samheughan I worked so hard for this. Supported by the best community of friends and colleagues. Thank you, to @mypeakchallenge community and sweat buddies. Hard work deserves rewards… Double dram. Slainte!x
Thank you everyone for comments and questions –for your patience as I learned enough to stop dropping my head to the keyboard in Tumblr ineptitude and most of all for caring about the story enough to want more!
FWIW their first kiss – in rough form–was drafted awhile ago and I couldn’t let go of how that unfolded.
Having Faith popping into my head and demanding her due– to which I agree she is quite entitled– changed the pacing and several of the beats came as surprises to me.
Who knew Jamie was going to invite Claire to Lallybroch (originally he went alone) and who knew she was going to be so damn adorable when she got there?
Readers of this story have stuck with it, cheered it on, loved and at the same time decried the slow burn. You have continued to like the story, to find it funny and sweet, tender and touching and sexy through 33,800+ words of a love story before the first kiss. I’m very grateful for everyone letting it breathe and season so it could take on a life of its own.
For all that this chapter does end the UST, it is in the next chapter that you’ll be appropriately rewarded for all your patience (that is my goal, at any rate).
“How is she doing?” Claire asked as she dropped her keys on the table near the door.
She had been delayed waiting for an open surgical theater. Jamie was the one who came to relieve Mrs. Crooke after work.
Now that Claire was home, he knew he should get going but he didn’t. Jamie was enjoying the sight of her. He’d missed her the past few days, their schedules hadn’t aligned to spend any time together.
Jamie also couldn’t stop thinking of their long weekend at Lallybroch. His mind skipped over dozens of moments.
Large ones: watching her save the lives of Geneva and Geillis. Geillie had needed an epi shot, which Claire had in her wee kit. And small: stumbling on Claire surrounded by all the bairns in his study, blinds pulled tight, lights off, sitting under a makeshift tent of sheets and blankets, making shadow puppets on a pretend camping trip. And life altering: looking down at his lass, laughing as he pretended he couldn’t reach the candles and the expression of determination on her face when she decided it was up to her to blow them out. The feel of Claire in his arms floating under the fairy lights as he breathlessly waited for that kiss that never was.
He badly wanted to talk with her about it all but sensed they’d both needed a little time to think about things since returning to the city.
So instead he talked of the mundane, the routine.
“Och, the wee lassie was plumb worn out from feeding the ducks. The new construction around the park started. They are rerouting the foot traffic. Ye have to go through that alley. They havena put in a crosswalk yet so ye need to hold her hand and remind her to look both ways. Oh, and there are all kinds of performances lined up in the park over the next few weeks. She’ll tell you all about it tomorrow I’m sure.”
Jamie started reaching for his coat.
He hesitated though and Claire noticed. She noticed everything about him these days.
She’d been grateful, in a way, that her work schedule had been brutal since their return. She’d hoped it would keep her mind busy, that a little distance would help her think more clearly. When he was near, he filled her senses completely; but, lately, even when they were apart, Jamie had become her constant companion.
Claire couldn’t stop thinking of the Jamie he’d shown her at Lallybroch. Like an awakening of his soul the second his feet knew they were home. His joyful step taking her through the gardens, inviting her to rootle to her heart’s content, his laugh of delight coming upon her a lost couple of hours later, reaching down to help her up, not caring that her fingers were covered in dirt. Listening to him have a heart to heart with his namesake on the intricacies of clan relations, the importance of tradition, and wee Jamie’s duty to set an example as the first of the next generation of Frasers, no matter that last name was Murray. Stumbling upon him in his mother’s art studio with Kitty and Faith, their hands covered in finger paints and working on what had to be the ugliest group art project she had ever seen. It now hung on her fridge- it’s mustard, brown and gray swirls made her grin every morning.
If she let her mind wander, Claire could feel the heat of his palms gripping her backside. The graceful rhythm of his glide as they danced, his arousal when she pinned him, and the aching need she felt, after that half second where her tongue touched his, to complete their kiss.
They had somehow crossed a line at Lallybroch. Immersing herself in his world had released something inside of her and she couldn’t contain it, not now, not if he felt the same.
The longer they didn’t talk about it the harder it became to start. It was a risk, and she’d feel foolish if she had misread the situation but unless she was prepared to prod him, they’d be grandparents before he’d make the first move.
Remembering his hesitation, hoping she was right, she inquired,
“Something you wanted to ask me, Jamie?”
She watched as his body relaxed itself a little bit, she hoped in relief.
“Sassenach, would ye–”
Jamie’s ears turned bright red. She flushed herself, her skin itching to touch him.
“Would ye want to have dinner some night?”
“We have dinner rather often, did you have something special in mind for Faith?” Claire had to be sure she knew what he’d meant, this was too important.
Jamie’s heart was pounding, did she not feel the same? Did she not understand?
.“What do ye think about, I mean…. dinner ….wi’ just the two of us… you and me?”
Jamie’s eyes darted away. Claire felt her insides quiver and squelched the bubble of laughter that threatened to spill over.
“You and me? Like on a date?” She teased.
Jamie misread her playful tone and suddenly the perils of asking Claire out while they were still learning how to support one another as parents seemed all too real. Had he seriously miscalculated?
“Stupid, wee fool!” he thought; he could kick himself. God, the last thing he wanted was to make things awkward for them.
“Och, nevermind, Sassenach, I ken ye think the notion foolish. I’m sorry to have asked. I’ll see you tomorrow night. You’ll come get Faith around 6?”
He turned and brusquely packed up his belongings, using more energy than necessary in his haste to get out of there before he made more of an ass of himself.
He had the door open when her hand on his arm stopped him.
Claire leaned across his body, brushing her breasts against his forearm as she reached forward closing the door to prevent his leaving.
Jamie wished he hadn’t noticed, distracting before Lallybroch, it was all consuming now. You’ll start aching even before ye can touch her.
Jamie could not look at her, cheeks burning, ears bright red.
Claire got her hands up on both his shoulders and physically turned him then dropped her hands down and reached for both of his. He squeezed them in encouragement, hoping she could salvage the mess that he thought he’d made of it.
“I would like dinner with just the two of us, Jamie.” She told him honestly and he could see she meant it.
“Can you stay a minute so I talk with you about something?” She asked.
“Of course, anything.” That came out in a breath.
Claire guided Jamie to the living room couch and they both sat. But she picked up his hands again immediately.
“Do you mind…” she held up their joined hands.
Jamie shook his head, he dinna mind a bit.
“I meant what I said.” She watched him intently. “But I’m also scared.” Claire’s courage abruptly fled and she looked away. This was so much harder than she had imagined.
Could she really tell him her troubled thoughts?
Dinna hide, lass, Jamie thought as he watched her struggle.
He had no idea what to say to her at this moment. He settled for squeezing her hands.
She turned back to him and he saw her draw in a deep breath.
“After I sent that letter and didn’t hear back from you, I wondered. And then, suddenly your face and name were popping up everywhere with the Slainte launch. But still I heard nothing.” Claire had been staring at their joined hands but looked up as he made a little sound of distress.
He opened his mouth to remind her why he hadn’t, but she released a hand and shot her fingers to his lips to quiet him.
Jamie groaned softly, it could have been a further sound of entreaty on his part but he knew the truth of it– his was in pure reaction to the frisson of heat that shot down his spine with her intimate touch.
“I know, Jamie, you don’t have to say it. But I wanted you to understand why I–” She was looking at their hands, not meeting his eyes.
“I thought you didn’t want to get involved, that you might not have wanted anything to do with Faith or perhaps you thought I was being opportunistic because of the timing. And Faith, well, having spent time with her, you can see…..I knew if her father would only give her a chance, just get to know her, he’d love her, too. I think Frank might have, if he’d just waited a bit.”
At this Jamie could not help a derogatory mmphm conveying his judgment of Frank’s actions. Claire’s lips tightened briefly then she continued.
“But he wouldn’t. I was powerless in that situation. I couldn’t say anything to convince Frank to give us a chance. So before I met you, when you were a name on a piece of paper, I tried my best in the letter to explain to it to that, James Fraser, whoever he was, hoping if I used my words to paint a picture of what she was like and if he knew I wasn’t the kind of person who would make it difficult, then that man, her biological father, would want to meet her. But he never called. I built up a negative opinion of him –that unknown, faceless Mr. Fraser because I was heartbroken for Faith. First Frank and then, I couldn’t help but think….” She blinked hard and didn’t look at him.
Jamie grabbed her hand which hadn’t reconnected to his and held it hard against his thumping chest. But waited her out, wanting to hear everything she needed to say.
“I told myself that it didn’t matter, what happened with Frank. He didn’t want us and I told myself that I didn’t need him. When Mr. James Fraser never called, I told myself that was fine, too. I didn’t need him either, I didn’t need anybody. I’d done fine on my own. We’d just soldier on as we had done all along.”
Claire’s voice grew soft, hesitant.
“But then…. Jamie, I discovered–” she sighed, out with it, Beauchamp, she mentally cajoled herself.
“I haven’t had anybody to share this with.” Claire made a grand circling gesture with her hand meaning to encompass all of it, learning how to be Faith’s mother, raising her on her own.
“I could have been content, you know.”
She looked up sharply, almost glaring, defiance in her tone. Not knowing what else to do, he nodded in agreement.
“I could have continued to fool myself into imagining I was ok on my own…. until that James Fraser ended up being you. Everything changed when you came into Faith’s life.” She admitted.
