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A Flutter of Wings.

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Hi.

Welcome to the party inside my brain. This is the first story I'm posting on here. Let's all pretend I know what I'm doing.

I've had this in my head for a while, and needed to get it out before I developed an eye twitch.

Grab a helmet and strap in loves.

OBLIGATORY WARNING:

This story will include:

Adult themes. Foul language. Confronting themes. Violence. Themes surrounding mental health. I will make sure to include trigger warnings at the beginning of any chapters that I feel explicitly require it.

Also, graphic, wordy hanky panky (aka sex), but it's important to the story and that's the excuse I'm giving myself.

Disclaimer: The characters in the story are portrayed pretty differently from the show, so if you only enjoy canon-compliant characters you might not enjoy this story :)

That's about all I have for this, there will be complimentary shit jokes throughout the story. Please enjoy your stay.

***

Chapter Text

"These eyes, watched you bring my world to an end"

(The Guess Who - These Eyes)

***

 

"Look, just drop it - please, just think about this, don't do anything crazy," I try to reason anxiously, hearing my heartbeat ring in my ears.

Please don't let this be how today ends.

I swallow harshly, trying to control my breathing as I raise my hands in surrender.

"Just put it down, and we can talk about this," I gulp, hoping my voice sounds calmer than what I am, I can feel my stomach knotting and getting that nauseous pit again.

He tilts his head, looking like he's considering my offer and takes a step towards me and I hold my breath, all I can hear is his heavy breathing and I'm just praying to god this is working.

"I won't do anything I promise, just... Just drop it and we can talk," I try to offer again, feeling my pulse hammer in my body.

I close my eyes, trying to will myself not to overreact - I know what he's like and it will only make this so much worse if I don't try and stay calm so I can negotiate with him.

I just need to not make any sudden movements, I don't want to startle him and have this end the way I'm praying it doesn't.

When I look at him his eyes are watching mine carefully and I gasp when I hear the thud on the ground looking to where he's dropped it.

He just stares at me with his brown eyes, his big tongue hanging out the side of his stupid wrinkled head.

"For fuck sake Gizmo!" I huff, rushing over to pick my phone up off the ground and grimace at the slobber coating it.

I point the phone at him "How many times have we been over this? My phone is not food! I can't afford to replace another one of these!"

I swear this dog is going to give me grey hairs at 26.

Gizmo just plonks his tubby butt on the floor, panting as he cocks his head with that same droopy expression he always has.

I swear if he wasn't the only good thing I had in my life, he would be in so much trouble right now.

I give him a stern look, trying to sound firm "Don't give me that look. You know you're in trouble mister, you're lucky I don't make you sleep outside - I'll do it you know"

Even Gizmo looks at me like he knows I'm full of shit, because I am. I'd sleep outside just to make sure this damn dog was comfortable.

My scolding is interrupted by the loud ring of my phone and without thinking I answer it and press it to my ear.

"Oh for fuck sake!" I yell, pulling it away and seeing the string of drool drip from it.

"Claire? You alright? What's going on?" John's voice comes out muffled from my phone and scrunch my face up, growling as I walk to the kitchen and grab a paper towel to wipe my phone.

"Just give me a minute!" I yell again, wiping down the glass as I glare at Gizmo who is watching me before he flops onto the floor and rolls on his side, looking like a loaf of bread with legs.

I press my phone onto loudspeaker as I grab the sleeve of my shirt to wipe my face, grimacing again.

"Sorry Gizmo had my phone," I mutter, leaning my elbows on the bench and resting my face in my hands.

"...He had your phone? I swear you'd let that dog get away with murder - he can be a real assho-"

"Watch it John," I warn, pointing at my phone on the bench like the idiot that's somehow managed to weasel his way in as my only friend since I met him a year ago can see me. "Finish that sentence and he will get away with murder, and no one will find your body."


No one says mean things about my baby.

"Yeesh, calm down. Don't talk smack about your fat fur child, point taken. Look, the reason I called, you're still coming tonight right?" he asks, in no way making it sound like a question or I have a choice in the matter, but more so reminding me I can't back out.

Dammit John, I thought we'd been over this, why is he so insistent about it? He knows what I'm like.

That's probably exactly why he's doing this.

I sigh, rubbing my temples "Look... John, I know you really want me there but you know I'm not real big on people-"

"Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, if you try and bail on this party, like you do with every other single thing that doesn't involve that damn dog and watching The Office reruns, I am dragging you there, and I don't care if you're in those fluffy slippers and half naked - you're coming" he threatens.

I groan, rolling my eyes and John’s knowing voice comes through the speaker again "I could hear that eye roll from here Claire."

I'm still trying to work out how John managed to be one of the only people to drag some kind of trust out of me over this past year, but he's so likeable it's infuriating and he has this god damn persistence that drives me up the wall.

Mainly because he's persistent about caring about me, and pushing me to do more than stay locked away in my house with my dog and the reason my life isn't worth existing in, unless I'm at work.

I really don't know why he bothers, I'm a lost cause really.

I've just learnt over the years that people can't be trusted, they aren't safe. I'm far better off on my own with the only thing I can seem to care about these days.

Gizmo.

"Please Claire, this is important to me. It's Alex's birthday and he really wants you there too" he pleads, using his best childlike begging voice and I can already picture those big puppy dog eyes.

Dammit, he knows I can't say no to those darn eyes.

While I find notions like real love to be bullshit, I've learnt very thoroughly it's not something that exists for people like me - however I know it exists for John and his boyfriend Alex, they're so in love and perfect for each other it's disgusting.

They're the statistical anomaly where they've managed to find a person to love, and truly be loved back by, sometimes it's fascinating to watch but I know it's the equivalent of being struck by lightning.

Well at least for someone like me anyway.

And they're two of the nicest, and most unfairly attractive people I've ever met - how is that fair? You don't get to be all of those things and nice, you dick.

I give my phone a flat look "Using guilt now are we John? Shame on you."

"Absolutely, whatever it takes," he says without missing a beat.

"Also... if you try and make up some last minute excuse to not come, I'll show everyone at the party the video of you on my phone dancing drunk on the table belting out 'I want it that way' by the backstreet boys - still my favourite video of you by the way, and my favourite version of that song" he says coyly and I glare holes into my phone.

I need to make a mental note to destroy that bloody video.

"Blackmail now too? I thought more of you" I say sarcastically.

"I'm above nothing to make you actually enjoy yourself for once" he points out, and I let out another resigned sigh.

"You aren't dropping this are you?"

"Nope. And besides! There's a great guy that's gonna be there I want to introduce you to, I know you'll get along great with him," he says and I can hear that damn smirk on his face.

Oh fuck no, absolutely not.

"No way, John you know I don't-"

"His name is vodka, you're gonna love him, you two go way back," he grins, and I squint at my phone, flipping it off.

Bribery now too? He's on a roll tonight the prick.

He knows my relationship with vodka, it's the only reason he has that fucking video.

"Fine. I'll go," I concede, looking to Gizmo who is watching me intently with a puddle of drool forming on the floor near his mouth.

"Brilliant! I'm on my way!" John says brightly.

I crease my brows "But you didn't know if I was-"

"Sorry! Can't talk! Driving! See you in thirty minutes, darling!" he says loudly, trying to sound distracted and hangs up before I can reply.

I just stare at my phone, blinking slowly.

That sly fucking...

I look at Gizmo again, who has rolled back onto his stomach, staring up at me with big dopey eyes as he snorts trying to inhale too quickly while his jowls smush against the floor and his tongue pokes out the front of his mouth, before he manages to suck it back in.

I groan, leaning my palms on the counter as I hang my head "How do I always get dragged into shit like this by that annoying loveable twat?"

***

I've managed to look partially human.

I stare in the mirror in my room, letting out a heavy breath as I press my lips together and look over my jeans and vintage distressed t-shirt, glancing down to my boots and back to my face.

I mean, if a shirt is older than you are, and has holes in it but you refuse to throw it out because it's one of your favourite bands - you can get away with calling it distressed and vintage right?

This is as party ready as I can manage, at least I kind of tamed my hair.

Maybe I can say I'm going for that rockstar without a care look? Just you know, without the fame, talent, looks or money.

That works.

I stare at my eyes briefly, barely recognising them. For how full they should be from all the things that they've seen it's a wonder they look so vacant, but I can't remember seeing them look any other way these days.

I lean over to the reach next to my mirror grabbing another layer of clothing, pulling my red flannel on, and running my fingers over my curly brown hair, hopelessly trying to tame it before pressing my hands to my face and trying to coax myself into not feeling the amount of dread I do about going to this fucking party.

It's so bizarre to think I actually used to enjoy going out, that I wanted to make friends years ago - I was bright, funny and somewhat confident but these days everything just seems grey, and like it's too much effort.

But I suppose when you have everything you cared about and your life flipped upside down, also kicked in the teeth, betrayed by everyone you trusted within three months, it might be the final straw for anyone when life hasn't been kind to you to begin with anyway.

I just don't really see the point if I'm being honest, getting up every day just seems like walking to a toaster and sticking a fork in it, listening to everyone else tell you how great it is, because their toaster isn't turned on and they aren't having their insides fried.

I have Gizmo though, he's all the reason I need to get out of bed and deal with that every day.

Speaking of that ball of dough with fur, he is sitting there staring up at me, whining as I shove my phone in my back pocket.

"Don't give me that look Gizzy, I tried okay? This is as good as it gets, I don't need your attitude too," I say, gesturing to my outfit and he just cocks his head and huffs.

"You'll be fine here for a couple hours, I left you extra food and new toys" I try and reason with him, crouching down to hold his wrinkly giant boofhead "Just for the love of Christ, please don't try and eat the couch while I'm gone, not again."

"Still talking to yourself I see," John's voice scares the absolute shit out of me from my bedroom door way and I scream, flying backwards and landing on my back with a thud.

"Have you heard of fucking knocking?!" I gripe, pushing myself up on my elbows to glare at him.

"You didn't give me a spare key so I wouldn't use it," he shrugs, trying to hold in a laugh as he leans against the door frame.

Actually I gave you that key for a completely different reason John and you know it, you asshole.

"I wasn't talking to myself," I huff, deciding to change the subject and pulling myself to my feet.

"You're either talking to yourself or the dog - basically the same thing" he points out, looking over my outfit and giving me a smug grin.

"You look smokin’ by the way, but you always do"

I frown at him, giving him a look that says he's full of shit. He always says things like that to me, and I know he's just trying to build my confidence but I know I look like a permanently tired pigeon, I don't need smoke blown up my ass about it.

"Can we please just go so I can get home?" I ask, before leaning down to press a kiss to the top of Gizmos head which he only snorts at again, before standing and waddling over to his pile of pillows in my room and flopping on them.

I swear all he does is eat and sleep, when he's not trying to give me a nervous breakdown using my phone that I can't afford to replace as a snack.

It's the third one this year.

John steps aside to let me pass him as I walk out of my room, and he waves to Gizmo warmly before turning to follow me.

"Damn calm down party animal, I know you're excited but I don't think I can handle all of this enthusiasm," he deadpans.

"I'm being bribed and blackmailed to go to this, may I remind you," I point out, grabbing my keys off the table and Alex's birthday present.

Even though I was trying to avoid the social situation, I'd had this present picked out for him for weeks - as much as I avoid connections with people and my feelings, I'm sentimental and I really hope he likes what I had made for him.

It's special, just like he is, John too.

John doesn't reply and I see him staring at the bedroom door down the hall from my kitchen, and looking back to me with a sympathetic smile "How was it today? You okay?"

"Just like every other day," I dismiss, not wanting to talk about it.

John is really the only person I've let into that part of my life, well, since everyone I thought I mattered to took a flaming dump on it and even though it's hard for me to show it, I know he knows I appreciate him trying to be there for me, he knows how hard it is for me to let anyone in.

"You're normally not this down, are you sure you're okay? I've barely gotten that sense of humour of yours from you all day," he presses as he follows me towards the front door, sounding sincere but I don't miss the concern in his voice.

"I'm fine John" I sigh, opening the front door as we walk through it, and I lock it behind me "It really was just like every other day, I'm just tired"

I'm always tired.

He slings his arm over my shoulder as we walk towards his car, giving me that enthusiastic grin I know so well, that always seems to manage to lift my mood whether I like it or not.

"Well we're having fun tonight, even if I have to give you liver poisoning with alcohol to drag it out of you"

I smile "Awe damaging my vital organs to make sure I have a good time, that's so sweet," I coo at him, holding my hand over my heart.

He shrugs, waggling his annoying full perfect brows at me "What else are friends for? Let's get wrecked, darling."

Chapter Text

"Come here come here come here

You know you really oughta"

(The Vines - Get Free)

 

***

 

It's been two hours. Two hours, twelve minutes and thirty five seconds, but it's not like I'm counting.

I'm definitely counting.

I've spent most of the night so far tucked away on a couch, hanging out with the one guy that is seeming to make this night vaguely tolerable.

Vodka really is a great guy, I should start spending more time with him again.

The house is filled with party lights, incense burning and dim lanterns hung from the ceiling, the atmosphere is actually really aesthetically pleasing - just a shame that there's people here.

John has tried prying me off the couch, urging me to come socialize and meet new people, but I'm sorry unless you've got four legs and fur, I'm really not interested.

I was happy to see how much Alex loved his present though, I commissioned a portrait of him and John from one of their favourite artists and I'd saved for months to get that done for him.

The part where he got all misty eyed and pulled me into a hug was where my limit was though, affection and emotions just aren't my thing any more, I can really only show them around Gizmo but sometimes I slip up around John.

I'm still really glad I was able to do something nice for Alex's birthday though, and the look on his face when he saw me walk through the door, cheering over the fact John managed to drag me here.

I was technically kidnapped and forced against my will, but at least it made him happy so I guess it's not all bad.

The music in the house is vibrating and thumping in the air, and at least the music taste John and Alex have makes the night better.

Music is probably the only other thing that I can enjoy these days, that let's me feel anything at all, aside from the vacant hollowness that only gets engulfed with skin crawling pain when I can't manage to push it down any more.

They seem to be stuck in a time warp with music like I am, I'm like Marty Mcfly stuck in a Delorean back in time and I really think I was just born in the wrong era.

I watch the crowd of people in the house getting lost in their drinking and enjoying social interactions with each other, dancing, laughing and enjoying their life.

What a foreign concept.

My eyes catch another set of eyes across the room, a man standing with his friends and he smiles and waves at me, and my stomach drops.

Oh please don't come over.

This is my cue to leave.

I give a polite smile back and push off the couch, making a beeline for the staircase to find a bathroom, empty room, anything.

I just need to hide for a few minutes and work out an excuse I can give John to go home, I made an appearance, I came, I saw and I have been breaking my neck to get back home the entire time.

I shuffle past the people on the staircase, who are apparently trying to make a baby at a house party, keeping my eyes on the ground and stepping over the random red cups littered there - Alex is going to be so pissed, he hates mess.

