3 year ago
“Claire, if you walk out that door don’t bother coming back.”
The words had been ringing in her ears since she’d left Frank less than 24 hours ago. Claire had left him in London. And now here she was, in the Scottish Highlands. She was taking a week off up north before she traveled back to her internship in Edinburgh.
She was 25 and had just finished medical school. She’d spent the past 2 years making rounds at the Royal London Hospital. It was where she was continuing as a resident-in-training after the summer. After the summer where one of her professors had recommended her for a UK-wide exchange program in Edinburgh. It was a great opportunity, one that Claire had jumped at.
She’d fallen in love with Scotland when she’d studied a semester in Glasgow in undergrad and she’d been itching to return. Unfortunately, her studies didn’t allow a vacation and she had to work during the summer to save for the next year. It had been exhausting and Claire wouldn’t have really used time off for anything other than sleeping anyways, let alone traveling and sightseeing. But that was over now. She had graduated medical school near the top of her class and finally earned herself a paid position at one of England’s best teaching hospitals. The summer stretched out blissfully in front of her, but Claire never really knew what to do with idle time. So when the internship in Edinburgh came across her radar and one of her favorite professor’s urged her to apply…
She’d applied without even talking to Frank about it. Then she accepted the offer with just a passing comment to her boyfriend of a year. He hadn’t taken it well. They’d fought about how Claire wasn’t making any time for him. She’d shot back that it wasn’t her fault his graduate program in history was mostly done from home while hers’ also meant nights and weekends away from him. Of course she didn’t like it (when the reality was she sort of did), but it was her career. Her dream. Yes, he’d replied, I understand your career. But these four months of summer were going to be her last break for the foreseeable future and she couldn’t even give him that. So he’d told her, if you take this internship we’re over. Claire hadn’t even hesitated.
Claire, if you walk out that door don’t bother coming back.
She was feeling quite a bit less sure of herself now that she was alone and more than a little tipsy in the Inverness pub she’s stumbled into. Frank hadn’t been right to give her an ultimatum, but Claire should have told him about the program before she’d been accepted and decided to go. They’d been together more than a year and she knew this was more than a passing fling. Even if she wasn’t quite ready to love him yet, Frank loved her. For someone like Claire, an orphan with very few friends and one sickly uncle, that meant quite a lot.
She was fighting the urge to call him when the bartender gave her a third pint of Guinness. She gave him a grateful smile. He was going to be getting a very good tip. She needed the drinks even if she didn’t need an enabler to the pathetic groveling she was now considering. She was just about to give into it when she heard a distinct voice behind him.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, is that ye?”
Claire turned around and was faced with none other than Jenny Fraser.
“Jenny?” she gasped as the woman in question threw her arms around Claire, “God, it’s been years.”
“4 years,” Jenny confirmed. Claire stood up from her bar stool in an attempt to make the embrace less awkward, but in her inebriated state she did just about the opposite and then they were laughing together, “What’re ye doing here?”
“I’m doing an internship for the summer in Edinburgh,” Claire said, “I thought I’d see some of the sights before I start.”
“And ye didna think to call me?” Jenny asked. Claire looked at the ceiling guiltily because honestly she hadn’t. Jenny and Claire had met when she was doing her semester at Jenny’s university in Glasgow. Jenny’s business degree didn’t overlap much with Claire’s pre-med program, but they’d found enough free time to tear through the clubs of the city with Jenny’s childhood friend, Geillis Duncan and her boyfriend, Ian. Geillis had also been pre-med (she wanted to be an obstetrician, Claire recalled) and Claire hadn’t thought to give her a call either. She wondered if Geillis was graduating this year as well. Was there a chance they’d be working together in Edinburgh, or had she stayed in Glasgow?
“Never mind,” Jenny said as she interrupted Claire’s train of thought, “I’ll forgive ye if ye buy the next round of drinks.”
That’s how things were with Jenny. She was easy to anger but also quick to grant forgiveness with a well-timed apology. This apology consisted of Claire buying (and drinking) three rounds of tequila shots. By the time Jenny suggested the fourth, they were the best of friends once again. Jenny lived in Edinburgh now with her brother, Jamie, and was just up north to deal with some matters at her family farm of Lallybroch. Her father wasn’t doing well and it was looking like they were going to have to sell the property. Claire offered her condolences but Jenny brushed them off.
“We ken this was coming. Da’s been running things alone since Jamie decided he wanted to go to university. We ken it couldn’t go on forever. We’re all resigned to it.”
James Fraser (Jamie, to Jenny) was a 21 year old freshman studying linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. He’d put off his studies for a few years now to help his father at Lallybroch and save money, but Brian Fraser wouldn’t let him put things off any longer. His children were simply not farmers, and Brian Fraser had made his peace with it. So he was moving in with the Murrays and whatever money they made from selling the land would be distributed between father and children.
Jenny was using her share to start up a pub in the heart of the city. Claire wished her well and soon Jenny was dragging her back to Lallybroch and inviting other people over.
“Ian will be so happy to see ye,” Jenny gushed as she snapped a picture for him. Claire didn’t doubt it. She loved Jenny’s boyfriend and he was rather fond of her. He didn’t join them in their clubbing adventures often, but when he did… Claire wanted a kind of love like that. She’d witnessed often enough how he’d watched Jenny rage and rant until she tired herself out before calmly explaining all the things she’d misunderstood and the mistakes she’d made, always with kindness. Claire envied it. He rolled his eyes fondly at her antics, but very rarely put her down. There were times where it seemed like all Frank ever did was criticize her. And just like that she was thinking about Frank again.
“What’s wrong?” Jenny asked her. Dammit. It seemed like Jenny’s intuition hadn’t dimmed in the 4 years since they’d seen each other.
“My boyfriend and I broke up,” she confessed, “He said if I took this internship, it was over. And here I am.”
“Fuck him,” Jenny replied simply. She signaled the bartender for another shot. The night was fuzzy after that.
Claire often wondered how in the fuck she was back here again. Almost the exact same position three years later.
This time was worse. Frank hadn’t broken up with her. Instead, he’d begged her to make a different choice. He told her he loved her, the engagement ring on her finger proved that, and that he knew she was pushing him away because she was scared. That was fair enough, but the job in Edinburgh was too good to not even go to the interview.
“I will be back in 2 weeks,” Claire promised as she kissed him gently. “There’s no point in fighting over a job I don’t even have yet.”
“Dammit, Claire, that isn’t the point,” he retorted. And he was right. But this was different. She wasn’t doing this to get away. She was a different woman than she’d been three years ago. She had no one now save for Frank. Her uncle was dead, dead like her parents. Her only family was gone, and Claire wouldn’t stay in London for just one man, even one she was in love with. Getting this job could mean her entire career. She loved her job as a trauma surgeon in London, but her career would never advance there. Any hospital worth its reputation ran on tradition and nepotism. All Claire had was being a damn good doctor.
She was running on three years of being a damn good doctor and her career going nowhere despite it. Then Geillis Duncan called her. There were 2 administrative openings at the hospital she’d interned at (albeit briefly. She shuddered at the memory of what cut her internship short), and would Claire interview?
It worked out almost too perfectly from there. She’d be interviewing as assistant head of the trauma department. Her partner and best friend, Joe Abernathy, was independently applying there for the assistant chief of surgery. If one of them got their jobs, it could open opportunity for the other. If both of them got the jobs… Edinburgh wasn’t ready for them.
So here she was with Joe on the train for Edinburgh and her fiancé hadn’t called her once. The interview was in 2 days and if all went well, the second and third would be next week and she’d be offered the job. Claire had been optimistic, she’d booked her hotel stay for the full two weeks.
And if she got offered the job… Claire didn’t know where she’d stand with Frank. But she was damn sure she wouldn’t let him stand in her way.
“I am starving, Lady Jane,” Joe complained as they got their luggage and left the train, “Please tell me we have nothing to do for the rest of the day.”
“I suppose we could prep for our interviews over some food and a pint,” she allowed. In truth, she was starving too, though she feared her nerves wouldn’t allow her to eat. It was a problem she faced before big decisions, like where she would go to med school or should she accept Frank’s proposal. Don’t fucking think about Frank Randall, she snapped at herself. They walked into the first pub they found that was on the way to their hotel: Broch Turach Tavern. The name sounded vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place it. The scent of shepherd’s pie and chips was overwhelmingly good as they seated themselves. She was deciding whether she wanted a simple pint or a cocktail after her journey when she heard an identical voice from 3 years ago.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, is that you?” Once again, Claire turned around to gape at Jenny Fraser. Or she should say Murray now. She’d gotten the wedding invitation from Geillis but it had been too soon after… everything and Claire had been too much of a mess to reply. She’d been hit with guilt every so often about it. As well she should, it seemed. Jenny Murray looked pissed. Claire would have taken that any day to the expression on the man behind her. He seemed confused and angry too, and hurt more than anything.
Standing behind Jenny was her brother, Jamie Fraser. Even after three years of steadfastly refusing to think about him, he was still the most beautiful man she had ever seen.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.”
3 years ago
Jenny’s texts were nearly incoherent, which was Jamie’s first clue that he needed to get back to Lallybroch.
The next clue was that Jenny had sent him and Ian a picture of her with the most beautiful woman that Jamie had ever seen.
Claire! Was all the message said. That must have meant something to Ian though, who replied No damn way, where are you? Ian called him ten minutes later telling him to get the hell home because they were having a party. Claire Beauchamp was in Lallybroch and that was apparently cause for a celebration.
So Jamie politely ended his dinner with Laohaire. Not a date, his brain supplied even though she absolutely thought it was. They’d had a brief fling before Jamie had gone off to school and she acted like they were on the brink of getting back together any time he was home. But she’d been his friend and so few people had stayed near Inverness after they’d graduated high school that he saw her whenever he was home. But it was nearly now 11:00 pm and they’d been having stilted conversation for three hours. And there was apparently something noteworthy going on in Lallybroch. So he politely asked for the check and drove Laoghaire home despite her obvious pout. He promised with halfhearted enthusiasm that he’d call her to make sure he got home safe and to arrange maybe a drink the next weekend. Then he was free.
A party, indeed, Jamie thought when he entered the main house of his family farm. It smelled like a damn brewery and there was music and yelling coming from the kitchen.
“But I didn’t know!” the all too familiar voice of Geillis Duncan rang out over two others. One was Jenny, the other must have been Claire, “It doesn’t count if I didn’t know.”
“There is no out for trying to have sex with my uncle, Geille,” Jenny yelled but she was laughing and Geillis’ indignant squawk sent Jamie laughing too despite the subject of the argument. Jamie had heard it before. It was what Jenny and Geillis resorted to whenever they got on the sloppy side of tipsy. The scene in the kitchen looked a lot like it sounded. Jenny and Geillis were yelling at each other while Ian looked on in amusement and a woman was leaning against the counter next to him wryly judging the scene in front of her and sipping her drink, a something and soda from the looks of it. That must be Claire. She was every bit more beautiful in life than she’d been on his phone screen. He was so screwed.
“I didn’t know,” Geillis insisted.
“Geillis,” the woman said evenly and she took a small sip of her drink, “You didn’t stop once you did know.”
“Geillis, what?” Jenny cried at the same time Geillis shouted really, Claire?! And then Jenny was at her throat again. Ian gave her a wide smile as she took a smug sip of her drink. Jamie decided he needed to meet this woman immediately.
As if on cue, all eyes shifted to him as he helped himself to beer, “Jamie!” Ian cried. God, he was hammered. That never happened. He was normally trying to corral his sister. Jamie laughed into the clumsy hug Ian pulled him into, “Claire’s here!”
“Yeah, man, ye called me,” Jamie reminded him, “Who the hell is Claire?”
“That would be me,” she said as she held out her hand, “And you must be James Fraser. I’ve heard so much about you.” Jamie grimaced at the implications of that as he shook her hand. He expected them to be smooth, but they were pleasingly rough. He tried to mentally guess what she did for a living.
“Me, Claire, and Geillis studied together in Glasgow,” Jenny supplied, “And then she disappeared for 4 years and we just so happened to both be at the same pub tonight.”
“Claire from Glasgow?” Jamie asked, then some of the pieces fit together. He’d heard a lot about Claire when they’d all come back to Lallybroch for the summer. But when Jenny had been 21 and studying he’d still been stuck at the farm with no end in sight. He didn’t particularly care about all the adventures his sister and Ian had gotten up to so he barely listened. If he’d known Claire was the most attractive woman in the world he wouldn’t have spurned Jenny’s offer to show him her pictures from school.
“Claire from London, actually,” she laughed, “I’m glad for once that my reputation doesn’t proceed me.” Christ, she had the most beautiful accent. Jamie wondered what she’d sound like when she moaned. He quickly buried his head in his beer bottle. No point having thoughts like that when she’d inevitably be going back to London.
“And what is Claire from London doing in the Scottish highlands?” Jamie asked.
“She’s doing an internship in Edinburgh,” Geillis supplied, “Before taking her fancy job at the Royal London Hospital.”
“A nurse?” Jamie guessed. That would explain the work worn hands.
“Doctor, actually,” Claire replied with a touch of annoyance.
“My apologies, Sassenach,” Jamie amended and if anything, that made her looked more annoyed.
“He didn’t mean it in a bad way,” Ian was quick to jump in, “It just means an Englishwoman. An outlander, at worst.”
“There were some guys in Glasgow that didn’t like our English Rose,” Jenny teased as she swung an arm around Claire’s shoulders, “Sassenach was one of the nicer things they called her.”
“Sassenach Whore was also a memorable one,” Claire replied, but she was smiling now, “I’ve certainly been called worse.”
“Well, I definitely wasn’t calling you a...” Jamie trailed off.
“Christ, he’s blushing,” Claire laughed, and he found he didn’t mind her laughing at him. It seemed like he was in on the joke.
“Wee Jamie is the real flower of this party,” Jenny teased.
“Watch it, Janet,” Jamie warned. One of Jenny’s favorite party tricks was revealing that at 21 years old, Jamie was still a virgin. He’d been taught from an early age that you shouldn’t be having sex if you weren’t prepared to suffer any consequences- both emotional and physical. And well, not everyone was as lucky as Jenny to grow up next to the love of their life. So though Jamie had dated a few girls, he’d never really been in love so he’d never slept with them. It wasn’t something he was ashamed of, but he also didn’t need Jenny broadcasting it. Especially to Claire.
“What, James?” she shot back, “You don’t want me telling our English rose that you’re-”
Jamie clamped a hand over her mouth, “Who wants another round of shots?”
Jamie was exhausted.
He was working almost full time for Jenny plus his second job at the library plus he was in the middle of finals for his last semester at the University of Edinburgh. There was really only one academic thing he was worried about. His final capstone project for his Bachelor’s in linguistics. His 40 page paper was almost done, then he’d be able to quit his second job and just work for Jenny during the summer. That would bring its own set of challenges, like applying for grad school and trying to find the money for it (he refused to take any more from his father and undergrad had used up most of what he’d gotten from his share of Lallybroch), but at the very least he wouldn’t be up to his neck in 18th century colloquial Gaelic. Until he got his masters for that very thing. Jamie sighed even though his grand dreams of language preservation through academia had been his own fault.
“If ye have time to look all martyred ye have time to finish stocking the bar,” Jenny chided.
“Ye ken, I’m legally entitled to my breaks,” Jamie shot back.
“Ay, I’m also not legally obligated to keep ye on if yer not going to do the bare minimum of the job.”
“Then fire me, Jenny,” Jamie deadpanned. They both knew damn well she couldn’t afford to take on anyone else, “If I’m such a bad employee.”
“And risk the wrath of Da for firing my kin? I dinna think so.”
Jamie laughed at that and even got back to stacking the clean glasses under the bar. It was early on a Wednesday and things were slow before the dinner rush. Jamie did mostly administrative tasks for Jenny. He was too clumsy to be a waiter and couldn’t cook for shit. On a good day, he could tend bar. But in his present exhausted state, he was only deemed capable of stocking duty, Jamie thought it was even a little too optimistic to put him one glassware. Then Jamie heard Jenny’s sharp intake of breath from the other side of the bar.
“No fucking way,” she said, “Jamie.”
“What?” he asked as he stood up. Jenny was pointing at a woman across the dining area. It was her. Claire. Claire Beauchamp was sitting twenty feet away from him after dropping in and out of his life at breakneck speeds 3 years before. She was in Jenny’s tavern and didn’t seem to have any idea. Not for much longer if Jenny had any say about it, it seemed. She was wiping her hands on the towel she kept perpetually tucked into her apron and was storming over there. What else was Jamie supposed to do but follow?
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, is that ye?” she demanded. Claire’s eyes flickered up in confusion and then understanding and guilt. She was sitting with a man who was watching the scene with poorly veiled amusement. Claire’s eyes flickered over to Jamie and then moved away just as fast. She murmured something under her breath that Jamie didn’t catch because Jenny was already raging ahead, “Or should I say Randall now?”
Randall? Jamie thought. What did that mean? He didn’t have long to linger on it before Claire was trying to defend herself. They were drawing some attention now and Claire looked very much like she’d rather be anywhere else. Jamie didn’t want to upset her, but well… she had dropped off the face of the earth for three years. Jamie was hurt enough even though they only had that one night together. It had broken Jenny’s heart.
“Don’t you Jenny me!” she snapped, “You don’t respond to my calls, or my wedding invitation and then I find out you’re engaged from Geillis?”
It was then that Jamie noticed two things at about the same time. The first was that Claire looked older. Not in a bad way, she was as beautiful as ever, but she looked more mature. He realized suddenly that the last three years hadn’t been easy on her. He wanted to snap at Jenny to lighten up but he was fairly certain he’d lose a limb if he got in the middle of this.
He registered the second thing as he processed Jenny’s words. Engaged. Claire was engaged. The proof was in the big fat diamond on her finger.
“Lady Jane,” her (much braver than Jamie) companion said. Her fiancé, maybe? The thought made Jamie queasy, “Would you care to make some introductions?”
I can't believe the response this story has gotten! Thank you for the comments! I can't promise updates will always come this fast, but I am really inspired by all the enthusiasm. Any guesses on what happened three years ago? Let me know what you think!
Three years ago
The moment Claire saw Jamie it was like Frank didn’t even exist. Well, he didn’t exist for some parts of her body. Her normally organized thoughts were replaced with the dizzying chaos of the however many shots she and Jenny had taken. But her heart and… other parts were only concerned with the very handsome Scot that was now looking only at her. Jenny and Geillis didn’t notice it but Ian gave her a knowing smile.
Jenny and Geillis were arguing for the thousandth time about the one time Geillis had almost picked up Jenny’s Uncle Dougal in a bar. In Geillis’ defense, Claire had been there and he was a very young looking 45 and bore very little resemblance to the niece who’d only met him a handful of times. What couldn’t be defended was that she had continued flirting with Dougal even after Jenny had left in disgust. Claire said as much and she watched all hell break loose with a glee. That was when she clocked Jamie at the same time Ian did.
He dripped with the appeal of a very attractive man who had no idea how attractive he was. Though he was certainly younger than Jenny, he held himself like a man even though he had the face of a boy. Claire decided immediately that she needed to see him naked. He didn’t have the body of a boy and Claire new he was only a few years younger than her. She was so sure of this need that she was surprised she didn’t say it out loud. She held out her hand for him to shake and was only self-conscious for a moment at how rough they were. Frank didn’t like how her callouses rubbed against his smooth, bare skin. Jamie didn’t seem to mind, though. His own hands seemed to be more callous than actual skin. That was what years of farm labor did, it seemed. She forgave him easily for the assumption that she was a nurse rather than a doctor. It was a mistake many people made, and Jamie seemed genuinely apologetic.
And his voice… the way her name sounded on his lips was intoxicating. She even liked when he called her Sassenach. And that was one word that had been thrown at her when she studied in Glasgow. She’d never really known what it meant, just that it was never said to her as a compliment. It was hard enough that she was a young, competent and confident woman in her med program. It was made worse in Scotland by the fact that she was English. She never asked what the rough sounding Gaelic her classmates threw at her meant, but she recognized an insult when she heard one. Jenny called her an English rose simply to tease (they both knew she was about as far from an English lady as they came), but what those men said about her… she didn’t really want to know. Even if she didn’t know what Sassenach meant, she knew whore well enough.
But Jamie used the term like a caress, and some mixture of alcohol and the heartbreak coursing through her veins decided things for her. She wanted him. Tonight.
It was only the five of them in Lallybroch, but there was the energy of an entire club in that kitchen. Ian and Jenny were dancing haphazardly while Geillis was trying and failing to teach Claire a drinking game. It didn’t help that her concentration was very much split. Jamie was doing a passable job pretending that he wasn’t staring at Claire, but she kept catching him out of the corner of her eye. Good.
“You are making up rules as you go along!” Claire cried as Geillis decided she’d earned another shot.
“Am not!” Geillis replied, “I just keep remembering them out of order.”
“Sure,” Claire replied skeptically but she took the shot of whisky anyways. Claire never did well with whisky, but she was in a proper Scottish house now and Geillis and Ian would have it no other way. She looked skeptically at the glass Jamie seemed to be drinking neat, but he apparently could hold his liquor a lot better than she could. He was only looking at her with laughter in his eyes as she lost yet another made up rule, “Something funny?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person this bad at quarters,” Jamie smiled into his glass.
“That’s because this isn’t quarters. I already know how to play quarters,” she huffed, “This is Geillis cheating at quarters. God fucking dammit,” she shouted as she lost yet again. Jenny threw her a withering look, but it had hit the point of the night where she was only concerned with getting her boyfriend into bed. Ian didn’t look opposed to the idea.
“Perhaps it’s time someone subbed in for our English rose? James?” Geillis said enticingly and Jamie handed his whisky to Claire. She locked eyes with him as she unwisely took a sip. He laughed when she grimaced so she took another pull just for spite. She was already feeling significantly more unsteady on her feet. How in the hell did Scots drink this stuff?
“Who am I to deny you, Geille,” Jamie said. With a wolfish grin, he went to flip his quarter into the cup. And promptly missed. Maybe he wasn’t as sober as he seemed.
“Oh no, my wee fox cub,” Geillis chided as he reached for a whisky shot. Instead, she poured him a healthy shot of tequila, “It’s not a punishment if it’s what you drink for fun.” It was Jamie’s turn to grimace, but he took the shot like a man.
The next three he lost to Geillis didn’t go down as smoothly, “I think Mr. Fraser needs to go to bed,” Geillis said soothingly, “Claire?” Geillis gave her a knowing look. Her own head was too fuzzy to be helping anyone with anything, but Geillis’ smirk said enough. Claire was lucky Jenny hadn’t yet noticed the lingering looks she was giving her brother. That would be a problem for tomorrow Claire, she decided.
“I dinna need help, lass,” Jamie slurred, his accent becoming even more pronounced with intoxication.
“Of course you don’t,” she soothed as she swung an arm around his waist and let him lead her towards his room. Claire hoped she wasn’t imagining how his arm tightened around her waist more than was strictly necessary.
After Claire had gotten a glass of water in him and he had successfully brushed his teeth he was no longer swaying on his feet. Instead, he was looking at her like she was a puzzle he wanted to solve, “I suppose I can show you to the guest room now?” Jamie asked, “Unless you wanted to rejoin the party?”
I was nearing three in the morning. If things with Jenny and Geillis went how they normally did, Jenny and Ian would be close to falling into bed together and Geillis would pass out on whatever horizontal surface was closest. Claire was considerably less of a partier now than she was in undergrad and she was falling into… something. Not sleep. Despite the whisky in her system and the late hour, she was far from tired.
“Or we could do something else?” Jamie said. It wasn’t suggestive and Claire loved him a little bit for it. The longer the night went on, the more she felt the acute ache of her breakup. What had filled her righteous fury earlier was now settling as simple sadness. She still felt the reckless energy of being a free woman for the first time in a year, but in many ways Frank was her first love. She’d never stopped moving long enough to keep a relationship. She had tried so hard with him and it fell apart anyways. She felt like she was waking up in an unfamiliar place as an entirely new woman. It was just as scary as it was thrilling, “Sassenach?”
The nickname snapped her out of it, “Do you have a deck of cards?” she asked. There was a game Claire used to play with her Uncle Lamb when she was little and he knew she had something on her mind. Claire quickly explained the game: each suit corresponded with a category (answering truthfully, with a lie, have you ever, or a dare). When she played with Lamb, he would warm her up a little bit with nonsense questions before asking what he really wanted to. By the end of the deck, Claire always felt lighter. Maybe it wasn’t fair to use Jamie to sort out her own feelings but well… he was there. After a few rounds, Jamie had fully gotten the hang of it and the game was having its desired effect.
“Have you ever done hard drugs?” Claire asked Jamie after she flipped a diamond. He was leaning against his headboard with his legs splayed, his deck of cards between them. Claire was sitting perhaps a little too close with her legs crossed. Definitely too close for someone she met that night but not nearly as close as she wanted.
“No,” he said, then flipped a spade. She could lie, “Why did ye take up medicine?”
“That’s a loaded question,” she said, “But there really isn’t anything else I could have done. My uncle and I traveled a lot when I was little and there weren’t always doctors where we went. We both got pretty good at field medicine and I had a talent for it… and when the time came to apply to college, there was nothing else that felt right.”
“Ye lived with yer uncle?”
“Not your turn,” Claire chided as she flipped another diamond, “Have you ever gone skinny dipping?”
“Yes,” he replied with a small blush that Claire found adorable. He flipped a heart. Truth, “Why did ye live with your uncle?”
“My parents died,” Claire replied casually. It was casual. She barely remembered having parents at all, she was so young when they died. How Lamb had gotten away with taking her out of school to travel the world she’d never know, but it took her a long while to figure out her life was very far from ordinary. She didn’t realize what she was missing in not having a mom until she saw how close her freshman roommate was with her own mother. But she had been nearly grown by that point, what use was grieving an old loss?
“I’m sorry, Sassenach,” he said, “My own Ma died when I was 10. It wasna easy.”
“I was five,” Claire shrugged, disregarding her own rules, “I don’t even remember them.”
“That doesna make it any easier,” he insisted then put his cards down, “Claire? If there’s something on yer mind we dinna have to play a game to talk about it.”
“You think I made up a game to unload my problems on you?” she asked. Which yeah, that was kind of what she did, but she didn’t like being so transparent.
“Didna say ye did,” Jamie said, “I’m just saying, the whole house must be asleep by now and here ye are, playing cards with a lad ye met two hours ago.”
“Oh Christ, it is late,” she realized. It was nearly five in the morning, “You must be exhausted. I should go.”
“No, Sassenach, that’s not what I meant either,” he said, “I just meant… I don’t know what I meant.” He looked so flustered he was adorable. Her body was moving without her permission. Claire sat up and kneeled in front of him and leaned forward until her lips were inches from Jamie’s. They’d been playing for more than an hour and she felt considerably more sober than when she’d been with Geillis. But what about him? His speech was no longer slurring and his eyes looked clear. Still, she gave him several long seconds to pull away. Instead, he drew in a shaky breath and tangled one of his hands in her unruly curls. It was all the encouragement Claire needed.
Claire narrowly resisted moaning at the first touch of his lips. It was hesitant and tender. Jamie was scared, she realized. But of what? Claire didn’t dwell on it. She’d been living entirely in her own mind for the last 36 hours and right now, everything was blissfully quiet. Nothing existed past the points of contact between them. First, just their lips, moving slowly and experimentally. Then Claire opened her mouth and Jamie moaned into it and pulled her forward until she was basically in his lap. His hands tangled further in her hair as she straddled him. Still, it was relatively chaste.
This wasn’t the clothes ripping, fast paced encounter she’d been picturing. It was sweet. Claire normally didn’t do sweet. But for this beauty of a man beneath her, she could try anything. They kissed for several more long minutes before Claire was forced to come up for air. They didn’t move far apart.
“Christ, Sassenach,” Jamie panted. She took no small amount of satisfaction at the feel of his hardness beneath her. Despite the physical evidence, Jamie made no move to deepen this encounter. But when he leaned in to kiss her again, Claire found that she didn’t mind.
Finally, Jamie rolled forward and pinned Claire beneath him as he moved his lips down her jaw and onto her throat. There was the most delicious friction of Jamie settling between her legs and Claire started a slow roll of her hips. Not frantic, but just enough to provide some relief.
“How long did ye say yer staying in Scotland?” Jamie asked into her collarbone. Claire’s hands had moved under his shirt and she was appreciating his hard muscles under her hands.
“Four months,” she managed through the fog of pure sensation that now inhabited her brain.
“Good,” he said with a final kiss to her neck before sitting far enough up to look in her eyes, “I want ye-”
“I want you, too,” she interrupted.
“But,” Jamie said and her heart plummeted, “I dinna thing it’s a good idea right now.”
It was like she’d been doused in cold water. Oh fuck. She’d completely misread things. Jamie was her friend’s brother. They were both not sober. Despite his words, he was just letting her down easy. Oh fuck, “Right. Of course.” Claire deadpanned as she rolled out from under him.
“I’m not… I haven’t…” he stammered. Claire allowed him a deep breath to collect his thoughts when she really just wanted to hide, “I dinna want ye just for a night, Sassenach.”
Of all the taverns in all the towns in all the world, I have to walk into Jenny Murray’s, Claire thought wryly even as she was sure Jenny was moments away from doing some sort of violence to her. And why not? She didn’t know why Claire had left. She didn’t know how she’d left Jamie’s bed and Lallybroch in humiliation after his girlfriend (a girlfriend) had shown up the morning after. Jamie wasn’t looking at her right now like you’d look at the woman you’d cheated with. Then again, James Fraser had taught her that looks could be deceiving.
There was also the chance that the girl (Laoghaire, her brain unhelpfully supplied) hadn’t told Jamie she’d met Claire. And why would she? Claire had made sure Laoghaire thought she was nothing to Jamie. She was nothing to Jamie, she reminded herself. So no, Jenny didn’t know anything that happened between Claire and Jamie.
And more importantly, Jenny didn’t know anything that had come after.
“Lady Jane, would you care to make some introductions?” Joe asked. She wasn’t looking at him, but she could hear his smile. Bastard. Introductions, indeed! But where would she even begin?
Three years ago
Jamie’s line had basically turned Claire to mush. If it had been a line, it would have surely worked, but what was really sending her swooning was that it didn’t sound like a line at all. Jamie Fraser was dripping in sincerity and it was an entirely foreign thing to Claire. She just nodded mutely at him until he cracked a small smile at her.
“Perhaps we should just go to bed then?” Claire said.
“To bed?” Jamie asked with a quirked eyebrow, “Or to sleep?”
“But you just said-”
“I ken what I said,” Jamie replied, “But there’s a whole world between abstinence and sex. I just didna want to lead ye on.”
“Well,” Claire replied dumbly, “Lead the way then.” Jamie gave her another smirk before his lips were on hers again.
Claire woke just after dawn feeling… well, satisfied. She didn’t know when she’d ever felt so content in the absence of an orgasm. Jamie had turned away from her in the night and was still deeply asleep. Once Claire was awake, she never fell back asleep. Instead of trying, she grabbed her phone and slipped out of bed. Maybe she’d try to make coffee? She hoped no one would be up to question why she’d come from Jamie’s room.
And just like that, her thoughts drifted back to him. It was so much more than what she’d expected from Jamie while being so much less physically. She’d managed to get Jamie’s shirt off and his hands on her breasts, but it had been firmly PG-13. She’d felt like a teenager, and it was wonderful.
Jamie had repeated the sentiment of not wanting her just for a night as they finally curled up together to fall asleep. Claire had fallen asleep and woken up smiling.
Jamie Fraser was like a balm to her broken heart. It was still sore, like a bad bruise. But she wasn’t broken. There were still men that wanted her. Jamie wanted her.
For more than just a night.
She was so giddy she opened the front door when the bell rang without even thinking about it. She’d fallen asleep in the same clothes she’d left London in so there were no questions of her modesty. The way the young woman on the other side of the threshold was looking at her made Claire want to cover up anyways.
“Who are ye?” she asked in a thick highland accent. It was ruder than Claire was expecting, but she brushed it off. She couldn’t have been more than 20, not worth Claire’s anger.
“Claire,” she replied evenly, “And you are?”
“Jamie’s girlfriend,” she replied hotly. It was like a bucket of ice water had been poured over her. It was a miracle she didn’t flinch. A girlfriend. Sincere, sweet, Jamie Fraser had a girlfriend. And she’d very nearly had sex with him last night.
“I’m a friend of Jenny’s,” Claire finally managed through her shock. Not a lie. But so far from the whole truth that Claire could barely keep a straight face. This girl seemed the type to cause a scene and there was no reason to wake the entire house at the crack of dawn. Not when Claire could easily slip out of the house once the girl was gone and leave Jamie to clean up his own messes.
“Oh, I see,” The girl replied a little more politely, “I didna ken Jenny was back from Edinburgh.”
“Just long enough to deal with the estate,” Claire replied.
“I’m sorry,” the girl said, “I just… Well, we’re on a bit of a pause at the moment, but we’re getting back together. And he promised to call me after he dropped me off last night, and I worried when he didn’t. And now to see another- verra beautiful woman- at his house at the crack of dawn.”
“I’m sure,” Claire replied. The girl had been talking about a mile a minute and Claire hadn’t caught all of it. But pause or no, a girlfriend was a girlfriend. And Jamie had been together last night.
“I’m Laoghaire,” she said with an extended hand. Claire forced herself to shake it, “Is Jamie…”
“I believe everyone is still asleep,” Claire replied. Should she offer to let Laoghaire in? Even if she’d known the girl was welcome in Lallybroch, it wasn’t her place to welcome guests, “I’ll let them know you stopped by.”
Laoghaire looked a little put out that but didn’t argue. Claire collapsed against the door as soon as she shut it. A bloody girlfriend.
But a cheater seemed so opposite to the man who told her that he didn’t want her for just a night. Maybe he thought he’d be able to pull off an affair with a woman in Edinburgh when his girlfriend lived in the highlands? But Claire was friends with his sister. Even if they kept it a secret from her (as Claire probably would have done for a time if this relationship moved any further), it wasn’t sustainable.
Maybe he and Laoghaire weren’t exclusive? Even if that were the case, Jamie still should have told her he had a girlfriend at all. Claire had nothing against open relationships, but she didn’t want to be in one.
What seemed more likely, Claire decided, was that Jamie was 21 years old and he hadn’t yet learned to be careful with people’s hearts.
Well, Claire wouldn’t be having any of that.
God, what was she doing? She was a fucking doctor. She had a medical degree and had just gotten out of a relationship with a serious boyfriend. She was better than letting her heart get broken by a child.
Fuck Jamie Fraser and his swoon worthy words that made her feel reckless. She’d known enough men with pretty words that masked selfish actions. Fuck his soft eyes and tender touch. She didn’t need him. She had an internship in Edinburgh and a job waiting for her at one of the best hospitals in her country. She didn’t need a boyfriend or even a rebound. That’s all Jamie would ever have been to her anyways.
Claire gathered her purse and coat as quickly as possible before storming out of Lallybroch. She’d give Jenny some sort of explanation that didn’t involve nearly having sex with her brother. She’d go to her job in Edinburgh and forget James Fraser even existed.
It had been two weeks into her internship and she still hadn’t given Jenny a call. It was mostly that Claire couldn’t figure out exactly what to say. There wasn’t really a sanitized equivalent to I hooked up with your brother and then his girlfriend showed up and it threw me into a spiral of heartbreak and righteous fury so yeah… I just left, please don’t tell Jamie where to find me.
The other part of it was that Claire barely had time to breathe, let alone make a difficult phone call. The internship was demanding, and it was exactly what Claire needed. She’d been pretty confident that she wanted to work in trauma surgery, but this confirmed it. She loved the fast paced and high stakes life of the ER. It broke her heart as often as it exhilarated her, but there was nothing she’d rather be doing.
Geillis Duncan had moved to Edinburgh, it turned out. Claire saw her at the intern orientation, but their paths rarely crossed since Claire was in the ER and Geillis was in the pediatrics wing most of the time. The few times they were face to face, Claire managed to evade. Claire knew Geillis had her own secrets, so one leave it alone, Geille stopped her prying.
The third was that none of them had her phone number now. Jenny and Claire had moved so quickly from the pub to Lallybroch that they forgot to exchange any kind of information. Claire supposed that Geillis could probably find it out if she went through hospital records, but she hadn’t yet. With no one demanding an explanation, Claire was able to hide in her mortification.
Then everything fell apart.
Claire had just passed the one month mark in Edinburgh and she finally felt like a doctor instead of a nuisance in the ER. She had gotten off of a 12 hour shift followed by surgical observation and she wanted nothing more than to curl up in her flat with a glass of wine.
But when she turned her phone back on, she had 15 missed calls. 8 of them were from Frank, 3 from Joe, the others from an unknown number.
She also had several texts, all from Frank.
Please call back.
Claire, I know we haven’t been talking but PLEASE call me.
It’s an emergency.
They hadn’t spoken in the month she’d been gone. Claire didn’t think he would ever fake an emergency just to talk to her when he’d been the one to break up with her. She called him back. He picked up after the first ring.
“Oh, Claire,” Frank said. She didn’t need to hear the rest. It was one of those icy calm moments where she understood with perfect clarity that something terrible had happened. She didn’t need to know the details to understand that her life as she knew it was over.
But the details were this: Claire’s archeologist professor uncle had collapsed during a lecture that morning. He was rushed to the hospital with a suspected heart attack. He had gone into surgery and not come back out. Uncle Lamb, her only family, her whole life at this point, was dead. When the hospital hadn’t been able to reach Claire, Joe (who was working when Lamb came in) had called Frank. Frank had called her and now here she was.
To say Claire reacted badly would be an understatement. She managed to thank Frank for calling her and deflected all of his follow up questions with a promise to call him when she came back to London. But as soon as she hung up the phone…
Claire was fairly stoic in the face of death. She was a doctor, for god’s sake. But this wasn’t a patient she had that met day who died on her table. This was the man that raised her. The only family she had left. Really, the only family she’d ever known. Claire liked to tell herself as a child that she didn’t miss her parents- that she didn’t need them. It was a boldfaced lie that she’d repeated when anyone showed her pity. She didn’t miss her parents because she didn’t have anything to miss. But she felt the absence all the damn time, and Uncle Lamb was there to make her feel whole and loved every time it got to be too much for her.
Claire was alone.
For the first time in years, she really and truly fell apart.
So no, there was no concise way to explain that. Especially in the middle of Jenny’s tavern with her brother looking on. It was getting harder for Claire to ignore the attention Jenny’s yelling had drawn. Claire ignored Joe and Jamie and spoke only to Jenny, “Can we talk about this in private?”
“Anything ye have to say to me ye can say in front of Jamie,” Jenny insisted with her arms crossed. And there was not a chance in hell that was happening. She owed Jenny an explanation, she even wanted to give it, but she’d sooner die than beg Jamie Fraser’s forgiveness. He was a liar and cheater and she wanted nothing to do with him. Despite her heart that was thundering in her chest at the sight of how his body had grown into full adulthood. 24 now, wasn’t he? The last traces of his boyhood were leaving him, and he was turning into a very attractive man. His hair was longer than it had been when she met him. She wanted to run her hands through it. Focus, Beauchamp.
“Here,” Claire said as she scrawled something on a napkin with a pen from her purse, she handed it to Jenny before throwing down enough money to cover her and Joe’s meals, “That is where I’m staying if you want to talk. I am sorry, Jenny, but I promise there is an explanation.” She could feel Jamie’s eyes on her as she walked out, leaving Joe to follow, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of looking back.
Edinburgh was a big city, and there was a chance she’d never see them again. But if she was going to live here long term, she’d rather have Jenny Murray as a friend than an enemy.
Is everyone still with me? I know it was a long one, but I didn't want to drag it into 2 chapters. I really enjoyed everyone's theories about what happened between Claire and Jamie, I hope this was equally satisfying.
I also think canon kinda glosses over how Claire lost her entire family so young, so here we are. Let me know what you think!
Three years ago
Jamie woke up alone but not particularly upset about it. Claire had to be somewhere, he doubted she would just leave. And even if she did, Jamie felt secure in the knowledge that he would see her again. If for no other reason than she was friends with his sister.
And they’d all been living in Edinburgh for a time together. Jamie grinned at the ceiling like an idiot. He glanced over at the clock, it was almost 11:00. It was far later than he normally slept, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave the contentment of his bed. As soon as he got up, he was sure he’d be bowled over by the massive hangover that was surely brewing. It was only being kept at bay by the dark of his room and lying completely still. That, and the memories of Claire.
He’d kissed her last night. He’d done a hell of a lot more than kissed her. He’d very nearly just said fuck it, and slept with her. He’d certainly wanted to, he’d told her as much.
It felt so much more significant than simple wanting. When he’d kissed her, something had slipped into place for him. It wasn’t like he felt complete, he didn’t believe that people were incomplete by themselves, but it was like a new part of his heart had been unlocked that he hadn’t been aware of before.
Jamie had been… intimate with other girls before. He hadn’t gotten much past making out with Laoghaire when they were together. He’d gotten her shirt off at Christmas a few months back, but that ended up being the last time they were together. There’s been one other girl at university, Annalise, but she didn’t want anything more than their handful of hookups at parties. Now that he’d tasted Claire, Jamie didn’t think he’d want Annalise pressed the wall of a crowded room ever again.
He’d been attracted enough to Annalise and Laoghaire, but there was always something missing. He’d thought Laoghaire was bonny when he didn’t know anything else, but even if he’d wanted her, he didn’t want to stay in Lallybroch forever and she’d never leave, so what was the point? The way Annalise would grip him through his jeans in the middle of a party was thrilling and he’d become lust drunk the moment he touched her, but she didn’t want a real relationship and he didn’t want to lose his virginity to a one night stand, and that was enough to keep him in control of himself.
That was not to mention the physicality of it all. He didn’t even know what he was doing! In the heat of the moment, he got too far into his own head. Would he be any good? What if it wasn’t any good for him? Not to mention the… consequences of sex. He knew how to be careful, but what if he wasn’t careful enough? Of course Jamie wouldn’t just abandon anyone, but he didn’t want to be forced into a relationship with a woman he didn’t love. Not to mention he didn’t want a bairn before he was ready.
