~Here’s the second part to a series of shorts I may publish! Hope you enjoy!~
Xylion stood in front of the Cabin section, the four humans standing behind him. Zellnor had tasked him with showing them around. While not his favorite task, he guessed it’d go to him. He was one of Zellnor’s good friends, but still, he was nervous around the humans. Who knew what’d they do to him if given the choice?
“So your name is Xylion?” HUman Jennifer asked, moving into his path.
Xylion felt his spines stand on end. “Y-yes!” He stuttered, his whole body standing on end.
Human Jennifer bared the white bones once more. “That’s a really nice name!”
Xylion felt embarrassment fill him. If he was the same species as Zellnor, he probably would’ve been yellow or pink. He was glad he wasn’t, though. “Thank you, Human Jennifer.”
Human Jennifer’s face seemed to turn red. However, it wasn’t in embarrassment, it was in anger. “Call me Jenny.” They choked out, her mouth barely moving and her voice strained.
“Do you need to see the doctor? She’s quite nice. I think you need a check up.” Xylion said, fear filling him.
Human Jennif- Jenny shook their head. “I’m fine. I just don’t really like being called Jennifer. Besides, we’re friends now, you can call me Jenny!”
Xylion was confused. They were…friends? Human Fredrick sighed. “Ignore Jenny, she is pretty social and always trusts everyone.”
Human Jenny glared at him. “Shut up, Freddie.”
Human Fredrick’s fleshy parts on the side of his head seemed to turn red along with his neck. Was he dying too? Xylion wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle this!
“Not you too! Do you need to go to the hospital too, Human Fredrick?” He cried, holding himself back from shaking him violently so he’d tell him.
Human Fredrick’s face only turned red in response. Xylion was about to die. How could he keep a watch on the humans when they were already dying? He was a terrible-!
He stopped when he heard laughing. While not normal for his species, he recognized it well. He turned around and looked at Human Isaac, who was clutching his chest and on the floor, laughter spilling out of his mouth. Xylion stared at him, and saw him choking on air. “I- I can’t breath!” He said, laughing throughout his whole sentence.
Xylion narrowed his eyes at him. “What is causing your laughter, Human Isaac?”
Human Mason sighed as he kicked Human Isaac. Xylion almost screamed. Why would he injure his fellow crew member? “Get up, idiot.”
Human Isaac listened, rubbing the spot Human Mason had kicked him. “Dude, why? I’m sorry that Xylion doesn’t know what blushing is!”
Xylion reeled back. Blushing? What was that? Human Isaac threw his appendage at him. “See? Look at that expression!”
“What is…blushing, did you all it?”
Human Fredrick seemed to have recovered some. He cleared his throat before pushing his goggles up further. “It is something humans do when embarrassed. It’s nothing life threatening, but it certainly can betray your feelings. For example, Zellnor is one of the Charies, correct?”
“Well, Zellnor’s species is known for changing the color of their skin when they are feeling a certain emotion. Red for anger, green for sickness, dark green for jealousy, yellow for embarrassment, pink for love, etcetera. Blushing is kind of like that, humans’ skin turns red when they are embarrassed. It can happen a lot to some people, or hardly at all for others. And, the dark the skin, the less likely you can see the blush. At least, so I’ve heard.” Human Fredrick finished, tapping his chin.
Xylion nodded. “Makes sense, I guess.”
“Anything else you want to ask?” Human Fredrick questioned, corssing his appendages.
“Yes, a few, actually. Why do you wear goggles?”
“You mean my glasses? They help me see. My eyes aren’t as good as the normal for humans, so I have to wear glasses to help me see.”
“And those appendages?”
“Are you talking about our arms and hands?” Human Jenny asked, holding out the appendages.
“So they are called arms…and the smaller ones?”
“Well, all of it together is a hand, but this part here is called the palm, these a fingers, and this is a thumb.” Human Jenny explained, pointing to each part.
“Anything else?” Human Isaac asked, his mouth pulled upwards, but not baring those terrible white things.
“What is inside your mouth?”
“You mean teeth?” Human Isaac scoffed, showing them off.
“Those aren’t teeth.”
“Ours are more filed down.” Human Fredrick said, adjusting his glasses once more. “We don’t tear into the flesh of out food. Not any more, anyways.”
Xylion was slightly scared. “And last but not least, why are there so many different colors of you all?”
Human Mason stiffened. Human Fredrick cast him a worried glance before answering. “Well, the different hemispheres on Earth are hotter or colder. The colder the area, the lighter the skin has to be so it can absorb more Vitamin D. And the darker it is, the less they have to absorb because they always absorb so much.”
“Anything else?” Human Jenny asked, baring her teeth.
“What is that?”
“That thing you keep doing.”
“You mean smiling?”
“That’s what you call it?”
Next part will come out later…hope you enjoyed this part.
A/N: I apologise in advance because this is all over the place. :/ Hope you guys still enjoy it, though.
Part I | Part II
Word Count: 6,052
Warnings: Nothing much, a couple of swear words.
“I like you.”
You’re not actually quite sure what you had expected, but you were pretty sure it wasn’t this. Jennie looks as if she had just stared into Medusa’s eyes and subsequently, had been turned into stone. Her expression is still, too still, her eyes are wide and she is utterly silent.
You fidget, your fingers intertwining and you bite your lip, a wave of anxiety rushing over you like a waterfall.
1) May I request Jennie and the reader doing it while the others are still home?
2) Can I ask for a Jennie scenario where she dated the reader and they finally decide to do it after dating for a long time?
“Oh my god,” Jennie groaned, walking away from the alley. “I just can’t bowl at all, can I?” She walked over to you, slouching down into the chair next to you as the zero appeared on the screen, adding nothing to her score, yet again. It was just like your first date, only a year later.
You laughed as she pouted at you and stood from your chair, collecting a ball as you made your way toward the alley. You rolled the ball at the pins and knocked over half of them, looking back at Jennie and batting your eyelashes as you did so. “Am I the best bowler ever or what?”
“Or I’m just the worse,” she said, slumping across the seats. “It’s literally the end of the game and I only knocked over ten pins the entire time. Who even am I?”
“My girlfriend,” you smiled at her, squatting in front of where she was sitting. “You lost almost as bad as you did the first time we came here, you know.”
“I know,” she laughed. “I seriously can not bowl at all.”
“True,” you said, standing up all the way and offering her your hand. “Come on, let’s go back to your place. It’s tiring winning all the time.”
“I’ll try harder next time,” she said, taking your hand. “Maybe even score eleven then.”
When you arrived at her apartment, her roommates were already there, watching a movie in the living room.
“Hey hey,” Jisoo, one of her roommates, said. “Welcome back. How was the bowling alley? Oh wait, let me guess. Jennie lost.”
“Why do you always have to bully me?” Jennie whined, crossing her arms.
“You deserve it for being that bad at bowling, honestly. How can you even land in the gutter that many times?”
“I feel attacked,” Jennie countered. “Who do you think you-”
“No no no,” you said, pulling her away from the conversation. “Let’s just go hang out in your room.”
She sighed as you pulled her to her room, shutting the door behind the two of you. “One year later and you’re still starting kiddy fights with Jisoo, I swear to god.”
“She started it.”
“Did not!” Jisoo yelled through the wall.
“Please, stop this,” you begged. “Why can you two never chill?”
“I have no idea, honestly,” she replied, shrugging and smiling at you. “Apology kiss?”
You nodded, smiling as she pulled you in for a brief moment. “Apology accepted,” you said, before she kissed you again.