But I already know, John organised cleaners to come first thing in the morning as part of his birthday present.

They're so grossly perfect for each other.

When I reach the top of the stairs, I press my hand to my chest, letting out a relieved sigh.

Thank god I didn't trip and fall onto anyone while they're in the process of getting pregnant on a staircase.

I push my fingers into the front of my hair, messing it about and pushing it away from my face and glance up the hallway trying to decide which room to go into.

I look to the second door on the left, which is a room I'm familiar with. It's the room John carried me into the night I gave him a backstreet boys concert on his coffee table before I slipped on my ass, and fell off the table like a sack of shit - still singing loudly once I hit the ground.

I feel like I've had a sensory overload tonight, my brain isn't coping with it, there's just too much going on and I'm way out of my comfort zone again.

I appreciate that John just wants to help me, I know it must be hard watching someone you care about wander around as a shell of a person, waiting for it all to be over but life just isn't cut out for some people.

Life isn't fair, and sometimes people just get handed a deck in life that's unlucky, there's no rhyme or reason for it, sometimes life isn't kind to matter how kind of a person you are.

I just have to accept I'm one of those people.

You know, the thing people don't tell you with depression is that most people think it's like being locked in a dark room, unable to see things for what they are.

But really it feels like the curtains have been pulled back from your eyes, you see things clearly, from the perspective of what your brain has been trying to lie to you about what reality really is, that you can see for the first time that the futile hope you had that things get better is a whimsical nonsense dream.

I guess the other thing they don't tell you is that everyone thinks having depression means you're sad, that it's the opposite of happiness.

Not that I even remember or think I know what happiness truly feels like.

I wish I could feel sad, I wish I could feel much of anything these days aside from the glimpse of pain I get when it rears its ugly head, the black fog in your head suffocates your ability to feel at all, it's just emptiness. The opposite of depression isn't happiness - it's vitality, the ability to enjoy being alive at all.

I really need to find something to write in my journal today, I haven't found anything to write down yet and that's never a good sign.

I need to find my reason for today, and I need to find it soon.

I try to push my usual hopeless nagging thoughts away, and walk to the door, grabbing the handle and swinging it open.

When I step inside the doorway and look into the room however, I've never wished my eyesight was ripped from me more in my entire life.

I've never wished the ground would open up and swallow me to the pits of hell more in my entire life, and for me that's saying something.

I stand frozen, the image of the man leant with his back against the wall in front of me, with the head of long blonde hair in front of his crotch doing something very unmistakable paralysing my whole body.

I'm really wishing I slipped and fell down those stairs now.

The woman kneeling doesn't seem to notice my entrance, she is busy I guess - but he has.

His drunk lidded captivating eyes are locked on mine, and my stomach flies into my throat when a slow smirk pulls on his cherry carved lips and he moves one hand to the back of the girls head and threads his fingers into the girls hair.

Who the actual fuck does that in this situation!

I barely have time to take in his appearance or facial features, all I can briefly take in aside from those eyes that are holding me in place, is a long mess of red curls framing his face, and a white t-shirt.

Is the universe just fucking with me at this point?

My body catches up to my brain as I stare completely stone faced, and mortified.

Why am I still just standing here!

I can only think of one logical thing to do in this situation.

Pretend I'm blind.

I hold my hands out in front of myself, feeling around until I find the door frame, and try to look at him like I can't see him and speak into the room like I'm blind as a damn bat and haven't just witnessed what's happening in front of me.

"Hello? Is anyone in here? Is this the bathroom?" I ask praying I sound casual and curious and not like I want to claw my own eyes out of my face.

His brows shoot up, and he sucks in a sharp breath, sinking his teeth into his bottom lip with a smile as he rolls his head back against the wall and watches with me heavy lidded eyes, while the girl seems to become more enthusiastic and vigorous about her current situation.

"I probably have the wrong room, this always happens," I lie helplessly, trying not to show the reaction my insides are having to the way he's watching me on my face.

The girl still either hadn't noticed me, or doesn't care, but I wish that fucking smirky idiot would stop staring at me.

I think I'm about to vomit and that's the only thing that could make this moment more of a shit show than it already is.

He doesn't reply to me, and I look around the room and tap my foot against the floor, feeling my heart slam in my chest before I shrug my shoulder, wanting to kick my own ass for how high pitched and cracked my voice comes out.

"Nope there's carpet in here, not the bathroom, I'll just have to keep looking - which is ironic, because I'm blind. Haaa!"

I wheeze out an awkward laugh to myself, blowing out a raspberry through my lips, screwing my face up.

"The search for a bathroom continues I guess."

I reach blindly for the door, willing my legs to move as I rush out, and slam it closed behind me.

Once it's closed, I punch my fists frantically in the air around my head, jumping back and forth on my feet like in having a fit, whisper screaming 'What the actual fuck is wrong with me!"

Of course something like this would happen. It wouldn't be me leaving the house without some kind of horrifying embarrassing experience to give me a mild heart attack.

I know John and Alex are friends with some colorful people, and they're the furthest thing from shy but Jesus Christ who just smirks at someone when they get busted trying to punch a girl in the throat with their dick.

I don't get people, I really don't. This is why I prefer dogs.

I rub my hands over my face, groaning as I hiss another 'fucking hell' into my hands.

There is not enough vodka in the world for that shit I just witnessed.

And pretending I'm blind? Really brain? That was the first fucking idea you had?

To be fair at that moment I really did wish I was blind, never wanted to be Stevie Wonder more in my  years of existing.

This is why I don't socialize, I'm handicapped in that area and this moment proves that.

Guess hiding in the rooms is out of the question, I'm way too damn traumatized to open another door, god knows what I'll find next. 

I make my way back down the staircase, muttering to myself with wide shocked eyes like a lunatic about what just happened.

I look around the house and notice the back patio doors, and make a rush to them - guess this is my next best option.

I grab a can of some kind of alcohol from a tub of ice on my way out, planning to inhale it and hope that can somehow wipe my memory of the last five minutes.

Or maybe I can knock myself unconscious with it, I'm fine with either.

I push through the patio doors, finding a spot on the deck, leaning against the wall away from the people congregated out there smoking under the string of fairy lights and Tiki Torches.

I suck in a deep breath, cracking open the can and bringing it to my lips, sculling large gulps too fast to even register the taste before its half empty and I pull it away, and then I grimace and look at the label on the can.

Rum and Coke.

I fucking hate rum. But I'll take anything right now.

Consider me Captain Jack Sparrow because I will drink this shit like water until I forget what I just saw.

I can't get those fucking eyes out of my head, and I'm so confused as to why I was so momentarily frozen by them, they were bewitching and entrancing, it was too dim in the room to notice the colour but the essence they had was like being sucked into a vortex.

I hope I never have to see those eyes with their weird Voodoo bullshit or that taunting smirk on that bastard's head ever again, I don't even know what the hell happened.

I think maybe I was just stunned, similar to when a bird flies into a window and lays there dazed until it registers what's going on.

That's what happened, his eyes just stunned me - I mean the situation, that stunned me.

Jesus I'd give anything to be a bird that flew headfirst into a window and have a concussion right now.

I take another large gulp from the can, finishing off the rest of it and screw my nose up at the sweet bitter taste of the drink.

I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and cough slightly, placing can on the ground and leaning back against the wall and lean my head up to look at the sky through the sheer chiffon material draped over the wooden beams of the roof of the deck.

I stand there for a while, trying to wrap my head around everything, and crease my brows shaking my head and pinch the bridge of my nose.

"Come on Claire, you'll have fun tonight Claire, people aren't as bad as you think Claire," I say to myself repeating what John has been saying to me all night, mocking his voice but somehow making him sound like Mrs. Doubtfire.

"You need to meet new people Claire," I continue to mock in a whiny voice, throwing my hands out in front of myself. "What's the worst that could happen Claire?"

Yeah John, this has been so much fun, a fucking blast. I've only wanted to gouge out my own eyes and throw myself down a flight of stairs, it's been fucking thrilling.

"Ye know, the first sign of insanity is talkin' tae yerself," A deep accent laced voice drawls in amusement next to me, grabbing my attention as I snap my head to the direction of it and I nearly take a running jump over the railing of the deck.

That fucking smirk.

My breath catches in my throat as I get trapped in the provocative stare of those all consuming eyes again and mutter in annoyed disbelief under my breath, thinking this night couldn't get any worse.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Chapter Text

"Dude looks like a lady"

(Aerosmith)

 

***

 

Blue.

That's the color that's threatening to make me wonder if I can survive a ten foot drop onto cement with no broken bones.

Clear, ocean blue irises, framed by thick lashes and curious brows staring straight into my soul while I forget the English language again.

And. That. Fucking. Smirk.

I just stare wordlessly back at him, finally getting a decent look at his sharp yet boyish features complimented by that wild mess of curls that he brings his hand up to run his fingers through lazily.

What is this? A party for ridiculously attractive people and I just managed to get in out of pure luck? Did they all just send out memos to each other to congregate in this fucking house?

Another figure coming out of the patio doors catches my attention, a head of blonde hair but I nearly fall over standing up when I finally see the front of that head, the face of the woman I saw in that room who apparently...has... a moustache?

I glance over their figure, noticing the small petite frame in tight jeans and a t-shirt.

Oh. 

That woman was not a woman at all, it is very much a man and now I'm looking back to blue eyes over here even more speechless.

Well you know that they say, the word assume makes an ass out of u and me, and I made one hell of an assumption about the man that was on his knees with absolutely incredible luscious long blonde hair, honestly it's like watching a Pantene shampoo commercial as he walks.

That blonde hair just fucking threw me, it was like seeing Paris Hilton from behind.

Blue eyes gives me a once over, leaning his arm above his head against the wall and tilts his head.

"End up findin’ the bathroom, Claire?" he asks, his full lips wrapping around each of the syllables through his thick Scottish accent.

Oh super, this is getting even better - no really, it's possible to free fall several feet and maybe not die right? Honestly either way seems like a fantastic option right now.

I frown at him, pulling my face back. "How the hell do you know my name?"

He wets his lips, as another smile ghosts across them. "That riveting conversation ye were havin’ with yerself just then, that's your name, aye? Claire?"

"Possibly..." I reply cautiously, turning my face to look at him sideways.

He bites the tip of his tongue between his straight pearly teeth, with a wide smile and lifts his brows. "Possibly? Well who else were you talking to?"

I point to my head, lifting my own brows, and try to play crazy to get him to leave me alone. "There's about ten of us up here, always great for conversation."

He bites back a laugh, bringing his fingers up to scratch at his jaw.

"So tell me," he begins curiously, popping the slight dimple in his cheek as that smirk returns slowly. "Do ye make a habit of walkin’ in on people gettin’ blow jobs?"

I choke on my own spit, gaping at him - who the fuck asks - why would he say...- Why is he smiling about this?!

The infuriating arrogant look on his face taunting me, cues my response as I squint at him. "Do you make a habit of getting blow jobs in other people's rooms at parties?"

He purses his lips, then looks around the outside deck thoughtfully as if reminiscing about the many times he has in fact done that.

Well that's a fuckboy face thinking about fuckboy memories if I've ever seen one.

But - I can't go assuming again, maybe he and that dude barbie are in a relationship and just have a very weird obsession with blow jobs in other people's houses.

I clear my throat, gesturing to the gentlemen with the creamy greek goddess hair over with the group of people behind us, being all too familiar with the back of his head now. 

"Didn't mean to walk in on you and your boyfriend, I should've knocked," I mumble, hoping any second now he's just going to think I'm nuts and fuck off.

Blue eyes’ brows shoot up, and he turns his head to where I'm gesturing and looks back to me with an amused but knowing look. "He's not my boyfriend, I met him an hour ago - dinna even ken his name."

He leans his face closer to mine, looking smug again. "Weren't ye blind just before?"

My heart stops in my chest, and I vividly picture in my mind the cement below us flying towards my body as I nose dive into it and my eyes widen as I blurt out whatever comes into my head first.

"It's a miracle!" I gasp, looking around us in dramatic shock and slap my hands to my cheeks "I can see!"

I throw my hands in the air tossing my head back as I shout trying to sound like I just saw the heavens open. "The power of the lord has given me the gift of sight, praise Jesus!"

I believe in god as much as I believe in the tooth fairy, and that went out the window when that bitch left me a button instead of money when I was four.

But nothing gets people to run for the hills faster than acting like one of those people that just turns up at your door asking if you've heard about their lord and savior.

I flop my head back to look at him, to see him watching me with a cocked brow and tight smile that's trying to hold in a burst of laughter.

This isn't funny you dickhead, can't you see this is some turning water into wine shit? You just witnessed a blind person get their vision restored by divine intervention.

Ugh... He knows I'm lying out of my ass, but I'm in far too deep to backpedal now.

Thanks brain, ruining my life as usual.

He runs his fingers over his lower lip, letting out a laugh under his breath before he steps closer to me, standing directly next to me as he perches his arm above my head and looks down at me "Ye’ve got stunning eyes, since we're on the subject. Never seen ones like yers before. They’re almost... golden. Like whisky...wi’ the sun shinin’ through them from behind.”

Um, okay. What do I have to do to make this smirky asshole piss off already?

It's like the weirder I am the closer he gets, it's frustrating the hell out of me and terrible for my nerves!

I also don't understand why a gay man is looking at me like I'm a sirloin steak and he's a tiger that's been starved for months but nothing about tonight makes sense in general.

He has this aura about him, it's magnetic and confident but also an essence I recognize like the back of my hand, he goes through people faster than underwear - I can see it a mile away.

But I don't have a dick so I don't see what his preoccupation with me is.

"How very observant of you, would you like a cookie as a congratulations?" I ask sarcastically, leaning back from him to create some distance

He traces his eyes over me slowly, biting on his lower lip before releasing it when he finishes his shameless once over, and gives me a sly look. "Dinna really feel like a cookie, but there's definitely somethin’ else I'd like tae taste.

My brows drop as my eyes widen almost comically wide. "I'm sorry aren't you gay?" I ask bluntly, screwing my face up in confusion before I can stop myself.

He grins, looking at me with lazy eyes, and smooths his fingers through his hair again with a chuckle. "Gay? No Sassenach, I dinna discriminate with my food, I like all the flavors."

I blink at him slowly, creasing my brows as I purse my lips.

Wonderful, he's an omnivorous fuckboy, that's just absolutely bloody fantastic.

"Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I'm not food, guess you'll have to go dining elsewhere," I say frowning, feigning disappointment.

He ducks his face down to my eye level, dragging his tongue over his lower lip thoughtfully as he brushes my hair over my shoulder.

"Ye sure about that? Ye look appetizing," he drawls, darting his eyes over my anxious facial features.

"I'm positive, it's an illusion, I'm like those plastic display meals out the front of sushi restaurants. It's all lies," I reply quickly, swallowing as my nerves shoot like razors through my body.

