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Love In The Streets

Chapter Text

There's got to be love in the streets

There's got to be love there for me

I'm tired of believing a broken dream

 

 

Sirens. Cold wind. Mumbles and the crackling of the fire my group of people just lit. I’m turning my head around, to watch the flames dancing, while I cover myself with the blanket I found in a garbage bin a few miles from here. That’s the only useful thing I found today, maybe some empty bottles I may be able to re-use in the future but other than that, Boston City has not been very profitable.

 

I’m sighing at the thought of going hungry for another day and I’m doing what I always do. I’m closing my eyes, imagining the taste of a freshly baked croissant melting on my tongue. The saltiness of the butter makes my stomach flutter. I’m swallowing the water in my mouth and imagining the last bite of the baked good falling into my stomach. It helps. Pretending that my saliva is in fact food. It eases my hunger for at least a bit.

 

“Beauchamp!” Someone calls me and I’m turning my head to look at John who decides to sit down next to me. “Are you alright?”

 

I’m nodding, curling up my lips into a tiny smile. “Just a little hungry is all. I haven’t eaten anything solid in two days but I’m heading to the city tomorrow, hoping for a few dollars.”

 

“Sorry darling, but maybe these babies will help you a little.” He holds up a little plastic bag that hold tiny blue pills and I’m holding my hand out to him, asking for the tiny pill that helps me to escape reality for a little while. Oh, they also help me sleep.

 

“Thanks John.” I say, before throwing the pill into my mouth and the bitter taste hits my tongue.

 

John and I have been inseparable for two years, when we decided to leave London and head to Boston, with the cash we stole from our parents. Not that they noticed because no one has ever looked for us and we are happy about that. Some may call us ungrateful brats or dumb but they don’t know us like our group does. They don’t know how it feels to rather live beneath the stars than with people that do indescribable things to you.

 

I’m back to watching the flames dancing in front of me and I don’t realise that John has left my side and once the pill is hitting me I’m giggling as flames turned into figures and they made me feel less alone.

 

I’m waking up from a cold breeze that’s running through my messy curls when I hear a bark from a distance. Oh fuck, the cops must have found us again.

 

“Guys!” I’m standing up, trying to shake everyone awake.  “Guys, there’s someone coming. Wake up!” I say louder, but try to avoid any screaming that could bring attention to our little spot. It’s always like that, when we found our niche and started to feel comfortable in it, someone found us, either the cops or other kids and we were asked to leave.

 

John shoots up from his sleep and so do the other’s when I see the dog, or shall I say wolf, coming closer. His bubble eyes glare at me and make it hard not to reach out and pet his inviting fur. His tongue is out as a result of him running and I’m turning around to get to my things. We have to hide.

 

“Rollo!” I hear a voice a loud whistle follows right after. I’m staring at John in panic who shakes his head. We both know our time is up, there is no way for us to hide, so we just have to see if it are cops and we’re forced to leave everything behind or if it are other kids that will allow us to take our stuff. “Rollo boy, come here.” Says the voice again and I’m seeing a boy, a little older than me and John, walking towards us. His hair is red, I guess, because it reminds me of the fire I stared at last night and the night before.

 

I’m watching the dog following his orders when the boy is looking around in our group. “Christ, sorry people, my dog ran off and I dinna want to cause any trouble.” He says carefully. “I’ll be gone before ye ken it. Rollo boy come .” The boy doesn’t dare to look any of us into our eyes and I see John staring at him.

 

“Wait!” He says and all of us are looking at John quizzically. “Do you have a place to stay?” He asks and I’m turning my head back to the boy.

 

“No, I just arrived a few days ago in Boston after livin’ in New York fer a while. I just walked fer three days, lookin’ for a place to sleep a wee bit.”

 

“You can stay with us.” John says and we’re looking at him. How can he just trust a stranger? Invite him into our safe space without even asking questions. We don’t know if that boy is telling the truth and maybe we'll all wake up dead the next morning. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen before.

 

“Are ye sure? I dinna want to intrude.”

 

I’m looking at the dog, whose name is Rollo I figured and it almost looks like he’s smiling at me. I’m kneeling down and patting on my knee to see if he only follows the redhead’s orders or also mine and a second later the wet tip of his nose is touching my cheek. I’m giggling at the affection this animal is giving me and I feel my heart warming up. My arms wrap around his neck as they bury themselves into his fur and I’m almost tearing up because the last time I felt affection like this was the day before my cat died. I don’t know how it happened, she was suddenly just gone.

 

“Don’t mind her, Beauchamp here has a heart for animals.” I hear John saying to the boy and I suddenly wonder about his name.

 

“What’s your name?” I ask bluntly and stand up, my hands still buried in Rollo’s fur.

 

“Jamie MacTavish.” He says, and I slightly squeeze my eyes a little. I don’t know if it’s really his name but the again, if he chooses to lie, I’ll let him choose a lie.

 

John introduces all of us to Jamie and I watch Angus and Rupert lose interest in the redhead quickly and go back to mind their own business and so do I. I’m planning to eat today because if I won’t eat another day I will literally die. I’m bowing down to clean up the blanket I use for the nights when Rollo’s wet nose brushes on my leg and I smile.

 

“You’re such a good boy.” I say, petting him once again. “But I have to get on my way so I can get something to eat.” I smile and look up. Jamie is standing next to me, marking his spot that is very close to mine. I don’t mind, as long as he won’t pull his knife in the middle of the night and decides to kill me. Once again, I’ve seen it happen.

 

“Here, Sassenach.” Jamie suddenly says and I see him holding a chocolate bar my way. “It isna a three course meal but then again I canna remember ever havin’ one o’” I don’t let him talk because I rip the bar out of his hands and take a bite. I forget everything around me as the sweetness of the chocolate explodes in my mouth. God, this tastes amazing. It’s better than any croissant I’ve ever dreamed of.

 

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I’m taking another bite when I see John walking up to us.

 

“Don’t mind her, she hasn’t eaten in a few days. You might have saved her life.” He smiles and turns his head shortly when Hector calls Rupert and Angus to head out with him. “Wait for me!” John yells and turns his head back to me. “Beauchamp, can you manage?” He asks and I know this gaze. He wants to be with Hector, trying to find out if the guy feels the same way as he does and even though I’ll be left with a stranger I’m nodding. What can happen? Oh yeah, knife. But even if Jamie would pull a knife, I think Rollo won’t let him kill me, cause that animal has spent more time with me than him since they arrived.

 

“Go.” I say and he kisses my cheek before he runs off with the other’s.

 

“And you’re coming with me?” I ask Jamie and he nods.

 

“Aye, we can head to the city, it’s a Saturday mornin’ so it should be packed.” I watch him take a piece of duct tape to fix the hole in his sneakers before he stands up. “Let’s go.”

 

“What about him?” I ask and point to Rollo who has nestled himself on my blanket. “He certainly doesn’t look like he wants to join us.” I smile.

 

“He’ll stay here, he doesna need to come.”

 

“But what if…”

 

“Sassenach, Rollo has been wi’ me for a while, he kens how to handle things by himself.”

 

“You called me like that before.” I say, looking at him with curiosity. “Sassenach.” I try to say it the way he does but my ch sounds more like a k and I see him smirking.

 

“Well, it means Outlander but I dinna mean to offend ye, it’s just a Gaelic term fer the English.”

 

“I might be a little offended.” I say jokingly, smiling at him. “But I haven’t had a nickname in a while so I take it.”

 

We grab our things and walk off to the city and I feel the sudden urge to ask him things as nothing more but silence surrounds us.

 

“How did you come to Boston all the way from Scotland?”

 

“I’ve been here and there fer the past five years, nothin’ special.” He says and I know that it’s a lie. Out here we all have a special story to tell. Some of them see the light of the day while some are never brought up anymore, some you want to speak about but haven’t found the right time to speak about it and some you just have to deal with yourself. That’s life. “What about ye? Ye’ve had a long way yerself.”

 

“Also nothing special. It’s been two years for me and John.” I smile and I see the glimmer in his eyes.

 

I just realise now how blue they are and I feel the urge to jump in the ocean that lingers in them and I am not one that loves to swim. But his eyes look inviting. I see the bench I spent some nights on and sit down with Jamie. “I’ve slept here for a few days, exhausted from looking for some food.” I say not telling him the real reason I actually passed out on this bench. I don’t think he’d be pleased if he knew drugs were the reason I couldn’t make it back to camp anymore.

 

“It’s alright, ye dinna need to tell me. “ He says and his eyes stare into my soul.

 

“Do you have parents?” I ask all of a sudden and turn my head to look ahead of me as I don’t dare to see if this question upset him.

 

“Aye, I do.” He answers after a while. “What about ye?”

 

“Yes.” I say, not thinking about continuing my story. I don’t talk about my parents, or shall I say creators? I don’t know. But I just don’t talk about them. They are the reason I’m jealous of those little brats running around the playground while their Daddy picks them up and actually spoils them with love while their mother’s are having tea with each other happily talking about family stuff. I am jealous but I’m trying not to be.

 

“Claire are ye alright?” Jamie suddenly asks and I realise now that I’m crying. Wet tears walking down my cheeks like they are on a hike and I’m wiping them away with my hands. I don’t cry. Crying is for weak people and I’ve been weak long enough, they made me weak. Now I’m strong and I can conquer it all.

 

“I’m good. Sorry, I had something in my eye.” I say, knowing he won’t believe any of it.

 

“Ye ken, it’s alright.”

 

“Listen, Jamie, I don’t even know you for one day and just because you have this cute lovely dog I am not going to pour my heart out to you. I like you, I really do and maybe we can become friends but just maybe because I don’t know where life takes me and we’re young. I mean I’m nineteen and you are what? Twenty? Twenty one? And now I’m just brabbling, I’m sorry.”

 

I feel bad for attacking him the way I do but that’s me. That’s what I do. I can’t become too attached to people because they can get ripped away from you any second. You could hug them one moment and the other they are laying in front of you, dying and there’s nothing you can do. You just watch them go, hoping you won’t be next and Jamie is dangerous. He’s easy to like which makes this harder for me.

 

“It’s alright, Sassenach, and I’m twenty one.”

 

I’m looking at him and he’s just smiling. That’s what I mean. He’s easy to like.

 

“Let’s try to find some food or money, otherwise they will kill me.” I say before standing up.

 

“Arena they lookin’ fer food and money too?” He asks, standing next to me and I’m heading in the direction of the city.

 

“They are looking for other stuff.” I say and with silent understanding he walks next to me and the only thing I am trying to do is keep an emotional distance from him because Jamie MacTavish is a charming young man that I always dreamed of having when I played with my toy castle in the dark stinky room. He was the prince and I was the princess and we’d live happily ever after. Away from the screaming, away from the violence. Just him and I living the fairy tale six year old me dreamed of. But I know that happily ever after does not exist for me. My prince can never be my prince because dreams don’t come true for people like me. They just don’t.

Chapter Text

I thought that I could walk away easily

But here I am, falling down on my knees

Praying for better days to come and wash this pain away

 

 

Black. It’s my favourite colour, because it is there when I need it the most. It hugged me when they screamed, fought and threw things. It surrounded me in the form of darkness and somehow that’s where I feel safe. A lot of people are scared of the dark, thinking monsters lurk under their beds when they in fact don’t realise that humans are the actual monsters.

 

That’s what I’m thinking about while watching the new lit flame dancing in front of me. Rollo cuddles up against me, providing me warmth no blanket could give me. My nose is buried in his neck and I’m fighting sleep. I’m sober. Didn’t take a pill nor snorted a white line. I’m lucid and that’s when they happen. The nightmares. But Rollo makes it hard not to slumber away because for the first time in a while I feel like I’m lying on pillows and before I know it, I get sucked into sleep and when I open my eyes I’m trapped again in the hell I once lived in.

 

My room is painted pink but the wallpaper wears off and I see dark spots beneath it that tell me my room is rotting. I’m looking around, feeling so small while standing next to the bed. The toy castle is lying on the floor and somehow my barbies heads are not attached to their bodies. Strange. I’m heading to the door that is opened when I hear a sudden scream coming from the hallway.

 

My body is suddenly shaking and the screams grow louder. Pink turns into black as I’m turning off the night light that’s been illuminating the room and I’m jumping in my bed, hiding beneath the blanket while pressing my head into the flat pillow. The sheets stink and I remember how many times I peed myself in there but my mom just won’t wash my stuff. I’m trying to breathe calmly and I hear the creak of my door. Darkness hugs me and I feel calm when with a sudden thud the room was pink again and the bed sheets are being pulled away. I feel naked. I am naked. Why am I naked? I’m screaming at the pink ceiling. Screaming for it to become black but it just stays pink.

 

I hear wincing sounds that bring me back to consciousness and I think my name is being called a million times. I open my eyes and realise my hands are inside the fluffy fur of Rollo and he just glares and me. Around me are Jamie and John, looking at me in concern when I’m sitting up, trying to press my shaky hand on my sweaty face.

 

“Don’t look at me like that.” I say, my lips shivering and I know what I need. “John, now.” I’m holding out my arm, my other fingers wrap around my wrist to keep my hand steady when I feel the prickling of the white substance being spread on my hand. It’s just one line and I’m good again. Just one line and I’ll go back to sleep. Just one line, that's all I need.

 

I’m sitting back on my blanket, patting Rollo with my now luckily calm hand when Jamie looks at me. I don’t know if he feels pity or if his face just generally looks the way it does.

 

“What?” I’m asking and he still does not remove his eyes from me.

 

“Nothin’” He says, shrugging his shoulders. “Just looked like ye were havin’ a verra bad dream.”

 

“They are called nightmares and I’ll be fine. Go back to sleep.” I say, lying back down, placing my head on Rollo again. “And by the way, your dog is very comfortable.” I giggle, closing my eyes with a smile on my face.

 

“Aye, he is.” He mumbles and something tells me that Jamie won’t go back to sleep.

 

I’m waking up when the cold wind brushes over my skin and the fur of Rollo tickles my nose. The rest of the night I spent dreamless and I’m stretching myself. I’m looking at Jamie who is throwing a stone up in the air only to catch it again.

 

“Good morning.” I say, looking around to find out that we’re alone. “Where are the others?”

 

“They went to get some things .” He looks at me and sits up to face me. “Sassenach, why are ye doin’ it?” He suddenly asks me and it takes me a while to figure out what he’s talking about.

 

Honestly, the usual reaction to me taking drugs is people yelling at me asking how stupid I have to be to let substances take over my life but no one has ever asked me why I’m doing it and given my circumstances I can’t help but burst out in laughter.

 

“Why are ye laughin’? He asks me after letting me laugh until my belly hurts. “It is a serious question.”

 

“Have you never done it?” I ask, wiping away the tears of my laughter and I focus my gaze on him. He’s shaking his head and my eyes widen. “Never? Like never?”

 

“No’ even touched it.” He says, his gaze not moving from my face. “And I dinna ever want to.” His voice turns cold and at this point I don’t know if it’s the sound of it that makes me freeze or the cold breeze that brushes over me.

 

“It helps me sleep.” I answer suddenly and the ocean usually lingering in the depth of his eyes turns into some ice palace and all I want is to look away, but I can’t. “You saw how I woke up in the middle of the night and if I don’t take something I’ll have that every single night and once you realise that the nightmare you’ve been having are nothing else than your stupid reality, you just want them gone and you’d do anything for that.”

 

“There are other things that can help ye sleep, Sassenach, a dog fer once.” He says and I’m looking at Rollo when realisation hits me. Rollo is his sleeping pill, he helps him from jolting up at night, trying to get back into the present rather than dwelling in the past.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask and look at him.

 

“Because ye need him more than I do, and I can handle a few days without sleep, I’ve handled way longer than that.” His lips curl up into a tiny smile and he holds out a piece of bread we got yesterday. “Eat yer breakfast.”

 

I’m taking a bite of the bread and thinking about what upsets him about drugs the way it does. It’s normal here, in the streets that people get around with those substances. It’s the only thing that keeps us sane and makes this life a bit more bearable. I’m looking at him and wonder how he made five years without touching a single drug. To me, it’s unimaginable.

 

I give Jamie the other half of the bread and watch him take a bite. I’m curious about him and I have to hold myself back from asking all those personal questions that swim in my brain, but I can’t ask them because I know best how invasive and triggering those questions can be.

 

“What are ye thinkin’ about?”

 

I’m cursing my glass face and shake my head. “Nothing.” I lie and I see him raising an eyebrow while smirking.

 

“Come on, Sassenach, I see there’s somethin’ on yer mind.”

 

“Yes, but I won’t tell you.” I say, but hell I am tempted to just ask him.

 

“Tell me.” He tries again and I’m pressing my lips together as if it could prevent me from spilling my question.

 

“Why have you never touched drugs?”

 

I expect him to roll his eyes, or stand up and leave or even worse, scream at me or in the worst case… no, his eyes are way too gentle to go there.

 

“My twin brother died of an overdose.” He just says without showing any emotion on his face. I want to say something but he holds his hand up, asking me to wait. “My parents blamed me, could never forgive me, which brings me to where I am now.”

 

“Why would they blame you ?” That’s just horrible and I wonder how many times he told this to someone else before because hell, he can keep a steady face. It’s like looking at a riddle, not knowing the solution no matter how hard you’re looking at it.

 

“It happened when we were alone. I tried everythin’, called the ambulance but he died in my arms. There was nothing I could’ve done.”

 

“Just because the two of you were alone, doesn’t mean they can blame you, Jamie.” I say and he looks at Rollo to seek some comfort.

 

“They were right to blame me, it was me who brought the drugs to him.” He says, pressing his lips together to relieve some stress. His chest rises and falls calmly and I admire him for his strength. How can he possibly be so open about his past with someone he barely even knows? I couldn’t do that. Hell, not even John knows everything about me. “He got angry when I dinna do what he said and he was so stinkin’ drunk that he asked me to open the door to get the stuff from his dealer.”

 

I’m exhaling the breath I held and looking at him. He still doesn’t respond to my gaze and I put my hand on his. Once our skin touches he jolts away immediately, standing up and it’s like Rollo knows and he walks to Jamie, pressing himself on his legs. “Dinna… Dinna do that.” He says and it sounds like he’s choking. His shaky hand finds Rollo’s fur and Jamie tries to take deep breaths. I’m staring at him, standing up too, hoping I could somehow comfort him.

 

“Jamie, I’m sorry I didn’t want to…”

 

“I canna… I canna breathe I...” He doesn’t say more but takes a few steps in the opposite direction until he walks out of my sight. I’m gasping softly, trying to think about what happened. Have I done something wrong? Shouldn’t I have comforted him? God, I’m so stupid. I’m sitting back down on my blanket, already missing Rollo and I wonder how long it will take him to come back, if he will come back.

 

I’m staring at the cold stone wall in front of me, counting to hundred and back to zero and then back to hundred, when I decide to look for Jamie. He hasn’t been back and it’s almost getting dark. I have no idea where the other’s are but I don’t care. Jamie left because of me, so it’s my job to find him.

 

I’m walking for a bit, looking around as I’m screaming his and Rollo’s name when I feel raindrops hitting my head. I smile at the cold water washing away the filth that lingers on my skin and I take a deep breath to enjoy it for a bit before realising why I am here. My search. I walk further until darkness hits and sit down on a park bench because my legs are bitching around.

 

“God, where are you MacTavish?” I say to myself when I hear rustling behind me. I’m turning around, my chest filling up with hope when I see a figure coming out from behind a tree.

 

“I’m not MacTavish but I can be him if you want me to, sugar.” He lulls and I smell his hangover. I’m standing up, making sure to face him while I take a few steps back to keep a healthy distance between us.

 

“Have you seen a redhead with a dog?” I ask, still walking backwards. I have to know if Jamie was seen here and then I can run.

 

“Yes I did.” He did. Liar.

 

I’m turning around to run but hear the loud steps behind me. I’m trying to speed up but the slippery rain makes it hard to get a grip and I fall, feeling my skin searing on the stone ground. I hiss at the burning sensation and look up at the drunk guy, holding up my hands as defense.

 

“There you are, sugar. I can be your redhead if you like?” He says and bows down. With his hands on my knees he roughly spreads my legs to come in between them when I spit in his face. I won’t have this today. I will not be used by a man today. I will not. I will not. I will not. I feel his fist on my face and it sounds like someone hit my head on the ground. I hear my bones crack when the second blow follows and a third. I can’t bear a fourth and I’m running options through my head.

 

I’m much smaller than him. He’s drunk and I have perfect access to his groin and with one kick I hit him, making him fall to his right. I’m standing up quickly, running away from him when I hear him screaming something else. I don’t care, I have to run.

 

Like I said, black is my favourite colour. I like darkness cause it’s always here to comfort me and it hugs me again. It will always hug me. I’m panting, the rain soaking through my clothes and washing the blood over my face. At least he didn’t… I can handle blows to my face. I can handle it but the other thing I can’t. I won’t ever let that happen…Not again.

 

I see the bridge we’re camping under and walk there. The crackling of the fire ringing in my ears and all I need is warmth. I need to dry my clothes and feel the flames almost touching my skin. I walk past my friends, not hearing anyone calling my name because that damn ringing in my ears is so loud. And then I hear it. A bark. A dog. I’m turning around, looking at Rollo, lying on my blanket. Jamie smiles at me until he sees my face. His concern is sincere but I don’t care. His lips are moving, yelling my name but I don’t hear anything. I’m pushing him aside, sitting down next to Rollo. Seconds later my head hits his fur and I’m closing my eyes for just a bit and when I open them I look at the flames. My face is burning and I imagine that it’s a result from sitting too close to the fire. That’s what happened. I burned myself. That’s way easier than remembering what happened.

 

“Christ, Claire, what happened?” I hear Jamie suddenly next to me and see all the guys coming closer.

 

I’m shaking my head, softly patting Rollo. “Nothing.” I whisper. “I just burned myself.”

Chapter Text

The victim of your own attack

A waste of breath, distorted past

Your soul forever remains the color black

 

Have you ever just sat at one place for hours, not realising that day turned into night while you just kept on staring at the wall in front of you? Have you? I have and I do. Just now, for example, I look at the granite wall in front of me, studying its lines as if they are telling a story. I don’t hear anything around me and it’s just the stone and me, nothing else matters.

 

The rain drops fall on the granite stone I’m staring at and the longer I sit there, the more I am aware that I’m soaking wet. My breathing quickens and I’m removing my gaze from the spot I stared at this whole time. My eyes need time adjusting to the new objects they are looking at and they find my hands. I’m shaking. If it’s from the cold, I don’t know. Suddenly I watch a snout being placed on my trilling hands and I look up to see Rollo lying down next to me. My fingers curl softly around him and I’m breathing calmer.

 

“You’re such a good boy.” I whisper. “Such a good boy.” I repeat and I’m lying down to place my head on his neck. For other’s this picture might look funny. A girl in the rain, her head on top of a dog after she stared for hours at a stone wall. To me it looks comfortable. I’m petting his head softly between his ears and see him side-eying me. “I wonder what you might be thinking. For what I know you could think I’m nuts.” I smile when he breathes out heavily through his nose. “I know, I’m annoying.” His head rises and his snout softly touches my cheek as if he wants to comfort me when I hear footsteps behind me.

 

“Sassenach.” Jamie’s voice appears and I can see movement in the corner of my eyes as he sits next to me. “Ye need to dry yerself a wee bit, I dinna want ye to catch a cold.”

 

“I won’t.” I answer softly, my face still being tickled by Rollo’s fur. “I have my own blanket here.”

 

“I ken he’s comfortable, but ye’re all wet and it doesna look like it will stop rainin’ anytime soon.”

 

I’m staring ahead of me again while images of last night haunt my mind again and I see the man, between my legs, hitting me all over again. His knuckles digging into my jaw, my eye and my cheek while I’m fighting. It’s on a loop, like someone hits play on a video all over again. It’s horrible. “I was looking for you.” I whisper all of a sudden, not realising that I said it out loud.

 

“Claire…”

 

“I couldn’t find you.” I say louder, and sit up to face him. “I couldn’t find you, Jamie! I was looking for you.” I know it’s not Jamie’s fault but I’m feeling a sudden rage blowing up my chest and it’s like my heart will burst if I won’t let it out. “You made me look for you Jamie! I couldn’t find you! And then you made me look for you.” I keep repeating my words because I don’t know what else to say. I’m usually not one to freak out or yell at someone, so this is all new for me and I’m looking into Jamie’s blue eyes that match the storm around us.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“No! You can’t be sorry! It’s not your fault it’s… it’s mine!” I say suddenly and realise that I’m not mad at Jamie, I’m not mad at the universe, for once in my life I’m mad at myself. How could I be so dumb to wander off in the darkness, looking for a guy I just met, knowing very well what dangers lurk around the corners? How could I? I should know better.

 

“No, ye were lookin’ fer me.”

 

“And I should’ve known better.” I answer while my hand is still petting Rollo. “Listen Jamie, I’m sorry for what you’ve been through and I’m sorry for touching you without asking if it’s okay. I should’ve done that. But I should have known you’d come back. You don’t need me looking for you.”

 

“Christ, Claire do ye hear yerself?” He suddenly says and I’m looking back up at him. “Ye canna blame yerself fer something ye did fer someone else. Ye only meant well.”

 

“Says you.” I say faster than I wanted to and I see his soft gaze harden. Oh no. I shouldn’t have said that. His body stiffens and he turns his head so he doesn't have to look at me. I watch him clench his fist while his chest is heaving up and down. Rollo disappears from under me, walking to Jamie and I watch him nudging his hand with his snout, begging it to open and to relax.

 

“Jamie I’m-“ I start but he stands up and I follow him. “I didn’t mean…”

 

“Ye meant it.” He says, his voice turning as cold as winter and a shiver runs down my spine. I didn’t mean it like that, I truly didn’t. It’s like you say something so impulsively, not realising your mouth is moving along with the thoughts of your brain. An instant regret filling you after you hear what you just said.

 

He trusted me with his story, he told me one of his secrets and I used it against him because I felt threatened by my own emotions.

 

“No! God, I’m so sorry.” I say and I hear him whistle to Rollo who doesn’t leave his side.

 

 “Come boy, our time here is up.”