She kissed you again after that. Then again. Then again. Before long, you were full-on making out on her bed, and she was pulling at the collar of your shirt, silently asking permission to remove it.
You nodded, and she pulled your shirt over your head, leaving you half exposed. Her shirt came off next, revealing a light blue bra underneath. It was nearly see-through, giving you almost a full view of her chest, but not quite.
Luckily, you didn’t have to wait for her to remove it, as she tossed it off almost immediately after removing her shirt. Your bra came off next, thrown haphazardly across the room next to hers.
Your lips reconnected then, both of you tugging at each other’s pants, in a hurry to get them off of each other. You had never done anything like this before. Not with Jennie, not with anyone.
Her lips separated from yours as the two of you hurriedly removed your pants, adding them to the ever-growing pile of clothing. Her hands moved up and down your thighs, over your hips, feeling your soft skin and all your curves as her lips got back to work, this time starting to suck at the sensitive on your neck. The feeling was different from anything you had felt before, hitting the sensitive parts of your neck that you didn’t even realise could react that way to this sort of contact.
You moaned, cuing a shush from Jennie as she pulled her head away from your neck. “My roommates are all out there. If we can hear them having a quiet conversation from here, they’ll be able to hear you moaning like that, loud mouth.”
You nodded, willing yourself to stay quiet as her hands continued to roam your body, rubbing at your thighs and working their way closer and closer to your area. You felt yourself becoming more and more turned on as she moved her hands around your waist, and grazed her hands over the insides of your thighs, almost touching your soaking wet center, but not quite.
She ran her hands over your clit, hardly touching you through the thin fabric of your underwear. Her fingertips barely grazed over your skin, causing hardly any friction but still making you more turned on and desperate for more. She continued to slowly rub you through your panties, making you feel tortured and indulged at the same time. You felt like you might just explode if she didn’t start doing something else, something that involved more skin to skin contact.
“Jennie, please,” you whispered as she pressed her palm against your clit. “Please just fuck me.”
Without warning, two fingers slid inside of you, making you cry out at the sudden pain. She moved them in and out of you quickly, and because this was your first time, you were afraid her fingers might just rip you in half.
She put her hand over your mouth, blocking out the sound as she slid a third finger in, speeding up her fingers more, nearly causing you to scream. It burned as she moved them in and out of you at first, as her fingers filled you up and stretched you out, but after you got used to them pumping in and out of you at such a quick pace, it turned into pure pleasure, pure ecstasy.
Jennie removed her hand from your mouth, only to replace it with her lips as she continued to move her fingers inside of you. You moaned into her mouth as she sped her fingers up faster, placing her free hand on your clit.
She hardly had to press her hand onto your clit before you came on her fingers, biting into her lip as you did so. She continued to move her fingers in and out of you as you gasped beneath her, sweat enveloping your body as you rode out your high.
It was only a couple of seconds before she had taken your fingers out of you and you had flipped the two of you over, so that now you were on top of her. Your attached your lips to hers, your hands finding their way to her hips and gripping them.
Your lips moved down to her jaw, then to her neck, then her collarbone. You ran kisses all along her body, slowly working your way downward.
With each kiss, you felt her tense up more and more, and heard soft whimpers escape her mouth. By the time you had reached her stomach, she was practically shivering. “Stop teasing me, Y/N.”
You obliged, pulling her underwear down her thighs and connecting your lips to her, prompting a breathy moan, which she attempted to suppress, but failed to. Her hands tangled in your hair as you worked your tongue in and out, pulling at your strands as she whimpered.
“Fuck, Y/N,” she whispered. “You’re really good at this.”
You sped up, looking up at her as you did. Her mouth shut tightly as your tongue moved, and she wriggled around on the bed, as it was obviously becoming harder and harder to control herself.
She was slowly being pushed closer and closer to the edge, and she was starting to unravel because of it. She gasped, her mouth opening up wide as she finally reached her high, gripping onto your hair even harder than before.
After she had come off her high, you separated from her, laying down on her bed next to her. “That was great,” you breathed out, your sweaty body turning to face hers. “Have you done that before?”
“No,” she replied with a laugh. “I think it was both of our first time.”
“You did really good for your first time,” you said, pointing out the obvious.
“As were you,” she said, wrapping her arms around you and pulling the blanket over your bodies. “Now let’s stop talking. Let’s just sleep.”
Special thanks to @joannclelia for her help. And to anon for the ending advice.
“What have ye for lunch then?”
She turned the phone around to show him her tray. Pasta, of course. An orange. Spinach salad. Good. Bottle of water. Then, just on the edge of her tray…
“Claire. What was that?”
She flipped the phone back to her face. “What was what, darling? You can see I have a very healthy lunch, and I’m sitting down, relaxing while I eat. With Louise,” she turned the phone towards her companion, a pretty nurse with long brown hair.
“Right there! Is that a brownie?” He could hear her giggle, and say shhhh.
Her face was barely straight as she looked him. “No. That’s Louise’s, not mine.”
“Non, ce n’est pas le mien!” Jamie heard the indignant voice out of view.
“Sassenach, I ken ye like the French pastries, but come on. Ye had a pain au chocolat at breakfast, now this. Last night, some cake. How about ye not give birth to a diabetic, eh?”
Claire smiled, and blew him a kiss. “No pudding at dinner tonight. Promise.”
Jamie nodded, pursed his lips, and blew a kiss back. “Enjoy yer lunch. I’ll speak wi’ ye later. Take it easy, okay?”
“I will.” Claire said, as she waved at her screen.
“I love you, mo neighean donn. Give the bairn a kiss from his Da.”
“You mean her.” Claire kissed her fingers and pressed them on her bump. “Love you, too, Jamie,” she said, and disconnected.
When it was time to go back, Claire gathered up her tray, and stood.
She looked at her chair in confusion. There was a large mark on her seat. What had she spilled?
It wasn’t until she heard Louise’s gasp that she realized something was wrong.
She felt the sticky wetness on her scrubs, but couldn’t really see past her belly.
A moment later she felt the rush of something between her legs. She could smell the blood.
Her tray dropped to the floor, bouncing off the end of the table on its way down, shattering everything.
Far away someone was screaming.
It was her.
“I just talked to her. I just talked to her at lunch. She was fine. I just saw her.” Jamie kept repeating the same thing. He sat in one of the chairs in front of her desk, tears in his eyes, bewildered, confused.
Jenny catapulted into action. She snapped a finger at her assistant, pointing. The woman already had the phone receiver in her hand. “I need Ian, here, right now. For Jamie. Alec needs to bring the car around right away. And get a private plane ready to leave for Paris immediately. Charge the company.”
“You,” she pointed at Willie, “come with me.” Willie, who had shown up with Jamie, was pale and panicked. He stepped into line with her as she strode down the hall. “We need Jamie’s passport, and -”
“Oh! I have it. All of Jamie’s travel documents are in his office.” Willie was glad he had that, at least.
“Good. Now, gather all that up and, listen carefully, ye need to get his art supplies.” Jenny stopped, and put a hand on Willie’s arm. “He draws when he’s stressed. He’ll need the distraction. Get it all together and give it to Ian.” She pushed him forward, “Now go!”
Willie streaked off to do her bidding.
Jenny had Alec drive at break neck speed to Jamie and Claire’s flat. She threw what she could into a bag, jeans, tee shirts, a few socks, trainers, jacket. She threw some things in for Claire as well. Soft sleep pants and a softer sweater. Toiletries. Where the hell was his underwear!?! She opened a top drawer and rummaged around.