It's the closeness of his presence that's uncomfortable, I'm normally sharp tongued and dismissive with this kind of behaviour and it never affects me, but he's jumbling my head with invading my personal space.

"I'd like tae test that theory," he smirks, looking down to trace his finger over the material of my shirt on my stomach and every organ in my body freezes at the action. "I think I’d have a lot of fun findin’ out."

I huff, my anxiousness making me become even more annoyed at his behavior and the fact he won't just take the hint about me acting like a total shit brained lunatic as a queue to leave me the hell alone.

I've genuinely had my fill of this entire night, and it's time for me to leave.

I have no patience for people like him, I don't care what you do - your sex life is your prerogative but I don't plan on being a toy to collect and put on the shelf to fulfil your urge to accumulate conquests like trophies.

Mainly because I just don't want human contact in general, don't care if it's for one night or five hundred.

Not interested.

"Trust me, I'm not the kind of fun you're after. Go find some other toys to play with," I tell him, trying not to give away the knotting of my stomach in my voice.

He steps closer to me and leans his face down to rest his warm lips near my ear.

"Actually, I think it's exactly what I'm after," he murmurs lowly, his breath fanning across my skin making me bite down on the inside of my cheek.  

All of my insides constrict as a shiver travels down my spine at the tickle from his breath against my ear, and my knees feel like they're suddenly made of jell-o from the low raspy reverberation in his vocal chords.

What in the actual hell is going on with me?

This is too much, so I do what I always do - I panic.

I throw my arm out pointing to the side of us yelping out in shock. "Oh my god what the hell was that! Did you see that?"

His head lifts and he turns quickly to see what I'm yelling about and now that my plan has worked I do the only thing left to do.

Run.

I dart away from him, scampering towards the patio doors that feel like they're suddenly ten miles away but all of my hope dies in my chest when he jumps in front of me, halting me in my steps and I nearly slam face first into his chest.

Screw you and your long ass gazelle legs smirky. I was relatively tall, but not viking tall dammit. 

"Ye wouldna have done that on purpose now would ye?" he grins, watching in entertainment as I look like I'm about to faint from embarrassment on the spot.

"No I just really need to pee - and I uh, I need to get home to my boyfriend," I lie quickly, wanting to smack my face into the wall over the fact my brain can't fathom one answer that doesn't sound fucking moronic.

And now to top it off, I have an imaginary boyfriend I just have to whip out of my ass. GREAT.

He raises a disbelieving brow, tilting his head in curiosity. "Boyfriend? Oh really? What's his name?"

"Gizmo," I blurt out, wanting to grab the words and cram then back in the second they leave.

It's the only fucking name that's always in the front of my mind.

"Gizmo?" he snorts. "That's his name?"

I screw my face up in offence, scoffing indignantly. "Excuse me, Gizmo is an amazing name thank-you-very-fucking-much."

He pulls his lips to the side, trying to hide his smile as his eyes crinkle at the corners.

"Mmmm," he hums, trying to look disappointed but failing to look anything be smug. "That's too bad, yer breakin’ my heart here, Sassenach- he's a lucky lad."

I'm shocked he's cognitive of any organ in or on his body that isn't his dick, but then again, maybe that's where his heart is located as well.

"Yes well, this has been great and everything - but I'm going to go to the bathroom," I say, pointing behind him towards the doors, "and then I'm going to get home to that lucky boyfriend - you have a great night though."

I smile tightly, patting him on the shoulder and he looks to my hand, quirking his brows before looking back to my face with his own lit up in bewildered delight.

I don't wait for him to reply before I side step around him, and power walk towards the doors but pause when I open them when I hear his mischievous voice behind me.

"I'll see ye around heartbreaker, dinna go being a stranger."

I just throw my arm behind me, giving him an aimless thumbs up before I hurry through the doors and slam them behind me.

I will throw myself into oncoming traffic if I see that smirk or those confusing blue eyes ever again.

A stranger is exactly how I'm staying.

I'm going the fuck home to the only man I need in my life, and pretending this night never happened and figure out if I'm going to strangle John or not for dragging me here.

But seriously, Gizmo is not a stupid bloody name!

Gizmo is perfect.

 

***



Chapter Text

 

"I know that things have to change

But how to change them isn't clear

I'm tired of knockin' on doors

When there's nobody there"

(Stevie Nicks - Lady) 

***

 

I drag myself through the front door, kicking it closed behind me and I've never been happier to high tail it away from somewhere faster than that damn party. 

Thank god that's over.

I keep trying to shake those damn blue eyes out of my head but it's like they've snuck into my brain and set up camp, taunting me and refusing to give me a break from them flashing in my memory for five minutes.

Who the hell does he think he is?

Furthermore, why wouldn't he just leave me alone. I guess maybe I was just like when you see a car crash, impossible to look away from how much of a cluster fuck it is.

John didn't even bother trying to convince me to stay when he saw how desperate I was to go, he knew I'd had too much and reached my limit.

He's always so understanding with me, although sometimes, he acts like I could shatter any second and I hate those moments when he looks at me like that - like I'm unstable and a moment away from falling off the deep end.

He's not wrong but it doesn't change the fact I hate feeling weak.

I stop dead as I reach the lounge room from the front door, looking at the body laying unconscious on the couch and my shoulders deflate as I sigh.

"Fucks sake Mum, not again."

I press my lips into a flat line, walking towards the couch, looking at her limp but sitting up in her dressing gown, slouched over and asleep.

I stop in front of her and I look next to her, seeing the box of medication open on the seat next to her, then to the several beer bottles on the ground; the burnt out cigarette still perched between her pointer and middle finger and groan, pinching the bridge of my nose and mutter under my breath. "She's like a fucking bloodhound, no matter where I hide them she finds them.”

I huff, leaning forward and shake her shoulders roughly "Mum," I say loudly. "Mum!"

She doesn't respond, so I shake harder until she makes an incoherent groan. "Wake up!"

She lifts her brows, trying to open her eyes but too drunk and high off her face to even do that.

"God dammit," I huff, standing back up straight and leaning down to snatch the box off the couch and cigarette from her hand then picking up the beer bottles.

Where did she get the beer from this time? I don't keep alcohol in the house - well I haven't for the last three years, not since she moved in.

Moved in isn't even the right term, more so just showed up at my house and told me she was living with me because she had nowhere else and I'm her daughter, she's sick and it's my job to take care of her.

So here we are I guess.

I know most people would be shocked or frightened coming home to their parent looking almost dead on the couch, but I've been seeing the same thing since I can remember, it's just what normal is for me.

It's routine for me now, I don't know if I feel anything about it, if I do I'm numb to it, this is just how life is.

This is probably punishment for me going out, she normally just passes out in her room, but seeing as I wasn't here to run after her and act like her servant, god forbid she had to walk to the fridge and get her own drink; I assume she wiped herself out for me to deal with when I got home.

Thanks mum.

Usually how it works. This is why I keep Gizmo in my room when I'm not home for short periods, and at John's house when I'm at work

Thank god she goes away to live with the hired nurse for the week tomorrow, which I'm sure she will be on her best behavior for, she's only ever like this with me.

I throw the glass bottles and cigarette butt in the trash, tossing the box of pills on the bench and try to figure out a new place I can hide them. I usually just give her her prescribed amount every day, and thank god she only found one of them and not all of her medication.

I'd buy a safe - if I could afford one.

I grab the box and look in it. Well there's no point in hiding it anyway - it's empty. Thank god there were barely any left.

It's been the same story my whole life, doesn't matter what pills they are, there's always some kind she's on. At least it's not those sleeping tablets she used to take when I was around . 

Granted the fact she drank with them kicked their effects up ten fold, but that's just how things were.

I still hate how the neighbors would look at me, watching me carry her stumbling body inside - like they pitied me, it was embarrassing.

I hate people looking at me like that.

At least it's only mum now, it could be worse, I could have her and dad shacked up here if he hadn't left her, then I'd have two drunks to babysit.

I often wonder what it would be like to have parents; have people that take care of you, support you, love you. I only know what it's like to have two adult toddlers to take care of as well as myself.

It looks like it would be a nice thing to have, I'd see how my school friends parents were with them, I still remember the first time I realized not everyone's parents got black out drunk every night when I stayed at a friends house - I use the friend term loosely, because I never really spoke to them outside of school - when I was , I remember being so shocked and finding the concept so bizarre.

Not to mention the fact their parents didn't fight all the time and actually liked each other.

Seems like it would be a nice life to have, pity I'll never know what it was like.

I walk to the linen cupboard, grabbing a blanket and walk back to the couch frowning.

I grasp her by the shoulders, moving her to lay down on her side. I put the blanket over her, and stand up to stare at her blankly, looking like she's having the sleep of the century.

I wish I knew what that felt like, I never sleep.

I walk over to the lamp on the table next to the couch and switch it on, and walk to turn off the main light at the switch on the wall above the couch, giving her one last glance before dragging my feet towards my bedroom.

Typical day really - except for one thing, those damn blue eyes.

I push my door open to be greeted with yet another limp passed out body, except this one is snoring louder than an old man with sleep apnea on the floor and shut the door behind me.

I smile to myself, walking over and crouching down and poke at his floppy jowl, listening to him huff as his groggy brown eyes open.

"Morning sleepy head," I coo, grinning when I see his little stumpy tail start wagging a hundred mile an hour and he rolls off his side to his tubby stomach and stands with his large tongue flopping out of his mouth - that wide open mouth smile that makes me get out of bed every day lighting up the room.

I hold his face, smushing it and scratching at his little folded over ears as he pants and whines heavily. "Did you miss me baby? I missed you," I say sweetly, leaning down to press a kiss to his wrinkly forehead.

"You ready to go to bed?" I ask, pushing myself up to stand as Gizmo plonks his butt back on the ground like standing is too much exercise.

I swear this dog only wakes up, just so he can go straight back to sleep. It's like having a dog with narcolepsy. But I wouldn't change a thing about him.

I change into a shirt to sleep in, walking over to my bed and patting it, urging him jump up onto it.

"C'mon, let's get into bed."

Gizmo waddles towards the bed, stopping and shuffling back and forth on his paws, wiggling his butt like he's working up the energy to jump, as if he's a toy car that has to be wound up to take off.

He crouches down, pushing off the ground to launch onto to the bed, but as he pushes off the ground the effort must have been too much for him because he only makes it half way on the bed and falls back on the ground with a thud.

I smack my hand to my face, shaking my head. "God dammit Gizmo."

He struggles off his side, back to his feet and stares at me with a huff and I press my lips together trying not to laugh.

 "I'm sorry, you did great, I'm sure the bed just grew taller overnight - I wasn't going to laugh, I promise," I tell him, walking over to wrap my arms around his torso.

I suck in a deep breath, using all my strength as I lift him and hoist him onto the bed with a strained grunt, my back nearly giving out. "Holy fuck it's like you have bricks for organs."

Gizmo whines, dropping on the bed and falling on his side and stares up at me.

"Don't give me that face, I wasn't calling you fat, you're husky, I'm sure it's all muscle.”

He just stares back at me, and I roll my eyes and walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth. 

When I’m back, Gizmo is already passed out snoring again, his jowl vibrating and making whistle noises every time he exhales.

I turn on my bedside lamp, before I get up to turn the light off - I can't sleep in the dark, it terrifies me, which at my age isn't something I like to brag about.

I crawl back into bed under the covers, sitting up with my back against the wall and grabbing my journal off the bedside table and place it in my lap, running my fingers over the embossed patterns in the leather on the front cover.

I flick through it until I reach a blank page, even though all of these pages only have one word written on them anyway.

I take my pen from the bedside table, tapping it thoughtfully against the page, before placing the capped end between my teeth, pulling the pen from my lid and holding it between my teeth as I start to write on the page.

For the first time since I started it, I write something new.

'#333 - 11/04/18

Blue eyes.

Felt something. Not sure what.'

***

Chapter Text

"Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?"

(Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen)

 

***

 

I didn't get a wink of sleep last night, because those eyes and that annoying smirk were stuck in my head. 

I'm beginning to resent the color blue.

Mum left this morning, hungover and pretending like nothing happened, but I'm savoring having this small window of time where I have the house to myself. I even took a few days of paid leave from work starting tomorrow that I had saved up just to really enjoy the peace and quiet.

Currently though, I'm trying to eat my toast  and mind my own business, sitting on the couch, which isn't going well.

I have a pair of eyes glued to me, with a wheezing snout about an inch from my face watching my hand move to and from my mouth each time I take a bite.

I glance sideways, as I take a slow bite into my half eaten slice of peanut butter toast, chewing as I watch Gizmo stare at me with those puppy dog eyes. 

"Fine," I mutter in defeat, handing him my toast which he inhales - not chews. Inhales.

Like I said, I'd starve for this dog.

I'm undecided about what to do until I have to start getting ready for work, but as I stare around the house I figure I may as well clean, I don't have much energy for it any more.

Just opening my eyes in the morning seems overwhelming these days, and mundane daily tasks become the monumental mountains towering over me that seem impossible to climb.I remember a time when things like doing dishes, or making myself food didn't seem so difficult, just thinking about it seems to drain the energy I already don't have.

I suppose it doesn't help when I have a person living with me that sucks away any motivation or energy I have - according to her, my only purpose of existing is to do what she wants, be the daughter that she always envisioned.

I am in debt and owe her my life because she gave mine to me, I'm hers, I don't belong to myself. 

It's hard to find meaning or a point in existing when you were never given any self worth or reason to be here aside from benefiting someone else.

Got to love mothers.

I get to be free briefly this week though, that's all I can really focus on for now.

I pull up off the couch, Gizmo immediately sniffing where I was sitting to scour for any crumb I may have dropped, I swear if it wasn't for his weight people would think I don't feed him with how he carries on.

I go to the stereo, deciding I need some kind of musical motivation to get shit done around here and connect my phone to the Bluetooth, selecting one of the many playlists I spend way too much time curating.

I take my playlists very seriously, it's a thing, can't help it.

I turn the volume up, listening to the music fill the air and it's like instantly everything else in my mind gets washed away and I get lost in the song - but how couldn't I?

It's Bohemian Rhapsody.

I walk around the living room, instantly singing way too obnoxiously for someone that can't hold a note better than a dying cat, and that's dressed in just an oversized t-shirt and fluffy slippers.

"Mama, oh oh (anyway the wind blows)

I don't want to die

Sometimes wish I'd never been born at all"

I point at Gizmo who is now laid on the couch, staring at me, singing loudly to him as I tidy up, but mostly get too distracted by the song.

"Bismillah, we will not let you go, let him go!"

I throw my hands in the air, getting ready for my favorite part of the song and start bouncing on the spot, before the music drops and then those electric guitars start blaring while I start thrashing my hair back and forth, jumping around my living room and quite frankly playing the best air guitar I think anyone has ever seen.

As the music slows back down, I sway my head softly, pointing at Gizmo again, singing to him.

