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Gold Dust Woman: Ficlets

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Whenever Claire was restless, Jamie could immediately sense it.

He would usually feel her move for a while before she’d get out of bed — either to go make tea, to read or write some songs. She liked to say she worked better whenever she couldn’t sleep. In the few months they had been together, they both learnt to know how the other functioned. The routines and the habits — old ones and new ones, created together. 

Tonight, however, it took a bit longer for the Scot to realize their shared bed was deprived of her. Only when he moved closer to where she was supposed to be that he was met with emptiness and a cold mattress, instead of her warm body. 

Jamie opened his eyes slowly, looking over to the bedside table to look at the clock — informing him it was sometime after 4am. It took him a second to remember they were not at Lallybroch but in London, at the house Claire owned and kept whenever she had to come to the city for work. For the rest of the time, she had settled in Scotland with him and had yet to move most of her belongings over there. 

He listened carefully to check it she was in the kitchen making tea, but no noise came from there. Neither from the living room where she’d be watching some tv. After what seemed like a long time, he decided to go investigate. 

Jamie grabbed the first dressing gown he could find, which also happened to be Claire’s fluffy white company one, and put it on. It was slightly too tight but warm enough to fight the crisp air. 

Claire wasn’t in the bathroom. She wasn’t in the kitchen nor the living room. It meant one thing and one thing only: she was in the basement. Which also served as her soundproof studio. No one could hear what was happening down there unless they went and check. 

Which Jamie ultimately did. 

Leaning against the doorframe, he watched her for the next few minutes — her curls flying all over the place as she played ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ on the drums. Her hands steadily holding the sticks that met the snare and cymbals with the uttermost precision while her feet tapped onto the bass drum pedal. 

He didn’t know for how long she’d be down here. How many songs she played like that. All he knew is that, even if her back was turned to him, she was smiling. And biting her lip, concentrating as she played, her hands moving at a speed he didn’t comprehend. Granted, he was tone-deaf and couldn’t play music to save his life. Yet, he could recognise a prodigy when he saw one. 

Watching her was mesmerising. He didn’t know what to look at. Her curls bouncing. Her arms beating. Her thighs contracting. Her toned back. It didn’t help that she was only in knickers and a tank top — her porcelain skin exposed to him. 

Seamlessly, she switched from Nirvana to The Ramones and played some more, adding her own inventions to the mix. Until she finally looked up and caught his reflection in the mirror. 

Claire shook her head, grinning. At once, the drums stopped and Jamie clapped his hands, walking in the studio. 

“Dinna stop for me, Sassenach.” He smiled, kissing her head. 

“Cute dressing gown. How long have you been standing there?” She got up, resting the sticks onto the snare. 

“Long enough,” he pulled her close, lifting her up. “Canna sleep?”

Claire held onto him, burying her face into the crook of his neck. Her refuge. “I just woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep so I thought I’d come down and rehearse a bit.“

“Rehearse or soothe yer nerves?” He stroked her hair back, sitting down onto the sofa with her.

“Both, I suppose.” He could feel her smile against the skin of his neck and his grip tightened. 

“Yesterday ye told Simon and I ye were no’ nervous for tonight,” he said softly, stroking her back up and down. 

“Well I wasn’t until I woke up this morning in a panic,” she admitted, still not looking at him. “I haven’t been on stage since…well since that night I left Frank. Before coming to Scotland.” 

“Ah, the day before my eyes had the pleasure to land on yer arse for the first time,” he grinned, giving her bump a good squeeze. 

“Fuck off,” she laughed, kissing the spot behind his ear he loved so much. 

“I’m just tryin’ to make ye relax,” he held her close. “There isna a reason to be nervous for yer show, a nighean. People come to see ye, they expect ye —”

Exactly. They expect to see me a certain way…What if I can’t do it?” Claire looked at him, then. Fear and doubts floating in her whisky eyes. 

If there was one thing Jamie hated the most was to see her so helpless. Unable to help, no matter what he did or say. He simply wanted to kiss all those insecurities away. 

“Sassenach,” he stroked a curl away from her face, looking into her eyes. 

“Ye haven’t been on stage only for a few months and durin’ those months, ye healed and ye went back to bein’ the lass ye were before all of this started, aye? Ye told me so yourself.” 

Claire nodded, waiting for him to continue. 

“Ye haven’t forgotten how to be on stage because ‘tis part of who ye are. It’s a place ye’re meant to be on. Except that now, ye won’t be hidin’ behind a persona to do it. Ye’re no’ hidin’ behind Elizabeth anymore, ye are her.” Cupping her cheek, his thumb stroked her bottom lip. 

“Do you like Elizabeth?” She asked, smirking. 

“Aye, she’s verra hot and I’m glad I dinna have to pay for tickets anymore.” 

Claire chuckled at that, crossing her arms to look at him. “Good to hear.”