Jamie could not remain silent. “Sassenach, I came into your life, too.”
“I know. That’s it, exactly.”
Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes, as if the truth of the statement made her heart break.
Would he never, ever be on solid ground with this woman? Jamie thought as every muscle in his body seized in sympathy with his churning wame.
“Jamie, I didn’t know, before I met you, I had no idea. I watch you day by day falling more in love with Faith.”
A grunt of acknowledgement from him.
“I am overjoyed for her and for you. Jenny and Ian, the kids, even Fergus and Murtagh knowing them now, I–”
Oh God, Claire thought, am I really going to confess this?
“It’s alright, Sassenach, whatever it is, say it.” Jamie encouraged.
“Oh, Jamie, I envy you. If Faith does something you have a whole phone book of family to share it with. Then they will tell you all about you or one of their kids at that age. Lallybroch.” The word drawn out on a sigh of longing he felt in his bones.
“Ever since being there I realize what is it to belong not just to a family but to a place, to a people, a way of life that goes back generations. No one in my life knew my family or remembers me from Faith’s age. I didn’t really understand just how…alone I had been until…”
Claire paused to try and gather her thoughts. Jamie made a sound of distress. But she shook her head forestalling anything he might say.
“I didn’t have anyone to call, not in that way. But now there is you.”
Aye, there is me, and I’m not going anywhere.
Her eyes locked on his. “Your clan, your family, Lallybroch will always be there for Faith and I am so grateful for that but right now, for this time I have you, too and you…. Oh Jamie, you always take my calls and ask questions.”
Jamie, unable to stop himself, moved so he could cradle her face in his large, warm hand, moving his fingers back to cup her behind her ear.
“You cannot imagine– I cannot tell you— how different it is. You make me feel….”
Claire cleared her throat, took in a breath and looked him dead in the eye. “I know it’s selfish of me but now that I know what it is to have it, I’m….I don’t– want to be so alone again.”
Claire couldn’t hold his gaze, she acted as if she had revealed a painfully shameful secret.
He was overwhelmed, feeling so much love of her and for her. It wasn’t only Faith he was falling for day by day; and he could feel himself fall a little harder as she exposed the bruising on her heart.
Then she swung her focus back to him and Jamie was spellbound, he didn’t dare blink.
“But on top of being selfish, Jamie. I’m greedy too. For even though I know what I risk, when I look at you, I- I burn Jamie. For a little while I told myself that what I felt was just our connection as Faith’s parents. Then I told myself my feelings were those of a friend. But that isn’t true. There is another feeling that comes up from this place inside of me and suddenly I don’t care what could be lost. It’s a wave of heat rolling inside me and I can only think how much I want to throw myself into the flames.”
Jamie watched it all play over her face– the fear and the hope, the desire which seemed to flare between them the instant they saw each other.
Helpless, Jamie called her to him, called her as his body demanded, as her body ached for him to do. The deprivation of weeks welled up and spilled over. Emotions brutal and gentle, all mixed up inside him, and the only thing he knew was that he needed to take her pain into him and give her all the tenderness that filled his heart.
He hovered over her lips and flicked his tongue in and out, along the edge of her lip, feeling its softness as he lowered his mouth onto hers. She sighed as their lips slid over one another’s and their tongues met in hesitation.
Jamie moaned, an embarrassingly loud noise of gratitude that transmitted its longing to her core. No longer gentle, he poured all the desire he felt for her into that kiss. His senses rejoiced as Claire met him with equal need. She set his whole body tingling.
She made a sound like a hitching sob as her fingers wrapped tightly in his hair. The slight tug of pain answering lower down his body had him groaning in response. He changed the angle of his head and deepened the kiss.
Tongues no longer uncertain but joyfully exploring one another. The smack of their lips almost as erotic and their breathy moans. She made that noise deep in the back of her throat again, it was making him desperate.
She pressed her whole body harder to him, his hands splayed across her back urging her to rub more of herself against him. He needed– oh God! How he needed. The sounds she made enflamed him. His only thought: more more more.
He felt her hands spasm in his hair as she gripped him harder. He’d never been this in sync with anyone. It was hard to say who was leading anymore. They were moving together, anticipating, meeting, joining, moving apart, thrusting back together. Jesus, what would it be like to have her naked and panting against him with those wee noises she was making?
Starting as comfort, it would end as something else entirely.
But some shred of recognition remained and he knew they couldn’t leave the conversation where it ended. He needed her to know she was safe with him, that he would protect her heart.
On a groan he pushed her back from him. Dazed confusion in golden eyes as she slowly came back to awareness.
“Lass, if ye continue wi’ that, I’ll no be able to stop.” His voice impossibly husky. “And as much as I want to carry on wi’ it, we need to figure this out before it goes any further.” He was breathing hard, so was she.
Claire nodded in shaky agreement. She moved off his lap with an increasingly awkward awareness that let him know that, like him, she’d had no idea she’d been sitting in it and grinding up against him. His body wanted her right back where she had been but his mind was thankful that she had broken contact. He waited a moment for his blood to cool so he could gather his thoughts.
When he was ready, he turned his body to face her and reached out for the hands she placed in his. She nodded in encouragement.
He smiled at her, he couldn’t help it, for the joy of being well understood.
“Sassenach, I ken yer scarrit, but ye needn’t be. There’s the two of us now.” His eyes raced over her face, unable to stop looking at her.
The intensity of his feelings had nothing to do with Faith. Yet, everything they did impacted her so she needed to be their guiding light.
“Do ye think we can strike a bargain, the two of us?” He asked, feeling his way slowly. She nodded.
“I dinna know where this, what lies between us, will lead, but I feel it too. God, ye must ken that much?”
She smiled at that as Jamie pressed her hand hard to his heart. It was beating very fast, almost kicking her palm in its intensity.
“I am thankful you feel like ye can talk of such matters wi’ me.” He kissed her hand as he held it. “I hope I am always the first person you want to call and I will always make the time to talk to you. Always.”
Claire saw something shift in his eyes, a look of resolve came over his expression.
“Claire, I make you a vow and to a Scot a vow is no’ just words, ‘tis a sacred oath and I’d ask ye to do the same if ye feel ye can.”
Claire nodded and he continued.
“Faith is the blood of our blood and bone of our bone. Can we pledge that we will remember her and do honor to one another as her parents? That when it comes to our lass, we will help each other be the best parents she can have? For whether you and I are together, she will be ours together ‘til our lives shall be done.” The intensity of his stare gave truth to his promise.
“Oh yes, yes I agree!” Claire breathed, relieved because he did understand.
Jamie dove in for a hard, hot kiss that melted her insides and left her dizzy.
“Thank you, Claire.” Jamie kissed her hands still held in his and gave a small relieved chuckle.
“Sassenach,” he said leveling a look of pure desire at her, “by chance do you ken if Mrs. Crooke can babysit Friday night?”
Since it appears that damn near everyone in the recent production of Trashy Takes Budapest has decided to make their final curtain call today, I have decided to compose the fan letter that Starz , Sam and Cait so desperately wanted about “lost love” and a reunion that is inspiring to behold. So, here is mine:
Dear Sam and Cait,
It is with extreme sadness that I shall be leaving you as a fan today. It has finally occurred to me that there are many things in life that are more deserving of my time and attention. You have successfully executed that which I never thought I would see, and there is a reason so many believe you are exemplary actors. You have proven that without a single doubt!
However, I have also been the recipient of some extraordinary things along the way. If not for YOU, I would have never found and followed the fabulous @jamesandclairefraser, who spread sunshine and love whenever she posted the antics of what YOU showed us. If not for the love, heart-eyes, and words that YOU shared with us, I would not have found the sweetness of @dillon7fan or @betweenthescenes, or @wardley10. If not for the way that YOU presented yourselves to a fandom, I would not have learned about data wirh the logic of @tvuckic, @cb4tb, or @mama-tumblz. And if not for YOUR crazy antics, I would not have laughed so hard at @marian4456 and @just-a-wretched-wumman, and @jackietex.
And, if not for the way YOU engaged and encouraged shippers with YOUR actions and words, I would have never found some of the greatest friends I now have with @acdoptis, @littlewhitedog17, @fromheretoeternity1121, @outofcheese, and countless others who have and will always be true no matter what!
So, YOU need to understand this. For the past three years, and even this year, YOU need to own your shit. For every glance, with every touch, with every twitter post, with every action with each other, and everything in between, YOU did that….not me, and not shippers. Our problem is that we believed you, and believed you with everything we had. Some probably still do. I simply value integrity and loyalty. It appears you have chosen another path, and that is entirely your puragative.
So, this is good-bye. And just to be clear, I will never leave or forsake my shipsters…..not for all the tea in China, or for any famewhores on every continent . They are too important to me and I will be right here. And just so you know there are no hard feelings, I will be watching the new Sam and Cait from the front row. After all, she is a critically acclaimed GG nominated actress, and I look forward to where she goes from here. As for you Sam….well, someone always has to take out the trash, and I am happy to see you have become the ultimate professional! I am sure they have an award for that! After all, you have paid good money and your soul for that. I look forward to the acceptance speech!
Claire could tell there was something on in Jamie’s mind and he was hesitating to discuss it. They were putting Faith’s toys back in her storage chest while she brushed her teeth.
“Is there something wrong?” Claire finally asked, not knowing any better way to begin.