 

I look at the dog who now finds my gaze when a sudden sadness fills my chest. I don’t want them to leave, they just arrived here and there is something about Jamie MacTavish that intrigues me. That triggers things in my mind I thought I had hidden a long time ago. And Rollo, he’s like a walking drug. Stopping my trilling hands and easing my thoughts in seconds. I only have to touch his fur. They can’t leave. I won’t let them.

 

“No, Jamie please!” I say louder but he seems to ignore me. When I look at his back and see his feet taking him away I’m losing tears. Rollo turns his head to look at me and I swear I can see the sadness in this animal’s eyes. I need them to stay. I need to make sure Jamie knows how sorry I am. I need to…

 

“I hate the colour pink!” I scream and suddenly see him halt in motion. His back is still towards me and I’m breathing quickly, not yet exhaling that one breath of relief. “I hate it because my room, at home, it was pink!” I say loud as raindrops hit the ground harder. His shoulders are rising and sinking and I don’t know if he’s crying or just breathing really hard. His hands are tapping on the side of his leg and I see he’s thinking about turning around. He needs more. “Black is my favourite colour because at night the screaming stopped and because I feel like darkness is the only thing that helped me through all of it.”

 

I’m watching him turn around slowly and I see him looking at me. I don’t know if it is tears or raindrops that linger on his cheeks but these eyes reflect a sadness I am familiar with. I can’t say more, I’ve already revealed more than I wanted to.

 

It’s scary to let someone in on your darkest secrets and after years of carrying them with you, it feels terrifying to speak about them out loud.

 

Jamie walks slowly towards me, his hand still tapping on the side of his leg, when he halts right in front of me. I don’t know what he expects. A hug? More about me? What does he want?

 

“I love the colour black too.” He suddenly says and we’re just standing there, looking at each other with mutual understanding. I want to hug him, but I don’t. Not after he ran away from me touching his hand.

 

“Then we’ve got something in common.” I answer and curl up my lips to give him a soft smile. Rollo finds his way back next to me again and I see him wiggling his tail. “Rollo is happy to stay.” I laugh lightly and pet him.

 

“Aye, he likes ye.” Jamie says and something tells me he wanted to add more to that but didn’t. “Let’s head back to camp, Sassenach.” He says, curling up his lips and we walk back to the other’s.

 

“God, Beauchamp, where the fuck have you been?” John says, taking a sip of his beer. “We’ve been worried and will you now tell us what happened?!” His voice is pressuring and I’m rolling my eyes. I love John, he's been my best friend for years but sometimes his curiosity is no match for me and I’m sitting down at my blanket looking up at him.

 

“Just a dude lashing out on me, nothing more.” I say casually, removing the paper from a chocolate bar.

 

“Nothing more? Why were you alone?” He asks before he sits down next to me.

 

“I was looking for MacTavish. He ran off and I was worried, so I tried to find him. There’s this dude, grabs me and such and then yeah I ran away. But can we not talk about this now?” I take a bite from the chocolate bar and remove my gaze from him because I do not want him to worry about me.

 

“I told you not to run-“

 

“I don’t need a lecture, John, I know I was stupid, can we now all just move on?” I beg, my eyes searching for him and he nods before he goes back to minding his own business.

 

“He’s just worried.” I say to Jamie and I watch him sitting down next to me.

 

“So am I, Sassenach, let me take a look at yer wounds.” Jamie searches for my eyes and I look up at him. I think this is the closest he’s ever been to me and I swear his eyes are hypnotizing me because I’m not even flinching when his fingertips touch my cheek. Usually I freak out at human contact, but somehow his warm skin was more comforting than scary and I let him examine me.

 

“And? Will I die tomorrow, Doctor?” I ask jokingly in a calm voice, and smile. His gaze fixates on my wounds and I see him smiling at my question before he’s shaking his head.

 

“No and the rain cleaned it from dirt. Yer lucky today, Sassenach.” He says and I feel sudden disappointment when his hands leave my face. I wanted them to stay there, tracing the lines of my face, until I’d fall asleep in his arms.

 

Why am I even thinking about this? He can’t be my prince and he won’t be. What happened to healthy distance and friendship? That’s all this can be because outside, here on the streets, barely anyone gets their happy ending.

 

“Thank you.” I suddenly say way too late but I watch Jamie turning his head to look at me. A red curl falls into his face and I feel a sudden urge to brush it behind his ear but I’m turning my gaze away from him.

 

“Ye’re welcome.”

 

We’re sitting there for a while, just silently enjoying each other’s company, when Jamie clears his throat and I look at him.

 

“Are you okay?” I ask, trying to hide my concern.

 

“Aye, I was just wonderin’ about something.” He says, but nothing tells me he will continue.

 

“About what?” I ask, turning myself so I face him.

 

“Nothin’ I’d just bore ye wi’ my stupid things and ye’ve been through enough today.”

 

“You wouldn’t bore me and besides, I’ve got nothing else to do.”

 

I’m waiting for him to start talking, watching the lines of his face twitching while he’s thinking about whether he should tell me or not.

 

“Jamie…”

 

“I’m wonderin’ if our lives will always look like this, ye ken.” He finally says and I’m looking at him. Like this? Does he mean if we’ll always and forever be homeless or if we’ll always be the walking proof of failed lives?

 

“I always wanted a family meself. I always thought I’d take over my father’s estate Lallybroch, mebbe make a distillery out o’ it. Marry the woman I love and fill the house wi’ my bairns so now I wonder if our lives will always look like this.” His hand shows to our surroundings and I sigh.

 

“In this country we have no rights to ourselves. We aren’t even allowed to be here. If you want to build a life yourself then maybe you should head back to Scotland. Try it again. You’ve got what it needs to have all the things you want come true.”

 

“What about ye?” He asks, his body turning towards me enthusiastically. “Don’t ye want a life like that? Ye ken ye could come wi’ me, Claire!” He exclaims and I’m frowning. What does he mean with that? Did he just really ask me to go with him? Leave this place and try to make a life? Oh hell no. I was thinking he meant himself.

 

“Woah, stop right there. What makes you think I want all of those things?” I ask, licking my lips nervously. Enthusiasm like this makes me nervous and I feel the anxiety rise up in my chest and I’m trying to press down the panic that makes me want to throw up.

 

“All o’ us want it.” He throws in and I’m shaking my head, smiling sarcastically.

 

“No. I don’t.” I answer right away and watch his smile disappear.

 

“Ye canna mean that. Ye canna say that this will be yer forever home.” Jamie shakes his head.

 

“You’ve lived out here for five years, you should know that it’s possible to say that. I don’t see myself belonging to someone other than the outside world. I don’t even know if I want to belong to someone. And other than that, I do not want to go back to a place close to my creators.”

 

“Claire..”

 

“Can we change topics, please?” I beg, turning away from him. That is enough emotions for one day and I regret asking him about his thoughts. Another thing I’ve to write down in my mental notebook. Don’t ask about feelings.

 

“Aye.” He answers coldly.

 

I sigh in frustration and stand up to walk around for a bit. I really don’t know what’s happening to me and why Jamie affects me the way he does. It’s like someone put me in a room and one side is painted pink and the other black and I’m standing in the middle, both sides pulling at me. I’m crossing my arms in front of my body as I exhale a deep breath. My head turns to look at Jamie who’s patting Rollo softly and I watch them. What does he have that others don’t? What is it that frustrates me so much about him? Why do I feel scared looking at him? And why do I always want to be as close as possible to him? I don’t know. It’s like my heart suddenly decides to glue itself together only to reach out to him and it bothers me.

 

For so long I only cared about me, and of course John, but mainly me. I could hide how I felt and move on with the trauma I experienced. But now? I feel like my brain wants to puke all over Jamie, spilling its darkest thoughts and I’m terrified. I see his face turning towards me and our gazes meet.

 

His eyes tell stories that need no verbal communication. I walk back to sit next to him and stroke Rollo’s fur softly with the tip of my fingers.

 

“Let’s try it.” I whisper, without looking at Jamie and I can hear him exhale a shaky breath. “Let’s try to head to Scotland and build a life.”

 

Jesus H. Christ, this was one of the scariest things I’ve ever said.

Chapter Text


Grey skies no rain in my eyes

Cold winds

Blew her back here again



Safety and stability. Something I never really experienced, but felt the moment I arrived here with the other’s. And now Jamie enters my life and I’m suddenly asked to give it up. Well, I agreed but it’s scary. I’m looking around while stroking the blanket I’m sitting on softly with my fingertips. John is laughing with Hector while taking a sip of his beer while Angus is fighting over the last piece of bread with Rupert and Jamie? Well he’s whispering something into Rollo’s ear that makes the dog’s tail wiggle with excitement. This is safety and stability for me and I am asked to give it up. And I agreed.

 

I’m standing up to head over to John, anxiety raging in the depths of my chest as I’m about to tell him my crazy decision of agreeing to go to Scotland with Jamie MacTavish. This conversation could go two ways, him laughing at me and thinking I’m shitting him or him screaming at me, protectively asking me to not do such a thing. Well, and there’s also him getting mad at me for abandoning him after everything we’ve been through. God, there’s more than two ways this can go and I’m turning around, clearly not being ready for the talk.

 

I’m walking past Jamie and Rollo and without even looking at him, I’m asking him to follow me and once I’m feeling we’re a safe distance away from the other’s I turn around to face him.

 

“I can’t come to Scotland with you Jamie. I just can’t.” I say, crossing my arms in front of my body while my breath quickens. He has to understand how scary this is for me and my eyes find it hard to hold his gaze so they focus on a cloud that’s moving up in the grey sky. 

 

“Why?” He simply asks and I hear the calmness in his voice. Good, he’s not angry. I’m taking a deep breath to steady my gaze on him and I glare in the blue of his eyes. I can’t tell what he’s thinking but the sparkle that lingered in them when I agreed on the journey with him, isn’t there any more. 

 

“I can’t leave this place. This is my home. These…” I point in the direction of camp. “Are my people, Jamie. I’m not ready to leave all of it behind, mostly not John. He and I have been through so much and now I’m just being asked to go to Scotland with you? I can’t. I just can’t.” My voice is shaking at this point and I feel tears burning in the corners of my eyes. No, I don’t cry. 

 

“Claire… This isna yer home, yer just used to the place. Come here.” He says and I see him nudge his head to his left. We are sitting down on some stones and he looks at me. “ Ye want to ken what home is for me?” I’m nodding and waiting for him to collect himself as I see his lips twitch up nervously. 

 

“Home fer me is the smell of mud that stays on ye after a hike through the Scottish Highlands. It’s a sanctuary, a place ye want to retire to after a long hard day. It’s the fireplace I think about when I feel a cold breeze lower my body temperature. A fireplace lit in the livin’ room, Rollo in fron o’ it, breathin’ calmly and I sit on the cosy couch watching the flames dance and hug me with a warmth I dinna experience for a while. I take a sip o’ a fine whisky I just bought and close my eyes.”

 

I hang on every word he’s saying and I see his lips part but he closes them just a few seconds later. His face turns towards me as if he got ripped out of a trance and he smiles at me.

 

“That is home fer me.”

 

I know he wants to say more but I decide not to destroy the moment we’re in and I smile.

 

“Okay.” I answer, biting my lips nervously. “How cosy is the couch?” I suddenly ask and watch his face lighten up even more.

 

“Verra cosy. Wi’ many pillows.”

 

It does sound tempting but reality is like a curse and it always hits me in moments I easen up and think that I actually deserve a better life.

 

The sound coming from camp is catching our attention. I hear John screaming something. Well, I think it is John and the sound of his voice is damped by a beer bottle shattering on the ground. I’m staring at Jamie in panic and standing up, but his hand catches mine and I look at him.

 

“We have to go!”

 

Jamie’s eyes turn dark and he shakes his head. I’m looking back to camp and see Rollo suddenly running towards us, his head burying itself between Jamie’s legs to seek comfort. Jamie’s free hand pats him softly as to give him comfort while his other hand still wraps around mine.

 

“We can’t just sit here and do nothing.” I look back at camp and hear the voices of strangers answering John’s yelling words.

 

“Shh, Sassenach, sit down behind me and dinna say a word. If ye go there now, ye’re only bringin’ yerself in danger.” He says in a low cold voice that should calm me but does exactly the opposite. I do as I’m told and hover down behind him and Rollo joins me, his snout laying on my knee. My shaking fingers lace through his fur while I’m trying to hear more of the sounds coming from the other’s.

 

The first one is almost deafening and I hear Rollo wince when the bullet is being fired and I’m squeezing Jamie’s hand with mine as tears roll down my cheeks. My fingers are clawing themselves into Rollo’s fur and I feel him pressing his head on me. The second one is clearer and more tears roll down my face. I’m standing up now but Jamie pulls me back down so he can guard me in the worst case scenario. His arm is now wrapping around me and he pulls me close onto him, the heat of his skin pressing through his shirt, warming my wet cheeks.

 

“Dinna move, lass, just dinna move.” He whispers and I’m closing my eyes, trying to stifle the sobs that build up in my chest, trying to escape through my mouth. While I’m closing my eyes I imagine the fireplace Jamie told me about, the cozy couch and Rollo’s steady breathing while he spends time in the land of dreams. The fire crackling while whisky is warming my throat. I feel Jamie’s thumb brushing softly over my upper arm when the third bullet escapes and now I’m jumping at the sound.

 

“Shh...Shh, lass, look at me, look at me!” Jamie says calmly and I feel his fingers softly brushing over my jaw to get a hold on my chin. He tilts my face into his direction and I look up at him while more tears roll out of my eyes and at the fourth shot I bury my face into Jamie’s shirt and sob uncontrollably.

 

Four shots, four people and I know the outcome of that. Like I said, I’ve experienced this before but now it hits home. It hits people I care about and love and I don’t ever want to go back to camp. I don’t want to see the outcome of those four bullets leaving a weapon. I don’t want to see what they’ve done. 

 

Jamie grabs my shoulders softly so as to be able to look at me and his blue eyes hover over me. I’m shaking my head, not able to form any words and he helps me to my feet.

 

“Ye dinna have to look, mo nighean donn, but I need ye to come wi’ me.” He begs and I keep shaking my head. I don’t want to go near camp. What if these people still linger there and are waiting for us to come back? What if they harm Jamie or Rollo? What if I’m being left alone? What if?

 

“I’ll not leave ye out o’ my sight, Claire, but mebbe we are able to help some o’ them. We dinna ken who was hit wi’ a bullet, aye? We dinna ken.”

 

“What if they are still there, Jamie? What if they are waiting for us?” I whisper shakily and I feel Jamie’s hand brushing my fresh tears away.

 

“The voices are gone.” He whispers.

 

He’s right. It’s been quiet and we don’t know who got hit. For what we know the bullets could have hit the bad guys and my people are sitting there out of breath from the adrenalin that rushes through their bodies, waiting for us to come back. 

 

I’m nodding and I’m still holding Jamie’s hand. I quickly look back at Rollo who follows us when after a few minutes we arrive at camp.

 

“John?” I call out for him and go around the corner. My breath gets caught at the picture in front of me and I feel Jamie’s arms around me almost immediately. 

 

“Turn around, now!” He yells and turns me around himself the moment he realises that I am frozen. Everything my brain tells me to do, my body won’t. It’s like all my body parts are being separated, not working together anymore. I’m back to staring ahead of me while the picture I just saw haunts my mind with every detail.

 

It isn’t the bad guys lying there with their eyes ripped open and a hole in their chest. It isn’t the bad guys that are… 

 

Not even my thoughts manage to say the next word and my whole body starts shaking. I feel Rollo’s wet nose on my hand and Jamie puts me softly to the ground so he can check on my people. My people.

 

My gaze falls to the ground and the sobs that I keep holding in my chest burst out the moment Jamie tells me he’s sorry. I bury my face into my hands while my tears form traces between my fingers. Jamie’s arms come around me and lift me up with an ease that feels like I’m flying. I’m turning my head to look at them again. John’s eyes closed now, next to him Hector. Jamie must have covered them with a blanket.

 

“Goodbye.” I whisper suddenly, losing a few more tears. “Goodbye my friend.” 

 

I don’t realise where Jamie takes me or how long he’s walking with me in his arms but he suddenly puts me down onto a park bench, his hands rubbing on my arms to warm me up and I didn’t even realise that I’m shivering. During our walk I kept on having the same picture in my mind. My group being alive, John flirting with Hector while Rupert and Angus were arguing and the next second they are dead. All of them. I’m shaking my head frantically while repeating the one word that could help me neglect the ugly reality.

 

No. No. No. No.

 

Jamie pulls me in his arms and I bury my face in his shirt again. We sit there until day turns into night and night turns into day.

 

I’m petting Rollo, when Jamie returns with some food and drink. My fingers are trembling while my mouth is as dry as the sahara. I need something to make me feel better, something that is stronger than a sip of water or a bite of a sandwich. I need something that always helps me to feel better. Jamie looks at me in understanding and sits down next to me.

 

“Eat somethin’, Sassenach.” He says and I’m shaking my head.

 

“I need something else.” I reply and I watch him nervously open the water bottle. I know he has nothing with him, I know I put him in a scary position, but I can’t just stop my needs. “I promise Jamie, I’ll eat after but please I need to feel better.”

 

“Claire…Are ye sure?” I nod and I watch him taking out a bag with the white pulver that will make all the ache in my body disappear for a while.

 

“Oh my god, where did you get that?” I ask while spreading it on my hand, preparing to sniff the line. 

 

“I took it from the other’s… I gathered ye might need it.” He says coldly and before I say something else, I make the line disappear with my nose.

 

I know what this means to him, helping me do something bad but I also appreciate him thinking about it, because there is no time for me going through withdrawal. Not after this.

 

“Thank you.” I whisper and he replies with a simple nod.

“Now eat.” He says and I’m taking food and drink in my hands and only now realise how hungry I actually am. And as the drugs make reality disappear, I dive into the wonderful feeling of my stomach filling up and I smile at Jamie.

 

I see his lips curl up but his smile won’t reach his eyes and I nudge him softly. “You alright?”

 

“Aye, dinna fash, Sassenach, I’ll be alright.” 

 

I sigh while I look at him petting Rollo and I swallow the last bite. “Let’s go to Scotland.” I say suddenly and see his gaze move from his dog to me. “Nothing holds me here anymore and you actually made me dream about that fireplace too much.” I giggle and I watch him nod.

 

“Aye, the fireplace.” He starts, and his lips curl up a tiny bit before he looks me in the eyes. “Well, wait till ye see the scenery, I dinna think ye’ll ever want to leave Scotland again.” 

 

I try to imagine it. Well, I’ve heard of Scotland, but never got the chance to go. Growing up in London with not much money to myself, I never thought of going but now, now I got the chance to go and I will. 

 

“Where do we start?” I ask. “We’re both here illegally, my passport has expired and we barely have any money to ourselves.”

 

“We need to find a friend o’ mine, Hugh Munro. He’s somewhere around here. He kens someone wi’ a ship. An old friend o’ his that sails from here to Ireland every now and then.”

 

“You want to travel on water for weeks?”

 

“Aye, and it doesna take weeks, maybe one and a half. But I warn ye, Sassenach, my stomach isna made fer ships.”

 

“Then we’ll find another solution, also I don’t think Rollo can handle a journey this far on water.”

 

“He’s done it before and so did I, it is how I made it here. Also, there isna as much police around as there is at airports. It is our best shot.”

 

I know he’s right but to think about being lost at sea for days with no solid ground around us, scares me. I’m not someone to trust objects that move, which also made me hold John’s hand all the way from London to Boston while the Stewardess kept checking on me. 

 

I’m looking at Jamie before taking a deep breath and switching my gaze to Rollo.

 

“And there’s no way we can somehow get fake passports or visas and take an eight hour flight to Edinburgh?” I ask, knowing the answer myself.

 

“Until we had that kind o’ money, months will have passed if no years. The ship is our best choice.”

 

I’m nodding slowly, thinking about other options but there are none. My gaze finds him while my hand buries itself into Rollo’s fur.

 

“Let’s find your friend then. Let’s find Hugh Munro.”





Chapter Text

No one could ever see me

Seems you're the only one who knows

What it's like to be me

 

To find someone when you’re looking for them is like walking into a grocery store hungry, trying to choose what you want to spend your dollar on. It takes time and is almost impossible. I’m walking next to Jamie, Rollo beside me when I hear Jamie’s stomach growl. I’m looking up at him, sighing at the thought of us not having eaten for the last two days.

 

We’ve been so focused on the search for his friend, we forgot everything around us. But what I didn’t forget is the small bag of white powder that gets emptier by the day. It makes me anxious because John was the one handling this for me. He knew where to find it and who to trust.

 

“We should get something to eat, Jamie.” I say to distract myself from my thoughts and his head turns to look at me. The usual sparkle in his eyes has lost itself in the depth of the ocean that lingers in them and I’ve been trying to find it without success. 

 

“Aye, ye’re right. I just ken he isna in the city. And I dinna want to lose time by goin’ in the wrong direction.” 

 

“I know, but we have to eat and so does Rollo.” 

 

Jamie nods in agreement and I pet the dog beside me softly while we’re heading for the other direction. Walking into the city is like walking into another realm. The world suddenly becomes awake and you realise just how lonely you’ve been. When I look at the mass of people I wonder about every single person's life. When I look at that woman, staring into the screen of her phone, her eyes focused on nothing but the text she’s typing down, I wonder who she’s fighting with. Or the man who’s leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette, trying to hold back the tears that swim in his eyes, I wonder, who broke his heart.

 

That’s also how I choose who to ask for food. I look at the people and let my heart choose by the kindness of the face. I’m walking to a woman that must be around Jamie’s age, her nose stuck in a book when I softly tap on her shoulder. “Excuse me.” I say kindly, waiting for her to look up at me, her green eyes lingering on me when her small lips form themselves into a smile. I watch her close the book and give me her full attention. “I was wondering if you might be able to help me, my friend and his dog to get something small to eat. It really doesn’t have to be much.” I add in honesty and she follows my hand that is pointing to Jamie and Rollo.

 

“Oh aye, o’ course!” She answers, her hand disappearing into her handbag and I immediately notice her accent.

 

“You’re Scottish!” I say and her head turns quickly towards me while she opens her wallet.

 

“Aye, it’s my last day o’ my holiday here. Ye’re quick wi’ findin’ out accents.”

 

“My friend is Scottish too. That’s why.” I say, my gaze switching from her hands fumbling through her wallet to her kind face. I feel Jamie coming up behind me and feel Rollo’s wet snout on my hands.

 

“Here ye go, lass.” She says, pressing twenty dollars into my hand and I stare at her. That amount of money can buy us food for three or more days if spent smartly. 

 

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you very much!” I say, resisting to hug her. I wouldn’t want to mess up her beautiful hair that fits so nicely on her shoulders, or cover her dress with the grease lingering in my hair. I’m turning around to face Jamie who keeps staring at the woman.

 

I can’t figure out the way of his stare. It’s an intense one, one combined with emotion and I can’t help but feel the tiny pressure in my chest. I nudge him slightly and watch the woman in front of me suddenly stare at Jamie. The mutual knowledge is visible in an instant and I step aside to look at them both. “Do you two know each other?”

 

None of them is saying anything and I ask them again, Jamie now looking at me. His eyes are screaming but his face doesn’t even twitch. The little waves in his eyes grow into a storm and I feel a shiver running down my spine.

 

“Jamie…” I hear the woman say and I’m shaking my head in frustration.

 

“What on earth is going on?”

 

“Gi’ her back the money, Claire.” Jamie says in his cold voice and I’m staring at the woman who gave up catching Jamie’s gaze and looks now at me.

 

“No, keep the money.”

 

I hate moments like these. When you’re stuck in the middle of a situation, not knowing what the hell is going on. You don’t know who to listen to because you don’t know any side of that story.

 

Anxiety is building up in my chest and I look from the woman to Jamie back to the money in my hands. My fingers bury themselves into Rollo’s fur and I feel the animal coming closer to me.

 

“Jamie, please! I couldna have known this would happen to Robert. I dinna…”

 

“Dinna say his name!” 

 

I see Jamie’s body shaking, the knuckles of his hands are as white as snow while his fingers dig into the palm of his hands.

 

“Ye should have been there, but ye werena! He loved ye, Geillis, he truly loved ye!” I watch Rollo switch sides, his snout now trying to release the grip of Jamie’s hands but it doesn’t work. I walk up next to him, trying myself to open his hand. I watch his fingers come loose and lace mine through his while my thumb is brushing over his rough skin. It's okay. I’m here.

 

“Jamie please, I needed to get help meself. I couldna live this life any longer. I needed to get help and ye canna resent me for that.”

 

I feel the pressure of Jamie’s hand while he scoffs and he moves closer to Geillis. It makes me nervous as I don’t know how Jamie reacts in situations that confront his past. 

 

“I dinna resent ye for getting help! I resent ye fer leavin’ him without a word! He couldna bear the pain, he just couldna! And ye ken what Robert does - did - when he canna bear somethin’!”

 

“Where is he?” She whispers and I feel Jamie grabbing my hand tighter. I feel his sadness flowing from his body through mine and I’m closing my eyes to focus on not breaking out in tears. This isn’t my place. I need to be strong for him.

 

“He’s dead.”

 

Two words that can make the world stop for a moment. Two words that can make everything happen in slow motion. The face of concerned Geillis slowly turning into a shocked and sad one. Her hands are shaking while every line of her face is tensing up. She screams but all I hear is a faint cry and the next thing I realise is I’m being pulled away by Jamie.

 

“No!” I say as the world comes back to me at full speed. “We can’t leave her like this!”

 

“Sassenach!”

 

Before he says anything more, I’m pulling Geillis away from the crowd of people into the ally Jamie just pulled me to. She sinks slowly to the ground, crying and I’m looking at Jamie.

 

“Do ye blame me fer it.” I the first thing Geillis says, her body shaking while more tears cover her face. “Do ye blame me fer his death, Jamie?”

 

“No. That’s my fault.” I want to scream no. I want to tell her that it isn’t Jamie’s fault. It’s the sickness's fault. The brain’s. The addiction. It’s no one’s fault.