“But ye’re my favourite thing about her,” he smiled, capturing her lips with his. 

Resting her forehead against his, she wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled in turn, “I’m glad you’ll be there tonight…it makes me feel better about the whole thing knowing you’ll be around.” 

“I canna wait to watch ye and afterwards, I canna wait to fly back to Scotland to ring in the new year wi’ ye.” 

“I can’t believe how quickly the year passed,” she rested her head onto his shoulder. “And how different I feel from the way I was feeling this time, last year.” 

“Tell me how ye felt, then,” he whispered, leaning back with her to lay down. 

Claire rested her head onto his chest, closing her eyes. For a moment, she didn’t say a word. Simply listening to the sound of his beating heart — like a lullaby soothing her. 

“I felt hollow,” she finally said. “Empty and sad. I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it, I simply got up and went on with my days the way I thought I was supposed to.” 

“I didn’t want to die but I didn’t really see a point to keep going when I felt so terrified of myself. In a way, the drugs made me feel something again, even for such a brief moment. I was feeling and that alone was more than I needed to keep going,” she continued, stroking his arm. 

“I’m aware of the contradiction but I couldn’t help it. It stopped the chaos briefly until it would start all over again, intensifying each time I took them but I couldn’t stop because if I did, I would have to face a reality I wasn’t ready to face just yet.” 

Jamie noticed how her hands had started to shake softly, something that still happened from time to time, whenever the thoughts of drugs clogged her mind. She was clean since only a few months, it would take time to get rid of this. 

Delicately, he brought one to his lips and kissed her palm — making the shaking slow down, at once. “Ye’re the bravest wee thing I’ve ever met, Sassenach. So strong and resilient.” 

“Yes but also asking for help isn’t shameful, it took a while to understand that,” she smiled softly, looking at him. “I owe you and Simon quite a bit.” 

“Aye we support ye but without yer willingness to heal and get better, we would be useless and ye ken it. I’ve seen how my brother dealt wi’ it and how Geillis and I were there for him but in the end, Willie didn’t want to get better — no’ because he had no’ strength but because it consumed him completely.” 

“But you still feel guilty, don’t you? At least Geillis does because she said as much to me.”

“Aye, of course, I do. I always think about what I could have done. Why I had to leave the house at the moment and leave him alone? I kept myself awake many nights because of it, analysing every detail, trying to find what I could have done differently. I ken there were things but my brother wasna willing to accept them.” 

“I understand what you mean,” she said quietly, holding him close.

“It doesna mean my brother didn’t love me or that he wasn’t strong. Took me a while to understand that but I do now. I just hope he found the peace of mind he sought so much.” Jamie couldn’t prevent the tear escaping his eye as he talked about Willie. The wound still open and fresh, healing slowly as the years went by. 

Claire kissed the tear away, cupping his cheeks. She was smiling, her sweet smile of hers that always made him go weak at the knees. He couldn’t explain the way she looked at him, all he knew was that it soothed whatever pain he was in. 

“What if we go back to bed?” She rubbed the tip of her nose against his. “Like you said, it’s rather early and I don’t expect us to go to sleep very early tonight.”

“Oh, nay?” He couldn’t help the grin forming on his face.  

“I have a show and it’s New Year’s Eve! We’re gonna party, my darling,” Claire got up at once and didn’t wait for him to make her way back upstairs. 

Quickly, Jamie got up in turn and hurried over to her. Picking her up, he grinned and carried up back to the bedroom. Claire’s laugh echoing in the hall. 

******* 

“Ten minutes, babe,” Simon winked, handing her a glass of water. 

Claire was done getting ready in her dressing room and sat by the vanity, finishing up her vocal warming.

“Thanks,” she smiled and took a sip of water. 

“Where’s Jamie?” Simon asked, sitting down. “I haven’t seen him since we arrived and you started getting ready.” 

“In the audience,” she took another sip of water. “Don’t ask, I don’t know either why he’d rather watch from there.” 

Simon smirked, “I think I have my little idea of the matter, actually.”

“Well, it’s making me nervous,” she admitted, putting the glass away and started to apply her lipstick. 

“I said I didn’t mind because I’ve sung in front of him before but actually, it’s the first time I’ll be aware he’s in the audience. Other than that day at the pub, it wasn’t the same thing.” 

“I don’t think you should be nervous,” Simon touched her arm in reassurance. 

“I’ll try not to,” she got up and stretched like a graceful cat. 

“All right,” she looked into the mirror and took a long breath. “Let’s do this thing.”  

Simon got up in turn and handed her a piece of paper, “That’s from your Scottish honey boy. I’ll see you out there.” Winking, he kissed her cheek and left the room. 

Claire quickly opened the note, a smile forming on her lips as she read: 

“Rock on, Gold Dust Woman. 
Love, J.” 

She folded the note carefully and tucked him in her front pocket — resting against her heart. Claire knew this show wasn’t just any show. It was a comeback — or more so, a rebirth. 

