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A Beautiful, Wild Country

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“That’s the last one, don’t worry,” I remarked to Jamie as he bent to pick down the somewhat haphazardly packed box of my meagre belongings.

“Aye, I’m sure I’ll manage, Sassenach. Be an insult to my manhood if I couldn’t manage but four wee boxes,” he joked as he headed out of the room.

I had expected it to shock me, seeing the room that I’d spent the last few years living in now devoid of all my things but in reality, it looked much and such the same as it always had. Living the life of a nomad meant that I had grown up to be a person not without sentiment but certainly without the need to cling to things that didn’t serve a functional purpose. My clothes had mostly been donated, going to the department at the hospital that allowed people to be discharged in normal clothes if theirs had needed to be cut from them when they were brought in or soiled by blood. I had no furniture to move, only my collection of books that were easy to jigsaw into the boxes that Jamie had brought down with him. A few picture frames were placed in a box with my electronics and the myriad of cables and I was done. With a cursory glance to check that everything had been left neat and tidy, I turned to leave only to find Joe standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. He smiled sadly at me and I felt the tears threatening to spill.

“Going to miss you, LJ.”

“I’m going to miss you too,” I whispered as I moved towards him, letting him wrap his arms around me as I began to cry. This man, who had been there through it all after Frank, who had forced me to sleep when I was sad and who had drank wine with me when I was angry, who had formed such an integral part of the trio as we had moved through school and began our budding careers. It felt cruel that after Geillis moving up to Scotland that I was now doing the same, leaving him by himself. “I hate that you won’t have anyone to say hello to when you come through the door.”

He snorted at that and held me at arms length, smiling with a secret playing behind his lips.

“I’m not going to be on my own forever, Claire. Gayle is moving in with me. Actually, she’s agreed to marry me.”

I threw my arms around his neck with force and kissed him squarely on the cheek as he laughed.

“Joe, I am so happy for you! For you both!”

“Thank, my Lady Jane. Just promise me one thing?” He asked as I unwrapped my arms from him and took a step back.

“Anything, anything at all,” I beamed at him.

“Promise you’ll still travel back down here to see your other best friend get married?”

“You couldn’t stop me.”

***

“Are you sure Jenny doesn’t mind putting me up for the night?” I asked for the thousandth time causing Jamie to roll his eyes so far back in his head that I worried that he should be keeping them on the M6 that stretched out before us. Although I had been lucky to find a flat in Broch Mordha, Jenny had insisted that I stay the first night at Lallybroch as we'd be weary from the travelling.

“It's my family home too, ye ken.”

“But it’s not yours, it’s Jenny and Ian’s,” I corrected him as he snorted, his huge frame jolting upwards with the force of it.

“Aye, it’s theirs. But it’s also mine and Murtagh’s and now Geillis’ as well and yours too, when ye think about it. It’s just the way in the Highlands, we look after each other. I canna think of a soul in Broch Mordha that wouldnae be welcomed with open arms by Jenny, whether it’s for the night or for longer. It’s a big house and it’s always been the place in the community where folk could go for help, for a rest, to get them back on their feet. It was the way with my parents and it’ll continue to be the same for as long as Jenny has any say in it,” he spoke with a gentle voice as his hand found my knee and he squeezed. “It’s why ye’ll do so well in yer new role, Claire. Ye’ve the same kind of heart. Ye’ll doctor these people in the beginning but I imagine after a time, once they get to know ye, they’ll no be able to think of Broch Mordha wi’out ye in it.”

I turned my head to the window beside me so he couldn’t see me welling up. Two weeks ago when we had lay in bed and decided that I would move to Scotland, my brain had immediately been consumed with planning the logistics. Telling Joe, quitting my job, finding somewhere to live in Broch Mordha and most importantly, getting a new post as a doctor. The panic had risen in my chest as I felt overwhelmed with where to begin but amazingly, it had all fallen into place rather beautifully. Joe was, of course, overjoyed as me finding my happiness. Quitting in London had come with a very satisfying ‘fuck you’ to anyone who had turned on me after that idiot Henry Foster’s rumour. On a rainy Tuesday, my phone had pinged from Jenny as she sent me the link to a beautiful little flat above a coffee shop in the middle of Broch Mordha, available immediately and fully furnished. And to top it all off, Jamie had spoken at a mile a minute down the phone a couple of days before he was due to come to London to help me move.

“I’m afraid I’ve got some terrible news, Sassenach,” he was slightly out of breath but I could feel his excitement through the phone.

“You don’t sound as thought you have terrible news.”

“Aye well, it’s terrible but when God shuts a window, he opens a door-“

“Not sure that’s the saying, my lad,” I laughed as he grunted impatiently at my interruption.

“Haud yer wheesht, woman! I’m trying tae tell ye that auld Doctor Beaton has er… weel, he’s pushing up the daisies.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. Who is Mr Beaton?”

“Sassenach, yer no listenin’ tae me. Doctor Beaton. He was the GP here until his last breath, worked until he popped.”

My heart started to beat a little faster at the revelation, at Jamie’s clear excitement.