The small gold object caught her eye. She hadn’t seen it in years. Instinctively, she grabbed it, and slamming the drawer shut, turned to go. She was in and out of the flat in 15 minutes.
Ian and Jamie were waiting inside the small terminal when she got there. Her brother was turning his phone over and over in his large hands. She put the bag next to his feet in silence.
When the flight was ready, Jenny walked Jamie to the steps. Ian handed the steward the bag.
“Shhhh, brother.” She grabbed Jamie around his shoulders and hugged him tight. His arms gripped her as he buried his face in her neck. God, he was burrowing in like Wee Jamie after he’s fallen off his bike. She had no words for him. She would not lie and tell him it would be all right. Lord only knew what was happening in France. “Give Claire a hug for me, and tell her I love her.” Jamie nodded against her neck. She turned quickly and gave him a kiss on his temple.
Grabbing his hand, she pressed the small oval piece into his palm. “I found this. Take it. Let it give ye strength.”
Jamie looked at it, eyes wide.
“Go on,” Jenny said. “Call me as soon as you know something.”
Jamie let go, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded, looking at the tarmac the whole time.
He turned towards the plane, but found himself in a hard embrace. Ian gripped his brother-in-law, and friend tightly. No words were exchanged. Whatever one needed, the other would give. They had been through too much together, their bond understood. Ian was the one person who knew exactly what Jamie was thinking and feeling.
How life could change in the blink of an eye.
How you could be whole, and happy, feeling right with the world, and then have your heart and mind shattered like the cracks in a windshield after a crash, spreading out in front of you until you can’t see anything of the world at all. Just fragments. Fractures. Shattered pieces. Or worse yet, missing.
Jamie sat alone on the plane looking out of the window as Scotland disappeared below him. He still had the token from Jenny in his hand. He closed his fist around it, hard, and looked out at the clouds surrounding him. He raised his eyes higher, heavenward. Lord that she may be safe. She and the child.
It was all over when he arrived.
He was ushered to a waiting room, and made to sit by himself. Finally, a small toad-like man entered, and introduced himself as Dr. Raymond. His first thought was, Claire said ye looked like a frog. She wasna wrong. Jamie’s mouth lifted in half a smile as he stood to extend his hand to the doctor.
Raymond explained that Claire was currently receiving some units of blood to replace what she’d lost. Once assured Claire would be fine, Jamie had asked about his child.
The wee man barely came up to the centre of Jamie’s chest, yet his words had the power to knock him backwards, stumbling into a chair.
His child was mort-nè.
Jamie felt fragile, paper thin, like velum, that if he moved too fast or spoke to loudly he would tear in half.
“Your wife suffered a placental abruption. This is when the placental lining separates from the uterus. Sometimes the mother does not feel anything, and sometimes she feels, maybe, some pain in the back. Unfortunately, the infant was not receiving enough oxygen in utero, so….” The doctor paused, then said in his heavy French accent, “I am sorry for your loss, Monsieur.”
Jamie nodded, and swallowed. His emotions were so raw, he found himself unable to speak. His thoughts were a tangle, like a net cast out to sea and caught on a rocky shore. Fear wrapped itself around his gut, making him wonder if this was, somehow, his fault.
“Can I ask ye a question?” Jamie said.
Dr. Raymond blinked slowly, and nodded once.
“Is this my fault? Should I – “ Jamie stopped. It was difficult to talk of personal things, private things.
He thought back to the night before she left, how he drove into his wife, hard and fast, angry that she was leaving, desperate to have her knowing he would miss her, with fear in his veins over their impending separation. More like making a point, than making love. He would rather die than to have been the one to cause the tear.
He gathered his courage, began again. “The last time, when I had, well, sex with my wife…should I have been gentler? Maybe….maybe been more considerate of her…of her….condition?”
The physician simply shook his head, and said quite bluntly, “No, Monsieur. That is not the cause. You are a fine husband. It is not possible.”
Absolved of his sin, Jamie sat back in the chair and exhaled.
But that didn’t absolve Claire. Jamie took a deep breath, then said what was on his mind next, a thought that was eating at him like a corrosive.
“I never wanted her to come, ye see. She…Claire…she doesna do things in half measure, ye ken. I worried she’d overdo. So.” He looked Dr. Raymond straight in the eye, and asked, “Did she? Did she do too much? On her feet all hours? Not stopping, or getting proper rest?”
Jamie rubbed his hands together, trying to warm them. He felt ice cold to the marrow of his bones. “Tell me she rested. Tell me she took care, that this wasna her fault, either,” he whispered, ashamed, “because I don’t…I don’t want to hate my wife.”
Dr. Raymond looked at this red man. The aura around him. He would fight to the death for the things he loved. Raymond understood he was fighting now. Fighting for the love that was being consumed by his fear.
“Monsieur Fraser, I can tell you that many times the cause is unknown. Sometimes the placenta does not attach in a place that provides adequate support, and it may not develop appropriately, or it may separate as it grows.” The little man leaned forward in an effort to reassure Jamie, “I can tell you that Dr. Fraser was not reckless or foolish. Anyone could see that the child in her womb came first.”
The door opened then, and the young nurse he’d seen from Claire’s video called for the doctor. He couldn’t follow all of her rapid French, but when Dr. Raymond jumped up, Jamie instinctively followed.
He stepped inside the room. Claire’s room. A Dhia, she looked so pale. She was as stark a white as the hospital linens, the dark of her hair like an ink blot on the pillow. Her arm thin, slack, even though the deep red liquid flowing through the tube in her arm was promising life.
He understood a few words. Fever. Infection.
Jamie watched in shock as the little man laid his hands on Claire. Her shoulders, her arms. Murmuring in French the entire time. He sent the nurse for another drip, and she scurried out of the room hardly sparing Jamie a glance. He flinched as the doctor ran his hands over Claire’s breasts, and down her torso, lightly but touching her all the same. The healer then placed his hands over his wife’s womb, and Claire writhed in pain.
More blood. Jesus, God, how could there be so much blood.
And then, his name.
Ripped from Claire. In pain. In desperation. Like a magnet, it drew him. It was strange, how his name dragged from her remaining strength reverberated in his soul. He took a step towards her before he’d realized he’d moved, and found himself stopped with a vise grip on his arm. He turned to find a large woman, Hildegard according to the name tag, telling him, “Vous devez partir, Monsieur.”
When she woke up she was a bit disoriented. Memory surfaced. Grief washed over her like a tidal wave. For a moment she could not breathe.
Turning her head she saw her 6’4” husband folded into a tiny chair beside her bed. She had no memory of his arrival.
He was sketching. He looked tired, wan, pale. His eyes darting over his drawing as his big hand moved in strong sure strokes.
“Do you hate me for it, Jamie?” she whispered, wanting to know. Her biggest fear, that Jamie would blame her. What was more pain? Better to roll it all into one great big ball of grief, and deal with it.
He jumped. “Didna realize ye were awake, Sassenach.” Jamie set down his computer.
Claire relaxed at the use of her nickname.
“Jamie, I’m so sorry. So very, very sorry. I put myself before our family. This is all my fault.”
“Shhh, mo neighean donn. Yer a doctor, ye ken well it’s no’ yer fault.” Jamie moved his chair closer to her bed, and took one small, weak, long-fingered hand in his two large ones. Tears slipped from her eyes at his gentleness.
Jamie didn’t have any words. There was nothing to say. He couldn’t fix what happened. He couldn’t change the loss. He could just share it.
