the woman, keeping his eyes averted. The sight of her naked bottom half did things to him, things he’d rather avoid thinking about.

“They’ll do,” Dan said, working to slip them on her. The woman’s limp limbs made it rather difficult, but he succeeded eventually, then nodded to the two men behind him.

“All right. Let’s get out of here before he comes back. Did somebody retrieve the microphone?”

“I got it,” Michael said, holding the small device between two fingers. “They’d stuck it on the bottom of a can of beans. I’m surprised it wasn’t found, honestly.”

“That doesn’t matter now. We’ve done what we came to do. Let’s go.”

He had the third, larger man, hoist the woman into his arms, and they made their way out the front door again, keeping an eye out for the red-headed man to return. They’d slashed his tires, though, and knew it would take him ages to get back. Dan relaxed a small bit as the woman was laid in the back of the van.

He’d get what he was promised, and he smiled, heaving a sigh of relief as they pulled away from the farm house.