Collision Course - Part Ten
This is the last installment save for the Epilogue. I hope you all have enjoyed the ride. - Mod Lenny
Ian insisted Jamie ride out with him to look over the fields and give his opinions.
“Ian, I ken ye know what ye’re about wi’ runnin’ the estate,” Jamie finally interrupted as they sat on their horses looking out over a field of flourishing barley. “And it doesna matter that ye brought me out here away from the house and Jenny––I’m no tellin’ ye about what happened. I said I didna want to talk about it and I’m no goin’ to. It doesna matter anymore anyway. Murtagh will be back today or the next and then I’ll be off again.”
“And will ye be sending us as little word of where ye are or what ye’re about as ye did before?” Ian asked with a scolding edge that would have left Jamie feeling ashamed if he weren’t still so numb. “Whatever it is that’s happened to ye this last… it doesna excuse yer silence the last four years.”
“I told ye what Dougal told me about Jenny,” Jamie objected.
“That explains it; it doesna excuse it,” Ian clarified. “Jenny and I will take care of Lallybroch as if it were our own and ye ken that well; it’s been her home longer than it’s been yers. But I think we both deserve a bit of honesty from ye, aye? A bit more respect than what ye’ve shown.”
“Ye’re startin’ to sound like Jenny,” Jamie remarked, the corner of his mouth ticking up a fraction.
“No, Jenny would have called ye a stubborn and ungrateful arse.”
“She already did. Ye were off dealin’ wi’ Ross the smith, gettin’ him to reshoe my horse.” Jamie reached down to pat Dóchas’ neck and the horse stamped her foot and raised her head, shaking it like a nod.
Ian sat straighter in his saddle, squinting in the direction of the house. “Ye said Murtagh ought to be back today?” Ian asked, settling down again.
“Aye.” Jamie peered in the direction Ian had been looking, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.
“Was he off to fetch someone for ye?”
There were two riders slowing on the road as they approached Lallybroch’s main yard in the distance.
“Claire?” Jamie breathed, his heart breaking into an excited gallop as he turned Dóchas back the way they’d come and spurred her forward.
As soon as they entered the yard, Claire began calling for Jamie.
Murtagh dismounted and walked over to help Claire down from her horse while her eyes scanned the windows of the large stone building––Lallybroch.
“Jamie!” Claire called heading for the door.
A young boy darted out from it in front of her soon followed by a woman about Claire’s own age, shorter and her hair darker and sleeker.
“Get back inside ye wee––” Jenny scolded her son before spotting Claire and stopping abruptly in her pursuit. “Oh… And… who might you be?” Suspicion lay heavy in her voice and she crossed her arms over her chest.
“I’m looking for Jamie,” Claire said quickly, her attention flitting from Jenny to the child to Murtagh where he had already unpacked her medicine box and had the horses by the reins, leading them toward the stables. “My name is Claire… Claire Fraser.”
“Fraser?” Jenny’s suspicion visibly turned to bewilderment and her focus shifted from Claire to Murtagh.
“Are you Jenny? You are. You’re his sister, aren’t you?” Claire said desperately and with relief as she stepped forward. “Where is he? Where’s Jamie?”
“And you, Murtagh,” Jenny said loudly, ignoring Claire and getting Murtagh to stop and face her. “Where do ye think ye’re sneakin’ off to? Is this lass… is she sayin’ she’s Jamie’s wife?”
From the other side of the yard came the sounds of two horses approaching and Jamie’s loud cries of, “Claire!”
“Jamie?!” Claire screamed trying not to trip over her skirts as she ran towards the noise.
“Claire!” Jamie cried as he was off Dóchas before the horse had come to a safe stop.
As Claire threw herself into Jamie’s arms, the rest of the world fell away. Tears of joy and relief streamed down her cheeks and soaked into his coat where she buried her face. She could feel him murmuring her name in disbelief into her hair as they took a few moments to just soak each other in.
“Why, Claire?” Jamie finally asked pulling back from her to look at her face. She could see the wetness in his eyes, the confusion and the relief. “Why did ye no go?”