"Nothing really matters

Anyone can see

Nothing really matters 

Nothing really matters to meeeee"

"Except you baby," I tell him when the song finishes, smiling but my brows crease when I see him glancing behind me.

I spin on my heel and stop dead, screaming at the top of my lungs, jolting backwards. 

"What the fuck!"

I clutch my hands to my chest, staring with dinner plate eyes at the fucking smirk standing in my front door way, with the door wide open, leant lazily against the frame.

I'm sorry, is he the human version of herpes? Because I just can't seem to get rid of him.

Not to mention apparently he's a stalker as well?

Is this the universe's way of punishing me? Was I some kind of genocidal dictator in a past life? Was I Hitler? Is that what this is?

"What are you doing in my fucking house!" 

Smirky looks completely unfazed, just watching me with an amused expression, dressed in a white t-shirt and brown jacket, with black jeans that tight I'm surprised his brain has blood circulation.

"Gettin' a free concert apparently," he says casually, raising his brows as his smirk deepens.

The color drains from my whole body, before shooting straight to my face and tinting it about ten shades darker, and I just stare at him frozen.

He saw that? How much of it? Can I please, if there is a god with any mercy, can I please have a fatal stroke right now? I'm begging you.

I go to shout again but my words die in my throat when John slides past him into my house, giving me a bright smile before biting his lip and pointing at me. "Hey sunshine, have you been working out? You look flushed."

Why is John bringing that blue eyed man whore into my bloody house!

I point to my doorway, where Goldilocks's Scottish redhead brother is, glaring at John. "What is that smirky asshole doing in my house? You know I don't let anyone come here John."

John freezes in his steps, looking remorseful immediately - he knows I don't let anyone come to my house aside from him, no one knows about my mother and I like to keep it that way. 

"Hey, I'm right here ye ken," the smug prick muses from my doorway, not sounding in the least bit offended, just entertained.

I glare at him now, squinting my eyes. "Yes, you're in my doorway smirky, congratulations." 

I look back to John who goes to speak, but the Scottish accent cuts in.

"Jamie."

 I shoot my eyes back to him, scrunching my face up "What?"

"My name is Jamie," he smiles tilting his head, dragging the tip of his tongue over his lower lip as he seems to revel in the fact I look like I'm about to have a conniption. 

"Good for you?" I reply, squinting and raising my brows like I can't understand why I needed to know that. 

"Do you two know each other?" John's voice cuts in, looking and pointing between us like he's trying to figure out Jamie's amusement and my hostility.

I quickly blurt out "No" at the same time that Jamie says "Aye" and John looks suspiciously between us.

"Claire might no’ recognize me, she seems tae have a habit of bein’ selectively blind," Jamie says, looking from John to me with a lazy satisfied smile and my mouth drops as I stare at him.

Just give me one slap. That's all I'm asking, just let me slap that god damn cocky look off his face.

"What are you-" I cut off John's confused question, bursting in frustration while I screw my eyes shut and throw my hands in fists down by my sides.

"Why is he in my house John!"

"Woah Claire, darling calm down," John says, approaching me and grasps my shoulders looking guilty and concerned because I never usually have a temper like this. "I just came to pick up the fur kid, brought Jamie with me because he wanted to come for a drive."

He leans forward, whispering so only I can hear. "I know your mum is away for the week, it's the only reason I said he could come, I would have said no otherwise- I'm really sorry, I should have asked first. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." 

He gives me an apologetic earnest look, rubbing his hands up and down my arms trying to settle me.

I'm honestly not trying to be rude, I hate being rude to people, but this whole situation has sent my brain into a meltdown and my anxiety has exploded out of me in irritation, and that idiot’s arrogant attitude is only antagonising it.

I'm extremely private, I don't like letting people into my personal life and this house and the situation in it is very personal and -

Wait.

Jamie?

Oh god no.

Please no.

It gets worse, how could this actually get worse?

"That is Jamie?" I gape distressed "That's your friend who’s coming to live with you from overseas? You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

"You could have mentioned that he was a fucking smirky asshole!" I whisper yell, still flustered and John - for some reason laughs.

"So I'm assuming you two did meet, he can have that effect on people, sounds like it went well," he says sarcastically, still looking amused and chuckling to himself.

Oh great, they're a pair. Smirky and Chuckles, the best of friends, even better.

John mentioned to me a couple of months ago that his friend was coming here to live with him and Alex from overseas, but he didn't specify where from and honestly I didn't ask many questions, I barely remember the quick conversation and it had been completely forgotten until this very moment. 

I really wish I had taken that running jump off the deck now. 

Speaking of smirky, he's been unusually quiet but when I hear cooing and baby talk, I look back to the doorway, my blood running cold when I see Jamie crouched down, with my dog on his back in front of him while he scratches and rubs his stomach with a bright smile.

I'm sorry - I thought my dog's name was Gizmo, not Judas, the little traitor!

"Oh, I see you've met Gizmo, that's who we're picking up and babysitting tonight," John says cheerfully, looking over at my dog betraying me for belly rubs like the disloyal tart he is.

Fuck.

Gizmo. 

Spoke too soon, it can get a lot worse. 

Jamie pauses, lifting his eyes to me slowly and the look of realization washing over his face as another devious smirk pulls on his lips makes me want to literally walk into my kitchen and stick a fork in my toaster.

This can't be happening. 

"Gizmo? That’s his name aye?" Jamie says, playing dumb but giving me a knowing look and I swear I'm about to faint.

He glances down to my traitorous dog, raising his brows. "Hey Gizmo, I've heard a lot about ye - ye look a bit different than I imagined." 

He glances back to me grinning, and then looks back to Gizmo. "Nice tae finally meet ye."

This is fine.

The man that made me nearly throw myself over a railing last night while he tried to eat me with his eyes, is in my doorway patting the dog who's name I gave him last night as my fabricated boyfriend before I bolted away from him like my ass was on fire - after I pretended I was blind when I walked in on him getting a blow job.

This is fine.

... Not one of the most mortifying experiences of my life at all.

"Oh did Claire tell you about him at the party last night?" John asks, completely oblivious to the undertone of what's going on with Jamie and my dog right now and trying to ease the tension, making conversation.

I can't move, I'm just paralyzed, staring at Jamie with absolutely no clue what to do in this situation and he is staring at me like this is the best day of his life.

Is this what hell feels like? Did I die in my sleep and go to hell?

I clear my throat, even though it does nothing my voice still squeaks out, cracked and stressed. "You should take Gizmo back to your place now, I have to start work early and I have to get ready - like right now," I lie, talking to John before Jamie can reply, but still staring at Jamie who refuses to take his eyes off of me.

Jamie cocks a disbelieving brow at me, but John doesn't realise why I'm acting like this and thinks I'm just being my usual bizarre awkward self and I'm stressed from the stranger in my house.

"Oh... Well it's lucky I turned up now then," John says, glancing between Jamie and I again like he's trying to figure out what the issue between us is.

"Are you still picking him up at 10?" he asks, walking to the coat hooks on the wall in the kitchen and grabbing Gizmos leash before walking over to hook it onto his collar.

"Yep. 10pm," I squeak, the embarrassment and stress in me making it harder and harder to get words out.

Why can't I look away from that smirky prick in my damn doorway!

Jamie stands, not wavering his eyes from me, wetting his lips and giving me a once over, pursing his lips thoughtfully.

I know for fact I do not want to know what's going through that head of his right now.

I think John is just trying to leave quicker to try and ease the weird frantic state I'm in, when he walks over to me with Gizmo waddling behind on his leash.

"We'll get going so you can get ready," he says, but creases his brows in that worried look I know so well now. "Are you okay?"

I know the meaning behind that question, and it's asking a lot more than if I'm okay. I understand why he's asking, he asks a lot because I know it scares him but I hate it at the same time, I hate that I worry him.

I never wanted to burden him with that.

"M'okay, just stressed, I need to get ready," I reassure him quietly.

I also need you to get your damn friend and his infuriating grin out of my house.

John gives me a slow nod, unsure if he believes me or not but doesn't push it any further. "Alright, well we'll get going."

I nod, forcing a tight smile, and crouch down to kiss the top of Gizmos head. "See you tonight Gizzy, be a good boy."

I lean forward, whispering to him so only he can hear."You little traitor."

I stand and John walks towards the front door, singing out a 'see you tonight' before sliding past Jamie in the doorway with a slow Gizmo trudging behind. He murmurs something to Jamie about hurrying up as he passes him and Jamie just raises his brows with a cheeky smile.

I turn to make a break for my bedroom, not even bothering to say goodbye to him, I feel like if I open my mouth again I'm going to vomit.

I only get a few steps in the direction of my bedroom before I hear that deep voice drawl behind me.

"Sassenach?"

I freeze, my body going rigid and I don't dare turn around or make a sound.

That’s the second time he’s said that strange word to me as if he’s addressing me. I still have no idea what it means, and honestly, I don’t really care.

Please just leave already.

"Just wanted tae say, I really enjoyed the show earlier,” he says slyly, that smirk evident in his voice.

"Nice slippers too," he adds, sounding smug and coy at the same time. "I'll catch ye around, heartbreaker - it was good seein’ ye again." 

I hear the door close, and my eyes snap down to my bare legs as I realize what I've been wearing this entire time, too distracted by the shock of those consuming eyes in my doorway to remember I was in a t-shirt that barely covered my butt, black underwear, and obnoxious pink fuzzy slippers.

Oh god... When I was dancing, jumping around like I was a epileptic rockstar to Queen - I flashed him my barely covered ass... Repeatedly.

I throw my head back, groaning. "Any time you're ready universe, if you're going to fuck me this hard you could at least buy me flowers and run me a warm bath with a bath bomb thrown in first, it's the polite thing to do!"

And to top it all off, the real kicker to all of this - the worst part of all, is those blue eyes don't belong to a stranger any more.

They're Jamie’s.

***

Chapter Text

"You can't always get what you want

But if you try sometime you find

You get what you need"

(You Can’t Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones)

 

***

 

Work was shitty, well more shitty than usual.  

I couldn't concentrate, this afternoon's events with that blue eyed witch doctor turning up at my house has tied my neural pathways into knots all night.

My job alone usually leaves me feeling mentally exhausted, after dealing with customers and plastering a forced smile, with a chipper attitude all night. Being a waitress was never my dream job but it pays the bills.

The endless, abysmal black hole of bills that I can never seem to claw my way out of, no matter how hard I work.

I suppose things would be easier, if I wasn't micromanaging my mother's finances on top of my own, or if she hadn't of put me in a massive amount debt without so much as a single ounce of remorse or gratitude, and continues to suck me dry financially.  

To be fair though, at least it's only her that I'm taking care of these days. I had spent three years loving and supporting a man that treated my heart like a hacky sack before he so graciously put it in a blender.

Things could be worse, silver linings again.

My feet are aching as I walk up the driveway to John's house, looking at the two story house and wonder what it would be like to live somewhere that nice.

I've never been one for materialistic things, lavish lifestyles or really cared for those sorts of things, but sometimes I get curious.

I just, sometimes I daydream about what it's like to not struggle, to be able to exist without some form of overwhelming dread about how you're going to get by.

That's another reason I don't like people coming to my house, especially compared to what John calls home, my life and living situation is embarrassing.

I may not live in a mansion, and my landlord may never fix a damn thing and my oven may smoke if I try to use it, but I make the best of it, it's all I can do.

I walk up the side of the house towards the stairs to the back deck, counting the seconds until I can see Gizmo, I need some of his cuddly hugs to soothe the ache in my head.

I wish it was a headache that was troubling me but unfortunately it's just become one of those nights; the thick black fog swirling around in my head like cloaked spirits with long fingers and sharp nails that claw at the inside of my skull, whispering all of the melancholy chants taunting me like a hum until it's deafening.

Some days are worse than others, but the stress from today has triggered the usual murmuring into screaming and a god awful nauseous pit in my stomach making my skin crawl, so I doubt I'll be getting any sleep tonight.

John and Alex are usually in bed when I pick Gizmo up this late, so they put him in the back sun room I have a key to, that leads onto the back deck near the patio doors. Gizmo has his own bed in there which I'm sure he’ll be making very good use of right now.

I walk up the stairs, resting my hands in the pockets of my black work skirt.

Honestly, some days that's the only thing that has stopped me quitting this job, the fact the uniform for this place is a skirt with pockets - that's how high my standards are these days.

At least my boss is nice - annoying, but nice.

The customers are intolerable though, hospitality is a special corner of hell and I sometimes think people have a pretentious asshole switch the minute they step into any place where someone has to provide customer service to them.

I have a special distaste for people that are rude to people in serving positions, it costs nothing to be kind, and treating a waitress or waiter like shit doesn't make you important or 'higher' than them, it just makes you a cunt.

I close the gate to the deck, once I reach the top of the stairs and walk onto it, looking around to see everything back to its usual state after the party - really the only difference is no tiki torches or crowds of drunk, smoking party goers.

I reach the sun room door, the sheer curtains draped down over the floor length windows and the glow from the blue fairy lights makes the lilac color of them look almost ultraviolet.

I put the key in the doorknob, turning it and pushing the door open softly, stepping lightly into the room but halt in my steps when I look at the daybed against the wall.

That sharp cut face normally etched in a taunting smirk is peaceful and smiling softly, attached to a shirtless body asleep on the bed spooning Gizmo, who is snoring soundly. 

I clamp my lips together tightly, fighting the urge to audibly awe that the image - smirky does not get an 'awe' from me, no bloody way.

What is he doing spooning my dog like his lover on their honeymoon? What the heck am I meant to do now?

I can't inconspicuously pry Gizmo from his arm slumped over his sleeping body, it would be like trying to drag a boulder quietly through a library.

I'm so tired, and I'm way too tired to try and figure this situation out at the moment, this is the last thing I needed.

I do the only thing I can think of, and kick the door shut loudly behind me, the bang ringing loudly in the air, and Gizmo doesn't even flinch.

I honestly thought he was partially deaf when I first got him, but he's just ignorant and a very deep sleeper.

Jamie does wake however, his eyes snap open as his head whips to the direction of the noise, looking dazed and trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes blinking with a squint.

He stares at me momentarily, like he's trying to register who the figure in the room is, or where he is in general, before his sleepy brows lift on his forehead with his eyes still heavy lidded.

"Oh hey, heartbreaker," he drags out, his voice hoarse and thick with the slumber he's still trying to pull himself from.

I'm unsure why he sounds so entrancing when he wakes up, it's like his vocal chords are made of coarse sandpaper someone has dripped thick butter over, but it's irritating how serene it sounds.

He sighs heavily, yawning as he lifts his arm, rubbing the heel of his palm against his eye before rubbing his large hand over his face to wake himself up, then messing his long fingers through his hair to ruffle it, letting it fall carelessly around his face.

"Finished work already?" he exhales through another long yawn.

"Why are you canoodling with my dog?" I ask accusingly, looking from a still sleeping Gizmo and back to Jamie.

