Roseland Ballroom*, NYC
November 11, 1991
The blaring sounds of Red Hot Chili Peppers cut through the air of concert hall, the vibrations filling Jamie’s body. They were halfway through their set and showed no signs of letting up. He jumped up and down on the beer-soaked floor, the flannel tied around his waist bouncing, his t-shirt soaked, his red, sweat slicked curls plastered to his forehead. He let the music absorb him, closing his eyes, allowing it to take hold of his being.
Lost in himself, he hadn’t noticed that he had drifted away from his friends. Every time he opened his eyes, all he could see was the stage, the musicians, the pulsing light show. He barely took notice of the mosh pit forming near him, side-stepping slightly and using his tall, muscular build to deflect any stragglers, until he heard a shriek - barely audible above the rest of the noise - but very clearly not the shriek of a woman about to bare her breasts or throw her panties on stage.
He looked into the mosh pit, quickly trying to assess the situation. What he saw was a small woman, squatting down, trying to edge her way out of the mob of men who were pushing, pulling, and stomping with no regard for anything or anyone around them. It took him only one long stride to reach the mob. His strong arms easily shoved aside several of the revelers until he reached her.
She was looking down, clearly panicked and unsure of how to get herself out of the predicament she was currently in. Seeing no other way to get her attention over the cacophony around them, he bent forward, scooped one arm under her very round buttocks - the roundest he'd ever seen in fact - placed his other hand around her shoulder, his hand braced on her back and neatly threw her over his shoulder.
At first she was too shocked to protest, but that didn't last long. By the time Jamie had managed to weave his way through the crowd to the back of the venue, she was screeching and thrashing about, pounding her wee fists against his back. He chuckled at this as he placed her on the ground near the back of the building, holding her shoulders to steady her while she regained her bearings.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" she asked indignantly. Nobody does indignation quite like the English , he thought, smiling to himself, hearing his father's voice in his head.
"Weel I thought I was savin' your life, but if you dinna appreciate it, I'll just be on my way."
"You're welcome, anyway," he said and then, teasing, he stuck his leg out in front of him and took a bow. "James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser; your servant madam."
The gesture caused her to relax, eliciting a small smile. Her eyes searched his face, trying to decide if she could trust him. Christ, he thought, she's got the most lovely eyes. I've never seen eyes that color before. Like whisky.
"Well that's quite a lot of names to remember," she said finally. "Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp." She stuck her hand out and he grasped it, planning to give her a cordial hand shake and be on his way. But when he touched her hand, it was like a bolt of electricity, shooting through to all his nerve endings. He tried to be subtle about it but could not help giving her a quick once over. Christ. She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.
She had a wee waist line, accentuated by her cropped Ramones t-shirt. He gulped, realizing how thin the fabric was as his eyes trailed upward, briefly settling on round, perky breasts. He licked his lips subconsciously and finally settled on her face. Glowing eyes and the softest hint of freckles topped off by a large mass of rich mahogany curls that framed her face. The look in her eyes told him she had felt the same electric shock, was experiencing the same sensation through her body and his hand lingered, holding hers for a few moments, before she giggled softly and gently pulled it back.
"Well, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, it's a pleasure to meet you."
She glanced over his shoulder, nervously shifting her eyes. "I suppose I've lost my friends," she said absent-mindedly.
"Aye, as have I." He cleared his throat. "If ye like, I'll watch the rest of the concert with ye. Protect ye from roaming mosh pits."
This time she threw her head back and laughed, her curls bouncing behind her. "I suppose I do need a bodyguard. Let's go."
They headed back to the crowd. Jamie resisted the urge to grab her by the hand, but he noticed, with a small satisfaction, that she had placed her hand lightly on his back while she followed him. Suddenly, she tugged at his shirt. He stopped and turned around. "I don't want to go up front again!" She shouted. "Let's just stay back here!"
Jamie nodded and took a few steps back to join her. They stood there together, allowing themselves to be wrapped up in the music again, dancing side by side, though Jamie's wame did flips every time her arm brushed up against his. Christ man, get a hold of yourself. He glanced at her and suddenly realized that she couldn't see anything except the sweaty shirt of the man in front of them. He leaned down and shouted directly in her ear. "Ye cannae see a damn thing, can ye?" She shook her head vigorously and then lifted her hands, palms up in a shrug. "No, we cannae have that!" He squatted down in front of her, lowering his head.
She hesitated only a moment before climbing onto his strong shoulders. He stood up and suddenly the world opened around her. She had never felt such exhilaration and her stomach clenched delightfully, her senses overloaded. The lights of the stage blazed on her and she threw her hands up and screamed, completely trusting that this stranger would not let her fall. The air was even cooler up here and the oxygen itself, absent from the suffocation of all the bodies packed into one room, ripped through her and made her delightfully light-headed.