Jamie dropped the truck he had been holding to the box with a thunk and turned to her. He realized she was genuinely apprehensive so he smiled in reassurance.
“It’s no’ much, Sassenach, but Saturday next is the Quarter Day Festival at Lallybroch.”
Claire looked at him blankly.
“Tis my home, where Ian, Jenny and their bairns live, where I grew up. I normally visit every couple of weeks and stay the weekend, I havena been back since…well, ye ken.” He grinned at her.
“Mmh?” Claire wondered if he was trying to tell her he would be away for a time.
“Aye. It’s in honor of the old days when the laird of the Fraser lands would call all the tenants to him to pay rents and catch up with friends and neighbors. My family puts it on once a year. We have some traditional games and special ones for the children, pony rides, there’s usually an afternoon game of shinty or footie. In the evening, we host a smaller gathering with food and drink, great music. A welcome to the warmer weather.”
“Sounds lovely.” Claire said a little longingly.
“The thing is…this year it will be a bit different. Slainte will be sponsoring it, using it as a celebration of our first year so it will be larger than usual, better funded, too. We leased a large field that joins wi’ ours for more room. My cousin Jared, the one who gave me a start when I lived in Paris, will be coming. He’s showcasing some smaller vineyards that he thinks should be better known. The band this year is really good, we’ve a large tent for the dinner and dancing. The Quarter Day games will be open to the public more or less, but the evening celebration will be on the grounds at Lallybroch and is just three hundred or so, by invitation only.” Jamie explained.
Claire’s eyebrows rose up inviting him to spit it out.
“I need to be there a couple of days before and maybe a day after. I am wondering if it would be a good time for the lassie to meet my family?” Jamie asked, a look of hopeful anticipation in his eyes. Claire hesitated.
“Won’t you have your hands full? I can’t imagine having a toddler in tow would be convenient.” She’d tried to picture it.
Claire also tried to ignore the implications of Faith being somewhere other than with her for any length of time. They’d never been separated overnight before.
She had thought she was prepared for this, knowing some day Faith and her father would have a relationship like this, separate from her; but she felt unexpectedly shut out all the same.
“It is a busy time,” he agreed, “but there’s also many hands around to help. She would love it there and I would love to show you my home and have ye meet my kin. Will you and the lass come with me? Spend a few days at my home? We’ve plenty of room. You and Faith can take the laird’s chamber? It’s quiet and private; I’ll bunk in with the lads, they won’t mind.” Hopeful eyes met surprised ones.
Claire ignored the happy dance that started jumping inside. Jamie often spoke of his family and colleagues at work; she couldn’t help but be curious about them.
Likely, those who he’d told about Faith were curious about her, too. The more she thought of it, the better the idea seemed. Arriving at a time when everyone would be busy preparing for the Quarter Day festivities would cast the spotlight on something other than Faith and that would be more relaxing. Less pressure on host and guest alike and she did want to meet Jamie’s family.
“You aren’t worried about the press? Especially if it’s a promo event of a sort for Slainte?”
“I’m no so worrit about the day, you’ll be two in the midst of the crowd. I’ll be running sunup to sunrise, if ye see me a’tall, I’ll likely be on a field at a distance. You and she will go round to the different games and spectator areas– she’ll find it great fun to watch. We’ve no’ invited any press for the evening party, besides, the lass will be asleep by the time the dinner and dancing starts. There’s been no a peep about ye or the lass, lately. I’ve no been doing the same publicity events. When ye arena out at parties and galas the press tends to forget about yer existence. It’s easier to keep a low profile than most people credit. If ye dinna do much, then no one finds ye all the interesting anymore. No one is poking their nebs into my business or yours at the moment.”
Claire understood his thinking in this regard.
“What happens if she calls you Da in front of everyone?”
Claire thought she’d made an excellent point but that damned Scot just smiled in pure happiness.
“I’d like nothing more,” he said with a chuckle, “and in front of family, well, they ken so it’s expected, aye? If that happens Quarter Day during the games and it’s clear she’s speaking of me, and if someone overhears it, we’ll just tell them she calls everyone Da.” His eyebrows wriggled up and down, which was his way of winking, having never learned the fine art of closing only one lid.
Claire laughed at that considering how long it took Faith to do it for him in the first place. Hearing him put it that way it did seem unlikely that such a scenario would unfold but if it did that was a plausible explanation.
“All right, Jamie, we’d love to go with you, thank you. It sounds like fun.”
As they rounded the bend Claire let out a gasp spotting the manse in the distance.
“Oh, Jamie, it’s beautiful.”
Larger than she expected but enchanting with the blending of architectural styles of different eras, she could now see the kitchen gardens set near the side yard, and in the distance rows of flowers along winding paths.
“Aye.” He’d agreed, glancing in the rearview, Faith was still out like a light.
Her face pressed hard into the side of the car seat, she’d wake warm and soft with little crease lines from the fabric.
Jamie’s hands shook a tiny bit and he could feel his heartbeat speeding up.
He was bringing his daughter home. Ah Dhia that his Da could only have lived to see this day!
The baying of a hound announced their arrival before the car had even circled the drive.
Claire watched as a little girl and an older boy emerged from the house followed closely by a small, dark haired woman.
As Jamie put the car in park, Faith started to wake.
Jamie greeted wee Jamie and Maggie first but then reached into the back seat, hoisting a still sleepy Faith up, resting her on his hip.
She’d want to stretch her legs in a minute or two but for now he snuggled her up against him.
Jenny threw her arms around him, taking care to not startle Faith.
“Oh, tis wonderful to have ye home, a brathair!” Jenny waited a beat or two for Faith to turn toward her.
“Hello Faith, darling, I’m yer Auntie Jenny. It’s lovely to meet you,” she said tickling Faith’s leg.
Faith blinked, noticing her new surroundings and the radiant smile of the woman next to her, just taking everything in.
Claire was rounding the car to introduce herself when, to everyone’s surprise, Faith launched herself straight into Jenny.
Jenny, emitted a small oomph and Faith grabbed hold of her aunt’s hair, securing herself firmly.
Claire watched Jenny’s eyes close as she buried her face in Faith’s neck breathing her in as she held her.
With a start Claire realized Jenny had never expected to be able to hold her brother’s child in her arms, hadn’t believed she’d be an aunt any time soon.
She’d known it would matter, but she hadn’t appreciated just how much. Unconditional love and joy for their daughter poured from Jenny.
Claire’s eyes stung and she had to force air through the tightness in her throat. She glanced away from Jenny and toward Jamie. That was a mistake. Fathomless blue pierced her heart, reading her perfectly, knowing and not concerned that she would read him the same. Overwhelmed, it was she who looked away.
The dog she’d heard earlier barked again.
“Ooh, dog?” Faith asked tentatively, confused by the size of the enormous beast ambling toward them.
“Oh, aye, Faith that’ll be Bran, he’s a braw laddie.”
The dog’s ears pricked up hearing Jamie’s voice and he came to greet his master. Jamie was on his knees rubbing ears and scratching Bran’s back.
Jenny let Faith down and she promptly join her father playing with the dog. Claire and Jenny smiled at one another.
“If he had a saddle, she’d ride him everywhere, I expect.” Claire said a little wistfully.
Jenny noticed Claire’s eyes stayed on Jamie as she said it. Jamie laughed.
“Aye, Sassenach, he’s a fair hand rounding up the sheep but gentle, Bran would let her, too. Wouldn’t you, ye lovely wee marsh-mellow?”
By this point the dog had overturned in ecstasy, legs straight up in the air as Faith rubbed his huge belly.
Claire pulled her eyes away from the scene and introduced herself to Jenny, Jamie’s namesake and Maggie. Maggie was a couple of years older than Faith but Kitty and she were around the same age. Though, Kitty was just waking up from her nap and Ian was with her.
Eventually, they managed to corral everyone inside and sort out various bags, rooms, porta crib assignments and the like. Claire and Faith settled into the enormous Laird’s Room. It’s warm wooden panels, marble fireplace and canopy bed bespoke a forgotten era. The mullioned windows opened onto a view of the fields far beyond and the crumbling tower upon which the family title, Broch Tuarach was based.
In the two days leading up to Quarter Day, Claire came to appreciate Lallybroch as a living thing. Teeming with animals, plants and people everywhere, of course, but the home itself had a personality all it’s own.
Comforting, warm, it talked to you, did you care to listen to it. Even with workmen rushing about and dozens of small details to track and follow, the peace of the place settled over her and seeped into her bones.
Visually and especially for the niece of an antiquarian, full of treasures to explore. Every room in Lallybroch was crammed with Fraser family history. Bibles with ancient family trees, broadswords, chamber pots, targes, old candelabras, butter churns, soap molds, brass tubs, dirks, tartans, old plates and furniture, first edition books, framed letters going back hundreds of years to say nothing of the very impressive wine cellar with offerings from at least a hundred years ago.
Each generation of Frasers, it seemed, had produced at least one artist and walls and shelves all over Lallybroch bore the fruits of their combined labors. A mural adorned one whole wall of the Laird’s chamber, courtesy of Ellen MacKenzie Fraser. It was an elaborate landscape, almost as captivating as the one outside her window.
In Jamie’s generation, that artist had been his older brother, Willie. Claire could see, based on the work that he produced before dying so young, that he would have been quite special, even in this family of creative souls. Several of his paintings and beautiful wood carvings were hung in various rooms.