They sat like that for some time. Glancing at each other. Letting their hands speak for them, thumbs stroking, fingers squeezing, softly rubbing. Jamie’s thumb touched her ring from time to time.
Finally, Claire spoke. “I want to see her.”
“My wife,” Jamie stopped. Cleared his throat. “My wife wants to see our child.” He stood in front of the nurses’ station, hands clenched into balls at his side, standing as tall as he could.
“Ce n’est pas possible, Monsieur,” said Nurse Hildegarde. It wasn’t the answer Jamie wanted. He had been powerless to this point. This, however, he would control.
“I didna ask yer permission. I didna say can she, I said she wants to. So she doesna have to imagine.” He willed himself not to raise his voice, to keep his anger in check.
The young nurse, Louise, looked up at him. She looked at her superior. Stand-offs like this were rare. Usually no one questioned Nurse Hildegard. Everyone stopped to look at the large, grieving, red haired man. Nurse Hildegarde opened her mouth to speak again, but caught sight of the little practitioner behind Monsieur Fraser.
“Soeur Hildegard. Presénter l’enfant à Dr. et M. Fraser. Vous avez ma permission.”
Claire was sitting up in bed when he entered the room. The bundle in his arms was so tiny. A pink blanket. As he came nearer she could see the tiny face peeking through. Sleeping. No, Claire remembered, not sleeping.
“Her hair,” Jamie said, smiling sadly, “she’s got my hair.”
Claire raised her arms for the baby, and Jamie gently handed her their child as if handling fragile glass. There was that awkward bobble of a new dad not sure what he’s doing to a new mom too eager to hold her baby. They both chuckled at that. Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, his arm around his wife, the other under her arms that held the baby. They stayed like that, silently, as Claire unwrapped parts of their bairn, counting ten fingers, and ten toes. Stroking the luminescent skin. She chuckled at the tiny ears, which stuck out a bit, like Jamie’s. He nudged her in understanding, chuffed. So beautiful.
And then Claire began to sing.
When Nurse Louise came in an hour later she was moved by the tableau before her. Her friend, Claire, rocking slowly, humming. Jamie, her husband, sitting stoic beside her. Neither taking their eyes from their child.
She approached the bed.
“Ma Chere, Claire. Il est temps.”
When Louise left the room closing the door behind her, Claire thoroughly and completely went to pieces.
Jamie held his wife across his lap.
And did the same.
Sitting on the private plane to go home Claire looked out the window at the terminal traffic. Everyone so busy, oblivious to the people they were shuttling on to planes, the bags they were loading, the lives they were moving along. Jamie sat beside her, holding her hand. They spoke little. She still couldn’t believe they were alone on this plane. Jamie insisted. He said he’d had enough of strangers.
“I don’t want to forget her face,” Claire whispered, head back, curls pressed against the head rest. “I’m afraid I’ll forget her face.”
Jamie let go of her hand. “I ken it may be strange. I’m sorry if it bothers ye. But I had to,” he said, quietly, apologetically. He fumbled in his pocket. “For Jenny. For my sister. She would want to see, ye ken. She’s all I’ve got for family, other than you, Claire.”
There, on his phone screen, looking as if she was sleeping peacefully, was Faith Elizabeth Fraser.
One year later
They walked slowly through the cemetery. Jamie’s hands deep in his pockets, as he did when he was nervous. Claire’s arms were crossed in front of her, as she did when she was nervous, a bouquet of tulips gripped in her hand. They walked as if they really didn’t want to arrive at their destination, lost in their own thoughts, steps hesitant.
It was the first time they would visit her grave. One year to the day when she passed.
“She should be over here.” Jamie hung back and let Claire step up first. Claire’s gasp was audible from where he stood. She dropped to her knees, and laid a hand reverently on the stone. A stone. She hadn’t expected a stone. They hadn’t ordered one. She expected a simple marker, not this beautiful, pale pink granite slab.
Jamie crouched beside her. He cleared his throat. “A Da can only give what he can to his bairn. I’m an artist. So. I gave her a resting place, wit’ her name and our names, and placed her in the care of her grandparents. Yers and mine.” He brushed a leaf off the corner of the stone. “And I left a bit of Scotland wi’ her.”
She traced the tiny gold medal imbeded in the stone under Faith’s name. “What is this?”
“It’s St. Andrew,” Jamie said. “My father used to carry the medal around in his pocket. It would remind him to pray, to ask for intercession when he needed it. It became mine. Jenny gave it to me when I left for France. When I ordered the stone I gave it to them, along with the design.”
They stayed for a long time, holding hands, lost in their own thoughts. Jamie stood, and pulled his wife to her feet. Wrapping his arms around her shoulders he buried his face in her sweet smelling curls. The sun shone warm on their faces, as Jamie swayed from side to side.
“So. Now would be a good time to tell me something, Claire Fraser,” he said, next to her ear. “Anything ye like.”
Claire butted backwards and hit her husband in the crotch. He let out a soft “oof” and laughed.
“I have nothing to say, James Fraser,” she said, in her haughtiest tone.
“Hmpf,” Jamie made a Scottish noise, and turned Claire around to face him. “Yer sure, then?”
Claire stood on tiptoes and kissed her husband full on the lips. “Five days is not a long time, you know that.”
“Aye, but yer never late.” He grinned at her. “It’s fine, Sassenach. I’ll wait. Besides,” he said softly, “I have you. And faith.”
Claire looked up sharply as the knock sounded. Who could have gotten in the street door without a key? She set aside the diaper bag she was packing and went to check the peephole. Alec. The only other person with a key. She threw open the door.
“What’s wrong? Is it Jamie?”
“Nothing wrong, ma’am. ‘Tis raining. I’m here to take ye to the Distillery for yer lunch with Mrs. Murray.”
Claire was confused. “Lunch isn’t for another two hours.”
“Aye. But I ken yer morning walks. Didna want ye to try walking in the rain with the bairn. Wanted to catch ye before ye left.”
Claire studied the old man carefully. His ever present knit cap covered his head, and his hands were buried deep in his jacket pockets. He stared at her steadily.
“You know about my walks? How?”
Alec sniffed, and rocked back on his heels silently. His face betrayed nothing.
Claire waved him in, shutting the door behind him. Knowing Alec he probably followed her. Also, knowing Alec he would never admit it. He’d been her silent guardian since her medical school days. “Sit, I’ll get you a coffee.”
He sat on the chesterfield sipping the hot brew, and watching three month old Brianna playing on the floor. Eventually, he slid down off the cushions, and sat with her. In no time he was shaking rattles, and keeping her entertained. Since she wasn’t going to be able to leave, Claire buzzed about the flat while Bree was being looked after getting the kitchen tidy, folding a load of laundry, and actually cleaned a bit. However, she was suspicious of Alec. Did Jamie send him? Or Jenny? It’s not like she was going to walk the whole way. She had planned to take the tram for part of the way. She had a cover for the stroller, so Bree would have been fine. She couldn’t stand being cooped up, and her daily walks made her feel so much better. Without them she felt caged, pigeon-holed, stifled. The walks kept her mind clear, and she felt she could think better. Now it seemed Alec was here to take that away from her, and while she knew it was ridiculous, she couldn’t control the angry feeling it stirred.
When the elevator doors at Fraser Distillery opened, Jamie was right there. A huge smile graced his wide, generous mouth. Bree cooed at the sight of her Da.
