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It's All My Fault That I'm Still the One You Want

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There was a going away party for Jamie two months after he had officially accepted his place at Harvard. Claire didn’t go. She had already said her goodbye the day she moved out of his apartment. There was no use in delaying the inevitable. Jamie was leaving for at least the next three years. Claire was too good at withdrawing and ignoring problems to make distance work for that long, and she refused to have anything less with Jamie. It was better to just stay out of his life and try to move on, if such a thing were even possible.

Jenny gave her a little bit of hell for it, but she eventually understood. Or she at least decided to keep her thoughts to herself. Claire hadn’t been back to Jenny’s apartment or Broch Turach since she and Jamie had broken up and Jenny hadn’t been pleased. But she was appeased now that Jamie was gone and she’d promised to be around more.

Even while her heart was broken, Claire’s body was starting to feel more like normal. She was still sore a lot of the time, but she could mostly function normally. She had gone back to work part time another month after she’d moved out. She wasn’t seeing very many patients, but she was finally able to catch up on her administrative duties. After nearly 2 months off, Claire was a little surprised that she still had a job to go back to. The Royal London had (ironically) never heard of sick leave. Here, however, Mary had a good enough handle on things that she had the board’s blessing to take as much time as she needed to recover. Claire wondered what her life would look like if the Royal London had given her the same considerations after her uncle’s death 4 years ago.

Even putting only about a third of her normal hours in, Claire tried her best to fall back into work. But she never shook the feeling that there was something missing. She remembered Jamie’s question, if she would make the same choice she’d forced on him. Claire wasn’t entirely sure, despite what she’d told him. Being a doctor was the calling of Claire’s life. She wouldn’t choose anything over that, but there were hospitals everywhere. Claire tried to put that line of thought out of her head. She’d made her choices, and Jamie had made his.

Joe and Geillis let her return to work, but they also watched her like a hawk. She wasn’t to go over twenty hours for the first few weeks, then Geillis would slowly allow her to return full time.

Just full time,” Geillis warned, “No more 70-hour weeks for you.”

“You know I’m technically your boss, right,” Claire had teased.

“Aye, and I dinna wanna get a new one because ye drop dead,” Geillis had replied not teasing at all. That sobered Claire a little. She had read her own file and she hadn’t gotten the impression that things had been that dire, but she was hardly an objective observer. Claire’s case was also Geillis’ specialty. If she’d seen something more dangerous, who was Claire to argue?

Normally the first in line, but Claire wasn’t interested in any more hospital stays or worrying her friends. She and Joe had found relative peace, but she still replayed their fight over and over in her head. He’d called her selfish and guarded, unconcerned with how her actions affected other people. He had been right. Claire thought for so long that having no family meant that she was alone, but that hadn’t been the case since before medical school. Before she knew Joe. It certainly hadn’t been the case since before Edinburgh. So if Claire had to work most of her hours from home to appease her friends, so be it.

It was also all of those friends that were getting her through her breakup. Jenny and Geillis had done a remarkable job of not taking sides or mentioning Jamie. Joe, surprisingly, had a harder time. He’d gone to Jamie’s going away party and somehow seemed to still be in contact with him. Joe was candid about him and Jamie being friends, but he refused to give Claire any intel on what he was up to.

“Talk to him yourself if you want to know, Lady Jane,” he chastised. Joe didn’t know how much Claire couldn’t do that. Jamie had sent her one text on the day he left.

I love you, Sassenach. That won’t, change.

Claire hadn’t responded. What was there to say? If Claire said she loved him, Jamie would have wanted to try to make it work. Claire didn’t want anything to hold him back in Boston, especially not a girlfriend 3000 miles away. A clean break was better.

There was a small part of Claire that thought Jamie could come back in three years and they’d be able to pick up where they’d left off. They had done it once before. Those three years hadn’t done anything to diminish the spark of attraction between them that had eventually grown into love. Maybe three years would come and go and Jamie would still love her just as much.

