ken's heart shadow in the last one just breaks my own heart!

Fluffy Angst

@just-a-crazy-lass asked: Hi! So I might have a little headcanon and I wanna see how you’ll expand it. :) So can I send my prompt now? Haha! Here it is:

Imagine in 1x09, Claire didn’t accept Jamie’s fealty (probably because her mind’s taking too long to process it all) and he left, spending the next few days avoiding Claire because he thinks she don’t want him anymore. Then one day he got very sick, Murtagh insists they must see Claire but in his delirious state of mind, Jamie stubbornly fought against it, muttering Claire wouldn’t like that–didn’t want to see me, stuff like that. Claire of course, overheard it.

Yep, I like a little angst and fluff. You keep up the good job, btw. Thank you!


You are SO very welcome! This wonderful lady asked if I had a master list, which I did not at the time. So she went and made me one! Since I don’t really have any other way to thank her for her wonderful services, I offered her a writing prompt of her choosing that I would fill just for her. This was what she came up with. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Authors Note: The line breaks that have *** denote a change in point of view. Line breaks with — denote movement of time without a perspective change. 


He stared up at her, desperate. He’d torn his heart open and handed it to her, still bleeding.

“Is it no’ enough, Claire?”

Silence.

“Do you not want me anymore?”

Nothing.

“Do ye wish to live seperately?”

It would kill him, but if that’s what she wanted he’d give it. Plenty of the men in Leoch lived apart from their wives. Dougal was one. Though Jamie had taken pains to NOT act  like his uncle.

At the same time, he wouldn’t force Claire to live a life she no longer wanted. He’d thought, maybe, she had wanted a life with him, that she could grow to care for him. But that had been nothing more than the intoxication of living outside the castle. She didn’t want him.

“I feel that’s what I should want.”

There it was. The dirk in his chest, the blade cutting his insides out. Life as he’d hoped was over. The dream was ending, shattering and turning to dust in his hands. She looked as though she was about to speak but… She did not. Gritting his teeth, he shoved his dirk back into its sheath and stood.

“I’ll have my things out by lunch.”

***

I was dazed. Confused. Fuzzy. Incoherent. I didn’t understand what was going on around me or where I was for that matter.

In a room. Alone. In my shift with a light shawl about my shoulders.

The room smelled of a freshly lit fire and…

“Jamie!”

I leapt to my feet, searching the room for him frantically. But he was gone. When did he go? Why hadn’t I heard the door close or his large feet on the floors?

Belatedly, I remembered the last thing I’d said to him.

I feel that’s what I should want.

“Oh God… What have I done?”

When I’d washed and dressed, I went down to the kitchen in hopes of finding something to eat for lunch. Mrs. Fitz, in her infinite wisdom and kindness, had set aside a rather large platter of food for me.

No. Not me.

Us.

She’d gathered enough food to feed both Jamie and myself. Of course she didn’t know that he’d left, that I had no idea where he was. How could she? Feeling fear and sorrow growing in my chest, I thanked her for the food and took the whole plate up to our — my room.

I’d slept alone our first night back at Leoch, more to make a point than anything. Deep down I knew that if he wanted, he could insist on sharing my bed. He was my husband and I was his wife. No one would think it wrong.

Jamie would. He’d had every right on our wedding night to force me into bed, yet he hadn’t. He’d waited for me to be ready, to accept him. Like he had since I’d known him. And now he was giving me the space he thought I wanted. I couldn’t let that stand. I couldn’t let my last words to him be what they were.

So I threw the lunch into a basket and went out hunting.

The damned bloody Scot didn’t want me to find him. Everywhere I thought he’d be, he wasn’t. The places I was sure he’d never go, he wasn’t at either. I spent the entire day looking for him to no avail. He didn’t want to be found.

In the great hall at dinner, I saw Murtagh sneaking around in the shadows. I launched for him, knowing that if any in Scotland could find Jamie, it would be him.

“Murtagh!”

He stopped and turned, waiting for me with his arms folded over his chest. I got the distinct impression he was displeased with me, though his face looked the same as always.