As Claire stepped out Jamie scooped his daughter from her arms. He peppered her face with kisses, and delighted in her giggles. He cradled her against his chest, while Bree’s little fingers grabbed at the collar of his shirt, opening and closing, her tiny fingertips brushing along his strong neck.
Finally, Jamie turned his attention to Claire, giving her a quick kiss. “Hi.”
Bree first. Always Bree first. Claire checked her thoughts.
“Hello. How’s your day?”
“Better now that my two best girls are here.” Jamie turned and walked toward his office. Claire felt like a pack mule carrying her purse, and the diaper bag as she trailed behind her husband. She said hello to Willie, who stood to give her a quick hug. They talked for a moment, and Claire realized how good it was to see him again. She had missed seeing him and Niamh.
Jamie was standing impatiently beside his desk waiting for her, and grinning like a fool. Claire saw the object of his delight right away.
“What’s this?” She was surprised to see a travel cot tucked into the corner of his office. A blanket, teddy bear and some soft toys were inside. He’d never told her he had one. She set down the bags to investigate further.
“For Bree. Any time ye want to come to the office, she’ll be comfortable. This doesna have to be yer first lunch visit now.” Claire was touched. She hadn’t expected this at all. Yet at the same time it felt like a criticism. Like she should have made more of an effort to visit.
Jamie leaned down and pulled the teddy bear out of the cot. He rubbed the softness against his daughter’s cheek and laughed as she leaned into the stuffy. “We’ll be fine here. Go on to Jenny’s office. Enjoy yer lunch.”
“You want me to leave Bree here? I can’t Jamie. She’ll get hungry.”
Jamie’s smile faltered for a brief second but he recovered quickly. “Feed her now then, and I’ll see her down for a nap.”
“I can’t very well -” she gestured toward the outer office at Willie.
Jamie stepped around her, shut the door and pulled the strings on the blinds. Blinds that had never been there before.
Just like that, she had her privacy and no more excuses.
Claire and Jenny sat at a table by the window. The rain had stopped momentarily but the steel gray sky would not yield to the sun. It was destined to be another overcast day. At first Claire wanted to have food brought in because she didn’t want to stray too far from Bree. Then Jamie had texted her a picture of their daughter sleeping peacefully in her little cot, and Jenny had pounced. They’d have a good two hours. Bree always took her longest nap in the afternoon.
Jenny ordered their drinks, and when the crisp white wine was delivered she raised her glass and toasted her sister-in-law. Jenny spoke of how proud she was of Claire as a mother, how beautiful Brianna was, and how happy she was to have another woman in the family who had the same colouring as Ellen. It made Claire tear up.
It wasn’t too long before Jenny turned the conversation to Claire, and how she was feeling.
“I’m good,” Claire said around a mouthful of bread.
“No blues, no funny moods?” Jenny narrowed her eyes daring Claire to fake her way through this one.
Claire wiped her mouth, the bread feeling thick in her throat. Dare she admit it? She dropped her head to try and gather her thoughts but in the end, she didn’t need to. Jenny reached across the table and ran a hand down her arm.
“Claire.” Jenny’s voice was comforting, but firm. “Did I ever tell ye the story about Maggie? It was right after I’d had Kitty. I came home one day, I canna even remember where I was. Anyway, in I walk and Wee Jamie runs over to me to say hello, wee Maggie is in her high chair, and gets so excited she gasps. Next thing I know, her eyes are huge, her face is getting red, and she’s clearly having trouble breathing. Meanwhile, Ian is blathering on, not paying the least bit of attention. I remember dropping whatever I’d had in my hands, and trying to get around him to get to Maggie. Wee Jamie was clamoring to be picked up and Ian was just in the way.
Next thing I know, Mrs. Crook pulls Maggie from the chair, holds her upside down by the ankle, and whacks her on the back. This thing, this small red thing, comes flying out of her mouth and is skitterin’ across the kitchen floor. When I finally get around the boys to pick it up, it’s a piece of hard candy.”
Jenny threw her hands in the air in a ‘what the hell?’ kind of gesture.
“Ian Brainless Murray gave our bairns hard candy. Honestly, Claire, it was all I could do not to rip off his prothesis and beat him ‘round the head with it.” Jenny’s eyes were bright with the memory, her cheeks flushed as her fear revisited her.
“I was so scared. I couldna forgive him. All I could think of was how useless he was. From that point on I was worrit about everything. Every time I thought about it, I’d have a panic attack. I kept planning my kids’ funerals in my head. I wouldna leave him alone with the children. I didna trust him. It was terrible.”
“How did you get out of it?” Claire asked earnestly.
“I threatened to divorce Ian. Said if he couldna care to keep the bairns safe, he could leave. God, what a row. Ian said things about me being a control freak, and I said he didna have the sense God gave a fly. Worst fight we’d ever had.” Jenny shook her head, remembering. “It was after that outburst that Mrs. Crook sat me down and talked to me. She thought perhaps I had a ‘touch of the blues,’” Jenny made quotation marks with her fingers.
“She noted all my feelings from inadequacy to anxiety. She let me say horrible things about Ian. Never tried to correct me, just let me talk. She promised me that the feelings would pass, but if I still felt the same way in six months time she’d move Mr. Murray out herself. Then, she called my doctor, and made me an appointment. She was right. Six months later things were so much better.”
Claire stared at Jenny. Competent, organized, strong Janet Fraser Murray once felt like Claire did now.
“I thought it was just me. I thought the anxiety was because,” Claire paused, swallowed, and tried again. “Because of Faith. That I was just afraid it would happen again. I feel crazy.”
“Yer no’ crazy. As a doctor ye ken this is normal. Many, many women feel this way after a baby.” Jenny held up her hand and started ticking reasons off on her fingers, “Ye canna sleep because yer afraid of not hearing the bairn cry. Ye have a routine during the day, just the two of ye and then the Da comes home and winds the baby up, or just brushes off the schedule ye’ve worked so hard to establish. I got so sick of Ian being the ‘fun parent’ while I had to be the harsh one to insist on a steady bedtime or what they were allowed to eat, and when.”
Claire nodded. She reached across the table, and gripped Jenny’s hand. “Can I tell you something else? Sometimes Jamie comes home, and it’s like I’m invisible. He walks in the door and it’s all about Bree. It’s like I’m not even there! All day I’ve been up to my ears in nappies and feedings and chores and I look forward to seeing him, but he’s just focused on the baby.”
Claire looked at Jenny, her embarrassment hot on her face. “I’m ashamed to admit I’m jealous of my own child.”
“It’s strange. Fatherhood, I mean,” Jenny patted Claire’s hand, then leaned back in her chair. “They really have no place until the bairn is born. They canna do a thing while we’re pregnant, and then there’s nothing they can do while we’re in labour but wait and try to offer moral support. Then, when the bairn is finally born they can hold it, but they canna feed it. There’s always something they canna do. Except maybe talk to them. They can say whatever they want, secretly and quietly without us being any the wiser. It’s their turn then, to have something just between them and the bairn. They can share their hopes and dreams, what might be, what might never be.” Jenny’s smile begged Claire to be sympathetic.
“Imagine feeling useless for nine months, and then still feeling useless for a few more. It’s hard for them to find their place. But around Bree’s age when the bairn is smiling, and cooing and laughing, they can finally bond. And they’re starving for it.”
Jenny waited while that sunk into Claire’s head. She watched as Claire’s glass face came to grips with all they had talked about.
The food finally arrived, and Jenny took the chance to move on to her other topic.
“Do ye miss the hospital, Claire?” Jenny asked.