Over the next couple of days, the house filled. Murtagh and Fergus arrived and Jared Fraser came in from Paris that evening. All of them had summarily been put to work, even her, ensuring that everything for the Quarter Day Festival was in the ready.
There had been no obvious plan in assigning various tasks, she would have sworn that was true. Yet each Fraser had made an effort to find something that needed to be done with Faith, or with her.
“Oh, what have we here?” Claire said the next morning, finding Murtagh, wrists deep in bread dough. All the children, including her daughter, standing around the table or kneeling on chairs punching and kneading the dough.
“Rolls!” Exclaimed Maggie.
“Toast!” said Faith.
“It’ll be lumps of paste if ye don’t attend to yer business, weans.” Murtagh grunted.
“Hit it harder!” wee Jamie encouraged.
“Like that?” Faith was smacking the table for all she was worth by that point, in imitation of her cousins. She was enjoying the novelty of staying in a house with children her age to play with.
“Excellent.” Murtagh declared as Claire poured her tea to steep.
“Miss Kitty?” Murtagh asked. The littlest Murray raised her head, “will ye grab the baking sheets?”
Claire was almost done fixing her mug but the industrious elves at the table had not stopped in their work.
“Aye, that’s perfect, James.” Murtagh said to young Jamie. “Ye got all the letters in yer whole name done wi’out any help. Now we’ll have to see if the letters’ll hold when baked?”
“Mooo!” said Faith.
Claire’s spoon scraped the cup as she looked up. Faith was sitting in Murtagh’s lap as he put the finishing touches on his creation.
Claire looked over his shoulder. He’d made a perfect rendition of a herd of highland coo. In bread, no less.
“Och, lassie, can ye tell me how many coos are going into the oven?” He and Faith put finger to figure and began the tally.
Claire laughed out loud at the scene. A less likely preschool teacher she’d never seen and yet his sweetness was undeniable, despite looking like a grumpus. She kissed the top of his head on her way back out to the fields. She couldn’t help it.
Yesterday, she’d wandered to the kailyard near sunset to find Fergus and Ian coming over the rise, pulling Kitty and Faith in a red wagon returning from evening set up at the public fields.
Fireflies had come out and were starting to blink on and off.
“Kits and Faith, look up, my ladies and see how the flying stars have come out to greet you.” Fergus was saying.
“Ooh, Uncan, look!” Faith exclaimed.
For some reason Ian’s name and title had blended into one word. Ian stopped the wagon next to the rear door just as Jamie came out to meet them.
“Oh, aye, Neath, quite bonnie.” Ian agreed, blending the words Faith and niece.
Jamie laughed delightedly guessing he’d just missed an Uncan exchange.
He looked so content. Almost part of the landscape himself, with the deep purple of twilight behind his red hair, arm draped in casual familiarity over Ian’s shoulders.
“Da, Da, Da…” Faith started chanting. Jamie made Scottish noise as he plucked her from the wagon and flung her up into the air. She squealed as he easily caught her again, kissing her forehead.
“Sassenach!” He exclaimed when he caught sight of her.
He wandered toward her and the three of them relaxed against one another and watched the light show until the cool air drove them toward home.
Claire had never been anywhere like Lallybroch, it’s warmth and love spilling from every nook and cranny. She could feel it’s magic weaving around her heart.
The night before the Quarter Day Festival, the family staying at the house gathered together for a more formal dinner, as tomorrow evening each would be far too busy to really spend much time with one another.
The children ate at the table in the kitchen tended to by Laoghaire, the Fraser nanny, while the adults gathered in the study for a pre-dinner drink.
Everyone was busy talking in small groups and catching up.
Claire wandered over to a four panel wooden carved screen. She recognized the illustrations as Treasure Island with pirate ships, smugglers caves, rearing stallions, snakes popping out of trees, an elaborate map. It was beautifully rendered, polished to a high sheen.
Ian saw her interest and walked over to her. Claire caught the sound of the mismatched steps. Jamie told her he lost a leg after a rare infection could not be controlled by any other means but an amputation below the knee. He moved quite well, everything considered.
“That’s Willie’s work. He and Murtagh.” He told her.
Claire glanced behind Ian and looked at the small bearded man on the couch talking with Fergus, Jamie’s sales manager. Where everyone fit into the family relationship-wise, was something she was still a little fuzzy on.
Her expression must have conveyed her surprise.
“Ooch, Murtagh is a graduate of the Edinburgh School of Fine Arts. He’s a verra fine artist.” Ian confirmed. “He taught Willie the carving. Many happy an hour they’d spent together that way. Murtagh discovered that it didna pay too well, though. So his job is in marketing and promotions but he still has the skills to do fine work. Come to think of it, Murtagh and Willie made Jamie a Noah’s Ark full of all the animals one year for his birthday. I’ll see if I can get it down for wee Faith, she’d like to play with it I expect.”
“When is his birthday, Jamie’s I mean?” She found herself asking.
“Just the past month, May 1.” Ian told her.
Claire gave a little start. Faith’s had been May 12.
She still wasn’t sure that she had done the right thing in that regard. Their meeting had been so new at that point that she hadn’t been able to find the right way to ask Jamie without it sounding like she was trying to put false pressure on him to declare Faith as his own publically. Neither one of them was ready for that discussion and wouldn’t be until the relationship between all three of them had a chance to season itself.
They both knew that once back in the spotlight, their ability to move about the city anonymously would be lost. Loathe to squander this peaceful time together, fearing what might happen should they get caught up in a media storm once more, in the end Claire said nothing about it. It would change everything between them and there was a risk that it would destabilize whatever future path they had hoped to travel.
So while Claire had been planning on a little celebration, inviting a few children from the daycare and Joe, a few of her close work friends, she never completed those plans. There was no way to explain Jamie’s presence.
Until Jamie and she were ready to talk about amending the birth certificate and what came next, Claire had resolved to steer clear of any conversational topic that might force the discussion before he was ready. It didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things, Faith was so young, after all, she’d never remember one way or the other.
Well, obviously it was not so easily resolved, she still felt a bit guilty not saying anything about it. But then a thought struck her. She rolled her memory back over the time frame and couldn’t remember where Jamie was on either day. Though he hadn’t come back here, to Lallybroch, and Jenny hadn’t come into the city either.
Claire reached out to touch Ian’s arm. He looked down seeing an expression of eagerness in her face.
“Ian, do you think I have time to do something in the kitchen just before dinner starts?”
The evening meal was lovely, she quite liked all the Fraser men. Fergus had been a wee scamp growing up and he still had a mischievous glint in his eyes but he was incredibly appealing.
She learned that Jamie had discovered him living in a makeshift housing area in a run down section of Martinique near where Jamie had been staying. Jamie was employed by a large chain of resorts with properties all over the Caribbean.
He’d been leading a special two week training programme for employees from all over the islands and spent a good deal of his downtime walking around on the Island. He’d caught Fergus, who was fourteen at the time and an orphan, trying to pick his pocket.
“I would have succeeded if not for that girl in that suit with the little–” at this Fergus made a gesture to convey some kind of fastening at the chest and at the hips.
Jamie laughed wicked and low, a sound that melted Claire’s insides, he caught his sister’s censorious look though and cleared his throat.
“She turned his head in exactly the wrong direction and he caught me red handed.” His accent held a lovely lilting quality.
Jamie chimed in with the rest of the story.
“I forced him to come wi’ me by telling him I’d call the cops on him otherwise. I made him sign up for a correspondence course to finish school and put him to work behind the bar with me. The best bar back I ever had. He kent his job and the clientele and made sure we had what we needed in stock every week. Even now, he reads a room better than anyone else I’ve ever met. Charming sod, ye could sell rain to a Scot.” Jamie said in obvious affection, Fergus gave a little smile to hear the praise.
Just then the children came bursting forth from their after dinner game of flashlight tag. Leery, leading Kitty and Faith by hand rushed to try and catch the older ones from interrupting dinner, but no one minded the kids.
“Miss Claire, the…in the back, it’s ready.” Leery said. Claire made her excuses, informing the group that she’d be back shortly.
Just as she was putting the finishing touches on the simple pound cake with fresh strawberries and cream that she had set to bake and then cool while they ate, Jenny came in to see what was what.
Her eyebrows rose in surprise as she took in Claire’s finishing touches of icing and arranging the candles.
“My brother led me to believe yer no’ much of a cook?” Jenny realized that might have sounded a bit harsh and smiled to lessen the impact.
“Oh, I’m not.” Claire agreed unconcerned. “But I can make a cake!” She declared happily but then a little anxious frown crossed her features.
“I –er– hope you don’t mind, dinner was delicious and whatever you have for dessert is sure to be, too. But both Jamie and Faith have birthdays in May, hers was the 12th. I didn’t have a party for her; it seemed too complicated. I couldn’t have the party you see, without inviting Jamie, that wouldn’t be right. But, then, I couldn’t figure out how exactly to explain his presence there either. Here, it’s just family and everyone knows so I thought we could have one cake they could share so he’d get to celebrate with her? That is so long as you–er wouldn’t mind?” Claire finished a little lamely.
Claire realized too late that Jamie’s company employed most of his family members and he’d likely already had a celebration for his birthday at work. Her face grew a little pink. Her fingers beat out an anxious tattoo on the counter.
Jenny looked at her for a long moment, this newcomer who her brother watched with his heart in his eyes.
She had a very good idea what he would think of Claire’s gesture and swallowed the sigh that formed on her lips, no help for it, then.
