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After All This Time

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After All This Time:

It's strange, being here.

Scotland.

She's never been before, but memories of a time that now seems like a lifetime ago overwhelm her senses—a time when she could wrap herself up in his Scottish brogue and listen to him all night long and never tire of it.

But that was high school. That was twenty years ago. God, how has it already been two decades since she was an easy-going teenager, not bogged down by the realities of adult life?

Claire Beauchamp checks her watch, bouncing on her heels as she waits in line at the local coffee shop. The line is long, which she takes as a good sign that this is the best coffee in town, just as the receptionist at her hotel, Mrs. Baird, had declared.

She has plenty of time, she doesn't need to be there for another hour and a half, but she was hoping to get to the conference hall in time to go over her speech.

The annual Neurology, Neurosurgery and Trauma Conference is being hosted in Scotland this year, and Claire was chosen to give a seminar on the newest laparoscopic technology that had been piloted at her hospital.

As she waits in line, she runs through her speech, or, well, the parts she can remember anyway. Nerves seem to be getting the best of her today.

Words like adenoma, saccular aneurysm, and thrombus fly through her mind, and she imagines the slide show images that will go along with each point.

Before she knows it, she's at the counter, ordering the largest coffee available and a blueberry scone to tide her over. She's too nervous to eat, her stomach is in knots as is, but she knows if she doesn't at least try to eat something, she'll feel even worse under the bright lights while she's on stage.

She moves off to the side after paying, waiting amongst the other patrons for their names to be called. It's crowded in this corner, people bumping shoulders as they try to make room for one another.

It's suffocating, honestly, so she worms her way out, trying her best to slink to the other corner of the tiny establishment. She has to turn backwards to shimmy out, and when she turns about face again, a large, plaid-covered chest meets her.

"Oomph!" she grunts, raising her hand to stop herself from running face first into this stranger. She's in heels for the conference, so her nose is almost to his collarbone. "I'm so sorry!"

"'Tis no' bother," the man states, and Claire looks up at the sound of his voice, making eye contact with another person for the first time all morning; her nose has been in her phone or her mind's been too occupied with her speech to notice her surroundings until now.

But she'd recognize that voice anywhere.

Her breath catches in her throat, more suffocating than the thought of giving her speech in front of thousands of people later today. Those eyes, she'd never forget those clear, blue orbs, the way they used to look at her with so much love and tenderness.

She exhales shakily, shaking her head in disbelief. "J-Jamie?"

Claire feels like a teenager, like those twenty years she was just thinking about had never happened. How is this possible?

"Cl… Claire?" he breathes.

His eyes widen, his large hands gripping her shoulders to lean her back a smidge, trying to take her all in. She bites her lower lip, trying to squash the smile blooming on her face.

"Christ, Sassenach! What're ye doin here? In Scotland?"

She giggles breathlessly, tucking a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. She'd left her curls wavy today, styling them so they weren't as wild as they naturally are, but this one ringlet never seems to want to stay down.

"I," she starts, her voice seeming to get caught in her throat. She tugs at the collar of her black shirt, the bow that rests there suddenly feeling like a noose.

Before she can say more, a loud, "Claire!" rings out from behind the counter.

Looking over her shoulder, Claire waves a hand to the barista to signal that she's Claire, then looks back to Jamie, asking him to hang on for a second. "I'll be right back."

He nods, and she turns away, squeezing her way through the other customers to retrieve her breakfast.

When she returns, Jamie takes her hand, the gesture seeming so natural, like no time has passed in all the years they've been apart, and he urges, "Can we talk outside? Less people out there."

She grins at how sheepish and adorable he still is and suddenly she's back in high school.

Back in New York, where all the girls can't stop talking about the new exchange student that's come for their senior year before they all head off to college.

Claire giggles at the memory, remembering how excited everyone was and how shocked she'd been to see the handsome ginger walking through the doorway of her History class. His hair was longer back then, but he is just as beautiful now as she remembers him being so long ago. She was entranced by the boy, and somehow, for whatever reason, he'd navigated toward her as well.

They'd been drawn to one another like moths to a flame, maybe for the sole reason of them both being outlanders in a new country. Before the school year could even really get started, all the other girls hated Claire because the cutest boy in school was besotted with her and not them.

They'd been inseparable, Claire and Jamie, had held hands to and from each class, and were lucky enough to be lab partners, which led to study dates at her house.

Her parents had died when she was younger, something Jamie could relate to since his own mother had passed away a few years prior. Claire grew up with her Uncle Lamb in the States, who was endlessly amused by the pair of teenagers so young and in love.

Lamb was an archeologist who traveled the world, but once Claire grew old enough for school, they'd settled in New York where Lamb could study and work at The New York State Museum that had a collection of over three million different archeological finds, some of which he had contributed over the years.

Uncle Lamb always allowed Jamie to come over, so long as the bedroom door was open, which amused Claire but made Jamie's cheeks turn just as red as his hair.

Not that the open door had stopped them from exploring one another. There were plenty of dates to sneak away on—late nights in open fields, making out in movie theaters, and anywhere else the pair could find to be alone.

The school year ended, however, and after graduation everything changed...

"How have you been?" Jamie asks, leading her to a table just outside the café.

His hand is still holding hers lightly, and she's reluctant to let go. The feel of him there with her settles her nerves more than anything else has so far today.

It's warm out, a light breeze cooling things off. Jamie's plaid shirt is covered by a thin hunter green jacket, and she's thankful she chose a black suit with a matching jacket today instead of the dress she originally had planned.

Situating herself in the chair, she releases his hand and sets her coffee and scone down as well, saying, "Really well. I'm a doctor, a, a surgeon, actually."

"Aye," he huffs with a boyish grin, "I always kent ye'd be. Ye were always so fascinated by the wee beasties and what not."

Chuckling, she shakes her head with a fond smile. "They're germs, and you certainly know that by now."

Memories of helping the young Scot study Biology and teaching him all the science she knew back then flash through her mind, and she smiles wistfully at the wave of nostalgia it washes over her.

"But it's sae much more fun callin' 'em that."

They laugh lightly, and Claire can't help but stare at him in wonder.

He's grown up, for sure, who hasn't in twenty years? His hair is still just a gorgeously red, still curls on the ends like she used to love. His body has grown, his muscles much more defined than they were at eighteen, and holy hell, is he gorgeous.

She bites her lips, trailing her eyes back to his face when she realizes they've meandered elsewhere.

"Sorry," she huffs in embarrassment as she catches his gaze and notes the amused smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I just can't believe you're here."

He grins again, "'Tis me that should be shocked, no? I'm the one that lives here."

Before she can reply, his eye catches the gleam on her finger. Slowly, oh so slowly, he reaches across the small, wooden table, lifting her hand in his.

Shit.

He'd given her that ring, that thin, silver band that meant nothing, really. It had been a promise back then, so long ago, that when he returned from Scotland, after tending to his family's farm for the summer, they'd be together.

That summer, though, his father had grown ill, cancer, and had passed away before Jamie really had time to wrap his head around what his father's death would mean for him, and for them.

His mother was gone, then his father, which just left Jamie and his older sister, Jenny to run the land. Jenny was fresh out of University at the time, newly married to Ian and already with child. She was in no way prepared to take over the family business with everything going on in her life. He'd never want to put that kind of burden on her. Especially after Ian got knocked from a horse he was training one day and had his leg trampled on, injuring it permanently.

It wasn't what Jamie had planned for his life, Claire knew that. They'd spent plenty a night planning a future together. They'd wanted to move to Boston for her to attend medical school, and he wanted to go to college as well, to study linguistics.

They were going to start a life together, no matter how young they were—marriage, a gaggle of kids, graduation, buying a house… they wanted it all. They'd make it work because they were convinced they'd never love another human as much as they loved each other.

But that all changed with one phone call, one teary-eyed conversation where Jamie told her he had to put their dreams on hold, had to take care of his family's business. They'd have nothing without the farm, and he was the only one who could manage it for now.

He'd begged her forgiveness, begged her to still go to Boston, to not let this hiccup in his life stunt her own dreams.

And after months of toying with the possibility of moving to Scotland to be with Jamie or moving to Boston, her longing to attend Harvard won out… especially after Jamie completely pulled away and distanced himself. Removing himself from the equation.

Bloody bastard.

She knows now he'd done it to make her decision easier, and she's thankful for it all these years later. He knew she would've given up everything to be with and support him. But back then she'd hated him, had been so mad that she often considered tossing the ring into the trash.

But she couldn't.

Something always told her not to.

So there it sat, on her right ring finger. Just a tiny sliver of a reminder to her and only her that love was possible, even if it wasn't with Jamie Fraser, being loved so deeply again could happen.

After a while, it became like a second skin to her, often forgetting it was there after so many years.

"I never took it off," she whispers, rubbing at the back of her neck as pink tinges her cheeks.

He tugs at his bottom lip with his teeth, nodding with wide, watery eyes as he lets her hand go, his thumb trailing against her skin as he does.

She grabs her coffee, not knowing what else to do, praying that her rapidly beating heart would slow down enough to stop echoing in her eardrums.

Inhaling sharply, she bounces her leg that's crossed over the other, smiling shyly over at him.

Jamie smiles back, shaking his head. "It's verra nice to see ye, Sassenach."

Her stomach flutters at the nickname that she hasn't heard in two decades, instantly making her feel like she's eighteen again, sitting under a starry night on a blanket holding hands and peppering kisses to his neck.

"So a surgeon, eh?"

She pulls herself from the memory and nods, explaining that yes, she went to Harvard, loved it, in fact, and became a surgeon. "I had to work my ass off, of course, to become one, but it was worth it. I'm in line to be chief of surgery, actually." She smiles fondly, knowing that no matter what happened in their lives, becoming a surgeon was one of the best decisions she ever made. "What about you? Are you still running your family's farm?"

"Aye," he replies, tucking his chin to his chest before looking up at her through those long lashes of his. He tells her, "I won't bring us down with the details of the first few years, tryin' tae keep the business afloat wi'out my da, but after some time, things worked out." He tells her how with the help of his business partner and family friend, Murtagh, they've been able to expand the business. "'Tis now more than just a farm, ken? We've got horses fer people to ride, we do lessons fer kids, and we've got an apple orchard people visit each Fall. It's become a bit of a popular attraction around here."

She smiles watching him light up as he explains his business, and she's truly happy for him. It brings her great peace to know everything worked out. "Horseback riding lessons?" she asks, "My daughter would love that."

His head tilts, wonder filling his eyes. "A daughter?"

"Yes," she grins, reaching for her phone. "I was married for a little while during medical school. But," she waves her hand, not wanting to go into the details of how terrible Frank was and how his mistresses took precedence over Claire and their child. "Well, let's just say after only four short years, I realized Frank was a mistake and I went back to being a Beauchamp." She sighs, shrugging, having long since put the prick behind her. "My daughter, though, is named Julia."

"Fer yer Ma," he whispers reverently, smiling softly, knowingly, at her.

She could cry from the sincerity in his eyes, so instead she nods and unlocks her phone, clicking on a picture of the freckle-faced girl and holding it out to Jamie.

"Och, I'm afraid if I'm to see, I'll need these," he admits, pulling a pair of thin glasses from his jacket pocket. "Only fer reading an' such," he assures, a blush creeping onto his cheeks.

She grins, telling him, "You look as dashing as ever," before her own face grows pink at the realization of what she's just said aloud.

"I dinna look like an old man?" he jests, tipping the glasses to the end of his nose for good measure.

Giggling, she promises he doesn't. "Because if you do, then I look like an old woman with mine." She reaches down, retrieving her glasses case from her bag to show him that she, in fact, has a pair of black-rimmed glasses that she needs for reading as well. "And I refuse to believe that we are old. I may have some gray in my hair now, but that does not make us old."

Jamie smiles brightly, reaching across the table to cup her cheek briefly, thumb rubbing against her jawline. "Time doesna matter, Sassenach, ye will always be beautiful to me."

He says it so casually, letting his hand drop as if he didn't just spew one of the most romantic things a man has ever said to her before. As if he didn't just create a moment between them, he looks back at the picture with an air of ease about him. "This is Julia, eh? She's stunning… jus' like her ma."

She's stunned, knows she hasn't blinked since he touched her cheek because her eyes begin to sting. Claire shakes her head, the blush residing on her cheeks can't possibly get any deeper, yet she feels her skin heat as she looks down demurely, then back up to him. Wanting to focus back on Julia, she laughs, swatting at his arm playfully. She swallows thickly and informs him, "You're a flatterer, aren't you? But yes, this is her. She's seventeen now." She shakes her head in disbelief. "I can't believe I'm old enough to have a teenager already."

"Dinna fash, ye dinna look a day over eighteen." He winks, and the heat grows on her cheeks again.

Damn him. She doesn't think she'll ever not be blushing during this conversation.

Smiling, she looks down, showing him a few more photos of Julia, telling him how smart she is and how she's going to be attending Harvard after graduation.

"Smart like her mother, too, I see."

Claire chuckles, but nods, before locking her phone and putting it away.

"I have a son," Jamie announces, and Claire beams, sitting up taller. "His name's Fergus. I adopted him about ten years ago when he was eleven."

"Are you married?" Her stomach drops at the thought, she hadn't seen a ring on his hand, but Christ, it's been twenty years. She wouldn't be surprised if he was.

She wants to slink away at how desperate she sounds asking that, suddenly realizing there's a voice in the back of her mind screaming, please, God, be single!

Jamie laughs softly, pulling out his phone. "Nae, I was," he confesses. "But it didna work out. Laoghaire was much more interested in my family's money than she was me, so…" he shrugs, not seeming bothered in the least bit. "We divorced a year after being wed, God, almost fifteen years ago. Havena found another lass since that I'd consider marrying, not…" His eyes widen and he trails off, shaking his head as if stopping himself from admitting something he shouldn't. She bites her lip, knowing, hoping, anyway, that he was thinking the same thing as she has all these years: No one could live up to what they had.

Clearing his throat, and breaking the growing tension, Jamie chuckles again, saying, "So now here I am, stuck with a twenty-one year old that thinks he's ready to get marrit!"

He turns his phone around, pride shining in his eyes as he shows her pictures of a dark, curly-haired boy, tall and slender but with the kindest smile she's ever seen. "He's very handsome. Just like his father."

She winks dramatically, showing him two can play this game, but she can't help the little snort that comes out when he informs her dryly, "Good looks can't rub off on someone, Sassenach, the looks come from his biological parents," before joining her in laughter.

Still chuckling, Jamie flips to the next photo, one of the young man on the beach with Jamie.

Fuck.

Jamie is shirtless in the photo, of course, they're at the beach, but good lord, the man has only gotten better with age. His chest is broad and strong, much more in shape than most thirty-eight year old men she's seen.

Granted, she's only dated a few men over the last few years, so she doesn't have much to go on, but surely this isn't the norm.

"Aye, an' he kens it, too!" Jamie chortles, swiping to another photograph of Fergus with a blonde girl. "This is Marsali, bless it all. She's eighteen and already prepared to marry the damned fool."

Claire laughs, but knows deep down she understands that feeling. Would have married Jamie in a heartbeat back then and never looked back.

"I ken back when we were eighteen, we thought we could handle marriage," he says, that sheepish smile back on his lips, "but now that I've raised th' boy, I canna imagine him married at twenty-one! Let alone Marsali at eighteen!"

She chuckles, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, we sound just like Uncle Lamb."

Jamie barks out a laugh, clearly remembering all the times Uncle Lamb forbade the two of them to run off and get married like he could see in their eyes they wanted to do. "How is Uncle Lamb?"

"Good," she breathes, taking a sip of her now cold coffee. She checks the time, knowing they're on borrowed time now as she has to get going soon. Should already be there, really. "He's slowed down in his old age, obviously," she chuckles, rolling her eyes good naturedly, "but you know to Lamb, that just means he goes on three excavations a year instead of his usual five or six."

Jamie guffaws, saying how much that sounds like good ol' Uncle Lamb.

They grow quiet for a moment, Claire sipping her coffee.

After a few moments of peaceful silence, both silently trailing their eyes over one another, Jamie takes her hand again, making those butterflies in her stomach flutter all over again.

It should feel strange, holding his hand like this, but for some reason, it feels like it's the most natural thing in the whole world.

She lets her thumb lightly graze the back of his hand as they spend the next little bit catching up even more, reminiscing about their life together all those years ago. Talking about friends they had and which one's they've kept in touch with, laughing about the pranks Jamie and their other guy friends had pulled on the principal so many times.

"It's a miracle you never got suspended," she titters, shoulders shaking in mirth.

"Och," Jamie scoffs, waving her off. "We didna ever get caught. And ye ken jus' as well as I do that Mr. Dunson loved us."

His eyes are alight with humor as if he can see their principal's reaction right in front of him, and she laughs, letting him enjoy the memory.

They fill in some of the gaps from the last twenty years, talking more about their children and careers. But after a while, with a heavy sigh, Claire lets go of the hand Jamie is still holding. She clicks on her phone screen to check the time, shoulders slumping when she sees how late it's gotten.

Nodding toward her phone, Jamie asks timidly, "D'ye need to be somewhere?"

Looking towards him with apologetic eyes, she sighs. "Unfortunately." She grins. "I'm giving a seminar this morning at the annual neurosurgeon's conference, and I should've been there five minutes ago to prepare."

"Christ, Sassenach!" he says, jumping from his chair. "Why didn't ye say anything?"

Giggling, she admits, "I wanted to catch up with you. And I'm rather nervous, if I'm being honest. I was trying to avoid it at all costs."

"Och," he scoffs, waving her off. "Ye're the smartest lass I ken, always have been. Ye'll do great!"

Her heart warms at his unyielding confidence in her, even after all this time.

"Well, thank you, but it's been twenty years since you last saw me, I could be a horrible person, for all you know, and an even worse doctor."

"Nah," he breathes, shrugging a shoulder. "Ye were the only Sassenach I kent at eighteen that already acted like a fully grown adult. Ye kent what ye wanted to do in life, and I always kent ye'd achieve that dream." He smiles, taking her hand to help her stand from the table. "I have no doubt in my mind that ye're going to have the best seminar out of anyone there."

She chuckles, a blush creeping over the skin as the warmth from his hand seems to settle the nerves floating in her stomach once again.

Sighing, Claire relinquishes her grip on his hand and grabs her still uneaten scone. "Well, then," she hesitates, not ready to say goodbye. "I guess I should be going."

"Let me drive you."

"Jamie, I," she starts to protest, but he holds up his hand, saying he won't take no for an answer. "You didn't even get whatever you came here for," she retorts, pointing behind her to the coffee shop.

He shrugs once more, waving it off. "I was just getting some snacks fer my employees. I can always come back. Rupert and Angus especially will be happy for free food no matter what time it shows up."

"Your cousins?" she asks with a smile, remembering the boisterous phone calls she'd taken part in where she got to speak with the wild cousins across the pond.

"Aye," he responds, shaking his head with a smile. "Still jus' as crazy as ye probably remember. They joined my team a few years back."

Huffing out a laugh, she concedes to the free ride, "Well then, lead the way."

His face lights up so brightly that she thinks it could generate the whole city's electricity, and she grins right back, following him, side by side, to his car.

The ride isn't long. The conference hall isn't far; she could have walked, honestly, but it's nice to have this extra time with him. They laugh and catch up in the five minutes it takes to get there, Claire feeling more at ease than she has in a long time.

Jamie parks the car, both sitting idly by, neither clearly wanting to move.

With a quiet sigh, she checks her phone when it pings. It's a text message from her co-worker and best friend, Joe, checking to see where she is. He's giving a seminar right after her, and they'd promised to run through their speeches together.

"I really do have to go, but—"

"Would ye like to have dinner tonight?" Jamie asks, cutting off her thought.

He blushes, but she giggles breathily, agreeing. "Dinner would be lovely."

She hands him her phone, instructing him to put his number in. As soon as he does, she sends him a text so that he can store her number as well.

He swallows thickly, shoulders slumping when her phone pings again. "Dr. Beauchamp is in high demand, I see."

She grins, but nods, reaching for the door handle.

When she emerges from the car, Jamie is already there, and she snickers under her breath at how he must've dodged around the car to beat her there.

"I ken we havena seen each other in a verra long time, but…" he stops, chewing on his lip. "I… I would verra much like to hug ye. May I?"

She feels as if her insides are melting at how sweet he looks asking, and honestly between all the hand holding and the way he'd rubbed his foot along hers earlier, a hug is the least of what she's ready to do with him.

This morning has been so wonderful, and seeing him, catching up, feels like no time has gone by when in reality, a lifetime has.

They're parents now, both divorced. They've lived two entire decades apart, yet she feels like this is where she was always meant to be.

Inhaling deeply, she sighs out shakily, "Yes," before blinking away the tears she hadn't realized were in her eyes.

His blue eyes are misted over as well as he steps closer, his large arms enveloping her into his chest.

He takes a deep breath, whispering, "I havena done this in a verra long time," and they both awkwardly chuckle into each other's spaces.

"What, hug someone?" she asks, hand resting on his strong shoulder blades and her voice muffled in his large pecs.

He pulls back, just a hair, to grin down at her and roll his eyes playfully. "Hug you, I mean, ye wee besom. Ye ken what I meant."

She smiles mischievously, running her hands down his back and wrapping her arms tighter around his middle as she soaks up all the warm, strong, muscled chest she can while she's here.

God, she's a grown woman. She's almost forty, she should not be this affected by a single damn hug. But, Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, it feels amazing. No one could ever compare to the feeling she has when she's with James Fraser, no matter how much time has gone by.

She sighs into the embrace, leaning up on her tiptoes to get as close as possible, her nose practically nuzzling into his neck. She can smell his cologne, and she thinks for a moment that blowing off the conference to stand here and smell this man for the rest of the day might just be the best idea she's had in a while.

His arms tighten, and he sways them a bit. She can feel his chest rumble against hers when he admits, "I dinna want tae let ye go."

She bites her lip, eyes instantly wet as she realizes she doesn't want to let him go either. "Well, you have my number," she reminds, squeezing around his middle for good measure.

"For God's sake, Claire!" they hear bellowed from a few feet away.

They break apart, long before either was ready, and Claire whips around, wrapping her arms around herself as she sees Joe running toward her. "I thought you were dead on the side of the—oh, hello," he purrs, grinning like a cat who got the cream and reaching out a hand toward Jamie. "I'm Joe Abernathy, Claire's work husband."

She rolls her eyes, but smirks, shyly introducing the two. "Joe, this is Jamie Fraser. He, uh, well… we dated back in high school."

"Ohhh," Joe drawls, and Claire could kill him, will kill him, because he adds slyly, "I've heard of the great and wonderful James Fraser before. Nice to finally meet you!"

Her face has to be completely red by now, she can feel it, especially when she locks eyes with Jamie and he's biting down so hard on the inside of his cheek that she just knows he's probably drawing blood to keep from laughing.

Fuck. This is so embarrassing.

"Nice to meet ye, too, Joe," Jamie says, shaking his hand. "Are ye giving a presentation today as well?"

Joe nods, saying he is, and that he needs to get in there to prepare. "It was really nice meeting you, though. And Claire, I don't want to rush you," he adds with a grimace, tapping his watch, "but you only have thirty minutes before you're up."

Shit.

Her eyes widen, but she nods, watching as Joe dashes away with a grin on his face, yelling from a distance, "I'll wait for you backstage!"

She waves in Joe's direction before catching Jamie's gaze, shoulders falling as she realizes their time is officially up.

"Ye better get inside, then, Sassenach."

"I know," she breathes, another giddy smile growing. "I just don't want to. Not yet."

He smiles right back, and says he understands the feeling. "Call me tonight when ye get done, and we'll get that dinner ye promised."

With that, he leans in, kissing her cheek before walking to the driver's side of the car. "Knock 'em dead, mo nighean donn," he adds with a wink before sliding into his car.

God, mo nighean donn, she never thought she'd hear that name ever again, and her heart swells at the sound of it.

She glances behind her at the scone still wrapped up and in the seat. Guess she won't eat before this presentation, after all. "Keep the scone, at least Rupert and Angus can enjoy it!"

"They'll be fighting all morning over who gets th' bigger piece, I hope ye ken that!"

"Tell me all about it at dinner tonight!" she calls before waving one last time and darting off toward the building.

Knowing she's officially out of time to really prepare, Claire floats into the conference hall and finds her stage.

She meets Joe backstage, his eyebrows bouncing playfully as he asks about Jamie.

Blushing, she whispers that she'll tell him all about her morning after their seminars. Joe takes her hand, squeezing reassuringly and smiles as he kisses her on the cheek and wishes her luck on her speech. She tugs on her suit jacket and runs a hand over invisible wrinkles, and when her name is called, she puts on a bright smile as she walks onto the stage, all the while, thoughts of James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, drift through her mind, bringing her the peace she needs to get through her speech.

After an hour long presentation, then an hour of Joe's, and another four hours of peeping into other seminars and mingling with some of the greatest surgeons around the world, some whom she's studied and looked up to for years, Claire heads to her hotel room (not before a hefty amount of teasing from Joe, of course).

The black pantsuit and matching black blouse she'd worn all day were perfectly acceptable for a conference, but now, knowing she'd see Jamie again, she wanted to be more casual and less business-like.

It's almost five by now, so she takes her time washing her face and reapplying her makeup to be a bit sexier for dinner. She does a slightly smoky eye and finishes it off with a matte red lip.

Claire spends some time rummaging through the clothes she'd brought, knowing she didn't pack anything particularly great for a date with the man she was in love with twenty years ago, but knowing Jamie, he wouldn't care if she showed up in a brown paper sack. He'd still make her feel as if she was the most gorgeous creature to ever grace his line of vision.

She's got casual clothes, jeans and some cute tops she planned to wear sightseeing. But… she does have some backup options she brought for the seminars.

So, with that in mind, she slips into a pair of black leggings, a black leather skirt and a maroon top she'd just bought last week that has ruffles on the shoulders of the sleeves. She throws on a pair of black booties to finish off the look, and decides with the cool night time weather here in Scotland, it would be perfect with her jacket later. She runs her fingers through her hair to loosen her curls a bit before plopping down onto the freshly made hotel bed.

She's nervous, maybe even more so than she'd been earlier today to give her speech.

Memories of the past flood her mind, the good and the bad, and she weighs her options. Should she really call him, or did she just get ready for nothing?

She sighs, smiling to herself as she thinks over today, of the way he'd smiled at her, the way he'd made her stomach twist in knots. There was still so much chemistry between them, and she'd be an idiot not to at least have dinner while she was in town.

She has two more days of the conference, then two days to sightsee before heading home. What is the worst that could happen?

Biting down on her lip, she picks up her phone and clicks his name.

She waits a beat, one, two, three rings, before the other end picks up. "Sassenach?"

"Hi, Jamie…"

{********************************}

End (maybe? lol)

Thanks so much for reading! I originally planned for this to just be a one shot but someone asked me if I was going to turn it into a multi-chapter fic, which got me thinking… and planning… lol so if you'd be interested in seeing more of these two, let me know! And, like always, please review! :)

Chapter Text

Chapter Two:

The next morning, Claire rolls over, feeling more rested than she has in… years.

Her presentation had gone well, and her date with Jamie had gone even better.

He'd taken her to a nice dinner, candlelit table with a beautiful view of the city. Jamie, as always, had been attentive, asking her about her time at the conference, even though she knew he didn't understand half the medical jargon she was spewing. But he'd listened anyway, a soft smile upon his face, staring into her whisky eyes as if she was the only person in the room.

It had made her stomach flutter, like a wave crashing upon the sand in a violent storm, and she couldn't help the shy way she kept biting on her bottom lip to stop herself from smiling quite so much.

They'd taken their time, savoring each other just as much as the meal before them. Having time to catch up, far more than they'd had that morning, had been wonderful.

Jamie told her more about his son, Fergus, and how he'd met him when the boy was just eleven years old. Jamie had been volunteering at the orphanage with his friend, John, when this brown, curly-haired little boy came barreling through the room, swiping toys from some of the big kids. Jamie had followed him as he ran from the room with a wicked grin on his face, only to witness the boy delivering the toys to the smaller children who didn't seem to have anything to play with.

His heart had swelled at how kind it was, and in that moment he knew he wanted to raise the boy to become a well rounded young man.

She reassured him that it seemed like he had, from what he'd told her thus far.

Jamie had grinned, shaking his head. "I canna take all the credit. Fergus has always had a good heid on his shoulders."

Opening up his camera roll, he'd spent the next few minutes showing off all the pictures he had of a young Fergus, teenage Fergus, and the more recent photographs of the strapping twenty-one year old that he was now.

She'd talked more about Julia, beaming with pride as she told Jamie how she was graduating high school and going to college at Harvard like she'd told him that morning. Claire told him of her daughter's hobbies, like horseback riding and playing the piano. Her heart swelled with pride, which was clearly written all over her face based on how brightly Jamie was smiling at her.

"Well, other than raising the lovely Julia, and becoming a world renowned surgeon," he said with a grin, which she rolled her eyes at, "what else have ye been up to?"

Sighing, Claire thought for a moment. "Not much" is what she wanted her answer to be. Truthfully, between medical school, becoming a surgeon and raising Julia, she hadn't had much time for anything else.

She bit her lip, shrugging helplessly with a breathless laugh. "That's about it, to be truthful," she admitted. She told Jamie how much time medical school took while also trying to balance being a good, single mother. "I mean, I have friends, of course, so I spend time with them." He nodded in understanding, saying he's much the same way. "Most of my friends, like my best friend, Joe, are doctors as well. It makes it easier because they understand the hectic schedule of working in a hospital." She smiled, nervous to admit the next part for some reason. "I dated here and there after my divorce, but with my schedule and… well, it just never worked out."

Jamie admitted to much the same when it came to his dating life post-divorce, joking that at thirty-eight, they should know how the dating game works. She knew it was unspoken, but that they were both thinking how no one ever made them feel the way they did with each other.

They both agreed, however, that adult life seems to be just working, spending time with friends and family, and not really having much time for hobbies.

"I will admit," she said, eyes lighting up, "that I do still love gardening and growing all types of plants."

Jamie reached across the table, taking her hand in his. His thumb began to rub the silver band on her right hand absentmindedly. "Good. Ye were always so good at that. Always had a green thumb." He smiled, adding, "And, I have tae say, I've tried tae continue learning different languages."

"Of course you have," she laughed. "You were always so good at them. I'll never understand how an eighteen year old knew English, Gaelic, French, and Latin fluently. I was always quite impressed by that."

"I ken," he said with a sly grin. "But ye ken the first two were spoken fluently in my house as a lad, so I naturally learned those. My mam knew Latin and always wanted her bairns to know the old language, too." He laughed at a memory, his eyes twinkling. "And Da, weel, he was always a bit jealous Mam could teach us something he couldna, so he took it upon himself to teach us all French."

She laughed, imagining his father determined to teach them the language only he knew in the house. "I remember you telling me that," she said. They'd shared so much back then. The loss of her parents when she was five, and his mother's death when he was fourteen had bonded them in a morbid way that only the two of them could understand. "Still very impressive." She smiled in his direction, her foot running along his under the table. "You'd think Lamb would have taught me all the languages he knows from his travels, but," she scoffed a laugh, "I could never really pick it up. Just enough French to get by but that's about it." She sighed, wistfully thinking about how she wished other languages had come easily for her. "Julia knows some French; she's taken it all throughout her schooling. She's not fluent like you by any means," she grinned, "but she can get by better than I could in France."

Claire smiles to herself as she thinks about the previous night, burying her face into the pillow to sigh contentedly.

After dinner, they'd walked around downtown, stopping for ice cream and enjoying the beautiful night. It was quaint, despite being a busy city; it almost felt like a town from the past frozen in time, and she loved it. The temperature, however, was starting to get to her. It was March, in Scotland, so it was still quite chilly outside. She was thankful for the leather jacket she'd grabbed, but it still wasn't enough to keep her sufficiently warm. She'd worn black leggings, but not thick ones, so the cold air was hitting her legs more than anything.

She wasn't planning on saying anything, wanting to soak up as much time with Jamie as possible, but he'd noticed her shivering and decided it was time to head back to her hotel.

He'd dropped her off with a long hug, long enough to let her bury her face into his neck and smell his cologne that hadn't seemed to change in all these years. Or maybe it was just his natural scent that hadn't changed.

It was too soon for a kiss, despite how desperately her body longed to feel his lips against hers. Craved it. But no, they'd only been back in each other's lives for a day. And she was leaving the day after tomorrow.

It couldn't happen.

So she'd stood outside his car, their hands intertwined, unable to say goodnight. Jamie had smiled, admitting he didn't want to leave either, but he must. So with one more final hug, and a promise to text her in the morning, Jamie climbed back in his car and left.

Thinking of his promise, Claire reaches over quickly, grabbing her phone from the nightstand and unplugging it.

Want to go sightseeing today? Then lunch and a surprise.

Smiling, she responds back in the affirmative, and hopping out of bed to get ready for the day.

{***************************}

He picks her up, and her breath is lost to her once again at the sight of Jamie Fraser.

He's in a pair of dark wash denim jeans, but he's swapped the flannel shirt of yesterday for a dark beige sweater, and damn he looks good.

Claire runs her hands down her front, hoping she looks okay in her jeans and long sleeve black t-shirt. She'd grabbed her olive green pea coat to throw over it, knowing the day would probably be just as chilly as last night.

"Ye look bonny, Sassenach," he murmurs, wrapping her in his strong embrace.

She buries her nose into his chest, grinning wildly to herself where he can't see. "Thank you," she replies, pulling back from his hug. "You look wonderful too; very cozy," she says, tapping the brown button on the collar of his sweater.

They climb into his car, well, a truck today, she notes, and he cranks up the heat to warm her.

Over the next few hours, Jamie takes her to see different sites around Inverness, letting her see and take pictures of places like Inverness Castle and the River Ness. Although only the north tower is still open to the public, they were able to walk around the grounds and view the castle's beauty from the outside.

"I feel like I've been transported back in time," she laughs, looking up at the tall structure.

"Aye," he chuckles, "I forget how majestic it is tae people who dinna live here. 'Tis just a regular thing fer me to see."

Grinning, she pinches his bicep, mumbling about how he's spoiled living here to which he just laughs.

"Take my picture?" she asks, handing him her phone. "Julia would love to see that I'm actually out enjoying the country."

He grins, snapping a few pictures as she poses, smiling for the camera and then pointing behind her to show off the castle.

"Beautiful," he breathes, almost to himself as he hands the phone back to her while a blush warms her cheeks.

After the castle, Jamie drives them further from town, showing her Castle Leoch and then the battlefield of Culloden. They walk around, looking at the gravestones of all the fallen clans, all the while talking about any and everything from the history of Scotland to memories of their past they hadn't gotten to share over dinner. Conversation was easy with Jamie, and she enjoys how seamlessly they flow from one topic to the next.

When conversation does halt, it's not awkward. It's a peaceful sort of silence, letting Claire take in the sights and history around her. "I love how much history is here, and all over Europe," she notes, looking over her shoulder to Jamie. He's standing back, enjoying the view, and she can't help but to notice that the view his eyes were on was not that of the Scottish Highlands. She grins but tries to contain it. "I keep telling Julia she needs to come explore this side of the world and really immerse herself in the culture."

"Aye," he agrees easily, "it would be a lovely experience fer her. Let her see the castles and old world that's still preserved in Europe." She nods. "Ye canna beat it. America is beautiful in it's own way, ken, but no' like here."

Smiling, she walks over to him and takes his hand. "I agree."

They climb back into the truck, and Jamie drives a little ways down to the Cawdor Castle and Gardens.

Her eyes light up when she sees the beautiful garden, or what's just now starting to grow at the very start of spring. As they walk through, Claire taking pictures of the vibrant purple and blue flowers she sees, Jamie gives her a history lesson, telling her all about the castle and how it's the place where William Shakespeare's version of Macbeth murdered Duncan.

She tilts her head, narrowing her eyes at him. "That's… not historically accurate."

"No?" he asks with a smirk.

"Duncan was murdered by Macbeth at the Battle of Elgin. Julia did a whole presentation on Macbeth two years ago for a Lit class, and that, I do remember," she chuckles.

"Och, well, 'tis a fun bit of made up history to share nonetheless."

Laughing, Jamie loops his arm around her shoulders, leading her through the rest of the garden.

She snaps more pictures of the beautiful plants, having Jamie take a few more of her surrounded by the vibrant colors.

As they walk, Claire names the plants she sees, apparently amusing Jamie based on the grin he keeps plastered on his face. "That one there," she says, pointing to a group of lavender plants, "can actually be crushed into a powder and used to heal the common cold."

"Och, no need fer all yer medicines then," he jokes, causing her to swat at his arm.

"The medicines have their uses too, smartass."

He laughs, pulling her closer to him as they continue their stroll.

After another half hour, Claire's stomach begins to rumble, causing her to laugh as she places her hand over her belly. "I guess I'm a little peckish," she says, shrugging in Jamie's direction.

He checks the time, noting that it's already one o'clock. "We've been all around today, mo nighean donn. Let's go back into town and get some lunch."

He'd called her that in their past, and the term still made her smile.

With a nod, she laces her fingers through his once more, walking back toward the truck.

{**************************}

After their lunch has been cleared away, Jamie and Claire sit at the small cafe, sipping on their coffees and enjoying the people bustling around them in the village.

It's nice enough outside, their jackets keeping them sufficiently warm, and Claire is just thankful the Scottish rain she always hears so much about has kept away. The sun is providing a nice, much needed bit of warmth.

They take a few moments, enjoying the silence as they both people watch.

Claire's eyes travel back over to Jamie, and she grins when she realizes he's already looking at her. "What?" she giggles, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

"Nothin'," he mumbles, his ears growing pink. "I just still canna believe ye're here. Wi' me. Truly."

She smiles, nodding. "It's quite amazing how it's all worked out. What are the odds of running into you of all people while waiting in a cafe?"

Jamie smiles again, making her stomach flutter. She doesn't ever think she'll get over how gorgeous he is.

"So," he says, placing his cup back on the saucer. "I ken we've done a lot today, so if ye're tired and want tae just go relax in yer hotel, I can drop ye off. But… I'd love tae show you Fraser's Ridge."

She lights up, excited to see the business he's grown over the years. "Of course I want to see it!"

He beams across the table at her, looking like an excited child on Christmas morning. With one last sip of their drinks, they pay and make their way to his truck.

When they arrive at Fraser's Ridge, she has to say that she is very impressed. It's far larger than she originally thought it would be.

She looks out the window as he drives them down the long gravel road, taking in the beauty of the seemingly endless miles of rolling green hills littered with trees. She can spot some workers out in the distance, and a truck with families in the back, obviously getting a tour of the place.

"Jamie, it's beautiful," she says in awe, turning away from the window to look at him.

He's smiling, eyes still on the road as he thanks her.

He parks the truck in front of the largest building, aptly adorned with a large "Fraser's Ridge" sign and comes around to open the door for her.

Reaching out his hand, he helps her from the vehicle and looks down at her feet. "Good," he says with a chuckle, "I'm glad ye've got those on." He points at her black booties she'd worn the night before as well. "It'll make it easier tae walk the land versus those wee heels ye wore tae the conference."

Chuckling, she quips, "A girl always knows how to dress for the occasion."

He grins, taking her hand and leading her inside.

They're greeted by Jamie's brother-in-law, Ian. She takes a mental note of the limp and cane he walks with, remembering how Jamie had mentioned he was trampled by a horse right before Jamie came back to Scotland.

Ian lights up, his smile just as welcoming as Jamie's always is. "Dinna expect tae see ye today, mo dheartáir," he announces, clapping him on the shoulder and drawing him in for a hug. "And ye must be Claire."

Ian turns to her with a warm smile, and she blushes at him already knowing about her, but she confirms it nonetheless, reaching out to shake his hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Ian."

Ian laughs, "A right ol' Sassenach, ye weren't kidding, Jamie."

She rolls her eyes playfully and they all laugh before Jamie tells Ian he just wants to show Claire the farm and take her around. "I know it's my day off, but ye ken I canna stay away fer too long."

Ian chuckles, shaking his head before telling Claire that it was lovely to meet her. "Perhaps I'll see ye again soon."

"Perhaps," she replies, smiling over to Jamie.

He takes her hand, leading her out of the building. "In there," he says, pointing to the building that they just left, "are just our offices and a lobby fer guests who are waiting fer the next hay ride."

She nods, listening as he explains the different parts of his business, glad to see that he actually seems happy with the path his life has taken.

Jamie points out into the distance, to those hills she'd seen earlier. "Those are our apple trees," he explains. "No' much tae see now, ken, because of the weather, but come summer, there'll be plenty o' apples fer people tae come and pick. We also sell them tae local stores, and we've got several accounts wi' restaurants and grocery stores all o'er Scotland that we sell to."

She smiles, telling him how wonderful it all is. "You've grown this into a very impressive business, Jamie."

He blushes, but thanks her, taking her around the back of the main building to show her the stables. "And here's the horses. We use them mostly fer the workers tae get around the land, but we also do riding lessons for kids and teens. We do it year round, but the fall seems tae be the more popular time fer it. People come tae pick pumpkins and ride horses."

Jamie takes her hand, silently walking her to see the paddock for the horses. She meets and pets a few, feeding one a carrot before he nudges her to the next part of her tour.

He continues on, showing her the other parts of the ridge, all the while chatting away about his work on a day to day basis.

She finds herself smiling the whole time, just simply happy to be in his company and to see him so passionate about his vocation.

After two hours of walking and driving all around the property, Jamie parks his truck underneath some apple trees. Climbing out, he beckons her to join him in the bed of the truck.

With a grin, she climbs down, walking around to the back of the truck. He helps her climb in, and she chuckles to herself at the blankets already spread out in the back. "Had this all planned, did you?"

He snickers, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "I just figured it'd be a nice place tae end our day."

Smiling, she lays back, resting her head on her bent elbow. It's later in the day now, nearing five o'clock, so the sun has started to go down, casting the sky in an array of pinks and oranges.

It's beautiful. And romantic. And she feels nervous, but happy, as Jamie settles in next to her.

They lay there, wrapped under a second blanket, talking and laughing as the sun sets above them.

Jamie reaches over, taking her hand in his, and she sighs contentedly. "Today has been really wonderful, Jamie," she tells him softly, turning her head to look at him.

"Aye," he huffs, "One o' the best days I've had in a while."

She sits up, propping her back against the truck, and he follows suit, bringing one of the blankets up with him to place around their legs.

"I only have one more day left," she says, giving him an exaggerated pout.

He smiles reassuringly, obviously trying to make her feel better. He takes her hand again, rubbing his thumb over the top of it and giving it a light squeeze. "I'm going tae miss ye, Sassenach. I ken it's only been two days, but it feels like no time has passed."

"I know," she whispers, emotion taking over. There's a lump in her throat, but she swallows, pushing it away. She will not cry. She won't. She can't.

Silence fills the space between them, the only sounds coming from the peaceful nature that surrounds them.

Jamie sighs, resting his head against the rearview window they're propped against. His hand is still holding hers, still gently caressing the soft skin there, and she doesn't want to speak, doesn't want to burst this moment. No matter how weighted it may feel.

Looking down at his watch, Jamie sighs again. "It's getting late. Let me get you back tae yer hotel."

She nods, unsure of why she feels a knot in her stomach.

It's almost half past seven when he parks at her hotel. They both sit there, unsure of what else to say. She doesn't want to move, doesn't want to leave just yet. "Are you hungry?" she inquires, grinning at him.

He snickers, "Aye, it's been a while since we ate lunch, hasn't it?"

Biting her lip, she tells him the hotel has a restaurant that she ate at her first night in town. "It's pretty decent if you want that. Or we could go somewhere."

He nods, putting the car in reverse. "While ye're here, I'll no' have ye eatin' hotel food when there's plenty o' pubs around here tae give ye some authentic, Scottish food."

"Lead the way, then," she laughs, sitting back and enjoying her last few moments with Jamie.

{**************************}

After dinner is said and done, Jamie finally drops her off at her hotel with another lingering hug just like the night before.

They'd walked around downtown for a while again, stopping in a bakery to share a cranachan. They'd sat by a water fountain, soaking up their time together like sponges absorbing water.

It was colder tonight than last night, but Claire didn't care. She'd sit outside in a blizzard if it meant she got to spend more time with Jamie.

When she gets to her room, she sends Jamie a text, letting him know she made it upstairs safely.

Thanks for a lovely day, Jamie. I had so much fun!

She hits send, then walks to her bathroom, taking off her clothes and readying for a shower.

Her phone buzzes and she looks down, smiling at his reply.

You're welcome, Sassenach. Let me know if you need a ride to the airport tomorrow. I don't mind.

Without thinking, knowing she wants as much time with him as she can get, she sends a text confirming that she would love that. She tells him her flight is at noon, so she needs to be there around nine in the morning.

Not a problem. How about I pick you up at 7:30 and we get breakfast before we go?

She tells him that that sounds amazing, then adds I'll see you then. Goodnight, Jamie.

With that, she climbs into the shower, washing the grime from the day away, and readies herself for bed.

As she's laying there, the last two days keep playing in her mind on a loop. She turns on her left side, and images of Jamie's smiling face pop into her mind. Sighing, she flips to the right, the castles she'd seen today and the carefree way in which she laughed and joked with Jamie fill her senses.

Huffing, she turns onto her back, slapping her hands down on either side of her body as his voice, his blue eyes, his warm touch, all overwhelm her.

She doesn't want to leave. Isn't ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Groaning, she sits up, grabbing her laptop from the other bed.

She knows it's stupid, and rash, and probably the dumbest, most last minute decision she's ever made, but she opens her email and pulls up her flight information.

From there, she clicks on the airline's main page and researches her options.

Without much more thought, in the heat of the moment, Claire cancels her flight and changes her departure to be four days from now.

Because fuck this. She can't give up this feeling so soon. She needs more time… just four more days. She has the next week off of work anyway. Then she can go back to reality.

She grabs her phone, sending Julia a text to let her know that her flight has changed and tells her daughter that she loves her.

After that, she clicks over to Jamie's text, rereading his message about their plans for tomorrow and sends a text back.

Change of plans. She writes. 7:30 is a little early now that I'm staying four more days. How about you pick me up at 9:00 instead? Maybe now we can make it to all the places we didn't get to see today. :)

She smiles wickedly to herself, feeling a rush of adrenaline as she tries to sleep. Her phone buzzes with a response from Julia, saying she's glad her mother is taking more time for herself and to enjoy it.

I'll see you on Thursday. Love you!

Claire beams, turning to lay on her side. She feels like she's breaking a rule or something with the way her stomach twists and turns, but she sets her alarm early enough that she can get up and get ready before Jamie arrives. Thank god her indecisiveness when packing for a three day trip caused her to pack more than enough clothes.

Just before she falls asleep, she gets one more text message.

What?! Oh, Sassenach, I'm so happy. I'll see you in the morning!

Reading it, she grins, thoughts of Jamie Fraser and what the next four days may hold on her mind as she drifts off to sleep.

{************************}

I tried looking up things close to Inverness, but don't come for me if where all they go isn't possible all in a few hours… just go with it lol

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought 3

Chapter Text

Chapter Three:

Bliss.

That would be the only word Claire can think of to describe how the last four days have gone. And to know that today, standing here in the airport, is her last day, makes her feel uneasy—like there's a tug on her heart to stay here even longer. To never let him out of her sight.

On her first extra day in Scotland, Jamie had picked her up with a giant smile on his face and taken her to breakfast. They'd planned out all the sights she wanted to see, Jamie adding the secret gems in his country that he thought she'd enjoy.

He'd driven them out of the city for the day, all the while explaining to her the legend of the Loch Ness monster and how they could look for him. Jamie had booked them tickets on the Loch Ness and Highlands Day Tour. This gave her the opportunity to not only see Loch Ness itself, but also took them to Fort William where they could walk around, reading about the history of the place, Linlithgow Palace, as well as getting to see (and take plenty of pictures for Julia) the country's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The tour ended back at Loch Ness, allowing the visitors to explore. They sat by the bank, holding hands and talking, Claire wrapped up in his stories once again as he spoke of the legend and how as children they would visit here every summer, he and his siblings always trying to see the monster.

She loved listening to him talk, always enamored with how entrancing his stories were. She blushed when he asked for tales from her life, saying she wasn't quite as interesting as him, which earned her an eyeroll.

That night when he dropped her off, her stomach fluttered like the wings of a dragonfly. She could tell he was nervous, though she didn't know why.

"Are you alright?" she asked, brushing a strand of hair from his face.

It had begun raining on their drive back to her hotel, and she then found herself standing underneath the awning at the hotel's entrance wrapped in Jamie's arms. The rain was pattering against the vinyl of the covering, hitting the pavement with little splashes, but she couldn't be bothered by it, not when she was so close to him, caught up in his warmth.

"Aye," he breathed, "I'm fine. It's just…"

"Just what?" Her brows furrowed as a smile tugged at the corner of her lips.

Jamie dropped a kiss to the top of her head, exhaling as he pulled back and said, "I ken we've only known each other for a few days, but—"

"—bit more than a few, but yes," she grinned, knowing he meant as the grown ups they've become, the ones who have lived a life apart, experiencing things the other wasn't there for.

He chuckled softly, continuing, "but," he repeated, brows raising for effect, "I would really like to kiss ye… if that's alright with you."

She didn't think the feeling of your heart growing wings and trying to fly out of your chest was real, but there, standing so close to him, the rain a sweet accompaniment to the moment, she thought that was exactly what her heart was attempting to do with the way it beat so forcefully against her chest.

Claire could feel the blush creeping up her neck and onto her cheeks as she looked up at him through her long lashes. "I would like nothing more, Jamie."

He smiled like a madman at her response, his arms wrapping around her waist and drawing her near.

"I've been dying tae do this since the first day I saw ye," he murmured.

She giggled quietly, saying, "I've wanted to kiss you every single bloody day we've been together." Sure, it's only been five days, but that was five days too long—for she'd wanted to kiss him since the moment she realized who she had bumped into at the café on day one.

He laughed wetly, breathing out an elated, "Aye," before pulling her close once again.

Claire's arms wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him as close as their bodies could physically get, their chests both heaving with obvious nerves.

God, it's just a fucking kiss, Beauchamp. This shouldn't make you feel this giddy.

Jamie leaned in, mouth hovering above hers for the briefest of seconds to lick his lips before pressing them to hers.

She saw stars, possibly fireworks if she was being honest with herself. This was the best feeling she had experienced in a long time. Sure, she had kissed guys in the last few years, not many, but enough, but this… this was a feeling she never wanted to let go of. Their lips molded to one another's as if they were made to fit together, and she grinned into the kiss at how cheesy her mind was in the moment.

If this was what a first kiss was like, then she never wanted anything else. All kisses should be first kisses because this was intoxicating. She felt as if she'd been in chains the last twenty years, finally able to stretch her arms now that she was back in his. She never wanted this to stop.

Reaching up, she gripped his biceps as Jamie deepened their kiss. She knew that this was the one she was meant to kiss forever. No one could ever compare to the feeling she had when she was with James Fraser, no matter how much time had gone by.

She sighed into the embrace, leaning up on her tiptoes to get as close as possible. Her tongue ran along his bottom lip, finding its way inside his mouth as she tilted her head, giving him better access, and the little moan that reverberated in the back of her throat really couldn't be helped.

If anyone were to walk past the hotel at this moment, she would have no idea. Passersby be damned.

Claire could feel his wicked little grin against her mouth, damn him, so she opened her mouth, teasing him for just a bit, just long enough to make his chest rumble with a quiet moan of his own.

She came back to reality when a clap of thunder sounded off in the distance, the rain starting to pick up.

Claire pulled back, a hand reaching up to brush against her thoroughly well kissed lips as she looked up at Jamie.

"Well," he breathed, his lips tinged with red from how hard they'd been kissing. "I'll see ye tomorrow?"

"Uh-huh," she mumbled, both of them too dazed to say anything else.

Jamie smiled one of those sweet smiles, the ones that reminded her of his boyish charm he still had in him, and leaned in to press another, albeit much more gentle, kiss to her lips. "I like the feel of that," he said into her mouth, placing another kiss there before fully stepping back.

Her hands were still on his arms but traveled down to collect his hands in hers. She swung them slightly between their bodies, staring up at him as if he might disappear if she let him go. "I do, too," she told him, smiling brightly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Goodnight, Sassenach," he said, one more kiss for the road before he dashed out into the rain, hopping in his car and driving away for the night.

She'd gone to her room in a fog, everything around her seeming blurry as she replayed their first kiss over and over again as she fell asleep.

On another day, they'd ventured to Craigh Na Dun. Once a historic sight, it now belonged to a fellow farmer that Jamie knew. The hilltop where the stones resided was open to the public on some days, but this day, Jamie had worked his connections and gotten them time alone by the stones.

He had packed them a picnic, filled with fresh fruit from Fraser's Ridge and enough sandwiches to feed her three times over.

"Were you planning on keeping me up here for the next two days?" she'd asked, smoothing out the tartan blanket beneath them. She smirked, as she took his offered water bottle from his hands, giving him a soft, "Thanks."

"Och," he scoffed with a smile, "Nae. It's just so bonny up here, I dinna ken how long we'd stay. We might even get to see the faeries."

She leaned back, her back pressing against the tallest of the standing stones. "The what?" she asked with a laugh.

Jamie proceeded to tell her the story of The Woman of Balnain. "It's a story passed down from every generation, ken. 'Tis about a lass who touched the tallest stone one night," he explained, pointing to the stone she leaned against, "and was transported to a far, distant land. She met and lived with the people there, becoming friends and even lovers with them."

"Goodness," she drawled, a dramatic hand upon her heart. "I hope I don't get swept away to another time." She laughed at her own joke, twisting her torso to touch the stone behind her.

Jamie grinned, telling her how the woman eventually came back and lived with the man she'd been with before.

It was odd, really, to think how similar her life had turned out to be like this woman. Claire ended up spending the last two decades living a life she, yes, always dreamed of, but never expected to actually have. And now here she was, back with the man she'd had before her life changed.

Life was funny like that sometimes.

The tension had grown between them at that, Jamie clearly having similar thoughts. They'd sat in silence for a few moments, finishing their lunch while looking out at the lush, green hills.

They'd held hands and exchanged sweet, unhurried kisses for the rest of the afternoon before Jamie took her to their next destination for the day.

The next two days went by in a blur, Claire begging time to slow down.

She knew her heart and mind were both infatuated with Jamie Fraser all over again. Each night they'd kissed goodbye, both refusing to let it go further than that just yet. They'd agreed on her first extra night there that they both knew what was happening, that this was something real. She wanted to give in to temptation, to give her body over completely to Jamie, but he'd wanted to wait, wanted to fully know each other again so that Claire didn't regret doing something while she was just on vacation. He didn't want her to regret him.

It had been hard, and she'd found her hand wandering to her core each night, Jamie's name spilling from her lips, but she understood. Really, she knew he was right, they'd only just 'met' eight days ago. After twenty years, they needed to get to know one another again, to learn about their lives and the people they've become before taking that step.

But now, standing here at the airport, people rushing around them in a hurry to get to their destinations, Claire is cursing herself for not trying to persuade him more to give in to those feelings, those urges. She could have invited him up to her hotel room, she knows he would have agreed, but the thought of one of them having regrets held her back.

"I don't want to go," she whispers, forehead pressing against his.

He's holding both of her hands in his larger ones, and he sighs, placing a kiss to her curls. "I dinna want that either, Sassenach."

She looks up at him, whisky and ocean eyes both watery. Jamie swallows thickly, admitting, "But ye have a life ye need tae get back to, a daughter that needs ye, aye?"

Nodding, she worries her lips together nervously. "You're right." She gives him a small smile, but knows she can't leave here without at least one more kiss.

He pulls her into his chest, his strong arms wrapping around her. "I'm going tae miss ye, mo nighean donn," he whispers into her space, placing another kiss to her mop of curly hair. "I've never been very good at goodbyes," he pulls back, staring into her eyes, "but I am grateful for every day that we had."

Claire looks up at him with wet eyes, one traitorous tear slipping free. "You know you can always come visit me." She grins, reaching up to wipe her tear away.

He smirks, but clears his throat, looking up at the ceiling and blinking his tears away. He looks back at her, a tear of his own escaping.

They both chuckle sadly, trying to stop their crying.

"One last kiss for the road?" she asks, trying to lighten the mood.

Jamie sniffles but nods, his arms wrapping tightly around her waist. "Always."

She runs her hands up his biceps, circling around his neck as she pulls him closer.

Their lips meet, and it's as if she's back on that rainy night, the stars twinkling above them as they share a deep, passionate kiss. She knows this kiss is not exactly appropriate for public, she's never been a fan of PDA, but she isn't sure when she'll see him again and the thought kills her.

Claire sighs into the kiss, trying to take in a breath without ending their embrace.

Jamie tilts his head, tongue peeking out to enter her mouth. She grins into his mouth, pressing her lips harder to his. God, she doesn't want to let go.

But reality sets in, however, and the sounds of the bustling airport come rushing back to her ears. She can hear the announcements over the loudspeaker and a baby crying in the distance. It's all muted, nothing seems to matter except right here with him, but she knows time is running out.

Pressing her hands on his chest, she pushes back, smiling shyly up at him. "Well," she breathes, lighting up when she sees the large smile plastered on his face, "I really do have to go."

"I ken." He leans in once more, pressing a soft, gentle kiss to her lips, much more like the gentle ones they've shared over the last few days. Ever since that first kiss and how amorous it was, they'd restrained themselves to tender kisses, an unspoken rule not to rile each other up too much, even though his soft kisses had the exact same effect on her. "Ye better get going, Sassenach."

Nodding, she feels a lump forming in her throat. God, why is this so hard? She shouldn't feel this upset, she's only been around him for a week. But a week was more than enough time to know that the feelings she's always secretly held for him over the last twenty years never truly went away.

And she hopes he feels the same way.

With one last squeeze to her hand, he lets go, smiling and stepping back from their embrace. "I'll miss ye, Claire."

She nods silently, afraid that if she speaks, she'll burst into tears and then she'll never leave.

Smiling one last time, she reaches for her bag and turns, walking away from him and back to her reality.

{***********************}

A week later, Claire sits in her office at the hospital. She's flipping through her phone, looking at all of the pictures she'd taken while on her trip, and more specifically the selfies she took with Jamie.

There's one of them up on that fairy hill, the stones behind her as Jamie kisses her cheek, her face scrunched up in surprise with a giant smile. It might be her favorite one from her entire trip. She clicks the options on her phone, setting the picture as her background, keeping the photo of her and Julia as her lockscreen. She could never change that one.

Sighing, she closes her eyes, thinking back to the time she had in Scotland. It had been wonderful. Like something from one of those cheesy Hallmark movies Julia loves to watch every winter.

Claire pulls up her texts, smiling to herself as she reads through the string of messages she and Jamie have sent back and forth.

She was glad that he reached out, texting her before she'd even landed to ask if she made it okay. Once she was on the ground and her phone could register texts again, she responded, letting him know that she was home and safe.

After that, they'd spent the last week texting or talking on the phone every single day.

She was happy for it, really. Part of her had feared that she'd never hear from him again, as if her week in Scotland had all been a cruel dream.

How wrong she'd been, though, when on her second night back home, she was FaceTiming with Jamie and, bless him and his adorable self, he'd asked her something she wasn't expecting, but was glad for nonetheless.

"So," he said, clearing his throat, "I dinna mean tae be forward wi' ye, but…"

He was fumbling over his words, and despite his ears turning red, he looked so cute when he was nervous. "Out with it," she'd said, laughing.

"We are, that is, I mean… are we… dating?" He looked so shy that she wanted to reach through the phone and kiss him all over. She didn't think it needed to be spelled out for them to know, but it was sweet that he didn't want to assume anything. "I ken our week together was special, but, now that ye're back tae yer normal life, will ye still have me?" His eyes widen at the blush that creeps onto her own cheeks, and he stammers again, "Uh, I jus' mean… do, do ye still want me, Claire?"

She smiled, feeling bashful. There she was, sitting in her living room in her workout clothes, with her hair up in a sweaty, messy bun, being asked by the man she'd thought of for two decades if she'd date him again. "Jamie," she sighed, "of course I want to be with you." She smiled at his delighted face, adding a playful, "If you still want me now that I'm back here in my normal life."