His lips quirk into a lazy smile, while he pulls himself to sit up, grunting and stretching his arms above his head to loosen his muscles that flex and contort in his torso.

My eyes fall briefly down from his face before flitting back up immediately, and Jamie’s brows raise when he notices my brief look at his naked upper body. 

"Canoodling? I havena heard that term from anyone besides my grandmother," he says with a tired amused expression, placing his hands behind himself and resting his weight on them.

I narrow my eyes, folding my arms over my chest. "Answer my question smirky, why are you in here asleep with my dog?"

"Ye make me sound like one of the seven dwarfs with that nickname - smirky," he says, glancing over my figure.

I huff, getting more irritated that he won't just answer what I've asked him. "Yes, you're the eighth dwarf, the annoying one - answer my question."

"Hm," he hums, pursing his lips before they pull into a smile. "So does that make ye Snow White then? Been eatin’ any apples lately?"

I throw my fists down at my sides, pinching my eyes shut and hissing. "Oh my god will you just answer my fucking question"

"Ye ken, if ye were one of the seven dwarfs ye’d be grumpy," he points out, smiling at how frustrated I am and I look around me to find something to throw at his smug head.

"And he looked lonely, tae answer yer question," he adds, and my eyes snap back to his face, my brows lifting in surprise.

"Didna seem fair tae leave yer boyfriend in here all alone, he looked like he could use the company," he says, giving me a knowing look with that cheeky smirk taking over his defined lips.

My face falls, while my cheeks heat like a stove on the highest temperature, stumped on what to say back.

Jamie sits there looking pleased with himself, biting on his lower lip while he glances to Gizmos comatose body and back to me.

I clear my throat, wishing the ground would just open up and swallow me and gesture towards Gizmo. 

"Right well, I need to get him home - so... Thank you, for keeping him company, but I'm going to get going," I deflect, trying to ignore his obvious point about my lie from last night; but Jamie creases his brows curiously, focusing his eyes on my face like he's observing my features.

"Ye look tired," he states, dismissing what I just said and continues to observe me thoughtfully.

I sigh, pinching my brows together and rubbing my fingers against the crease between them in annoyance. "Because I am tired, which is why I need to go home - so if you don't mind, I'd like to get my dog-"

"Why don't ye just sleep here then?" he questions, like it should be an obvious thing for me to do.

My hand drops from my face and I scrunch my nose up, pulling my face back in confusion. "What?"

Jamie shrugs his shoulders, glancing at Gizmo and then focusing on me. "Ye shouldna drive when yer tired, and it's a thirty minute drive to yer place from here - just stay here and go home in the morning."

Why does he give a damn if I'm tired? Why is this any of his business?

"I'm not staying here,"  I argue, throwing my hands out at my sides to convey how ridiculous I think the idea is.

"Why not?" he presses, lifting his brows to challenge me and expecting a rational reason.

"John is yer best friend, he wouldna care - he'd probably want ye to stay if he saw how tired ye look. And do ye really want tae risk driving yer boyfriend home that exhausted? 20% of fatal car crashes are from driver fatigue ye ken."

I crease my brows, blinking at him. "You're throwing statistics at me now?"

"Canna argue with facts, Sassenach," he muses, cocking his head with a satisfied expression.

"How do you even know that?" I question, screwing my face up in confusion at how he could just pull that fact off the top of his head.

"It was on a sign I saw the other day on the side of the road, good thing I paid attention to it aye?" He explains, smiling to himself.

I stare at him with a flat expression, struggling with how tired I am to keep this back and forth interaction between us going, I just don't have the energy.

I dart my eyes to Gizmo, pulling my lips to the side as I begrudgingly consider what he said about driving home with him while I'm this tired.

I've done it a lot, but never like this. Tonight in particular I'm absolutely wrecked and I found it hard enough to concentrate driving here after work.

Using Gizmo to persuade me into things is something John uses all the time, knowing it's my Achilles heel and I can tell Jamie has already figured that out.

The jerk.

Normally I wouldn't be able to stay, no matter how exhausted I am I would have to get home to my mother, but I don't have that excuse tonight and it's definitely not something I would tell Jamie regardless.

I just still don't understand why he's being so persistent about this.

"I have nothing to sleep in," I say, trying to use the last excuse my mind can come up with to not stay here.

Honestly, I usually wouldn't care about staying here, I've spent the night here several times on the occasions I've had a brief break from my mother, but the fact that he's here is what's making the idea twist and constrict my insides with anxiety.

"I can lend ye a shirt tae sleep in - just admit it, you dinna have a reason not to stay," he says, looking satisfied that he has me cornered.

I stare at Gizmo, the image of having a car accident and something awful happening to him flashing through my mind. I already deal with anxiety, the constant sick pit in my stomach about all of the useless what if's my mind conjures up and that's enough to have me conceding against my better judgement.

I don't know how I'd survive something happening to him, even risking the slightest chance of it makes me nauseous.

"I don't want to stay," I tell him, folding my arms over my chest stubbornly. "But I'm only doing this for him," I gesture my head towards Gizmo, raising my brows to reiterate my point and Jamie grins triumphantly.

"Doesna matter if ye want tae, it's what ye need, just accept it," he says, raising his brows back at me.

I roll my eyes at him. "You have no idea about the first thing I need, and I'm not sleeping in your shirt either," I say, sticking my chin up defiantly.

Jamie tilts his head, wetting his lips like I've just set up a challenge he can't wait to conquer, but the ambiguous tone in his voice leaves me wondering which part of what I just said he's referring to when he taunts.

"We'll just see about that, Sassenach."

 

***



Chapter Text

"Come as you are, as you were

As I want you to be

As a friend, as a friend

As an old enemy"

(Come As You Are - Nirvana)

 

***

 

I'm wearing Jamie’s shirt.

I'm standing in John's kitchen with my arms folded, glaring at the son of a bitch that ‘accidentally’ tipped half a bottle of water over my uniform when I came in here to get a drink after I left the sun room, to which he subsequently followed like a buzzing fly that won't fuck off.

Jamie is leant with his arm above his head against the fridge, holding one side of the doors open with his free hand, observing it's contents.

I glance at the knife block on the counter.

Maybe I'll 'accidentally' trip and drop this butcher's knife, smirky.

I still can't believe he fucking did that to me!

Jamie notices me out of his peripheral vision, standing on the other side of the kitchen island, after coming out of the bathroom to get changed.

He smirks to himself, but continues to stare in the fridge. "What were ye sayin’ about not wearin’ my shirt again, Sassenach?"

Keep smirking dickhead, I'm going to be using it to pick up Gizmo’s shit tomorrow morning.

I don't say anything, just stand there imagining I have eye lasers and I'm currently using them to melt that smug head of his.

His smirk only deepens at my hostile silence, before he purses his lips thoughtfully, drumming his fingers against the fridge door. "Would ye like a drink? I'm just grabbin’ some water - I spilled mine."

I still ignore him, calculating in my head how many of those late night crime shows I'll have to watch to figure out how to effectively hide his dead body.

Now he grins at my lack of response, reaching in to grab a new bottle of water, before nudging the door closed with his elbow and leaning his shoulder against it lazily while he stares at me; opening the bottle with a raise of his brows.

"Let me guess - now yer a mute? Or maybe yer suddenly deaf now? Canna wait for the next miracle when that magically gets cured too," he says, bringing the bottle to his lips, slowly wrapping them around the rim of the bottle, his lips tightening as they quirk at the corners while he takes a sip of his water.

Choke on it, asshole.

He gulps his mouthful of water down, moving the bottle away, wetting his lips and reattaching the lid, eyeing me with a cheeky glint in those eyes that spell nothing but trouble.

"I think ye've spilled a little somethin' on this shirt too," he muses, focusing his eyes on my chest. I look down, frowning in confusion, then look back up at him when I don't see anything.

"Mmmm," he hums with an exaggerated pondering expression, lifting his chin. "So ye arena deaf, good tae know."

I still stay dead silent, my whole demeanour defensive and abrasive, and I could scream at how he's staring at me like I'm a grumpy puppy.

"Yer just going tae give me the silent treatment all night then?" He asks, twisting the water bottle in his hands, pushing off the fridge and placing the bottle on the kitchen island as he walks towards me casually. "Mute is the option yer going with?"

I narrow my eyes at him, pressing my lips together in a stubborn expression which only seems to encourage the devious look on his face as he rounds the counter to stand in front of me.

My brows furrow in confusion when he brings a hand up and cups the sided of my neck; his thumb resting against my jaw.

What the fuck does this idiot think he's doing?

His eyes dart between my own, dragging his tongue over his rosy lower lip, just before sinking his teeth into it.

My lungs freeze when he flicks his eyes to my lips; only to focus on my eyes again as he leans forward, inching his face slowly towards mine and my heart drops to my stomach, bouncing around in it like a rubber ball being smacked against a wall.

I'm completely frozen, my whole body is rigid like I've developed a sudden case of rigor mortis until his lips hover over mine.

"What - What the hell are you doing?" I stutter, my voice tight; piqued with anxiety as he keeps a hairs width of a distance between our mouths, his warm breath tickling my lips with each slow breath he exhales.

His thumbs stroke against my jaw, the scent from his cologne mixed with the faint smell of mint on his breath clouding my senses while his lips quirk and his soft voice drawls out in feigned wonder.

"It's a miracle, looks like yer not a mute either."

My face drops as he pulls away, dropping his hands down to his sides with a triumphant smile.

"Were you... Were you seriously going to try and fucking kiss me just then?" I blurt in disbelief, feeling like I have whiplash from the unexpected action.

My heart is still trying to regulate and my skin feels like its prickling with anxious static while my brain freaks the fuck out.

"Maybe - Maybe no’," he shrugs casually, before cocking a curious brow. "Unless ye want to ignore me again and we can find out."

My lips part, staring at him like he's just tried to pull my teeth out with pliers, not try to kiss me; well maybe kiss me.

I point to his lips, raising my brows with a warning. "You keep those to yourself, understand? Bring them near me again and I'll smack them off your face."

My threat seems to only intrigue him, like he finds my obvious aversion to kissing him as some kind of encouragement.

That's the thing, with his type though, the ones that get whoever they want. When they find something they can't have it becomes more sought after, like finding a rare special edition collectable - it's something they feel even more compelled to have.

I in no way think he wants me, I find that notion laughable, I actually don't even think he's attracted to me at all because I find the idea of anyone being attracted to me ridiculous - but I think he's attracted to filling his own ego, regardless of who it's with.

You could say I'm slightly pessimistic about people's intentions, especially men.

"Why are ye defensive over the idea of me kissing you? Worried ye might like it?" he asks teasingly, resting his palm on the counter and darting his eyes from my face to my toes, back up again in a once over he's in no way trying to be modest about.

"Why I'm defensive doesn't matter, because you don't actually want to kiss me," I state, like I'm pointing out a well known fact.

His brows quirk at my answer, and he gives me a quizzical look. "Oh really? Why don't ye tell me what I want then."

"A challenge," I reply with a matter-of-fact tone.

"A challenge?" he echoes, creasing his brows.

"You aren't attracted to me" I point out, which earns a raise of his brows at how sure of myself I sound. "You're attracted to the challenge because I'm so disinterested - that's if you had any inclination towards me at all, which you don't, but if you did that would be the reason."

"So ye think I dinna find ye attractive?" he asks, looking somewhat confused but curious at the same time at my train of thought.

"Yep." I answer without missing a beat.

He purses his lips, creasing his brows further, before shaking his head and laughing under his breath.

"Maybe ye are actually blind."

What is that supposed to mean?

My brows drop as I frown but he doesn't give me a change to reply.

"And yer wrong, by the way. I actually hate challenges," he says, not sounding at all offended by my assumptions, more so just stating his own facts.

He wets his lips, tilting his head as he looks down at me with lazy eyes. "I'm no’ interested in persuading someone to want me. I much prefer willing and consenting partners, anythin’ other than that doesna interest me in the slightest."

"Well, if that's the case you're definitely not interested in me," I tell him, leaning back as he leans forward, looking at me like I'm some intricate puzzle he's trying to piece together.

"And why is that?"

I shrug my shoulders, keeping my voice factual. "Because I don't want you."

He sucks in a sharp breath through his teeth, placing his hand over his heart in mock agony. "Ouch, ye really are a heartbreaker aren't ye?"

His exaggerated pained expression morphs into an amused lazy smile, and I can't figure out what he finds so entertaining about all of this, but that fucking smirk is getting on my last nerve.

"I'm a real ball breaker too, want me to show you?" I ask with a sweet smile, raising my brows.

"Actually, yeah I do," he says, leaning back casually with his palm still resting on the counter.

I look at him confused, not expecting that answer. "What?"

"I'd like ye tae show me whatever ye want about yourself, yer intriguing. I want tae get to know ye - canna seem figure ye out," he explains, watching me as if I were a foreign language he's trying to figure out how to translate.

I blink at him in even more confusion, as if I cannot fathom the English language anymore. Why could he possibly want to get to know me?

I think I find that idea far more nauseating than when I thought I was a vagina with a heartbeat he was trying to fulfil his ego with. 

"There's nothing to figure out, and I'm not interesting - so I'd save yourself the disappointment," I dismiss, feeling uneasy again when he gives me that stare that looks like his eyes are literally trying to have sex with my own.

I genuinely feel like he needs condoms for his eyes.

"No, yer a mystery Sassenach. I hate challenges - but I love mysteries."

I scoff, rolling my eyes; having absolutely no interest in entertaining whatever he's trying to do. "Then go play a game of who'dunnit and leave me out of it."

He drums his fingers against the counter, before pointing at me with a knowing look, squinting, but it's still extremely cheeky.

"Ye dinna like makin’ friends do ye?" The question sounds more like a lighthearted accusation, a rhetorical question he doesn't need the answer to.

"I think being friends is the last intention you have with me," I say flatly, wondering when this conversation is going to end so I can just go back to the room and not sleep.

He slides his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants low on his exposed hips, and I could slap myself when my eyes dart down briefly at the action to watch it; his large hands disappearing and outlined under the fabric with his thumbs hooked over the outside of the pockets.

I snap my eyes back to his face as soon as I notice how the indents of his hips carve into his skin, dipping perfectly to trail into the top of his briefs peeking over the sweatpants, and it's very apparent he noticed my brief glance, chewing on the corner of his lower lip fighting a smug smile.

"Dinna be so quick to judge people's intentions, I think I might surprise ye," he says, sounding coy and like he's aware of some secret that I'm clueless about.

"And what exactly are your intentions with me?" I question, trying to keep a wary distance but I feel my stomach drop like a sack of bricks when he takes a stride forward to stand directly in front of me.

"Ye really want tae know?" he asks, keeping his tone ambiguous while looking directly into my eyes. "Guess yer gonna have tae try and find out - would ye like a hint? I can think of a few I'd like to give ye."