Leaving her old self at the door, with the fears and insecurities she carried within her. She wasn’t afraid anymore. Not of the spotlight. Not of the shadow. She wasn’t scared of the noise nor the silence. 

To be on stage would be complete abandon, now. Not a burden, anymore. 

Claire stepped into the stoplight on the stage at Wembley stadium, acclaimed by thousands of people there to see her. Like every time, she felt her breath hissed at the sight — while the music started, loud enough for her to go on but not enough to mask the people who screamed for her. 

For a brief second, she felt a panic crept up her neck. Something a foreigner to the stage could feel upon the first time a foot was set on stage. It wasn’t something she ever experienced before and it almost blinded her. The suddenness of it all. 

But then, she caught sight of her favourite mop of red hair. He was standing right in front of the stage, looking up at her with the most calming blue eyes she had ever seen. Panic melted away as Claire started to riff on her guitar and sing. 

Sing for the crowd but mostly, for Jamie. 

At the very end of the show, after what was supposed to be the last song, Claire stood by the microphone with a broad smile, guitar handing over her shoulder. She felt completely weightless and happy. 

“I hope everyone’s having a good night?” She asked, her question was answered by an uproar of cheers that only made her smile wider. 

“Good, good. I have one more song for you and it’s a brand new one that I wrote a few weeks ago.” 

The cheers continued. 

“This song is for someone in particular,” her eyes found Jamie in the crowd again. “But it’s also for anyone who ever thought they didn’t need anyone.” 

“Sometimes, you meet someone. Someone that you believe will be better off without you, even if you know full well you wouldn’t be better off without them. You know that you need them but your own perception of yourself blinds you enough not to see how much they also need you. Sometimes, you let go of the person you love the most simply because you’re scared and terrified you’re going to mess things up. Terrified that they’ll see you with all your flaws and the ugliness inside. But sometimes, they see you for all your worth, with the good and the bad and yet, they wait for you. They stay until you’re ready to admit neither of you can go on without the other. “

“So I hope you like this song,” she said softly. “And that you have this special person in your life, too. It’s called Blue Denim,” she turned towards her drummer and nodded for her to start playing. 

Jamie nodded, watching her with a smile that only widened when he heard the first notes on the guitar. He had walked on her playing them many times but each time, she brushed it off and pretended she wasn’t working on anything new. 

When she started to sing, her glance stayed on him the entire time, not looking at anyone else. They were only the two of them in the crowded stadium. 

I saw him the other day
I saw him again yesterday
I wonder if I’ll ever see him again
He reminded me of Blue Denim

Blue-gray eyes they change with the color
Change with the sun, they run with the sight
Change with the wind but they’re always bright
Bright eyes Blue Denim 

I knew him another way
I knew him another day 
In some ways he’d forgotten me
In many ways he got to me

I turned away so he couldn’t see
I turned away it could never be
I never thought he would walk away
But I lost him again yesterday

Blue-gray eyes they change with the color
Change with the sun, they run with the sight
Change with the wind but they’re always bright
Bright eyes Blue Denim
Bright eyes Blue Denim

Understanding me, understanding you
Is not an easy thing to do
Understanding me and understanding you
Is not an easy thing to do

And I will never forget
The last time I saw you
Like a photograph so rare
Like a painting

No, I will never forget
The last time I saw you
Never to be, not you not me
No no

So I’m going away for a little while
To remember how to feel
And if I find the answer
I promise you I’ll come back and get you

Whereas I’m going away for a little while
To remember how to feel
And if I find the answer
I promise you I’ll come back and get you

She moved closer to the end of the stage, still looking at Jamie. Eyes locked with his. The music stopped but she sang the last notes acapella, kneeling to him. 

I’ll come back and get you

Winking at him, she almost didn’t notice how the crowd went wild. Applauded and cheers erupting for her. 

She got up, smiling widely, “Thank you for coming! And a happy new year!” 

Claire disappeared backstages, engulfed by the cheers and the applause. Engulfed by happiness and a sense of self she had long thought forgotten. Everything was a blurry haze. Ecstasy. Simon hugged her at some point before taking care of her guitar and she continued on her path towards her dressing room. 

Unaware of how he managed to be so quick to escape from the crowd, Jamie stood by the door, waiting for her with the proudest smile. His eyes were shiny with admiration and awe but before he had the time to say something, Claire threw herself into his arms. Holding onto him for dear life. 

How wonderful it felt to breathe freely. 

“Christ, a nighean,” he said softly, holding her. “Ye were amazin’! I’m —“ 

Cutting him off with a kiss, chaste and tender, she smiled against his lips. “Sssh, take me home to Lallybroch.” 

When the clock struck midnight, bringing with it the new year, Jamie and Claire were on a private plane to Scotland. Heads in the clouds and hearts beating together.