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Her Royal Highness (H.R.H.), Part XXV (The Ring)




Part I: The Crown Equerry | Part II: An Accidental Queen | Part III: Just Claire | Part IV: Foal | Part V: A Deal | Part VI: Vibrations | Part VII: Magnolias | Part VIII: Schoolmates | Part IX: A Queen’s Speech | Part X: Rare | Part XI: Watched | Part XII: A Day’s Anticipation | Part XIII: The Location | Part XV: Motorcycle | Part XV: Cabin | Part XVI: Market | Part XVII: Stables | Part XVIII: Alarms | Part XIX: Visitor | Part XX: Cuffed | Part XXI: A Woman’s Speech | Part XXII: The Harlot Queen | Part XXIII: Rarer | Part XXIV: Balmoral & London


Her Royal Highness (H.R.H.)
Part XXV: The Ring

Time slowed in the cabin.

That was Jamie’s conclusion.

Each touch was a lifetime. The sunrises took longer, seemed more impactful. The banalities of a life – their life – existed for study (after she had carefully captured all aimlessly-wandering droplets off the whipped curves of her body, Claire was fastidious about folding her bath towel – halved lengthwise first, folded carefully over the curtain rod). His heartbeat marked time like an obedient soldier as her hand became a tool to mark him (pushing his knee to the side), to ready herself for a kiss (sweeping curls aside along a jagged deep side part), to ground her already-steady digits (resting above his heart as she lowered her mouth to his throat with a whispered “I will never tire of you”).

With each moment hanging like a ripe, ready-to-pick fruit on a too-thin branch, it was a strange sensation – to have each moment so meaningful and memorable, each revolution of the earth feeling like it took time as day-after-day fell away rapidly. It was as if the history between them – as new as it was – made each second swell until bulbous and fertile with memories, until it was tangible.

At the dawning of their first full day alone and together, Fraser settled into a chair on the front patio, making a space for his truest love – a queen, a woman, just Claire – on his flannel pajama pants-clad lap.

“Come here,” he said, quite unnecessarily as she was already approaching.

Claire plodded towards him in stocking feet, tipping her head to the side in a show of coquettishness so blatant that it made his belly stir. She hadn’t bothered with pants on the morning after her televised mea culpa – just knickers and an old chunky knit jumper she found at the back of his closet (sitting at the end of the bed as she asked for help that morning, he had rolled the impossibly-long sleeves and kissed the backs of her hands, her palms, ten fingertips, the pulse in each wrist). The crown of her head (where a literal crown frequently perched among tamed tresses, awaiting his fingers to free it) was a riotous tumble of curls. And the lazy, first fingers of morning light had painted that crown golden in a more brilliant display than any precious metal that ever rested there.

Neither had spoken much that morning, just letting blissful sighs and honeyed smiles stand in for all the words. Nothing was left to say for the moment. As she lowered herself to his lap, he felt as though the sun had come out on a rainy day.

Just seeing her, knowing that she was his.

A dhia.

Perhaps someday he would tell her that – how in this moment on the porch, he had been irrevocably, painfully in love with everything she was, ever had been, was destined to become. That she had his name, his family. The protection of his body. That as long as he lived, no one could take this from them.

Just a hair’s breadth from him, the swollen pout of her mouth was as good as a recording of the previous night. How he had thoroughly debauched her mouth with his own – tasting her, sucking her lower lip, swallowing her every sound, and feeding her his own.

Her golden head fell forward, her hand tangled in the curls at the nape of his neck, and she kissed him.

“You are a fool for loving me, James Fraser,” she mumbled against his mouth. She tasted of coffee and marmalade, each of the small hairs along the slope of her exposed neck rising as he kissed one bared clavicle reverently. “But you love me, and love me well. Your life will change forever.”

He had only one thing left to say: “Too late.”

That night, as the sun was setting with the same lazy, quicksand sink as the meandering, overweight lift of the sunrise, she rode him furiously, one hand curled around his shoulder and one flat against the side of the cabin. His hand crept beneath the sweater, pushed the fabric up and bunched it on her shoulder, lowered his mouth to the peak of her breast as he bucked up against her. He was desperate to bury himself in her, almost as if he wanted to crawl inside of her (something his sister had said years ago, that a man when making love wants to return to the womb – he had ached with laughing at her, now knew precisely her meaning). Claire cried out, losing rhythm, falling forward and spilling profanity against his unshaven throat.