Jamie grinned, leaning closer to his screen. It was late for him, almost midnight. He'd been in bed when she called, but he assured her he didn't mind staying up late to talk to her. She watched as he sat up more in the bed, his toned abs flexing with the movement. He shook his head and said, "I want ye more than anything."

She inhaled and exhaled sharply, trying to catch her breath. God, he was so sexy and she didn't even think he meant it the way it sounded, but fuck, does she want him.

He fumbled over his words, and it's adorable, really. How one man can be so equally sexy and cute, she'd never understand. Her chest heaved up and down at the thoughts that swirled in her mind, and she had to laugh at them. They were acting more skittish around each other now than when they were children.

"Well then," he murmured, grinning, "boyfriend and girlfriend, aye?"

She laughed, head thrown back. "I think I prefer manfriend, instead." She winked. "Sounds more mature."

Jamie laughed along with her, agreeing to the term. "This is really what you want?" he asked, growing serious. "Truly?"

"It is," she said with a fervent nod and a sniffle.

His eyes were wet as well, and she'd spent the next half an hour on the phone with her manfriend before finally letting him go so he could sleep.

Over the next few days, Jamie would send her pictures of the farm, and of himself at his desk looking bored, which always made her laugh. And in return, she'd send him similar pictures, some of x-rays she was going over and others of just her, smiling just for him or pretending to be half asleep at her desk during a long shift.

Sighing, she sends him a message, asking how his day at work had been. He's five hours ahead of her, so she knows he's already off work and at home, lucky bastard. She'd give anything to be home right now.

"Hey, hey," Joe exclaims, walking into her office.

He doesn't see the need in knocking anymore after so many years of working together, and she loves that about her best friend.

She'd met Joe in medical school when they were assigned to work on a project together their very first year. After that, they were inseparable, always making sure they had at least one or two classes together each semester.

They'd interned and done their residencies together, both accepting jobs at the same hospital.

Joe Abernathy was a godsend, especially once they became so close that he invited her over to his house to meet his wife, Gail.

Joe and Gail had a son, Lenny, around Julia's age which was always nice. They'd spend weekends together, letting the kids play, while the adults cooked and spent time together, unwinding from long weeks at work.

"You alright, Lady Jane?"

She smiles at the nickname. As soon as Joe heard her speak and realized she was British, he'd dubbed her Lady Jane like some fancy aristocrat from another century that just had tea with the Queen.

Nodding, she assures him, "I'm fine."

Joe's mouth opens in a silent ah as he makes himself comfortable, sinking into one of the leather chairs across from her desk. "Well, I know anytime a woman says she's fine, she's not really fine."

Claire scoffs, which turns into a small laugh as she looks at Joe and sees the skeptical, raised eyebrows.

Rolling her eyes, she drops her pen onto the desk with a clunk. "You're right," she admits, shrugging one shoulder up. "I just had a great time in Scotland and really miss it."

"You mean you really miss Jamie."

She cuts her eyes to her friend, smirking at how well he knows her. "Fine. Yes."

Joe laughs, slapping his hands onto the arm rests of the chair and hoisting himself up. "Now that you can finally admit you miss your boy—excuse me, man friend, I can give you these," he says, jogging across the hall to his office.

They can see each other from their desks, which has always been fun, especially on the longer days. "What are you doing?" she laughs, narrowing her eyes as she watches him grab a stack of… something.

Joe comes back in, slamming a collection of pamphlets onto her desk. "Here."

"What's this?"

"Information about the top hospitals in Scotland," he smiles innocently.

She rolls her eyes, but can't help the smirk that tugs at the corner of her mouth. "I can't just up and move to Scotland, Joe. I've only known him for a week."

"A week and twenty years. And you're dating."

"It's not the same. We're totally different people than we were at eighteen."

Rolling his eyes, Joe deadpans. "Yeah, now instead of lovesick eighteen year olds, you're lovesick thirty-eight year olds who can't admit how they really feel even though everyone else can see you're already in love with the guy."

Oh, she knows how she feels. She knows she'd spend every waking moment with Jamie if she could. But she can't.

"Well, either way," she tutts, sitting up straighter and taking on an air of poise. "I have a daughter. I can't move her across the world during her senior year of high school."

Joe leans in over her desk, pressing his finger onto the stack of pamphlets with a mischievous grin. "Just something to think about. For the," he coughs pointedly, "near future."

And with one last shrug, he moseys over to his office with a laugh under his breath that Claire absolutely ignores.

{***********************}

She gets home from work around five o'clock, thankful that her schedule this week didn't include too many late shifts.

"Julia?" she calls, walking into the kitchen to see if her daughter is in there.

Sending her a text, she asks where she is and Julia reminds her that she's at her best friend, Lizzie's house, studying for a test they have tomorrow.

Oh, that's right. What time will you be home?

Probably like an hour

Alright, I'll start dinner in a bit. Love you

Love you too

Setting her phone down on the counter, Claire opens the fridge, peering in to see what groceries they have left. She makes a mental note to run to the store tomorrow before her shift so they have plenty to eat. She has an overnight shift in a few days, so she wants to make sure Julia has things to cook on her own, too.

Seeing that she at least has ingredients to make spaghetti, Claire closes the refrigerator, wanting to change out of her work clothes and into something more comfortable before starting dinner.

As she was leaving the hospital earlier, she sent Jamie a text, asking if he was still awake. He'd responded, but she hadn't had a chance to look at it until now.

Yes, Sassenach. It's only 10:00, I'm no' an old man.

Laughing, she presses the FaceTime button at the top of their messages as she walks up the stairs and to her bedroom, listening as the phone rings.

The swoosh of the ring sounds, and she looks down. "Hi, there," she greets, smiling widely at him.

He's in a white t-shirt, and she imagines flannel pajama bottoms as well since he's ready for bed.

"Hey, how was work?" he asks.

Huffing, she plops onto the end of her bed, giving him an exhausted look. "I had three surgeries today, and one patient's heart rate dropped for a minute. It was terrifying." Knowing that's just part of the job, unfortunately, she shrugs, asking, "How was your day?"

She rolls her neck side to side, listening as he tells her how he and Ian rode out to another farm to meet with the owners. "They're wantin' tae sell the place," he informs her, his eyes lighting up, "and I was thinking it might be a good plot o'land tae buy. We could expand Fraser's Ridge."

"Is it close to your current farm?"

"Aye, 'tis the farm just near us that we drove by when you were here."

"Ah," she says, remembering how close it was. "That would be great for the business, Jamie."

He smiles at her, and they talk more about his chance to expand. He dreams of building more stores on the land where they could sell their products. "All the products we create on Fraser's Ridge could be sold there so the current ridge is used just for the farming and tending to the animals."

Nodding, she listens as he dreams up more ideas, and she smiles the whole time, knowing she'd listen to him read the dictionary if it meant she got to hear his voice.

"I'm sorry, Sassenach," he snickers, interrupting her thoughts, "I'm borin' ye tae death."

She laughs, shaking her head. "I assure you, you're not."

"Ach," he groans playfully, "I could see yer wee eyes glossin' o'er after a while there."

He's grinning madly, so she knows he's joking but she does feel bad. "I'm sorry, Jamie," she sighs. "I really am excited for you. It sounds wonderful."

They talk a bit longer, Claire rummaging through her briefcase while they do. She reaches in one pocket, those damn pamphlets from Joe connecting with her hand.

Rolling her eyes, she pulls them out, tossing them onto her dresser.

She doesn't want to tell Jamie about them, not yet. She knows that would only get his hopes up for a future that she isn't sure is at all possible. At least not for now.

"Weel, I dinna want tae go, but it is nearin' eleven now," Jamie says, stifling a yawn. "And I may no' be an old, old man just yet, but I am old, ken?" She laughs, nodding because she completely understands. "I've gotta be up at five tae get to the ridge. I'm lettin' Ian sleep in a bit since he covered for me while you were here."

Inhaling deeply, she nods, knowing she doesn't want to let him go, but needs to. "I should go start dinner, anyway."

They prolong their goodbyes for a few more minutes before she finally wishes him a goodnight and hangs up.

Tossing her phone beside her onto the mattress, she flops back, taking a moment to just lay there, staring at her ceiling fan.

Her hands rest on her stomach, but after a few seconds she reaches over to her phone again, grinning madly when she sees Jamie sent her one more text.

Glad we got to talk tonight. Let me know your schedule for the week so we can FaceTime again.

She grins, knowing she'll talk to him every day, but she sends him her working hours anyway.

With that, Claire sighs, finally dragging her exhausted body from the bed and into her closet. She changes into a pair of gray yoga pants and a t-shirt before truding her way down the steps and into the kitchen.

She's just started browning the meat when Julia walks in from the garage. "Hey, Mom."

"Oh, hi, darling," she greets, kissing Julia on the cheek when she comes over to the stove. Claire glances at the clock, realizing she'd talked to Jamie longer than she thought. "Sorry dinner isn't ready yet."

Julia shrugs, hopping onto the bar stool that faces the stove. "No biggie. Do you need help?"

Smiling, she tells her she just needs to add some vegetables to the sauce and cook the noodles. This is honestly one of the only meals Claire can't mess up; she's never been the best cook, but she will say her spaghetti is quite flavorful.

Julia stands anyway, going to the pantry to grab the noodles. She takes a pot out from the cabinet and fills it with water, setting it on the stove top to heat up.

Bumping her hip against her daughter's, they smirk at one another, moving with ease around one another until the food is ready.

{*********************}

As they eat, Claire notices the way Julia keeps looking at her.

They've been talking about Julia's day at school and if she feels prepared for her History test, which she promises her mother she is absolutely ready for. Throughout the conversation, Claire's been checking her phone to see if she happened to have a message from Jamie, hoping he couldn't sleep just yet. But when she looks up, Julia has a strange look on her face.

Taking her last bite of spaghetti, Claire wipes her mouth and reaches for her glass of water. "Alright," she says, taking a sip, "out with it."

"Out with what?" Julia asks innocently, grinning into her next bite.

Narrowing her eyes, Claire murmurs, "Cheeky girl," and reaches over, lightly tickling Julia's cheek and neck over and over, knowing that is her most ticklish spot.

The teenager guffaws, holding up her hands in surrender. "Alright, alright," she wheezes.

With a sigh, she takes her last bite, sitting back in the chair. Julia reaches for her water, taking a few, dramatically long sips while Claire stares at her with a raised brow.

Giggling, Julia finally speaks. "I just think it's cute that you have such a big crush on your boyfriend."

Claire's mouth falls open indignantly, and with a scoff, says, "I do not," knowing she's lying through her teeth.

"Oh, okay," Julia replies sarcastically, rolling her eyes for good measure.

Giving her teenager one more raised brow, the younger Beauchamp laughs again. "You're constantly checking your phone to see if Jamie texted you, you guys talk on the phone every night, and you giggle like I've never heard before," she explains, her smile softenting. "It's adorable."

Claire can't hide the blush that creeps up her cheeks, heating her face. It's she who feels like the teenager in this very moment, and she isn't sure how to navigate this.

"If you ask me," Julia says, ignoring her mother's blush. "I say either you go back to him or he comes here for a bit."

"Julia Elizabeth," she scoffs, trying to act offended simply because she's embarrassed that she's apparently been acting like a teenager over the last week.

"Oh, come on," Julia defends. "It's not a bad thing. Look," she huffs, sitting up in her chair and leaning on her elbows, "if you really think there is a deep connection, which obviously there is, you should go to him, Mom."

Claire tears up, but nods, thinking over the last two weeks—her time in Scotland and the week she's been home. Julia had met Jamie over FaceTime one day before rushing off with her friend to the mall, and it had warmed Claire's heart to see them interact—"I think I might need to," she whispers, swallowing around the lump in her throat. "At least for a little bit to see if this is real for both of us."

"Well, I don't think either of you need time to figure out if this is real. You've loved each other since you were my age," she says, her eyes looking off into the distance. "It's like a Hallmark movie!"

Rolling her eyes, Claire dabs at the tears forming in the corner of her eyes. "I can't believe I'm getting dating advice from my daughter."

"Well, you've given me plenty of advice over the years," Julia laughs, "so now I can give it right back!"

They both grin at one another, and Claire is overcome with a thankfulness that she was blessed with this girl as her child. She truly lucked out in the kid department.

Julia has always been so mature, but in this moment, Claire is dumbfounded with just how grown up her daughter seems.

It brings another set of tears to her eyes realizing that her baby isn't a baby anymore. She'll be graduating in just over two months at the end of May, moving out in five months for college, and it all seems like it went by in the blink of an eye.

Julia hops up from the table and dashes into the living room before running back to the table, laptop in hand.

"What are you doing?" Claire laughs, watching as her daughter types away on the keyboard.

Julia shoots her a deadpan expression as if she's just asked the dumbest question in the world. "Uh, booking you a flight… duh."

"Darling, no," Claire states, reaching for the laptop. "This is absurd." She can't help but laugh at her daughter's antics, but she knows this isn't feasible right now with her schedule. "I don't have another chunk of time off for almost a month."

"Okay," Julia shrugs as if it's so simple, "then you go see him in a month!"

Claire tilts her head, giving her daughter the same deadpan expression she'd just given her.

"What!?" Julia exclaims, "That's only four weeks!"

Claire smiles at the simplicity of her teenager's words, as if this isn't a huge thing happening in their life. Just a simple click and she'd be booked to go see Jamie again. She'd be lying if she said the thought didn't excite her, but… could she really go to Scotland, again? And so soon?

Sure, the money isn't the issue. She makes well enough as a surgeon, along with the inheritance from her parents that she's kept in savings her whole life. But… this is big. This feels like her way of telling Jamie that she's ready, that she's in this for real. Deeper than just simply dating.

And with that, she realizes… she is. Obviously. He is too, she assumes—hopes. They've been talking constantly since the day they bumped into each other two weeks ago, why would she think he feels any differently than her?

Her mind is at war with itself, the dark part of her convincing her that he doesn't feel the same... But then she thinks of their time together, the way he held her hand and spoke so softly to her, she thinks of their kisses. God, those kisses.

Claire reaches up, touching her lips lightly as she remembers how his lips felt against her own.

Sighing, she looks at Julia, who is still looking at her expectantly.

Claire hesitantly slides the laptop back to her daughter with a huff, "Fine. If you must."

Julia squeals, taking the laptop from her mother's hands and clicking around. Claire pulls up her work schedule on her phone and together they pick the perfect date for her to fly out. A little over a month from today. And she'd be able to stay just under two weeks, needing to get back in time to adjust to her timezone so she could focus on a big surgery she had planned.

"All done!" Julia declares with a triumphant smile, and Claire takes a deep breath, trying not to get overly excited.

"I don't want to leave you for two whole weeks, though. I feel so guilty."

It's Julia's turn to roll her eyes as she tells her mother. "Well, for one, I'm capable of staying home alone, I am seventeen years old, but I can always go stay with Uncle Joe if it makes you feel better," she explains, as if she's been thinking of this plan for more than just the last half hour, "Plus you'll still be here for my spring break next week, so we can go do something… and by the time you go to him, it'll be," she looks at the calendar again, "the last week of April and the first week of May! It's perfect! That's like three whole weeks away from my graduation, so all I'll be doing is studying for finals. It'll be fine."

Guilt and apprehension churn in her stomach, but Julia seems more than okay with it, excited even. "And besides," her daughter says with a twinkle in her eye, "it's already booked so you have no choice."

Grinning at her daughter's giddiness, Claire sighs in defeat, knowing Julia has won this argument.

They clean up the kitchen and watch a little television together before Claire calls it a night, knowing she's got a long day tomorrow.

Kissing Julia's cheek, Claire makes her way upstairs, reminding her, "Don't stay up too late, young lady. You have that test tomorrow."

Julia nods, saying she's going to go finish the episode they were on in her room and then go to sleep. Claire smiles, finishing her ascent up the staircase, and when she thinks about what's to come in just a month, her cheeks begin to ache from smiling so much. She's excited for her next trip to Scotland… and even more excited to tell Jamie tomorrow on the phone.

{*************************}

Side note: I know Craigh Na Dun in real life doesn't actually have standing stones (the property *according to Google lol* is actually on a farm and they've had to build a walking path for Outlander fans who want to go to the top of the hill so they won't disturb the animals and what not haha), but for the sake of the story… the stones exist lol

I hope you enjoyed this one!

Chapter Text

Chapter Four:

Whoever said time flies when you're having fun must not have ever been in a long distance relationship. Or maybe it could be the fact that Claire has not, in fact, been having fun lately.

The last four weeks have felt so torturously long that Claire isn't even sure how she's survived.

She and Jamie talked on the phone every night, either FaceTime or regular phone calls, and would text one another throughout the day.

Claire thought the time difference would make their dating situation hard, but it turns out, being a doctor with an ever changing schedule has its advantages. There were days when she was up at the crack of dawn, which was just before lunch for him, and others where she was working late, able to speak with Jamie before he went to bed and also when he woke up the next morning all during her same shift.

It was hard, but it was enjoyable.

She hasn't felt this light and free since she was… well, since she was eighteen and planning on spending the rest of her life with this very same ginger.

And now, an entire month after starting up their relationship again after twenty years apart, Claire can finally be in his arms again.

She exits the plane, making her way to baggage claim, her stomach in knots the entire time. She's nervous but excited, ready to see him and get the jitters out so she can enjoy her two weeks here with him.

Two whole weeks. It's a dream, really, and she's so thankful for her friends and daughter back home who made it possible. Julia, of course, started this whole thing by booking her flight, and Joe and Gail were nice enough to let the teen stay with them. Joe had also taken one for the team, volunteering to cover the four shifts she was scheduled for this first week she was gone. The second week was already supposed to be her time off, except being on call twice, and her friend, Louise, jumped at the opportunity to take those nights because it gave her an excuse to get away from her boyfriend she was trying to dump.

Grinning at the thought of her friends, Claire finally sees the baggage claim area just a few feet away. Her eyes scan the crowd, this being the only place people were allowed to pick up their loved ones from, and before long (because he's very easy to spot), Jamie's big grin and red hair are sticking out above the rest of the fray.

"Jamie!" she beams, rushing to him.

He drops the sign he'd been holding, collecting her into his arms. "Oh, Claire," he whispers breathlessly, "I've missed ye sae much."

She won't cry, she won't, but damn it does she feel like shedding a few right now. She's so happy. She knows her body is shaking as if she's cold, her excitement and emotion taking over.

"Ye're shakin' so hard I can feel my teeth rattlin'," he jests, pressing a kiss to her hair and rubbing up and down her biceps.

Pulling back, she laughs. "I'm just excited," she tells him, and he nods, leaning in to press his lips to hers. God, what an incredible feeling. She's missed his kisses so much, and not just over the last month.

As they part, she watches Jamie sniffle, trying to cover it with a cough, and wipes at his eye as he bends down to pick up the sign he'd dropped. It reads Welcome back, Sassenach! and she giggles as she takes it from his hands, folding it up and placing it into her bag for safe keeping.

"Are you crying?" she teases, knowing her eyes are just as wet.

He laughs, taking her hand in his. "Och, I canna lie and say no, Sassenach."

Smiling, she stands on her tiptoes, pressing a handful more little pecks to his lips and tells him she feels the same way. "I can't believe it's been a whole month."

"A month too long," he says, both smiling like mad men as they walk hand in hand toward the carousel, waiting for her bag to come around.

When it finally does, Jamie scoops it up, hefting it up and out like it weighs nothing.

He leads them over to a small nook that houses some chairs, away from the bustling crowds trying to get their luggage and leave.

She gives him a questioning look, and his smile is so much like the boy she used to know that her stomach flutters. "I just needed tae do this one more time before we get in the car," he states, "'Tis only about a twenty minute drive, but I canna help it." She smiles softly up at him as he takes her in his arms one more time. His hug is warm and makes her feel safe, and if she never left this embrace she'd be just fine.

Her arms wrap around his back, his strong shoulders moving beneath her palms as he tightens his grip on her. "It's sae good to have ye back in my arms, Sassenach."

His words are warm against her ear, just barely above a whisper, and it feels so intimate that she feels her face flush, wondering if these two weeks will also hold time for them to sleep together.

Their FaceTime's have become more and more salacious as the month progressed, but never anything too raunchy. Jamie would tell her over and over how he wanted to see more, hear more, do more, but he wanted the first time he saw all of her since they were kids to be in the flesh.

He hated it, which made the situation even funnier, because he seemed mad at his own stupid decision, but she also thought it was sweet. And she couldn't lie and say the first time she saw him naked as a grown man with his stocky frame, she didn't want it to be in person. She wanted to be able to feel and touch him, to slide her hands down his chest and feel his muscles ripple beneath her hands.

So, as tame as possible they stayed for four long weeks. There were peeks over her breasts and pictures sent of his abs or videos of him working out that always made her hot and bothered at work, but they never went all the way.

Jamie's grip tightens around her ribs and she thinks they may crack, but she doesn't care, the feel of him, here, real and in person, makes her happier than anything.

"Are ye hungry?" he asks, finally releasing her with a small kiss to her neck.

"Starved."

They go to lunch and to say it was filled with tension would be an understatement. They held hands almost the entire time, his thumb grazing the back of her hand. Her fingers intertwined with his, lifting their hands up to press a kiss to his palm.

Their longing gazes across the table made her stomach twist and turn, her breath catching in her throat, unable to hardly breathe around this gorgeous man. Her boyfriend… manfriend.

"I've decided the term boyfriend just won't do," she tells him once their dessert arrives.

He's ordered them a slice of chocolate and caramel cheesecake, and based on the size of it, she'll need to be rolled out of here. If this is how he is going to feed her for the next two weeks, she's going to need some bigger pants.

"And what's yer alternative?" he inquires with a tilt of his head and smirk on his lips.

Snickering, she moves her head side to side, pretending to think. "Manfriend seems to fit better."

"Manfriend?" he repeats, one hand landing on his stomach as he laughs. "Strangest term I've e'er heard, mo nighean donn," he says, taking her hand once more, "but if that's what ye wanna call me, then that's just fine by me."

Her eyes soften at the warmth in his voice and face, and she promptly tells him, "Feel free to use womanfriend instead of girlfriend, if you'd like."

His nose scrunches as he thinks about it, finally telling her, "Nae, somethin' about that just doesna sound right tae my ears. I'll stick wi' girlfriend if it's alright with you."

She shrugs a shoulder, smiling. "Works just fine for me."

They each dig into the cheesecake, laughing when they both go for the same spot, but Jamie, ever the gentleman, lets her have it.

It's delicious and smooth, and as they devour the sweet treat, they catch up on things they haven't talked about over the last month. It's hard, they've talked almost every day, but it's the small things they're sharing now—Jamie tells her of a new product Fraser's Ridge has come up with and how Ian was off today marketing it to stores around town, and she tells him of Louise's boy-toy and how she's been trying to ditch him for weeks but he just won't take the hint.

"She was more than glad to take my on call shifts next week," she laughs, "I truly believe she'll tell him she has to actually be at the hospital the whole time so she can hide out."

Jamie laughs, his cheeks turning red. "She's a firecracker, eh?" he says, having met and talked with her a few times over the last few weeks. "She doesna seem like the type tae keep someone like that around."

"No," she laughs, "which is why I'm surprised she hasn't just dropped him already. He must be good in bed or something."

The mention of bed seems to shut both of them up for a moment, her mind going to the possibility of what this trip might hold, and she hopes by the distant look in his blue eyes that he's thinking much the same thing.

Taking another bite of dessert, Claire slowly runs her foot up his calf, hooking it behind the muscle. She lifts her eyebrows when the movement draws him back from his thoughts, and she tries to hold in her laughter as his ears grow pink.

Jamie clears his throat, sucking in a deep breath as he picks up his wine, taking the last sip.

She sits back, foot ever so slowly releasing his calf and returning back to her side of the table.

He takes her hand, asking if she's done with the cheesecake. When she says that she is, he reaches out his other hand for her.

Placing both hands in his now, they sit in silence, eyes connected. There's so much to be said, but so much that's understood. It's as if they don't even need words sometimes to communicate.

Drawing in a deep breath, Claire glances out the window their table is in front of. The sun is starting to go down, the sky a beautiful mixture of pinks and purples. "It's so beautiful here," she says softly, squeezing his hands.

"Aye," Jamie says, "It's one o'my favorite places tae come this time of day. The sun always comes in so beautifully."

He stands, moving to stand behind her chair.

"What are you doing?" she asks, looking around to see if he's drawn the attention of other patrons.

There's no one here, not really. Their table is back in a secluded corner with only two other tables which have been vacated since they arrived. She can hear waiters taking orders in the next part of the restaurant, dishes clanking together in the kitchen just to their right, but for the most part, they're alone now.

"Just admiring the way the sun catches in yer hair, mo nighean donn," he murmurs, twisting his finger into one of her curls.

She's heard the nickname over and over when they were eighteen as well as over the last month they've been together, but for some reason she never thought to ask what it meant.

"What does that mean anyway? I never thought to ask."

"Mo nighean donn?"

"Mmhmm."

She can feel his breathy chuckle hot against her neck, causing goosebumps to rise on her skin. He twists that curl, his palm resting on the junction between her neck and shoulder as he finally whispers into her ear, "My brown haired lass."

Claire can hear the grin in his voice, and she knows it's because he just saw the shiver run through her at the response. Coughing lightly, she smiles, brows furrowing briefly. "Rather a dull color brown, I've always thought."

"No," he says instantly, running his finger through her curls again. "It's no' dull at all. It's like the… the water in a burn, the way it ruffles down the rocks."

His R's roll so seductively from behind her that she isn't sure if she'll make it out of this restaurant with her clothes on, damn him.

She breathes a short laugh, tugging on her light jacket she is wearing.

"Dark in the wavy spots," he continues, his finger no longer tangled in a curl, but she can feel it brushing lightly over her tresses, "with wee bits of auburn when the sun touches it, like it is now."

He moves from behind her just as the waitress makes her way into their section of the restaurant, and she gives the girl a smile.

Jamie takes his place back across the table from her, winking at her for good measure, and she could really kill him, she could. He knows exactly what he's doing.

He pays for their meal with a friendly smile to the waitress, thanking her for being a great server.

With that, Jamie stands, reaching out a hand to her. She blinks, still stuck in the feel of his hands in her hair. Claire looks up at him and he grins, looking down to his outstretched hand and back to her. "Let's get out of here."

{************************}

They leave the restaurant and instead of walking to his car, Jamie takes her hand, leading her to walk around the downtown area the restaurant was in. There's little boutiques and bakeries, and Claire is sincerely enjoying their time together, walking and talking like there's not a care in the world while looking in the windows at all the things she wants to buy (but won't, her luggage is already heavy enough).

The sun has settled even more in the sky, brushing the air with a crispness that wasn't there when she first arrived. She's in jeans and a black shirt, but she'd thrown a black and white striped pull over on while on the plane and she was thankful for it now. It wasn't thick, just t-shirt material really, but it was perfect for the light breeze in the April sunset.

"Oh, that looks delicious," she says, peering in at the bakery, watching as the chef works his magic with his piping bag. "Can we come back here in the morning?"

"Of course," he grins. He takes a step closer to the window, watching the man work, adding, "This place makes some o'the best chocolate croissants around."

"Mm," she moans, eyes growing wide, "You'll have to roll me back to the airport by time I leave here."

He laughs, taking her hand and leading her away from the tempting treats.

He holds her hand the whole time they meander by the stores, letting it go only to point at something down the street.

She's nervous, though she doesn't know why, excited for what's to come would be a better way of describing it, she thinks. All she wants to do is go back to his house and make out like teenagers.

As he's pointing something out to her, telling her the history of the fountain that sits in the town center, she tugs on Jamie's hand, giving him an unsure smile. He looks like he's having so much fun showing her more of where he's from and she feels guilty, but fibs a bit by saying, "I'm… a little tired. Perhaps you can finish showing me everything another day? If that's alright with you." She smiles sweetly, caressing the back of his hand with her thumb. "Let's go back to either my hotel or your house."

He smiles, leaning in to kiss her forehead. "It's more than okay wi' me, whatever ye want tae do, Sassenach." He takes her hand again, turning them in the opposite direction toward his car. "Though I dinna ken why ye ever got a hotel, mo nighean donn. Get on yer phone and cancel the room."

"My stuff is already there," she laughs, knowing they'd specifically made a pit stop at her hotel on the way to dinner so her belongings weren't sitting in his car the whole time. He shrugs at her reasoning, though, saying they can go get it now and take it back to his place.

She bites her lip, and his eyes widen, assuring her, "I'm no' tryin tae seem forward, Claire. I have more than one bedroom, ye ken, so ye dinna have tae feel pressured tae sleep in the bed wi' me, but…"

Claire can't help but to chuckle at how he's rambling, trying to explain away what he meant. God, he's so considerate… and adorable. And sexy.

"Alright, alright," she laughs, holding up her hands in surrender. "You win." He smiles triumphantly, so she adds, "But you're paying my cancellation fee."

Guffawing, he agrees, looping his arm over her shoulder just before they cross the street to his car.

The drive is short, just about ten minutes, and they're there. She apologizes to the concierge, explaining that she had found other accommodations for her stay. She reaches for her wallet, knowing she would never let Jamie actually pay for her cancellation, but he stops her hand, giving the young man behind the counter his credit card.

"Jamie, no," she protests, "I can pay for it."

"Aye," he smiles, taking his card and signing the receipt, "but it was my idea to have ye stay wi' me." He motions toward the lift, placing a hand on the small of her back as they walk toward it. "And I dinna mind at all. Ye've spent enough on the plane ticket to come see me."

Rolling her eyes as they step into the lift, she huffs, knowing she'll never win this argument.

They grab her suitcase and carry on before shutting off the light and leaving the hotel for good.

The drive to his house is filled with even more tension than dinner was, her heart is pounding inside her chest so hard that she's convinced he can hear it, too. She knows exactly what she wants to do when they get there… she just hopes he does, too.

{**************************}

On the drive over, Jamie animatedly tells her about his home, and the smile on his face is heartwarming. He tells her that it's situated on acres upon acres of land, Jenny and Ian also residing on the property. "Their house is a few miles away, ken, but we all grew up here. Ian was always around playing wi' me and Jenny. His family lives just down the road from here."

He tells her of the history, how it was once called Lallybroch by its residents, or Broch Tuarach, which meant "lazy tower." She chuckles at the meaning, but leans her head against the headrest, listening to all he has to say. Claire loves listening to him talk, he was a born story-teller, and the history is fascinating. Jamie says the Laird always lived in what is now his house so it was the largest on the property.

"Why didn't you use all of this land for Fraser's Ridge?"

"Och," he grunts, "I didna want work and my personal life to always be sae close together."

She nods. "I can understand that."

He smiles, telling her that there's a stable out by Jenny and Ian's house where they keep their personal horses, but other than that, it's just a vast plot of land with rolling hills and fields that once held his ancestor's harvests. He always thought it was gorgeous, preserved by history with no one ever building anything on it, and he wanted to keep it that way. There were a few other houses nestled in deeper parts of the property where residents used to live, but most have been torn down over time. "There's a cabin down by the lake," he tells her, "When we want a quick getaway, we'll load up Jenny and Ian's bairns and go stay there for the weekend."

"That sounds fun," she says, reaching over the middle console to take his hand. "How many children do they have?"

Her eyes widen when he laughs and says five. "They canna seem tae stop reproducing." He laughs again, shaking his head. "They range from twenty years old down to the youngest at ten, though he's adamant about saying he's almost eleven."

Grinning, she leans her head against the headrest, enjoying the view of Lallybroch's lush green grass and expansive hills that they drive past.

When they arrive at his house, he takes her hand and kisses the back of it. He nods his head toward a charming estate, situated on a large piece of land. It's off the main road, you'd have to know it was here otherwise you'd completely miss it, and it's nice. Gorgeous, really.

There's a stone archway that they drove under, and his car is parked on a gravel driveway.

"That archway is beautiful," she comments, smiling as she looks up to see the whole house.

Jamie grunts, pulling her luggage from her backseat, but informs her, "It's been here for centuries, ken, Uncle Lamb would love it."

She smiles at the mention of her beloved uncle, making a mental note to call him when he gets back from his newest expedition next month. "You're right," she laughs, "He'd have a field day out here with all this history."

Jamie grins and leads her into the house. He tells her how the house has been in his family for generations, slowly undergoing renovations with each one. It started out as a stone house in the eighteenth century, overtime being worn down by the elements. "No one lived here for a few decades," he says, flicking on the lights, "but about fifty years ago or so, my grandfather found the deed to the house, realized he owned it, and went to work."

He tells her how his grandfather worked in construction his whole life, so renovating the house was a fun side project for him. "And o'course since then, it's been updated and what not, but yeah," he shrugs, "this is home."

She smiles, fascinated with the history this country holds. "It's gorgeous."

Her eyes roam the inside, the large living room to her left, a hallway she assumes leads to a kitchen and a grand staircase to the right. The floors are hardwood and appear to be somewhat original, probably from one of the earliest renovations, though they've been sanded and stained a hue closer to gray than brown at some point. The walls are all painted in a warm greige tone that compliments his furniture nicely and makes the house feel cozy.

"Let me show ye around."

He picks up her suitcase and she grabs her duffle bag, heading up the stairs to the right. At the top of the stairs, she can see several doors, and he gives her a quick tour.

The first room on the left is his guest room, so they set her things down on the bed, spying a bathroom just across the hall. God, she really does need a shower after flying all day. If what she hopes will happen tonight does, she doesn't want to feel gross and germ infested during it.

"Um," she starts, biting her lip and thinking maybe she shouldn't be so forward.

"What is it?"

"Well," she huffs, flicking her eyes toward the bathroom behind him. "I was actually going to see if I could shower and change into something else before we continue this tour," she says, grimacing as she tugs at her shirt for good measure. "Airports and flying all day, you know."

Jamie laughs, apologizing for not thinking of it before her. He tells her he'll be down the hall in his room and just to call out when she's ready.

It's the fastest shower of her life, she washes her body off with her shower gel and cleans her face with her facewash as quickly as possible. She runs a razor over her legs, even knowing she'd shaved, well, everything, before her flight.

Stepping out, she wraps up in a fluffy towel, dashing across the hall to her room to get changed. She dries off, scrunching her hair in the towel and praying to God that her hair doesn't turn into a frizzy mess.

She rummages through her luggage, pulling out a flowy, cotton dress she'd packed. It's black with cap sleeves, and though she knows a dress isn't really necessary—she could've just put on yoga pants since they're home for the night—she felt like she needed to look nicer. Not that Jamie would care, but still.

Tossing her airport jeans and shirt into her traveling laundry bag, she pulls out her makeup bag and quickly applies a bit of tinted lip balm and a coat of mascara. Nothing major, but enough to make her feel sexier than she was feeling ten minutes ago.

She puts some taming mousse in her hair, thankful it has a nice floral aroma to it to pair nicely with the spritz of her favorite perfume she'd just sprayed.

Sighing, she looks at herself in the full length mirror that's in the corner of the room. She runs her hands down her dress, smoothing out the invisible wrinkles that only she can see.

"Okay, Beauchamp," she tells herself, "You can do this."

{*************************}

When she's ready, she opens her door, calling out to Jamie.

A bedroom door at the end of the hallway opens, and he smiles as he makes his way down the hall to her. She notices that his hair is damp and he smells clean. He's changed into jeans and a forest green t-shirt. Simple and handsome. "Feel better?" he asks, pulling her into his arms.

"Much," Claire smiles. "Thank you."

She tells him she's ready for the rest of the tour and he chuckles, walking them to the room next to hers.

This room is Fergus' old room. "Though he still stays here from time to time when he comes to visit from Edinburgh." He huffs a laugh, running his finger along a picture frame of Fergus and a blonde girl she remembers is named Marsali. "Which has been a lot more frequent lately e'er since Marsali came into his life." He leans in, a bit conspiratorially, saying, "Though he's been staying with the lass more and more with each visit."

There's the bathroom she'd used across from the guest room and an office across from Fergus' room. They get to the end of the hall, and he pushes the door open, saying, "And this is my bedroom," and turns on the light, adding with a shrug, "nothing special."

She walks in ahead of him, running her hand along his bicep as she steps in to inspect the place. It's a huge room. There's a king sized bed, a nightstand and dresser, along with a nook with two chairs, a lamp and a bookshelf. She spies his reading glasses sitting on the table between the two chairs, and she smiles at the mental image of Jamie in his glasses, late at night, reading before bed.

These rooms are far larger than anything one would find in most European homes, but she supposes because of when it was built and all the renovations it's gone through, they were able to make it nice and spacious. She'll have to ask Lamb if having large rooms in a family home was the norm back in the eighteenth century.

The room is decorated in rather neutral tones. The walls are a light gray, his furniture charcoal, and his pillows and comforter are gray, white and navy. It's masculine, but well decorated, and she wonders if he had any help picking all of these furnishings out.

"Did Jenny help decorate?" she asks with a smirk, turning to look at him. He's still leaning against his door frame, letting her inspect the place on her own for a bit.

She's standing in the middle, taking it all in.

He snorts, rolling his eyes playfully as he crosses his arms, his biceps bulging with the movement. "Aye," he confirms in a low voice, "She said Fergus and I couldna live wi' bare bones for furniture and took me shopping the first weekend we lived here."

She giggles, looking up to the large ceiling fan (another rarity in Europe, but this house seems to have all the nicest updates, along with air conditioning which pleases her little American heart), then around. There's a few picture frames on his dresser, one of him and Fergus, the other is of, who she vaguely remembers from pictures he'd shown her in the past is, Jenny along with Ian and a gaggle of children all around a Christmas tree.

His eyes are on her, she can feel them, watching her every move so carefully. She can see the way his chest heaves with nervous breaths, and she knows he feels exactly how she does.

She's been stalling, unsure of how to move them to the next phase, but finally she just sighs, and says matter-of-factly, "Take me to bed, Jamie."

He uncrosses his arms, stepping into the room finally, his pupils blown wide. He stands in front of her, so close that she has to tilt her head back to see his eyes. His voice is low and gravelly as he asks, "To bed… or to sleep?" with a wicked little grin tugging on his lips.

"Well?" she breathes, reaching up to grasp his forearms.

She raises herself up on her tiptoes, her hand snaking around his neck to pull him down to her. His lips crash against her own, each of them moaning at the contact.

Jamie's hands land on her hips, one of them traveling down to her ass. "You always loved that," she jests, raising a brow.

"What can I say, Sassenach?" he murmurs, kissing her neck, then her jaw and up to her lips. He pulls back and finishes with a, "When ye've got an ass as round and lovely as this, you canna expect me not to like it."

She giggles, shaking her head. "You are a ridiculous human being."

He laughs, but leans in for another kiss, their lips silencing his mirth. She runs her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, groaning a bit when he starts to walk them backward toward the bed.

They pull apart, and she's suddenly nervous. He's staring at her, his chest heaving just as much as hers is. "You do want this, want me, right, Jamie?"

"Oh God, yes," he says, eyes wide as the question. "O'course I do,Claire. I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe."

Her cheeks heat at his tone, and she pulls him back to her to kiss him once more.

There's a tension between them, and she understands. It's been twenty years since they last saw each other naked. They've changed a lot since then.

Jamie is standing there, observing her face like she's a Renaissance painting he's never seen before. He reaches up, cupping her jaw with his palm, and her eyes sink closed. She can feel him tuck a curl behind her ear and she smiles, opening her eyes again.

She reaches for the hem of his shirt, but he stops her hand. He looks nervous but she isn't sure why.

He bites his lip, but lifts his arms, letting her remove the garment. God, his body is immaculate and she has to remind herself to breathe.

Swallowing thickly, Claire reaches for his belt, and undoes it, tossing it to the side. It clunks to the ground as she undoes his button, sliding his zipper down. He helps her push them down, his boxers going along with them, before he kicks them off.

She steps back, mouth falling agape at the sight before her. He's beautiful. Like a Greek God carved from stone.

"Well then," Jamie says with a coquettish grin, "fair is fair." He steps closer, his eyes on her heaving cleavage. He leans down, trailing kisses down her neck to her shoulder, finally landing on the dress' neckline. It was a scoop neck, low enough to be sexy but not low enough to be inappropriate out in public. She's breathing so hard, though, that she thinks her breasts might just pop out on their own accord.

His tongue peeks out, licking along the swell of her breasts as his hands find her waist again, pulling her into his warmth.

And oh, fuck. His naked body against her clothed one just does something to her, her core growing wet at the sensation.

Jamie pulls back, reaching for the bottom of her dress. It hits just above her knees so he doesn't have far to reach. She lifts her arms, shaking her hair out once he pulls the dress over her head and tosses it into the pile of his clothes.

She reaches behind her back, unclasping her black, lacy bra. She holds the cups to her breasts, locking eyes with Jamie.

Smiling, Claire lets the garment fall to the ground. Jamie returns to where his kisses left off at the top of her breasts, moving their way down to her right nipple as his hand toys with the left. Her nipples are already stiff peaks, and she's not sure she's ever seen them this erect before.

His tongue laps at her, licking up her chest to suck a kiss to her neck. He returns the favor to the other breast before his hands find the waistline of her black thong.

Her whole body is covered in goosebumps by now, though it shouldn't be with as hot as she currently is. She's burning up for him, wanting him everywhere all at the same time.

His thumbs hook into the top of her thong, pulling it slowly down her legs. She kicks the undergarment away, standing there completely nude before him.

He steps back, inhaling sharply. He stares, his eyes roaming her body.

She knows her scar from her c-section so long ago is on display like this, but overtime she's learned not to worry about it, though it's hard sometimes. Feeling self-conscious, Claire wraps one arm around her chest and the other around her stomach. "Will you bloody well say something?"

He shakes his head as if he's pulling himself from a hazy dream. "Christ… Claire…" His eyes look glossy as he stares at her so intensely. "Ye're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

His hand reaches up, cupping her breasts. They're both breathing loudly already, and his hand leaves her breast to wrap around her neck and grip her hair, pulling her mouth to his. Her hands come up as well, landing on his chest as her toes practically lift from the ground. She can feel his erection against her thigh, and god, she cannot wait for him to be inside of her.

Pulling back, she tells him, "It's been a long time… I want to look at you."

He smirks, taking a small step back for her perusal.

Claire steps closer, one hand lifting to touch his left pec, then slowly moves it across his chest. His muscles are so hard and defined beneath her hand, and she suddenly wishes she'd been in the gym more over the last two decades.

She's so close to him that when she moves around his body, her nose and lips touch his shoulder. She gives his shoulder a little kiss before roaming her hand around to the back.

A soft gasp leaves her when she sees it. His back is covered in scars from his shoulders to the top of his rear. Her hands lightly brush against them, tilting her head to the side.

Jamie turns his head, his voice sounding ashamed when he says, "I should have warned ye about those; I'm sorry."

Shaking her head, she kisses his shoulder just above one of his scars. "You have nothing to apologize for, Jamie," she whispers, her hand brushing over the collection of lines on his back. She can tell they aren't recent, and she's so curious to know when and how he got them, but she won't ask, not yet. Claire leans up, pressing her lips to the spot in between his shoulder blades, her hand lightly grazing his ass cheek. "You don't have to tell me now," she assures, kissing his back again. "Later. Only if you want."

"Aye," he murmurs, his head moving to the opposite side, following her movements as she slinks her body around his, completing her circle. Her hands slide down his forearm, inspecting every last inch of his body.

He's so big, his one hand could cover both of her dainty ones, and the thought makes her smile.

"Are ye ready?"

Her eyes flick up to meet his, and she smiles sweetly. "Yes."

They lean in simultaneously, arms wrapping around one another as their lips meet. Jamie's calloused hands wander down, down, down to her ass, cupping it in his hands. The feel of his rough skin against her soft sends a new wave of goosebumps across her body.

He picks her up, her long legs wrapping around his torso as he walks them back the few steps to his mattress, her lips never leaving his.

Claire's hand is tangled in his red curls, and she feels as if her heart might explode from all these sensations hitting her at once.

He sits on the edge of the bed, her in his lap and legs straddling him. He stretches his arm out, reaching for his night stand. She leans with him since she's in his lap, grinning when he pulls out a condom.

"You don't have to," she mumbles against his skin, peppering kisses to his neck. Her tongue trails up the vein in his neck, going up to his jawline. "I have an IUD."

He nods, saying only if she's sure, and she smiles, assuring him that she is. With that taken care of, Jamie flips them over so her back is fully against the mattress and he's hovering above her.

She's only half way up the bed, so they move at the same time to shift her up toward the pillows. It's awkward, their limbs tangling together and causing their heads to bumps slightly together. Laughing, Claire beams up at him as they finally get settled on the bed.

Her lips make contact with his, then his jaw, making their way down his neck and to his chest, returning the favor from earlier by sucking on his nipple, giving it a little love bite.

He grunts, hands gripping her hips. "Christ, Sassenach," he breathes, kissing her again.

Jamie props himself up on one elbow, the opposite hand trailing down her body to her center. His large fingers part her slick folds, finding their way inside.

"Fuck," she rasps, the feel of just his finger alone making her want to come. She squirms beneath his ministrations as he adds a second finger, his palm rubbing against her clit as he does. "Yes."

He adds a third, and oh god, then flicks and twirls his finger around her clit, teasing the spot where she wants him most.

Jamie kisses down her body, sucking her hip bone before moving back up to her mouth again.

She's more than wet enough, she's well aware of the fact, but more than his fingers, she wants his cock. His fingers move inside her, deeper, harder this time, rutting against her g-spot with wild abandon. She could come like this, she knows she could, but she wants more, wants all of him. "Jamie, I'm ready."

He smiles down at her, biting his lip when she reaches between them and grasps his cock in her hands. He's so hard and she can't wait to feel him inside of her once again.

Spreading her legs, she nods her consent, and he smiles. "Do it now," she commands, and Jamie takes himself in his hand, guiding his cock to her entrance. Claire cries out at the sensation, hands tugging on his biceps, drawing him nearer. He's not small, she'll give him that, but he's not too big that it's painful. He fits right to the hilt, his balls slapping against her skin as he drives in and out of her over and over.

She grips his shoulders, nails digging into his skin. Her body moves beneath his, moaning and calling out for him to give her more. "Harder, yessss," she hisses into the space between them.

He listens and obeys, giving her exactly what she wants. "God, Claire," he grunts, fucking into her even deeper than before.

Reaching down, he rubs at her swollen clit, bringing her closer and closer to the edge already.

"I'm… I'm gonna come," she tells him breathlessly, her body curving up so her head can reach his neck. She bites down, sucking on the skin there and moving her lips down his neck. Her hands move all around, unsure of what or where to touch next.

She settles on his ass, grabbing his round cheeks and pulling him as close as humanly possible to her, knowing full well there will be nail marks left there for the rest of the night.

"Give me your mouth, Sassenach," he pants, leaning down as Claire moves up, their lips crashing together in a heated kiss. She cries into the kiss, pressing her lips harder against his.

With what strength she has left, she rolls them over, Jamie following without complaint.

"Fuck, yes," he says, smirking up at her as she rides his cock.

She slides against him, her juices coating his skin. Her hands are on his chest, his on her waist, gripping and squeezing as they both grow closer to release.

Leaning down, she kisses his chest and his hand tangles into her hair, pulling her face to his. Jamie kisses her lips, it's sloppy with the way she's grinding against his sex, teeth almost clashing together, but it's wonderful. Claire hasn't been fucked like this in she doesn't know how long, and she is truly convinced no one could ever come close to being this good.

"Jesus H., fuck, Jamie," she babbles when he thrusts harder into her, hitting that perfect spot. He's right where she needs him, needs more, needs him to never leave. "More, yessss, ohgodyes!" She connects with his lips once more, unable to let them go for too long. Claire moans into his mouth, then sits up straighter, rocking into him with a desperation she's never felt before with anyone, and the sensation is almost too overwhelming.

"Claire," he pants, one hand reaching up to grab her breast. He toys with her nipple, while his other hand grips her waist. "Oh shite, I'm so close," he calls.

She grins coyly, leaning down again and telling him she is, too. She rocks harder, faster against him as her muscles clench tightly around his cock, and his eyes squeeze shut. He bites his lip, his head tilting up toward the ceiling as if he's holding on for dear life not to come just yet.

It's adorable, really, but he doesn't need to hold on much longer. She's right on the edge, and when his hand moves down to touch her sex as well, she explodes, crying out in ecstasy as she finds her sweet release.

Jamie isn't far behind, giving into the aching pleasure. "Oh god, oh, Claire," he practically whimpers desperately, his lips hovering centimeters. He spills into her with two more hard thrusts as she milks his cock for every last drop. His head falls back into the pillow, rucking up into her one last time as his orgasm subsides, his body twitching in satisfaction. Her walls flutter around him, still feeling her own aftershocks of that dizzying pleasure she was just afforded.

They stay there for a while, breathing heavily while they're still joined together. Her hands rest on his chest, nails lightly scratching. She smiles down at him, leaning in to kiss his lips.

His mouth finds hers and they settle there for a little bit longer, tongues meeting and hands roaming about.

Jamie pulls back, moving his eyes down to look at where they're still joined. "I ken it's no' the sexiest thing to say right now, but I felt like my heart was going tae burst."

She giggles at how cute he is, rolling off of his body and landing on the mattress. Her hand moves to rest on her stomach while the other lays beside her, her finger tips trailing along his comforter, feeling the fabric.

That was incredible. Earth shattering. She knows she's never been fucked like that by anyone, nor does she think anyone will ever be able to live up to what James Fraser just gave her.

Jamie rolls off the bed with a grunt and pads into the bathroom. She can hear him moving about but her eyes are closed, reveling in the feelings she just experienced.

"Here," he murmurs, and she jumps, not realizing he was already back. He has a wet washcloth in his hand, and she takes it from him, cleaning herself up a bit. It's warm and she's thankful he had the good sense to not use cold water.

"Thank you," Claire tells him, smiling over at him as he climbs back onto the bed.

He tells her to put the washcloth on the night stand beside her, they'd deal with it later.

Jamie lets out a laugh that only seems to make it to his throat but doesn't actually come out before saying, "I guess we should undo the covers unless we plan tae sleep on top of it stark naked all night."

Laughing, Claire rolls onto her side. She bends her elbow and props her head against her hand, saying, "I suppose you're right." She gives him a kiss before sighing and slinking off the mattress.

He rolls the opposite way so they're on both sides of the bed and together they pull back the covers.

She climbs back in, humming as the feel of his cool sheets hits her heated body. "This feels nice," she murmurs, eyes closing.

They each roll to their sides, sharing sweet, satisfied smiles with one another. Jamie leans in, urging her to do the same and they exchange lazy kisses as their hands lightly roam the other's body, intoxicated on the feeling of one another.

They move onto their backs, each letting out a content sigh. They lay there for a while, the cool air hitting them as they catch their breath.

Glancing over, she sees his head is against his pillows, one arm bent beneath his head to prop him up a bit. His other hand is in the space between them, and she rolls over, taking up her same position from moments ago with her head propped on her hand.

Her other hand reaches out, nails gliding softly up and down his forearm.

They sit there, silent, both enjoying what they just did, before Jamie breaks the silence, asking, "I didna hurt ye, did I?"

"No," she giggles, brows furrowing, "why would you think that?"

He grunts, smirking, "Ye're just so much smaller than I remember, I didna want to harm ye."

"Smaller than when I was eighteen?" she asks incredulously, laughing at the thought.

His smirk deepens, those slight dimples he has starting to show as his head lolls to the side to look at her. He rolls onto his side to face her, propping his torso up with a bent arm on the mattress.

His smile is so cute, she could look at it every day and not grow tired of it. It makes her happy to see it, makes her stomach flutter like she has butterflies inside.

"Well, mebbe just smaller than…" He widens his eyes, stammering, "ah, nevermind."

She laughs at how embarrassed he is, comforting him by saying, "I know you've slept with other people, Jamie. I didn't expect you to be a monk all this time."

He laughs from one side of his mouth, leaning in to kiss her lips. "No' a monk, but I havena been with many others."

"Neither have I," she admits, and the comment leads them to talk about their past.

They briefly speak of their divorces and how their friends tried to set them up with people so many times once they were single. It's nice to share these missing pieces of their past, but the details can wait, maybe until tomorrow because she definitely wants to hear more about this ex-wife of his he'd mentioned, but for now, she's focused on his naked body before her.

She rolls closer, pressing her hands to his chest as she climbs on top of him, kissing her way down his torso until her mouth is at his cock. She would ask him if he's ready, but he's standing at attention already.

"Ye little minx," he says, a smirk tugging on his lips. His hand reaches down, resting on the back of her neck as she scoots further down.

With a smirk of her own, she licks her lips and takes him into her mouth. She licks up from the base to the tip, following a vein she finds there. He's thick, and god, he fills her whole mouth, but she loves it. She sucks at his tip, cheeks hollowing as they work his hardened cock.

Jamie grunts, his hips jutting up and pushing his cock deeper into her mouth. He hits the back of her throat and she moans, vibrating against his flesh which causes him to moan even louder. He's raspsing out a, "Claire," and, "fuck, oh god," which only encourages her more.

She sucks him harder until he's spilling his seed into her mouth.

Claire swallows and releases him with a wet pop, kissing her way back up his chest to lay in the crook of his arms. Placing a gentle kiss to his pec, she slides her hand up to rest there and places her cheek against it, nestled in his embrace.

They talk for a while about Fergus and Julia, swapping stories of how they were as children and young teens.

She's laughing so hard at a story of Fergus falling from a tree and giving Jamie a heart attack, which turned out to be a prank Fergus was playing on his dad, that she has to sit up to catch her breath.

God, she hasn't laughed like this in so long. It feels nice.

"Well, enough about the kids for now," she says, standing from the bed. "I'm ravenous."

Jamie's eyebrows twitch up as he reaches for her hand, "Oh, aye, I can help with that," he purrs, and she chuckles, swatting at his hand.

"I need a snack," she tells him, tugging on his arm to make him rise from the bed.

Laughing, Jamie stands as well. He walks to his dresser, grabbing a clean pair of boxers and slipping them on. He takes out a t-shirt and hands it to her, which she gratefully accepts. "I'll grab some yoga pants on the way down to the kitchen," she says, kissing his shoulder from behind.

Once in the kitchen, Jamie rummages through the cupboards, listing off the snack items he has in the house. "I'm no' a big snacker, Sassenach, so I'm no' sure what ye want."

She stands, walking around the kitchen island and opening his fridge. She spots a bowl of grapes, and her eyes light up. "Can we have these?" she asks, holding up the bowl.

Jamie grins, moving to stand behind her. "Of course," he says, kissing her neck.

He takes the bowl, setting it in the sink and letting the cold water run over them to wash them off. While the water is running, he glances up at her on the other side of the island. They stare at one another, and he reaches across the counter to take her hand. Leaning down, Jamie kisses her palm, then her wrist, before holding her hand in his. His eyes look up at her, and he says, "I dinna ken what it is between us, what it's always been, but—"

"It's still there," she finishes for him, and their smiles light up.

He comes around the counter to take her in his arms, but before long, remembers the running water. Laughing, he goes to turn it off, wiping the outside of the bowl clean before they head back upstairs.

{**********************}

They finish their snack in bed, leaving the bowl on his nightstand. Once finished, they have another few rounds of pleasuring one another—once with Claire perched upon Jamie's face, arms pressed against the headboard for support, which was thrilling. Now, as she's recovered from the aftershocks of her orgasm, they spend time slowly making love in the early hours of the morning. Bodies facing one another, eyes that glisten with tears connect as Jamie and Claire slowly rock against the other, savoring the feel of finally being together again.

They both lay there, breaths panting, as they bask in the afterglow. Jamie's hand holds hers, and she lifts their joined hands, studying how perfectly they fit together. Smiling softly over at him, Claire leans in and presses a kiss to his cheek before excusing herself to the restroom to freshen up.

When she gets back, she plops down next to Jamie. Scooting closer to him, he turns on his side to stare down at her.

"So," she says, nodding toward him. "The scars?"

She watches as Jamie's face falls and grows serious, so she tells him he doesn't have to talk about it yet if he doesn't want to.

"Nae, it's alright," he concedes, leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek. "I have no secrets from ye, Sassenach. 'Tis just hard to talk about, ken?" She nods and he confesses that his scars are the reason he never wanted to go any further on their FaceTime calls and get naked, not that she would've seen his back through the phone, but he didn't want to run the risk of turning a certain way and having her see them. "I didna want it tae ruin the moment when I couldna be there to hold ye and comfort ye at the sight of them."

"I wouldn't have been scared or in need of comfort, Jamie," she tells him sincerely, sitting up in the bed. She sits criss-cross in the middle of the mattress, facing him, and he sits up as well, propping his back against the headboard. "They're scars. Everyone has them."

She leans back a touch, lifting her oversized t-shirt and pulling the hem of her yoga pants down. "See?" she asks, pointing to the scar on her abdomen from her c-section. "I have this and you don't seem to mind."

"I dinna," he assures, reaching out to caress the scar, "I couldna."

"See?" she says again, shrugging, "Just scars."

Claire leans up to kiss him, then settles back down into her criss-cross position. With a sigh, Jamie looks at her, smiling softly. "Alright, Sassenach. Ye're right."

Smiling, she raises her brow in question and he grins, taking a deep breath.

"Well, years ago, Fraser's Ridge wasn't quite as large as it is now," he says, clasping his hands over his belly. "I still had to take on quite a lot of the responsibility, especially wi' Ian still trying tae learn how tae use his new leg."

She nods, sliding down to lay on her side, torso propped up by her bent arm.

"I was twenty when it happened," he says, huffing, "Just a dumb bairn, thinkin' I could do it all." He tells her how they were just starting to pave the roads that led up to the main building, so most of it was still gravel. "They'd been doing construction that morning on th'road in front of the building, but the workers had gone for the day and I just ken I could at least get the gravel that was left moved out of the way for them in the morning." He rolls his eyes, giving her a small smile. "I took the tractor and was collecting the gravel, tossing it into a pile off tae the side. There was glass all in it and bits of concrete that had flown into it from their construction." Sighing, he tells her how Jenny had come out, fussing and hollering for him to pack it up for the night and go home. "I stood up from my seat 'cause I couldna hear her properly. I guess I was thinkin', well, I clearly wasna thinkin', but I thought that standin' and leanin' out the side would let me hear her rant." Claire closes her eyes, having a feeling she knows what he's about to tell her. "My boot's laces snagged on the pedal though, and I dinna ken, Sassenach, just an odd set of events all happening at once, I s'ppose." He shrugs, eyes closing briefly. "I tripped and fell off the tractor, caught my back on the front tire as I did and landed in the pile of gravel and glass."

He closes his eyes again, opening them to look at her. They're glassy and she tears up, too, just imagining it. "All I could hear was Jenny screamin' fer me tae get up," he says, a tear falling from his eye. "She was sae scared."

Claire reaches up, wiping his tear away before rubbing her hand along his stomach. She leans in, placing a kiss to his abdomen before laying her head on his stomach. "I'm sorry, Jamie," she whispers around a lump in her throat, "that sounds terrifying."

She can feel his belly bounce with the little huff of a laugh he gives her, saying, "The worst part was hearin' Jenny scream. She'd already witnessed Ian losing his leg, now seein' her brother… it took her almost a year tae even go back to the farm."

"I can't imagine."

Jamie sighs, finishing his tale with how he spent weeks in the hospital, his back wrapped in bandages and having to undergo skin graphs. His arms and legs were cut and bruised but his back took the brunt of the fall.

"'Tis all in the past now, mo nighean donn," he whispers, kissing the top of her head. His hand is warm on her back as it moves up and down, soothing her and pulling her closer to sleep.

She yawns, but tries to cover her mouth before he sees. But he does, and he snickers, pulling her up from his torso. "Let's get some sleep, eh? We've got the next two weeks to reminisce about all the shitty parts of our past."

Claire chuckles groggily, shaking her head, but agrees. Her jet lag is finally catching up to her no matter how badly she wants to stay awake and talk with him all night. She cuddles closer to Jamie, his arm wrapping protectively around her as his eyes close. "Goodnight, Sassenach," he murmurs, peeking his eyes open one last time to place a lingering kiss on her lips.

She smiles into the kiss, her hand coming to cup his jaw as she delivers a, "Goodnight, Jamie," once they pull apart.