I groan, pinching my eyes shut to try and break that damn devil magic he does with those crystalline eyes; leaning back to create some distance and my voice becomes tight with frustration. "Look smirky, it's late, I'm fucking tired and I do not have the energy for you to be a human crossword puzzle. We aren't friends, we aren't going to be friends; so find someone else to play your games with."

I open my eyes to see Jamie just watching me fondly, which makes me think he's even more insane than I am. He traces his eyes over my annoyed face, before smiling to himself and talking sweetly as if I hadn't just sounded like I wanted to strangle him.

"Go get some sleep then, I'll see ye in the mornin’," he says a little too cheerfully, and nods in the direction of the sun room. "Yer boyfriend's probably wonderin’ where ye are anyway."

I press my lips into an annoyed flat line at his insistence of referring to Gizmo as my boyfriend now, a teasing reminder of the obvious lie he caught me red handed in that he obviously isn't planning on letting me live down the embarrassment from.

He only gets more of a kick out of my unimpressed expression, smiling with the tip of his tongue caught between his teeth.

I turn on my heel, huffing and not planning on verbally replying to him, but my few short steps are halted when his hand grasps the material in the middle of the back of the shirt he coerced me into, gripping it into his fist as he tugs, stopping me in my tracks.

He releases the shirt and leans his face down, tilting his chin down while he watches the side of my face as I stare straight ahead in shock; wondering what the hell is going on.

His low drawl comes out soft, sweet and taunting at the same time.

"But just remember Sassenach, ye also said ye werena going tae be stayin’ here or wearing my shirt - if this were a game, I'd be winning."

I feel like I'm going to choke on my tongue as I will my brain to start working, to spring into action and tell him where to go, or just walk away - something, but it's just stunned into static.

He nudges the tip of his nose against my cheek faintly, and I can hear the self satisfied smile in the tone of his voice.

"Goodnight, Claire," he says, before he pulls away and walks off without another word, the only sounds I can hear are my own shallow anxious breaths and his footsteps against the hardwood towards the staircase.

I hate to break it to him, but this is a game he will not be winning, because I am not playing.

 

***

 

Also, Claire saying "I don't want you" to Jamie. 

Chapter Text

"Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence"

(Simon and Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence)

 

***

A scream. 

A cup of knocked over crayons. 

So much yelling. It’s just the same as background TV noise most nights. 

I have to stop them. 

I have to take care of them. 

I run to their room.

I’m scared. 

Why don’t they like each other?

I scream at them to stop fighting, but they just don’t listen. 

They never listen. I’m too little. 

I wish I was bigger. I wish I was stronger. Maybe then they would listen to me. 

I scream, loud, bloodcurdling, and they finally hear me and freeze. 

Dad crouches down, places a hand on my shoulder, and gently tells me to go back to my room. He tells me everything is ok. 

The smell suddenly hits me. Stagnant beer. 

I hate that smell. They always fight when their breath smells like that. 

I look at him with blurry eyes, sobbing quietly as I wipe at my eyes, trying to stop my hands from shaking.

I stare at him as my lip trembles, nodding as I look at mum; recoiling back from the way she's looking at me.

I don't understand why she hates me so much, is it because I didn't help enough? Did I do something wrong?

I'll be better next time. I'll do it better next time and maybe then she'll like me.

Dad likes me, but he's so sad or angry all the time. He's even more angry when there's that smell.

Mum just gets more mean when that smell happens, it makes her really mean to me.

I hang my head, as I turn and walk out of the bedroom, sniffing and grabbing the collar of my pyjama shirt to wipe at my eyes, my shoulders dropping when Dad closes the door behind me.

As soon as the door closes I hear the yelling start again, things being thrown.

They say such awful things to each other.

I suck in shaky breaths, trying to calm myself down but it never works. I wish I could hug someone, or that someone would make it all better but no one ever does.

I walk back to my room, going to my CD player, and putting on one of Dads CD's, turning it up until I can't hear the yelling any more but keep my bedroom door open in case I need to help again; sitting back on the floor in front of my coloring book and clean up my crayons I knocked over.

Mum would be so mad if she saw I did that.

I rub at my eyes again, sucking in a sharp breath as I choke out another sob, and look down at my coloring book with my eyes burning.

It's so late. I'm so tired. But I can't go to sleep. I have to make sure they're okay.

I'm going to be so tired at school tomorrow and the teacher is going to yell at me again for falling asleep.

I wish I didn't cry, Mum hates it when I cry; she gets so angry at me but I'm not trying to be bad, I'm just so sad all the time but I can't explain why.

I keep wiping the moisture away from my cheek, everytime tears slip past my lashes as I start to color again, listening to the music and pretending I'm not there, drowning it all out - there's no yelling, no one is hurting each other; I'm safe and all I can hear is the music.

My heavy eyes start to drift closed, and everything goes black.

 

"No!" I gasp, my eyes blinking open as I try and pull myself from sleep, feeling them burn and sting from the tears in them.

My chest is heaving as I suck in sharp breaths, darting my eyes around the room frantically as I swallow the dry feeling in my throat and try and figure out where I am.

My blurry eyes try to adjust, as I squint around the room, bringing my hands up to wipe my eyes.

A large warm tongue licks a long wet, sloppy kiss up my cheek and I grimace, hearing the familiar snorting and look to the side to see Gizmo sitting next to my shoulders staring down at me and panting.

"Oh, hey baby - m'okay, it was just a dream," I murmur, my voice hoarse from sleep, and I scrunch my face as I rub my hands over my eyes, before grabbing my shirt and wiping my cheek.

Gizmo is always right there to wake me up, he has been since I got him; I don't know how I did all of this before I had him.

I guess that's probably the reason I almost didn't do all of this any more, it's unbearable.

Suddenly my attention is caught when the smell hits me.

His smell.

I'm in Jamie’s shirt.

My eyes snap wide awake as I look around the room again; sitting up bolt straight and looking down to the white shirt on my torso.

I'm at John’s house.

"Fuck," I groan, burying my face in my hands; my eyes still burning from now not only tears but the brief couple hours of sleep I've gotten.

I feel exhausted just from waking up.

I hope no one heard me, I don't know if I made any noise this time. It's going to be fucking embarrassing if they heard me screaming like a lunatic in my sleep.

John’s only heard it once, and I hated the look on his face when he woke me up, he looked so worried and scared.

I hate worrying people.

I drop my hands, looking to Gizmo and sigh heavily. "I really hope that Smirky asshole isn't here, I really don't have the energy for him."

Gizmo just stares at me dumbly, but I take that as an indication of him being agreeable with me.

"Yeah I know - I'm still mad at you by the way, sleeping with the enemy - I raised you better than that. You don't just crawl into bed with any guy with pretty blue eyes that gives you belly rubs," I tell him, sounding like a scolding parent.

Gizmo whines loudly, huffing at me.

"Don't argue with me," I point at him. "You're grounded, understand? No snacks after dinner tonight."

Gizmo licks his lips, blinking and lets out a low whimpering growl.

"Don't sass me. If it wasn't for you being such a tart I wouldn't be wearing this bloody shirt," I say, raising my brows and pointing to the shirt.

Gizmo groans, whining louder and my brows drop.

"You want breakfast don't you?"

He starts to pant and shift on the spot as he nudges his nose at me, as if he's urging me to get up.

I roll my eyes, throwing the blanket off me and pull myself out of bed with a tired groan. "It's always fucking food with you, you're a bottomless pit"

Even though Gizmo is as slow as a slug, % of the time, he gets off the bed as if he's as speedy as a greyhound, getting to the door in a flash as I trudge towards it; waiting for me with his eager stubby tail wagging frantically.

I squint at him while I grab the door handle. "I'll remember this next time you act too tired to go for a walk, Speedy Gonzales."

When I pull the door open, Gizmo squeezes through it before I even get to open it properly, his feet slipping against the hardwood as he darts out of the room, bolting towards the kitchen. 

And then another smell hits me.

Bacon.

Otherwise known as crack to Gizmo.

No wonder he was breaking his neck to get out there; he would sleep through a fucking earthquake but will jump awake at the smell of bacon three houses away like a damn bloodhound.

I walk slowly towards the kitchen, running my fingers over my hair and trying to blink away this sting in my eyes; it's that type of exhaustion where you feel like you have chlorine in your eyes, and cross my arms over my chest as I reach the kitchen.

I halt my steps when I see the red mess of hair sitting at the kitchen island, with Gizmo sitting on the ground next to him, staring up at him with begging eyes like he's just polished his halo atop his head.

You know Gizmo, if this was a ship, this would be considered mutiny.

To be fair, I honestly think he would let a robber ransack my whole house and shoot me in the chest; gladly being his accomplice as long as the man had bacon.

The little bacon slut.

I watch as Jamie smiles at Gizmo, pulling a piece of bacon from his plate and leaning down to hand it to him; Gizmos eyes go wide like he's just been given the holy grail as he scoffs the bacon in one bite, licking his lips and looking to Jamie expectantly.

I fight the smile that wants to break out on my face. You've started a dangerous domino effect now Jamie, as I said Gizmo is a bottomless pit and now you've just shown him that you're a human vending machine.

Good luck keeping any of your food to yourself again around that dog, you've just played yourself.

Jamie notices me watching them out of the corner of his eye, and turns his face to me with that stupid god damn smirk.

"Mornin' heartbreake-"

His sentence cuts off and his brows furrow when his eyes look over my face, and his eyes become concerned.

"Are ye alright?"

I glance my eyes to ground, cursing myself in my head and feeling that familiar uncomfortable feeling creep through my insides.

It must look obvious that I've been crying, I usually don't have to worry about it when I wake up at home - but I didn't think about it this morning.

"M'fine, just tired still," I mumble, folding my arms tighter in front of me while I look at the ground.

The sound of Jamie’s chair being pushed back echoes in the room, his footsteps hitting against the floor until he's standing in front of me.

For fucks sake, why can't he just go away?

He lifts his hand, gently nudging the knuckle of his curled pointer finger under my chin to get me to look at him and when I lift my run down red eyes, his lips press together flatly.

"That's more than just bein’ tired, Sassenach," he states, that normal arrogance in his voice replaced by a much softer tone. Why does he care?

"I have allergies," I lie, using my usual excuse when I have to get away with red puffy eyes and a sniffling nose.

Jamie lifts his brows with a disbelieving look, ready to press further but John’s voice sings out as I hear bare footsteps smack down the stairs.

"Oooo who's cooking baco- Claire? What are you doing here?"

I whip my head in the direction of John's surprised voice, seeing him reach the bottom of the stairs and walk towards us in his matching sky blue polka dot pyjamas.

His large confused eyes dart between us while he walks towards us, but when he notices the familiar white shirt draped over my body; as well as my very obvious lack of pants his eyes snap to Jamie and his brows crease in anger.

Oh he looks pissed.

He stops a few steps from us, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring daggers at Jamie when he snaps.

"Does someone want to explain what the hell is going on here?"

 

***

 

Chapter Text

"Don't go 'round tonight

It's bound to take your life

There's a bad moon on the rise"

(Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival)

 

***

 

Oh god. John thinks I've fucked smirky.

This is just a great start to my day.

"Yer in a good mood this mornin’," Jamie says flatly, giving John a bored look while John looks like he wants to strangle him.

John looks to me, and his eyes flare when he notices the raw state of my eyes, clenching his jaw and lifts his hand, snatching Jamie by the ear making Jamie yelp and curse. "What the fu-"

"Shut it and get over here - before I smack the shit out of you," John hisses, tugging Jamie away and dragging him into the hallway around the corner from the kitchen; as Jamie smacks at him while he gets dragged away like a toddler, snapping. "Alrigh alright, I'm comin’ - just let me go, fuck."

I bring my hands up to rub my temples and close my eyes, sighing.

John has always been dramatic, he's also protective but I'm genuinely offended he thinks I've banged that smirky friend of his; especially after only meeting him two days ago.

John should know me better than that.

"Ye dinna have to get so violent John, Jesus - relax man," Jamie's voice grumbles from the hallway.

"You listen to me, I don't care what you do or who you do it with, but one person you are not doing it with is Claire. Do you understand me? She doesn't need this shit, so find someone else alright?" John scolds, trying to keep his voice low; I'm assuming thinking I can't hear them.

It's a bit hard when they're only a few feet away, and John has never been good at being subtle or quiet.

"What are ye, her Dad? Pretty sure she's a grown woman that can make her own choices," Jamie throws back, sounding annoyed.

"She can make her own choices, but she doesn't need you screwing her around, she's been through enough - do you hear me? Find another project to entertain yourself with," John orders firmly, an irritated but worried tone to his voice.

"I'm no’  fucking screwing her around, ye have no idea what yer talkin’ about. If I wanted a god damn lecture I'd call my Ma, so can ye cut the preacher act?" Jamie says, his own voice becoming irritated and sounding offended.

"Have you seen the state of her this morning? You call that not screwing her around? You're around her for less than 48 hours and I wake up to find her in my kitchen wearing your shirt that upset? You just can't help yourself can you?" John hisses, not believing Jamie in the slightest.

"I dinna ken why she's upset, that's what I was tryin'ta find out ye idiot! It wasna my fault! Can ye stop acting like I'm some massive prick? Fuck, ye know me better than that John, why are ye being like this?" Jamie's voice raises with his frustration, both of their voices clear as day ringing down the hall and around the kitchen.

Subtle boys, real subtle. Great job.

I frown, making my way towards the hallway; if I'm the topic of conversation I feel like I have a slight right to be present for it. I also need to make it very clear I did not, and will not, be fucking smirky.

John really needs to relax, but he also hasn't had his coffee and he tends to be a raging bitch if he doesn't get it.

"Look Jamie, I love you - I do, I'd do anything for you but when it comes to Claire that's where I draw the line, you keep your hands and dick to yourself. I do know what you're like and that is why I'm telling you, whatever you're doing stops right now," John tells him, while I round the kitchen island towards the hallway.

"So yer all bent out of shape over me fuckin’ yer friend? Ye've never had an issue wi’ it before - why the fuck is it such problem now? Yer actin’ like I'm some asshole tryin’ tae fuck wi’ her feelings and ye ken that's no’ who I am, I'm up front with that shit," Jamie argues, raising his voice louder.

"She's not cut out for your shit Jamie," John snaps back. "She's not like you, she's not like the usual people you go after and she has enough going on without you adding to it - you know you don't stick around, so don't act like you do, I don't care how upfront you are, she isn't someone to cure your boredom with. I've got plenty of other friends, go screw them - I'll even give you their number, but Claire is off limits."

"You canna tell me who I spend time wi’ John, if she wants tae fuck me that's her choice, not yers. You dinna have the first clue about what my intentions are wi’ her. Get off yer high horse man, we're both adults so quit actin’ like you can order either of us around, ‘specially me."

Can he please stop letting John think we had sex? Why the hell hasn't he corrected him on that?