Claire’s logical brain told her that was ridiculous. Claire certainly hadn’t been the same three years after she’d met Jamie, and she couldn’t expect the same from him now. And there was a part of her that was sure Jamie would meet someone in America. The way Claire had broken his heart would be a footnote in his future happy life. That was fine. She had never thought this thing with Jamie was forever. That’s what she told herself at least.


 

Claire hit a wall about three months after Jamie left.

Geillis had started letting Claire work full time, but she was adamant that Claire not return to the same hours she’d kept before the miscarriage. It turned out that one had quite a lot of free time when they didn’t work three times what they were supposed to. And when what they did work didn’t satisfy one the way it once did. Who knew? And there was absolutely nothing for Claire to do with all that time. She was restless in her own flat. She didn’t have the energy to go out. Absolutely everything reminded her of Jamie, especially all of her friends.

And absolutely everything reminded her of her baby. Claire had woken up crying more than once with dreams of the child she’d never have. It still didn’t matter that she hadn’t ever thought about having children in more than the abstract, or that she didn’t have the financial or emotional means to raise a baby. She very much doubted doctoring and motherhood to a newborn would have mixed. She’d have to take a leave of absence and Claire wasn’t sure she knew who she was without medicine. But still…

Claire often wondered how Jamie was feeling. He had been so careful not to mention the baby around her once she left the hospital, then they broke up and hadn’t spoken at all. But in the hospital… Claire wished they had talked about it more. She hoped Jamie was talking to someone, because she certainly wasn’t and it was threatening to drag her back down.

Claire hadn’t felt this unmoored since Uncle Lamb died, and that thought was disconcerting. That depression had landed her in a three-year relationship with Frank. Claire couldn’t fall into that hole again, not when there was no one to pull her out. Jenny, Ian, and Geillis were trying, but it was too hard to see them some days. They reminded her too much of Jamie, and they were reluctant to drag her out. Claire’s physical recovery was progressing, but she still tired easily and was in pain more often than she wasn’t.

Then the day came when Jenny wouldn’t take no for an answer. Claire was equal parts grateful and annoyed. It had been a bad day, as many of them still were. Claire hadn’t felt well enough to see any patients and instead worked at her desk all day. Geillis and Joe hadn’t had a spare second to check in on her the way they usually did and Claire felt completely drained and alone by the end of the day.

Then Jenny called and roped her into making an appearance at the tavern. Claire thought she would rather eat glass. Jenny threatened to drag her to Broch Turach by the hair when Claire expressed that sentiment. Claire was absolutely certain she’d meant it, so she’d taken a quick shower and did the bare minimum of making herself presentable. She’d showed up so often in her scrubs that she was sure Jenny wouldn’t mind.

She didn’t. Claire was enveloped in a tight hug nearly the moment she was through the door. The pressure hurt something terrible, but it was so good to be touched that she hugged Jenny back just as fiercely.

“I wasna sure I’d ever see ye again,” Jenny said when they drew apart. Her tone was joking, but Claire could see the concern in her eyes. Claire had tried her best not to worry her friends, but it was clear that she hadn’t fooled anyone.

“I’m sorry,” was all Claire managed to say. Jenny shook her head and poured Claire glass of wine. Geillis must have told her to keep the hard liquor away from Claire, damn her. Claire accepted it regardless and settled on a barstool.

She and Jenny spent a few hours just catching up. It was a quiet Tuesday night and she mostly had Jenny’s undivided attention. They talked about everything and nothing and Claire couldn’t shake the sense that there was something Jenny wasn’t telling her. Something about Jamie, maybe? There was probably lots about Jamie, he had been gone several months. But Jenny seemed to be withholding something specific and Claire was feeling more on edge the longer the night wore on.

“I actually called ye down here for a specific reason,” Jenny said during a lapse in conversation.

There it is, Claire thought. A few options ran through Claire’s mind, each equally unsavory. Did Jamie have a girlfriend? That was likely enough. Jamie had a girlfriend and realized he’d never actually loved Claire at all? That was less likely, but Claire was spiraling a little bit with the several glasses of wine in her. Maybe Jamie was engaged and had decided never to come back to Scotland, Claire mused.

“You could say something,” Claire said after a few moments of just staring at Jenny.

