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A Million Little Times

Chapter Text

Now

Slim fingers reached out to pluck the bottle off the glass shelf as hooded eyes shifted from side to side to make sure no one was watching. She held the bottle up to her nose, too nervous to spray the perfume on her skin. But, oh, how she wanted to. She could imagine how he would take her perfumed wrist in his hand - she loved how his large hand always made hers appear so delicate in comparison. He would bring her wrist to his nose, closing his eyes at the sweet intermingling of roses with her unique body chemistry. Then he would kiss the inside of her wrist, right over the pulse, his stubble scratching her soft skin.

“Do you need help, ma’am?” A shopkeeper startled her half to death, and she fumbled with the ornate, glass bottle as she rushed to put it back on the shelf.

“N-no,” she sputtered. “No, thank you.”

The shopkeeper flashed her a confused look, and she smiled nervously before leaving the shop as inconspicuously as possible. The bell above the door dinged on her way out, and she jumped, mentally cursing her nerves. It wasn’t as if anyone could read her mind. Anyone who knew her would assume she was in such a store to pick out a scent to please her husband, with whom she was supposedly madly in love.

“No one knows about Jamie,” she muttered under her breath, standing still for a moment to take in deep, calming lungfuls of fresh air. That was, however, precisely the problem. No one did or could know about Jamie, the absolute love of her life, because Jamie was not her husband.

Then

Claire Randall frequently recalled the first time she had met Jamie Fraser. She had been walking across campus at the university in Scotland where her husband Frank taught while a group of grad students played shinty on the lawn. Jamie’s red hair and impressive musculature had caught her eye even before she’d heard his cry of pain as a member of the opposing team had slammed into him, knocking him to the ground.

Being a nurse, Claire couldn’t very well just continue walking without stopping to check that he was okay. “I’m a nurse!” she shouted as she jogged across the expanse of damp grass.

“Ah, a nurse! Jamie, ye hear that? She’ll set ye to rights,” one of the players reassured the injured young man. Jamie clutched his shoulder, grimacing in pain, but he didn’t make a sound.

“I’m Claire,” she said, and as soon as their eyes met, the world seemed to shift on its axis. All indication of pain immediately left Jamie’s features, and the corners of his mouth actually turned up in a smile when he saw her face.

“Jamie, lad, have ye gone daft?” the same player from before asked him.

Claire fought down the urge to smile back at him, forcing her professionalism to take over. “He’s probably just in shock,” she explained. “Here, let me take a look.”

She ripped the shoulder seam of his shirt to reveal bulging muscles along with the painfully obvious signs of a dislocated shoulder. “Do any of you lads have a belt?” she asked while removing her coat.

“Aye!” one chipper young man in the back of the group called out. The belt was passed to Claire who folded it over once and held it out toward Jamie’s mouth. “You’ll want to bite down on this. I promise I’ll be quick, but it will hurt.” Jamie nodded, any trace of his earlier smile now vanished from his face. “I’ll need someone to brace him from behind,” she ordered. One of the more burly men stepped forward to hold Jamie up while Claire waved the other men back to give her space as she got into position. She took a deep breath and looked Jamie in the eye. He nodded, and before anyone knew it, Claire pushed on his arm just so, he cried out, and his shoulder was back in place.

“Thank ye, Sassenach,” he gasped out, a mixture of gratitude and awe shining in his blue eyes.

The apparent spokesman of the group from earlier cuffed Jamie on the head. “The lovely lass puts yer shoulder back in place, and ye call her a common slur? Ye really have gone daft.”

“I didna mean…” Jamie began to apologize.

“It’s all right, everyone. Like I said earlier, he’s probably just in a bit of shock.” Claire looked at Jamie and smiled. “I don’t take offense at all. I’ve been called much worse.” Jamie just nodded, still a bit glassy-eyed. “Now you will want to stop in to hospital to at least get a sling. It might not hurt now, but it will later, and you’ll need to keep it immobilized for a time.”

“We’ll make sure to take care of him, Claire,” the spokesman said. “Wouldna want our best player to be out for any longer than necessary.”

Claire picked her coat up and put it on, bundling herself back up. “Well, I’d best be off. See you lads around campus. And be careful!” she called as she was walking away.

She’d almost gotten back to the paved walkway before she heard, “Wait!” and saw Jamie jogging after her, his injured arm pulled close to his body. His face was flushed red and he was panting, probably more from the pain than the physical exertion of running after her, fit as he was.

He ran the hand on his non-injured arm through his sweaty, red curls, not quite knowing what to say. “I didna…that is, I couldna let ye leave without askin’.”

“Asking what?”

“Well, the lads said I should just go fer it, and well, fuck it. Could I have yer number? Mebbe we could grab a cup of coffee some time?” Claire started to say no until Jamie added, “Just as a thank you, mind ye. No pressure or expectations.”

Claire’s mouth fell open, she being the one in shock this time, but she was at a loss for words. She laughed nervously as she plunged her left hand with its telltale pair of rings into the pocket of her coat. She looked up at Jamie, her heart pounding, and realized that she had a full-blown crush on him, a heady and wonderful feeling she thought she’d never have again.

To this day, Claire still wasn’t sure why she did it. She was married, right then on her way to meet up with her husband. But Jamie had just been injured and been so brave about it. And the way he’d smiled at her, so hopeful and smitten. Maybe she didn’t want to add insult to literal injury. Maybe she thought nothing would come of it. Maybe she was just starved for attention, which she admittedly hadn’t gotten from her husband in years. Or maybe she was just flattered that a younger man found her attractive. Whatever it was, Claire Randall pulled a pen out of her purse and wrote her number on Jamie Fraser’s hand. And so began the biggest and most beautiful mistake of her life.