Jenny’s only path here was forward, to welcome her as she had welcomed Jamie and just hope what she saw in his eyes would soon be reflected in Claire’s.
Smiling broadly, Jenny said, “No, Claire, ‘tis a wonderful idea. He’ll love it.”
Jenny went in first to pour glasses of some of Jared’s excellent chilled champagne. Ian gave her raised eyebrows, which she answered in kind.
Jamie’s eyes grew wide as he watched Claire enter with a cake which she placed in front of him.
His birthday had been weeks, a lifetime ago.
Faith, fascinated by the cake had exclaimed “ooh!” and came to explore what her parents were up to.
Claire picked Faith up and placed her in his lap.
Jamie noticed that Jenny had come to stand just behind him and his heart beats tripped over themselves when he felt her hand on his shoulder. Jenny knew then, whatever Claire had planned, and thought he might need some moral support.
It was then Jamie saw the icing in the center had a “J” with two horizontal lines so that the centerline of the J formed the centerline of an “F.”
Claire smiled reassuringly when she saw his expression then gently touched her fork to her glass. Holding everyone’s attention, she looked at each face around the table and then spoke from her heart.
“I wanted to thank you all for inviting us to celebrate Quarter Day with you. I know we’ve only been here a short time, but there is a special feeling, being here. I spent my childhood with my Uncle Lamb. He was an antiquities scholar and we lived for short periods of time in many places. I didn’t move to England after Faith was born. I–well, it wasn’t really my home, you see. I’m not sure I ever really had one. Scotland became my choice because even though they’d never met, it was home to my daughter’s father.”
Jamie made a soft sound that carried loudly in the silent room.
“When I learned that Jamie and Faith shared a birthday month, eleven days apart, I thought maybe you might be willing to indulge me and we could celebrate their birthdays together, even if it’s a little late. I’d like to propose a toast, if I could, then we can light the candles and sing?”
At this Claire raised her glass, joined by everyone but Jamie, whose hands were holding Faith.
“To your lovely home and family. These last few days…” Claire’s voice started to warble and she cleared it. “Thank you for opening your hearts to our daughter, for giving her a sense of her history and her place. I couldn’t have imagined anything quite as wonderful as this but the hope that she’d find something like it…. this is why I stayed in Scotland. Mothers’ hearts are full of dreams for their children, some come true, some never do. My dream is that one day she will come to love it here as you do and to know that it is as much her home as yours. To Lallybroch.”
Jenny’s eyes flew to her brother; his face was buried in the back of Faith’s hair. She knew he wasn’t able to look at anyone.
She felt him shudder and her hand tightened on his shoulder.
She had begun to see, all too well, what it was in Claire that had so captivated him.
If there was a dry eye around that dining room table, it likely belonged to one of the children.
As for the adults, well, there wasn’t one to be found as the family lit the candles, sung their happys and father and daughter leaned in to blow out the candles.
A/N: This is canon, and occurs shortly after MtG ends. Enjoy!
Niall had been insistent that Poppy come out for St. Patrick’s Day with him, despite her lamenting that he should go out and enjoy time with his friends. He whined and nibbled at her earlobe, pulling her off his desk and onto his lap in his tiny office. “C’mon puppy, ya gotta come out. All my friends wanna meet you.” Poppy groaned at the nip of his teeth against her skin and at the ridiculous pet name he’d started using more frequently.
“I didn’t think it was possible to make my name any more obnoxious, but you’ve done it Horan.”
Niall giggled softly into her skin and trailed his fingers across the perpetually tattered cuffs of her cozy sweatshirt. “You love it. Please come out with us. All my mates are flying in - even my idiot cousins that I haven’t seen since last Christmas.”
At the mention of Christmas, Poppy’s resolve crumbled. Three months earlier, Niall had cancelled his plans to fly home to Ireland for Christmas when he found out Poppy was spending it alone, holed up in her apartment. She had argued with him that he hadn’t been home in a year, but his insistence that no one should be alone on Christmas was steadfast. It had ended up being one of the best holidays she’d ever had. Poppy sighed and twisted her slender fingers with his thick ones. “Ok. I’ll come. I’ll meet you guys out though, I’ve got to finish some articles. How will I be able to find you?”
Niall grinned mischievously and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “You won’t be able to miss us. Trust me.”
Worlds 2017 is done and dusted! This worlds was a success for a lot of reasons. I finally figured out a training plan that worked for me (more posts on that to come!), and most importantly I figured out my mental game for the first time. I’ve always psyched myself out at the worlds and underperformed one of my rounds (or both), but this time I went in calm and kept my head about me. I had the best two rounds of my life, and my teachers were so happy.
When Dan Armstrong passed over my number during the recalls, I was surprised because I thought I danced so much better than last year, but results are never guaranteed. It was a different panel, a different competition, and a huge pool of incredible dancers. (It turns out I wasn’t even close to the recall). I cried a little, hugged a lot of friends, and had a frigging delicious Guinness to cap off the day.
I could say that I’m moving straight on to Nationals training, but I’m trying to reflect still on everything that I did yesterday: what worked, what didn’t work, what I can change for next time. I want to come out swinging for Nationals, but I’m ready for a few days off first. Congrats to all the senior ladies, whether you achieved your goals this year or fell short, it was a pleasure this year dancing with each and every one of you, and we all deserve a Guinness I think. Slainte!
The promised early morning rain was moving on just as Claire and Faith reached the outer fields being used for the Quarter Day festivities. It had been a muddy walk over but the sun would soon dry out the paths. Not that such matters had dampened enthusiasm amongst the crowds. It was approaching mid-day and the place was packed.
Music could be heard coming from several different areas over the the fields. A small demonstration of traditional highland games was in full swing as were the various activities for children from sack races to sheep wrangling. Faith tried her hand at winning a goldfish with a ping pong ball. Faith (luckily) had a terrible throwing arm.
Every now and then, they would catch sight of someone they knew from Lallybroch in the crowd. Ian tended to draw the eye with his unusual gait and Jamie’s hair and height made him easier to see. They didn’t go out of their way to greet anyone, though. Mindful of Jamie’s observations, they remained two lost in the larger crowd.
Claire and Faith checked out the various strength challenges, impressed by the size of the competitors. She watched participants tossing around massive hammers, stones and logs. Not for the first time, Claire found herself thinking about the national psyche of the place.
How the games had remained the same generation after generation, still more or less using implements that were used then. Gooseflesh ran down her arms, these men, in kilt and boot, could have walked straight out of a rift in time.
From the corner of her eye she saw Faith standing in front of a cluster of women just as awe-inspiring as they readied themselves for a go and smiled for there was progress writ on today’s fields, too.
“Good luck, ladies!” She cheered them on as she reached her hand down to Faith and moved her a safer distance from the action.
After a time, they meandered through the crafts area, exploring everything on offer: gloves and socks made locally, candles, honey, fine metal, leather goods, cheeses and vegetables of all kinds. Nibbling samples and touching the knitted items as they went.
“Ooh…What’s it?” Faith asked on a reverent sigh after stumbling on a soft blanket in her favorite purple hue.
“Och, darlin’ ‘tis made from the finest alpaca, no’ more than 10 kilometers from here.” The squat man with a pipe hanging off his mouth proudly declared.
Faith pleaded with her eyes. Claire wasn’t certain if bargaining was part of the expected entertainment but her Uncle Lamb hadn’t carted her from hither and yon without teaching her a thing or two. By the time they were done she’d parted with £70.00 (down from £100).
She watched as Faith hugged the bag containing her new lovey to her chest, careful to keep it out of the damp path but she caught her surreptitiously rubbing her cheek against the soft corner that peeped out of the top. She smiled, knowing she’d gotten the best of the negotiation.
The afternoon sun was in their eyes as they made their way over to the bleachers set up for the shinty game. Though by the time they sat, the sun was behind them. A light breeze rising as the afternoon lengthened.
Faith had spotted Jamie right away, of course, and then noticed Jenny, Murtagh, Fergus. By that time, though, Claire had spread out the little picnic lunch she assembled from the various food stalls. A tempting array of snacks had kept Faith content and her mouth too busy for idle chatter.
It was a coed game, that much was clear but Claire wasn’t entirely sure about the teams or the rules. The players were wearing t-shirts of varying plaid designs in muted colors with Slainte prominently displayed. It looked as if Jenny and Jamie were on opposite teams.
Jenny had a wicked hook and didn’t shy away from muscling anyone who crossed her path out of the way. The game was physical. The smack of the ball against caman audible as were the grunts and calls of the players.
Claire watched for a bit and then concluded that whichever team Fergus was on, his only goal was scoring with a pretty blonde woman flirting right back.
The game looked like it might be winding down. Claire finished packing their food away then asked Faith if she wanted to visit the ponies. Just then, Jenny got in a particularly good shot.
Claire heard an appreciative cheer behind her, followed by young Jamie asking, “Did Mum score?”
She looked over to see Ian standing hand in hand with his son watching the field of play. She raised her hand as he smiled his hellos at them.
Faith called out “Uncan!” and pulled Claire up, urging them to Ian’s side where she promptly offered her lovey for inspection.
“Och, verra soft!” Uncan dutifully agreed.
Then Faith and wee Jamie began inspecting some bugs underneath the row of seats behind them.
Claire and Ian were chatting, eyes off the field when a sudden yell and the unmistakable sound of a collision rent the air.