 

I’m taking Jamie’s hand in mine again and look at Geillis standing back up. Her gaze hovering over Jamie and me.

 

“How long?” She asks, wiping away the tears from her face.

 

“A few years. Overdose.” Jamie says as details of this encounter would only scar him more. Geillis nods as a response and I watch her looking at the both of us.

 

“How did ye come to Boston?”

 

“None o’ ye business.” Jamie says and I’m sighing. I see Geills glaring at me and I’m looking at her.

 

“It’s a long story, but we’re actually trying to find a friend of Jamie’s. We want to return to Scotland by ship.”

 

Jamie side-eyes me and my heart is racing in my chest, trying to rip through my skin, but I’m keeping my gaze steady on Geillis.

 

“I can help ye wi’ the flight tickets.” She answers I’m staring at her. 

 

“No!” Jamie immediately says and I’m turning around towards him. “And Claire’s passport is expired, she canna travel.”

 

“I can help with that too. She can get a new one.” 

 

“Just because ye feel guilty o’ leavin’ my brother, ye dinna have to throw money our way.”

 

“Jamie, stop!” I say, turning around to face him. “She wants to help, let her help! Please! We don’t know if we ever find Hugh. We don’t even know if he’s still alive, but what we know is we want to get away from here. Now your friend is offering new passports and flight tickets. I think Rollo appreciates air travelling more than water.” 

 

Jamie’s gaze hovers over me and then back to Geillis who looks at him with so much hope and expectations I almost feel bad for her. He suddenly nods slowly and Geillis exhales a breath of relief. If she feels better with helping us, so be it. 

 

We are spending the day booking flight tickets and handling the transport for Rollo. Our flight will be leaving a bit more than a week from now as we have to wait for our passports. Geilis books us a room in a hotel and presses a few hundred dollars into my hands and I’m staring at her.

 

“You’ve done more than enough, Geillis.”

 

“Please take it.” She says, and I’m turning around, still hearing Jamie taking a shower. “I shouldna have left his brother, I ken that.”

 

“Geillis…”

 

“No, I really shouldna have done that. Jamie will tell ye the story in time and by then ye might not like me anymore. This is the least I could do.” I see tears swimming in her eyes. “Oh before I forget, yer passports will be sent here, they might call ye on this number.” She pulls out a phone that is set up and I’m sighing.

 

“Thank you, truly.”

 

“Take care, Claire.” She says, before turning around for good.

 

I’m looking around the hotel room, taking a deep breath. Clean sheets, warmth, and running water. Things I missed the most. I let Jamie have a shower before me and I start to regret it as I feel even filthier in a clean room. I’m taking out the purchased clothes and brushing over the pair of jeans I got myself. I can’t remember the last time I got myself a new pair of jeans.

 

I’m being ripped out of my thoughts when Jamie walks out with only a towel around his waist and I stare a little too long.

 

“My clothes…” He says softly, and I suddenly don’t know what left or right is. I’m burying my nose into the plastic bag and grabbing his pair of jeans and white shirt he got for himself.

 

“Here you go.” I say, bringing it to him.

 

“The shower is yers, Sassenach.” He says and I breathe in the smell of soap while I glare at his chest, still wet from the running water. I nod gratefully and disappear with my clothes into the bathroom. Once being rid of my dirty clothes, I step into the shower and let the water drip on me. The feeling is indescribable and I’m closing my eyes. A sudden wave of emotion hits me and I burst into tears. 

 

This feels unreal. A simple shower feels unreal. Being in a hotel room feels unreal. John and the other’s being dead feels unreal. My chest is shaking with a force that makes me have to sit down and I’m sobbing as every possible emotion is hitting me all over again.

 

“Claire?!” I hear Jamie’s worried voice outside and his hand is knocking a few times on the door. I’m wrapping my arms around my legs and pulling them close to my body while I keep on crying. The water is hitting me like heavy rain and for a moment I’m sitting next to all the lifeless bodies of my friends. “Claire! Open the door, lass, please!” My head is falling onto my knees and a few minutes later I hear the door opening with a force and I look up at Jamie with blood shot eyes.

 

I don’t care that I’m naked or that he sees me like that. I care that he’s here and I watch him entering the shower with his clothes, not caring that he’s soaked in just a few seconds. He pulls me into his arms while I’m crying.

 

“Shh…I’m here.” He whispers into my hair and he just sits there with me until I’m looking up at him. 

 

In silent understanding he picks up the shampoo, he squeezes the bottle while holding it up his hand and before I know it he's massaging my scalp with it. I notice that he only looks into my eyes, his gaze focuses on my face and I’m still hugging my legs. Once he’s finished he looks at me.

 

“Do ye want me to leave ye alone?” He asks softly as he knows I have to stand up and I’m nodding. As much as I want him there I know how awkward it must be for him to stand in front of me naked when all we are is friends. John has never seen me naked before either and he was my best friend. “Call fer me if ye need anything.”

 

He slowly stands up and once the door falls into its look I do too and I finish showering. Once dressed, I look at my reflection in the mirror. My curls are finally taking their usual form again, bouncing on my shoulders. My skin is glowing and I curl up my lips. I’m leaving the bathroom and see Jamie in a set of new clothes while his wet ones are drying up on the heater.

 

“Are ye alright?”

 

“Yes, thank you.” I say and I’m sitting down on the bed. Yes. One bed. A sudden feeling is hitting me like waves and I’m closing my eyes while my hands start to shake.

 

“Jamie…” I say. “I need…”

 

“It’s empty.” He whispers and I stare at him. 

 

“No! No it’s not! I saw there’s still left!” 

 

His hands cover mine and he looks at me. “Ye took the last yesterday.” 

 

I’m shaking my head as anxiety builds up in my chest. God. No. Please. My whole body starts to shake and I feel sweat covering my forehead.

 

“Shh, lass, come here.”

 

I watch him lying down on the bed and I’m following him, putting my head on his chest. His fingers brush through my wet curls while my body is shaking with a force so hard, I hear the bed creak.

 

“I can’t...I-”

 

“I’m here.”

 

I’m biting my lips as tears sting in my eyes and I feel deep inside of me that the next few days are going to be the worst ones I ever had.

 

Chapter Text

I'm lost. I'm like a heart without its beat.

I'm lost, just like an army in defeat.

I'm like the autumn trees that shed their leaves when summer's through.



Do you know that feeling, when you wake up in the middle of the night from strange dreams that cloud your judgment? You try to go back to sleep but whenever you close your eyes you’re back there, trapped like there is no way out. Then you realise it’s the fever, the fake image of your brain because exhaustion is flowing through every pumping vein. So you rather keep your eyes open, yet still you feel trapped in an even worse nightmare. You’re trapped in something called reality and there’s no way out.

 

“Jamie.” I whisper, shivering as if I just woke up in the middle of the street on a cold winter night. Jamie lying next to me, not having slept one bit, brushes his fingers through my hair. At this point I don’t know if it’s sweat or tears rolling down the side of my eyes and my whole body is aching. “Jamie.” I say again, not hearing anything. “Jamie!” I repeat and now I see his lips move but all I hear is my heart beating in the inside of my chest as if it’s playing drums. My hand finds his that still brushes through my damp curls and I’m lacing my fingers through his, watching carefully as his thumb strokes the smooth skin of my hand. “I can’t do this.”

 

“Ye can.” He says and I hear him over the beating of my heart. My gaze turns to his, watching every single movement in his face. He seems worried, yet calm, his eyes are grey in darkness but I can see the blue in them. The little ocean that calmly washes over his iris. I try to focus on that, his eyes, the ocean and I’m closing mine.

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been out, but when I wake I feel worse than before. The sheets beneath me are soaked in my sweat and my body feels as if it has been bathed in ice. I’m biting my lower lip as if it would ease the pain I’m in. But it won’t, because everything hurts. My limbs, my organs, my skin, everything and I’m looking at Jamie who still lies beside me, Rollo curled up at my feet.

 

“I can’t do this, Jamie, I can’t.”

 

“Shh, ye can.” He whispers, his hand in my curls again.

 

I’m staring at the walls behind him, green turning into pink and my gaze takes in my surroundings. Hotel room changes into a kids room and all I hear is my shallow breathing as I realise I’m by myself. I’m sitting up as I’m hearing screams around me, their screams. They are fighting about me. My legs take me in front of the dirty mirror of my vanity and I see myself at the age of fourteen. Untamed curls sitting on my shoulders as a freshly healed wound lingers on my lip. My fingers trace the lines on my face when I hear footsteps coming closer.

 

No. I’m turning towards my closet, running inside of it, knowing that I’ve built myself a fort in there so I could hide in situations like that.

 

“Claire.” I hear a stern voice as the creaking of the door fills the room. My breathing quickens and I hold my hand in front of my mouth to silence the breathing. “Get out of there!” My brows furrow when I hear the Scottish accent and I’m shaking my head. “Sassenach! Get out of there!”

 

I keep shaking my head when the door suddenly jolts open and I see him standing in front of me. His dark greasy hair hangs into his face while a cigarette is pressed between his lips. The smell of the alcohol stained shirt he’s been wearing for weeks fills my nose and I’m trying to hold my breath. His hand wraps around my wrist as he pulls me out of my safe space.

 

“No!” I’m screaming. “Let go of me!” I keep screaming.

 

“Sassenach! It is me!” He says, a grin spreading across his ugly face and I’m shaking my head. I’m looking around again, staring at the pink walls as he pulls me towards the bed. My legs try to hit him but miss and I feel his knee on them to keep them steady and quiet and then I just lay there, staring at the pink wall above me realising just how much I hate that color when it turns back to green and black hair turns red and I look at a pair of blue eyes instead. They are anything but calm and Jamie’s hands are around my wrists while his chest is heaving up and down as he catches breath.

 

“Christ, Sassenach, it’s me, Jamie!” He says again and I just stare at him realising that I’ve drifted off into a world that no longer exists. 

 

“Jamie.” I whisper, liking the feeling on my tongue and I repeat it. “Jamie.” I breathe out, his name sounding like a shiver, like rain dripping on an umbrella as I can’t seem to catch my breath. “Jamie.”

 

“Look at me.” He says calmly, losing the grip around my wrist and I’m turning my head to face him. “Ye are alive, you are whole.” His fingers softly brush over the skin of my cheek and I’m closing my eyes to steady my breathing. “Try to focus on Scotland, the sound o’ the rivers in yer ears wi’ nothing around ye but nature. The smell o’ rain hangin’ in the air while ye walk through the quiet peace o’ the Highlands.”

 

“Will...you be there?” I ask, shivering, squeezing the hand that’s now on his lap as if my life depends on holding that hand.

 

“O’ course, Sassenach, Rollo too.” I breathe out some air that is pressing on my lungs which should sound like a laugh but only comes out as a sigh so I’m curling up my lips.

 

“He’ll want me to throw sticks.”

 

“Aye.” Jamie chuckles, his thumb brushing over my knuckles. “Or he might get upset.”

 

Another shiver shakes my body and I’m closing my eyes again. “Tell me more, please.” I beg, before drifting off again and I listen to him while he talks about his country, about his home, about a world where pain doesn’t exist, about a world where people are happy, carefree and just themselves. I want to live in that world. I want to live in a future that holds every single thing Jamie talks about. I want to live in a future that isn’t controlled by my past.

 

But that isn’t possible. There is no life that’s not controlled by the past. I will always be haunted by those memories. I will always carry those demons with me, the only thing I can do is fight. But the question is, am I strong enough?

 

I open my eyes, thankful my body calms down a bit when my gaze lingers on the empty plastic bag on the table. I’m staring at it, trying to find the tiniest bit of the one thing that could release me from the pain I’m in.

 

“Sassenach…”

 

I ignore him and run for it, grabbing the bag as I’m looking for just one small portion but all I see is plastic. Nothing. It’s gone.

 

I’m screaming so loud I almost feel my ear drums ripping and Jamie’s arms come around me as I break down on the floor and I clench my fingers around the bag, crushing it in my hand. It’s empty. It’s truly empty. There’s nothing left. 

 

“Get me some.” I beg, looking up into Jamie’s eyes. “Get me some or I will die.” I say again, shivers taking over my body again. I’m in no control of anything anymore, whether it’s my voice, my thoughts, my muscle function or anything else. It’s like my soul is trapped in the cage that is my body. 

 

“Ye wilna die, Claire and I wilna leave ye alone, ye can do it! Ye are strong!”

 

I’m feeling Rollo coming beside me, his snout placing itself onto my leg while his sad eyes are looking up at me. Jamie guides my hand into his fur and I grab it softly while sweat drips from my face. I’m closing my eyes to get some control of the shivering without any success but I’m holding onto the fluffy fur of the dog.

 

“Do you know how long withdrawal lasts, Jamie?” I ask him, waiting for his reply and nods silently. “Then get me some and let me start again when we’re in Scotland, I can’t fly like this.”

 

“Ye’ll be tired and exhausted by next week, Sassenach. Ye ken the intense cravin’ will come after.”

 

“Yes but what if everything goes differently, and I am not tired?” I ask, realising that I am trying anything that he stands up and leaves this room without even thinking of coming back empty handed. But he sits there and looks at me.

 

“Ye will be.” 

 

“You want me to be in pain.” I whisper, tears filling my eyes. “You want me to fucking hurt!” I say louder, my shivers increasing as I’m letting go of Rollo’s fur. I want to use my strength to hit something, to let go of the anger that rises in my chest but exhaustion hits me and I’m dropping my hands as I fall into Jamie’s body.

 

“I dinna want ye to be in pain.” He says softly and I swear I can hear his voice crack. My gaze lingers on Rollo who still lays the same way he did. “ Bheirinn a ’phian bhuat nam b’ urrainn dhomh. Tha do phian nas motha na as urrainn dhomh a ghiùlan, ach fuirichidh mi an seo còmhla riut gus am bi thu nas fheàrr agus eadhon às deidh. Tha thu làidir. Faodaidh tu a dhèanamh. Tha mi a ’creidsinn annad .” (I would take the pain from you if I could. Your pain is more than I can bear, but I will stay here with you until you're better and even after. You are strong. You can do it. I believe in you.)

 

I don’t know what he’s saying, but somehow it calms me down more than anything else. I’m breathing in the smell of him that lingers on his shirt and knowing that the worst part is yet to come I somehow feel that with Jamie being next to me, I can do it. I have to.

 

I can’t do it. I don’t have to do it.

 

Those are my thoughts when sunrise hits on the morning of our flight. The last week has been hell. I begged Jamie more than once to release me. Nothing has become easier except that the shivers aren’t as bad. I’m exhausted, tired and I just want to sleep. I’m watching Jamie grabbing all our belongings and he checks our documents.

 

“Jamie…” I whisper, seeing his head turning my way. He immediately walks up to me, sitting down on the bed as he takes my hand in his. “I can’t do this.” My lips are dry and my breathing is raspy, as if someone is dragging their nails across my lungs.

 

“Ye can.”

 

“No.” I say, squeezing his hand as I’m looking into his eyes. “I’m tired. I’m so tired.” My voice is nothing more than a breath and I see realization hitting him like a ton of bricks and he is shaking his head immediately.

 

“Claire…”

 

“Please…” I beg softly. “I can’t survive this. I feel like I’m about to take my last breath if I don’t get what my body asks for.”

 

“I wilna let ye… I canna let ye, Christ, Claire, do ye ken what ye’re askin’ o’ me?” His voice is breaking and I see the little waves of tears in his eyes but he turns his head because he doesn’t want to show me that he’s breaking down. 

 

“You have the tickets, you have Rollo. Leave me here, let me decide for myself.”

 

“So ye can kill yerself.” He says, and even though his face is turned away I see the tears rolling down his cheeks while his chest is heaving up and down, his body trembling with the resistance to not give into sadness. 

 

“Jamie…”

 

“Ye’ve come this far, Claire!” He says, standing up and now he’s facing me. His red eyes looking at me while his tear stained face breaks my slowly beating heart. “Ye canna give up and ye wilna give up! Ye’re a fighter! Ye can do this! Please, Claire! I canna let ye gi’ up on yerself. Please.” His sadness takes over and his sobs carry his chest. 

 

In front of me is a broken man that is terrified of losing another person he cares about to substance abuse and I wish there is something I could do to turn off my thoughts. Something I could do to just stop the cravings. But there isn’t. There are two ways. Fight or give up. And right now I’m too tired for the first option.

 

“I’m sorry.” I whisper and he’s shaking his head in denial. “Jamie please I’m tired.”

 

“I ken ye are! But so am I! If ye stay here, I will too. I promised ye day by day that I wilna leave yer sight and I take promises verra serious, Sassenach!”

 

“Then take it back!”

 

I watch him walk to the table as he removes a part of Geillis’ money we have left and the next thing I see is Jamie walking out the door with Rollo, the slam so loud it shakes through me and I regret instantly what I said to him. But I’m just so tired. I’m sitting up in the bed, throwing my legs out of the bed as I’m taking a deep breath. Nausea hits immediately and I’m holding my stomach as I’m emptying my stomach into the bucket next to my bed. I sigh wishing for Jamie to be here. But he isn’t. He’s gone. And so is Rollo.

 

Everybody is gone.

 

I feel my body shaking with the longing for the people I’ve lost and I’m standing up, my legs taking me slowly to the bathroom where I look at my own reflection. My curls are almost non-existent as they are all tangled up in knots, my face has aged by twenty years and the dark circles beneath my eyes almost look like they are painted black and purple. My lips are covered in dried up blood from me biting them and my face looks swollen. 

 

God. That’s a whole new level of ugliness.

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been standing there but when I hear the door opening and feel Rollo’s snout on my leg I could cry out of relief.

 

“Jamie!” I breathe out turning toward him with a smile on my face but all I see are tears swimming in his eyes and then my gaze falls onto the bag in his hand. My heart racing while my brain screams at me to take it. Just one sniff and everythings over. I’m walking to him and rip the bag out of his hand before I’m sitting down onto the bed.

 

“Ye’ve come so far…” He whispers, his hand brushing over his face. “But Christ, I canna bear hearin’ ye talk about endin’ yer life. I just canna… But I also canna watch ye take more o’ the shite ye hold in yer hands.”

 

I’m switching my gaze between the bag and Jamie.

 

“I need this.” I say, my voice cold as I’m looking at him. 

 

“No. Ye dinna need it. Ye want it. Yer body tells ye it needs it. Have I told ye that my brother got clean fer a while?”

 

I’m shaking my head, forgetting about wanting to powder my nose.

 

“Aye, he made it, just fer a wee bit but I was so proud o’ him. And I am proud o’ you. I ken it is a battle ye will fight for the rest o’ yer life but let me help ye fight it. My brother didna let me help him but please, Claire, let me help ye.”

 

I lose his gaze to the bag on my lap and I’m thinking about his words. The battle I’m fighting now is the one between the man in front of me and the substance on my lap and I don’t know who will win. But for now, he does and I’m handing him the plastic bag back. I hear a shaky exhale coming from his mouth as he softly removes the bag from my shaky hands and I’m losing the tears that filled up my eyes. Jamie’s arms come around me the next second and he presses me softly against him, his lips softly pressing against the crown of my head.

 

“I’m so proud o’ ye, Sassenach.” He says and I know those words should make me feel good. Make me feel like the happiest person alive but why do they fill me with shame? How can he sit there and be proud of someone who was happier with a bag of coke in her hands than a human she cares about? How? 

 

I’m sitting up and force a smile onto my tired face as I take his hand in mine.

 

“Let’s go.” I whisper. “We got a flight to catch.”





Chapter Text

Wanna guess the ending? If it ever does

I swear to God that all I've ever wanted was

A little bit of everything, all of the time

 

I hate airports. People are not caring to look where they are going while stores charge you three times the amount for a bottle of water than the store right across the street. The loud noises of the speakers echoing through every single part of the large building and mumbling noises of a thousand different voices in different volumes and it’s making me go crazy.

 

I’m holding my hands together, trying not to look like an addict going through withdrawal and my gaze lingers on Jamie who checks in Rollo. To watch the dog head silently into the small cage makes my stomach turn and my heart ache. He’s become someone I hold on to, someone I can touch whenever I need a reminder that I’m not alone and now I’ve to spend hours on hours without him. 

 

My foot taps nervously on the floor and Jamie returns with a nervous smile covering his face. Why is he nervous? Is something wrong? I’m taking a few deep breaths but tremors are shaking me, while I’m feeling like I’m standing below the hot sun trying to get a tan.

 

“We’re ready to go.” Jamie says, wrapping his arms around me but once he wants to move I’m standing still, every single muscle aching. I’m exhausted, I need a breather.

 

“One moment.” I whisper, even my vocal chords are exhausted and I’m closing my eyes, trying to imagine Scotland the way Jamie described it. “Alright, I’m ready.”

 

I’m walking slowly to the gate, gazes lingering on me as Jamie helps me walk. He was right. I’m just so fucking exhausted I could drop on this floor and sleep for eternity and once we’re taking a seat to wait for boarding, I exhale a breath of relief and close my eyes which leads me to pass out and drift off into unpleasant nightmares.

 

I’m feeling a hand on my upper arm and jolt awake in an instant, jumping to my feet as I’m taking in my surroundings.

 

“Don’t you dare!” I scream, making sure I keep distance between every single person around me. It’s like I’m trapped in a maze, surrounded by zombies that are out to take a bite of me and I swear I can hear them snarl. Their hungry eyes linger on me, waiting for attack and I’m breathing fast as I’m trying to find my way out. My eyes follow the exit sign on the ceiling and my gaze switches back to the people around me.

 

“Sassenach!” I hear a familiar voice and it’s as if I’m being thrown back into reality, looking into Jamie’s eyes. 

 

I’m still sitting in the same spot, but people are now really looking at me as if they are terrified of me. Parents turn their kids from me and Jamie is the only one that shows concern. “Christ lass, are ye alright?” He asks and I’m nodding without knowing what just happened. “Ye screamed in yer sleep.” Jamie explains and wraps his jacket around me as if it could somehow make me invisible. “‘Tis time fer boarding.” I’m nodding as I’m walking with him to the forming line that leads into the airplane.

 

Once I’m sitting, I’m looking dreadfully at the woman next to me that has the pleasure of enjoying a window seat. I feel Jamie’s hand slipping in mine and I squeeze it hard. My mouth goes dry as I watch all the people getting seated, putting their luggage into the storage. 

 

“Close yer eyes, Sassenach.” Jamie says reassuringly, clearly taking notice of how uncomfortable I’m feeling. 

 

I’m closing my eyes but ripping them open in an instant as all I see in front of me is the one thing I’m craving the most and my mind heads back to the plastic back in my lap when we were at the hotel. Regret is filling me. I could’ve felt better. I could’ve sat here right now, feeling like all those other people feel. Excited for their journey, calm, maybe in the mood to read or watch a movie, but no. I decided to feel horrible instead. 

 

“I can’t close my eyes.” I whisper, feeling like everyone can hear me and Jamie pulls up the jacket that has almost fallen to the ground and covers me again. “Not with this noise around me.”

 

“It will be better when we’re up.” Jamie says with a smile on his face and I’m nodding, deciding to trust him.

 

It takes a while until everyone has taken their seats and we’re ready to depart. My hand is still holding Jamie’s and I’m grateful to have him here with me. Once the motor of the plane is roaring through the cabin, I’m squeezing Jamie’s hand and I hear him talking to me softly. I don’t know if it’s in English or Gaelic because all I can hear are mumbles, motors and my inner voices screaming at me and once the sound of the motor eases and the seatbelts can be taken off, I feel tears streaming down my cheeks.

 

“Claire, what’s wrong?” Jamie’s asking me, his brows furrowed in concern and I’m looking at him.

 

“Everything hurts.” I whisper. “Please, Jamie, everything hurts.”

 

“Shh, it’s alright, I’m here. The pain will go away.” He says softly, his hands brushing over the skin of my cheek and I’m shaking my head as I feel shivers running down my spine and tremors taking over again, the longing for the white powder growing by the second.

 

“No, it won’t. Please Jamie I will die, I need to get out!” I’m feeling Jamie’s other hand covering mine while he’s softly shaking his head.

 

“Listen to me, Sassenach, ye wilna die, it will all be fine.”

 

“I should have never listened to you.” I say, pressing myself back in my seat while my lungs are aching for air. I remove my hands from Jamie’s and put them on my lap, tapping my fingers nervously onto my leg as if I’m using them as a piano. 

 

“Ms. can you please shut up?” Says a high pitched voice next to me and I’m looking at the lady that is seated at the window, my breath quickening its pace again and I swear I want to say something but I can’t.

 

“Ye can mind yer own business.” Jamie chimes in from the other side and I watch the woman’s anger grow in her face. I’m closing my eyes as a stinging ache forms in my head and I wish that everyone would just be quiet.

 

“If you can’t get a hold of your whiny girlfriend it is damn well my business. I’m trying to relax!” She answers Jamie and I’m biting my lip to not lose my mind. I feel Jamie next to me shaking with anger and he bows forward to get a better look at her. I suddenly remove my seatbelt in one motion and stand up to pass Jamie but he holds me back by my wrist. “Ye dinna go anywhere!” He says before turning back to the woman but I’m making now move to sit back down. “Ye dinna talk to her like that and if ye want to relax ye maybe should have chosen to buy a first class ticket!”

 

“Just fucking stop!” I scream and realise a few seconds later that the whole plane got quiet and all eyes are on me. It’s as if we’re floating in space for a few seconds until whispers are going through the cabin and Jamie pulls me softly back into my seat, his hands coming around me to close my seatbelt again. He doesn’t look at the woman anymore and I’m turning around to face her.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m trying.” Is all I’m saying until my head drops onto Jamie’s shoulder. “Please, make it stop.” I whisper. “Make it stop.” I repeat and do so a few times more. 

 

Hours can feel like days. It’s like you’re sitting in front of an hourglass watching every single corn fall. It’s like counting seconds while you’re waiting an hour to pass. It’s like this flight I’m on. 

 

The moment the pilot announces our landing I exhale a breath of relief and lift my head from Jamie’s shoulder. I know he was tense all those hours, I feel his stiff muscles beneath my temple. I know he didn’t get one minute of rest and it is all my fault. I’m watching Jamie standing up and I follow him, leaving the plane just behind him, my hand still in his when I feel a finger tapping on my shoulder and I’m turning to face the woman that was seated next to me.