For a second I thought John may have been angry at me, or annoyed at the fact he thought we had slept together but it's obvious his anger is coming from whatever track record he knows that his friend apparently has.

I love John dearly, but I also don't need him doing this sort of thing; I know he's trying to look out for me and I appreciate it, but I can look out for myself.

I've always taken care of myself, I don't rely on other people and that's not changing any time soon.

"And you don't have the first clue about her Jamie!" John throws back "You don't know what she's been through and you are only going to cause more damage with how you are, she's not the right person for this. I'm being dead serious here, leave her alone."

"What do ye mean what she’s been through? Yer actin’ like she's some helpless lamb that needs protecting. Yer so fuckin' dramatic, ye always have been," Jamie scoffs, sounding confused but the irritation over being told what to do seems to get the better of him and his voice drops into a low defiant tone.

"And if ye keep tryin’ tae tell me what I can and canna do, I'll fuck her for a week straight. Ye dinna order me around, no one does."

"Oh really? Was I going to be informed about us fucking?” I cut in sarcastically, standing at the start of the hallway with my hands on my hips, looking between the both of them.

Jamie is leant back against the wall, his arms folded over his bare chest while John stands in front of him looking ready to blow a blood vessel in his forehead.

Both John and Jamie look towards me, John still with an annoyed expression while Jamie's eyes widen briefly, before his lips part - apparently forgetting I was in the room and not expecting me to hear that last part.

I speak again before either of them can, and I point to Jamie and back to myself, raising my brows. "We are never fucking - understand? Hate to burst your bubble on that smirky."

I point to John, with an offended expression. "And you should know better. I did not have sex with him, at this point I'd rather rip a fingernail off before I did that. You really think I'd break an almost two year dry spell on him?" I drop my hand, placing it back on my hip and keep my voice stern. "And I appreciate what you're trying to do here John, but I don't need you being a white knight - I can take care of myself."

"Two years?" Jamie gapes, acting like that's the most ludicrous thing he's ever heard in his life. "What are ye practicin’ to be a nun or something?"

Of course that's the bit that caught his attention, he doesn't sound the least bit insulted over what I said about him, he's just staring at me like I just committed blasphemy against his religion.

"No, I just don't need sex like air - unlike some people, I function just fine without it," I say, raising my brows at Jamie.

"Actually, I think that's exactly what ye need, Sassenach, lack of oxygen fucks wi’ yer head," Jamie smirks, cocking a suggestive brow at me.

"So you two didn't....?" John interrupts, gesturing between us with his finger.

I shake my head, screwing my face up and at the same time that I say "no fucking way," Jamie says "no’ yet" with a sly look.

"Not ever," I correct, glaring at Jamie at the same time that John thumps him up the side of the head.

Jamie swats John away, scowling at him; then looks back to me with his face flooding with a smug knowing look.

"No’ ever? If I remember correctly there were a couple other things ye said ye wouldna be doing as well. By the way, how's my shirt? Comfortable tae sleep in?"

"You're not going to let that go are you?" I groan, throwing my head back to stare at the ceiling, feeling the urge to smack that cocky look off his face again.

"Nah," he grins, looking even more pleased with himself.

"Why are you wearing his shirt anyway?" John pipes up, and I drop my face forward to look at him with a flat stare.

"Because someone decided they were fucking hilarious and tipped half a bottle of water on my uniform last night," I gripe, looking to Jamie and widening my eyes accusingly.

"It was an accident," Jamie says innocently, shrugging his shoulders.

I narrow my eyes at him. "Look - I need to go get dressed, I have things to do today. But just so we're clear, I didn't have sex with your idiot friend, and there'll be no need to worry about it happening in the future."

I'm talking to John, but I keep my gaze on Jamie, he only again - looks totally amused by what I'm saying.

"Whatever helps ye sleep at night, Sassenach," Jamie drawls, pushing off the wall and sauntering down the hall confidently to walk past me.

As he passes me, he keeps his eyes on me, keeping that cheeky look and I smile at him sweetly, kicking my foot out to catch his.

Jamie stumbles forward with a shocked shout, taking large uncoordinated steps trying not to fall forward and face plant the floor.

His hand grabs onto the wall as he steadies himself, looking over his shoulder with a shocked but annoyed crease of his brows.

"Whoops? It was an accident," I say feigning innocence, holding my fingers to my lips as they form an 'oh'.

John snickers to himself, mumbling under his breath 'oh shit.'

"Did you enjoy your trip though? Maybe you can send me a postcard next time," I offer with a sarcastic genuine tone, acting like I'm asking him about a month long holiday he just took in Paris.

Jamie narrows his eyes at me, while he stands to straighten and turns to face me.

I expect him to be irritated with me, but it's even worse when a mischievous smile tugs on his lips and he raises his eyebrows at me.

He doesn't say anything, which makes it even worse, just gives me a slow once over before sucking his bottom lip under his teeth, and turning to walk away with a spring in his step.

Why do I feel like I've just started something I definitely don't want to finish?

Wait, no hang on a minute - he started it, I was just repaying the favour.

Oh for fuck sake. I harped on about not playing his little games, and that is exactly what I've inadvertently just done - he's got me participating in his little charade and that's exactly what he wants.

I don't have a good feeling about this at all.

~•~

I felt less hostile after a shower, getting that twats shirt off and putting my uniform back on, that was now dry - I tried scalding some of the stress away which didn't really work that well but I definitely don't feel as aggressive towards that blue eyed giant toddler.

I had a brief conversation with John when Jamie left and tried to reassure him that he had nothing to worry about.

Unfortunately I think I'm the one that has something to worry about.

John's face had softened, when he lowered his voice and asked, 'Did you have one of your dreams again? Is that why you looked so upset this morning?'

I had only nodded, shrugging, 'I wouldn't call them dreams, dreams are pleasant but yes - just the usual.'

John explained he wasn't trying to overstep any bounds, or tell me what I should do but he was only worried about me and didn't want me getting hurt.

“I love Jamie, I've always been close with him and he's a fantastic friend, it's just... I know what you've been through, and I know what he's like with people he's interested in, it never lasts - I don't want to have to kill him, that's all. It'll make things awkward at Christmas.”

I tried to dismiss John's concerns straight away, but at this point I'm wondering if it's only him I'm trying to convince.

“He's not interested in me John, I don't know what he is but it's not that. I'm not getting hurt because I'd have to have feelings for him to do that and we both know that's not something I can do any more - this isn't going to go anywhere, I'm sure he'll find someone that grabs his attention by tonight at the latest, and he’ll barely even give me a second thought.”

John didn't look like he bought a single word of it and like he wanted to say something but stopped himself, instead he just slung his arm around my shoulder, walking me back towards the kitchen.

“Well, I trust you, it's just him I don't trust with you and honestly if things were different I wouldn't give a shit what you two do with each other, but I worry about you - I know you hate it, but I can't help it. I know you can take care of yourself Claire, but that's also why I said what I did to him, sometimes you've got to let other people that care about you help take care of you too.”

I have to disagree with John there, I think the safest thing to do is only rely on myself.

You just can't depend on people, you're setting yourself up to be let down, betrayed or if you let them help you, they'll only hold it over your head later on - it'll make you indebted to them.

Relying on someone else or asking for help, means I have to be vulnerable and trust them, and my brain just registers that as unsafe, so I'm just not capable of it - I don't think I ever will be.

Even though I do love John, and I have a level of trust with him, I still keep him at arm's length, at a safe distance.

The only person I don't really do that with, is Gizmo; and he's a dog.

Dogs seem to be the only things you can trust, they aren't cruel the way people are.

Speaking of dogs, my fat little Judas is staring at me expectantly while I make the bed in the sun room, I'm sure he's ready to get home.

I'd said goodbye to John, and I've managed to avoid the smirky dickhead, which I'm glad about.

Once I'm content with the fact I've left the room the way I found it, well, how it would have looked before I found it last night, I look at Gizmo; patting my hip and urging him to come along with me while I walk to the door towards the deck.

I pull the door open, stepping out and pull the door shut behind me, the sun warming my skin as it shines through sheer material draped over the wooden beams above the deck.

I'm not really an outdoors person, I do genuinely have allergies, but the sun feels nice today.

"Leavin’ without sayin’ goodbye? Now yer just trying tae hurt my feelings on purpose," Jamie's voice tutts from the patio doors, with a mocking frown, but his unexpected appearance startles the shit out of me, and I jump on the spot - screaming way too loudly in a high pitched squeal. 

I blow out a heavy breath, bending over to rest my hands against my thighs while I try and compose myself. "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on people? That's how you give people heart attacks you know - or get punched in the face."

Jamie steps out of the patio doors; now dressed in his usual jeans and wearing a white t-shirt, walking towards me with a shit eating grin; trying to keep his urge to cackle at my distressed state down to a low chuckle in his chest.

"Didn't anyone ever tell ye it's rude tae sneak off without sayin’ anything?" He counters, raising a brow when I straighten to look at him.

"Well, I couldn’t find you, and I needed to get going - but here you are, so - bye," I say trying to cover my ass, waving awkwardly with a tight smile while taking a step back as he takes another step towards me.

Jamie clicks his tongue as he walks forward, and I match his steps backwards until one of the deck chairs hits my back forcing me to stop and he stands in front of me.

I hear Gizmos wheezing, and glance down to see him sitting next to Jamie, staring up at him adoringly and I frown.

He gave you bacon once you traitorous log with legs, stop looking at him like he offered you his kidney.

"That's a lie, ye've been avoidin’ me since this morning - it’s no’ verra polite tae lie ye ken,"  he tutts, scowling playfully but then raises his brows like he just had a thought. "Speakin’ of polite, you didna even thank me for lettin’ ye borrow my shirt."

Are you fucking serious right now?

I huff in frustration while he looks at me expectantly, tilting his head like a coy puppy.

"If I say thank you, will you just let me leave?" I question, hoping this will satisfy whatever ploy he's got going on in his head and I can just get out of here.

"Of course," he agrees simply, without hesitation.

I exhale heavily through my nose, gritting my teeth as I mutter through them begrudgingly while rolling my eyes. "Thank you, for lending me your shirt - after you threw fucking water all over me,”

"Yer welcome," he smiles, then purses his lips and walks closer to me. "Ye can make it up tae me by comin’ out wi’ me tonight, I'll pick ye up at 7."

My mouth drops as I stare at him like he's got four eyes and antennas sticking out of his head.

You see what I mean about people though? Nobody does something without an agenda, they always want something - this is why I don't accept help from people, they always expect something in return.

Even if that help was forced on me against my will.

"Abso-fucking-lutely not. There's no chance in hell that's happening smirky," I tell him firmly, shaking my head and screwing my nose up.

"You got your thank you and I said bye, now do what you said you would and let me go home, move," I demand, shooing him away with my hands.

Jamie raises his brows, wetting his lips. "So yer saying yer not comin’ out wi’ me tonight?"

"Unless you see a pig with wings, then sure - but until then, I'm not going anywhere with you, tonight or any night after that," I answer bluntly, trying to side step around him but he blocks me; leaning down to my eye level with that same look he had on his face last night.

One corner of his mouth pulls into a half-smile, and he flicks his eyes between mine as his low drawl comes out taunting and ambiguous.

"Aye, Sassenach. Until then."

***

 



Chapter Text

"Dizzy in the head and I'm feeling bad

The things you've said have got me real mad

I'm gettin' funny dreams again and again

I know what it means but

Can't explain"

 (I Can't Explain - The Who)

***

 

I managed to escape Jamie, high tailing it out of there with Gizmo in tow, that little bacon tart staring back at Jamie like he was his long lost lover I was tearing him away from. 

I find it infuriating how sure of himself Jamie is, I can't relate to it whatsoever,  I question everything about myself - but that goddamn smirk and the way he found my dismissal of his demand that I go out with him tonight so entertaining is making me want to pull my hair out.

Actually, it's making me want to pull his hair out.

Maybe I'm so irritated because he gets under my skin, I want to be nonchalant and dismissive, not sparing a thought on him but ever since I met him that smirky idiot is all I've thought about.

I don't understand what his preoccupation is with me, aside from the chase of it all, but even then - chase what? I'm nothing to catch.

I've wasted too much time thinking about this, but it killed time waiting in the reception area that I'm so familiar with now.

I sometimes wonder about the other people sitting in the waiting room at the psychologist office, wonder about what led them to coming here - what their reasons are.

It's not in a prying way, just more curiosity. I tend to wonder about people too much, try and figure them out - analyze them.

I'm far too observant for my own good,  a lot of the time I wish I could walk around blissfully ignorant and not notice the smallest mannerisms in someone's body language, a change of inflection in their voice and read a million things from it.

It gets exhausting, always being so hyper aware all the time, always vigilant about how another person that you're interacting with is feeling, noticing the smallest nuances so you can react appropriately.

I think that's another reason I like dogs, for the most part they're simple.

It's not like with people where they can have a smile on their face but the inflection in their voice can show that they're anything but, and you have to figure out why they're smiling but sound upset.

Sometimes it's what people don't say that screams louder than anything else, their silence can be deafening when it leaves your mind to wonder a thousand miles an hour to try and decipher what their silence is saying because they simply won't tell you.

I think, I think too much.

When I finally get into the office, sitting on the same cream couch I've sat on for an hour once a month for three years now, looking at those warm eyes behind her dainty framed glasses; I twiddle my thumbs in my lap, wondering what shit show my brain is going to go through for the next hour.

"How are you today Claire?" Hilda asks, tilting her head with a friendly smile, that soothing soft tone to her voice filling the room.

I swear she could talk an insomniac to sleep, and I mean that as a compliment - she just has a very comforting voice.

"I didn't try to stick my head in my oven and turn it on, so I'd say I'm going alright," I say, keeping my tone dry but still sounding genuine; giving her a double thumbs up.

Hilda chuckles, completely used to my sense of humor now and how dark it gets, but in some weird way it helps especially in these appointments.

Sometimes you just have to laugh at your own pain, find humor in suffering.

"Well I'm glad today has gone well enough for you to not do that," she says, lifting her brows.

"Oh, not from lack of trying, just resources," I say, shaking my head, waving her off with my hand and then shrug, raising my brows. "My oven is actually broken - just my luck right?"

Hilda shakes her head, folding her hands in her lap smiling at me. "So, I'm judging by the humor and what you've just said, things haven't been that good this month."

Read me like a book this woman can, it's like she spent years studying psychology and human behavior or something. How bizarre.

"When are they ever good? A good day? Never met her. Who is she?" I reply, holding my hands up and looking around the room as if I'm looking for someone.

"How are things with your mum?" Hilda asks, seeing straight through my deflections as usual.

I shrug my shoulders, feeling numb about the whole thing or at least that's the way I have to be, it's like I'm on auto pilot these days.

"They're the same. She's just as much of a joy to be around as usual."

"Have you thought more about what we discussed in your last appointment?" she asks, keeping her demeanor calm and friendly.