“Aye? What is it, mistress?”

“Do you know where Jamie is?”

“Havena got the slightest idea.”

Liar, I thought.

“Well… If you happen to see him, could you tell him I would like to speak with him?”

“By the sound o’ things, ye’ve said all ye wished to.”

Then he turned and left me with my mouth hanging open.

“Oh God,” I said, fighting down a sudden wave of emotion. “What have I done?”

***
He sat in the dark, staring at nothing. What was there, anymore? Claire didn’t want him, didn’t love him. Would never love him.

“Will ye no’ go inside, Jamie?” Old Alec asked.

“Nay. I’ll stay out here wi’ the horses.”

Where I’m wanted.

Donas snorted in the end stall and Jamie watched him. Murtagh had recommended leaving Leoch, living rough for a while. The thought hadn’t appealed to him before, not with Claire in tow, but now… He could leave her here where she’d be safe and provided for. But he could leave and not be forced to wish for something he’d never have again. She’d introduced him to pleasures before unknown, but he didn’t feel that desire springing up anywhere unless he was looking at Claire.

Murtagh was always in the shadows, keeping an eye out for her. She’d been seeking him for nearly two days, but he couldn’t be around her. He didn’t want to take pearls back or the ring or his heart were that even possible. Murtagh never told him what she said and he didn’t ask. It didn’t matter. It was over.

“I kent I’d find ye here,” came a sweet voice.

Not Claire, though.

Turning from his contemplation of the river, he watched the young lass Laogahire approaching him.

“It’s been yer secret place since ye were a lad.”

“No’ so secret if ye found me so easily,” he said with a kind smile.

She returned the smile. It sent a knife through his heart as he recalled when Claire had smiled like that, at the glade, when they’d snuck away and —

“What was that?” he asked, shaking himself into the present.

“I asked if ye were alright?”

“Och, aye. I’ve got a lot on my mind, ye ken.”

“Is there anything I can do for ye?”

“Ah… No. I thank ye, lass, but no. This is a mess of my own making.”

She walked closer to him, slowly. Her hands came out from beneath her cloak and undid the fastening. She was in her shift and corset, making a very bonny figure.

“Let me help ye ease yer mind, then. She was marriet before, but I’ve lain wi’ no one. I want ye to be the first, and only, man t’ have me.”

His mind went wild with possibility. Claire had denied him for three nights, and his body wanted release. Laogahire was bonny enough and none would have to know about it. He could…

But he couldn’t. No matter that Claire didn’t want him and that he’d likely never make love with her again. He’d made a vow, given his word.

“I’m sorry, Laogahire. I made a vow and I’ll no’ break it.”

“She’s denied ye her bed,” Laogahire said softly, taking his hand and placing it on her breast. “Kicked ye from her room. A good wife shouldna do such things, Jamie Fraser, and ye ken it well. Let me give ye comfort.”

She had lovely breasts, smooth and very round in his hand. On instinct, he began to cup her and tease her nipple.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed, voice cracking.

With a great effort, he pulled his hand away from her and took a step back.

“Why? Why would ye act this way toward her? She’s disrespected ye and treated ye wrongly!”

“It isna that simple. But I made my vow before God and I will keep my word to Him.”

Her sweet, soft eyes turned hard and filled with hate. Without another word, she picked her cloak back up and put it back on.

“She’s a witch, Jamie Fraser, and she’s put ye under her curse.”

Then, with a grunt of exertion, she pushed him into the river.

***

In the two days since I’d last seen Jamie, I’d taken to wandering the corridors at night. Dangerous, I knew, but I couldn’t go to sleep unless I was properly exhausted. Part of me hoped that if I wandered aimlessly, I’d run into him. If I had no purposeful destination, he couldn’t make pains to avoid me.

It hadn’t worked yet. But I was hopeful.

“NO!”

I stopped short. Usually only servants were around at this hour, and even at that it was rare I’d run into one.

“Ye must, lad! Ye’ll catch yer death otherwise!”

“Then let me die!”

I frowned and looked around, trying to see where I’d gone tonight.

