Archives for the Date March 8th, 2020

One Summer, Part XX (Sawny & Ellen)

missclairebelle:

Most of you have been so patient and kind in the delay between chapters. I’m having a very difficult time at work right now, and I haven’t been able to find much of a work-life balance. I know that it is important, but saying “no more” is easier said than done when you have a professional responsibility/ethical obligation to clients. I am hoping to get more regular about updates again with this one and to see it through to the end. This was a difficult chapter to write, and likely will be a difficult one to read.

Part I (Adso), Part II (Dislocated), Part III (Entryway), Part IV (Pizza & Beer), Part V (Croissants & Coffee), Part VI (SMS), Part VII (Desktop), Part VIII (Sunday Sunflowers & Sundresses), Part IX (Caught Out), Part X (Netflix & Advil), Part XXI (Ben Nevis & Loch Lomond), Part XII (Non-Negotiable), Part XIII (Same), Part XIV (Toothbrushes & Eyeglasses), Part XV (Renovation & Dresser Drawers), Part XVI (Letters & Mattresses), Part XVII (London & Broch Mordha), Part XVIII (British Airways & Kittens), Part XIX (Airports & Antigua)

(AO3 link)

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One Summer
Part XX: Sawny & Ellen

Sunday.

Jamie wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to get off of his back.

That last moment, watching her measured steps as she walked down his front drive with her posture drawn tight, had almost killed him.

Somehow, he made it upstairs, crawled into bed with his shoes still on, and pulled the duvet up under his chin.

He had been through a battle with her, taken her blow, perhaps landed one or two himself, and retreated before either could take a kill shot.

Claire Beauchamp.

“I…” she had said, voice fading.

“Goodbye,” he finished for her.

The only woman who he had ever loved (without the connection of blood) was gone.

Something about this goodbye (wind whipping over her shoulders like it was carving worn slopes into steel) convinced him it wasn’t a farewell for only a week or two.

Not even for a month.

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📚Excerpt From

The Fiery Cross

Diana Gabaldon📚

“How say ye, Mac Dubh? Heads or tails?”

Jamie wiped his mouth on his sleeve and smiled. Hairy as the rest, he looked a proper Viking, with the fire glinting red, gold, and silver from his sprouting beard and loosened hair.

“Nay bother, lads,” he said. “I’ll sleep warm enough nay matter how I’m laid.” He tilted his head in my direction, and there was a general rumble of laughter, with a spattering of mildly crude remarks in Scots and Gaelic from the Ridge men.

One or two of the new recruits eyed me with a brief, instinctive speculation, quickly abandoned after a glance at Jamie’s height, breadth, and air of genial ferocity. I met one man’s eyes and smiled; he looked startled, but then smiled back, ducking his head in shyness.

How the hell did Jamie do that? One brief, crude joke, and he’d laid public claim to me, removed me from any threat of unwanted advances, and reasserted his position as leader.

“Just like a bloody baboon troop,” I muttered under my breath. “And I’m sleeping with the head baboon!”

“Baboons are the monkeys with no tails?” Fergus asked, turning from an exchange with Ewald about the horses.

“You know quite well they are.” I caught Jamie’s eye, and his mouth curled up on one side. I knew what he was thinking, and he knew I did; the smile widened.

Louis of France kept a private zoo at Versailles, among the inhabitants of which were a small troop of mandrill baboons. One of the most popular Court activities on spring afternoons was to visit the baboon quarters, there to admire both the sexual prowess of the male, and his splendidly multicolored bottom.

One M. de Ruvel had offered—in my hearing—to have his posterior similarly tattooed, if it would result in such a favorable reception by the ladies of the Court. He had, however, been firmly informed by Madame de la Tourelle that his physique was in every way inferior to that of the mandrill, and coloring it was unlikely to improve matters.

The firelight made it difficult to tell, but I was reasonably sure that Jamie’s own rich color owed as much to suppressed amusement as to heat.

“Speakin’ of tails,” he murmured in my ear. “Have ye got those infernal breeks on?”

“Yes.”

“Take them off.”

“What, here?” I gave him a wide-eyed look of mock innocence. “You want me to freeze my arse off?”

His eyes narrowed slightly, with a blue cat-gleam in the depths.

“Oh, it wilna freeze,” he said softly. “I’ll warrant ye that.”

He moved behind me, and the fierce shimmer of the blaze on my flesh was replaced by the cool solidness of his body. No less fierce, though, as I discovered when he put his arms round my waist and drew me back against him.

“Oh, you found it,” I said. “How nice.”