By the time all of those thoughts spiraled through his mind, he was normally very firmly not in the mood even if he wanted to continue.
Jamie’s mind had been blissfully quiet the entire time he was with her. It might have just been the tequila, but Jamie didn’t think so. He’d been drunk enough times with Annalise to know that “liquid courage” didn’t always work. Jamie knew very little of love, but he was very sure this thing he had with Claire was more than a passing infatuation.
He wanted to experience her.
Every time Jamie tried to turn those thoughts into articulate words in the hours she’d spent in his arms, they all fell apart. Not to mention he’d have surely scared her off with talk like that.
He was going to ask her out on a date, Jamie decided. And if he was lucky, he would make love to her when the time was right. They’d surely have a chance at some point in the 4 months she’d be in Edinburgh.
He wasn’t going to be able to do either of those things if he stayed in bed for the rest of his life, however. Eventually, the possibility of Claire downstairs won out over his need for sleep.
Tragically, Claire wasn’t downstairs and the hangover hit as hard as he thought it would once he was in the daylight. Geillis had apparently gone home as well, but Jenny and Ian were up and cooking breakfast. His thoughts soured with his stomach when he realized he wasn’t going to see Claire this morning, and he was sure he wouldn’t be able to keep breakfast down. Jenny wordlessly handed him a cup of coffee which he accepted gratefully.
“How much later did ye stay up last night?” Jamie asked Ian.
“Och, not long,” Ian replied, “Maybe half an hour? Geillis was passed out on the couch when we went upstairs.”
“Just like old times,” Jenny said wryly.
“Aye,” Ian agreed, “And just like old times, Claire slipped away in the night.”
“Is that what happened? I canna image she’d wanna slip anywhere after how much Geillis made her drink,” Jamie replied.
“She’s deceptively good at holding her liquor,” Jenny replied, “She would carry me and Geille home more often than no when we were in school.”
Jamie snorted. He’d very much like to see that. He’d never seen anyone drink Jenny under the table.
“She’s an early riser, ye ken,” Jenny continued, “She probably slipped out for some coffee. She’ll be back.”
Claire didn’t come back. By the time dinner rolled around, Jenny was getting increasingly nervous that no one had heard from her. A call to Geillis revealed that she hadn’t seen Claire either. But with no way to contact her and nowhere to look, there was little to be done.
As the day wore on, Jamie had the sinking feeling that this had something to do with him. Had he gone too far last night? Or not far enough. Had Claire been offended that he didn’t want to sleep with her? Had she woken up sober and realized she wanted nothing to do with her friend’s brother?
All possibilities, but none that explained why she’d just leave without a word.
Eventually, Jenny decided to ring the police. They told her basically what they’d already been thinking, Claire was a grown woman and there no signs of anything amiss other than her being well… gone.
Jenny was nearly out of her mind for the next few weeks with worry, “I just dinna think she’d would just leave,” Jamie overheard her crying to Ian one night, “She seemed like she’d missed me so much. And she kent I missed her, so where did she go?”
The answer came a week later with a call from Geillis. Claire was working at the same hospital as Geillis in Edinburgh. She kept her distance at orientation, but she was alive and appeared to have all her limbs attached. Any relief of Claire being okay was swallowed by fury that she’d disappeared in the first place.
Jamie didn’t have any right to be as angry as he was. He barely knew her. Of course, there was the sentimental part of him that felt like his heart had known Claire’s for a long time even if his body didn’t, but sentimentality meant very little when the object of his affections wanted nothing to do with him.
More importantly, she had broken his sister’s heart, and that wasn’t ever going to be forgiven.
So Jamie moved on.
He refused to think of the wee noises she’d made as he’d laid her down, or her foul mouth that had made him blush, or the way she’d talked about her work with so much passion. He refused to let less than 24 hours imprint on his heart.
But when Jamie went back to Edinburgh with Jenny and Ian after they had settled the estate, he couldn’t quite kill the hope that he’d run into her.
They found out a month later that Claire wasn’t even in Edinburgh to run into at all. Geillis had heard through the grapevine that Claire had simply quit and disappeared overnight. Geillis had tried her best to find out what had actually happened, but her supervisor’s lips were sealed.
“You ken Claire isn’t flighty,” Ian tried to argue with Jenny. She was doing an admirable job of pretending like Claire was dead to her, but she wasn’t nearly as good a liar as she thought she was.
“Oh aye?” Jenny replied, “Because this would be the third time she’s just disappeared. Let it go, Ian, she’s gone.”
That was the end of them talking about Claire as a family, but it didn’t stop Jamie from thinking of her. He’d been right in his prediction that he wouldn’t want anyone else now that he’d experienced her. Annalise tried a handful of times at pubs and parties, but Jamie didn’t want the meaningless kissing now that he knew there was someone out there who felt like she was made for him.
He didn’t live like a monk for the next three years, of course. There was Laoghaire whenever he went home, but her girlish charm had become more grating than endearing.
He’d kissed Mary MacNab at her graduation party a year after Claire, and he’d very nearly slept with Geneva Dunsany his junior year. Both lasses were bonny, and Geneva had an attitude on her that Jamie would have very much liked to devour.
But there was one simple fact that they weren’t Claire.
Jamie was a romantic, he couldn’t help it. His parents had been soul mates and his best friend had fallen in love with the literal girl next door who happened to be his sister.
He knew love at first sight couldn’t be real for everyone, but his closest examples of love had been just that.
Any comfort that came from the surety that Jamie had fallen in love with Claire at first sight was quenched by an equal surety that he’d never see her again.
“I’m no going to go,” Jenny said for about the millionth time since Claire had left the tavern. Once the show was over, people slowly started trickling out and they were getting a head start on their closing procedures. Well, Jamie was getting started on his closing procedures. Jenny was still raging about Claire.
“I’ve half a mind to throw the damn address out,” Jenny declared, “If she wants to talk so badly, she can come back here.”
Jamie, for his part, stayed silent. Nothing good ever came from interrupting an enraged Janet Fraser-Murray. The only person who could occasionally get away with it was Ian. Jamie was liable to get his balls ripped off. He didn’t say how he could understand why Claire didn’t want to get into it in the middle of the tavern. He didn’t say how he appreciated making the choice to speak to her theirs. Instead, he made noncommittal Scottish noises as Jenny continued.
He also was obsessing over her engagement ring.
From the way her companion had been laughing at the situation, Jamie didn’t think he was her fiancé. Claire had left without even looking back to see if he’d followed. Jamie didn’t pick up any romantic tension between them, and Jamie had been paying very close attention.
Had he imagined the way she’d hidden her left hand when Jenny brought up the engagement?
Something Jamie had loved when he met her was how every emotion she felt flitted across her face. It made him feel like he could read her mind.
He still thought about the night they met three years later more than he cared to admit. He remembered the nerves racking her body that were much overshadowed by the desire. Desire for him. Jamie had never been desired before, not for all that he was. It had only been one night, but he had seen someone who could truly know him in Claire. He’d been chasing that feeling ever since, and failing miserably.
Jamie hadn’t realized he was holding out hope that they could fall in love properly until it was extinguished.
Claire was engaged. Engaged isn’t married, an unhelpful voice in his head said. Engaged isn’t married, he allowed, but he’d never dream of breaking up an engagement even if he thought there was a chance that he could.
What had been one of the best nights of Jamie’s life had apparently not been significant for her. It stung, but it was also years ago. He shouldn’t care. He shouldn’t, but he did. He didn’t think he’d be able to see Claire to demand her explanations until it stung a bit less. Considering it had been three years and the wound was still tender, he’d be playing the long game with this one.
Which meant that he was very invested in Jenny talking to her instead and telling him what she said.
“As if I’d let her back into my life just for her to walk right out again,” Jenny continued as if Jamie had responded, “As if I didn’t spent weeks thinking something awful had happened just to find out she’d gone back to Edinburgh. And to find out she was still talking to Geillis…”
“Ye are going to go talk to Claire,” Ian said as he walked into the apartment he shared with Jamie and Jenny a few days later.
“Is that where ye’ve been?” Jenny asked incredulously. She’d railed at Ian the same way she had at Jamie when they got fact to the apartment they all shared. Ian had said very little, but it had ended with Jenny throwing the napkin with Claire’s address at Ian’s face. She’d finally burned her anger out 2 full days after they’d seen Claire and the house had returned to a kind of calm. It seemed that Ian was set on disturbing that hard fought peace.
“Aye,” he confirmed, “And ye are going to go see her.”
“Like hell I am,” Jenny laughed humorlessly. Jamie smartly kept his mouth shut, “Why would I do that?”
“Because no matter how much ye pretend ye don’t, ye wanna know why,” Ian said, “And I am no gonna tell ye.”
“I dinna care why Claire Beauchamp decided we weren’t friends.”
“Perhaps, Janet,” Ian said evenly, “It didna have anything to do with you.”
Oh shit. Jamie wished very much that he was anywhere but here. What the hell had Claire told Ian?
“I willna be baited by ye, Ian Murray,” Jenny snapped, “I have played that night back over and over. We were all having a great time, and she was playing with Geillis and…”
She trailed off them turned towards Jamie. Oh shit. He half considered just bolting, but he knew that would make it worse. Besides, he hadn’t done anything wrong. Or he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. Jamie would bet money that he had replayed that night in his mind more often than Jenny, “What did ye do, Jamie?” she demanded anyways.
“Nothing!” Jamie replied, but Jenny would not be deterred.
“James Fraser,” she continued, “What did ye do?”
“Calm down, Jenny,” Ian said calmly, “The lad doesna ken either. So I suppose ye’ll just have to go talk to Claire.”
Thank god, Jamie thought. Maybe this wasn’t Jamie’s fault after all, or Claire was keeping it to herself. Either way, Jamie was grateful that he wasn’t the target of Jenny’s ire.
Jenny didn’t answer, but she did huff and go back into her bedroom. Jamie figured she’d try to sneak out early tomorrow.
Now that they were alone, Ian turned back to Jamie. This time, he looked entirely less friendly. Maybe he wasn’t off the hook yet, “What?” Jamie asked.
“I canna believe ye let yer sister worry for 2 weeks that Claire had vanished for no reason,” Ian replied.
“Claire did vanish!”
“Aye,” Ian allowed, “After ye kissed her.”
“What did Claire tell ye?”
“Why don’t ye tell me what happened?” Ian countered, and well, that was fair enough, so Jamie did. Ian made a noncommittal hmm noise when he was done.
“Well?” Jamie said, “What did Claire say.”
“Verra little,” Ian admitted, “Ye had kissed then fallen asleep together and she left Lallybroch.”
“Well why didna she tell you and Jenny?” Jamie pushed, “I’d understand if she regretted me, but you…”
“I suppose ye’ll have to do the same as Jenny,” Ian replied with a smug smile, “And talk to her yerself.
Jamie didn’t even entertain the idea of seeing Claire. For one thing, he didn’t know where she was staying. Jenny had the napkin with Claire’s address. For another, he very much didn’t want to be humiliated again. He was lucky Ian hadn’t told Jenny what had happened. Of course, Ian was betting that Jamie would tell her himself (which he would, just when he was sure Jenny wouldn’t kill him for it). He didn’t need to open himself up just to be hurt again.
As it happened, Jamie didn’t get much of a choice in the matter. As predicted, Jenny went to see Claire the next day and she came back looking very much like she’d had the piss taken out of her.
“Claire is coming to the tavern Saturday,” Jenny said as she settled next to Ian on the couch.
“And why is that, Janet?” Ian asked with faux sweetness.
“Ye dinna need to rub it in,” Jenny replied, “And it isna funny, besides.”
“Yer right,” Ian allowed, and then he let it rest as if Jamie wasn’t still totally in the dark.
He’d see Claire again on Friday. He wondered how he would get out of it.
Jamie couldn’t get out of it. In truth, he didn’t really try. When it became clear that Jenny wasn’t going to tell him what was going on either, Jamie resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to suffer some discomfort in exchange for the answers he was craving.
So that was how Jamie found himself as Broch Turach on Saturday night (his day off, which he never spent at the tavern he worked in, as a rule) nursing a neat whisky and making uncomfortable small talk with some boys in his linguistics major. Boys, not men, because Jamie refused to equate them with himself. In truth, though he liked university, there were few people he liked at the University of Edinburgh. For reasons unknown, his department was filled with the most insufferable pricks he’d ever met. With the exception of Angus and Rupert, Jamie distanced himself as much as possible. Unfortunately, that was almost impossible with how much time he’d spent in the building working on his capstone this year, and his peers had taken that necessity for friendship. So here he was, listening a few fellow seniors (Simon and Germain? Jamie thought their names were) talk about their latest conquests.
They all faded away the moment Claire entered the pub.
His memory really hadn’t done her justice. He’d remembered her hair to be brown. But with the way it was catching the lights of the tavern… it was streaked with auburn, like the dark edges of a loch at dusk. Was he imagining how much clearer her golden eyes were? Or the way she seemed to be carrying herself much lighter than the last time he’d seen her? Was it because she’d reconciled with Jenny? If Jamie had thought she was beautiful last week, she was downright ethereal now.
And from the way she glanced at him before pointedly looking away, she wanted nothing to do with him.
Jamie was so fucked.
Germain caught Jamie’s eye lingering on Claire and whistled softly, “Who is that?”
“Someone who is engaged, so don’t even try it,” Jamie warned even as he continued to stare himself. She was with the same man she’d been with at the pub and Jamie was still itching to know who it was.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t look,” he laughed with a blatant look at her chest, “Or take a small sample. It looks like she has enough to spare.”
Jamie whipped around so fast Germain nearly dropped his glass. He didn’t go as far as to lift a fist, but the threat was clear. Germain muttered something Jamie didn’t catch, but it didn’t matter because Claire was already lost in the crowd. He couldn’t decide if he was relieved or not. Jamie didn’t turn back to his classmates, he didn’t want to have to answer the questions Rupert and Angus surely had.
Instead, he decided another drink was in order. Unfortunately, when he lumbered up to the bar he was faced with Claire showing off her engagement ring to an awestruck Geillis.
“The photos really don’t do it justice,” Geillis gushed. Was Jamie imagining the discomfort in Claire’s eyes?
“It’s a bonny ring,” Jenny agreed as she poured a pint of cider for Claire’s friend. Jamie took note that Claire didn’t seem to be drinking.
“We have to fight LJ to put it on at work sometimes,” Claire’s friend laughed and she promptly shoved him lightly.
“Because what I really need it to drop my engagement ring in some person’s open wound in the ER, Joe,” Claire chided. Joe. At least the mystery companion had a name. Why he’d called her LJ, Jamie didn’t know. He mostly called her Sassenach in his head, so those in glass houses…
No one else but Jamie and Claire were close enough to hear Joe mutter something like, “maybe then Frank will get you a ring you actually like” under his breath. Claire gave him a sharp look, then her eyes landed on Jamie. She did a remarkable job of pretending not too see him, but her look had drawn Jenny’s attention and then he was properly in the circle.
“Claire, tell Jamie about the job!” Geillis cried.
“It’s not a big deal-”
“Other than being the whole reason yer in Edinbugh, ye mean?” Jenny said dryly.
“I’m interviewing to be the head of trauma surgery at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh,” she said with a shrug. On anyone else, it would have seemed condescending, but on Claire it just seemed casual.
“Wait, Claire,” Ian said, “You said your interview was on Wednesday.”
“Well,” she said with a slight blush, “I did get a second interview.”
“So we’re celebrating, is what I’m hearing?” Geillis laughed as she pulled Claire into a tight hug.
“There’s still a third round of interviews,” Claire chided, but she was laughing and something tightened in Jamie’s chest. If she was interviewing for a job, that meant she was going to be moving to Edinburgh. And with things rekindled with Jenny and Ian…that would mean Claire could become a more permanent fixture here. Claire and her fiancé, Jamie reminded himself.
“We’re celebrating Joe, too, he also got a second interview,” Claire replied as she handed Joe the shot Jenny had served her.
“LJ, we both know you can drink me under the table,” he complained, but took the shot dutifully.
“LJ?” Jenny asked.
“Lady Jane,” Claire explained, “Joe thinks I sound like a proper Victorian lady, so he refuses to call me by my actual name. Which is ridiculous considering he lives in London and knows literally hundreds of women with the same accent.”
“But none with your class and dignity,” he explained and Jamie would have agreed if he was trying very hard not to annoy Claire and risk being expelled from her presence.
“So the second interview is Monday, and the third Friday if we get there far,” Claire continued, “Then I’ll go back to London to… get things settled before Joe and I moved here permanently.”
“Ye seem rather confident,” Ian remarked.
“I’m confident Joe will get the job, then we can use good, old fashioned nepotism.”
“Och, Claire is going to get the job,” Geillis replied, “I’m the one who recommended her.”
“So we’re using nepotism already?” Jamie ventured. It was the first time he’d spoken in the conversation and the laugh that rippled through the group was overshadowed by the dual glares Claire and Ian shot him. Alright then. Silent observer it was then.
“I did buy you a wedding gift,” Claire said. It effectively changed the subject and her dismissal of him was clear in the way she practically turned her back on him, “I don’t suppose you have any need for a really well assembled first aid kit?”
Jamie was going out of his mind. If he thought Claire’s attention was overwhelming, her apathy was setting a fire in him that he didn’t know how to quench. He felt like when he was in grade school and he’d do any number of dumb things to get a girl to notice him. She was just out of his reach playing pool with Geillis. The way she bent over the table almost flippantly was stirring something unknown within him.
He was weighing the pros and cons of pulling her hair just to get her attention when Germain and Simon caught his eye again. Once again, talking about Claire. This time, they were throwing vulgar phrases in Gaelic that she was sure not to understand. Jamie could though, and now he was burning for an entirely different reason. He edged closer to her simply to cut off Germain’s line of sight.
“Will you please leave me alone?” Claire asked without bothering to turn away from the pool table.
“If it isn’t clear, just because I’m friends with Jenny and Ian doesn’t mean I want to talk to you.”
“Claire-” This time he was cut off by another laugh after a comment from Germain about how the kitten has claws and maybe she’d scratch him if he asked nicely.
“That, or maybe I could tie her up and put her in a collar,” Simon replied in Gaelic.
“One more word, and I swear I’ll break your neck,” Jamie spit behind him before turning back to Claire.
“Go back to your friends, Jamie, I certainly don’t want you.”
“Do not call me that,” she replied as she finally gave him her full attention. She gave him a cold smile before continuing, “Still with Laoghaire?”
“Laoghaire? What are you talking about?”
“Seems like Fraser’s her owner already,”
“Fraser can’t handle a woman like that,” Germain laughed, “He’s too scared to sleep with Annalise, let alone a piece of ass like that.”
“Give me just one second, Sassenach,” Jamie replied. He didn’t wait for an answer before he turned around and punched Germain in the nose. The crunch of bone under his fist was satisfying, but he didn’t know what to do next. Like his sister, Jamie was quick to anger but also quick to cool down. His anger didn’t often come to blows. When it did, Jamie was normally burned out after one good hit. This time was no different. Having proved his threat, Jamie didn’t particularly want to be in this fight. Unfortunately, Germain was getting ready to swing at him.
Jamie was vaguely aware of Jenny yelling at him as he dodged a hook. Germain was pissed, that was for sure, but not a particularly gifted fighter, it seemed. It was easy enough to dodge and push until Germain started tiring himself out. Then, he got a lucky hit and Jamie went down. Hard. On a table. That promptly collapsed under his weight.
“Fuck” Jamie swore as Jenny began shoving Germain and Simon out.
“Christ, man, your shoulder,” Ian yelped as he approached Jamie. And yeah, his shoulder was definitely dislocated. Not a difficult injury when it had already happened to him several times in his life, but painful nonetheless. More painful for the fact that he was now facing a long wait in the ER. This night could not have gone to shit faster.
“Alright,” Claire said as she hauled him into a chair, “Let me see.”
“It’s dislocated,” Jamie said unnecessarily. But pain and Claire’s hands on him were making him dumb.
“No shit,” Claire replied, “I’m seeing how badly you’ve torn the muscle.”
Jamie didn’t reply as she poked and prodded at him. He thought she was maybe being not as gentle as she could be, but who was he to question her?
“Alright,” she said after a second, “Good news or bad news first?”
“Bad,” Jamie and Jenny said at the same time.
“I can’t give you the good drugs,” Claire said, “But I can pop this back in myself. No ER for you tonight.”
“Claire, are ye sure?” Ian asked.
“She’s a bloody doctor,” Jenny replied, but she looked considerably worried too. Less worried than angry, Jamie noted with a shudder.
“I can ask Joe for a second opinion, but I don’t think he’ll be much use right now,” Claire said with a wry smile. Joe was so far drunk at this point that he was basically asleep on his barstool. No wonder, since he’d been drinking Claire’s drinks too.
“Well, get on with it, Sassenach,” Jamie replied. He’d done this before, waiting only made it worse. The soreness later was a small price to pay for the immediate relief of setting it back in. Claire pursed her lips at the use of the nickname but didn’t say anything else. Instead, she lifted his arm slowly and forcefully. The realigning was always worse than the popping and Jamie could feel the sweat pouring down his face.
“If I’d have known all it took to get you to touch me again was breaking my arm,” Jamie said almost deliriously, “I woulda done it earlier.”
“It’s dislocated, not broken,” Claire replied tersely, but Jamie caught the small smile playing on her lips. It hadn’t been a lie, maybe it was worth it, “Ready?”
“Count of three?” Jamie replied. She nodded, then popped his shoulder back into place at one. Jamie swore something vulgar in Gaelic but then the relief of having his arm back where it needed to be was instantaneous. So too was the exhaustion that came with the sudden lack of pain, “Christ.”
“Sounds about right,” Claire replied as she fashioned a sling from her jacket. He noted how her hands were gentler now that he was clearly moments away from passing out on the floor. With his shoulder successfully back in place, the crowd that had watched the fight was dispersing. Soon, it was only his immediate circle plus Joe.
“We should probably go,” Ian said after a tense moment, “Or we’ll miss the last train.”
“You can’t take him on the train like this!” Claire replied, “Take a cab, at least.”
“And pay 100 pounds for an hour in traffic?” Jamie managed, “At least the train will be quick.”
Claire seemed to consider the situation for a moment and then sighed as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders, “My hotel is a block away.”
Jenny and Ian were quicker on the uptake than he was and they started protesting about putting her out. She rolled her eyes at their worries, but she very much looked like she was offering herself up for execution as she spoke, “Too much movement will land him right in the hospital, he can stay with me and Joe tonight.”
“Well, if yer sure,” Jenny replied. Jamie apparently had no say in the matter, not that he would protest. The fight had knocked his thoughts around, but he was inclined to finish their conversation. Well, her conversation, Jamie had barely been able to get a word in. Maybe being forced into a hotel room with her would finally answer some of his questions. Laoghaire for one thing. How had she even known that name?
“Come on, soldier,” Claire said sarcastically after a moment, “I can’t carry you home and you look ready to pass out.”
He couldn’t argue with her, so just like three years ago, Jamie just let Claire lead him.
I guess we're doing long chapters now. Sorry for the delay, life got in the way. Let me know what you think!
Two years and six months ago
Claire had lost her job today.
More specifically, she had quit. Or, the hospital had called her bluff and she’d lost. Claire hated an ultimatum, just ask Frank. And look how well that turned out, she thought bitterly over her glass of wine. What she really wanted was a healthy pour of whisky, but Claire couldn’t stomach it these days. It still made her think of Jamie.
She supposed she’d have to add her faith in her intuition to the long list of things she had lost in the past six months. It didn’t hurt as much as losing her uncle, or her relationship, but it hurt just the same. And now that she had no job, what she did she really have left?
The moment her uncle was in the ground, Claire dove back into her work. One of the things that made her such a good doctor was that she could compartmentalize. Sure, she got attached perhaps a bit too much to her patients, but she wasn’t haunted by the people she couldn’t save. She refused to plagued with regrets about running around Scotland while her only family died all alone.
Pretending you’re okay isn’t the same as processing, Uncle Lamb had told her more often than once. We’ll see about that, Claire thought.
And for about a month, it worked. She took so many double shifts that she was the most popular doctor on call. She worked herself so hard that she fell into dreamless unconsciousness the moment she got home just to do it all again the next day. Joe told her he had half a mind to report all her over time to the hospital board, but he knew Claire would never forgive him for it.
As it happened, she didn’t even need Joe to report her. She got into trouble all on her own.
The patient’s name was Graham. He had been fighting an aggressive cancer most of his life and it was becoming clear he wasn’t going to survive his latest relapse. He asked Claire to help him die on his own terms and she responded with a triple dose of morphine. It would have been untraceable if a bloody nurse hadn’t walked in while Claire was still holding the syringe. It was Claire’s word against the nurses once she threw the syringe away, but the damage had been done.
Claire was promoted. Or more accurately, she was given an administrative job far, far away from any patients. She could see the promotion for what it was. Her actions could be defended by being criminally overworked while she was technically within her bereavement leave if she wanted it. If someone sued, it would be her supervisors who were in deep shit, not Claire despite the fact that she’d signed up for the shifts. Better to take care of Claire quietly than risk someone talking.
But Claire was a doctor, and a damn good one. Take that away and what did she even have? Her supervisor didn’t care, apparently. Claire threatened to quit if she wasn’t allowed to keep her job, and they let her. Apparently the Royal London Hospital didn’t look too kindly on their doctors killing patients. Even terminally ill patients in unfathomable pain.
Claire couldn’t say if she would have made the same choice if her circumstances had been different. Even though she thought she’d stand by her choice, she was lucky to have just been fired instead of having her license revoked or being reported to the police. But in her haze of suppressed grief, exhaustion from 100 hour weeks and sudden unemployment, she couldn’t see anything other than the hole she was about to fall into.
And fall she did.
Hard and fast. She barely left her flat, she never turned on the lights, she hadn’t done laundry in at least a month. If it wasn’t for delivery and Joe calling her daily, she probably would have starved to death. Not that she would have minded one bit, all things considered. Claire could probably get a job at a different hospital if she had the energy to actually interview anywhere. Instead, she started to drown in her isolation.
Claire had never really been forced to confront the realities of being an orphan. Her uncle had done a good job of making her feel like she was never alone, and while she never really had friends her own age growing up, she did have acquaintances around the globe. Apparently, none of that mattered now that she was alone in London and her only friend was easy to dodge with his own busy residency.
Then one day, about 3 months after Uncle Lamb’s death, Frank let himself into her flat. She didn’t have it in her to be outraged that he still had a key, it was her own fault for not changing the locks. Instead, she watched as he loaded groceries into her fridge and offered her a latte from the place by his flat that she’d been sorely missing. He didn’t say a word as he straightened up some of the obvious mess and Claire didn’t know how to break the silence.
“I’m going to make you dinner on Friday,” Frank said as he was leaving, “Please try to eat something that isn’t processed before then.”
Claire was too dumbfounded to tell him to go straight to hell.
She did call Joe, who guiltily told her that he was the one to ask Frank to check up on her, “I didn’t tell him to just let himself in, I swear LJ,” he insisted.
Claire didn’t chew him out for that. She hadn’t had anyone in her flat since Frank had broken up with her 6 months before. She was looking at herself from another’s perspective for the first time in months, and Claire didn’t like what she saw.
She didn’t call him to cancel, or change the locks. Instead, Claire washed her hair and cleaned her flat. She opened the windows and put on something other than sweatpants.
She hated that it was because of Frank that she felt a little human again, but that hatred was the first thing she’d felt in a very long time.
True to his word, he made Claire dinner on Friday. And the Friday after that. The week after that, dinner turned into dinner and drinks, then dinner and drinks at a restaurant before dropping her back off at her flat. Claire could see the trap she was about to fall into, but she couldn’t stop it.
She was so alone.
And Frank loved her. God, Claire knew that Frank loved her even if it was clear he didn’t really understand her. It wasn’t his fault that she was so fundamentally different from him. She hadn’t been raised to be the girlfriend he wanted, but she was learning how to lean on other people. And Frank was there to catch her the next time she fell. He was so patient with her, and it was so comfortable.
Maybe there was something to be said for being comfortable. Claire wasn’t inexperienced by any means, but the only people she’d been deeply romantically attracted to were Frank and Jamie. And Jamie… Jamie made her feel things that scared her. It had been one bloody night and they hadn’t even had sex and he’d broken her heart. If maybe Claire didn’t feel that all-consuming heat for Frank… she could see the appeal of being safe.
She knew their problems weren’t solved, but she didn’t have the energy to solve them and Frank didn’t make any move to. Instead, they just sort of fell right back into it.
When Frank gave her a key to his flat and asked her to move in 5 months after that first dinner, she said yes. She was hesitant, but she said yes. Apparently “Don’t bother coming back” meant something very different to Frank than it had to her. He shouldn’t have said that, he freely admitted it, but he had been very hurt. Claire knew she had been wrong to hide the internship from him, and she had hopped into bed with the first man who showed her any interest the same day she had broken up with Frank. She didn’t want to be that kind of woman. So she and Frank got back together, and things were looking up for a while.
With Frank and Joe’s encouragement, Claire practically begged for her old job back, and by some miracle she got it. Maybe her supervisor figured six months had made her considerably more stable. Maybe he was just short staffed. Either way, Claire was back in the emergency room. Even if she was being watched like a hawk, for about a year that was enough.
Then Frank proposed and Claire couldn’t think of any reason to say no, so she said yes. She figured he just wanted the commitment from her and wasn’t in any real rush to get married.
She was wrong. Frank didn’t want to waste any time and Claire was apathetic to wedding planning at best. Her excuse was she wanted to be better established in her career before getting married and starting a family, but that excuse wore thin after a few months.
Claire was getting better, but she was still far from the devoted little girlfriend Frank seemed to want. Maybe he thought she’d make a better devoted little wife and mother. He started working longer hours and Claire got more frustrated with her own career. She had set her sights on the head of surgery when she’d first landed her job. It was clear now that was never going to happen in London. She was never the favorite even before her leave of absence. She was too outspoken and independent to be put in charge of anything, she knew plenty of other doctors who went their whole careers on the sidelines for the same reason.
The Edinburgh job practically fell into her lap at the perfect time.
Claire wasn’t friends with Geillis Duncan by any means, but they had a professional relationship. Geillis was a leading obstetrician in Scotland and Claire called her semi regularly for her professional opinion, and Geillis came to her in turn with any difficult cases. The closest they’d gotten to a real friendship was when Geillis sent Jenny’s wedding invitation. Claire meant to send a response, she really had, but what was there to say more than two years later? Sorry I ghosted you, but I was catatonically depressed? Instead, Claire let her own engagement slip and then told Geillis not to pass any information about her to Jenny or Ian. She was sure Geillis would do it anyways, but at least Claire tried.
There was very little keeping her in London when Geillis asked Claire to interview for the job. There was really only Frank, and even if Claire wanted a life with him, she refused to give up her career for him. Her career was dead in London, that was clear with every opportunity that seemed just out of reach, and she told Frank she was leaving with a kiss and promise to talk later.
She supposed he’d follow her to Edinburgh if she got the job. God knew he was successful enough in his own field to find a job somewhere in Scotland (he reminded her of it often enough). And if he didn’t… Claire would deal with that bridge when she got to it. There was still no guarantee that she would even get it, so why tear everything apart for no reason?
But as she and Joe threw practice interview questions back and forth, she couldn’t shake the feeling that this trip was going to change her life
Leave it to a bloody Scot to find a fight everywhere he went.
Claire was fuming the whole way home and she couldn’t even seethe properly because she was practically carrying two people. She was the one who had made Joe drink for her, but she couldn’t believe how badly he was holding his liquor. Jamie was making a valiant effort to stand on his own two feet, but he was leaning on Claire heavily. It was unreasonable for Claire to blame him for that, not when she knew how much pain he must be in. He hadn’t exactly dislocated his own shoulder, but she blamed him anyways. He had thrown the first punch, and now her night was ruined.
It was already ruined, she thought reasonably. It was ruined the moment Jamie had walked through the door. She had somehow managed to patch things up with Ian, and even Jenny was warming back up to her, but that didn’t mean she wanted anything to do with him.
She was shocked as anything when Ian showed up at her hotel. Claire hadn’t really expected anyone to show up at all, if she was being honest. Jenny was fiercely loyal and she was slow to forgive when she’d been betrayed. Claire hadn’t really considered how much she’d hurt Jenny by disappearing. Sure, she felt guilty, and she missed her friend, but it had been one night after four years.
She didn’t think Jenny would be sick with worry, or that she wanted Claire to be in her wedding, not just in attendance. Ian had informed her of both of those things.
“Claire, I canna even imagine what losing yer uncle was like,” Ian said as tears sprang to Claire’s eyes, “But ye were like a sister to us in Glasgow, and it seemed like fate that we met again. And for ye to just leave, I dinna understand it...”
“There is a little bit more,” Claire admitted. She hadn’t intended to tell anyone she had hooked up with Jamie. It didn’t seem like Jenny’s business, and what if he was still with Laoghaire? Claire thought it was unlikely that Jamie would want to be with someone so young and possessive, but then again, she didn’t really know him at all. She didn’t want to stir the pot unnecessarily, but she couldn’t leave Ian with the unsatisfying lie. She stayed as vague as possible, saying that she and Jamie kissed and she regretted it the next day (true, even if it wasn’t the whole truth). She had always intended to tell Jenny something, but then she left Edinburgh and well… she hadn’t been able to do much of anything, let alone apologize to someone she loved.
Ian had forgiven her, but he wasn’t really the one Claire was worried about. By some miracle, he had convinced Jenny to hear her out.
“I am only here out of curiosity and Ian wouldna tell me himself,” Jenny said without saying hello, “So talk, Beauchamp.” And talk she did, giving a lot more detail than she gave Ian but managing to leave out Jamie altogether. Of course, she noticed.
“I sense truth in what yer saying,” she said when Claire was done, “But not the whole truth. What aren’t ye telling me, Claire?”
“Please, Jenny,” Claire begged. She had started crying almost the moment she started speaking and she felt pathetic compared to Jenny’s cold demeanor, “It is embarrassing and it’s not an important part of the story.”
“Is it about Jamie?” she asked, and Claire froze. Had Ian told her? Had Jamie? “Dinna bother answering, I can see it in yer eyes. I’ll leave whatever it is with my brother between ye and him, but Claire, ye have to ken how worried I was.”
“I honestly thought ye were dead, I couldna thing of any other explanation,” Jenny continued, her mask slipping for the first time. Claire wrapped her arms around the other woman without thinking about it. After a stiff moment, Jenny hugged her back, and Claire felt okay for the first time in a long time.
And now here she was, carrying the one person she hadn’t wanted to talk to tonight. Mercifully, the hotel was just around the corner and soon they were outside her room. She and Joe had opted for two rooms connected by a door instead of just sharing. Getting Joe’s room key from him wasn’t going to work in his current state, so Claire just let everyone into her room, thinking she could put Jamie and Joe to bed in the room through the adjoining door and she’d be left in peace.
Of course, Joe Abernathy, apparently the worst drinker on the planet, managed to get in his own room while Claire was distracted checking Jamie’s arm and lock the door behind him.
“Fucking hell,” Claire cursed as she knocked. But it was no use, Joe was either already asleep or too far gone to hear her. She whipped back around to Jamie as if it was his fault and continued examining his arm perhaps less gently than she could have.
“Claire?” Jamie said after a particularly hard prod. Jamie was sitting on the chair next to Claire’s bed and she was standing between his legs taking great care not to touch him anywhere other than his injured shoulder, “Is it really the worst thing in the world to speak to me?”
“Yes,” she said absentmindedly before silently cursing herself. She had issues holding her tongue normally and especially when she was working, “Stay still.”
“Claire?” Jamie tried again. She was doing a valiant job of ignoring the way his pain stricken, puppy dog eyes were staring up at her. She had fallen for those eyes once, she wasn’t going to do it again.
“Stay still,” Claire scolded. She knew she was being unreasonable, but Jamie had hurt her. In the wake of everything that happened in Edinburgh, it shouldn’t hurt her still. But it did. It wasn’t like Claire to fall for someone the moment she met them, it wasn’t like Claire to fall for someone at all, but she had and then she’d found out she’d entirely misjudged him. It was a big reason she had just fallen back into her safe and predictable relationship with Frank. It was the reason she’d done a lot of things.
Interviewing for this job was the first real risk she’d taken in years. Because what if her intuition was wrong and she found herself free falling again? Of course, Jamie didn’t need to hear all that. Instead, she could just keep her head down and get out of this night unharmed. That was proving difficult when he wouldn’t just bloody leave her alone. And every time her eyes drifted up and met his, the same bolt of electricity and desire shot through her as three years ago.
“Can I ask ye just one thing?”
“If you must,” she sighed.
“What ye said about Laoghaire…” he began and Claire froze.
“Of course that’s the thing you picked up on. Not that I wanted you to leave me alone, but that I knew about your bloody girlfriend.” She punctuated her sentence by tightening the sling and she got some morbid satisfaction at Jamie’s wince.
“Laoghaire isna my girlfriend,” he said simply after the pain faded.
“Maybe not now-”
“Not since I was 19, Sassenach, long before I met ye,” Jamie replied. He was looking at her almost expectantly, like he was about to get the answer to a riddle he’d been trying to solve for years. Maybe he was. Maybe James Fraser had been thinking about Claire just as much as she’d thought about him. Claire couldn’t have looked away from him even if she wanted to, his eyes were holding her steady in front of him.
“Sassenach…” Jamie said slowly, as if afraid that she would bolt. Maybe she would. There were still so many things going through her mind. She tried not to think of Laoghaire, but she couldn’t puzzle out why she’d tell Claire she was Jamie’s girlfriend if she wasn’t. But now that Jamie had denied it, she knew deep down that he was telling the truth, “I dinna ken what happened with Laoghaire, but I havena liked another woman in a verra long time. Not since I kissed ye, if I’m being honest.”
“Oh,” Claire let out the word like a breath. His words took a weight off of her shoulders that she’d been carrying for years. There was a euphoria that came with the sudden absence of pain, and Claire was dizzy with it. Jamie wasn’t a cheater. And he wasn’t a liar. Which meant that she hadn’t imagined the electricity between them three years ago and she wasn’t imagining it now.
The energy of him was stronger than when she’d last been alone with him. He had been 21 and just starting university while she had already been a doctor. But now… Jamie Fraser was a boy no longer. He was every inch a man. And now that Claire wasn’t angry at him, she was very aware of how they were nearly pressed together. At some point, Jamie’s good arm had drifted up and he was now gripping her hip as she drifted closer between his legs.
“Do ye think about that night?” Jamie asked with a slight hesitancy. He was looking at her so tenderly, but he was nervous, she realized. He didn’t wait for an answer before he continued, “I wonder what would have happened if ye had stayed all the time. I wanted ye so much, Claire.”
“Wanted,” Claire repeated, the past tense sobering her up a bit.
“Want. I want ye still,” he amended. He gave her hip a squeeze for emphasis. His arms were so long and toned be was holding her almost fully with just the uninjured one. In response, Claire’s hands drifted to Jamie’s shoulders. She was unbelievably gentle now. Even sitting, he was nearly as tall as her. If would have been so easy for her to lean down and connect their lips together. She was tempted, so very tempted, but there was still so much to sort out.
Not least of which was the ring on her finger, she realized with a start as it caught the light and sparkled as she moved. Claire pulled her hands away as if Jamie’s skin had burned her. Perhaps it had, she thought absentmindedly. If she thought her mind was a mess before, it was a chaos of Jamie and Frank and arousal and confusion now. She ran a hand through her unruly curls as she turned away from Jamie.
“Claire?” Jamie asked, the hurt and confusion not even masked.
What Claire would have even said, she didn’t know, but she was interrupted by her phone ringing. Grateful for the excuse to get some air from Jamie, Claire practically lunged for her purse and grabbed her phone. She didn’t even look to see who it was before she answered.
“Hello, darling. How was the interview?” Frank drawled from what might as well have been a million miles away. Guilt sank down heavy in her stomach so suddenly that it made her nauseous
She and Frank hadn’t talked in the three days between when she left London and her first interview. Instead of her panicking over the lack of contact, she had walked into her interview with nothing weighing on her other than wanting the job. He had called her after, though. He’d been quiet, but had still congratulated her when she said it went well. She thought maybe they were turning a corner, but then he did the same thing again. Claire hadn’t heard from him since that night and she hadn’t even thought of him before going into her second interview yesterday.
“I don’t know yet,” she said once her mind started working again. One hand was still in her hair nervously trying to untangle a curl in vain, “They haven’t called me for the third, but I thought it went well enough.”
“‘Well enough’ is Claire speak for bloody brilliant,” Frank replied, and something in her heart untightened a little at the teasing lilt in his voice, “You are the most humble person with a doctorate I know.”
“That’s because doctors of medicine are decidedly less condescending than PhDs,” she teased right back and was met with a few minutes of tense silence. Claire didn’t think much of Frank’s co-workers, and it was always hit or miss if her jokes about them would land. This one was a miss, it seemed.
“I expected you to call hours ago,” Frank said finally. Claire bit back a comment on how he could’ve called her at any point in the last two days, but there was no point in having that fight right now.
“I was…” Claire struggled to find the right words as she gave a backwards glance at Jamie. He was eyeing her with a look she couldn’t even begin to decipher even if she wanted to. She settled on, “Indisposed.”
“I connected with some friends from when I studied in Glasgow.”
“Christ, that’s what? 6 years ago?”
“7,” Claire corrected, “Jenny owns a tavern now. That’s where we were.”
“Well,” Frank said with thinly veiled annoyance, “I’m glad you’re having fun with your friends. I’ll let you get some sleep since it’s late. Goodnight, Claire.”
“I love you, too,” Claire said haughtily as Frank hung up on her. It wasn’t until she turned back around that she realized Jamie was still in the room.
