A wee snippet of Jamie and Claire whilst the Hogmanay preparations are well under way! Fluff and ALLLLL the feels because it is Monday and we need it!!!
Claire could hear the children chattering amongst themselves as they bunched the juniper and picked off any berries that had been missed, Bree’s accent standing out starkly amongst her cousin’s softer Scottish brogues.
The pot Jenny had left beside her was nearly full with pealed potatoes and the water on the stove had reached boiling. The room was becoming uncomfortably hot and Claire could feel the sweat gathering beneath the cloud of hair at the nape of her neck and trickling intermittently down her neck. She placed a hand against her back, readying for the task of standing upright.
“Alright little one, on three … one … two …”
Claire clenched her teeth and heaved just as the baby pushed a foot up under her ribs. The air went from her in a sharp breath and Claire sat down heavily, giving up on the two inches of elevation she had gained.
“You bloody little … Scot!”
She scowled, arching her back a little to encourage the baby to move, which it obligingly did, coming to rest in a much less uncomfortable position. Claire let her breath out again, this time with a sigh and passed the back of her hand over her brow. She had a few more weeks to go but felt like she was ready to burst. She didn’t remember feeling quite so huge with Brianna, though that may have been in part due to the near starvation she had suffered in the run up to Culloden and then the miserable cocoon she had wrapped herself in after her return to the twentieth century, a cocoon in which she only forced herself to take food for the sake of the baby.
Claire pushed thoughts of that time aside and steeled herself to stand once again. If she simply sat and waited for Jenny to come to her rescue she could be stuck in the sweltering kitchen for quite some time as the Hogmanay preparations were well underway and Jenny was bustling from room to room overseeing it all. Claire had tried to help but her swollen size had made her something of a hindrance to the process and when she had suggested preparing the vegetables instead of stringing garlands, Jenny had looked rather relieved. However, if preparing vegetables was what Claire was in charge of then she would bloody well be in charge of it and no one was going to put those potatoes in the cauldron but her!
She was half-way up when she felt a hand on her lower back and another take a gentle grip on her upper arm. She blew the hair out of her face and looked up into an amused sapphire gaze.
“I can manage.”
Jamie smiled but didn’t relinquish his touch and moments later Claire was on her feet. She raised her finger to wipe the perspiration from her upper lip but Jamie stopped her, catching her hand in his and ducking his head to gently kiss along the bow of her lips, his tongue gently tracing the curve of her smile.
“Ah Dhia! Mo nigheann donn, mo Sorcha …”
Claire lost the last of his words as he buried his face in the curve of her neck
“What was that?”
“I said …”
Jamie surfaced, smiling with the glazed eyes of a man singularly minded,
“That each time I sniff at ye I discover a new wee scent and I want ye more than before.”
Claire sniffed at her sleeve and wrinkled her nose
“I never considered onions and parsnips to be particular aphrodisiacs.”
Jamie’s lifted one springy curl from her collar bone, pulling it gently straight before letting it bounce back into its spiral and inhaling dramatically.
“I can smell cloves, rosemary and a wee hint o’ plum.”
Claire leant forward and sniffed his shirt lightly
“Horses and hay and … what is that?”
“Peat most likely.”
Jamie grinned and waved away the question before Claire could ask it.
“I brought a few blocks in from the shed this morning and changed my shirt but ye ken how the scent clings.”
Jamie lifted the pot of potatoes from the table
“Ye want these in the water?”
“Ye but give them here, I’ll do it.”
Claire reached for the pan but Jamie shifted, keeping it out of her reach
“It’s fairly heavy Sassenach. I dinna ken how many pounds ye peeled but if Jenny is still feeding the pigs peelings, we’re likely to have the fattest hogs in the Highlands.”
“We’re going to have a lot of guests…”
“And food enough to feed generations of them yet to come.”