I was near my surgery, nearly all the torches put out for the night. Since I’d taken over, no one had raided my surgery in hopes of finding alcohol. But someone was at the door now, trying to push it open. Just as I was about to offer my assistance, the men began talking again.

“I promised yer mother I’d look out for ye.”

“Aye. And ye tried.”

“That isna good enough, lad. Just let me fetch—”

“I said no, Murtagh, and that’s final. She doesna wish to see me. She asked that we live separately and that’s what I’m giving her.”

“Oh? Is that why she’s been hunting high and low for ye these last two days? Or why she corners me every time I’m near?”

The man Murtagh was holding, Jamie presumably, let out a cry of pain and stumbled. In the dim torchlight, I realized he was soaked to the bone and not putting any weight on his right foot.

“I said no. Dinna bring Claire into this.”

“I’ll no’ stand here and watch ye die either, Jamie.”

“Then find Mrs. Fitz. She kens enough about medicine.”

Murtagh rolled his eyes and left Jamie leaning against the wall while he opened the door.

“Fine,” the little clansman said upon his return. “I’ll go an’ fetch Mrs. Fitz. But ye stay here where I can find ye. Dinna go wandering about, aye?”

“Aye.”

Then Murtagh helped him into my surgery before slipping back out and leaving to find Mrs. Fitz.

I had to do something. He wasn’t well, that much was obvious. But more than that, he wanted to die.

With a deep breath for courage, I went into the surgery and bolted the door.

“Christ it hurts, Murtagh. Did ye bring the whiskey?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t have any whiskey at the moment.”

“Oh, it’s you Sassenach.”

I frowned at him. Then I studied him.

He was shaking, trembling in his wet clothes. This was not the time of year to be wearing soaked wool out around the grounds.

This was the most he’d spoken to me in two days. It was good to hear his voice again, delirious as it was.

“What’s happened?”

“Why don’t ye want me, Claire?” he asked so softly I thought I’d imagined it at first.

“What?”

He laid himself flat on the table, eyes closed.

“I ken that I dinna ken how to be a husband, but I thought ye were… Weel… Maybe no’ happy, but ye were alright.”

“I am, Jamie. I am happy.”

I put my hand on his arm and he was suddenly gone as though shot from a cannon.

“Sassenach!”

“Yes? No one else in here.”

“Ye… I’m…”

His eyes rolled around the room and he began slurring in Gaelic. That wasn’t good. I needed to get him warmed up.

“Come on,” I said, tugging at the freezing clothes.

I heard Murtagh and Mrs. Fitz’s voices outside, but the door was bolted and I was busy.

“Jamie? Are ye alright lad?”

“I’ve got him, Murtagh,” I said, wrenching at his belt.

I threw a dry quilt over him and set about getting the fire started.

“Mistress? Is Jamie in there wi’ ye?”

“Yes!”

“Will ye open the door, lass?”

Grumbling in frustration, I unbolted the door and left it open. I needed to get the fire going or Jamie would get worse.

“Here,” Murtagh said, squatting in front of the hearth. “Go and work on the lad.”

Jamie was shaking now, his body rigid with the cold. I began rubbing him down, trying to get his circulation moving. In a few moments, I felt the warmth of the fire at my back. Murtagh came over to stand beside me, staring worriedly down at Jamie.

“Will he be alright?”

“I think so, but I can’t properly examine him until he stops shaking.”

“Aye. Do ye need anything else?”

“Help me get him to the fire?”

Between the two of us, we got Jamie on the floor before the fire.

“And ye’re sure ye dinna need anything?”

“No, thank you. If you don’t mind, I’ve got a handle on this.”

Murtagh nodded once and left the surgery. I bolted the door again. I finally had Jamie all to myself and he had no way to run away from me.

I thought over what had happened the last few days.

Returning to Leoch had made things come to a head quickly and I hadn’t been prepared for the consequences. The first night of our return, I’d still been sore and very angry at Jamie. Sleeping alone that night hadn’t been enjoyable, but I’d held my ground. I’d grown accustomed to his warmth and solid weight beside me, even though we hadn’t been married long. And then he’d come back and pledged his fealty to me, a gift he hadn’t even given to his uncle the clan chief.