“Yes. I do. Some days more than others.” Claire smiled briefly. “But I’m worried about going back. I’m worried about what to do with Bree.”
“Have ye discussed it? With Jamie?”
“No. I can tell by his voice he won’t consider a day nursery. But I don’t know what else we can do? There’s one at the hospital. Lots of doctors use it.” Claire didn’t sound convincing, even to herself.
“Perhaps ye can find yer own Mrs. Crook?” This was the delicate part of the lunch that Jenny had been dreading. She’d need her managing skills for this.
Brazenly, Whisky coloured eyes met Coffee coloured eyes. “Jamie mentioned that a couple of months ago. Said the idea came from you. At the time I thought you could shove it up your ass. I took it as a personal slight.”
Jenny laughed. “Ye wouldna be the first to tell me what to do with my ideas!”
The tension defused, Jenny continued, “I love ye like a sister, Claire. And I ken what yer going through. So, if I may be so bold, let’s make an appointment with yer doctor, and then let’s talk about how we can get Bree the best nanny we can. Because at the end of the day, Claire, it’s no’ about you not being good enough. It’s about finding someone who’s good enough for yer family.”
Claire’s mouth trembled with relief. The tears that were always close to the surface spilled over.
“And Jamie?” she whispered. “What do I do about Jamie?”
The rolling green dominated the landscape. The Range Rover came to a halt in front of a sprawling stone house, somehow managing to look older than the hills it stood upon.
“Lallybroch.” Jamie swept his hand, encompassing the house and the land and seemingly everything around them.
Claire gazed out of the windshield, entranced by the ancient feel of the very stones. “This is not a manor house, Jamie. This is a castle.”
“Ach, no,” he said, ducking his head modestly. “Truly, ‘tis only a farm. There’s a broch, but it’s old and crumbling now. We can visit it later, if ye like.”
“What’s a broch?” Claire unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out of the car.
“A tower, of sorts. The auld lairds of Lallybroch would be called Lords Broch Tuarach, after the north-facing tower.” Jamie reached for their bags in the backseat and joined Claire, taking her hand as they approached the massive front door.
“A tower doesn’t really have a face, you know,” Claire teased.
“Weel, the door faces north. That’ll do.” Jamie smiled, and made to open the door.
“Shouldn’t we knock?” Claire felt nerves and trepidation, about to meet the famous Jenny and the rest of the Jamie’s family. She knew how much they all meant to him, and how big a step this was for them.
“’Tis my home. No need.” He stole a quick, soft kiss to quell her obvious nerves and then called out, “Hello the house!” He dumped the bags by the staircase. Claire stood next to him, taking in her surroundings.
Everything looked antique, but not in a museum-like way. Everything, from the furniture to the paneled walls, looked loved, cared for. Carved tables and tapestries mingled with a modern cordless phone and lamps. Uncle Lamb would have a field day, she thought.
Thundering footsteps broke into her reverie, and a tall gangly teenager came tumbling down the stairs. “Uncle Jamie!” In a blur, Jamie was rocked back in a fierce hug.
“Ian, lad!” Jamie squeezed and lifted the boy straight off the ground. They slapped each other on the back in a great show of affection before Jamie let him go, and slid an arm around Claire’s waist.
“Ian, this is Claire. Sassenach, this is Young Ian, my nephew and godson.”
“Nice to meet you,” Claire said sincerely. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Is that so?” Young Ian grinned easily. “Welcome!” He picked up their bags and shot up the stairs two at a time. “I’ll just put these in yer room! Mam’s in the kitchen!”
Jamie and Claire held hands as they walked down the hallway towards the kitchen. They were assailed by the aromas of fresh baked bread and something delicious and steamy bubbling away on a stove. Claire half expected it to be an ancient cast-iron affair, but it was quite modern, by the rest of Lallybroch’s standards.
Jenny’s back was to them as she washed dishes at the sink. Jamie put his finger to his lips and blinked at Claire. He tiptoed (as much as a man his size might) and prepared to scare Jenny by tickling her ribs. His hands reached out but were stopped by a sudden, “Don’t even think about it, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.”
Jenny craned her neck over her shoulder and gave them a wicked smile. “Hey there, little brother.” Her hands never stopped working, even as Jamie smiled abashedly and gave her a peck on the cheek. She turned off the water and wiped her hands on the apron she wore, engulfing Jamie in a warm embrace. “It’s been too long,” Jenny said, pushing back and smiling. She looked over his shoulder at Claire, who witnessed the encounter wistfully longing for family.
“And this is Claire, I presume.” Jenny stepped around Jamie, giving her a quick appraising glance—cordial, but guarded. Claire extended her hand, which was enveloped in Jenny’s cool grasp.
“It’s great to meet you. Jamie’s missed Lallybroch terribly, and all your children.”
Jenny’s eyebrows rose like dark wings. Her eyes had that slanted look identical to Jamie’s, resting on high cheekbones reminiscent of Viking royalty. “I’m sure he did. Weel, dinner is stew. ‘Tis something I can leave on the stove and no’ worry, since I’ve been tending the goats and sheep, and cooking for Hogmanay with Mrs. Crook.”
“She’s the housekeeper slash cook, but she’ll be off wi’ her own family for Christmas,” Jamie interjected.
“We can sit down to eat, now ye’re here.” Jenny squeezed Jamie’s hand and turned to the stove. “Young Ian, Jamie, Maggie, Kitty! Dinner! Come wash up!” She glanced at Jamie. “Could ye get Ian from the barn? He’s been tending to the hay now Rabbie’s gone home fer the holidays.”
There was a meowing at the kitchen door as Jamie approached it. He opened it to let a grey cat in, who pranced inside as though he owned Lallybroch. From the way Jenny bent down to coddle it, Claire suspected it might be the case.
“I see Adso of Melch is still alive, Jenny,” Jamie said, an eyebrow raised in amusement.
“He is.” Jenny stood and toed the cat away from the stove. “Ye wee fiend, get on wi’ ye.”
Adso stopped in the middle of the kitchen, as soon as it spotted Claire. Jenny looked appraisingly at the cat, as though almost willing the cat to respond in some way. Claire decided to follow Jenny’s example and squatted, staring into its green eyes.
The cat slowly walked over to her, sniffing about her knees. It purred softly; Adso located her hand and pressed against it, enticing Claire to rub its ears. She obliged, marveling at the soft fur and turned to Jamie, who smiled down at her. “He likes ye, Sassenach.”
Jenny let out a contained breath, and the first truly welcoming smile bloomed on her face. “Never mind my bonny cheetie. Go fetch Ian, if ye please. And shut the door, before we freeze. Claire, we’re so glad to have ye.”
“Let me get this straight. If Adso didn’t like me, Jenny wouldn’t either?”
“Adso is held in very high regard around here, Sassenach. He’s an excellent judge of character. He led Jenny onto a nanny who would steal from her purse and a drunken horse handler.”
They trudged up the stairs after bidding the family good night. Dinner had been superb, Jenny and Ian and their children all gathered at the table. The babble and laughter of a large family tugged at Claire’s heartstrings, making her long for one of her own. The children’s ages ranged from Jamie’s namesake at 18 who attended uni at Glasgow, and Young Ian at 14; the girls Maggie and Kitty who were 12 and 9 respectively. Ian (the elder) had presided over dinner in his role of father—a far cry from the rock star life he led on tour with The Clan.
“And what is that Melch in his name?” Claire took Jamie’s hand as he led her around the dark upstairs hallway.
