“Does it ever stop, Claire, the wanting you?” Jamie had asked her that in those first few days of their marriage. Jamie had known he wanted to bed Claire almost from the first moment he saw her. By the time they finished the first night’s ride together through the Scottish Highlands, he’d been doubly sure of it, that inclination growing each time he saw her, let alone talked to her.
While he’d felt the wanting before their marriage, he’d thought that particular appetence would be at least temporarily satisfied once he’d had her. Instead, to his own confounding, it seemed the more he had her, the more he wanted her. “Better to marry than to burn.” he’d always been told. Well, he’d been married to Claire for three years and the burning of his want for her never left him - from the tenderness of their first coupling on their wedding night to the last frantic coupling, standing against the doorframe of the ruined cottage at the hill on Craigh na Dun, just before he’d sent her back through the stones for the sake of their child.
Even here, in Ardsmuir, where he worked every day until his muscles ached with weariness and his company at night in the cold cell consisted of forty unwashed and equally hard worked Scots, when darkness came Jamie could not stop thinking of Claire. The thinking inevitably led to the wanting of her. One thought of her skin, smooth as marble and just as pale but warm under his touch -- the skin he’d touched so many times during their three years together -- and Jamie was a lost man. He should have been so exhausted from the long days of labor and the cold stone of the cell that sleep would come for him without delay. Yet, so many times, sleep eluded Jamie. It was yet one more battle he fought.
Jamie would lie quietly, listening to the somnolent snoring of the men around him. Too often, whether he wished it or not, he would hear another man’s attempt to surreptitiously relieve physical yearnings for whatever woman occupied his thoughts. Every night Jamie would think of the love he shared with Claire. The physicality of their lovemaking, sometimes gentle, sometimes furious, would come back to his mind to haunt him. Most nights he would at least contain his desire to indulge in what the priests had described as “self-abuse.” Some nights, he lost that battle.
No matter what small physical relief he might obtain from the release of his seed into his palm, the wanting of Claire never stopped. And even if Jamie won the battle of his will before sleeping, if he dreamt of Claire and their lovemaking, he would often enough, upon waking, find his breeks damp with nocturnal emissions, the physical evidence of his body’s efforts to complete the act of love his mind so stubbornly persisted in pursuing in dreams of Claire.
Jamie now had the answer to his question – no, the wanting of Claire never had stopped and apparently never would - but the having of that answer was certainly no comfort to him. In fact, he sometimes thought the wanting would drive him mad. This night seemed no different from so many others. Yet Jamie felt particularly close to Claire tonight. Perhaps because it was near Samhain he felt her spirit about him. His last conscious thought as sleep finally came for him was that the wanting would invade his dreams once more. And so it did.
The dream was at first just glimpses of her face, with him on the hillside where they made love and he heard his own voice telling her that “I feel like God himself when I’m inside ye.” He felt the joy of watching her face as the laughter bubbled up inside her. Then, other times when her wanting of him showed just as clearly on her face, that beautifully expressive face which could never conceal her thoughts, and spoke more clearly than words ever could of her feeling for him, the exact mirror of his for her . . . the great love they shared and the wanting, ever the wanting.
The dream changed, bringing back memories of other times he’d taken Claire. Early in their marriage, when Claire had made her small mewling noises, Jamie had worried that he was hurting her. “Ye’re so small, I dinna wish to hurt ye.” He’d told her. With her firm assurances that he was not, Jamie began to feel freer to use his great strength in making love to Claire and quickly realized that gentleness alone was not the only, or even the best, way to bring pleasure to both Claire and himself.
Jamie found it more and more difficult to restrain himself as her warm and tender flesh enveloped his hardness and she yielded to him, urging him on until it seemed to him that their flesh did indeed become one and he ceased to ken where he ended and she began. He learned to enjoy the power of bringing Claire to orgasm while he held back his own, watching her face, hearing her moan and whimper under him.
The dream took him to the time he had used his sex as a cudgel against Claire, plunging every inch of his considerable cock inside her with one stroke as he softly informed her, "You're mine, mo duinne," as he pushed himself once more into her depths.