 

“I’m sorry.” She says, her eyes flashing a sincerity that touches my heart and I’m smiling, my dry lips cracking. “Oh, here you go.” She hands me a tissue and I accept it thankfully. “I’ve been there, you know…” I look up to face her, trying to find out what exactly she’s trying to tell me. She switches her gaze from me to Jamie, then right back to me before she leans in to whisper something into my ear. “I mean you do look like a junkie.” She says and I’m staring at her.

 

How can someone just recklessly call someone like that? How can she just tell me she’s been there but then throw such a name at me? And then I realise when her gaze lingers a bit too long on Jamie and her lashes flutter like butterfly wings at him. She is just trying to keep up the conversation to get to know Jamie. I’m shaking my head and I’m walking to the cargo facility of our airline to pick up Rollo, Jamie following me just shortly after.

 

“Claire, what was that?!”

 

“She called me a junkie.” 

 

I hear him mumbling something inaudible and watch anger rise in the lines of his face. I’m turning to get Rollo and a sudden wave of relief washes over me and my racing heart is slowing its pace once my fingers dig into the thick fur of the animal. I’m kneeling down, forgetting my pain for a second when I turn around to look at Jamie but all I see is him walking off into the direction of the blonde woman and oh god. Nothing good can come from that.

 

I’m taking Rollo’s leash in my hands, following Jamie as quickly as I can due to my exhaustion still being the boss of me.

 

“Jamie!” I say as loud as my voice allows me to but he doesn’t turn around and once he stops in front of her, I stop in my motion, holding Rollo close as I watch the scene in front of me unfold.

 

It’s like Jamie sees black, he’s screaming, yet somehow his voice is breaking. It’s like he’s talking to her but he’s not, trapped in a scene that isn’t real and I’m slowly walking in his direction, the girl frightened and unable to move as Jamie continues to talk to her, switching from English to Gaelic, his accent as thick as ever.

 

“I’m sorry.” I say to the woman who now calls us crazy and runs off. 

 

I’m turning to cup Jamie’s face with my hands while I try to calm him down with the brushing of my thumbs against his skin. “Shh, Jamie… I’m here.” I say, his mumbling is still going on.

 

Nach leigeadh thu oilbheum dha mo bhràthair! Thig mi air do shon.” (Don't you dare offend my brother! I'll come for you.)

 

“Jamie it’s me, Claire!”

 

“Is e duine a th ’ann agus feumaidh tu urram a thoirt dha!” (He's a human being and you have to treat him with respect!)

 

“Jamie!” I say, grabbing him harder as I’m trying to make him look at me.

 

“Ye canna tell someone such things...Ye canna… Ye...Christ…” He breathes out, his eyes now lingering on me.

 

“What on earth?” I ask him, realising that the whole airport is staring at us. I’m grabbing Rollo and Jamie and walking past all of them, ignoring every single ache my body wants to throw in my way and once we’re outside I’m looking at Jamie who now takes in our surroundings.

 

Every line on his face looks frozen, his eyes slowly moving across a bench next to a bus stop and I realise he’s dwelling in memories. He’s moving on with another spot and just stands there without saying anything.

 

“How does it feel?” I ask eventually after letting him take in everything and his gaze now lingers on me.

 

“Strange.”

 

“Strange in a good way?” 

 

“I dinna ken.”

 

I take a deep breath before I cup his face with my hand. “It’s alright.”

 

“Ye say that so easy, Sassenach, but to be back here. I canna describe the way I feel.”

 

I watch him taking a seat on a bench, his head now turning downwards, his gaze lingering on the dirty ground. Rollo is sitting next to him, placing his snout on Jamie’s knee and I suddenly get a feeling of fear building up in my chest. But fear is soon replaced with craving and I tip my finger softly onto Jamie’s shoulder.

 

“Hmm?” He asks absently without lifting his gaze.

 

“I need…”

 

He still doesn’t lift his gaze and I continue.

 

“Jamie, I need it.” 

 

For a while I’m not sure that he heard what I said and I’m standing next to him as I’m fighting the tremors but before I can say another word he’ lifts his head, his eyes colder than ice and I don’t know if the shiver running down my spine is caused from withdrawal or Jamie’s gaze.

 

“Not now!” He answers harshly, his hands now in Rollo’s fur, his gaze back to the ground.

 

I tap my foot nervously onto the ground, trying to take deep breaths so as not to panic. “Please Jamie. You know where to get it here… It’s your home.” I say and he suddenly jumps to his feet in such a quick motion I almost fall backwards.

 

“Can ye shut yer mouth fer one second?!?! I ken ye need it! I fecking ken! I ken yer longing and cravin’ I fecking ken, Claire! But fer one second let me breathe! Let me process that I’m back home after all these years! I’ve been here wi’ my brother! Wi’ my parents! When the world was fine! I’ve been here when the world was not fine! I’ve been here a lot! But ye dinna understand and I ken that ye arena to blame but Christ, will ye shut up!”

 

I’m staring at him. The last time I heard his voice that cold was when he talked to Geillis.

 

“Why did you take me then?” I whisper as I watch him walk up and down.

 

“I dinna ken.”

 

He doesn’t know? So basically he got me drugs to beg me not to take them, to put me on a flight to tell me that he doesn’t know why he put me through this shit at all?!

 

“You don’t know?” I ask again to get confirmation of those words that hit me like a ton of bricks.

 

“Aye!”

 

“So you put me through all this shit when you could’ve just left me there? Just a side note Jamie, I would’ve been better if I stayed there!”

 

He walks up quickly into my face, his nose almost touching mine and both our faces are filled with rage. I forget everything around me.

 

“Ye would’ve died if you stayed there!”

 

“Maybe I could’ve done it by myself!” I say, almost screaming.

 

“Ye dinna believe it yerself!”

 

“You just took me so you don’t have another death to be blamed for!” I scream, not realising what I just said until I watch his face crumble. “Jamie…”

 

“Go.” He says, his voice so shaky I thought it would break on the spot.

 

“No.”

 

“Go!” He says louder and I’m taking a deep breath. 

 

“Jamie ple-”

 

“Just fucking go!” He screams now, his body shaking and I’m taking a few steps back. My gaze still lingers on him, begging for him to change his mind. Begging for him to ask me to stay. But he doesn’t. His face turns away from me, his hand resting on the bench he was sitting on just a bit ago just in case his knees give in and I’m turning around, putting one foot in front of the other while counting the steps in my head.

 

It’s just me. In another country. Alone. It is now I realise that I’ve never been truly alone. I always had John with me, it was always the two of us no matter where we went but now? Now I’m by myself and every step is taking me away from Jamie, away from Rollo, aways from the friend I thought I made. Away. 

 

Tears are rolling down my cheeks and once I turn around a corner I slide down the wall, emptying my stomach onto the street, getting rid of the anxiety, the sadness, the fear. But once I’m done retching all those emotions still linger inside of me and I walk further, not knowing where I’m going. Not knowing where my feet take me. All I hope is they lead me to a better place, a place to powder my nose so I can gain my strength back. A place where I can be myself again just like I was before I met Jamie MacTavish.

 

I’m walking until darkness washes over Edinburgh and I’m fumbling in the pocket of my jeans.

 

I’ve got fifty dollars.

 

I sigh as I pass a park, strangers strolling hand in hand through the dark and I find myself missing Jamie. But it’s too late. I’ve said things I can’t take back and he’s clearly bothered by the idea of being back here. I’m sitting down on a bench, everything hurting and once I’m aware of my pain it only gets worse. The craving, the ache, the sweating, the tremors. Everything. I’m looking around, my fifty dollars in my hands not even knowing if dollars would be accepted or not. I’m getting back on my feet, searching for the one thing I’m craving but I’m not successful. 

 

I retreat for the night, trying to find a motel that is allowing me to pay in dollars and once I do I lay on the bed, touching the empty space beside me and I cry. 

 

I cry for Jamie. I cry for the way I hurt him. I cry for the way he hurt me. I cry about the woman in the plane. I cry for John and my people. I cry for my past and my future. I cry about Rollo. I cry about life. I cry about death. I cry. And I cry. And I cry until tears no longer flow and exhaustion completely takes over. Until nightmares greet me like the sun in the morning.

 

Chapter Text

The debt I owe, gotta sell my soul

'Cause I can't say no, no, I can't say no

Then my limbs all froze and my eyes won't close

 

Morning comes around too fast and I’m counting the twenty five dollars in my hand slowly over and over again as if they could suddenly become more. But I know they won’t, so I’m deciding to try and get some more money from somewhere. Boston was always easy, you head into the city and eventually you scrape enough money together to buy yourself some lunch. But I don’t know how things work here, in Scotland. And I’m alone which makes this situation ten times scarier.

 

I’m heading down to the lobby when I watch a different man than I saw yesterday check out a couple that spent the night. I’m looking at the woman holding her boyfriends, or husbands, hand while smiling dreamily at him. They are talking about a hike in the Highlands but my gaze only lingers at their intertwined hands and I feel the burn of Jamie’s on mine. Until yesterday I thought my hand would continue to hold his through all of this. He told me he’d be here but he isn’t. The moment we arrived here, he wasn’t the man I met. He changed into someone I was yet to meet and I would’ve, but he didn’t leave me the chance.

 

I know, I said things I shouldn’t have. Using his parents' blame against him was a bad move and I hope he knows I’m sorry.

 

“Thank you, sir, have a good day!” The man says to the receptionist and his girlfriend or wife joins him and yells some farewell wishes towards the man as they walk out the door. My gaze follows them until they are out of my sight.

 

“Love. Must be beautiful to experience that.” The receptionist says and I’m jolting around as if I got caught doing something I shouldn’t have. I now recognise the man's dark brown eyes, his hair thin on his head, holding together with the faintest bit of hair gel. He’s wearing an expensive watch around his wrist that matches with his classy outfit. The dark glasses perfectly frame his gaze and he smiles softly at me. “How was your night Madam?” He asks in an English accent that almost made me feel less alone.

 

“Great, thank you!” I answer, holding up my key.

 

“I’m happy to hear that.” He says, looking around me as if he’s trying to find something and I eye him suspiciously.

 

“Can I help you?” I ask, putting the key on the desk and his eyes meet mine. The brown in his almost becomes lighter as he traces the lines of my face and I blush a little at the awkwardness. 

 

“I see no luggage, Madam, I was wondering if by any chance you might have left it in your room.”

 

“Oh no.” I say filled with embarrassment. “No luggage.” He nods and for a second I wonder if anything would change if I’d tell him I’m a homeless junkie looking for sanctuary. Would he throw me out in a heartbeat without even considering being generous? And then again, even if he’d throw me out, I’ve got nothing to lose. “I actually spent half my money on the night here. The other half will have to do for food and maybe some other things.” I scratch nervously on the skin of my hand as he's watching me intensely.

 

“I was actually about to head out, asking for some money so I could afford another night here, see, I’ve nowhere to go and I’m actually going through some stuff right now.” I say and as anxiety rises I feel my body shake and my brain begging for some release from the demon that’s haunting it. The man in front of me just looks at me and suddenly nods slowly.

 

“I see.” Is everything he says and I’m glad that at least he didn’t start to scream or kick me out and as I’m turning around I hear him coming around the front desk, holding out the key I just gave him. “Stay.” He says and my eyes grow wide and I’m shaking my head as if that one word was just made up in my imagination. 

 

“What?” I ask, hoping I heard right.

 

“Stay. For as long as you like.” 

 

I’m taking the key in my hands feeling as if someone has just offered me the key to my new home and I have to shake the tears away that linger in the corner of my eyes.

 

“Thank you Mr…” I’m searching enthusiastically for a name tag but can’t seem to find one.

 

“Randall. Frank Randall.”

 

“My name’s Claire! Thank you so much Mr. Randall. I’m very grateful and I promise once I get to my feet I’ll pay back the time I-”

 

“Nonsense. And call me Frank.”

 

I’m nodding, smiling thankfully at him before I head back to the room. I’m letting myself fall back onto the bed and I’m staring at the ceiling wondering what Jamie might be doing. Are he and Rollo okay? Maybe if I can find them they could stay here with me and we could figure something out. I’m sitting up on the bed when his words hit me again.

 

Go. Go. Just fucking go.

 

It wasn’t once he asked or twice, no, he asked three times and that means something. If he didn’t really mean it he’d hesitated. He would’ve called me back to him. He would’ve asked Rollo to run after me but he didn’t. He let me go and maybe it’s time for me to let him do the same. He can find me but I for sure won’t risk to see his cold face again, because the icicles he threw with his gazes seared right through the skin of my chest and I can still feel the tip of them puncturing my heart.

 

I remember the breakfast I wanted to eat in the first place and head outside, walking down the wooden steps that would lead me through the lobby when I hear the voice of Frank Randall behind me.

 

“Anything I can help you with?” He asks and I do wonder if he’s that nice to all of his guests. 

 

“I’m just heading out for some breakfast.” I say, licking my lips nervously as the hunger for food isn’t the only thing on my mind.

 

“I see.” He says and I wonder if he’s going to say more than that. “I can get you free breakfast in your room if you’d like?” He asks me and I’m smiling.

 

“I’d love to...” I answer and I’m thinking about how to ask him best for where I could find drugs that could help me end this shit show of withdrawal I’m going through. But I don’t know how, so I decide to close my eyes for a second and ignore my aching muscles before I look at him and repeat my words, now sounding a bit more final. “I’d love to.”

 

Frank nods and disappears through a door, leaving me to go back into my room when I watch a group of people act suspiciously across the street. Their gazes lingering around, making sure that no one can see their little bags they hand out to each other. I’m looking over my shoulder, knowing Frank might take a while before heading to my room and I’m walking to the people, letting them know I’m one of them.

 

“No, don’t go, please!” I say and they look me up and down. “I need your help. I beg you.” I say, almost crying as my goal is so close in front of me. 

 

“Do ye have cash?” One of the boys asks and the accent alone sends shivers down my spine, making me miss Jamie even more and I hand him the twenty five dollars I have left. 

 

“I’m sorry I just came from America, I don’t have anything else, yet.” I say apologetically and the group of people suddenly starts to laugh.

 

“I thought ye were one o’ us!” A girl says, lighting the cigarette that is pressed between her swollen lips. 

 

“Please!” I say, knowing my story is way too long to be told on the spot. “I’m going through withdrawal and I seriously need something to make it stop. I’m in so much pain!” My voice is almost breaking and I watch them all glare at me as my hand is brushing through my hair. “Please, just something!”

 

“How long are ye in withdrawal?” A soft voice asks and I answer as I rub my arms. “How much did ye use?”

 

“Daily. Low doses really… but it helped me sleep. It helped me with my nightmares until it helped me walk through the day.”

 

The girl who asks me those questions steps closer to me. “Yere almost through the worst part.” She says and I sigh in frustration. Does no one on this planet want to help me? “Ye can do it.” She says, looking at me reassuringly yet all I want to do is cry.

 

“Claire?” A voice calls and I’m turning around to see Frank waiting with my breakfast. I turn my head back to the group who now turns around to head away. 

 

“Hey!” I call the girl and run towards her. I press ten dollars into her hands. “Buy some food.” Is all I’m saying and she nods with a thankful smile before she turns around to join her group again. I watch them walk and remember the days with John, the days I thought the street was my home. I’m turning around to join Frank and see that he made breakfast for two.

 

“I hope you don’t mind if I join?” He asks and I’m softly shaking my head as we head to my room. Who am I to deny him? Sure, it’s strange he wants to have breakfast with me in my room when he barely knows my name but he offers me a roof above my head and fresh food so I can’t say no. I have to say yes, yes to everything Frank Randall wants or offers because one no could bring me back to where I was and that would mean the ending of me.




Jamie’s POV



I ken I shouldna have yelled at Claire the way I did, but when she told me I’d only have taken her here so I wouldna have another death I could be blamed for I saw red. Not black or white, red. I needed to be alone. Alone wi’ my thoughts. But now I dinna want to be alone any longer and I for sure dinna want Claire to be alone either.

 

I’ve given Rollo a shirt o’ her to smell on in case he can track her and I can finally find her and apologise. I didna even realise when she left, it was as if I had been transferred back into the old days when I’d been at the airport wi’ my family and Christ, I had taken it all out on the lass. 

 

I’m walking as I’m watching the moon high above the sky, Rollo sniffing around as heavy raindrops fall to the ground and I know her smell would be washed away wi’ the rain. I’m sitting on a park bench, thinking of how cold she might be right now, thinking about how I should be wi’ her to protect her, hold her in my arms helpin’ her through the shivering and the pain. But my idiocy has taken her away from me and now I dinna ken when I’d see her again. 

 

I let the rain wash over me as I’m lying down on the bench, not carin’ about how soaked I get and eventually sleep takes over and I awake when the sunny mornin’ greets me.

 

I’m continuing my search immediately, until another day passes and I couldna find her again. I’m spendin’ another few weeks like that, trying to find her, trying to use Rollo to find her but without any success. After the sixth month without finding her, I decided it’s time to face my demons and head to Inverness so I could finally face my past. I dinna ken where Claire is and I pray to God every night that she’s safe and well. I pray to God that she’s happy, that she’s clean and that she’s forgiving me eventually. I pray to God that our paths may cross again in the future. I pray to God because I dinna ken how to live wi’ half a heart.

 

I’m walking and walking, takin’ breaks, gettin’ some money from strangers until I make it to Inverness. The past catching up wi’ me in ways I canna explain. Somehow it’s like I never left when at the same time it feels like a lifetime that I had been away. I stroll through the streets, the path still in front o’ me and my legs almost take me to Lallybroch by myself and once I’m standin’ on the pathway, surrounded by nothin’ but woods I’m standing still.

 

I hear voices as clear as the blue sky and I ken them immediately. My mother’s voice is so sharp it could slice through yer heart wi’ one word. And my father’s voice is so calm and kind it could soothe any bairn to sleep. I dinna ken what to do but before I know it, Rollo strolls off and I hear surprised voices, askin’ where he’s comin’ from and to who he belongs. I’m cursin’ the animal in my mind as he hasna given’ me any more time to prepare myself and then I’m walking further until I’m standing under the stone arch of the home I grew up in.

 

I dinna want to look around. Dinna want to remember where the ambulance stood when I held my brother. I dinna want to see where my parents blamed me and I dinna want to see where I played hide and seek wi’ my siblings. But I see it without looking. I see every bit of my past playin’ in my mind and I’m longing for Claire’s soothing hand in mine. I’m longing for her presence next to me, her voice telling me that it will be okay. I’m longing for her and when my parents gaze hits me I press a hand to the cold stone because Christ, I almost couldna hold myself up.

 

“Jamie?” My mother asks softly and walks closer to look at me, followed by my father and I almost canna see them as tears blur my vision and I look down.

 

“Is it you son?” My father asks, his voice almost breaking and the tears roll down my cheeks.

 

“Listen.” I start with a broken voice, my sobs taking over my body and I feel like a wee bairn that needs to be cradled. “I ken it is my fault, and I ken ye blame me. But I’m sorry.” I cry, my body shakin’ with every word I’m saying. “I’m sorry, I dinna want him to go. I dinna want him to be dead. I miss him every breathin’ second. I miss him so much it hurts. And I ken it is my fault.” I keep repeatin’ myself because never in my life did I think I’d tell my parents I’m sorry. I dinna even think I’d see them again.

 

“Jamie…” My mother says, her voice nothin’ more than a whisper and I look at her, my body still shakin’ from the cries that want to be freed from my chest.

 

They dinna say more but I feel their arms comin’ around me and when they press me onto their chest I completely lose it. All these years I’ve spent alone, tryin’ to find a way to cope wi’ my family hatin’ me and now I’ve come back here and they welcome me wi’ their embrace?

 

I dinna ken how to feel about that.



Claire’s POV



My life has changed in the last few months and I’m standing in front of the mirror of my bedroom Frank has set up in his house for me, wearing the new dress he just bought for me. My hair straightened and pinned to one side. Frank doesn’t like my curls and who am I to deny him his wish of straight hair? 

 

My motto has been, do not say no to Frank Randall. And it’s brought me here. A room to myself, fresh clothes, a daily shower and warm meals. Yet something is missing. Something is always missing. 

 

“Claire? Are you ready?” Frank asks, closing his watch around his wrist as he stands in my doorframe, glaring at me hungrily.

 

“Yes.” I say because I can’t say no and Frank walks to me, his hand reaching out to one curl that fell loose.

 

“Oh my, I think you might need to straighten this little devil.” He says, brushing it behind my ear. “Or that will do.” His smile doesn’t reach his eyes and he takes my hands in his. “Let’s go then.” He says and I follow him to his car as he’s driving us to one of the fanciest restaurants of Edinburgh.

 

I don’t like the food there, nor do I like to dress up every single day and put on makeup. That isn’t who I am but that’s who Frank wants me to be and I should be thankful for him. Without him I wouldn’t be here. Without him I’d be lonely in the streets of Edinburgh fighting for food and warmth and drugs. Honestly, I still think about the drugs but hey, addiction is a constant battle and I’m fighting it. I somehow owe it to Jamie. Jamie . I wonder where he is.

 

I’m looking outside the window when I feel Frank’s hand grazing my thigh and my muscles tense. I’m trying to breathe calmly, ignoring my shortness of breath as his fingers wander up my dress. One wrong move and this bubble I’m living in is gone and I’m all alone again. And I can’t make it alone so I’m turning my face to smile at him.

 

“Do you like it?” He says, switching his gaze from me onto the street.

 

“Yes.” I say, because I can’t say no to Frank Randall.








Chapter Text

I hope that you see right through my walls

I hope that you catch me, 'cause I'm already falling

I'll never let a love get so close

You put your arms around me and I'm home



I’m standing in front of the bedroom mirror, looking at myself from head to toe without barely recognising a single thing about me. My hair. Flat, broken from the daily use from my hair straightener and styling products. Frank doesn’t like my curly hair, he says it compares to a bird nest rather than the hair of a classy woman. My face. Covered in make-up, my lips painted red and it’s not even a pretty red, it’s one of those cheap ones that hurt your eyes when you look too long at it. My lashes curl up beautifully thanks to the use of fake ones. Frank says my natural one’s are too short, the fake one’s make my eyes look like creamy coffee. To be honest, I think he got the colour wrong.

 

I sigh as I continue to look down at myself. My body. I love my boobs and my ass though but the rest of me is just so thin I’m craving chocolate cake or a nice sugar coated doughnut with a Caramel Macchiato to wash it down. But Frank says I shouldn’t, otherwise my dresses wouldn’t fit anymore and I would rather not have him spend more money on new clothes.

 

I close the zipper as I reflect on the last five years I’ve been living with Frank. It all started out with him taking me out, touching me in ways I didn’t like but allowed him to. It went to him kissing me, sneaking into my bed at night when he heard me scream, I didn’t like it but I allowed him to. It then went to him telling me he loves me and he wants me to be with him. I didn’t like it but I allowed him to say it and I said it back because I had nothing and no one else. I still don’t. It then went to him taking my body for himself, and the walls around me turned pink again, my old room back in my mind as clear as day even though I gave him my consent. Even though I allowed him to. The walls turned pink and stayed that way. 

 

I put on the large earrings as I continue to reflect on those years. Eventually, it went to him using my body as a punching bag whenever he felt the need to. When he quit his job and I was there for him, helping him build up his liquor store, he was scared but I was there to ease that fear lingering in him. I was always there,or rather, my body was. When his business failed and he seemed to never make it, he got angry but he made it up to me by buying me that foundation that covers the flaws on my face so well, or dare I say, bruises. And once his business became successful he was happy again, introducing me as his pride and all I had to do was smile and pretend that the last five years have been the best ones of my life.

 

I’m brushing my fingers through my hair, making sure every single curl is flat. My fingers linger on my cheekbone, knowingly brushing over the hidden bruise that lingers there. I bite my lip, cursing when lipstick got on my teeth and I make a mental note to buy a better brand. I’m walking out the bedroom, watching Frank redecorating the table and I walk into the kitchen to check on the Lasagna baking in the oven.

 

“You look beautiful, Darling.” He mentions, his eyes focusing on my face and I smile, thanking him for complimenting me on covering up his mistakes so well. Frank Randall makes no compliments to people unless he’s profiting from them. But being with him is better than living on the street, dying and once again my thoughts go to a certain friend with red hair, wondering how he’s been doing. Wondering if Rollo is still around. Wondering. Wondering. Wondering.

 

“Thank you.” I answer Frank to rip myself out of my own thoughts. “The table looks great.” I mention and I see a nervous smile covering his face.

 

“I hope Mr. Fraser will do business with me. He’s well known with his whisky brand and closing a deal with him certainly would increase the numbers.” He mentions, wrapping his arms around my waist. “And I could even buy you more things.” His eyes fall onto my ring finger and I know very well what he means by that and I thank the oven for beeping. I walk away from him, removing the Lasagna and placing it on the table the second the doorbell rings.

 

“Brave face, Darling.” Frank mentions before walking to the door and I curl up my lips, rip open my eyes feeling the glue from the lashes on my skin as I straighten my dress with my hands.

 

First of all, you can forget someone’s voice. Hell, it’s the first thing you forget about someone, but once you hear the exact same sound again, your brain fills you with the memories of the person the voice belongs to. And when I’m hearing Mr. Fraser or shall I say Mr. MacTavish greeting Frank Randall my stomach clenches and I feel bile rising up my throat. Brave face, Darling. Is all I hear and I’m swallowing the insides of my stomach, curling up my lips again and holding myself on the backrest of the chair, calming my breathing.

 

I hear the voices grow louder, the footsteps echoing through the hallway and I feel like the seconds turn into hours, my gaze focused on the archway that would soon make me see him again.

 

I see Frank, his head turned towards Jamie, talking about some liquor stuff I don’t care about and then I see him . His red hair as fiery as ever, he cut it, but I can still see the curls almost growing back. His face as beautiful as always, the stubbles on his chin longing for the touch of my fingers. His lips move as he’s telling something to Frank, and then his lashes move up and his blue eyes hit me like a wave hits the shore. I’m standing steady in front of him, my eyes holding his as my lips are still forming a smile. I watch him standing still and I can swear I see a thousand things in his gaze.

