At last I took one big, callused hand and slid forward so I knelt on the boards between his knees. I laid my head against his chest, and felt his breath stir my hair. I had no words, but I had made my choice.
25 Days of Outlander - Day 4 / Favourite Line Directly from the Book ‘I will find you,’ he whispered in my ear. ‘I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest.’ His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me. ‘Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.’ (Timor Mortis Conturbat Me, Dragonfly in Amber)
To celebrate the end of filming the 3 season of Outlander … Nothing better than a phrase from the last chapter of Voyager
“America,” I said softly. “The New World.” The pulse beneath my fingers had quickened, echoing my own. A new world. Refuge. Freedom.“Yes,” said Mrs. Olivier, plainly having no idea what the news meant to us, but still smiling kindly from one to the other. “It is America.”Jamie straightened his shoulders and smiled back at her. The clean bright air stirred his hair like kindling flames.“In that case, ma’am,” he said, “my name is Jamie Fraser.” He looked then at me, eyes blue and brilliant as the sky behind him, and his heart beat strong in the palm of my hand.“And this is Claire,” he said. “My wife.”..
“I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said. “I said, lie down.”
“I’ve work to—“
“You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said. “Lie. Down.”
He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue. He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly. He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.
I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait. I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair. It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.
“Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me. He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ‘til his head rested heavy in my lap. I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw. Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp. He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.
“Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs. “Here?”
“Aye…but…” He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye. “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”
“Mmm.” I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull. I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin. “Well, then.”
I took my hands away and he let his breath out.
“It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.
“It does hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.
“I know.” I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air. “I’ll make it better.”
He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples. I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath. I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished. For now, though…
“Do you remember,” I said, my voice low and quiet. “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning? And how his mother came and combed your hair?”
“Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “She said…she would comb the snakes from my hair.” Another hesitation. “She…did.”
Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it. How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart. Guilt, distress…and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.
There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there. I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little. I put my other hand on his shoulder.
His breath came with a small moan, but he did. I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch. He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.
“Let me do that for you,” I said softly. The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment. With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.
“I…no, I dinna want…” But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin. Over and over, very slowly.
I didn’t say anything for quite some time. He breathed. The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.
“Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window. “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me. Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better. But say it.”
His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh. After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.
“Sassenach?” he said softly.
“I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”
He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.
Je crois qu'on a tous en nous un petit espace qui n'appartient qu'å nous, comme une forteresse, notre refuge le plus intime. C'est peut-être notre âme, cette chose qui fait qu'on est soi-même et personne d'autre. C'est un endroit qu'on ne montre à personne, sauf parfois à quelqu'un qu'on aime beaucoup.
I feel maybe like you did,” he whispered to her, too low to wake her. “When ye came through the stones. Like the world is still there - but it’s no the world ye had.” He’d swear she hadn’t wakened, but a hand came out from the sheets, groping, and he took it. She sighed, long and sleep-laden, and pulled him down beside her. Took him in her arms and cradled him, warm on her soft breasts.
I was asked by someone to spoil the reunion scene for them, so of course I was more than happy to comply 😏 Without further ado, I give you The Print Shop.
A. MALCOLM PRINTER and BOOKSELLER
I stretched out my hand and touched the black letters of the name. A. Malcolm. Alexander Malcolm. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Perhaps.
Another minute, and I would lose my nerve. I shoved open the door and walked in.
There was a broad counter across the front of the room, with an open flap in it, and a rack to one side that held several trays of type. Posters and notices of all sorts were tracked up on the opposite wall; samples, no doubt.
The door into the back room was open, showing the bulky angular frame of a printing press. Bent over it, his back turned to me, was Jamie.
“Is that you, Geordie?” he asked, not turning around. He was dressed in shirt and breeches, and had a small tool of some kind in his hand, with which he was doing something to the innards of the press. “Took ye long enough. Did ye get the–”
“It isn’t Geordie,” I said. My voice was higher than usual. “It’s me,” I said. “Claire.”
He straightened up very slowly. He wore his hair long; a thick tail of a deep, rich auburn sparked with copper. I had time to see that the neat ribbon that tied it back was green, and then he turned around.
He stared at me without speaking. A tenor ran down the muscular throat as he swallowed, but still he didn’t say anything.
It was the same broad, good-humored face, dark blue eyes aslant the high, flat cheekbones of a Viking, long mouth curling at the ends as though always on the verge of smiling. The line surrounding eyes and mouth were deeper, of course. The nose had changed just a bit. The knife-edge bridge was slightly thickened near the base by the ridge of an old, healed fracture. It made him look fiercer, I thought, but lessened the air of aloof reserve, and lent his appearance a new rough charm.
I walked through the flap in the counter flap, seeing nothing but that unblinking stare. I cleared my throat.
“When did you break your nose?”
The corners of the wide mouth lifted slightly.
“About three minutes after I last saw ye – Sassenach.”
There was a hesitation, almost a question in the name. There was no more than a foot between us. I reached out tentatively and touched the tiny line of the break, where the bone pressed white against the bronze of his skin.
He flinched backward as though an electric spark had arced between us, and the calm expression shattered.
“You’re real,” he whispered. I had thought him pale already. Now all vestiges of color drained from his face. His eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor in a shower of papers and oddments that had been sitting on the press – he fell rather gracefully for such a large man, I thought abstractedly.
It was only a faint; his eyelids were beginning to flutter by the time I knelt beside him and loosened the stock at his throat. I had no doubts at all by now, but still I looked automatically as I pulled the heavy linen away. It was there, of course, the small triangular scar just above the collarbone, left by the knife of Captain Jonathan Randall, Esquire, of his Majesty’s Eighth Dragoons.