"Mine alone, now and forever.” He insisted, the softness of his voice contrasting with the roughness of his action. “Mine, whether ye will it or no." With the memory of her bare backside squirming under him, and her screams of pain and outrage as he’d punished her mercilessly with his sword belt for disobeying him, the echo of that violence had given him a most terrible cockstand. He’d restrained himself from taking Claire directly after inflicting that punishment, but had promised himself the pleasure of taking her soon thereafter. Soon had arrived. He'd asked her if she'd have him, warning her, "Claire, I dinna think I can be gentle about it." He'd waited just long enough for her nod of assent before he began.
Claire’s buttocks had still been sore from punishment and she tried to pull back from him, but he would have none of it, pounding her harder in response to her resistance, sinking himself fully to the root, causing her to cry out. “Aye, I mean to use ye hard, my Sassenach. I mean to make ye call me ‘master’, Sassenach. I mean to make ye mine.” And he had finally given free rein to his great strength as he continued to drive into Claire, hearing her moaning, not caring if it was pain or pleasure, but taking a deep and visceral satisfaction in his ability to force those sounds from her. Jamie was bent on imprinting his ownership and mastery of Claire on her body with an intensity beyond passion, beyond love, beyond any emotion contained by words. His. Always. Forever.
However, Claire also had taught Jamie a lesson – she had yielded to him then, taking him in. More than just allowing the pain he knew she must feel, she had wrapped her legs around him, welcoming the punishing strokes. She urged him to use her as he would, take her in any way he saw fit, hurt her or bring her to orgasm after orgasm; he could do as he would.
But Jamie found he could not use her so without losing a part of himself to her. With each stroke, with each cry he forced from her, Jamie felt as if his own soul were merging into hers. By the time he’d finished that memorable joining, they were truly one heart, one soul. He had thought to conquer her, but found at the end that any conquering had been mutual. He was hers. Always and forever.
He’d been forced to admit as much in the aftermath. “Aye, Sassenach, I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.” He’d turned her on her side then, with the tenderness he’d been unable to show her earlier. Curling himself around her body, locking her in his arms as they fell asleep, he’d felt sure then he’d never be separated from her. The peace and joy of that moment was both balm to his heart and pain in his soul.
Jaimie’s dream took on a different quality. He was walking alone, on a street in a city he almost recognized, but not quite. There was the old kirk; he must be on Gereside Road, in Inverness. He went along, seeing buildings he recognized alongside buildings he’d never seen before. There were strange lights on the street corners, not lit by any fire he could see. A carriage glided by him, not drawn by any horses, propelled instead by a force Jamie did not understand. Lights shone in some of the buildings, but it was not the flicker of candlelight. It was steadier, brighter.
Jamie’s mind struggled furiously to make sense of what he saw. Then the answer came to him: he was not in his own time. Somehow, he’d traveled to Claire’s time, 200 years in the future. The things he was seeing were things she’d described to him. With that strange awareness that sometimes comes in dreams, Jamie suddenly realized he was dreaming, but still hovering in the half-consciousness and able to maintain the dream. It seemed so real. And if he was in Claire’s time, it must be because she was here. He must find her.
A blustering wind was blowing, but Jamie felt no cold. He looked down at his clothing and saw that he was dressed fine in his good plaid, with his mother’s running stag brooch pinned on his shoulder, holding the plaid to the coat he’d worn on his wedding day. The excellent quality Scottish wool seemed to be doing a better than usual job of keeping Jamie warm this night. True Scot that he was, he checked to make sure his dirk was also there. It was, and his sgian dubh.
There’d be hell to pay if he were seen wearing his plaid let alone carrying his weapons, but nothing else mattered if he could only find Claire. He could sense her presence tantalizingly near, but somehow just out of reach. Jamie kept walking and suddenly saw a road crossing he recognized. A Pict stone marked the crossing in the town as it had for hundreds of years and probably would for hundreds more. He paused, getting his bearings.
Jamie continued to search the windows for sight of Claire and suddenly there she was on the second floor of a modest house. The light behind her framed her image in the window, like a painting, the lace curtains gentling the lines around her. Jamie stopped dead, unable to move, feeling as much like granite as the stone next to him. Claire. She was there and the incredible tender beauty of her almost stopped his breath.