Shit. What was she doing? It’s clear she and Frank were in a rough patch, but she certainly wasn’t a cheater and she wasn’t about to lead Jamie on. From this distance, Claire could see what rough shape Jamie was in. His arm was angry and swollen and he was swaying even though he was sitting. He winced with every small movement and he looked like he was going to either fall asleep or pass out at any moment. Maybe she should have taken him to the hospital just so she could have gotten him some pain killers?
The spell they had been under was broken now. Jamie didn’t have the same “glass face” that Claire did, so he was harder to read, but he seemed to be thinking very much the same thing as she was.
It was clear that whatever could have happened between them was over with the way Jamie’s eyes were trained on Claire toying with her engagement ring. She crossed her arms self-consciously so it was no longer in view.
“It’s late,” Claire said finally, “And you’re clearly in pain. We should go to bed.”
To bed, or to sleep? Was his response the last time she’d said something like that. She fought back the smile playing on her lips at the memory.
“Don’t,” she said as she turned away again. It was too overwhelming to look directly at him, “It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters!”
“No, it doesn’t,” Claire said with more certainty than she felt. The fire that had just been in her had turned ice cold, “I am engaged. To a man I love. To a man I actually know.”
Jamie looked for a moment like he was going to argue, but whatever was written on Claire’s face shut him up more than her words did. Good.
Maybe it wasn’t fair of her to be acting this way, but her life and relationship were complicated enough without adding James Fraser to the mix. Questions of what if had haunted Claire for three years, and enough was enough. She’d gotten enough of an answer tonight. She and Jamie were still undeniably attracted to each other, but Claire was too old to be a slave to her lust.
“You take the bed. I’m going to take a shower,” Claire began as she got a change of clothes, “Don’t get any noble ideas about taking the couch. I will wake you up and move you.” Without another word, Claire turned back to the bathroom. Hopefully Jamie would be asleep when she got out and she could be left to sort through her thoughts alone. Well, as alone as she could be with a massive Scot 10 feet away from her.
“Claire,” Jamie called just before she shut the door. Against her better judgement, Claire turned back to him. There were a million unspoken things in his eyes but he said none of them, “Goodnight, Sassenach.”
“Goodnight, Jamie,” her voice softened at the nickname before she could help it. Claire tore her eyes away from him and closed the door on him, and the possibility of anything happening between them. At least for tonight.
Thanks for your patience, 5K chapters take time. Were the answers satisfying? Sorry if you were expecting bedsharing, but I love a good slow burn. Let me know what you think!
Just a few things I'd like to address before we get started.
1. THANK YOU for reading and enjoying this story. It means so much to me that people are so invested in my writing.
2. This is a slow burn. It is tagged as a slow burn. If that's not your jam, I totally understand and there are hundreds of other stories that are for you. Telling me this story is moving too slowly won't make me get Jamie and Claire together any faster. Please respect that this is the story I want to write and don't demand I speed things up
3. Please don't ask me to update faster. Like every other author, I write in my free time and these chapters are pretty long. That means I can't always update every week.
I understand that these comments are coming from a place of enthusiasm, but I've gotten a couple of really disheartening things on the last few chapters. I write for fun and because I love sharing my ideas with you all, but comments like these actively discourage me from writing. I love all the (constructive) feedback I've been getting, but please just remember that I'm a real person behind the screen! Thanks all, please enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jamie woke up alone, but with the scent of Claire surrounding him. It was something clean, sweet and slightly medicinal. It was so strong that it took Jamie a moment to realize that Claire wasn’t, in fact, in bed with him.
With that realization came another one: it didn’t matter that Claire seemed to be as haunted by him as he was by her. That much had become clear last night.
They had been moments away from… something last night. Something monumental and earth shattering. Then he caught sight of her toying with her ring, and the damn phone rang and whatever was between them was gone.
She was engaged. In the heat of the moment Jamie had forgotten. Jamie wanted a woman who was in love with someone else. She was going to marry someone else and he’d come very close to kissing her.
Of course, he hadn’t had hit wits about him. He’d been nearly delirious with pain and drunk on being close to her. But Jamie wasn’t sure he would have stopped even if he’d remembered her engagement. If Claire hadn’t stopped it first, he didn’t know what line he would have crossed. Jamie had never thought himself the kind of man to pursue a nearly married woman. But then again, he’d never been with someone he really cared about other than Claire.
With that thought, Jamie managed to finally sit up by himself. It was early enough that Jamie expected Claire to still be asleep on the couch, but he was truly alone. It was a lot like three years ago, but what were the odds that Claire would abandon her own hotel room just to avoid him? Pretty high, Jamie decided. He’d probably do the same thing if he’d been the one about to cheat on his fiancé.
Before Jamie could spiral further, he decided he was getting too far ahead of himself. They hadn’t even kissed and Claire had been the one to stop him. Even if her fiancé hadn’t called, Jamie still would have probably gone to bed alone.
And the call… Jamie had tried not to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to when the woman he was burning for was right in front of him.
Indisposed. Is that what she was calling it? He’d caught her eyes for a moment, but then she’d turned away before he could really see anything in her face. Did she feel guilty? Disappointed? She had a glass face, Jamie could see everything thought that passed through her head. He’d give anything to see what she was feeling in that moment.
When she’d turned back, Jamie saw nothing but resignation. Whatever had been between them was gone, at least for that night. Jamie couldn’t help but call out to her one last time, but she’d left him with nothing other than a goodnight.
If Jamie hadn’t been in pain, he would have been plagued with thoughts of her in the shower just a few feet away. But he was exhausted and his shoulder was growing sorer by the minute, and Jamie fell asleep by the time Claire had come out from the bathroom. And he had apparently slept through Claire leaving in the morning.
He didn’t have to wait long for her, however. Jamie had plugged his dead phone in and had just settled back on the couch when Claire walked through the door carrying a tray of coffees.
“Oh,” she said as she noticed him on her couch, “I thought you’d still be asleep.”
“Well I’m a verra early riser,” he replied lamely.
“That’s impressive for someone who dislocated his shoulder not even 12 hours ago,” Claire replied as she handed him a cup of coffee.
“Thank ye, Sassenach,” Jamie replied. He didn’t quite manage not to wince as he jostled his arm.
“Here,” Claire said again as she reached into her purse for an orange bottle.
“Stealing medicine now are we?” Jamie asked as he accepted it.
“I stopped by Geillis’ hospital,” Claire explained, “It’s hospital grade ibuprofen. Totally legal, just a tad stronger than what you can get over the counter.”
“So ye get up at the crack of dawn to get me coffee and medicine?”
“Coffee for all of us, I think Joe is going to need it,” Claire laughed, “And to be honest, I needed some time to collect my thoughts.”
“Thoughts about me?”
“Thoughts about a lot of things,” she said, “Including you, Mr. Fraser.”
“I didna meant to make ye uncomfortable, Sassenach,” Jamie said sincerely, “But I have been thinking about ye for three years.”
“I’m engaged, Jamie,” Claire said.
“I ken that,” he scoffed, “But I didna know why you left or why ye’d never reached out to Jenny. And to find out that ye thought I’d cheated on my girlfriend with ye. Do ye really think that’s the kind of man I am?”
“I have no idea what kind of man you are, Jamie,” Claire said patiently, as if she was talking to a child. It made Jamie’s blood boil even though it wasn’t really her fault, “I’d only met you that night, and we were both drunk.”
“Well it isna the kind of man I am, and I wish ye’d have let me explain myself.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Claire said, “Because I went back to London less than a month later and I never would have come back to Scotland if it wasn’t for this job.”
“Ye left in the middle of your internship?”
“My uncle died unexpectedly,” Claire shrugged in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t casual at all.
“I’m sorry, Claire, truly,” Jamie said. He grabbed her hand before he could stop himself and gave it a sympathetic squeeze. Claire returned it briefly before taking a sip of her own cup of coffee.
“It’s better now, but I was a mess for a good six months. He was my only family. Hence why I didn’t call Jenny.” Claire continued. Jamie remembered Claire sharing that her parents had died when she was little, but he didn’t think she’d really only had the man that raised her. So she was truly alone then? Except for her fiancé, he thought.
Before Jamie could say anything else, Claire was banging on the door to the adjoining room. How Joe had managed to lock Claire out, Jamie didn’t know, but he gave a mental thank you to the man for giving him a chance to be alone with her.
“Get up, Abernathy!” she called, “We have shit to do?”
“What do you have to do?” Jamie asked. He could hear movement on the other side of the door, but Joe didn’t answer.
“We either have to prep for our final interviews or we’ll be getting incredibly drunk. It depends on when I check my email.”
“Ye havena checked yet? When ye kent there’s news.”
Claire shrugged, “Joe and I are in this together, I wouldn’t check without him.”
As if on cue, Joe opened the door to Claire’s room looking a little worse for wear, “Before you yell at me,” he said, “Remember that you were the only who kept slipping me the shots Geillis was forcing on you.”
“It looks like you’re being punished enough without me having to get back at you,” she teased as she gave him a fond pat on the cheek. Jamie envied the casual way she touched him. Would he ever be able to touch her with that kind of familiarity? Would she ever be that comfortable around Jamie? It was an unproductive train of thought.
“Good morning, Jamie,” Joe asked as he sat down on the couch, “How’s the shoulder.”
“Hurts something fierce,” Jamie admitted.
“I can’t believe you popped it back into place in the middle of a bar, LJ,” he said to Claire with no small amount of admiration. Jamie understood the feeling, “Have you checked you email?”
“I was waiting for you to come out of hibernation.”
“It isn’t even 8:00, LJ,” Joe replied as he got his phone out, “Sorry we have to do this in front of you, Jamie, but I can tell LJ is going to lose it if I make her wait any longer.”
Jamie ventured a glance at Claire. There were no outward signs of nerves, but Jamie couldn’t see into her eyes from this angle.
“Prepare for some tears either way,” Claire warned as she opened her own email. At almost the same time, Joe and Claire opened a message and quickly scanned their screens.
“Did ye get the interview, lass?” Jamie asked when both she and Joe stayed silent.
“Joe?” Claire said.
“I got it. They want me back this afternoon” he replied, “You?”
Instead of answering, Claire broke out into a wide grin and pulled Joe up to where she was standing to hug him. He hugged her back with a laugh and Jamie was jealous to not really be included in the moment.
“They scheduled it for 9:30,” Claire said, “Bastards didn’t even give me the time to prep.”
“As if you need the prep,” Joe rolled his eyes.
“Just one more interview,” Claire laughed, “Then we’ll be free.”
“And out of fucking London,” Joe whooped.
“Ye dinna like London?” Jamie asked.
“It’s alright, I guess,” Joe replied, “But Brits are so uptight.”
“Unlike Americans, who are known for being calm and collected,” she teased, “Christ, I’ve been too nervous to eat since yesterday and now I’m starving.”
“The tavern is opening soon if ye want to go?”
Claire glanced at the clock and frowned, “I don’t think I’ll have time to sit down. Do you think Jenny will let me take something to go?”
“I’m sure she would, Sassenach,” Jamie said.
“Great, I’ll have just enough time to make my interview,” Claire said. She gave Joe a final embrace and threw Jamie a smile, “Goodbye, Jamie. Let Joe check your shoulder.”
Then Claire was gone and Jamie was alone with Joe, and he really didn’t know what to do with that.
“Claire and I are going back to London tonight after our interviews,” Joe said after a moment, “I wasn’t sure if she’d tell you, but we’ll be gone this time tomorrow.”
“Will ye be back soon?” Jamie asked. Will Claire be back? Was the real question, but Jamie didn’t want to be rude. Judging from the wry smile Joe was giving him, he knew exactly what Jamie had been asking. It was such a Claire-like look, Jamie could see why they were friends.
“I guess that depends on if I get the job, I’m sure LJ will be back though,” Joe said. As he spoke, he removed the makeshift sling that Claire had made. He tried and failed not to wince as Joe prodded at him.
“Ye think Claire will get the job?”
“When she doesn’t have to be the most arrogant woman alive to get something done, Lady Jane is humble to a fault,” Joe laughed. He put the sling back on, seemingly satisfied with however Claire had treated him last night, “I’m positive she’ll get the job, and so is she even if she isn't acting like it.”
“And her fiancé…” Jamie began. He wasn’t positive he wanted to ask about that, or if he even had the right to. But no one was going to tell Jamie about the fiancé, definitely not Claire herself.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Joe replied, but he shot Jamie a look that said he was going to tell him anyways, “But it’s complicated.”
“Is he no a good man?”
“A good man doesn’t necessarily make him a good man for her,” Joe replied. Jamie wanted to ask more, but he didn’t want to put Joe in a difficult positon. And he definitely didn’t want it getting back to Claire that he was asking around about her fiancé. Not like he was hiding his feelings very well to begin with, “This isn’t anything I haven’t said to her face, just so you know,” Joe added quickly.
“Och, I wasna gonna get ye in trouble with her.”
Joe gave a genuine laugh at that before turning serious, “I’m sure you’ll be spending a lot of time together when Claire moves to Edinburgh.”
“I suppose, she is friends with my sister.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Joe replied, “And I’m going to pull the ‘protective best friend’ card for a minute.”
“Aye?” Jamie asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Aye,” Joe replied with a small smile, “I know Claire seems like nothing in the world can hurt her, but she hasn’t had an easy life. Be careful with her, Jamie.”
Jamie didn’t bother denying any of the implications of Joe’s words. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a liar. He didn’t want Claire’s engagement to fall apart, but he wouldn’t let her slip through his fingers if it did. He’d already lost three years with her, he didn’t want to waste any more time. If Claire came back to Scotland single… it seemed like no one was oblivious to what Jamie was feelings, except maybe Claire.
“I wish I could talk more, but I have to prep for my interview,” Joe said, pulling Jamie from his thoughts.
“I’ll get out of yer hair then,” Jamie said as he gathered the few things he’d left strewn across Claire’s room, “Good luck, Joe.”
“Thank you, Jamie,” Joe replied, “I’ll be seeing you soon.”
True to what Joe had said, Claire was gone the next day. This time he heard the news from Jenny who’d heard it from Claire herself. She was expecting a call within a few weeks about whether she’d gotten the job, then she’d be moving here. It seemed like everyone was assuming Claire was getting the job, Jamie included.
The confidence in her wasn’t unfounded: Geillis texted her group chat with Ian, Jenny and Jamie that Claire and Joe had gotten their respective jobs. They’d been searching for a flat since they got back to London and now all they had to do was sign the lease. No one mentioned Claire’s fiancé and Jamie had no right to ask.
He didn’t mean to, but he began counting down the days until Claire was here permanently. It didn’t help that Ian and Jenny seemed to be doing the same thing. They were planning on taking Claire and Joe out to dinner to celebrate, followed by drinks at the tavern. Claire didn’t know any of their other friends, but Jenny seemed to think that she’d become fast friends with them as well.
There wasn’t much to do while he waited for Claire other than working at the tavern. And dealing with Laoghaire. In the three years since she’d ruined his chances with Claire, Jamie and Laoghaire had had very much the same relationship. Jamie would see her whenever he was in Lallybroch and he largely ignored her texts and calls when he was in Edinburgh.
It didn’t seem like time had eased her infatuation with him. Jamie had once thought of it only as an annoyance, but now that he knew Laoghaire had been responsible for Claire leaving…
Was there a point in dredging something up from three years ago? Jamie wasn’t one to hold grudges, but who knew what else Laoghaire had stuck her nose in? Even if it was coming from a place of affection, the time had come for Jamie to completely end things with Laoghaire. Luckily (or unluckily) for him, Laoghaire had been dropping hints about visiting him in Edinburgh. She’d done the same thing every now and then over the years, but Jamie had been able to claim he was too busy with school to really show her the city (partially true). But now that he was graduating and only had responsibilities to Jenny, her hints had turned into inviting herself to the city for his birthday next month.
Maybe Jamie was a coward to end things over the phone, but there really wasn’t anything to end. It wasn’t his fault she hadn’t been able to move on. He probably should have done it a long time ago.
“Jamie, I wasna expecting ye to call,” Laoghaire answered after half a ring. She sounded so pleased that Jamie couldn’t believe he’d done this for years and not realized she still had feelings for him.
“Sorry for not asking, is it a bad time?”
“Och, not at all!” she said brightly, “Are ye calling to talk about me visiting, because I’ve been meaning to call ye again-”
“Actually, Laoghaire,” Jamie said, “I dinna think ye should come to Edinburgh.”
“Is next month no a good time? Because I could make the trip whenever.”
“No, Laoghaire,” Jamie replied. Christ, she was really going to make him work for this, wasn’t she, “I dinna think we should talk anymore. It’s no good for either of to be so stuck in the past.”
“We’re friends, Jamie,” she said. Jamie hoped he was imagining her sniffle.
“Are we friends? Or are ye just waiting for us to get back together?”
“Have ye ever told anyone ye were my girlfriend?” Jamie asked before he could stop himself. So much for not holding grudges.
“Of course I havena,” Laoghaire said. She sounded so offended that Jamie almost believed her.
“Never?” Jamie asked, “Not in the 6 years since we dated?”
“6 years?” she said, “Jamie, we were on again off again in your first 2 years of university.”
“There it is,” Jamie replied, “Laoghaire, I broke up with ye when we were 19. We werena together more than 6 months and we willna be getting together ever again. I’m sorry if I’ve given ye reason to hope, but I dinna want to be yer boyfriend.”
“Where is this coming from, Jamie? Is there someone else?”
“It doesna matter,” Jamie replied, “I’ll no be in Lallybroch for a long while. Dinna call or text me, goodbye Laoghaire.” He didn’t give her a chance to reply before he hung up the phone. He’d believed Claire, but there was a part of him that wanted to think better of Laoghaire. Or better of his own judgement, he had been her friend for years after all. There was no point in over analyzing everything he’d said to Laoghaire in the last 6 years, but he couldn’t imagine what he’d done to make her think they were together two years after he’d actually broken up with her.
Whatever it was, it was over now. Laoghaire had been broken up with once and for all, now there was just waiting for Claire.
A week after his conversation with Laoghaire, Jenny sent Ian and Jamie a text telling them to stay away from their apartment until late. Geillis and Claire were coming over and it was going to be a long night. Jamie thought they were probably just celebrating Claire’s move until he finally came home well past two am to find Claire asleep on his couch with her head resting on Geillis’ lap.
Jenny was on the other side of the couch running a comforting hand on Claire’s calf. She and Geillis stopped talking when Jamie walked in. The scene looked straight out of a romantic comedy. There were empty bottles of wine and takeout containers strewn about and tissues littered everywhere. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened.
“Frank broke up with her,” Jenny said, “Poor thing just got to sleep.”
“‘Poor thing’” Geillis scoffed, “Losing that asshole will be the best thing that ever happened to her. Ye’ll seen.”
“Doesna matter right now,” Jenny insisted, “When a friend comes to ye sobbing, ye dinna tell her it’s a good thing.”
“Och, she’ll forgive me when she sees the light,” Geillis said, “Thank me, even.”
“Doesna mean she didna just have her heart broken.”
Jamie was reminded of what Joe told him last month. Be careful with her, Jamie. Claire looked so small curled up against Geillis on his couch. It was unlike how Jamie had ever seen her before. She looked vulnerable, and deeply hurt even in sleep. Jamie didn’t know much about Frank, but he could tell he would throw a punch if he ever saw the man. How could he have someone as incredible as Claire and give her up?
“Jamie, did ye hear me?” Jenny asked.
“Come again?” Jamie replied.
“Claire canna stay on the couch, take her back to yer room.”
“Where am I supposed to sleep?” Jamie demanded.
“The couch, of course.”
“She seems perfectly content on the couch,” Jamie said. In truth, it was more the thought of carrying Claire into his room and lying her on his bed than sleeping on the couch himself that gave Jamie pause.
“Don’t ye think Claire has been through enough today without waking up with a crick in her neck?”
“So it’s okay that I get a crick in my neck?”
“That’s what ye get for staying out all night,” Jenny retorted.
“Ye told me to stay away!”
“Christ, enough,” Geillis replied as loudly as she dared without disturbing Claire, “I’ll carry her if ye don’t.”
“No!” Jamie said much too quickly, “I’ll do it.” Before Jenny could make any more comments, Jamie leaned down and picked Claire up bridal style. Immediately, Claire snuggled into his chest and Jamie swore his heart stopped.
“Are ye just gonna stand there, or will ye take her to bed?” Geillis asked. Jamie could feel himself blush with the implications, and Geillis’ smug look told him she knew exactly what she was doing. Jamie didn’t dignify that with a response before he turned down the hall to his room.
It wasn’t a particularly large flat, just enough for the three people who lived there. But Jamie felt like he carried Claire miles down the hall. The weight of her felt good in his arms. He wished he was carrying her to his bed under different circumstances. He wished he’d done this three years ago. Jamie shook the thoughts out of his head. He wanted Claire to come back to Scotland single, but he hadn’t wanted her to get hurt. If what Geillis and Jenny had said was any indication, Jamie’s advancements were the last thing Claire would want right now.
Claire stirred as Jamie struggled to get his bedroom door open with her in his arms, “Frank?” she asked, her eyes not opening.
“Sorry, Sassenach, it’s just me,” Jamie replied. Instead of pulling away like he expected, Claire pressed herself closer to him. Was he imagining the way she seemed to inhale his scent?
“Jamie?” Claire asked as she opened her eyes. She looked like a woman who’d downed three bottles of wine after getting her heart broken, Jamie noted. Her eyes were red rimmed with dark bags under them. She had only been back in Edinburgh for a day, but Jamie wondered if she’d slept her last few nights in London.
“Go back to sleep, Sassenach,” he soothed as he set her down on his bed.
“Is this your room? Where will you sleep?”
“The couch, unless I manage to get to Jenny’s room before she does,” Jamie tried to joke, but it fell flat, “This makes up for me taking your bed at the hotel.”
Claire looked for a moment like she was going to argue, but the pull of a soft bed was too much for her to resist. Instead of sinking into the sheets like Jamie expected, she hesitantly leaned her head on Jamie’s shoulder.
“Frank and I broke up,” she said.
“Aye, Jenny told me.”
“I’m sorry I took over your flat,” Claire said, “Joe and I can’t move into ours until tomorrow.”
“Dinna fash, Sassenach,” Jamie said. Then he felt tears on his neck, “Oh, lass.”
Against his better judgement, Jamie swung an arm around her shoulder and then he was holding her.
“I thought about you a lot,” Claire said unprompted, “You asked in the hotel if I ever thought of you after I left. I thought about you all the time.”
“We dinna have to talk about this now,” Jamie said, even though he desperately wanted to know what else Claire thought about.
“I thought about you even though I was broken, and I thought about you even though I had a boyfriend, and then I thought of you even though I had a fiancé,” Claire replied, “I just lost the person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and I can still only think about you. Isn’t that ridiculous?”
It was a good thing Jamie didn’t have any idea what to say because he didn’t think he was physically capable of speaking. His heart was in his throat and his blood was rushing in his ears. This wasn’t the right time for this, he knew that, but Claire was looking up at him like she couldn’t stand another rejection today.
“Never mind,” she said after a moment, “I’m not making any sense.”
Be careful with her.
But then Claire was pulling away and Jamie couldn’t stand to let her go just yet. Instead, he gripped the back of her neck maybe a little too hard and leaned forward until his forehead was resting against hers. Jamie wanted her, badly, but he wouldn’t cross that line tonight.
“I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe,” Jamie said softly, “But I dinna think we should right now.”
“I let you go once, Claire, I’m no gonna make the same mistake twice,” he promised, “But I dinna want ye when yer hurting because of another man.”
It almost physically hurt Jamie to pull away, but he knew he had to. Even if Claire wasn’t drunk, even if she wasn’t heartbroken and exhausted, Jamie didn’t want her ten feet away from his sister. When he had her, Jamie wanted to hear whatever wee sounds she’d make.
Tired, heartbroken and drunk, it was easy for Jamie to push Claire down into the pillows and pull his blanket around her shoulders. Claire’s eyes were closed by the time he was done tucking her in, but Jamie wasn’t sure she was actually asleep. Jamie gave her a lingering kiss on the forehead, then one on her cheek for good measure before he managed to tear himself away.
It wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy him, but that was okay. Claire was single and moving to Scotland. Jamie suddenly felt like he had all the time in the world.
Thank you for reading and thank you for all the feedback. As always, let me know what you think!
Turns out I write faster when I don't get shitty comments. What a concept.
Seriously though, thank you for all the support on the last chapter. Writing is as much my escape as reading is, and I'm glad there are people still along for the ride. I hope you enjoy!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
One Month Ago
Claire didn’t tell anyone that the chief of the hospital had basically offered her the job at the end of her last interview. She didn’t want to jinx it before it was official. And she wanted a chance to talk to Frank before anyone else got in her head. She knew Joe wasn’t the biggest fan of her fiancé; that was clear even when they were just dating. He’d responded less than enthusiastically when Claire told him Frank had proposed three months ago. He hadn’t point blank said he thought it was a bad idea, but Claire could read between the lines. It was the closest to fighting they’d ever gotten, so Claire had been careful with what she said about Frank in front of Joe ever since.
From the few conversation she’d had with Geillis and Jenny, it didn’t seem like they were sold on him either, and they rounded out her limited friend group. So if Claire was going to accept the job once it was formally offered, she wanted to talk it through with her fiancé without anyone else whispering in her ear.
The train ride back to London was uneventful. Joe and Claire were both content to sleep most of the way after an exhausting couple of weeks. They’d debriefed their respective interviews as they’d packed their bags at the hotel (they’d both said it went well. Joe’s was down to three candidates, Claire’s to four), and neither wanted much to talk about it past that. What was the point when it was completely out of their control now? They’d said goodbye at the train station and Claire went back to the flat she shared with Frank.
She sent him a text that morning that she’d been offered the final interview, but he hadn’t called her after. Claire hadn’t bothered to remind him when her train was arriving. When she’d first left, he offered to pick her up when she came home, but it didn’t seem like he’d remembered and she didn’t feel like begging for his attention on this particular day. The flat was empty when she let herself in, which was par for the course. He’d been working later and later as Claire’s own hours continued to get cut over the last several months. The one silver lining she’d seen in her plummeting popularity at the hospital was that she might be able to spend more time with her fiancé, but the idea didn’t seem to occur to Frank. It was funny how he expected Claire to always make time for him, but now that she had it, he wasn’t willing to take the time off himself. She supposed she shouldn’t be bitter. She’d been the same way when her career was actually going somewhere. It wasn’t Frank’s fault that her career was at a standstill, as he often reminded her.
Claire didn’t think to worry about where he might be until after she’d showered, unpacked, and ordered food (food for one, she might add). But by then, it was getting close to midnight. Frank had been known to work through the night, but never without telling her.
Oh god, had he forgotten that she was coming back today? Several texts and calls went unanswered before Claire finally decided to go to bed well past one.
At least Frank was home when she woke just after dawn the next morning. She was surprised that she hadn’t woken up when he’d climbed into bed with her. Years of night shifts in the emergency room had made her a light sleeper. Then again, Frank seemed to have taken great care to climb into bed as far away from her as he could possibly get. Claire tried to push down the sting of rejection. The last time they’d talked, Claire had just been about to kiss another man. Had he been able to sense something off about her on the phone? Unlikely. Frank wasn’t overly in tune with her moods and tells (not like Jamie seemed to be, she thought). They had left things on an odd note, though. Was he still angry at her for going out with her friends instead of calling him? It was more likely he was angry at the whole situation and that was just the icing on the cake. But Claire had still missed him, even if he annoyed her, and she didn’t want to pick a fight first thing in the morning.
Instead, Claire decided to scooch closer to him despite it being just past sunrise. Against her better judgement, Claire leaned into him and placed a kiss to his neck. When he didn’t stir, Claire trailed her lips from his throat to his collar bone until he moaned slightly. Still not completely awake, but it was encouragement enough for Claire to trail her hands down his chest and into his boxers.
“Good morning, my darling,” Claire murmured as Frank finally opened his eyes. Claire couldn’t entirely decipher the look in his eyes, but he did turn over and kiss her back. That was enough for Claire at the moment.
Claire knew they needed to talk, but it felt so good to just spend lazy mornings in bed with Frank and not worry about anything else. That was the problem with them: they were perfect when the real world couldn’t intrude. That was why they worked when Claire was grieving: she didn’t have anything on her mind other than her pain and her boyfriend. Frank had taken some time off work to take care of her and she didn’t have a job. But as soon as she went back to work, they were always either fighting or in the euphoria of making up. It was a vicious cycle that wouldn’t be sustainable long distance, Claire knew that. Which was why she was so hesitant to break the bubble they were currently in.
Claire didn’t have a choice.
A week later, Claire got the email officially offering her the job in Edinburgh. She didn’t even think about it, she walked right into her supervisor’s office and gave her two weeks’ notice. He didn’t ask why she was leaving and she didn’t care enough to tell him she’d gotten a better job abroad.
She called Joe next and learned he’d also gotten his job. It was really a dream come true. She just needed to tell her fiancé. As usual, Joe heard everything she didn’t say.
“You know I’ll support you no matter what, LJ,” he said sincerely. Claire knew he wasn’t Frank’s biggest fan, but she also knew he wouldn’t want Claire to get her heart broken. Instead, she said nothing else about Frank and they talked about the logistics of the move.
“You know I’ve been looking for flats since we came back,” Joe said towards the end of the call, “You just need to tell me if I need to plan for 2 or 3 people.”
“I know,” Claire said, “Give me a week to figure things out.”
Claire didn’t tell Frank that same day, because she was both a coward and she didn’t actually see him. He’d let her know that he’d be in the archives late into the night and she shouldn’t wait up for him. She was hesitant to keep this from him for too long, but she knew it was a conversation they needed to have in person.
Frank didn’t have a spare few hours for her for another three days after that. In the end, Claire guilted him into dinner at a reasonable hour she attempted to cook herself.
She wasn’t a chef by any means, but she could roast a chicken for two.
“It smells lovely, darling,” Frank said as he walked in and planted a kiss on her cheek, “Are we celebrating something?”
“I suppose we are,” Claire said as she poured them some wine. It was a heavy pour, she figured they’d both need it.
“Well don’t leave me in suspense,” he teased as he accepted his glass.
“I got the job,” Claire said. Then added unnecessarily, “In Edinburgh.”
“Right then,” Frank said as he set his glass down a little too roughly, “And we’re deciding if you’re going to accept it.”
“I’m going to accept it,” Claire said with as much patience as she could muster, “I told you I would when I applied. We need to decide if you’re going to move with me.”
“So we’re deciding if we’re going to break up?”
“What a leap!” Claire cried, and there went her self-control.
“Claire, I told you I couldn’t move. My career-”
“And what about my career?” Claire said.
“You’d do the same thing,” Frank replied.
“I most certainly would not!”
“If you were the one with the thriving career in London-”
“Thriving!” she crowed, “We’re certainly being humble.”
Frank ignored her, “And I asked you to run away to a different country-”
“I am not running away,” Claire replied. Another thing about Frank was that arguments with him very quickly turned into something much different than their origins.
“That is what you do, Claire,” Frank said. He was practically dripping with condescension and Claire rather wanted to throw her wine in his face. She very narrowly resisted the urge as he continued, “Things are hard for you at the hospital, and you bolt instead of trying to fix it.”
“I have been trying to make things work there for years, Frank,” Claire replied.
“Are you counting the time you spent unemployed after you quit?”
“I was grieving!” Claire yelled.
“And who was there for you?” Frank asked with a triumphant gleam in his eye that made Claire’s blood boil, “You broke my heart when you ran away to Edinburgh, then I put my own life on hold to take care of you when you ran right back.”
“I am very sorry I needed some help while I was in mourning,” Claire said sarcastically.
Frank ignored her tone, “I have sacrificed for you, Claire. I am just asking for that same commitment.”
“Do I not share a lease with you? Am I not wearing your ring? How much more commitment do you need?”
“Planning our wedding a little bit maybe?” Frank asked. Claire didn’t have anything to say to that, though, since it was honestly a fair point, “Be honest, Claire. Do you even want to get married?”
“I love you, Frank,” she said desperately.
“That isn’t the same thing,” Frank said. He didn’t sound sad. He actually sounded a little satisfied that he’d finally found a way to put the blame on her, “I’m not going to Edinburgh, Claire. And we both know we won’t be able to do long distance. Wouldn’t it be better to end things now then let this relationship die slowly?”
“Do you want to get married?” Claire asked. She didn’t need to answer his question, they both knew he was right. Frank wasn’t doing anything to fight for her, fight for them, and that hurt more than anything.
“I asked you, didn’t I?” Frank asked, “The decision is yours, Claire. Go or stay, but be sure of your choice.”
“I’ve already decided,” Claire said miserably.
“Married people don’t make decisions unilaterally, Claire,” Frank said, “If you wanted to leave me, you didn’t need to find a job in another country to do it.”
“I’m going to stay with Joe for a few nights,” Claire said as tears started to blur her vision. She refused to let Frank see how hard he’d hit her. She’d strongly suspected how this conversation would end. Despite what Frank had said, he’d never really given up anything for her. She and Frank were both too ambitious to ever really sacrifice for each other. That was what had attracted her to Frank in the first place. She’d seen someone she could conquer the world with. She should have known it would be what ultimately drove them apart.
Claire didn’t bother to call Joe, she knew she’d be welcome. Even though it was raining, Claire decided to walk the half hour instead of taking a cab or the tube. At least she’d be able to cry freely that way.
The sting of heartbreak hadn’t fully set in yet. Instead, Claire was filled with regret over wasting nearly 5 years of her life on this relationship. Had the safety of a long term relationship stagnated her? Where would she be now if she hadn’t stayed with Frank?
Alone, she decided. She had stayed so long with Frank because she simply couldn’t be alone. Right now, the pain of being alone again was far worse than the pain of losing someone she loved. She’d miss Frank later on, but the pure loneliness was crushing her at the moment.
The worst part was she did want to marry Frank. Or she wanted to marry the idea of him. She just knew that they could be perfect together if they just put a little more effort into understanding each other. A small part of her told her that understanding was innate. Frank couldn’t unravel her like he would a historical document, no matter how many clues she thought she’d given him over the years. He either understood and accepted her, or he didn’t. And it seemed like he didn’t. And no, Claire really didn’t want to marry someone who couldn’t understand her.
Jamie seemed to understand her. In the little time they’d really known each other, Claire couldn’t shake the feeling that he would be able to see her completely, even the parts she didn’t really want to be seen. Claire could very easily fall in love with him if she let herself. But would Jamie fall in love with her? Maybe he’d see her and decide he didn’t like what he saw. Would he see the same flaws Frank did, or would he discover brand new things to hate about her?
Claire tried to shake the thoughts from her head. She couldn’t believe she was imagining an ending with Jamie before anything even began.
By the time Claire landed at Joe’s door, she was soaked and her head was a mess of missing what she’d had with Frank and imagining what she could be with Jamie if she wasn’t so afraid. And then there was the guilt of already thinking about another man when a few hours ago she thought she was getting married.
“Lady Jane, what the hell happened?” Joe asked as she shivered on his porch.
“Two,” Claire said as she let her tears flow freely, “You only have to plan for us two.”
Claire had very little time to actually mourn her relationship just then. Joe, blessed Joe, didn’t even ask if she needed a place to stay, he just asked how they were going to move her stuff from the flat she shared with Frank.
It seemed like he’d had an inkling how this was going to end, because he’d short listed a few flats that would be perfect for the two of them, “You can do your own search if you want,” he said, “But I know you don’t spend enough time at home to be fussy about it.”
She didn’t do her own search and they had decided on a place within the day. Neither of them had negotiated their salaries yet, but they were already being offered more than their current jobs in a city that was far less expensive than central London. It seemed the only hard part of this move had been dealing with Frank. For better or worse, that was dealt with and now all Claire had to do was follow the path that was laid out before her.
She texted Frank when she’d be around to pack her things. He hadn’t responded, but he hadn’t been there either. Good. She didn’t want to talk to him. There was nothing else to say after all the ridiculous things he’d accused her of (not so ridiculous, the fair part of her mind said, but she was ignoring that for now).
Claire had always been a bit of a minimalist. It came with her upbringing of constantly traveling. She only had what she could carry, and that was a habit she’d taken into adulthood despite Frank’s efforts to make her into a woman who truly kept a home. With Joe’s help, Claire was packed in a matter of a few hours. Claire left her engagement ring and key on the counter with no note. Claire decided she’d mail him checks for her part of the rent until their lease was up in a few months, then there would be no reason to ever speak to him again. Claire knew a breakdown was coming, but she was doing an excellent job of remaining composed right now. She could breakdown all she wanted once she had moved.
And breakdown Claire did. Truly the moment she knocked on Jenny’s door.
Claire had told Jenny she’d gotten the job but not that she and Frank had ended things and not when she’d be back for good. She and Joe had a hotel until their new flat was ready, and Claire thought it was the perfect opportunity to surprise Jenny with a bottle of wine.
But as soon as she’d arrived in Edinburgh, there was nothing left for her to do until she started work the next week and she got into her own head. Was Frank right? Was she running away? She’d wanted nothing more than to leave London and leave the job that was slowly killing her love for medicine. She’d known Frank had a hang-up about Edinburgh and she’d applied anyways. Claire thought she would have taken an opportunity like this anywhere, but she would be lying if she said she hadn’t wanted to move to Scotland. Had Claire intentionally picked a place that she knew Frank wouldn’t follow?
It was times like these that Claire regretted not really having any female friends, and there Jenny was. The moment she opened the door, Claire could feel her eyes brimming with tears.
“Lass, what happened?” Jenny asked as she pulled Claire into a hug.
“I’m sorry,” Claire replied as she buried her head in Jenny’s sweater, “This was absolutely not how this was supposed to go.”
“So ye and Frank broke up?” Jenny asked. It didn’t take a particularly keen observer to guess it, but Claire was glad Jenny guessed it anyways. She couldn’t answer verbally and instead just held up her bare left hand.
“I’ll tell Geillis to bring more wine,” Jenny said as she let Claire in.
The next thing Claire really knew, she was being carried. She was sure she’d completely humiliated herself, but she could be embarrassed when the world wasn’t spinning violently around her. Instead, Claire snuggled into the warm body holding her close to their chest.
“Frank?” she said in a more coherent moment.
“Sorry, Sassenach, it’s just me,” a very Scottish voice said neat her ear. Jamie. Claire suddenly wasn’t positive it was just the alcohol making her dizzy. Maybe her first clue that things weren’t going to work with Frank was that Claire had never been able to get a certain Scottish ginger out of her head, and it wasn’t Geillis.
Now that Jamie was here, she was entertaining all the things she hadn’t let herself feel since she’d left Scotland a month ago. If things with Frank were going to fall apart so spectacularly, she might as well have kissed him when she’d had the chance.
She’d kiss him now if he made the final move to connect their lips. But instead, Jamie did very nearly the same thing that he had three years ago. I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe had very much the same effect as I dinna want ye just for a night had those years ago.
The next morning, her sensibilities came back with her dinner from the night before. The only blessing of the morning was that she had made it to the bathroom before she’d gotten sick. Three bottles of wine. She had drank three bottles of wine entirely by herself. And she had to move today. And she’d nearly kissed Jamie again. Claire tried very hard not to be the kind of woman who made the same mistakes over and over, but that didn’t seem to apply to James Fraser. The end of her night was the only part that she actually remembered.
Geillis and Jenny were more than happy to fill in the gaps. Once she they were sure she wasn’t going to fall apart, they were back to teasing her mercilessly. Claire would be lying if she said she wasn’t relieved.
“Geille had to wrestle the fourth bottle from you, actually,” Jenny laughed as she offered Claire some eggs that she vehemently rejected, “And that is when ye passed out.”
“Well at least no one had to stop me from calling Frank,” Claire said ruefully
“Speaking of, yer phone is charging in the living room.”
“Thank you,” Claire said as she retrieved it. She sent Joe a quick text to let him know she was still alive and he told her moving could wait to later in the day if she was too hungover to function (which she was). Claire promised to bring coffee when she managed to feel like a person.
She also had a text from Jamie. How he got her number, Claire didn’t know. Had she given it to him? Had she been trying to hit on him? Drunk Claire was chaotic enough to try anything when it came to Jamie, it seemed.
Before she could spiral, Claire read the message.
Jenny gave me the day off if you need help moving
Claire hesitated. She undeniably wanted to see Jamie, but what would she even say to him? Claire thought she might implode if she had a complete conversation with him. Historically, things had been too heated to say everything they needed to say before something interrupted them. A full day hungover and hauling boxes across the city with him didn’t sound like the best way to have a conversation but…
“Is it Jamie?” Geillis asked when Claire continued to stare at her phone.
“Why would it be Jamie?” Claire replied far too quickly.
“Maybe because ye admitted to wanting to have sex with him last night,” Jenny supplied.
“I did WHAT?” Claire gasped as she very nearly dropped her phone.
“Och, Claire, it’s no a big deal,” Geillis said, “We all kent something happened between ye three years ago.”
Claire didn’t even begin to splice that one, “I didn’t say anything to him, did I?”
“I’m sure no,” Jenny said, but she didn’t sound too sure.
“If ye did, I doubt he would have slept on the couch,” Geillis offered with a wink. Claire groaned and went back to her phone. That settled it. Even if she’d made a fool out of herself, Claire needed to see Jamie.
She should have known better than to invite a well-built Scotsman to move her furniture.
“If yer trying to convince Jamie ye dinna wanna sleep with him, yer doing a verra bad job,” Geillis quipped the thousandth time Claire had been caught staring. But good god, Jamie had taken his shirt off about fifteen minutes in and could anyone really blame her for staring?
Geillis certainly didn’t, she was doing a fair amount of staring herself while Jenny rolled her eyes from the sidelines. Moving in to the Abernathy-Beauchamp home had turned into a full group effort. The flat she and Joe had picked out was gorgeous, but it was completely unfurnished. Claire had underestimated just how hard it would be to move an entire apartment’s worth of furniture up three flights of stairs.
They’d tackled all the unwieldy stuff first and now they were moving up the smaller items. If Claire and Geillis managed to work instead of drooling, they’d be done within the hour. The plan to speak to Jamie properly had seemed to go out the window. Claire was too exhausted to do anything when they were done other than maybe eat. Young and fit as he was, Jamie didn’t seem to be suffering from the same sentiment. Bastard.