His normal healthy color was returning. I sat cross-legged on the floor and hoisted his head onto my thigh. His hair felt thick and soft in my hand. His eyes opened.
“That bad, is it?” I said, smiling down at him with the same words he had used to me on the day of our wedding, holding my head in his lap, twenty-odd years before.
“That bad, and worse, Sassenach,” he answered, mouth twitching with something almost a smile. He sat up abruptly, staring at me.
“God in heaven, you are real!”
“So are you.” I lifted my chin to look up at him. “I th-thought you were dead.” I had meant to speak lightly, but my voice betrayed me. The tears spilled down my cheeks, only to soak into the rough cloth of his shirt as he pilled me hard against him.
I shook so that it was some time before I realized that he was shaking, too, and for the same reason. I don’t know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each other’s arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces.
His fingers twined hard in my hair, pulling it loose so that it tumbled down my neck. The dislodged pins cascaded over my shoulders and pinged on the floor like pellets of hail. My own fingers were clasped around his forearm, digging into the linen as though I were afraid he would disappear unless physically restrained.
As though gripped by the same fear, he suddenly grasped me by the shoulders and held me away from him, staring desperately into my face. he put his hand to my cheek, and traced the bones over and over again, oblivious to my tears and to my abundantly running nose.
I sniffed loudly, which seemed to bring him to his senses, for he let go and groped hastily in his sleeve for a handkerchief, which he used clumsily to swab at first at my face, then his own.
“Give me that.” I grabbed the erratically waving swatch of cloth and blew my nose firmly. “Now you.” I handed him the cloth and watched as he blew his nose with a noise like a strangled goose. I giggled, undone with emotion.
He smiled too, knuckling the tears away from his eyes, unable to stop staring at me.
Suddenly I couldn’t bear not touching him. I lunged at him, and he got his arms up just in time to catch me. I squeezed until I could hear his ribs crack, and felt his hands roughly caressing my back as he said my name over and over.
At last I could let go, and sat back a little. He glanced down at the floor between his legs, frowning.
“Did you lose something?” I asked, surprised.
He looked up and smiled, a little shyly.
“I was afraid I’d lost hold altogether and pissed myself, but it’s all right. I’ve just sat on the alepot.”
Sure enough, a pool of aromatic brown liquid was spreading slowly beneath him. With a squeak of alarm, I scrambled to my feet and helped him up. After trying vainly to assess the damage behind, he shrugged and unfastened his breeches. He pushed the tight fabric down over his haunches, then stopped and looked at me, blushing slightly.
“It’s all right,” I said, feeling a rich blush stain my own cheeks. “We’re married.” I cast my eyes down, nonetheless, feeling a little breathless. “At least, I suppose we are.”
He stared at me for a long moment, then a smile curved his wide, soft mouth.
“Aye, we are,” he said. Kicking free of the stained breeches, he stepped toward me.
I stretched out a hand toward him, as much to stop as to welcome him. I wanted more than anything to touch him again, but was unaccountably shy. After so long, how were we to start again?
He felt the constraint of mingled shyness and intimacy as well. Stopping a few inches from me, he took my hand. He hesitated for a moment, then bent his head over it, his lips barely brushing my knuckles. His fingers touched the silver ring and stopped there, holding the metal lightly between thumb and forefinger.
“I never took it off,” I blurted. It seemed important he should know that. He squeezed my hand lightly, but he didn’t let go.
“I want–” He stopped and swallowed, still holding my hand. His fingers found and touched the silver ring once more. “I want verra much to kiss you,” he said softly. “May I do that?”
The tears were barely dammed. Two more welled up and overflowed; I felt them, full and round, roll down my cheeks.
“Yes,” I whispered.
He drew me slowly close to him, holding our linked hands just under his breast.
“I havena done this for a verra long time,” he said. I saw the hope and the fear dark in the blue of his eyes. I took the gift and gave it back to him.
“Neither have I,” I said softly.
His hands cupped my face with exquisite gentleness, and he set his mouth on mine.
I didn’t know quite what I had been expecting. A reprise of the pounding fury that had accompanied our final parting? I had remembered that so often, lived it over in memory, helpless to change the outcome. The half-rough, timeless hours of mutual possession in the darkness of our marriage bed? I had longed for that, wakened often sweating and trembling from the memory of it.
But we were strangers now, barely touching, each seeking the way toward joining, slowly, tentatively, seeking and giving unspoken permission with our silent lips. My eyes were closed, and I knew without looking that Jamie’s were, as well. We were, quite simply, afraid to look at each other.
Without raising his head, he began to stroke me lightly, feeling my bones through my clothes, familiarizing himself again with the terrain of my body. At last his hand t raveled down my arm and caught my right hand. His fingers traced my hand until the found the ring again, and circled it, feeling the interlaced silver of the Highland pattern, polished with long wear, but still distinct.
His lips moved over mind, across my cheeks and eyes. I gently stroked his back, feeling through his shirt the marks I couldn’t see, the remnants of old scars, like my ring, worn but still distinct.
“I’ve seen ye so many times,” he said, his voice whispering warm in my ear. “You’ve come to me so often. When I dreamed sometimes. When I lay in fever. When I was so afraid and so lonely I knew I must die. When I needed you, I would always see ye, smiling, with your hair curling up about your face. But ye never spoke. And ye never touched me.”
“I can touch you now.” I reached up and drew my hand gently down his temple, his ear, the cheek and jaw that I could see. My hand went to the nape of his neck, under the clubbed bronze hair, and he raised his head at last, and cupped my face between my hands, love glowing strong in the dark blue eyes.
“Dinna be afraid,” he said softly. “There’s the t w o of u s now.”