“I couldn’t,” she said simply, raising a hand to cup his cheek. His eyes fluttered shut as he leaned into her touch.
“I’m sorry, lass,” he whispered.
“What? No, I didn’t mean… I meant I couldn’t leave you––I didn’t want to. I was there with Frank at the stones but when the moment came… I couldn’t make myself do it. I chose to stay here… I choose you,” she murmured, her hand slipping back into his hair, taking a firm hold.
“Me? Ye mean…”
She swallowed hard against the butterflies crawling their way up from her stomach. “I love you,” she whispered.
There was a flicker in Jamie’s glistening eyes that might have been surprise before he bent his forehead to hers. “And I… love you,” he whispered back, then rubbed the tip of his nose down the length of hers before kissing her in a way that made every hair on her body stand on end as it shivered through her down to her toes.
They gradually became aware of Murtagh clearing his throat loudly. He gave Jamie a nod towards Jenny and Ian before turning to continue bringing the horses to the stables, his beard barely concealing his satisfied smile.
“Would ye care to introduce us?” Jenny suggested with unveiled impatience. Ian made a noise of embarrassment or rebuke beside her.
“Right,” Jamie started out of his reverie. He gently slipped his hand into Claire’s, twining their fingers together tightly as he led her over to his family. “Jenny… Ian… This is Claire… my wife. I told ye about Jenny, Sassenach; Ian is her husband. We were lads together––and fought in France just after my Da passed.”
Claire reached a hand towards Ian who glanced briefly at Jamie before shaking it and nodding a welcome to Claire.
“And you’re expecting,” Claire nodded down to Jenny’s belly where the subtle swell could still easily be overlooked. It quickly became apparent that Jamie hadn’t noticed. “When are you due?”
“No till after the harvest comes in,” Jenny admitted, flushing under Jamie’s stunned gaze. “Come inside wi’ ye then. Ye’ve been on the road some time, I can see. Will do ye good to be able to wash and get something warm in yer belly. When ye’ve had a chance to settle, perhaps you can tell us a bit about where ye come from and just how ye come to be married to Jamie here.”
Jamie showed Claire up to his rooms and stayed with her while she tidied herself and they devised a story that would hopefully satisfy Jenny and Ian. Over an early supper and with Murtagh contributing through nods and grunts of confirmation, Jamie and Claire fumbled their way through as much of the truth as they dared share. The circumstances of Claire’s arrival at Leoch and surrounding their wedding remained intact.
“We stumbled on some Red Coats––likely those searching for the deserters I’d… disposed of,” Jamie explained, looking to Claire for support. “It was chance as much as anything that Captain Randall wasna among them when we met them but we figured it was likely just a matter of time before word reached him of meeting us and the bodies of the deserters were discovered.”
“We were afraid that the Captain would see it as an opportunity to be seized––pin more crimes on Jamie and take me in as well as some sort of accomplice,” Claire said, her nerves making her talk faster than usual.
“I told her she go to her late husband’s family, that they’d likely be better able to protect her than I could if the price on my head grew… So I left her behind wi’ Murtagh to see her off. I thought it would be safer should I go and perhaps draw the Red Coats after me.”
“But when it came down to it… I don’t know them to trust them and… Jamie’s my husband now. Where he goes, I go,” Claire explained, her focus rooted in Jamie’s eyes.
They were too absorbed in each other to notice the looks Jenny and Ian exchanged across the table. From the set of Jenny’s mouth, it was obvious that she didn’t believe a fraction of the tale they told. But glancing back from the Laird and his Lady to her own husband, Jenny’s expression softened to match Ian’s.
Jamie was an entirely different man from the one he’d been that morning. The cloud that had hung about him since he’d reappeared was gone; there was a light in his eyes and she couldn’t recall the last time she’d seen him smile so much––possibly not since their brother had been alive. There was a similar light in this woman’s––Claire’s––face when she looked at Jamie. Whatever they were hiding, Jenny decided it didn’t matter; what mattered to her was that her brother was home and happy, even if he would be leaving again soon.
Jamie and Claire retired to their room shortly after supper, pleading Claire’s need to rest and recover from her journey––returning from Craigh na Dun had taken half as long in Claire’s eagerness to be with Jamie again.