When they did finally finish, the sun was just starting to set and Claire’s limbs felt like jelly. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in her freshly made bed, but her stomach (and the stomachs of her many helpers were protesting). She was being sent on takeout duty because the best restaurant in the area apparently didn’t deliver and they needed curry like they needed to breathe. Claire finally acquiesced when her stomach gave a loud enough rumble to make Joe laugh.
“Take Jamie with ye. Ye dinna have enough hands,” Geillis called as she grabbed her purse. Claire shot her daggers but Geillis gave her a look back that said ye wanted to talk to him. Jamie only shrugged and followed her out.
A month of thinking about him obsessively after three years of trying not to think of him obsessively, and now Claire couldn’t think of a single thing to say to Jamie. “Did I imply that I wanted to have sex with you?” seemed out of the question even though that was exactly what she needed to know.
“Are ye feeling better?” Jamie asked when they were about halfway to the restaurant.
“What?” Claire asked as she was drawn from her own thoughts.
“Are ye feeling better?” he repeated, “I ken ye had an awful lot to drink last night.”
“Are you judging me, Fraser?” Claire asked.
“Of course no, Sassenach!” Jamie said, “I only meant-”
“I was only teasing, Jamie,” Claire said with a reassuring smile, “Considering I’m dying for the spiciest curry this place can give me, I’d say I’m feeling alright.”
“Good,” Jamie said, “Ye seem to be in good spirits.”
“Considering my fiancé dumped me two weeks ago, you mean?”
“We dinna have to talk about it,”
“We’ll have to talk about it sometime if we ever want to be normal,” Claire said pragmatically, “And now’s as good a time as any.”
“Alright then, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “Ye can go first.”
Claire stopped and turned to him. This felt like the kind of thing she should say when she was actually looking at him. Even if she was a little afraid of getting lost in his warm eyes. Kind of like she was doing already. Claire took a fortifying breath, “I owe you an apology.”
“For what?” Jamie asked as his brow furrowed.
“Would you like an itemized list?” Claire asked with a slight hint of annoyance.
“I’m just confused, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “Seeing as ye havena done anything to me.”
“Fine then, let’s start with last night,” Claire continued, “I’m sorry I passed out drunk in your bed after confessing things I definitely shouldn’t have.”
“Ye dinna have to apologize for being honest. Ye did tell the truth, didn’t ye?”
“Of course I did. But I have no intention of acting on any of my… urges.”
“Urges…” Jamie said slowly, “Ye think lust is what’s between us?”
“Jamie, I honestly don’t know what’s between us,” Claire said as she tried to tame her curls down in the wind. It was a nervous tick. This wasn’t the way Claire had pictured this going. She wasn’t sure exactly how she had pictured it going, but she definitely had wanted more time to prepare than what Geillis had given her.
“Breaking up with Frank, did that have anything to do with me?”
“No,” Claire lied. It hadn’t. Not really. Claire hadn’t done anything wrong with Jamie. She almost had, but a close call when she was in an unfamiliar city and feeling unloved wasn’t enough reason to confess to Frank. Had Jamie made her reconsider some things? Definitely. But calling him the reason? She didn’t want to put any ideas into Jamie’s head.
“Oh,” Jamie said. Claire didn’t think she was imagining the disappointment in his voice.
“I would have seen it coming if I’d really been paying attention,” Claire continued. Why was she saying any of this? Why did she want Jamie to understand her so badly? “There is nothing for you to feel guilty about.”
“Guilty? Ye think I asked because I feel guilty?” Jamie said. He continued before she had a chance to answer, “Think it’s just lust, Claire, but I dinna and I never have. There was something real between us three years ago and it’s still there now.”
“Ye said yer piece, Sassenach, let me say mine,” Jamie continued. It was firm, but not unkind and it made Claire’s stomach swoop, “I’m no going to pretend I dinna care for ye.”
Claire had come into this conversation wanting to make it clear that she didn’t want anything past a friendship. She’d wanted to get past the lingering awkwardness from unfulfilled sexual tension and maybe be able to interact with him like a normal person. But now… Claire realized just how close they had drifted together on the street.
“I just got out of a relationship.”
“Aye, and I respect that.”
“I can’t ask you to wait for me,” Claire said. Did she even want him to wait for her?
“Then dinna ask,” Jamie said, “Whenever ye are ready, Sassenach, I am just asking ye to give me a chance.”
So... who thinks Frank will actually stay gone? His and Claire's breakup has honestly been one of the hardest scenes to write so far, but I like how it ended up. Thank you all for being patient, I promise there will be more of Jamie and Claire in the next chapter. Let me know what you think!
Jamie had said far more than he meant, but he couldn’t find it in himself to regret any of it.
The look on Claire’s face when he finally, finally told her that he liked her had been well worth making a fool of himself. The hand that had been nervously playing with her hair stilled as he confessed and the most adorable blush had crept up her neck. Her eyes had widened in surprise, but she didn’t look afraid. Quite the opposite. Finally, Jamie had been able to get the sad image of her from the night before out of his head. She looked alive, he decided. And Jamie would do anything to keep that spark of life in her eyes.
They didn’t speak much for the rest of the night. Jamie figured Claire needed time to process what he’d said to her. She didn’t need to ask him to wait for her, he was completely under her spell and happy to be there. He’d wait for her forever if that was what it took.
He hoped it didn’t take forever, though. Being near Claire and not being able to truly have her was already trying his self-control. They’d eaten their food in relative silence at opposite ends of the table he had moved into her kitchen himself. He kept catching Geillis throwing Claire questioning looks that she was doing an excellent job of avoiding. For his part, Jamie was dodging the same looks from Ian. It was going to be a long courtship if their friends wouldn’t mind their own business.
Eventually, the night did end. It had been a long day for them all and Jamie was eager to fall asleep. He bade Claire farewell with a kiss on the cheek that sent her blushing again and then he, Ian, and Jenny were gone.
“I love Claire,” Jenny said as they got back to their flat, “Like a sister, really.”
“I’m fond of her myself,” Jamie ventured. He had a feeling he was about to be threatened.
“James Fraser,” Jenny said as she turned fully to him, “If ye break Claire’s heart, I will rip yer bollocks off.” Leave it to Jenny to always get straight to the point.
“I’m fairly confident Claire will beat ye to that,” Ian added.
“Unhelpful, Ian,” Jamie muttered.
“I mean it, Jamie,” Jenny said, “She just got out of a long term relationship and doesna need ye mooning over her.”
“Why are ye so sure it will be me doing the heart breaking?” Jamie asked.
“Because Claire is a reasonable woman,” Jenny continued, “And ye are a 23 year old idiot.”
“What Jenny means,” Ian said quickly before Jamie did something stupid, like defend himself, “Is Claire is quite a bit more experienced than ye. It’s no a bad thing, just be careful, Jamie.” It was only because it was the second time he’d been told that Jamie kept his comments to himself.
It seemed like Claire had been right about having a real conversation. Now that they’d talked once and the world hadn’t ended, it seemed like a dam had broken between them. Jenny’s displeasure was thinly veiled, but she didn’t say anything to him outright. Why she was so sure he and Claire would end badly, he didn’t know, and he didn’t particularly care. Jenny might know Claire better, but she didn’t have any say in his relationship, as far as Jamie was concerned. Especially right now when it was taking all Jamie had to build any relationship at all. He didn’t want to think about it ending before it really began.
It was hard for Claire to leave the hospital early enough to talk in person, but they texted sporadically throughout most days. Claire even called him sometimes when she was too tired to stare at her phone screen. His own hours were limited with working full time for Jenny and being ass deep in grad school applications. Was it only a few months ago that Jamie thought he’d be free as soon as he’d finished his last semester of undergrad?
Between trying to woo Claire, stay on his sister’s good side, and his actual responsibilities, Jamie had completely forgotten his birthday until Jenny woke him up with a shot of whisky at 7:00 AM.
“Are we really drinking in the morning now, Janet?” Jamie asked, but he accepted the shot regardless.
“We do when it’s yer 24th birthday, ye clot,” Jenny laughed as she poured him another.
“Christ, is it really?” Jamie asked. Sure enough, he realized it was May 1st. He was 24 today. It didn’t seem like a birthday worth celebrating to this degree, but Jenny gave him a third shot anyways.
“Ease up, Jenny,” Ian laughed from the doorway, “We want him to see 25.”
Jenny ignored him, “We’re throwing a party at Broch Turach tonight then we’re going to have dinner with Da tomorrow.”
“So basically what we do every year?” Jamie smiled.
“If there is something ye would rather do, ye only need to tell me,” Jenny huffed.
“It sounds perfect, Jenny,” Jamie said as he finally took the last shot. He blamed the booze, but his thoughts drifted to Claire. Should he invite her to the tavern tonight? Jenny might have already, but should he ask her personally? As much as he wanted to talk to her even at 7:00 in the morning, he didn’t want to wake her. He knew she’d worked the night shift and she was probably just off work. Then he remembered she was working today as well. He’d told her it seemed insane for her have only 5 hours or so between shifts, but she assured him that was just the life of a doctor, especially now that she was in a supervisory position. Still, sometimes she didn’t even come home between shifts and instead slept at the hospital.
Jamie couldn’t ask her to come to his party on top of that, he realized.
“Is there a reason Laoghaire Mackenzie wanted to pass her happy birthday message through me instead of calling ye herself?” Jenny asked after a moment, and that pulled Jamie out of his thoughts of Claire
“Laoghaire called ye?”
“Aye, last night,” Jenny confirmed.
“Christ,” Jamie muttered.
“What did ye do, Jamie?”
“Why do ye always assume it’s me?” Jamie cried. Jenny just leveled him a long suffering look,
“I broke up with her.”
“Didna ye break up with her nearly 7 years ago?”
“Aye, I thought so,” Jamie said, “Apparently it didna take.”
“And why did ye have to break up with her now?”
“It’s a funny story…” Jamie stalled. Ian had been kidding about him not making it to 25, but Jamie really didn’t want to tempt fate by crossing Jenny first thing in the morning,
“She might have told Claire we were still dating three years ago. And Claire might have gotten the wrong impression about the kind of man I am. And she might have left Lallybroch.”
“Why would Claire care if ye had a girlfriend three years ago?” Jenny asked with a furrowed brow. He looked to Ian for some guidance, but he only shrugged in response. Not my problem, his eyes said.
“Because we might have kissed that night,” Jamie admitted. He prepared himself for the reckoning that was surely coming, but Jenny remained uncharacteristically silent and contemplative.
“Well,” Jenny said finally, “That explains some things.”
“Is that all ye have to say?” Jamie hedged.
“Do ye want me to be angry?” Jenny ask with a quirked brow.
“Of course no,” Jamie almost laughed, “Level headed just isna the first word I’d use to describe ye.”
“Well,” Jenny said with an affectionate pat on his head, “It’s fairly obvious ye two have feelings for each other now, so I shouldna be surprised then.”
“Fairly obvious?” Jamie scoffed, “She couldna stand me before a month ago.”
“Besides,” Jenny ignored him, “I willna kill my brother on his birthday.”
Jamie was trying to focus on having fun at his birthday party, but all he could think about was how Claire hadn’t texted him back all day. He’d sort of expected it. She was hard to get a hold of even when she wasn’t working back to back shifts. Was she still at the hospital, or was she finally home getting some rest? Jamie really didn’t know how she survived the schedule she forced her body through. He’d had to force her to actually eat instead of working through her lunches more than once.
His thoughts kept drifting as he was given drinks and well wishes from his and Jenny’s friends. Mercifully, Jenny didn’t seem to have invited any of his classmates other than Rupert and Angus, so at least he was unlikely to throw any punches tonight.
Instead, he was missing Claire. He couldn’t decide which would have been worse.
“If ye were just going to mope, why didna ye just invite her?” Ian asked at one point.
“The party was the last place she’d wanna be after working a double shift.”
“Ye really like her don’t you?”
“Aye,” Jamie said, “I do.”
“Then ye can thank me for two reasons,” Ian said with a sly smile.
“And why would that be?”
“I’m gonna get Jenny on board,” Ian began, “And I told Claire about the party.”
“Ye did what?” Jamie asked as he nearly dropped his drink. As if on cue, he spotted Claire accepting a drink from Jenny with Joe in tow behind her. Jamie couldn’t help the grin tugging at his lips. Jamie thought he heard Ian scoff next to him, but he didn’t pay him any attention. He was captivated. Claire was still wearing her scrubs and her hair was practically a nest around her head. She looked beautiful and Jamie wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms.
Their eyes locked finally as Claire took a sip of her drink. She gave him a tentative smile and wave but didn’t make a move to come talk to him. Christ, what must she think that Jamie didn’t invite her himself? She didn’t look angry though, just a little bit unsure. That was almost worse. Jamie didn’t want to do anything to make her insecure. He left Ian without even a word and approached Claire.
“Happy birthday, Jamie,” Joe said from behind her when their silence stretched just a bit too long.
“Thank ye,” Jamie replied, his eyes never leaving Claire.
“I’m afraid I didn’t have time to get a gift,” Claire said. And there was that hint of anger. Good, Jamie could deal with anger.
“I’ll let you two talk,” Joe said as he gave Claire a squeeze on the shoulder.
“Dance with me,” Jamie said. It was getting late enough that Jenny had turned the music from the tavern’s usual upbeat Scottish folk to something much softer. The kind of music you could sway to.
“I’ve worn these scrubs all day,” Claire warned, “And I can’t dance.”
“I dinna think I care, Sassenach,” Jamie said he offered his hand again. This time, Claire took it and he led her to the middle of the tavern where a few other couples were dancing, including Jenny and Ian.
“Are ye mad at me?” Jamie asked.
“No,” Claire said, “But I am confused. And a little hurt. Why didn’t you want me at your party?”
“It wasna that I didna want ye. But inviting ye out when I kent how much ye’ve been working didna seem like I was giving you space.”
Claire looked up at him, “I hate to break it to you, Jamie, but texting me everyday isn’t really giving me space either.”
“Oh,” Jamie deflated. Had she come to end things before they even really began?
“I like it, Jamie,” Claire amended quickly, “I like what we have.”
“And what does it say that I’ve barely thought about the man I was going to marry in the time we’ve been friends?”
“I think,” Jamie said as he pulled Claire closer against him, “It says that I am the luckiest man in the world.”
As much as Jamie wanted to, he wasn’t going to kiss Claire for the first time right in front of his sister.
But something was undeniably shifting between them. Jamie didn’t care what excuse he’d have to make up to get her alone, Claire would not go unkissed tonight.
In the end, he didn’t need to make any excuse at all. Joe had to work in the morning, so he’d left the party after about an hour. Which meant that someone had to make sure Claire got home safe. There was a split second where he thought Jenny was going to suggest she just crash at their place again, but Claire made a big show of how she wanted to sleep in her own bed for the first time all week. Perhaps she was thinking the same things Jamie was.
“I suppose Jamie will just have to walk ye home then,” Geillis said with a wink. The Claire was avoiding Geillis’ teasing eyes didn’t do anything to lessen his suspicions.
“I suppose,” Jenny said carefully.
Jamie grabbed his and Claire’s coats and said good night to the people still left at the tavern. Then Jamie found himself alone with Claire for the first time since he’d confessed his feelings.
It wasn’t a long walk, but he and Claire stretched it out as they talked about their weeks. Jamie had sent off three grad school applications, two in Scotland and one in the US.
“Is that something you’d want?” Claire asked, “To go to school abroad?”
“I dinna ken, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “I suppose that’s a choice I’ll make if I actually get in anywhere.”
“Don’t be stupid, you’ll get in wherever you want.”
“I appreciate yer faith in me, Sassenach” Jamie laughed, “But medieval Gaelic is a rather niche field and there are no many spots.”
“And one of them is for James Fraser,” Claire insisted. Jamie’s insecurities wanted him to argue further. He’d done nothing to earn such conviction from Claire, and he had plenty reason to doubt himself. It was his fault that they’d had to sell the farm. They’d originally wanted to sell the whole estate, but in the end Brian Fraser just couldn’t leave Lallybroch. So they’d kept the actual house and just sold the surrounding land. But if Jamie had been willing to stay and farm instead of going to school, they wouldn’t have had to give anything up at all. Instead, here Jamie was, almost certain it had all been a mistake. He didn’t want to tell Claire all of that, though. It seemed too soon to reveal that particular insecurity. Besides, he wanted to revel in Claire’s belief in him before she realized he was never going to be nearly as successful as her.
“Where did you go just now?” Claire asked with a small laugh.
“Just thinking about how much I’ve missed ye,” he said. Not a lie, but not the whole truth, “Ye work too hard.”
Claire stiffened slightly, “Well, my job is very important to me.”
“I ken that,” Jamie said carefully, unsure of where he’d gone wrong, “And it’s something I admire about ye.”
“Aye,” Jamie replied, “I canna imagine what it’s like to have a passion so selfless, and to be so damn good at it.”
“I’m not sure how selfless it is,” Claire said, “It’s simply how I exist, I can’t not do it. It would be like not breathing.”
“Has…” Jamie began carefully, sensing he was entering dangerous territory, “Has someone asked ye to stop before.”
“Yes,” Claire admitted after a brief pause.
“Frank?” Jamie asked.
“Me working too much was a frequent fight,” Claire said, “And well… we did break up over this job.”
“And ye just wanted to make sure I wasna about to do the same thing,” Jamie said. It wasn’t a question, but Claire nodded anyways.
“I’m sorry, I know you aren’t Frank,” Claire said.
“I understand, Sassenach,” Jamie replied. He ventured to take her hand in his, “I ken being a doctor is who ye are. Asking ye to take care of yourself isna the same as trying to change that. I would never try to change ye, Claire.”
She didn’t respond with words, but she wove their fingers together and squeezed.
There was an odd tension between them as they got closer to Claire’s house. It wasn’t awkward, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either. Anticipation, Jamie decided as they turned onto her street. He was going to kiss Claire, if she would have him. But did she want him? It had been a little over a month since she’d returned to Edinburgh. To Jamie, it had felt like a lifetime. But he knew she’d been with her fiancé for years before he’d met her again. Was she over him? She’d said before that she’d thought of Jamie more than she should have. But if she was still feeling guilt, did that mean that Jamie should wait longer?
He couldn’t wait any longer. The worst she could do was say no. No, that wasn’t quite true. Jenny had gotten into his head, damn her. Claire could decide she didn’t want a virgin fresh out of college. She wasn’t that much older than he was, but it felt like she had so much more life experience. How could he ever measure up?
“This is me,” Claire said unnecessarily since he’d been there when she moved in. They stood too far apart for Jamie’s liking. He took a deep breath then took a step forward. They were standing nearly chest to chest, but not quite touching. Jamie was sure Claire must hear how fast his heart was beating, but she neither made a move to get closer nor farther away, “Did you have a good birthday, Jamie?” she broke the silence and Jamie’s resolve.
“Aye,” Jamie said as he wrapped an arm around Claire’s waist and pulled her against him, “I would verra much like to kiss ye, Claire, may I?”
“Yes,” Claire replied. It was more a breath than a word, but Jamie was close enough to hear. Claire wasn’t short by any means, but Jamie felt so much taller than her in this moment. He bent down slow enough that Claire could pull away if she changed her mind, but instead she closed her eyes and waited for Jamie to finally connect their lips.
It was just a peck at first. Any more was liable to burst his heart. She smelled so good, and she was finally in his arms. Jamie wove his other hand through her unruly curls and Claire used the opportunity to tilt her head until their lips aligned perfectly. Like his were made for her. Jamie gasped at the change in angle and Claire quickly pressed her tongue to his lips, asking permission to deepen the kiss. As if he could deny her anything. What was timid became exploratory and passionate. Far too passionate for her front porch.
Claire seemed to think the same thing and pulled just far enough away to catch her breath, “Jamie, would you like to-”
“Aye,” Jamie said.
“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Claire laughed.
“I dinna care,” Jamie laughed too, “I want whatever ye want.”
“What a dangerous thing to say,” Claire said coyly as her nimble fingers played with the top button of his shirt.
“Aye,” he agreed, “But true.”
“After the week I’ve had, I think I need a drink,” she decided. She didn’t give him a chance to answer and instead led him up the stairs to her flat.
Mercifully, is seemed that Joe was fast asleep when they finally climbed the three flights of stairs to her flat. Jamie hadn’t been here since he’d moved her in and he admired the way she had decorated while she hung up their coats and poured them each a glass of whiskey.
He took an admiring sip, “Good choice, Sassenach,” he said, “On the whisky and the decor.”
“Well, I don’t deserve credit for either of those things,” Claire said as she leaned against the counter next to him, “The whisky was a housewarming gift from Geillis and Joe picked out everything other than my bedsheets.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to tell Joe he has a good eye for design next time I see him.”
“Don’t feed his ego,” Claire warned but she was smiling. They lapsed into a comfortable silence as they sipped their whisky. Jamie was suddenly nervous even as he ached to kiss her again. If he kissed her, he didn’t know where they’d stop. Was this going to be it? Was Jamie ready to sleep with Claire? Was he ready to give his whole heart to her? He was a fool if he thought his heart wasn’t unequivocally hers already, but Jamie wanted to think he had a little choice in the matter.
“Jamie,” Claire said suddenly, “Could you stand for me to take a quick shower? I’ve been in these scrubs all day and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt less attractive.”
Jamie leaned over and kissed her quickly, just because he could and he felt her smile into it, “Of course, Sassenach. But for the record, I think ye look bonny.”
“You must have pretty low standards then,” she joked with a self-deprecating shrug. She was gone with a kiss on his cheek before he could correct her. He didn’t quite know what he was supposed to do until she returned. It wasn’t like Claire was his girlfriend and he’d been here a million times. Would it be rude to look into other rooms? Jamie decided to settle on the couch and check his phone while he waited. He had a text from Jenny asking if he had gotten Claire home alright.
Aye, he texted, we’re having a wee dram, then I’ll be home. Jamie could practically see the way Jenny would roll her eyes but she didn’t respond.
She was either asleep or decided to spare him whatever barb she could throw, which he appreciated.
It wasn’t long before Claire was out of her bathroom and drying her hair with a towel. She was wearing a simple pair of sweats and t-shirt. No bra, Jamie noted and tried not to stare. She gave a self-conscious laugh, “I’m too exhausted to put on anything nicer.”
“Dinna fash,” Jamie said. As if she wouldn’t be beautiful in anything at all, “But I can leave if yer tired.”
“Do you want to leave, Jamie?” Claire asked as she sat next to him on the couch. Her shampoo smelled like jasmine and he wanted drown in it.
“No,” He said too quickly, “But I also dinna want to rush ye.”
“Which I appreciate,” Claire said. She got up to her knees and placed a small kiss right below Jamie’s ear before taking the lobe into her mouth. She nibbled for a few seconds before moving her mouth right to his ear, “But I want you.”
Jamie thought his heart was going to burst. He thought Claire had liked him, but he hadn’t been foolish enough to think it was a sure thing. So her hand tangling in his hair as she continued her assault on his throat was making his head spin. Jamie hummed appreciatively as Claire moved from his neck back to his lips. Jamie opened up for her immediately and she swept her tongue into his mouth. The angle was all wrong, though. In one swift move, Claire swung a leg over his hips until she was straddling him. Jamie moaned in earnest as her weight settled fully in his lap. She started a slow roll of her hips as she kissed him senseless.
“As much as I’m enjoying this,” Jamie said as he took his turn kissing his neck, “I’m gonna embarrass myself if ye keep that up.”
“Good,” Claire smirked as she continued shifting her hips. Any doubts Jamie had about where she wanted this night to go vanished as she moved her hand to the zipper of his jeans.
“Sassenach,” Jamie moaned as he caught her hand gently, “Can we stop for a moment?”
“Of course,” Claire said. She lifted herself as far off of him as she could in their current position, “Did I… if you don’t want me-”
“Of course I want ye, Claire,” Jamie interrupted. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. Was there a good way have the virgin conversation? The last person he’d told had been Geneva and… the relationship hadn’t lasted long after that. Claire wasn’t Geneva, though.
“Hey,” Claire said. She cupped his face gently with both her hands, “What is it?”
“I’ve never… done this before.”
Christ, she was really going to make him work for it, “Had sex. I’ve never had sex before.”
“You’re a virgin?” Claire asked. It sounded a little incredulous, but not judgmental
“Aye,” he confirmed.
“But you want to sleep with me?”
“Is it no obvious?” Jamie asked. He thrust his hardness ever so slightly into her for emphasis.
“I’m just rather surprised, is all,” Claire said with a small smile, “And it makes me feel a bit special.”
“Special?” Jamie laughed.
“Was that not the answer you expected?” Claire replied. Jamie tilted his head up and Claire obliged him with a kiss before continuing, “I’m sure you’ve had no shortage of girls to date, so there must be a reason you’re a virgin. And for me to have fulfilled your standards, yes I feel special.”
“It’s no like a checklist,” Jamie said, “It’s just never felt right with the girls I’ve dated.”
“And this feels right?” Claire asked. Jamie didn’t think he was imagining the shining in her eyes.
“Aye,” Jamie said as he leaned forward, “It does.” Then Jamie was kissing Claire again and he didn’t have the words for how right it felt. There had been times when Jamie thought he was a fool to hold out for some impossible woman. But now he was holding that very woman in his arms and he never wanted to let her go.
“Do you want to move this to my room?” Claire asked when she came up for air. Jamie took no small amount of satisfaction at how breathless she was. Jamie only nodded and followed her.
The moment her door was closed, Claire was on him and pressing him against her wall. Her kiss was slow and thorough and Jamie thought he might faint with the intensity of it. Claire got his shirt off his shoulders before he even realized she was unbuttoning it. Claire kissed her way down his newly exposed skin until she was kneeling in front of him. Jamie’s head hit her wall with a soft thud as she slid his jeans down and kissed there too.
“May I?” Claire asked she ran her fingers over the hem of his boxers.
“Aye, but I feel like it’s yer turn first,” Jamie said. He pulled her gently up by the shoulders until they were standing eye to eye. Claire seemed suddenly self-conscious even though he was the one nearly naked while she was fully clothed. Jamie kissed her softly before pulling off her jeans first and then her shirt. No bra, right, Jamie remembered as his eyes trained on her nipples. He shamelessly let his eyes roam her body until she crossed her arms in embarrassed annoyance.
“You could blood well say something,” she attempted to joke.
“Ye are truly the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, Claire,” Jamie said reverently as he stroked his fingers from her collarbone to the skin between her breasts. He wanted to trail his lips over the gooseflesh that erupted in the wake of his fingers, so he did. Soon he was the one kneeling before her.
“You don’t have to,” Claire breathed as he pulled her panties off.
“I want to,” Jamie said, “I’ll tell ye if I need guidance.”
Without any further protest, Claire spread her legs to make room for him. She smelled heady and Jamie’s mouth was practically watering. He had a brief moment of doubt before he pressed his lips to her core. Jamie wanted nothing more than to please her, but what if he wasn’t any good? What if this was the only night be got with Claire? Jamie tried to push those thoughts away as he felt Claire’s fingers tangle in his hair. Then his mouth was on her and instinct took over. All he needed to do was pay attention to her body. A few experimental licks had her sighing in contentment, but Jamie wanted to do better than that. He increased the pressure and the speed then pulled back when Claire’s grip on his hair tightened.
“Higher,” Claire panted. Jamie obliged and Claire let out a high keening noise. Jamie lifted one of her legs over his shoulder so he could get deeper. As Jamie continued sucking on her clit, he ran a hand up her thigh until a finger was dipping into her. Claire swore under her breath as she bucked against Jamie’s mouth and let out a guttural moan. Her hands pulled his hair almost too painfully until they suddenly slackened. Jamie gentled his tongue and carried her through the aftershocks of her orgasm before he kissed a trail back up her body.
“Where did you learn that?” Claire said as he peppered kisses across her chest.
“I said I was a virgin, no a monk,” Jamie said with a wink. Or an attempt at a wink if Claire’s laugh was any indication. Claire kissed him again, this time lacking the urgency of before. On her part, at least. Jamie was now straining painfully against his boxers and he was aching for some relief. But he wasn’t going to do anything to rush this moment with Claire. They kissed lazily for a few minutes before Claire started walking backwards to her bed. Soon, Claire’s legs hit her bed and she was dragging him fully on top of her. Jamie was a little worried about crushing her, but Claire didn’t make a complaint as he settled between her open thighs. It was Jamie’s turn to roll his hips roughly against her. He didn’t want to embarrass himself, but the friction felt too good and soon she was thrusting fully against her.
“Jesus Christ,” Claire moaned as he took a nipple into his mouth.
“Just me, Sassenach,” Jamie replied. Claire laughed and some of the urgency left Jamie’s movements. They had time.
“Jamie,” Claire said as she locked eyes with him, “Are you sure about this?”
“Isna that what I’m supposed to ask ye?” Jamie asked with a small smile.
“I’m not the virgin,” she said. It wasn’t unkind, more like she was being careful with him. Had anyone ever been careful with him before?
“I’m sure,” Jamie said, “More sure than I’ve ever been about anything, if I’m being honest.”
“Good,” Claire said. She flipped them over almost effortlessly and reached into her bedside table for a condom. She pulled Jamie’s boxers off and rolled the condom on him efficiently, and then there was nothing standing in their way. Claire brushed her hair over one shoulder and slowly sank down on him.
“Ifrinn,” Jamie gasped as he briefly lost himself in the warmth of her. Claire leaned down and connected their lips as she rode him slowly. So slowly. Jamie tried to pick up her pace, but Claire was relentless. If Claire wanted to go at this maddening pace, who was Jamie to stop her? Eventually, the heat between them picked up enough that Jamie couldn’t focus enough to properly kiss. Instead, he just kept his mouth open and caught Claire’s lips when he could. He groaned loudly as Claire began to clench around him, and he spilled into her a moment later. Claire practically collapsed on top of him and Jamie didn’t even have the energy to wrap his arms around her as he caught his breath. Jamie rolled out from under her throw the condom away and then he fell back into Claire’s arms. She cradled him against her chest and ran her hands through his hair.
“Was it what you expected?” she asked gently.
“No, Sassenach,” Jamie laughed, “I dinna think I could have ever expected that.”
“Good then?” Claire asked as she kissed his sweat sheened forehead.
Good was an understatement. If he wasn’t sure he was in love with Claire before, he was now. How else could be explain the sheer intensity of it? Good? He nearly laughed. More like life changing. He didn’t want to scare her off though. Instead of answering, he gently bit her shoulder and she yelped.
“You should tell Ian and Jenny you won’t be home.”
“Aye, I should,” Jamie agreed, but he made no move to get up. He couldn’t have even if he wanted to. His eyes were growing impossibly heavy as Claire scratched her nails over his scalp. There were so many things he wanted to say to her, but not tonight. Instead, Jamie fell asleep in the arms of the woman he loved.
So was the wait worth it? It was for me.
I'm considering this the end of the first arc. Please note the angst tag on this. The angst will be picking up in this last half, so if that's not your thing I totally understand. But I promise I'm a good angst writer and I hope you'll stay with me. As always, let me know what you think!
Claire woke up with Jamie still in her arms and with the most delicious ache between her thighs. It had been months since she’d had any sex and all, and probably years since she’d been as thoroughly fucked as that.
Sex with Frank had never been bad, but it had been selfish. For both of them. Claire got hers every time, but rarely more than once and never with the… enthusiasm Jamie had shown her last night. She could feel how desperate Jamie had been to please her, and she had gotten a little drunk on that power if she was being honest. And please her Jamie did. Repeatedly. How Jamie had gotten through 24 years as a virgin was beyond her, but Claire was grateful she was the only one with carnal knowledge of him. She couldn’t imagine any other woman getting that and ever letting him go.
It hadn’t been perfect. Claire had taken the responsibility to drive them forward as Jamie was clearly unaware of the intricacies of love making. But he had more than made up for a lack of experience with sheer fervor. Technique could be learned, passion could not. And Jamie had been nothing if not passionate… and eager. She smiled at the memory of Jamie’s head between her thighs, reading her body as if she was his favorite book. Once he’d gotten his rhythm, all Claire had been able to do was hold on and moan out the occasional adjustment. Jamie was a quick study and Claire was eager for all she could teach him. Jamie made love with the kind of unflagging joy that made her think that male virginity might be a highly underrated commodity.
Claire’s first sexual encounters had been so long ago that she could barely remember them. She didn’t have a vast knowledge of men, but there had been three before Frank. Her first was when she was 18 and traveling with Uncle Lamb. He’d nearly skinned her alive when he found out what Claire had been up to, but Claire had gotten her way in the end. She was a woman now, she argued, and she could sleep with whoever she wanted. She hadn’t needed the birds and the bees talk, but Uncle Lamb had made sure she was being safe both physical and emotionally. The memory made Claire’s heart clench painfully. It had been three years, but there were still days where the loss of him felt brand new.
The other two had been unmemorable men during med school. Then there was Frank. She’d seen sex as purely a biological urge. An itch that she often needed scratching. But with Jamie… she ran her fingernails gently down his back. Not hard enough to wake him, but just enough to satisfy her need to touch him. Jamie was different. She wanted to take care of him as she’d never been taken care of herself before. Instinctively, she knew he was the kind of man who’d take care of her in turn. The thought was scary and exhilarating.
Jamie stirred in her arms and nestled closer into her. Had she really held him all night? Claire had never been a cuddler, but she found she didn’t mind the loss of her personal space.
“Good morning, Sassenach,” Jamie breathed into her collarbone.
“Good morning,” Claire echoed. Faced with him conscious, Claire was suddenly shy. Where did they go from here? Claire was inclined for round two, but it felt like there were things they needed to talk about. She couldn’t fathom what, but Jamie seemed like he’d be a talker. The thought made Claire nervous. As much as she wanted something with Jamie, she didn’t really know what that something was. And she’d found that the quickest way to ruining something was trying define it. She knew, like Jamie had been brave enough to say, that it wasn’t just lust between them. But was she ready for a new relationship? Claire knew the answer was no, but she was afraid of what Jamie would say to that.
“I can hear ye thinking, Sassenach,” Jamie said with a kiss to her collarbone, “Is something troubling ye?”
“Nothing that’s your fault,” Claire was quick to reply. No, her skittishness rested solely on her.
“Regardless, is it something ye wanna talk about?” Jamie asked. He finally moved his head from where it had been resting on her bare chest and looked up at her earnestly. A talker, Claire knew it.
“It isn’t the best pillow talk,” Claire tried to deflect. Then continued when Jamie kept staring at her, “Later.”
“Alright,” Jamie agreed before letting out a large yawn. It was just past dawn, Claire’s internal clock waking her at the time she’d normally be getting ready for work. But she had a blissful day off and had no idea what to do with it. It was presumptuous to assume Jamie would stay, but she wanted him to nonetheless.
After a few more minutes of cuddling, Jamie extricated himself from Claire’s arms to check his phone. He swore softly as he apparently opened several messages from Jenny and Ian. Claire bit back an ‘I told you so’ as Jamie dictated their increasing urgency.
“Jenny says she’d going to kill me if I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere already,” he finished with a sigh.
“What a shame,” Claire said, “Right when I was just starting to like you.”
“You wound me, Sassenach,” Jamie said with feigned offense. Claire softened her teasing with a kiss that Jamie eagerly returned until they were out of breath. Claire was once again weighing the merits of going for another round when Jamie cut off the kiss.
“As much as I’d like to eat my English breakfast,” Jamie said with a laughable attempt at a wink, “I do need to get home before Jenny skins me.”
“Right, of course” Claire said. She tried to keep the disappointment from her voice, but she must have done a piss poor job with the way Jamie looked at her, “I suppose I should use my day off for something productive.” That was true enough. Claire couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone grocery shopping and she was running dangerously low on clean undergarments. The problem was she’d much rather spend the day in bed with Jamie than do anything practical. Her glass face must have betrayed her with the tender and slightly nervous way he was looking at her now.
“Or…” Jamie said carefully, “Ye could come with me to Lallybroch. Jenny, Ian and I are having dinner with my Da.”
“You want me to meet your father?” Claire asked.
Jamie grimaced slightly at the implications, “I dinna wanna spend the day without ye, and that is where I will be, aye.”
“Okay,” Claire said without really thinking about it. So much for not getting too serious too fast.
“Truly?” Jamie asked.
“Yes,” Claire said, “Now you better go before I talk myself out of it.” It wasn’t the most reassuring thing in the world for her to say, but it was the truth. Jamie gave her an understanding smile and kissed her again as he finally dragged himself out of her bed. Claire appreciated the view as he got himself dressed. She had been so crazed with lust the night before that she hadn’t gone slow enough to truly look at him. Jamie was well made. He was all muscle and hard edges. Strong and large, but not clumsy with it. Claire wondered idly if he’d be able to fuck her standing up.
“If ye keep looking at me like that, I will never be able to leave.”
“As if that’s a threat,” Claire said with what she hoped was a seductive look. It seemed to work with the way Jamie seemed to be weighing to pros and cons of blowing Jenny off, “Go,” Claire said finally. Claire thought Jenny probably had reservations about them already, and she wasn’t going to do anything to risk her disapproval.
“Ye dinna make it easy to leave, Sassenach,” Jamie said when he finally got himself presentable. Jamie gave her a final kiss and then he was gone and Claire immediately missed him. Every practical part of her was screaming to slow down, but the romantic part of her was winning at the moment. She didn’t want to dive head first into something, but Claire couldn’t shake the feeling that whatever she had with Jamie was meant to last.
What does one wear when meeting the father of the man who you are quickly falling for? Particularly a man who is not one’s boyfriend, but who did give you two earth shattering orgasms the night before? Claire quite doubted there would be a cosmo article for that scenario, so she was on her own.
She decided on a simple navy blue dress that she knew made her legs look incredible. It was rather short, but the neckline was nothing scandalous. Paired with a nice pair of heels and her one piece of nice jewelry (a silver pendant that had belonged to her mother), Claire thought she’d pass inspection. Well, she’d pass on looks alone. Her personality was another matter entirely.
Claire couldn’t help but think about how much Frank’s parents had disliked her. They’d never said anything to her face, but a career woman who wasn’t intent on settling down any time soon wasn’t what they’d pictured for Frank. Claire could feel their disappointment when Frank had told them Claire had accepted his proposal.
Would Jamie’s father think the same thing? She knew he was unwell, he had been sick when Claire had been here three years before. What were the odds that he’d want to see Jamie settled down before he took a turn for the worst?
There was also the matter that Claire had no idea how to deal with parents. Without parents of her own and a nomadic childhood, Claire always felt ignorant of how to navigate family dynamics. She doubted Jamie would let her crash of burn (or Jenny, for that matter), but she was nervous nonetheless. Why had she even agreed to this?
Because you like Jamie, and he asked you, Claire thought. Claire thought she might jump off a cliff if Jamie was at the bottom of it, then she put that ridiculous thought out of her head. It was nearly 4:30, the time Jamie said they’d pick her up. The drive to Lallybroch was nearly three hours and they’d likely be spending the night. Claire would worry about that minefield when she got to it.
Claire made a few more fruitless attempts to tame her hair while she waited for Jamie. She thought she was finally getting somewhere when he knocked on her door.
“Ye clean up nice, Sassenach,” Jamie said when she opened the door. She took no small amount of satisfaction from the way he looked her up and down appreciatively. Claire could feel herself smiling dopily but she couldn’t do anything to stop it.
“I wasn’t sure what gift would be suitable,” Claire began nervously as she gathered her things, “So I just got a bouquet of flowers.”
“They’ll do fine,” Jamie said absentmindedly as he accepted her overnight bag from her. He still seemed suitably distracted by her legs in the dress. Would it be really that bad to skip dinner and drag him to bed instead? The butterflies in her stomach turned violent as they got closer to Jenny and Ian’s car, any escape would do, Claire decided. What had Jamie told them to explain why she was coming to Lallybroch? Did they know about… whatever she and Jamie were? All good questions that she should have asked more then two seconds ahead of time.
“Calm down. Sassenach,” Jamie said with a small laugh that she didn’t appreciate, “They’re no going to torture ye for answers.”
Claire bit back her reply as Jamie opened the door of the backseat for her. Claire slid in as gracefully as she could in her short dress and soon Jamie was sitting next to her. Jenny didn’t say anything, but Claire caught her eye in the review mirror, and it was anything but reassuring. Claire wanted to do something to ease the tension, but she couldn’t think of a single thing to say. The car descended into a tense silence that no one seemed eager to break. It was going to be a long drive.
Eventually, Ian and Jamie fell into conversation and Jenny soon joined in. Claire had added her two cents every now and then, but she’d stayed largely quiet throughout the drive. She could feel at least one pair of eyes on her at any given time. They had mostly been Jamie’s, but Ian and Jenny did their fair share of staring at her with thinly veiled curiosity, and Claire would be lying if she said she felt entirely welcome. Claire knew she owed at least Jenny an explanation. Aside from Joe, she was clearly Claire’s best friend. One does not usually have sex with their best friend’s brother, but it was too late for regrets now. Besides, Claire didn’t regret it one bit. She wished she had done it sooner and she was already aching to do it again. Jenny didn’t need to know all of that, but she needed to know that Claire wasn’t just fooling around here. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was doing, but she wasn’t going to mess around with Jamie’s heart.
But she couldn’t have that conversation in a car full of people, so Claire just suffered in silence until they eventually approached the estate.
Claire’s memories of Lallybroch from three ago had been dulled by alcohol and heartbreak. She knew they’d sold most of the land and all that really remained was the house, but she could see ghosts of how it had looked in its glory days. The house had been in the Fraser family for centuries, and Claire could feel every bit of that history. She was at once intensely jealous and also a little claustrophobic. Claire had never had a place she could always return to. Claire was often able to staunch the loneliness she constantly felt, but not now. What would it be like to truly have a home like Jamie and Jenny did?
At the same time, she couldn’t imagine being tied down to an ancestral home. Claire hadn’t understood Jamie’s hesitancy to leave the house and go to university, but she could feel it now. If Claire was feeling the pull of the place as a stranger, she couldn’t imagine the obligation Jamie must feel.