After they were spent, he whispered, “Your life will change forever.”

It took a moment before she whispered, “It already has.”

Days later – they had a routine. A series of sunrises and sunsets in which they made love and ate breakfast foods. A palpably awkward afternoon where they sat on the front room’s couch like nervous teenagers as the imposing matriarch of the Murray family interrogated them about the whole thing (Claire confessing afterwards that she had never, ever felt less like Queen than when asked by Janet Murray what her intentions were with Jamie). Over forgotten chapter books, they talked about futures and pasts and moments that might be or could have been. They vowed not to break one another’s heart.

And then it was time.

Five sunrises and sunsets later, they were set to return to Balmoral.

They readied themselves next to one another in a charged silence. One where the platitude that things would change had finally taken on a meaning, where the promise of their new life was palpable.

Fraser shaved. Claire put on her earrings for the first time since he had removed them for her on that first night, manufactured a smile as she swept blush onto the apples of her cheeks, traced the cupid’s bow of her mouth with nude lip pencil (one they had tested and found to be remarkably resilient to a kiss, provided no tongues were involved), and straightened the waistband of her smart skirt suit.

“Ye forgot something.” He held out a fist, opened his fingers. The ring sat on his palm – heavy, diamonds glittering and onyx glowing. With a blushing ferocity, she took her ring, uncharacteristically mumbly as she thanked him, asked him never to remind her of what had happened again, and slipped the heavy bauble onto her slim finger. “Do ye ken the meaning of onyx?”

She looked down at the ring, her fingers stiff as she inspected the stone. “What does onyx mean, Fraser?”

He slipped behind her, arms coming to rest around her waist. “It transforms negative energy. It’s a hopeful stone. It helps one walk through life as the master of her own future.”

In the mirror, he could see that her lower lip trembled a little. Her eyes narrowed, wet along the lower lash line as she asked, “Is that true?”

“Aye, through the stone, ye can draw strength to lead the life ye want.” Humming, she kissed the corner of his mouth. “Do ye ken the meaning of a pearl, a nighean?”

“Well, Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drank it to make a point – that she could rule an entire empire,” Claire teased, her voice wavering a little. “But the meaning? I will venture a guess that you are about to tell me, Fraser.”

“And ye’d be right, Claire.” Her name became a tease on his tongue. It was light, sexy. It made her glow. It made her question their decision to go to Balmoral and the assumption they had made all along that they had to do anything. “A pearl is for beauty, of course, but a pearl… weel, it means new beginnings.”

He reached around her, opening his hand once more. On his palm was a simple, single strand of pearls. Somewhat irregularly shaped and interrupted by tiny golden seeded beads, they were no less beautiful than any strand she had in her collection.

“I canna give ye anything as fine as what ye already have. I ken the life that I will lead, that I willna ever be able to provide for ye, to surprise ye wi’ a bit of jewelry. But what I do have… are these.”

He heard her swallow, felt her back melt fully into his front, felt the shift of her ribs as she took a deep breath and then another.

“They’re Scotch pearls. Belonged to my mother. And now they belong to you, mo nighean donn. They’re one of the few things I have left of her. Verra precious to me. As are you, Claire.”

He kissed the top of her shoulder, her ear, and carefully fastened the necklace around her neck, fingers straying at a single errant curl along her nape. Fingers resting on the strand, her eyes met his in the mirror as she whispered, “They are beautiful.”

“Ye probably have a dozen finer–”

Turning, she shook her head and gave him a dire look, her finger pressing over his lips. “Never say that. Ever. I have a collection of all sorts of riches – diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, gold and silver, and yes… pearls too – but nothing will ever live in my heart like these do.”

She cupped his cheeks, rose onto the very tips of her toes, and gave him a chaste kiss.

“Now, take me home to Balmoral.”

* the love of @notevenjokingfic, @balfeheughlywed, @smashing-teacups, and @desperationandgin has kept me going through this story, and I owe them each a good night out on the town. <3

The latest HRH! 💜👑

I could not be more in love with this story. I love how Claire is Queen in public, and woman in private. And Claire telling Jamie the pearls are priceless to her because they came from him, I MEAN COME ON. THERE IS NO DEEPER LOVE.

I am waiting for my invite to the royal wedding.


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