“Well…” Jenny said slowly, “I wasna sure how to tell ye…but it didn’t seem right not to since yer my best friend…”

“Christ, Jenny, out with it,” Claire said with a slight roll of her eyes. That seemed to snap Jenny out of it. She squared her shoulders and looked Claire in the eye.

“I’m pregnant,” She said simply.

“Oh,” Claire managed. Her first reaction was relief that it had nothing to do with Jamie and the girlfriend/fiancé/wife that Claire often imagined him with. Her second reaction was absolute grief so complete that Claire was a little surprised that she didn’t fall to the ground. And then after that was incandescent happiness for Jenny. They’d never talked about it explicitly, but Claire had always gotten the sense that she and Ian were trying for children. Of course she wouldn’t have told Claire the specifics of it since the miscarriage.

Then Claire’s fourth reaction was shame that she had made Jenny afraid to share what was obviously good news. Claire took great effort to tame her grief and plaster a smile on her face. She was happy for Jenny. It just stung at the same time, but she could let herself feel that pain when she was alone. Right now her friend needed her enthusiasm.

“How far along are you?” Claire asked. Another stab of guilt hit her at Jenny’s obvious relief and tentative excitement. Now that it seemed like Claire wasn’t going to burst into tears, the leash on Jenny’s joy had loosened a little.

“Six weeks,” Jenny said, “Yer the first one we’ve told.”

“You haven’t told Jamie yet?” Claire asked. The words were out of her mouth without thinking. Claire was surprised that speaking his name out loud didn’t cause the pain she was expecting. Jenny seemed surprised too, but she did answer.

“We havena been able to get ahold of him, actually,” Jenny said carefully, “And it wasna the kind of news to share over text.”

“Right,” Claire said. She tried not to allow herself to spiral again, “Well, you know how hard grad school is. He’s probably spending all his time studying.”

Jenny snorted, “Jamie would rather do anything in the world than study.” Claire couldn’t dispute it. She knew Jamie loved linguistics, but she also knew his natural affinity for languages caused him to procrastinate. Which begged the question: if he wasn’t busy with work, where the hell was he? None of your business, Beauchamp, she thought. She didn’t mind talking about Jamie, but she didn’t want to dwell on him. Any more than she already did, that is.

“I’m sure he’ll call,” Claire said, “Now tell me everything about the baby.”

“Well, when two people love each other…” Jenny began, which sent Claire into a fit of giggles. The longer Jenny talked, the more genuine Claire’s delight grew. This was how a newly pregnant woman should behave, Claire thought. Not the way Claire had. Jenny had been bursting at the seams to tell people, but she didn’t want to share her news too soon in case something happened. Ian had already built a crib and collected more clothes than the bairn would probably wear. Jenny was worlds away from how Claire had acted when she was pregnant. Surprisingly, that gave her an odd sort of peace. At the time, Claire hadn’t had any doubts about keeping her baby a secret. She only regretted it now because of how it ended up. But Claire could tell that listening to Jenny now that she wouldn’t have been a good mother, not at this point in her life.

But she would get there. She would take time to get better, and she would have what Jenny had eventually. The thought made tears come to her eyes and Jenny stop talking immediately.

“I’m sorry,” Jenny said immediately, “I shouldna be talking to ye like this after-”

“No!” Claire said vehemently as she gripped Jenny’s hand, “I am thrilled for you. Please believe that.”

“But?” Jenny prompted.

“But,” Claire said, “I am beginning to regret every choice I’ve made in the last six months.”

“Losing the baby wasna yer fault,” Jenny said decisively as she gripped Claire’s hand tighter in sympathy.

“Maybe not,” Claire agreed. She was sure she hadn’t helped things by refusing to face reality, but it was very likely that Claire would have miscarried with or without her denial. That also wasn’t all Claire had meant, “Losing Jamie was, though.”

Jenny made a Scottish noise that Claire couldn’t translate and took a minute to collect her thoughts, “I was so mad at ye when ye starting dating,” she said finally.

“I know,” Claire said with a small, startled laugh.