Jamie held onto her legs and laughed when she let herself go, hearing the absolute delight in her scream. He would stand like this for hours, neck aching, if it made this woman happy, her hands periodically shooting up in the air and then resting back again on the top of his head. He was keenly aware of the fact that her sex was pressed against the back of his head and he let out a groan, grateful for the roar of the crowd. She leaned her head down and shouted in his ear, "Isn't this the most amazing night ever?"
He nodded. Aye, it truly is.
After the encore, Jamie finally squatted so Claire could get down. She accomplished this as though she were playing leap frog, pushing herself off his shoulders and landing in front of him. He took the opportunity to admire her ass again; so round and plump, it was all he could do to not reach out and squeeze it. She turned around then, eyes still lit up with joy. "Thank you so much! That was just amazing." Jamie straightened up, stretching his neck involuntarily. "Oh! I've hurt you! I am so very sorry. I should have gotten down earlier."
"Dinna fash, Sassenach. I'll be fine."
They started to follow the crowd toward the exit and this time Claire grabbed his hand. He knew it was for her fear of being swallowed by the crowd, but it pleased him immensely all the same. He turned and gave her a smile and the one she returned melted his insides like hot lava. She smiled with her whole face, her eyes glowing, nose crinkled. He thought he had never seen such a beautiful sight in all his life and determined then that, in whatever short time they had left together, he would do anything to make that smile appear.
Like the sun coming out on a rainy day.
They made their way forward, a mass of bodies moving as one. As they stepped out into the cold, November air, Claire took a deep breath. Jamie turned to her then, concern covering his face, "Do you no' see your friends then?"
She shook her head. "No, I suppose they consider me a lost cause. I'm not surprised. I have a habit of wandering off."
Jamie gave a light chuckle, "I suppose I shouldn't find that a surprise wi' a lass who finds trouble as ye do." His brow furrowed and Claire could tell he was considering what to say next. "Can I see you home then?"
Claire waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it. I don't have to go very far. It will be nice to walk a bit in the cool air."
"I'll no' have you walking the streets of New York alone at night. I'll walk wi' ye." His tone was firm. He was telling, not asking.
"All right then. This way." Claire gestured with her head in the direction she wanted him to walk. Jamie casually took her hand, a subconscious gesture she was sure, and she didn't pull away.
They walked in silence for some time. The air was chilled, but it felt refreshing after the thick steamy air of the concert hall. After covering a few blocks, they both spoke at the same time.
Claire smiled shyly. "You first."
"Well, I was just thinking that I'm not ready for the night to be o'er just yet. Will ye have a drink wi' me?" His voice was casual, but Claire could see the eagerness on his face.
"Yes, that sounds lovely."
They were tucked together in a small booth near the back of a smoky, dim bar. Claire had surprised Jamie by ordering a whisky, echoing his own order. She sat closer to him than was necessary, leaning her head close to his with an intimacy that made Jamie's heart race.
"Modern language studies?" she asked, her warm smile showing genuine interest. "What does one do with that?"
"Weel," he answered, rubbing his chin in consideration. "I dinna ken yet what I'm going to do with it. But I've a talent for it, and it seems I may as well go to school for something I'm already good at."
"Really?" Her eyes sparkled with interest. "How many languages do you speak?"
"Let's see. There's the Gàidhlig, of course, I grew up wi' that alongside English. Latin, Greek, French. A wee bit of Chinese. And I'm just starting to learn Arabic, so seven I suppose," he concluded with a small shrug.
"Oh, is that all?" she replied, suppressing the desire to laugh at his causal manner. "Say something to me in one of your languages."
"Which one?" he asked, playfully swirling his glass and taking a sip.
"All right then." He paused, considering. He cleared his throat, looked directly in her eyes and spoke softly, earnestly, " Tha thu brèagha, mo nighean donn ."
Claire was still for a moment, considering. Jamie's hand was resting on the table and she put her own over it. When she spoke, it was barely a whisper, "What does that mean?
Jamie smiled at her, reaching out to push a stray curl from her face, twirling it between his fingers for just a moment before letting it go. "It's just an old Scottish saying; it doesna translate."
"Well, it sounded lovely."
He leaned in close, his lips hovering over hers, "You look verra lovely." She moved almost imperceptibly, but enough to close the gap between them. Their lips met, no hesitation or timidity. He gently prodded with his tongue until her lips parted, and she could drink him in. He placed his hand on her head and gently grabbed a fistful of her curls. Their tongues danced and Claire found her hands on Jamie's thigh, fingers digging into the firm flesh.