Jamie grinned and crossed to the fire
“Wait I can …”
Claire began and then stopped as Jamie upended the pan with ease and deftly stepping out of the way of the water that splashed over the sides as the potatoes went in.
“I told you I could do it!”
Claire snapped, feeling absurdly like she was about to cry. She blinked twice and glared at the splashes of water steaming on the flagstones.
“For God’s sake, Jamie! You’ve got water all over the floor! I suppose I have to clear it up, do I?”
She snatched a cloth up from the side and stormed toward the small pool of water but Jamie blocked her path, expression carefully neutral as his hands came up to lightly clasp her shoulders.
“I apologise Sassenach. If ye hand me the cloth, I’ll mop it up for ye.”
His voice was gentle, consoling even and Claire felt the tightness in her chest clench and her throat began to burn. Claire looked around him and saw the gentle wisps of steam rising from the floor a second before her vision blurred.
“No it’s fine … It’s already drying. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“Dinna be lass, I interfered and upset the system you had in place. I’m sorry for it.”
Claire snorted wetly and hastily mopped her eyes and nose with a handkerchief.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so irritable!”
“Nothing. There is nothing wrong with ye, but ye are exhausted and your body feels like it’s betrayin’ ye at every turn. It’s enough to make anyone irritable.”
Jamie’s arms encircled her as he spoke, his cheek resting lightly on the top of her head
“I feel like a fat, silly fool!”
“You are magnificent, Claire.”
Jamie spoke simply, rubbing small circles in the middle of her back
“But upon my word, Sassenach, the smell of ye and the feel of ye against me is makin’ me think verra wicked thoughts.”
“Perhaps you should confess them to me upstairs.”
She murmured and felt the shiver of a thrill run through him
“Confession, eh? Will ye forgive my sins?”
Claire allowed the word to fall from her lips and the considerable firmness that has been building against her stomach hardened further.
“Can ye get one of the girls to mind the food a while? I dinna think I can wait for your benediction.”
Jamie whispered in her ear and as he bent toward her Claire imagined a willow tree, tall and graceful, arching as its branches dip toward the water’s surface, reaching until even the petioles and stipules are submerged deeply.
It felt like hours but could only have been minutes later, as Claire ran her fingers through the sweetly curling hairs of his chest, she realised that Jamie had done what she could not do for herself, he had centred her.
He had let her play the role of the saviour, dubbing himself the wicked one who was dependent on her for his redemption. He had made her feel wise and beautiful and in control, he had guided her to see herself as he saw her.
“What are ye thinking, Sassenach?”
His voice was heavy with satisfaction and Claire delighted in the small sigh of contentment he gave as she kissed the bud of his nipple.
“I was thinking that you still, after all our years, just let me be myself and how much I love you for it.”
She smiled and looked up as she felt the bed shift to see him propped up on his elbow, looking down at her curiously.
“I fell in love wi’ ye for who ye are Sassenach. I canna see what benefit it could be to either of us if I were to try and change ye now.”
“You might have a wife with a sweeter temperament?”
She teased, stroking the length of his nose with the tip of her index finger.
“I doubt a sweet wee mouse could make my balls fizz the way you do.”
Jamie’s tone was even and as he blinked solemnly at her, his face serene, Claire burst into laughter and laughed until the tears streamed down her face and her ribs ached with the force of it.
“Oh my God! Jamie! I did not expect that!”
“Well neither did I, a sweet wee lad o’ three and twenty and you and older woman takin’ me in hand…”
He was grinning too now, his mirth held back only barely
“It was my mouth actually…”
Claire retorted and the room filled with the sounds of their happiness, of memories and shared knowledge of love and the comfort of one who knows you so very well and they clung to each other until the last of the humour left them when, still smiling, they touched their foreheads together.
“In truth Sassenach, I dinna care what ye do to my balls as long as I get to hear ye laugh like that often and plenty until my dying day.”
Jamie raised her hand, clasped in his own between them on the bed and kissed her skin, just above the warm silver of her wedding ring.