“No ye dinna,” Jenny continued, “I gave Jamie hell for it. Ye hadna talked a lot about Frank, but I think a part of me kent how bad he’d been to ye.”

“He wasn’t-” all bad, Claire had been about to say.

“He was,” Jenny insisted, “Joe filled in some of the blanks. Claire, he came to ye when he kent ye were vulnerable and he wormed his way back into yer life and he made ye think ye were nothing without him. I ken Jamie loves ye, but it was too soon for ye to be getting into another relationship. It isna yer fault that things fell apart.”

“Then whose is it?” Claire asked helplessly. Claire was lucky the tavern was empty, because tears were running down her cheeks in earnest now.

“No one’s,” Jenny said, “And if Jamie kens what’s good for him, he’ll try to get ye back when he leaves Boston.”

“What if he doesn’t want me back?” Claire asked. She didn’t even bother to deny that she wanted him back, she knew her desire was written on her face.

Jenny rolled her eyes as if it was the stupidest question on earth, “Did ye never see the way he looked at ye? Of course he’ll want ye back.”

Claire still quite doubted that, but she gave Jenny a watery smile anyways, “Enough about me, talk more about the baby.” Jenny looked like she had more in her about Jamie, but she took Claire’s subject change eventually.

“Well,” Jenny said, “I wanna name him after Jamie, but Ian thinks it’ll inflate my brother’s ego too much.”

Claire laughed despite herself, “And for a girl?”

“Margaret,” Jenny said. Then she gave Claire a significant look, “Or after her godmother.”

“And who would that be?” Claire asked leadingly. Jenny gave her another fond eye roll.

“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, will ye be my bairn’s godmother?”

Claire gave a rather undignified squeal and jumped up to throw her arms around Jenny. Her body protested at the sudden exertion, but she couldn’t help it. She was more moved by the offer than she had any right to be. It was a struggle to say yes around the lump in her throat. Being a godparent… Claire couldn’t believe that someone would trust her with their child like that. Especially someone as pragmatic as Jenny. Claire was flighty, that was common knowledge.

But Jenny seemed to think she was putting down roots in Scotland, and that didn’t scare Claire as much as it once might have.


 

Jamie didn’t come home for Christmas. Claire only knew this because she was invited to Lallybroch for Hogmanay, and Claire knew Jenny wouldn’t do that to her if Jamie was going to be there.

Which again begged the question, what the hell was going on with him? None of your business, Claire thought. She was thinking that a lot lately, and it was getting harder to resist the urge to actually ask him. Jamie was still a topic people avoided around her, but Claire gathered that the only actual conversation anyone’d had with him in months was Jenny telling him she was pregnant. Now, he only sent sporadic texts to let Jenny know he was alive. Even the updates he sent to Joe dwindled. It was entirely possible Jamie was simply too busy with school, but Claire found that harder to believe as Jenny’s pregnancy started to show. Claire couldn’t imagine anything that would stand in the way of Jamie’s responsibilities to his family. Ian let it slip once that he had asked Jamie to be the baby’s godfather months ago and was still waiting on a response.

Claire almost called him at least a hundred times, but what would she say? She’d lost the right to be concerned for him and she doubted Jamie would open up to her anyways. The only thing calling him would accomplish was hurting them both, Claire was sure.

In the end, it was Jamie that called her.

She was stumbling upstairs just after midnight after spending Hogmanay with Jenny, Ian, Geillis and dozens of others in Jamie’s childhood home. She’d had a wonderful night, but her stamina wasn’t what it used to be. Geillis had given her permission to have champagne and one glass of whiskey, so she was disappointingly sober compared to everyone else she knew at the party. Once midnight had come and gone, Claire faded fast and she made her goodbyes and decided to turn in relatively early. She knew the party would go almost until dawn and it was unlikely she would be missed.

Despite going to bed early, she was unable to fall asleep. Claire tried very hard not to remember she was staying in the same room she’d shared with Jamie almost a year ago, but she couldn’t help it. Finally, she decided to get up. She walked the upstairs hall, lost in her own memories. Hours past until she saw other people start to stumble upstairs near dawn. Claire made her escape back to her own room before anyone questioned what the hell she was doing up at 5:00 in the morning.