He pulled away first, biting his lip and breathing heavily. They stared at each other for a moment, regaining their senses. Claire broke her gaze and lifted her glass to her lips and then pulled it away, and looked at it with a frown. "Looks like ye'll need a refill," Jamie said. He took her glass from her hand, picked his up, and slid out of the booth without another word.
Claire sat back in the booth, brushing her hair from her face, steadying her breath. Who was this Jamie Fraser, anyway? He was easy on the eyes, no doubt about that, brilliant red curls on top of chiseled, Viking-like features, tall with an effortless strength. But no, that wasn't quite it. There was something about the way he looked at her, as if he truly saw her , the person she was in her most secret and sacred places. Christ, get yourself together, Beauchamp. You just met the man.
Jamie slid into the booth, handing Claire a fresh drink. "Well then," he said, taking a sip of his own drink, a crooked smile on his lips. "Ye havena told me what yer studying yet."
Claire straightened up, holding the whisky glass with both hands. "I'm pre-med at NYU."
"A doctor is it? Verra impressive." He tilted his glass in a small salute.
"A surgeon, if all goes well." She returned the gesture and sipped. Between the whisky and his nearness, her head was beginning to swim.
"I've no doubt it will," he said before clearing his throat. "And how did a Sassenach such as yerself find her way to New York?"
"Sassenach? What is that? You called me that before."
"Och, it's just a Scots word for Englishman, an outlander."
She smiled. "Well, I suppose we're both outlanders here. How long have you been living in the states?"
"My family emigrated here when I was about nine. My mother," the last word came out in a choked sound and he took a sip of his drink before going on. "My mother died the year before." His voice lowered. "There was a fire; the house was destroyed. We lost everything." Jamie felt Claire’s hand rest upon his and he flipped his hand over and intertwined their fingers. He sat up a little straighter, his voice regaining its strong timbre. "So, my father brought us here, my sister Janet and me. He and his best friend, John, bought a farm together upstate and he and his son Ian came wi' us. Ian and I were thick as thieves." He chuckled, almost to himself, and took another drink.
"Where is Ian now? Is he away at school too?" Claire asked gently.
"Och, no. The wee fool went and marrit my sister." Claire laughed at the way he pretended to act annoyed but was so obviously pleased. "They've one bairn already and another on the way." He looked at her, squinting his eyes a bit, "But now I see ye've distracted me from my original question. How did you find your way here."
Claire looked down at her glass, "England wasn’t my home. Not really. My parents died in a car accident when I was five. My Uncle became my guardian." She felt the way Jamie's thumb instinctively began to caress her hand. "He was an archeologist and we lived wherever his work took him. When I started high school, I came here for boarding school. Uncle Lamb insisted I get a proper education. Once it was time to pick a college, I found I rather liked the city, so I stayed." She said this last part with a small shrug, as if she were telling him she had walked to the park because she didn't have anything better to do.
They both emptied their glasses and Jamie looked at Claire thoughtfully. He could tell she was tired and not just a little bit drunk. She had matched him drink for drink all night, and she was but a wee thing half his size. "Weel, I ken I should get ye home now, lass. It's verra late."
They walked together, Jamie with one strong arm around Claire’s waist; the poor lass was practically asleep on her feet. After another block they arrived in front of a brownstone and Claire fumbled in her pockets for her keys. They ascended the steps to the front door and she turned to face him. "Thank you for rescuing me, Jamie. And thank you for a wonderful evening."
"Aye, it was a fine evening. I'm glad I met ye, Claire." She turned to put the key in the lock, first pushing her hair out of her face and gathering it off to one side, revealing a small glimpse of her elegant neck. She fumbled, jingling the keys, and muttered under her breath, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ." In the yellow glow of the street light, he could see her cheeks flush pink and he couldn't hold back anymore. He pulled her away from the door and stepped closer to her so that their bodies were inches apart; electricity passing between them, as if their very nerve-endings were speaking to each other. He moved toward her and then stopped himself. "I would like verra much to kiss ye, Claire. May I?"
As means of giving permission, she reached up and pulled his head down to her, tasting his mouth eagerly. "Oh god," he groaned, when she gave him a brief respite to catch her own breath. He rested his forehead against hers for just a moment, staring into the depth of her whisky eyes. "Christ, yer the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," he told her before crashing his lips into hers again.
This time, it was apparent that neither of them had any intention of stopping. Her hands were everywhere; pawing at his chest, his back, his neck. He broke away from her lips and placed his hand on the back of her neck as she emitted a rather loud "Oh!" His hands roamed, finding purchase on her waist, at her hips, and then boldly, up and under her shirt. She cried out again as his fingers found their way inside her bra. Her hands reached down, landing on his hips, pulling him in closer and he made up his mind to get her inside that apartment as soon as humanly possible.
He pulled his mouth away from hers and whispered, "Where are the keys?"