She stood in front of a looking glass, brushing her beautiful brown curls, frowning slightly at the frustration of trying to conquer the wildness of those locks he loved so much. He fancied he could hear her cursing with that peculiar phrase she used, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”
He remembered their wedding night when he’d first watched her brushing her hair. He’d bent over her shoulder and murmured, “mo nighean donne.” The words echoed in his mind and he whispered them into the wind, unable to stop himself from saying them again now.
He wanted to just watch her for a moment longer. He was sure he could find a way to let her know he was here, outside her window. She would come to him if he asked it, would she not? The love they shared would compel her to him as it would always compel him to her side while there was life left in his body. Yes, he was sure of it . . .
These cogitations were interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming up behind him. Jamie tensed, turned his head slightly to see who was coming and then his breathing truly stopped. Jamie’s heart clenched as did his fists against his sides. His heart pounded with sudden fury and an insane desire for revenge. Randall. For all the world, this man looked like Black Jack Randall, but that could not be. Randall was dead; dead on Culloden Moor after that short but devastating battle. So how was the man walking on a street in Inverness? Then Jamie noticed the man’s clothing, which appeared strange, like nothing Jamie had ever seen worn by anyone else. And the face, not quite the same face as his tormentor from Wentworth Prison.
The man was Randall, but Claire’s Frank Randall, not Black Jack. These thoughts ran through Jamie’s mind in the space of a second. Frank would be passing next to Jamie in another moment, what should he do? What could he do? Would Frank even see him? Perhaps not…
Looking up once more at Claire in the window, Jamie realized she must be sharing that room with Frank Randall. Frank would return to that room. He would appear next to Claire in another few moments. Jamie felt he could not bear the sight of Frank next to Claire, see him touch her, perhaps kiss her – how could any man resist touching her, kissing her, if that man had the right? And Jamie had sent Claire back to Frank. Frank had that right now. Jamie had given it to him for the sake of the bairn and for Claire’s own safety as well. It was right, and yet Jamie knew he could not bear to see any other man touch Claire.
There she was, where he could see her so clearly, as he had hungered to do so many times … every hour of every day if truth were told.
One more glimpse of Claire, then, before Frank could join her in that room. One more moment to drink in her unbearable beauty before Jamie would tear himself away and leave her to Frank, as he must. Would she feel him there, outside her window? Would the wanting of her call her mind to him if not her body? And if it did, would that make her life harder? Had he not made this decision once before – and wanted nothing more than to seek his own death in consequence of it? Could he not follow through with bearing the consequences now?
Randall was almost beside him now, but Jamie thought Frank would not see him. Then Frank paused next to Jamie, asking in an exact replica of Jack Randall’s voice – sending a chill up Jamie’s spine -
“Excuse me, can I help you?” Frank did see him! Jamie remained silent.
Randall repeated the question and Jamie saw the man raise his hand, as if to tap Jamie’s shoulder. That musn’t happen . . .
At that moment, the lights disappeared. All was plunged into almost total darkness. The rain whipped by the wind made a veil over everything – including the window where Claire had now disappeared.
Jamie was a man with an iron will and a strong mind, long schooled in the discipline of obligation. His obligation now was to leave Claire to her life, to deal as best she could without him. With Frank.
He must turn away now. With a wrench to his heart, Jamie did turn, face averted, nearly brushing Randall in the process. Jamie walked back down the Gereside Road, rounded a corner, and disappeared into the darkness – away from Claire.
Jamie awoke with a jerk, feeling as if his spirit had suddenly fallen back into his body, startling the Lindsay brothers who slept around him in the cell, guarding him even in sleep.
“Are ye well, Mac Dubh?” a sleepy voice inquired.
“Aye.” Jamie answered in a croaking voice. “A dream, Murdo, just a dream.”
“Mmhph.” Murdo replied, and was snoring again almost before Jamie could finish his answer.
"Ah, Dhia" Jamie prayed, as he did whenever he thought of Claire. "May she be safe. Her and the child."
All the men in the cell were asleep save Jamie, left essentially alone once more, with only the wanting of Claire to keep him company. He would cherish the wanting of her, as he had once cherished the having of her. It was all that was left to him now, the sweet torment of the never-ending wanting.