Claire felt almost like she had summoned him when she saw his name lighting up her phone screen.

“Jamie?” Claire asked after she picked up embarrassingly fast. She heard him let out a deep breath that almost sounded like a sob but then nothing else, “Jamie, are you alright?”

“Aye,” Jamie said after a long moment where Claire felt like her heart was going to burst, “I just… wanted to wish ye a happy new year, Sassenach.” Right. 5:00 AM in Scotland would be midnight in Boston. That didn’t explain why Jamie was calling her, though.

“Are you drunk?” Claire asked.

“Yes,” Jamie said immediately and with a distinct slur Claire couldn’t believe she’d missed when he first spoke.

“Are you safe? Is there someone with you?” Claire asked, going into doctor mode. That was easier than whatever her heart was begging her to say to him.

“It’s so good to hear yer voice, Claire,” Jamie said, ignoring her question completely. This was dangerous territory and she needed to change the subject.

“You should call your sister,” Claire replied, “She’s been worried sick about you.”

“Canna,” Jamie said vaguely, “It’s too hard.”

“What is, Jamie?”

“Everything I’m missing,” he said, “And the bairn.”

“Jamie-”

“I’m sorry, Claire,” he said suddenly, “About all of it. I shouldna have let ye push me away.”

“I didn’t push you away,” Claire said more defensively than she meant to. So much for changing the subject, “I let you go.”

“What if I didna want to be let go?”

“It was six months ago, Jamie,” Claire managed after a moment, “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because I miss ye,” Jamie said as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Maybe it was. She thought about it for a moment, the possibility of Jamie back in her life. It wasn’t like he had ever left it, really. Not when she thought about him all the time.

But no. A drunk confession on New Year’s Day was no basis for a relationship. Even if Jamie felt the same way sober (which she doubted), Claire didn’t think she could do the distance. One slip up and they’d be exactly in the same place they were when they broke up. Claire couldn’t do it again, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to do it to Jamie.

But god, was she tempted.

Jamie must have mistaken her silence for a rejection, because soon he was clearing his throat and making his excuses, “I’m sorry, Claire. I dinna ken what’s gotten into me.”

“A lot of whisky, it sounds like,” She tried for a joke that fell flat.

“Aye, that’s it,” he said. Claire had offered him the excuse, but she was still a little disappointed that he’d taken it, “Goodnight, Claire. Happy New Year.”

“Jamie!” Claire said suddenly when she was sure he was about to hang up.

“Aye?” Jamie replied, and the hope in his voice almost broke her heart. There were a million things she wanted to say. I miss you too. I love you. I’m sorry I broke your heart. All of them seemed insufficient on their own, and Claire wasn’t sure she was ready to encourage whatever this was. It was entirely possible Jamie wouldn’t remember this in the morning, and Claire wasn’t sure she could take baring her soul and Jamie forgetting it.

“Happy New Year,” she settled on finally, “Call your sister.”


Much to Claire’s surprise, Jenny told her the next morning that Jamie had called her at the crack of dawn. A few hours after he had called Claire, she realized. Which meant that Jamie probably remembered what she had said to him. Did he remember what he had said to her?

She wanted to call him, but the logical part of her decided that she’d had her chance last night. She’d had the perfect chance to tell him that she still loved him, and she hadn’t taken it. Claire wanted him still, badly. But she wouldn’t go to him until she was entirely sure that she could give all of herself.

“Lady Jane?” Joe asked her a few days later when she had once again gotten lost in her own head.

“Sorry?” Claire said. They were sitting together in her office going over their tough cases from the week, but it was clear that Claire’s heart wasn’t in it. She didn’t have any tough cases because she hasn’t seen a patient since before Christmas. And she hadn’t been listening to Joe. Again.

Joe frowned at her, “You look like you’re a million miles away. What’s going on?”

“Nothing, sorry,” Claire replied, “Mrs. Fitz’s iron deficiency, right?”