If his stance was any indication, he was feeling that very strongly right now. He was all tension, like a tightly wound spring. Claire ventured to give his hand a quick squeeze that he gratefully returned, then they went inside Lallybroch.
The inside was quite a bit more decorated than the last time she had been here, not that she had been sober enough to really notice the décor. Still, it seemed that time had treated the house well. She hoped that extended to its inhabitants as well. Claire didn’t have long to wait, it took only a moment for Jamie’s father to come and greet them.
Claire’s first thought was that Jamie must favor his mother. Jamie had the same broad build as the elder Mr. Fraser, but his coloring and bone structure was all wrong. Mr. Fraser gave both his children and Ian long, lovely looking hugs before appraising Claire. It wasn’t a judgmental look, but one of bold curiosity that Claire returned.
“I’m Claire Beauchamp,” she said finally as she extended a hand.
“Ye dinna say she was English,” Mr. Fraser said to no one in particular. Again, not judgmental, but she was clearly not the woman he was expecting. Not for the first time in Scotland, Claire wished her nationality was different.
“Ye ken of Claire,” Jenny said with a roll of her eyes, “We studied together in Glasgow.”
“Aye,” Brian said before turning back to Claire with a warm smile that settled some of her nerves, “But ye didna say her picture didna do her justice.”
“Hardly,” Claire laughed. Finally, Mr. Fraser took her hand and held it in both of his. It was good deal more intimate than a regular handshake would have been, but Claire found that she didn’t mind, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Fraser.”
“Please, call me Brian,” he said with a conspiratory smile, “I’m glad yer here. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to tell anyone stories about Jamie.”
Oh, they were going to get along just fine.
Mercifully, dinner was spent with Brian interrogating his own family. They talked about Jamie’s studies and Jenny’s business. Both were going well. Jamie was just beginning to send off his grad school applications. He didn’t share what he’d told Claire the night before about possibly wanting to go abroad, she noted.
After dinner though, it seemed to be Claire’s turn. With a dram of whisky in her, though, she found that she didn’t mind the questioning.
“So, Claire” Brian said, “How does a Sassenach find herself living in Scotland.”
“I just accepted a job as the assistant head of the trauma department at a hospital in Edinburgh, actually,” Claire said. She tried not to bristle at the way Brian said Sassenach. She was so used to hearing it in endearment from Jamie that she’d forgotten really what it meant. It didn’t sound like an insult, but it was clear that Brian viewed her as an outlander.
“I canna imagine we have better hospitals than London,” Brian pressed.
“You’d be surprised,” Claire said. She told a more sanitized version of why she’d left the Royal London Hospital, omitting details of euthanasia and her depression.
“Yer family must miss ye,” Brian said, “I ken I miss my kids something awful and they’re only a few hours away.”
“Well,” Claire said somewhat awkwardly, “I don’t actually have anyone to miss me. My parents died when I was young, and the uncle who raised me passed away a few years ago,”
“Ach, Lass, I’m sorry for it,” Brian said. She caught the pitying looks from the others and tried to ignore them.
“It was a long time ago,” Claire deflected, “Being unattached made the move quite a bit easier.”
“Well, I’m glad ye and Jenny are friends,” Brian said, “I’m afraid we never had much in the way of female companionship since Jenny and Jamie’s mother died.” From there, the conversation turned to stories of Ellen Fraser, who had died in childbirth when Jamie was 8. Of course, Claire had known that Ellen wasn’t alive, but she didn’t know the particulars of it. Claire was young enough when she lost her parents that she didn’t really have a memory of them. It was hard, but how much could she miss something she never really remembered having? Jamie and Jenny, however, had been old enough to really know their mother. Claire couldn’t image that loss.
The Frasers swapped stories late into the night. Claire didn’t speak much, but neither did Ian. He shot her a fond roll of the eyes that told her this must be a common occurrence. Eventually, the day’s travel weighed on Claire enough that her eyes started drooping. Jamie noticed because of course he did and offered to show Claire to her room.
“I’ll do it,” Jenny said. There was really no reason for her to do it instead, but she’d said it so decisively that no one had argued with her.
“So,” Jenny said as soon as they were alone, “Ye and Jamie sleep together, then?”
“Christ, Jenny!” Claire sputtered, “Do you really want to know that.”
“Of course I do,” Jenny said, “Yer my best friend and he’s my brother.”
“And are you talking as my friend right now, or Jamie’s sister?”
“Whichever is more likely to get the truth,” Jenny shrugged.
“Right then,” Claire said. She finally settled on telling the truth, “Yes, we slept together. But it was only once and I have no idea where we stand now.”
“He brought you here to meet his father, I think it’s fairly obvious where ye stand,” Jenny said with a slight roll of her eyes. Not angry then, Claire decided. Definitely not happy, but she didn’t think she was about to be eaten alive.
“Is it though?” Claire said, “He practically ran from me this morning, and then an invitation here and we haven’t had a chance to talk.”
“I feel like this morning was more about me than it was about you,” Jenny confessed, “I might have tried to put the fear of god into him about breaking your heart.”
“You did what?” Claire laughed despite herself.
“I’m not sorry!” Jenny insisted, though she had a slightly guilty look in her eyes, “He didna see the worst of it after ye and Frank broke up, I did. I willna have ye hurt again like that.”
“I love you, Jenny, but I’m not sure even you have control over that.”
“I do when it’s my brother,” Jenny insisted, “He’s a good man, but he can be careless.”
“That hasn’t been my experience with him,” Claire said. Jamie careless? She thought he was quite the opposite, in fact. He’d been so caring last night that it had bordered on worship. Claire couldn’t fathom the man from last night ever breaking her heart.
“Christ, ye really do like him don’t ye?” Jenny asked almost incredulously. Claire only shrugged, because how could she not? “Yer not going to break his heart, are ye?”
“Not on purpose,” Claire said, but was hurting someone you care about ever really on purpose?
“Ian has been working to get me on board with this for weeks,” Jenny confessed. Claire quirked on eyebrow in response and Jenny continued, “I ken it isna really my business. But I love ye and I love him, and I dinna want anyone to get hurt. And I especially dinna wanna lose ye again.”
“Jenny,” Claire said, a little choked up, “No matter what happens with Jamie, it won’t affect our friendship.”
“Will it no?” Jenny asked, “Ye left because of him once before.”
“He told you that?” Claire asked nervously.
“Dinna deflect,” Jenny said.
“I am sorry,” Claire said, “But it wasn’t really Jamie’s fault. And I always intended to explain things to you, but then Uncle Lamb died and Frank and I got back together. I couldn’t do much of anything, Jenny. Joe and I wouldn’t even still be friend if we didn’t work together.”
“I canna even imagine what it was like, Claire,” Jenny said as she grabbed Claire’s hand and squeezed, “But ye willna be alone again. Ye have me and Ian and Geillis, and Jamie if ye’ll have him.”
“I believe I have him already, but thank you for the offer,” Claire said. Jenny laughed and Claire knew they were going to be just fine. As if Jenny had the same thought, she gave Claire a suggestive look and her stomach sank slightly.
“So, speaking strictly as yer best friend,” Jenny began, “How was it?”
Nearly two hours later, Jenny had finally gone to bed and Claire was alone. She didn’t realize how much she’d been holding in about Jamie until someone had forced it out of her. She still had reservations about talking to Jenny about it, but she had been Claire’s friend before she knew her as Jamie’s sister. She figured it was fair game, and she would deal with Jamie being mad about it later. If she had been maybe a bit more descriptive than she should have but well… it had been really good and she hadn’t told anyone yet. And it wasn’t like Jenny was discouraging it.
“Is it weird that I’m almost jealous?” Jenny had asked at one point.
“Yes, Jenny, I think it’s weird you’re jealous I’m sleeping with your brother,” Claire deadpanned.
“Ye ken that wasna what I meant.” Jenny said as she swatted Claire’s arm, “I just mean the beginning of a relationship is exciting. I love Ian more than life, but I miss it a bit.”
“Good thing you can live vicariously through me, then,” Claire teased. She’d gone over almost everything from the night before. The tension while he walked her home, the kiss on her porch, Jamie telling Claire he was a virgin… Jamie no longer being a virgin. She told Jenny her fears about how much she liked Jamie, about how she thought she wasn’t ready for a new relationship, how shitty she thought she was at relationships in general.
“Don’t be stupid,” Jenny said, “How can ye be bad at relationships when ye were engaged?”
“Ask Frank,” Claire shrugged, “He always had something to complain about.”
“That’s because Frank is an idiot who didna deserve ye,” Jenny said, and Claire couldn’t argue with her there.
“Still, I know I wasn’t a very good girlfriend,” Claire said.
“Well, ye dinna need to worry about it when yer no one’s girlfriend right now,” Jenny said decisively.
That couldn’t go on forever, Claire knew. As much as Claire didn’t think she was a relationship person, she knew in her bones that Jamie was. He seemed like the kind of man to fall and never look back. That scared Claire as much as it exhilarated her. Jamie said he would wait for her to be ready, but did he assume she was ready now that they’d slept together?
Claire was alone now. She was exhausted, but sleep seemed to be a long way off. She was in the same guest room she’d stayed in before and all she could think about was how she could have had Jamie three years ago. She was entirely different person then and she was sure she and Jamie wouldn’t have last three years ago, but she still had the gut wrenching feeling that she’d wasted so much time. She wondered if she’d be able to find Jamie’s room without waking anyone else. Now that she’d talked to someone else, she knew exactly what she needed to say to Jamie. With her luck, though, she’d probably end up thoroughly embarrassed in Brian’s room.
Jamie must have had the same thoughts as her, because a few minutes after Claire decided to stay put, there was a knock on her door. Claire wrapped a quilt around her half naked body in case it wasn’t Jamie. It was Jamie, though, and his eyes trained on her legs that were left bare by the tank top she was sleeping in just as they had in her dress.
“Did you just want to stand there staring or did you want to come in?” Claire shivered. The medieval house was bloody freezing and Claire wanted to get back under her blankets. She’d prefer to do that with her warm-blooded Scot, but she’d go alone if she must. Jamie didn’t say anything, but he did come in and close the door behind him before sitting on the bed.
“I didna think Jenny was ever going to leave,” Jamie confessed as Claire sat next to him.
“James Fraser, were you spying on us?” Claire admonished.
“Aye, and I willna apologize for it,” Jamie said with a smirk, “Ye dinna ken how much I’ve wanted to kiss ye all day.”
Claire couldn’t deny him anything, so she leaned forward until their lips connected. She knew they shouldn’t sleep together again before they talked, but she was freezing and he was so warm. She let the quilt fall away and had herself pressed against him before she could stop herself. Jamie made a noise deep in his throat as his hands went under her tank top and explored the skin of her back.
“How thick are these walls?” Claire asked as Jamie trailed his lips along her jaw and down her throat.
“Not verra,” he admitted, “Ye’ll just have to be quiet.”
“I’ll have to be quiet?” Claire asked incredulously.
“Aye,” Jamie said with a lopsided grin, “Ye canna make any of yer wee squeaking noises.”
“I do not squeak,” Claire insisted as she leaned out of reach of Jamie’s lips. It was punishing her more than him, but she was rather insulted.
“Aye, ye do,” Jamie said, “And I love it, but I’m no sure my Da would.”
“You sure now how to kill a mood,” Claire sighed as she flopped backwards on the bed. Jamie laughed and laid down next to her. She didn’t look at him, but she twined her fingers through his and squeezed, “Thank you for bringing me here.”
“I wasna sure ye would appreciate it after Da gave ye the third degree.”
“It wasn’t so bad,” Claire said, “I liked him.”
“He liked ye,” Jamie replied.
“Aye,” Jamie said, “Give it some time and he’ll probably like ye more than he likes me.”
Claire laughed at that and turned over until her head was resting on Jamie’s chest. Jamie’s hands tangled in her hair and ran soothingly over her scalp. Claire was tempted to close her eyes and claim the sleep that had been eluding her all night, but she hadn’t been along with Jamie all day and didn’t want to waste this time.
“Sleep, Sassenach,” Jamie said as if reading her mind, “I’ll be here in the morning.”
“I just missed you,” Claire said as she snuck a hand under his shirt to feel his bare skin.
“We’ve been together all day,” Jamie said with amusement.
“Not really,” Claire said, “I wasn’t sure how much you told Jenny and Ian, and I didn’t really want to be interrogated as your girlfriend yet.” Claire realized her mistake a moment too late.
“Girlfriend?” Jamie said, “Is that what you are?”
“I don’t know,” Claire said, “And I’m too tired to figure it out tonight.”
“Ye canna say something like that and then fall asleep!” Jamie cried.
“Ugh, fine,” Claire said as she forced her eyes open. So much for enjoying the moment, “So we had the sex, and now I don’t know what we are.”
“What do you want us to be?” Jamie ventured.
“I have no idea,” Claire said, “It wasn’t so long ago that I was someone’s fiancé. I don’t think I want to be someone’s girlfriend.”
“Yer the one who said girlfriend, no I,” Jamie reminded her.
“But we did sleep together,” Claire said.
“And ye thought I’ve imprinted on ye like a duckling to it’s mam?” Jamie asked with amusement.
“No!” Claire said, even though that was a little bit what she thought.
“I care for ye a great deal, Sassenach,” Jamie admitted, “But I wasna about to pull out a ring.”
“Well good,” Claire said, even if the idea made her heart flutter uncontrollably. The problem was that she did quite want to be Jamie’s girlfriend, but she didn’t want to ruin things by moving too fast.
That had been her whole problem with Frank, after all. He’d asked her to dinner and the next thing she knew she was engaged. Claire would be damned if things went the same way with Jamie. She knew they couldn’t, Jamie was a much different (a much better) man. But that didn’t stop the knot of anxiety that had settled in her stomach. She couldn’t but any of the thoughts running through her head into words. Jamie took her silence for the conversation being over.
“If we’re done talking,” Jamie said as he tilted her chin up, “I can think of other things we can do.”
Instead of answering, Claire pushed her anxiety down and kissed Jamie. And there it was, a calm that washed over her as his tongue parted her lips and their kiss deepened. She didn’t know what would happen when their real lives intruded on their little bubble, but all Claire could think about as Jamie kissed her was that she could get used to this
And the air is finally cleared with Jenny! I know it wasn't the most exciting of chapters, but I promise it will be picking up. Let me know what you think!
I literally wrote and scrapped this entire chapter 4 times. But here it is! Thanks for your patience
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Do you want to go to London with me?” Claire asked about 4 months after she’d visited Lallybroch for the first time.
The question caught Jamie off guard. They were having a rare lunch together in a courtyard by the surgical wing of the hospital. Claire hadn’t brought up the girlfriend question since they’d first discussed it, and Jamie was too scared of her bolting to do it himself. Now they were in this this weird sort of limbo where they’d been together too long to really discuss them being official, but Jamie wasn’t sure how much longer he could go on without it.
Claire was his girlfriend, wasn’t she? He was reasonably confident she at least wasn’t seeing other people. But what if she was she seeing other people? Exclusivity seemed to be another conversation they should have had at some point. But Jamie hadn’t been in a relationship in so long that he didn’t really know any better, and Claire didn’t seem willing to talk about well… anything. At least not anything about the nature of their relationship.
They spent most nights together, but Claire was usually exhausted by the time she got to his flat. Or she was wired and wanted to socialize with Jenny. On the nights she wasn’t over, she was usually at the hospital or crashing at her own flat. Jamie tried not to read too much into why Claire never invited him to her flat. She insisted that she and Joe spent so little time there it was basically a disaster area and they never had any decent food. She truly didn’t do anything other than sleep there, she insisted. Jamie didn’t have a reason not to believe her, but it still seemed like a little way she was keeping him at a distance. What it all meant was that Jamie spent very little time alone with her. And when he did, they weren’t truly alone. It was at the hospital or at Broch Turach with other people within earshot. So they’d had little time for serious conversations (or any real intimacy, but Jamie swore that wasn’t the real problem) and he was struggling to think that wasn’t by Claire’s design.
So an invitation to another country was a shock to say the least. For one thing, Claire hated London.
“The Royal London Hospital asked if I could consult on a difficult case,” Claire shrugged. She was trying to be nonchalant, but Jamie could see the satisfaction humming through her at the place that had spurned her now needing her help. Apparently there were no surgeons in England with experience with this particular surgery, and Claire was the best option they had. She had already said yes and was leaving in three days and would Jamie come with her?
“Ye didna give me much time to make a decision, Sassenach,” Jamie said with a laugh.
“They didn’t give me much time,” Claire countered, “They only called me this morning.”
“And ye already have a flight booked?” Jamie asked.
“I’m an experienced traveler and it barely counts as a trip if we’re staying in the UK,” Claire shrugged, “I thought maybe I could take a few days off afterward and we could have some time alone.”
“And I assume ye already requested the time off?”
“Three whole glorious days,” Claire said, “Which is as good as I’m going to get when I’m a supervisor. What do you say?”
What did Jamie say? He wanted to say yes. But he had his own responsibilities. Not the same as a surgeon, he allowed, but responsibilities just the same. He didn’t want to leave Jenny in a lurch at the tavern, for one thing. For another, his last batch of grad school applications were supposed to go off this weekend. Jamie was almost done, but three days was cutting it a little close. And he was also expecting a few to come back in a matter of days. Could he be fully present with Claire when his future hung in the balance? And if the results were bad, Jamie didn’t want to ruin her time off with his sour mood.
But a full weekend with her…
At the very least, he could at least get some security that they were officially together. Without meaning to, Jamie’s mind drifted to a conversation with his father when Claire had visited Lallybroch.
4 months ago
“So, Claire?” Jamie’s father asked without ceremony as soon as they were alone. Jenny had taken Claire to her room and never come back, and Ian had finally given up and went to bed himself. He knew his father would have questions, but Jamie wasn’t sure he’d have the answers. He knew the answers he’d given Jenny and Ian were inadequate. He’d just shrugged and told them it was his birthday and he could invite whoever he pleased. It had been rather obvious what Jamie had been up to when he hadn’t been home all night, but Jenny mercifully didn’t ask.
It would be a little harder to explain things to his father. He’d had few enough girlfriends, and only Laoghaire at Lallybroch, that his dating life (or lack thereof) was simply something they didn’t talk about. Brian had explained to him that he’d simply known when he met his mother, and he hoped the same for his children. He taught Jamie to be responsible, but he didn’t see fit to stick his nose in Jamie’s business.
Until now it seemed.
This was the first woman Jamie had brought home, and apparently that required some sort of explanation.
“She’s bonny,” Brian ventured, “How long have ye been together.”
“Well…” Jamie said, “We arena really together… not officially.”
Brain raised one eyebrow, “Ye’ve never brought a friend home before either.”
“She’s technically Jenny’s friend,” Jamie said lamely.
“That may be, but I ken Jenny wasna the one who invited her,” Brian said, “Is there a reason she’s no yer girlfriend? Beyond the fact that she seems a good deal too good for ye?”
“Thanks,” Jamie said dryly, but he smiled slightly at the approval he could see in his father’s eyes. He hadn’t realized quite how much he cared about his father liking Claire until he didn’t have to worry about it anymore. Jenny had already liked Claire, she just needed to warm up to them as a couple. His father was completely different. A Fraser’s loyalty was hard earned and hard to lose. The fact that his father and Claire had gotten along almost immediately was a large weight off of his shoulders.
Which brought Jamie to the next complication. There was a reason Claire wasn’t his girlfriend, but he was fairly confident she wouldn’t appreciate Jamie telling his father. He could feel the nerves radiating off of her the whole drive from Edinburgh. He hadn’t really thought much about how Claire didn’t have a family of her own. Would it be weird for her to spend time with his? He’d never thought twice about them going out with Ian and Jenny. But spending time with his father in his childhood home was a good deal different than drinking with his sister and brother-in-law who she was independently friends with. But Jamie hadn’t had that thought until it was much too late. It had all seemed alright in the end. She’d been able to answer his father’s questions without revealing anything she didn’t want to. Like Jamie had omitted the foreign universities he’d applied to, Claire had quickly skipped over her broken engagement and sudden move to Edinburgh.
But the engagement was the reason they weren’t official. Not for the first time, Jamie thought he’d probably throw a punch if he ever had the displeasure of meeting Frank Randall.
“Earth to Jamie,” Brian said, breaking his train of thought.
“She just got out of a serious relationship,” Jamie decided on.
“Is she no over him, then?”
“That’s not it,” Jamie said. At least Jamie thought she was over Frank. They hadn’t talked about the specifics of her relationship, but it seemed like they’d been on rough waters for a while before Frank finally broke up with her, “It ended verra badly, and Claire doesna wanna rush into another relationship.”
“She doesna seem like a lass easily hurt,” Brian said thoughtfully, but he hadn’t had any follow up questions after that. He and Jamie had stayed up a bit longer after that talking about nothing in particular. It had been too long since he’d been at Lallybroch, and he was feeling those months of absence. Jamie knew his father didn’t take the best care of himself, especially since he and Jenny had left and there was no one to make him. He’d had a minor heart attack right before they’d decided to sell the farm land and things hadn’t improved much from there. He didn’t seem to be in any sort of downward spiral, but still, Jamie worried. He knew Jenny did too, but Brian was as stubborn a Fraser as any, and there wasn’t much they could do.
It wasn’t long after that they’d finished their drams and went up to bed themselves. Brian gave him an amused wink when he saw the way Jamie glanced at Claire’s door. All Jamie wanted was to fall into Claire’s arms after their long day. They’d technically spent all of it together, but it seemed like a lifetime since he’d been alone with her. But he could hear Jenny’s voice and Claire’s laugh on the other side of the door. Bloody typical.
He wondered idly what they were talking about while he got ready for bed.
Was Jenny having more luck plying answers from Claire than she had with Jamie? Of course there were things that he’d rather his sister didn’t know, but he didn’t mind the idea of Claire confiding in her. Jenny had a good deal more insight on Frank than Jamie did, maybe she’d be able to understand all the things Jamie didn’t.
And he didn’t really understand. He didn’t understand why Claire had stayed in a relationship for so long that made her unhappy. He didn’t understand why she’d let Frank back into her life after he’d hurt her. He mostly didn’t understand how someone could have a woman like Claire and then let her go. But Frank’s loss was Jamie’s luck, and he wouldn’t make the same mistakes as him.
Which meant giving Claire all the time she needed to mourn her engagement. When Jamie had her- truly had her- he didn’t want anyone else on her mind.
Then she’d said "girlfriend", and Jamie hadn’t been able to let it go. She’d been very clear that she didn’t want to be his girlfriend, but then why had she brought it up? Jamie wasn’t lying when he said he was in no rush with her- but he wanted to be clear as well, if they didn’t want the same things eventually, then what was the point?
Jamie had been able to push those thoughts aside when Claire drifted off to sleep, and he followed her soon after. The next morning was rushed because Jenny had to open the tavern by midafternoon. Brian paid special attention to Claire, giving her a tight hug and a promise to be back soon. Claire might have agreed just to be polite, but Jamie couldn’t help but notice the way she already seemed to fit into the house- into his family.
“I understand if you don’t-”
“Aye, I’ll go,” Jamie interrupted, “I’d love to.” The grin that split Claire’s face was well worth any price he’d have to pay for the excursion. Jamie couldn’t help but kiss her smiling lips and then he was sighing into her mouth. They didn’t often kiss when Jamie visited her at work. She didn’t want to do anything that would appear unprofessional, and she always kept him an arm’s length away. But this time, Claire kissed him back for longer than was strictly appropriate and it was a struggle for Jamie to break away from her.
“Mmm, I missed that,” Claire said as she idly stroked his jaw. Jamie couldn’t say anything for a moment. It really had been too long since they’d been alone together.
Too soon, Claire had to go back to work and Jamie had the rest of the day to kill before she’d be over at his place. He spent a few hours vaguely working at the pub. He had only two applications left, both in the UK. He got them done without much fuss. Claire eventually got the chance to send him the information about her flight and Jamie managed to snag a seat on the same one.
“I need next week off,” Jamie said absently to Jenny as he was packing up his things.
“And ye didna think to give me more than three day’s notice?” Jenny asked with a raised eye brow.
“Claire asked me to go to London with her,” Jamie said, preparing for her judgement. Jamie never did find out the specifics of what she and Claire talked about. At least she was confiding in someone, even if it wasn’t him. He knew they talked a decent amount about Frank. Jenny still cursed him often enough, but she refused to share anything with Jamie that Claire didn’t share herself. He supposed that was what he got for dating his sister’s best friend.
“That seems like a big step for someone who isna yer girlfriend,” Jenny said. She didn’t lift her eyes from the glassware she was cleaning, but Jamie could still feel the judgement.
“Ye ken why she isna my girlfriend,” Jamie hedged. Jenny very well might not know. Jamie didn’t even really know.
“I ken,” Jenny said, “I was just saying.”
“Are ye saying I canna have the time off?” Jamie replied, “Because that’s the only thing I care about.”
Jenny rolled her eyes, “Of course ye can have the time off, ye dolt,” she said, “I was just commenting.”
“Well, dinna,” Jamie said, “It’s between Claire and I.”
Jamie left a few minutes later, he and Jenny hadn’t exchanged any more words than were strictly necessary. Of course other people had notice the limbo he and Claire were in; they had the nosiest friends on the planet. It didn’t matter, Jamie decided. It was still only between him and Claire. He had meant what he’d said to her months ago, Jamie could wait as long as it took. That didn’t make the waiting pleasant.
In order for Claire to take three days off in row, she was working overnight shifts until they had to leave. Jamie figured that was probably for the best. He was thrumming with unexpected nerves and he didn’t want to make an idiot of himself.
Soon enough, his time was up and he had gotten himself reasonably under control. The excitement of uninterrupted time with Claire won out over his anxiety and he was grinning ear to ear by the time he found her at the airport.
“Good morning, Sassenach,” Jamie said as he gave her a kiss and the coffee he had bought her.
“Oh, you perfect man,” Claire said appreciatively as she took a sip. It was just after 6:00 AM now and Claire had come straight from the hospital. Claire had vowed she wouldn’t be sleeping on the plane, she’d wait for their real bed in their hotel to take a nap, but she looked dead on her feet. Jamie had only been to London once when he was little, and he knew Claire wanted to show him her corners of the city, but they had time. Claire had half a day before the surgery, and Jamie would be damned if she didn’t spend most of it resting.
Claire had assured him when she first started the job that the first few months would be the hardest. She’d had quite a reputation at the Royal London and she was sure some of it had followed her to Edinburgh. All she needed to do was a few months of proving herself, then she’d settle into a more normal routine. But those few months had come and gone and she seemed busier than ever. Not that Jamie would ever suggest anything like cutting back her hours. He’d fallen in love with a surgeon, he knew the schedule she was bound to keep. That didn’t mean it was easy to see her killing herself though.
Almost as soon as they were seated, Claire was leaning her head on his shoulder, “Don’t let me fall asleep,” she warned.
“I think ye should listen to yer body for once and take a wee nap,” Jamie said as he scratched his fingers along her scalp. His mam used to do that for him when he was small, he knew how comforting it was. Claire gave a hum of contentment and snuggled closer to him.
“Mmm,” she muttered as she gave his shoulder a small kiss, “Why are you always right?”
To call Claire clingy on their relatively short flight would be an understatement. She refused to remove her head from his shoulder or her hand from his. Not that Jamie was complaining, quite the opposite, but it was very unlike Claire. She wasn’t a very affectionate woman, especially not in public. Jamie didn’t mind, he was affectionate enough for the both of them. But now she was basically sitting in his lap in the middle of a plane, and that worried Jamie more than a little.
“Are ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie asked gently. True to her word, she hadn’t fallen asleep, but she was in a rare moment of rest. As much as he didn’t want to disturb that, Jamie had rarely seen her this unguarded and he wondered what she’d reveal.
“Just missed you,” she said after a slight hesitation. A lie.
“Joe and I had a fight,” Claire said, knowing it was useless to try to lie to him with her glass face.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” Claire said immediately, “Not this weekend. This weekend is just you and me.”
“Alright, Sassenach,” Jamie agreed as he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head, “Just you and me.”
Just Jamie, Claire, and a 12 hour surgery. True to his own word, Jamie had made her go to bed the moment they’d entered their hotel room.
“To bed or to sleep?” she asked suggestively, a call back to their first meeting, but Jamie was having none of it.
“To sleep,” he said as he laid down with her, “For both of us.”
As much as Jamie had missed sex with Claire, that was only one of the many things he wanted to do with her this weekend. Top of the list was to just hold her. Claire didn’t seem opposed to the idea. She allowed him to curl up behind her and lock his arms around her waist. Jamie could feel the tension in her body as she struggled to stay awake and talk, but Jamie just pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck.
“Sleep, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said, “I’ve got ye.”
Claire was gone by the time Jamie woke up. She left a note saying when she should be done and not to expect any calls or texts. Jamie flopped back into bed. He was in love with a surgeon, Jamie shouldn’t have been surprised.
But still. She had just left him to his own devices in an unfamiliar city without a word. And after telling him she’d had a fight with her best friend but none of the details of it. Jamie was almost tempted to call Joe if he wasn’t sure that would get him castrated. Joe and Claire seemed like an unbreakable unit, what did they even have to fight about? And what did they have to fight about that she wouldn’t tell Jamie? In fact, she’d seemed almost… afraid when he’d asked her about it. Her refusal to talk about it had been instantaneous and complete. There was no point in obsessing over it, Jamie decided. And there was no point in staying in bed and waiting for Claire.
The Royal London Hospital was in central London, so Jamie and Claire were staying right in the hub of the city. Claire hadn’t let Jamie in on any of her plans for the weekend, so Jamie decided to just wander and hope he didn’t hit anything that was on Claire’s list.
In the end, it was easy to spend a full day exploring. For a linguist, Jamie wasn’t one for museums or academia. Plus, he figured Claire would show him the major museums herself. So, he passed on the V&A and the British Museum in favor of the lesser known spots. He spent most of the afternoon exploring Camden Market and Covent Garden and nearly eating himself to death. He didn’t bother texting Claire until he was on his way back to the hotel. By that time, it was nine hours since he’d left and she still didn’t respond. Claire hadn’t seemed eager to talk about the surgery, or maybe she just knew Jamie wouldn’t be able to understand her, but he knew very little about the procedure other than it was related to the lungs and it was going to be long. It seemed that Jamie had a different definition of “long” than a doctor did. Jamie eventually fell asleep waiting for Claire only to be woken up in the middle of night by her climbing into bed.
“I’m sorry,” Claire said as she pressed herself against Jamie’s back, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Dinna be sorry,” Jamie said as he turned to face her, “How was the surgery?”
“She pulled through,” Claire said into his collarbone, “She coded twice, but she’s stable now. I had to stick around and monitor her, but I think she’ll be okay.”
“I’m glad for it, Sassenach,” Jamie said.
“I’m so sorry, Jamie,” Claire said, and Jamie realized she was crying, “I said this trip was for us, and then I waste 15 hours of it.”
“I kent this was a work trip, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “I’m not mad at ye.”
“I’m mad at me,” she continued.
“Ye shouldna be,” Jamie said. He ran a hand down her back. Claire’s breathing started to even out, but Jamie’s worry didn’t. This was so unlike Claire. Had their time apart weighed as heavily on her as it did for him, and that’s all this was? Or was it something more?
“Tomorrow will just be for us, I promise,” Claire said, and then she was asleep. Of course she was, she’d been on her feet for more than half a day. Despite being asleep, her grip on Jamie didn’t loosen and all he could do was hold her in return.
Jamie could tell that Claire needed to sleep more, but her alarm went off at 8:00 AM sharp and she was in the shower before Jamie could force her to slow down.
His phone rang a few minutes later, stealing whatever sleep he was hoping to get while Claire got ready. He saw it was Jenny and sighed as he picked up.
“Good morning to ye, too,” she said testily.
“It’s 8:00 AM and I’m on vacation, Janet.”
“Dinna pretend ye and yer girlfriend were sleeping,” Jenny replied. Jamie didn’t bother to correct her. It wasn’t like she’d believe him anyways.
“Was there a purpose to this call?”
“Actually there was,” Jamie said, “But maybe I just willna tell ye that ye got a letter from Harvard and the University of Glasgow, since yer in a foul mood.”
“What? Harvard?” Jamie was sitting up now. He looked to where Claire had vanished into the bathroom. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Claire to know about his grad school plans, but he wanted his rejection to be private. He might have gotten into Glasgow, but there was no chance he’d gotten to Harvard. He didn’t even know if he wanted to go there, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t thrilled by the idea. If he’d gotten in, that would at least prove he wasn’t wasting his time studying linguistics.
“Do ye want me to open it? Or wait for ye to get back?”
“Open it,” Jamie said immediately. He didn’t think he’d be able to focus on anything else if he didn’t know his results. He heard Jenny ripping the envelopes and swearing under her breath on the other end of the line. “Ye got into Glasgow,” Jenny said a moment later. Jamie didn’t say anything to that, he wasn’t exactly surprised. He heard more rustling and then Jenny gasping. That couldn’t be good,
“Ye got in,” she said. Her surprise and pride were palpable, “Ye got into Harvard!”
Jamie didn’t say anything for a moment. His shock was complete. He never in a million years thought he’d get in, but now he had two whole schools he could chose between. Jamie wanted nothing more than to take Claire into his arms and celebrate, but his dominant emotion was still surprise, “I got into Harvard? I got into Harvard!”
“Ye got into Harvard!” Jenny repeated. He heard her tell Ian in another room, and then they were all excited together. The call lasted a few minutes more, then Jamie was alone to process.
Boston. Did Jamie even want to go to Boston? He still wasn’t sure, but at least now he had the option. The weight of not getting in anywhere was now replaced with a different kind of pressure. Could Jamie really move to another country for three years? Leave his family? Leave Claire?
He tried to push those worries aside. He still had a few months yet before he had to decide, and he had plenty of time to think about it. Knowing his friends, everyone he knew would have an opinion and Jamie would listen to every single one of them.
Before he could sink further into his own mind, Claire left the bathroom in a flurry and soon they were out of the hotel and exploring the city.
“Ye ken I’ve had an English breakfast before,” he laughed when they made their first stop at a pub, but Claire insisted it was part of the experience. He knew he needed to tell Claire about Harvard, but she seemed so happy, and that was so infectious that Jamie soon honestly forgot about it.
The rest of the day remained light and hurried. It seemed that Claire wanted to show him the entire city in the span of 72 hours, and they had to stick to a strict schedule to do it. Even so, the day passed pleasantly. Like he suspected, Claire showed him several of the major museums and art galleries, the tourist traps like the London Eye. She also showed him her personal favorite spots, like where she had lived when she first moved here and where she and Joe would grab drinks after work. Her voice caught slightly when she talked about Joe, but she wouldn’t let either of them linger on it.
It was outside of one specific bub that Claire stopped dead in her tracks. Jamie had been telling some story about his childhood when Claire interrupted him.
“Oh fuck,” Jamie was about to ask what, but then he saw it. A man a little bit shorter than himself standing about 10 feet away looking directly at Claire. For her part, she looked like a deer caught in the headlights and had Jamie’s hand in a death grip.
“Claire,” the man said with a nod of his head, but neither made a move to say more. Nor did they look away from each other.
“Frank,” Claire said, confirming Jamie’s suspicions. No one’s focus was on him, so Jamie took the opportunity to size the other man up. He was both more and less than Jamie had been expecting. He had a commanding presence despite being the same height as Claire, and an air of pretension that Jamie could feel from where he was standing. But that was all. He wasn’t particularly handsome or charismatic. This was the man who had broken Claire’s heart? It seemed almost laughable that a man like that wouldn’t worship the ground she walked on.
But then Jamie saw the way Claire was practically swaying and felt the fight rise up in him. Of course there had to be more than what he was seeing. They’d been together for almost five years, and been engaged. There had to be some reason Claire had fallen in love with that. What Jamie couldn’t understand was how Frank had fallen out of love with her.
The way he was looking at her now, Jamie doubted Frank had fallen out of love with her.
“Sassenach?” Jamie ventured, just to break the silence. It had the desired effect. Claire’s eyes snapped up to him and the spell she was under was broken. She gave his hand a small squeeze and turned back to Frank, this time looking more like herself.
“This is Jamie,” Claire said. She didn’t give him a title, but Jamie didn’t let it affect him.
“Pleased to meet ye,” Jamie said as he extended the hand not holding Claire’s to Frank. He wanted nothing less than to touch Frank, but the man was openly glaring by now and Jamie didn’t want to stoop to that level.
“I suppose this is what you found so attractive about Edinburgh?” Frank asked as he ignored Jamie’s hand.
“Don’t,” Claire said immediately and vehemently, “I didn’t even know Jamie when I left.”
Frank didn’t contradict it even though they could see the lie clear on her face, “Well then you moved on rather quickly.”
“I think this conversation is over,” Jamie said before things escalated, “Claire?”
It looked for a moment that Claire was going to argue, but she gripped Jamie’s hand and began to lead him away. Only to be stopped by Frank’s hand on her shoulder pulling her back.
“Get your hands off of me!” Claire said as she tore herself away. Her hand had left Jamie’s in the shuffle, and he was resisting the urge to but himself between her and Frank. But he knew Claire wouldn’t appreciate that. He was lucky he got away with telling her to leave. Besides, from the ice in her eyes, Jamie figured she could handle herself.
“Can we talk about this like reasonable people, Claire?” Frank asked then cast a glance at Jamie, “Without your bloody bodyguard?”
“There is nothing to discuss,” Claire said, “You broke up with me.”
“And maybe it was a mistake,” Frank said. God, the nerve of this man. Even if he felt it, how could he say it in the middle of the street in front of Claire’s boyfriend? Not her boyfriend, Jamie’s brain unhelpfully supplied. Right. They’d had a lovely two days, but they still hadn’t had the girlfriend conversation. And now there were several more things left unsaid between them.
“You regretting breaking my heart isn’t my problem,” Claire snapped, but Jamie could see the tension settling in Claire’s shoulders. He was sure Frank could see it too, but Claire was dragging Jamie away again, “Goodbye, Frank.”
Jamie was sure Frank said something as they walked away, but he didn’t hear it with the way his blood was pounding in his ears. So that was Frank. The man who had broken Claire’s heart and left her unable to fully trust Jamie.
“Claire, slow down,” Jamie said. Her legs were shorter than his, but she was walking with so much determination that Jamie was practically running to keep up with her.
“That bloody fucking asshole,” Claire seethed. Anger was better than the alternative- the crippling sadness Jamie had seen when Frank first ended things- so he just let Claire rave, “He made a mistake? The nerve!”
“I canna say I understand what ye saw in the man,” Jamie ventured, “If that was any indication of his true character.”
“He wasn’t like that at first,” Claire insisted, but she seemed more to be trying to convince herself than him, “But somewhere down the line, he became certain I’d never leave. So he just stopped trying.”
“But ye did leave,” Jamie said.
“Yes. When I went to Edinburgh, he made it seem like it was my fault for throwing our relationship away,” Claire continued, “But he still didn’t try. He always wanted me there, but didn’t care that watching my career dwindle was slowly killing me. He didn’t care as long as I could be his pretty little wife.”
Jamie laughed a bit without meaning to. Claire was many things, but pretty little wife was not something Jamie thought she could ever be. Jamie’s laugh seemed to break through some of her anger and Claire gave him a small smile, “Ridiculous, isn’t it?”
With the absence of anger, Jamie could see the sadness lurking behind her smile. It was nowhere near like when Frank first left her, but it was there all the same. Jamie wished he’d taken the opportunity to throw a punch. Jamie thought he deserved it before he’d met the man, but this confirmed it. How anyone could take a look at Claire and want to hold her down and make her someone meek and agreeable, Jamie didn’t know. Claire was a wildfire, and Jamie didn’t want her any other way.
But this had shaken Claire, that much was clear. She had shared so much with a man that she never really knew at all, and Jamie was beginning to understand why it had been nearly six months and she didn’t trust Jamie. If Frank could become someone totally different, why couldn’t he?
“Were you going to tell me?” Claire asked suddenly, and Jamie knew that she knew about Harvard. It wasn’t hard to figure out the subject change wasn’t as sudden as it seemed.
He wondered fleetingly if Frank had hid things from her, or if Claire was just annoyed that it wasn’t her keeping secrets for once. It was a vindictive thought and Jamie put it out of his head. He hadn’t kept it from her to be malicious. Jamie just wanted to sort out his own feelings before he’d thought about other people’s.
“Not when we were on vacation,” Jamie defended, “How did ye ken?”
“The only thing separating us was a bathroom door, and you’re not exactly quiet,” Claire rolled her eyes, “When were you going to tell me?”
“When I decided if I even wanted to go,” Jamie said.
“And I applied to plenty of places in the UK,” Jamie reasoned, “I wanted to wait until I heard back from all of them before I made a decision.”
“Why would you stay here when you could have one of the best schools in the world?”
“Sassenach,” Jamie said. He ventured to grab her hand and Claire allowed it, “The UK has quite a few pros that other countries wouldna have.”
“You can’t possibly stay in Scotland for me.”
“Not just ye,” Jamie said, “My family too. But of course ye factor into my plans.”
“Jamie…” Claire trailed off, her voice ragged. He waited for the rest of the sentence, some explanation for her erratic behavior, but it never came. Instead, she gave him a fierce kiss that took his breath away. They were in the middle of the street, but she parted his lips forcefully and brushed her tongue against his. Jamie groaned against her mouth, but the force of her was gone as quickly as it came. Jamie could see tears glistening in her eyes, but he couldn’t name the emotion that accompanied them.
She didn’t say anything as they returned to their hotel and Jamie didn’t press her since she looked like she might break at any moment. Claire flopped on the bed the moment they were fully in the room.
“Are ye feeling alright, Sassenach,” Jamie asked as he laid down next to her, “Ye look exhausted.”
“It’s just leftover from yesterday,” she said after a slight hesitation.
Jamie wanted to call her on the half-truth, but he didn’t want to start a fight when she already looked so down. Between seeing Frank, the fight with Joe and Jamie’s Harvard news, maybe the remnants from the surgery really were doing her in. In any case, Jamie didn’t get a chance to ask her. She was asleep moment after they settled down.