He's asleep in an instant, and she grins, taking a moment to observe how he still smiles in his sleep. It warms her heart, and with that—wrapped in her manfriend's arms—Claire feels completely at peace as she falls asleep with a smile of her own on her face.

{*************************}

Hope you liked this one! Please let me know what you thought!

Chapter Text

Chapter Five:

Claire awakes the next morning so peacefully, stretching her arms luxuriously up and out to her sides, pushing her feet down at the same time to stretch her legs. She's never been so comfortable in a bed that wasn't her own before.

She's sore. But in the best way imaginable.

Last night was amazing, wonderful, mind blowing… the list of adjectives could go on and on. It was, hands down, the best sex of her entire life.

The sun is beaming in from his bedroom window, and she yawns and turns her face to the left, letting the sunlight warm her skin. She reaches out to the opposite side of the bed behind her, searching for Jamie.

His spot is empty, so she sits up, running her fingers through her wild curls.

Claire smiles at his large t-shirt she's still in, pulling the collar up to smell his lingering cologne and laundry scent.

She can smell his shower gel wafting from the bathroom, and god, a shower sounds heavenly. She desperately needs one after last night.

As she sits up, she spies a piece of paper on the nightstand beside her.

Went to get us breakfast. Relax and shower, Sassenach. I'll be back soon.

Smiling sleepily, Claire rises from the bed and pads across the room to the bathroom. She can feel the steam from his shower still filling the room. It's not hot, so she knows he didn't just get out and she assumes he's been gone for a while to get the food. She hops in the shower, washing her body off with Jamie's body wash. She just washed her hair before her flight so she thinks she can make it another day before needing to wash it again.

Getting out, she wraps up in a towel, darting down the hall to the guest room. She grabs a clean pair of underwear and slips them on before lugging her suitcase down to Jamie's room. No sense in keeping it where she won't be sleeping.

She settles her luggage in a corner of his room, then puts on her yoga pants and another one of Jamie's t-shirts from his drawer. This one has the Fraser's Ridge emblem on it and is old and thin, a few frayed holes around the collar, but it makes the shirt even more comfortable.

Catching a glimpse of her phone buried beneath Jamie's note, she realizes she never plugged it in last night. She'd been too preoccupied. There's still 36% left on it, and she's once again thankful for a phone battery that lasts so long; it helps when she works long shifts and needs to keep in touch with Julia.

She's got a new email notification, so she quickly opens it. Seeing that it's from her boss—Dr. Rawlings, the chief of surgery—she sighs forcefully and closes out of the app. It's another message from him to her and a handful of other surgeons about his retirement, reminding them how his departure comes with an opening as the hospital's surgery chief.

It's a very prestigious position, and Claire is one of a dozen doctors in consideration for it. She'd found out only a few days before leaving for Scotland, but didn't want to mention it just yet, knowing that those pamphlets from Joe still sat in her bedroom where she looked over them each night, imagining a life working over here instead.

Suddenly, a whiff of bacon hits her senses, and her stomach growls. Making her way down the hallway, the stairs, and to the back of the house where the kitchen sits, she smiles brightly at the sight before her.

Jamie is standing there, gray sweat pants hanging low on his waist, a black t-shirt hugging his muscles in all the right places. His bum is shaking to the music softly playing from his phone while he scrambles some eggs and flips the bacon over in the frying pan.

He's trying to sing along, but he's never been able to carry a tune, and it makes her laugh silently to herself remembering all those times he used to sing to her in the car, purposely making his voice even worse to try and make her laugh.

Claire watches him for a moment, a dopey smile on her face. She's so happy, she doesn't think anything could take this feeling away from her.

He doesn't notice her, so she sneaks up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and nuzzling her nose into his shoulder blade. "Mmm," she moans, placing a kiss on his shoulder, "something smells good."

His head turns to try and see her, and he's got the same stupid smile on his face that she's currently wearing. "Good morning, Sassenach. Sleep well?"

She lets go of Jamie's torso, walking over to the bar stools at the island and climbing up into one. "Yes," she breathes, giving him a soft smile when he turns to look at her, "very well. You?"

Jamie snickers, stating, "It was nice havin' ye in my bed, that's fer sure, but I canna say I've missed the way ye move around like a wild wee starfish all night."

"I do not!" she defends, knowing he is absolutely correct.

"Aye, ye do," he chuckles, pointing at her with his spatula, "and ye ken it. I told ye that when we were bairns, and I'm tellin' it tae ye now."

He's right. There's no denying it. It wasn't often they slept the whole night together as teenagers; the family Jamie was staying with for the school year weren't always comfortable with him staying out all night with a girl. On a handful of occasions, though, he was able to tell them he was spending the night with his friend, Lambert, and would sneak to her house knowing he technically wasn't lying since he was spending the night at Quentin Lambert Beachump's house. Granted, Uncle Lamb didn't know Jamie had climbed up the tree outside her bedroom window and climbed in all those nights, but, semantics...

But they had enough nights together for him to know she rarely could stay still while sleeping.

"I can't help it that you're the lightest sleeper known to man; you'd wake up if I coughed." She grins, shrugging one shoulder up. "Besides… you love it."

He chuckles again, relenting and saying, "I do," as he turns back around to finish their breakfast.

"I thought your note said you'd gone to get food," she notes, nodding her head toward his frying pan in curiosity.

Jamie grins, jutting his chin behind her at the table. "Aye, I did." She looks over her shoulder, spying a large brown paper bag on the table. "But the bakery only has baked goods, and I wasna sure what ye'd want, sae I figured I'd make something, too."

"That bakery I wanted to go to?!" she asks excitedly, hopping down and going over to the bag. She'd seen the bakery yesterday after their dinner date, and she told him she wanted to go back to try it. It had smelled heavenly, and even now in his kitchen, the aroma is just as wonderful.

"Aye," he says with a smile. "I picked up an assortment of things. I figured after last night," his voice drops with those last two words, a clear coyness in his voice, and she rolls her eyes with a smirk, "ye wouldna want tae go out and get breakfast so early."

"We were up rather late," she declares smugly, crossing her arms over her chest. "And you are correct. I needed that sleep… especially after being up all night on top of my jet lag."

She walks around the island to where he's working. Standing on her tiptoes, she leans in to kiss his cheek before turning to retrieve plates from the cabinet he's directed her to. "Glasses?"

He points to the cabinet on his other side, patting her bum in the process, and she moves to get those as well.

Jamie plates their food while she opens the refrigerator, pulling out a jug of apple cider and filling their cups with it.

"Ah, the good stuff," he says, walking their plates to the table. "'Tis from the ridge, ken? We sell it there, but Ian and I always sneak a few bottles home fer ourselves."

Smiling, Claire joins him at the table, setting his glass down in front of him and leaning in to give him another kiss. She can't seem to stop doing that now, but he doesn't appear to mind one bit.

Jamie empties the contents of the bakery bag onto the table, and Claire's eyes widen at the choices. "Jamie," she laughs, "I could eat on this for the next two weeks!"

He chuckles, saying he wasn't sure how hungry she was or what she'd be in the mood for.

Smiling softly at his thoughtfulness, she peers at the selection—an apple muffin, a blueberry one, and a cranberry, scones, plain croissants and chocolate filled ones, along with butter tarts, nut tarts, and something she can't quite identify. "What's this?"

Jamie glances at what she's picked up, explaining that it's called an eccles cake and that it's essentially a puff pastry filled with marmalade, currants, and spices.

"Hm," she hums, placing one on her plate to try. She also takes a blueberry muffin, knowing full well between that, the eggs and the bacon, she won't be able to finish anything on her plate. She'll just be sampling it all, she supposes.

Jamie puts a butter tart and a chocolate scone on his plate, before smiling over at her. "Eat up, Sassenach!"

They talk over breakfast, planning the next few days and what all she wants to do. She definitely still wants to go to one of the boutiques she saw last night, planning to find something for Julia, but, "I think today we should stay here."

He grins provocatively at the suggestion, raising his eyebrows while taking a sip of the juice. "Is that so?"

She nods. "Yes," she says, grinning around the rim of her glass, "we didn't quite finish seeing the whole house last night, plus," she leans in, trying to contain her silly smile as she finishes chewing her food, "I want to have my wicked way with you."

"Is that so?" he laughs, kissing her pursed lips. "I think that can be arranged."

They laugh, talking together for a few minutes until Jamie's phone pings with a text.

"Ah," he says, wiping his mouth and slipping on his glasses, "'Tis Fergus." She smiles at the mention of his son, and she reminds herself to grab her phone from upstairs later and text Julia. "He says he's coming into town tomorrow fer a few days!" Jamie beams. "Would ye like tae meet him?"

"Of course!" she exclaims, eyes lighting up. "I would love that. Lunch tomorrow, perhaps?"

Jamie nods, typing out a reply to his son.

She pops the last bit of her muffin into her mouth and excuses herself for a moment, dashing upstairs to grab her own phone before joining him again. "I need to text Julia," she tells him at his questioning gaze. "I only sent her a quick text yesterday when I landed but nothing after that." She looks sheepish, knowing she'd been far too distracted by Jamie, but also with the time difference, she figured Julia was busy with friends and then asleep.

"Och," he smiles, "well Fergus says he canna do lunch fer a few more days, he's taking Marsali somewhere special for the weekend, whate'er he means by that." She chuckles at his tone, knowing she'd be exactly the same way if Julia were to be dating someone so seriously. "They'll be back Tuesday. You leave next Friday, yeah?" She nods. "So I'll see if he can do Wednesday or Thursday."

"That's fine by me, any day works," she says, reaching over to hold his hand.

He smiles, reading the response from Fergus, telling her Wednesday works with him. "There's a cafe inside the Victorian Market we always like tae go to, if ye want to try that. I can show ye around the whole place while we're there."

"Sure!" she agrees, "I'm up for anything."

She types out a text to Julia, telling her good morning even though it's only five in the morning there and she's well aware her seventeen year old is still fast asleep. She attaches a picture she took last night of her and Jamie at dinner with the view from the restaurant behind them, telling Julia that she was already having a great time and thanking her for convincing her to come back.

With a content sigh, she clicks her phone shut, looking up at Jamie. "This time difference is difficult," she laughs, "I don't know how you did it for a month."

He laughs, saying, "'Twas easy when ye work the crazy hours ye do." She laughs too, nodding in agreement. "Plus ye're an early riser so by the time ye were wakin' up, I was on my way to work so it's the perfect time tae talk wi' ye."

Nodding, she smiles, picking up her phone to send Joe a text as well, asking if Julia had been fine and if he needed anything. He must be at work already or about to head there because despite the early hour in Boston, he sends back a text.

All is well, LJ :) Julia was at Lizzie's for a while yesterday but came home a little after dinner. She helped Gail clean up the kitchen and then went to her 'room'

Claire smiles at the thought of Julia being so helpful, and she writes back, thanking him again.

A few seconds later, though, another text from Joe comes in.

I wasn't gonna say anything but I know Julia will… Frank called her last night.

What the fuck… she looks to the ceiling and huffs, replying back to him.

Oh no. What did he have to say this time?

Last time he'd reached out to her or Julia was four years ago, wishing her good luck as she started high school and sent her some money for new clothes.

Frank's been out of their life completely since Julia was five. They divorced when Julia was four and he tried to act like a good father for the following year until he married his mistress and started a new family.

He reaches out once in a blue moon, she supposes to assuage his guilt for being a shit father, and sends Julia money every month which she keeps in a savings account to use after college. Smart girl.

Asking if she wanted him to send extra money for graduation.

Claire shakes her head, grunting in disgust at the man she once thought she loved.

He can keep that money and shove it up his ass.

"Everything alright, Sassenach?" Jamie asks, folding his glasses as he removes them and setting them beside his plate.

She looks up from her phone, forcing out a smile. "Just dealing with my ex," she tells him, sighing and rolling her eyes as she takes a bite of her eggs.

The comment leads them to talk about their pasts, both of them starting with their ex-spouses.

"I met Frank when I was a sophomore in college getting my undergrad." She shakes her head at the memory of how infatuated she'd been. "He was older, and I thought he was fascinating," she laughs and Jamie smiles, both taking a few more bites of their breakfast. "It was a whirlwind romance, really," she explains, telling him how Frank wanted to be a history professor and was enthralled with Uncle Lamb's stories. They'd spend hours with Lamb, the two of them sharing stories and talking of the past. "We got married when I was, Christ, twenty. I got pregnant and had Julia by the time I was twenty-one."

"Then what happened?" he asks, "Ye said that first day that ye werena married verra long to him."

Claire scoffs, drinking from her cup. This should feel awkward, not only talking about her previous marriage, but doing it with Jamie of all people. But, for whatever reason, it doesn't. "Frank discovered that he liked the thrill of cheating on me," she declares, and she can see the anger flash in Jamie's eyes. She smiles softly, comfortingly, reaching across the table to take his hand. "It's fine, really. I was obviously really angry when it happened." Claire tells Jamie how Frank fell in love with his mistress, Sandy, and asked for a divorce. "The divorce was final just five years after we wed."

She sighs at the memories, wondering how much different her life would have turned out if she'd never married Frank. She wouldn't have Julia, though, and a life without her wasn't an option. "So, there I was, a single, divorced mother of a toddler by the time I was twenty-five." She shrugs, thankfully able to smile about it now. It is what it is.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," she assures sincerely. "I was honestly too focused on medical school and Julia to really comprehend what had happened. I was in my second year of medical school, and was on track to graduate early if I took enough courses over the summer, too." She goes on, telling Jamie how she was too hurt after the divorce to date for several years. "I was really angry, and hurt, but I just focused on school and Julia, school and Julia, that was my motto."

Jamie smiles, saying that he just knows she's a wonderful mother.

"What about you?" she asks, "You said you were married before?"

"Aye," he grunts, standing up from the table. He stretches his back, walking to the counter to grab the apple cider. He brings it to the table, refilling both their glasses.

Smiling, she thanks him, and he leans down to place a soft kiss to her lips. Jamie takes the jug and returns it to the refrigerator, then joins her back at the table, reaching for the last nut tart. He breaks a bit off, popping it into his mouth with a grin. "Laoghaire was her name."

She smiles back, nodding in acknowledgement of what he's just said, but asking with a mock offense, "And what if I wanted the last one?"

He snorts, taking the other half not eaten yet and hands it to her.

Snickering, she takes it, adding it to her plate where she still had a piece of bacon and part of the eccles cake left to eat.

"Anyway," she snorts, "tell me about Laoghaire."

Jamie tells her, with some disdain in his voice, that he met his ex when he was twenty and married her when they were twenty-two. "And quickly divorced by time I turned twenty-three."

"Oh, no," she chuckles, unable to hold it in at the face he's making talking about this.

"Aye," he huffs, "I ken now she was more interested in my family's money. Fraser's Ridge was starting to take off, slowly but surely, and everyone knew it would be a success." He rolls his eyes, adding, "And she did, too. She wanted in on the gravy train, I s'ppose, but luckily, Jenny saw right through her."

He says Jenny caught Laoghaire in a lie and before long, Jamie uncovered more and more secrets about who she really was as a person.

They share a laugh, saying how unlucky they've been in love. Both dated a few other people, Jamie going out with a girl named Mary for a few years, but, "It was mainly just convenient, no real feelings involved," he admits.

Claire chuckles, saying, "I know the feeling. I dated a guy named Charles when I was about twenty-nine or thirty, but it was the same thing." She shrugs. "Just convenient."

She mentions how Louise set her up on a few dates but nothing ever clicked, and he says the same about his dates. He only dated one other girl, Annalise, a few years ago but he's been single for the last three years.

She can relate, and tells him so, saying she dated a man named Tom a few years prior, but for the last two years she's been single as well.

It's nice, here with him, settled at the kitchen table and talking about their pasts. She thought it would be weird, but she finds it helps her put the pieces of who Jamie has been for the last two decades together.

Her phone goes off again, and it's Joe.

Haha about along the lines of what I told Jules last night. Don't worry about it, Lady Jane. She knows how to ignore her father like the rest of us.

Smiling, and knowing her best friend is right, she sighs, sending one more text.

You're right. Thanks, Joe. Tell Julia to text me when she's awake.

Looking up from her phone and taking her last bite of bacon, she says, "So, show me the parts of the house we didn't get to explore much of last night."

Jamie beams, clearly excited. "I didna get tae show ye the best part yet," he announces, collecting their dishes and putting them in the dishwasher while she cleans up the baked goods still left. She puts them back in the bag and takes it over to the kitchen counter while Jamie dries his hands off. He meets her half way to the door, wrapping his arms around her middle and pulling her close. Her arms loop around his neck as he leans in, their lips molding together in a tender kiss. Pulling apart, Jamie rests his forehead against hers, both taking a moment to breathe the other in before he says, "Come on."

She follows beside him as he walks her to a room just off of the living room. It's a massive library with an entire wall of built-in bookshelves. There's a plush couch with oversized cushions and throw pillows and two chairs on the opposite side of the room, surrounded by two other shelves of books.

"Oh my god," she breathes in astonishment, walking along the wall of books and letting her finger delicately skim across the spine on each one. "Jamie, this is amazing."

"'Tis my favorite room in the whole house," he declares, smiling as he takes a seat on the couch. He pats the spot beside him, beckoning her over.

She joins him, curling her feet up on the cushion beside her as Jamie's arm wraps around her shoulders. Claire lays her head on his chest, both sitting and enjoying the silence for a few moments.

Jamie reaches over to the small table beside the couch, lifting a book he'd left there. He opens to where he'd left off, softly reading to her about the tales of some fictional character. She has no idea what's happening in the book, seeing as he's several chapters in, but she closes her eyes nonetheless, letting his voice rumble in his chest against her ear, surrounding her in a comfort she hasn't felt in a very long time.

Her eyes scan the titles of the books on the shelf in front of her as he wraps up his chapter, and she notices they are mostly all in French. When he finishes the chapter and looks down at her, she asks, "Do you still study different languages?"

Jamie closes his book with a thunk, placing it back on the table and setting his glasses atop it. She can feel his heart beating beneath her ear as he tells her, "Aye, Fergus is originally from France, ye see, so we speak it a lot. When he was younger, it made him happy tae hear me say things in his native tongue, so I would speak it more and more."

"How did he end up in Scotland?" She presses on Jamie's chest to push herself up, turning to look at him.

He chuckles, saying, "No one really kens how." He shrugs. "The orphanage just told me he was dropped off there when he was a baby, no note or anything, and they'd taken him in. They searched fer a while fer his family, but no one e'er came tae claim him."

"Well, he's lucky to have found a family with you," she states, taking his hand in hers. Their fingers link together and she lets their hands rest against her thigh. "I bet he loved having Jenny and Ian's kids close by growing up."

"Aye," he laughs, saying Fergus and Jenny's oldest, "Wee" Jamie, are only a year apart and were always causing trouble together.

She laughs at the image, knowing Julia was just as mischievous with little Lenny Abernathy.

"Do you miss it?" she asks suddenly, squeezing his hand. "Linguistics?"

She watches as his chest rises and falls with a hefty sigh, and she waits patiently for his reply. "Aye," he finally confesses, eyes scanning the foreign books before them. "I still know French, obviously, and Gaelic and Latin from growing up," he tells her, looking back into her eyes. "But I canna lie and say I dinna miss studying it."

Her lips twist, knowing he had been so excited in the past to go to college to major in linguistics. He'd always wanted to be an interpreter for a big business, saying it would give him the chance to learn and use more languages than what he already knew. There were of course multiple jobs he could have taken, knowing that a linguistics major could be needed anywhere from working in a school to a hospital or even being an editor of books written in foreign languages. The possibilities had been endless for him.

He sighs again, running a hand through his red curls. "I learned Spanish a few years ago, but the most challenging one so far has been Chinese."

"You speak Chinese?" she asks, her voice rising in pitch from sheer amazement.

He smiles, saying, "It's a fascinating language, and I've gotten a good bit of it down but I still have a lot tae learn before I vacation there."

God, he's so intelligent. It makes him even hotter, and Claire can't control herself any longer. She slides closer, looping her leg around him so she's straddling his waist. He grins, hands landing on her hips as she takes his jaw in her hands. He's scruffy now, not having shaved, and she loves the feel of it beneath her palms. Leaning down, she whispers, "Your brain is so sexy," before kissing him deeply.

He grunts into the kiss, his hands making their way to her ass as she moves her hips against him. "Is it now?"

"Mmhmm," she giggles, pressing a kiss to his ear, then biting his lobe. "I love listening to you talk about your job," she murmurs, kissing his neck, "You're so knowledgeable," another kiss to his lips, "and when you talk about the languages you know," she purrs, grinding her hips harder against him, "God, I don't know," she chuckles breathlessly, "it's just so… sexy."

He groans into her neck, biting lightly at her skin. His lips move up to her jaw, then her lips, and finally to her ear, whispering into it, "Tu es si belle."

She gasps, pulling back to look down into his beautiful blue eyes. She bites her lip, saying, "I know that one." She grins, kissing him once more. "And I think you are beautiful, too."

He laughs, reaching for the hem of her shirt. He makes quick work of removing it, her nipples instantly hardening as the cool air reaches them. Jamie lays her down on the couch, hovering above her. "Mm," he moans, placing a kiss to her neck and moving down to her chest, peppering kisses all around her breasts but not actually taking a nipple into his mouth like she likes so much. "How about… Da mi basia mille," he whispers, lifting his head to kiss her lips.

She bites her lip, trying to contain her smile before it makes her face explode. "Our poem," she whispers back, eyes growing wet. It was a Latin poem that he'd taught her back then, a love poem that he said was just for them. "Dein mille altera," she whispers in response. She only knew a loose translation of only a portion of the poem: Then let amorous kisses dwell, on our lips begin and tell. A thousand and a hundred score, a hundred and a thousand more.

It had been theirs; Jamie used to write it in the notes he would pass her in class, and she'd blush, knowing it was their secret that no one else could understand.

"I'll give you a thousand kisses," he recites huskily, leaning in to kiss her lips.

She's staring at him, whisky eyes wide as they admire him. "And I'll give you a thousand more," she finishes, wrapping her hand around his neck and pulling him down to her. Her other hand presses against his chest, making its way down to the hem of his shirt to lift it off his body.

Jamie leans up just long enough to toss the shirt aside with hers on the floor before bracing himself above her again. Slowly, oh so slowly, he leans down, giving her a deep, lingering kiss that practically pulls her torso from the couch. "One," he says lowly, grinning as he pulls away. Her hand is on his side, the other moving to caress his cheek as she sighs a moan into the space between their bodies, never wanting him to leave.

She watches him intently as he kisses the right side of her neck, his mouth sucking on her skin before adding, "Two," then sliding to the left side, placing another kiss there. "Three." He grins, a husky little laugh leaving him and vibrating against her heated skin. His mouth moves lower, into the space between her breasts, placing a kiss there as well. His tongue peeks out a bit to lick, giving her one, two, three more loving pecks before she sighs, whispering, "Five," oh so breathlessly as her eyes close in pleasure.

He tilts his head up, smirking. "Five?"

Her eyes open, connecting with his and they both laugh at how she'd already lost count.

Claire's eyes roll back in satisfaction with a wide grin, shrugging. She looks into his eyes, and reaches for his neck, pulling him into her fully and kissing him again.

"So often I've burned for ye," he tells her before another kiss, one calloused hand reaching up to caress her breasts. "God, so long."

"I'm here now," she assures, smiling up at him. "Now come here and give me the rest of those kisses."

With a seductive smile, Jamie leans in, doing just that.

After several other well placed kisses, Jamie makes his way down, kissing between her breasts, then her stomach, belly button and stopping at the hem of her yoga pants.

He fingers the top of the pants, looking up at her through hooded eyes. Jamie cocks his eyebrows, and she grins, her eyes drift closed as he pats her hip to get her to lift up.

Making quick work of her pants, now tossed to the side with their shirts, Jamie continues his descent. He presses a kiss to her c-section scar, then her right hip, trailing so close to her skin to get to the left hip that his nose brushes against her softly, causing goosebumps to flare up all over her body. Her back arches as he slides down her body, a blissful sigh escaping her.

She moans, reaching down to run a hand through his hair. "Jamie," she breathes, "I want you inside me."

"No," he grins, and she heaves a heavy exhale, "no, mo nighean donn, I want to taste you." He scoots further down, kissing the inside of her thigh. And thank god for this perfectly oversized couch, one she knows was purchased with the idea of spending hours here surrounded by pillows and warm blankets as he read, but god is she ever thankful for it for this purpose as well.

Claire widens her legs slightly, accommodating his large frame as he settles himself between them. His hands are warm, soothing her skin as he caresses up her calves and over her waist, cupping her ass in his hands.

She giggles, smiling down at him. He loves her ass so much, and she loves that he does.

Her hands glide against whatever bit of skin she can reach, delicately gripping his biceps as he drifts down her body, leaving kisses in his wake.

Jamie plants a path of kisses from her thighs, up to where she needs him most. Her core is aching, she can already feel herself growing wet, and knows it won't take much to make her come.

She breathes out his name again, and fuck him, because he is dragging this out just to torture her, she knows it. "You bloody bastard," she laughs, and the way his breath tickles against her thigh when he laughs at her outburst almost sends her over the edge as is.

Shaking his head, he mumbles, "Feisty wee one." Jamie slides two fingers through her slit, spreading her lips apart slightly. Christ, she's wet. Really wet. And she needs him to touch her more.

"Do you like that?" he asks, adding a third finger. He swirls them around, finding her g-spot with an ease that takes her breath away. Fuck.

"Yes," she responds, nodding as she reaches for his head again, tugging him closer. "But I want more."

"More?" he asks, eyebrow lifting in amusement.

He moves his fingers a certain way just then, hitting her most sensitive spot and making her cry out. "I won't last much longer, Jamie."

"Tell me what you want, mo nighean donn."

Oh, god. Why is everything he says so damn hot?

"Mmm," she moans, gripping his hair in her hand, "I want you to eat me out."

Jamie practically growls at her response, his fingers immediately leaving her and being replaced by his mouth.

He kisses her inner thighs, taunting her as he peppers short kisses, accompanied by a loving little bite to her skin before moving his face over to where she currently needs him more than life itself.

Jamie's nose brushes against her pubic hair as he moves, his hands coming to spread her open. He peers down at her, placing a kiss right to her clit which makes her convulse at the sensation. "Sae beautiful," he whispers, leaning in again.

His tongue peeks out, running from the bottom all the way up to the top, flicking and sucking in all the right places. They'd spent time going down on one another last night, and she knew Jamie was smart, but damn is he a quick study. He seems to have learned her body better in one day than her other partners ever did.

"Christ, Jamie," she moans, hips twisting beneath his ministrations.

He makes his way back up to her clit, licking all around it like the tease that he is. Her eyes have been shut, but she glances down, growing even wetter when she sees his lust filled eyes boring into hers. One hand is on his shoulder, nails pressing into his skin as if she needs an anchor to keep her from floating away, but she brings her other hand up, gripping at the plush pillow beneath her head. Claire's fingers twist the soft material, pressing her head harder into it as Jamie continues to explore her body.

His tongue makes contact with her clit again, this time staying there to flick his tongue over it. "Jamie!" she cries, hips lifting off the couch.

He mumbles something into her skin or groans, she isn't quite sure, but she swears she can feel his smirk against her skin as his hands come up to grasp her hips, holding her in place, hovering above the couch cushion.

Jamie's fingers massage her rear as she grinds her sex against his face, and oh god, oh god oh god, she won't last much longer.

His tongue presses harder against her, building her up, up, up, almost careening into her orgasm any moment now.

He lifts his mouth from her clit barely long enough to murmur, "S'feel good?" And the sensation of his breath against her wet and throbbing center makes her shiver.

He lowers her hips as she nods frantically, panting, "Mmm! Feels… feels so good." She gyrates against the couch, begging him for more. "Harder, go harder."

With a noise that almost sounds like a primal growl, Jamie dives back in, his tongue swirling around, then up and down, before his lips clasp onto her clit once more, this time sucking even harder like she'd instructed.

Oh, Jesus H. Roosevelt fucking Christ, this is amazing.

"Yesss," she hisses, gripping his hair again to hold him in place. She never wants him to leave this spot. "Right there, yes, Jamie, ohgodohgodmmm," she's rambling, she knows it, but it cannot be helped as Jamie Fraser's tongue works her up so close to her sweet release that she just knows this orgasm will be one of the strongest ones she's ever had.

She feels his rough hand reach up, tweaking her nipples, but she bats his hand away, gripping her nipples for herself and twisting them just slightly enough to send another jolt of pleasure through her.

Jamie grunts against her skin, and she looks down, his blue eyes once again trained on hers, and she gets completely lost in them. She can see just from his eyes how turned on he is, how hot he finds her touching herself, and she grins, thrusting her hips against his face.

While she's working on her top half, he runs his hands down her thighs, squeezing, then cupping his hands behind her knees and tugging her further down the couch, giving him an even better angle than before.

She moans, encouraging him to keep going.

At her moan, Jamie takes one hand, inserting a finger just below where his mouth is working her up. He runs his finger up and down her slit, his mouth releasing her clit briefly to check that she's okay with the finger.

"More than okay," she pants, grinding her hips and causing his finger to go deeper.

Jamie goes back to working on her clit, this time his finger swirling inside of her as well. He curls it up like a hook, pressing on her g-spot as he massages her with his tongue. He lets up on the pressure for a bit, letting her catch her breath, as he peppers light kisses to her swollen bud before she nods, telling him to finish her.

He grins, kisses turning back into him sucking her clit into his mouth. Jamie moans when she tugs on his hair harder, her legs hooking around his waist to hold him in place, and the vibrations of his moans bring her so close to the edge she wants to scream.

"I'm c-close, Jamie," she rasps, throat dry from all the noises she's been making the last few minutes.

He must nod because she feels his nose move against her skin, and he deepens the pressure of his tongue on her. Swirling around her clit once more, he flicks it with his tongue, his hands pressing into her hips and pulling her as close as humanly possible to his mouth.

She's there, she's about to come, and bless him for staying exactly where he is. No need to change it up when she's this close. With two more perfect sucks to her clit, Claire is coming harder than she thinks she even did last night.

Crying out, her hips jut up in pleasure and Jamie wastes no time in gripping her ass again, pressing his face harder against her as he continues to suck, letting her ride out the wave of ecstasy currently drowning her.

Fuck. That felt incredible.

She shudders as her release comes to an end, and she slumps back into the couch with a content huff.

Smiling down at him, she watches as Jamie slowly, sweetly, licks her clean. It makes her quiver as she's still recovering from her orgasm. She's sensitive, but in the best way possible. His hands are massaging her hips as he presses kisses to her core, then moves the kisses to her thighs.

Jamie's lips trail their way back up her body, and he takes a moment to swirl his tongue around each nipple, licking his way to her neck. He sucks on her pulse point as her hands travel along the lines of his body, pulling him closer by his biceps. He's laying between her legs again, hovering slightly above her as his mouth finally reaches her own.

He presses his lips to hers, the tangy flavor of her sex coating her mouth, but she doesn't mind. The taste of her own wetness on his mouth just does something to her, and she can already feel herself wanting another round once her body isn't quite as sensitive.

Claire moans into his mouth, pressing her tongue against his as they kiss passionately.

She can feel his hardness beneath his sweatpants, knows he's just as turned on as she is, and with a wicked grin, she decides to repay him in kind, wanting him to experience the amount of satisfaction that she just did.

Turning on her side, Jamie joins her, and she's once again thankful this couch is practically a bed so they both fit side by side.

She gazes at him, feels drunk on him, and he looks much the same. Jamie's hand comes up, pointer finger grazing down her cheek to her plump lips. He drags his finger down, her lips parting slightly with the movement. Grinning, she cups his jaw, leaning in to kiss him. "That was unbelievable," she says softly, scratching at his scruff that's grown in. "And don't shave your beard."

Jamie guffaws, beaming like a kid on Christmas. "Oh, aye? Ye like it?"

Nodding, she kisses his jaw again, turning his head so she can kiss the other side as she rests her fingers under his chin. "It felt fantastic against my skin."

He moans, pulling her closer. "Then I'll ne'er shave again, Sassenach," Jamie mumbles, wrapping his arm around her as she settles against his side.

His heart is beating beneath her palm, pounding is more like it, and she knows he's still excited. "These need to go," she demands huskily, running her finger along the inside of the rim of his pants.

Sitting up, she moves so that she can pat his side like he did to her earlier, silently asking him to raise his hips.

He does so dutifully, cock springing free as she lowers his pants and plaid boxers. Claire throws his garments aside, reaching for him and moving her hand up and down, giving him the pleasure he'd just given her moments ago.

She massages his balls, smiling in delight as he grows harder, and before long her mouth is on his cock, licking up from the base to the tip and working her mouth around him the way she knows he likes. Within minutes, he's coming in her mouth, and though the taste isn't particularly wonderful, she swallows his seed. Her hand gently strokes his cock as he comes down from his high, and he pulls her to him, kissing her soundly, then pulling apart.

They stay there for a while, silently cuddled together as they listen to each other's breathing. Her hand caresses the patch of his back she can reach, fingers lightly grazing against his scars as he brings her closer. She loves this feeling, feeling so safe in his arms, and she's glad they decided not to go anywhere today.

Bringing her head out from the crook of his neck, Claire kisses his cheek, her finger toying with the little dimple in his chin and sighing happily as they both doze in and out of a nap, content to just be in each other's arms.

And for the rest of the day, with her suggestion from earlier that they stay home in mind, they stay right there on the couch for the next several hours. The pair eventually move, christening each room in the house save for Fergus' with their love making, and by the end of the night, they're completely spent.

They shower and snuggle up in the living room with a bowl of popcorn as a movie plays, and Claire can't keep the smile off her face as she thinks what a magnificent day it had been indeed.

{**************************}

What did we think? lol

Chapter Text

Chapter Six:

After the day they spent enjoying each other in Jamie's home, Claire's trip seemed to fly by.

She's been here for eleven days thus far, and her heart aches knowing she only has three more days with Jamie. They've officially been back together as a couple for six, going on seven weeks, and she can't believe that she's become one of those women who actually tracks it.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she sits on the edge of Jamie's bed, slipping on her shoes and thinking about the last few days.

Some of her first days there, she and Jamie had opted to spend a majority of the day in bed, watching television, eating, and exploring each other's bodies.

One of their first full days of staying home, Claire had made a discovery that brought tears to her eyes.

Unpacking her things, Jamie watched her with a smile on his face. He was folding laundry on his bed as she moved around the room and bathroom, placing her toiletries beside his own for the time being.

She padded over to the bed, flopping down on her side, arms folding beneath her head as she watched him fold his clothes. The television was on, providing a low hum of background noise that she was barely paying attention to.

It was all so domestic that she thought she'd cry, but Jamie interrupted her thoughts by tossing an item of clothing onto her chest.

"What's this?" she laughed, pulling it away from her body.

It was a t-shirt—one she hadn't seen in decades.

"Cairo University" it read, and memories of Uncle Lamb buying it for her when she was in middle school flashed through her mind's eye.

She'd worn it to sleep almost nightly once her uncle came back from Egypt on one of his digs, and by the time she'd met Jamie, the shirt had started to grow thin and the writing was just beginning to fade after one too many washes.

Now, however, the words were almost completely faded, just a shadow of what they once were. She hadn't thought about the shirt in a very long time; it hadn't even really occurred to her that it was missing.

"This is my Cairo shirt… you kept it?" she asked, head tilting to look up at him. "Why didn't you just throw it away or give it to a charity shop or something?"

"Throw it out?" His tone made it seem like the suggestion was the most foolish thing she could have ever suggested. "Memories of you? Never."

Her heart melted at the sincerity in his voice, and her eyes must have softened as well because Jamie smiled his boyish smile and walked around to her side of the bed. He leaned down, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him as close as possible. She rubbed her nose against his, breathing him in, before pressing her lips onto his.

"You're such a romantic," she teased, pressing her forehead to his when they broke apart.

Jamie grinned, pecking her forehead before shrugging and going back to his side of the mattress to finish folding the laundry.

Once the laundry was done that day, she'd effectively pulled him onto the bed with her, straddling his waist and having her way with him just like he liked.

When they weren't in his bed, they were on the couch, or the kitchen counter, or his office desk… and it was thrilling. But eventually, Jamie decided that she needed to see more of his town while she was here.

They'd done most of the touristy things, but he wanted her to experience the local gems that made his town so special as well.

He'd shown her different cafés and shops, they'd gone horseback riding on Lallybroch's land, letting her see the very edges of his property. He'd given her a tour of the cabin by the lake that he'd mentioned before, where they promptly made love before riding back to the house, and they also enjoyed multiple picnics on the days it wasn't raining.

Jamie had to work, of course—he couldn't miss two whole weeks after missing so many days lately. But Jenny and Ian had been willing to help out so he could spend as little time as possible at the Ridge while Claire was in town.

She'd met Jenny on her fourth night there, she and Ian coming over for dinner. They'd stayed up late laughing and drinking far too much whisky, and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. It was nice that they lived on Lallybroch's property as well, just within walking distance from Jamie's house, so visiting was easy.

On day six, Jamie had finally gone into work for the first half of the day. Jenny came over to pick up Claire and keep her entertained. They had a lovely girls day out, going to lunch and shopping where Claire picked out a new dress for her and Jamie's next date night out on the town.

Jenny was lovely, and Claire was glad to know that Jamie's sister accepted her. They'd spoken over lunch of the past, Jenny telling her that Jamie had been heartbroken when he came back.

Their father had passed away just after she and Jamie graduated high school, prompting his move back home to take over the family business.

"I dinna think he e'er wanted it tae be permanent," Jenny said, giving her a small grimace and placing her coffee on the table as they sat down in the café for lunch. "I was pregnant with my first bairn, and Ian had just had his accident. It was just… a perfect storm, I guess ye could say."

Claire nodded, knowing the events back then were unavoidable, and after a while, she'd accepted that things would never go back to how they were. "It seems rather permanent now," she grinned, taking a bite of her sandwich.

"Aye," Jenny laughed. "After the first few years, things settled down and the farm started growing. He and Ian were sae busy with everything," she huffed, "and I was trying to keep up, mind ye, tae help out as much as I could, but I also had wee Jamie underfoot, Maggie was one, an' I was carryin' Kitty."

They laugh together at the thought of her now grown children running around the farm and wreaking havoc on anything they could get their pudgy little hands on. "I hope Julia can meet your girls one day," she said, knowing Julia was just a few months younger than eighteen year old Maggie.

"They'd love that," Jenny smiled, sighing.

They talked for a while more about the past, Jenny telling Claire that he talked of her all the time, which broke Claire's heart, knowing she'd been in much the same state on her end of the world. Jenny said Jamie talked for years of getting back to Claire somehow, but then he'd had his accident and was in a depression for months upon months. "And then he met that gold-digging nurse, Laoghaire," Jenny said, rolling her eyes. "I always kent that girl was trouble, and I couldna understand what my brother saw in her."

Claire grinned at Jenny, shrugging and said, "We both made mistakes in our past. I was married as well."

They spoke of Frank briefly, and Jenny scoffed, saying he and Laoghaire would've been perfect for one another. "All that girl cared about was our growing business. She saw the money starting to flow in an' thought she'd hitch a ride on the Fraser's success train."

After lunch, they'd spent the day shopping and getting to know one another more, and Claire was happy to have a friend in Scotland now other than Jamie.

She and Jamie spent their days wandering around and enjoying just being together, but a few days after her lunch with Jenny, he'd had to go to work again, this time for the whole day. He'd been apologetic, and upset with Ian that he couldn't handle it on his own, but they'd had a business meeting scheduled for months to finalize the purchase of fellow farmer Hank Mackenzie's land, and he couldn't miss it no matter how much he wanted to.

She'd shooed him off with a kiss and swat to his rear, saying she was an independent woman and could handle being alone for one day.

It turned out to be a very nice day, actually. She'd needed to catch up on some paperwork, so she logged into Jamie's laptop, completing her work for a few hours. She'd had a video call with Joe while he was at the hospital, discussing a few surgeries they had coming up (and of course, her best friend asking all the details of her trip so far.). She'd napped, and spoken to Julia on the phone, then ventured outside to walk around the open fields of Lallybroch. She enjoyed looking at the different flowers and herbs on the property, excited to tell Jamie all their medicinal properties.

They'd settled into a domestic little routine so quickly that it made her cheeks warm with happiness. She was completely content to be on her own for a few hours when he had to work, but she also enjoyed every waking moment with Jamie.

Today, however, with just three days left on her trip, she was finally meeting Jamie's son, Fergus. She'd been looking forward to this over the last week and a half, and her stomach felt nervous as she finished getting ready.

"Claire?" Jamie asks, stepping into the bedroom. "Are ye ready, Sorcha?"

She grins at the nickname, just one of many he had for her. He told her one night in bed that her name in Gaelic meant light, and he thought it was perfectly fitting for her.

"The day I saw ye in the café, it was as if I'd stepped outside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out," he purred, pressing a kiss to her unclothed stomach.

She shook her head. "God, you're so cheesy," she joked, pushing his shoulder playfully.

He laughed, sitting up in bed. "What?" He looked at her with wide eyes, pretending to be offended. "It's true! Ye were sae bonny."

Pulling herself from her reverie of the last few days, Claire zips up her black boot, smiling at Jamie and tells him, "I'm ready." She's wearing knee high boots with dark wash jeans, a black and white polka dot blouse with a leather jacket over it. It was a jacket she'd bought with Jenny one day, and she was excited to have something to wear it with.

She straightened her hair today, and without the curls, it sat beautifully at her shoulders. Her makeup was done, a light rose shade of blush and dark lashes. She wanted to look her very best to meet Fergus, and she felt like she'd accomplished that.

Jamie had dressed up a bit as well, donning a dark pair of jeans with a light blue, long sleeve button up collared shirt. His hair was pushed back a tad with some gel, and all she wanted to do was run her fingers through it. He looked so handsome.

"Sae bonny," he whispers, stepping further into the room and winding his arms around her waist. Leaning down, he presses a kiss to her neck, then her lips, smiling into the embrace. "I want tae take you around the Victorian Market before we meet Fergus. The café we're going to is there as well."

Nodding, she smiles, reaching down to grab her cross body purse from the bed. "Alright, lead the way!"

They spend the next two hours exploring the shopping center. It was a beautiful, historic building that now houses multiple clothing stores, cafés, and other various shops.

Their first stop was City Florist, where Claire could walk through aisle upon aisle of different colored flowers. "They're all so beautiful," she tells Jamie, bringing a collection of pink flowers to her nose and inhaling their scent.

Looking at him over the tops of the flowers, she grins, asking why he's staring at her like he is. "Just enjoying the view," he laughs. "Ye should pick some out fer the house. I've got a vase we can put them in when we get home."

Her eyes light up, excited to put together a bouquet for his home.

She takes his hand with a little squeal, a sound she's never heard herself make before—at least not as an adult—and walks him over to the next aisle.

The feel of his hand on the small of her back as he steps behind her, reaching for a flower to her left, warms her soul. She's been fighting for days with herself not to tell him how she feels. Not yet. It's too soon, she thinks, but she believes—hopes anyway—that he feels the same.

Biting her lip to keep the three little words from spilling out right there in the middle of the florist shop, she smiles at him, holding up a few light blue flowers. "Forget Me Nots."

"What?" he asks, brows scrunching.

She giggles, putting the flowers more in his line of sight. "Forget Me Nots; that's the name of this flower. I think they'd look beautiful in your kitchen."

"Aye," he agrees, leaning down to inspect the little flowers. "Let's get a whole bouquet of them, then."

Nodding, she scours through all of the Forget Me Nots the florist has, picking out the most vibrant ones. "Now you'll remember me even once I go home in a few days."

His lips twist, pulling her to him in the secluded aisle they're on. She looks around, seeing that they're all alone. "Dinna fash, Sassenach, I willna be forgetting ye anytime soon," he murmurs, gently rubbing his nose against hers before closing the space to kiss her fully on the mouth.

She smiles into the kiss, pressing her free hand to his chest. She kisses him back, then pulls away. "Someone will see," she giggles, hitting his chest lightly with her newly arranged bouquet.

He shrugs, not caring at all if someone were to catch them kissing. He laughs, though, winding his arm around her waist and leading her to the counter to pay for the flowers.

From there, Jamie takes her by Inverness Souvenirs, one of the gift shops in the market. She's been telling Jamie for days that she has to make sure and get Julia a souvenir, along with Joe, Gail, their son, Lenny, and of course, Louise.

"Julia collects magnets," she tells him, slowly spinning the metal carousel that houses the store's magnets. "She has one from every country or new city we've visited."

She picks up one magnet that's in the shape of a man in a kilt playing a bagpipe so forcefully that his cheeks are puffed out comically to match his bulging eyes, saying Julia would hate that one. "Too juvenile, she'd say."

Jamie laughs, too, holding up another. This one is in the shape of a highland cow, it's body painted like the Scottish flag with the country's name printed underneath it. "What about this one?"

She peeks around the carousel of magnets to see and smiles. "That one's cute. It's definitely a contender."

He gives her a crooked little smile, holding on to it until she makes her final selection. "Uncle Lamb always gets her a magnet from his travels," she tells him.

"Your refrigerator must be completely covered by now, with as often as he travels."

Laughing, she says they have acquired quite a collection over the years. "The ones from our trips are on the fridge—London, Barcelona, Greece, New York, just to name a few," she grins. "The ones from Lamb we keep in a keepsake box with all the other souvenirs he's brought us over the years. We like to go through it every now and then and laugh at all our memories we have with him."

"That sounds fun."

"It is," she chuckles, peering at a few more magnets. "When Lamb comes to visit, we get it out along with all his photo albums and we listen all night long as he tells us of his latest dig and what all he found." She smiles at the thought of her uncle, reminding Jamie to make sure she gets something for him as well. "Julia loves history and science, and I have to attribute that to Lamb. She's always loved sitting with him, hearing all of his wild stories about countries she's never been to."

Jamie holds up a magnet of a green, cartoon looking Loch Ness monster with a plaid hat on his head and "Nessie" written beneath his smiling face. "For Lamb?" And she laughs, nodding her head.

"I think he'd get a kick out of that one."

Jamie hands it to her, saying, "D'ye think Julia will become an archeologist like him?"

"I don't know," she muses with a shrug. "Maybe!"

They browse the store for a bit longer, Claire eventually selecting a little kilt for Lenny and tartan scarf for Gail and Louise. For Joe, she decides before she leaves, she'll pick him up a bottle of Scottish malt whisky and a jar of honey from Fraser's Ridge. Along with the magnets for Lamb and Julia, she adds the other gifts, before paying for everything.

Once they leave there, Jamie loops her bag of souvenirs around his wrist, taking her hand with the other. "It's almost time to meet up with Fergus," he says, "but there's one more place I want ye tae see."

He leads her down the walkway, finally stopping in front of Story Chocolates. He tells her they have some of the best chocolates in Scotland and she has to try them. He orders a white chocolate truffle while she selects a hazelnut one.

They step off to the side, tasting their treats before heading to the café. "Oh my god," she moans, eyes rolling to the back of her head. "That's incredible."

"See?" he laughs, "I told ye."

He licks his lips, popping the rest of his into his mouth, telling her once he swallows, "Ye canna be making those wee moaning sounds, though, or else I have a mind tae take ye home and have my way with ye."

She laughs, saying she wouldn't mind that, giving him a wink.

Jamie grins, rolling his eyes as he steps back to the counter to order a half dozen more of their truffles.

"We will, however, ruin our appetites if we eat any more of these." She points to his box, raising a brow.

"Och," he scoffs, waving her off. "Ye canna ever have too much chocolate, mo nighean donn, but these are fer tonight when we get home."

"Oh?"

"Aye, I wanna hear those little moans again," he murmurs into her hair, kissing her curls.

"Jamie!" she laughs, swatting his chest and looking around. There's no one save for an older couple at a table a few feet away and people walking by, too caught up in their own shopping to notice them. She leans up, whispering into his ear, "You don't need chocolate to make me moan."

She steps back with a grin, biting her lip as she watches his ears turn pink. "Christ, Sassenach, ye canna say such wicked things to a man when he's out in public."

They laugh, Claire taking the box of chocolates and placing it into the souvenir bag still around Jamie's wrist. Her bouquet is also in there, the blue flowers sticking out above the bag, and she shakes her head, realizing this won't work.

"Hang on," she tells Jamie, going to the counter to ask the teenager working for a bag. She puts the chocolates and flowers in the new one and places it around her wrist.

Once all their items are settled, Jamie takes her hand and leads her to Ambience Café.

{***********************}

Fergus is sitting at a table already just outside the restaurant, waiting for them when they arrive.

He's in jeans and a dark blue polo. She smiles, hoping that he wanted to look nice just like she did to make a good impression.

She's nervous, more nervous than she'd been to meet Jenny. This is his child, and getting his approval would mean everything.

He stands, his six foot frame almost as tall as Jamie's, and embraces his father in a tight hug. "It is so good to see you, Da."

"You too, mon fils, you too."

Claire smiles at Jamie's pet name for Fergus, and watching the two hug makes her heart ache to see Julia and hold her in her arms.

"And this is Claire," Jamie says, pulling her from her thoughts of her daughter. "Claire, this is my son, Fergus."

She holds out a hand to shake, but Fergus scoffs and smiles, opening his arms. "I am much more of a hugger if it's alright with you."

"Of course," she laughs, looking from Jamie to the younger Fraser. She hugs him back, patting his back softly. "It's wonderful to meet you."

"You as well."

They take their seats at the round table, Jamie and Claire placing their souvenir bags down on the ground. She sighs, much more relaxed now that they've gotten the introductions out of the way.

A waitress comes and greets them, depositing a pitcher of water on the table and taking their orders before moving on to her next table.

"So, Claire," Fergus says, a friendly smile on his face as he pours water into a glass and hands it to her. "My da tells me you are a surgeon?"

She smiles and thanks him when he hands her a glass. "And yes," she says with a nod, taking a sip of her water. "I've been a doctor since I was twenty-seven, but I've been a neurosurgeon for the last, God," she huffs, thinking back of the years, "seven years."

She was just about to turn thirty-one when she accepted the position as surgeon, and it was the best birthday gift she could have ever received that year.

Fergus beams, "My girlfriend, Marsali, wants to be a doctor."

"Does she?" Claire inquires, an excited smile on her face. "It's a great profession. It takes a lot of work, but it's worth it."

She asks what field of medicine Marsali wants to go into, and he says she isn't quite sure yet. "She is only eighteen, you see," he says, a blush covering his cheeks. He rubs his neck as he looks at Jamie sheepishly. "But she'll be at University starting in June, right after she turns nineteen next week," he adds with a more pointed look at his father, "so she can make more decisions about it then."

Claire tries her best not to laugh at the unspoken conversation happening between father and son, knowing Jamie thinks Marsali is too young. Not for Fergus, he's only twenty-one, but for them to be as serious as Jamie has made them out to seem.

He'd told her the day they bumped into each other that the two were ready to get married, and the other night they'd discussed it in more detail. Marsali was a sweet girl, Jamie had assured, but he didn't want them to rush into anything and have regrets later on.

"Well," Claire says, patting Fergus' hand just as their food arrives, "tell her to be thinking now what area of study she wants to go into. She'll do her undergraduate courses, of course, but then for actual medical school, she'll need to have a clearer idea of what field she wants to focus on."

Fergus nods, smiling in thanks. "She is verra good with kids," he tells her, his adorable accent that is a mix of French and Scottish coming out thicker. "She's thinking of doing something with that."

Claire cuts her salmon, nodding. "Pediatrics is a great field," she assures him. "It takes a very special and patient person to work with sick children."

"Aye," Jamie mumbles, "she's patient alright. No one else would keep this old dolt around." He clasps Fergus' shoulder, the trio all laughing at his words.

They eat in silence for a few moments, each enjoying their meal. They discuss what all Jamie and Claire have done while she's been here, and Claire tells him about meeting his Aunt Jenny as well.

"I took her out tae the farm," Jamie informs his son, biting into his cullen skink before continuing. "Let her meet Donas."

"Did you ride him?" Fergus asks, an incredulous look upon his face as he looks at Claire.

She laughs, shaking her head. "God, no. He was terrifying."

Jamie chuckles, saying he wouldn't have hurt her, but it was better for them all that she rode Skye instead. "She's much gentler, ken, Donas has only ever really taken to me."

"He almost threw me off of him when I was younger," Fergus tells her, saying he was around thirteen and had gone out to ride with his dad. He thought he could handle the big stallion, but Donas had other ideas. "He reared back to throw me, ye see, but luckily Da was close enough to grab the reins and calm him down before he did anything."

"Oh my," she breathes, "I'm glad I stuck with Skye then."

Fergus and Jamie laugh, the younger man saying, "Aye, Skye is my horse. She's always been a gentle soul."

Claire smiles softly, finishing her chips and starting on her salad as the boys discuss the expansion deal Jamie has been working on lately. "Old Mackenzie finally sold us the place," Jamie says, scooping up a bite of his soup. "His land has that old still we're gonna fix up, finally start makin' whisky like Ian and I have been plannin' fer years."

Jamie had mentioned the other night that part of expanding Fraser's Ridge included beginning to make and eventually sell their own brand of whisky. His eyes lit up as he told her, and she was happy knowing he was so satisfied with this passion of his.

They finish their meal and the waitress clears their plates, all of them ordering a scoop of ice cream, and Claire getting a latte to enjoy.

"So, Fergus," she says, settling against the iron chair. "I never asked, but what do you do? You live in Edinburgh right?"

He smiles and nods. "Oui, yes, I am studying at the University of Edinburgh."

"That's wonderful. What do you study?"

"Business management," he tells her, smiling over to Jamie. "I might one day help run Fraser's Ridge once this guy gets too old to do as much." He laughs, thanking the waitress when she delivers their desserts. "But I also have opportunities for anything, really, with my degree."

"Is running the farm something you would want to do?"

"Aye, it has always been a part of me," he tells her sincerely. "It would be an honor to keep it in the family for as long as we possibly can. I want to help with the whisky business once Da and Uncle Ian create a flavor good enough to sell, as well."

Claire smiles at his words, glad that Jamie was blessed with such an amazing young man as a son.

"And how is Murtagh, by the way?" she asks, looking at Jamie. "You mentioned the day we first ran into each other that he helps with the farm?"

Jamie grins, saying, "Aye, he helped me keep it afloat once my da passed." He tells her that Murtagh, along with being his family's oldest friend, was also quite adept in business so he was able to loan Jamie money to help keep the farm running. "He came up with the idea of offering horseback riding lessons, ye ken," he says, finishing his ice cream. "It was the first extra thing the farm offered, aside from the usual farming dealings, and when we saw how interested people were, it just sort of took off."

"And now look at you, trying to expand to more land just to sell your products. People love them that much."

He blushes at her compliment, reaching over to take her hand. He picks it up, kissing her palm before setting their hands on his leg.

The feel of his hand on hers grounds her, settling the butterflies still fluttering around in her stomach.

"Well," Fergus says, dropping some money on the table. "I better head out. I've got plans with Young Ian."

She smiles at the thought of Jenny and Ian's fifteen year old, the only one still living at home and how sweet he'd been the other night when she and Jamie went to the Murray's house for dinner.

"Ye keep him out o' trouble, ye ken?"

Fergus rolls his eyes at his dad, laughing. "Always. He has a crush on a girl at school and wants my help on how to… flirt… with her," he says, winking at Jamie.

She chuckles under her breath and Jamie out right laughs, standing to hug Fergus goodbye. "And keep yer money, mon fils, lunch is on me," he whispers, handing the money back to his son.

He stuffs the bills back into his pocket, turning with a bright smile to Claire. She stands as well, saying, "It was so lovely to meet you."

"It was very nice to meet you, as well, Milady," he says, gallantly picking up her hand to kiss the back of it with a smirk.

Claire grins, glancing over to Jamie, then to Fergus, asking, "Are you staying with us the rest of the time you're in town?"

The young man lets out a loud snort, sharking his head. "No, Milady," he smiles over at his father, "I figured you two would want some… privacy… while you're here." He laughs again, presumably at the way Claire's cheeks heat at the comment. "I will be on Lallybroch's property, you see, but I'll be down at the cabin by the lake." Claire tries to subtly flick her eyes to Jamie, memories of what they'd done in that cabin recently flooding her mind.

Jamie pushes his shoulder good naturedly, declaring, "Get out o' here, ye wee mongrel, and go make doey love eyes at Marsali."

"Well I only learned how to make those eyes from the best, Da," Fergus teases, batting his eyelashes dramatically before winking at Jamie. "And I told you, I am going to Aunt Jenny's now to pick up Ian."

Jamie nods, rolling his eyes.

Claire laughs at the pair, telling Fergus in her most mothering tone to be safe while he drives. "Call your father when you make it to Jenny's, alright?"

"Oui," he grins, ducking his head to his chest, "I will."

He leans in, giving Claire one last hug, saying, "Again, it was great to meet you." He smiles, a cheeky gleam in his eye as he looks to Jamie, then back to her. "I have heard of you my entire life." It warms not only her cheeks but her heart to hear Jamie has spoken of her in the past, but Fergus winks and laughs when Jamie chokes on his latest sip of water, adding, "so it is nice to finally put a face to the name."

"Alright, alright," Jamie says, thumping Fergus on the ear. "Enough with you, you eejit."

Fergus laughs, turning in her direction. "Have a safe flight back home, Claire."

"Thank you. Feel free to come by anytime while you're here," she says, pressing her hand to her heart, "I don't want to take away any time the two of you get together."

Fergus smiles softly, but shakes his head. "I see the old man enough as is," he laughs, clapping Jamie on the shoulder, "I have plans the rest of the time anyway, but I may come by for breakfast one day."

"That would be lovely."

The younger Fraser smiles, then hugs Jamie one last time, his father getting one good rib in for good measure. "Tell Marsali I said hello, but make sure ye have her home before curfew."

Fergus rolls his eyes and shakes his head, laughing. "Bye, Da."

"Bye, son."

{************************}

They sit back down at their table, watching as Fergus makes his way through the crowd of people.

"He's wonderful," Claire giggles, picking up her mug. She's only got a few sips left, but her latte is delicious and she wants to get every last drop.

"I have to say, I am quite proud of my boy."

They smile at one another, Claire admitting that seeing the two of them together made her miss Julia. "I'm going to miss you, obviously," she says, taking his hand, "but it will be nice to have my baby girl back in my arms."

Jamie nods, his face going soft. "I completely understand, Sassenach."

"You'll have to come visit soon."

His eyes light up and he gives her a beaming smile. "I'd love that," he replies, linking their fingers together. "I was actually thinking o' comin for her graduation. It's in about three weeks, aye?"

Claire nods, eyes misting over at the thought of him coming to Boston. "Yes," she whispers, leaning in to kiss his cheek. "I would love that! And Julia would be so excited! I could show you around Boston as well, and you can help me set up Julia's graduation party," she giggles, winking at him.

"Ye jest, Sassenach, but I'd love to," he says sincerely. "I could bring some goodies from the Ridge wi' me if ye want me to."

Beaming, they spend the next few minutes planning his trip to Boston, Claire telling him of all the historical sights she could show him, and Jamie pulling out his phone to Google more about the city, his excitement growing. "That's around the time my deal for the still should be wrapping up, but it should be fine for me tae come then."

"That would be wonderful," she says, her voice going soft. She loves this man so much and wants to shout it from the rooftops.

With that, she finishes her latte and Jamie pays before they pick up their belongings and head out.

Their hands find one another's as they meander through the market, Jamie asking her if there's anywhere else she wants to go.

She taps the large bag he's holding, saying, "I think I've gotten plenty," with a laugh. "I'm not sure I'll be able to fit all of this, plus the clothes I got with Jenny, in my suitcase as is."

Jamie snickers, squeezing her hand and leading her to the car.

The drive home is quiet, peaceful, and Claire is so relaxed that she thinks she could fall asleep right there.

Jamie has the radio on softly, just loud enough to faintly make out the words as he drives them back to Lallybroch.

She reaches over, taking his left hand from the steering wheel and lacing their fingers together as she sets their hands on the middle console. "I feel so lucky to be here with you," she murmurs quietly, squeezing his hand.

Claire watches as Jamie's eyes slide over to hers briefly, smiling softly. He picks up their joined hands, kissing the top of hers. The silver ring he gave her as children still resting there on her right hand. The band is thin, and there's a little knot molded in the middle that she often finds herself rubbing her thumb over to soothe her nerves at work or anytime she needs to calm down. "This afternoon was great."