“Our mam always had a cheetie. They were all named the same, after a German saint. Adso of Melch, Adso of Milk, ye ken,” Jamie said with a smile.
They walked up to a solid wooden door. Jamie pushed it open, to reveal a bright fire set in the grate, and both their bags in the room. Claire swallowed nervously and glanced at Jamie.
They hadn’t slept together thus far, though they had participated in some hot and heavy (emphasis on the hot) make out sessions at Claire’s and at Jamie’s flat. Hands roving, breath panting, Jamie had given her space and time to express what she wanted and when she wanted it. Young Ian had plainly made some assumptions of his own.
And why not? They were both consenting adults in a relationship and what they did (or didn’t do) in bed was entirely their own business. Space and time—the continuum of which was grinding to a halt, as there was nothing Claire wanted more right then and there than to feel Jamie’s arms around her and—
“Claire. I can sleep elsewhere.” Jamie squeezed her hand in reassurance. “Or on the floor if I can have the quilt. Ye don’t have to—”
Claire stopped his words with a kiss her hands tangled in the ruddy mess of his hair. His hands gripped her waist as he walked her back towards the bed, kicking the door shut behind them. They tumbled together onto the carved wooden bedstead, the frame creaking slightly.
“Won’t they hear?” Claire asked breathlessly.
“The walls are made of solid stone,” Jamie mumbled, his lips on her neck. “We can be as loud as we like.”
His hand crept under her sweater; higher and higher, until she could feel it caressing the underside of her breast. It was only then that she opened her eyes and met his own, whiskey and azure, everything bathed in the light of the slowly burning fire laid in the hearth.
Jamie’s hand stilled, and he brought his forehead to hers. “Claire, I want you so much I can scarcely breathe. Will ye have me?”
She almost didn’t recognize voice as her own, so high and gasping, “Yes. Yes, I’ll have you.” Permission granted, his hands were all over her body all at once. Skimming down her back, leaving tingling desire in their wake, gliding over her navel. Their clothes came off in a flurry of wool and jeans.
Slowly and reverently Jamie helped her shed her bra and underwear, his boxer briefs following suit. Completely exposed to each other, Jamie laid his hand on her bare hip, staring at her flush curves gilded by firelight.
“Ye are so beautiful, mo nighean donn.”
Claire felt suddenly shy and made to cover herself, but Jamie stopped her. “No, Sassenach. I want to look at you.” Claire blushed but let him gaze, slowly growing bold enough to return it.
His body came closer to hers, with his own muted fiery glow. He kissed down her neck, licking here and there. His large hands, calloused from playing guitar, teased and nipped at her breasts. Claire’s hands drifted down his back, pressing and urging him ever closer.
As his touch strayed lower, his intentions became clear. Claire raised herself on her elbows, effectively dislodging Jamie’s head from her stomach. His eyes held a question even as they seared with want.
“Jamie… no one’s ever—I mean—” Her cheeks burned red as she gestured with meaning.
He smiled and stretched up to kiss her gently. “Do ye want me to?”
“I don’t know. Won’t it… will it—”
“Let me taste ye.” Jamie trailed fingers up her leg. “Tell me if I’m too rough, or tell me to stop altogether if ye wish.” He brushed his lips over her belly, eyes blazing up at her.
Claire surrendered, falling back on the pillows and putting her arm over her eyes. Her knees trembled as he settled between them, parting them open and his arms locked around her thighs. She felt a brief kiss (right there! she thought incoherently) before she was flooded with pleasure, his tongue working magic on her most secret of places. She gasped as Jamie anchored her body to the bed with his arms, desire shooting through her veins. There were sounds coming from her lips she had never made before. Fleetingly she thought of covering her mouth before the feeling climbed higher and higher until it broke over her, making her shudder in release.
“Oh Jamie…” Her hand traced his jawline, as he smiled at her and kissed the inside of her thigh. Jamie moved and rose over her, kissing her deeply. She could taste herself and found it arousing.
He ground his pelvis gently into hers, swallowing her moans as her legs wrapped around him. Claire could feel the length of him sliding against her, and she urged him to her, hands on the small of his back.
Jamie braced himself on his forearms, and aligned himself at her slippery cleft. With a final nod from Claire, he eased himself inside her, slowly but inexorably moving forward as she dug her fingers into his back. The sensation was intense as he withdrew and pushed inside, again and again. Jamie held Claire close, the hair on his chest tickling her as they panted and he groaned and she whimpered with pleasure.
Their bodies rocked together as though they had known each other for years, simply waiting for the chance to join. Claire lost herself in pure sensation; the weight of his body perfect on hers, the spicy scent of him mingling with the smokiness of the fire, the mixture of Gaelic and English words he poured into her ear as he thrust faster and faster.
Feeling surged as they both chased the illusive spark of completion. Jamie’s hand splayed on her hip, and hitched her leg higher along his body. Her back arched instinctively. As he shifted, he hit a spot deep within her from a new angle, and in a few quick motions Claire shattered, crying out against his shoulder.
Jamie followed soon after, the tension breaking free as every muscle quivered, his mouth a wide O of relief and wonder. Their eyes met, half-lidded with satisfaction. Claire smiled languidly, running her hands through Jamie’s red curls. He withdrew gently, kissing Claire over and over, his lips at the hollow of her neck where perspiration shone and her pulse raced.
The heady feeling gradually dissipated, and the winter chill stole back into the room, making Jamie and Claire shiver with something more than spent desire. Still smiling, they crawled beneath the covers; Jamie pulled Claire close to him, her back to his front as he settled behind her, his arm holding her tightly.
“Oh, Claire… tha gaol agam ort,” he breathed against her skin.
“What does that mean?” she asked drowsily.
“I’ll tell ye tomorrow,” he said, nuzzling the nape of her neck. “We have time. I want to show you the loch, and the village, and take ye on a tour of the farm. I think ye’ll like the wee beasties and…”
She drifted off to sleep, his voice murmuring in the dark, safe in the knowledge of love and safety in Jamie’s arms and in her heart.
As they sat down to dinner, it was clear that the tension in the air remained intact, a building pressure seeking an outlet yet to be found.
The elder Ian attempted to make polite conversation and his oldest son, Jamie, responded in kind but the larger portion of the party let cutlery scraping their plates do the talking.
Claire could feel Jenny’s eyes following her every time she lifted her fork to her mouth or set it down to reach for her glass of wine. It took a great deal of self-control to keep from turning and meeting the other woman’s gaze but she knew that doing so would precipitate something that would be better handled in private. Instead Claire turned to her oldest nephew who had been baffled but warm in his welcome.
“I understand your wife and children are visiting with her mother?” Claire asked with a tilt of her head.
“No exactly. Our youngest arrived a fortnight ago,” he explained. “My wife’s mother came to help wi’ the bairns for a spell.” His face reddened sheepishly. “We heard word from Da that ye’d returned and I’ve been usin’ ye as a reason to leave the women to themselves. My mother-in-law likes me well enough but…”
“You’re not as fond of her?” Claire guessed with a smile. Her eyes darted briefly to her husband whose smiling eyes were waiting for her across the table.
“It’s no that I’m no fond of her,” the younger Jamie defended himself, “it’s that the house is… crowded… just now.”
The majority of those sitting at the table laughed with sympathy and amusement but a sudden crashing from the entryway of the house reached down the hall to grab their attention.
“Where is he?” an angry feminine voice rose at one someone near the doorway to the dining room.
Claire watched Jamie go red starting with the tips of his ears. Anger passed to fear and back to anger across his eyes before he stood with enough force to send his chair skittering back.