Jamie just watched her sleep for a bit. He had far too much to think about to fall asleep. The day had been eventful to say the least, but Jamie couldn’t help but think about all the things they’d left unsaid. Jamie didn’t want to accuse Claire of anything, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was keeping something from him. He had her to himself for another day, but she’d be lost again when they got back to Edinburgh. She’d easily be able to hide whatever it was behind busy days at the hospital. But she wouldn’t do that, would she? Jamie didn’t think so, but he couldn’t deny that his usually unwavering confidence was shaking a little.
When he finally got to sleep hours later, it was with the distinct feeling that the other shoe was about to drop.
This chapter was a demon and I wasn't feeling particularly passionate about this story. But after getting all those moving pieces into this chapter, I have a much clearer idea of where we're going next. Thanks for sticking with me, let me know what you think!
TW this chapter for a brief depiction of sexual assault
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Did you tell Jamie you’re pregnant?” Joe asked the moment Claire got back into their flat two days later. Claire didn’t even spare him a glance as she threw her bag by the door and went to make herself a cup of tea. She was exhausted from the pace she’d set for herself the last several weeks, and her vacation with Jamie- while (mostly) enjoyable- hadn’t exactly been restful.
“I’m not pregnant.”
“Did you tell Jamie you think you’re pregnant?” Joe amended.
Claire slammed her mug down so hard she was surprised it didn’t break, “I don’t think I’m pregnant. You think I’m pregnant.”
“I also think you’re in denial,” Joe said. Claire figured he would back off after she’d left without a word to him three days ago, but it seemed like she’d been sorely mistaken. Like Claire, once Joe was set on a diagnosis, it was hard to convince him otherwise. And Joe was certain she was pregnant even if Claire hadn’t told him her symptoms in so many words. Joe was observant, damn him, and a good doctor.
She’d missed her period last month, but Claire chalked it up to stress. Exhaustion and mood swings were easily explained away as side effects of her demanding job. Nausea not so much. Claire hadn’t taken a test because if she ignored it, then it wouldn’t be real. She also hadn’t told anyone else, especially not Jamie. That had been the impetus of her fight with Joe. Joe had been able to see the suspicions she hadn’t confided in anyone. And he adamantly thought no matter what she decided to do, Jamie had a right to know. Claire had told him it wasn’t any of his business either way, and that had been the crux of it.
She hadn’t told Joe she was terrified. She hadn’t told him she’d thought she couldn’t have children, not after years of unprotected sex with Frank resulting in nothing (in retrospect, she never should have gone off birth control when Frank had asked her to. She was unbelievably lucky). She didn’t tell him that she was sure Jamie would want to stay with her out of some sense of obligation. Claire didn’t want to be anyone’s burden, especially not when they had only been together a matter of months.
If Claire had confided any of that, Joe still would have insisted she tell Jamie. But he might have also been a little more sympathetic.
Claire had been in a state of panic for nearly a month at this point, no wonder she was basically coming apart at the seams.
Even if she wanted a baby right now (she didn’t), she had no idea how to be a mother. Claire had never had a mother, or a female relative period. Even with a father as wonderful as Jamie, Claire was certain she’d destroy a child.
There was also the small part of her that thought Jamie would never forgive her if she didn’t go through with the pregnancy. She knew it was illogical. Jamie had never done anything to stop Claire from making her own choices. But still, that small part of doubt remained that Jamie would leave her if she didn’t have the baby.
But Claire wasn’t pregnant because she had not gone to a doctor and she had not taken a test.
Instead, she’d taken a vacation and hoped it would give her some sort of clarity. It hadn’t. Claire’s thoughts were more muddled than ever. She loved Jamie. That much she was certain of. Claire had been a nightmare the whole weekend, emotional and erratic. Jamie had taken it in stride and waited for her to come to him. She would. But not then. Not when they were finally alone after so much time apart.
She hadn’t purposefully avoided him as much as she just allowed her schedule to consume her. It was worryingly easy to work herself nearly to death rather than just be honest with Jamie. That was probably another sign she shouldn’t start a family with him.
But as soon as they were together, everything else seemed to fade away. Claire fell into him so easily that it scared her. It always did. She didn’t think of anything other than him until she walked into the OR, then he was the first thing on her mind when she was finally done.
It was the kind of surgery that should have thrilled her. But then Claire had nearly lost the patient and she was just drained. She didn’t get any of the usual satisfaction of saving someone’s life. Maybe it was because she’d had to stay hours afterward to make sure she actually pulled through. As soon as she walked out of the hospital, all Claire wanted to do was collapse in Jamie’s arms.
She’d been wracked with guilt ever since. Claire knew Joe was right. Even if Claire wasn’t sure, she should have told Jamie. But then Harvard and then Frank, and Claire was a mess.
Then the fear of him leaving her was replaced with the fear of him staying. Jamie was still in school. Jamie could go to Harvard, she wouldn’t let him throw that away for a child neither of them had planned in such a new and fragile relationship. Maybe he’d be excited at first, but Claire knew he’d eventually grow to resent her. There was no scenario where Claire didn’t end up with her heart in pieces.
He’d seen something was wrong, of course he had, but he didn’t call her on any of her lies. He just told her she looked tired and should rest. Jamie had left her with a kiss at her door and a promise to call her when he got home. Claire had given him nothing. Not security about their relationship, not the truth, not even really the time she’d promised him.
“Lady Jane,” Joe interrupted her train of thought. He was looking at her with the compassion she’d so desperately needed before she went to London, “Jamie is a good guy. He wouldn’t leave you, and he wouldn’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Claire said. She turned fully to Joe, “We saw Frank.”
“Frank?” Joe asked with a raised eyebrow, “And?”
“And he said it was a mistake to break things off,” she said with a shrug.
“He said that in front of Jamie? Did Jamie hit him?”
“Don’t look so happy about the possibility!” Claire said, “Of course Jamie didn’t hit him.”
“Missed opportunity,” Joe said, “But what does Frank have to do with this?”
“Everything!” Claire shouted. It was frustration at herself, not Joe, and he sensed that. Instead, he just nodded for her to continue. The sting from his words three days ago was still fresh, but he was still her best friend. And Claire really needed a best friend right now. A best friend that wasn’t related to Jamie, “How could my judgement have been so wrong?”
“You were 22 when you met him,” Joe reasoned, “Go a little easy on yourself, LJ.”
“I can’t go easy on myself,” Claire said, “Not ever again. I was so wrong about Frank, I could be wrong about anyone.”
“Jamie isn’t Frank,” Joe said, “I never liked Frank, for one thing. And I think Jamie is everything you deserve.”
“But am I what Jamie deserves?” Claire mused.
“Isn’t that for Jamie to decide?” Joe said.
“He got into Harvard,” Claire said. She wasn’t sure she should be spreading that around before he decided to go, but oh well.
“Is he going?”
“Not if he has a baby,” Claire replied.
“So you’re admitting there’s a baby?”
“I’m admitting,” she said, “That there might be a possibility of it.”
“You’re a fucking doctor, Claire,” Joe said as he threw his hands up. Claire could see this spiraling again like their last fight, and Claire wasn’t sure she could take that right now. But she physically couldn’t stop herself. She wanted to blame the hormones, but Claire knew she had a problem with her temper.
“I’m a woman first and I know my body,” Claire snapped, “My period has never been regular, and I can’t remember a time I haven’t been exhausted.”
“So you haven’t been avoiding Jamie?” Joe asked.
“I was with him all weekend.”
“And you haven’t ben avoiding Geillis?” it was like Claire hadn’t even said anything, “Because she’s an obstetrician, and she’d see what I see and steal a blood sample if she had to?”
“Mind your own fucking business, Joe,” Claire growled. It was playing out almost exactly like it had three days before.
“I love you, LJ,” Joe said in defeat, “But it’s time you understand the ways you can hurt the people who love you.”
Joe’s words lingered long after he had gone.
Claire tried to, but she really didn’t understand. Or she didn’t want to. She’d spend so much of her life by herself, there were still so many moments she doubted anyone did love her. At least she didn’t think anyone loved her unconditionally.
Frank had certainly had conditions.
Joe was the closest thing she had to a family, and there was still a divide between them the Claire refused to breach. She thought eventually anyone in her life would stop trying to get truly close to her. Jamie was new, but he’d see soon enough. Claire didn’t know exactly how to love, and that made her hard to love.
She was completely in her own head when the text came. From Frank.
I’m sorry, was all it said. Claire didn’t respond. Then a few minutes later: can we please talk? Again, Claire didn’t respond. Even when things didn’t work out with Jamie, she’d never go back to Frank. He had seemed so shiny when they were together. He had life figured out. He was older than her and offered a sense of security when Claire had none. But then that security was ripped away from her and she saw Frank for what he was. Distant and jealous, not really wanting her until he couldn’t have her anymore.
Claire knew she could survive by herself now. Frank had shown her that by leaving her. She’d rather be by herself than love Frank ever again.
He texted her a few more times that night before Claire finally blocked his number. She didn’t understand how he’d had the nerve to say the things he did in front of Jamie, but she refused to give him even an inch. It was hypocritical when she was keeping secrets already, but speaking to her former fiancé without telling Jamie seemed like a betrayal too great. Even though she ached to tell him to fuck off, Claire left well enough alone. Frank would eventually figure out she wasn’t going to respond and he’d leave her alone. He was as verbose as they came, but even he wouldn’t talk to himself.
Claire woke up just before dawn with a searing pain in her stomach. A cramp, she realized as she forced herself to sit up. A worse cramp than anything she’d ever experienced, but a cramp nonetheless. Claire breathed through her nose and forced herself to stay sitting through it. She wanted to curl up into a ball, but that would be admitting defeat. It would also be admitting what her intuition already told her. If there was a baby, it was making itself known.
Soon enough, the cramp passed and Claire thought she was okay until another one seized her about ten minutes later. This one was just as strong as the first, but she was prepared this time. It was either a bad period, or something normal in the early stages of pregnancy. It was just her body adjusting to the stretching of her womb, nothing more.
Claire knew it couldn’t be true even as she thought it, but she didn’t think it was bad enough to go to the hospital. Her pride wouldn’t allow her to call Joe right now. She knew he’d take her to the hospital in the middle of the night without a second thought, but she wasn’t quite ready to apologize for her outburst. Besides, he’d insist on calling Jamie if she went to the hospital, and Claire would not allow that.
Claire would take a test tomorrow. No matter the result, it was better to know and Claire had put it off long enough. She was a fucking doctor, as Joe had said, and ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away. These cramps seemed like they were a punishment for even trying to live in denial.
After her shift tomorrow, Claire decided, she’d call Geillis and they’d do it together. She should have told someone what was happening right now. But it was her body and her baby, and this at least she had to do on her own terms.
Claire got halfway through her shift the next day before the pain hit her again. This time, it wasn’t as severe and Claire could just grit her teeth and continue with her work. Lucky for her, she was mostly doing administrative duties and not seeing any patients. Lucky for her patients, too, her bedside manner would be terrible in her state.
She’d texted Geillis that morning that there was something important they needed to talk about at the end of the day. Geillis had a lot of questions that Claire didn’t answer, and she eventually just huffed and agreed to meet Claire at her flat later.
She had dodged Jamie’s sporadic texts today. Now that she had decided on a course of action, she was once again overwhelmed with guilt at lying to him. She’d never thought that a lie by omission was still a lie before Jamie. Maybe that’s just because that’s how Frank had treated her. Unless she asked a specific question, Frank would withhold anything he saw fit. Claire had picked that up and brought it with her to Edinburgh, apparently.
Claire didn’t see the point in telling Jamie anything she didn’t know for sure. Once she knew if she was pregnant, she could sort of her own feelings then go to him. And with Geillis in on her secret, there was no way it would stay secret for long even if Claire changed her mind. Here’s to busybody friends, she thought.
“Dr. Beauchamp?” Claire’s administrative assistant, Mary, said from her doorway, “There’s someone here for you?”
Claire genuinely thought Mary Hawkins was a good assistant, but she was mousy and would let anyone walk over her. Claire had been accosted in her office by a number of people because Mary was too afraid to turn them away.
“He says he’s from the Royal London Hospital.”
“A name, Mary?” Claire asked with exasperation.
“Well, he didn’t-” she was interrupted by the man coming into her office. A man she was intimately familiar with. Frank. Claire immediately leapt up from her desk and was hit with a wave of dizziness.
“What are you doing here?”
“I did try to call you,” Frank said as if it made a difference, “But it seems you’ve blocked my number.”
“And you didn’t take any hints from that?” Claire asked incredulously.
“Get out of here before I call security. This is my place of work, Frank.”
“I wouldn’t have to go to such drastic members if you’d just talked to me in London.”
“Even if I wanted to talk to you,” Claire began. She noticed Mary inch out of the room as Claire’s volume increased. She took great pains to quiet down. She wasn’t about to let Frank ruin her reputation at a job she actually cared about, “I was with my boyfriend.”
“The Scot?” Frank scoffed, “Please, Claire, be serious.”
“Is it so hard to believe?”
“That a doctor would leave a well-respected historian for someone who looks like he just crawled out of a pub? Yes, it is. You’re better than that.”
“I’m better than you,” Claire corrected, “And I’m not nearly good enough for Jamie.”
As if sensing her insecurity, Frank made a move towards her. In a few steps, she was pressed against her desk and he was only an inch away from her. Claire wanted to call security, to hit him, to do something. But she was rooted to the spot. It was like when she’d seen him on the streets of London; he had some sort of power over her that she didn’t understand. She was still filled with a righteous fury, but it was buried beneath a mess of other feelings at the moment. All she could think about were their five years together when he was so close to her.
Frank saw his opening and then his lips were on hers, his hands gripping her shoulders so hard that Claire could feel his nails biting into her skin. Claire gasped at the sudden pain, and Frank used that to shove his tongue into her mouth. Frank wasn’t that much stronger than she was, but Claire was immobilized by the shock of it. Frank had done many awful things, but he had never once touched her without her consent. But here he was, kissing her like he was never going to stop and Claire just wanted to scream and cry. Eventually, Frank had to come up for air and Claire gasped a breath of her own.
“I bet that is something you don’t have with Jamie,” Frank practically spit the name. If he wasn’t still holding her down, Claire would have hit him. Claire was preparing to tell him exactly what she had with Jamie, and that Frank didn’t hold a candle to it. But every thought in her head was wiped out by a white flash of pain. A cramp, this one far worst than the ones from last night. With this one, the pain spread from just her womb to her entire torso. It was bad enough that she would have hit the floor if Frank hadn’t been holding onto her.
“Claire?” Frank asked. Claire couldn’t meet his eyes, but the fear was clear in his voice. Claire couldn’t form any words even if she’d known what to say. She could barely form thoughts; the pain was so blinding. Then it was gone for a moment before returning, this time she gasped as she felt a wetness on her thighs.
“Christ, Claire, you’re bleeding!” Frank yelped as he finally let her go and she sunk to the ground. She was vaguely aware that she must be sitting in the pool of blood that had dripped from the skirt she’d worn to work today. But all she could do was curl into a ball and wait for the pain to subside enough that she could speak.
“Mary,” she managed to croak out when it finally did. By some miracle, she was heard and Mary was in the room. She looked first to Claire lying on the floor then she took notice of the blood. Then her gaze finally landed on Frank. For the first time in Claire’s memory, Mary looked fearsome enough to drag Frank out of her office. Claire appreciated that, but she needed a doctor. She was in a hospital, there were plenty of doctors. She needed Geillis. She must have said it out loud, because she heard Mary paging Dr. Duncan to her office. Bless Mary, Claire thought vaguely, she was getting a raise if Claire survived this.
Maybe she was being dramatic, but it felt like she was being torn in two. She should have just gone to the hospital last night. Forget last night, she should have confirmed that she was pregnant in the first place. Claire should have done a lot of things. How far along even was she? She’d guess a little more than 8 weeks, but it was hard to tell. She had no idea what a miscarriage was supposed to feel like, but she thought there must be something more than that going on. She could feel her blood slippery and warm on the floor and Frank standing uselessly next to her.
“Baby,” she managed to choke out. Frank didn’t deserve an explanation at this point, but Claire gave it anyways, “I’m losing the baby.”
Frank didn’t get a chance to respond before Geillis was there. She was flocked by two nurses that Claire didn’t recognize but she didn’t really care about anyways. All she could see was the shock and worry in Geillis’ eyes. Someone had ushered Frank out of the room so Claire could be examined in peace.
“How far along are ye?”
“I don’t know,” Claire replied honestly.
“But ye kent ye were pregnant?”
“I suspected,” Claire confirmed.
“Is this what ye wanted to talk about?” Geillis asked. She slipped out of her doctor persona as Claire nodded and she squeezed Claire’s hand. It lasted only a moment before her face was once again all business. She asked Claire a few more questions, but her answers were becoming nonsensical even to her ears. Claire thought she was going to vomit. At the very least, she was going to pass out. Geillis seemed to agree, because soon Claire was aware that she was being lifted and put on a gurney. She was aware they were running, which was never a good sign in the hospital. She was aware of Geillis holding her hand. Claire heard her bark orders to her nurses, but Claire wasn’t an obstetrician and she didn’t comprehend most of it.
Claire was barely conscious as Geillis explained to her what was happening. She didn’t really need someone to explain to her that she was having a miscarriage. She did comprehend that Geillis was recommending a minor surgery to remove the rest of the tissue from her uterus since she was bleeding heavily. Claire could only nod, it wasn’t like Geillis gave her much choice.
Geillis gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and a promise that everything would be alright, then she was gone. The doctor in her wanted to ask more questions, but the pain gripped her again the moment Claire had given to her consent to the surgery. She didn’t even know the questions to ask, and she didn’t really care. What was the use of having answers when she was fairly certain she was going to die on the table? At least she hadn’t said anything like that to Geillis, she was worried enough already without having to shoulder Claire’s panic as well.
Claire gritted her teeth through the surgery prep and tried to listen to the nurses as they asked questions and told her what they’d be doing. But Claire was aware of very little as she felt the blood continue to pour out of her. Then, someone placed an anesthesia mask over her mouth and she wasn’t aware of anything at all.
When Claire awoke, Jamie was there.
Her relief at that was almost enough to push all other thoughts aside. Almost. If Jamie was here, that meant that someone had told him what had happened and he’d decided to stick around. Or maybe he just had the decency to break up with her to her face.
Either way, the sight of him asleep next to her was almost enough to do Claire in. She was still too disoriented to call out to wake him up, let alone to reach over and weave their fingers together like she was aching to.
She blinked the rest of her surroundings into existence. She was in a recovery room, not the ICU. And she hadn’t died in surgery, that was good. She certainly felt whatever Geillis had done to her. Whatever morphine they’d given her must have worn off with the anesthetic. Claire felt hollowed out, both physically and emotionally.
Only now that it had all fallen apart did Claire truly wish she had shared the burden with someone. She should have accepted Joe’s comfort before he was too angry to offer it. Or confided in Jenny and Geillis instead of avoiding them for nearly two months. She wished more than anything she had just told Jamie. All her anxieties before seemed to pale compared to what she was feeling right now.
But she had been alone in this pregnancy, and now she was alone in her grief.
It didn’t matter that she didn’t want a baby right now, she was mourning all the same. For a brief period of time, she’d carried a life. And now it was gone and Claire just felt empty. She didn’t realize she was crying until she felt the wetness dripping onto her hospital gown. She quickly wiped them away, but it didn’t make any difference. These were the kind of tears that refused to stop until she was completely dry.
She must have made some sort of noise, because Claire caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Jamie was awake, but she couldn’t stand to look at him straight on. Jamie had often brushed her tears aside and whispered sweet nothings in Gaelic, but he didn’t make any move towards her this time.
“Sassenach?” he said eventually. She didn’t answer, “Claire? Are ye in pain? Should I get Geillis?”
“Don’t bother Geillis,” Claire said. She wasn’t entirely sure what time it was, but she could see the moon high in the sky through her window. Geillis didn’t normally work nights, but she’d probably stayed on Claire’s account. She was sore, but not like anything was wrong. It would keep until morning.
Claire could feel Jamie’s disapproving eyes on her but she couldn’t bring herself to care. The pain felt like a punishment for all the lies she’d told.
“Should I get Jenny?”
“Of course Jenny’s here,” Jamie said incredulously, “So are Ian and Joe. They would only let one person in at a time.”
“Oh,” Claire said dumbly. Her instincts told her to send them all home. There was nothing they could have done while she was unconscious, and there’s nothing they can do now in the middle of the night. But for once, Claire wanted every ounce of love she could get from these people she’d been trying to hard to keep at a distance.
“I should tell ye that Frank stayed as well,” Jamie said. That finally got Claire to look his way. The emotion on his face was impossible to read, so Claire didn’t even try. Unlike her, Jamie usually made his emotions known. Claire had never had a reason to read him, and she found that she couldn’t see what he didn’t willingly give. She tried not to dwell on the distance between them, knowing it would break her if she did.
“I didn’t know he was coming,” Claire said finally.
“Christ, Claire, ye think I care about Frank right now?”
“No!” Jamie said. It was a quiet, but vehement denial. As if he couldn’t fathom that Claire would think so little of him. He could just add it to the list of ways she’d wronged him, “I do care about those bruises on yer arms, though.”
Claire looked over to confirm that yes, there were bruises the shape of fingerprints where Frank had grabbed her. Claire didn’t say anything, but she didn’t need to. She could see understanding in Jamie’s eyes. He was standing before Claire could grab him.
“Where are you going?” Claire asked.
“I’m going to go punch Frank Randall in the face,” Jamie said simply. It wasn’t angry, just a fact. Claire threw her blankets off and stood.
Or tried to stand. Her legs buckled almost immediately. Luckily, Jamie was close enough to catch her and lower her back onto the bed, “What do ye think yer doing?”
“Stopping you from getting an assault charge?” Claire replied, but it had no heat. She only settled when Jamie sat back down next to her in defeat. That was the first time he’d touched her since she woke up, and he’d let go as soon as it was clear she wasn’t going to hurt herself. Claire missed the feeling of his hands, but she didn’t have the right to reach out to him.
“Someday,” Jamie said decisively, “That man will get what’s coming to him.”
Claire didn’t have a response to that, so they sat in silence for a few minutes. Claire was concentrating very hard on getting the room to stop spinning, and Jamie was just looking at her. The outburst did a little to break the tension in the room, but she still didn’t know what to say.
“He kissed me,” Claire said finally. Maybe it would be easier to get all the Frank things out of the way first. Jamie’s eyes widened, but he didn’t make any new moves to do violence on Frank so she continued, “He texted me last night asking if we could talk. And then he just showed up here, and trapped me in my office. He kissed me and I couldn’t stop him. I don’t know what came over me, but I was just frozen. And then…” Then she’d miscarried their baby. She didn’t need to say it, Jamie understood.
“And I suppose ye werena gonna tell me any of that either?” Jamie asked.
“I would have told you about Frank,” Claire replied. She would have, she knew that. It was confusing the things she was open with and the things she’d rather die than share. Claire saw that same confusion in Jamie’s eyes.
“Will you please just yell at me and get it over with?” Claire asked. It was torture not knowing how Jamie felt or what he thought. She thought vaguely that was probably how Jamie felt during their entire relationship. But Claire was beyond rational thought right now. Her hormones were still going wild and the dull ache had turned into a sharp pain in her lower half. Claire couldn’t take not knowing what Jamie was going to do any longer.
“I’m no gonna yell at ye,” Jamie said, “I am just struggling to understand.”
“I am trying…” Jamie trailed off. The eye contact he was making with her was almost frightening. For the first time, Claire understood the restraint Jamie must be using right now to keep himself in check, “I am trying to understand exactly what was going through yer head to make ye think ye were in this alone.”
“Good luck,” Claire replied, “I don’t understand it either.”
“Do ye have any idea,” Jamie continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “What it felt like to get a call saying ye were losing a baby I didna even ken ye had? And I get here and yer in surgery, and Joe said it’s been touch and go. But then I see Frank fucking Randall sitting there with yer blood on his shoes? Claire, I thought I was gonna drop dead right there.”
“I’m sorry,” Claire said. It was woefully inadequate, but Claire didn’t have anything else at the moment. For what it was worth, it was the most instant and complete remorse she had ever felt. But she suspected that wasn’t worth anything at all.
“Why, Claire?” Jamie asked, “Help me understand.”
“I didn’t want a baby,” Claire said simply, “And I didn’t you to stay with me out of obligation.”
“So yer plan was to pretend it wasna happening?”
“For a bit,” Claire admitted, “I was going to take a test tonight.”
“How long is a bit?”
“About a month,” Claire replied.
“Joe knew. That was what the fight was about” Jamie said. It wasn’t a question.
“Joe guessed,” Claire said, “Jamie, I didn’t tell anyone. Telling someone would make it real, and then I’d have to make plans.”
“We,” Jamie replied, “We could have made plans.”
“What would you have done?” Claire asked, “If I had told you from the beginning?”
“It doesna matter does it?” Jamie asked. It was the first time anything resembling anger or bitterness had crept into his voice and it hit Claire like a bullet, “Ye didna care enough to tell me outright.”
“It wasn’t a matter of caring.”
“Fine then. Ye didna trust me enough-”
“I didn’t trust ME!” Claire finally shouted, “I didn’t trust myself not to hang onto you, no matter the cost. I have been bloody terrified of falling in love with you when I knew this wasn’t going to work.”
“Ye seem awfully confident of things ye ken nothing about.”
“I know entirely too well what it’s like to fall out of love with someone,” she replied so quietly she wasn’t sure Jamie would hear her. But hear her he did, and there was no comfort in his voice this time. Just finally the cold understanding of what Claire was.
“But ye clearly ken nothing about my heart, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “Or ye dinna care about anything other than protecting yer own.”
“I’m gonna get the Jenny and Joe, they’ll want to see ye now yer awake,” He said as he stood up. The moment he broke eye contact, it was like a spell had been broken. He was only a few steps away from her, but it felt like an ocean. And she was fading fast. How long had she been up? Maybe half an hour? The moment she wasn’t entirely occupied with Jamie, her pain came back with a vengeance. She reevaluated her stance on waking Geillis, but decided Joe could look her over quickly.
She must have looked stricken, because Jamie took a single step back towards her, “I just… I need some time, Claire.” Jamie said hopelessly. She’d heard that one before. She’d said that one before, to Frank. She knew all Jamie would find with time were more reasons to leave her. As if he didn’t already have enough.
“Goodbye, Jamie,” Claire said.
“Dinna say that like ye ken I’m no coming back,” Jamie said with a bite, “Ye dinna ken everything, Claire.”
Jamie looked her expectantly for a second, but Claire didn’t have anything left to say. He sighed audibly and then he was gone. And all at once, Claire was completely and utterly alone.
Some really good guessers on the last chapter (either i'm good at foreshadowing, or predictable. either way, i loved all the predictions)!
I know a low of people have been wanting Claire to get some tough love. I hope this chapter was satisfying, and know there's some more of it coming. I thought about scrapping this storyline and adding something else instead, but this was the central conflict i made this story around and i thought it worked as the reckoning for my Claire. I hope you agree. Let me know what you think!
The message from Joe was frustratingly short. Claire is in the hospital. I don’t know much yet, but I’ll tell you when you get here. Calling him back didn’t get him anywhere, so Jamie had grabbed his things and left his apartment. Jenny had gotten something similar from Geillis, and soon they were all on their way to the hospital.
Then they were pointed to obstetrics and a lot of things made sense for Jamie at once.
Why Claire had been avoiding him. Why she’d been so erratic in London. Why she constantly seemed one foot out the door.
She was pregnant.
Or she had been pregnant. Geillis had given Jenny a little more information than he’d gotten from Joe. Claire had miscarried a baby no one knew she’d had. Jamie didn’t give himself a chance to stop and process his feelings about that. Claire was in the hospital and couldn’t tell anyone what had happened herself; that couldn’t be a good sign. Jamie was spending all of his worry on Claire right now. To think about the baby would break him.
Sure enough, Geillis was in surgery with her and Joe was elsewhere when Jamie and Jenny arrived. He was forced to get the third-hand information from Claire’s assistant, Mary.
“She should be out soon. Dr. Duncan said it should be a relatively quick procedure,” Mary said. Quick didn’t mean easy or safe, and the way Mary was avoiding their gaze told Jamie that she knew that as well as he did. Then she gave a furtive glance around before continuing, “Joe is her listed next of kin, but he had me add you both as family so you could see her sooner. If you want to follow me to recovery-”
“Family, my ass,” someone scoffed from the chair next to the reception desk. Jamie’d had tunnel vision from the moment he and Jenny had walked in. Nothing mattered except seeing Claire, or finding someone who could take him to Claire. He hadn’t really noticed anything about his surroundings until this moment. But he couldn’t ignore it any longer. It was Frank. A little worse for wear, but his air of condescension was as intact as ever.
“And who the hell are you?” Jenny demanded.
“No one important,” Jamie said under his breath. Apparently not quiet enough, because Jamie caught Frank’s eye roll.
“Just her fiancé,” he scoffed. Jamie wanted to hit that damn smirk off of his face, but he knew Claire would kill him if he caused a scene in her place of work. Not that Claire was here, or that she’d done anything recently to earn his loyalty. Still, Jamie refrained.
“Ex-fiancé,” Jamie snapped. It looked for a moment like Jenny was going to jump Frank instead now that she knew who he was, but she was stilled with a look from Mary. It was then that Jamie noticed the blood. It splattered Frank’s shoes and the cuffs of his dress pants and Jamie suddenly felt sick. Frank didn’t look injured. The only explanation was that it was Claire’s. And it was more than a little bit of blood. Frank’s cuffs looked like they’d been completely soaked before the blood had dried.
Frank had been there when Claire lost the baby. And if Frank had somehow been the cause of it… Jamie tried to push his anger down. They were here for Claire. And they still knew so little- Jamie couldn’t really afford to be kicked out for killing someone. No matter how much Frank might deserve it.
Finally, Mary finished with whatever administrative task she needed to do to get them in. Frank made a final noise of protest as Jenny and Jamie were ushered from the waiting room, but Mary ignored it. It seemed like Frank had been kicking up a fuss long before Jamie had arrived, and he hadn’t gotten anywhere. Jamie had a feeling that was the only thing that would be going right today.
Once they were away from the waiting room and away from Frank, Jamie finally let out the breath he was holding. It seemed like the baby wasn’t the only thing Claire had been hiding. How long had Frank been here? Why had he stuck around? There was only one person who could answer those questions, and Jamie had no idea what state she would be in when she awoke. Not a great one, if the blood was any indication.
At least Joe was there when he and Jenny walked in.
“Oh, thank god,” Joe said as he pulled Jamie into a quick hug. Jamie was surprised but returned the hug all the same.
“Is she okay?” Jenny asked, straight to the point as always.
“We’re not sure yet,” Joe admitted, “Geillis finally sent an update when I threatened to break into her OR. Her blood pressure is apparently through the roof and she lost a lot of blood. They’re just trying to mitigate the damage, but she’ll be in recovery for a while.”
“Do they ken why it happened?” Jenny continued. Jenny was braver than him to ask, and he was grateful for it.
“Most likely a combination of stress and pushing herself too hard. Geillis hasn’t found anything underlying issues that would have caused it” Joe said, “Whatever happened with Frank probably didn’t help.”
“Sounds like Claire,” Jenny said reproachfully.
“She’s always been like this,” Joe agreed, “Claire doesn’t take a break until something makes her. Usually her own body.”
“Did either of ye know?” Jamie asked, finally allowing himself to think about the baby. Jamie knew it wasn’t entirely fair of him to put them on the spot, but he needed to know. He understood that they were Claire’s best friends, but it was already bad enough that Claire had lied to him. He wasn’t sure he could take another betrayal today, especially from his own sister.
“She never admitted it,” Joe said eventually, “But I was pretty sure.”
“Jenny?” Jamie asked.
“No,” she said immediately, “I didna know.”
Jamie nodded, unsure of what to say. He wasn’t sure what he would have preferred: everyone he knew keeping this from him, or Claire thinking she was in this alone. Jamie knew it wasn’t Claire’s fault that she had spent most of her life alone and that was all she’d ever known. But look where Jamie’s patience had landed them.
Jamie wasn’t aware of much beyond his own thoughts. He could hear Jenny and Joe talking next to him, then he was aware of Ian showing up and giving him a quick hug before taking his place next to Jenny. The next thing Jamie knew, Geillis was finally walking out of the OR and was being swamped by Joe and Jenny. Jamie and Ian hung back a little, sensing that Geillis was very nearly at the end of her rope.
“She made it through,” Geillis said when she could finally get a word in, and that shut everyone up, “And she was very lucky to, all things considered. She needs time to heal, and we all know we’re going to have to make her take that time. But she’ll be okay to go home after a few days of observation.”
Joe asked her more specific doctor questions about aftercare that Jamie didn’t understand, but he looked significantly less panicked than an hour ago. That was a good sign, at least. Jamie was inclined to be more panicked after Geillis said she was lucky to be alive at all, but Joe was the doctor.
Jenny asked a quiet question about her emotional state, but Geillis shook her head.
“That’s something ye’ll need to ask her yerself,” Geillis said, “She seemed alright when I was examining her, but the might have just been the adrenaline.”
“And Frank?” Jenny asked, not evening pretending that Geillis was just a doctor. Again, she just shook her head.
“I ken she was having an… altercation with Frank when it happened. But I dinna ken what it was about, or if that was the trigger,” Geillis said, “It’s important that Claire rest, but I’m sure she’ll tell ye anything ye want to know when she wakes.”
Don’t be so sure, Jamie thought but had the sense not to say it out loud. Geillis turned to him as if she had heard him, though. Geillis tended to be hard to read, but he could see the clear warning in her eyes.
“I’m inclined to let ye in so ye can be there when she wakes,” Geillis began, “But it’s important ye dinna cause her any more stress. Her body has been through a lot.” Jamie only nodded. He could stay calm even when it felt like there was a storm raging inside him. He had to, for Claire’s sake. Geillis must have seen that agreement in his eyes, because she nodded and led Jamie to Claire’s room.
“She didn’t tell any of us, Jamie,” Geillis said as she opened the door. It was clearly another warning. They were all feeling the sting of betrayal and worry, and if they could hold it together, so could Jamie. He could see Claire asleep on the bed through the cracked door, her heart monitor steadily beeping in the background.
“I ken,” Jamie said finally. Maybe they did feel the betrayal, but not nearly as acutely as Jamie, he was sure, “I just need to hear it from her.”
Jamie had seen Claire asleep dozens of times. But she’d never looked like this before. She seemed so much smaller than Jamie had ever seen her. So often, he’d thought that Claire was the strongest woman he had ever met. Even when he’d seen her at her worst after Frank, he still thought there was nothing that could take her down.
He was wrong.
Even unconscious, Jamie could see that she was gutted. Seeing it in reality was so much worse than what Geillis had described or what he’d imagined. She looked unnaturally pale and sallow. She was slightly curled in on herself, as if in pain even though she was asleep. Her breathing was so shallow Jamie wasn’t sure he saw her chest rising and falling at all. If it wasn’t for the machines, Jamie might think she was dead already.
Jamie wished he’d paid more attention to Joe’s medical questions when they’d first gotten here. Joe had said something about her blood pressure? Jamie figured he’d be able to tell if anything went seriously wrong. If not him, then probably one of the half dozen machines she was attached to.
Jamie was still angry, how could he not be? But right now, that anger was far outweighed by the worry. This Claire was so different than the one who had been in London with him just a few weeks ago. The change was so drastic that Jamie was sure there had to have been signs that he’d missed. He’d sensed there was something off about her, but he was certain she’d come to him when she was ready. There had been the exhaustion, and emotionality. But Jamie chalked both up to stress from the surgery and seeing Frank unexpectantly. But he could see how wrong he was in hindsight.
Yes, the signs were there, however much Claire had tried to hide them. If Jamie had seen them, would they still have ended up here? Geillis had said she couldn’t find an underlying cause for what had happed, but Jamie couldn’t believe this was the same Claire he’d seen only a few days ago. People didn’t just break with no warning, something had to have happened. Or maybe the prolonged stress of keeping so many secrets had just made her snap.
Geillis had warned him that Claire would probably stay asleep for a few hours yet, so Jamie had plenty of time to think about what ifs.
He focused on the most obvious: what would he have done if he had known about the baby?
Jamie wasn’t naïve, he knew that he wasn’t ready for a baby. He was still in school, for one thing. And for another, he and Claire were far from stable. He knew that he wouldn’t have picked this if given the choice. But still, there was a small part of Jamie that thought he would have been genuinely happy if Claire had just told him herself.
Or maybe he only thought that because he didn’t have to face the reality of it anymore.
It was odd to mourn something he didn’t even know he had, but he was mourning all same. On top of the losing the baby, he was also mourning his relationship with Claire. He didn’t even know where to begin to work things out. He could forgive her insecurities and doubts, if only he understood them.
It was possible she just didn’t feel the same way, but Jamie didn’t think so. Claire was logical almost to a fault sometimes. Jamie didn’t think she would waste her time with him if she didn’t actually care.
What was killing Jamie was that he didn’t seem to actually know Claire at all. More specifically, it didn’t seem like Claire hadn’t allowed him to know her. That was what Jamie didn’t understand. And he wouldn’t understand until Claire wanted him to. Jamie wasn’t inclined to hold his breath on that one.
Jamie had been so sure that time was all Claire needed to open up to him. But in giving that time, it seemed like he’d given Claire a pass on keeping secrets. And now Claire had nearly died with an altercation with a former fiancé no one knew was in town; a former fiancé that was presumably still waiting for her.
That line of thinking wasn’t productive, so Jamie tried his best to put Frank out of his head.
Jamie finally broke his gaze from her sleeping form. Now that he was focusing, he could see her chest rising and falling. She was alive and she would recover with time. And she was still his until they decided otherwise.
That was finally the thought that allowed Jamie to drift off to sleep after several hours of keeping vigil at her bedside.
Jamie was awoken by Claire making a noise somewhere between a breath and a sob. He was immediately up and out of his chair, but he didn’t have the faintest clue what to do past that. He wanted nothing more than to sit down on the bed and hold her as she cried, but that seemed presumptuous at best. And he didn’t want to do anything to physically hurt her.
Jamie settled for just hovering by her bedside and watching, “Sassenach?” he said finally. The nickname felt strange on his tongue for the first time, as if they had lost the familiarity that was once so easy, “Claire? Are ye in pain? Should I get Geillis?”
“Don’t bother Geillis,” Claire shook her head. She winced with every small movement, but she sounded sure. Jamie figured she would tell him if she thought things were too bad. She was a doctor, after all, so Jamie let it rest and sat back down in his chair.
“Should I get Jenny?” Jamie tried instead. Maybe she didn’t want to be prodded by a doctor, but she still wanted a friend, a friend who wasn’t the father of the child she’d lost.
Jamie resisted the urge to roll his eyes, “Of course Jenny is here. So are Ian and Joe. They would only let one person in at a time.” And they had all seemed to decide that it should be Jamie without actually consulting him. Maybe that had been a mistake. Claire was holding herself so rigidly it must have been causing her physical pain. It looked like she was just barely holding her emotions in check. Jamie thought maybe it was time Claire finally let everything out, but he didn’t want to force her hand. And if he was causing her distress when Geillis warned him not to… maybe he should just go.
But not before he got some answers. And not before Claire knew everything that had happened.
“I should tell ye that Frank stayed as well,” Jamie said. He figured it was best to just rip the bandaid off with that one. He didn’t think anything had really happened between the two of them. Any latent jealousy Jamie had about Frank was erased when they saw him in London. Claire didn’t seem like she wanted anything to do with him. That didn’t mean that Jamie trusted him, however.
Jamie saw Claire stiffen even further at about the same time he noticed the light bruising on her upper arms. Like someone had grabbed her. Jamie had a suspicion just who, but he waited for her to confirm it.
“I didn’t know he was coming,” was all she said. Jamie felt the anger he’d been keeping in check flood him for a moment. Of all the fucked up things about this situation, she thought he cared the most about her seeing Frank? He cared that Frank might have hurt her, and he’d care if Frank had been back in her life and she hadn’t told him, but he didn’t suspect her of anything. He told her as much and when she confirmed with her eyes that yes, Frank had grabbed her hard enough to bruise, Jamie was out of his seat before he could stop himself.
The only thing that did stop him was Claire hopping up too and almost immediately collapsing. It was instinct to catch her, then Jamie had to fight the urge to hold her closer. She seemed even more fragile now that he’d felt her, like she would just float away if he didn’t hold on to her. Jamie thought this conversation might be easier of they were touching, but he couldn’t bring himself to suggest it. Instead, he lowered Claire back to the bed, then kept as much distance as he was able and waited for her to explain herself.
“He kissed me,” was what she finally said, but didn’t elaborate any further. A kiss could be so many things. Did she kiss his back? Did she push him away? Jamie thought she must have tried, hence the bruises, but she didn’t say any of that, and it was starting to drive Jamie insane.
“And I suppose ye werena gonna tell me any of that either?” he said. Jamie knew he sounded bitter, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
“I would have told you about Frank,” Claire said defensively, and Jamie couldn’t think of a single thing to say to that. Obviously Claire was holding herself to some sort of moral code, but Jamie couldn’t begin to splice it. She would have told Jamie about Frank, but not about his baby. She’d take him on business trips to spend time together then she’d ignore him once they were home. She’d accept his love and his words, but wouldn’t offer any of her own. Jamie must have been lost in his thoughts for a while, because Claire said, “Will you please just yell at me and get it over with?”
“I am no gonna yell at ye. I am just struggling to understand,” Jamie said.
Jamie’s eyes snapped to Claire’s for the first time since she’d woken up. He’d been afraid of what he’d see in her eyes, but now he needed to know. Whatever it was, “I am trying to understand exactly what was going through yer head to make ye think ye were in this alone.”
“Good luck,” Claire replied immediately, almost flippantly, “I don’t understand it either.”