"Mm," she sighs contentedly, her hand beginning to caress up and down his exposed forearm. "It really was." She pauses, sadness crossing over her face for a brief second. She can tell Jamie notices because he gives her a questioning gaze. Smiling sadly, she tells him, "We have to… treasure these moments."

They come to a red light and Jamie leans over, kissing her soundly. Her hand comes up to cup his jaw, moaning into his mouth when he deepens the kiss. Her hand trails down to his neck, scratching lightly while her tongue peeks out to play with his.

"Don't ye see how small a thing like the Atlantic Ocean is between us?" he asks, and she can't help but to grin, and nods. "After I left the last time, came back here, to Scotland, part of me was dead," he admits in a gravelly voice. "Yet all that time I lo—" He cuts himself off, eyes widening for the briefest of seconds, and Claire's heart stops. She breathes in deeply, she can hear her blood rushing through her ears in anticipation, hoping he was about to confess the feelings she longs to hear.

Clearing his throat, Jamie looks back at the light to check that it was still red, then looks back at her, saying, "I… longed to be wi' ye again."

Disappointment fills her, and confirms her fear of saying it first, especially so soon into their relationship, no matter how deeply she knows she loves him already. She smiles sympathetically, reaching up to run her fingers beneath his chin, his scruff scratching at her skin. "I longed to be with you, too. I never stopped."

He hums under his breath, cupping the back of her neck to pull her closer, lips crashing together in a heated kiss, but before long the car behind them is honking its horn.

They pull apart, Claire wiping at the corner of her mouth and they laugh like children who just got caught by the school teacher doing something wrong.

The rest of the drive back home is weighted, a tension filling the space that wasn't there before. She knows as soon as they get inside, their clothes will be off, and she silently wills Jamie to drive faster.

She's got her legs pressed tightly together, trying to contain herself. The touch of his hand on her thigh sends a shiver down her spine and she groans like an impatient toddler, making Jamie laugh.

"It is okay to drive a little faster, you know," she tells him with a chuckle.

Jamie laughs, his cheeks heating up as he steps on the gas.

She holds his hand the rest of the drive, her other hand's fingers scratching lightly against the back of the hand she's holding.

As soon as they get inside, they head to the kitchen first, and Claire drops the chocolates and her souvenir bag on the counter. Jamie takes the Forget Me Nots and grabs a dark blue and white vase from under his counter, filling it with water. He sets about cutting the stems and placing them in the water before walking around the kitchen island and taking her in his arms.

"Now that that's taken care of," he rasps huskily in her ear, "let's go upstairs."

"Why go upstairs?" she purrs, kissing his ear before walking backwards until her arse hits the kitchen table. She spins them around, his body pressed against the wooden surface. Reaching for the buttons on his shirt, Claire makes quick work of it, starting to undo his zipper while he tosses her shirt aside. She steps back, removing her jeans and thong, discarding them before placing her hands on Jamie's chest. "We've got a perfectly good surface," she says, her hands urging him to sit on the table, "right here."

He grins seductively, scooting back while she climbs up to straddle his lap. It's a tad awkward, she didn't quite think through the logistics of riding him on the large kitchen table, but they make it work. Jamie moves back further so Claire has more surface beneath her, and she cries out as his cock enters her, hitting that spot she loves so much perfectly from this angle.

Claire grinds against him, each of their faces buried in the other's neck as he thrusts up into her. Jamie's teeth graze her skin, biting lightly as he succumbs to the pleasure. They both come sooner than planned, moaning and panting, their voices echoing slightly in the silent kitchen.

And so the rest of the afternoon is spent together, naked, before they eventually decide to get cleaned up and venture back out into the real world for dinner.

There may not have been any I love you's exchanged tonight, but it was still perfect, and Claire wouldn't change a thing.

{*************************}

I hope you enjoyed this one! Please let me know what you thought! Outfit inspiration for their lunch with Fergus, as well as the magnets they looked at, are all posted on my Twitter if you're curious! lol

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven:

After their little tryst on the kitchen table, she and Jamie fumble their way upstairs, clothes collected in their arms as they scurry through the house.

Claire puts the souvenirs into her carry-on bag she'd left in the guest room before Jamie comes up behind her, taking her just like that on the bed.

Sometime later, they make their way down the hall to his room, collapsing into his king size bed. They eventually doze off, napping for the better part of an hour, wrapped in each other's arms, before deciding they need to actually shower and get ready. They have plans to stop by Fraser's Ridge so Jamie can meet with Ian about their new property deal before she and Jamie head to dinner.

She gets into Jamie's shower, letting the warm water heat her skin before he joins her. Their hands roam, cleaning each other's bodies off and sharing kisses the whole time.

"We should get dressed," Claire says, turning off the hair straightener. "We don't want to be late meeting with Ian."

Jamie smirks, "Ye mean, ye dinna want us tae miss our dinner reservation."

"Well, obviously."

He snickers, zipping his jeans and walking back into the bathroom to brush his teeth and spray some cologne.

God, if anyone can make the cowboy look work, it's Jamie Fraser. They were going casual to run to the Ridge, and he'd chosen a flannel shirt with a navy vest to go along with his jeans. And Claire was instantly turned on—maybe missing the reservation wouldn't be so bad after all.

She throws on her outfit—jeans and a simple white, long sleeve shirt with a light jacket—and finishes her makeup.

"All set?" Jamie asks, stepping back into the bedroom and grabbing his keys off the dresser.

She gives him a quick kiss and a nod in reply and they make their way down the stairs and out the door.

It's a quick visit to Fraser's Ridge. Jenny is there, too, so Claire spends some time with her walking around and petting the horses while Jenny tends to the goats. Before long, Ian and Jamie emerge from the main office, mega watt smiles and arms thrown around each other's shoulders as they laugh and make their way to she and Jenny.

"I take it it was a successful meeting?"

"Aye," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her head. "I'll tell ye all about it on the way home."

Smiling, they hug the Murrays goodbye before heading back to Jamie's house to get ready for dinner.

{**************************}

It was nearing seven now, and Claire was thankful she'd already straightened her hair

. Their reservation is at eight, so she runs the straightener through her hair one more time for good measure before spending time on her makeup. She wanted a more done up look to match the dress she was hoping would knock the air out of Jamie's lungs when he saw her.

She was planning on wearing a black dress that she'd gotten the other day at a boutique. It lands just above her knees and hugs her in a way that isn't too tight, but is sexy enough and doesn't leave much to the imagination. She pairs it with a pair of black pumps, thankful she brought them since they were walking to dinner tonight. These were one of the only pairs of heels she had that were comfortable enough for a long period of time.

Claire feels vindicated in her splurge of a purchase on this dress when she comes down the stairs, Jamie waiting at the bottom with his mouth hanging agape.

He looks so handsome. And for a moment she considers not going to dinner at all and just having him right there on the wooden staircase. He's in a pair of hunter green dress pants with a black button up. His sleeves are rolled up, exposing his muscular forearms and God, does she have a weakness for a man dressed like that. If she thought cowboy Jamie was hot, business suit Jamie was even better.

When she gets to the bottom of the stairs, he takes her hands, his eyes bulging out when he takes a peek at her chest. "Christ, Sassenach."

"What?"

"I can see all the way down tae yer third rib."

She laughs, swatting at his chest. "No, you can't."

He grins, saying, "Nah, but I will be seeing those wee ribs of yers later tonight," before pulling her to him. His hands slide down to her ass, cupping her cheeks in his palms. "Ye look sae gorgeous." Jamie kisses her again, groaning against her mouth as he exclaims, "God, ye've got the roundest arse I've ever seen."

She laughs as he brings his lips to hers again. "Why Jamie," she giggles, taking a step back and giving him a mock-curtsey, "you do flatter me so." She sighs, leaning in to kiss him once more. "You look handsome, yourself." Reaching around, Claire takes his rear in her hands, giving it a squeeze. "You say I have a nice arse, but look at yours." They both laugh, drunk on the feel of each other. "Are you sure we have to go to dinner?" she asks, hands gripping his ass again and pulling him closer.

His head tilts back on a laugh, taking her hand and handing her her purse. "Aye, we need some food to restore our energy."

"Okay, fine," she huffs, smiling over to him. "Lead the way."

{*****************************}

The restaurant is just outside the property line of Lallybroch, in the same town she'd walked to several days thus far. It had actually been her suggestion to eat there, having smelled it's aroma several times over the last two weeks.

Jamie had smiled, saying she sounded like a local and that he'd make the reservation.

When they get there, she's stunned. This place is so much prettier at night. They have music softly playing that can be heard from the outside, the roof is lined with white fairy lights, and the lights are set to a low dim, casting a nice ambience around the building.

She's glad that she grabbed her black jacket just before they left because the temperature has dropped a good bit since this afternoon. They stand outside for a few moments, waiting for their table to be ready.

"It's so pretty here at night," she comments, hooking her arm through Jamie's as she peers out around the town square. "This little area is nice."

He smiles, kissing her cheek. "I do like this place," he tells her. "I like that at night all the restaurants open their windows and have sae much outdoor seating. It's nice tae watch people mill about the town as ye eat."

She giggles, "So you like to people watch."

"Who doesn't?" he laughs, turning them back toward the restaurant when their name is called.

Fraser, party of two

She ignores the way her stomach flips at hearing them both referred to as Frasers.

Dinner is lovely, and it's nice and warm inside, making her more comfortable with her spaghetti strap dress.

Jamie orders them a bottle of red wine and an appetizer of fritto misto, and she smiles across the table at him, that feeling from earlier today of wanting to tell him how she feels bubbling up inside of her again.

She pushes it down, picking up the menu to peruse.

The fritto misto arrives before long, and they both savor it while making their selections for dinner. The food here is delicious, she can already tell just from this one dish.

The waiter comes back, pouring them each a glass of Tempranillo, telling them this bottle is from Spain, 2018.

She smiles, thanking him before she and Jamie order. He goes with steamed filet of shetland halibut, while she picks the linguine alla norma.

As the waiter retreats to put their orders in, Jamie takes her hand, his thumb caressing the top of it. "I'm sae glad ye were able to come fer this long."

She smiles, a bit sadly knowing it's almost over. "I am, too, Jamie. It's been lovely."

They reminisce over their favorite parts of her trip, Claire deciding that the days they rode the horses all through the farm were her favorites. "I just enjoyed being out in nature, with you, and getting to see where you spend your days."

He grins, saying, "Aside from, well, ye know," and bounces his eyebrows up and down, making her laugh, "I really loved earlier today when ye got tae meet Fergus."

Her eyes soften and she squeezes his hand. "I loved that, too. And I loved getting to know Jenny," she tells him. "You used to tell me so much about her when we were in high school. It was nice to really get to know her." She smiles, laughing softly at herself. "I was actually scared to meet her."

"Why?" he asks, eyes lighting up with mirth.

Shrugging, Claire says, "I don't know. She's your older sister, she's bound to be protective, and I was just worried she wouldn't like me."

"If anyone dislikes you, Sassenach, then that's their loss."

She smiles, clearing her throat of emotion. She separates their hands as the waiter brings their dishes, setting them in front of them and telling them to enjoy.

They drink their wine, savoring the meal before them, laughing and just enjoying each other's presence.

She can feel her face growing hot, mind a bit fuzzy the more wine she drinks, but she doesn't care. They're walking home so they can enjoy themselves as much as they want. A light buzz won't hurt anything.

Jamie offers her a bite of his food, leaning into the table and looking around conspicuously as he murmurs, "Don't go makin' those wee moaning noises again."

Rolling her eyes, she swishes her hand in front of his face, making him sit back with a laugh. She picks up his fork, taking a piece to taste. It's delicious, of course, everything tonight has been. She then gives him a bite of her food and he says they need to come back again so he can order that dish.

At one point, their waiter returns, offering them a complimentary taste of the house oysters and Claire accepts, curious to see how they taste.

"Ye're a daring woman," he smirks as the waiter walks away, "I s'ppose that makes me a verra lucky man… But, Sassenach, oysters?" Jamie asks, face twisted in disgust

She laughs, giving him a shrug. "When in Rome!"

"Ye're in Scotland," he deadpans, "and ye ken just fine that oysters are just slimy wee suckers in yer throat."

She leans in, eyeing the waiter coming back, and lowly says, "You know, they say oysters are an aphrodisiac."

Sitting back, she smiles both at the waiter and at the look on Jamie's face. His eyes have gone a shade darker, and she knows he's imagining all the wicked things they'll do to one another tonight when they get home.

"Here ye are," the waiter says, "compliments o'the chef."

They thank him and Claire takes a deep breath. She's always been a daring eater, having traveled so much with Lamb as a child to different countries and cultures, but oysters were always one thing she could never really enjoy.

She's always heard about Scottish oysters, though, and how fresh they are, so, why not?

Picking one up, she looks at Jamie, declaring, "Geronimo!" before shooting the oyster into her mouth and swallowing.

She tries not to cough as the slimy meat slides down her throat, trying her very hardest to taste it so she can give an apt description.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ," she mumbles, squeezing her eyes shut at the onslaught of flavors still in her mouth after swallowing.

Reaching for her wine to wash the salty flavor away, she gulps down a sip, looking at Jamie. His mouth is hanging open just a bit, a small grimace on his face. "Christ, ye're a brave wee thing," he laughs in disbelief, shaking his head when she offers him the other one. "I'm nice and full from my meal."

It wasn't the worst thing she's ever eaten, and tells him so, saying she'd try it again to get used to the taste.

They stay there for over two hours, their wine finished, and dessert ordered. They choose to share the vanilla ice cream with caramel drizzle along with a glass for each of them of the dessert wine.

She's indulging, she knows that, can tell Jamie is feeling the effects of the wine as well, but she just giggles, loving how free she feels with him.

They pay, finishing off their third and fourth glasses of wine, before heading out.

Jamie slips Claire's jacket onto her arms as they step outside, and she thanks him, the air having grown just a touch cooler since they were first outside.

She stumbles a bit on her feet, chuckling when Jamie catches her arm.

They laugh all the way down the street and up toward Lallybroch, Jamie's arm coming around her shoulders to catch her when she trips on a rock. "I think ye're a wee bit drunk there, mo nighean donn."

She can hear how inebriated her own laugh sounds but she still protests, saying, "I am not drunk!" She swoops out from underneath his arm, pretending to punch him in the stomach. "I could knock you off your feet, sir!"

Jamie guffaws, trapping her hands in his and spins her around in a circle. "Ye canna even walk in a straight line."

"Well, can you recite the alphabet backwards?" she sasses, knowing he's had just as much to drink as she has.

He smirks, his arm looping around her shoulders again. "I expect so," he boasts, chest puffing out. "English… or Greek?"

She snorts, moving out from under his grasp again, catching his hand in hers and swinging them between their bodies. "Well, nevermind. If you can recite either of those forwards, then you're in a better condition than I."

He laughs, spinning her so she lands against his chest, and she purses her lips, leaning up to place a smacking kiss to his lips.

"I'm going to miss ye sae much, Claire," he admits suddenly, the air growing serious between them. "These last two weeks have been some of the best of my life."

She looks up at him, arms still wrapped around his waist. Her eyes water, knowing she feels the same way. It's been wonderful, and though she wants to get home to Julia, she doesn't want to leave Jamie. "I am thankful for every day that we have," she tells him, giving him a soft smile.

Leaning in, Jamie kisses her lips, then the tip of her nose. He pulls out of her embrace, taking her hand and bowing dramatically. He kisses her hand before righting himself and continuing their journey home.

They giggle and stumble all the way back to Lallybroch, fumbling inside the door at the same time. Jamie, in trying not to knock her down, ends up falling on his bum, a wheezing laugh coming out of both their mouths.

"Shhh," she shushes, a finger raising to her lips. "You'll wake the house."

"No one is home but us, Sassenach."

"Oh… right," she laughs, helping him stand to his feet.

Jamie has sense enough at least to grab them both a bottle of water before following her upstairs. When they get to his room, she falls face first into the mattress, her legs still on the ground.

Claire turns her face to the side in order to talk, saying, "I need to change out of this dress… put my pajamas on." She flips onto her back, grinning stupidly up at Jamie. He's somehow already gotten his shirt off and is standing there in just his pants, his sculpted chest on display for her. "Help me up, Jamie," she commands with a hiccup, kicking her heels off.

She giggles as he takes her hands, hoisting her from the bed.

Claire lands against his chest, both of them delivering sloppy kisses to the other. "I need to change," she states again.

She starts to move, but Jamie captures her by the waist, pulling her to him from behind. "There'll be no need for clothes tonight, Sassenach," he tells her, whispering it into her ear. She can smell the wine still on his breath, but she doesn't care and turns in his arms.

Both hands lift to cup around his neck, pulling him to her as they fall with breathless giggles onto the bed once again. No clothes needed for the rest of the night, indeed.

{*************************}

Three days later, her trip has sadly come to an end. It's Friday morning, and she knows she needs to get back in order to recover from her jetlag and get prepared for work on Monday.

But that doesn't seem as fun as staying in bed with Jamie for the rest of the day.

She wakes up in Jamie's arms, one leg slung over his hip, and they make love one last time before she has to go.

They piddle around town, Claire buying a few last minute provisions to stuff into her carry-on. When they get back home, she decides to hop in the shower so she feels fresh for her flight later this afternoon.

Once she's clean and dressed for the airport, she makes her way downstairs with her luggage. She drops it off by the front door, then heads to the kitchen where Jamie has been preparing lunch for them.

"Smells good," she says, sliding next to him at the table.

Jamie smiles, placing a hamburger onto her plate. "Thank ye, mo nighean donn."

There's a sadness in the air that's thick and looming, and she hates this feeling. She knows she has to get back home, she has a daughter and a job waiting for her, but fuck, this is so hard.

She'd finished some more work yesterday, having another video chat with Joe for apparently no other reason than for him to tell her to research Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

"There's a few others," Joe grinned. "But that one looks the best."

"Oh, you've been researching, have you? The brochures you gave me weren't enough?"

"Well, someone had to."

She laughs at the memory of Joe, always so persistent.

They'd spent yesterday at home all day, just enjoying their last few hours together. They'd gone out for dinner, going to Jenny and Ian's afterwards to have a drink and say goodbye.

But now, there's no more time left. Her flight is in five hours, so they need to leave within an hour to get there with enough time.

She sighs, sipping her water, listening as Jamie tries to fill the silence by telling her about the jams and marmalades Jenny and her team were creating using their farm's fruits and how his sister wants to think of a new label design.

"That'll be nice," she replies distantly, looking at him sadly.

Jamie smiles in understanding, reaching over to hold her hand. "I ken, Sassenach. I dinna want ye to leave either. But ye must."

She nods, sighing. "You know," she starts, hoping to sound casual about it. "Scotland has some pretty great hospitals; Joe gave me a few pamphlets after my first trip here, and he and I looked some up yesterday." She smiles behind the rim of her cup, looking sideways at him with a gleam in her eye.

Jamie straightens in his seat, eyes lighting up. "Wha—Sassenach," he breathes, taking her hand again. "I would love that more than anything, but," her stomach drops with that one word, and her smile falters, "I would never, in a million years, ask ye tae give up yer life and career over there just fer me." He sighs, looking down at his plate, then back to her. "What about Julia?"

She smiles at his concern for her child, and stands, collecting their plates and walking them over to the sink as she comments, "She'll be graduating within the month, and moving away to college after that."

Jamie joins her by the sink, turning her in his arms so her back is pressed against the counter. He leans in, kissing her lips and down to her neck, moving her hair out of the way to get better access. She sighs at the contact before Jamie pulls back, saying, "I dinna want ye tae make a big life decision wi'out truly thinking through it. Through all of it."

She worries her lips, breathing out deeply through her nose and knowing he's right. Claire wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him down for another sound kiss. She knows it's a big decision, but, "I'm not saying I want to move right now," she chuckles, her hands trailing from his neck to his shoulders, rubbing lightly. "It's just something to think about as a possibility. I obviously can't move now, not with Julia still in high school." She grows nervous, asking with wide eyes, "But would… would you want me here, though? Eventually?"

Jamie leans in quicker than her brain can comprehend, peppering her lips with kisses over and over again as he cups her cheeks. "Sassenach, o'course I would." He smiles, shaking his head. "I ken it sounds beyond crazy, we've only been together fer two months, but," he pauses, looking at her so tenderly that his gaze alone makes her want to weep, "I know this is something real, mo chridhe. I always have."

She smiles, hoisting herself onto her tiptoes to kiss him one more time, too excited by the possibilities opening up before them to even inquire about the newest pet name in his apparently long list of names for her.

"It's a lot to think about for sure," Claire admits, looking down at her phone when it begins to ring. "Oh, it's Julia's FaceTime. Ready?"

Jamie takes a deep breath but nods, saying he is.

Claire grins. Since she'd met Fergus, Jamie had spent the last three days saying it was only fair that he meet Julia, even if it was just over FaceTime. She's seen him once before, weeks ago, but in passing as she ran out of the house to Lizzie's.

But this would be… more official.

She'd talked with Julia last night, confirming that they could FaceTime today. It was only seven in the morning over there, but Julia had to be up early anyway for school.

"Hi, darling," Claire greets, stepping out from between Jamie and the counter. "How are you?"

Julia huffs and yawns, saying, "I'm fine, tired as always this early. But I'm glad I get done at noon today for early release!"

Claire laughs, eyes watching as Jamie joins her at the island, sitting in the barstool beside her.

"Well, before you head to school, sweetheart, I wanted you to meet Jamie."

She turns the phone so Jamie is in view, and she beams as she watches his face, his eyes lighting up as he truly gets to see Julia as more than a photograph or a blur of curly dark hair rushing out of the house. His ears are turning pink, and she chuckles under her breath at how nervous he is. "Hi, Julia."

"Hi, Jamie!" Julia calls, and Claire scoots her chair so they can both be on the screen. "How are you?"

Jamie smiles, telling her that he's well, except he doesn't want her mother to leave.

Julia laughs. "I'm sure Mom doesn't want to leave either."

Jamie looks to Claire, both grinning at the other.

"Well, you're right and you're wrong," Claire pipes in with a laugh. "I'm not ready to leave him, but I am ready to see you."

Julia rolls her eyes but smiles, saying, "It's always hard to leave your manfriend behind."

Claire laughs, shaking her head. "Alright, missy, none of that."

Jamie laughs at the pair of them, his hand that isn't holding the phone landing on her thigh and squeezing supportively.

Julia and Jamie talk for a few minutes, Jamie inquiring about her college coming up and what she wants to study. She explains to him that she isn't completely sure. She loves science so she thought about doing something in that field, research or something of the sort. But she also loves History, saying she's also thinking through majoring in that so she could maybe teach it one day. "But that sounds… kind of boring," she chuckles, "so I just don't know. I think I'm leaning more toward the science field, maybe anthropology so I can combine my love of understanding people's histories and science!"

Jamie grins, looking over at Claire. "Ye sound like quite the smart lass, just like yer mam." Julia chuckles, but agrees, and Jamie tells her he wouldn't be surprised if she became an archeologist like Lamb.

"It's not totally out of the realm of possibilities," the teen replies with a beaming smile on her face. "That would actually be really cool."

Claire smiles, imagining Julia going off with Uncle Lamb on all his adventures and the stories they would tell.

"Darling, we have to go soon, but are you sure you're still alright to pick me up at the airport?" she asks in concern, "I know I get in pretty late, Joe can just do it if you want."

Another teenage eye roll as Julia huffs, "Mom, it'll be like… ten o'clock. I stay up later than that on any given Friday night anyway."

Claire chuckles but sighs, saying she still wants Joe to at least go with her so she doesn't worry the whole flight home.

"Fine," Julia sighs, smiling at her mother. "Is he not working, though? I thought he had a late shift."

"I don't believe so, but I'll double check."

Julia shrugs, saying, "I think he's taking all the late shifts so you can be front and center when the bosses come by." She giggles. "He wants you to shine since you're up for the chief of surgery position!"

Jamie's hand leaves her thigh, and she looks to him, smiling. Claire laughs at Julia, saying neither she nor Joe have control of the schedule. "That's just how it's worked out lately."

"Sure, sure, whatever you say, Dr. Beauchamp."

Now it's Claire's turn to roll her eyes. "Alright, love, well I'll see you later tonight. I love you."

"Love you too. Bye, Jamie! It was nice meeting you!"

Jamie smiles brightly at the screen, saying much the same to her. "I'll see ye in person soon fer yer graduation!"

"Yeah!" Julia exclaims, calling out, "Bye, guys!" before she blows Claire a kiss and hangs up.

Setting her phone down, Claire leans against the backrest of the barstool. She rubs her neck and yawns, knowing she needs at least two coffees to wake up fully, despite it already being quarter after noon.

Claire opens her eyes, looking over to Jamie.

He's looking at her with the oddest expression, like she's betrayed him in some way. "What?" she asks, sitting up again and placing her hand on his knee. "What's wrong?"

"Ye… ye're up for a promotion and ye'd give that up just tae move here?"

She bites her lip, not wanting to say too much. She doesn't want to confess that she loves him enough that she'd give up the next step in her career. But she doesn't want to admit that, doesn't want to say it in so many words, because what if he doesn't love her yet? What if she's getting ahead of herself?

"I… I don't know, Jamie," is what she settles on flimsily, standing from the stool and pulling him with her. She draws him into a hug, saying, "It's not a guaranteed thing, there's a lot to consider. But let's not think about all of that right now. Let's just enjoy our last few moments together, alright?"

"Aye."

He's quiet after that, and she can tell there's more he wants to say but won't voice it, which bothers her—worries her, too.

She tries to make the most of their last hour together, trying to pass the time by talking about Fergus and Young Ian and what advice he thinks Fergus gave the young boy the other day.

But it's to no avail. Things are… off. And Claire isn't sure what to do or say.

{*************************}

Jamie drops her off at the airport, both with tears in their eyes. He holds her close, and she nuzzles her nose into his neck, not wanting to go, especially with this awkwardness between them.

"I've never been very good at saying goodbye," she whispers tearfully, kissing his cheek. "I'll call you when I land."

He nods, pressing a kiss to her lips. "Alright, Sassenach."

She kisses him again, squeezing his hand before reluctantly letting go.

"I'll see you in a few weeks in Boston."

"Aye," he grunts, picking her hand back up and placing a kiss on her old ring. "Goodbye, Sassenach."

The way he says goodbye makes her stomach drop, and she feels uneasy with the way things are being left. But there's nothing she can do now, there's no time to talk things through or figure out what's wrong. She has a flight to catch.

With one last kiss, Claire takes her bag and heads toward the counter at her airline's section of the airport.

I really like him! is what Julia's most recent text reads, and as Claire waits in line to check her bag, she grins, typing back and telling her daughter that she really likes him, too with a little wink face emoji.

Julia sends back an eye roll emoji and the laughing face before telling her she loves her and to have a safe flight.

She gets to her gate and the closer it draws to boarding time, there's an announcement that the flight is going to be delayed by an hour due to inclimate weather.

Claire takes out her phone, texting Julia and Joe to let them know, and she silently curses the weather. She could've had an extra hour with Jamie had she known; they could have talked about whatever strange discomfort was lingering between them this afternoon.

Texting Jamie, she keeps him informed about the delayed flight, but receives no answer.

She busies herself by reading and grabbing a snack, and by the time she's finally boarding her flight, still with no reply from Jamie other than him giving her message a dismissive thumbs down, she can't ignore the knot in her stomach and wonders what it all means.

{**************************}

The whole flight home, she stews over their conversation in his kitchen.

Things had been going so well, but he seemed to completely shut down once he found out about her promotion.

Her mind races, going over their goodbye and how tense it seemed, and she hates that her wonderful trip had to end on such a sour note.

She knows what he's doing. Because he's done it before. He's trying to protect her, to let her become the chief of surgery. It wouldn't be the biggest loss to her if she didn't get it, it wouldn't set her back in her career by any means. And the position isn't even guaranteed. There's eleven other doctors up for consideration, including Louise, so it's not like she definitely has the job in the bag. She'd be staying in Boston on a gamble, whereas moving to Scotland guarantees her multiple hospitals to choose from and Jamie.

But she's getting ahead of herself. This is crazy. She's only been dating him for two months.

And twenty years, her mind traitorously whispers back.

It's madness, and if anyone else were considering taking such a big leap so early into a relationship, she'd tell them not to. Tell them they were insane.

She blames Joe for this, honestly, putting these thoughts in her head. But now that they're there, and after spending two whole weeks with Jamie, she could honestly imagine what life in Scotland might look like.

With a huff, she pulls down her eye mask, chugs the tiny bottle of vodka and passes out, hoping her brain can shut off at least for a few hours.

She lands eight and a half hours later, having slept the first half of the way, occupying herself with movies the rest of the time.

Joe and Julia are both there to pick her up, and she cries in her daughter's arms, thankful to have made it home safely and to have her child with her once again.

Claire smiles at Joe and wraps him in a hug as well, thanking him for taking care of Julia while she was gone.

Once they've retrieved her luggage and gotten settled in the car, Claire takes out her phone, sending Jamie a text.

I'm home. I know you're probably just now waking up so I hope you have a great day at work. I miss you already.

He replies back, which gives her a little hope, and he asks for her to call him when she's settled.

Over an hour later, with Julia fast asleep, Claire starts to unpack, her nerves keeping her awake even though it's close to one in the morning now.

Picking up her phone, she clicks on Jamie's name, waiting while it rings. She picks up her travel laundry bag, walking it into her closet and dumping all of her worn clothes into her hamper.

"Hi, Sassenach."

She smiles into the phone even though he can't see her. "Hey, there. Are you at work?"

"Aye."

Silence. He apparently doesn't have anything else to say, and she listens to him breathing for a moment, trying to calm her fears.

God, she hates this. It's so stilted and strange, a feeling she's not used to having with Jamie. She knows something is wrong, but he isn't opening up about it, isn't being up front.

Since he's not going out of his way to make conversation, she awkwardly fills in the silence. "Well…" she draws out, adding lamely, "my flight was good. I slept half of the way."

"That's good."

"Yeah." She huffs, taking her cosmetics bag and walking it into her bathroom to unload her things. She takes out her deodorant, setting it back in it's rightful place, then her perfume and makeup. He still isn't saying anything, and the awkward tension continues to grow, so she asks, "Do you have a busy day today?" trying to make conversation.

He grunts, seeming like he's distracted. "Nay, not really. Just a few meetings."

She rolls her eyes, annoyed now at how he's acting. "Okay," she elongates with a bit of sass, "so what's wrong, Jamie?"

Claire walks back into her bedroom, sitting on the end of her bed, crossing one leg underneath her as she listens to him sigh. She can't see him, but she knows him. Knows he's running a hand over his face and through his scruff like he does when he's stressed.

"I dinna ken," he admits, sounding dejected.

She pulls the phone away, clicking on the FaceTime button. If they're going to talk about this, she wants to be able to see him.

He accepts and his image pops up. He looks worn and exhausted, like he didn't sleep last night.

"Did you get any sleep?"

Jamie gives her a sad half-grin, shaking his head. "Only a few hours."

Inhaling, Claire closes her eyes, opening them on an exhale. "Jamie…"

"I dinna ken, Claire. I dinna ken what ye want me to say."

Claire

The use of her name irritates her more than anything, so she can't help the attitude in her voice when she responds. "I want you to be honest with me instead of being so short with me."

He sighs, sitting down at his desk. He looks at her for a moment, her chest heaving as she tries to control her emotions. "I want ye tae achieve yer dreams," he confesses, his eyes misting over with the words. "Ye ken I canna move there because of the farm, no' anytime soon anyway, otherwise I would in a heartbeat, but it's just not possible right now."

She scoffs, shaking her head. Her insecurities from earlier flaring back up. What if he really doesn't feel the same way about her? What if these two months have just been fun for him and nothing else and he's just using this as an excuse? Claire narrows her eyes, retorting with, "Sounds to me like you just don't actually want me there."

His eyes bug out, and she can see the vein in his neck starting to pop out. His telltale sign that he's getting angry.

"God, Claire," he says, taking deep breaths. "I just wouldna want ye tae regret it. Moving away from Julia, yer friends, it's a lot, and I would hate fer ye tae be miserable over here." He sighs, his eyes softening, and she can feel her annoyance dissipating as she sees what this is doing to him as well. "I can bear pain, Sassenach, but I canna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have," he admits quietly, adding, "And I ken it would cause ye pain tae be away from everything ye know, especially Julia."

She huffs, trying her best not to roll her eyes. "Well, I think you should let me make that decision," she snaps. "Like I said earlier, the position isn't even guaranteed, but that's not what this is even about. You don't seem to be listening to what I'm saying." Her ire is growing again, and she tries her best to calm her heart rate. He looks so passive, like he doesn't even care (she knows he's just trying to put up a wall, but that bothers her even more.) "For Christ's sake, Jamie, I just told you before I left that I wasn't making any plans to move or stay in the near future."

He doesn't say much, just shrugs and sighs, repeating himself once more about not wanting to hold her back and whatever weak, half-assed excuse he can come up with. It's irritating, and she's miffed, and finds all she wants to do is get off the phone with him before one of them says something they'll regret even more.

"I willna give ye cause tae have regrets," he says, adding a short, "I should go. Gotta get out tae the farm."

"Fine," she clips, exhaling sharply. She tries to smooth out her features, knowing her face can never hide her true feelings. "Call me later?" she asks, trying to extend an olive branch despite how badly she doesn't want to be the bigger person right now.

"Aye." He nods, giving her a quick ghost of a smile before ending the call.

She blinks dumbly; he got off the phone quicker than she could even take a breath to say bye and it stings her pride, or rather her heart, even more than their conversation did.

Claire locks her phone, knows there wasn't much resolution, and she closes her eyes, tossing her phone on the mattress behind her. She wills the tears away, the image of Jamie's face as he said he didn't want to cause her pain burned into her subconscious.

Standing, she quickly tucks her suitcase away in her closet and hops in the shower, rinsing off the airport grime before crawling into bed.

She doesn't feel hopeful, she's terrified in fact, and feels exactly how she did twenty years ago when there was no clear resolution to their problem.

Sighing in defeat and exhaustion, she sets her alarm, then curls into a ball, crying herself to sleep that night as images of a teenage Claire doing much the same fill her mind.

{***********************}

Eek… trust the process, y'all. Lol

Let me know what you thought of this one! 3

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight:

It's been three days since Claire returned home, and other than their one phone conversation where they argued, she hasn't spoken to Jamie except through a handful of texts.

And even those have been short answers—the bare basics to get by. And it's irritating her.

Jamie is pulling away, she can feel it. She's tried calling him, but he always sends a text back saying he's busy at work and will call later, but never does. Only texts. Bastard.

She should be heartsick—and a part of her is—but more than anything, she's angry. This is exactly what he did two fucking decades ago when he thought pulling away was the only way to get her to go to medical school.

He'd been right, damn him. But still. This is not how problems should be resolved between people, even two as stubborn as they are.

Memories of the past swirl through Claire's mind, which just stirs up even more emotion in her.

"How was the funeral?" she hesitantly asked Jamie, situating herself on her bed.

Brian Fraser had passed away from cancer last week, and though she wanted to fly over there to support Jamie, she wasn't able to. She'd already committed to working at the museum for the summer and couldn't get out of it no matter how much she begged Uncle Lamb.

"It was fine," Jamie said, though she could hear the emotion in his voice. "Lots of friends and family showed up."

"That was nice of them. How's Jenny doing?"

He sighed. "Fine. She and Ian just found out they're having a boy."

Claire smiled, telling Jamie how wonderful that was.

He went quiet, and she wasn't sure what to say. She just sat there, letting him collect his thoughts.

"Claire…"

Claire? The use of her name shook her, worried her. He never called her by her name. It was always some sort of pet name like Sassenach or mo nighean donn.

Her brows furrowed and she shifted up on the top of her bed, crossing her legs beneath her. "Jamie, what is it?"

She listened to him sniffle, her own eyes misting over as her stomach dropped. "I canna come back to the States."

"Wh… why?"

Jamie sighed, crying as he told her that he was responsible for the farm now. "Jenny canna do it. Ian just got out of the hospital after his accident, they've got the babe coming…" he exhaled shakily, "it's jus' too much fer her right now. I have to do this."

She completely understood wanting to support his family, but surely he'd come back for college in the fall. They were going to move to Boston together, start school in September and have a life together. It's what they'd been planning for months.

"What about Boston? You'll come back in August or something to move our things?"

"No, Sassenach," he said softly, like he was comforting a small child. "I willna be comin' back."

Anger flared in her, taking over the sadness trying to consume her soul. "What do you mean?" She started to cry, unsure if it was from being upset or being angry. "We have a plan, Jamie. We're moving to Boston together for Christ's sake. Starting school… we have so many dreams."

Jamie sighed again, then sniffled, crying to her, "I have tae put our dreams on hold." He groaned, as if upset with himself or tortured by this decision, and selfishly she hoped he was. "I have to take care o' my family, o' our business. We'd have nothin' wi'out the farm, ye ken that." He cried, taking a moment to collect himself. "Especially wi… wi' Da gone now," he choked on that last bit, and guilt swarmed in her stomach along with every other emotion she was feeling. "I'm th' only one who can manage it all right now."

"But… you'll come back, right?" She doesn't want to sound weak, but she can feel the future she'd dreamed about for the last almost year slipping away from her. "Eventually? Maybe you can start in January, or… or next fall, spend some time there until then."

"I'm sae sorry, Claire," he cried, "Oh god, please forgive me. I dinna ken what things will look like in a few months, I canna promise ye anything." He sniffled, and added, "Ye go to Boston, ken? Dinna let my bad fortune stop ye from achieving yer own dreams of bein' a doctor."

She'd cried and he had, too, both sobbing together as they knew their dreams were crashing and burning right before their eyes.

Claire had a decision to make. She could either do what Jamie said, move to Boston and become a doctor, or… or she could move to Scotland. She could be with him, maybe go to school there and help on the farm where she could.

After their phone call, Claire tried calling Jamie every day, to let him know she was considering going to school in Scotland instead. They could make it work. She'd dreamt of attending Harvard her entire life, her parents had gone there as well, and she always felt a connection to the place. But… but Jamie wouldn't be there. Could she live with that?

He answered once, was on the phone with her long enough for Claire to relay her thought process about moving overseas.

After that, however, he'd stopped taking her calls. It was as if he had never even existed in her life.

She called every day for weeks, the first month of summer break flying by in a blur of tears. By July, she'd started to accept that it was over, that he was never going to speak to her again. She'd call every week in hopes that he'd pick up, but he never did.

{*********************}

"Still no word from him, honey?" Lamb asked, bringing a plate with something for lunch into her room and handing it to her.

Claire smiled sadly up at her uncle, shaking her head as she reached out for the sandwich and grapes. "No," she huffed, whisky eyes filling with tears again. Her voice trembled as she told him, "He won't answer my phone calls."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Maybe give him a few days," Lamb reasoned, "His dad just passed, I'm sure he's going through a lot right now."

"Yeah," she sighed, knowing this was different. If Jamie was just simply busy with his family's business, he would have at least answered her calls, talked through their options together more.

Claire thanked her uncle for her lunch, leaning her back against her headboard as she took a bite of the turkey sandwich, letting Will & Grace fill the quietness of her bedroom.

Lamb leaned down, placing a light kiss to the top of her head, and telling her he'd be in his office if she needed anything.

Once the door was closed, Claire sat her plate down on the bedside table. She curled under a blanket and cried into her pillow, hoping the sounds of audience laughter as Jack and Karen bumped chests would drown out her sobs so Lamb couldn't hear.

The next day, Claire rang Jamie again, and once again got his voicemail.

"Jamie," she said with a shake to her voice. She cleared it, not wanting to sound weak, but this was torture. "I just want to talk to you, Jamie. I need to know what is going on." She pulled her head away from the phone long enough to sniffle, hoping that he couldn't hear it on the message. "Please call me back. I love you."

Hanging up, she had accepted her fate and a decision was made. He'd forced her hand without giving her a choice in the matter.

She was going to Harvard.

She'd start school next month and would have to learn to live with the other half of her heart missing.

By August, she'd completely stopped trying to contact Jamie, enraged now more than upset. She and Lamb packed her belongings and moved her into her first dorm room at the end of the month, and with a giant kiss and lots of tears, Lamb left her to go back home to New York.

Since she was in college now, Lamb was going to start going on more excavations and she was happy for him. He'd always missed it, but she would miss him terribly. He'd promised to never miss a birthday or holiday, though, working his digs around her school schedule. He'd also be home every few weeks so there were weekends she could drive up for a visit.

Settled into her dorm, Claire eventually established a life without Jamie as well. She thought of him often, anger flaring up when she did, but also a level of love she thought she'd never have with anyone else. It was confusing, and the fact that she still loved him, despite being rejected and heartbroken, made it even worse.

She learned, however, to move on and live life without Jamie Fraser.

{***********************}

On this bright and early Monday morning, Claire has her first shift at the hospital since coming home from Scotland, so she shakes thoughts of the past away and readies herself, deciding to focus on work instead of Jamie.

She's exhausted, but she isn't sure if it's from jet lag or from the emotional rollercoaster she's been on since leaving him Friday afternoon.

While in surgery, she misses a call from him. But two can play the avoidance game, she decides, so she shoots him a text when she gets out, letting him know she'd been in surgery and would call after her shift.

No response.

She finishes another surgery—Joe assisting with it this time, all the while asking her what's wrong. Claire just shakes her head each time he asks, telling him not to worry. She didn't want to discuss it in front of the nurses and other doctors in the operating room, anyway. Her personal life would be the hottest gossip to spread like wildfire if she did that.

"It's nothing," she tries to assure, glancing toward the nurses.

Joe must catch her meaning because his eyes crinkle with a smile behind his mask and nods. He gives her a little wink and she grins, focusing back on their patient.

Once they are both cleaned up and changed from the surgery, Joe catches her before she can dash out of the door to head home.

"Talk to me, LJ," he says gently, taking her hand and leading her back to the chairs in his office.

Sighing, she closes her eyes and rubs her hand across the back of her neck. She's exhausted. Physically and emotionally drained.

"It's Jamie…" she starts, eyes misting over as she relays the events to Joe.

He listens intently, like always, and when she finishes, Joe tells her not to worry. "He'll come around, Claire," he assures, "He's trying to do what he thinks is best, I suppose."

With a scoff, she rolls her eyes. "That's what I'm afraid of." Glancing at her phone, which still has no text from Jamie, she looks up at her friend. "I need to get home to Julia."

Nodding, Joe stands, pulling her into a hug. "Alright, Lady Jane. Have a good night and I'll see you tomorrow." He gives her an affectionate squeeze, adding with a playful wink, "Try not to worry. He can't avoid you forever, who could?"

She smiles sadly, kissing his cheek before heading out for the night.

{*************************}

Claire walks into her house, immediately trudging up the stairs to her bedroom.

She tosses her briefcase onto her bed before stripping down as she makes her way to her bathroom.

Showering takes longer than planned. She was going to just hop in and wash her body off, but she's plagued by what is happening. She lets the water run over her skin as memories from the past fill her mind.

She cries into the shower's mist, hoping Julia cannot hear her.

She's angry at Jamie, misses him at the same time, though. And more than that, she's angry with herself. She is a thirty-eight year old woman, she should not be pining away for a man like this. She has a child, a steady career, she has everything people want in life… except love. She thought she had that, but…

Claire finally pulls herself from the warm shower, drying her tears and her body before throwing on yoga pants and a t-shirt and heading downstairs.

Julia is in the kitchen and the smell of something delicious hits Claire's nostrils before she's even inside the room.

"Something smells divine," she declares, plastering on a smile and walking to stand beside Julia at the stove.

Wrapping her arms around her mother, Julia smiles and thanks her. "I'm making us enchiladas."

"Sounds delicious," Claire says, hugging her daughter. She moves with a practiced ease, pulling out plates and silverware. "Thank you, darling. I'm sorry you had to cook tonight."

Julia shrugs, "You had a long surgery today. And besides, we both know your cooking isn't that great, Mom, so it really was no trouble at all."

Claire chuckles, but even she can tell it doesn't sound as genuine as it should.

"What's wrong?" Julia asks, eyeing her mother skeptically.

She doesn't want to burden her child with boy problems, that's her job when Julia has an issue, so she shakes her head, saying it's nothing.

Julia tilts her head, giving Claire a look that clearly says she doesn't believe her. Reaching for the oven mitts, Julia pulls out their dinner. Claire begins to plate their food while Julia pulls out glasses and fills them with water.

Once at the table, Julia tries once again to coax it out of her. "Spill," she demands, taking a bite of her food. She tells Claire that she's been there for her when she's upset, "especially when it comes to boys," the teenager grins wryly, "which I have a feeling that's what this mood is all about." She reaches for her mother's hand, adding, "You haven't been yourself since you got back from Scotland the other day."

Claire grins, albeit half heartedly, and sighs.

"It's nothing. Really, sweetheart." She glances up at Julia and swallows around the lump forming in her throat. "Let's just enjoy these delicious enchiladas and then we can watch a movie before bed." She smiles brightly, a false smile, but one she hopes convinces her daughter that she's alright.

"Okay…" Julia drawls, clearly not believing her but letting it go for the time being anyway.

She picks up her fork, taking a few bites before saying, "Are we still going to get stuff for my dorm tomorrow?"

"Of course," Claire smiles, emotional now over the fact that her baby is all grown up more than her issues with Jamie.

With a sigh, Claire decides to focus on the positives in her life, at least for now, and they spend the rest of dinner planning what Julia wants her dorm to look like, and things she'll need like dishes and a small television.

{**************************}

The next day, she has a day shift at the hospital, so with a kiss to Julia's cheek as the teen heads off to school, Claire makes her way to work.

It's Tuesday, just four days since she's been back, and the pit of dread in her stomach has only grown. Jamie didn't respond to a single message yesterday, and she doesn't know what to do.

She meets Joe at their offices, both having a mound of paperwork and patient files to get through before they perform a surgery on their patient's brain tumor. They've been preparing for it for weeks on end, the tumor is in a tricky spot and will take a lot of concentration, so Claire tells herself to put her boy troubles out of mind and focus on the task at hand.

"You good in here, LJ?" Joe asks, walking across from his office to hers. He's got a stack of files under his arm, and he drops them on the small table in her office.

He sits down, making himself at home.

Claire smiles, nodding. "Something wrong with your office?"

Joe snickers, looking over at her. "Nah," he shrugs, "I just figured this way I can get some work done and get you to open up about Jamie."

She rolls her eyes, looking back at her latest file with a huff.

"But work can come first," Joe declares, going quiet as he looks over his paperwork.

She appreciates him, really, she does. He's a comfort to her right now, and even though she doesn't want to talk about it, wants to just put Jamie behind her for the time being, she knows she'll open up to her best friend.

They work in companionable silence for half an hour, Joe's eyes glancing over to her every now and then.

Despite telling herself she wouldn't, Claire can't help but check her phone for any messages.

I have that massive tumor surgery today I told you about. Wish me luck and have a good day… call me later. is what she sends, cursing herself for being weak and reaching out after she told herself she wouldn't.

Another ten minutes, and still no response, she huffs, tossing her pen down on her wooden desk.

Claire looks over at Joe, who is already staring at her, his eyes so sympathetic that it makes her want to cry. "He hasn't answered my texts at all since Sunday. I know that's only two days, but..." she trails off, rolling her eyes at her own weakness.

Joe's lips purse, and she can tell he's trying to choose his words wisely. "Do you think giving him some space would make him see reason or do you think it'll push him away?"

She shrugs, telling him honestly, "I don't know. Last time this happened, he stopped answering my calls and I didn't hear from him for two whole decades." Her eyes grow wet, but she blinks the tears away. "I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want to have to chase after a man. I feel pathetic." She scoffs, picking up her mug to take a sip of coffee. "Like a desperate little girl chasing after the only boy she's ever loved."

"Would you go to him?" Joe asks, clasping his hands together and resting them on his belly as his legs stretch out in front of him.

Claire looks at him incredulously. "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because that really would be desperate. I just got back from Scotland four days ago." She scoffs in derision once more. "That would be rather piteous of me—a grown woman, to chase a man halfway around the world, don't you think?"

Her friend shrugs, casually asking, "Do you love him?"

She sighs, closing her eyes briefly to collect herself. "Of course," she tells him. "I—I don't know how to explain it. It's crazy, Joe, but loving Jamie…" she shakes her head, "it's the most powerful thing I've ever felt in my life."

Joe gives her a soft smile, saying calmly, "Let me ask you this then," he pauses, gathering his thoughts, "Would you rather fly across the ocean one more time to try and fight for your relationship, or are you okay just letting him go with no resolution? Never to speak to him again." He gives her a look that says he knows what she truly wants but won't admit it to herself. "Because I don't know if I could if I were you; I didn't in fact."

"What do you mean?"

He grins, telling her how before he married Gail, she'd broken up with him and gone back to her ex. She was scared, afraid of how serious they were getting, and Joe eventually went across the country to Seattle and begged her to come back. "It made me feel weak, and pathetic, but you know what? I knew I was in love with her, that she was my person, and I'd do it all over again to end up married to my girl."

Claire smiles, she never knew that about her friends. And she can't lie, it does give her some hope.

"Joe," she sighs, closing her eyes and tilting her head back, trying to reel in her emotions. She opens, looking back at her friend. "I don't want to lose him," she admits, voice growing thick with emotion, "But like I said, I just got back a few days ago."

"So?" Joe asks, as if that's the silliest excuse he's ever heard. "I'd rather you get on another plane and try to find the happiness I've seen radiating from you for the last few months, than have you mourn a relationship for years to come, especially when you could've done something about it."

She sighs, his words cutting to her core. She tears up, squeezing her eyes tight, causing a lone tear to cascade down her cheek. She doesn't want to cry, doesn't want anyone to see her falling apart over this. God, she feels so ridiculous. An independent woman shouldn't be this heartsick over a man. But, when it's love, she supposes there are no rules.

Joe gets up at the sight of her tears, sliding into the chair on the other side of her desk. He reaches out, and she takes his hand, sniffling and apologizing.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Lady Jane," he tells her softly, giving her hand a squeeze, "but let me say this." His brown eyes connect with hers, making sure she's really listening before adding, "I've watched you for years put your daughter and your career first. You've always put yourself on the back burner in order to give Julia the best childhood possible." He smiles, "and you have. You've made that little girl beyond happy. But you deserve the same type of happiness, too." He sighs, leaning back in the chair and looking at her pointedly. "If you have a second chance at love, you should take it."

Damn. His words hit her full force, and she thinks her heart might actually be splitting in two.

He's right… she still feels desperate, pathetic, not the woman she knows herself to be. But she also knows she'll spend the rest of her life with only half a heart if she doesn't talk to Jamie.

Joe's words definitely give her a lot to contemplate.

But she has to focus on work right now, she can't be distracted.

With that, she gives Joe one last grateful smile and takes the last two swigs of her coffee.

Standing, Claire comes around the desk to hug her friend. "Thank you, Joe," she murmurs, "I'll think about it, I will."

He smiles right back, "Good. Plus, you know," he draws, giving her a devious little grin, "I've told you time and time again that Raigmore is close to Jamie's house. It would be an easy commute when you move there."

She rolls her eyes, swatting at his shoulder. "You're never giving that up, are you? Convincing me to move to Scotland."

"Is it working?" he asks with a silly gleam in his eye.

Shaking her head, she can't help the blasé smile she gives him. "Goodbye, Joe," she asserts with a straight face and a raise of her eyebrows, pointing in the direction of his office.

He chortles, patting her on the shoulder before picking up his files and walking back to his office.

Sighing, she picks up the last bit of the protein bar she'd been munching on and gathers her first patient's file.

As she passes Joe's office, she calls out, "I'll see you in surgery at noon."

He smiles and waves her off, and Claire grins, feeling much better now that she's unloaded her feelings on Joe and gotten some advice.

{***************************}

After work, she heads home, showering and changing into jeans and a plain black shirt while she waits for Julia to get home from school.

Once she does, they load up in the car and head to the nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick out all the accessories that Julia will need in her dorm room.

"You'll need bed risers," Claire informs her, pulling into the parking spot. "That way you'll have more space under your bed for storage."

Julia nods, adding it to her ever growing list of things to look for.

Twin size bed comforter, pillows to match, a small tv, under bed storage containers, bed risers.

She taps her notebook, saying, "I think we should be able to find all of these things here, except the TV."

Claire smiles, glancing over at her daughter as they make their way inside the store. "Don't worry, darling," she tells her, "Joe and Gail said they wanted to get one for you as a graduation gift."

Julia beams, bouncing on her heels as she flits from aisle to aisle, touching everything and adding more items to her list.

Claire laughs, knowing she'll get most of these things at her graduation party, but she's glad Julia is having fun.

Thinking of her graduation party just leads her mind to wander to Jamie. They'd talked about him flying to Boston for the graduation and staying for a week or so.

Her heart physically aches with the thought that he might not be there now.

Even though she told herself she wouldn't, Claire takes out her phone, tapping on the screen to see if Jamie has replied to her earlier message.

She'd done her best to stay busy at work today, only checking it a handful of times, which just ended up being torture for her so she eventually shut it off until the end of her shift.

No unread texts. Fuck.

"Mom?"

Claire glances up, locking her phone and sliding it into her back pocket. "Hmm?"

"You alright?" Julia asks, an uneasy laugh bubbling out of her. "I was asking what you thought of this comforter."

She holds up a light blue and green plaid bedding set, and though it instantly makes her think of the tartan scarves she'd gotten for Louise and Gail, she swallows down the lump in her throat and tries to stay present in the moment with her daughter. "It looks nice, I like the colors."

Julia nods, giving Claire a small, dubious smile. "I like it, but I think I might want like, a plain color so I can add all different decorations."

"That makes sense," she replies, smiling as Julia puts the plaid one back and proceeds to look at the solid options instead.

They shop for the next hour, collecting all the items they'd gone after, plus a few more.

After shopping, they head to dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. They're seated in a booth near the back, and as they receive their garlic knots from the waiter, Claire checks her phone one more time.

Sighing, she closes her eyes, her heart breaking a little bit more. It's only seven in Boston, and she knows there's every possibility he's asleep since it's midnight, but he could have answered her at any point today.

"Are you okay, Mom?" Julia asks sincerely, reaching over to pat Claire's hand. "You seem like you're a million miles away."

Claire wills herself to smile, knowing her heart certainly is. She takes a sip of her water as she nods. "Yes, darling," she assures, "I just haven't heard from Jamie in a few days."

"You haven't?" the teen asks, eyes widening. "That doesn't sound like the two of you."

Claire grins humorlessly, taking a deep breath to try and calm her racing heart. She doesn't want to talk about this, not with her child, so she tries to brush it off. "He just seems to be pulling away ever since he found out about the chief of surgery promotion." She shrugs, trying to act like it isn't vexing her as much as it really is. She doesn't want her daughter to worry about her. "He hasn't really answered my calls, and he barely responds to my texts."

Julia's brows furrow, and Claire can't help but to chuckle at the protective gleam in her child's eyes. "Well that's annoying."

"Yes," Claire smirks, "it really is." She sighs again, saying, "I know he's doing it to show me how much I love my work, but…"

"You love him more than being chief of surgery."

Claire looks up from her plate, glossy eyed. "When did you get so smart?"

Julia snickers, "I've always been this smart. You're just the one usually trying to help me solve my boy problems."

They both laugh, and Claire reaches out, taking Julia's hand in hers.

"Is it my fault?" Julia asks softly, a look of guilt on her face. "I was the one who said something about the promotion to him on the phone."

"Oh, no, darling," Claire assures, squeezing Julia's hand and tugging it a little closer. She kisses the hand she's still holding, telling her, "He would have found out one way or another, it doesn't matter which one of us it came from."

Julia nods, but Claire can tell she still feels bad. And shit, that is exactly why she didn't want to involve her daughter. She would never want her to be burdened by her mother's dating issues.

But, well, she's involved now, so Claire relents, admitting, "I… I don't exactly know what to do."

Julia is aware of Claire and Jamie's past, of how everything went down when they were her age, so Claire knows that she understands fully when she confesses, "I'm just scared it'll be another twenty years before I see him again."

"Well, that," Julia says with a soft smile, "is not an option."

Claire huffs a soft laugh, shaking her head. "I can't just keep calling him in hopes that he answers, nor do I want to stop talking to him completely." She lets out a long, deep sigh. "It's complicated."

"So… go to him." She shrugs, picking up a garlic knot and taking a bite.

"What?"

"Go to him!" Julia repeats, sitting up in her seat. "He's clearly just being stubborn, so if he won't answer your calls or texts, force him to talk to you by showing up on his doorstep… Like not in a creepy way, of course, but in a romantic movie, I can't live without you, type of way," Julia chuckles, then gasps, eyes going wide. "It'll be just like a movie!"

Grinning, Claire rolls her eyes. This is ludicrous. Julia sounds just like Joe this morning. Shaking her head, she tells her daughter, "I've been gone so much lately between my business trip to Scotland, work, and then going back to Scotland. I don't want to leave you again." She huffs softly, slumping back against the booth's seat. "You move out in two months, I want all the time I can get with you!"

"It's just a weekend, Mom. I'll be hanging out with Lizzie and them anyway; we have Lizzie's slumber party on Saturday, remember? And I can go stay with Uncle Joe again on Friday night if it makes you feel better."

The irrational part of her wants to jump at the opportunity, wants to leap up from her seat, book a flight and go right now. Her heart is screaming at her to do it, to go to him, to fight for them, but her mind is swirling, telling her how foolish this is, how desperate she seems.

She's torn. But she knows that Jamie is just as stubborn as she is, if not more, and if they're going to make this work, really and truly work, she'll have to be the bigger person and give in first.

She's pulled from her thoughts when she hears Julia saying, "You know you're gonna end up moving there eventually!"

Her daughter laughs, but Claire's heart stops for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, come on, Mom," Julia snickers. "I know Uncle Joe gave you those brochures you pretend not to look at every night." She smirks, reaching to take Claire's hand. "You love Jamie, and I'll be off at college in a few months. It would be like so perfect!" She claps her hands together excitedly, continuing, "It would also give me a great excuse to come visit Scotland… I mean, as long as you're paying for the flight, of course. I'll be a broke college student after all."

Claire laughs at that, shaking her head. "Darling, I…"

"It would be so romantic!" Julia interrupts, eyes growing wide. "You have to do it! Or at least think about it."

The teenager shrugs, grinning into her glass as she sips her water. "But you can think about that after you go to Scotland this weekend and make up with him. Listen to your heart, Mom!"

She swears her seventeen year old and Joe have been conspiring together, have to have been, and god, her daughter is just as sappy and romantic as Jamie is. She chuckles to herself at the thought, heart stinging just a bit more at thoughts of him.

Joe's words from earlier, and his story of chasing after Gail and how much it was worth it all swarm her mind, like a constant buzzing she can't seem to shake.

Closing her eyes, she takes in a long, steadying breath to calm her heart. She makes a decision that gives her even more anxiety, but she has to believe is for the best. Pulling out her phone, she looks to Julia, admitting, "Alright… if you're sure."

"Yes! Absolutely!" Julia claps her hands together excitedly, practically bouncing in the booth.

With a nervous stomach and a shaking hand, Claire books a last minute flight for Friday, just three days from now. She feels like a fool, feels as if she's making a mistake, but she pushes those fears down, telling herself that it'll be worth it.

It could all blow up in her face, she could come back on Sunday a broken hearted mess, but Joe's words keep playing on a loop in her mind.

If you have a second chance at love, you should take it.

She just hopes Jamie is open to a second, or rather, third, chance at love as well.

{***********************}

It's crazy y'all, but love makes you do things you never thought you would so *shrugs* lol… I hope you liked this one. Please let me know what you thought!

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine:

The last few days have felt like the longest of Claire's life.

Not talking to Jamie has been torture, while also still irritating her. It was a confusing situation to be in, knowing that he was doing it for what he assumed was her best interest, but at the same time not being given the chance to explain herself or her feelings was frustrating.

He did not own her. He did not get to make decisions about her life without her having any say in it.

Absolutely fucking not.

As she steps out of the airport and into the cab, she releases a long exhale.

This is insanity. Her body should be exhausted from the sudden back and forth of timezones, but her adrenaline is too high for that right now. Her body is used to staying up at odd hours anyway, but this feels like three long shifts back to back.