Claire knew without looking that she would be needed. Wide eyes met steady ones.
“Faith?” She asked, even as Ian reached his hand out to the lass.
“I’ve got her. It’s no’ Jenny, she’s fine, I can see her still standing. Dinna worry, Claire. I’ll get the bairns back to the house. We’ll meet you later.”
Claire spun quickly and, running onto the field, reached into her bag for the kit she kept on her person at all times. There was a small crowd gathered around the centerline of the field.
With all of the efficiency of a master drill sergeant she split the crowd and was down on her knees next to the three people splayed out on the ground before she had even registered what she was looking at.
A woman, red cleats, long blonde hair, startlingly green eyes, another woman, short brown hair, shorter skirt- no, it was a skort– and glasses, not moving and a man, naturally, Jamie.
There was that kind of muted murmuring that happens at sporting events when players are injured. Claire caught Jenny’s eyes and with a minimum of mostly non-verbal communication was able to confirm that the first responders had already been called. They were housed under a special first aid tent set up between venues. They’d arrive momentarily.
She only hoped Ian had gotten Faith off the field and looking elsewhere. If she saw her parents, she’d want to come see them. No telling what might happen but there were too many people around to want to risk having to pass off anything Faith might say as accidental.
She eyeballed Jamie. His problem was obvious, though treatment for him could wait. He had a cut along his thigh. It would need stitches.
Red cleats was moving around but in pain, the skort was still flat out. Claire thought red had a dislocated shoulder, skort undetermined.
Skort then. Her skin was gray. A, B, C the three part emergency assessment vital to such situations.
Struck out at A - airway was compromised. She wasn’t breathing. Jamie was about to start chest compressions when Claire shot her hand out and stopped him.
“No, that’s– “ rather than explain she pushed at his body, understanding he was in the way, Jamie quickly moved to the side.
Claire dug her hands up and under skort’s back and hoisted her into a half sitting position, her body braced against Claire’s knees as Claire’s arms came around to the front of the woman’s chest.
Claire made interlaced fists just under her rib cage and then heaved for all she was worth, once, twice and a wheezing sound from skort told her she was on the right track, on the fourth squeeze a piece of rubber came flying out of the woman’s mouth.
Along with some water and what looked to be some fruit from lunch. An audible, grateful wheezing inhale told Claire that she had successfully cleared the blockage. Color was slowly returning to the woman’s face.
“You are alright.” Claire told her. “That’s it. Just shallow breaths, in and out. You’ll feel a lot better in a minute.”
Jamie was on the woman the second he saw she was out of immediate danger. He handed her a wet towel for her face and checked the rest of her out, even as Claire was doing the same.
“Lass, are ye ok? Anything else hurt?” She gave a grunt of negation to his question, still trying to get her breath back.
On a smaller wheeze Claire heard her breathe out, “Jaaaymee-EEE” in a rhythm that obviously had a hidden message.
Jamie chuckled in relief and responded with an answering grin, “Gen-EEEEVA. Tell me true, are ye ok?”
Claire smiled recognizing Wall-E calls – one of Faith’s favorite movies. By this point Geneva had readjusted her glasses and could see a bit better.
“Yes, Jamie, honestly I am. I borrowed my niece’s mouth guard, I guess I should have just skipped it?”
Jamie hugged her to him.
“Ye scarrit the hell out of me, dinna do that again.”
“Oof, get off! You’re a bloody mess and I just bought this skort!” She declared.
“Well, if I’m bleeding it’s because of you and yer wicked handmaiden -determined to take me out ye were! Between the twa of you and Jenny, I stood no chance!” Jamie pretended to be affronted.
Jamie was bleeding more heavily now. Claire quickly wadded up some bandages from her kit and pressed them firmly into Jamie’s leg.
He gave a grunt of pain.
She slapped his hand over the cut instructing, “Press here, hard, don’t move around too much.”
Jamie nodded at her but then turned to the other woman.
“An’ speaking of which, Geillie, how’s yer shoulder?”
Geneva gave a soft cry and turned her head around to find Geillis hurt though she had managed to sit up. Her eyes were closed and it looked like she was trying not to throw up or pass out. The shoulder needed tending.
Jamie crab crawled over to the woman.
“Geillie?” he asked. “Are ye ok?”
The woman’s eyes opened. She was clearly in pain but heard him.
“No.” She responded.
“Geillie?” Claire said to get her attention.
Her eyes shifted to Claire’s.
“I’m Claire I’m going to help you. You have a dislocated shoulder. Have you had one before?”
Geillie shook her head no.
“I know it’s painful but in just a minute or two you’ll feel much better.”
Jamie made to reach over and help.
Claire put her hands on his chest and pushed him backwards, repositioning his bandages.
“You stay right where you are. Damned stubborn Scot! Did you not hear me before? What do you think you’ll accomplish bleeding all over the place? Sit still, apply pressure. We need to stop the bleeding. Geillie will be fine, Jamie. I will take care of her, ok?” Claire reassured him holding his eyes. When she saw he understood she turned back to attend to Geillie.
With Jenny and Fergus’s help, she soon had Geillie in the right position. It took bit of maneuvering and two tries to pop the shoulder back in and she was sweating considerably before it was done.
“Oh, that feels much better!” Geillie said.
Claire gave her a quick rundown on aftercare just as the first responders came onto the field. They transported everyone off the field back to the first aid tent.
Jamie had declined the recommended visit to the Urgent Care clinic in favor of Claire stitching him up right where they were.
The ladies would be transported although Fergus had offered to drive them to save the ambulance fees. Geneva sat next to Geillie a comforting arm resting on her leg, the only part of her that Geneva didn’t think was hurt just then and waited for Fergus to pull up.
Claire numbed Jamie’s leg. There wasn’t a whole lot to look at in the tent so they all watched Claire work.
Jamie saw a small neat row of stitches appearing. Her hands automatically making the movements.
“Sassenach?” he began.
Her eyes came up.
“I…what ye did for Geneva? I dinna think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”
“I told you I was a doctor.” Claire downplayed but smiled when she said it. It had been nothing, every step drilled into her years ago.
“Aye, but there is a considerable difference between understanding something and knowing it. I wouldna figured it out in time. You saved Geneva’s life, Claire. I dinna ken how to thank ye for it but—”
Claire’s hands were still busy with the sutures so she contented herself with gently headbutting him and resting her forehead against his as she softly chided.
“Shh, you. That’s my job, it’s what I do.”
Jamie laughed as his hand reached behind her head and he pressed a lingering kiss of thanks and murmuring the same to her brow.
“Ladies? Shall we go, the car is just outside.”
Jamie glanced up, having forgotten that anyone else was with them. He watched as Fergus ushered Geillie and Geneva to the car. His eyes locked on Geillie’s and she smiled sheepishly and waved as she left.
Claire gently closed the door to the Laird’s room after making sure Faith was sound asleep and straightened her emerald green wrap dress a little as she turned.
She looked up to find Jamie ambling down the long gallery hall wearing a kilt with a blazer and a black Slainte t-shirt. The cotton worn and faded, it likely would feel soft as Faith’s lovey, she thought.
“Is the lass asleep?”
“Yes, but I’m sure a last cuddle from you won’t keep her up, she’ll be out again soon as her head hits the pillow. We had a big day.”
Claire watched him make his way toward her.
Jesus, the way he moved.
“Y-your– leg not troubling you?” Babbling tongue tied idiot! Claire admonished herself.
“Nah, I was in great hands and it’s no’ in a place that chaffs.” Jamie smiled, continuing to come towards her in slinky strides, as much big game cat as man. Something about the plaid changing his walk or his balance.
Perhaps it was just her, Claire thought. For whatever reason, she was especially aware of his body and how it moved within.
She normally tried to forget how freaking hot he was. He was her daughter’s father. Period, end, finito.
From the very first, she’d felt that pull, but normally she could pretend it came from the pit of her stomach and live with the white lie.
Oh, but not when he was wearing that …yum, no.
Now, she couldn’t help but be aware that the clenching in her body originated far lower down.
Claire made a funny humming sound in her throat as he brushed past her, the faded wool of his plaid caressing her hand. She shivered at the sound his heel made on the hardwood.
That caused him to pull back from the door just as he was about to open it. He turned his astonished gaze to hers and she could not hide her blush.
“Something I can help ye with, Sassenach?”
Jamie deliberately stepped in closer to her, rubbing up against her the tiniest bit. Not so much it was obvious but in a way that made her feel…why that ruddy Scottish bastard, he knew! He knew damned well how good he looked in his kilt.
A walking inducement to anyone with a pulse.
Too flustered to do anything about it she tried to soldier on.
“Uhm, no. I’ll just go down and —” Claire lost the train of her thoughts as his hand came up into her hair, light as a butterfly.
He was watching her closely. Pinned under that deep blue gaze, she had nothing to bluff with. His head moved closer to hers, she tried to move a little away but his body mirrored hers and followed where she led.
Aware of his mouth thisclose to hers, the sound of the soft rumbling noises he made, the smell of his soap, sandalwood and cedar. She tried to take a steadying breath but found herself panting instead.
“Sassenach?” Softly intoned on a whisper.
“What–what are you doing?”
She swallowed and looked up to find him watching her closely. His face so close she could feel the exhalations of his breath. If she moved a fraction of an inch he’d come straight into her.
Claire stared hard at his lips, tender and just a little sunkissed. He hadn’t shaved in long enough that the hair was just turning from prickly to malleable.