But I hadn’t responded in time.

My mind had been whirling with everything he’d said, how he’d promised me that he’d never raise his hand to me again. That was something he hadn’t had to promise. I knew his word was good, that wasn’t what had shocked me. Truth be told, I wondered how many eighteenth century men would have been willing to compromise for their sharp-tongued wife?

Not many.

Jamie deserved the answer I’d wanted to give him, but hadn’t been in time for. Christ why hadn’t I said it sooner?

“Jamie,” I said, combing his thick auburn hair from his eyes. “Jamie I don’t want to live separately.”

He wasn’t warming fast enough. Checking that the door was in fact locked, I began untying the laces of my gown and stays. He needed my body heat.

Sliding beneath the quilt, I continued rubbing him down as I curled around him.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have spoken sooner. But you were gone before I could say anything and… Please wake up, Jamie.”

“Sassenach?”

His voice was raspy and deep, cracking in the middle of the word.

“Jamie?”

Eyes still closed, I watched his forehead knit together in a frown.

“Sassenach, why are ye naked?”

I rolled my eyes.

“Because you’re freezing. Why the hell did you go swimming in all of your clothes in this weather?”

“I didna. It’s a long story.”

“You’re not going anywhere tonight. Tell me.”

“No’ just now. Ye should go up to bed, lass.”

I pulled myself closer, feeling him start to warm.

“I can’t. I’m your physician and you’re not well yet.”

“I’ll be fine if I stay by the fire. Go on.”

He turned his head away from me, clenching his jaw.

“Jamie, I…”

“Ye said what ye wanted to say already, lass. I dinna need to here it again.”

“No, that isn’t it. You left before I finished. I don’t… Jamie, please look at me.”

Slowly, he turned his head back to face me. He wore that impenetrable mask again, shielding his thoughts and feelings from me.

“I was still thinking things over when you left. I didn’t… Jamie I don’t want to live separately. I don’t want that kind of life.”

I’d lived it before, living apart from the man I’d married, always wondering what he was doing. The years during the war that had separated Frank and I still sometimes hurt.

“Truly?” he asked, his eyes beginning to spark with life.

“Yes. Truly. I accept your pledge of fealty. Will you share my bed again?”

“Aye. I will, Sassenach. Though, maybe no’ just yet.”

Nodding, I moved beneath his arm and wrapped myself around him.

“Now will you tell me why you were soaking wet?”

“Och… That.”

Looking up at him, I watched as he chose his words.

“I was, ah… I was out, trying to keep away from you, ye ken. Laogahire kent where I was.”

I didn’t like where this was going.

“What did she want?”

“To, ah… Weel… I suppose I’ll just come out wi’ it.” He heaved a great sigh and shuddered. “She offered herself to me. Said ye were disrespecting me, no’ sharing yer bed and all. She… Tried. But I wouldna do it.”

I turned his head to look into his eyes.

“Even though you thought I didn’t want you anymore? When you thought I wanted you to stay away from me? Still, you didn’t go with her?”

“No, Sassenach. I didna. Even if ye didna want me, I couldna break my word.”

“What exactly did she do?”

“Stomped on my foot and pushed me into the water.”

Immediately I scrambled out from under the quilt, only having just remembered seeing him unable to put weight on his foot. I’d removed his boots and stockings, but I hadn’t really looked him over.

He grunted as I pulled the quilt off his foot. I breathed in sharply, gently poking the slightly swollen toes.

“She must have heavy feet,” I muttered.

“Nay. She used the heel of her wee boot. Hurt like hell.”

“I’ll say. No wonder it was so easy to push you into the freezing water.”

“Murtagh saw her storm back into the kitchens,” he said, arm coming around me a little tighter. “He kent where I was. Good thing, too, or I’d be frozen to death.”

“I’m glad he found you. And that he brought you here.”

He nodded at me and one corner of his mouth pulled up.