 

Regret. Hurt. Pain. Joy. Happiness. Relief. And tears.

 

Lots of tears that are waiting to be spilled but he’s forcing them back down his throat, swallowing the salty tears and he smiles.

 

“This is my girlfriend, Claire Beauchamp. Claire, this is James Fraser.”

 

I watch Jamie’s lips move but all that comes out is a breath of air and I’m stepping forward, reaching out my hand to him. “It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Fraser .” I say, hoping he’d understand to not tell that we’ve met before. It’s not that I’m ashamed of him or my past, Frank knows all about it. Hell, he did quite the research to get me the best therapists that would help me get clean for a second time. I haven’t touched coke in all those years, but substances always seemed to pull me towards them, so this time I went for pills.

 

But here I am. Clean for naught but six months. 

 

“It’s verra nice to meet ye too, Ms. Beauchamp.” He greets me back, his eyes still telling so much more than his voice can say. 

 

“Let’s have a seat. Claire made her famous Lasagna and to be honest I think we all would love to talk business with a full stomach, won’t we?” Frank says and I wait until the both of them sit so I can fill their plates. Jamie eyes me with a confused gaze but I only put a piece of the meal on his plate and do the same for Frank. I take a piece myself when Frank looks at my plate. “Darling.” He only says and I take a knife to cut a part of my Lasagna away. I watch Frank’s pleased face as I put the cut off part of my meal into his plate.

 

I don’t dare to look at Jamie because I’m embarrassed as hell and I feel his burning gaze on me as we eat. My eyes linger on my meal, careful to not eat too fast or too slow because Frank would call me a pig if I'd finished first and otherwise he’d call me a slow eater if I’d finish last. So I make sure to finish after Frank and before Jamie.

 

They discuss business as I remove the plates from the table and head to do the dishes. I’m thankful to not own a dishwasher as this buys me some time to process everything that’s been happening. I’m losing a tear. I brush away with my wet hand and curse myself as soap comes into my eyes.

 

“Fuck!” I exclaim, rubbing my eye with a towel and I hear footsteps coming into the kitchen.

 

“Darling are you alright?” Frank asks and I look up at Jamie, one eye covered with the towel and once I remove it I see their faces go blank. Well, Frank’s gaze goes blank, Jamie’s is frozen. 

 

“Ms. Beauchamp, what’s that on yer face? Are ye hurt?” He asks me and I now realise that my makeup has rubbed off and is lingering on the towel in my hands.

 

“Oh no, I just fell. I’m so sorry.” I say, walking by both men to head upstairs into the bathroom. I hate myself for being so stupid. For forgetting myself. For being so dumb as to wash my face, knowing very well what hides beneath that foundation. I’m losing tears of frustration and I bury my face into my hands. I feel my chest shaking with the onslaught of emotions and press my hands to my mouth to stifle the sobs. I sink my teeth into my fingers, making sure no one hears a single thing from me anymore.

 

Once I calmed down, I freshen myself up, the bruise once again gone and I head back downstairs, the men in deep conversation as Frank tries a glass of Jamie’s whisky.

 

“I apologise for running away.” I say, Jamie’s gaze lingering on me again and I know he sees that I cried. He’s seen me in my worst state, he’s seen me hallucinating, he’s seen me how I look when the walls around me go from green to pink. He’s seen me

 

“Don’t apologise at all, Ms. Beauchamp.”

 

“Call me Claire, please.” I say, watching Frank raising his eyebrows towards me.

 

“You don’t have to be so polite, James. It’s rude to run from guests in the middle of a dinner.”

 

“She needed time for herself, sir and it’s Mr. Fraser to ye.” Jamie says coldly and I feel my knees go weak. I’m leaning onto the wall next to me to keep myself steady when I watch Frank’s eyes go dark and cold and I know what awaits me. If Jamie doesn’t take this deal, if he goes away from here declining Frank, Frank will decline me in ways Jamie can’t even imagine.

 

“No, Frank’s right. Please forgive me.” I say and Jamie nods.

 

“Forgiven.” He says. “But I have to apologise too.” He starts and I suddenly get the feeling he’s talking about something else than the situation we’re in. “I’ve clearly overstepped by askin’ ye if ye’re hurt. Will ye forgive me too?” Jamie asks and I see him glaring at me. The waves in his eyes hypnotize me in the way they always did and I nod. “Forgiven.” I say, knowing exactly what he referred to.

 

“Can we continue, Mr. Fraser? Claire darling, can you leave us alone? It’s best if you retire to bed, you look tired.”

 

I’m only nodding.

 

“Goodnight, Mr. Fraser.” I say before looking at Frank. “Good night, Darling.” And when I turn around I hear Jamie’s voice. Goodnight, Claire.  

 

Claire. The way I missed him saying my name. The way the r rolls so beautifully, waking the butterflies in my stomach. I change my clothes, wipe off my makeup and freshen myself up to head to bed. I hear the men downstairs continuing to talk but all I hear is Jamie. I hear his accent, his laugh, his low voice and then I hear Frank popping a bottle of champagne, celebrating making business with Jamie and I exhale the breath I’m holding. It seems as if I can sleep peacefully, with the voice of Jamie saying my name all over again.

 

When I wake up, Frank’s side of the bed is empty and I’m standing up to get ready for the day. I have decided on a casual outfit, blue jeans and a shirt will have to do today. My curls are damp from the shower and I figured it’s best to leave them bouncing on my shoulders. I don’t have the time nor the need to straighten them today. When I come downstairs I watch Frank eating breakfast while reading the newspaper. His lips on the coffee mug, slurping loudly while a croissant lays in front of him ready to be eaten.

 

“Good morning.” I say, the tension in the air is clearly noticeable. “I’m so sorry I’ve overslept.” I say, walking towards him and when my hands touch his upper arm, his hand lands on my face, hitting the bruise that was about to heal. 

 

“Who do you think you are, Claire?” He asks coldly, his face far away from regret and I look at him, not knowing what to answer to that. “Answer me!”

 

“I- I don’t know what to say.”

 

“Do you think I’m dumb?” He asks, putting his newspaper on the table. He pushes his chair away and stands in front of me, taking my face harshly into his hand to force me to look at him. “Do you know him?”

 

And now I realise what he means. He knows. I don’t know how but he knows. My lips part to say something but I only exhale a shaky breath, his hand pressing firmer, the tips of his fingers digging into my jaw.

 

“You’re hurting me, Frank!” I spit out, trying to get away from his grips. “You’ll leave marks!” I say louder and I feel his grip easen. 

 

“You didn’t answer me.”

 

“Please, I don’t know him.” I say again, knowing what would happen if I suddenly would admit it. 

 

He lets me go, sitting back onto his chair, taking another sip from his coffee before he grimaces. “For God's sake, make me a new coffee, will you?” And I take his mug, pretending this never happened and I head to the kitchen to make him a new coffee. Silent tears roll down my face and I wipe them away, curling up my well practiced lips and head back to give him his coffee. “You look terrible, please freshen yourself up, Mr. Fraser is on his way here to sign the contract.”

 

“Oh you made the deal?” I ask innocently, not letting him know that I’ve heard about it last night.

 

“Yes. But you didn’t make it easy. Now get ready!” He commands and I follow his orders.

 

I know what he means by get ready . Get your hair straight. Put your makeup on. Wear some uncomfortable clothes.

 

I should be upset at this moment, Frank commanding me what to do after he just did what he did but all I can think about is Jamie coming back. I’ll see him again, standing in this house right in front of me and I for once don’t mind getting dressed nicely. Maybe he likes it too, just like Frank. Women with painted faces, expensive perfume, tight dresses and straight hair. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want me back then? Maybe I wasn’t sexy enough. Men like sexy. Maybe men are like that. Maybe.

 

I’m putting on a short summer dress despite the cold day and I put my hair into a ponytail after I straightened it. I take out the heels that make me almost taller than Frank and smile after my face resembles one of a porcelain doll. I decide to put some bracelets on and walk downstairs where I already see Jamie standing in the door.

 

His eyes scan me from head to toe and I feel a sudden warmth in my heart. A sudden anxiety that makes my stomach clench and a weakness in my knees that make me curse the heels I’m wearing as it’s making it hard to walk down those stairs.

 

“Mr. Fraser, what a nice surprise.” I act and I see Jamie’s gaze lingering a little too long on my legs. I’m walking to Frank as he is about to turn his face to Jamie and press my lips to his cheek. If he catches Jamie staring, I would have a problem. I would be blamed for being dressed too sexy. And we wouldn’t want that.

 

“Good morning, Claire, I hope ye could rest well last night?”

 

“Oh yes, thank you.” I say and suddenly Frank’s phone rings in his pocket. He picks it up and his gaze freezes immediately.

 

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Fraser, someone just reported an intruder in my store!” He says panicky and I stare at him.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Jamie says while Frank already grabs his jacket. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

“No, but please stay put, Claire will prepare something to eat for you! But give me a bit.”

 

Frank begs and Jamie nods and before we can take another breath we are standing alone with nothing but silence around us and when I look at Jamie, tears swim in my eyes and I can see them in his too.

 

“Christ, Sassenach.” He whispers as his voice is breaking and I’m throwing away the heels to close the distance between us and jump right into his arms. I brush my hands through his hair as I bury my face in his neck. I feel his arms coming around me, pressing me close to him while my legs wrap around him. I don’t know how long we stand there like this but I don’t care because for the first time in five years I feel like I’m home.

Chapter Text

When the waves

Are flooding the shore and I can't

Find my way home anymore

That's when I look at you

 

It’s strange to realise how unhappy you really are with your life. How a sudden appearance of someone close to your heart reminds you how wrong your life is. I’m still in Jamie’s arms, my legs around him as my nose is buried into his neck. I don’t know for how long we’ve been standing here like this and I hope I won’t get too heavy for him. I feel his hand rubbing circles over my back and I remove my face from its position to look into his eyes. He slowly puts me back down on my feet and we both wipe our tears from our faces. It’s still surreal, seeing him here and a sudden wave of questions hit me.

 

“God.” I breathe out, not being able to form a complete sentence.

 

“I think he’s heard my prayers.” Jamie says, sniffling from the aftermath of his emotions and I look at him with a quizzical look. “God, Sassenach, I prayed to see ye again. To ken where ye are and now yer standin’ in front o’ me after so many years.” He adds and my gaze softens. I can’t hold grudges, I know he’s regretting what happened. But also, this happened five years ago and it isn’t just his fault we split, it’s also mine. 

 

“So, Fraser it is?” I say, not knowing with which question to begin with. I’m walking towards the kitchen, hearing him following me and I press the button of the coffee machine to make him some breakfast.

 

“Aye, I wanted to tell ye but…”

 

“Jamie, it’s okay.” I say, handing him the steamy mug. “So, tell me all about this business of yours.” I’m putting a croissant on a plate and handing it to him, watching him bite heartily into the buttery pastry before washing it down with some coffee.

 

“It was my fathers, he passed away two years ago.” He tells me and I’m putting my hand on his, my thumb brushing over his knuckles.

 

“I’m so sorry.” I say, meaning it and I watch him suddenly halt in his motion and he eyes my face, then my arms before holding my gaze with his again.

 

“What about ye?” His voice is thick when he asks me and I know exactly what he means, the encounter of last night as clear as day in my mind and my hand immediately brushes over my cheek where beneath the makeup lingers a blue spot that does not come from a fall.

 

“Well, after I left you I went to a Motel and Frank was working there. He’s changed his business and tries to build up his liquor store. It’s been a journey.” I smile nervously and I watch him shaking his head.

 

“No, Claire I asked about you , not Frank.” He takes my hands in his when I suddenly feel his hand brushing over my face, his thumb lingering above the spot of my bruise and when he touches it I flinch, my eyes immediately filling with tears from the stinging ache.

 

“Jamie…”

 

“I need ye to say it, Claire.” He says, his voice cold yet warm at the same time. I can’t look into his eyes but I know he tries to hold my gaze and then I break out in tears, Jamie’s arms immediately coming around me before he presses me onto his chest. “Please, Claire, I need to hear it from ye.” He says again, his fingers in my ponytail and I suddenly feel ashamed for hiding my curls. 

 

Jamie always made me feel like he loves them, he always traced them with such grace it made me feel special, it made me feel like I’m the only woman on this planet having hair like that. It made me feel beautiful.

 

“What do you want me to say?” I suddenly say, sitting back up while rubbing my eyes dry. I can’t have Frank coming back, seeing that I’ve cried in front of his newfound business partner. I redo my ponytail as Jamie looks at me, shaking his head softly.

 

“Ye ken.” 

 

“Jamie…”

 

“No, Claire. Ye have to tell me because I canna bear to ask ye such things. I canna bear the mere thought o’ it. Ever since I left yesterday it’s all I’ve been thinking about but I need to hear it from ye because…”

 

“Because what?” I ask, dropping my hands from my hair into my lap, my eyes finding Jamie’s and I see the little waves in them hitting the shore, ready to break out into a storm any second.

 

“I’m fine.” I say and I don’t really know why but mostly because I’m full of shame, or maybe because I just don’t want to admit that I’ve been living my life like this. Maybe just maybe I feel a little like a coward for staying, for letting these things happen to me, maybe I’m blaming myself and maybe I think I deserve being treated like this. 

 

“Claire…”

 

“Please, let’s just wait for Frank to return so you both can get that business deal signed and we’re back to living the life we had.”

 

“You canna be serious?” He says and I’m standing up from my chair, walking up and down and I feel him walking towards me, his hands reaching out to hold my upper arms and I’m taking a few steps backwards.

 

“I am.”

 

“He is hitting ye, Sassenach!” Jamie says and in that moment I’m turning to my left, seeing Frank standing in the hallway, looking at me as if I’ve just committed a crime.

 

“Has she told you lies, Mr. Fraser?” He asks calmly, coming up next to me and he grabs my arm firmly, leaving bruises on my arm with his fingertips. I’m flinching but I’m quiet, not letting anyone know how much pain he’s causing me.

 

“Mr. Randall, it's best yer lettin’ her go.” Jamie says and I’m shaking my head but it’s too late. Frank is walking towards Jamie, their noses almost touching and I’m standing next to them, watching the scene unfold.

 

“Now you are telling me exactly how you know my girlfriend.”

 

“I dinna owe ye anything, sir.” Jamie says and I can feel my heart hammering against my chest, trying to escape through my skin and I tap my foot nervously onto the carpet floor.

 

“Oh you do, because I just heard you assume that I’m hitting her.” Frank says, his voice as sharp as a sword and as cold as winter and I take a few steps towards them, touching Frank’s upper arm to calm him down.

 

“I dinna assume it, I ken it.” Jamie says. “And ye make her cut off a piece of her food so I assume it is yer doin’ that she dresses up the way she does.”

 

I’m looking at Jamie, my teeth sinking nervously into my lower lip as anxiety controls my body and I grip Frank's arm firmly, trying to make him step away from Jamie.

 

“Darling I think it’s best if-”

 

“Oh shut your mouth, Claire! You will not get around this!” Frank screams, looking at me. “If he doesn’t tell me, you will! Do you understand me?” I’m nodding before he finishes, my whole body shaking with fear and I see Jamie stepping closer to us but I warn him with my gaze because the anger in his eyes is noticeable and I wouldn’t want this to end in a fight because it could ruin Jamie’s business.

 

“I met Jamie in Boston, when I was homeless.” I start and tell him everything. I finish at the moment I left him at the airport and Frank sits down at the table, finishing Jamie’s croissant before he nods.

 

“Wonderful tale. But now I wonder, why couldn't you tell me that right from the start?” He asks and I feel my face turn red. “Did you two fuck?” Frank says and at that word my body jolts up and my eyes close. How embarrassing and painful is this? I feel like a teenage girl that got caught with her first boyfriend and I’m shaking my head.

 

“No we did not.”

 

“But you wanted to?” Frank says, standing up. He’s walking towards me, scanning every line on my face and I’m shaking my head again.

 

“No.”

 

He then looks at Jamie. “What about you, Jamie ? You never wanted to take a bite of her? I mean she’s not perfect but she’s got boobs and ass and something to sink your cock in.”

 

“Dinna speak o’ her like that!” Jamie roars, and I can see his body shaking with anger. The lines in his face are twitching and I can see his legs fighting his brains orders to close the distance between him and Frank. 

 

“Hear Hear.” Frank sings and grins triumphantly. “So he did want to fuck you, Claire.” I’m shaking my head, my gaze lingering on Jamie who just angrily stares at Frank.

 

“No sir, I didna want to and will ye now stop talkin’ about her that way!” He says it as if it's a question but I know it isn’t, it’s an order and I see Frank still grinning.

 

“You’re an object to men, Claire, and for you to think about men being able to be friends with you is just dumb and naive.” He starts, taking my face into his hands, his thumb brushing over my lips before he continues. “Jamie cares about this .” Frank starts, standing a little to the side to give Jamie the perfect view and I feel Frank’s fingertips grazing the skin of my neck before he squeezes my boob and I hear Jamie’s angry breathing. “And this .” He continues, his hand now firmly on my ass, squeezing hard and before I know it he comes between my legs, grabbing me firmly and I’m jolting away in shame.

 

“Is it true? Did you want me, Jamie?” I ask him, my gaze lingering on him.

 

“Not the way he told ye, Sassenach.” Jamie says and I’m switching my gaze from Frank to Jamie, walking backwards until I feel a wall behind me. Not the way he told me.  

 

“Then how?”

 

“He loves you.” Frank says, coming up beside me and I stare at Jamie who’s eyes linger on me and I can see the confirmation in them. This is all so much for me to take in and when I feel Frank’s lips on my neck I know what he’s doing. He wants to provoke Jamie in ways that make him attack him. He wants Jamie to freak out and blow fists. He wants to frame him because Frank will find a way to use Jamie’s past against him.

 

“Jamie, go.” I say, but I see him walk closer and I’m shaking my head, Frank’s grin as disgusting as always and I’m trying to push him away from me. “Jamie please, he will destroy you!” I repeat but before I know it, Jamie rips Frank away from me, pressing him against the wall, his arm digging into Frank’s throat while his breath is echoing through the room

 

“Come on, hit me Fraser! Hit me, and I’ll destroy you.”

 

“Destroy me? Ye have no idea and even if ye would, I dinna care.” Is all Jamie says before his fist hits Frank’s jaw, then his eyes and then his jaw again and I watch, emotions coursing through my body and I don’t know what to do. I’m standing there as Frank sinks to the floor and Jamie stands in front of him with bloody knuckles, his chest heaving up and down. I’m walking to him, lacing my fingers through his when he turns his gaze towards me.

 

“We have to go, Claire.”

 

I know he’s right. I know if I stay here, I might as well end up dead so I’m nodding. I’m walking upstairs, Jamie behind me and I’m packing as much things as I can, hoping Frank won't wake up soon even though I know he won’t as Jamie’s fist cared for that.

 

Jamie takes my bag, and takes my hand before we’re running to his car and I sit down in the passenger seat. He turns his key and I hear the motor roar and I watch the prison I was in fade away from behind me and I cry.

 

“Sassenach.” Jamie says, his hand taking mine as he keeps focusing on the street. “Are ye alright?” I’m nodding. 

 

“Yes, I’m just glad you’re here.” Is all I say and I let him drive me away. After we’ve been driving for a bit I break the silence and look at Jamie, whose looks ahead of him on the road.

 

“I’m sorry.” I whisper. “I’m so sorry.” I repeat. “So so sorry.” I sob and Jamie pulls his car to the side and slides back with his seat to make space for me. I sit on his lap, my face lingering on his chest as he cradles me, his fingers in my hair while I’m crying.

 

“For what are ye sorry, Claire? There isna anything for ye to be sorry for.”

 

“I shouldn’t have let him touch me the way he did.” I cry and for once in my life I truly open up to him. “It started with touching and I just needed a roof above my head, I needed something to hold on to so I wouldn’t just go back to drugs. Frank gave me that. Then he started to tell me I’m fat, I can’t eat this or that, then he hated my curls, then he bought me makeup and then he used my body for pleasure.”

 

“Stop.” Jamie says coldly before I continue, his lips on the crown of my head while his fingers still brush through my ponytail. “Stop right there or I’ll turn around and kill him.”

 

I bury my face in his neck and we sit here for a while like that until he softly presses me away from him, looking down on me. “I have an idea, Sassenach, do ye trust me?” I nod and he asks me to sit back in my seat and get my seatbelt on and once I do, he’s driving.

 

I’m looking outside the window, trying to figure out where he’s taking me when he stops in a parking lot and I read the plate Cramond Beach .

 

“A beach?”

 

“No, Sassenach, an island.” He says and points his chin towards a long path that leads to an island and I look at him. “I thought ye might like to scream out the anger inside o’ ye. I always did that wi’ Robert. When we were wee bairns we’d ask our parents to drive us to the beach so we could scream into nothing.”

 

It’s a small gesture but warms my heart like nothing ever did and I wrap my arms around his neck. “Thank you.” I whisper, pressing him softly onto me before we head out and walk along the path.

 

We’re walking side by side and my gaze lingers on the waves hitting the side of the path we’re on and before I know it we’re standing on the island. Jamie sits down on a spot and I know he’s been here before.

 

I’m walking closer to the shore, my gaze lingering on the grey sky in front of me when I close my eyes. “I hate Frank Randall!” I scream from the top of my lungs. “I hate that he used me like a piece of shit! I hate myself for letting him use me! I hate myself for not leaving sooner! I hate myself for not looking for Jamie! I hate Frank for making me live like this! I hate my father for taking my virginity when I was thirteen! I hate my mother for watching! I hate myself! I hate being me! I hate myself! I hate myself! I hate myself! I fucking hate myself!” My voice gets hoarse and I’m sinking down on my knees as my lungs give out. My face buries itself into my hands and I feel Jamie coming up behind me. His arms wrapping around me again as he kneels beside me. “I hate myself.” I keep crying and repeating and I feel his hands in my hair and I reach up to loosen my ponytail. Jamie’s fingers immediately help me flattening my hair onto my shoulders. 

 

“Dinna say that, Sassenach.” He says and I hear the thickness in his voice. I never did such a thing, screaming out my thoughts into the ocean, hoping they would get carried away with the waves. But I have to admit it feels good, even though Jamie now knows some of my darkest secrets. 

 

“But I do.” I whisper, breathing in his scent while I’m lying in his arms.

 

“Ye shouldna, ye canna fault yerself for other’s mistakes.”

 

“It’s my mistake.” I whisper.

 

“It isna. It’s what they told you, but it isna.”

 

“How can you say that?”

 

“Because I ken who ye are, Claire.”

 

I’m shaking my head, sitting up, facing him while tears run down my cheeks. “You don’t know me, Jamie.”

 

“I dinna ken about all yer life but I ken who ye are. Those are different things.” He says and I keep looking at him when his hand comes up to cup my face, his thumbs brushing the sadness from my face and I’m holding his gaze with mine. All I hear are the waves crashing upon the shore, the seagulls crying for food but the loudest sound of all is Jamie’s heart beating beneath my touch, every beat loud in my ear and he comes closer. “Repeat the words after me.” He suddenly says, his gaze not leaving me. “I wilna…” He starts and I follow. “I won’t…” His hand comes around my neck, pulling me closer to his face. “Blame myself.” He whispers on my lips and I feel my heartbeat quicken by the second. “Blame myself.” I breath out shakily. “For other’s mistakes.” His nose touches mine and he still watches my lips, waiting for them to speak those words. “For other’s mistakes.” I eventually say and before I can take the next breath his lips are on mine, awakening emotions I didn’t know lingered in me and I am not sure if I’m ready for the onslaught of them.

Chapter Text

I scream, you scream

We all scream 'cause we're terrified

Of what's around the corner



Do you believe that a moment can hold magic? Where you truly think that you’ve been transported into another realm, taken away from the horrors of reality? Where you finally get the feeling of you made it ? I do. Right at this moment as Jamie’s lips hug mine, his tongue grazing over mine, begging. The sound of waves around me disappears and all of a sudden I'm surrounded by nature. Birds singing their beautiful melodies while the rustling of leaves carries their sound. Jamie’s hands bury themselves in my hair. That is a magic moment. That feeling when a spell has befallen you. But we all know, spells can be broken, even the good ones.

 

A simple trigger in your mind has to remind your brain to send a warning of caution. It wants to warn you from drifting too far off into your dreams, it’s like a hand pulling you away from the beauty of life, back into the nightmare of your own reality. I’m moving away from Jamie, my eyes open and find his gaze instantly. The green forest around me is replaced by the ocean mirrored by the grey sky above us, and I’m shaking my head.

 

“I- I can’t…” I say, standing up as I’m rubbing the sand off my hands. I’m taking a few steps away from him as Jamie tries to calm me down but I keep the distance between us, afraid of being pulled back under his spell. “Bring me back!” I ask, my chest heaving up and down and when Jamie steps closer to me now. I’m not moving. His hand falls into mine, my knuckles being caressed by his thumb and I want to pull back but I’m not and I look up at him.

 

“I wilna bring ye back, Sassenach.”

 

“You have to!” I say without knowing why I do. A bit ago I was glad he got me out of there, glad to watch the prison I lived in fade away from my sight and now? Now all I want is to go back to that life, back to the prison where I could continue the routine I was so used to. Back to being the fake me, back to waking up doing everything for Frank. Back into my bubble. Being who he demanded I was. I’m aware that it wasn’t a life for me, that I may have been dumb and naive to have stayed with a man like Frank, but at least I knew what my life was, a nightmare or not. And now? Now I feel hope inside of me, hope that I could actually have a chance at a happy life, hope that I could heal and hope means being able to dream. And a dream is the opposite of a nightmare. And dreams get crushed.

 

“I dinna have to and I wilna!”

 

“Please!” I beg, crying, stepping once again away from him. I look up into his eyes and for the first time I can’t figure out what lingers in them so I move my head to the side to watch the point where ocean and sky meet and I wrap my arms around my body. “Please Jamie, this was a mistake.” 