“LJ…” Joe said carefully, “I know things have been a little tense between us, but you know I’ll always be your best friend, right? You can tell me anything.” Claire regarded him for a moment. She knew he was being sincere, but she also knew Joe had strong opinions on how she’d handled everything. Or how she hadn’t handled it, she amended. But still… she had promised no more secrets.

“Jamie called me,” Claire said.

“No shit?” Joe asked, his eyes widening enough that Claire let out a laugh.

“On New Year’s,” she continued, “It was… confusing.”

“Confusing how?”

“He was drunk, for one thing,” Clare said, “And he apologized and said he missed me.” She told him exactly what Jamie had said, as well as she remembered it. She had been so shocked that he had called her at all some of it was kind of a blur. What had been going through Jamie’s head that he thought he had to apologize to her? And, Christ, Claire hadn’t even apologized to him. In her defense, it had been 5:00 in the morning, but she had still left so much unsaid.

“Hmm,” Joe murmured when she was done. He looked away from her for a moment and typed something on his computer; probably ending whatever case file he was working on, then he looked back at her.

“What?” Claire demanded.

“Do you miss him?”

“Of course I do,” Claire said, “But we still have all the same problems we did six months ago.”

“The problems that aren’t actually real?” Joe asked half-jokingly.

“They’re real for me,” Claire said as she crossed her arms.

“Okay, yes they’re real,” Joe admitted, “But they can also be worked on.”

“What if I’m not ready to do that work?” Claire asked.

Joe had the nerve to roll his eyes at her, “Lady Jane, I have never known you to be afraid of work.”

“This is different,” Claire insisted, “I just don’t think I can do my work here and have a successful long-distance relationship.”

“Then don’t do long distance,” Joe said with a shrug, as if it was the most obvious solution.

“Are you missing the part where he lives in Boston and I live in Scotland?”

“Look,” Joe said. He turned his laptop towards her where a job posting was pulled up at Boston General. Claire’s breath caught. It was the head of general surgery, basically the job Joe had here. But the pay was a lot better. And it was in Boston.

“You’re insane,” Claire said, but the gears were already turning in her head.

“Am I?” Joe asked smugly, “I thought of you the moment I heard they were hiring, but I didn’t think you’d be interested. But Boston General was on your short list right out of med school.”

“And they didn’t want me,” Claire reminded him.

“That was before you were the head of the trauma department here.”

“And got fired from the Royal London,” Claire continued. She was talking mostly to herself, trying to get her own hopes under control. She could be a doctor just as easily in Boston as anywhere else, and she was a good deal more impressive now than she had been in medical school.

But were still a million reasons not to pursue a job in Boston. She could be a doctor there, but she also loved her job here. Even if Jamie took her back, he wouldn’t always live in Boston. And where would that leave her? It wasn’t a good look to leave her job after only year and then try to come back. But still… Jamie had said he missed her. That had to mean something.

“Lady Jane,” Joe said, “Can I be really honest with you for a second?”

“Please,” Claire said.

“I have watched you put your career before everything and anyone since the day we met,” he began, “And you are a great doctor. But you can be a great doctor without sacrificing everything else.”

“I probably won’t get it,” Claire said, but she knew she was grasping at straws.

“You’ll never know if you don’t apply,” Joe said gently.

Claire bit her lip, considering. There was no harm in applying, she knew that. But something like this was the antithesis of everything Claire was. Leaving a job she loved for a man she wasn’t even sure would take her back? And Edinburgh didn’t just have her job. All her friends were here now. She was going to be a godmother, for god’s sake. She had only just recently started thinking of Edinburgh as her home, was she really ready to uproot herself? It wouldn’t be forever, she thought, Just until Jamie graduates.

“Claire,” Joe said seriously. She couldn’t recall the last time he had used her real name, “Jamie loves you, but we both know he won’t wait forever.” If they were being honest, Jamie shouldn’t still be waiting now. But it seemed like he was, and Claire could feel her carefully constructed walls start to crumble. Joe could see it too

“You’ll have to interview in person, you can talk to him about it,” he continued, “But until then… Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?”

Claire hesitated one second more before turning back to her own computer. She pulled up Boston General’s website and read the job posting. Before she could talk herself out of it, she clicked apply.