How would it feel against her tongue? She wet her lips.
He made a little sound that caused her eyes to lift up. He was staring at her mouth with as much intensity as she was his. An aching need spread through her.
She moaned a tiny bit imagining him leaning in with his body, trapping her solidly into the wall.
Unable to help herself, Claire pushed all the way back imagining how it would feel, the cool plaster behind her, the heat of Jamie in front, pressing inward until their bodies were joined.
He moved with her, but not pressing against her. He kept the sliver of space between their bodies. Oh, please!
His fingers traced her hair once more.
She squeaked a little and her lips parted as she shifted her weight on her tiptoes unconsciously reaching up toward his just as he spoke.
“Just getting this out of your hair, Sassenach.”
He said matter of factly and handed her a piece of crinkle paper from a box that Faith had been playing with earlier.
Claire looked at his hand rather stupidly. Then she understood what he had said.
“Oh, oh. Well, ah.” She couldn’t seem to form a coherent thought.
“I’ll see ye under the tent, shall I?” A raised brow of dismissal as he stole into the Laird’s room to kiss his daughter good night.
Chest heaving, Claire tried to slow her heartbeats down as she slumped against the wall and sighed too loudly to hear Jamie collapsing against the other side of the closed door trying to catch his breath as well.
Chapter Updates: Chapter 14: Into the Mystic/Kiss Me; Chapter 15: Like on A Date, Chapter 16: The Date (I think You Will Love This One), Chapter 17: Operation Lard Head, Chapter 18: Three Ravens
Jamie raised his hand poised to knock when an unexpected high pitched squeal of laughter and thumping of feet penetrated through the front door. Suddenly his knees felt weak and, needing to feel some support under him, he quickly turned around to press his back against the door.
“Ah Dhia! She was real!” he thought.
He lowered his head a bit and used his legs to brace his body against the solid wood, counting his inhales and exhales. This was a trick he had learned during cancer treatments. The blackness quickly receded and feeling returned to his fingertips.
He was just about to push off the door and turn to knock when he felt himself falling backwards. He hit the floor with an audible thud. Having no notion of what happened, he just lay still, the breath knocked out of him once more.
His vision was blocked suddenly by a small dog coming in so close to his face his eyes lost focus. A sticky lick– no wait– a kiss?–on his forehead.
This was followed by a hushed, “Boo-boo?”
The body tilted away from him allowing his eyes to focus on the improbable sight of his baby girl, auburn curls in two pigtails, wearing muted pink overalls and carrying a sodden biscuit in one hand, much of it worn on her face (explaining the residue coating his brow).
She waited intently. He remembered to breathe.
Looking into her adorably smeared but worried face, Jamie couldn’t help but smile.
“Aye, lass, but yer kiss made it better. Thank ye!” He assured her and, not wanting to scare her by reaching for her, contented himself with a gesture which looked like the approximation of a courtly bow from his prone position.
“Mama, he’s better!” Faith nodded, head turned to her side, satisfied by the day’s rescue.
Jamie shifted his gaze and found himself looking into whiskey eyes the same shade as his daughter’s.
“Mr. Fraser, I presume?” Curly hair and raised eyebrows.
“God, she is lovely.” The thought came unbidden to his mind and he was startled to realize he wasn’t thinking about Faith.
For a man thrust into fatherhood, Claire marveled at his ease with Faith. He didn’t crowd her or try to win her affections in any obvious way. Instead, he followed Faith’s lead and let her do as she was accustomed, somehow intuiting that the novelty of a new person to talk and play with would naturally draw her to him far more effectively than chasing after her.
Jamie and Faith were sitting on the floor beside the coffee table working on a wooden shape puzzle. Claire watched as her daughter turned into a flirt, something she had never seen her do. Even with Claire’s good friend and a favorite of Faith’s, Joe Abernathy, Faith never played the coquette. Claire was amazed to hear her daughter cooing and watched her batting her eyelashes in his direction.
Claire realized this was no passing fancy when she returned from putting Faith’s backpack in the hall closet to find her reverently placing Jane, her favorite doll, a beautiful Jumeau Bebe given to Claire by Uncle Lamb when she was a child herself, into his outstretched arms. Faith didn’t even let their babysitter Mrs. Crooke touch Jane. A high mark of favor, indeed.
Jamie had been leaning with his back against the couch but sat up straighter intuiting the import of the matter at hand. He gave the doll a serious once over, weighing some significant consideration, Faith, standing up, was almost eye level Jamie and shifted her weight back and forth anxiously awaiting his verdict.
Holding the absurdly feminine toy between his large hands should have made him look silly but didn’t. Claire couldn’t hear what they were saying but picked up the deep rumbling undertones of his verdict followed by Faith’s high pitched squeak of a reply. All of his attention was focused on Faith and his interaction with her was completely genuine.
The exchange was so adorable, she snapped a couple of pictures. Claire added a few more as the afternoon went on, wanting to document Faith’s first time meeting her father. She was touched by the fact that, respectful of her home and Faith’s privacy, Jamie hadn’t so much as asked if he could do so himself.
Now, she watched Jamie building blocks side by side with Faith, Faith reaching over every now and then to take away a block from Jamie’s tower for her own or offer him one of hers.
Jamie was saying mildly, “Ye ken that’s the last of my purple ones. Do ye no’ want to leave me that one?” His eyebrows raised in entreaty.
Faith shook her head, smiling.
“But, lass my tower’s almost done and it was to be my crowning glory.” He said mournfully.
At this Faith giggled, for his tower was already twice as tall as hers and more blocks wouldn’t make much of a difference as far as she could see. Faith could tell Jamie was not convinced, though and she really wanted all the purple blocks. Her eyes narrowed, a look of determination stole over her face.
“Jane says red is better.” She declared.
Faith herself clearly had no use for the red ones, they were stockpiled in the middle between the two of them, mostly untouched.
“She does?” Jamie turned to Jane, sitting up on the coffee table overseeing all the construction. “Mmphm.” Jamie grunted a Scottish noise in response, if not in consent.
“Weel I suppose I could. But do ye no’ think the princess would prefer climbing up a purple spire to go to scout her kingdom?”
Claire watched Jamie watching Faith from the corner of his eye, not directly looking but she knew he was drinking her in. She could feel the way he hummed with quiet delight in spending time with Faith.
Claire felt her face flame bright red as she realized that her long dormant libido had suddenly sprung to life. She was acutely aware of how long she had been celibate - longer than Faith had been alive, in fact. Jamie was striking to look at, an imposing figure but very handsome, so look she did.
However, her eyes were drawn to him for other reasons, too. At one point he caught her staring at him and raised his brow over their daughter’s head in inquiry. She blushed furiously.
“I’m sorry,” she said on a little embarrassed laugh. “I can’t help it. I keep catching a gesture here and there or an expression on your face and all of the sudden I think that you look so much like her….or I guess she looks like you.”
Claire waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “I expect I’ll get over it soon enough. I just never expected to see it so clearly. Back before…before meeting you, when all I had were pictures online I thought that except for the shape of her eyes, the resemblance wasn’t obvious in the look of her.”
Claire paused, gathering her thoughts. “Now that I see you beside her, it’s clearer. The eyes obviously, a bit in the rest of her facial structure, too, but it’s…more in the way she carries herself.” Claire shrugged a little helplessly fearing she wasn’t making much sense.
Jamie smiled widely, his ears going a little pink at the tips. He’d noticed one or two such things but hadn’t spent nearly enough time with Faith to really see it.
Faith was toddling away from her parents freeing Jamie for the moment. He slowly reached his hand upward to Claire’s which was resting on the edge of the sofa cushion. He gave her time to pull away but she let him take her hand.
“Claire, I canna say how grateful I am to ye.” Jamie stared straight into her eyes.
Had she ever seen eyes that blue before? She could feel a slight tremor running through him.
“I never imagined, I never expected—” suddenly his eyes filled with tears.
Rather than become shy or try and bat them away in an effort to assert some misplaced sense of masculine pride, Jamie let them fall, let her see the depths of his emotions. He was so different from Frank. His willingness to allow her to see his vulnerability only made her more aware of the strength of him.
Jamie appreciated that Claire didn’t rush in to smooth over the awkwardness, nor did she try and pretend he wasn’t baring his soul to her. She simply accepted him, raw emotions and all and that stirred something inside him. Her small hand in his was nevertheless strong and he clung to it like an anchor.
He took in a breath. “When I saw the picture ye sent, I kent her straight away. I brought some pictures of my family, in case ye’d care to see?”
As if she would say no? Claire’s mouth was bone dry.
She knew a bit about his history. When she learned his name, the company had not yet launched so what she could find was rather limited. A report on the auto accident that killed his mother and brothers, his father’s obituary, Jenny and Ian’s wedding announcement. Then a couple articles on the start of Slainte and its relocation of production facilities to Scotland.
Since his product hit big, though, the archives grew and a more details were added, including the cancer treatments he’d undergone, videos of him as young man from all over the world were posted, allowing the public to get some feel for the carefree days of his past, living his life working in bars (no’ living my life behind bars, ye ken, Janet). These were bare facts, dates and events with no connection to the live flesh and blood man holding her hand.
As she nodded, Jamie moved to sit next to her and pulled out the precious package he had so carefully put together and wrapped safely in his pocket earlier in the day. He didn’t want to bore her to death, like looking at someone’s vacation photos and stopped, suddenly uncertain.