“Found what? Had you lost something?” Roger paused, coming from the horses with a lumpy roll of blankets under one arm, his bodhran under the other.

“Oh, just a pair of auld breeks,” Jamie said blandly. Under cover of my shawl, one hand slid inside the waistband of my skirt. “D’ye mean to give us a song, then?”

“If anyone likes, sure.” Roger smiled, the firelight ruddy on his features. “Actually, I’m meaning to learn one; Evan’s promised to sing me a silkie-song his grannie knew.”

Jamie laughed.

“Oh, I ken that one, I think.”

One of Roger’s eyebrows shot up, and I twisted slightly round, to look up at Jamie in surprise.

“Well, I couldna sing it,” he said mildly, seeing our amazement. “I ken the words, though. Evan sang it often and again, in the prison at Ardsmuir.

It’s a bit bawdy,” he added, with that faintly prim tone that Highlanders often adopt, just before telling you something truly shocking.

Roger recognized it, and laughed.

“I’ll maybe write it down, then,” he said. “For the benefit of future generations.”

Jamie’s fingers had been working skillfully away, and at this point, the breeks—which were his, and thus about six sizes too large for me—came loose and dropped silently to the ground. A cold draft whooshed up under my skirt and struck my newly bared nether portions. I drew in my breath with a faint gasp.

“Cold, isn’t it?” Roger hunched his shoulders, smiling as he shivered exaggeratedly in sympathy.

“Yes, indeed,” I said. “Freeze the balls off a brass monkey, wouldn’t it?” Jamie and Roger burst into simultaneous coughing fits.

SENTRY IN PLACE and horses bedded down, we retired to our own resting place, a discreet distance from the circle by the fire. I had dug the largest rocks and twigs out of the leaf mold, cut spruce branches, and spread our blankets over them by the time Jamie finished his last round of the camp. The warmth of food and fire had faded, but I didn’t begin to shiver in earnest until he touched me.

I would have moved at once to get under the blankets, but Jamie still held me. His original intent appeared intact—to say the least—but his attention was momentarily distracted. His arms were still clasped round me, but he was standing quite still, head up as though listening, looking into the murk of the wood. It was full dark; no more showed of the trees than the glow of fire reflected from the few trunks that stood nearest the camp—the last shadow of twilight had faded, and everything beyond was a depthless black.

“What is it?” I drew back a little, pressing instinctively against him, and his arms tightened round me.

“I dinna ken. But I do feel something, Sassenach.” He moved a little, lifting his head in restless query, like a wolf scenting the wind, but no message reached us save a distant rattling of leafless branches.

“If it’s no rhinoceroses, it’s something,” he said softly, and a whisper of unease raised the hairs on the back of my neck. “A moment, lass.”

He left me, the wind blowing suddenly cold about me with the loss of his presence, and went to speak quietly with a couple of the men.

And what might he feel, out there in the dark? I had the greatest respect for Jamie’s sense of danger. He had lived too long as hunter and as hunted, not to sense the edgy awareness that lay between the two—invisible or not.

He returned a moment later, and squatted beside me as I burrowed shivering into the blankets.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I’ve said we’ll have two guards tonight, and each man to keep his piece loaded and to hand. But I think it’s all right.” He looked beyond me, into the wood, but his face now was merely thoughtful.

“It’s all right,” he repeated again, more certainly.

“Is it gone?”

He turned his head, his lips curling slightly. His mouth looked soft, tender and vulnerable amid the stiff, ruddy wires of his starting beard.

“I dinna ken if it was ever there, Sassenach,” he said. “I thought I felt eyes upon me, but it could have been a passing wolf, an owl—or nay more than a restless spiorad, a-roaming in the wood. But aye, it’s gone now.”

He smiled at me; I saw the flicker of the light that rimmed his head and shoulders as he turned, silhouetted by the fire. Beyond, the sound of Roger’s voice drifted to me above the crackle of the fire, as he learned the melody of the silkie-song, following Evan’s voice, hoarse but confident. Jamie slid into the blankets beside me and I turned to him, cold hands fumbling to return the favor he had done me earlier.

We shivered convulsively, urgent for each other’s warmth. I found him, and he turned me, ruffling up the layers of fabric between us, so that he lay behind me, his arm secure around me, the small secret patches of our nakedness joined in warmth beneath the blankets.

I lay facing the darkness of the wood, watching the firelight dance among the trees, as Jamie moved behind me—behind, between, within—warm and big, and so slowly as scarcely to rustle the branches beneath us.

Roger’s voice rose strong and sweet above the murmur of the men, and the shivering slowly stopped.

📚Excerpt End📚

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