“Why did you no’ say anything sooner, Sassenach?” he said after some time.

“About what?”

“No’ wanting to live apart.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Because you were avoiding me, you bloody Scot.”

“Aye, I ken that the last two days. But before. Why did ye no speak?”

“I… I tried. But I couldn’t get the words out. And then when I did, you’d already gone. You wouldn’t listen to me after that.”
“I can be a stubborn fool, ye ken.”

“Yes. I noticed. I’ll just have to keep this in mind for next time.”

“Keep what in mind?”

“That the way to make you listen to me is to injure you and lock you in a room.”

He smiled down at me and leaned in for a soft kiss. I felt whole once again, lying on the floor of my surgery wrapped in his arms.

anonymous asked:

Please continue the one in where Claire is frozen in the stones and come back 20 years with Jamie. Maybe Jamie has insecurities to; he’s older than her and he used to be the younger one.

Follow-up to this

They lay in bed next to one another, both on their backs, hands touching, but the rest of their bodies tense with nerves. They’d been laying there for an hour now, trying to sleep but not quite able. There was more to be said, for sure. They’d both been so afraid, so nervous to even hold hands, but now they lay in the darkness with the unspoken questions hovering between them. 

Jamie said there was no one else. Had there ever been anyone else? He’d told her what he’d been up to all these years, finding a way to survive, going to prison, his parole, and now his print shop here in Edinburgh. But there was more; Claire could feel it. 

Finally, unable to bear the thick silence any longer, she rolled onto her side facing him and propped her head up with her elbow. Claire gazed down at Jamie in the darkness, watching the way the shadows bent across his features. He was so much older now, face gently creased with the lines of a harsh life. He hadn’t touched her, and that hadn’t made her feel wanted at all. But then… she hadn’t touched him, either. They were both too scared, clearly.

Now, though, she lifted her hand and he opened his eyes to peer up at her, still silent. Claire gently ran her finger along his brow, then down over the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. “Life has been so difficult for you,” she whispered into the darkness. Emotion welled up in her chest and made her throat tighten. “I should’ve been at your side through it.” Her palm cupped his jaw, thumb brushed along the line of his nose. It was off a bit. Broken, at some point.

Jamie seemed to be holding his breath as he watched her. Then suddenly, he reached up to cup her face just the same, all the breath leaving him in a nervous huff. “Does it turn yer wame, Sassenach, to see me so… old?” he asked finally. “I’m like a pair of old, worn shoon.”

She blinked in surprise at that. Did it– Christ, how could he possibly think that she’d not want him? He’d sacrificed everything for her and this child. He’d sent her away, and she would have raised their child without him! And to think that she could ever not want him? So he had a few new wrinkles, perhaps a new scar or two, but he was still Jamie, beautiful and honorable, kind; still had that impossibly good soul. He was still the man she’d married, decades older or no. And bloody hell, he wasn’t that old. 

“You’re not old,” she grumbled at him. “You’ve still a long life left to live, Jamie. Children and grandchildren to watch grow. You’ve aged, and it breaks my heart to know it happened without me. But you’ve aged beautifully.” Claire let out a soft laugh. “I want you no less than I always have. I want to explore your body, to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Do you not want that, too?”

He swallowed hard, the sound audible in the quiet room. Then he pushed himself up on one elbow as well and ran his hand back through her hair, letting his thumb brush over her cheek. “Aye, I want that. I want ye. I just-” He hesitated.

“Jamie. Tell me you don’t think what they’re all thinking. That I’m some… horrible witch or faerie. I’m still me. I didn’t ask to be trapped. My screams joined the others in that void. I was afraid and alone in the darkness and I-” Her voice broke as tears began to run down her face. “I’m not some demon!” 

“Ach, I ken that, mo nighean donn. I dinna think ye’re a demon. An Auld One, perhaps. But no’ evil. Beautiful as the day I last saw ye. Bit thin, but then we were starvin’, then, no? I’ll fatten ye up again, see ye grow round wi’ my child. I dinna ken how many years I’ve left in this life, but I’ll love ye every single one of them, Claire. And should ye decide ye’ll always want me, though I’m old and grey, well, I’ll count that as one of my many blessings.”