She wants this matter resolved, and she knows the only way to get that stubborn headed Fraser to actually talk is if she's in front of him.

Well. Claire can be just as stubborn as he can.

As the cab pulls onto Jamie's street, a pit grows in her stomach.

She hadn't called him and he hadn't called her since the missed call during surgery days ago.

At the time, she'd decided not to return the call to show him she could play the ignoring game, too, but now she's worried that it was all a mistake.

What if he doesn't want to see her? What if he's too busy with work? Worst yet, what if he's out with another woman?

No, no, Claire shakes her head, no matter how upset they may be with one another, Jamie would never cheat on her. That's one fear she could at least rule out.

Her hands begin to sweat as the car bounces along the gravel path that leads to Lallybroch. Claire turns the old promise ring on her finger nervously, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. She can't stop fidgeting, but it's the only thing that seems to bring her any peace right about now.

Taking out her phone, she quickly shoots Julia and Joe a text letting them know she's there, and thanks Joe again for him and Gail letting Julia stay with them. And also for covering her shifts. Thank God for Joe Abernathy.

It's only noon at home, and it's a Friday, which means Julia got done early at school, so she's not surprised when they both respond back immediately. Julia sends her a handful of heart emojis, telling her to relax and just be honest with Jamie, which makes Claire smile. Joe also tells her much the same, adding that she doesn't need to worry about anything and that it'll all work out how it's supposed to.

The cab pulls to a stop, jolting Claire from her thoughts.

She locks her phone, tucking it into her back pocket. With a deep sigh, she calms her racing heart as much as possible, stepping out of the car. She takes her luggage from the driver and tips him, giving him a smile as he drives away.

Pulling her shoulders back in determination, Claire marches up to the front door.

She'll be damned if she leaves this country again with Jamie Fraser not speaking to her. One way or another.

{*************************}

Before she can second guess herself, Claire lifts a hand and bangs on the front door.

It's quiet for a moment, another moment, then she pounds on it again, calling out Jamie's name. It's half past five, he should be done with work unless he had meetings or something went wrong on the farm. What if he isn't even home? She starts to doubt herself, to feel as if she's made a huge mistake. But as she goes to lift her hand again, the door swings open, forcefully enough to blow her hair back.

"Claire?" Jamie asks, blue eyes blown wide. He looks around, looking for what, she isn't sure, but the confusion on his face brings her a dark, twisted sense of satisfaction. A pang of empathy stabs her when she notices his five o'clock shadow and dark circles under his eyes, but she pushes that feeling down.

"Hello, Jamie. Mind if I come in?" she inquires sarcastically, picking up her bag and pushing her way past him and into the living room. She almost trips on a bag by his front door, but she gives it a little kick and keeps moving.

"Claire, what're ye doing here?"

He looks angry, brows cinched together and arms crossed, and it flares up her rage as well.

And now, on top of her being nervous and worried, she's back to being pissed off and unsure. She hates this feeling. Claire Beauchamp is in control. Always. And this whirlwind of emotions is tiring her out. She doesn't quite know how to handle it, and that bothers her.

She scoffs, crossing her arms right back. "I came to talk to you since you won't answer the bloody phone."

Jamie sighs, his eyes closing briefly before opening them to stare at her. His arms fall to his side, saying, "It's only been a few days, Claire," his voice goes hard, like he's the one who has a right to be annoyed, which only serves to irritate her further, "and ye ken why I was doin' it."

Claire.

He hasn't uttered a Sassenach or mo nighean donn since she walked in and it just sends her over the edge she was teetering on.

She can feel her blood boiling, ears ringing as all of her senses focus on her anger. Before she can reel herself in or think better of her words, she seethes out a, "Fuck you!"

"What?!"

"I said fuck you, James Fraser." He steps closer to her, that vein in his neck bulging. Claire jabs her pointer finger into his hard chest, and she can feel how heavy he's already breathing as she says, "You think you know what's best for me? Well you don't!"

She's in his face, teeth gritted together, and at her words, he looks ashamed. He tries to move around her, to go toward the couch, but she won't let him. Her body follows his closely as he tries to dart around her, avoiding her eyes, her shoulder pressing into his chest as they move.

"I am a grown woman who can make her own decisions. How dare you try to control the situation without even talking to me!"

"I already kent what ye'd say," he declares when he must decide he's trapped between her and the couch. His thumb taps incessantly against his thigh, his tell-tale sign that he's growing angrier. "So there was nae point in—"

"No point?" she asks dubiously, cutting off his lame excuse. "I think there was a really big fucking point in giving me a chance to explain my side of things! But I guess I see now that my feelings don't matter in this relationship."

"Ye dinna mean that, Claire," he states, exhaling harshly and running a hand over his jaw.

The backs of his knees are against the couch but he hasn't sat, they're just standing there mere inches apart, both breathing forcefully.

She stares at him, trying to make sense of this whole thing. Trying to make sense of him and what could possibly have gone through his mind all these days of ignoring her.

Her breathing calms, slightly at least, and she shakes her head, the silence filling the space between them.

Jamie glares at her, a shoulder shrugging up as he looks at her like she should know what he wants her to say. "I'm waiting fer ye to say something... anything," he enunciates, "that approaches an apology."

What… the fuck?

"An apology?!" she shrieks, ire flaring back up. He steps around her, her back turning so now she's the one facing the couch, eyes trailing him as he moves. "You're the one who hasn't spoken to me in six days." She scoffs, face scrunching in confusion. "Are you trying to say that that is somehow my fault?"

"Well, it is yer fault," he says dumbly, and she doubts with every fiber of her being that even he doesn't believe that. There's more to this than her just being willing to give up this promotion. "If ye'd just been honest about the promotion, we could ha' talked about it, come up with options on how to handle it." His voice rises as he clearly replays that day in his mind, his arms cross over his chest again, trying to reel in his large frame. "But why would ye listen to me? I'm no' but yer… yer manfriend," he sneers, "ye take it in yer mind to do as ye damn please, and no'one can tell ye otherwise."

Oh, that's fucking rich coming from the most stubborn man to ever walk the planet.

"I was going to tell you, goddammit!" she shouts, hands flying up in frustration and slapping onto her thighs. "I was going to tell you that same day Julia mentioned it on the phone. And I've told you that! But would you listen to me?" she asks, stepping into his space again, almost chest to chest and scoffs out a sarcastic laugh, "No!" Her eyebrows raise as if explaining something to a child. "Why should you? You think your opinion is the only one that matters. Why listen to my side of the story?" she asks redundantly, chest puffing as she continues to argue her side of things. "Once Jamie Fraser has his mind made up, that's that! There's no explaining, no defending myself, no talking through a situation like adults." She shakes her head, a stray curl falling into her eyes as she wills her frustrated tears to not come forth. "I think history has shown us that time and time again."

His nostrils flare as he leans his head in closer to hers, his breath mingling with hers as they both pant in agitation. "If I had done that, if I'd listened to ye back then, ye would've hated me ten years down th' road knowin' it was me who cost ye yer dream, and I'll be damned if I did it again."

That gives her pause, and she reels back, swallowing thickly. She's livid and confused and annoyed and a whole cacophony of different swarming emotions—with no way to express her side of things, her hand lifts without her even considering what her body is doing.

Her palm is centimeters away from his cheek when Jamie's large hand reaches up, grasping her wrist and halting her movement. It's not hard enough to hurt, just strong enough to bring her back to reality.

She twists her wrist out of his grip, pushing on his chest as she steps back, groaning. "It was my decision to make, Jamie!" she shouts once more. "This time, at least. We both know damn well you didn't give me any say in the matter back then." She huffs, pushing her curl out of her eye. "God, you're a brute and a fool! Do you think I wouldn't have gone to medical school over here?! Do you think my dreams of being a doctor could somehow not have happened outside of America?"

Claire realizes that they're no longer fighting about current circumstances, but of the past, but maybe this is needed. Maybe it had been building and coming for weeks on end. There's twenty years of pent-up, unsaid emotions and feelings and they both needed to get them out of their systems.

"Aye," he growls, stepping into her space again, almost nose to nose. They're so close she feels as if her eyes practically cross to look up at him, "I do think ye would've regretted it. Regretted me." He steps back at that, fists clenching by his sides. "Ye wouldna have been able to go to Harvard like yer parents, like ye always wanted to. Ye may have become a doctor here or there," he tells her, breath shaky, "but it wouldn't have been in the way ye wanted it tae be." He huffs, chin dipping to his chest before looking back up at her. "Who knows what wouldha happened? Ye could have started helping with the farm and yer career would have fallen by the wayside. Or, or… or my accident," he emphasizes, hand reaching out with an open palm toward her in a half shrug before it falls by his side again, "ye would've spent all yer time helpin' me recover instead of focusing on school. I wouldha' held ye back one way or another, jus' like I'm doin' now."

"Now?" she asks quizzically, her heart rate picking back up as she realizes even more clearly just how asinine he's being about all of this. Silent, angry tears well in the corner of her eyes. She understands more now why he'd done the things he did twenty years ago and even recently. He's too selfless for his own damn good, and doesn't realize she'd happily live the rest of her life with him. "What, you think because I'm willing to move here that I would stop being a doctor?" She shakes her head in disbelief, scoffing. "Christ, Jamie, nothing could stop me from being a doctor. There are hospitals everywhere!"

He nods, lips curling as he says, "Aye, but no' one here with a chance fer ye tae be the chief of surgery." He sighs, voice raising as he states, "I canna be the reason ye dinna reach yer next goal in life. I refuse tae hold ye back in any capacity."

"Well, I don't have to do what you want!" she tells him stubbornly, stepping into his space once more and jamming her finger in between his pecs. "I am a grown woman. I can make decisions for myself. And I'd like if the man I lo—" shit, fuck, shit. She stumbles briefly, breath catching in her throat as she changes her words— "the man I'm with would talk to me and figure things out together. I would appreciate the chance to get my feelings and thoughts out as well instead of being ignored!"

He shakes his head, stepping away from her. He moves around her body to walk to the couch, and as he does, she can see tears welling in his eyes.

"I spent twenty damn years making sure ye got exactly what ye wanted, Claire," he says, a snarl on his lips. She isn't sure if it's towards her or himself. "I was miserable all that time… like, like a piece of me was always missing. Do ye ken what it is to live twenty years wi'out a heart? To live half a man and accustom yourself to live in the bit that's left?"

"Do I know? Do know how that feels?!" Her eyes brim with tears, dumbfounded that he would even ask such an outlandish question. "Yes, you bastard, I know how that feels!" She sees red, she's never been this furious in her entire life. Her vision is blurred from the tears pooling there, but she adds, "What, do you think that I went to Harvard and just miraculously forgot about the boy who'd promised me everything?"

"Sometimes I'd hoped ye did," he confesses, veins bulging in his neck as he steps closer, their nose almost touching, "And sometimes I could see it, ye on campus, happy as can be wi' new friends, new boyfriends, god, it filled me with rage!"

"You were filled with rage? Jamie, you left me. You made me stay in Boston," her voice cracks as she reminds him, "M-my hand was forced when you wouldn't answer the fucking telephone." Claire's tears finally slip free, trickling down her cheeks.

He sinks onto the couch, seeming not to have a retort to that. So she stands there, silence filling the air with a tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Jamie is heaving from all the yelling, his chest rising and falling vigorously, and she realizes once she's come back to her senses that she is, too. Her chest almost aches from how much they've been fighting, all the while her love for him wanting to burst free.

This is all so bewildering—she's infuriated, but hurt, not just from the last week but from the last twenty years. It's a wound she thought had healed but obviously not for either of them. She wants to slap him and kiss him senseless at the same time. It's disorienting to say the least, and she isn't sure how to handle all these conflicting emotions.

It's silent for another strained, elongated moment, Claire staring at Jamie as he stares at his hands folded and resting between his open knees.

Finally, his voice calms, and he laments in defeat, "Letting ye go has always been my biggest regret in life, Claire." He chokes on her name, but he clears his throat, adding, "I lost sleep, I couldn't eat, I was angry and foul toward my family… all because I missed ye so damn much." Jamie breathes deeply, glancing up at her. His blue eyes connect with her and something pierces her heart, he looks so vulnerable that this fight suddenly seems so trivial. "But there was nothing I could do to change it." He sniffles, reaching up to wipe under his eye quickly. "I was grievin' not only my da, but ye as well." His tears spill over then, cascading down his cheeks as he tells her, "Ye were always too good fer me. I kent it then, and I ken it now."

Claire's eyebrows draw together, confused at what he means. Surely he can't think…

Her mouth falls slightly agape as she quickly moves over to him on the couch.

Inhaling deeply, Claire calms her heart rate. She sits beside him, blinking her tears back as her hand rests in the space between their legs.

Jamie's voice is shaky as he says, "The way ye're willing tae give up so much fer me, fer me… I dinna understand it." His head shakes back and forth, causing a few more tears to escape. He looks up at her, the saddest expression she's ever seen on his face. One of a man so broken that it breaks her as well. "Ye're tearing my guts out, Claire, all because I want ye to have the best in life, mo chridhe, even if that means I'm no' a part of it." He sighs, reaching for her hand which she willingly lets him pick up. "I dinna want ye to give up yer dreams," he places a kiss to her palm, "especially no' for someone like me."

How this man can be so dense… Does he really not know?

"Christ, Jamie," she whispers, squeezing his hand. "You are my dream. I'm already a surgeon." She shrugs and smiles sweetly, a little breathless laugh escaping as she tugs on his hand to try and get him to meet her eyes again. "It's you that's always been missing from the life I wanted, the life I dreamed and longed for. And I'm not saying I'm for sure moving, not yet anyway," she grins, "but I just wanted the chance to talk through it with you, to weigh the pros and cons, to really think through what it would be like. Can't you understand that?"

Her own set of tears begin to silently fall, tears of frustration but also tears of love for this stupid, big-hearted, self-sacrifcing man before her. He would give up his own happiness with her so she can have the job he thinks she desires. Idiot.

She doesn't know what to say.

She scoots closer to him, their thighs pressing together. The tension and anger from moments ago melts away as her hand slides to rest on his knee. That physical connection they've always shared calms them both immensely, so immediately that she can already feel a peace coming over them.

Jamie glances up at her and gives her a small, unsure, smile.

"Look," Claire says, wiping the tears from her cheeks, "I'm not the meek and obedient type. You know that." Jamie snorts out a soft chuckle before she adds, "If I didn't think this was a solid option for me, you know damn well, James Fraser, that I would stay in Boston."

He looks down, drawing in a long inhale. Sniffling, Jamie nods in acceptance.

"Ye're right, Sassenach." He sighs. "I just worry that I'm never going tae be good enough for you."

She looks up toward the ceiling, then back at him, pushing the frustration down. "Jamie…" The words get caught in her throat; she's nervous, but if this fight has shown her anything, it's that Jamie Fraser loves her and always has, too much it would seem. So, why wait in admitting the truth? "I…" She shakes her head, tucking a crooked finger under his chin to catch his gaze as she looks deeply into his blue orbs. Her fingers graze against the stubble under his chin and she tells him, "You will always be good enough for me… and I've spent far too long apart from you; I want this, I want us, whether that's being long distance, or me moving here, or you eventually moving there, I don't care. I just want us to be together. I… I love you."

His eyes light up as his torso twists, one arm coming to wrap around her waist, drawing her a touch closer. "Truly?"

She smiles and nods, rolling her eyes because how could he not know already? She chuckles around the lump in her throat, saying, "I always have."

"Och, Sassenach, I love ye, too," he breathes, face growing serious. "Whether I'm dead, or you, whether we're together or apart," he rasps, bringing her hand up to kiss her silver ring, "I will always love you." He leans in, pressing a gentle, lingering kiss to her lips. It's salty, both of their tears mixing together, but she wouldn't change it for anything. Jamie presses his forehead to hers and his hand cups her jaw. "I just feel guilty," he admits softly, pulling back as his thumb grazes the skin beneath it.

"Well, don't," she says bluntly. "Like I said, I'm a grown woman that can make her own decisions. And I choose you…" She can feel her face soften as she looks at Jamie. "Just promise you'll stop ignoring me when you think you know what's best for my life." She grins, eyebrows raising in a sardonic way and swatting playfully at the cheek she'd almost slapped earlier. "It's very annoying, not to mention you've been wrong both times now. Not a great track record, my love."

He snickers, asking, "Ye gonna hold that over my head forever, Sassenach?"

Her lips turn down in a dramatically exaggerated frown, head tilting to and fro as she jests, "Not forever."

Guffawing, Jamie pulls her in for another kiss. "Oh, I love you, mo ghraidh."

The return of all of her pet names warms her heart, and she beams as bright as the sun when she tells him she loves him as well. Now that they'd said it, she can't seem to quit… but she doesn't care. She loves this man, and he loves her, and now she's here, in his arms, where she's meant to be.

He looks at her for a moment, staring into her eyes as if he's searching her glass face for something. "Do ye forgive me, Claire?"

Her smile is soft as she takes a moment to think over everything that's just transpired, then assures, "Forgiven… And do you forgive me?"

Shaking his head, Jamie tells her, "There wasna anything ye needed forgiving for, Sassenach." He presses a light peck to her forehead, adding, "It was me who was being a clotheid."

She laughs, leaning in to cup his jaw. "Mmhmm, you were," she states with a grin. She brings him in for a kiss, this one more heated.

Jamie deepens it, head tilting as he draws a moan from her.

"Jamie?" she asks, breaking apart from him. "Why is there luggage by the door?"

She points behind her at the black suit case she'd tripped over when she barreled in earlier.

Jamie laughs softly, rubbing the back of his neck. His ears are slightly pink as he looks up from behind long lashes and admits, "I was on my way out th' door tae the airport."

"Wha—"

"I was flying tae Boston to tell ye what an eejit I've been and how in love with you I am."

Her eyes mist over as she fights back a smile, saying, "Well at least we can agree on that."

He guffaws, tightening his grip around her waist. "It's been plaguing me e're since ye left. It took me a few days to realize I was actin' like a fool, but I kent I needed tae see ye. To be wi' ye."

"When is your flight?"

"An hour ago."

"Jamie! You lost all that money on the flight."

She knows it isn't any dent in his pockets with the amount he makes owning the farm, but she also knows even if he was a pauper on the streets, he wouldn't care about losing the money for her.

"I dinna care about that. I'm jus happy ye're here wi' me."

He leans in, one hand cupping her cheek, Their lips meet again, and this time it's she who deepens it, needing him more than she's ever needed him before.

Pulling apart and panting, and Jamie whispers huskily, "Let me take ye tae bed, Sassenach. I want to show ye just how much I love you."

Grinning wickedly, she stands, tugging his hand and pulling him from the couch.

They make it up the stairs and into his room faster than she ever thought possible, hands roaming each other's bodies as they go.

They are together now, and nothing can stop them from reuniting in this way, too.

{*************************}

The lights are off in his room, save for the two lamps on each bedside table. His bathroom light is also still on for some reason, he must have forgotten to turn it off earlier, but she's thankful now because it cast a warm glow into the room, illuminating Jamie's face perfectly.

There seems to be no time to make love, no time to take their time. It's frantic, and wild, passionate, and exactly what they both need after days of being angry with one another, and especially after their fight moments ago.

Jamie reaches up, pulling at the straps of her blue sun dress, her arms maneuvering out of them as he pulls it down her chest. She places her hands on his shoulders to help her balance, then bounces a bit to shake the dress off completely.

She makes quick work of his shirt, then fumbles with his belt buckle as his lips attach to her neck, sucking delectably on her pulse point.

His pants pool around his ankles, but he doesn't seem to have it in mind to break apart from her skin long enough to kick them off. They're too caught up in one another to even care.

Suddenly, Jamie reaches for her hips, spinning her around. Her hands find purchase on his large, wooden dresser as Jamie's lips find their way back to her neck. He wraps one hand around her loose curls, pushing them to one side so his tongue can trail a path up her neck and to her ear.

He's breathing heavily, and so is she, as her hands grip the edge of the dresser, her hips grinding against his hard length.

With a feral growl, Jamie takes his cock and thrusts into her from behind, causing her head to fall back against his shoulder as she cries out. Jamie's hand grips her waist, grounding himself, while the other reaches around to pinch at her nipples.

God, she fucking loves this man. Loves his touch, loves everything about him.

"Yes," she hisses, hips bouncing against his as they move together.

"Look at yourself," Jamie grunts, pounding into her with more force, causing a picture frame to fall over and a loud moan to escape her throat. "Watch as I take ye." His eyes flick up toward the mirror in front of her. It's attached to the dresser, and her eyes find his in the reflection.

"I love ye, Sassenach," he punctuates between thrusts. "I... love... ye."

Oh, god, oh fuck, fuck, fuck, she loves him, her body is tingling with pent up tension from the past week and she wants nothing more than to have his hands all over her body. Claire removes one hand from it's deathgrip on the dresser, reaching behind her to tangle her fingers in the hair at the base of his neck. "Oh, god, Jam—mm," she groans, her grasp on his curls tightening. She watches in the mirror as he bites down on her neck and moans from the sensation of his hair being pulled.

His cock is hard, and long, but somehow from this angle it feels even bigger, like it's going deeper than ever before. It's so hot, and she's so wet, she's not sure she's ever been this wet before.

Jamie must know it, too, because his hand leaves her breasts and travels down to her wet heat, two fingers sliding against her clit, rubbing in those circular motions she loved so much. Christ, he knows her body so well, just as she knows his.

"Fuck," Jamie growls, thrusting deeper inside, "ye're sae wet, Claire, is this good?"

All she can do is nod, her lips sealed tightly as she moans in pleasure. Her eyes are squeezed shut from the sensation, but when he chuckles into the crook of her neck, his tongue peeking out to lick up to her jaw, she opens them, watching him in the reflection as he thrusts up into her.

Christ, this is the hottest thing Claire has ever done, and she's convinced they will forever need to fuck in front of a mirror so she can watch the pure rapture exploding across Jamie's face each time he rocks into her and she grinds against his length. The way his eyes close, the way he lets out those little grunts with each thrust, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip… fuck.

His balls slap against her ass, and the feeling makes her clench tighter around him. He moans at the sensation, driving into her even deeper, breath hot against her skin.

"M'g-gonna come, Sassenach," he pants, his movements becoming jerky as both of his hands now grip her waist, tugging her back onto his cock over and over again.

She cries out, nodding frantically and tells him, "Me too… don't… don't stop!"

"Never," Jamie growls, thrusting one, two, three more times, before he's coming hard inside her, seed spilling out and a strangled groan coming from him as he buries his mouth onto her neck.

She rocks and grinds, searching for her release, and thank god Jamie knows her, knows her body, because before his orgasm is even over, he's reaching down, a finger flicking over her swollen clit. Fuck, yes, that's exactly what she needs.

He rubs it, taking it between his thumb and forefinger and pinching lightly, giving her the pressure she needs.

Her muscles tighten around him and she explodes around his fingers and cock, crying out louder than she thinks she's ever done before. She knows she's loud, likes to pretend she's not, but this is on a whole other level.

Holy shit.

That was… wow.

They stand there, his cock sliding out of her, glistening from her slickness. He wraps his arms around her shaking form, pulling her close so her back is pressed against his warm chest. Jamie kisses her cheek, then glances up at her in the reflection.

He gives her a wicked grin with a gleam in his eye, and her eyes narrow. But before she can ask what he's up to, Jamie has kicked his pants off from his ankles and taken her hips in his hands to turn her around.

Her back against the dresser now, she has to reach around to hold onto the wood as Jamie drops to his knees.

Oh god, oh god.

Looking down, she breathes helplessly, "I don't think I can come again, not this soon."

"Och," he grunts, swiping two fingers through her wet folds, still dripping with his seed. It makes her knees shake, and she's unsure if she can even stand at this point. "I think ye can, Sassenach."

With that, he grasps her thighs and spreads her legs, giving her no choice but to open up to him, but fuck, she doesn't mind one bit. Especially when his tongue swipes from back to front, sucking her swollen clit into his mouth.

She won't last long at all. She's already weak, right there on the precipice and he knows exactly how to bring her to her release.

Jamie's tongue laps at her wetness, then sucks her clit. His hands are holding her thighs open, but one hand leaves her leg to join his mouth.

Inserting two fingers, he finds her best spot, his tongue and fingers working together to send her spiraling into another orgasm.

Claire's one hand leaves the dresser, where her knuckles have gone white, and grabs onto his red curls, holding him in place, sinking her weight onto his face to get that added pressure her body is aching for.

He groans at the move, and it vibrates against her skin, sending a jolt of pleasure straight to her core. She's squirming with licentiousness against his mouth, seeking out the release she knows is seconds away.

She rides his face, her other hand going to his shoulder as she cries out, coming undone again.

"You fucking bastard," she pants, grinning as Jamie licks her clean and kisses his way up her body. "My legs feel like Jell-o."

He snickers before his lips meet hers, and the taste of her climax mingled with his almost makes her come for a third time in a row.

"Did you like the taste of yourself down there?" she purrs, eyebrows raising seductively.

Groaning huskily, he nods with a grin. "You wee foul mouthed vixen," he chuckles, kissing her again and pulling her tightly against his body. "I loved it. Getting to taste us together," he murmurs against her mouth, "verra sexy."

She giggles at his ridiculousness, cheeks heating from the thought of it though.

Sighing happily, she pulls his mouth down to hers, deepening the kiss a bit.

Pulling apart, she wipes at her mouth, tongue peeking out to lick her lips. She turns to face the mirror again, picking up the objects she'd knocked over. "Whoops," she mumbles, glancing up at his reflection.

He gives her a sheepish grin, and she smiles back. Her curls are damp and sticking to her forehead, so she brushes them back, laughing breathlessly at what a sweaty mess they've become in such a short amount of time.

Stepping back, Jamie gives her space to turn around. Now that they're not in the throws of passion, she feels vulnerable standing there stark naked, the cool air making her nipples form stiff peaks. Her back presses against the dresser, and her arms cross over her chest, smiling shyly at Jamie.

He smiles back and reaches out to take her hand. Leading her to the other side of the room, he pulls back the covers and gestures for her to climb in first.

Settling in, Jamie sits against the headboard and pulls Claire closer to him. "I love hearin' ye make those wee squeaky noises," he murmurs.

She gasps indignantly, swatting at his chest. "I do not make squeaky noises."

"Aye, ye do," he laughs, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "But I wouldna have ye any other way."

She rolls her eyes playfully, giving him a shrug. "Well, if I do, and I'm not saying I do," she confirms, giving him a pecking kiss, "then it's your fault for being so damn sexy."

"Oh, aye," his lips draw up into a lopsided smirk, and he pulls the covers down off her chest. Sliding down to get better access, Jamie takes a nipple into his mouth. He sucks gingerly, his tongue swirling around before he moves over to the next one, giving it the same attention. "I am, am I?"

Claire laughs breathlessly, sighing at the feel of his tongue on her skin. One hand is gripping his hair as she leans back, giving him better access. His lips leave her breasts, kissing his way up to her exposed neck. He plants several kisses there, his scruff tickling her skin.

He moves so that his body hovers above hers, and she grips his biceps, squeezing gently as she stares into his deep, blue eyes, following the path of his body as he slowly kisses his way down her chest, to her torso, and back again.

Sighing contentedly, she closes her eyes, soaking up the pleasure while she can.

He eventually rolls off, his body flopping onto the mattress next to her.

They lay there for a moment, both enjoying the silence, the only sound in the room is their deep breathing.

"I love you, Claire," he says softly.

She turns her head to look at him, and she smiles at how innocent he looks like this. "I love you, too, Jamie."

They roll onto their sides, hands lazily exploring each other's bodies.

It's only been a week since they last were intimate, but something about this, here, tonight, feels different. It feels special.

Now that the frenzied fucking is out of the way, they seem to both understand that they have the rest of the night to just enjoy one another and their new found freedom in actually saying those three little words they'd both been too scared to verbalize before, in fear of it being too soon for the other.

Claire's hands move from his chest to his stomach, finger trailing around his belly button before reaching up to his shoulders and pulling him closer.

His calloused hands roam over her back, then her ass, cupping it in his hands. She really does love the feel of his rough hands against her smooth skin. She smiles, and Jamie murmurs something about loving her ass that makes her giggle.

Claire swings a leg over his, their bodies only millimeters apart from one another. Their eyes are locked into each other's gazes, and she realizes their breathing has slowed and now matches the other's, their chests moving in tandem. There's a tear in the corner of Jamie's eye as he watches her so closely, both silently taking the other in as if trying to memorize their every last detail. One of her hands lightly traces the lines of his face, while the other reaches around to his back.

Her hands delicately graze the scarred skin, finger tips trailing along the path of each one. Her eyes mist over as she thinks of what he went through, but now that he's healed, these scars are like a painting of his past, an insight to what she's missed these last two decades.

Overcome with emotion, she swallows thickly, and slides her eyes up from his chest to his face.

His eyes are still on hers, one hand resting lazily on her hip, the other holding her rear.

Jamie rolls onto his back, pulling her with him so that she's laying across his chest, an arm bent underneath her chin to prop her up.

It's silent, but he breaks it by murmuring, "I will never ignore ye again."

"Good," she smirks, kissing his chest and swirling her fingers gently over his smattering of chest hair. "That's all I can ask. We are adults, we can talk through issues."

He sighs, his grip around her tightening. "Ye're right, mo chridhe. I'm sorry." He pauses, looking contemplative. "'Tis just how I was raised, ken, the example I always had."

She gives him a questioning look, and he elaborates. "My mam and da were both thinkers. If there was e're an issue or an argument, they both needed space to cool off and collect themselves before they would talk about it together."

Claire nods, knowing not everyone handles disagreements by instantly discussing them like she does.

"But ye're no' like that," he adds, kissing the tip of her nose, "and I jus' have tae learn to talk through things right away."

Shaking her head, she props herself up on an elbow and looks into his eyes. "This is a relationship," she smiles softly. "Relationships are about compromise. I can let you take some time to collect your thoughts if and when there's another disagreement." She leans in, pecking a kiss to his cheek. "Just don't make it a week— a few hours, maybe a day," she chuckles, "but give us the chance to talk through things together."

Jamie nods, giving her a soft smile. "I ken, I ken… and like I said, I'm verra sorry, Sassenach. I'll work on it."

She won't reiterate the fact that she needs to learn to let him collect his thoughts first, because they'll just talk in circles and keep apologizing to one another all night. She's well aware love is a two way street; she has to learn to let him cool off while he learns that she wants things resolved quickly. Shaking her head, she scoots closer and looks him in the eye, telling him, "It's alright, Jamie."

Smiling, Claire leans down to press a kiss to his lips. "And I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner about the chief of surgery position." She tells him again—now that he's finally listening to what she has to say—how it's not guaranteed, there are a dozen other doctors in the running. She tells him all the details about it that he didn't give her a chance to last week, and he listens intently.

Jamie shakes his head, and she settles back into his chest. "'Tis all over now, aye? Let's just move on and figure things out together."

"I like the sound of that," she states, punctuating it with a grin and a kiss. "Now let's get some sleep." She gently runs her fingers along his scruff, saying, "You look like hell."

Jamie's chest shakes with his quiet laughter, telling her, "Aye, sleep sounds nice. I havena slept much o'er the last few days… been beating myself up trying to decide what tae do."

She can see the guilt starting to cloud his blue eyes again, so she shakes her head and settles against his chest. "Shh," she whispers, kissing his chest before placing her hand there to feel his heart beat beneath her palm, "I'm here now."

Closing her eyes, Claire feels Jamie's lips press against the top of her head and she smiles as the heat from his body lulls her into slumber.

{******************************}

Claire wakes an hour later, still wrapped in Jamie's arms. She'd thought after their lazy exploration and deep talk with one another that she'd be too exhausted to wake until morning, but she had been wrong. Her body craves him like a drug.

She tilts her head up and notices that he's awake, too.

His eyes are fixed on the ceiling, his hand that's around her shoulder caressing the skin there softly.

She sits up, climbing atop him and grinning down into his eyes. Jamie leans up slowly, and she meets him halfway, their lips molding together as Jamie rolls them onto their sides.

Their kisses are lazy and unhurried, both enjoying the feel of the other. But before long, they heat up, hands beginning to roam one another, and Jamie pulls her hair to the side, nuzzling his nose into the crook of her neck.

"Oh, god, I want ye, Claire," he whispers, breath hot against her flushed skin, "Will ye have me, again?"

He nips at her neck before she answers with a heated, "Yes, yes, I'll have you."

They roll once more, Jamie on top of Claire this time. Their lips find each other's, hands excitedly meandering about, neither able to decide quite where to touch first.

"God, I want ye so badly," he rasps into her ear, his hand reaching down. His finger slips inside, making sure she's ready for him.

She nods and grins, assuring him that she is.

Claire reaches between them as well, grasping his cock in her hands. She strokes up and down, up and down, smiling in gratification when he grows hard in her palm.

She sits up, his body moving easily with hers, but not realizing how close they were to the edge of the mattress, they begin to fall when she tries to flip them again.

Jamie, thankfully, catches her, and they land in a jumble of tangled limbs on the large area rug. She's on top of him, and when she sits up, they burst into laughter.

"Oh my god," she wheezes, "I thought we had more room!"

Jamie guffaws, wrapping his arms around her waist as he scoots back further from the bedframe. "Dinna fash, Sassenach," he states, grinning seductively. His eyebrows lift and fall in that sexy way he does before he says, "'Tis kind of nice down here, no?"

Grinning, she leans into him, lips trailing along his jaw, neck, and to his pecs. She repays his ministrations from earlier, sucking on his nipple before licking her way back up.

Their tumble didn't seem to kill the mood for either one, because Jamie is still just as hard. She can feel it pressing against her thigh.

His hands settle on her hips, squeezing gently, as his mouth meets with hers. They're taking their time, enjoying the feel of one another again.

After a few minutes of languidly sucking, biting and kissing, Claire finds that she needs more. She needs this man inside of her now.

"I want you, Jamie," she growls, sitting up. She maneuvers them so she can straddle his lap and lifts up her hips, adjusting her position as she reaches between their bodies. She takes his cock in her hand, lining it up with her slick entrance and sinks down slowly.

Jamie moans at the feel of her heat clenching around him, and he thrusts up into her.

She rides his cock, asking huskily, "Do you like it like this? With me on top?"

"Fuck," he hisses, rolling his hips. His hands haven't left her hips, but she's not complaining, the way he's grasping her, tighter than he probably means to, does something to her body. She'll more than likely have bruises there come morning, but the thought sends a naughty thrill through her. "Yes, feels s-so good."

Claire rolls her hips, deepening their connection. Her hands are on his chest as she rocks against him, her breath growing ragged.

She won't last long, and she figures he won't either by the way his head is thrown back, hands still grasping her thighs and his teeth sunken into his bottom lip as he tries to quell his cries.

God, he's so fucking sexy. She can't believe he's all hers.

He fucks into her, causing her to cry out loudly. She rocks against him, willing her orgasm to hold off just a bit longer so that she can enjoy this, soak up every bit of him.

One of his hands squeezes her thigh before moving up to hold her hip, while the other cups her ass in his palm. "Christ, Sassenach," he grunts, thrusting up again.

Her core tightens, her breath coming out in desperate gasps.

Claire's orgasm crashes over her at the same time Jamie's does for him. As she's milking his hard cock for all it's worth, she can feel him spill inside of her, filling her completely.

He lets out a strangled grunt as he finds release, and he stays there inside of her, cock pulsing as it recovers. His body slumps gradually against her chest, her hands caressing over his back as he settles half on her, half beside her. His nose is buried in her neck, his breath ghosting over her heated skin.

Her lips are parted, eyes blown wide as if she's been stunned, unable to believe this is actually her life, that she's actually back in this man's arms, able to love him the way she's wanted to all this time.

The thought alone turns her on, and if she really tried, she could go another round already.

She loves him, loves being with him in every way. He knows her body better than any other man ever has, and she never wants this feeling to go away.

They lay there, wrapped in each other's arms, breaths still puffing out raggedly. He's so close to her, she can barely see him, but she can feel him. Jamie reaches down, taking her hand in his and brings it up, fingers locking together. She lets go after a second, letting her hand drop to his jaw, scratching at his stubble. His hand slowly caresses down the length of her body, tweaking a nipple before resting on her stomach.

Everything feels like it's moving in slow motion, like their limbs are trudging through molasses, allowing her to embrace each and every move he makes. She inhales deeply, never wanting this connection of theirs to end.

She finds his mouth in a measured kiss, and Jamie smiles into it, causing her to do the same. He pulls back, staring into her whisky eyes as if she's a miracle he's witnessing and can't believe it.

He softly places his forehead against hers, letting them breathe one another in completely.

"Ye're mine, Claire," he says quietly, and she nods with a dopey, sleepy smile on her face, breath still heavy. "This is all I've e'er wanted, and I'm sae glad we found each other again."

She can't help it—his words make her melt; they match how she's been feeling since this whole relationship began—so she kisses him once again, her tongue peeking out to tease his lips.

They stay there, curled into one another's bodies until Jamie starts to grow soft inside her. He slips out, kissing her lips and rolling off of her. They're both still clearly affected by what just transpired, but he pecks a kiss to her forehead, asking her, "Do ye want tae shower? Get ourselves cleaned up."

She giggles but acquiesces, taking his outstretched hand as he pulls her to her feet.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulls him close. She presses a kiss to his lips, then smiles brightly. "I love you, James Fraser."

His reply is a beaming smile, and he reaches up to take her hands from around his neck. Linking their fingers together, he leads her to the bathroom.

{***************************}

After their shower, they get dressed in comfortable clothes—cotton shorts and her Cairo University t-shirt for Claire, while Jamie chooses to go shirtless, his tartan pajama pants sitting low on his hips so she can see his defined V.

She stays behind to apply moisturizer to her skin and go through her nightly routine, while Jamie meanders down to the kitchen.

It's just after eleven at night, and they haven't eaten dinner yet. She's especially hungry, having not had anything since right before her flight.

The kitchen smells devine as she walks in, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind. She stands on her tiptoes to peer over his shoulder, asking, "What're you making?"

Jamie smiles, twisting to bring her under his arm. He kisses the top of her head, saying, "Turtle soup."

"What?" she laughs, scrunching her nose. She's heard of it before, but thought it was a delicacy in Asian cultures. She'd tried it once as a teenager when she and Uncle Lamb were in Malaysia. "I didn't take you as a daring enough eater to try turtle." She lifts the lid of the pot finally, and the aroma hits her, and she is very much aware that this, in fact, is nowhere near turtle soup. "That's… tortilla soup, Jamie," she deadpans, looking up at him. Playfully, she feels around his head, saying, "Let me check for lumps, seems you've gone a bit daft. You might need Dr. Beauchamp to perform surgery."

He laughs, "We can play doctor, patient later, Sassenach, I quite like the sound o'that, but no, I'm no' crazy." Smiling, he explains, "When Fergus first came tae live wi' me, he had a hard time understandin' my accent, ye ken? Jenny and Ian and all their bairns were over for dinner, an' I was makin' tortilla soup, but Fergus thought I said 'turtle' instead. He was verra skeptical at first." Jamie's smile goes soft at the memory, and it makes her smile, too. "It was sae funny, Jenny's bairns got a kick out o' it, and I ken the lad was embarrassed at first fer no' understanding, but I brought him in here to the stove and let him look inside. Once he understood, he had a good laugh over it too." Jamie shrugs, stirring the contents of the pot around. "It just kind of stuck, ken, and we've called it Turtle Soup e'er since."

Claire giggles, gently rubbing Jamie's back. "I love that," she says, stepping away and grabbing two bowls from the cabinet. "There's a cereal, I'm not sure if they have it here or call it the same name, but in America it's called Frosted Flakes. The mascot on the front is a tiger for some reason." She chuckles at the memory, walking back to the stove. "When Julia was little, she called it 'Tiger Cereal' for the longest time, and it was so cute that I couldn't correct her."

Jamie grins from one corner of his mouth, kissing her cheek and motioning for her to take the wine to the table. He ladles the soup into their bowls as Claire finishes her story. "She obviously learned the real name once she could read, but by then, it was ingrained in both of us," she explains with a fond smile. "So, even now if we ever see it at the store, we'll call it Tiger Cereal instead."

He laughs, "That's braw," and brings their bowls over to the table.

"Thank you," she says, looking up and pucking her lips to draw him in for a kiss before digging into the soup. She hadn't realized how hungry she was. She'd eaten breakfast before flying out, but with the time zones and their fight and the glorious make up they'd had for the last few hours, food had been the last thing on her mind.

The soup is actually delicious, Jamie grabs them some tortilla chips to dip into it, and they have a lovely dinner talking and laughing about things they'd missed in each other's lives over the last week.

She tells Jamie about the tumor removal she and Joe had performed and how successful it was. He tells her about how he had a team out at his new piece of land, working on the still to create a whisky. Old Mackenzie was nice enough to give Jamie a good deal. He was retiring and had no children to pass the land along to. Jamie had always been a good friend to him, so he was more than happy to sell him the land.

"The still will be up and running within the next few days," he beams. "Ian and I will have to work for a while to get the right flavor down before we start selling it, o'course, but it'll be a fun endeavor nonetheless."

"And you'll have plenty of whisky to try out until you do find the right one," she laughs.

Once dinner is all said and done, they make quick work of cleaning up the kitchen. Jamie rinses out the pot he'd heated the soup in, while Claire loads the dishwasher.

They make their way back upstairs, not willing to leave the comfort of the house, at least for tonight. She does want to go back to that bakery she loves so much, but it can wait until morning.

The room has grown even darker, the moon light now shining through his window, making the room feel extra cozy.

Claire and Jamie ready themselves for bed, Claire braiding her hair and tying it off before brushing her teeth while Jamie washes his face in the other sink.

She smiles inwardly at how natural this feels, how at home she is in his space.

Climbing into bed, Claire snuggles down into the covers, warming her feet. Jamie is still in the bathroom, and she can hear him gargling his mouthwash.

He finishes, clicking the light of the bathroom off. As he moves around the room, putting their clothes that are still in a pile from earlier into the hamper in his closet, Claire calls out to him softly, "Come to bed, Jamie."

Smiling, he walks out of the closet, closing it behind himself and joining her under the covers.

It's chilly out, despite it being the second week of May, the Scottish highlands are clinging on to that last cold snap of winter far longer than anywhere else. It's not uncomfortably cold, but enough to need a thin jacket outside, and his house seems to be reflecting the temperature outside.

"Christ," he hisses, "yer feet are like wee icicles."

Laughing, she looks up at him with big, rounded eyes. "The house is cold."

"It is not!" he protests, "Ye're just so heckin' cold natured. It feels nice under the covers, and besides," his voice grows low, sexy, as he slinks down beside her, wrapping her in his arms, "I'll be here all night tae keep ye warm."

"Mm," she purrs, "that sounds like a good plan to me."

They stay like that for a while, Claire wrapped in his warm embrace, head tucked just below his chin. His head rests against the crown of her head, and she watches her hand that's on his chest rise and fall with each of his breaths.

"Bad things tend to happen when we're apart," she admits quietly, breaking the silence. She's scratching lightly at his chest, but she stops, flattening her palm against it.

Jamie huffs out a small laugh, her head bouncing with the motion. "Aye, but we always find our way back to each other."

She beams, breathing out a little laugh and tucking her head into his chest to place a kiss on his skin.

Sighing contentedly, Claire wraps her arm around his stomach, her leg tangling between his underneath the blankets. "I know it's only been a little over two months, Jamie, but I feel like we've been together forever." She pauses, snickering softly as she plays with a patch of his chest hair. "Not that that's a bad thing."

Jamie cups her cheek, drawing her attention up to his blue eyes. His face is soft, so genuinely sincere looking that it makes her sit up a bit more. His thumb is grazing her jawline, her cheek resting in his palm when he tells her lovingly, "It's always been forever for me, Sassenach."

Her eyes water, but she blinks it away, not wanting to lose focus of this man for a single second. She nods, knowing he's completely right. No matter what, no matter how much time they may have been apart, they were always connected, always together in some way. It's why no other relationship of theirs ever had a chance of surviving, why neither could ever feel settled with someone else.

They were waiting for each other.

Slowly, they make love one more time. It's unhurried this time, rhythmic as they move together, soaking each other in. Her hips move sensually with his, their eyes locked on the other. It's different from everything else tonight, it's them coming together and showing one another how deep their love is.

Claire's eyes sting, tears forming in the corner as she watches him, feels him, connects with him. He's watching her with a look of awe, of wonder, on his face, and she knows hers looks just the same.

As she tightens around his cock, coming once more tonight, she keeps her eyes on him. She's soaking up every last detail of him, of this man she loves with all of her heart.

They settle back into each other's arms, Jamie's wrapped protectively around her shoulders, both steadying their breath.

She twists, resting her chin on her bent arm to watch him. She can't seem to take her eyes off of him, but Jamie must feel the same because his gaze is already on her when she looks up. He's smiling softly, in that innocent way he does. The way that makes her stomach flip-flop.

He cups her jaw, drawing her closer. She goes easily, tears still pooled in her eyes.

A tear slips free, landing on the tip of his thumb, and Claire presses her lips to his. She sighs into the embrace, twisting so she can get a better angle on the kiss.

Jamie's hand moves from her jaw to the back of her head, holding her sweetly in place as they kiss, her head tilting to deepen it.

Breaking apart, she sees that Jamie is crying as well. She reaches up, wiping his tears away and snuggling back into his body.

His arm is warm and protective around her, and she knows that this, right here with him, is exactly where she's meant to be. Forever.

{**********************}

All made up and ready to figure things out *together* this time! Lol

I know a lot of people were upset with Jamie after the last few chapters, but to me, canon Jamie is self sacrificing when it comes to Claire/her happiness, too, and they're also both hot tempered lol… so hopefully this still felt like them. They definitely have to learn to compromise, as do any two people in a committed relationship, but they're on the right track now… Please let me know what you thought!

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten:

The night passed quickly, and Claire awoke in Jamie's arms, one of his hands amusingly cupped around her left breast. Her leg is tangled with his, her t-shirt twisted haphazardly around her body.

She smiles, knowing Jamie always makes fun of how she tosses and turns, and the state of her clothing proves it.

Kissing his chest gently, Claire glances up. His lips are curled into a little smile, still dead to the world, and she finds herself wondering what his dreams are like to plaster that little smile on his lips each and every night.

"Mmm des fraises," he mumbles sleepily, flopping his head to the other side.

"Strawberries?" Sleep talking in French, she snorts out a little laugh and shakes her head. "Typical polyglot," she murmurs, rolling off of him.

She slips into the master bath to enjoy a nice, warm shower.

When she comes out of the bathroom, wrapped in a fuzzy towel, she sees Jamie is awake and looking at his phone. "Good morning," she greets sheepishly, suddenly feeling shy, worried that things might still be awkward between them despite all their making up last night. She tightens the towel around her, giving him a little shrug.

"Mornin', Sassenach," he says gruffly, voice still weighed down by sleep.

He gives her a warm little smile, though, one that makes her feel like everything will be alright.

Hopping up, Jamie pecks a kiss to her lips and slinks into the bathroom, murmuring something about needing a shower.

While he's showering, she spends time drying off and slipping on a pair of dark wash jeans and a plain black tee. She hadn't packed much, just enough for the weekend, and nothing particularly fancy. She wasn't sure how yesterday would go, so she didn't want to overpack if she was just going to have to catch a last-minute flight home.

She curls her hair in loose waves and applies a bit of makeup—concealer, powder, blush and a few coats of mascara. She's clasping a bracelet around her wrist when Jamie emerges from the bathroom.

He makes his way over to the walk-in closet, grabbing his clothes and bringing them out to lay out on the bed. He throws on a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt, and Claire has to force her eyes not to watch the way his naked muscles move as he gets dressed.

"Like what ye see?"

She smirks, lifting an eyebrow at him in the mirror, watching as he comes to stand behind her. His arms wrap around her middle, rocking her slowly. Looking over her shoulder, he reaches for her necklace that she'd pulled out.

"Let me," he whispers, pushing her hair to one side.

He clasps the chain, kissing her neck when he finishes. She straightens the pendant as Jamie wraps his arms around her once more.

"Are you hungry?" She asks, "Maybe we can go to that bakery?" innocently, like a child asking to go see Santa, and he nods.

Jamie laughs, saying, "Ye love that place, Sassenach!"

"It's good!"

Chuckling, he takes her hand and whisks her off, Claire grabbing her purse from the bed in the process.

{****************************}

It's warm today, not too hot, but enough to be comfortable in her short sleeve shirt.

The sun is warm on her face, and she smiles contentedly as she looks around. It's so much quieter here than back in Boston; people still bustle about but there's less of them around. This town Jamie lives in feels so quaint, like a little piece of the past stuck in between all the big cities.

"So my flight is Sunday at eight," she tells him, taking a bite of her muffin. "That gives us all of today and most of tomorrow. We need to head out to the airport around five."

"Aye," he says. "We can eat an early dinner so yer belly is full fer the flight home, especially cause I ken ye'll no' eat by time ye get home so late."

She grins, knowing he's right. "We can grab a little snack on the way there, I suppose."

Jamie snickers, reaching over to take her hand atop the table. His thumb rubs against her smooth skin, and she sinks into the chair, sipping her coffee.

She picks at the cranberry muffin she'd ordered, while Jamie works on his egg and cheese bagel.

Tilting her head back, she allows the sun to warm her face for a moment before looking back to Jamie.

His blue eyes are on her, the sun somehow making them look even brighter than normal.

She loves him and is sad she's only staying for the weekend, especially now that they've admitted their true feelings. But she has to get back to Julia. She graduates in a week, and Claire wants to spend as much time as possible with her daughter before she moves out for college.

"I wish ye could stay longer," he murmurs sweetly, "but I ken I need tae work and ye've got tae get back home."

She smiles. "I can't leave my child again." Jamie nods, saying he understands. "It's her senior year, and she's got a lot coming up with moving and starting college."

"I ken," he replies. "Havin' yer bairn move out is a big deal. I was verra emotional when Fergus left."

"You were?" She sighs, "The closer her graduation gets, the more anxious I get about all of it. I was afraid I was overreacting."

"Nah," Jamie breathes, squeezing her hand. "I kent Fergus was only moving three hours away, but the thought of no' havin' him down the hall like he'd been fer eight years made me heartsick."

Her heart melts at how cute he is—what a sweet and tender man she's been blessed to love.

She likes that he understands their children come first; he tells her so when he says, "I would never dream of takin' ye away from yer bairn." He smiles, taking a sip of his coffee. "Lucky fer me, mine still lives close enough that I dinna get much time tae miss him before he's back."

Laughing, Claire shakes her head. "You love that he comes home so much."

"I do, I do," he admits, his ears growing pink. "It does my heart good tae ken my lad still likes me enough tae come back so often."

"Likes you or likes Marsali?"

Jamie guffaws, swatting at her hand. "Ye wound me, Sassenach."

Their laughter settles, and they fall into a companionable silence, both observing the people bustling about around them.

Claire thinks about Julia and how she'll only be twenty minutes away at Harvard, but it's always been the two of them as long as she can remember, so even thirty minutes (longer with traffic, she grumbles) feels like hours and hours.

"I can't believe she'll be at Harvard in three months."

Jamie grins, and Claire tells him how she didn't expect Julia to go to her alma mater, but they have a great Human Studies department where she could study anthropology and archeology, so it just worked out. "It's kind of fun that she's going where my parents and I all went."

The mention of Harvard jolts her mind to the past and a young Claire finding her way around campus without Jamie by her side.

It must bring memories up for him as well based on how he squeezes her hand and his eyes go a little sad.

"Anyway," she says, trying to brush it off, "that man over there has been feeding his dog a muffin and then taking a bite for himself."

She nods her head in the direction of the man situated on a bench across the street.

Jamie's eyes widen, knocking his napkin to the floor "accidentally", giving him the chance to turn around and catch a glimpse.

"That's disgusting," he laughs, and she can't help but join him.

They spend the next half hour finishing their food and coffees, making up life stories for the people that walk by—a man with a hat which Jamie says is going to an appointment about getting a hair transplant, a young woman and her two children bumping into a man that Claire claims is going to be their meet cute and they'll be married within the year. It makes both of them laugh and she can't remember the last time she felt this relaxed and happy.

"Do you have to work any today?" she asks as she comes down from a fit of laughter. "I can go spend time with Jenny or get some work done if you do."

"Nah," he huffs, shaking his head. "It just so happened to work out that I was off this weekend, seeing as I had planned tae be in Boston." He winks, adding, "Though running the place, I guess I never really get a day off."

She grins and runs her foot along his calf under the table. Smiling playfully at him, his eyebrows raise, and he gives her a cheeky, one-sided smirk, asking if she had any particular plans for them today.

Giggling, she shakes her head, knowing exactly what he has in mind.

It feels right, sitting here, holding his hand, just being with him again and knowing they're together.

"Hey," he murmurs, pulling her from her thoughts, "I love you."

She can feel her face heat up, but she smiles. "I love you, too."

Her voice has gone up at least two octaves, of that she's sure, but she can't seem to find the will to care when he's looking at her with those cute, puppy dog eyes.

"C'mon," he mutters, picking up their trash, "let's get out o'here."

He takes her hand in his, leading them off of the bakery's outside patio.

They walk around downtown, gazing at items in store windows and talking. After a while, they end up sitting on a bench in front of the large fountain in the center of town. Their eyes soon find the strangers walking by and they resume their game from earlier, laughing all the while.

The hours pass, and the morning sun starts to heat up even more as it grows closer to lunch time. Jamie takes her to a café she'd yet to try, and they pick up sandwiches to go before heading out of town to Fraser's Ridge for a bit.

They greet Ian when they arrive, but Jamie quickly readies Donas, signalling for her to climb on.

"I… don't know about that," she dismisses nervously. "Can't we just take Skye instead?"

"Och," he grunts, "dinna fash, Sassenach. Donas will be gentle wi' me atop him, too."

He reaches out his hand again, and though she's skeptical, she takes it. He helps hoist her up onto the large beast before climbing on in front of her.

Claire wraps her arms around his stomach, cheek pressed against his shoulder as they make their way up to the orchards.

It's spring time, so there's no fruit growing just yet, but Jamie explains to her what each group of trees will be and how the buds are just starting to grow. "They'll start tae grow over the next few weeks, ken," he explains, pointing at a tree, "and then in a few months, in the fall, they'll bloom into their fruits."

She smiles, listening to him explain everything. His voice is so soothing, and she enjoys the feel of it vibrating in his chest against her own; he could be reading her the phone book and she'd listen.

Jamie stops their horse, tying him up to a large tree. He swings his leg over, hoping down and reaching a hand up to help her off. Donas is huge; she's capable of getting off any other horse, but she's thankful for Jamie's grip around her waist as he lowers her to the ground.

"Thank you," she says, smoothing over the wrinkles in her jeans.

He gives her a quick smooch before they work together to unload the satchel strapped to Donas' side.

Jamie takes out the large navy blanket while Claire pulls out the food they'd picked up in town.

She starts spreading the food out while Jamie gives Donas a carrot he'd brought with him from the barn, talking the whole time about the episodes of How I Met Your Mother that they'd each watched without the other.

"I can't believe you got that many episodes ahead of me," she laughs, straightening a corner of the blanket.

Jamie laughs and shrugs. "Ye had tae work more, long surgeries," he reasons. "And the episodes are short! Before ye ken it, ye've watched five episodes."

She chuckles, telling him he's right, before they discuss Lilly and Marshall's wedding and how chaotic it was.

Handing Jamie his boxed sandwich, she settles into her own spot and opens her container.

They'd gotten turkey and cheese sandwiches, an assortment of fruits and a slice of cheesecake to enjoy as dessert. They talk and laugh while eating, feeding each other bites of the dessert. It's so cheesy, and if it was anyone else she'd laugh at how ridiculous they looked. She normally ribs Jamie for how sappy and romantic he is, but out here, alone, she doesn't care.

"It's so beautiful out here," Claire notes, sighing happily as she leans back on her palms. Her head tilts back, the sunshine warming her skin. It's not too bright, the tree is large enough that it gives them the perfect amount of shade, especially with her fair skin, but it still feels nice.

Jamie smiles, leaning back on a bent elbow and popping a grape into his mouth. "I love bein' out here—so quiet," he tells her. "It's as if the rest of the world has disappeared."

She drops from her hands to her back, staring up at the leaves above them, the grass soft beneath the blanket.

Claire can hear the wind dancing across the grass, bugs chirping and moving around in the distance, and she could just about fall asleep right here and now.

"It's like we've been transported back in time," she sighs, almost quietly enough that only she can hear it. "No one around, no traffic sounds or anything."

Jamie grunts his agreement and shifts. She peeks an eye open, watching as he settles beside her. He bends an arm, propping his head up like it's a pillow.

They stay there, their hands finding the other's in the space between their bodies.

She links her fingers with his, and he tugs her a little closer.

Going easily, Claire curls into his chest. She closes her eyes and listens to his heart beat beneath her.

"This is nice," she whispers, patting his chest. Her fingers trail a pattern against the fabric of his shirt, and she can feel his chest rumble with a little laugh when she hits a particular spot near his ribs. "Ticklish?"

She reaches for the spot again, scratching over it, and Jamie chortles, squirming beneath her.

"Stop that!"

Highly amused, she smooths her hand out over his ticklish spot and moves it back to his chest, not wanting this peaceful moment to end. "How have I never discovered that spot before?" she giggles.

Jamie huffs happily, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He bends his head, pressing a kiss to the top of hers. "I dinna ken," he states, "but I'm glad it took ye this long. Less time fer me tae be tortured."

They laugh softly, lapsing into another silence. Jamie's hand that's been resting on her arm starts to move, grazing up and down.

Before long, though, his touches grow more intent, and that hand that was gently caressing her arm moves to cup her bum. He gives it a little pat, and she snickers, shaking her head.

"You love my arse," she notes, moving a bit to give him more access to it.

"Mm," he grunts, "sure do."

Her hands start to wander about as well, and her lips find his. And for the rest of the afternoon, they lose track of time under that apple tree, snogging away like the teenagers they once were.

{***************************}

When they finally pull themselves from the orchard, Jamie leads them back to the barn to stable Donas for the night.

They say goodbye to Ian, who only laughs and points out the grass stuck in Claire's hair.

She blushes, but can't help the giddy laughter that bubbles out of her.

An hour later, they're home and settled for the night. They've both changed into more comfortable clothes—a pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt for him, yoga pants and one of his t-shirts for her—and are now milling around the house.

Jamie is upstairs putting a load of laundry on, so she meanders into the library on the main floor. Cuddling up on the oversized chair they'd had so much fun in the last time she was here, Claire wraps a velour blanket around her legs and leans against the collection of pillows to read Forgotten Secrets.

She started it the last time she was here, almost unable to put the thriller-yet-love-story down. Her eyes are glued to the book, excited to see if Riley solves the mystery of her sister's disappearance or not.

"Laundry's on," Jamie says, coming into the library.

She looks up from her book, smiling softly. "Good," she replies, pulling him down for a kiss. "Thanks for washing mine as well. One less thing I'll have to do when I get home."

"It's nae bother," he assures, patting her leg to silently ask her to make room for him.

He snuggles against her among the many pillows, slipping his glasses on and asking what she's reading. She shows him the title and he smiles. "Oh, that's a good one. It's a series, ye ken?"

"Really?"

"Aye, here's the sequel," he says, reaching for a book on the shelf behind them. "I jus' started it the other day, but I love the concept and how in the first one—"

"—Ah, don't tell me!" she exclaims, giggling as she covers her ears.

Chuckling, Jamie picks up his own book and they spend the next half hour silently reading beside one another, wrapped together under the blanket.

When she finishes the story arc she's on, Claire closes the book, leaning back against the pillow. She turns her head to glance at Jamie, smiling at how handsome he looks, glasses perched on his nose and brows furrowed slightly as he reads. "How's your book?"

He smiles, looking over at her. "Great," he answers, giving her a quick rundown of the mystery unfolding in his novel without giving any spoilers of the first book away.

"Sounds interesting," she says, snuggling up to him. He wraps his arm around her, and she puckers her lips. He chuckles, leaning down to press a kiss to her inviting lips. "Can we bring the first one to bed tonight and you read some of it to me?"