“Oh, so there might be an opening for…”

“Nae jus’ an opening, Sassenach. A full surgery, twa nurses to help wi’ the bits and bobs but Doctor Beaton is- sorry, was- the only doctor for forty miles. Wi’out a doctor in the surgery, it’d hae to close.”

That made my heart beat faster. Could it really be this easy? It was as if the universe was giving our relationship a green light, letting it all fall into place without me even trying. It felt like after the problems with Frank, the difficulty in dealing with the distance with Jamie, we were allowed for it to be easy.

“And there’s nobody else who might want it?”

“Like who? The surgery isnae owned by the NHS, GPs are self-employed, are they no? Why would they advertise if someone was ready to fill it?”

I smiled and pressed my cheek into my phone, almost trying to feel him through it.

“You’ve been doing your research, haven’t you?” I asked quietly earning a sigh from the other end of the line.

“I’ll admit that I have. I dinna want ye thinking that I’m making decisions for ye or anything, I just heard about auld Beaton and I couldnae help but see it as the perfect opportunity for ye,” he said slowly before asking, “Are ye angry wi’ me?”

I couldn’t help the laughter that burst from my chest, “Angry? Why on earth would I be angry, Jamie?”

“Jus’ because I want ye to know that I’m nae trying to push ye into anything. Ye can work wherever ye fancy and I’ll support ye in it. I dinna want ye thinking I’m making plans for our future wi’out ye having a say in them.”

“Oh Jamie, no, I don’t think that at all. I think it’s incredibly sweet of you to keep me in mind like that.”

“Yer always on my mind, Sassenach. I just canna wait until yer here, wi’ me.”

“I know, I feel the same. Only a few more days.”

***

Jamie’s fingers worked at the knot in my left shoulder as he sat on the sofa above me from my position between his legs on the floor. My fingers pinched and twirled the stem of the wine glass that held an almost obscene amount of red wine and I sighed as I reclined my head against one of his thighs, allowing my eyes to close.

My unpacked boxes sat to the left of us, a task for the morning when we were both properly rested from the past few days of moving. But for now, we revelled in the fact that we were in Scotland, together. And that our new future was lying before us, just waiting for us to take the next step.

“Sassenach, can I ask ye a question?” His low voice broke me out of my blissful relaxation and I hummed affirmatively in response. “Would ye mind if I kept a few things here? Just to make it easier wi’ the travelling back and forth, ye ken.”

My eyes snapped open in surprise as I looked at him, almost upside down from the angle of my head.

“Well, of course, you can. I had sort of, um… assumed that you would be,” I spluttered awkwardly before straightening up and taking a long drink from my wine glass. I heard him chuckle from behind me as he slid down to the floor to sit with me, his warm hand closing around mine.

“I dinna want tae be presumptuous, Claire, that’s why I asked. This is yer home now, ye set the rules. If ye want me here, I’m here,” he said as he pressed his lips against my temple allowing me to sink against his side as his arm came around me, settling in.

“It could be yours too, you know.”

My voice was so quiet that for a moment, I thought maybe he hadn’t heard me. But when I felt him stiffen beside me, the muscles of his long body becoming tense, I knew that he had.

“What are ye saying?”

Steeling myself, I put my glass down on the wooden floor and turned in his grasp to look him in the eye.

“I know you have your flat in Glasgow and the bothy at the estate but you’re only really there for a part of the year when the season is on and it’s not all that far from here. When I saw this place on the website, my mind ran away with me. You'd be closer to your family and friends. I just... I couldn’t help but picture us here, together,” I cleared my throat to stop my voice from shaking as I looked down at our hands, our fingers finding their way to be wrapped through each other’s. “You’d be more than welcome to move in with me here, to live with me.”

One hand untangled from my own and came to my chin, lifting my head so that my eyes met his.

“Nothing would make me happier, Sassenach.”

Overwhelmed by his confirmation, I pounced at him, my lips finding their rightful place against his almost immediately as he caught the impact of my body in his arms. His hands were a fever over me, skimming at every part of me they could find in their exploration as his lips moved down the column of my throat, my mouth falling open in a gasp as his teeth nipped at the skin.

“The idea of being able to come home tae ye, Claire… I feel like I could burst wi’ it,” his breath was ragged as I moved to straddle him, his long legs bending at the knee to pull me even tighter against his body.

“We’ll make a home here, together,” I replied, surprising myself at the emotion in my tone. The reverence, the desperation, the raw need that I so rarely heard in my own voice. He growled against my skin as a reaction of me rolling my hips against his, finding him already firm in his jeans. He fisted my hair in his hand as he tilted my head backwards, looking at me as though I was made of stardust. His other hand pulled at the buttons on my shirt, almost painfully slowly as he uncovered my skin, watching me through slanted eyes the entire time. To see the lust reflected back in his made my stomach tighten. When I shed my shirt, he splayed his hand on the small of my back, holding my torso tightly to his own as he flipped us and lay me gently on my back.

“I had thought that we’d probably start wi’ the bedroom before christening the rest of the house but I suppose the living room floor is the first of many.”