She was silent for a while, though her breaths came out in trembling chokes, then suddenly Claire launched herself at Jamie. He caught her, pulled her over on top of him, and they kissed deeply, the salty taste of tears caught between their lips. They fumbled with one another’s clothes. There was a sound of tearing and she made a noise of protest when he tossed her torn shift away.

“Aye, well, ye’ve only got that worn gown ye wore during the Rising, Claire. Ye’ll be needin’ new ones, anyway,” he scolded softly, and they both laughed. He was right. 

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Oh please please write more about the heartbreaking Claire dies au, maybe young Bree asking about her mother? Or Jamie with the baby?

Claire dies in childbirth AU part 2

Claire curved the lovely length of her back, pressing the heels of her hands into the small of it to relieve the constant ache of childbearing. Smiling, Jamie came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, hands splayed over the writhing mass of her belly.  

“He’s quite the bonny fighter!” He commented with a kiss to her warm neck. Unlike the last one, this pregnancy had made her restless, and her skin always burned like a coal. It worried him, but she assured him all was well.

“Or she.” Claire corrected, a tad sharply. “And Christ do I regret mothering a warrior’s child. My body will be black and blue from the inside out by the time this child makes it into the world!”

He huffed a laugh into her hair as he nuzzled it. Frustrated though she was, he could hear the underlying tone of pride and joy. She was almost nine months along, and their child would soon make its entrance into the wide world. They couldn’t be more excited.

But it had taken its toll on Claire, and Jamie knew the pregnancy hurt her more than she would say.

“Take off yer shift lass, and I’ll help ye with yer back.”

Keep reading

Diana Gabaldon

Third Sunday of Advent
The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday—“Rejoicing.” On this Sunday, we light the pink candle in our wreath and the priest wears rose-colored vestments. This is where we pause in our season of preparation and repentance, to remember what it is we anticipate. And to remember that joy does not depend on youth, beauty, or even good health—but only on the presence of love.

[This is our wreath in Santa Fe, where the snow is falling and the night is still.]

[Excerpt from THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 85, “Hearthfire”]

I had any number of objections to hearthfire, ranging from splinters under the fingernails and pitch on the hands to blister, burns, and the sheer infuriating contrariness of the element. I would, however, say two things in its favor: it was undeniably warm, and it cast the act of love in a light of such dim beauty that all the hesitations of nakedness could safely be forgotten.

Our mingled shadows flowed together on the wall, here a limb, there the curve of back or haunch showed clean, some part of an undulating beasts. Jamie’s head rose clear, a great maned creature looming over me, back arched in his extremity.

It reached up across the stretch of glowing skin and trembling muscle, brushed the sparking hairs of arms and chest, to bury my hands in the warmth of his hair and pull him down gasping to the dark hollow of my breasts.

I kept my eyes half-closed, my legs as well, unwilling to surrender his body, to give up the illusion of oneness—if illusion it was. How many more times might I hold him so, even in the enchantment of firelight?

I clung with all my might to him, and to the dying pulse of my own flesh. But joy grasped is joy vanished, and within moments I was no more than myself. The dark starburst on my ankle showed clearly, even in firelight.

I slackened my grip on his shoulders and touched the rough whorls of his hair with tenderness. He turned his head and kissed my breast, then stirred and sighed and slid sideways.

“And they say hen’s teeth are rare,” he said, gingerly touching a deep bite-mark on one shoulder.

I laughed, in spite of myself.

“As rare as a rooster’s cock, I suppose.” I raised myself on
one elbow and peered toward the hearth.

“What is it, wee hen?”

“Just making sure my clothes won’t catch fire.” What with one thing and another, I hadn’t much noticed where he’d thrown my garments, but they seemed to be a safe distance from the flames; the skirt was in a small heap by the bed, the bodice and shift somehow had ended up in separate corners of the room. My brassiere-strip was nowhere to be seen.

Light flickered on the whitewashed walls, and the bed was full of shadows.