"Of course," he says. "Maybe we can finish it before ye leave tomorrow."

Yawning, she nods. "I'll have to take the sequel with me," she says, giggling at the way his eyes grow wide.

"And jus' what would I read in the meantime?"

She shrugs, lips turning down. "Something else?"

He laughs, and she promises to buy her own copy so that they can discuss it together. Jamie smiles and after a few more minutes of reading, he agrees wholeheartedly when she comments on how relaxing today has been.

"Are ye hungry?"

She nods again, climbing over him to get out of the chair. "Come on," she says with a smile, gesturing toward the doorway. "Let's go see what we can scrounge up for dinner."

He closes his book, tucking it beneath his arm as he stands and follows her to the kitchen to make dinner.

{***********************}

Dinner is a simple affair—spaghetti and garlic toast—and once they've cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes together, Jamie leads them out to the backyard.

"What's all this?" she inquires, looking at him with wide eyes.

The wooden patio has white fairy lights strung up. She's seen the lights before, but never turned them on. It illuminates the backyard beautifully and she spies two chairs adorned with blankets waiting for them.

"You had all of this planned, did you?" she grins, eyeing him in mock-suspicion.

There's a fire pit in the center of his patio, which is now lit, warming her toes. She wraps up in her blanket, pulling her feet up into the seat with her.

Jamie drapes his blanket on his lap, rubbing his hands together and holding them toward the fire.

It's not too terribly cold out now that it's May, but being in the highlands, the wind still has a slight nip to it once the sun goes down.

"I wish we had marshmallows," she says with a chuckle, and Jamie gives her a curious gaze. "For s'mores!" she exclaims.

"Canna say I've e'er had one," he admits, shrugging.

"What!?" she cries, stunned that they aren't a popular treat in Scotland. She runs through a quick explanation, telling him she and Lamb used to make them every summer when they'd go camping. "Even just roasting the marshmallow is delicious," she says. "You have to get it nice and burnt, though, for it to be good."

Laughing, Jamie holds up a finger for her to wait a moment and dashes inside.

Coming out, he holds up a bag of large marshmallows, asking, "I dinna have the graham crackers or chocolate, but will these do?"

"Absolutely," she beams, sitting up in her chair.

Jamie grabs a poker from beside the pit, wiping it off before they take turns roasting their fluffy goodness.

"When I'm in Boston," he says around a mouthful of sticky marshmallow, "ye'll have to show me how tae make a real s'more." She agrees with an excited nod as he adds, "We dinna have graham crackers here, the closest I could get would mebbe be a shortbread cookie, but we can at least try."

She chuckles, holding another marshmallow over the fire and letting it turn black. "No, that's okay," she assures, "but we can definitely make them when you come visit."

After two more marshmallows, Claire closes the bag and rolls the top down, clipping it closed. She places a hand over her stomach, announcing, "I'm so full."

Snickering, Jamie agrees, saying he ate one too many. "But it was worth it."

With a smile, she leans her head back against the chair, letting the fire warm her feet while the breeze cools her face.

Before long, she gets an idea and takes the blankets from the chairs and steps off the patio, Jamie giving her an inquisitive look. "Today was so nice out at the orchard," she shrugs, "Figured we could recreate it here in the backyard."

Claire fluffs out her blanket, smoothing her hands over it before settling onto it and patting the spot next to her.

"Bring your blanket, too."

Smiling, Jamie joins her on the ground and pulls her into his embrace.

They gaze up at the stars for a few moments, the crickets the only accompanying sound surrounding them.

Claire's hand that isn't wedged between them moves up, feeling his heart beneath her palm. She props herself up on her elbow, looking down at Jamie. The starlight and the fairy lights on the patio give him an ethereal glow, and she can't help but lean down, crashing her lips to his.

Her hand cups his jaw and his arm wraps around her waist, pulling her close. She moans into his mouth, grinning into the kiss when his hands move down to cup both of her round cheeks in his palms.

In one swift move, Claire swings her leg over him, straddling his waist. Her hands are on his chest, and she leans in to kiss him again. He meets her halfway, one arm securely looped around her waist to hold her in place, the other splayed out on the blanket to hold himself up.

Sitting in his lap, her legs wrap around him, holding her in place. His hands grip her hips, and she presses a scattering of kisses to his lips, chin, jaw and ear before pulling back.

Claire smiles at him, arms draped over his shoulders. She brings a hand up to run her fingers through his hair, and his eyes roll back and close at the feeling.

She watches him for a moment, observing each and every tiny wrinkle and freckle on his face. She lightly rubs his back, telling him softly, "I love you."

Jamie's eyes open, eyes connecting with hers for the briefest of seconds—whisky on blue with nothing said between them. Then he gives her a beaming smile. "I dinna think I'll ever tire of hearing ye say that." He presses a firm kiss to her lips, adding, "And I love you, mo nighean donn, so verra much." He chuckles a bit and she gives him a questioning tilt of her head.

"What is it?"

"Nah," he breathes, kissing her collarbone. "'Tis just… it feels as if my heart may burst at any moment when I'm wi 'ye."

She laughs lightly, giving his lips a peck. Sliding off of his lap and pulling a piece of hair that had gotten stuck to her lip behind her ear, she jests, "Well, good thing I'm a doctor." She snickers as Jamie rolls his eyes. He lays back down, and she joins him again, snuggling into his chest. She twists so she can fold her arm on his chest and rest her chin there, giving her a better vantage point. "Although, I operate on brains, not hearts."

He snorts, shaking his head. "Ha, ha, ye think ye're sae funny."

"Well you laughed," she shrugs, grinning at him.

They start kissing again, seemingly unable to stop, and they spend the next few minutes letting their hands explore each other's clothed bodies.

Settling down into the crook of his arm, Jamie's warm hand slides beneath her shirt, resting on her lower back.

They grow silent once more, their breathing evening out to match the other's.

"Sassenach?"

"Hm?"

"Ye ken ye're my best friend, aye?"

She tilts her head to look at him, her whisky eyes misting over. She nods and smiles lovingly at him, chin dimpling a bit before she affirms, "You're my best friend, too."

He ghosts a kiss to her forehead, laughing against her skin when she mumbles something about how sappy that was but she loved it. Jamie pulls back, adding, "I'm sae glad we found each other again." She sits up a smidge more so that she can reach his lips, kissing him soundly. They break apart and the corner of Jamie's lips curl just a touch, rolling her onto her back. He climbs atop, kissing her neck, then her lips while her hands land on both sides of his jaw. He pulls back, mumbling, "Let's go inside."

Claire barks out a surprised little laugh. "That… is certainly not what I expected you to say."

He grins sheepishly, giving her a little shrug. "I'd make love to ye right here in the grass all night if ye really wanted to, but I figured ye'd wanna be in my comfy bed tae get a good night's sleep before yer flight tomorrow."

She sighs playfully, rolling her eyes as she presses on his chest to roll him off of her so she can stand. "I suppose you're right," she admits, extending her hand for him to take. She helps hoist him to his feet and they collect the blankets before putting out the fire and heading inside.

{***********************}

Upstairs, Claire steps into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth while Jamie puts the clothes from earlier into the dryer.

When he gets back, she's sitting criss-cross on the bench at the foot of the bed, reading a text from Julia.

She'd sent her daughter a message earlier to check in and let her know things were going fine.

I'll be back tomorrow. My flight gets in at 1am so Joe will come get me so you can sleep.

Julia sends back an eye roll emoji but relents. Fine. I'll see you bright and early Monday morning.

Chuckling, Claire shoots back another message telling Julia how much she loves her and that she'll wake her up when she gets there to say goodnight.

Mom, it'll be like 2am when you get back. I'm positive I'll still be awake.

Not on a school night you won't be, young lady!

Fine, fine… I'll be asleep. Love you.

I love you too, darling. Goodnight. I'll call you in the morning.

Locking her phone, she places it next to her on the bench. She looks up, smiling when she sees Jamie standing at his dresser in front of her. "I didn't even hear you come in," she chuckles.

He reaches for something in the top drawer while asking, "Were you checking in on Julia?"

"Yes," she sighs, telling him how her flight gets in so late, technically Monday morning at one so she won't see Julia until they wake up. "I have Monday off, so luckily I can catch up on some sleep, but I'll get up to see her off to school and then go back to sleep more than likely."

He nods, his hands folded behind his back suspiciously. "What are you up to, mister?"

Grinning, Jamie steps over to her. His hands come from behind his back, and a long string of pearls tumble out of his grasp, dangling from his forefinger.

"Jamie…" she breathes, uncrossing her legs to sit up more, "what's this?"

"I got these fer ye before," he looks down, clearing his throat, "weel, before everything happened." He chuckles nervously, rubbing the back of his neck with the hand not holding the necklace. "I ken ye have another conference comin' up in July and I wanted ye tae have something from me tae wear."

He drapes the necklace around her neck, one of her hands delicately reaching up to run them through her fingers. "Jamie, they're beautiful." She beckons him down to her for a kiss.

He pulls her to her feet, palms resting on her rear. Their lips connect, heating up quickly as he moans into her mouth. Claire fumbles with his elastic waistline and shirt, pushing his sweatpants down while he removes his shirt. He draws her near, a heated kiss being shared, before he makes work on her yoga pants. She steps out of them, taking her underwear with them and pulling her shirt and sports bra off. Jamie makes quick work of his boxers before she steps into his embrace once more, skin on skin, the pearls cold against her naked chest. She goes to remove them as well, but Jamie stops her movement. "No, don't," he rasps, kissing her neck. His hand covers her, drawing it away from the pearls. "Leave them on."

He spins them carefully, settling himself on the bench. Tenderly taking her hand, he summons her closer, and she takes her time climbing onto his lap and straddling his waist. Watching him so closely, Claire feels as if everything is moving in slow motion as she situates herself on top of him.

His hands reach around to hold her steady, fingers toying with the dimples on her lower back. She can feel him grow hard beneath her, and she gives him a devilish smile, watching him intently as she lifts up, taking his cock in her hand and sinking onto his length.

Her eyes close briefly, only to open again so that she can watch him. She rocks her hips slowly, eyes never leaving the other. She's mesmerized by the way he is looking at her—as if she's the only thing to exist in this world—and she feels as if they're unhurriedly moving through a fog, trying to find the other.

Jamie breaks their eye contact and leans down, mouth closing around one of her nipples as she sighs out, head falling back in pleasure. A thrill rolls up her spine at the feeling, and her arms drape over his shoulders, watching as he kisses between her breasts, pearls clinking together as his nose nudges around them to her other nipple. He swirls his tongue around her hardened peak, licking up to her neck. His lips spend some time there, sucking and nipping at her skin as she continues to roll her hips against his hardness.

He moves with her, thrusting in and out of her, his cock hitting her g-spot at the perfect angle in this position. His hands find purchase on her waist, moving with her hips as she rides him slowly, tauntingly, torturing both of them in the most pleasurable way.

It's not long before she's crying out, their tender love making almost bringing tears to her eyes. Claire watches as Jamie finds his release as well, biting his bottom lip and burying his nose into her neck.

They stay there for a few moments, both catching their breath and gaining function of their jelly-limbed bodies once again. They share a succession of little kisses, Claire's hand tangling in his red curls and holding his head in place against her chest.

She stands, reaching a hand out for him to take. He does, then walks them in a slow sort of dance to the bed, their kisses slow and lazy.

Jamie gracefully reaches up, removing the necklace and setting it on his bedside table. "Dinna want ye tae choke, no matter how sexy ye look with nothin' on but that necklace."

She giggles breathlessly, feeling drunk on the feel of him. She gives him a slow kiss, gently pushing on his chest, causing him to sink onto the mattress.

They've been building each other up all day—a whole afternoon and evening of foreplay from their roaming hands at the orchard, to their rendezvous in the backyard an hour ago. She's still worked up, and so is he.

Jamie grips her hips, flipping them so she's on her back, looking up at him. His eyes are giving her that wanton gaze they so often do, and she bites her lip, knowing he's just as ready as she is already.

Reaching between them, she takes him in her hand, massaging his balls and telling him in a rasping tone, "I want you, Jamie."

Growling, he leans in, pressing a firm kiss to her lips. He moves her hand off of his balls, pinning it beneath his palm on the mattress beside her head.

She smiles seductively, loving the feel of him holding her arm down in this vice-like grip. He's already hard from her touch and before long, she's writhing beneath his weight, mewling against his lips as his cock presses into her just right. She tightens around him, both of them crying out as they ride out their bliss, coming within seconds of each other.

As their breathing settles back into a normal rhythm, they situate themselves, snuggling together on the bed.

"I dinna want ye tae leave tomorrow, mo nighean donn," he whispers, kissing the top of her head that's tucked beneath his chin, "but I ken ye have tae get back, ye canna stay forever."

She nods, trying not to cry. She's so torn, wanting to be home with her daughter but not wanting to leave this happiness she has with Jamie. "I know," she murmurs, kissing his pec and trying to ignore the way her brain is shouting at her that she could stay forever once Julia is at college; she just has to work up the courage to actually listen to her own mind.

She pats his chest, smiling sympathetically at him. "We still have all of tomorrow, though, so let's make the most of it, alright?"

"Aye," Jamie agrees, "ye're right. And I'll be there in a week fer her graduation."

With one more kiss, they settle for a while. It's just before ten, still rather early, so Jamie turns the television on, letting the next episode of How I Met Your Mother mindlessly play until Claire tells him with a sheepish little grin that she's hungry.

Laughing, they order Chinese food—the only thing open at this hour that has a cheap delivery fee—and throw on pajamas while they wait.

Eating their lo mein in bed while the remainder of Ted and Robin's breakup plays out on the screen, Claire thinks this is exactly the type of night she wants for the rest of her life.

{****************************}

I hope you enjoyed this first part! The next chapter will be up Monday or Tuesday. Please let me know what you thought in the meantime!

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven:

Sunday finds them waking early, neither having slept well. Jamie had tossed and turned as much as she normally does, causing them to wake up periodically throughout the night.

This morning, however, Claire is determined not to end this trip on a sour note.

Their Chinese to-go boxes are still on the nightstand, chopsticks inside. She smiles at the memory, knowing her stomach will not be happy with her today for eating so much sodium that late at night.

She can't seem to find it in her to care when Jamie emerges from the bathroom, hand over his stomach and a pained expression on his face. "What's wrong?" she asks in alarm, sitting up on her knees.

"Nay, it's nothin'," he waves her off, but she sees that sneaky, one-sided smirk of his blooming on his lips. "Nothin' my doctor canna fix."

She barks out a laugh, rolling her eyes playfully as she remembers promising him they'd play out his doctor-patient fantasy. "You scared me, Jamie," she scolds lovingly, pulling him to her as she pretends to check his vitals.

He stands between her parted thighs as her hands graze over his skin, pressing on his neck to feel his pulse, using the back of her hand on his forehead to check for a temperature, leaning her head against his chest to listen to his heart. "Well, Mr. Fraser, I think it's just a bit of heartburn."

She giggles as he climbs onto the bed with her, his body pressing against hers.

He complains of different ailments—there's the ache in his stomach that apparently only her body heat can cure, his throat sore but her lips pressed against them seem to do the trick, there's a sudden ear infection that seems to ease when her teeth nibble on the lobe. He finds her name on his lips and his release in her mouth as she gives him a thorough pelvic examination after he reported a pain down below.

She kisses her way up his body, and he leans back and grasps her hips as she straddles his waist.

Her wet core presses against his skin, and he shivers, maneuvering them so that she can slide onto his cock, grinning the whole time as he asks his doctor about more aches and pains. And for the next hour, Dr. Beauchamp fixes each and every complaint from her patient that she can find.

After she's done doctoring for the day, they shower together and head downstairs. They decide to stay home instead of going anywhere ahead of her flight tonight.

It's just after ten, so they make a quick brunch of pancakes and orange juice, talking about his visit to the states in a week.

"Her graduation is this Saturday," she reminds him, "You're flying in on Friday, right?"

"Aye," he smiles, reaching over to take her hand. He presses a kiss to her knuckles, saying, "And ye already took that Friday off tae get things ready for her graduation party, dinna fash."

She sighs, knowing he's right. She's nervous, though, and wants to make a good impression on him. He's never been to Boston, let alone her home. She wants it to look nice, she wants to have plenty of things planned for them to do, but at the same time she wants Julia's party to be perfect for their friends and family that are coming. She comes before anything else.

"Lamb will be there," Claire tells him. "He's so excited to see you again."

Jamie beams, swallowing his bite of pancake. "Oh, I canna wait to see the old coot!"

She laughs, shaking her head and remembering how well Jamie and her uncle got along back then; she can only imagine what the two of them will be like now. "He'll be coming off of a dig in Saudi Arabia, so I'm sure he'll have plenty of stories to tell."

He nods, both growing quiet as they finish their food.

Claire checks her phone; it's only seven at home, so she knows Julia won't be up yet.

She checks in with Joe, though, asking how things have been this weekend.

Stop worrying, LJ. She was at Lizzie's last night for that slumber party so I'm sure she'll be sleeping until at least noon. I told her to call me when she was ready to come home since her car is still in the shop.

Claire smiles, once again thankful for such an amazing best friend.

Thanks, Joe. I'll take her to get her car on Monday after school. Lizzie can pick her up, don't worry about going today. They're only open until noon anyway.

Sounds good. Call me when you're at the airport, and send me your flight number so I can be there on time to get you.

She thanks him again, apologizing that it'll be so late, even though coming here was his idea so she knows deep down that Joe doesn't mind in the slightest.

Her phone pings again before she can put it away. It's Joe again, not so subtly reminding her of the hospitals in Scotland he thinks are best.

Don't forget the newest chief is getting announced within the next week. Lots of thinking you've got to do… those brochures are calling out to you. Remember I think Raigmore is the best! ;)

Rolling her eyes, and ignoring the pit in her stomach at the mention of the chief of surgery position, she kindly informs him that he's an ass and that she loves him.

I'll see you tonight, Joe. Thanks

Smiling, she sets her phone down, picking up her orange juice. She looks over, chuckling when she sees Jamie is already looking at her. "Something on your mind, my love?"

He smiles, eyes going soft and serious. Jamie takes her hand, and her brows furrow, nervous for what's about to come out of his mouth.

"What is it, Jamie?"

He shakes his head, smiling again. "It's just…" he trails off, laughing to himself like he's embarrassed to say whatever it is he has to say.

"Tell me." It's times like these that she wishes she wasn't the only one with a glass face.

"I dinna want ye tae laugh at me because I ken what's on my mind is verra cheesy, even by my standards," he laughs, "and ye always make fun of how sappy I am."

She snorts, but tries to turn her face serious. "I won't laugh, I promise."

Sighing, Jamie squeezes her hand, bringing it up to place a soft kiss to her palm. "It's just… yer face… is my heart, Sassenach, and the love of you is my soul. I dinna ken how else to explain how deep my love is fer ye."

She couldn't laugh even if she wanted to, too overwhelmed with love for this man before her. She pokes fun at him, sure, but she can't deny that all his romantic expressions of love warm her soul and make her feel as if she's the most special woman alive. Claire pushes back her chair, standing and moving to him.

He sits back, and she climbs into his lap, legs draping over his. She wraps her arms around his shoulders, pressing an unhurried kiss to his lips. "Jamie," she breathes, rubbing her nose against his. "The way I feel for you… it's like nothing I've ever experienced before."

He leans his forehead against hers, both of them simply breathing the other in, afraid to burst the bubble of bliss surrounding them.

{*************************}

That afternoon, once she's all packed and ready to go, they settle onto the couch to watch some telly before it's time to head out. They have about an hour before they need to leave to get her there on time.

She's on the opposite side of the couch from him, feet in his lap. His eyes are fixated on the television, watching as the family that's been searching for the perfect house chooses the one that is, predictably, over budget. He's massaging her feet, and she's trying her very hardest to stay awake. It's so relaxing, but she doesn't want to fall asleep and miss her last few moments with him.

Claire is stuck in her own mind as Jamie's hand mindlessly rubs up and down her calf that's thrown over his lap.

Her mind is racing with all different thoughts. She's thinking about Julia and how she'd encouraged Claire to move to Scotland, saying how romantic it would be. Her daughter had even gone as far as texting her yesterday to remind her she wanted her mother to be happy, and once again saying how she'd be more than happy to come visit Scotland several times a year.

Claire smiles at the thought, imagining her and Jamie showing Julia around, taking her to the little town just outside of Lallybroch. They could get scones and shop around before heading out of town to show her Fraser's Ridge. She'd love the horses, and would love to help pick apples come fall. She'd bring a few home and show off her baking skills by making Claire and Jamie an apple pie, which Claire just knows Jamie would assist in making. Julia and Fergus could meet, and she knows good and well they'd instantly get along to gang up on their parents and make fun of them.

It would be nice—this little fantasy world she'd just created feels so perfect, so right...

But could she do it? Could she actually give up everything—her job, her home, everything she's known for decades—to be with him? Sure, it's been fun to fantasize about, fun to laugh with Joe as he shoved pamphlet after pamphlet in her face, but to actually, seriously do it? The thought should terrify her, it would be a huge change, it would uproot her entire life and turn it upside down, but...

She looks over at Jamie, his blue eyes shining as the television reflects on them, his hands still kneading into the arches of her feet.

He's smiling at whatever is on the screen—she hasn't been paying attention, too lost in her own musings—and she grins watching him. He's so content, and being here with him, having a casual afternoon on the couch, feels… like home. All the time she's spent here lately, especially this weekend, has felt so right, so perfect, she can't even truly explain it or comprehend it. She is well aware that living here wouldn't always be sunshine and rainbows; there would be arguments, small spats that any couple would have, and they'd have to go to work and do the day-to-day things together.

She thinks back to her two weeks here and how they'd settled into a bit of a routine with her staying home to work while Jamie was at the Ridge. It would be similar to that, she supposes, and it really wasn't all the bad. It was great, in fact. It's insane, but she loves Jamie, always has, and a life with him, no matter where it is, would be wonderful.

Claire bites her bottom lip and pulls her feet back, leaning in and reaching over to rub the back of her hand against his scruffy jawline.

It draws his attention, and he smiles over at her, capturing her hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.

"What is it, Sassenach? I can hear yer thoughts racing all the way over here."

She huffs out a small laugh, saying, "Just thinking…"

"Aye, and that wee glass face o' yers tells me it's something serious."

Jamie reaches for the remote, turning the volume down. He turns to look at her and she sits up, criss crossing her legs on the couch. He gives her a look that says Go on… and she inhales sharply, letting it out slowly, carefully choosing her words.

With a fresh wave of determination, she tells him confidently, "I want to do it."

Jamie looks at her as if he doesn't understand, and she chuckles to herself. "I want to move to Scotland, Jamie. I want to be with you."

She watches as his blue orbs fill with tears, and her heart aches at the amount of love she feels for him. She swallows thickly, blinking away her own set of tears as Jamie reaches over, taking her hand in his.

"Are… are ye sure?"

Her face breaks out into a beaming smile when she states, "Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

She unhooks her legs, sliding over to him on the couch and wrapping her arms around his neck. She pulls him in for a kiss, and she can feel a tear escape his eyes, landing on her cheek.

Jamie pulls back, shaking his head. "Are ye sure? I only want ye tae do it if ye're one hundred percent absolutely sure." He licks his lips excitedly. "Mebbe go home and think this through, talk wi' Julia about what it would really, actually look like fer the two o'ye if ye moved here. Dinna make anything official yet, not wi'out talking wi' her…" He sighs, smiling. "I would love nothin' more than fer ye tae live here, but Julia should have a say in it all, ye ken?"

He's rambling now, but Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, she loves this man so damn much.

He's not pressuring her one way or the other, just wants her to make a clear-headed decision. And his consideration for Julia and her feelings on the situation warms her to the backbone.

Little does he know, Julia is the captain of the Claire Moving to Scotland ship; it was her daughter (and Joe) who even made her feel like this was possible.

She knows what she wants, but for the sake of not starting another argument, she agrees with a nod of her head. "Alright," she smiles, knowing her mind is already made up, "I'll talk to Julia more when I get home."

"Good." He presses his lips to hers soundly, drawing a stunned moan from her. She reaches up, cupping his jaw and pulling back to look deeply into his eyes.

Time is running out, they have to leave within the next forty-five minutes, but she just wants to look at him. He makes her feel giddy, a feeling she hasn't had since, well, since him twenty years ago. She feels so juvenile, but the way she feels brings a joy to her life she hasn't had in a very long time. Of course, she's been more than happy with Julia, but love for a child and love for a man are two completely different playing fields.

She'd do anything for Julia, she'd give up her own happiness with Jamie if her daughter didn't want her to go. But, she thinks with a smile, that isn't the case.

Settling back against his chest, she grins inwardly, enjoying the feel of his arms wrapped around her for the last bit of time they have left. She bites her lip, trying not to smile too much as she thinks about what life would be like here—quiet nights with Jamie, watching television or cooking together. She knows it's the life she's always dreamed of, but now it's a possibility. An adventure she's excited to take as long as Jamie is by her side for all of it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve:

The next two weeks go by quickly for Claire, much to her chagrin. She wanted to soak up every last minute she could with Julia before her graduation, but time seemed to have other plans.

Julia graduated last week, and though Jamie couldn't make it, Claire had had a wonderful time entertaining friends and family.

He wanted to come, of course, but business had gotten crazy in the days following her departure. One of the horses had gotten sick, there was an issue at the new still, and to top it all off, Ian and Jenny's eldest son's wife had gone into early labor, causing the new grandparents to rush out of town at the last minute to be there for their child, leaving Jamie in charge by himself. It had all been a perfect storm of events, and just didn't work out, no matter how hard he tried to still make it. He'd been crushed, but Claire assured him it was fine.

In the two weeks that she's been home, though, a lot has happened for her as well.

Dr. Rawlings officially announced the newest chief of surgery last Thursday. Louise had been selected, and Claire was beyond thrilled for her friend. It made all the decisions swarming in her mind finally settle, and her choice had officially been made.

She hadn't told Jamie yet of Louise's promotion—it was only a week ago now that she'd been named—and Claire had been working tirelessly applying for jobs near Inverness. She wanted to tell Jamie everything when he got here, so they could be together when she told him.

"I still jus feel sae guilty," Jamie says, interrupting Claire's musings. She smiles into the phone, once again telling him it is fine.

"Jamie, I'm on the way to the airport to get you. You're here, relax." She chuckles, appreciating how much he had wanted to be here for Julia.

It's the first week of June now, and it just so happens to be Julia's eighteenth birthday, so Jamie was at least excited to be in town for that.

"I have a surprise for you, too."

"Ye do?" he asks, "Sassenach, ye didna have tae do that."

Grinning, she looks over at her surprise, then focuses back on her phone call. "I'm parking now, so I'll be at baggage claim by the time you get there."

They say their goodbyes, or really, their see you in a few minutes, and hang up.

She's excited—excited to see him, excited to show him Boston, and especially excited to tell him the good news she just found out yesterday.

"You ready?" she asks Lamb, beaming at her uncle as they cross from the parking lot into the airport.

He'd flown in from Saudi Arabia a few days before Julia's graduation and has been here ever since. Having her uncle around has been lovely, and he wanted to stay and celebrate Julia's big birthday before heading back to his home in New York.

She was glad for it, too, because Jamie had been so thrilled when she told him Lamb was coming for the graduation, and he'd been disappointed when he had to change his flight for a week later, thinking he'd miss seeing Lamb.

Uncle Lamb takes her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, "I'm ready, little love. Let's go get your man."

She laughs at the way he bounces his eyebrows, and she rolls her eyes, swatting at his chest.

The man may be in his mid-sixties by now, but he's just as spry as ever, so she can't help but laugh when he tells her she doesn't need to hold onto his arm like he's some old man.

They step into the main building, people bustling to and fro, and Claire searches around the room.

Lamb leads her closer to where the Delta carousels are located, and he's the first to spot him. "There's the big ginger," he exclaims, pointing a knobbly finger to the right.

Claire laughs, waving Jamie over when he spots her.

His eyes light up and he jogs over, eyes connecting with Lamb and then Claire. "Here's your surprise!" she tells him happily, laughing as Jamie places his bag down, collecting her into his arms in a warm embrace.

He pulls back so quickly that she barely has time to blink, an innocent, shy look upon his face when he slides his eyes over to Lamb. He's nervous, she can tell, but god, he looks adorable all worried about how her uncle will feel about him after how he treated Claire twenty years ago.

"Hi, Lamb," Jamie says, smiling which looks more like a grimace.

Lamb stands there, hands in his pockets, a serious look on his face. His lips pursed, giving Jamie a stern look.

Jamie glances at Claire, who shrugs, then back to Lamb. The old man's eyes light up as he starts laughing. "I'm just taking the piss out of you, boy!" he whoops, grabbing Jamie by the shoulders and bringing him in for a hug. "It's great to see you again!"

She watches as Jamie's shoulders relax and his arms move to wrap around Lamb. Her uncle gives her a wink over Jamie's shoulder which makes her laugh.

Clapping him on the back, Jamie tells Uncle Lamb, "It's great tae see you too, man. It's been too long!"

He receives a back pat in return before Lamb bends down to pick up Jamie's bag. "Och, ye dinna have tae do that," Jamie tells him, smiling, "just give me a moment tae kiss my girlfriend and then I can get it." He tries to wink at Lamb, but it comes out more as an owl-like blink. Lamb smirks and nods, gesturing for Jamie to continue.

Rolling her eyes, Claire welcomes him into her arms again, and Jamie places a gentle kiss to her lips, then her curly hair. She knows he's restraining himself out of respect for Lamb, and she finds it winsomely charming, but she can't wait until they're alone later to get a real kiss from him.

Jamie pulls back, stepping over to take his bag from Lamb and thanking him.

"Alright, you two, let's get out of here," she announces, smiling as she turns to lead the way back to the car.

As they make their way out, Claire listens to the men behind her and giggles to herself as Lamb tells Jamie, "You've grown into quite the large man, though I didn't expect anything less as big as you were back then."

It was nice to see the two men together again. Lamb had of course been angry with Jamie for a while, but over time Jamie had become just another boyfriend of hers in his mind, though always his favorite one. Recently, when she began telling her uncle of Jamie and how they'd found one another again and how happy she was—that had earned him some brownie points with her uncle. He'd been thrilled, saying he always knew there was something special about him.

Once everything is loaded, Lamb climbs into the driver's seat of her Range Rover. Claire tells Jamie to take the front, and she steps up into the back seat, smiling the whole time as she listens to her two favorite men chat and catch up.

Jamie asks how he liked the Nessie magnet he and Claire had picked out for him, and her uncle laughs, telling him that it was the perfect addition to his collection.

Smiling, Jamie looks over his shoulder at Claire, giving her a sweet little grin before turning back to the front. "I brought some goodies, too," he tells them both. "Jenny and her crew just finished a new batch o' apple donuts and jams, so I brought ye a few jars as recompense for missing the graduation." He grins. "Lamb, you're welcome tae take one wi' ye," Jamie says, asking, "How long are ye in town for?"

"Agh," he scoffs, waving a dismissive hand, "just tonight, I'm afraid. I'll be leaving just before dinner to catch my train." He glances at Claire in the rearview mirror, smiling and adding, "I've been here for over a week now, since before the graduation, so I think I've worn out my welcome."

"You could never do that, Lamb," she assures, rolling her eyes with a smile.

Jamie turns his head to look at her from the front, laughing when Lamb says, "Maybe not, but I figured I'd see my girl one last time, give her her birthday present, then let you two lovebirds have some time alone."

Her face grows hot, feeling like a teenager all over again. "Lamb!"

"What?" he laughs, "I was always going to leave today anyway; I just stayed a little longer to see this one over here."

She grins, closing her eyes as she relaxes her head against the headrest. The movement of the car lulls her into a half awake-half asleep state, and she stays quiet, listening as Lamb asks Jamie about his business.

"Ah, it's flourishing tae be sure," he tells her uncle. "I own the business with my sister and her husband. We have the farm, ye ken, where we grow and make most of our products."

"What do you make?"

"All sorts of things," Jamie tells him. "Jenny, my sister, has a team. They make all the edible products—jams, jellies, bread, donuts, cider—ye name it, and Jen's team more than likely makes it."

He goes on, explaining that they have a business partner, John Grey, now that the Ridge has grown so much and become so popular in Scotland. "He and my godfather, Murtagh, are working closely in Paris trying tae secure us a spot where we could open a store tae sell our products exclusively. London is in the works, too."

"That's amazing, my boy!" Lamb proclaims, "Do you have a store in Scotland? That's how you knew it would do so well elsewhere?"

"Aye, aye," she hears Jamie say, and she can just imagine the shy grin plastered on his face. He tells Lamb how Jenny opened a store in Inverness a few years ago, and it became so popular that they opened one in Edinburgh as well.

"Which works out for you," Claire interjects with a grin. "Kill two birds with one stone."

Jamie laughs, and Lamb must give him a confused look because he says, "My son goes tae University in Edinburgh, so when it's my turn tae check in on that location, I get tae see him."

"That's lovely," Lamb says, continuing to ask Jamie more about his life.

They speak of Fergus and his adoption eight years ago, more about his business and the whisky still he just purchased land for which piques her uncle's interest. Jamie tells him of how the still is going, how they've already created one flavor (it was shit, but they still did it), and Lamb tells him of his latest finds in Saudi Arabia.

Jamie was always fascinated by his tales when they were kids, so she knows he's thoroughly enjoying himself up there hearing all about it.

"I did bring some whisky, though," he says when there's a lull in the conversation. "Better than anything we've been able to create just yet, ken, but I figured I couldna come from Scotland and no' bring the finest whisky around." She can hear the smile in his voice even with her eyes closed and it makes her smile grow wider. "We can get ye a wee nip before the train tonight, Lamb."

The men laugh together and continue their conversation, and with a content sigh, Claire opens her eyes, watching the trees and buildings go by as they make their way to her neighborhood.

{*******************************}

After lunch, and one too many birthday gifts for Julia—on top of all the graduation gifts Lamb had already given her—Claire, Jamie, and Julia all load up to drop Uncle Lamb off at the train station.

Claire hugs Lamb, swallowing thickly as she says goodbye. He pats her on the shoulder, then hugs Julia.

She smiles as she watches her uncle hug Jamie, warning him not to break her heart this time. Claire rolls her eyes—unsure if she was even supposed to hear it—but she's glad all the same when Jamie pulls back, peeking at her over Lamb's shoulder before he looks into the older man's eyes, promising, "Never again."

After a dozen more kisses and hugs, and a few tears, they load back up into the car and head home.

Jamie had only seen the downstairs of her house briefly, mainly sitting in the kitchen with Lamb before they all rushed to the train station. So now that they are back home and settled, Claire decides he needs a proper tour.

Julia groans under her breath, and Claire looks at her, amused. "You don't want to help give Jamie a tour?"

The teenager grimaces, glancing over at Jamie. "I like you, Jamie, but… I know what my house looks like."

Jamie laughs, nodding and saying he understands before Julia takes out her phone and dashes up the stairs to her room.

Giving Claire a bemused smile, Jamie shrugs as if to say, teenagers. "Show me around, Sassenach."

With that, she bumps her hip to his, motioning for him to follow her.

"Well, as you know, this is the kitchen and living room," she chuckles, motioning around to her large open floor plan that he had already seen.

Her house is so different from Jamie's. While their houses are both not-so-modestly sized, the styles are on each end of the spectrum. Hers is all white and light gray, open and with lots of windows; his is a closed floor plan, darker gray hues, but still plenty of beautiful light from all his windows. She liked them both, actually kind of liked his kitchen and living room not being open like hers—it cut down on the heat from the ovens warming the living room too much.

She takes his hand, leading him to the large window in the kitchen, showing him her garden and a swing she's had hanging from the oversized tree since Julia was a toddler.

Once the downstairs is done, he follows her up the large staircase, padding down the gray-wooden hallway to the first bedroom. "This is my office," she states, pushing the door open.

It's a simple affair, really—light gray walls, white and gold accents in the furniture, a vase of flowers Jamie had sent her last week on her desk, and bookshelves lined with medical studies.

"And this," she continues, turning them around and out of the door, "is the bathroom." She opens the door, revealing a large guest bath complete with a double sink, shower and tub combo, and paintings that Julia had drawn in grade school framed on the walls.

"How bonny," he says, leaning closer to look at the sloppily drawn dog painted onto the canvas.

Smiling, she steps out of the bathroom, signaling to the shut door next to her office. "That," she grins, "is obviously the teenager's room."

"The closed door with music playing was a dead give away," he jests.

Laughing, she nods, saying she'll be more social come dinner time when, "She has an excuse to leave that room."

Jamie chuckles, saying he remembers those days all too well. "It's crazy how much changes just from eighteen to twenty-one."

"I don't know if I'm ready," she admits, smiling as she walks him to the end of the hall.

There's two bedrooms, one across from the other. "This one is the guest room," she says, pointing to the room decorated in grays and blues, the sheets stripped since Lamb had been sleeping there, "and this is my room."

She opens the door, revealing the largest of the bedrooms. There's a large master bath and walk-in closet, which Jamie jokes is filled to the brim. Her furniture is a distressed light gray, almost beige from some angles. Her bed is covered in plush pillows, and her light blue pintuck comforter is thick and full.

"Christ, Sassenach," he says, blue eyes wide. "It's like a magazine in here."

She laughs, but shakes her head. "I just like for things to be light and clean. Don't act like your house doesn't look exactly the same."

"Aye," he chuckles, "it does. Just a wee bit darker of a color scheme. Manly, ye ken, with the dark gray and navy." He winks and his lip curls up on the side as he steps over to peck a kiss to her lips. "It's bonny, Claire, really."

She walks into the conjoined bathroom, chuckling as Jamie's jaw drops. The shower has a light gray herringbone pattern tile, complete with white tiles on the wall and a bench large enough for the two of them.

"Ye ken we will be usin' that bench at some point during my trip, aye?"

Claire laughs, but her insides quiver at the thought, wanting to strip right there and do just that.

Jamie steps closer, a coy smile on his face as he leans in, pressing a sound kiss to her lips.

Inhaling deeply, she lets out a shaky breath, trying to cover it with a laugh. "Perhaps we will," she says cooly, leaving the bathroom and looking around her room.

"Where is your s—" Smiling, she tells him that Lamb had, amusingly, put Jamie's suitcase in the guest room, so he could go retrieve it while she turned the washer on for the sheets.

"Aye, o'course," he chuckles, stepping across the hall.

She follows behind, turning to the left to go into the laundry room.

They work in companionable silence for a while, Claire folding her previous load of clothes and straightening up while Jamie unpacks. He takes out the dress pants he'd brought in case they went anywhere nice and hangs them in her closet with her permission, while she sits in one of her armchairs, watching him move about her room as if he's always been there.

The washer goes off, so she stands, finishing up the laundry and asking Jamie what he wants for dinner.

"I suppose the birthday girl should decide," he answers, coming out of her room and joining her in the hallway.

Her heart does a little pitter-patter at how easily he considers Julia, but she just smiles, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him close. She presses her lips to his, saying against his mouth, "You're right," before sealing it with a kiss.

They stand there outside her room snogging, their kisses growing heated as Jamie moans into her mouth. "I'm glad I finally have you all to myself," she whispers, glancing down the hallway to Julia's room. Her music is still playing, so Claire knows they're safe to keep kissing, but just in case…

Giggling, Claire takes Jamie's hand, tugging him into her bedroom and closing the door.

She plops onto her bed, feet dangling off as she gives him a seductive, come hither look, reaching for his belt loop to pull him closer.

He stumbles a step, moving to stand between her legs. "Sassenach!" he gasps, "Yer bairn is down the hall!"

Claire laughs, pulling him down for another kiss. "And she'll be here the whole time you are." She teases him, nibbling just below his ear. She blows on the patch of skin, causing goosebumps to cover his skin, before she asks huskily in his ear, "Did you expect not to have sex for the next two weeks?"

She pulls gently on his shoulder, urging him to climb on top of her. He groans, conceding, "Nae, I didna think that. It's okay, though? We can wait til she's at Lizzie's later if ye want."

"I don't want," she rasps, lying back as Jamie moves to hover above her. "Lock the door."

He kisses his way down her clothed stomach, laughing breathlessly as he rushes to the door, locking it, and coming back to her faster than she can blink.

With a quiet nervousness, Jamie's lips find hers, then move to her jaw and neck. Before long, they're naked from the waist down and panting together, bodies writhing against the other and coming as Jamie holds his hand over Claire's mouth.

"She really will hear us if I let ye make yer normal wee noises."

Giggling, she shakes her head, spending the next few minutes wrapped in Jamie's arms, collecting herself and coming down from her orgasm before they need to get clean, get dressed, and get ready to celebrate her daughter's birthday.

{**************************}

Two hours later, Claire and Jamie are in the kitchen, Jamie smiling brightly when Julia joins them.

"Nice of you to bless us with your presence," Claire jokes.

"Mom," the teenager rolls her eyes, "I figured you two didn't want me around; I was trying to be considerate."

Claire's face heats, and as she looks at Jamie, she can see his cheeks and ears are turning as bright as his hair. She chuckles nervously, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Don't be silly, of course we want you around. I want you and Jamie to get to know each other."

Julia smirks, walking to the fridge to grab a bottle of water. Claire inhales deeply, not ready for her daughter to be grown enough to allude to the fact that she knows her mother has sex. Absolutely not.

"Sae, what would ye like for dinner, lass?" Jamie asks, breaking the awkwardness in the room. She knows he's nervous, bless him, it's the first time he's seen Julia in person and interacted with her for more than a few minutes over FaceTime, and earlier he had the buffer of Uncle Lamb. But he's doing great, and she loves how adorable he looks trying to impress her daughter.

Julia shrugs, peering into the refrigerator. "I dunno," she mumbles, "Mom and I bought stuff to make chicken parm tonight, but if you wanna order something, get the real Boston experience, we can."

Jamie smiles, shaking his head. "Nae, lass, it's yer birthday. If ye want chicken parmesan, then that's what we'll have, aye?" He looks to Claire and she gives him a reassuring smile. "Besides," he says, looking back to Julia. "I'll be here for two weeks, plenty o'time to try all the food Boston has tae offer. But are ye sure ye wanna cook on yer birthday?" he asks. There's a gleam in his eye when he finishes with, "I ken yer mam isna the best chef in the world, but I can help ye if ye want."

Julia chortles, her eyes lighting up with excitement. "That would be great!"

"My cooking is not that bad," she defends, "I fed you for fourteen years and kept you alive and healthy before you started helping me in the kitchen a few years ago."

The teen giggles, patting her mom's hand as they stand at the counter together. "I know, I know," she says, "you're really not a bad cook, I just like to poke fun at ya… plus I just add some extra… pizazz to the dishes!" She shimmies her shoulders, laughing as Claire rolls her eyes.

Looking over, she sees Jamie watching them with a fond smile on his face. He smiles back, then stands, moving from his barstool to come around the island to where they are. "So," he says, kissing Claire's cheek. His hand squeezes her shoulder as he bargains, "Why don't ye go finish up that laundry from earlier, and Julia and I will get dinner started?"

"Are you sure? I can help."

The other two glance at each other, sharing a little grin they both are trying to hide. "We're sure," Julia tells her, ushering her out of the kitchen. "We'll be here when you get done."

"Alright…" She gives Jamie one last glance to make sure, but he's already huddled at the counter with Julia looking up the recipe they want to use like two peas in a pod.

Smiling to herself, she makes her way upstairs. She throws a load of her and Julia's clothes in the wash, moving the guest bed's sheets into the dryer. There's still a hamper full of clean clothes she'd washed the other day before work but hadn't gotten around to folding them.

She hauls the hamper to her room, spending the next thirty minutes folding her laundry, checking her phone and relaxing on her bed until she hears laughter from the kitchen that draws her back downstairs.

The sight before her warms her heart. There is flour and breadcrumbs on the counter, some whisked egg that's spilled out of the bowl, but she doesn't care as she watches Jamie cleaning everything up, telling Julia, "Yer mam'll kill me if she sees this mess."

Julia just laughs, leaning into his shoulder like two partners in crime and tells him quietly, "She'd kill me too! I'll finish the chicken while you do that." She nods toward the mess on the counter and Jamie nods in agreement, sweeping breadcrumbs into his palm and tossing them into the garbage.

Claire leans her shoulder against the wide, thick column that stands in the middle of the house to separate the spaces, watching the two with a little smile on her face.

Jamie washes his hands, draining the noodles and pouring the sauce onto them. Julia uses the spatula to pull out one chicken breast at a time, plopping them into the individual bowls on top of their noodles. "Shit, the cheese!" Julia exclaims, spinning to open the fridge. "The chicken will still be hot enough to melt it."

"Aye, aye, ye're right," Jamie tells her, scrambling to take the slices from Julia's hands and get them on the chicken in time.

Snickering, Claire finally makes her presence known. "Something smells delicious."

They both jump and look up at the same time, wide eyed. "Hey, Mom! We were just finishing up."

Claire smiles, stepping into the kitchen. Julia takes two of the bowls to the table, asking Jamie to grab the other. "Sure, lass."

Before he can leave, Claire puts a hand on his stomach, nodding her head down to his attire. "Nice apron," she teases, patting his belly over the words that reads No bitchin' in the kitchen.

It was a gag gift from Louise two years ago at their annual white elephant Christmas party, but she and Julia had laughed so hard about it when she got home that she kept it tucked away in the pantry.

"Julia grabbed it for me," he defends, puffing out his chest. "I think it suits me nicely, very braw."

Chuckling, she kisses his cheek and takes the third bowl from his hands. "I'll get this, you grab the salad."

"Aye."

Dinner is wonderful—food and company alike—and before Julia leaves for Lizzie's, Claire wants to make sure they get cake and presents in.

They work together to clean the kitchen, Jamie telling Julia to relax at the table. "It's yer birthday, ye dinna need to fash yerself with cleaning everything up, especially 'cause ye cooked!"

"Works for me!" the teenager agrees easily, grabbing her phone and sitting back at the table.

Together, Jamie and Claire clean the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and wiping down the counters before she places the leftover spaghetti noodles in a container and stores them in the fridge.

Turning to face Jamie and Julia over at the table, she calls out, "Who wants cake?"

{***************************}

They enjoy marble cake with vanilla ice cream, singing to Julia despite her protests that they didn't need to.

The three of them sit around the table, bellies full, watching as Julia opens another gift from Joe.

"He dropped it off before his shift earlier today," Claire tells her, handing over the small bag.

Julia smiles, pulling out the tissue paper to reveal a stack of gift cards—Bath and Body Works, H&M, a Visa gift card, and a few for different restaurants that they know are near Harvard's campus. "Woah," she exclaims, "this is awesome!"

Jamie reaches over, taking Claire's hand in his and she smiles at him. She caresses her thumb over his skin absentmindedly, watching Julia flip through her gift cards and take out her phone to text Joe.

"There's one more gift," Jamie says, sliding a small wrapped box across the table. "Just a little something."

"Thanks, Jamie!" Julia exclaims, ripping at the paper.

It's a pair of gold earrings in the shape of little trowels, and Julia chuckles, holding them up.

"I ken the archeologist inside o' ye might find these amusing but nice enough tae still wear."

"Definitely," she laughs, handing them to Claire to examine.

Julia then pulls out a small certificate, reading the top of it aloud. "The Coop." She looks up, eyes wide. "This is the bookstore on campus."

"Aye," he huffs a little laugh, one side of his mouth curling upward. "I ken textbooks are expensive these days, so this might help a wee bit."

"Woah," Julia breathes, looking back down at the certificate and then to Jamie with a bright smile. "Thanks, Jamie!"

"Yer welcome, lass, happy birthday."

Claire smiles at the pair of them, watching as Jamie takes a bite of his ice cream. Julia hands Claire the certificate, and her eyes widen as well when she sees Jamie put $500 on it for her.

"Jamie, this is too much," Claire says, shaking her head. "You didn't have to do this."

"I ken I didna have to," he shrugs, "but textbooks cost a lot, this will probably only get her two, but I wanted tae help." He lifts up Claire's hair, pressing a quick kiss to the inside of her palm. "'Tis nae bother, Sassenach."

She sighs, glancing over to Julia who is texting away. She gives Jamie an appreciative smile, mouthing thank you before finishing her slice of cake.

Jamie and Julia pick right back up, talking about her birthday and what all she and her friends were going to get up to tonight.

This is so nice, so relaxing. Having Jamie and Julia both here brings a peace to her soul that she's been missing since she was last in Scotland. He fits in so well, like he's been here forever.

"So how does it feel tae be eighteen?" Jamie asks, pulling Claire from her thoughts to focus back on Julia across the table.

"'Bout the same as I felt yesterday at seventeen," she snickers.

Claire laughs, standing to pour them each a mug of warm apple cider that Jamie had brought from the Ridge. "I can't believe June fourth eighteen years ago, I was on my way to the hospital screaming my head off with contractions," she says, setting two of the mugs down. Jamie hops up to grab his own, settling back at the table.

Reaching over, Claire runs her fingers through Julia's long, dark hair, wistfully thinking about all the previous birthdays and how much fun they'd always had planning her parties.

"I'm sad we didn't do a party like normal this year," Claire says sadly, "No more pony rides or face painting for me, I suppose."

Julia rolls her eyes, reminding her mother, "I haven't had a themed party since I was like thirteen. Last year Lizzie, Phaedra and all of them came here, but we just thought it would be fun to celebrate at her place this time." She shrugs. "You know her dad's got that huge basement with the movie theatre seating! And they have a pool."

"Well," Claire draws sarcastically, "so sorry our house doesn't have a theatre and pool."

Julia laughs, "That's okay! I won't need those things here now that I've graduated."

Claire's eyes go soft, sad almost, and Jamie must recognize it because he takes her hand again, speaking up and saying, "Speaking of the graduation, how was it? Yer mam sent me some pictures but I ken she took a lot more than what she showed me."

"It was good," the teen says flippantly, texting someone back on her phone.

Claire looks to Jamie apologetically, but he chuckles under his breath, waving her off. She knows he's used to teenagers, knows how they can be at this age, but she doesn't want Julia to be rude. "It was nice," she says, tapping the table in front of Julia and giving her a pointed look. "I am so proud of her. I know she's going to be amazing at Harvard."

Claire tries not to be melancholy every time college is mentioned, she doesn't want Julia to feel bad, it's just that she's going to miss her so so much. But she'll do amazing at school; she is so smart and independent.

Julia rolls her eyes but smiles, giving her mom a little nod.

Claire takes out her phone, opening up the camera roll and handing it to Jamie. "I took more than enough of the graduation and her party," she says, grinning.

Jamie scrolls through the pictures, commenting on all the gifts she was given at her party—a television that he knew was from Joe and Gail, sheet sets, under-bed storage containers, clothes, and everything else she would need living on her own.

As he looks through the rest, he glances up at Julia. "Are ye excited for Harvard?"

"For sure," she tells him, sitting up in excitement. "I wanna do early move-in so I can get settled before classes start."

"And when would that be?"

"The semester starts mid-August," she tells him, "so I'd move in at the beginning of the month." Jamie nods and Julia continues, "It'll give me and Lizzie like two weeks to learn our way around and get settled in our dorm. It'll be really great for you guys because," she pauses, eyes wide as she looks at Claire. She leans over, stage whispering, "Wait, did you tell him yet?"

Sighing, Claire scoffs out a laugh at her sweet little blabbermouth, reaching up to rub her forehead. She was wanting to tell him tonight, alone, but, well…

"Tell me what, Sassenach?"

She bites her lip, trying to tamp down her smile as she slides her eyes over to Julia who looks ready to burst with the news.

"Well, you know Dr. Rawlings was naming the new chief last week—"

"—Aye, I ne're heard anythin' from ye about it, so I thought mebbe he hadn't done it yet."

She gives him a sheepish look, saying, "Well he made his decision. I was going to tell you when you got here last week, but then things got so crazy with the last-minute flight change and graduation, and…"

"Sassenach," he laughs, "it's alright. Just tell me the news."

Smiling, she inhales slowly, saying, "Louise got the position. She's so excited, everyone is excited, and I'm really happy for her. She'll be a great chief."

Jamie nods, saying that was wonderful news for Louise. He's never met her, so she knows he doesn't really care all that much, but maybe he'll care a little bit more when she tells him her big secret.

"So," she goes on, turning to face him more directly, picking up his hand and linking their fingers. "Julia and I talked through everything, like you wanted us to, all of my options and whatnot since I got back the other week."

He nods again, a hopeful gleam in his eye as he looks between both her and Julia. "And what did ye two come up wi'?"

She drags it out, only because she's enjoying the way he's squirming in his seat like an excited kid on Christmas morning before his parents let him run and see what Santa brought. "And you know I've been talking to Joe about things, too." He nods again, giving her a curious look now. "I sought some counsel from him and spoke with my boss, and I actually applied for a position… at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness."

His blue eyes go wide, a smile tugging at the corner of his lip. She watches as he bites that bottom lip, trying to not jump to conclusions.

"Well," she beams, "they called me yesterday to let me know that I got the job! Head surgeon of the neurology department."

His mouth falls open as he looks between Claire and Julia with a stunned expression. "So… ye're…"

"Moving to Scotland!" Julia bursts in, finishing the sentence for him.

"If you'll still have me," Claire adds.

A tear slips free from the corner of his eye, which instantly causes Julia to tear up as well. She's sniffling behind Claire, her breathing growing ragged with a hand placed against her heart. The emotions around the table get the better of Claire as well, and she feels her eyes pool with tears.

"Of course I will. 'Tis all I've e'er wanted, mo ghraidh. Always." He lifts her hand, kissing each knuckle in quick succession. "I just never wanted ye tae feel like I made you choose me."

"I want to choose you, Jamie. I do choose you." She sniffles, a tear rolling down her cheek as she whispers, "Always."

His smile is brighter than the sun, but it falls, growing serious as he looks over to Julia. "As long as ye're really alright wi' it?"

"Uh, yeah!" she cries happily, her eyes shining. "This is the most romantic thing I've ever seen in like my entire life!" She wipes a tear from under her eye, taking a deep breath. "I am so happy for you guys! And like I keep telling Mom, I've always wanted to go to Scotland, so this is the perfect excuse to go!" Julia gives them a dreamy sigh, folding her arms on the table, shoulders raising and falling back down. "I only hope one day to fall in love like this… only," she stammers, looking at both adults, "ya know, not having a twenty-year separation."

They all laugh, Jamie scooting his chair closer to Claire's. She pats his hand, giving him a sweet smile before looking back at Julia.

"Thank you, darling," she says sincerely, reaching over to hug her daughter.

Jamie still looks shocked, so she's not surprised when he asks dumbly, "Ye sure? Truly?"

Rolling her eyes, Claire grins, her eyes misting over once more. "Time, space, history be damned," she gives him a pointed look at the word history, smiling as she tells him, "yes, I'm sure, James Fraser, and I'm coming one way or another. I already put in my notice and accepted the job over there!"

He laughs joyfully, nodding and sitting back in his chair, looking like he's finally accepting what he's being told.

"This is wonderful news," he sighs, his eyes going soft. He stands, pulling Claire up and into a hug. He kisses her head, whispering how much he loves her, before stepping out of the embrace and hugging Julia tightly.

She pats Jamie's back, telling him again, "I'm really happy for you two." She pulls back, checking her phone again. "But I gotta go! I was supposed to leave like ten minutes ago."

She kisses Claire's cheek, waving to Jamie as she grabs her overnight bag and purse and slips out to the garage as she shouts, "I'll see you in the morning! I'll be back around eleven!"

Claire wraps her arms around Jamie silently, swaying together as she listens to Julia's car start up, the music begin to play, and the garage door closes.

"Mo nighean donn," he murmurs, "I still canna believe it. It's really true?"

She laughs, swatting at his bum as he leans in to kiss her neck. "Yes, I'm really moving to Scotland." She sighs, pulling back in his arms enough to see his gorgeous face. "I can't believe it, but I am!"

With that, Jamie kisses her hand and leads her to the living room.

{**************************}

They settle on the couch, Claire's feet buried beneath his thigh for warmth.

She smiles brightly, saying once again that she can't believe it. "I've been dying to tell you since I got the call yesterday, but I wanted to tell you in person."

"Och," he grunts, patting her calf, "I'm glad ye did. I wouldna have been able to handle all that excitement mixed with my nausea on the flight."

"Oh no," she chuckles, "I thought it was only motion sickness on boats. Planes too?"

"Oh, aye." He laughs, shaking his head. "Luckily, I took some Dramamine to help… had a wee nip of whisky, too."

"Jamie," she admonishes lightly with a grin.

He shrugs, "I knocked out fer most o' the flight so it worked in my favor. Didna have time to think about being stuck in a plane so high off the ground."

Chuckling, she says, "Well I'm definitely glad I waited then. Were you surprised that I applied or that I got the job?"

"Both, I s'ppose," he admits. "I kent when ye were wi' me over there, ye thought that was the life ye wanted. I just didna ken once ye got back home and were with Julia again if ye'd change yer mind."

She sits up, snuggling up next to him. His arm drapes around her shoulder, holding her close. "I told you I knew what I wanted," she smirks.

Jamie laughs, saying, "Well, life wi' you is certainly never dull, Sassenach. Ye keep me on my toes."

She sits up, giving him her best dramatically prim nod and a haughty tone, "I shall endeavor to be more dull if it would suit you."

He grins, leaning in. Before his lips make contact with hers, he murmurs, "I wouldna change you tae save the world."

They stay there, cuddled together for a few minutes, Jamie's hand lightly grazing up and down her arm. "So," he says, patting her rear to silently ask her to sit up a bit, "tell me more about the job."

With a beaming smile, she sits up completely. His hand that was around her shoulder lands in her lap, and she picks it up, playing with his fingers as she tells him more details. "Well, they just so happened to have a neurosurgeon leave. He got a job at a hospital in Italy where his wife's family is from, and they are leaving at the beginning of September." She smiles proudly as she tells him, "They knew who I was, recognized my name from all my case studies and seminars."

Jamie looks impressed, and she smiles brightly.

The chief at Raigmore said he was more than happy to see Claire's resume come through. "They called Dr. Rawlings the other day and got a glowing recommendation. The chief over there was at the seminar I did when I ran into you back in February, and he told me he was more than impressed with my work."

"That's amazing," he says, kissing her. "So when… when would ye come? What do we need tae do?"

God, he's so thoughtful and cute.

She smiles, settling back against him. "The job doesn't start until the end of September, so I was thinking the first week. I want to stay here as long as possible with Julia, help her move at the start of August and all."

"Of course."

"I was thinking the first week, that'll give me about two and a half weeks to get settled before the job starts." She sighs, thinking of all she needs to do in the next few months. "I have to sell the house, get everything packed up after getting Julia packed and moved, decide what I want to take with me and what to either give away or put in storage for Julia to use when she moves out of the dorms, and—"

"Breathe, Sassenach," he laughs, playing with a stray curl, wrapping it around his finger and letting it bounce off. "Ye ken my house is plenty big enough, I've got that whole empty barn on the property that we use as storage already. Ye could keep whatever ye want there."

She nods, thinking through the possibilities. "I will definitely store some of the bigger furniture here in Boston for Julia. She'll need a living room set, the dining room table, and all of that. She and Lizzie can only live in the dorms their freshman year, so she'll have no choice but to get a place of her own next year."

"That's fine, mo nighean donn," he assures, tracing a line from her temple to her jaw. "Ye do whatever ye need tae do to feel comfortable. Lallybroch has plenty o' room for whate'er ye want tae store away."

"Thank you," she says, "there will definitely be some things I'll have to have shipped over to store there." She looks at him, trying to suppress her grin as she says, "There's lots to do. I mean I'll have to look for an apartment—"

"—An apartment?!"

"Just kidding," she chortles, leaning in to press her lips to his. "So, does that mean you're asking me to move in with you, James Fraser?"

"Sassenach," he breathes, "I've never wanted anything more in my life. I want ye there, wi' me in bed every night and by my side every day. We can redo the house, new paint, new furniture if ye want. I willna force ye to live in a house that doesna feel like yer home." He kisses her neck, adding, "We can change anything, just let me know. I dinna care, Jenny picked everything out anyway," he laughs and she does too, "so long as ye're by my side fer all of it."

If her own face could melt from the tenderness in someone's eyes and voice, hers would be like a popsicle on a hot summer day right now. She loves him so much; she'd live in a cardboard box if it meant she got to be with him.