“Do ye have any idea,” Jamie began. His blood was boiling now, and he didn’t give a damn about what Geillis had said about limiting stress. She really had no idea what she’d put him through, what she had put any of them through, “what it felt like to get a call saying ye were losing a baby I didna even ken ye had? And I get here and yer in surgery, and Joe said it’s been touch and go. But then I see Frank fucking Randall sitting there with yer blood on his shoes? Claire, thought I was gonna drop dead right there.”
Claire flinched at his words, and there was a vindictive part of Jamie that was happy about it. The part of him that loved her hated causing her pain, but he’d be lying if he said there wasn’t some satisfaction in making her feel a fraction of what today had been like for him.
That lasted only as long as she stayed quiet. Jamie saw his words sinking into her, and then her sinking into herself. She whispered one small, “I’m sorry” then he was sorry too. He could see the thoughts flowing through her head. I’m sorry seemed like so small a sentiment for what had happened, but he could see the remorse in every part of her body. It was the only thing she could say, Jamie realized. The only thing she felt was complete and total regret.
“Why, Claire? Help me understand,” Jamie begged.
“I didn’t want a baby. And I didn’t want you to stay with me out of obligation.” She said it so simply, but Jamie saw through it. Claire Beauchamp could pretend to be logical all she wanted, but Jamie could see everything she must have felt.
“So yer plan was to pretend it wasna happening?”
“For a bit. I was going to take a test tonight.”
“How long it a bit.”
“About a month.” A month. She’d lied to everyone she knew for a whole month.
“Joe knew. That was what the fight was about.” It wasn’t a question, but Claire answered with her eyes anyways. Now that he had some answers, almost everything from the past few months was making sense. This wasn’t just a secret. This was a lie that Joe knew would hurt everyone involved. And as it turned out, it would hurt Claire most of all.
“Joe guessed. Jamie, I didn’t tell anyone. Telling someone would make it real, and then I’d have to make plans.”
“We,” Jamie replied, “We could have made plans.”
“What would I have done? If I’d told you from the beginning?”
That was the million dollar question, wasn’t it? What would he have done? Jamie didn’t know, and he never would. Claire had taken that away from him. Because she didn’t trust him, or because she thought the worst of him. All at once, his anger was back and Jamie couldn’t stop it now even if he wanted to.
“It doesna matter, does it? Ye didna care enough to tell me outright.” He saw Claire flinch, but Jamie was past the point of caring.
“It wasn’t a matter of caring.”
“Fine then, ye didna trust me enough”
“I didn’t trust ME. I didn’t trust myself not to hang onto you no matter the cost. I have been bloody terrified of falling in love with you when I knew this wasn’t going to work.”
“Ye seem awfully confident about things ye ken nothing about.” That answered one question, at least. If Claire was afraid of falling in love with him, then she wasn’t in love with him already. No matter what she said next, Jamie cared for her more than she cared for him. Jamie thought he’d been ready for that, but it still punched him in the gut. Of course Claire wasn’t in love with him, she hadn’t even wanted to be his girlfriend.
“I know entirely too well what it’s like to fall out of love with someone”
“But ye clearly ken nothing about my heart, Sassenach. Or ye dinna care about anything other than protecting yer own.”
“I’m gonna get Jenny and Joe, they’ll want to see ye now yer awake,” Jamie said as he stood up shakily. All of a sudden, it hurt too much to be this close to her. “I just… I need some time, Claire.” Jamie heard Claire’s breath catch as he turned away, and he thought for a fleeting moment that she was going to ask him to stay. That she was stupid to fight it, that she loved him and she wasn’t afraid of it. That she felt all the things that Jamie had been feeling since the moment he met her. But instead, he heard her get ahold of herself and say goodbye.
“Dinna say that like ye ken I’m no coming back,” Jamie said as he turned back. He couldn’t help it, “Ye dinna ken everything, Claire.”
The moment Jamie was out of the room, he wanted to go back in.
He’d gotten an explanation from Claire all right, but not the one he wanted. He loved her. He loved her. And it was going to break him as long as Claire was more afraid than she was in love.
He had to get out of the hospital. He was filled with a restless energy that was threatening to overtake him. It would explode eventually, and Jamie didn’t want it to hit the wrong person when it did. He managed to get himself under control as he rounded the corner to where he’d left the others.
Jenny was still there, but she was now alone. Geillis and Joe presumably were still technically at work and Jamie didn’t particularly care where Ian was.
“She’s awake?” Jenny said. Jenny was regarding him warily, as if he was a cornered animal. His body was finally under control, but there must have been something dangerous in his eyes.
“Aye,” Jamie replied.
“And what?” Jamie snapped, “It’s Claire. She does whatever she pleases and damn the rest of us.”
“Hey!” Jenny replied, “She is hurting.”
“Then you go talk to her,” Jamie spit. So much for not exploding at the wrong person. Oh well, Jamie decided. If anyone could take it, it was his sister, “If ye dinna care that she’s been keeping secrets for most of the time that we’ve known her.”
“I’ve known her a hell of a lot longer than ye,” Jenny said as she crossed her arms.
“And ye ken she vanished for three years, and another four before that,” Jamie replied, “If ye wanna wait around until she decides to leave again, that is yer choice. But I’ve let Claire Beauchamp break my heart enough.”
“I canna imagine what losing a child like this must feel like,” Jenny said, trying to calm him, “But ye canna just run.”
“And why no?”
“Because ye love her,” Jenny shrugged. As if it was the simplest thing in the world, “And if ye leave now, it will just confirm everything she is afraid of.”
“I am no her fiancé.”
“Ex-fiancé,” Jenny corrected, “And I wasna talking about Frank. She’s lost her parents, and the man who raised her. And yes, the man she thought she was gonna marry. But yer right, ye are no Frank Randall. And ye willna leave her.”
Jamie nearly growled in frustration. He was so fucking sick of other people telling him what he felt and what he would or wouldn’t do, “I am leaving, Jenny. Ye can handle things here, since ye clearly ken everything.”
“Janet!” Jamie snapped. She looked so taken aback that Jamie almost backed down, but then he heard Claire’s goodbye and he couldn’t stay in this building another second. It wasn’t Jenny’s fault that Claire had lied, but all he could see was Jenny taking her side, “I need some time to think about things. By myself.”
“Please dinna go too far. In case something happens,” Jenny said finally, for once being the first to backdown, “Geillis said she wasna out of danger yet.”
That did give Jamie enough pause to take a breath. Jenny took the opportunity to look down the hall to where Claire was. It was clear she didn’t want to leave Claire alone, especially with the fight she and Jamie must have had.
“Go,” Jamie said with all the gentleness he could muster, “I willna leave the hospital.”
Jenny nodded once, gave him a brief squeeze on the arm. Then she was gone and Jamie was alone. Again, it was what he’d wanted, but now he didn’t know what to do with himself or where to go. He really wanted to go somewhere he could hit something, or drink himself into oblivion. But Jenny was right. As mad as he was at her and the circumstances, Jamie would never forgive himself if something happened and he wasn’t here.
So Jamie did the only thing he could do, what Jenny knew he would do. Unlike everyone else in Claire’s life, and unlike Claire herself, Jamie stayed.
Hi Friends, it's been a hot second. I got some not so nice comments on the last chapter, so I didn't really feel like writing.
To which I now say, if you don't like my writing, it is super easy to just not read it. This is my story and I know there are many of you that are still here for the ride. So here I am!
This isn't exactly where I wanted this chapter to end, but the transition to the next scene just wasn't happening. So we probably have another Jamie POV chapter to look forward to next time. Let me know what you think! (unless you're gonna be a dick, then just let me live).
Thank you all for attending my pity party on the last chapter. I appreciated the words and the support, I hope you enjoy the update.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“She’s a difficult woman, isn’t she,” a voice said near where Jamie had eventually settled more than an hour later.
Jamie was a man of his word, and he wasn’t going to leave the hospital, not until someone told him with confidence that Claire was out of danger. Maybe not even then, despite his anger. But he was filled with so much restless energy and nowhere to put it. Doing laps around Claire’s floor only got him so far before even the whole building felt claustrophobic.
Without meaning to, Jamie had wondered to the ER, where he and Claire spent most of their time when he visited her at work. Every part of the hospital reminded him of Claire in some way, but at least here was filled with mostly good memories; lunches and kisses exchanged between her patients and his own work schedule.
He eventually wandered to the courtyard near her office, where they’d been the last time she’d been able to take a long enough break to see him. Jamie sat down on what he thought of as their bench, and just closed his eyes. He was hoping for just one moment of true rest, but he was soon caught up with thinking about how things seemed so simple just a few weeks ago. Before the baby, before London. He knew there was no point in being nostalgic for it. Things had never actually been as simple as he thought, Claire was just better at hiding than Jamie had given her credit for.
Jamie was thinking only of Claire when he was rudely interrupted by the gratingly familiar voice. Of course Jamie wouldn’t be able to catch a break. Jamie didn’t even give Frank the satisfaction of a response, hoping that the man might leave if he didn’t get a reaction. Instead, he heard Frank settle on the other side of the courtyard.
Jamie finally opened his eyes and sized up the other man.
He didn’t want a confrontation, but at this point Randall was practically asking for it. Jamie didn’t think anyone would fault him for throwing a punch. He thought there was a good number of people that would celebrate it, in fact.
“What are ye doing here, Frank?” Jamie asked with as much ice as he could muster. Even more than he wanted to throw a punch, Jamie just wanted to he left the hell alone. He didn’t care about the answer, but it was becoming clear that Frank wasn’t going to leave without saying his piece.
“I thought we could commiserate,” Frank shrugged. He was leaning casually against the wall, and all Jamie was currently fighting the urge to throw him to the ground “Claire is a hard woman to be in love with.”
Jamie’s fists clenched despite the effort he was taking to remain calm. Frank’s mouth turned up in a smirk that let Jamie know he was well aware of the effect he was having. Frank was looking for a fight then, Jamie decided. But to what end? Did he just want to get Jamie kicked out of the hospital? Or was he trying to get Jamie to end things with Claire so he could swoop in? Or did he have the same pent up anger that Jamie did and was just looking for an outlet as well? No matter the case, Jamie wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of whatever he wanted.
“I dinna think we have a single thing in common to commiserate about,” he hedged. Jamie was standing now, not letting Frank have the chance to look down on him figuratively or literally.
“No?” Frank smiled, “So she doesn’t keep secrets? She doesn’t lie?”
“I dinna think yer in love with her,” Jamie shot back, getting some satisfaction out of how Frank’s smirk fell just a little bit. Jamie wanted to press his advantage, but he didn’t have it in him. He was thinking about Claire too much already to have someone else making it worse. Especially someone like Frank, who didn’t seem to understand the first thing about her.
“Claire can do better than a 24 year old student,” Frank said. He’d recovered his aloof façade while Jamie was lost in his thoughts and now Jamie was the one being pressed, “And she’ll come to her senses now that I’m back.”
“Ye are out of your damn mind if ye think anyone will let ye near her after what ye pulled today,” Jamie said. It looked for a moment that Frank was going to say something to his defense, but there was no defense that justified kissing someone against their will. Jamie didn’t let him get a word in, “She willna be alone for weeks.”
“I’m a patient man,” was all Frank said as he crossed his arms and Jamie couldn’t help but laugh. Where was that patience when Claire wanted him to move to Scotland with her? Or when she wanted to do long distance?
“Go home, Frank,” Jamie replied, “If I dinna throw you out, someone else will.”
It took a remarkable amount of restraint to make Jamie turn his back, but he managed it. Jamie could feel Frank’s eyes on him as he walked away. Jamie finally let out a breath when he was finally out of sight of the courtyard- and Frank.
That was the man that Claire was going to marry? He was the man that had carried her through the death of her only family? Jamie had suspected his true colors when he’d seen Claire after their breakup and again when he’d met him in London, but he’d never known how bad the man was. Until now.
A difficult woman? Hard to love? Falling in love with Claire had been the easiest thing Jamie had ever done. It was like breathing, he simply couldn’t not do it. But either Claire had changed after Frank left her, or the man had never understood her at all.
It suddenly made sense why Claire was so skittish with Jamie. If Frank was saying all these things to him, almost a total stranger, imagine the kind of things he’d said to Claire’s face over the years.
Jamie knew they’d been broken up when he first met Claire, but he didn’t know how Frank must have manipulated her into getting back together. And to keep her for three years after that. If Frank had made her feel unlovable, of course she would have stayed with him. And of course she’d be cautious with anyone else when Frank left her.
This revelation didn’t absolve Claire of lying, but Jamie did feel like he understood Claire’s past for the first time. Thanks to Frank, Jamie had someplace to start.
“Ye came back,” Geillis said when Jamie made it back to Claire’s room a time later. He hadn’t settled back down since he saw Frank, and now he was exhausted and just wanted to be near Claire again.
“Did ye think I wouldn’t?” Jamie asked.
“I wasna sure,” she admitted.
“How is she?”
“Exhausted. In pain,” Geillis said. Jamie winced and she seemed pleased. Claire must have told her how they’d left things. He could just add her to the list of people he needed to give his side of the story to. But not now.
“Ye said she could probably go home in a day or two?” Jamie asked, which caused Geillis to raise an eyebrow.
“Why do ye care?”
“The way Claire told it made it sound like ye broke up with her,” Geillis continued, confirming Jamie’s theory.
“I said I needed time,” Jamie admitted.
“And three hours is all the time ye needed?” she asked skeptically.
“I ran into Frank,” Jamie said instead of a real explanation.
“That’ll do it,” Geillis said with a strained smile, “Is he gone?”
“I’m no sure,” he said, “But I told him no one would let him near Claire for the foreseeable future.”
“What did he say?” Geillis pressed, “I canna imagine the kind of things his delusional brain could think up.”
“He put a lot of Claire’s behavior into perspective,” Jamie replied. He didn’t think Claire would appreciate him spreading around how her ex-fiancé thought she was hard to love. Or him indirectly leading to getting Geillis arrested for Frank’s murder.
“I’m sure he did,” Geillis agreed with a knowing look. She seemed to guess enough and didn’t ask him anything further, “I almost went to London myself when I found out they were engaged.”
“Why didn’t ye?” Jamie asked. It certainly would have saved all of them a lot of time.
“Claire pointed out that it wasna any of my business,” Geillis said with a tight smile, “And I was sure Frank would just hold her tighter the more her few friends objected. I figured it would end on its own, and it did. I just always thought it would be Claire realizing he was a prick.”
Jamie shuddered at the thought of what might have happened if she hadn’t gotten the job in Edinburgh. Would she be married to Frank now? Would she still love him, or would she be trapped? Jamie glanced at the door to her room. Maybe she really would have been happier with Frank. At the very least, she probably wouldn’t have nearly died losing a baby she was keeping secret. Geillis gripped his shoulder in an uncharacteristic show of affection and that shook him out of his thoughts.
“She’s doing better,” Geillis said, “Her blood pressure had gone down to a reasonable level and I don’t think she’ll have any long-term damage.”
“And the short term?”
“It will be a hard couple of months,” Geillis admitted then nodded at the closed door, “But Jenny has been there since ye left and I dinna think she plans on leaving.”
“She’ll have to eventually.”
“Joe is gonna come by after his shift. Then me after him. Then probably Jenny again.”
“Or me maybe?” Jamie asked. Geillis’ brows, almost already to her hairline, lifted even further.
“You?” Geillis almost had the nerve to laugh, “I didna realize Frank’s prickish tendencies had that kind of power.”
“Geillis, I’m serious,” Jamie said with a bit of exasperation.
“So am I,” Geillis replied, “Claire doesna need ye to come back if yer no sure.”
“I am sure,” Jamie replied, though he heard his own voice waver, “I am here as long as she wants me. We can work through the rest.”
“Look,” Jamie interrupted, “Ye and Joe are her best caretakers, but ye both are always at the hospital. Jenny runs her own business and Ian is just as busy. It’s either enlist more help or leave her alone, and I am no willing to do that. Not at least until she isna in pain and Frank is gone.”
“James Fraser,” Geillis said sounding impressed and finally cracking a smile, “Ye ken Claire will be harder to convince than me.”
“Claire doesna get a choice,” Jamie said with more bravado than he was feeling, “She canna expect us all to bend to her will.”
“She’s asleep now,” Geillis said with another friendly clap to his back, “But ye are more than welcome to test that theory in the morning.”
Jamie convinced Jenny to leave a little after midnight while Claire was still asleep. She didn’t give him the overt warnings that Geillis did, but just a glare and a promise to call her if anything happened. Like Geillis, Jenny didn’t seem like she thought Jamie had taken enough time to be sure of his path. But he was sure. At least for Claire’s recovery, he would be here. If they realized they shouldn’t be together once Claire was back on her feet… Jamie would deal with that bridge when he came to it.
It seemed like Claire was going to sleep through the night so Jamie had plenty of time to sort out his feelings. Maybe having Claire right next to him was clouding his judgement, but he couldn’t take his obvious attraction to her out of the equation. He loved her, messy parts and all, and she needed him right now.
She did look a little better, at least. Jenny hadn’t told him any of what they’d talked about, but it seemed like having someone there had done Claire good. There was a bit more color to her cheeks and her face wasn’t pinched in pain even as she slept. She looked like she was genuinely resting, not just medicated into unconsciousness. He’d believed what Geillis said, but it was still nice to see it for himself.
And some point in the night, Jamie managed to doze off and awoke to sun shining through the windows and Claire staring at him like she didn’t believe he was real.
“Good morning, Sassenach,” he finally managed to say. The nickname once again felt natural on his tongue, he realized with a smile that seemed to confuse her further.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded after another moment of silent, assessing eye contact. She was looking at him like he was a puzzle she just wanted to solve, and Jamie reveled for a moment in the reversal. It was normally him that couldn’t figure her out.
“I told ye I was coming back,” Jamie replied.
“I believe your exact words were that ‘I didna ken everything,’ ” she said and Jamie couldn’t help but smile at her piss poor Scottish accent.
“And I was right. Because I’m here and I’m no going to leave,” Jamie said, “Not until yer feeling better.”
“So you can break up with me guilt free?” Claire asked with an edge to her voice that made Jamie’s smile slip.
“So we can make a decision together for once,” Jamie snapped right back, “And so someone is there to make sure ye actually rest.”
“I don’t need your pity,” she said.
“Ye need time to recover, Sassenach, and dinna try to argue it,” Jamie said, then he turned more serious, “Ye need help. There is no shame in it.”
That seemed to shut Claire up for a second as she considered it. When she looked back over to him, she had the decency to look abashed.
“Ye have two choices,” Jamie asserted, sensing her crumbling resolve, “Ye stay with me, Ian and Jenny or I stay with ye and Joe. I’m sure Jenny will be thrilled to have ye, but all yer stuff is with Joe.”
“So you all agreed to this plan without me.”
“Yes,” Jamie said without shame, “And as your guardian and physician, Joe can make ye agree to it. So which is it?”
“Can I wait until I know when they’re letting me out?”
“Tomorrow,” Jamie said, “Geillis checked your vitals in the night and said ye should be alright after another night of observation.”
“Two days,” Claire mused, “That’s not too bad,”
“Don’t even try to doctor your way out of bedrest, Sassenach,” Jamie warned, “Geillis and Joe will kill us both if ye try something.”
“I’ll stay with you,” Claire said after another moment to think about it, “Joe works nights this week and I don’t want to disturb him.”
“Alright,” Jamie nodded, a little surprised at how smoothly this was going so far, “I’ll send Jenny to pack ye some things. Ye’ll be with us at least two weeks.”
“Two weeks!” Claire said with indignation. And there it was, that Beauchamp stubbornness he loved and hated.
“That is was Geillis said.”
“It was a miscarriage, not a heart attack!”
“A miscarriage that required surgery and a dangerously high blood pressure,” Jamie retorted, “I dinna think ye understand how close it came to losing ye.”
“It’s not a discussion,” Jamie said, “Two weeks at least, maybe more if Geillis thinks ye need the rest. Understood?”
Claire huffed and settled back into bed, but nodded anyways. Good, Jamie noticed she’d grown paler the more agitated she got. Keep her calm, right. Easier said than done. She had looked better, but she was far from recovered and Jamie needed to remember that. Claire had tricked him once before, he was going to need to be more vigilant this time.
“Good,” Jamie said as he settled back down as well. He was suddenly aware that he had now spent two nights in a hotel chair and his body was feeling it. Not to mention the emotional toll of the last 36 hours. Jamie was exhausted, but he didn’t want to leave Claire and the tentative trust they were rebuilding. He was worried that she’d talk herself out of their tenuous relationship if he was out of her sight.
“Jamie,” Claire said softly as if reading his mind, “You should go home.”
“Dinna fash, Sassenach.”
“I’m fashing, alright,” Claire replied, “You’re practically falling out of that chair. Get some sleep, Jamie.”
“Ye canna be alone,” Jamie reasoned.
Claire rolled her eyes, “I’m not going to break out of the hospital.”
“That wasna what I was worried about,” Jamie said with a small laugh, “Should I have been?”
“No!” Claire said with offense, “Geillis would have me back here in less than an hour. Besides, I don’t think I’d make it far. I can barely get myself to the bathroom.”
Jamie frowned at that, “Do ye need anything for the pain?”
“No,” Claire said, “It’s important to hurt so I know if something is wrong.”
“Ye are no a doctor right now, Sassenach,” Jamie scolded, “That’s what Geillis and yer machines are for. Ye can have some painkillers if ye want them.”
“No,” Claire said again, more emphatically, “I want to be full conscious for the first time in two days.”
“Fine,” Jamie said, “But I willna leave ye.”
“It isna up for discussion.”
“That’s your favorite phrase today, isn’t it, you bloody scot,” Claire snapped. Jamie couldn’t quite keep the smile off of his face. If she was arguing then she was feeling better, refusing painkillers notwithstanding.
Claire and Jamie passed the rest of the afternoon like that: talking and bickering, but never quite fighting. And not broaching any of the sore subjects between them. There would be time for that later, when Claire was feeling better and Jamie could think of something other than his hurt. Eventually, Claire started to dose off again and again tried to insist that he go home.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” She sulked.
“It isna about babysitting,” Jamie said, “Is it so hard to believe that I want to be here with ye?”
“Yes,” Claire said without hesitation. Her pain and exhaustion were making her uncareful with her words, it seemed. Jamie didn’t want her to be in pain, but he could get used to the honestly.
On impulse, Jamie took her hand into his and planted a kiss on her knuckles. It was the first time Jamie had touched her without absolutely having to and he heard Claire’s breath catch. He thought for a moment it was in pleasure, but then he saw the tears in her eyes. He did it again, just the make sure she knew that he meant it.
“Sleep, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said, “I will be here.”
Claire looked for a moment like she was going to say something else, but her eyes closed before she could. And Jamie kept her hand in his as she slept.
A shorter chapter today, I know, but this was really supposed to be a part of the last chapter but got too long for that. So we have a little transition chapter :). I'm not sure how many chapters are left, but we are nearing the end. Let me know what you think!
Claire would be lying if she said she wasn’t a little bit into how much Jamie had taken charge the last several days. She never thought she was someone who liked being taken care of. But now that she needed it, and there was someone who actually wanted to be there… yes, Claire liked it very much.
Which was dangerous because she couldn’t risk getting used to it. Since she’d moved into Jamie’s apartment, they seemed to have an unspoken agreement not to talk about anything that could start a real fight. Claire’s blood pressure was still a concern for Geillis and Joe, which meant that Jamie was committed to keeping her calm. As calm as possible, that is. Claire was still getting a lot of pleasure out of baiting him. Jamie played along, to a point, and Claire could almost pretend like things were normal between them. Almost.
It wasn’t that Claire didn’t believe him when he said he’d stay. She was sure Jamie had meant it in the moment. But the moment they were in right now was very different than where they were three months ago, or where they’d be a year from now. Right now, the priority was getting Claire back on her feet, and once she was… Claire had no doubt that all the other shit would creep back in.
Like Harvard. Jamie was acting like everyone had forgotten he would need to commit to somewhere soon, but Claire hadn’t. There was no way she’d let him give up someplace like Harvard for their relationship. Especially now that her actions had all but proven that she wasn’t as committed as he was. That wasn’t where her heart was at, but that was how it would seem to any outside observer. Claire couldn’t believe that wasn’t how Jamie saw things, but she really didn’t know where Jamie stood at all. Since his first outburst at the hospital, he had kept his hurt firmly under wraps. It was for the benefit of her recovery, Claire was sure, but she was feeling more on edge the longer it went on.
But for once, Claire tried to force her panic down. While it felt like Jamie’s school deadline was just on the horizon, it was still a few months away in reality. She needed to focus on resting and getting stronger so she could return to work as soon as possible. Not to avoid Jamie or her friends this time, but her job had gotten her through one breakup, and it could get her through another if the time came.
Aside from Jamie, getting Jenny back in her life had been Claire’s other worry. Claire hadn’t been sure Jenny would forgive her so easily. Not only had Claire wronged her brother, but she was supposed to be Claire’s best friend. Jenny cast a warm light on those she trusted and a cold shadow on those she didn’t. Claire knew how both felt all too well, and she wasn’t eager to return to the shadows. But Jenny had been more understanding than Claire could have dreamed of. She’d let Claire tell her story and her reasons and offered her advice and support. She wasn’t happy about what Claire had done, and she had extracted a promise that Claire wouldn’t do anything like it ever again, but Jenny had been her rock ever since.
She told Jenny all the things she hadn’t been able to tell Jamie or Joe, all the things that only another woman would understand. And Jenny did understand the terror and excitement all in one, logically knowing she shouldn’t have a baby but the small hope she’d be a good mother anyways. The grief that was still consuming her since she’d lost the baby.
They’d talked for hours, until Claire couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. Jenny had just told her to sleep and that she’d wake her if anything changed. They didn’t talk about Jamie. Jenny said it wasn’t any of her business, but Claire thought she just didn’t want to pick sides. Claire didn’t push it. Mostly because she was sure Jenny would side with her brother if it really came down to it.
When Claire awoke, she was in the company of a different Fraser. For those few precious hours, everything felt normal between them. Better than normal, it felt like they were building a small lean-to in the middle of the storm their relationship had become. It would collapse the moment Claire didn’t need him to function anymore, but she was going to enjoy the shelter while she had it.
There was a very thin line between what felt safe and what felt stifling. It only took a few days for Claire to start going crazy stuck in the apartment. Between Jenny, Ian and Jamie someone was constantly with her and Claire was unable to leave the apartment at all. They lived on the second floor of a walk up and she couldn’t manage the stairs at all the first week. She’d been adamant that she wouldn’t stay more than the two weeks Geillis demanded, but her own apartment was three floors up and Joe wasn’t home nearly as often as Jamie was. She would never admit it, but she was going to need the help much longer than she’d anticipated. Lucky for her, she didn’t have to admit it. She had a follow-up appointment a week after her discharge from the hospital and Geillis basically ordered her at least another month of taking things easy. Claire acted affronted, but there was a part of her that was relieved she could escape her real life for a little bit longer.
Day by day, she got a little bit stronger until she was able to leave the apartment for small, supervised walks. She hadn’t left the apartment by herself and she wasn’t as eager to try as she should have been.
Nor was she entirely eager to be left alone in the house, as claustrophobic as it was sometimes. No one said it, but they were all worried that Frank would show up. She hadn’t given anyone any more details than that he had ambushed her in her office and that he’d kissed her, but they’d been able to read between the lines apparently. Claire thought after a day like that, Frank might have finally gotten the message that they were over. But he had never been particularly good at taking hints, even when they were thrown directly in his face. There was a time in Claire's life where she’d found that persistence charming, romantic even. It was part of the reason she loved Jamie, after all.
But Frank’s brand of persistence was entirely different than Jamie’s. Claire knew that if she truly wanted him to leave, Jamie would go. And she knew that Jamie would never dream of kissing her without her consent. Frank had moved from endearing to honestly scary. Claire prided herself on being a woman who could take care of herself. But right now, she was glad to have the protection.
Then the day finally did come when Claire would be left entirely alone.
It happened about a month into her mandatory rest. She could get around the apartment okay even if she couldn’t handle the stairs alone. Somehow, every person that was trusted to take care of her was busy. Jenny had a repair at the tavern that she needed Ian’s help with and Geillis and Joe both had shifts they couldn’t get out of. Jamie didn’t tell her what he had to do, which meant it was something related to school and he didn’t want to start an argument. Claire let him get away with it because he had let her get away with so much more. But still, it hurt to be lied to.
Not that she’d ever admit it, but the loneliness hit her harder than she thought it would. Even after all the work she’d done to keep herself at a distance from these people, Claire had gotten used to them being there alarmingly quickly.
For one thing, she was bored out of her mind. There was only so much TV she could watch in a day and she missed her verbal sparring matches with Jamie.
For another- and Claire was embarrassed to admit it- she was scared.
The fear of Frank had been at the back of her mind, but now it was at the forefront. Claire knew that Frank had no way of knowing where she was. Even if he assumed she was with Jamie, he didn’t know where Jamie lived. And even if he did know where Jamie lived, he had no way of getting into the apartment. Jenny had made it clear that she was only a phone call away if Claire needed anything, but she wouldn’t abuse that over her own anxiety.
Claire wondered, not for the first time, how she had come so close to marrying a man who was able to scare her so badly. Shouldn’t her instincts have been able to pick up on that? Recognize that Frank had the potential to be dangerous even if he hadn’t shown any signs of it yet? Claire figured she was giving her judgement too much credit. Her last good choice had been sleeping with Jamie and she’d done her best to fuck that up ever since.
So Claire had all the ingredients for an anxious night in.
By the time someone finally came home, Claire had fallen into a light sleep on the couch. A light sleep that was interrupted the moment she heard someone else in the flat. She turned on a lamp immediately and Jamie looked very much like a deer caught in the head lights. She must not have looked much better, because he was walking towards her slowly the moment he recovered.
“Are ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie asked gently as he set next to her.
“I’m… not sure,” Claire managed when she got her breathing under control. Where had that come from? Claire was not often prone to panic and she logically knew there was a very small chance of Frank doing anything to her. The man had many faults, but he wasn’t violent. Claire gripped her arms subconsciously where the bruises from Frank’s fingers had faded. He wasn’t violent often, she amended.
Jamie caught the move and put the pieces together, because of course he did and his eyes hardened.
“Did he call ye?” Jamie asked.
“No,” Claire said, “I just got into my own head. This is the first time I’ve been alone since…”
Since. They only talked about the miscarriage in the vaguest of terms. That was another fight that Claire was certain wasn’t over, but she refused to start. Again, Claire saw the understanding in Jamie’s eyes. This time they softened and he reached over to grip her hand. Jamie didn’t touch her if he could help it. Claire knew a part of that was Jamie not wanting to hurt her. She was constantly sore and he would never cause her pain. She also wasn’t so naïve to think that was the only reason. They’d reached a truce, but they weren’t together.
As awful as that was, Jamie’s touches were so much sweeter now when they were so unexpected. She squeezed his hand back and relished his soft hands against her callused ones. Claire was sure those touches were numbered and she wanted to enjoy them while they lasted.
“Would you like to tell me where you were?” Claire asked. She meant to say it gently, but it came out accusatory.
“I had a grad school interview,” Jamie admitted after a slight hesitation.
“Harvard?” Claire asked.
“London,” he said, “Although I don’t think they’re going to accept me.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Claire said, “If you got in at Harvard, you’ll get in everywhere else.”
“We can talk about it,” Claire interrupted, “You don’t have to dance around it. We can talk about grad school.”
“I’m no dancing around it,” Jamie said, “I am just… being careful.”
“According to Geillis, my blood pressure is back to normal. You’re not going to give me a stroke or anything,” Claire continued. She was aiming for it to be a joke, but it fell flat. It wasn’t entirely true. Geillis had said she was out of the dangerous zone, but she would still need to be careful with stress. Jamie didn’t need to know that, though, “So we can finally talk about something real.”
“And what has the last month been then?” Jamie asked, some anger finally creeping into his voice, “Fake?”
“Careful,” Claire corrected, “Just like you said. But you and I both know you have to start making decisions soon. And if I still factor into that decision, we should talk about it. And I would understand if I don’t factor into that decision anymore.”
“Of course yer a part of that decision!” Jamie replied, “Do ye think I’ve been taking care of ye out of the goodness of my heart?”
“A little bit,” Claire admitted.
“And ye thought I was what? Gonna leave ye the moment ye could leave this apartment by yourself?”
“Of course not,” Claire said, even though that was a little bit what she’d thought. Claire’s face must have betrayed her, because Jamie made a distinctly Scottish noise and got up off the couch. Claire wanted to follow him, but her body wouldn’t allow it after a full day of anxiety and taking care of herself. Instead, she floundered for words that would make him understand, “I would understand if you did. I would have understood if you’d broken up with me at the hospital.”
“Ye think I would break up with ye in the hospital after surgery?” Jamie replied, “Christ Claire, do ye really not ken me at all?”
“I ken you just fine,” She mocked, “And I’d prefer you to just get it bloody over with already instead of staying with me out of some sense of responsibly.”
“I am staying with ye because I love you,” Jamie snapped.
Claire wanted to say a million things, but they all got stuck in her throat. He loved her. Of course, she’d thought so. Jamie had said it in his actions over and over in their six-month relationship. But it still struck her dumb to hear it out loud. That someone like Jamie, kind and selfless Jamie, could love someone like her. Though she was shocked by it, she did believe it. It wasn’t long ago that she thought of Jamie as too young to really know what he wanted. But now, Claire saw the anger in his eyes was mixed with sincerity. He loved her, and he was angry that he had to keep proving it.
“That shut you up, didn’t it?” Jamie said. He was trying to lighten the mood, but there was nothing that could fade the intensity in his eyes. He wasn’t going to give her an out. He expected a response.
Of course Claire loved him too, and she wanted to say it back. But the words died on her lips. The problem wasn’t whether or not they loved each other. It was about Jamie giving up something incredible for her. If Claire gave all of herself to him and asked him to stay in Scotland, he would. And eventually he would start to look at Claire with resentment. It was entirely selfish. Claire wouldn’t survive Jamie falling out of love with her slowly. It was better to end it quickly than let something so beautiful die a cruel death.
“Do you want to go to Harvard?” Claire asked. Jamie looked at her incredulously, as if he didn’t understand the words coming out of her mouth. It wasn’t about love, Claire reminded herself. Love wouldn’t replace the bright future Jamie had, “Answer the question.”
“Yes,” Jamie said after another moment’s hesitation.
“Then you should go,” Claire said.
“And we break up?” Jamie asked.
“Yes,” Claire said, though her voice broke and betrayed her.
“Is it so simple for ye to ignore how I feel about ye?” Jamie asked. He finally sat back down next to her on the couch, as if he was too tired to even keep himself upright.
“No,” Claire said. Maybe she shouldn’t have, but she turned fully towards him and gripped his hands, “There is nothing about this that’s simple. But Jamie, you have put your dreams aside for too long. For Lallybroch and your family. I won’t let you do it for me.”
“It sounds like a ridiculous thing to do when ye say it like that,” Jamie admitted, “Would ye make the same choice if it was ye?”
“I did make the same choice when it was me,” Claire said, “I came to Edinburgh and found the most incredible man and a job I love.”
That seemed to finally get Jamie’s attention. His hands gripped hers tighter. Claire knew he hated it when she compared him to Frank, but how could she not? Claire had chosen her career over her relationships again and again. She’d probably make the same choice if it was Jamie she needed to leave instead of Frank. That was something that Jamie always understood about her, she was a doctor first and everything else second. The least Claire could do was give him that same understanding back.
“Yer really not gonna let me stay, are ye?” Jamie asked as tears gathered in his eyes.
“No,” Claire said, “And neither will anyone else.” Impulsively, Claire leaned forward and connected their lips briefly. It was a goodbye kiss and they both knew it. When Claire tried to pull away, Jamie held on to her tighter. For the first time in a month, Jamie was careless with her body and Claire couldn’t care less. The only thing that mattered was his hands in her hair and his tongue in her mouth. Every time the kiss found a natural end, one of them would take a deep breath and dive back in. Claire had half a mind to climb on top of him and really say goodbye properly, but she knew her body couldn’t handle it. Her heart couldn’t handle it either, probably. If they had sex, pregnancy would be in the back of her mind until her next period, and Claire couldn’t live with that anxiety again.
It seemed like Jamie was having similar thoughts, because he didn’t make a move to remove her clothes or push her back on the couch. He seemed content to just kiss her for the rest of his life. Claire would probably be content with the same thing.
After what felt like an eternity, Jamie did pull away from her. Claire didn’t notice she’ started crying until Jamie brushed the tears aside.
“I love ye, Claire,” he said, “And ye dinna need to say it back. I just need ye to know it.”
“You have made me so happy, Jamie,” Claire said she buried her hands in his hair and pressed her forehead to his, “I need you to know that.”
The sat there just holding each other for a few moments more until Jamie released the breath he’d been holding and moved away from her. Claire had to hold her own hands to stop herself from pulling him back. This was the right choice. Claire knew it was the right choice. But it was still bloody difficult.
“It looks like I need to make some phone calls,” Jamie said with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. It almost broke Claire’s heart to see him hurt, but she knew he’d forget all about her once he was gone. That was exactly what Claire had done with Frank, after all. The idea of Jamie leaving and falling in love with some American woman made Claire nauseous, but she pushed the feeling down. This was the right choice.
Claire pulled out her own phone and sent a text to Joe as Jamie left the living room. It was time for her to go back to her own apartment.
I'm not entirely pleased with this, but it wasn't getting better the longer I stared it, so here I am. I *think* there will be 2 more chapters, but that might turn into 3.
I hope my american readers had a good thanksgiving! Let me know what you think!
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.”
“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.”
“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.
So it's looking like there's only going to be one last chapter.
This chapter was a monster, but I'm really pleased with how it ended up. As always, let me know what you think!
Jamie hated Harvard. There was no denying it or avoiding it any longer. It had been 4 months, and Jamie regretted the choice he’d made. The choice he’d been expected to make.
It wasn’t just Claire. She wanted him to leave and he didn’t fight her on it. He didn’t really want to fight her on it, if he was being honest. The idea of fleeing the country- fleeing her- had been attractive in the moment. He’d left Scotland heartbroken, but he’d tried his best to put Claire out of his mind after that. It mostly worked. Jamie could live his everyday life as if he wasn’t missing half of his heart. It wasn’t even school. He was doing well academically and he liked his classes and most of his classmates.
It was Boston. More specifically, it was that Boston just wasn’t Scotland.
And Boston didn’t have his sister or his father or his friends. And yes, Boston didn’t have Claire. But Claire was just one person in the dozens he was missing. It was too hard to only be half in their lives, so Jamie just took himself out completely. It was frighteningly easy to just not pick up the phone when he didn’t have anything truthful to say. He had spent years putting school off and wishing he was right here. And now that he was, somehow he was still unhappy. Jamie didn’t know how to tell anyone that he had gotten exactly where he wanted to, and somehow it still wasn’t enough.
Then Jenny told him she was pregnant and it was like Jamie’s entire world stopped.
They’d all been so careful around each other after Claire’s miscarriage, but Jamie knew she and Ian wanted children. And not just in the abstract way that Jamie wanted children. Ian and Jenny had been wanting children since the moment they’d gotten married. And now it was happening, and Jamie wasn’t going to be there for any of it. She was four months along now, which meant that Jamie would see her at Christmas then he’d be back in Boston when the baby was born. So much of his life had been just him and Jenny, and now he wasn’t there when she, for once, was the one needing him.
So Jamie became even more elusive. For the first time, he maybe understood how Claire must have felt. Jamie felt like he might rather die than tell someone what was going through his head. Harvard was the dream. At least it was supposed to be. How could he be quite literally living his dream and want nothing more than to quit? Like Claire, Jamie was finding it much easier to just run away. It wasn’t hard when he was 3000 miles away from anyone he cared about.
The only time he got close to cracking was when Ian called asking him to be the baby’s godfather. Jamie hadn’t picked up the phone, but the voicemail was enough to nearly send him to pieces. He was a little surprised that Ian had asked, if he was being honest. Six months ago, it would have made perfect sense. But Jamie knew he had sounded less than enthusiastic when Jenny had told him, and he’d been dodging her calls ever since. If he was Ian, he probably would have asked someone else. Someone who would actually be there for the next three years, and not on an entirely different continent.
Not to mention that Jenny had apparently asked Claire to be the godmother. And more surprising, she had accepted. There was a time when Jamie would have taken that as evidence that Claire was going to stick around. Jamie didn’t think she’d agree to that if she was planning on leaving, but Jamie didn’t know her anymore. If he ever had in the first place.
The sting of his last unanswered message was always in the back of Jamie’s mind. He hadn’t really expected her to respond after the way they’d left things. And he hadn’t expected her to come to his party or say goodbye to him. But he still hoped she would surprise him. She hadn’t. As always, Claire had remained set on her course once she’d decided it. But Jamie hadn’t been able to resist telling her one last time that he loved her, as if it was going to change anything.
And now, apparently, she was tying herself to Jamie and his family in a permanent way.
And Jamie couldn’t bring himself to do anything about it. He couldn’t call and ask what was going through Claire’s head. He couldn’t bring himself to call Ian back with an answer, or respond to the baby updates that Jenny constantly still sent him. Instead, he threw himself entirely into school. He picked up a job to make ends meet and an extra night class he didn’t really need. When Jamie had the time to sleep at all, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep the moment his head hit the pillow. He rarely dreamt and he rarely thought about all the things he was missing back home.
Jamie knew something was bound to give eventually. And gave it did.
Jamie had managed to get scheduled all through the holidays at work. It hadn’t been entirely intentional, but he also hadn’t asked for the time off. He wasn’t sure if he’d legitimately forgotten or if he just subconsciously didn’t want to go. Probably a little of both. In any case, he wasn’t going to be able to go back to Scotland for Christmas or Hogmanay. Jamie couldn’t decide what was worse: the pang of longing for Lallybroch at Christmas that was constantly there, or the thought of going home and having to pretend that everything was fine.