 

“No, dinna say that, Sassenach! If ye think I’d be so daft to let ye go back there then I’m afraid ye dinna ken me. This man has abused ye fer years, now let him pay for it!”

 

I’m turning my head back to him, looking into his eyes as I’m shaking my head. “You really don’t understand it Jamie, do you? He will make you pay! Frank Randall has way more power than you!” I scream, my voice being swallowed by the sound of rain crashing from the sky. Jamie comes closer, the two of us not caring about getting soaking wet. 

 

“Ye think he has the power, Claire? Ye dinna ken what power I have! I wilna let ye go back there!”

 

“Christ Jamie, he will use your past against you! He will do everything he can to find out all about your past and he will use it against you, don’t you understand?!”

 

I watch him shaking his head, his red curls dark brown from the rain and he comes closer but I walk backwards, making sure he can not touch me. I have to stay here, where everything is dark and grey, I can’t afford to step into a world of colour.

 

“I dinna care about all o’ this, I canna let him hurt ye even more.”

 

“Don’t you fucking get it?!” I scream through the rain. “You will be back on the street! He will ruin you until you’re back to beg people for money. He will destroy everything you’ve built up in the last few years! He will make sure your father’s company will go down with you! That is the monster Frank Randall is! You will be back to where you were and if you take me with you, so will I!”

 

“So ye rather live in hell than wi’ me?” He says and I’m not sure if it's rain or tears that cover his cheeks and I’m shaking my head, turning my back to him while I’m thinking what to answer. Of course I’d rather be with him anywhere in this world, whether it’s a mansion or beneath a bridge, but he’s worked hard to get where he is and I won’t have him give all of this up because of me. I turn around to face him.

 

“I’d be happier with you anywhere, Jamie and you know that. But you lost your father already. You can’t lose what he’s worked so hard for too. I won’t allow it.”

 

“And I wilna allow ye to go back.” He says, his chest heaving up and down while his voice breaks. We’re standing there for a while in the rain, thinking about our next steps and I simply walk away from him, step by step crossing the long path as the water rises beside it. A sudden force pulls me back and I feel Jamie’s finger around my arm and once I look up, Jamie crushes his lips against mine, begging hungrily for my tongue. My hands wrap around his neck as I press my body onto his, our pants being swallowed by the wind and the waves dancing to the sound of our kiss. I suddenly place my hands on the wet fabric of his chest, trying to pull myself away as tears roll down my cheeks.

 

“No, Sassenach.” He breathes, his lips coming back to mine. “Ye belong wi’ me.” He mumbles on my lips and I’m shaking my head, trying my best not to drift off with my emotions.

 

“Jamie please.” I beg, trying to push him away but he holds me close.

 

“I dinna care what he destroys, Claire! I dinna fecking care! How can ye expect me to live a life when I ken that yere sufferin’? That isna possible. Wherever ye are, I want to ken that yer happy, I want to ken that this is what ye want and Frank Randall isna even close to what ye want!”

 

I’m still trying to push him away from me and I feel his hands drop and I turn around to walk to the car. Jamie’s steps are close behind me and once I sit down in the passenger seat I’m shaking my head. My straight hair took back its natural form and my curls now drip with rain onto the fabric of the car seat.

 

“Claire…” He starts and I look at him.

 

“I chose to stay with him, Jamie, I did. I chose to be a coward by not leaving and now you are here risking everything possible to get me out of there when in truth I don’t deserve it. I should’ve fought for you the way you fight for me now but don’t you see it’s too late?”

 

“No! Nothing is too late, Claire…”

 

“It is! By now, Frank is probably awake and…”

 

“He wilna call the police, Sassenach.” Jamie says coldly and his gaze moves away from me as he’s now staring ahead. “Because if he will, I will destroy him.”

 

I want to say something but his face turns back to me and his gaze lingers on mine. “I have way more power than he does, Claire. Ye dinna ken how small his business is compared to mine. To you, Frank Randall holds a lot of power but to me, he’s just another ant in the market.” I’m shaking my head in disbelief. He can say this so easily but I know for sure that life isn’t supposed to be easy. Situations like that can’t just be solved with words. Situations like that tend to get messy and I’m mostly in the middle of them.

 

“What if he calls the police, Jamie? We stand no chance, me as a previous junkie and you as a homeless man…”

 

“He canna find anything about me. On the streets I wasna James Fraser. I was Jamie MacTavish.” And suddenly it hits me and I look up at him. Jamie must see the spark of hope that twinkles in my eyes and I can’t avoid my lips curling up a tiny bit. “And if he calls the police on you, Sassenach, he’s a verra stupid man.” His thumb brushes over my cheek and I lean into his touch. 

 

“It’s still scary, though.” I whisper, and Jamie scoops closer to me, now both his hands are framing my face and he pulls me closer.

 

“I ken, mo ghraidh , but I think we’ve handled scarier things.” He whispers on my lips and I’m taking a shuddering breath before pressing my lips softly on his. My hands disappear into short wet curls and I invite his tongue to mingle with mine. 

 

I know he’s right. I know that I can’t go back there.Not after finding Jamie again, and not after knowing there’s a forest full of dreams waiting for me.

“And besides.” He says, after his lips let go of mine while his hands still hold my face. “Rollo misses ye terribly.”

 

I stare at him, a sudden flutter waking in my stomach and I exhale a breath of relief that comes out as a laugh. “Rollo is still alive?”

 

“Aye.” He laughs softly, his thumbs brushing over my cheeks while he watches me relish in joy. 

 

“What are we waiting for! I want to see him!”

 

“We’ll have to leave Edinburgh for that, Sassenach and head to Inverness.” He says and I’m moving back to my seat, taking in the surroundings as if they show me everything that happened to me those past five years.

 

“I don’t think I’ve any business here anymore.” I eventually say and I see his lips curl up before he nods. “And I want you to know that I trust you, Jamie. Well, I’m trying to. You’ve been with me through withdrawal and-”

 

“And I left ye while ye were still struggling.” He says with a thick voice and I look at him. “And I shouldna have. I regret it every single day. I’m truly sorry.”

 

“That wasn’t what I was about to say…”

 

“I ken, but I needed to say it. If I wouldna have left ye, ye wouldna have had to endure all o’ this and we’d be together at Lallybroch now. Ye’d have met my Da and my Ma, ye’d have met my sister Jenny and we’d be happy. But here we are, because o’ me. Ye canna allow yerself to dream or hope. I’ve crushed this and I canna take back those past five years but I also ken that I can give ye back five years and many more if ye’ll allow me.” He’s looking down at his hands while tears spill from his eyes. My hands place themselves on his cheeks and I’m brushing his tears away, shaking my head.

 

“It’s alright, Jamie.”

 

“No it isna.”

 

“Please, let’s leave this here where it all happened. Let’s start new, at Lallybroch. I know I can’t meet your father but I can meet your mother and your sister! I can reunite with Rollo and we can finally do what we should’ve done five years ago.” I say and he nods softly, placing his hands onto the steering wheel. “Let’s go.” I say. “Take me away from here.” I hear the motor of the car roars and we drive away. I’m watching the scenery pass by and with every mile I’m feeling lighter. I’m closing my eyes when I feel Jamie’s hand on mine and I see something is bothering him.

 

“What’s wrong?” I ask and he’s softly shaking his head, squeezing my fingers lightly.

 

“Nothin’” He answers, his gaze lingering on the road ahead of us and I frown.

 

“I see that something’s wrong.”

 

Jamie keeps driving and I’m not moving my gaze away from him, waiting for him to replace the silence with the words that linger on his mind. 

 

“I have a son, Claire.” He finally whispers and I’m shaking my head as if I could shake away those words and I look at him, his gaze not daring to move.

 

“What?” I eventually ask, hoping he’d say something like, I got another dog but he just repeats the words to confirm that I heard right. “Did you love his mother?”

 

He shakes his head immediately. “No, I dinna even ken his mother. I found him when I got back to Lallybroch. He was just in his wee basket, weepin’ I couldna leave him there. And once I took care o’ him I couldn’t bear to gi’ him away.”

 

“How old is he?” I ask, now staring ahead of the road too.

 

“We dinna ken his age fer sure but the doctors said about five. His name is Fergus.”

 

I’m nodding, trying to process everything he’s been saying to me and I wonder if the grey skies of Edinburgh will follow me all the way to Inverness. I wonder if that dream of the green forest was just a mere illusion, if it has left me forever? If this life I’m driving into is just as cursed as my old one? If I’m ready for this. Am I ready? I don’t know. I guess I just have to find out.

Chapter Text

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one

Drying in the color of the evening sun

Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away

But something in our minds will always stay

 

It feels like I’ve been sitting in the passenger seat of Jamie’s car for days when in truth it has been a few hours. My brain is trying to process everything that’s happened and everything Jamie’s told me. He has a son. A little life he’s saved. I should be grateful he did. I should thank him for being the good-hearted man I know him to be. But why do I feel scared? Why do I feel like my life is going to change in more ways than I can think of? Why do I not feel ready?

 

Jamie pulls up a driveway surrounded by trees. The tyres crack as rubber hits stones and I’m staring ahead, taking in the sight of the house that looks more like a castle to me. The building is surrounded by nature and holds more windows than I can count in these short seconds. Stairs lead to the front door and I see a woman outside, playing with a little boy. Her red hair as fiery as Jamie’s is put up into a messy bun and I know immediately it’s his mother. Next to her I see Rollo standing up, his tail wiggling with excitement for Jamie’s return. I’m getting out of the car, my fingers longing to dig into that fur of his that gave me comfort more than once and before I can slam the car door, the dog’s front paws are on my stomach, his sloppy tongue washing my face and I’m laughing wholeheartedly, the sound of my own joy being completely strange to my ears.

 

“Hi boy! God, I missed you so much! You’ve become so big!” I exclaim in my high pitched voice I only use in rare situations. I’m petting him, forgetting about the last few hours when I’m looking at a little boy running towards Jamie. His hair is dark and curly while his cheeks are red and puffy from the cold.

 

“Ah there ye are, my wee one.” Jamie says as he spreads out his arms hovering down to rest on one knee. The boy is landing safely in his arms and Jamie presses a kiss to his forehead while one of his hands rests on the back of the boy's head. Fergus’ head. A warm voice suddenly rips me out of my thoughts and I feel her hand on my shoulder.

 

“And who are ye?” She asks non-judgmentally. Her grey eyes glare at me. Tiny freckles cover her cheeks and I see dimples in her cheeks that probably come from laughing too much.

 

“I’m Claire.” I answer and see Jamie come up next to me, holding Fergus in his arms.

 

The Claire?”

 

“Ma, let’s go inside, it’s cold.” Jamie says before pressing a kiss to his mother’s cheek but all I can think of is what does the Claire mean? Did Jamie talk about me with her before? If yes, what does she know about me? The thought of a stranger knowing things about me somehow doesn’t sit right with me and I know that I need to talk to Jamie about this. Imagine he’s told something about me that made her judge me in bad ways and here I am smiling into her face. One thing I know about her from Jamie’s stories is that she’s a judgmental woman. A woman that blamed her son for her other son’s death so why wouldn’t I be judged by her?

 

We walk inside and I’m staying close to Jamie, my hands in Rollo’s fur so it looks like I’m not just strolling along with them. Jamie puts Fergus down who runs away into the living room where I assume his toys must be.

 

“Jamie, can we have a word?” I suddenly hear his mum say and I know I was right. The woman does judge me.

 

“What’s wrong?” He asks, not making any indication to move to the side or leave me all by myself in this new place.

 

“In private?” She asks and Jamie softly shakes his head.

 

“Ye can say what ye have to say here.” Jamie answers and in one second to the other, she turns to face me, her lips curling up while her eyes scan me cautiously.

 

“I’m Ellen.” She says as if the conversation with her son didn’t even happen and I’m looking at her shaking my head from my thoughts when I reach out my hand to her.

 

“Claire.” I introduce myself. “You have a wonderful home here.” I add to show her that I do have manners. She takes my hand and shakes it softly and I feel Jamie’s arms coming around me from behind. I lean into his chest as I let go of Ellen’s hand and she eyes us suspiciously.

 

“So Claire.” She says, walking towards what turns out to be the kitchen and Jamie and I follow her, sitting down at the table as she takes out three mugs. “Do you like coffee?”

 

“Yes, thank you!” I say, feeling as if I’m sitting inside a police station, ready to be interrogated.

 

Ellen walks towards the table and hands us our mugs which I thankfully accept and once she sits on the other side of the table, she looks at me while sipping on her mug.

 

“So ye were wi’ Jamie when he was homeless?” She asks and I’m nodding.

 

“Yes, five years ago we met in Boston.” I say, taking a sip of my coffee as she still eyes me. I’m turning my head to face Jamie to find out he’s been staring at his mother, nervously tapping his fingers onto his thigh and I’m not so sure anymore that this isn’t an actual interrogation.

 

“Jamie told me he left ye while ye were goin’ through withdrawal.” She says and I’m nodding. I’m not mad at Jamie for talking about this with his parents, because if I had someone to talk to about this, I would’ve done it. Sometimes you just need to get things like this off your chest. “I’ve already scolded him fer this, lass.” She adds then my gaze changes from intimidated to surprised. “To leave ye in such state.”

 

“He went through things. I couldn’t blame him for it and I’m not innocent either.” I add to it so Jamie wouldn’t be blamed for things I’m accountable for too. “But we’re past that.”

 

“Are ye?” She asks and I know at that moment what she’s asking me.

 

Are you clean? Are you here because you seek shelter? Are you still homeless? Are you using my son for drugs? Are you like my other son? Will you be asking Jamie to get drugs for you? What are you doing here?

 

I’m not judging Ellen Fraser for being this cautious because this woman has been through a lot. Losing her son to an overdose only for her other child to run away and once he’s back she’s losing her husband only a few years later. She’s protective and I can’t blame her for it.

 

“I’m clean. I’ve lived with a man for all these years and I did relapse again, after. Jamie has taken me away from this man because he wasn’t good to me, so here I am.” I answer and she leans back in her chair, surprised that I answered the questions she didn’t dare to ask.

 

“Ma it is enough.” Jamie says protectively and Ellen puts down the mug in front of her.

 

“Jamie, it’s okay. It’s normal for her to have questions.” I say, putting my hand on his as my thumb brushes over his knuckles.

 

“Are ye two together?” Ellen asks, eying our hands suspiciously and I’m looking at Jamie who doesn’t know what to say either.

 

Are we? I first have to process through the things that happened with Frank, plus the fact that he just revealed the existence of his son to me is another thing to go through. Would I be ready to be a mother figure for this little boy? Would I be ready to even be a girlfriend figure? I don’t know.

 

“Ma, please.” Jamie pleads and my gaze drifts off to my hands that linger now in my lap.

 

“Well, Claire, I’ll prepare a guest room for ye on the second floor. Yer welcome to borrow some of Jamie’s sister’s clothes until ye manage to get some o’ yer own.” She says and walks away with a tiny smile on her face that doesn’t even look like a smile.

 

I’m turning to face Jamie who looks at me apologetically. His eyes hold a warmth that brushes a warm summer breeze over my skin and his hand cups my face.

 

“I’m sorry, Sassenach. She’s just protective ye ken?”

 

“It’s okay.” I whisper, curling up my lips even though it feels far from okay.

 

I feel as if I’m being ripped away from a world that has become my normality and I’m back into strange territory. It may sound horrible to others but I don’t know what feels worse. To be a stranger in a world you know or to be familiar with your surroundings in a strange world.

 

“Da, look!” I didn’t realise little Fergus sneaked up on us and he’holding out a blue car to Jamie. It’s strange to me to hear a little kid calling Jamie Da and it sends shivers down my spine to think that I could be Ma . I’m standing up before Fergus even gets the chance to talk to me and smile at Jamie.

 

“Can you show me around?” I ask and his gaze switches from the car to me. He slowly nods before he picks up Fergus and walks ahead of me.

 

“Here’s the library, feel free to stick yer nose into some books.” He says, walking further. He shows me all the rooms he thinks are important to me and I’m grateful for Ellen to appear to let me know that my room is ready. She takes Fergus into her arms and walks away.

 

“Let me show ye yer room.” Jamie says, taking my hand in his and once he opens the door to the guest room my eyes widen.

 

In front of me is a room as big as usual living rooms are. A small vanity with a beautiful vintage mirror is set next to a lit fireplace. The stone walls practically transfer you into another time. I walk inside to touch the bedpost as if it’s the railing of a ship and I hold on to it for dear life. The closet that is standing next to the window is open but empty, waiting to be filled with clothes and I’m sitting down on the mattress, taking a deep breath. “Wow…”

 

Jamie sits down next to me, watching me carefully and I’m trying my hardest not to break out in tears because of a goddamn bedroom. But as much as I curse my glass face, I’m glad when Jamie’s fingers reach my chin and he turns my head softly to face him. Tears roll down my cheeks and I feel the waves of emotion barreling within  my chest. Jamie’s arms come around me and the pool of tears splashes out of my eyes. He presses me onto him as I cry out, his fingers lingering in my hair while his lips press softly onto the crown of my head and we’re sitting there until my cheeks feel sticky from tears and the room grows silent again.

 

“Are ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie whispers, his thumb brushing softly over my cheek, his gaze cautiously on me, ready for another onslaught of my emotions but I nod.

 

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

 

“Ye dinna have anything to be sorry for, Claire, do ye want to talk about it?” He asks and I’m nodding desperately.

 

I’ve been wanting to talk about my feelings for a very long time and hearing someone offering it made my heart beat hard against my chest, ready to explode inside of me.

 

“This all is just overwhelming.” I start.

 

“In good or bad ways?”

 

“Both. It reminds me that I’ve been wasting so much time the last few years. It tells me how much I’ve failed.” I’m holding up a hand because I know he wants to interrupt me by saying I didn’t and once I see his lips pressing on each other again I’m lowering my hand onto his. “It shows me that I shouldn’t have stayed with Frank. Five years were enough for me to build up a healthy life again, to finally stand my place and what did I do? I used it to be used.” I breathe out, shaking my head in disbelief. “I’m so incredibly proud of you Jamie, but at the same time I’m jealous of you being able to build all of this up. To actually live a normal life after what we’ve been through.”

 

I’m closing my eyes.

 

“I feel like I’m so far away. I feel like I’m still that girl in the streets, trying to find her purpose and I’m not finding it.” I look up at him, his eyes are filled with tears, ready to spill over. “I’m still the girl in the pink room, waiting for someone to paint them black.” Jamie’s own tears now roll slowly down his cheeks and I’m losing more myself before I continue. “While you were healing I damaged myself even more and now I’m scared of commitment. I’m scared to be loved and to love. I’m scared I’ll break again. I’m scared that I won’t win my fight against addiction. I’m scared I’ll disappoint others.” I’m breathing quicker and Jamie brushes his tears from his cheeks while he clears his throat, his hands back on mine, holding them steady.

 

“A part of me is blaming you for what I’ve been through. A part of me screamed at myself daily, that if you wouldn’t have begged me to go that I wouldn’t have met Frank. A part of me resented you, and a part of me hated you.” I say and I watch his chest shake.

 

“Claire…” He says, his voice breaking but I’m shaking my head.

 

“But it was me.” I eventually say and I hear him sniffle, he looks at me in surprise and I continue. “I decided to go with Frank when I could’ve looked for you. I decided to go when you asked me to go. I decided to not come back. I decided to hate you for leaving you.”

 

“Sassenach…no!” He says but I press my finger onto his lips, scooting closer to put my forehead on his, our breathing mingled together. I’m holding his face in my hands, shaking my head softly.

 

“We both are to blame for being apart for five years, Jamie. But I am to blame for the years with Frank. Now I’m seeing you here, with your son, your mother, your own business and I feel so small. It reminds me that I am a coward.”

 

“Dinna say that.” He whispers onto my lips, his hands in my hair, massaging my scalp and while he’s shaking his head and I feel his nose brushing mine.

 

“It’s how I feel.” I say. “But, if you’re patient with me, I think I can do this on my own. With your help of course.”

 

“Ye dinna have to be alone, Sassenach.” He says, his thumb now grazing my cheek. “I’m wi’ ye.”

 

“No, I mean, I don’t want you to send me away again. I don’t want to see doctors or psychiatrists. I want to do this on my own.”

 

Jamie looks at me intensely and for a moment I think he’s going to stand up and leave the room but instead he nods and puts his forehead back on mine. His lips caressing mine before he begs my tongue to mingle with his. I’m sighing contently, my arms wrapping around his neck as I pull him closer to me. He slowly pushes me back down on the fluffy pillows. My fingers brush through his hair as I’m pulling him onto me. Jamie’s kiss grows deeper and the butterflies in my stomach are travelling down between my legs. It’s strange, feeling aroused when you’re with someone. I never had this. Not like I do now. Is it normal? Do I have to feel ashamed? Jamie kisses down my neck and I’m staring at the beige ceiling. His hands roam up and down the sides of my body while my hands linger on his back, pressing him onto me. I’m biting my lip to stifle a moan as I feel his hand on my chest. Is this normal? Am I supposed to feel this way? Am I supposed to sound like this? Am I? My breath starts to quicken and the ceiling is where my gaze lingers. But in the corners of my eyes I see it. It isn’t beige. It’s pink. The room is pink. My chest is heaving up and down in panic and I watch Jamie look up at me.

 

“Christ, Sassenach!” He says, kneeling up on the bed in front of me. His arms are coming around me as tears spill from my eyes again. “Breathe, lass, breathe!” I hear him and it sounds as if he’s so far away from me. I’m staring ahead of me, breathing seems hard and my cheeks are wet and Jamie keeps screaming at me to breathe. My face turns towards him and he cups my face, his blue eyes sharing my panic. “Claire? Do ye hear me, lass?” He says and I’m nodding suddenly as if I’ve been here all the time. I brush my hand over my face to get rid of the tears and snot that linger on there and curl up my lips to Jamie’s concern. “Christ, ye scairt me! I’m so sorry, Claire I shouldna have…” I’m shaking my head, trying to calm him down. My hands find his face as my thumbs brush over his cheeks. I’m exhaling a breath, trying to shake off the anxiety that lingers in my chest.

 

“Don’t worry, Jamie. It only got pink for a second.”

 

Chapter Text

'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down

We can find a way to break through

 

It’s strange to wake up in a warm bed, covered in soft sheets while rain is hitting the window softly like nature knocking on the glass to wake you up. It’s strange because when you were on the other side of that window you felt more at home than now. You felt safer there than in this huge home that is supposed to be a sanctuary. But to me this house is a strange place, one filled with shadows that remind me of my past, that holds hidden places I don’t know about.

 

A roof above my head is something I should be grateful for, I know. I did have one with Frank for all those years. But let’s be real, that was more of a prison than a home. But this place here, Lallybroch, is supposed to be a home but all I am is scared. Scared of what it holds for me, scared of feeling too comfortable, scared of rooms turning pink. I’m shaking my head softly as I rest the palm of my hand on my forehead. I remind myself of the words I told Jamie last night. 

“I don’t want you to send me away again. I don’t want to see doctors or psychiatrists. I want to do this on my own.”

I need to forget about the fears lingering inside of me and show Jamie that I can do it. Not only Jamie, also Ellen as she’s already suspicious of me. I’m standing up from the bed to walk over to the window. My shoulder is touching the cold glass as I’m tracing a raindrop with my finger. Rain is a beautiful thing. It always makes me feel less lonely. I remember standing like this at the window of my old room, looking out in the dark while I listened to the rain hitting the ground. My finger traced the rain on my window while I thanked the universe for crying with me. It felt like a hug from nature. It felt like someone understood my pain. 

I’m jolting away from the window as a thunderstorm roars through the lands and I’m shaking my head before walking to the closet Jamie and I filled with some of his sister’s clothes. I’m not picky when it comes to fashion, so I pick a casual pair of jeans that fits with a simple white shirt and a black cardigan. My curls go up in a bun and I’m heading downstairs. I’m following the voices, Jamie’s laughter filling the halls, followed by Fergus’ and I flinch a little. Somewhere I’m still not realising that he’s a father now.

“Good morning, Sassenach.” He says when he sees me leaning in the doorframe. He puts the Lego he’s holding to the ground and walks up to me. Ellen is sitting on the couch, taking a sip of her coffee while she watches Fergus sticking another brick onto the tower he’s building with Jamie. 

“Good morning.” I say, making sure Ellen hears me too 

“Are ye hungry?” Jamie asks and I’m nodding softly. “Let me get ye some Porridge. Do ye want a coffee?” I’m shaking my head.

“Tea please.” 

I’m thanking Jamie as he tells me that he’s grabbing it for me and I’m taking a seat on the couch opposite Jamie’s mom, rubbing my hands together as I’m watching Fergus playing. The boy’s curls bounce with every movement as his fingers clutch the bricks a little too hard. His tongue is hanging out on one side of his mouth while his gaze focuses on putting another two Lego’s together.

 

“Did ye sleep well?” Ellen asks me and I remove my gaze from Fergus to her and nod.

“Yes, thank you! The bed is very comfortable.” I answer, curling my lips up in politeness and she eyes me for a while.

“I’d love to hear yer story.” She suddenly says and my smile fades as her gaze holds mine. She wants what? Who does she think she is? I’m scoffing softly while I’m looking back to Fergus who now walks up to me with two Lego bricks in his hands.

“Can ye help me?” He asks

“But of course.” I say with a smile on my face, trying to hide my emotions so as to not upset the little boy. I’m taking the bricks into my hands and asking him the way he’d like to have them together.

“Just like this.” He giggles as he watches me and once I press them on each other he claps his hands together, applauding me.

“Here you go.” I smile and he takes the bricks back to his place where he continues his tower.

Jamie returns at that moment with my breakfast and I’m thankful to have him back in the room. I accept my breakfast with appreciation and start to eat slowly, the tension between Ellen and I is clearly visible.

“Are the two of ye alright?” Jamie asks and I’m silently continuing the warm Porridge.

“I just asked for her story.” Ellen says in all honesty. “And then Fergus asked her to put two bricks together, that’s it.” She continues and I’m putting down the bowl, chewing slowly before washing it down with some hot tea. I flinch as the boiling water burns my throat and Jamie takes the mug out of my hands.