Claire squeezed his hand and waited for him to make eye contact.
“Tell me about them, your family,” she urged, touched by the anxious thought behind his hesitation.
He could tell she meant it and he let out a relieved chuckle.
“I’ll no’ go too many generations back, lass, ye needna be worrit,” he assured her.
After making sure Faith was happily entertained watching her favorite show about magical musical toadstools, she and Jamie spent time talking and generally getting to know one another.
Jamie was saddened to learn she was without any family at all, having been orphaned at 5 and losing her only relative a few years ago. Perhaps for that reason, Claire loved the pictures he brought and the stories he told her. When she saw the images of Willie, she gasped out loud.
“Oh, he’s beautiful, I can almost see how Faith will look in a few years’ time!”
Jamie smiled at her genuine response. Willie at ten, defiantly long hair, curly and wild down to his shoulders was indeed a sight to see. He was gratified to know that the strong resemblance he’d seen was undeniable even to Claire who’d never known him in life. Jamie also brought pictures of Ian and Jenny and their children. None had Faith’s gorgeous auburn coloring but all had the cat eyes and those outrageous Fraser lashes.
Faith turned then and smiled, coming to her feet and wandering over to her mother.
Jamie’s stomach growled audibly. He’d barely eaten anything that day, feeling nervous and slightly nauseous.
“Food?” Faith asked, hopefully. Her look of rampant hopefulness making Claire smile.
“Well, sweetness, I guess we know which side of the family you get your appetite from. Two peas in a pod are you and your Daddy!”
“Peas!” Faith demanded. Claire laughed, a high musical sound.
She stood and held her hand out to Faith, “Come darling let’s see what we can find, peas and carrots and maybe some chicken? You’ll join us, Jamie.” Said as a statement of obvious conclusion.
Distracted as she was, Claire didn’t notice as she and Faith wandered to the kitchen Jamie hadn’t moved a muscle, he simply could not. Just like when Claire opened the door on him and sent him reeling, his head was spinning once more.
Since hearing her voice on the other end of the line, he had imagined this going a hundred different ways. He had expected it to be awkward, stilted, uncomfortable, wondering what Faith would make of a 6’3” stranger, would she be scared of him? Would she give him a chance?
He’d had a quick call with Jenny in the morning trying to settle his nerves.
“Do ye think she’ll like me?” He’d asked.
“Of course she’ll like ye, Jamie, all the bairns love their uncle Jamie.” He’d loved the don’t be such an idiot tone of her voice, it was such a normal reaction that he found it oddly comforting. “You’ve a good heart, my dear. They all look up to you. Besides, am I no’ always saying yer just a big kid yourself?”
Jamie was feeling much better.
But then she said, “the person ye should be worrit about is her mother. If you need to impress anyone it’s her.” Though Jenny was, after all, only speaking the truth.
“Aye, I ken that. I hope we can talk a bit, mebbe see what she proposes.” He said.
“Weel, I expect it’ll take a bit of time. She’ll no be used to sharing the lass and given the way her husband treated her, she’s mayhap no’ verra trusting. If ye do run into stormy weather, brother call Gowan & MacKenzie– but ask for Ned, ye ken he’s the more ruthless of the two,” Jenny observed, causing Jamie’s blood to freeze like ice in his veins.
The thought of having to win parental time with Faith in a lawsuit pushed all kinds of buttons. It was the last thing he wanted to do– it had been the furthest thing from his mind. He was tempted to shoot the messenger and tell Jenny exactly what he thought of such a thing but he knew she was only trying to protect him.
“I thank ye, Janet,” unable to keep his tone light, Jamie made an effort to end on a better note, “I am hoping that since she invited me to meet, she likely is prepared to work with me on it. Wish me luck.”
Jamie had done his best to push the thought of custody battles from his mind, yet the implications of it had seeped in and colored his day even as he deliberately refused to dwell on the issue.
Though he took the precaution of coming prepared, anyway, to win Claire over. He wanted to assure her that he posed no threat to Faith, to draw her a picture of his own childhood so she’d know his dreams for Faith’s life, too. Jamie never anticipated how intuitively she’d read him; that a handful of stories from his childhood would allow her to see into his soul.
Somehow, over just an afternoon, Claire understood what it meant to him, having Faith. The grace she’d granted to him just then, her inclusive gesture, of fitting Faith effortlessly in his family line, connecting her to his past and his future with just a handful of words.
He’d felt it all afternoon but now he knew it in his heart, Claire would help him and Faith forge their relationship, as if it was already a foregone conclusion, his place in her life and hers in his, as if it had always been there, and always would be. He knew he’d have no cause to contact Ned or any other lawyer.
The afternoon had been magical. He felt a bone deep happiness, elated in a way he’d never experienced before. Ah Dhia, what had he done to deserve such welcome acceptance from Claire and his daughter? Overwhelmed, Jamie did what came naturally to him and, closing his eyes and sent up a prayer, the Gaelic words spilling quietly from his lips, calming to his racing thoughts.
As Claire came back into the room to see what had been keeping Jamie, she noticed he’d not moved from his place on the couch. He was murmuring something in Gaelic, a language she heard often enough but understood only a little. She didn’t need to know the language to recognize a benediction.
Her heart did a skitter step and her throat closed tight with an answering pull lower down. She’d been trying to ignore her body’s response to him since hearing his lovely deep voice with its rolled “Rs” on the phone.
Claire had spent any number of nights worrying herself about what Faith’s father would be like. The Jamie she read about online and in the archives, at least on the surface, had a lot of appeal. As the mother of a daughter, a surgeon in a male dominated field, she couldn’t help wondering what kind of man he would be and praying he would be a good man, the kind of man who would support a daughter to become anything she dreamed she could be.
His chief chemist, the head of legal and his plant manager were all women, which must have raised some eyebrows, though neither the PR team nor Jamie himself had ever traded on inclusiveness or gender balance as a way to bolster corporate image. That gave her hope that he would raise their daughter to be confident and independent. He was handsome, smart, and had a self-effacing humor in interviews she’d read. In person, he was all of those things and more. Seeing him with Faith had touched her in ways she could never have imagined. He had a good heart, of that she was certain.
Claire had been prepared to make his meeting with Faith a good experience for both of them, she even had a box of Faith’s favorite activities set aside– new picture books, music cued on the stereo, and a train set that Faith loved but had so many pieces it was only brought out on rare days, out of line of sight but nearby just in case a little bribe or distraction had been needed to smooth the way for father and daughter.
The reality was, she needn’t have bothered. Jamie was a natural with kids and she knew he was the kind of adult who was comfortable with them, he wouldn’t need help finding things to do with Faith. Just as importantly, Faith clearly adored him. She wanted to pinch herself.
When he pulled out the photos of his family and told her a little of each one, deliberately minimizing the sorrow of their loss to emphasize the joy they gave to him during their lives, she felt the weight of all of the unknowns and what ifs inside her lift and something else fitted itself into place that lightened her heart. There was a rightness about his being here with Faith and with her that thrilled her and scared her to death.
Claire felt a little lightheaded. Once, in their medical school years, Joe Abernathy, had talked her into bungee jumping at New England Gorge. Crystal blue sky above, roaring river below. They’d strapped her into her harness, metal clips jingling, bound tight with the wide belts digging into her sensitive places, the anticipation of awaiting her turn, hearing the screams of surprise, joy and fear from the rest of the group.
Her hair whipped around her face as she stepped out on the platform, spread her arms and dove graceful as a bird, wind rushing so fast it forced tears from her eyes, the only sound the surge of air in her ears as she dropped weightless, free. The intense snap when she hit the limit of the rope, blood rushing to her head as her heart got caught between water and clouds. The relief, the thrill as her displaced body tumbled end over end sailing through the sky.
She felt exactly like that girl of long ago, giddy foot planted firmly on the ledge looking straight down, with her other foot leaping confidently into the unknown, having no idea of what came next, just standing there watching him express his thankfulness to God for the gift of his daughter. Months later she would come to recognize that this was the moment she fell head over heels in love with Jamie Fraser.
Claire processed information physically, tending to rely on her senses more than her intellect. Seeing him there, she did what came naturally to her. Jamie startled when Claire’s arms came around him. His face was tucked into her chest so he could hear her heartbeat, so his rhythms would slow to match hers. Some unconscious part of him recognized the power of her touch, understood that her intention had been to offer him the tranquility in her heart as a balm to the rawness in his.
After a moment, he brought his arms around her hips, then higher. When she felt his hands splayed across her back, she pulled him into her tightly. With both hands he managed to cover most of her back. Having set out to try and sooth him, she recognized the irony of it. It had been a long time since a man had offered her the simple comfort of a hug and she stayed for several extra heartbeats then pulled away a little, looking down on him.
“Ready to come to the table? I’m not much of a cook but you won’t starve.” She waited patiently for him to open his eyes. When he did, she smiled at him and said, “Pease?”
A lovely rumble of laughter greeted her.
“Aye, I’d love to have dinner with my lasses.”
He’d said it without thought, his expression went from tender to embarrassed in the blink of an eye. She merely tilted her head. Jamie nodded and followed her to the kitchen.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone celebrating this fine day around the world 🍀🍻🇮🇪I’m off to yoga, then my dad’s birthday lunch & then hitting Dublin’s fair city for some drunken good times….Slainte Mhaith 🍀🍻🍀🇮🇪🍀