Despite his best efforts, Jamie had managed to make a few friends at Harvard, so he didn’t spend the holiday alone. Instead, his friend John dragged him out on New Years to get him “magnificently drunk and happy for once”. Jamie didn’t have it in him to argue, so he let John take him out and ply him with enough whiskey that he started to actually be honest for once. Entirely too honest. And of course, John had an opinion.
“You should call her,” John declared when he was done.
“I mean, you should probably also call your sister,” he said, “But yes, Claire.”
“Dinna be ridiculous,” Jamie said, “She dinna wanna talk to me.”
“Yeah, 6 months ago,” John continued, “But she wouldn’t have agreed to be the baby’s godmother if she was repulsed by the idea of having you in her life.”
“I’d like a bit more than someone who isna repulsed by me,” Jamie tried for a joke, but it fell flat. Instead, he took a long pull of his whiskey. Calling Claire would only set himself up for heartbreak. Sober Jamie would know that. Drunk Jamie, with drunk John’s coaxing, couldn’t think about anything other than hearing Claire’s voice. It had been six months, and Jamie could still hear the twang of her British accent. Before Jamie really knew what he was doing, he was walking out of the crowded club and onto the street with his phone in his hand. Damn John.
It was just past midnight in Boston, he realized as he looked at Claire’s number. It was a new year. Jamie couldn’t help but think of it as a new beginning. And if Claire didn’t pick up, he could start the new year off with some closure.
Of course, midnight in Boston was 5:00 AM in Scotland. If Claire didn’t pick up, it might have nothing to do with him. And if she called him back? Then what would he do? It was too late now, though. The phone was ringing and Claire was on the other end of the line.
“Jamie?” Claire asked. Her voice was tired, but curious. And a little bit worried. Jamie let out a breath that was very close to a sob and just bathed in her voice for a moment, “Jamie? Are you alright?”
What a question. No. He wasn’t alright. But he was more alright than he’d been in months with her voice in his ear, “Aye,” Jamie said when he realized Claire was probably waiting for an explanation, “I just wanted to wish ye a happy New Year, Sassenach.” It was as good an excuse as any, Jamie thought.
“Are you drunk?” Claire shot back, and Jamie almost laughed. He was drunk, of course, but he thought it was possible he would have done the same thing sober. And in the cold Boston air, he was decidedly more sober than he’d been in the bar.
“Are you safe? Is there someone with you?”
“It is so good to hear yer voice, Claire,” Jamie sighed before he could stop himself. Okay, maybe not entirely sober then. But it was the truth, and Jamie heard Claire’s breath catch. Maybe she wasn’t nearly as aloof as she pretended to be.
“You should call your sister. She’s been worried sick about you,” Claire said after she cleared her throat. It was an obvious subject change, but it hit Jamie hard regardless.
“Canna,” Jamie said, “It’s too hard.”
“What is, Jamie?” Claire replied. Her voice was soft and genuine. Jamie wondered if maybe Jenny and Ian had told her how flighty he’d been recently. There was a moment where Jamie wanted to confide everything in her, even more than he’d already done with John. Claire seemed to be waiting so patiently for him, and the temptation to spill every thought he’d had since the last time he saw her six months ago was so strong. But as willing as Claire seemed to be, it was still 5:00 AM in Scotland and she sounded exhausted. Jamie wondered if Geillis had held her to a 40 hour work week, or if Claire had returned to the schedule she’d kept before.
“Everything I’m missing,” Jamie settled on, “And the bairn.”
“I’m sorry, Claire,” Jamie interrupted. Now that he’d started speaking, he couldn’t bring himself to stop. Of all the things he missed about Scotland, Jamie had been doing an excellent job of pretending Claire wasn’t one of them. She had broken up with him, after all, it wasn’t up to Jamie to get her back. But now… now all Jamie wanted to do was talk about them, “About all of it. I shouldna let ye push me away.”
“I didn’t push you away,” Claire snapped, but Jamie could hear the hurt her sharp tone was masking, “I let you go.”
“What if I dinna wanna be let go?” Jamie asked before he could stop himself. Was that really how Claire had seen things? Their breakup had seemed so one sided when it happened. Jamie had tried, then Claire decided they were over. He had thought at the time that her decision was mostly about the baby. But if it was really more about his future… Jamie didn’t think he’d had any fight left in him. But if he’d known Claire truly thought he was better off without her… Jamie would have fought a lot harder, that was for damn sure.
“It was six months ago, Jamie,” Claire interrupted his thoughts, “Why are you telling me this now?”
“Because I miss ye,” he said simply. And it did feel simple. Jamie hadn’t been sure of anything in months, but loving Claire, it was as easy as breathing. Jamie desperately needed simple.
Then the silence stretched between them for long minutes, and that feeling of simplicity evaporated. What did Jamie expect her to say? That she loved him and she wanted him back? If it wasn’t going to work when they saw each other every day, it wasn’t going to work now. As far as Claire knew, he was happy at Harvard and would might come back to Scotland. Jamie couldn’t start that particular conversation right now, not when he didn’t know what he was going to do. And he wouldn’t go back to Scotland just for Claire, not when she hadn’t even considered going to Boston for him. He wasn’t going to knowingly set himself up for heartbreak. And Claire still wasn’t saying anything. He would have taken even a rejection, anything to finally be put out of his misery. But Claire stayed maddeningly quiet.
“I’m sorry, Claire,” Jamie said when he was finally unable to stand the silence any longer. Jamie thought he heard a small, relieved sigh but he couldn’t be sure. Jamie tried to get through his excuses without completely breaking down, “I dinna ken what’s gotten into me.”
“A lot of whiskey, it sounds like,” Claire said. She was offering him an out, and Jamie took it. He tried not to think himself a coward for it.
“Aye, that’s it. Goodnight, Claire. Happy New Year,” Jamie managed to choke out. He waited for her to hang up, but she didn’t. Instead, Jamie just listened to her breathe for a long moment. He should hang up, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Jamie couldn’t shake the feeling that this might be the last time he ever spoke to her, and he wasn’t about to be the one to end the call. Like always, if Claire wanted him gone, she was going to have to make him ,go.
“Jamie!” Claire said suddenly, after another long moment of silence.
“Aye?” Jamie replied entirely too quickly. It was ridiculous how quickly his hope could be built back up. There were a million things she could say. Once again, Claire left him in suspense as she chose her words.
“Happy New Year,” she said finally. Just as quickly as his hope had been sparked, it was doused. She gave him one last reminder to call Jenny, then she was gone.
Jamie was unbelievably cold. Winters in Boston were no colder than Scotland, but Jamie had left his coat in the bar and if felt like Claire had sapped all the warmth from his body. It hadn’t been a long conversation, but Jamie felt entirely unmoored.
Jamie was still in love with Claire, damn him. It was likely that he’d never really stopped.
Even though there were still all the same problems they’d had six months ago, there was a traitorous part of him that said Claire was the one, and they could make it someday. Maybe Jamie would finish school and Claire would still be in Scotland. Maybe another three years would pass and they’d feel the same way and it would be like no time had passed at all. But Jamie didn’t know if he was ready to set himself up for heartbreak again. If Claire wanted him still, she was going to have to make the first move. And that seemed unlikely given their track record.
With that thought, Jamie went back into the bar and sat down next to John.
“How did it go?” he asked expectantly.
Instead of answering, Jamie ordered a round of shots and threw them both back himself. It was a new year, and Jamie didn’t want to remember how the last one had ended.
Unfortunately, Jamie did remember. And he had a massive hangover. He’d also woken up a few hours after he had finally stumbled home even though he had the morning off, which wasn’t fair. He was wide awake and there was no place to go on New Years Day.
Jamie had tried to drink enough to forget his conversation with Claire, but it was seared into his memory. He couldn’t believe he’d done that. What did he think he was going to accomplish? It wasn’t like Claire was going to suddenly confess she was still in love with him. Nor was she going to just hop on a plane to Boston.
Jamie stared at the ceiling for a few minutes more before grabbing his phone. It had been a mistake to call Claire, but she was right about one thing. Jamie needed to call his sister. It was only about 8:00 AM in Scotland, but Jenny picked up on the first ring.
“Oh good, yer phone still works,” she snapped, “I was starting to worry when ye went three months without talking to anyone.”
“I mean I get avoiding some people from Lallybroch,” Jenny continued, “But Ian? I dinna care how heartbroken ye are, he is your brother.”
“And I am yer sister!” she interrupted, “And ye at least need to tell us yer no gonna be the godfather to yer nephew.”
“It’s a boy?” Jamie asked, completely dumbstruck.
“It’s just a hunch,” Jenny said dismissively, “Ye’d know that if ye bothered to call us, James Fraser.”
“Janet, can I get a word in please?” Jamie replied as crossly as he could muster.
“Be my guest,” Jenny said.
“I’m sorry,” Jamie replied.
“That’s as good a start as any,” Jenny admitted, “Continue.”
“I hate Harvard,” Jamie said before he lost his nerve.
“Ye hate Harvard?” Jenny deflated at that, “I thought Harvard was yer dream?”
“It was,” Jamie continued, “At least before… before Da got sick and before we moved to Edinburgh and before… before Claire. But then I got here, and it wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. And then ye got pregnant, and it was all too much. I hate Harvard.”
“Oh, Jamie,” Jenny said. Jamie hadn’t heard Jenny this gentle since they were bairns themselves, “Ye ken ye dinna have to stay.”
“Dinna I?” Jamie replied.
“No!” Jenny insisted.
“And what else would I do?” Jamie asked.
“Christ, Jamie!” Jenny said, “People transfer schools all the time. It will hardly be a scandal.”
“Ye dinna understand,” Jamie replied.
“I’ve been through grad school,” Jenny replied. He could practically hear her eyeroll, “In Glasgow, where you just happened to also be accepted. Ye are making this harder than it needs to be.”
Jamie remained silent. He knew that Jenny was right. He could, technically, just transfer. It probably wouldn’t even set him back more than semester. But there was still a small part of him that couldn’t admit defeat with this. He’d given up so much to be at Harvard, not least of which was money that came from Lallybroch that would now be wasted. Coming back to Scotland might make him happier, but there was still a distinct part of him that would feel like he failed.
“I want ye here,” Jenny said when he remained silent, “If that means anything.”
“I’m just saying,” Jenny said, “Yer my brother, and I want ye in my bairn’s life.”
“I will be,” Jamie said, dangerously close to tears.
“Good,” Jenny said, “And ye can do that from Boston, too. Ye just need to pick up yer damn phone.”
“I have to go,” she said suddenly, “But the decision to leave Harvard is yers to make. No one will think any less of ye for coming home.”
With that, she was gone, and Jamie finally felt sure of something.
It seemed like Jamie’s heart had settled on a course of action long ago and his head was just now catching up. Talking to Jenny solidified it. He was going to leave Harvard.
Even though Jamie had decided, there was nothing he could do about it right now. He couldn’t leave in the middle of the semester and he had work to plow through before classes started in a few days. But for the first time, not everything felt like a chore. Even as he worked through his endless readings and translations, Jamie was planning a course of action.
Before he knew it, he was halfway through the semester and had sent several emails to the schools that had accepted him a year ago.
He had gotten into a number of schools in the UK, but nothing in Edinburgh. The closest he could get was Glasgow, but the thought of being in the same country made him giddy. If he could secure a transfer there, he would only be hours away from everything that he cared about. Hours away from Claire.
Would he tell her himself that he was coming back? It seemed like if he had stayed, they might have been able to work things out. He still wanted to, would she? Or would he leave it to Jenny to fill Claire in and just see her for godparent related duties? That thought almost made him physically ill. Jamie didn’t want to pretend that he wasn’t in love with her. And if he was judging from New Years, there were at least still things Claire wanted to say to him.
Then Jamie saw her, as if he had summoned her.
Jamie stopped dead in his tracks. It must be a dream, or a hallucination. There was no other explanation for why Claire Beauchamp was standing in from of his apartment building in Boston. There was no way she could have known where he lived, for one thing. And more importantly, Why?
He didn’t have long to wonder. She’d noticed him. He didn’t approach her, as if she was an apparition that could fade away at any moment, and Claire didn’t make a move towards him either. Instead, her mouth broke out into a wide (but slightly uncertain smile) that Jamie couldn’t help but return.
“Hello, Jamie,” was all she said.
“Sassenach?” Jamie managed after he swallowed the lump in his throat. The nickname felt incredible on his tongue. And finally. Finally. For the first time in nearly a year, Jamie felt like he could breathe again.
I won't apologize for the delay, the holidays are a busy time for us all. I will apologize for for not having my shit together and needing an extra chapter to tie up loose ends. I'm 95% sure it will be the last one, but who knows at this point.
Did you like the brief Lord John appearance? Because I really liked sneaking him in there. As always, let me know what you think!
“Oh my god, you’re Claire,” an unknown voice said behind her as she wandered aimlessly across Harvard’s campus. The plan to just show up had seemed ridiculously romantic on the plane. In practice, she had no idea where she was going. It was late enough that she didn’t expect Jamie to be on campus, and it seemed unlikely she was just going to simply run into him in a city as large as Boston. And it was impossible she’d find anyone else who could help her. Except for this random English man, apparently.
“You are Claire, aren’t you?” he asked when she seemed understandably startled.
“I am,” she hedged, “How do you…”
“I’m a friend of Jamie’s,” he said, “And I did a little Facebook stalking when he told me about you. Not in a creepy way, or anything. But you have very distinctive hair.”
“Okay, right,” Claire said. She was equal parts concerned and relieved that her half-baked plan might have just gotten a lot simpler, “I’m Claire. And you are?”
“Probably going to take you to Jamie’s house,” he said with a wide grin that told her he probably didn’t know the whole story if he was willing to help her so easily. Claire smiled back anyways, “But my name is John. What are you doing here?”
“A grand romantic gesture that is entirely unlike me and will probably blow up in my face,” she admitted, “You’ll really take me to Jamie’s house?”
“I don’t think Jamie would forgive me if I left you to wander campus all night,” John shrugged.
It startled a laugh out of her, “I’m pretty sure he would. He might even thank you for it,” she said before she could stop herself. John shot her a strange look but didn’t press her. He definitely didn’t know the whole story, then.
As John led her across campus, Claire was overcome with a certainty that Jamie was going to send her back. What was she even doing? Claire’d had her chance to hang onto him and she’d broken his heart instead. Then she’d had a chance again when he’d called her on new year’s, and once again she’d wasted it. What right did she have to come here and interrupt his life?
But at the same time, it didn’t seem like there was any other choice she could make. If nothing else, Claire was worried about him. Jenny clearly knew something, but she was staying tight lipped about whatever she and Jamie had talked about. Claire had been secretive in turn. She hadn’t told anyone about Boston except for Joe. She didn’t want to deal with a million people having opinions. Maybe she’d needed someone to tell her she was making a bad choice. But the choice had been made, and here she was.
Claire hadn’t formally accepted an interview. It would be stupid of her to make any commitments before she talked to Jamie, and it would be unprofessional of her to interview for a job she wasn’t sure about. But Boston General was prestigious, and Claire made a habit of making sure those kinds of places knew about her. She had applied (and been rejected) right out of med school, but Claire was in professional contact with their department heads on a semi-regular basis and she had a decent enough reputation as a consultant. It had been a simple matter to secure a meeting over coffee with the man who would be her boss. He’d given Claire a good indication that should she interview, she would probably get the job. There were a lot of things tying her to Scotland right now, but there would be a job waiting for her if Jamie took her back.
That was bloody big if, though.
“Jamie was right about your glass face,” John said sometime later, startling Claire out of her thoughts, “I can see almost everything going through your head.”
“I doubt that,” Claire said dryly.
“He’s going to be thrilled to see you,” John insisted again. They had been walking for quite some time, and after a night and day of travel, Claire’s legs were ready to give out on her. She didn’t grace John with a response, which he took to be encouragement to keep talking, “He doesn’t talk about home very much, but he talks about you.”
“Does he?” that got Claire's attention. Until he had called her, Claire had been certain that he’d forgotten her the moment he’d left Scotland. But occupying his thoughts and having an actual place in his life were two entirely different things.
“He has since I finally pried the story out of him on New Year’s Eve,” he said.
“So I have you to blame for that then?” Claire asked, only half joking.
“Or me to thank,” John replied, not joking at all. They had stopped in front of a modest apartment building. This seemed to be as far as John could or would take her. He offered to stay with her, but Claire assured him she would be fine. Jamie should be back soon, he said, but if he wasn’t back within the hour they could try again tomorrow. Claire didn’t tell him that if she didn’t see Jamie tonight, she’d probably lose her nerve and be on the first plane back to Scotland.
“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again,” John said when she finally got him to agree to leave, “And you can thank me properly then.” Claire managed a nervous smile and then John was gone and she was alone. And she felt just as unmoored as she had before she stumbled across John.
No matter how many times she’d pictured this conversation, Claire drew a blank about what she’d do the moment Jamie was actually in front of her. Claire’s plan relied almost entirely on the objective: she loved him, she was sorry, and she wanted to move to Boston to be with him. She was certain Jamie would demand more than that, but she hadn’t been able to divine why she’d done what she’d done or said what she’d said. Instead, she was relying on inspiration striking her in the moment. It seemed like that she would have to wait until Jamie was there demanding answers. If he was willing to hear her out all.
Another thing she hadn’t considered: Boston was bloody cold. Claire knew cold, but the cold of London and Scotland was wet. She was unprepared for the sharp, dry cold of Boston. She’d been waiting longer than the allotted hour when she was nearly at her physical breaking point. She was exhausted and freezing and would probably kill for a cup of coffee.
Then Claire saw him.
Jamie. Standing a dozen yards away from her. The clarity Claire thought she’d have once she saw him deserted her. If anything, she was even more lost on what she could say. But she couldn’t help the uncertain smile that broke across her face, or the way her heart skipped a beat when he returned it. She was so fucked.
He was looking at her like she might disappear into smoke at any moment. Claire didn’t blame him, all things considered. There was still the possibility in the back of her head that this whole plan was a mistake, but there no going back now. She was here. Jamie had seen her. What she was going to say, she didn’t know. But Claire had to say something.
“Hello, Jamie,” she settled on. She cringed at herself, but couldn’t summon any other words. Not until he said something in response. Jamie was silent for a long moment, just sizing her up. Would he turn her away? Claire wouldn’t blame him if he did.
“Sassenach?” he said at last. Something snapped back into place at the sound of it, and Claire felt tears gathering in her eyes. Jamie mistook it for anguish and finally took a step towards her with concern in his eyes, “Claire?”
“Can we go inside?” Claire said finally, “I’m bloody freezing.”
“Right,” Jamie said slowly, “Of course.” Jamie gave her a wide berth as he walked past her to unlock his building. He led her to his door without a word and Claire tried to get her thoughts in order. He hadn’t thrown her out, that was a better start than she’d hoped for. But what now? Jamie didn’t give her much of a chance to think.
“What are ye doing here?” Jamie asked the moment the door closed behind her. She was glad she hadn’t started taking her coat off, since there was clearly a chance she was going to be sent straight back outside.
“I missed you,” Claire said, “And I was worried about you.” Not a lie, but so far from the truth.
“Ye could have worried about me from Scotland. What are ye doing here?” Jamie said. He took a step towards her and Claire resisted the urge to take a step back. She’d wanted nothing more for months than to have him in front of her, but the reality of it was almost too intense for her. But she couldn’t back down.
“Do you want me to go?” Claire challenged.
“No,” Jamie said quickly and Claire let out a small breath of relief, “But forgive me if I’m a little confused.”
“I made a mistake. On New Year’s,” Claire said, “Well, I made a lot of mistakes, but that one most recently.”
“Aye?” Jamie asked. Jamie wasn’t giving her anything to work with. He seemed more than content to let her ramble through whatever had led her here.
There was no point in delaying it any more. She squared her shoulder and looked Jamie in the eye, “I shouldn’t have pushed you away.”
“I seem to recall ye saying ye ‘let me go.’”
“I shouldn’t have done either. Or both,” Claire continued.
“We broke up eight months ago, Claire. Why now?” Jamie replied. He was throwing her words back at her, and Claire didn’t let him see how hard they hit her.
“Because it takes time to line up a job,” Claire shot back. She enjoyed the look of shock on his face, “I have an interview at Boston General, if I want it.”
“Do ye want it?” Jamie asked. There was an odd look in his eyes that Claire couldn’t comprehend, but she didn’t let it deter her. This wasn’t about a job, this was about him. And now that she had come this far, there was nothing Jamie could do that would stop her from saying her piece.
“Of course I want it. It’s Boston General,” Claire said almost flippantly. Now it was her turn to take a step forward and Claire could see the same instinct to flee in Jamie’s eyes. Good.
“The question is,” Claire continued. She took another step until she was nearly flush against him, “do you want me?” Jamie released a shaky breath that Claire felt against her cheek. There was truly no going back now. And Claire found that she didn’t mind. She was still hanging in limbo, but at least Jamie knew how she felt. And it felt so, so good to not have any secrets with him.
“Ye’d move to Boston for me?”
“Yes,” Claire said without hesitation and Jamie closed his eyes. And kept them closed. And stayed silent. Claire resisted the urge to step away.
“And ye thought ye’d come back without giving me a chance to think about it? Or prepare?”
“Are you trying to tell me something?” Claire asked, “Because I knew you’d have a life now. Other ties-”
“There are no other ties,” Jamie said, his eyes snapping open, “I have burned for ye. And only ye since the last time I saw ye. But…”
“But,” Claire agreed, finally taking that step away from him. It was only a foot, but it might as well have been an ocean.
“Claire,” Jamie said, a hint of desperation creeping into his voice. Claire could feel herself withdrawing, Jamie must have been able to see it too, “Yer career is everything to ye. Ye can’t possibly want to leave yer job just to be with me.”
“I would do a lot of things to be with you,” Claire snapped, “That isn’t the issue. Do you want me?”
“I dinna want ye to make a choice ye’ll regret,” Jamie evaded, but Claire could see his restraints slipping. Claire took a step forward. Then another. And another, until she was pressed fully against him. She lifted her hands until she was cupping his face and forcing him to look at her.
“Do. You. Want. Me?” Claire asked slowly and emphatically.
Instead of words, Jamie answered by crashing his lips against her. He pounced quickly enough that Claire stumbled back, but Jamie steadied her with one arm locking around her waist and the other tangling in her hair. Claire was used to Jamie being gentle, but there was no hint of that restraint now. He pushed her back until she was pressed against the door with his knee between her legs. Jamie bit her lip and he used Claire’s gasp to slip his tongue into her mouth. Jamie groaned at the taste of her. But as quickly as it had started, Jamie tore his lips away. He kept her pressed against the door, but he took in a few ragged breaths and pressed his forehead against hers.
“Is that a yes?” Claire asked breathlessly.
“I dinna think ye’ve thought this through,” Jamie admitted, but he softened the blow with a kiss to her forehead, “But christ, Claire. I canna think of anything other than having ye.”
Claire lifted her head to pepper kisses along his throat and jaw punctuated by bites that made him hiss, “Then take me.”
It was all the permission Jamie needed. Soon, Claire was being led through the apartment by her hips to Jamie’s bedroom. She didn’t have a chance to take in any of the décor because her lips were firmly plastered to Jamie’s neck as he unbuttoned her shirt and slipped it over her shoulders. Claire made a move to get his clothes off, but Jamie growled the moment her lips left his skin. Instead, Claire returned to her explanation of his throat while he got to work on her jeans. Soon, Claire was naked and Jamie was still fully clothed. It should have made Claire uncomfortable, but she was too intrigued by what he might do to remedy the situation.
At first, all he did was look at her. Claire would have felt self-conscious if the proof of his appreciation wasn’t pressing against the front of his jeans. Instead, she stood still and let Jamie drink in the sight of her as much as he wanted. Eventually, he prowled to her and purposefully pressed her down on the bed with the gentleness that Claire was accustomed to from him. He quickly moved from her mouth down her throat until he was circling a nipple with his tongue. Claire’s back arched off the bed as he continued his assault on her chest while snaking a hand between her legs. He spent a few moments caressing her inner thighs while Claire whined for him to get on with it. It had been so long since she’d been touched and Claire was aching for him.
“Please,” she gasped as he made the barest contact with her sensitive folds, “Please, Jamie.”
He obliged and Claire tried and failed to stifle a moan as he dipped two fingers inside of her. Jamie’s mouth left her breast and instead connected with her own and he moved his fingers from inside of her to her clit. Claire tangled a hand in his hair and tried to maintain their kiss as she writhed against him. After a few minutes of slow circles, Jamie upped the pace and Claire didn’t have it in her to be embarrassed at the noises she was making.
“I ken yer close,” Jamie growled, “Come on, Sassenach.”
Claire obeyed with a guttural cry. She felt Jamie smile into the kiss he gave her. Before he could pull away, Claire flipped them so she was straddling his hips.
“How are you still wearing clothes?” she complained as she pulled his shirt over his head.
“I got sidetracked,” Jamie said with a laugh. He unbuttoned his jeans and slid them down his hips until the only thing separating them was his boxers. Claire didn’t give him a moment to breath before she was grinding down on him and shoving her tongue back into his mouth. It wasn’t an elegant kiss, but it was efficient. It was only a matter of moments before Jamie was thrusting against her with some urgency. Somehow, Jamie removed his hands from Claire’s hips long enough to slip his boxers off and find a condom in his bedside table. Claire rolled it on and then she was sliding down on him. Claire stilled as she got used to the feeling of finally having him inside of her once more.
“God, Claire,” Jamie moaned as she moved slowly at first and then faster. She set a punishing place, but Jamie met her thrust for thrust. Claire raked her nails down Jamie’s chest and got no small amount of satisfaction from the red marks she left. Hers. This man was hers, and now he’d have the marks to prove it. It was that thought that sent Claire tumbling over the edge again and Jamie right along with her. Claire collapsed on his chest and Jamie rolled her until she was tucked securely into his chest.
“I love you, by the way,” Claire said after they caught their breath, “I forgot that part.”
“Oh,” Jamie replied, “Well. I love ye too.”
Claire lifted her head and tried to decipher to look in his eyes, “What?”
“I’m just a little surprised it all,” Jamie admitted.
“You thought I’d quit my job and move to Boston for a man I don’t love?” Claire asked with small chuckle, but Jamie wasn’t laughing.
“I ken ye love me,” Jamie said, “I just wasna sure ye’d ever admit it.” Claire settled back against Jamie with a kiss to his chest and an arm wrapped around his middle. He was hers, but she was also his. Claire couldn’t believe he still doubted it. Claire wracked her brain for something to say, but by the time she mustered anything, Jamie was already asleep.
“So how did ye ken where I lived?” Jamie asked the next morning over coffee. They hadn’t broached any of the more difficult subjects yet, but the day was still young.
“Your friend, John,” Claire said, “Who knew me on sight, thanks for that.”
“He’s a nosy bastard,” Jamie allowed, “But he’s also my best friend here.”
“You should still talk to him about leading strangers to your house,” Claire said with a smile.
“I’m sure the lesson wouldna take,” Jamie replied with a smile of his own. They enjoyed the rest of breakfast in comfortable silence. Claire hadn’t eaten since leaving Scotland, and she shoveled food into her mouth with an urgency that made Jamie laugh. Claire indulged the teasing, it was so good to make him happy for once. Claire knew there was something (probably a few things) that Jamie was holding back from her, but she could be patient. She still had a few days in Boston, and there would be time to talk about the hard things.
“I have class,” Jamie said apologetically as he cleared their dishes, “And work after that. So I willna be able to see ye until late. I can take ye back to yer hotel first.”
“I… well…” Claire began uneasily. Of course Claire knew he’d have responsibilities, but she hadn’t thought this far ahead, “I don’t have a hotel.”
“Oh,” Jamie said with pleasure and amusement, “That was presumptuous of ye.”
“Well,” Claire said with equal amusement, “I thought I’d either be here with you, or on the next plane back to Edinburgh.”
Jamie’s brow furrowed in confusion, “What about Boston General?”
“I told you,” Claire said with a fond roll of her eyes, “I’m sure I’d be happy there. But the only thing that Boston has that Scotland doesn’t is you. And if you didn’t want me back…”
“Claire,” Jamie said suddenly and fear sparked in Claire’s heart. Suddenly, the easy intimacy of the morning vanished. Claire stood up so she would at least be eye level with him.
“I’ve gotten ahead of myself,” Claire said as she steeled herself against the rejection that must be coming, “Of course we’re not back together.”
“Ye think I’d sleep with ye if I didna want ye back?” It was Jamie’s turn to roll his eyes.
“I don’t know,” Claire said, “Missing someone and wanting to be with them aren’t always the same thing.”
“Sassenach,” Jamie said more gently this time. He took a step towards her and grasped both of her hands in his, “I love ye. And I want to be with ye.”
“But…” Claire prompted.
“But,” Jamie said, “Do ye truly want to be in Boston?”
“Why are you trying to talk me out of this,” Claire said with a nervous laugh.
“Because,” Jamie said, “I’m not staying in Boston.”
Claire snatched her hands away just to have something to do with her shock, “You what?”
“I hate Harvard,” Jamie said with a laugh, as if it was the most ridiculous thing in the world. It probably was. Claire didn’t know the intricacies of his degree, but it seemed like Harvard was the dream. At least it had been when they’d broken up over it.
“You hate Harvard?” Claire repeated.
“Despise it,” Jamie confirmed as he grasped Claire’s hands again. She let him, “I have since the moment I got here, if I’m being honest.”
“When were you going to tell me this?” Claire demanded.
“When I was sure ye wanted me and not the Boston General job,” Jamie shrugged.
“I told you-”
“I love ye, Claire,” Jamie interrupted, “But ye can understand if I maybe had some doubts about that?”
Claire shut her eyes and squeezed Jamie’s hands. Of course she understood. Maybe Jamie loved her, and maybe he wanted her. But he was still a long way from trusting her. And Claire didn’t blame him one bit. But let Jamie have his doubts. For once, Claire didn’t have any, and she could be faithful enough for the both of them while they rebuilt what she had broken.
“I want you,” Claire said as she opened her eyes, “And I would rather have you in Edinburgh.”
“Ye’ll have to settle for having me in Glasgow,” Jamie said with a smile that Claire returned, “That’s the closest place I got accepted to.”
“I would have you any way I could get you,” Claire said, “But Glasgow sounds excellent.” Claire pulled Jamie’s head down to hers and connected their lips. This kiss was slow and gentle and promised many more. Jamie wound his arms around her waist and deepened their kiss until Claire was gasping.
“You’re going to miss class,” Claire said sometime later when Jamie let her up for air.
“Fuck class,” Jamie said succinctly as he kissed her again. Claire allowed herself to get lost for a few moments before she pulled away again.
“Go on,” Claire said when Jamie let her go with a groan.
“Ye’ll be here when I get back?” Jamie asked as he got himself dressed.
“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” She smiled, “Besides, I have nowhere else to go.”
“Good,” Jamie said with another kiss, “I dinna think I’m letting you out of this apartment until I take ye back to the airport.”
“Careful,” Claire said after his goodbye kiss once again got too heated, “Or I’ll be the one holding you captive.”
“Tease,” Jamie said as he finally pulled away from her and opened the door, “I’ll see ye tonight.” Jamie gave her one final peck and then he was gone and Claire was alone. She collapsed back against the door and smiled all alone like an idiot. They were staying in Scotland. Jamie loved her. He wanted her. And he was going to be back in a matter of hours.
Claire picked up her phone and dialed Joe’s number. She had a lot of news to share.
Two months later, Jamie’s school year was over and Claire was back in Boston to help move him out. It had been hard for her to get the time off so soon after her first excursion to Boston, but one reference to her past surgery gave her the two days she needed. After spending years terrified that even a moment’s rest would jeopardize her career, it was nice to be able to relax for once.
Not that seeing Jamie again was the least bit relaxing. First of all, they were mostly concerned with moving. How Jamie had gotten so many things in less than a year, Claire didn’t know. But they all had to either be packed and shipped back to Edinburgh or sold or donated here. It was a lot for only two people in the same amount of days.
And there was the matter that it had been months since she’d seen him. Somehow the two months she’d been back in Edinburgh felt longer than the year they’d been separated before that. They talked on the phone every day, sometimes more than once, but that only made Claire miss him more.
So if the first thing she did when she and Jamie got to his apartment was fall to her knees and show him how much she missed, who could blame her?
Certainly not Jamie, who was lying blissed out on his bed while Claire tried to untangle the hair he had grabbed.
“I missed ye,” Jamie said as she gave up on her hair and settled against his chest, “And I mean to show ye how much the moment my soul comes back to my body.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Claire laughed as she kissed his cheek chastely, “You’ll have plenty of opportunity to return the favor.”
“Is that a promise?” Jamie asked. Before Claire had a chance to answer, his lips were back on hers and Claire was being rolled onto her back. She let Jamie kiss a path from her lips down her chest before she put an end to it. As much as she wanted him, they didn’t have time for this many detours. He needed to be out of the apartment tomorrow, and his suitcases weren’t going to pack themselves.
“Mmm, I’m ravenous,” Claire said as she brushed the hair away from Jamie’s eyes.
“So am I,” Jamie said as he attempted to get back to business, but Claire had too good a grip on his head, “Oh, ye meant food.”
“Yes,” Claire said as she rolled Jamie off of her, “You go get us something, and I’ll start on sorting this mess out, since you clearly can’t be trusted not to get distracted.”
“Says the woman who dragged me to the bedroom the moment she saw me,” Jamie said with a laugh, but he obeyed and soon Claire was alone to create a plan of attack.
Somehow, they managed to get everything packed and then there was nothing to do but enjoy Boston for the few hours before their flight back to Scotland. Their flight home. Claire wasn’t sure when she started thinking of Scotland as home. But she felt something for Edinburgh she’d never had with London, and that was in no small part because of the people that were waiting for her there. Or the person she was bringing back with her.
“Yer awfully quiet, Sassenach,” Jamie said as they strolled through Harvard’s campus. She couldn’t deny it was a beautiful campus, but she was glad they weren’t staying.
“Just thinking,” Claire said vaguely. She could feel Jamie’s frown and tried to elaborate, “I’m just thinking how lucky I am to have found you. And how lucky I am to have you even after trying my best to scare you away.”
“We are lucky, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said, “But ye could never scare me away.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Claire warned with a joking lilt, “I could be a terrible person one day.”
“I dinna think I care,” Jamie said decisively. Jamie stopped her and pulled her until Claire was facing him. His eyes were serious. He wasn’t joking at all, “I kent it when I met ye four years ago, Claire. And I ken it now. I love ye, and I want ye for the rest of my life.”
Claire shut her eyes as tears threatened to fall. Would Claire ever get used to how bloody sincere this man was all the time? She hoped she didn’t. Claire hoped she didn’t forget for one moment how rare a man James Fraser was, and how lucky she was to have him. Claire couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would express her feelings, so she pressed her lips to his instead. It was an innocent kiss, they were in public after all, but she tried to pour every thought going through her head into it.
“We should go,” Claire said when they pulled apart, “Jenny will kill me if we miss our flight.”
“Perhaps we should just stay in Boston until the baby is born,” Jamie joked, but there was no heat in it. Claire knew Jamie wouldn’t do anything to miss a single moment of this pregnancy or his nephew’s life.
Somehow, Jamie and Claire made it to their flight on time and with minimal panic. Now, they were in the air and Claire was getting more excited as they inched closer to Scotland. Jamie, for his part, was fast asleep on her shoulder and didn’t show any signs of waking any time soon. Claire knew she should sleep, she’d only have a few hours between when they landed and when she was due back at the hospital. But she couldn’t help it. She was practically humming with excitement with each passing hour.
Claire looked at the man sleeping against her and couldn’t believe she’d ended up here. It wasn’t so long ago she was engaged to an entirely different man; a man who had come into her life when she was the most vulnerable and sunk his claws into her. It was only now that she had fully opened up to Jamie that Claire realized how little of Frank she even knew. Their relationship was closed off and cold more often than it wasn’t.
But Jamie… what scared Claire about Jamie was how openly and fully he loved her. Claire didn’t think she’d ever be capable of giving that same love back. But here she was.
Several hours later, Jamie woke just as the plane touched down. He gave her a sleepy smile and a kiss on the hand, and Claire didn’t even try to contain her grin.
“Are ye ready, Sassenach?” Jamie asked.
“Yes,” Claire said with more certainty than she’d ever felt about anything, “Let’s go home.”
So! Here we are! I have a *very* brief epilogue planned (that should be up in the next few days, but you know me), but this is the technical end of the story. This story fought me a lot of the time, but I told the story I wanted to tell, and I had some very loyal readers. Thank you all for joining me on this ride. Are there any loose threads you want tied up in the epilogue? Any requests? Let me know what you think!
Chapter 18: Epilogue
I told you it would be brief! But I hope you enjoy it anyways :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three Years Later
“We are going to be late!” Claire shouted as she slipped her coat on. In her own rush to get ready, Claire had lost Jamie and his nephew. But they had to be somewhere in the apartment and Claire’s voice carried, “I am going to leave you!”
“Dinna fash,” Jamie said as he appeared from the spare bedroom where wee Jamie had taken up residence the past several days. The boy was in Jamie’s arms and, mercifully, both of them were dressed, “Ye might leave me, but ye willna leave the wee one.”
“No,” Claire said as she accepted her godson from Jamie’s arms, “I wouldn’t. Lucky for both of you.”
“Auntie!” wee Jamie cried as he plunged his hands into Claire’s riotous curls, one of his favorite past times. Claire gave him an indulgent smile and tried not to wince. They were definitely going to be late to Jenny’s baby shower, but Claire thought they’d be forgiven. Wee Jamie was a handful, and Jenny had been at her wit’s end when Claire and Jamie volunteered to take the boy for a few days. Jenny tried not to let it show, but this pregnancy was much harder than her first. She was constantly sick and exhausted and Ian couldn’t look after wee Jamie and the tavern at the same time by himself. With Geillis handling the shower and Jamie and Claire watching wee Jamie, hopefully Jenny had gotten some much needed rest.
“I hope the wee gomeral wasna too much for ye,” Jenny said when they finally got to Broch Tuarach.
“Not at all,” Claire said. In fact, the boy seemed to prefer the company of his godmother to his mother at the moment, something Jenny seemed profoundly grateful for. Claire didn’t even pretend she wasn’t pleased by it. She was unused to small children other than the occasional patient, but she loved her godson with a fierceness she didn’t understand. Jenny once told her that feeling would be even stronger with her own child. Once, a statement like that would have sent her spiraling. But now…
She and Jamie had been dating for three years now, and there was no doubt that was where they were heading. But a family would require a wedding, which would first require a proposal. In the beginning, Claire and Jamie had been in agreement to take things slow. He was in Glasgow most of the time and Claire was as busy as ever at the hospital. But when Jamie graduated a few months ago, there hadn’t even been a question that he and Claire would move in together. It was only a matter of time before there was a ring on her finger. Claire couldn’t wait.
“We’re gonna name her Margaret Claire,” Jenny said sometime later when they caught a moment alone. Most of the guests had left and Jamie was entertaining his nephew while Ian cleaned up.
“Oh,” Claire said with pleasure, “I don’t suppose I’m also this one’s godmother?”
“I think Geillis would kill me,” Jenny smiled, “Ye can have the next one.”
“Christ, Jenny,” Claire laughed.
“Well,” Jenny said slyly, “Maybe if someone else would get on with it, I could take a break.”
“We’re almost there,” Claire said with certainty even though she had no idea when or how Jamie was going to propose. There was no ‘if’. Jamie had made it very clear when they got back together that it was for good. They were moving towards their future with the same finish line in mind.
But children were another matter entirely, and one they had a tender history with. There were still times Claire felt pangs for the baby she had lost, and she knew Jamie felt the same. In the years since, they had only talked about the miscarriage a handful of times. Unwilling to be hurt again, they were very careful. Claire knew there wouldn’t be another baby until they were both ready. But Claire finally felt ready. She wanted a baby. And seeing Jamie with his nephew this week… it was clear that Jamie wanted it too.
“Good,” Jenny said as a hand settled on her stomach, “My bairns need cousins.”
“Jenny was quite adamant we give wee Jamie a cousin soon,” Claire said as they made their way home. Her tone was light, but Jamie could hear the legitimate question in her voice. It was a fair one. Jenny and Ian had been pestering Jamie with questions about when he’d be proposing since his graduation. Joe had given his (unprompted) blessing months ago when they moved in together. There was nothing to do now but wait for the right moment. And that moment wasn’t now when they were both exhausted after taking care of their nephew for five days.
“Jenny just wants everyone to be as exhausted as she is all the time,” Jamie laughed. Claire didn’t.
“Jamie,” Claire said seriously, “I know we haven’t talked about it in a while. But if you wanted to try again-”
“I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves,” Jamie said, “We’re not even married yet.”
“Yet?” Claire said with a quirk of her eyebrow.
“Aye. Yet.” Jamie said as he drew her close, “I have a plan, ye ken.”
“Do you now?”
“Aye,” Jamie repeated, “And a ring. Ye dinna ken everything, Sassenach.”
“Well, you better not keep me waiting much longer,” Claire laughed, but Jamie could see the mix of nerves and pleasure making her blush even in the dark.
“I dinna intend to,” Jamie said with a soft smile and a kiss. If he was being honest, having wee Jamie in their house had sped his plan up. After several days of having a child’s life and laughter in their home, Jamie wanted nothing more than to have a baby of their own. The miscarriage was still a sore subject, and Jamie didn’t want to broach the question of having a baby until he was sure Claire was entirely ready. But it was clear she loved wee Jamie with a fierceness that took Jamie’s breath away. He wondered how she’d be with their own child. And now that Claire had told him she wanted a baby…
Jamie thought of the ring he had tucked away where Claire would never think to look. He thought of all the places he could pull it out and make Claire his for the rest of their lives. Jamie’s grin was so wide that it almost hurt. He couldn’t wait.
So here we are! Thank you all for reading and commenting. The response this story got was overwhelming at times, but I know everything came from a place of enthusiasm. Thank you for exploring this Claire and Jamie with me, I know I had a lot of fun. I'll see you on the next one :). As always, let me know what you think!