"I don't care what we do to it, Jamie," she tells him, eyes growing wet. "I'd live anywhere with you. You are my home, not Lallybroch."

"And ye're mine."

Claire climbs into his lap, arms wrapping around his neck. She looks at him, stares into those beautiful blue eyes until she can't take it any longer. She pulls him in for a searing kiss, expressing all of her love for him through it.

His hands are on her waist, gripping and holding her to him.

She tilts her head, tongue peeking out to seek entrance to his mouth. He grants it, moaning as she deepens the kiss.

They break apart only when the need for air consumes them, and she smiles down at him. "I love you."

"And I you."

{**************************}

A few hours later, once they've thoroughly satiated themselves right there on the couch, they make their way up to her bedroom.

They shower quickly, going through their nightly rituals.

Jamie's routine doesn't consist of quite as many steps as hers, so when he finishes brushing his teeth, she asks him if he minds going and double checking that all the lights are off downstairs.

She's rubbing her moisturizer on her face, but he kisses her cheek anyway, saying, "I'll be right back."

"So unfair you can just throw on pajamas and get in bed," she grumbles, lotioning her arms.

He smirks over his shoulder, taunting, "Don't be jealous."

Rolling her eyes with a grin, she watches him go in the reflection as she picks up her toothbrush.

When she comes out of the bathroom, Jamie is already back, settled in one of the chairs by her large window.

"Are you alright?" she asks, padding over to him. He looks pensive, chin resting on his fist, staring out the window.

The moonlight is shining in, giving his eyes an almost eerie glow, and she thinks for a split second that his cheeks look damp.

She kneels down in front of him, hand resting on his knee. "Jamie?"

He clears his throat, turning to look at her. He gives her a small, reassuring smile, and tugs her into his lap. She goes willingly, looping her arms around his neck to anchor herself. "I was thinkin'," he starts, clearing his throat and smiling again, "'Bout the Ridge and Scotland and everything."

"And?" she grins, resting her head on his shoulder.

He lets out a little laugh, telling her of the plan he'd been contemplating recently. "Ye ken I've been talking with John about expanding to Paris and possibly London."

She nods, knowing he'd mentioned it briefly on the way to Fraser's Ridge one day and more with Uncle Lamb.

"Weel, we already have some contracts in the works, some land that's fer sale. The Paris location is looking more promising than London, but John and Murtagh are working hard to convince the sellers in London to accept as well."

"You'd build farms there too? Like how Fraser's Ridge is?"

"Nah," he says, "No' quite. We'd only have stores in the other locations, ken, like what Jenny runs now, tae sell all of our products. Everything would still be produced on our land in Scotland." He smiles and her face splits into one as well. "We'd sell the jams and jellies, the cider and bread and donuts and all th' other treats we make, and once Ian and I get a good whisky recipe down, we'll start selling it in our stores, too."

"Jamie, that's amazing!" she assures, "Jenny and her crew work so hard on all the products, more than just Scotland needs to experience how delicious everything is."

"It got me thinkin', though," he says, stopping briefly to kiss her again. "It would be nice to expand over here to America as well, ye ken? So, I was thinkin' we could spend a few years in Scotland, get everything with the whisky and the stores up and running, and then we could come back here if ye want, I could be in charge of the American side of things."

"Jamie…" She knows he means it, expanding would be amazing for his company, but she also knows he's only considering a move to America for her. "I will be happy in Scotland, I promise."

"I ken, I ken," he states sincerely, looking down. "Just promise me ye'll let me know the very second ye're no longer happy there, ye miss Julia too much, or, or… I dinna ken." He sighs. There's a beat of silence between them, each staring into the other's eyes, before she watches his blue eyes mist over. His gaze is so intent, so sincere, she feels as if their actual souls are connected as he professes, "I would lay the world at yer feet, Claire, ye ken that, right?"

She nods, unable to speak around the lump in her throat.

"I would give up everything I have fer us tae be together." He smiles, reaching up to wipe the tears from her cheeks, replacing them with gentle kisses. "When ye bumped into me at the café, it was as if the sun had returned, casting out the darkness." His eyes brim with tears now, too, and he shakes his head and clears his throat. "I love you, mo ghraidh."

"What's that one mean, anyway?" she chuckles wetly, "I've been meaning to ask you."

"My love." He grins in that boyish way she loves so much. "And mo chridhe is my heart."

Those tears that have been clouding her vision slip free, and she leans down, pressing her lips to his soundly. "And I do know that, Jamie," she affirms when they pull apart. "I know you would do anything for me, and just like you, I'd do anything for you."

His answer is a beaming smile before his lips crash to hers again. His hand reaches up to grip around her neck, holding her to him.

Jamie stands, lifting her with him as if she weighs nothing, and carries her to bed.

They spend the rest of the night in each other's arms, bodies moving together, hands wandering and mouths connected.

She wakes the next morning before him, and for a while, just a moment in time, she watches as the sun dances against his hair, making it look even brighter than usual. Checking her phone, she sees it's only seven, so she places it back on the nightstand and curls back into his embrace for the next few hours.

{****************************}

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Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen:

It's been two weeks since Julia's birthday, and Jamie has been here ever since. It's been wonderful, and Claire dreads when he has to leave in the next few days.

They'd spent the first few days going around town, letting Jamie explore Boston. Julia had been excited to tell him the history behind the sites they were showing him, and Claire enjoyed watching the two of them bond.

"This is going to be awesome!" Julia exclaimed, skipping ahead of Claire and Jamie.

She ran inside the office of the Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure and collected their tickets and instructions.

"Okay," she said, running back out to the adults. "We type in this code and it gives us our first clue. It takes us around the whole city for three hours trying to solve the clues and find the landmarks," she explained.

It was a new attraction that Julia and her friends had been wanting to try, so Jamie being in town was the perfect excuse for the teen to have a go at it.

"Lead the way!" Jamie exclaimed, opening up the map to look at all the potential stopping points.

For the next three hours, the scavenger hunt took them to places like the Boston Public Library, Boston Common, The Paul Revere Statue, to all the different concert halls and opera houses, the Trinity Church, and the Museum of Science.

It was a tour that you could do at your own pace, so Claire and Julia took their time explaining all the historical facts about each place they visited while Jamie took note of places he wanted to come back to over the next several days to explore some more.

Since he was here for so long, Claire obviously had to work some of those days, but Jamie assured her he didn't mind exploring the city on his own while she was at work. He'd spent some time in her office at the house, making phone calls back home to Ian and dealing with business, but he got out enough to experience as much as possible before he left.

They spent time at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum where Julia showed off her knowledge, leading Jamie through the ship and teaching him all about the tea party.

After that, they made their way to the Boston Public Garden where they walked around, Julia practicing her new found hobby of photography while Claire and Jamie stopped to smell the roses, letting Claire teach him about the plants they saw.

They ended the very long day by going to the infamous Cheers restaurant and pub where they enjoyed Norm burgers and far too many french fries.

"Look at this, Jamie," Julia said, holding her phone out across the table. "This is a great shot!"

Claire peered over as well, smiling when she saw her daughter had captured Jamie peering out toward one of the vast gardens, the sunlight shining directly on him.

"That's braw," he said, laughing. "Ye're verra good at photography. Have ye been doing it fer long?"

Shrugging, Julia just grinned, taking her phone back to swipe through more pictures from the day. "Only a few months," she told him. "But it's fun. I was thinking of taking a photography class one semester just for the experience, learn some tricks of the trade ."

"That sounds like a good plan," Jamie said, draping his arm across the back of Claire's chair.

The next two hours were filled with food and laughter, the three of them looking through the Cheers memorabilia before heading home for the night.

Now, though, Julia is off with friends and Claire is straightening her hair as she listens to Jamie in the bedroom, talking with Jenny.

She's taking him to the hospital today—something they haven't gotten around to yet, surprisingly—and she's thrilled for him to be meeting Joe.

Jamie is on FaceTime with his sister while she finishes getting ready, and Claire laughs, listening as Jenny makes fun of her brother's beard. He hasn't shaved in the last few days, becoming successfully scruffy just like Claire likes, but apparently his sister doesn't approve.

"I didna look like a Highland coo, Janet."

"Och, mebbe no'," Jenny laughs. "As long as Claire likes it, I guess that's good enough."

"Oh, I definitely like it," she chuckles, turning off the bathroom light and joining Jamie at the end of the bed. She gives Jenny a little wave while the other woman laughs.

They talk for a while, Jamie telling his sister all about his trip so far and the things he has seen.

"The girls took me to try Boston cream pie the other day after Claire's shift," Jamie said, rubbing his stomach, "and I canna lie, Jen, it was one o' the best things I've e're eaten."

Jenny asks how much he's planning on sneaking into his suitcase, and they all laugh. Claire tells the other woman that the way he'd have to protect them from being smushed would more than likely give him away. "But I'll be sure to stuff him full of it before I send him back. Maybe he won't talk about it too much by the time he gets home."

"Doubt it," his sister snorts. "He'll be talkin' 'bout this trip fer weeks, nay, months tae come." She grins at her brother, adding, "More than likely til ye come tae visit again."

Jamie scoffs, smiling at the phone. He changes the subject, saying she's had her fun, and starts to tell her about their plans for the day. "Claire has finally decided I'm good enough tae meet her best friend, Joe, and see where they work."

She rolls her eyes, laughing and shaking her head. "You only wish you were good enough to meet Joe. I'm only doing it so you'll stop bugging me about it."

Jenny guffaws, "Aye, he's a master at buggin' people til they give him what he wants."

The girls poke fun at Jamie for a few more minutes, him dutifully sitting by and taking it all in stride with a smile on his face.

"We're goin' tae a restaurant, Buttermilk and Bourbon afterward," he tells her, clearly trying to get the attention off of himself. "They've got that banana bread pudding ye liked sae much the last time ye were in the States."

"Oh, send me a picture so I can live vicariously through the two o' ye," Jenny begs them. "Ye better be careful though, mo lacha bheag, before long yer clothes ye took wi' ye wilna fit anymore."

Claire chuckles, patting his belly playfully. "He's still in fine shape, thank you very much."

"If ye say so," Jenny snickers, rolling her eyes. "I'd imagine ye've seen and eatin' plenty by now, though, bein' there fer two weeks," she jests, "If I didna ken any better, I'd think ye were movin' there, ne're tae speak tae us again."

Jamie laughs, glancing toward Claire as she grins, giving him a little wink.

"Well," Claire starts, taking the phone from Jamie's hand, "he may not be moving here, but I am moving there."

Jenny's brown eyes grow wide, mouth falling agape. "Wh—Ian!" she shouts, rushing from her office, out to the barn where Ian is grooming a horse. She tells Ian the news, Jamie and Claire sitting by fully amused until she turns back to them, Ian's face now squished into the screen as well with a beaming smile. "What do ye mean? When will ye be here? When did this happen?"

The questions fly from Jenny's mouth faster than Claire can comprehend them, causing everyone to laugh when Jamie tells her to take a deep breath.

Claire tells them both about the new job, Jenny getting excited all over again, knowing how close the hospital is to Fraser's Ridge. "We can leave these two clotheids behind and get lunch some days!"

She laughs, but deep down she loves the image that conjures in her mind. She loves Jenny, and getting to spend even more time with her is an added bonus to this move.

"Well," Jenny sighs happily, settling against Ian's side, "I am beyond thrilled, Claire. I canna wait tae spend more time wi' the lass that's had my brother's heart fer twenty long years."

Claire feels her cheeks warm, and Jamie grins, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

"While I've got ye, Jamie," Ian says, taking the phone from Jenny, "I need tae talk tae ye about the still…"

The men ramble on, discussing the newest shipment of barley that's being delivered to the still within the next few days.

Claire catches Jenny's eye, laughing when she rolls her eyes at her husband and brother.

Patting Jamie on the shoulder, Claire whispers that she's going to go finish her makeup. "It was great seeing you two," she says, "I've got to finish getting ready before we head out, but I'll see you in a few months!"

"That's braw!" Ian exclaims, "I'm sae happy fer the two o' ye, Claire. I canna wait tae see ye again!" He assures her that he won't keep Jamie long, just a few more minutes to finalize his paperwork.

She waves, stepping away and back into the bathroom to apply a final coat of mascara. She runs the smoothing serum she'd forgotten earlier through her hair and checks her outfit one last time.

She isn't concerned with how she looks for the hospital, Lord knows Joe has seen her at her worst, but the restaurant they're going to is a touch nicer so she's paired her dark denim pants with a white top adorned with ruffle sleeves.

Jamie's arms suddenly wrap around her waist, his nose burrowing into the crook of her neck. He gives her a gentle kiss before looking up at her through their reflection in the mirror. "Jenny and Ian are verra excited."

She grins but nods. "I'm glad they are. It's nice to have your family's approval."

"Aye," he chuckles, turning her to face him. Her rear rests against the counter top and she toys with his belt loop. "I understand the feeling. Julia gave me her approval the other night."

"What do you mean?" she asks, swatting his stomach. "You didn't say anything."

They move to the bedroom, picking up her purse and thin black blazer as Jamie tells her, "When we were cooking a few nights ago for ye, waitin' on yer shift to end. She told me that she could see how happy ye were and she thanked me." Jamie pauses, swallowing thickly as they make their way down the stairs.

Claire stops at the bottom, turning to look at his blue eyes that are shining with tears. "She said that?"

"Aye," he chuckles wetly, "She thanked me fer makin' ye sae happy. I had tae leave the room before she saw me cry too much."

Claire grins, shaking her head. "That's incredibly sweet of her, and it makes me happy to know she feels that way." She takes his hand, pulling him into her embrace. "She loves you, Jamie. And I love you, too."

Frank was never once a good example for Julia to see, and thankfully she's spent most of her life with him out of the picture, so to know that her daughter sees something special in Jamie, sees how much better he treats her than any other man before him, means a lot to her.

Leaning up on her tiptoes, she kisses him softly, his arms pulling her tighter against him. "I love ye, too, Claire," he says with such reverence that it makes her whole body go soft. "I find that each day, I love ye more than I did the day before. More than I did back when we were kids." He kisses her again, this time more deeply, before pulling apart. "I didna think it was possible, but somehow ye make me fall more in love each day."

She feels as if she could cry, but she blinks her tears away, smoothing down an invisible wrinkle in his green dress shirt. "I feel the same way, Jamie. To be in love with your best friend is something special."

"Aye, 'tis." He looks into her eyes, telling her, "To have ye again, to talk wi' you, and know I can say anything wi'out guarding my words or hide my thoughts, it's rare, Sassenach, what it is between us." He pecks her lips, adding, "Ye're my best friend, too, and I cherish the fact that I can share my heart wi' ye and ken ye feel the same way."

Taking a deep breath, Claire wills her heart to stop beating so fast. "Come on," she says, smiling, "We better leave now before I take you upstairs and stay in that bed the rest of the day."

"I wouldna mind that," he jests, following her through the kitchen.

They start to walk, but a thought hits her suddenly. Stopping in her tracks, she turns, asking with a grin, "What did Jenny call you earlier? I've never heard her say that one."

Jamie's ears grow pink as he rubs the back of his neck. "Och, mo lacha bheag jus' means my little duck," he laughs shyly.

Giggling, she asks why she calls him that and he tells her, "When we were bairns, I would follow her 'round the yard, ken, beggin' tae play wi' her and her friends. My mam would say I was like her duckling that had imprinted onto her and it jus' kind of stuck."

"Oh my god," she gushes, bringing a hand to cup his cheek, "That is adorable."

He rolls his eyes, brushing it off playfully with a shrug as he makes his way to the kitchen.

They each grab a muffin and a protein shake, Claire telling Jamie that Julia will be asleep for a few more hours. It's summer break which means the teen stays up far too late and sleeps like the dead until at least eleven. "She's going to Lizzie's for that pool day with the girls and will most likely end up sleeping there, so we've got the whole day to do whatever we want."

Jamie snorts and grins, climbing into the car in the garage as he says, "I've got plenty o' plans fer ye, mo chridhe."

Rolling her eyes, she reverses the car and heads to the hospital, excited for Jamie and Joe to finally meet.

{************************}

Joe had been overjoyed to finally meet Jamie, and happy that his schedule had been changed at the last minute due to a surgery being bumped up. He was free for lunch, so after a tour of the hospital, the three of them head to lunch with Gail.

It's a nice day out, hot but not too uncomfortably hot, so they sit outside at the restaurant. The tables are shaded and there are fans going, so it's lovely, and Claire feels so content sitting here with Jamie and her best friends.

Gail had greeted Jamie moments ago with a giant hug, excited she was getting to meet him, too.

"So, tell me," Gail says, "what's been your favorite part of Boston so far?"

Jamie smiles, swallowing the bite of his sandwich he'd just taken. Wiping his mouth, he tells the table, "I really like all the museums and art galleries we've been to. I didna realize how much history there was here." The table all smile, and he adds, "Claire and I went on a hike on her day off last week, that was nice too tae see the nature nestled within the city."

"I took him to Quincy Market, too," Claire adds, and Jamie's eyes light up.

"That place was amazing," he says, telling the other couple about the live music they heard along with all the souvenir shops he was able to visit. "I took Claire tae a place similar to it in Scotland on one of her first trips, sae it was nice to see the American equivalent."

Gail and Joe nod, saying it's one of their favorite spots as well. "It's good for tourists but there's also some little bars we like to go to on the weekend, do some karaoke and what not."

Smiling, Jamie looks at Claire with a raised eyebrow, "And do ye accompany them to karaoke, Sassenach?"

"No," she laughs, "they've dragged me there a few times, and it's great fun, but only if I'm not singing."

"Och, but I love when ye sing, mo nighean donn," he laughs, glancing to Joe and Gail, then back to her. "Ye sound like a lady in church tryin' tae be all proper and polite."

The other three snicker, Joe telling Jamie that they try to get her out with them as much as possible. "We'll have to spend loads of time with you now, though, before you leave."

"We're going to miss you so much," Gail says with a sad smile, reaching over to take Claire's hand, "but we're also beyond happy for you." She laughs before adding, "Joe has been talking about you moving to Scotland ever since he came back from the conference in February. Four months, Claire. Four whole months I've had to listen to this man scheme and plan ways to get you over there."

Laughing, Claire looks at Joe. "I didn't know you were so eager to get rid of me."

"Nah," he huffs, swashing a hand in the air, "I just knew you were already in love with this guy, and it would be perfect."

"Well, whate'er the reason, I'm glad ye were in her ear this whole time."

Claire grins while Gail and Joe laugh. She takes his hand, her thumb caressing his skin as they all continue to chat and get to know one another.

The chief of surgery position comes up, and Jamie asks Joe if he would ever want to be chief.

"Hell no," the other man laughs. "They wanted to put my name in the running, but I told them I didn't want it. It would take up way too much time, and I may love my job—and I do, trust me—but I also like having time with my girl here, and our son, Lenny. I like being able to do things with them more often." He picks up Gail's hand, kissing her knuckles. "Our current chief rarely had days off, though that was probably by choice."

Claire laughs, Gail and Jamie looking at one another in confusion. "Dr. Rawlings' wife is… not the nicest person you'll ever meet," she explains. "It was always a running joke that he stayed at work so much to avoid being home with her."

The table shares a soft laugh, and they finish their meals while making easy conversation. It makes Claire happy to know how quickly and easily Jamie gets along with her friends. There hasn't been any awkwardness or deafening silence to deal with, and it's been lovely.

"If you'll excuse me fer a second," Jamie says, making his way to the bathroom.

She watches him go, then smiles as the waitress brings their checks. Looking at Gail, who has a giant, goofy smile on her face, Claire giggles. "What's that look for?"

"We really like him, Claire!" Gail exclaims, clapping her hands together. "He's so handsome and nice and funny and —"

"Did you want to move to Scotland with him, honey?" Joe asks with a laugh.

Gail rolls her eyes and swats at her husband's chest before settling into her chair. Joe's arm is around the back of it, and his thumb gently rubs at her shoulder. "He's fantastic, LJ," Joe admits. "He's even better than you made him out to be. I'm really happy for you."

"Thank you," she whispers hoarsely.

She's going to miss these two so much. They've already been a big help with going with her to meet with her realtor and organize a storage unit to keep the items she wants to save for when Julia moves out of the dorms. She knows they'll be there to help her pack up her house over the next few months as well, but knowing they approve of Jamie and of her move makes this whole thing seem so much easier.

{*****************************}

Four days later, with only two days left in his trip, Claire and Jamie have one last date night out on the town.

She took him to a local restaurant, Sorellina, and enjoyed easy conversation and flirtatious looks, but now they're home and settled in pajamas, which somehow is even sexier to Claire than the suit Jamie wore to dinner.

"How was the food?" Julia asks, pulling out the ice cream from the freezer.

Claire hops onto the high top stool at the counter, and says, "It was great. You know they always have the best bread sticks."

Julia nods, grumbling about how they could've brought more than two home for her.

Jamie laughs, joining Claire at the counter. "I'm sorry, lass. I couldna help but tae eat the rest. They were just sae good."

The teen laughs, reaching for the chocolate syrup in the refrigerator. "I understand," she laments, "I guess it's only fair since you won't have the option of going whenever you want in a few days."

Jamie moves around the counter to work alongside Julia, asking her what else they need for their banana splits.

"The bananas are over there," she says, pointing with the ice cream scoop.

Jamie grabs them and brings them over, opening and cutting them how Julia instructs him to.

It's captivating, watching the two of them together, and Claire's heart swells knowing how much Jamie and Julia both like each other. He has such a natural, paternal ease to him, and her mind wanders off, imagining him and little Fergus making dessert like this at Lallybroch.

"Mom?"

Blinking, Claire pulls herself from her thoughts, chuckling as Jamie says, "Thought we'd lost her there fer a second."

"I was just in a daydream," she defends playfully, reaching for the bowl Jamie is offering her. It's an indulgence to be sure, but it is one of Jamie's last nights, and aren't you supposed to go all out when guests are in town? It's like being on vacation—the calories don't count.

Julia dishes out two more scoops, placing them into the next bowl before handing it to Jamie. He squeezes the chocolate syrup and caramel drizzle onto the ice cream before plopping a cherry on top. "Ye can take this one, lass. I'll make myself the last one."

Julia smiles, taking the bowl from Jamie and joining Claire on the other side of the counter.

They watch as Jamie puts his ice cream on top of the bananas, covering it in the toppings he wants. "Think you have enough caramel?" Claire asks, nodding toward his bowl which is half-way to drowning in the sugary syrup.

Jamie laughs, giving them both a little shrug. He stays on his side of the island, facing Claire and Julia, as the three of them talk and eat their desserts.

It's late, their date went longer than she was expecting (not that she's complaining), and she knows Julia will be asleep sooner rather than later. The lights are out in the kitchen and living room, save for the two lamps by the couch and the dim lights above the stove.

The room is cast in a warm glow, giving Claire that feeling that one gets as a child who has stayed up later than their parents and sneaks into the kitchen for a snack. It's warm and cozy, and Claire never wants this night to end.

"I'm gonna vomit," Julia says, dramatically taking the last, half melted bite and grabbing her stomach.

Jamie laughs, while Claire rolls her eyes. "Darling," she reprimands, shaking her head. "That isn't polite."

"Ah, dinna fash, Sassenach," Jamie assures, waving her off with a smile. "I raised a boy, ye ken, saying ye're gonna throw up is the mildest thing I've heard." He gives Julia a wink before adding, "And aye, I feel this dessert was perfect, but I ate way too much."

Julia laughs as Jamie hugs his stomach as well, and Claire can't help but to huff out a laugh at the two of them.

After a while, Julia places her bowl in the sink and excuses herself, saying goodnight to both Claire and Jamie.

"Goodnight, darling."

"Night, lass."

Once she's up the stairs, and they hear her door close, Jamie makes his way around the counter, spinning Claire's chair so that she's facing him. His strong arms are on either side of her, and he leans in, giving her a sticky kiss.

"You're all sticky," she chuckles, pulling away with a playful scrunch of her nose.

Claire slithers out from beneath his arms, taking their bowls to the sink. She turns on the water, letting it rinse the bowls for a few seconds before she moves them to the dishwasher.

"Ye ken, there was something particularly sexy watchin' ye eat that cherry off yer ice cream."

She turns to look at him, watching as he slinks back around the counter where she stands at the sink. Smirking, she asks, "Is that right?"

"Mm," he mumbles, his hands finding purchase on her hips. "Made me want tae do indecent things." He slides their bodies a few inches to the left, moving her away from the sink so her back is against the counter.

"Mm," she giggles, "like what?"

"Well, maybe I'll press ye up against my—"

"Jamie!"

Claire swats at his arm with a silly grin. Jamie, however, freezes like a deer in the headlights as Julia's voice echoes down the stairs.

He launches himself back from their embrace, eyes blown wide. "Y-yes?"

"Can I take your clothes out of the dryer? I need to put mine in," Julia calls.

He glances to Claire as she tries her hardest to suppress the barking laughter wanting to erupt from her chest. "That's fine, lass! Go right ahead."

"Thanks!" Julia says, a chuckle in her voice that Claire knows is from the fact that from Julia's vantage point she more than likely saw what they were up to.

Claire feels her entire face heat up, but she tries to push it down. She looks at Jamie, his face completely stunned, as if he's frozen and doesn't know how to recover from his humiliation.

"Do ye think she saw us?" he whispers, ducking his head.

The tips of his ears turn pink, and she chuckles, shaking her head. "If anything she just saw you holding me in your arms."

"Christ," he breathes, reaching up to rub at his neck. "I… I didna ken how tae recover from that." He blows out an embarrassed huff, and she watches as his face goes from mortified to determined within a few seconds. He gives a nod, more to himself than her, she thinks, and he grins. His eyebrow cocks up when he tells her, "But I think I have an idea."

Lifting her up, he sets her down on the counter, her arms snaking around his shoulders as she laughs. "Jamie!"

He reaches over, taking the chocolate syrup bottle from the counter and squeezing a drop onto his finger. He puts it in his mouth, Claire's face heating up as she watches his lips curl around his finger, tongue flicking out to swipe up the chocolate.

Is everything moving in slow motion? she wonders, mesmerized by him.

He pours another drop onto his finger, holding it out to her this time. "Ye want a taste?"

Grinning, she inhales, deciding if he's trying to seduce her, she can return the favor. With a smirk, she leans forward, taking his finger in her mouth and swirling her tongue around it, sucking up the chocolate.

She drags her teeth against his skin as she leans back, his finger making a popping sound as it comes out of her mouth. Jamie groans, leaning into her so that he's between her legs.

Hooking her ankles behind his back, Claire kisses him while reaching for the jar of cherries beside her.

She pulls back, twisting the lid while silently watching Jamie. His eyes are on her and she bites her lip, lifting a cherry from the juice it sits in.

Slowly, she lowers the fruit into her mouth, taking her time to swirl her tongue around it while holding eye contact with Jamie.

His breathing has sped up, and good, she thinks smugly. She wants him just as riled up as she is right now.

She pulls the stem from the cherry still in her mouth, tossing it into the sink beside them and grinning. Her eyebrows flick up as she laughs around the fruit she's chewing.

Jamie shakes his head, murmuring, "Minx," before kissing her again. His hands join in this time, pulsing at her waist before one slides up to hold the back of her neck, the other slinking beneath her tank top.

His hand is warm against her back, and she moans into the kiss, trying to pull him even closer by urging his torso forward with the feet still linked around his body.

Claire reaches down, pulling at the hem of his white t-shirt, thankful they'd changed into comfortable clothes after dinner. Unbuttoning his shirt would have taken far too much time.

She writhes against him, but when his shirt is half way up, he grips her hands and pulls back. Breathing deeply, he pecks her lips and says quietly, "We should take this upstairs, mo ghraidh." He kisses her again, this time to her neck. His tongue peeks out to lick at her heated skin before adding, "Julia isna asleep, clearly, what if she comes down again for some water or something?"

With a huff, Claire sits back, loosening her ankles so Jamie can step out of her embrace. Damn him. He's right, but god, she wants to take him on this counter so badly.

Maybe tomorrow when Julia inevitably goes out with friends for the afternoon.

She's glad Jamie is thinking straight though, because clearly she is not.

Sighing, she slips from the counter, tugging at her shirt that's become twisted. Giving him a shy smile, she nods and tells him that he's right.

{*************************}

They make it up the stairs, giggling like teenagers and Jamie shushing Claire as they rush by Julia's room. Her light is still on, despite it being almost one in the morning, but Claire knows it is only her bedside lamp which means her daughter is reading and will be asleep soon.

Covering her mouth, she follows Jamie into the bedroom, locking the door behind her and breathing a sigh of relief.

Before she can say anything, Jamie has her around the waist. He reaches behind her, flipping off the light and carrying her to the bed. The lamp by her bed is on a timer so it is already on, giving them enough illumination to see where their hands are.

He lays her on the mattress, removing his shirt before climbing on top of her. His hands make quick work of her tank top, his lips finding her nipples as soon as they're exposed.

She bites her lip, fingers gripping the back of his head to hold him in place. She's breathing deeply, telling herself to stay quiet. "Now you can do all those indecent things to me," she purrs, smirking as she watches his cheeks turn pink for the briefest of seconds.

Jamie looks up, grinning from beneath his long lashes as he kisses his way up her chest. "Aye, I can," he groans huskily.

His hand finds the waistband of her pajama pants, and as his lips connect with hers, his fingers tug her pants down.

She lifts her hips, helping him shimmy out of her pants. She wasn't wearing any underwear beneath them so she's completely naked, and Jamie pulls back to take in the full view. "Christ, ye're gorgeous."

He stands, shucking his pajama pants off as Claire scoots over to the middle of the bed. Jamie climbs back up, pulling her to him and she can feel his erection pressing against her thigh.

"Need you," she rasps hotly, tugging on his shoulders to bring him closer. Kissing him deeply, she opens her mouth, letting his tongue join with hers.

With all her strength, she flips them and straddles his waist. She rests her palms against his chest, loving the feel of his ragged breathing beneath her. She loves seeing how much she affects him, how quickly she can turn him into a puddle of wanton need just like he does to her.

His hand reaches between them, one finger running along her slit. God, she wants him so badly already, she won't need much foreplay tonight.

Taking his hand, she pulls it beside his head, holding tightly to his wrist to pin his arm down. She leans in, kissing his lips roughly. Her mouth follows an invisible path down to his neck, licking at the vein there as it pulses rapidly, down further to his chest where she swirls her tongue around each nippple, giving one a little love bite that makes him huff out a little laugh.

She grins up at him, his one hand still pinned to the bed while the other wraps around the back of her neck, tangling in her curls.

Claire sits back up, reaching between them to take his cock in her hands. It's already hard, so she doesn't waste any more time. Rising up, she sinks onto it, drawing out a moan from his lips.

She rides him, letting go of that arm she was holding down so both her hands can rest on his chest.

Jamie's hands grip her hips, helping guide her movements as she gyrates against him. His hand moves around to the back, gripping one arse cheek in his hand and giving it a squeeze as he thrusts up into her.

"Can…" he pants, "Can I be on top, mo chridhe?"

She smiles seductively. She loves being on top, finds herself there more often than not, but she does love when he can encase her in his arms and rail into her, hitting all the right spots.

She nods, and Jamie takes her hips, flipping them again. His muscular arms both rest on either side of her head, and she grabs his forearms, needing something to hold on to. He works his hips, thrusting into her harder, faster, yes, yes, just like that, that's how she likes it. "Yes," she hisses, moving her hips beneath him, "Right there."

He grunts his acknowledgement, pounding into her harder than before. Bloody Christ, she loves this man, and loves what his cock can do. He's a very good lover, great in fact, knows exactly where to touch her, knows all the spots that can send her over the edge in no time.

And that's exactly what he's doing right now. His finger slides against her clit, pinching it with just enough pressure to have her a babbling mess beneath him as he slams his cock into her over and over again.

Her lips are sealed tight, trying her hardest not to cry out the way he normally makes her. She wraps her legs around his hips, drawing him even closer, if that's possible.

"Gimme yer lips," he grunts, using one large hand to grasp her by the neck and pull her to him. Their lips connect and she moans into his mouth, louder this time, knowing it'll be muffled by him.

Claire pulls back, breathing heavily, and bites the juncture between his neck and shoulder, causing him to cry out.

She giggles, reaching up to cover his mouth. "Don't be so loud," she chastises playfully, knowing good and well she's being louder than him.

"Can't help it," growls Jamie, grinning and pulling her back to him for another kiss. It's sloppy, both moving still to find their release, but she doesn't care. It's sexy, and he's even sexier, and she wonders how she got this lucky to be loved by this man.

Claire moves her hips against his, her euphoric climax just on the verge of crashing over her. Her mind is muddled with thoughts of him and his touch, and she cries out, telling Jamie she's close, so, so close and he says he is, too.

"Can I go harder?"

She nods frantically, babbling almost incoherently, "Yes, god, yes." She laughs at his sex induced haze, saying, "You don't ever have to ask that."

Jamie smirks, pushing into her harder than before. She grips onto his ass, drawing him closer to her, wishing she could somehow fuse them together. He's giving her exactly what she needs, and she hopes she's giving him the same (knows she is based on his breathing and his kisses).

He thrusts into her once, twice more before he's spilling into her, crying out her name and burying his lips against her neck. Claire shudders at the sensation, bursting completely when he reaches down and rubs at her clit again, knowing she was right on the verge of coming.

It's all it takes, and she's mewling his name, muttering fuck over and over again as her orgasm washes over her in troves.

She trembles against him, trying to fully catch her breath as he kisses her, then rolls off, both panting harshly as they come down from their high.

They lay there for a few moments in silence, Jamie's hand finding hers and linking their fingers together.

She closes her eyes, completely spent, and lets the ceiling fan cool her skin.

Their skin is heated, and she starts to shiver as the sweat dries, so Jamie rolls onto his side, pulling her into his warm embrace.

She's drunk on this feeling, and she glances over at him with hooded eyes.

"Damn."

Grinning, she nods, saying, "I feel the same way."

"Tha mi 'n dùil sgàin mo chridhe," he chuckles breathlessly, and she turns her head again to look at him.

"What did you say?" she whispers with a little laugh.

Jamie shakes his head, one side of his mouth lifting in a smirk. "It jus' means… I thought my heart was gonna burst."

Biting her lip, she quells the proud smile blooming on her lips as she leans over, pressing a gentle kiss to his chest.

They chuckle softly, both still recovering and trying to catch their breath.

Eventually they move to the bathroom to clean up, showering together and somehow managing not to have round two right then and there.

She stays behind, going through her night time ritual of getting ready for bed as Jamie pats her bottom on his way out the door.

A few minutes later, she flips off the bathroom light, joining him on the bed. He's sitting on the edge, his back to her, staring out the large bedroom window.

She crawls across the mattress behind him, looping one arm around him, her hand landing on his chest. His t-shirt is soft, and she enjoys the feel of it beneath her palm as she rubs his chest gingerly. "Hey," she says softly, kissing his ear, "what's wrong?"

His head turns to the side giving her a sideways look before he twists, one foot still on the ground, while his other leg bends. She moves over to make room, scooting back on the mattress.

He kisses her, moving to prop against the headboard. "Nothin', it's just…" His legs stretch out before him, ankles crossing, and she sits beside him, facing him as she watches the emotions play out on his face.

She moves so she's criss-cross and facing him, her one hand landing on his knee and patting it gently. "Just what?"

"Tomorrow is the anniversary of my dad's death," he confesses solemnly. "It's always hard fer me, ye ken." He gives her a sad smile, and she tightens her grip on his knee.

Claire smiles back at him, moving so she can lay against him. His arm cradles her and she rests her chin upon his chest. "He would be proud of the man you've become, Jamie, I know it."

He smiles, though it's soft and sad, almost as if he doesn't believe her, he nods anyway. Leaning in, he kisses her gently, lips lingering. The kiss doesn't heat up, it's just a way for them to be connected. He needs this right now.

Pulling apart, she snuggles into him, pressing a kiss to his chest.

His hand that's around her plays with her hair, twisting a curl around his finger and letting it go. It's soothing, and she wills herself not to fall asleep on him right now.

"Tell me about him," she murmurs. "I only know the little bit you told me back then."

She glances up, glad to see that his smile looks more genuine this time, and for the next hour, Jamie tells her all about Brian Fraser. The adventures they went on, the funny moments, the sad moments, and every good moment in between.

He cries telling her about his mother's death and how it affected his father, then cries a little harder talking about his dad's treatments and how it changed his appearance so much in the end.

She listens intently the whole time, gently moving her hand up and down his chest reassuringly.

They fall asleep, both emotionally spent, but happy to be in each other's arms.

{************************}

Two days later, Claire sighs as she parks the car at the airport.

Jamie leaves today.

It's been an amazing two weeks, and she knows she'll see him in just three months when she moves to Scotland, but three entire months seems like an eternity.

This morning had been wonderful with Julia baking Jamie a goodbye cake, and Claire smiles over at Jamie as he stuffs one last bite into his mouth before they exit the car.

"Surprise!" Julia called, hoisting up a cake on a glass cake stand in the air. "I know it's still breakfast time, but who says you can't have cake for breakfast?"

Jamie laughed, making his way over to the counter. Julia set down the cake as Jamie took her in his arms, giving her a giant bear hug. "Thank ye, lass," he said, "I dinna think my trip would be complete wi'out yer dessert making."

Jamie and Julia had bonded over their love of cooking, spending several nights kicking Claire out of the kitchen so they could make dinner together. Julia had bragged about her baking skills as well, but never got the chance to show them off until now.

Julia smiled, hugging Jamie back before pulling away and grabbing the knife. "Who wants cake?"

Smiling, Claire made her way over to the counter, peering down at the indulgence.

It was covered in white icing, blue piping around the edges with 'We'll miss you' written across the middle and colorful sprinkles covering the top. It was actually quite lovely, she had done a wonderful job, and Claire told her so, which caused the teen to blush and roll her eyes.

"This looks delicious, darling," she said, kissing the top of Julia's head. "I think I'll make us some eggs and toast to go along with it, though… get something with more sustenance in our stomachs."

Jamie laughed, cutting a large piece of the dessert and placing it on his plate. He made his way over to the table, joining Julia who was already seated and working on her piece.

Looking back at Claire, Jamie asked, "Do ye need help, Sassenach? My cake can wait."

Laughing, she waved him off, saying eggs were a one person thing anyway and they'd be done in no time.

Twenty minutes later, with bellies full of eggs, toast and cake (what a combination), Julia ran upstairs to finish packing her bags.

She was leaving for her weekend trip to Harvard today with Lizzie, and though the teenager was beyond excited to tour the campus and see where they'd be living, Claire was forlorn to know she'd be all alone this weekend with Julia and Jamie both gone.

"I wish I'd planned better, mo nighean donn," Jamie said, clearly reading her glass face and wrapping her in his arms. He swayed them slowly, dancing in the kitchen to an unheard song. "I couldha stayed wi' ye while the bairn is gone. I dinna want ye here all alone."

She huffed into his chest, shaking her head. "I've stayed home alone plenty of times." She smiled, leaning in to press a kiss to his chin. "I'm just going to miss you both."

He sighed into her curly hair, tightening his hold on her for a few more moments before time was up and they had to get ready to say goodbye to Julia and head to the airport themselves.

"Ye alright, mo chridhe?"

She smiles, clearing her mind. "I'm fine," she lies, taking a deep breath. "We better get you inside so you can get through security in time."

They climb out of the SUV, Jamie grabbing his luggage from the backseat. He takes her hand with his other, walking together across the parking garage and into the airport.

It's busy today, people rushing to and fro, announcements being muffled through intercoms, but Claire hears none of it as Jamie steps them off to the side, out of everyone's way, and whispers into her hair, "I'll miss ye sae much."

She wraps her arms around him, burying her face into his chest. "I'll miss you too, Jamie." Pulling back, she smiles, taking a deep, calming breath. "It's just a few weeks, well, several actually," she giggles to herself, "but then I'll be moving there!"

Jamie's smile widens as he swoops in, stealing a quick kiss from her lips. "I had the best time, Sassenach," he says, hoisting his carry-on higher onto his shoulder. "I only wish I couldha stuffed more of those Boston cream pies in my bag."

She laughs, saying, "I think the one you managed into your carry on is good enough."

"As long as ye dinna tell Jenny," he says, tapping a finger to his nose. "I'll be eatin' this one somewhere over the Atlantic before she even kens I had it."

Snickering, Claire shakes her head. "You're impossible. I'll have to be sure and bring some with me for Jenny in September."

They stand there, wrapped in each other's arms for a few more moments, soaking up every last second she can get with him.

He's warm against her, his heart beating against her ear, and if she tries hard enough, she can almost pretend they're still at home on the couch, the sounds of the airport just white noise on the telly.

"Okay," she finally says, pulling away. Her eyes are wet, and Jamie reaches up before she can, wiping a tear away. "Time to go."

He nods, clearing his throat as his eyes mist over as well. "Three more months, that's it."

Smiling, she agrees with a nod, standing on her tiptoes to press a sound kiss to his lips. Her hand wraps around, fingers splaying in the hair at the base of his neck. His hands are perched on her hips, one trailing dangerously close to her ass.

She giggles into their kiss, and Jamie pats her rear playfully, a giant smirk on his face as he pulls away. "Had tae get one more in there fer good measure."

"You're ridiculous," she laughs, taking his hand.

Inhaling sharply, she thinks of all there is to do within the next three months.

On top of dropping her baby off at college, which will bring a whole other set of emotions, she also has to finalize things at the hospital, get her house sold and pack everything up to either be stored or moved to Scotland with her.

It's a lot, but looking into Jamie's blue eyes, so full of love for her, she knows it's all worth it.

"I'll miss ye, Sassenach," he says again, leaning in for one final kiss.

She lets it linger, not caring that they're in public, a small moan escaping as she deepens the kiss.

They'd made love all last night, and twice this morning, but knowing she has to wait almost three whole months to be with him again makes her want to do impossibly naughty things to him right here in the airport.

There's a chance he might be able to swing taking more time off so he can come back and help with everything, but she knows she won't be able to make it to Scotland again until the big move. And the uncertainty of it just makes her want him even more one last time.

Pulling away, she grins, cocking an eyebrow. "I'll miss you, too."

"Minx," he mumbles, pressing another quick peck to her lips.

Laughing, she takes his suitcase, rolling it to the farthest spot she is allowed to go. "This is goodbye, then."

"Nah," he breathes, "Just 'see you later'."

She bites her lip, willing the tears not to come again. She swallows around the lump in her throat, nodding.

They smile, Jamie wrapping his arms around her in a warm hug. She tightens her hold around his middle, memorizing the feel of his arms encasing her.

She knows they're stalling—he really does have to go—so she pulls back, giving him a shy smile. "See you soon."

Jamie's face splits into a beaming smile. "I love the sound o' that!"

Laughing, she gives one final kiss, for real this time, before she playfully shoves his chest. "Get out of here," she jokes, "Call me when you land."

"Aye," he grunts, taking his luggage and walking backwards, keeping his eyes connected to hers. "Ye ken I will. I love you."

"I love you, too," she assures with a smile.

He takes three more steps back, turning abruptly when he bumps into someone, apologizing and turning back to Claire with a sheepish grin.

She giggles, rolling her eyes at how adorable he is.

He waves goodbye, and with that, he makes his way through the entryway, heading toward security.

Sighing, Claire breathes out, calming herself.

She turns and leaves, the whole way home thinking how in just a few agonizingly slow weeks, she'll truly be home in Scotland.

Her smile is wide as she pulls into her driveway, and she spends the rest of the day cleaning the house, napping and getting paperwork done before she heads to the hospital tomorrow for one of her last surgeries she'll ever do here in Boston.

{************************}

Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you thought! 3

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen:

"I canna believe ye move in three weeks," Jamie says, shaking his head in disbelief.

They're sitting on her couch, bingeing more episodes of their favorite show.

He flew into town four days ago, ready to help pack up all that he could while he was able to take a few days away from the Ridge.

Her storage unit was available so they spent her day off yesterday and today loading as much as possible into it. The larger items would go in just before she moved since she was still using them, but there was plenty she could put away already.

Sighing, Claire settles into the couch, pulling the blanket up around her shoulders.

Jamie sits at the other end, texting Fergus while pretending he's paying attention.

"I know, it's crazy," she says, glancing over. Pursing her lips, she gives his thigh a little nudge. "This is the best part!" she laughs. "This is where they realize Barney let a porno be filmed on their couch."

"Spoiler alert!" he cries, pulling at her big toe.

"Oh, like you haven't seen this episode a million times," she scoffs with a grin, focusing back on the screen as the episode ends and the next one begins.

It's late, almost midnight, but she enjoys these late nights with him so much. And she smiles, knowing they'll have so many more in a few weeks time.

Julia has been at Harvard for just over four weeks now, and despite her only being thirty minutes away, it feels so much farther. She and Lizzie have stayed busy on campus, only coming home one weekend for a visit so far.

So this quick trip of Jamie's is much needed. She likes the company.

Her eyes are tired—they should really go to bed—but she wants to at least finish this episode.

She jumps with a start as the front door flies open, Julia standing in the doorway.

She and Jamie both hop up in alarm, Claire instantly opening her arms as Julia runs into them, crying.

"Darling, what's wrong?" she asks, guiding her to the couch.

Jamie goes and closes the front door, quietly making his way into the kitchen to give them some privacy.

"It's dad," her daughter finally says, sniffling as she tries to take deep breaths. "He called me today."

Anger instantly boils in Claire's blood, and she smooths over Julia's dark hair, holding her close.

"He called and was asking how move-in went a few weeks ago," she says, voice still shaky with emotion. "I thought it was weird, ya know? He normally never calls, let alone just wants to talk."

Fuck Frank Randall. All he's ever done is throw money in their direction to appease his guilt for never being there for them, especially Julia.

"What did he say, darling?"

She huffs, tears coming back to her amber eyes. Julia takes a few more calming breaths before saying, "He told me he was sending me one last chunk of money but then that was it. H-he said now that I'm in college, I'm an adult, and I don't need him like his other kids do." She cries, and Claire's heart breaks for her baby.

She hates Frank with a passion. The only thing she can be thankful for is the fact that he gave her Julia.

"And I don't care about the money, you know?" she asks around a sob. "I know he wasn't ever a good father, but he was still my dad. And he's writing me off like he was just waiting for the day I went off to college."

Julia cries some more into Claire's chest, feet curling up on the couch. Claire can see Jamie in the kitchen, pretending that he can't hear every word Julia is saying.

She glances over Julia's head to catch his gaze, and he signals towards the upstairs, silently asking if he should go.

Shaking her head, she tugs Julia closer to her embrace, kissing the top of her head.

Jamie tentatively steps into the living room with a bowl of popcorn, setting it down on the coffee table. He sits on the armchair closest to the couch, leaning his elbows against his knees and looking at the two of them. "C-can I say something?" he asks softly, tentatively, and Julia glances up at him, wiping her cheeks as she nods.

"A leannan?" he says. "Ye listen tae me, alright?" He waits a beat before saying, "That man is no father, that is no' what a true dad should be like." He takes a deep breath, visibly upset as well. He glances over to Claire and she can see the anger in his eyes. "Ye deserve sae much better than tae be treated like that by a man who claims to be your father."

"Well he doesn't anymore," Julia grumbles, crying softly against Claire's chest.

Claire can tell Jamie's soothing voice is helping calm her, though, so she combs her fingers through her wavy hair while he says, "He doesna want ye? Fine. That's his choice, and it's a terrible one."

Grinning, Claire sniffles softly, catching Jamie's eye. He gives her a sympathetic look, then focuses back on Julia. "Ye're an amazing lass, Julia. And ye have an amazing mam who has always been there for ye."

Her heart squeezes a bit at his words, and Julia sniffles, saying, "I know. She's the best."

Jamie smiles. "Yeah, she is. And she's more than enough, aye?" He flicks his eyes up to Claire and she gives him a soft smile. "And… ye ken ye have me also, if you need me."

Claire clamps her lips together, trying to tamp down the sob trying to escape her mouth.

Julia gives him a soft smile and a nod, before cuddling deeper into Claire's embrace. Her tears haven't dissipated, but they are at least beginning to subside.

They talk for a few more minutes before Jamie excuses himself to the office upstairs. He stands, winking as best he can at Claire. He bends, kissing the top of her head, then Julia's.

"Thanks, Jamie," Julia tells him softly, giving him a sad smile. "That means a lot."

"Of course, lass," he smiles, patting her on the shoulder before making his way up the stairs.

Claire sits, rocking Julia in her arms like she did as a baby, shushing her cries and telling her over and over again how much she loves her.

She squeezes her eyes tight, trying to not let her own tears fall, though they already are. She sniffles, pressing her cheek against the top of Julia's head. "I'm so sorry, baby."

"It's not your fault, Mama," Julia sighs, snuggling more into Claire's arms as best she can.

Claire swallows around the lump in her throat, knowing Julia only ever uses the term 'mama' when she's at her most vulnerable, and her heart longs to reverse time and never let Frank even call her.

They sit together, television playing in the background. She isn't sure if Julia is watching it, feels her chest give a little chuckle at something Marshall says, but then she sighs, relaxing into Claire's arms.

After a while, she can feel Julia's breathing even out, so she sits there, soothing a hand through her hair and over her back, trying to collect herself before she calls Frank and gives him a piece of her mind.

An hour later, Claire's leg is fully asleep as she plays with one of Julia's curls. Her daughter's head is in her lap, legs up and curled on the couch. Her arm can't be comfortable the way she has it twisted beneath her chest, it's squeezed between the couch and Claire's thigh, but she seems content so she'll leave her be.

Jamie gingerly makes his way down the stairs; she can tell just from his footsteps that he's trying to be quiet.

She smiles, following him with her eyes as he sits back in the armchair.

He reaches over, taking Claire's free hand. Leaning in, he presses a kiss to her knuckle, letting her hand go. He sits back, smiling softly at her and Julia.

Peering down, Claire watches her daughter sleep, watches the way her long, dark lashes flutter softly against her cheek just like they always have. "She's so beautiful," she whispers.

Jamie chuckles quietly. "Aye, she is," he agrees. "Looks just like her mama. No' a trace of Frank in her."

"Thank God."

She runs her finger softly over Julia's features, tearing up as she watches her baby sleep. "She's got his nose," she finally admits, glancing at Jamie. "But that's about it."

"No' enough to count." He grins and she smiles back.

They sit there, Jamie turning the volume down a few notches while they let Julia sleep.

"Are ye goin' tae call him?"

She groans, leaning her head back. "I really don't want to, I don't even want to give him any more of our attention, but the other part of me really wants to so I can curse him out."

Jamie grins, saying he would do the same thing. "If I kent Fergus' mam and she e'er spoke tae him like that, I'd be seein' red. I wouldna be able tae rest until she got a piece of my mind."

"I know," she sighs. "And you're right, I know I won't sleep well unless I talk to him.

She picks up her phone, typing out a text to Gail to let her know what happened.

Oh absolutely not! Her text reads. Do I need to kick his ass? I can send Joe out there.

She laughs a little, knowing Gail is partly joking, but she also knows she and Joe would give Frank exactly what he deserves if she allowed them.

Glancing at the time on her phone, Claire sighs. She gently shakes Julia's shoulders, murmuring, "Why don't you go to bed?"

She rubs at her eyes and yawns, giving Claire a nod. Sniffling, she stands and Claire can still see the sadness on her daughter's face.

Julia gives both her and Jamie a hug before trudging up the stairs, and Claire is thankful she still has her room set up here, she hadn't put it in storage yet, and there were still some clothes around she could change into.

After another half hour, she and Jamie make their way up the stairs as well, going into her bedroom.

He settles atop the covers on their bed while she goes to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

Coming out, Claire plops onto the bed with a huff. Letting out a deep sigh, as if she's been holding it all in, she curls into Jamie's arms.

"I hate Frank."

He chuckles under his breath, saying, "After all ye've told me and after what he said tae Julia, I canna lie and say I dinna feel the same way."

She grins despite herself, sighing against his chest. "I just want to hold her," she cries, chest shaking. "Protect her from everything… but I can't."

"Ye are there fer her, mo chridhe," he soothes, running a hand over the back of her head, "We canna protect our bairns from e'ry bad thing in their life, but we can be there one way or another fer them when bad things do happen."

Claire nods into his chest, another defeated sigh escaping her lips. Jamie sighs and kisses the top of her head, scooting back a touch on the mattress. "Ye ken, when Fergus was little, he went away tae summer camp." She gives him a confused look, and he grins. "It was all the way in London, some fancy wilderness camp Ian was sending wee Jamie tae and they thought it would be fun tae go together."

He licks his lips, telling her, "While they were there, Fergus fell off the rope swing and broke his wrist," Jamie shakes his head at the memory. "My heart has ne'er hurt as badly as it did that day, hearing him cry on the phone, but I kent I couldna physically be there fer him."

She nods, knowing exactly what he means. She can't imagine if this had happened once she had already moved to Scotland, but she knows even if it had, Julia would have been okay.

"I was half way through packing my bag, ready tae catch the next flight when his camp counselor called me." He laughs softly. "She said he was fine, off wi' wee Jamie eating ice cream, happy as a clam."

She grins despite herself and sniffles.

He picks up her hand, linking their fingers. He brings it up to his lips, placing a gentle kiss to the underside of her wrist. "What I'm sayin is, yer bairn is upset now, and fer good reason, but she will be okay."

Jamie ducks his head to catch her eye, and she nods. "I know," she sighs. "I know. It just sucks that I can't shield her from everything. Shouldn't have to protect her from her own fucking father."

"I ken," he nods, "and if I e'er see Frank Randall, ye'll have tae hold me back from letting my fists give his face exactly what he deserves."

She chuckles around the lump in her throat, and he stands. Jamie presses a kiss to her forehead, grabs his phone and says he'll be down the hall in her office—claiming he has to call Ian, even though it's two in the morning in Scotland. She knows he's doing it to give her time to cry and collect herself if she needs to, and she appreciates it.

As soon as he's gone, she calls Gail, venting some more about the piece of shit she once thought she'd spend her life with.

As she hangs up with her friend, the bedroom door creaks open and Claire watches as Julia walks into the room. "Can I lay with you for a little bit?"

"Of course, sweetheart," she croons, scooting over and patting her side of the mattress.

Julia climbs onto the bed, burrowing under the covers. Claire wraps her arm around Julia's shoulder, pulling her closer to her side. "I'm so sorry about tonight, baby."

Her daughter shrugs, sniffling. Even from this angle Claire can see Julia's eyes shining with tears, but the teenager glances up at Claire, saying, "I'm just pissed, you know? And hurt, but I'll be okay."

God, she loves her daughter so much.

"Dad's always kind of been an ass anyway."

Laughing, Claire nods, silently agreeing with her.

"Seriously, though, I'll be okay. Lizzie said she canceled her plans tomorrow night so we can stay home and binge movies all night. Probably order some Mexican food."

"That sounds nice," Claire murmurs, pressing a kiss to the top of Julia's head. "I love you, darling."

"I love you too," she assures, settling against Claire's side.

They lay there for a moment, Claire's back pressed against the headboard, her hand rubbing soothingly up and down Julia's back. She listens as Julia takes a deep breath, then sighs. "I really appreciate Jamie," she tells her softly, sitting up so she can look at Claire straight on. "I'm glad he's in our lives."

Claire's tears had dried, but they're back again, and she sniffles, trying to reel them back in. He's in their lives, not just hers, and she loves how much her daughter approves of him.

"I am, too," Claire whispers, smacking a kiss onto Julia's cheek.

Julia rolls her eyes but laughs, shaking her head.

She picks up her phone, pulling up her Instagram to show Claire some photos Lizzie had taken of them at a campus event two nights ago, and she smiles, watching as her daughter laughs and tells her of how a guy tripped and fell into the fountain.

They're laughing together, Claire taking the phone to examine the photo, when Jamie walks in.

They both look over at him, and he smiles, asking if they want him to leave. "I can sleep in the guest room tonight if ye wanna sleep in here, a leannan."

Julia smiles but stands from the bed with a shake of her head. "Nah, that's alright. I was just about to go get in my bed, anyway." She smiles, leaning down to kiss Claire goodnight. "I kind of miss my bed," she chuckles. "The dorm bed definitely isn't as comfortable."

Jamie and Claire laugh with her as Claire stands up from the mattress, giving Julia another kiss to her cheek and pulling her in for a tight hug. "Goodnight, darling."

Julia says goodnight again, hugging them both before closing the door behind her and going to her own bedroom.

With a deep inhale, Claire walks the few steps over to Jamie, drawing him into a hug. Claire stands there, Jamie's arms tightly wound around her and prays for time to stand still. She inhales, letting the smell of his coastal body wash fill her senses.

"Thank you," she whispers, pulling back. "You've been amazing tonight with me and with Julia." She gives him a little smile, walking toward the bathroom. "I think I'm going to take a bath and relax for a bit before bed."

"Ye dinna have tae thank me, mo nighean donn," he says, smiling across the room at her. "Do ye need anything?"

"You?" she says sheepishly, giving him a shrug.

With a warm smile, Jamie joins her, running them a warm bath. He lets her cry and cuss out Frank Randall, helping her plan out exactly what she wants to say to him when she calls him in a few minutes.

A few hours later, once she and Jamie are in bed—long after a heated phone call with Frank, where she told him he was never in Julia's life to begin with, so why he had to say it to her daughter, she wasn't sure. She also informed him to never contact her nor Julia ever again, not that he ever cared to do that too much in the first place—Claire cries in Jamie's arms, drifting off into a fitful sleep.

Her baby will be fine, she knows that. Julia is resilient. She'll head back to school tomorrow when she's ready and pick up right where she left off, not giving Frank Randall another thought.

And in three short weeks, she'll be at the airport, hugging Julia so tightly that she might not be able to breathe as they embark on these new stages of life.

{*************************}

"Okay, perfect," Claire says, tapping the pencil against her clipboard. She marks off guest bed from the list, then points with the pencil toward the barn. "That one can go into storage."

John Grey nods, helping Murtagh and two other men carry her guest bed from the moving truck into the barn.

She was thankful John and Murtagh were back from Paris in time to help her get settled. It's the first week of September, just a few weeks before her new job starts, and Claire is only mildly having a panic attack.

She's been in Scotland for four days, and while she was able to bring a good bit with her on the plane, her bigger items were only just now arriving.

They'd gotten delayed at one of the stops, slowing the process down.

As soon as she arrived, she and Jamie began unpacking her belongings that she did have, blending their lives together. She was thankful at least that was all finished—her clothes were all unpacked, washed and hanging in the closet or folded in her drawers, she and Jamie had gone and bought new throw pillows together that now resided on the couch, and the items for the kitchen she flew over with were settled in their new spots, too.

It has been stressful, though, waiting for the big items—even though Claire hadn't needed any of those things right away—she still feels out of sorts without all of her belongings being there at Lallybroch, so she's happy to have everything showing up today.

Things with the move have been going smoothly thus far, other than the furniture set back. Jamie's employees have been acting as movers, helping them rearrange and bring in items, which saved her a big cost of hiring movers for multiple days.

They'd hired movers to at least get her things from the airport to Lallybroch in a moving van, saving Jamie's men a few steps in the process of helping, but after that it was up to them to get it all off the truck.

Jenny and Ian also came, along with Fergus, all doing their part to help get things settled.

It was easier than she thought to meld their things together. Her light blue pintuck duvet now covers their bed, her favorite pictures are mingled amongst Jamie's, she'd convinced him to change out the throw pillows on the couch in the living room, and the fridge is now filled with much healthier foods.

She decided months ago, just after he left Boston the first time, that his mattresses were far superior to hers, so they'd agreed to keep his for the time being. She left her guest bedroom's queen sized mattress in storage in Boston for Julia, along with her living room furniture and dining room table.

Julia was planning to sell her bedroom suite from home to make some money, since her dorm was furnished and she'd have Claire's extra one when she got her own apartment next school year.

Her master bedroom's mattress from Boston came with Claire, though, since it could potentially be used one day. Lallybroch was large, and there was a room in the basement that Jamie had never even used before, so they talked about possibly turning that into a guest suite at some point with a bathroom and small kitchen.

"How's it going?" Jamie asks, coming up from behind and wrapping his arms around her waist. He kisses her neck, swaying them as they look out from the driveway toward the barn.