“You are beautiful,” he whispered to me.

“If you say so.”

“Do ye not believe me? Have I ever lied to you?”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean—if you say it, then it’s true. You make it true.”

He sighed and shifted, easing us into comfort. A log cracked suddenly in the hearth, sending up a spray of gold sparks, and subsided, hissing as the heat struck a hidden seam of damp. I watched the new wood turn black, then red, blazing into white-hot light.

“Do ye say it of me, Sassenach?” he asked suddenly. He sounded shy, and I turned my head to look up at him in surprise.

“Do I say what? That you’re beautiful?” My mouth curved involuntarily, and he smiled in return.

“Well…not that. But that ye can bear my looks, at least.”

I traced the faint white line of the scar across his ribs, left by a sword, long ago. The longer, thicker scar of the bayonet that had ripped the length of one thigh. The arm that had held me, browned and roughened, the hairs of it bleached white-gold with long days of sun and work. Near my hand, his cock curled between his thighs, gone soft and small and tender now, in its nest of auburn hair.

“You’re beautiful to me, Jamie, “I said softly, at last. “So beautiful, you break my heart.”

His hand traced the knobs of my backbone, one at a time.

“But I am an auld man,” he said, smiling. “Or should be. I’ve white hairs in my head; my beard’s gone gray.”

“Silver,” I said, brushing the soft stubble on his chin, parti-colored as a quilt. “In bits.”

“Gray,” he said firmly. “And scabbit-looking with it. And yet…” His eyes softened as he looked at me. “Yet I burn when I come to ye, Sassenach—and will, I think, ‘til we two be burned to ashes.”

“I dinna say it for pity, he said. “But ye ken…now and then my bones ache a bit.” He didn’t look at me, but spread his crippled hand, turning it in the light, so the shadow of the crooked fingers made a spider on the wall.

Now and then. I kent, all right. I knew the limits of the body—and its miracles. I’d seen him sit down at the end of a day’s labor, exhaustion written in every line of his body. Seen him move slowly, stubborn against the protests of flesh and bone when he rose on cold mornings. I would be willing to bet that he had not lived a day since Culloden without pain, the phyiscal damages of war aggravated by damp and harsh living. And I would also be willing to bet that he had never mentioned it to anyone. Until now.

“I know that,” I said softly, and touched the hand. The twisting scar that runneled his leg. The small depression in the flesh of his arm, legacy of a bullet.

“But not with you,” he said, and covered my hand where it lay on his arm. “D’ye ken that the only time I am without pain is in your bed, Sassenach? When I take ye, when I lie in your arms—my wounds are healed, then, my scars forgotten.”

I sighed and laid my head in the curve of his shoulder. My thigh pressed his, the softness of my flesh a mold to his harder form.

“Mine, too.”

He was silent for a time, stroking my hair with his good hand. It was wild and bushy, freed from its moorings by our earlier struggles, and he smoothed one curly strand at a time, combing down each lock between his fingers.

“Your hair’s like a great storm cloud, Sassenach,” he murmured, sounding half-asleep. “All dark and light together. No two hairs are the same color.”

He was right; the locks between his fingers bore strands of pure white, of silver and blond, dark streaks, nearly sable, and several bits still of my young light brown.

His fingers went under the mass of hair, and I felt his hand cup the base of my skull, holding my head like a chalice.

“To see the years touch ye gives me joy, Sassenach,” he whispered, “—for it means that ye live.”

He lifted his hand and let my hair fall slowly from his fingers, brushing my face, skimming my lips, floating soft and heavy on my neck and shoulders, lying like feathers at the tops of my breasts.

“_Mo nighean donn,_” he whispered, “_mo chride_. My brown lass, my heart.

“Come to me. Cover me. Shelter me, a ¬_bhean_, heal me. Burn with me, as I burn for you.”

I lay on him, covered him, my skin, his bone, and still—still!—that fierce bright core of flesh to join us. I let my hair fall down around us both, and in the fire-shot cavern of its darkness, whispered back.

“Until we two be burned to ashes.”