The door had only just closed behind them before they were in each other’s arms again, tugging at clothes and moving naturally toward the bed. The mattress was suddenly there pressing against the backs of Claire’s legs. She sat and hitched one leg up on the frame so that her skirts started falling away as she reached for Jamie’s belt. His arousal was already prominent beneath the soft, worn wool of his kilt. He took hold of her wrists and stalled her.
“No, Claire.” His voice was low and rough. “No like this. I’ll have ye naked.” Letting her wrists go, he set to work loosening the knot at the top of her bodice. She leaned back on the bed and succumbed to the feel of his hands working over her as he slowly stripped away each layer she wore.
As her last petticoat fell, she moved to stand reaching for the clasp of his belt once more. “Now you,” she told him. From the belt she moved to the buttons of his waistcoat, smoothing the fabric down his torso with her hands first.
At last, Jamie raised Claire’s shift up and over her head then reached up and pulled the pins and ties from her hair until he could bury his fingers in it. She caught his wrist as he traced the curl of one thick tendril from root to tip. Turning his wrist around, her thumb found the freshly healed scar from where Dougal’s blade had sliced the skin. The line it made was clean compared to the rough scabs of the scratches and scrapes from his accident in the woods.
“Blood of my blood,” Claire said quietly, tracing the fine line.
Jamie brought that same hand to her chin, his thumb running along the line of her jaw as her fingers continued to massage the flesh of his wrist and hand.
“Bone of my bone,” he whispered in response before bending to kiss her.
His hands were eager as they ran down the soft curves of her body before tightening around her waist and lifting her off the ground. She clung tight to his back as he bore her down on the bed, settling between her legs but keeping his weight on his forearms on either side of her.
She trailed her fingers up and down his spine, delighting as he shivered. The heat from his body––balanced so carefully above hers but barely skimming her surface––enveloped her and penetrated her, warming her bones as she was aware of the solid heaviness of him between her legs.
“I give you my body,” she whispered, spreading her legs wider and arching towards him, gasping as he pressed back against her and filled her. “That we two may be one,” she finished, her voice fainter than before.
Jamie caressed her cheek while staying still as long as he could within her. “I give ye my spirit,” he whispered, his eyes locked on hers while tracing the shape of her ear and then from her earlobe down along her neck, “till our life shall be done.”
He started to move as he bent his head to kiss her again, capturing her sigh before it could leave her lips.
“Ye’re mine,” he told her, punctuating the statement with a deep rock into her. “Mine alone… mine forever.”
“Yes,” Claire panted in agreement, her fingers digging into the firm, tight flesh of his lower back, her legs twining with his.
“My wife… my Sassenach,” Jamie grunted, his pace increasing as he drove himself harder and Claire’s hands drifted lower to the flexing muscles of his buttocks, her fingernails digging hard enough to leave marks.
“Yes,” she panted again.
“Mo nighean donn… mo chridhe… mo graidh,” he continued in Gaelic.
“Yes… And what about… you?” she sighed. “Who… do you… belong to?”
“You, Sassenach,” Jamie said, pressing his forehead to hers as he bit his lip and changed his rhythm yet again, slowing himself to stave off his release until he could bring her with him. “I’m yers… for always.”
Claire cried out as her thighs suddenly clenched around his hips, trapping him deep within her as her self shattered and scattered, leaving her trembling next to the exposed rawness of Jamie’s shattered self. She saw only him looking deep into the very soul of her as the throbbing pulse of their bodies synchronized from the blood in their veins to the breath in their lungs.
The sweat began to cool on her breasts and stomach sending a shuddering chill through her flesh.
This was why she couldn’t go, what she needed so desperately it was worth sacrificing everything and everyone she’d known in her time. It couldn’t be explained, it could only be experienced, and she’d only ever experienced it with Jamie. The recognition in his eyes, the understanding…
Claire raised her head without taking her eyes off of him until her lips met his, tender and warm, a little wet as his tongue darted out to taste her.
“I love you.”
“Tha gaol agam ort.”