“Slowly, Sassenach.” He says, switching his gaze from me to his mother. “Why would ye ask her such a thing when ye ken it isna any o’ yer business.”

“It isna any o’ my business?” She scoffs, her face turning away from Jamie before she returns his gaze again. “She’s sittin’ in my house. She’s eatin’ my food. She’s sleepin’ in my bed. Ye turn up out o’ nowhere back from a business trip wi’ her not meaning to tell me anything. So I do think this is my business, Jamie, because I certainly do not want another case like Robert here!”

“Fergus lad, can ye please go to yer room?” Jamie says tense, his fingers curling up in fists as he listens to the footsteps of his son fading away. Once Fergus’ bedroom door closes he stands up in anger.

“Ye have no right, mother! Ye dinna ken one bit o’ her story and ye wilna just ask fer it when ye please! Ye always had a good heart, dinna questioned one thing when it came to helping people. And now ye sit here judging her fer things ye dinna ken anything about.”

“Jamie…” I say before I’m standing up, my hand pressing softly on his upper arm to calm him down. “Sit down please.” I tell him and his head turns toward me, finding my gaze in an instant. “Please…” I say again as he doesn’t intend to move anytime soon. When he finally moves we sit back down on the couch and I’m looking at his mother. If she wants my story, she can have it. I sit a bit away from Jamie, not wanting any human contact as I’m going back into my past. Disgust and shame fill me slowly and I’m looking at the wooden floor beneath my feet as I feel my mouth go dry.

“Seven years ago I ran away from home.” I start my mind drifting off to that one rainy day, where my fingers no longer traced the drops on my window. Where my eyes no longer bared to see the color of my room. Where my closet no longer felt like a sanctuary. “My parents were drunk all the time, yelling about topics that mostly surrounded me. I was homeschooled as they didn’t want to risk anyone seeing my bruises. Or they were probably scared I’d tell someone about my father…” I flinch at the thought, the moments flashing through my brain like a movie and I don’t realise that I keep staring ahead of me, my fingers trembling. I feel Jamie scooting closer but I’m moving away from him, shaking my head. “I just couldn’t bear it anymore so I left with my best friend John. We headed to Boston where I eventually met Jamie. I got addicted to drugs very early on as I soon came to realise that they made the nightmares disappear.” I know I’m leaving out a lot of points but right now I realise that I simply can’t go into details of my past. I can’t. Or I might end up having an episode right on the spot. “After Jamie and I returned to Scotland, I left and found Frank, the man whom I lived with for the past few years. He used me.” Is all I’m saying and I feel bile rising up in my throat. My stomach forming knots in the most torturous ways and I’m standing up. “I’m sorry.” Is all I’m saying as I’m running to the bathroom to empty my stomach that includes the breakfast from moments ago. I’m closing my eyes as once again my pleading to Jamie echoes in the depths of my mind.

“I don’t want you to send me away again. I don’t want to see doctors or psychiatrists. I want to do this on my own.”

“Sassenach?” I hear Jamie outside, knocking softly on the door and I’m staying silent, the words in my head repeating louder than Jamie’s voice. “Claire, open the door!” He says, as the knocking turns into pounding and I’m just sitting here, not being able to move as tears run down my cheeks. Am I able to do this on my own? Am I able to go through this without talking to a professional? Am I able to stay here at Lallybroch and heal? Am I able to convince Ellen Fraser that I’m not a bad person? Am I able to accept Jamie being a father? Am I able? I don’t know. “Claire! Open the door or I’ll break it in!”

I’m closing my eyes when I suddenly hear a loud thud and before I open my eyes I feel Jamie’s arms coming around me, his hand on the back of my head, pressing me softly onto him. It is now I realise that I’m crying, tears tracing my face like raindrops the window and it are Jamie’s fingers that trace the drop down my cheek. “Shh, I’m here.” He whispers, holding me close, as my sobs wrack against his chest I looked up to see Ellen standing in the door. I don’t know if it is my blurred vision or if she’s actually crying. “I’m here mo ghraidh, dinna weep lass, I’m here.” Jamie whispers into my ear and I’m closing my eyes, pressing myself closer to him.

“I can’t do this.” I whisper into his chest, my head starting to shake furiously. Jamie’s hand is cupping my face and I’m forced to look into his eyes that swim with his own tears. “I can’t do this.” I repeat, my hands shaking. “I can’t...I can’t.” I say practically screaming, and his other hand comes around the other side of my face, his thumbs resting on my wet cheeks.

“Shh, ye can do it Claire, ye’ve done it before. Yer strong!” I’m shaking my head again.

“No! I’m not! I can’t do this. I don’t belong here.” I say and honestly at this moment I don’t care about Ellen hearing all of this. Maybe it’s for the best that she’s standing there. Maybe she finally gets her wish, seeing the wreck that I am. Maybe she finally has a real reason to send me back to where I came from. Maybe it’s my time to go.

“Ye do, Sassenach! What makes ye think ye dinna belong here?” Jamie asks and his forehead comes to meet mine, his thumbs still brushing over my cheeks.

“I don’t want to remind all of you of the past.” I sob. “You’ve all been through so much. You shouldn’t have to handle me. I’m a mess. I’m not welcome here. I’m scared here. I’m scared to do the  wrong thing. I'm terrified…” I get interrupted by a wet snout pressing in my lap and I sob even more. Rollo’s head is on my lap just like all those years ago. My fingers bury themselves into his fur and I’m closing my eyes. He still has the exact same effect on me.

“Forgive me lass.” I suddenly hear a hoarse voice coming from the door and both Jamie and I turn to look into the tearstained face of Ellen. “I’m truly sorry.” She says, her hand covering her mouth to stifle a sob. I’m shaking my head as fresh tears spill out of my eyes and I let Jamie help me stand up. I’m usually not someone that simply goes to a person and hugs them. I’m someone that is careful around others but in front of me is a worried mother. A mother that cares for her children with every single beat of her heart. It’s a broken mother who lost a child, and a broken wife who lost her husband. It’s a mother that can’t endure to see more of her children suffer. 

I’m walking up to Ellen and wrap my arms around her. I press her closely onto me as I’m staring at the ceiling. This is a mother I always dreamed of having. A mother that would do anything to see her children safe. But I never got one. Mine watched me suffer. Mine hurt me. Mine never wanted me.

“It’s alright.” I whisper as I feel her chest shake against me. Her hands linger on my back, pressing me close to her. “You only follow your heart and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“I shouldna have treated ye the way I did, a leannan.” She says and I feel Jamie walk up to me, his fingers lacing through mine and I see he’s crying too. I’m still hugging Ellen with my other arm while I press Jamie’s hand.

“You only did this for your family.” I say, releasing myself softly from her hug. I remove my hand from Jamie’s to wipe my tears away and I see Ellen looking at me.

“I asked ye of things I shouldna have. It isna my business, Jamie is right. I’m truly sorry.”

“It is. You’ve taken me in. For all you know I could’ve been someone that hurt Jamie. You only did what a mother does. Protect her children and I can’t blame you for something like that. I can’t…” I’m taking a deep breath as I feel another flood of tears burn in my eyes.

“Oh child…” She says softly and I feel her hand on my cheek.

“I wish I had that, you know? A caring mother. I wish she would’ve taken me away from my father. But she didn’t. I will always remember it. That first night with him, the pain. I will always remember her gaze on me. She just smoked a cigarette while watching me scream and cry for her like a child screams for their mother. But she just watched.” I sob again and I feel sick again. I’m trying to breathe deeply and I feel Jamie’s hand in my hair, his body pressing against me from behind. Jamie’s chest is shaking and I know he’s crying and so is Ellen. “So please don’t be sorry for being a mother.” I sob and I bury my face into my hands and Jamie’s arms come around me. I’m leaning back into him as his chin is resting on my shoulder. His cheek against mine while his own tears mingle with mine.

“Da?” We suddenly jolt away, Jamie wiping his face immediately and so do I. “Can someone play wi’ me?” Fergus asks and I only see Ellen nod.

“I’m comin’ mo luran.” Jamie says before walking up to me, pressing his lips softly onto my temple before he heads out with Fergus and I’m being left with Ellen.

“God I’m so sorry.” I say. “I hope Fergus didn’t hear any of this.” I’m walking to the sink to freshen myself up when I feel Ellen’s hand on my shoulder and I look at her through the bathroom mirror.

“Ye’re right. I am a mother, Claire.” She starts and her other hand comes around me. “And I promise I’ll try my best to be one to you as well.” Ellen whispers and I’m biting my lip before turning towards her.

“You’re making me cry again.” I whisper, my lips curling up before I’m laughing a little and I see her laughing too.

“But these are at least good tears.” She says, her hand on my cheek. “I canna imagine what ye’ve gone through, Claire, and I ken it will be a big journey. But I want ye to know that ye have a family, here, wi’ us. Ye arena alone any longer and I apologise fer my behaviour again.” I’m shaking my head but she lifts a finger to tell me she’s not done yet. “When Jamie left, I thought I’d never see him again. He thought we blamed him, he thought he heard things that werena bein’ said. He was in shock, I mean, it was his twin. And then he returned and Brian and I were thankin’ the lord for his return. But then his father died and Jamie didna grieve the way he should’ve because he blamed himself all over again. Then I sat down wi’ him and that was the first time he told me about ye. He told me how he blamed himself fer leavin’ ye. And I kent then. I kent that ye have taken his heart wi’ ye when ye left.” She takes a few deep breaths while she brushes a loose curl that had fallen out of my bun behind my ear. “Ye’re family now, Claire.”

I’m taking a few deep shaky breaths while I turn back to face myself in the mirror. Even though I look horrible I see the small changes in the lines of my face. The small glimmer in the corners of my eyes. The way my lips now curl up a tiny bit in the corners. I’m no longer seeing a lonely woman in front of me. I now see a hopeful woman that belongs.

Chapter Text

You ever start to freak out

Come meet me at my treehouse

We can forget the world, just you and me

 

A few days have passed and Lallybroch truly started to feel like home to me. The surrounding nature is a simple reminder of my days outside, in a good way, while the house gives me a feeling of comfort. It’s like whenever I go outside and come back in, I feel safe. Because now I am.

 

I’m petting Rollo while I’m sitting on the stairway that leads to the front door, when I hear footsteps behind me, then Ellen sits down next to me, her hand disappearing in the dog’s fur as well.

 

“Are ye okay?” She asks, as I’m staring into the sky, the little white clouds covering the grey sky like a blanket. I’m nodding before turning my head to face her.

 

“Yes.” I answer, my lips curling up to give her a smile.

 

“I thought we could head out to the city today. Jamie wanted to visit the toy store wi’ Fergus, so ye and I could get ye some new clothes.”

 

My first instinct is to say yes. To jump up from the cold granite floor and get my jacket and shoes on before sitting inside the car. But it isn’t that easy. I don’t have any money, plus Jenny’s clothes suit me well enough. It’s not like I really truly need it so I’m shaking my head.

 

“We can just join Jamie and Fergus. I don’t really need new clothes.” I answer and Ellen’s gaze lingers on me, the lines in her face twitching while the corners of her lips point downwards, kind of like a lopsided smile.

 

“Ye do need new clothes. Ye canna wear Jenny’s forever and the lass is visitin’ in a few weeks and as far I ken my daughter, she doesna really like sharin’ her garments.” Ellen’s lopsided smile turns around and her lips curl upwards, her grey eyes linger on me as if to study every movement of my face, every line, every twitch and every emotion.

 

“I’ll figure something out, Ellen.”

 

“I ken ye will, and  I will pay for it.” She says, and I flinch at the mention of her spending money on me. I don’t like other people spending their money on me, mostly not on things I don’t truly need.

 

“Ellen…”

 

“Dinna say more, a leannan, it is what it is.” With  her having the last word, I know at this moment that she’s just as stubborn as Jamie. Or let’s say Jamie is as stubborn as she is.

 

“Grannie, can we go?!” I hear Fergus from inside, his voice filled with excitement and joy at the thought of going to get some new toys. Ellen smiles at him and walks inside to pick him up, her fingers running through the black curls before her forehead rests on the boy’s.

 

“O’ course we can! Have ye packed everything?” She asks and I watch Fergus look quizzically at Jamie who just nods. “Aye Grannie, I have!” He says with a confidence only a child can have, and I smile. I’m standing up to put on my jacket and shoes and look at Jamie grabbing his rucksack.

 

“Are ye ready, Sassenach?” He asks and I nod before we all head to Ellen’s car. I’m sitting down in the passenger seat, while Jamie sits in the back with Fergus who is clearly lost in playing with his toy dinosaur. As we drive my forehead touches the cold glass of the window and I’m watching raindrops covering it. My fingers twitch with the longing for tracing a drop but I keep my hands to myself and turn around to look at Jamie and Fergus.

 

“Da!” He giggles and my heart warms at the sound, and even more when I look at Jamie’s expression. When he looks at Fergus, he’s carefree. He forgets who he was and only remembers his role as a father. He’s made for this. His arms reach out to grab the Dinosaur from Fergus’ lap and he makes roaring sounds while Fergus presses his hands onto his eyes to make sure the Dino can’t see him.

 

“Och.” Jamie scoffs playfully. “Where did Fergus go now? Sassenach?” He turns toward me. “Have ye seen Fergus?” I’m smiling, looking around in the car as I can see the little boy peeking through his fingers.

 

“No, I have no clue where he is! Fergus?” I say, and he giggles loudy, his hands still covering his eyes. 

 

“I’m here!!!!” He screams suddenly and we all break out into laughter and I watch Jamie’s hand brush through the wild curls. I find myself longing to do the same. I turn around before I create an awkward situation and am thankful that Ellen is already looking for a parking spot.

 

“Are we meetin’ each other back here in an hour?” Ellen asks and Fergus suddenly takes my hand.

 

“Is Sassenach comin’ wi’ me and Da?” Fergus asks and I could cry right on the spot at this simple but loving gesture of the child. His fingers clutch around my hand and I bend down to face him, his blue eyes lingering on my face. 

 

“I will have to get some things with your grandma, but if you like to we can play with your new toy at home?” Fergus turns around to face Jamie while still holding my hand.

 

“Can we go wi’ them to get their things and after we head to the toy store, Da? I want to have her wi’ us.” He pouts and I have to will myself not to cry on the spot, my gaze now lingering on Jamie who clearly fights with his emotions as well and he nods.

 

“Aye, if ye like that, mo luran.” He says with a shaky voice and Fergus jumps up and down, a big smile covers his face as he keeps his Dinosaur close. The four of us walk into the city and I was sure the little boy would soon get tired and beg Jamie to go to the toy store without us already, but he is patient. Hell, he even hands me outfits, and even though they aren’t the greatest, I still try them on for him which ends in his nose wrinkling up before he says that grannies' choice is better.

 

After forty minutes, we’re heading to the toy store, Fergus’ hand in mine as he pulls me to the entrance. I wish I could get him something, buy him a toy that would remind him of me and that he would take to bed. One that would connect me with him.

 

Fergus turns around to Jamie and Ellen. “The two of ye stay here, me and Sassenach go look for a toy.” 

 

“Her name is Claire, Fergus.” Jamie says but his son doesn’t even listen and pulls me into his paradise. We walk through the action figure aisle, then pass right by the toy car aisle when he suddenly stops in the Barbie aisle. He eyes the doll with long brown hair and I bow down to face him. “Do you like this one?” I ask before pointing to the Barbie he just looked at and he shyly nods.

 

“But dinna tell Da please.” He says and my brows furrow. I take the Barbie into my hands and press it into his. 

 

“Why shouldn’t I tell him?” I ask, knowing that Jamie will see it before we’d even leave the store.

 

“I like dolls but I’m scared Da will think I’m a girl.” I look at him, my eyes growing wide and I cup his face with my hand, my thumb brushing his soft cheek.

 

“Your father won’t think such a thing. Who says Barbie’s are only for girls?! It’s what only some people think, but who cares what they think? It’s important that you are happy and your Da only wants that.” I hope Fergus understands what I’m saying as he keeps staring at the doll and before I can say anything else, he gives me the toy Dinosaur and walks ahead of me.

 

As we arrive back at Ellen and Jamie, Fergus presses the Barbie doll into Jamie’s hands who now eyes me confused.

 

“Did ye pick a toy fer Claire, lad?” He asks and I’m rolling my eyes at him, shaking my head.

 

“He picked it for himself. He likes it, don’t you, Fergus?” I say, and he takes my hand for support and nods.

 

“Aye. But I’m not a girl, Da, I just like the doll’s long hair and clothes, oh and the shoes!” He exclaims excitedly, clearly thinking about how he will play with it later at home.

 

“Then let’s get ye the doll, mo luran.” Jamie says with a smile on his face and Fergus turns around happily, his thumb up with his other hand to show me how well it went. While Jamie and Ellen head to pay, I bend down to kiss the crown of his head.

 

“I’m proud of you.” I whisper and he smiles at me before we all head back to the car.

 

I sat on the floor with Fergus the whole afternoon, playing with his Barbie, showing him how to braid hair, and before we knew it, we ate dinner just to play again right after until he almost fell asleep in my arms. Jamie picks him up and carries him to bed as I’m cleaning up the toys. I watch Ellen sit down on the couch with a cup of tea, eying me.

 

“Ye were wonderful wi’ him. Jamie couldna stop lookin’ at ye.” She says with a smile on my face that makes me blush.

 

“I didn’t think Fergus would like me this much.”

 

“If I’m bein’ honest, me neither. The boy likes ye even more than his aunt.” She smirks before taking a sip of her tea. “Dinna tell my daughter that.” And now it’s me that smirks. I hear footsteps next to me and see Jamie leaning in the doorframe, looking at me with a gaze so intense I forget for a second that his mother is still in the room.

 

“Let me show ye somethin’, Sassenach.” He says and I’m picking up some more toys to clean up faster when Ellen’s hand covers mine.

 

“Dinna fash. I got it.” She says and I nod thankfully before I’m following Jamie outside.

 

The chilly air is brushing over me, covering my whole body in goosebumps when I feel Jamie putting a plaid over me, his arms wrapping around me from behind before his lips press a kiss onto my cheek. I’m looking around trying to figure out what he wants to show me, when he takes my hand into his and walks with me through the forest just outside the house.

 

“Are you planning on killing me?” I ask jokingly as leaves rustle beneath every step, Jamie’s flashlight illuminates our path and he laughs.

 

“No, just to kidnap ye.” He smirks and stands still. For a moment I look up into his eyes, trying to figure out his actual plan when he nods above him and I look to  the little wooden building hidden in the trees. It’s a treehouse .

 

“I built it for Fergus. We’ve slept there a few times or so, but it’s too cold fer the lad right now so I thought I’d show ye.” He says and a huge smile covers my face before my lips press onto his, giving him a grateful kiss. 

 

“Ladies first.” He points towards the latter and I grin.

 

“You only want to stare at my arse.” I say and he pulls me close to him, his forehead brushing against mine, his breath hot on my lips.

 

“I dinna need a ladder fer that, Sassenach.” 

 

I flush at his words and climb the ladder. Once I  reach the top I’m speechless. The little house looks way bigger now that I’m standing in it. A mattress is placed in the middle, covered with fresh sheets. A few bottles of water are stacked in a corner while candles are waiting to be lit. A few of Fergus’ toys are packed in some boxes, waiting to be played with. I turn around, my plaid still clutched to my body and Jamie turns on the little space heater that runs on batteries before he walks around to light the candles and turn on the fairy lights that hang on every single wall.

 

The atmosphere changes in an instant and I sit down on the mattress, waiting for Jamie to sit down next to me and once he does, the room is filled with a silence so intense I don’t even dare to breathe. I turn my face to look at him at the same time he does and our gazes mingle together and our breathing gets shallow.

 

“Claire… I-” He starts but I’m shaking my head before I press a finger onto his lips to silence him. I replace my finger with my lips and let my hand disappear into his hair. I beg his tongue to mingle with mine and before I know it we lay together on the fluffy mountain of pillows, my plaid long forgotten. Jamie’s hands stay on my back, not daring to move anywhere they shouldn’t and I open my eyes to face him. “I dinna… I dinna want to upset ye, Sassenach.” He says and I’m nodding as I’m letting my fingertips trace the lines on his face.

 

I don’t trust myself with him, if I’m being honest. I don’t trust myself being able to stop once we start. I don’t trust myself being able to say no once we’re at that point. I don’t trust myself. Yet I feel completely lost to his power.

 

“Let’s just lay here then.” I whisper and he nods as he shifts in his position to make more space next to him. I cuddle close to him, my head pressed against his chest as I’m exhaling a deep sigh.

 

“Are ye alright?” He asks and I look up at him before I’m nodding.

 

“It’s weird to say, but yes I am.” I curl up my lips to give him a smile before pecking his lips with mine. “Are you?”

 

“Aye. It was a blessing to see ye wi’ Fergus today.” He says, his fingers brushing through my curls that lay spread on the pillow.

 

“He’s such a wonderful boy, Jamie. You’re doing a great job.”

 

“Thank ye.” He says in all honesty and I smile. “And ye’re a natural wi’ kids.”

 

“Me? Oh hell no.” I scoff, leaning up to support myself on my elbow. “Just with him. He makes it easy.”

 

“Trust me he doesna. He likes ye more than Jenny.” He grins and I’m laughing.

 

“That’s what your mum said.” 

 

“Two Frasers tellin’ ye something means it’s true.” He smiles and I get lost in his sparkly eyes.

 

My lips wrap around his the next second and once again I my tongue is seeking his. I pull him on top of me as I deepen our kiss, my breathing growing into steady pants.

 

“Claire…” He mumbles on my lips and I’m pulling him back softly by his face before I’m shaking my head.

 

“Shh, just kiss me.” I say, pressing him back on me.

 

I need to trust myself with him. I need to know that I can tell Jamie to stop. I need to know that it’s okay and I need to know that making out doesn’t automatically lead to sex. We lay like that for I don’t know how long, our fingers tracing our bodies over the fabric of our clothes while Jamie’s lips savour the skin on my neck. I close my eyes as my mind travels to another time in my life.

 

“Jamie…” I say and he lifts his head to look at me. “Can we stop?” I ask, completely ashamed to even speak this question out loud. My gaze moves down to my fingers that play with the fabric of his shirt when I feel Jamie’s finger beneath my chin, tilting up my face to look at him. 

 

“Are ye alright?” He asks, his eyes on me.

 

“Yes.” I whisper. “I just started to drift off.” I admit and he places a kiss onto my forehead before laying down on his pillow. My head finds its place on his chest again.

 

“Do ye want to talk about it?”

 

Do I? I do. But can I? Am I ready? I think I have to be.

 

“It’s just that I’m getting sucked back into that bloody room. I hear the screams, I smell the smoke and the rotten walls. The walls turn pink. I’m back there, waiting for someone to find me.”

 

Jamie’s head turns to face me and I look up into his eyes. “I’m scared that once it gets further that I am not with you but with him.”

 

“Can I ask ye something?” Jamie says and I nod. “How was it wi’ Frank?”  If I'm being honest, I didn’t expect a question like that and I take a deep breath, preparing myself for the onslaught of emotion.

 

“The room was always pink when  I was with him . I never saw Frank.”

 

I watch Jamie as I’m telling him this and I see him flinch, rage and sadness filling his blue eyes. “It was like I was a teenager again. In a way I felt like I wasn't even there and then I relapsed.”

 

“Claire…”

 

“Just hold me.” I whisper as suddenly dwelling in the past makes me feel more nauseous than comfortable and I feel Jamie’s arms coming around me as he pulls me close. I press my ear against his chest to listen to the rhythm of his beating heart while I’m closing my eyes. His hands brush through my curls and I wrap my arms around his torso.

 

This right here is my safe space. Jamie and I up in the trees with nothing around but the night. The only sound that fills the room are our beating hearts and our steady breathing while candles burn down by the minute. I feel like I never want to leave this place. I want to stay in his arms forever until I won’t feel any pain anymore. Until I won’t know the colour pink any longer. Until I finally feel completely okay. Until I feel carefree. Until I can be myself.

 

“I’ll always hold ye.” Jamie whispers and then my eyes close and sleep takes power over me.

Chapter Text

I've tried to pray, I've bruised my knees
I've tried to bring you back to me
I've tried my best to find some kind of peace

 

Two weeks later and I’m finally starting to get into my daily routine. I wake up in the morning with Jamie, prepare his breakfast while he gets himself and Fergus ready before leaving off to work, leaving Ellen and I to eat with the boy. I feed Rollo before taking him out on a walk only to come back, looking for jobs.

 

I never really thought about what I want to do with my life. To think about having to do the same thing for years on a loop, scares me. I’m scrolling through some hopeless offers and shut Ellen’s laptop before Fergus comes running to me.

 

“Claire?” He asks while his flat hand brushes the curls from his face.

 

“Yes, darling?” I reply with a smile on my face as I’m turning my chair around to face him. Clearly he’s got something on his mind so I decide to pick him up on my lap and his head rests on my shoulder.

 

“Are ye and Da together?” He asks and lifts his head back up to look at me, his eyes meeting mine. I know Jamie wanted to sit down with Fergus to talk about this, as we made things official just a few days ago. We tried to not be obvious in front of him, but as Jamie and I just relished in being together, it didn’t always work out. Eventually I nod softly and his eyes widen in response. “So are ye my Mama then?” He says now and I feel panic rising in my chest.

 

Mama. Me? I open my mouth only to close it again before I’m nudging him softly. Fergus hops from my lap and I’m standing up pacing up and down. “Ellen?” I shout through the house, Fergus glaring at me with his big eyes. After calling for Ellen twice more, he walks to the couch and sits down, clutching his Barbie close to his chest.

 

“Do ye not want to be my Mama then?” He asks and I’m turning around to look at him. The sadness is written into every line of his face and breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. I’m walking to him, kneeling down in front of him before taking his face into both of my hands.

 

“Of course I want to be your Mama Fergus, but that’s not only my decision. Plus for all I know I could be a horrible mother.” I breathe out, not knowing if those are the right words for a five year old boy, but I just don’t know what else to tell him.

 

“Do ye love me?” He suddenly asks, his little fingers brushing through the blonde hair of the doll in his hands. His gaze lingers on me as he’s waiting for a reply.