“Where’s that coward?” Laoghaire asked as she stormed into the dining room.
Claire looked to Jenny who was watching her and waiting to see how she would react. Claire held her sister-in-law’s gaze for several beats––long enough to see something like regret cross Jenny’s face before hardening with a surge of her Fraser stubbornness.
“Laoghaire, I dinna ken why ye’ve come barging in just now when we’re sat down to our suppers,” Jamie addressed the fuming woman, “but I’ll thank ye to stop yer bellowing and wait for me in the sitting room.”
Laoghaire scoffed. “Ye’ll no be hiding me away anymore, Jamie Fraser. Ye’ve been doing yer best of it for some time and I’ve put up wi’ it when I shouldna have done but now I hear ye’re taking up with another woman and carryin’ on as though ye’re no still wed to me…”
“In this situation,” Claire said with a raised voice as she stood and turned her attention to Laoghaire, “I believe you are the one who would be considered the ‘other woman.’”
The color drained from Laoghaire’s face and her eyes went wide with disbelief. It was a fleeting shock, however. The rage of youthful resentment and jealousy flooded her face leaving her cheeks red and splotchy where once such an emotional shift would have left her with a rather flattering flush.
“And what is’t brought you crawlin’ back from the dead? I always kent ye were a witch,” Laoghaire muttered the last under her breath.
“Disappointed your attempt on my life failed all those years ago?” Claire threw back. She caught Jamie’s hand clench suddenly into a fist at his side while the heads of everyone else at the table swiveled in her direction with jaws gaping.
Laoghaire shrank back a moment as she looked to Jamie then Jenny as though expecting one of them to object to Claire’s accusation. But Jamie’s face was filled with disgust and Jenny’s confusion.
“I thought you were just a foolish, heartsick child,” Claire lectured, “so I kept what you did to myself. But to marry my husband knowing what you did––what you did and not tell him…” Claire let all the anger and frustration that had boiled up within her as Jamie told her the night before, rise up again. She could feel the slight trembling in her hands where she leaned forward on the table. “It’s no wonder you made him so miserable.”
Laoghaire surged forward. “I made him miserable?” she shrieked.
Jenny shot to her feet. “Enough!” she cried. “Laoghaire for God’s sake, shut yer gob and get out.”
“You are asking me to leave, Jenny Murray, when ye’re the one made the match?” Laoghaire crossed her arms over her chest and sneered at the shorter woman.
“As though I needed to persuade ye on the matter.” Jenny rolled her eyes and set her hands on her hips. “Now leave before I set the dogs on ye.”
Laoghaire scoffed. “I’m no going anywhere until I’ve talked everything through with my husband.”
“I’m NOT yer husband,” Jamie said forcefully, his voice just shy of shouting. “The law and the church say I canna have two wives living and as Claire never was dead, then she’s the only wife I’ve had and that’s more than enough for me.”
Claire choked on a laugh then watched Jamie’s face turn red and the corner of his mouth twitch from the effort not to join her.
Laoghaire seemed to believe they were laughing at her.
“You are my husband!” she insisted with all the conviction of a toddler throwing a tantrum. “And ye’re the only father my lasses have left––or do ye mean to leave them fatherless again?”
“For Joanie and Marsali’s sakes, I suggest ye leave this house now,” he growled, “or I’ll no be givin’ ye anything more to help with them. It’s for their sake I’m not throwin’ ye through that door with my bare hands!” he began to rage. “Do ye mean to shame me over this now I ken what ye tried to have done to Claire? Well the shame I feel isna for puttin’ ye through all this––not anymore. No the shame I feel is for ever havin’ married ye to start.”
“Jamie,” Claire said quietly and firmly. She was watching Jenny whose hands were still on her hips. Jenny’s back was turned from Laoghaire and Jamie and she was staring intently at the empty space beside her half-finished dinner.
“Go, Laoghaire,” Jamie ordered with a tone that refused further argument. “I’ll send for a lawyer to come and see this handled properly and I’ll find a way to see Marsali and Joanie get a wee something too.”
“But nothing for me and my troubles,” Laoghaire muttered with disgust as, resigned, she turned to leave.
“I’m takin’ it as interest owed for the troubles you caused Claire at Cranesmuir,” Jamie retorted following her to be sure she left.
As soon as they were out of the dining room Jenny looked up to Claire.
“I’m sorry… I kent near as soon as it was done that it was like to be a mistake––seeing the two of them wed,” Jenny explained. “I’m sorry it was her, though I didna ken that there was anything in the past between ye. But I’ll no say I’m sorry for pushing Jamie to remarry. She wasna entirely wrong. It wasna her that made Jamie miserable––though she didna help the way I’d hoped. It was losing you did him in. And I’ll no apologize for doin’ everything in my power to help him past it.”
“I was the one agreed to the marriage,” Jamie said as he returned and overheard Jenny’s regrets. “It wasna yer place to be pushin’ me that way but it was down to me to put my foot down and I didna do so.”
“Of course it was my place to push ye that way,” Jenny retorted emphatically. “It’s been my place to look after ye that way since Mam passed. Ye’re the only brother I have left. I took care of ye when we lost Willie and Mam. I couldna help ye when Da passed but ye had Ian with ye and that was some comfort. I might not have kent where she’d gone to but I kent Claire was gone and I saw what that did to ye and it was worse than any of the others. I couldna just stand by and let that eat at ye because that would have eaten at me.”
“I was a grown man,” Jamie pressed, the lingering anger toward Laoghaire still flickering beneath the surface of his skin.
“Ye were a broken man. I hoped to find a way to hold ye together; I kent I’d never find a way to heal ye properly.” Her attention had been focused on Jamie but there was a brief flicker as her eyes momentarily darted to Claire. “Even now it doesna matter how much she heals ye, I’ll always ken where the cracks are.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny,” Claire interceded. “I should have tried harder to find a way to contact you… I was broken too. I didn’t think––”
“I can forgive ye for the grief ye caused me,” Jenny interrupted, “and there was plenty of it, Claire. Ye’re the only sister I’ve ever had and ye canna know what it meant having ye here before… But I dinna know that I can forgive ye for hurting my brother like ye did.”
“It’s no for ye to forgive her on that score,” Jamie told Jenny, the anger replaced with tenderness. “That’s for me to do as well.”
Jenny’s jaw jutted out defiantly for the briefest moment before she nodded her head in acknowledgement. “Aye well… For all ye’re bigger’n me in size… ye’ll always be the wee lad I carried about the yard because ye were too small to keep up with Willie and I hated seeing ye cry at him leavin’ ye behind.”
Jamie’s head bobbed in a faint nod. “Just so. You managed to hold me together better’n ye give yerself credit for.” He stood behind her and rested a hand lightly on her back while he bent and kissed her crown. “Thank ye.”
“Yes,” Claire agreed, rounding the table to stand on Jenny’s other side. “Thank you for taking care of him when I couldn’t. You’re the only sister I’ve ever had, too, and I’d hate to think…”
Jenny hugged Claire, cutting off the words before she could finish. “Forgiven,” she whispered low enough that only Claire could hear. “Thank ye for bringin’ him back to himself. And make certain ye bring him back here now and again,” Jenny requested. “I’ve a feelin’ ye’ll no be staying close to Lallybroch for long.”
fandom: blackpink member/reader: jennie, female genre/warning(s): smut, unnie!kink (don’t @/me about this) length: 2K+ summary: [request] in which jennie calls you unnie and it’s really just one word, but it makes things happen