"Good," she sighs, "John and them just got the bed moved. I think all that's left is my dresser and nightstands, Julia's memory boxes, the lamps, and the armchair." She grins on that last word, wiggling out of Jamie's arms.

It was his armchair from inside the house, one that she'd always thought was hideous. It was large and navy, and not comfortable in the least bit. They agreed to put his in storage and use hers instead. She had a pair of chairs from her bedroom in Boston that they were going to use in the living room, luckily they blended together nicely.

She picks up a box, handing it to Jamie. "That goes to the kitchen," she directs, and he nods, giving her a smile and taking the three steps up inside the house.

Looking around, hands on her hips, she smiles. Giving herself a proud nod, she looks back at her clipboard, marking a few more items off.

"Trucks empty," Ian tells her, walking up the driveway with Fergus.

"Perfect," she beams. "Thanks again for your help. I really appreciate it."

Fergus bows with a grin, looking up at her through his long lashes. "It was my pleasure, milady."

Snorting a small laugh, Claire rolls her eyes, muttering how he's just as ridiculous as his father.

Jamie comes outside, joining them just as Jenny makes her way up the drive as well.

"It's all done," Jenny says with a smile. "How does it feel?"

Taking a deep breath, Claire says, "Pretty damn good," just as Jamie slips his arm around her shoulders. "Everything inside is unpacked except a few boxes in the kitchen." She starts to make her way inside, the rest following behind. "We've got my chairs and lamps set up now in here," she says as they enter the living room. "There's only one more box in our room I need to go through," she continues rambling on, listing off the last few items needed before the house is complete.

"How about a drink tae celebrate?" Jamie asks the group, and everyone agrees.

She and Jamie had promised beer and pizza as payment for their help, so she takes out her phone, ordering the pizza to arrive within the next hour.

Jamie dishes out the drinks, and Claire looks around, admiring her new home.

It is so perfectly her and Jamie mixed together. She smiles to herself, looking at the photograph of Julia and Joe at her graduation sitting next to one of Fergus as a kid jumping on the trampoline.

She runs her hand along the arm of her chair, gently tapping her fingers against the fabric. It's gray with a navy and light blue pattern woven into it, and it goes perfectly with Jamie's gray couch and loveseat.

Sighing, she focuses back on the conversation, catching Jamie's eye. He must feel her gaze on him because he looks up, smiling softly in her direction. He gives her a little wink, well, a blink, and she smiles back at him.

Her phone buzzes and she picks it up, reading a text from Julia. It's a picture of her and Lizzie at the dining hall. She's holding up a stack of pancakes with a big smile on her face.

Breakfast at any point of the day!

Laughing quietly, she responds back, saying they look delicious, even if it is almost noon over there—which, she supposes, is still breakfast time for a college student.

Her daughter sends back an eye rolling emoji but asks how everything is going.

Really well. The truck finally came today with the furniture so we've spent all day unloading and unpacking.

Can't wait to see it all! Julia's text reads, send me pics asap!

Grinning, she tells her she will before locking her phone.

She looks around, watching her friends all laugh and carry on, taking turns making jokes and planning when their first game night will be now that she's here.

"Game night sounds fun," she declares, finally joining the conversation.

Jenny, perched in Ian's lap in the chair beside her, laughs. "We love Cards Against Humanity. Ye e'er played?"

Nodding, she tells the group that she's played a few times with Joe and Gail.

Fergus pipes up excitedly, telling her all about how they can play the next time he's in town. He has some other games he can bring as well.

"I'm sure Marsali will love playing games," Jamie says from the couch, smirking at Fergus beside him. He grips his son's shoulder, saying, "Ye ken how bairns always love tae play new games. What's her favorite these days? Hide-n-seek?"

The room erupts in laughter, and Fergus blushes. He waves Jamie off good naturedly, changing the subject by asking, "Did you order the pizza yet, Claire?"

"Yes," she assures, "it should be here soon."

The pizza arrives twenty minutes later, and for the rest of the night, she and Jamie entertain his family in their house.

Theirs.

There's still work to do to be sure, but it's starting to feel more like their home and she loves it.

{**********************}

Two nights later, Claire and Jamie head to dinner with Jenny and Ian.

She loves that she gets to see Jenny any time she wants now; they've grown even closer over the last week that she's been here, and Claire is happy to have a friend.

"We figured we'd give ye the real Highland experience tonight, Claire," Ian announces, clapping her on the back with a wide smile.

They all settle at the table, accepting the menus from the waitress while Jamie orders water for everyone and a bottle of their Mirabello pinot grigio for the table to enjoy.

The restaurant is beautiful. It's built inside of an old stone church, now a split level contemporary restaurant filled with white fairy lights, bustling waiters, and live music playing on the first floor. The acoustics are amazing and she feels as if there's a concert being played just for their table.

"It's gorgeous in here," she notes, looking around in wonder at the stained glass windows.

Jenny smiles, telling her it is one of her and Ian's favorite places. "First place he e'er took me on a date, ye ken."

"Really?" Jamie asks, "I didna ken that."

Laughing, Ian slips his arm from around Jenny's chair, nodding his thanks to the waitress as she delivers their glasses and pitcher of water. "Aye," he says, pouring a glass for everyone and passing them around. "I kent she'd be impressed with the music, and I wanted tae make a good impression." He gives Claire a little wink at that, and she chuckles, telling him it was a great first date choice.

Jenny and Ian spend the next half hour entertaining her and Jamie with stories from their early dating life, accidents that happened that only added to the humor of their dates, and Jenny even sharing a few sweet moments.

"Slipped and fell right in th' mud," Ian admits, pressing his palm to his forehead dramatically.

Everyone laughs, but Claire grimaces, knowing that must have been terribly embarrassing. "I would have been mortified," she says with a chuckle. "And you two had only just started dating?"

"Oh, aye," Jenny says, patting Ian's cheek lovingly. "'Twas our fourth or fifth date, sae he was still nervous 'round me… though I dinna ken why, we grew up together."

"It was different when I was tryin' tae impress ye," he defends, holding up his hands. "Chasin' ye around the yard wi' Jamie as bairns is a whole different story than datin' ye."

Jamie laughs, saying he's surprised they even went on dates. "Ye two were practically marrit from th' time ye were seventeen." He glances over at Claire, giving her a soft smile.

She knows if things had gone differently in their past, they would have been married young as well.

"Weel at least I had th' good sense tae wait until I was twenty-one tae finally marry him," Jenny says, winking at Ian, "though that tumble in the mud did make me almost reconsider."

Their food arrives as everyone's laughter dies down, and Claire bites her bottom lip. It looks delicious, but she's also nervous that this combination won't be as appetizing as Ian swore it was. She'd ordered their chicken breast grilled and stuffed with Stornoway black pudding that was wrapped in Serrano ham. It seemed overwhelming but Ian promised her it was amazing. It came served with crushed potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and a porcini mushroom sauce.

Taking a deep breath, she gives the table a little, "Giranomo!" before taking her first bite.

A first bite which is pure heaven.

"Oh my god," she murmurs around the bite, covering her mouth to be polite. She swallows as the other three laugh, and she tells them, "This is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth."

"Dinna tell Jamie that!" Ian jokes.

Guffawing, Claire can feel her cheeks heat despite how funny it was, and she knows Jamie's ears are red before she even looks at him.

Jenny is laughing as well, but swatting at his chest, jokingly covering her ears. "That's ma brother!"

The table settles and everyone digs in, each one enjoying their dish. They trade bites, letting everyone sample, and they all agree that they need to come back here more often.

Dinner is amazing, and the wine is just as great. She can feel the effects of it as they stand to make their way to the car.

Ian had, thankfully, only had one glass at the beginning of dinner almost two hours ago, so he was fine to drive them home.

Claire can't say the same for herself. She definitely feels those two (very large) glasses she consumed.

They all climb in, sharing hugs and kisses as the Murray's drop her and Jamie off at Lallybroch before driving the short distance to their own house.

Walking inside, she flips on the lights and slips her shoes off.

"Ah," she breathes.

"Feet hurt?"

"Yes," she giggles, hiccuping a bit. "But not too bad, they already feel better."

Jamie smiles, hanging his jacket up on the rack by the door. He wraps his arms around her, once his hands are free, and leans in to kiss her soundly. "It's just the two of us now."

His voice is low, and husky, and Claire feels it right down to her core. "It sure is," she purrs, grinning up at him. "Upstairs?"

Nodding, Jamie takes her hand, dashing up the stairs like two excited school children, giggling all the way.

Once inside their bedroom, clothes fly—he spins her around, unzipping her dress. She shivers as she feels his calloused hands grazing against her skin. Glancing over her shoulder, she grins seductively up at Jamie, his eyes fixated on the expanse of her back. He licks his lips, pressing a kiss between her shoulder blades before Claire turns to face him again, shimmying out of said dress and tossing it to the side. His shirt is ripped from his body as her hands slide up his broad chest and around his neck, pulling him close. The trousers go next, and within seconds, they're naked, Jamie moving them onto the bed.

She bounces a bit at how forcefully he sets her down, but she loves it, gives him a devilish smirk in response and summons him to get on top.

Their lips connect and hands search for each other. Claire's legs wrap around his waist—God, he's so hard already—drawing him near as she pants into his ear.

His lips make their way down from her jaw to her neck, sucking on her pulse point. She moans at the feeling, so he does it again, giving her exactly what she wants.

Jamie moves down, lips trailing over her chest, down between her breasts, before taking a pert nipple into his mouth. He tugs a bit, and god, she does love when he's a little rougher, before licking his way over to the next one, giving it the same attention.

His hand reaches down between them, caressing her hip before skimming over her sex. He slips a finger into her slit, swirling around and crooking it up to hit that spot she loves so much.

"Does that feel good?"

Oh, fuck.

"Yes," she sighs, "yes."

He kisses her stomach, adding another finger. He moves his fingers in and out, her wetness growing with each movement as his palm rubs against her clit.

"Jamie," she says, tugging him up to get his attention. "I want you inside me. Now."

He grins, moving to line their bodies up.

Claire reaches between them, stroking him one, two, three times, feeling satisfied as he grows even harder in her grasp. She takes it, placing it right where it needs to be before he pushes in, his cock sinking deep inside her.

"Oh, god," he rasps, thrusting into her harder, harder, harder, with each one. "Oh, Claire."

Her legs wrap around his waist, heels digging into his ass. She grabs his shoulders, pulling him tightly to her, knowing she's leaving her fingernail marks in his skin.

Good, she thinks, she loves when he's marked the next day from her.

She moves one hand from his bicep to his shoulder, slinking over to caress his scars.

He moves, just to the left a bit, and, "Fuck!"

"Like that?" he asks huskily, rutting up in her as deeply as he possibly can.

She nods frantically, and she cups his jaw, making sure their eyes are connected. Claire watches him and he watches her as he takes her, over and over again, just like they both love. His blue eyes shine as they bore into hers, and she's convinced they've never been this close before, as if they've melded into one being.

Jamie reaches for her hands, pinning them both down beside her head, and oh, yes, oh god yes, she loves when he does this. "Yes," she hisses, smiling as his lips crash onto hers.

She writhes beneath him, moving her hips in a way she knows drives him crazy.

Desire overwhelms her, and she can feel her orgasm sneaking up on her already. Her moans are high pitched, and loud, and she loves that they have the freedom to be like this.

No kids. She can be as loud as she wants, and as he loves to point out, she is quite loud.

Moaning, she cries out, a shiver running down her spine.

She watches as Jamie slams into her, biting his lip so hard she thinks he might draw blood. There's sweat forming on his brow, and she knows he's trying to hold out for her. "Let go, my love," she grunts, rolling her hips beneath his.

He releases her wrists, and they immediately circle around his neck, drawing him near. His skin is flushed, she spies goosebumps on his arms, as he fucks into her harder, deeper, just there, oh, god, this is fucking amazing. "I'm close," she pants, the need for him to come inside of her overwhelming, almost taking her breath from her as it's hostage.

Jamie groans, his hands finding purchase on the mattress on either side of her head as he pistons in and out of her over and over again, and Jesus H. fuck, this is exactly what she needs. What she wants.

Tightening her hold around his waist, Claire cries out, goosebumps flaring all over her skin as her desire crashes around her, soaking Jamie's cock.

He's not far behind, with three more thrusts, he's coming inside her, letting her milk him for every last drop. His hands twist in the sheets, tightening his grasp to hold him steady as he rides out his bliss before he can take no more.

Rolling off of her, he drops onto the bed beside her and she grins over at him.

They're both spent, their breath ragged as they let the air cool their skin.

It's quiet, no words needed in this moment, as she basks in Jamie's love for her.

"Did ye ken," he says suddenly, and she turns her head to glance at him, "the graylag, it uh, it mates for life."

"What?" she laughs, brow furrowing as she turns to her side to get a better look at him. She pulls the sheet with her, covering her body up to her chest to try and get warm. Her hand lands on his chest, and Jamie reaches up, covering hers with his own.

He smirks, giving her that little hrumph noise he makes, toying with her fingers. He leans up, kissing her silver ring, before laying back down. "If ye kill a grown one in hunting," he says, bending an arm beneath his head, "ye must wait. For its mate will come to mourn." He tilts his head to look at her, his blue eyes wet. "Then ye must kill that one, too, otherwise it'll grieve itself to death calling through the skies for the lost one."

"That's terribly sad," she murmurs, sliding closer. She taps his chest, giving him a small, questioning smile, unsure of where he's going with this.

With a sigh, he turns to his side, the sheet twisting with him. His hand reaches up to cup her cheek, thumb caressing softly at the skin there. "We're mated fer life, Sassenach."

With a quivering chin, Claire's eyes mist over and all she can do is nod.

Leaning in, she kisses his chin, then his lips, cuddling into his embrace. "I feel so lucky to be here with you," she says softly, hand trailing up and down his stomach.

Jamie kisses the top of her head, breathing deeply. "Sometimes," he starts, voice shaking. Claire sits up again to look into his eyes. "Sometimes I… I think ye're an angel, Claire." He grins sheepishly, giving her a little shrug. "Come tae save me from a life of emptiness."

If her insides could melt into goo at someone's words, they would in this very moment. Her heart practically skips a beat, and she's consumed with a new wave of desire for this man.

Slowly, oh so slowly, she rolls, moving to straddle his hips. "Would an angel," she whispers hotly, "do this?" Moving in to capture his lips feels as if it takes forever. Claire smiles into the kiss, Jamie's calloused hands clutching her hips, and for the rest of the night, she savors every breath shared between them, every touch of his skin, and every kiss their lips grant.

{************************}

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen:

Six months go by, and before Claire knows it, their first Christmas has come and gone—with Julia and Fergus both coming to visit for the holiday and Hogmanay—and now the spring is beginning to take hold of the Highlands. The snow is still here, but slowly melting with each passing day. The Ridge is gearing up for the upcoming harvest in a few months, the hospital is just as busy as ever, and there's just a feel in the air she gets every spring that gives her hope for the days to come. It's as if she can feel the weight of the cold winter days shedding away.

She's rushing home today, overjoyed to share her news with Jamie.

She'd called Julia on the way home, sharing it with her, and was met with screams of excitement from her and her new boyfriend, Rabbie—who barely knew Claire but was just as excited for her as Julia was—which Claire found adorable. Joe and Gail had much the same reaction when she sent them a text in their group chat, and now it was down to Jamie.

Parking the car, Claire dashes inside, slipping her heels off by the backdoor.

"Jamie!" she calls frantically, running through the kitchen to the living room. "Jamie, where are you?"

"Up here," his muffled voice responds, "in the office."

She hears his footsteps making his way down in quick succession, and she wrings her hands together in anticipation. "Is e'rything alright, Sassenach?" He gives her a once over, cupping her cheek. "What's wrong?"

She bounces on the balls of her feet, biting her bottom lip to suppress her smile. "Nothing is wrong!"

"What is it?" he laughs, leaning in to give her a kiss.

She turns, walking over to the couch, Jamie following behind. "Well, you know my chief, Dr. Raymond?"

"Aye," he acknowledges, bending a knee to turn and look at her. He toys with the fabric of her dress pants on her knee, glancing up at her. "Ye've gotten close wi' him lately, right?"

"Right," she nods, her smile beaming. "I've been working closely with him since I arrived, but especially within the last four months," she explains.

It's March now, and her chief has always taken a liking to her, but the last several months have found her in more meetings with him, more mentoring sessions, and observing him in more surgeries.

She is the head surgeon of the Neurology Department, and is doing an amazing job with it. But for whatever reason, Dr. Raymond has taken her under his wing, instilling more knowledge in her than she thinks she ever learned in medical school. He is a genius when it comes to diagnosing patients, performing surgeries, and having a knack for knowing exactly what patients need to feel comfortable while in his surgeons' capable hands.

He is a bit quirky, his thick French accent a surprise amongst the Scottish brogue that surrounds them each day. They are two of the only outlanders at the hospital, and in a way she thinks it bonded them right from the get-go.

Raymond's office is filled with artifacts that Lamb would go crazy for; he's a world traveler just like her uncle, and as a result, has picked up some not-so-typical methods of how to treat certain ailments.

He, of course, legally can't treat patients with those methods, but Raymond always seemed to find a way to slip the information to them—herbs to mix into teas, random combinations of obscure vegetables to eat, medicinal salves to put on their aches and pains. He is beyond fascinating, and Claire has come home more days than not with a giant smile on her face and stories of her mentor to tell Jamie about.

"Aye, ye mentioned that a while back," he says, giving her a questioning look.

Taking a deep breath, Claire rubs her lips together trying to contain her elation. "So, he called me to his office today," she explains, taking Jamie's hand. She rests their hands in her lap, playing with his fingers as she speaks. "He told me that he's retiring."

"Oh, wow," Jamie says in surprise, eyebrows lifting. "From the way ye always describe him, I thought he'd be one of those to ne'er leave."

"I did, too," Claire chuckles, jumping in before he can say more. "He said he recommended me to the board even though I've only been there six months."

"Ye mean…?"

She watches as Jamie's eyes light up, realization starting to hit him as she continues rambling excitedly. "He said he submitted some of my articles I've written and notes from presentations I've done over the years, plus reviews of surgeries I've done, everything!" She feels as if she's going to burst out of her skin with emotion, eyes misting over as she tells Jamie, "There's a really strong chance that I'll be the Chief of Surgery by next year!"

"Sassenach, that is wonderful news!" Jamie exclaims, pulling her in for a tight hug.

She wraps her arms around him, the smile not leaving her face. "Of course there are other doctors who are up for consideration," she concedes, settling against the back cushion, "so I don't want to get too excited, but…" She beams again, giving him a shrug, "I have a really good feeling about it. There's the presentation I made at the Neurology Conference last month, and you know I have another seminar I'm speaking at this summer that they will take into consideration as well." She smiles, remembering how she got to see Joe last month at the annual winter conference, and how proud he'd been of all her new accomplishments as head surgeon. "Raymond hasn't taken anyone else under his wing like he has me."

Laughing, Jamie hops up. "We need tae celebrate!" He rushes over, grabbing the whisky and pouring them each a tumbler.

She stands, joining him at the little bar. "He's been mentoring me more closely than the others, you know?"

"Aye, aye, that's why I think ye'll be gettin' the position."

Taking the glass from his hands, she says from behind the glass, "Funny how things work out like that," before taking a sip with a smirk on her face.

Rolling his eyes, he can't help but to laugh, saying she's right. "What do ye want tae do tonight? Dinner with Jenny and Ian? Celebrate here at home? Yer choice."

Inhaling, she takes another sip, smiling over at Jamie. It's The Ridge's first flavor of whisky that is tolerable—still not perfect, but it's pretty damn close—and she breathes in, enjoying the aroma. Taking another sip, she closes her eyes for a moment, savoring the flavor. Looking at Jamie, she says, "I think I want to stay right here, with you."

With that, Jamie calls for Alexa to play Perfect by Ed Sheeran as he sets his glass down. He takes hers from her hand, too, setting it beside his own before standing. He reaches out a hand, asking with a gentle smile, "Dance wi' me?"

"Of course," Claire giggles, placing her hand in his, his fingers wrapping around and helping her stand.

She twines her arms with his, both settling into position with her hands around his neck and his resting on her hips. They sway slowly as Ed sings of two souls that were just kids when they fell in love, and Jamie moves them around the living room with a tender smile playing on his lips. He sings softly in her ear, completely off-key, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

'Cause we were just kids when we fell in love

Not knowing what it was

I will not give you up this time

But darling, just kiss me slow…

Jamie leans in with the last lyrics, pressing his lips slowly to hers. "I'm sae proud of ye, Claire," he murmurs against her lips, pressing another kiss to her forehead.

She rests her forehead against his, both of their bodies halting their dance to just stand there, together, embracing this new change.

"It will change my schedule a lot, I'm sure," she admits, looking up at him, rubbing her lips together apprehensively. "We'll have to adjust to that, and I'll be in charge of more meetings, more conferences to attend, and—"

"—Ye've got this, Sassenach," encourages Jamie. "I have complete faith in ye that if ye do get this promotion, and I ken ye will, ye'll do amazing at it." She leans in, kissing his lips soundly, smiling into it. "Ye're an amazing doctor, and an amazing leader. Both great qualities tae have tae be the chief, aye?"

She nods, growing excited as butterflies swarm in her stomach and her eyes mist over with tears.

"And when yer schedule changes, then," he shrugs, smiling and swiping a lone tear from her cheek, "we'll figure it out, we'll learn how to manage it, together."

"Together." She grins. "I like the sound of that," she whispers, pecking a quick smooch to his lips one more time. She clears her throat, blinking the tears away before taking Jamie's hand, saying, "Now, let's go eat."

That night, after an evening filled with homemade quesadillas, more pulls of whisky, sex on the couch—and up against the wall just outside of their bedroom—and an excited phone call to Jenny, Claire finds herself fully satiated in bed, snuggled up in flannel pants and her Cairo University shirt.

She sends Julia one more text, then sets her phone down on the nightstand to charge. "Julia said Rabbie bought them tickets to that Van Gogh experience that just came to Boston," she calls to Jamie. She hears him grunt his response around his toothbrush before spitting into the sink.

"She'll love that," he says, walking out of the bathroom, stopping to pick up his jacket from the back of the chair and hang it up in the closet. "He seems like a nice lad sae far," he notes, stepping out of the closet. "Good Scottish one at that." He grins, and Claire just rolls her eyes.

Rabbie was an exchange student at Harvard, and Jamie had been more than pleased when Julia told them he was from Scotland—a town just two hours away from Inverness. It made Claire happy as well, hoping if things got serious with Rabbie, it would mean even more visits from her daughter.

She giggles to herself as she pulls the covers up to her chin, burrowing in for heat. It's freezing outside, snow still lingering on the ground, and despite the heat being on in the house, she's still cold.

Jamie walks over to the bed, muttering something about being hot and she laughs. "You're a furnace, my love," she tells him, watching as he pulls on a t-shirt before climbing under the covers.

"Nah," he chuckles, "Ye're just a wee ice box."

Laughing, Claire shakes her head and wraps herself deeper into the covers. She moves her feet over to his side of the bed, placing them against his calf.

"Christ, Sassenach!" he cries, jerking away from her cold feet. "Do ye need me tae get ye some socks?" he asks with a laugh, but she knows he'd really do it for her if she wanted.

"No," she chuckles, "they'll warm up eventually. Especially pressed up against yours."

With that, Jamie leans in, giving her a quick kiss. He reaches over to his nightstand and grabs his glasses, slipping them on. He responds to a text from Murtagh, then one to Fergus, before picking up the book he's been reading. "Fergus said he's coming in two weeks. He's taking Marsali to some new escape room that just opened up."

"That'll be fun," she murmurs, curling up on her side.

Jamie nods, glancing over to catch her eye. Licking his finger, he turns the page to where they'd left off last night, and he begins to read softly to her.

With a content smile, she settles into a warm, comfortable spot on the bed, feet tucked snugly under Jamie's calves and his voice sending her off to dreamland. Before she can fully fall asleep, however, she hears Jamie whisper, "I'm sae proud of ye, mo nighean donn."

She buries her face into the pillow to hide her smile, but peeks up at him and blows him a kiss. "Thank you, Jamie."

He grins, going back to his book and finishing the chapter as she drifts off into slumber, excited to see what the future holds as the possible Chief of Surgery at Raigmore Hospital.

She'd said it earlier, but she thinks about it now: It's funny how things work out.

The position she gave up to move here is now being presented to her, basically on a silver platter. It wasn't something back then that she really wanted—seeing how Dr. Rawlings never had time for his family—but being here, watching Dr. Raymond balance being chief, having his husband and their three kids, she knows it will be much easier here to be the chief at this hospital. She's got her manfriend, a beautiful house that she loves, a job she adores, and a daughter across the pond who will be here in four short weeks to visit during her spring break.

Things are wonderful, and Claire wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

{****************************}

I hope you liked this little time jump as the penultimate chapter… final one will be posted in a few days! Please let me know what you thought!

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen:

One year later

"Mom!" Julia calls, walking into the house. "We're here!"

Coming out of the kitchen, Claire greets Julia and Rabbie at the door. "Hi, darling!" she greets, kissing her cheek. "Hi, Rabbie."

"Dr. Beauchamp," he says, giving her a hug.

"Please," she laughs, "how many times do I have to tell you to just call me Claire?"

She grins, settling in the living room with her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. It was nice, having Julia living in Scotland now—everything felt complete.

Julia had loved Harvard, had planned on staying there for all of her studies, but Rabbie McNab came into her life and things were never the same.

Rabbie was attending Harvard Law for the year when he met Julia out at a party one night. They were the only two who looked bored, which instantly gave them something to talk about.

They bonded over the fact that their best friends had dragged them there—and were currently making out with one another in the next room. They'd each only agreed because they didn't want their friend going alone. Julia had found it sweet of him, and they spent the next two hours talking about books they loved and classes they were taking.

It led to them leaving the party and walking around campus together, sitting by the water fountain that was surrounded by lampposts wrapped in fairy lights. They talked until one in the morning, and Julia told Claire that after that, she just knew Rabbie was the one for her.

The sparks flew, and six months into being in college, Julia had a boyfriend. A serious one.

She was young—almost twenty now—but Claire could tell she truly loved Rabbie, and he loved her.

After the school year was over, Rabbie had had to move back to Scotland. They tried to do long distance—Julia coming to stay with her and Jamie for a few weeks, then Rabbie flying out to her when he could—but after one of her trips, Julia just knew she needed to move to Scotland as well.

Julia would marry Rabbie one day, Claire was sure of it, and it brought a smile to her face any time she thought about it.

Julia's relationship with Rabbie was so similar to how she and Jamie began that Jamie often poked fun at her, saying she didn't have to emulate every bit of their relationship, no matter how much she loved their love story.

Julia is at university in Edinburgh now, just three hours from Claire and Jamie's home. Fergus is in his final year there as well, so it's nice to have both kids come home to visit every now and then for a weekend.

It's also comforting for Claire to know that Fergus is in Edinburgh to check on Julia and make sure things are going okay.

The two of them have become close, practically siblings, riding back to Inverness together, making fun of Claire and Jamie and how they act more like love sick teenagers than either of them do with their love interests. The kids are thrilled for them,, but love teasing them even more.

Marsali graduated last year and started uni to prepare for medical school as well. Fergus is planning to propose when he graduates in May, and Claire couldn't be happier for them.

She and Jamie are completely content. There are arguments, of course, just as any couple has from time to time—especially with their tempers—but they've gotten into a groove, and have learned to communicate better with each passing day.

Life in Scotland has been blissful to say the least—far better than she could have ever imagined.

Uncle Lamb even came to visit a few months ago, beyond thrilled to see Jamie again. The two of them sat up and drank whisky—The Ridge's first official flavor that had just started selling in stores—laughing and talking long into the night, hours after Claire had gone to bed.

Lamb was on his way to Africa for another dig, which Julia was well and truly jealous of. She had finally decided archeology was where her heart was, which thrilled Lamb to the very marrow of his being. Julia already has plans to join her great-uncle on digs once she graduates, unless life has other plans, and the two of them are already mapping out where to go first together.

"So, how's business, Da?" Julia asks, settling onto the couch with Rabbie and pulling Claire from her thoughts.

Julia and Jamie have grown close over the last year, especially after that awful night where Frank wrote his own child off. Jamie quickly took the spot of a loving, doting father, and in just a year he's been more of a dad to Julia than Frank ever was. It was heartwarming, and Claire is glad Julia now has a strong man in her life who can be an example of what men should be like.

He sighs, sitting in the armchair beside Claire. He squeezes her hand before taking a sip of his whisky. "Things are braw, a leannan," he says, "The Paris store is fully up and running now, Murtagh is living out there with his fiancé, Suzette."

"That's great!" Julia exclaims, pulling her feet up on the couch and tucking them beneath Rabbie's thighs. Claire smiles, amused at how similar her daughter is to her. "What about London? And America? Weren't you and Ian trying to work something out over there?"

"Aye, we are." Jamie fills them in, letting the pair know that the London store is almost ready to be opened, and that it will have its grand opening in June.

"You'll have to come with us, darling," Claire says, "The two of you can make a weekend trip out of it for your birthday."

Julia looks at Rabbie with a shrug, and he smiles. "That sounds like fun! And you said there's a store coming to America?"

Jamie beams, sitting up and resting his elbows on his knees, leaning closer toward the couch. "John is over there now, ye ken," he tells them. "He's working on a deal now that things wi' London are settling down." Patting his knees, he stands, motioning for them to follow him to the kitchen.

"We should have a store, or mebbe even stores, up and running in certain states wi'in the next five years," he states, pulling the chicken from the oven.

Claire, Julia, and Rabbie all pile onto the barstools, listening as Jamie checks the temperature of the bird.

"Jamie and I talked about possibly moving back to America," she confesses, laughing at Julia's dumbfounded expression. "It wouldn't be for several more years, at least."

"Aye," Jamie chuckles, snapping the tongs in their direction. "But yer mam just became Chief four months ago, and ye ken I'd ne'er make her do something tae give that up."

"Don't I know it," Julia mumbles with a playful eyeroll.

Jamie shakes his head, tossing a dish towel in her direction.

She catches it, laughing as she sets it down. "It all sounds awesome," she replies, sighing as she settles into the seat. "Fergus and Marsali could maybe go out there."

Claire nods. "We talked about that as well. Fergus will have graduated by then," she says, calculating the years in her mind, "and Marsali will be just starting medical school once she finishes her main courses."

"She could definitely start there," Rabbie says, gesturing to ask Jamie if he needs any help.

Waving him off, Jamie adds, "There's lots o' possibilities. Mebbe Jenny and Ian want an adventure tae tackle."

Claire laughs, giving him an incredulous look. "Do you honestly think Jenny would ever leave Scotland? Especially now with Young Ian still in school and having a grandchild just a few hours from here?"

"Nah," he laughs, stirring the noodles on the stove. "She'd ne'er dream o' being more than a few miles from this place. She loves it too much."

"You would have to go visit a lot, though, right?" Julia asks, "You should open one in Boston so that you guys can stay with Uncle Joe!"

Jamie grins, turning off the stove and draining the noodles. "We did talk about that as well," he reveals, smiling over at Claire. "We would all have tae work out a system to be sure. Jenny, Ian, John, Murtagh, and I all have a hand in it now with sae many locations."

"But luckily you all get along," Claire says, smiling as she watches Rabbie stand to help Jamie finish preparing their lunch.

Just then the front door closes with a bang and a boisterous, "Milady, Milord, I am home!"

With a chuckle, Claire stands and swats at Jamie's bottom on her way out to the living room. She wraps Fergus in a hug, patting his back. "Welcome home, honey." She smiles over at Marsali, taking her in her arms. "I'm so glad you could come, Marsali. No classes?"

The blonde shakes her head, telling Claire, "I only had class yesterday, ye ken, no classes on Friday, so I'm free 'til Monday morn."

"Well, your father just finished making lunch," she tells Fergus, motioning for them to join everyone in the kitchen. "Come grab a place to sit if you can find one!"

{*****************************}

Lunch is a chaotic affair, as it always is when both kids are home with their significant others.

Julia and Rabbie sit around the kitchen table with Fergus and Marsali, while Claire and Jamie stay over by the sink.

She's behind the counter, washing the dishes, when Jamie's arms wrap around her waist. He rests his chin on her shoulder, looking out across the room to the kids. "This is nice, mo nighean donn," he whispers, kissing her cheek.

He steps to her side, helping dry the dishes. Claire smiles and lets out a content sigh. "It really is. I love having them all over here."

She dries her hands, picking up the bowl of spaghetti that's still steaming, and joins everyone at the table. Thank God they have a large enough table to fit them all.

Jamie finds the seat across from her, and he sits, asking Fergus, "How were classes this week?"

"Good," he says, shrugging. "There is no' much to do now that the semester is wrapping up."

"It's only March," Julia laughs, "School doesn't end until May."

Fergus tosses his napkin at her, but she catches it, as everyone chuckles. "Oui, ye're right, ma petite soeur, but since I am about to graduate, we do not have as much to do, ye ken?"

He tells the table how he's wrapping up his last big project, planning out a business to create and present to his class next month. "I have a few classes, but most days I have off to go to the library and work on the presentation or study."

They spend time talking with Rabbie, hearing all about his latest mock trial he did for school. Marsali tells everyone about her schooling, she and Claire breaking off into their own private conversation about medical school and the few surgeries she's gotten to observe in her first science course.

The time passes far too quickly for Claire's liking, and before she knows it, lunch is over and everyone migrates to the living room.

They start a movie, but before it's over, Fergus and Marsali make their exit.

"We want to go unpack," Fergus explains, kissing Claire's cheek at the door. They're staying at Jenny and Ian's this weekend, but she knows they have plans with his cousin in a few hours as well. "We are going to pick up Young Ian in a bit. He's got a date tonight," he says, wagging his eyebrows, "so we're going to help him prepare."

Some things never change, she muses to herself.

Jamie pulls Fergus into a hug while Claire hugs Marsali. They switch, exchanging hugs and telling them to call when they get settled later. "Remember your aunt and uncle are coming for dinner," Claire reminds. "Are you two coming back for that?"

"O'course," Marsali says, smacking Fergus on the chest when he pretends to think about it. "We'll see ye later."

Sighing, Claire makes her way to the living room, ducking under Jamie's arm as he closes the front door.

They go back to their movie, Julia and Rabbie sitting side by side, their hands intertwined and resting on Rabbie's leg.

She grins, taking a spot on the loveseat and Jamie joins her, sitting as close as possible.

"You know there's a whole cushion over there," she jokes, jutting her chin to the spot beside her.

"Aye, Sorcha, I ken," he chuckles, kissing her cheek, "but then I couldna be close enough tae kiss ye."

He leans in, cupping her jaw and dramatically smacking kisses to her cheek as she squirms.

"Ugh," Julia huffs, rolling her eyes. "You guys are seriously worse than us."

Laughing, Jamie pulls back, sliding over to the other side of the loveseat.

Claire twists, bending her knees so her toes are tucked under Jamie's leg, and they spend the next half hour finishing their movie.

{**********************}

After a while, everyone meanders into separate activities.

Julia and Rabbie walk down to the cabin by the lake to unpack, before heading out to meet up with Fergus and Marsali.

Claire is on the treadmill when Julia comes down to the basement, waving goodbye. "We're going to go make sure Fergus doesn't set Ian up for failure on this date," she laughs. "We thought about grabbing some dessert for tonight."

"That sounds good," she pants, slowing her pace as she hits the three mile mark. "Anything works for me, maybe that cheesecake the bakery down the street has with the different flavors."

"Oh yeah," Julia nods. "That sounds good. Love you."

"Love you too, darling," she answers, picking her speed back up to finish her last mile as Julia heads back upstairs.

Claire decides to go for four miles today, feeling motivated. She's had the last two days off, and honestly, she hasn't had this much time off in a while, so she feels more rested than ever and full of energy. And having Julia and Fergus in town always makes her excited.

Grabbing her towel, she wipes off her face and chugs her water.

She makes her way up the basement steps and into the kitchen, refilling her water bottle from the filter before heading up the stairs to their bedroom.

"Hey," she says, tapping on the office's door frame. Jamie jumps, looking up from his paperwork. "You okay?" she laughs, stepping inside.

Smirking, he closes the folder he was looking at, and says, "Ye just startled me."

She giggles, telling him she's going to go take a shower.

"Alright," he says, clicking around on his laptop. "I've got a few more things tae do here, and then I'm all yers."

He wags his eyebrows and she rolls her eyes, smirking as she leaves the office and walks down the hall to their room.

Stepping into their master bath, Claire sighs. The cold tile feels great on her feet now that she's taken her shoes and socks off. She stands there for a moment, checking her phone.

She sends Gail a text, then sets it down, stripping off her sports bra.

Tossing it into the hamper, she hooks her fingers into the waistband of her leggings, but she's suddenly halted in her movements.

"No' just yet, mo chridhe."

"Jamie," she laughs, "I didn't even hear you come in."

He hums, pulling her to him. He looks around conspiratorially, whispering dramatically, "We have the house all tae ourselves."

"Yes," she chuckles, running her fingers underneath his chin to feel his scruff. "As we always do."

He grins wolfishly, leaning in to kiss her neck. "Ah," he says, "but no' this weekend. We've got the kids here fer the next three days."

He places a kiss to her lips, his warm hands sliding down her back to cup her ass.

"I'm all sweaty and gross," she grimaces, pushing on his chest.

Her nipples have hardened in the cool air, and Jamie's eyes instantly fixate on them.

He licks his lips, reaching for the hem of his t-shirt. "I dinna care," he growls, pulling the shirt from his body. "Take those off, mo nighean donn."

Claire bites her lip, obeying but telling him to do the same.

"Ye ken," he purrs, turning and walking over to the shower. "The new shower does have its perks."

She laughs, following behind. She runs her hands up his scarred back, massaging his shoulders before she stands on her tiptoes to peer over him.

They just finished remodeling their bathroom, expanding it by a few square feet to create a larger shower. Once she moved here, she nor Jamie—moreso him—could get her shower in Boston out of their minds.

The contractors had done a beautiful job—the floor is now a gray and white pattern, gray walls, and the shower is gigantic.

There's a large tub as well that they make use of quite often, but the shower is the best part of it.

It's large enough to hold five Jamie's, has a waterfall showerhead along with an adjustable one on the wall. It's covered in gray shimmering tiles, and there's a bench running along the length of the back of it.

It was perfect for when she shaved her legs, exactly what she always used it for in Boston, but Jamie had other ideas.

"Perks?" she asks innocently, stepping around him and into the shower.

She turns the water on, letting it heat up before stepping under the spray.

He joins her, closing the door behind him. "Aye," he rasps, moving closer. "That bench hasna gotten proper use out o' it yet."

She giggles, turning to wrap her arms around his neck. Jamie pulls her close, kissing her as the water pours down her back.

He walks backward, taking her with him, and settles on the tiled bench.

"What did you have in mind?"

With a smirk, he kisses her hotly, one hand cupping her bum as the other runs up to cup around the back of her neck.

She moves her hips in slow circles against him, smiling into the kiss when he grows hard beneath her.

"I think ye ken exactly what I have in mind, ye wee minx."

Reaching between them, she strokes his cock, grazing her thumb along the top.

With a wicked grin and a peck to the corner of his mouth, Claire sinks to her knees between his legs. She spends time on him, working him up, her hand stroking him slowly.

She licks her lips and leans in, mouth closing around his length.

Working her mouth around his cock, she licks up his shaft and twirls her tongue around the tip. She's got one hand on his knee—nails digging into his skin as she sucks harder—but the other joins in, massaging his balls.

She adds more pressure with her mouth at his insistence, scraping her teeth along his skin for extra pleasure.

Cheeks hollowing, Claire sucks him just like he likes, his cock hitting the back of her throat. It gags her, just slightly, just enough to make him grunt and thrust his hips up. She smirks around his length, bobbing her head up and down, faster, harder.

"Oh, god, Claire," huffs Jamie, "mm, just like that."

Within minutes, he's spurting his seed into her mouth, and she swallows it down, rinsing her face off as she stands.

"Yer turn," he pants, trying to catch his breath.

Laughing, she takes his offered hand, joining him on the bench.

Jamie stands, leaning down to kiss her lips. "Lean back, Sassenach," he commands hotly, one side of his mouth lifting into a sly grin.

Fuck, she is so so glad they installed a bench in this shower.

She leans back, head resting against the wall and hands gripping the edge of the bench.

With a smirk, Jamie's hands slowly start up her legs, squeezing at her calves. He moves closer, and she's positive his knees will be killing him later, but right now she can't bring herself to care.

He kisses her knee, trailing his mouth up her thigh, over her belly, and down the opposite one, ending on her other knee. Licking his way back up her skin, he presses his lips to her hip bone, then pulls back. "Ye're beautiful," he declares reverently, leaning in to kiss her lips.

She smiles, gripping his shoulders and pushing him back down to where she needs him most.

He chuckles. "Eager, are we?" he asks huskily, fingers dipping inside her wetness.

"Always." She releases a shuddered breath, eyes closing as his mouth replaces his fingers and meets her core.

He licks her from bottom to top, swirling his tongue around her clit. He gives it a little suck, and she cries out.

Bastard. He knows exactly how she likes it and he's not wasting any time.

He works her up, up, up to the edge of release, tongue pressing harder to her as she grows closer.

His fingers join in, two running up her slit as he sucks her clit, swirling his tongue around it.

She tells him not to stop, oh god, please do not stop, do not tease, and he obeys, staying right there and applying more pressure.

Her ankles are hooked around him, one hand tangled in his wet hair and the other still gripping the edge of the bench.

His free hand grabs her knee, tugging her even closer as he sucks and licks, giving her exactly what she needs. His fingers dig into the skin at her knee, she knows it'll bruise, but she cannot find it in her to care right now.

God, this is incredible. So fucking hot. Feels so fucking good.

With a forceful suck to her clit, Claire cries out loudly and comes on his tongue. She undulates her hips and tries to get as close as possible to his face, even though she already is.

Jamie pulls back with a satisfied smirk, kissing his way up from her hip to her neck.

He sucks on her pulse point before moving to her lips, letting her taste herself on his tongue.

She moans into his mouth, wrapping her arms around his neck as he stands them up, one large arm wrapped securely around her waist.

They move under the waterfall showerhead, rinsing off.

Jamie grabs her body wash, squeezing some into his hands and rubbing over her arms and down her legs.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ," she mumbles, pulling him up by the shoulders. "We need to get out soon and get ready for dinner. Don't work me up again," she laughs, kissing him.

She returns the favor, washing his body off with his body wash, and after a few more minutes of just simply enjoying each other, naked and pressed against the other under the warm water, they finally get out.

Jamie hands her a towel off of the towel warmer, and thank God they invested in one of these. It makes getting out of the shower so much better.

He never uses it, of course, being the human furnace that he is, so he grabs his towel from the hook on the back of the door and wraps it around his waist.

They dry off and clean up, getting ready for dinner amidst kisses and giggles that she can't seem to stop. He's irresistible today—well, everyday—and she has to remind herself they're on a time schedule, so she can't have her way with him in their bed for the next few hours, no matter how much she may want to.

Claire spends some time straightening her hair, and when Jamie comes in, she asks with a bright smile, "Why are you all dressed up?"

He gives her a sheepish grin, looking down at his dark denim pants and his baby blue button up. "I dinna ken," he chuckles, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "Jus felt like looking nice, I s'ppose."

Squinting her eyes, she gives him an odd look, but shrugs. He looks nice, so handsome, so her outfit she'd planned to wear needs to be altered, she supposes. "I'll wear something other than yoga pants, then," she laughs, picking up her mascara.

He smiles, sprtizing his cologne on his neck and kissing her cheek before he heads out of the bathroom. "Ye wear whate'er ye want, mo ghraidh. I'll be downstairs," he announces over his shoulder, and she waves him off, saying she'll be down soon.

And after another twenty minutes, she finally throws on her nicest jeans and the sheer maroon top she wore so long ago when she first went to lunch with Jamie after running into him before her seminar.

Making her way downstairs, she finishes clasping her earring on as the door opens, all the kids come bounding in at once talking and carrying on.

It's a loud and uproarious interruption to the peace and quiet that had descended upon their house over the last few hours, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

{****************************}

Two hours later, Jenny and Ian come by, exchanging hugs and kisses with Fergus and Julia.

Rabbie grills steaks for everyone, while Ian pops open the bottle of wine they brought over.

He passes a glass to everyone, holding his up as if to make a toast.

Claire gives him a curious look, then glances over to Jamie who just shrugs.

They're all gathered in the kitchen, the steaks cooling on the pan on the counter. Jamie stands by them with Rabbie, while Julia, Marsali and Fergus all sit around the table.

Jenny is by Ian in the middle of the kitchen, her arm wrapped around his waist.

Taking a step forward, Jenny tells everyone, "We've an announcement tae make."

She smiles up at Ian before saying that Wee Jamie and his wife are pregnant again. "A girl this time!" she cries, clapping her hands together.

"Didn't they just have a baby?" Fergus asks, Julia slapping the back of his head.

"Like two years ago, idiot," she scolds, laughing as Fergus rubs the back of his head and grins. "He's your cousin, you should know that."

They all congratulate the grandparents, and Claire smiles over at Julia.

Wee Jamie is still in his early twenties, and she can't imagine if she was a grandma at just forty years old, but Jenny and Ian carry it well as spry forty-three year olds.

She knows she and Jamie will sooner rather than later be joining the grandparent section, knowing Fergus and Marsali will be engaged within the next few months, Julia and Rabbie more than likely not far behind.

The thought brings a smile to her face, and a small ache in her heart, knowing she and Jamie never got to raise their babies together or even have one together. But their children are grown now, and a baby of their own just wouldn't make sense. Regret isn't reason enough to try for a baby… especially when their own children are so close to having their own.

She's grateful for every day she has with Jamie, baby or no baby.

"Two kids in two years," Marsali hums, "I canna imagine." Her eyes widen and she looks up at Jenny and Ian. "No' that I dinna think it's braw that he's havin' another one, ken," she stumbles, causing everyone to chuckle softly. Fergus grins, leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek as she explains, "I just couldna imagine bein' sae young and havin' bairns." She glances over at Fergus, giving him a stern look. "I dinna want tae be havin' yer weans until I'm at least twenty-five, do ye hear me, Fergus Fraser?"

"Och," Jamie scoffs from behind the kitchen island, holding up a pair of tongs. "Ye'll be the first ones to pop 'em out between the four o' ye."

Everyone laughs as Marsali's face turns red, and Claire smiles over at the table, watching as Julia looks across the room to Rabbie and they look at one another tenderly.

With that, Rabbie and Jamie work side by side to dish out the steaks, everyone filing into a line to go around the counter, scooping whatever else they want—Jenny's mashed potatoes are there along with the roasted vegetables Julia had made earlier. Marsali brought a fruit tray, and Claire had baked a batch of rolls and made a large salad.

Everyone gathers around the table, Jamie taking his seat at the head of it. Claire sits in the chair to his left, and they all laugh and enjoy dinner together.

She loves having everyone here. More often than not, Claire finds herself sitting silently, simply smiling and watching how seamlessly everyone fits together.

Jamie seems off, though, she notes as she glances around at everyone. She can't exactly pinpoint why, but he seems nervous.

She ignores the feeling, maybe something earlier with the paperwork he was doing—perhaps something with the America deal—and decides she'll ask him later.

Everyone chatters on, Fergus telling Jenny and Ian about the girl their son was currently on a date with.

"She's a nice lass," Marsali interjects when Jenny's eyes go wide at Fergus' explanation of the girl's tattoo on her arm and the piercing in her nose. "He's making it sound bad," Marsali laughs.

Julia snickers, nodding her head. "That tattoo is right here," she gestures to the spot on the side of her wrist, "and it's a small little cross."

"And the piercing is jus' a tiny little stud, ye ken?" Rabbie adds, smiling as Jenny's face relaxes.

"She sounds lovely," Ian supplies, laughing as Jenny whips her head around. "What?" he grins, "Young Ian deserves a nice lass just like his brother has found."

Jenny crosses her arms, grumbling about how her baby doesn't need to grow up anymore, and Claire grins behind her wine glass, knowing exactly how Jenny feels.

She glances across the table at Julia—sitting comfortably beside Rabbie, his arm draped across the back of her chair—smiling softly when her daughter's warm, whisky eyes meet hers.

The conversation shifts then to Julia's new apartment and how she's liking it. It's only a few blocks from Rabbie's, so that was a major factor into it all. Claire isn't sure why she decided to rent, knowing full well Julia would stay at Rabbie's most nights, but her daughter was adamant that she wanted a space of her own, which Claire could respect.

"Marsali just moved, too," Julia says, nodding toward the other young couple.

"How is it, by the way?" Claire asks. "We didn't get to hear much about it earlier."

Marsali nods, "Aye, it's verra braw." The young blonde smiles, glancing at Fergus, then around the table. "'Tis right near my campus which is nice. I can walk tae class e'ry day."

She tells everyone how her campus is only an hour from Julia and Fergus' school so it's not a bad drive to visit them. "Fergus has more time off than I do," she adds, "sae he comes and stays out at my place most of the time."

Ian asks Rabbie about school and his latest exam, and the conversation continues to flow seamlessly with everyone.

After dinner, everyone takes a slice of cheesecake, listening as Julia tells them all about her studies and the archeological dig she will get to go on this summer in Greenland.

They settle in the living room for the next hour, all enjoying each other's company.

Jamie still seems off. He was quiet most of dinner, only adding his two cents here and there, laughing at the right times, but she could tell he had something else on his mind. She catches his eye as they make their way to the couch, mouthing, You okay?

He nods and gives her a sweet smile, so she brushes it off for now, focusing back on their family.

Fergus turns on a movie once everyone agrees, though she's not sure why, knowing none of them would actually watch it.

The movie becomes background noise as Jenny pulls out a pack of Phase-10 cards from the coffee table, and they all begin a round—Jamie eventually being the first to phase ten and winning the whole thing.

Later, once the siblings' competitive side has simmered down—Jenny's temper flaring seeing as she was also on the final phase and could have gone out if Fergus hadn't skipped her—Ian convinces her that they can play again another night, and the pair make their exit with hugs and kisses for everyone (including Jamie, who has a shit-eating grin plastered on his face, which Claire smacks his chest for with a muffled snicker).

Fergus and Marsali leave soon after as well, Fergus giving Jamie an odd look after he hugs him. He pats Jamie on the back and tells him to call him later before he and Marsali wave and walk to their car.

Julia and Rabbie collect their jackets, and Julia smiles as she wraps Claire in a hug.

"You sure you have to leave now?" Claire asks, "It's only nine-thirty."

Rabbie smiles, leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Aye," he says, yawning dramatically as he looks over at Jamie with a grin. "But we'll be back in the mornin' wi' everyone fer brunch."

Jamie clasps Rabbie on the back, giving him a nod. "That sounds braw," he says, leaving the younger man's side to pull Julia into a hug.

"Night, lass," he says softly, kissing her cheek.

Julia returns the gesture, giving Jamie's arm a squeeze before stepping over to Claire.

"And you have what you need at the cabin?" Claire asks for the third time tonight, pushing a curl behind Julia's ear.

"Yes," she assures with a chuckle. "There are plenty of towels, there are sheets on the bed, and you cleaned it at least twice before we got here, I know."

She rolls her eyes, grinning. "I just want to make sure you two are comfortable for the weekend."

"We are," Rabbie says, hugging her. "We picked up some groceries while we were out earlier an' stocked the refrigerator."

"Good," Jamie chimes in, patting Rabbie on the back one more time.

They thank Rabbie for grilling tonight, and with another round of hugs, the couple pull on their jackets and make the short walk to the cabin.

Everyone else is still in the driveway, much to Claire's amusement, and Jamie calls out, "If ye wanted tae stay and talk, ye coulda stayed inside!"

"We're goin', we're goin'," Jenny calls, waving a hand in the air.

Claire laughs, wrapping her arm around Jamie's waist. His arm comes around her shoulder as they stand on the porch, watching their family all load up in their cars and pull away.

She waves to the cars before patting Jamie on the chest and looking up at him from where she's snuggled into his shoulder. "Tonight was fun," she sighs, smiling.

She twists out of his arm, walking back inside as he follows, saying, "Aye, aye, it was." He clears his throat, and she looks at him. "'Tis always nice tae have everyone in town at the same time."

Tilting her head, she gives him another curious glance, but agrees, picking up the pillows someone had knocked to the floor.

Jamie helps straighten up, picking up cups left on the coffee table and carrying them to the kitchen.

"We really ought to make our children at least clean up when they're here," she calls over her shoulder, laughing. She shakes her head, folding the blanket she knows Julia was using and sighs.

"Sassenach?"

She turns at the sound of his voice—the apprehensive tone making her stomach drop—and gently tosses the blanket onto the couch, walking over to Jamie.

"What's wrong?" she asks, that strange look from earlier back on his face. "You've been acting funny all night."

"Nothin' is wrong, mo ghraidh," he assures, kissing the top of her head. "I promise."

Her eyes narrow, not believing him, but he gives her a warm smile.

Jamie takes her hand, leading her over to the couch.

"I love you, ye ken that?"

"Yes," she giggles, "of course."

He sighs, almost relieved, and her confusion builds. Did something happen?

She grows nervous, squirming on the couch. He's perched on the edge, hands folded and resting between his knees as he looks at the coffee table in a daze.

Claire watches him, running her hand up and down his back in comfort. "You can tell me anything, Jamie, you know that." She scoots closer, kissing his shoulder. "What is it?"

God, what if something is wrong? He did have a doctor's appointment last week, just a yearly check up, but… her mind spirals and breath quickens in fear. "You're scaring me," she tells him. "Did something happen at the doctor last week or—"

"No! God, no, Sassenach," he assures, pressing a comforting kiss to her lips.

Jamie sighs again, looking straight ahead. "I canna imagine my life wi'out ye, mo chridhe," he confesses softly, turning to look at her. "Ye are… everything tae me."

Her cheeks warm and she smiles, her back relaxing where she'd been holding herself pin straight with nerves.

Jamie scoots back from the edge, sitting so that she is facing him with her leg bent, the other resting on the floor. She runs the backs of her fingers down his bicep, then up, moving to the underside of his jaw.

He takes her hand from his face, kissing her knuckles. He keeps her right hand in his grasp, his thumb caressing her silver ring he'd gifted her with over twenty years ago now.

"Ye've made me sae happy," he continues, lifting her hand to kiss her ring.

She gives him a small smile, eyes going soft as he speaks.

"I ken ye better than anyone, I imagine," he chuckles under his breath. "Just as ye ken me deeper than anyone." Her brow furrows slightly, the uneasy feeling in her stomach twisting into nerves, though she isn't quite sure why. "I can look upon yer face and decipher yer feelings almost… almost more than my own." He laughs, his blue eyes growing misty as he looks down at her hand he's still holding. "I ken exactly what ye're feeling more often than not," smirks Jamie, "which is why I ken ye're confused right now but trying tae be patient as I ramble on."

She chuckles, shaking her head. "Well, get to whatever you're trying to say then, so I'm not confused." She grins softly, letting him know she's only teasing.

Jamie bites his bottom lip briefly and takes a deep breath, sliding her ring off of her finger.

"Jamie," she gasps, shaking her head, "I haven't taken that off in twenty years, what—"

He gently picks up her left hand, sliding the silver ring onto her ring finger. "I think this belongs on yer left hand," he grins, and she shakes her head in confusion.

Her mind is clouded, but the fog clears when he reaches inside the drawer on the coffee table, revealing a small, black velvet box.

Popping it open, he holds it out to her as tears flood her eyes. "Jamie…"

"Sassenach, ye werena the first lass I kissed, but I swear ye'll be the last." He reaches up, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, letting the back side of his fingers graze down her jaw. "I have only known one love in my life, Claire, and that's you."

She blinks, trying to clear her clouded eyes so that she can focus on this wonderful man before her. A tear slips free as she does, and Jamie reaches up to wipe it away.

"I waited twenty years fer ye," he chuckles wetly. "I would wait two hundred years fer ye, longer if need be, but I dinna want tae wait another day tae call ye my wife." His voice breaks on that last word, and she can't help but let more tears fall as Jamie holds up the ring box, giving her a better view. "Claire, will ye marry me?"

She stares at him, words caught in her throat. She looks down at the ring—a beautiful silver band with a diamond in the middle, surrounded by a halo of smaller ones—then up at him, his blue eyes shining.

He raises his eyebrows as if to say Well? and she reaches up, cupping his jaw with both hands.

Jamie lowers the ring, resting his hand that holds the box on her leg. "Ye're scarin' me here, Sassenach," he huffs nervously, shifting in his seat. "Do ye no' want tae be married?"

She bites her lip, sniffling as she wipes a tear from her cheek. Reaching over, she wipes one off of his cheek as well, telling him, "I love our life, I love our home together." She smiles, cupping his jaw again and letting her thumb smooth over the scruff there. "Jamie, I cannot imagine a life different than the one we've created." Inhaling sharply, she exhales shakily. "It's always been forever for me, my love," she assures with a soft smile—quoting his words from when they first said I love you—and leaning in to kiss his tears away. She pulls back, smiling so hard that her cheeks are aching. With a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes, she nods emphatically, "Yes, of course I'll marry you!"

Crashing her lips to his, he sobs into her mouth, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling her to stand with him.

Breaking the kiss, she beams up at him, her fiancé, and wraps her arms around his neck. "Oh my god," she laughs wetly, more tears slipping free. "We will definitely have a story to tell when everyone comes over for brunch tomorrow."

"Aye," he chuckles, shaking his head. "Jenny and Ian will be surprised."

She looks up at him, eyes narrowed. Her head tilts to the side as her arms drop from around his neck, asking suspiciously, "But not our children?"

Jamie grins, cheeks puffing out when he can't hold his laughter in anymore. "Well…"

"Is that why they were acting so strange saying bye to us earlier?"

He guffaws, pulling her against his chest and kissing the top of her head. "I had tae get Julia's blessing, ye ken," he explains. "I took a quick day trip tae Edinburgh months ago to talk tae her an' Fergus."

"You did?" she asks as she wraps her hands around his waist, eyes going soft at the thought of him seeking her daughter's approval.

Smiling, Jamie nods, saying once Julia gave her blessing, he had tae tell Fergus as well to see what he thought about it. Which, of course, led to them telling Rabbie and Marsali because he knew their children would need to tell someone the good news.

"Well I'm glad to finally know your son approves of me," she drawls sarcastically.

Jamie snorts. "O' course," he says with a smirk, adding, "I think he likes ye more than me actually."

She giggles, but the air between them changes as Jamie reaches to take her hands, holding both of hers in his. He pulls the left one up to kiss her rings, then lets her hand go. She wraps her arms around his middle again—his wrap around hers as well—and rests her chin on his chest as she looks up at him.

He stares into her eyes, his beautiful blue ones piercing her soul, as if he can see right down to the depths of who she truly is.

"I love you," she whispers, pulling him back down for another kiss.

Jamie deepens this one, his tongue tracing the seam of her lips before she opens and lets him in. She moans into the kiss, pulling him even closer.

They fall back down to the couch, Claire lying back as Jamie hovers above her.

He comes in slowly, kissing every inch of her skin that he can find.

After a few lazy minutes of languid kisses and roaming hands, Jamie stands, reaching for her hand.

She places her left one in his, the light catching her new ring, and she smiles broadly.

They make it upstairs where he kisses and caresses the rest of her over and over again, calling her his fiancée all night long.

It makes her giggle, her joy overwhelming as she lets this man love her with everything that he has just as she does to him.

Laying awake that night, admiring the way her ring sparkles in the moonlight streaming through their bedroom window, she contently sighs. She watches Jamie sleep with that little smile curled on his lips, and she leans in gently, pressing a kiss to his chin. "How did I get so lucky?" she asks in an astonished whisper, stroking the underside of his scruffy jaw gently before settling down into the crook of his arm.

Her life may have taken a detour for two decades, and she enjoyed that time as much as possible, especially with Julia, but after everything she's gone through, she's finally with the man she's loved longer than anyone in her life. And deeper than any other man in her life.

After all this time, she's finally where she was always meant to be.

{*****************************}

END.

There we have it! I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have an idea for an epilogue… possibly... but no planned date of when to post it. I need to find time to write it! Haha

Thanks again for reading and please let me know what you thought! :)