 

“Yes, of course.” I say without any hesitation and I watch his lips curl up into a toothy smile. He puts his doll down and his little arms come around my neck, playing with some curls that hang down my shoulders.

 

“Then ye are a great Mama.” He answers and I feel tears filling up my eyes. “And I love ye too.” I’m pressing him into my arms as the tears roll silently down my cheeks. I press my lips into his hair as my hand disappears into the mop of wild curls. To hear such words from this child means more to me than I thought, and my heart is beating with a newfound type of love I never thought I’d feel.

 

All of a sudden the doorbell rings and Fergus jolts up, giggling at the both of us getting scared. I’m wiping my tears away quickly before taking his hand. “Let’s go see who’s visiting.” I say, taking his hand into mine. I lift him up to reach the doorknob and put him back onto his feet to let him open the door.

 

A pregnant young woman and a man stand in front of it, her dark hair weaved into a beautiful braid that hangs over her shoulder. Her hands are on her stomach while the man is holding two large suitcases. The woman’s eyes stare at me sharply while the man’s hold a warmth that keeps me calm.

 

“And who are ye?” The woman says, walking past me while the man gives me an apologetical look. She turns around to face Fergus and smiles before opening her arms. “Come here my lad, greet yer auntie.”

 

Jenny. Jamie’s sister. Ellen told me she and her husband would come to visit soon and I’m watching Fergus hug her, his arms reaching around her thighs.

 

“I’m Ian.” Says the man who puts the suitcases into the corner and he holds out his hand that I’m taking. “Claire. It’s nice to meet you.” I answer while I’m giving him a gentle smile.

 

“Jenny, Ian! Oh what a surprise! Yer a week early!” Ellen chimes as she walks down the stairs, her arms already opened, ready to embrace her family. Jenny and Ian walk up into her arms, letting Ellen spoil them with motherly love. I’m standing in the middle of the room, watching the scenario unfold in front of me. “So ye’ve met Claire already?” Ellen says as they all stand next to each other, facing me.

 

“Who is she?” Jenny asks, scanning me from top to bottom before looking back at her mother.

 

“Jamie’s girlfriend.” Ellen answers with a smile on her face, proud to be finally giving me the official title. Jenny walks up to me, her eyes never leaving me and she reaches out her hand.

 

“Nice to meet ye, Claire .” She says, and I’m taking her hand.

 

“It’s nice to meet you too.”

 

Suddenly the door swings open and Jenny’s eyes lighten up at the sight of her brother. Her arms wrap around him, her wrath towards me completely forgotten.

 

“There ye are!” Jamie says, hugging her tightly, leaving me with a weird feeling in my stomach. If Jenny doesn’t like me, would Jamie leave me? Would he even be interested in a future with me if he knew how his sister reacted to me? “Yer early! Missed yer brother?” Jamie says with a grin on his face and Jenny laughs.

 

“Always.” She smiles and Jamie picks up the suitcases from the ground to bring them upstairs while Ellen prepares some lunch for all of us in the kitchen. I’m asking if I could help her but Jenny takes over and takes her side next to her mother. I’m setting the table for all of us and before I know it we’re all sitting around the table, Jamie pressing a kiss to my knuckles before brushing his hands through my curls. His gaze alone makes me feel comfortable in this strange situation, but deep inside fear is creeping up like a demon clutching my heart.

 

We’re all eating our soup and before I can even grab my spoon, I feel Jenny’s gaze on me. “So Claire, where are ye from?” She asks, and I stir my soup to distract me from the anxiety that presses on my chest.

 

“Originally from England.” I answer shortly before eating a spoonful of the delicious vegetable soup.

 

“I can hear that. And where did ye and Jamie meet?”

 

Oh god. Jenny is a woman that speaks her mind, like me, but ten times worse and I’m curling up my lips into a polite smile. “We met in Boston, when we both were living in the streets.” I say, feeling my heart pounding against my chest.

 

“So ye were homeless then?” I’m nodding as an immediate answer and I can see her calculating the years in her head. “But Jamie returned all those years ago, what made ye come here now?”

 

“Jenny…” Jamie warned his sister, his hand grabbing my thigh in reassurance while his thumb brushes smoothly over the fabric of my pants. “Stop.”

 

“But why? I’m interested in yer girlfriend .” She says and I’m exhaling a shaky breath.

 

“Auntie can ye stop talking about Mama like that?”

 

I’m feeling Jamie’s grip loosen on my leg as he turns around to face me, his gaze so quizzical it makes my blood freeze. I’m staring into the soup ahead of me, my lips parting only to exhale air instead of words. I’m looking at Fergus, his eyes holding a glint of worry at the sight of me. “Mama are ye alright?” He asks, moving from his chair onto my lap and I mentally curse the boy for taking away my way of escape.

 

“I’m alright, darling.” I eventually say and Jamie looks at Fergus.

 

“When have ye started callin’ her Mama?” He asks, but I hear the warm tone in his voice that gives me comfort. It’s all he wanted, me finding a way to love his son the way he does and I did so I’m grabbing his hand beneath the table.

 

“Today. I want her to be my Mama, can she be?” He asks his father and he exhales a laugh, his hand cupping the boy’s cheek.

 

“Of course, lad! Of course she can.”

 

Jenny clears her throat from the other side of the table before looking at Fergus with a false smile on her face. “Fergus, can ye maybe go to yer room fer a wee bit? Yer auntie will come to play with ye after cleaning up.”

 

“But I want to stay here!” He whines.

 

“If ye stay here ye’ll have to help clean up.”

 

That’s all Fergus needed to hop off my lap and haste upstairs into his room. I’m looking at Jenny who stares me down before throwing her spoon into her soup, the food splattering on the table.

 

“And who do ye think ye are?” She asks and I feel the blood draining from my face as I’m staring at her, my eyes widen in shock. “Comin’ in here from the streets or wherever ye come from, invadin’  my brother’s and his son’s space!”

 

Jamie’s chair creaks as he stands up, his fists on the table while he sends a sharp gaze to his sister. “Dinna speak to her that way!”

 

“Or what?! Ye want to abandon yer family again? Walk away wi’ that trash o’ yers?! Well be my guest.”

 

“What’s yer fecking problem, Janet?!” Jamie spits and I’m staring ahead of me onto the table as I’m being taken back to the time my parents were fighting because of me. I’m biting nervously on my lips as Ellen and Ian quietly watch their children and wife argue.

 

“My problem?! My problem is that ye dinna even think what this does to our family! Bringing a junkie into this house!”

 

My face lifts up as tears pool in my eyes. How on earth does she know about this? I’m looking into the round and find Ellen’s guilty face glaring away from me. I’m swallowing hard as bile rises up my throat. I’m pushing away the chair as I’m trying to stand on my wobbly legs.

 

“Claire!” Jamie says, his hand wrapping around my wrist but I’m pulling away. I don’t want anyone touching me right now. I don’t want anyone talking to me at this moment. I want to be alone, to drown in the shame that spills all over my body. “Sassenach…” He says again, trying to reach out to me but I’m pressing my hands against the wall, making haste towards the exit of the estate.

 

“Ma how could ye?!”

 

“She at least tells me things, Jamie!”

 

“Shut yer fecking mouth, Janet… CLAIRE!”

 

Are the last few sentences I hear before I’m heading for the treehouse. I don’t remember how I got up here, but I’m laying on the mattress where I usually lay with Jamie. Where I find comfort these days, when my brain is too loud and I can’t stand the demons in my head. Where I feel like I belong. This treehouse does feel like a home to me and I’m thankful for Jamie showing me this place.

 

I’m closing my eyes as tears roll down the side of my cheeks onto the pillow, when I hear steps outside. The latter creaking against the wooden house until Jamie’s head peeks inside. Without another word, he lay next to me, pulling me into his arms and I cried against his chest as his sister's words echoing in the depths of my mind.

 

“How could your mother do this to me?” I sob, Jamie’s hands brushing through my curls while he whispers soothing words in Gaelic onto my forehead. “She knows how I feel about this and yet she told your sister. Why?” I cry out, my whole body shaking with such a force that makes Jamie shake too.

 

“I dinna ken, mo ghraidh.” He whispers, his fingers still in my hair. He presses his lips on my forehead and I’m pulling away to look into his eyes. His hands come to cup my face while his thumbs brush away the tears that still linger on my cheeks.

 

“I can’t go back in there.” I say, grinding my lower lip with my teeth as my brain starts to plot my next steps. “We can run away, Jamie. You, Fergus and I… we can…”

 

“Sassenach… Shh, calm down.” He whispers while shaking his head. “Jenny will be gone in a few weeks and everything will go back to normal. She loved Robert verra much and she’s just scared.”

 

I know whatever I would say now wouldn’t bring anything. Sharing my thoughts would only end up with Jamie trying to comfort me and comfort is unreachable for me right now so I’m nodding.

 

The both of us lie there for a while before we’re heading back to the house in the late afternoon. Ellen, Ian and Jenny are sitting in front of the TV while Fergus is upstairs playing. Jenny doesn’t move when we enter but Ellen comes up to me and wraps her arms around me. I’m standing there, not moving a single muscle as I still hear the screaming of Jamie and Jenny in the back of my mind.

 

There is no place on this earth where people don’t fight about me. There is no place for me. There is no place I can be myself. No place wants me.   

 

“I’m so sorry, Claire.” She whispers and I nod. It’s alright. It’s always alright because if it wasn't, the screaming would start again and if I can’t handle one thing, it’s the screams. “Jenny, please apologize to Claire.”

 

I’m exhaling a shuddering breath when I see Jenny stand up from the couch. Her arms are crossed in front of her body while she doesn’t dare to look at me. She turns her head to look at me, not saying a single word. My gaze lingers on her and before she can say something, I part my lips.

 

“I know, I may be garbage to you. I may be someone that isn’t able to live a normal life. I may be fucked up in my mind, and may have been called a junkie several times. I may have gone through things I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to go through. I may not have a job. I may not have any money. I may have no blood relatives that give a shit about me but you know what I have? I have a heart. I have a heart big enough to love your brother and nephew. I have a heart big enough to make your family mine. I have a heart. A big one. After all the fucking darkness I have seen, all the pain and death and drugs I still have a fucking heart that beats inside my chest and is able to love. And you will not take this away from me.”

 

I’m walking away before anyone else can say something and head upstairs. As I’m passing Fergus’ room I hear his soft voice calling for me. I brush my hands over my face before curling up my lips and entering the room. His toys are spread over the floor as he kneels on the carpet, in front of him is a puzzle he’s trying to put together.

 

“You need help, darling?”

 

“Are ye alright, Mama?” He asks, putting down the puzzle piece before he stands up. We’re both sitting down on the bed and I face him.

 

“I’m okay, don’t you worry about me.” I smile and he reaches out his hand to place it on my cheek, his thumb softly brushing over my skin.

 

“I see Da doing this wi’ ye when yer sad.” He says, pointing to his hand on my cheek. “I ken he also speaks Gaelic but I canna do that so well yet.” I’m looking at him, trying to push down the tears that rise in my eyes and I swallow hard. How is he only five years old?

 

I’m smiling through my tears and watch my vision blur before tears spill from my eyes. “You are such a special boy, Fergus, I hope you know that.” I whisper, pulling him into my arms.

 

I’m not worthy of this boy. I’m not worthy of this life. I’m not worthy of Jamie but here I am, loved by both of them like I’ve never been loved by anyone. I’m closing my eyes as Jenny’s words echo through my brain. I’m just a junkie in this house. A junkie. Nothing more. I’m holding Fergus close, trying to let go of the image of the substance that could ease the pain in my chest. I’m trying. I’m trying to fight it every day. A sudden gasp rips me out of my memory and I’m letting go of Fergus as I’m running to the toilet. I’m emptying my stomach while I’m pushing my curls out of my face. Tears cover my cheeks once again and I let myself drop to the floor before I’m sobbing uncontrollably.

 

My hands are still holding back my curls, my hot cheek touching the cold floor as sobs are shaking my body.

 

The arrival of Jamie’s sister woke demons in me I thought I had under control. It woke up fears I buried in the deepest corners of my brain. It woke needs I thought I no longer needed to be satisfied. I’m back in the pink room. Bathroom turns into a bedroom. Adult Claire turns to teen Claire. And clean Claire turns to addict Claire. I hear a knock on the bathroom door, Jamie calling my name but I’m lying there, on the cold floor without hearing any word he says as the only thing I hear is my brain begging me for the substance that would feed my demons.

Chapter Text

With these demons inside my head

Cause it feels like they just won't let me go

Can somebody just help me out

Am I going crazy?

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been lying on the bathroom floor, or when the first knock on the door echoed through my ears like a distant sound. I’m standing up, knowing that if I won’t brace myself, if I won’t be brave, then they win.

 

I’m looking at myself in the mirror, that hopeful woman I saw a few days ago was just an illusion as the old hazy gaze stares back at me. The pain of my heart returns like it never left.

 

“Claire open the door or I’ll break it in!” Jamie roars on the other side of the door, his flat hand hitting against the wooden surface. I’m taking a last glance at myself, curling up my lips into one of my famous brave smiles before I turn the lock and open the door.

 

Jamie knows every line of my face, he sees every crack of my heart written in my eyes, he sees every smile I fake and hears every shudder in my breath. Now it’s not different. His blue eyes scan me as he stands still in front of me, his lips make no move and he just stares into my eyes. He knows. He knows the demons returned. He knows that on the very floor of this bathroom a darkness whispered into my ears, begging to eat me alive, promising to make it better if I would just let it in. He knows I’ve opened up to it. He knows.

 

“Let’s head back.” I say, smacking my lips realising how dry they are. Jamie takes my hand into his, his fingertips brushing over my knuckles and I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want to see the knowledge written into every wave that lingers in his eyes. I don’t want to and I can’t. 

 

“Claire…” He breathes out, his voice so heavy for a second I feel like his hand turned to stone. I’m shaking my head, not knowing if he watches me or the floor and I want to walk away, I want to leave this situation when he grabs my wrist. I’m turning my head slightly, keeping my gaze on the floor beneath me. I can hear him breathing, I can feel him shake and I can sense his fear.

 

“Let’s just head back, Jamie.” I answer and remove myself from his grasp before heading back to my bedroom. Before I can make it, I see Jenny standing in the hallway next to Ellen, glaring at me with those doubtful eyes. Yes, she might be right about who I am but she can’t judge me. She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know how it feels like to live in a pink world when your favorite colour is black. She doesn’t.

 

I’m looking at the women who wordlessly stare at me, Jenny’s lips part but immediately close the next second before she turns away to walk downstairs. Ellen gives me a silent apology and follows after her daughter, leaving me all to myself. I’m feeling Jamie coming up behind me as I’m closing my eyes but before I can turn around to face him, Fergus runs up to me, asking me to play with him in.

 

“Mama is tired, Fergus.” Jamie’s low voice echoes through the hallway and I’m looking at the boy in front of me. “She’ll need some rest, aye?” He adds and I kneel down to be on eye level with Fergus, brushing the wild curls behind his ear before pressing a kiss onto his forehead.

 

“I’m sorry, darling.” 

 

“It’s okay, Mama.” He says, before walking behind me. “Will ye play wi’ me while Mama rests?” He asks Jamie and I don’t dare to turn around.

 

“O’ course. Ye can head downstairs to yer grannie, I’ll see yer mother to bed.” Jamie says and I’m watching Fergus running downstairs before I feel Jamie’s hand coming around me. I’m turning around to face him, looking up into his blue eyes.

 

“Talk to me.” He says with a pleading undertone and I’m crossing my arms in front of my body, biting nervously on my lip. “Please, Claire, I can see yer no’ well.” When I’m still not answering him, he wraps his arm around me before he leads me into my bedroom, closing the door behind him as I walk to the window, putting a distance between the two of us.

 

“Ye have to talk to me, Sassenach.”

 

I can’t.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“I can see yer no fine… Christ do ye think I’m stupid?” He tries to keep a low voice but his concern for me makes it hard. I’m turning my head to face him, shaking my head.

 

“I don’t know what you mean.”

 

I know you can see it.

 

“Let me help ye, please.”

 

“Christ, Jamie I’m fine!”

 

Help me.

 

He takes a few steps towards me, his nostrils flaring as he stands right in front of me. “Yer no fine.” He breathes out and I’m turning away from him as I scoff.

 

“I didn’t know you could tell me how I feel.”

 

You’re right, I’m miserable.

 

“You want drugs.” He drops the bomb and I’m staring at him.

 

Yes. Yes. Yes. Do you have any?

 

“Uhm… no! What the fuck, Jamie I’m done with that!”

 

“I told ye to be honest wi’ me. I canna help ye if ye dinna talk to me, Claire.” He says, trying to take my hands into his but I’m taking a few steps back before shaking my head frantically.

 

“There is nothing to talk about! You’re just like your sister, assuming things about me that aren’t true!” I say defensively.

 

You both are right.

 

“Stop bein’ so stubborn! I just want to help ye, Claire!” 

 

“There’s nothing you’ve to help me with!”

 

Help me, the demons are suffocating me. Help me, Jamie!

 

He walks closer grabbing my face with his hands before he presses his lips on mine. I’m closing my eyes for a second before pushing him away. It feels wrong. Right at this moment his lips on mine feel wrong as it’s other things I’m craving right now. I’m not myself. I’m not. I’m a walking shell listening to a broken brain possessed by demons. My head turns to the side as I’m walking to the door. Jamie’s hand grabs my wrist again but I’m pulling away.

 

“Don’t touch me!” I yell, staring at him.

 

Hold me.

 

“Claire! I just want to help!”

 

Help me.

 

“I don’t need your fucking help, I’m fine!” I yell louder, making sure he’s keeping the distance.

 

I need you.

 

“I can see in yer very eyes what it is yer cravin’ and I will not let it happen to ye!”

 

“You just want to see me fall like anyone else in this fucking house!” I scream before I open the door. “Leave me the fuck alone, all of you!” I’m walking out, slamming the door into his face as I’m running downstairs, ignoring everyone downstairs. I hear Jamie running down the stairs but I’m already breathing in the evening air when I see his bike lying on the ground. I’m running for it before sitting on it and my legs start to pedal.

 

“Claire!” Jamie roars and I know he will head to his car. He will try to follow me so I’m pedalling faster, trying to look for small roads a car doesn’t have access to. I’m panting as anxiety rises inside my chest. Every sound makes me jolt up in fear, my head turning trying to find headlights. I don’t want him to find me. I don’t want him to take me back. I don’t want him to.

 

I’m pedaling faster, finding a small road down through a forest as tears blur my sight and I’m stopping the bike, throwing it to the ground. I press my back against the tree as my chest is heaving up and down, the silent forest swallowing my cries. I dig my fingers into my hair, trying to rip it out when a scream roars through me. 

 

They won’t shut up. The demons in my head will always yell at me, trying to get me to rock bottom where they lurk. I’m looking around me, the wind howling as it screams with me. Nature always shares the pain with me.

 

I’m grabbing Jamie’s bike, walking for a bit before sitting on it, pedalling my way out of the forest. I’m staring ahead of me, watching the sun disappear for the day before night reigns over the world. I take a deep breath as I’m staring at the road ahead of me, not realising where I go when all of a sudden my legs ache and I find myself in a quiet area of the city.

 

The roads are wet from the rain and I hear a few footsteps scraping against the wet pavement. I’m getting off the bike, looking around as I walk a few streets further.

 

“Fifty pounds.”

 

“Dude, I dinna have-”

 

“Fifty… Or I canna give it to ye.”

 

“Please, I need it.”

 

I’m turning around to watch two dark figures exchanging words I only know so well. I’ve heard John talk like this a numerous amount of times because of me. John. Bless him. I still miss him to this day. I’m looking up at the sky as if it could give me a sign. As if he could give me a sign. But it just stays black. Dark. Not even stars twinkle up there. It’s like someone decided to put a blanket over the sun only to remove it again a few hours later. 

 

I slowly approach the two figures, gripping the handles of my bike tighter when one of them turns around to face me, a dark gaze scanning me. “What do ye want?” One of them spits and I just keep staring at them, aware of how much danger I put myself in. But they have something I need, something I want. They have something that makes the demons roaming around in my head stop. They have something that could actually make me have a future at Lallybroch. The other’s don’t have to know. I can hide it. I’ll be happy. I can be a mother to Fergus, a girlfriend to Jamie, a sister to Jenny and a daughter to Ellen. I just need to shut up the demons first.

 

“I want what you have.” I say, thankful for the bike to lend me its support.

 

“A life in the streets?” He chuckles and waves off the guy in front of him. “Ye can go Jerry, come back when ye have fifty pounds.” The other guy groans and leaves me alone with the one whose name isn’t Jerry. 

 

“No thanks, I had enough of that.” I answer and he looks at me in surprise.

 

“Ye’ve lived out here?”

 

I nod before moving my gaze to the bag in his hands.

 

“I want that.” I point my chin towards the white pulver. The answer to my questions.

 

“It’ll cost ye.” He says his gaze holding mine. “Fifty pounds.” He adds and I now realise how dumb I am. 

 

What person runs out of the house with no money on them? Me. Fucking me. I groan in frustration as tears shoot into my eyes. I fucking hate myself.

 

I’m throwing the bike to the ground as I turn away from him. “Fuck!” I scream before brushing my hand through my thick curls. “I’m so fucking stupid!” I yell, not caring about who hears me. “I don’t have any fucking money.” I’m walking up and down, anxiety building up in my chest as my goal is right in front of me yet seems so unreachable. My face turns to the bag in the guy’s hands and I relish in the imagination of how it would feel to let it prickle in my nose. To let it affect my brain and make me happy. I’m walking closer to him before putting both of my hands into the pockets of my jeans when my eyes widen in surprise.

 

I feel a papery consistency in my pocket and I’m pulling it out. I think it’s a sign from John. Thank you, my friend. I’m holding out the fifty pounds I just found in my jeans, remembering the moment I put it there after Ellen gave me money to buy myself a new shirt. I just forgot to return the change. “Take it!” I say, hoping that nothing could come in between us now. The guy takes the money suspiciously, checking the cash before throwing the bag into my direction.

 

“Here ye go and if ye need more, ye’ll ken where to find me.” He adds before disappearing into the dark.

 

I’m staring at the white pulver in my hands before getting on my bike returning to the spot in the forest. I’m sitting down, my back pressed against a tree when I stare at the plastic bag in my hands. After all this time we’re finally reunited. The one thing that can make me feel normal. The one thing that can make me feel like I can actually be someone. The one thing that listens to me.

 

I sniffle before tears of happiness roll down my cheeks. After trying to silence my demons for so long by myself I can finally give up. I can finally start my life. No one has to know. No one will know. I can be a mother to Fergus, god, he’ll be happy to see me laugh. To see me truly genuinely laugh, to even hear it. He’ll know that I’m finally alright. And Jenny. She won’t call me a junkie anymore because I’ll look more alive than dead. Jamie will think it too, he’ll see I’m happy, he wants me to be happy. I wasn’t happy when I took the drugs in the streets but taking them now, surrounded by this family might change its effects. It will be like taking a sleeping pill before going to bed. I take coke to silence my demons.

 

I’m taking a deep breath before opening it and I swear my heart skips a beat. The rustling of plastic in my hands sounding like my favorite song is being played and I let the white corns drop on my hand, watching a little mountain being built. I zip up the plastic bag, before bringing my hand to my face. 

 

I’m closing my eyes, flashes of memories hitting me like a ton of bricks and I’m suddenly in the hotel room with Jamie. His arms around me as he tries to sooth me. My shivers shook me so hard my muscles ached. The puking was horrible, I thought my stomach would leave through my mouth. The hallucinations were even worse. Jamie couldn’t help me and he can’t help me now. But I can help him. I can get this under control, I can be the perfect girlfriend he deserves. The one that smiles next to him and can be a mother to his son. The one that gets along with all his family members. The one that wants to build a life.

 

I see myself in the streets, on the blanket watching the flames dance in front of me after some horrible nights. I remember the nightmares I went through on nights the coke didn’t last. I shudder. I can’t go back there, I have to see what’s right in front of me. The tiny white mountain I now call my future. That’s in front of me. And I know, some may call me weak but I’m strong. Relapse is strength. Relapse is part of recovery. But relapse can be recovery. I know, it's very confusing.

 

I’m closing my eyes again before taking a deep breath and I’m bringing my nose down to my hand, one sniff and I’m back where I was. One sniff and I have given in. One sniff and the nightmares leave. One sniff and the demons are dead, gone, bye, ciao, adieu. One sniff and I can be strong. I can stop whenever I want. This bag won’t last forever and maybe by then my demons won’t dare to come back. Maybe after finishing this bag I won’t even need it anymore. Maybe that’s the little sign I needed, the sign that could get me back on track and face every single obstacle that may come in my way. It has to be a sign, I wouldn’t know what else it could be.

 

One sniff, Claire. Just one.

 

I’m taking a deep breath through my mouth when I see Jamie’s blue eyes in front of me haunting me like a ghost, not a demon, a ghost. I see his pleading eyes, telling me not to do it. I see his gaze lingering on me filled with disgust and shame. I see his disappointment when he finds out what I did. I lower my hand, taking a shuddering breath.

 

One sniff, Claire. Just one.

 

Jamie won’t find out. He will only care for my smile. He will tell me how he never truly heard me laugh and that it’s the most beautiful sound he’s ever heard. He will tell me that everything’s going to be fine and that he’s proud of me. He won’t be disappointed. He can’t be because he will understand that I did this for us. And even if this feels like giving up, it isn’t, right?

 

I don’t know if it’s me or my demons talking. Maybe both.

 

One sniff, Claire. Just one.

 

Just one.

 

I’m staring at my hand, thinking about the nightmares, thinking about how the time at Lallybroch only made things worse. I’m thinking about how Jenny is right and I’m thinking about Fergus deserving a mother that is present and happy. I’m thinking about Jamie. Oh, Jamie. You’ll understand. You will.

 

One sniff, Claire. Just one.

 

I’m bringing my hand to my face before I close my eyes.

 

Just. One.

 

Just.

 

One.

 

And this time I breathe in through my nose.