"About her being a sociopath? Yeah I did. I researched it - you know how I am, it's pretty dead on. Just another thing to add to the laundry list of shit that's wrong with her," I say, sounding emotionless about the whole thing, keeping it factual like I usually do.

"How do you feel about that? Now that you know that about her?" she asks.

"I don't. I don't feel anything about it. Just explains a lot," I dismiss, not really feeling like tapping into emotions I can't cope with and feeling like my brain is being boiled alive when I open those doors.

Hilda gives me a disbelieving look, calling bullshit straight away. "Come on Claire, you and I both know you feel everything, you're just fantastic at hiding it. That's why having the mother you've had has been so traumatic for you, among other things you've been put through. Now just try for me, just tell me the first feeling that comes to mind."

I give her a mock annoyed glare, sighing and slumping my shoulders.

"Probably relief," I say, just being honest about the first thing that comes to mind.

"Relief? Why that feeling?" she asks, keeping her attention focused on me.

I lift and drop my shoulders, shaking my head with lazy eyes. "I don’t know, because that means she doesn't love me because she can't, she's not capable of it - not because there's something wrong with me."

"Do you really believe that though? That the way your mother treats you isn't because there's something wrong with you?" Hilda pushes, but still keeps her voice gentle.

I feel the faintest crack in the shield I keep up from that question, my composure faltering and I clear my throat, looking around the room at Hilda’s framed certificates on the walls, and random bits of artwork.

"Can we talk about something else?" I ask, smoothing my hands down the jeans on my thighs.

"You feel uncomfortable," she states, but it's just in an understanding manner. "We can talk about something else, but before we do, that discomfort you have - that feeling, can you show me where it's sitting in your body? Where you feel it?"

I point to the base of my throat, then tap the area, feeling like I have a rock lodged there.

"It's there."

Hilda just nods, folding her hands in her lap. "It's almost been a year, since you had your incident, have you thought about that at all? Are you still keeping your journal?"

I throw my hands up, looking at her with an incredulous expression. "What is with you today? Are you just trying to kick me right in the feelings?"

Hilda chuckles, pushing her glasses back up the bridge of her nose with her pointer finger where they had slipped down. "Getting to your feelings is kind of my job Claire, even though you make it extremely challenging with that emotional avoidance of yours."

"Kind of like trying to dig a hole in cement with a plastic spoon right?" I say, lifting my brows to emphasise how accurate it is.

She grins, then purses her lips as she nods in agreement. "Your analogies are always spot on."

"Because they're true," I point out, leaning back against the couch. "And I have been, by the way - keeping up with my journal. Write in it everyday."

"Still the same word? Anything new?" she asks, glancing at the clock on her table.

She's very good at doing it inconspicuously, but I wonder if she ever knows that I notice her doing it. Keeping a check on the time of the appointment, it's very subtle the way she does it but I notice every time she does do it and have done so since I started seeing her.

It can kind of ruin the charade of it all sometimes, when she's trained to seem totally invested in what you're saying and connecting with you personally, when you're say - oh I don’t know, having an emotional meltdown.

When you notice someone checking the clock, knowing their window of caring has a time limit - it's hard to feel connected and sometimes it just feels like you're burdening them, trying to keep your emotional fucking mess on a time restraint so you don't screw up their schedule.

I don't like being rude, so there's a lot of appointments I just purposely close off, keep things in so that I don't make her run over time.

I really wish I didn't notice all the small details,  it just seems to make everything more complicated.

"Actually…," I trail off, bringing my hand up to mess through my hair and pull my lips to the side wondering if I should even mention it.

I know she's going to ask me about it, try and figure out what it means and I don't know if I can deal with that because not even I know what it means.

"The past two days, I wrote something new," I tell her, watching her brows shoot up in surprise. "For the first time since I started it, I didn't write Gizmo."

Before Hilda can respond, I say something else to distract her, not ready to figure out what this shit with my journal means.

"I’m having those nightmares again," I tell her, and her face drops into a sympathetic expression. "The same ones."

~•~

I know I should be savoring this time that mum is away, however, I'm sat on the couch twiddling my thumbs over what to do.

This has been what it's been like since I got home from my psychology appointment.

I'm trying to relax, but trying to relax is stressing me out because I don't know how to relax.

I spent a good hour just walking around the house aimlessly, figuring out what to do.

I never used to be this bad, it's gotten worse over the last months, and the last in particular. I almost don't know what to do with my day when it doesn't involve only existing to cater to someone else, I've forgotten what it's like to wake up and just do what I feel like doing.

What do I even feel like doing any more?

I don't even remember the things I used to enjoy. My passions seem like complete strangers, a lover I once had that has now turned into someone I feel like I've never even met.

I just feel nothing.

Three loud knocks at my front door grab my attention, and I look towards it, staring at it like it just spoke German.

Another two knocks have me certain I'm not hearing things and I glare at it with suspicious squinted eyes as I stand from the couch and walk towards it.

Who the hell is at my house? It's almost 7, I swear if it's another sales person trying to sell me a vacuum I'm going to ram it so far down their throat they'll be able to hoover their own kidneys dry.

I grab the door handle, waiting for a moment to settle my apprehension and turn the knob, pulling the door open and as soon as those blue eyes catch mine, I'm slamming the door closed faster than a speeding bullet.

Unfortunately, because the universe hates me and this asshole apparently has cat-like reflexes, he catches the door before it slams, pressing his palm flat against it to keep it from locking shut.

I step back as he pushes the door open, standing in the doorway to lean a casual shoulder against the frame and I clench my fists at my sides; staring at him bewildered and fucking irritated.

I take what I said back, I do feel something - homicidal.

"Ye always answer yer door like that?" Jamie asks, pushing his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

I glance at the rest of his outfit, a loose distressed white band shirt and black jeans; complimented with a pair of scuffed up boots that have definitely seen better days.

"What are you doing here?" I ask, keeping my voice blunt and folding my arms over my chest.

Jamie tilts his head, running his eyes over my figure and purses his lips. "We had plans for 7, and it's now 7."

I scrunch my face up, throwing my hands out at my sides in disbelief. "Did your mother drop you as a baby? Or are you literally that dense? What part of I'm not going out with you sounded like 'Come to my house'?"

Jamie lifts his brows, laughing with a wide grin. "I bet yer dates have a real blast pickin’  ye up, are ye always this much of a sweet talker?"

I squint at him, blinking and wondering why he is still here or still talking. "I don't go on dates."

"I never would have noticed," he deadpans, wetting his lips and relaxing against the doorway; showing he has no intention of leaving.

I resist the urge to salute him with my middle finger, instead gesture towards the doorway. "Well, listen smirky, for the hundredth time - I'm not going on a date with you, sorry to disappoint you - so you can leave now."

"It's no’ a date," he says, completely ignoring everything else I just said. "We're just hanging out."

"I don't care if we were spending time together to cure cancer - not happening," I dismiss, pointing firmly and raising my brows to prove my point.

"Ye sure about that?" he asks, looking pleased with himself.

He pulls his hand from his pocket, holding a small ornament of a pink pig on a string, with two gold angel wings.

  

Jamie turns the ornament in his hand, inspecting it, then dangles it by the string in front of him and looks at me with his lips pulling into a smile. 

"If I remember correctly, ye said unless I saw a pig with wings, we werena goin’ out. It’s amazin’ what trinkets ye can find at a store."

I stare at the little pink pig, even complimented with a halo; trying with everything in me not to burst out laughing.

That cocky fucking bastard literally went and bought a pig with wings.

I refuse to laugh at this, I'm too stubborn and I'm even more irritated that I actually find it funny and slightly... slightly endearing.

I scrunch my lips, fighting the smile that wants to break out on my face and trying to hold my annoyed composure as he flicks his eyes from the pig back to me. "So, unless ye want tae get changed - ye ready tae go?"

I chew on the inside of my cheek, glaring at the pig and hate that that bullshit little ornament is wavering my resolve with this man. I swear even the damn pig is smirking at me.

"You're really trying to blackmail me with a pig right now aren't you?" I say, shaking my head, still trying to get over the fact he actually went and did that.

I'm trying to make sense in my head of why it's getting under my skin.

Jamie clicks his tongue, tutting me. "This isna blackmail, ye made up the rules Sassenach, no’ me - I'm just playing by them.”

"You aren't dropping this are you?" I ask, honestly considering just getting this over with so he can see once and for all that I am not the person he wants to be spending time with.

I can't explain why I'm even considering this.

He's really only shooting himself in the foot with this, whatever idea he has of who he thinks I am in his head, he is sorely fucking mistaken.

If he actually knew me, he would not want to be spending time with me.

"Great observation," he nods with a smug lift of his chin.

For fucks sake.

I huff, bringing my hand up to pinch the bridge of my nose and scrunch my eyes closed, muttering to myself. "Fine. I can't believe I'm fucking agreeing to this over a damn ornament - I can already tell I'm going to regret this"

"Dinna judge the night before it’s even begun, Sassenach," Jamie grins, looking triumphant and he shoves the pig back in his pocket; bringing his hand up to push his hair away from his face.

"Ye never know, ye might even have fun."

***

Chapter Text

"One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights

We're gonna find out, pretty mama, what turns on your lights

The full moon is calling, the fever is high

And the wicked wind whispers and moans

You got your demons, you got your desires

Well, I got a few of my own"

(One of These Nights - Eagles)

 

***

 

The car ride with Jamie has been fairly silent, aside from him trying to drag conversation out of me which isn't really going well for him.

"Ye ken, when ye hang out wi’ someone...generally ye speak to each other," he points out, tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel to the music playing on the radio as we drive through traffic.

I have no clue where we're going, hopefully it's somewhere with vodka so I can drink away this anxiety over being out with this dickhead.

I'm just not good at socializing. Especially with someone like him.

"Talk to the pig," I reply with a deadpan tone, staring straight ahead.

Jamie coughs to cover his laugh, and it's cute that he thinks I wasn't deadly fucking serious.

"Ye really arena going tae talk, are ye?" he asks, for some insane reason sounding amused.

"Nope," I reply, hoping that at the very least he will think I'm as boring as a plank of wood and just end the night early.

"That's fine, I'll just do the talking - tell ye about myself, I'm sure you’ll love that," he says, and I can hear that damn smirk in his voice.

I've never wished to be in a head on collision more in my life.

Why did I agree to this? Oh right - a pig.

Much to my dismay he starts to rattle off facts about himself like dot points and I just glare at the road ahead.

"I'm Scottish."

No shit.

"I hate haggis.”

Oh no call the newspapers.

"I'm 27."

With the maturity of a 5 year old.

"My favorite food is Nachos."

...Alright, I'll give you that one. Nachos are amazing.

"I love music."

How not vague of you.

“I love tae take photographs.”

. ..He seriously isn't going to stop talking is he?

"I love tae cook."

Hopefully not Meth, but it'd explain a lot.

"I am terrified of spiders."

Looks like I'm getting a pet spider.

"I can do this all night, Claire," he grins, noticing me clenching my jaw and drumming my fingers against my thigh becoming more irritated by the second.

I'm far too stubborn for my own good, I've already committed to this, so I just stay silent; not even glancing in his direction and this only encourages him apparently. 

"Never broken a bone in my life."

Can't relate.

Fuck, he really just won't shut up will he? He's like a toddler that follows you around asking 'why?' to everything you say.

"Favorite ice-cream flavor is mint wi’ chocolate chips."

I'm so close to knocking myself unconscious on this dashboard.

"I fuck on the first date."

For the first time, my eyes snap to him to see him staring at the road with a smug smile and I just stare at him with my brows shot up.

I'm not surprised, in the slightest, I just didn't expect him to blurt that out after his damn laundry list of facts, and I have no idea why I needed that information.

I also don't know if he's trying to imply something with that statement, so I decide just to knock that on the head before he gets any ideas.

"Well, there'll be no fucking on this date. Keep your dick in your pants if you want to keep it in one piece," I say with a flat expression, but lift my brows at him as a warning.

"I said this wasna a date. But ye just called this a date - that's interesting," he muses, now grinning.

"What? No - now hang on a minute, that's not what I meant," I blurt, trying to backtrack on what I said.

"Nope. Too late. This a date now - yer words, no’ mine," he says, his grin only growing and cementing the slight dimple in his cheek.

"No I didn't mean-"

"We're on a daaaate,” he shouts out the car window with laughter filling his voice, and I have to hold myself back from opening the car door and throwing myself out into traffic.

"We are not on a goddamn date. And I don't even want to be here - so it's definitely not a fucking date," I argue, hoping we get wherever we are going soon so I don't have to be trapped in such an enclosed space with this smirky infuriating twat.

"Well that's a lie," he laughs, glancing at me from the road. "If ye didna want tae be here, ye wouldna be in the car right now."

I peer at him, squinting my eyes. "Did you forget the part where you showed up at my house and blackmailed me with a fucking pig?"

Jamie shrugs his shoulders, toying with his bottom lip between his fingers before he releases it; sucking in a thoughtful breath and pointing at me with a knowing tone.

"Ye see the thing is Claire, there's no way I could force ye into doing somethin’ ye really didna want tae do wi’ a pig trinket. Somewhere deep down, there was something that made ye want tae come out wi’ me tonight - I'd love tae find out what that is, considering yer so hell bent on the fact that ye can't stand me."

"Maybe I'm plotting to kill you," I throw back, trying to cover for the fact he's actually right and that's what I can't stand.

I know I had the option to just tell him to fuck off, or call John to come collect his stupid friend - I let that damn stunt with the pig waver my resolve and I don't know why.

Same reason I don't know why I keep thinking about him, granted it's usually thinking about how annoying he is but still.

"Well killing yer date isna verra polite," he says, the corner of his lip twitching as if he’s fighting another shit eating grin.

"This isn't a date," I groan, throwing my head back against the seat and press my hands to my face.

I don't even bother to reply when I hear Jamie mumble under his breath. “This is verra much a date.”

I just drop my hands into my lap and pray this night goes quickly, or I'm too drunk to even care about it within the next hour.

Only date I'll be having tonight is with alcohol.

~•~

I'm really starting to think blue eyes has a death wish, or he wants to lose an eye; because I'm tipsy and now we're playing darts.

He brought me to a bar just out of the city, it's fairly quiet, I mean it is a Monday but the music is amazing, it's all of the songs I love and I'm irritated that I'm enjoying it so much.

The bar seems fairly nostalgic, the walls are littered with old vinyl records, guitars and framed pictures of artists from the 60's to the 90's, and even though it has a grungy rock and roll feel and looks fairly beaten up from the outside - it's pretty nice inside, and I quite like it.

The bar staff are actually hilarious, they've spent most of the night belting out the songs or dancing with each other in between serving customers - who seem to be regulars and it's been fun to watch.

Not that I'm having fun. I have forbidden fun from tonight.

I refuse to have fun.

Then he wins.

"Yer terrible at darts," he points out, staring at my dart lodged in the wall below the board, next to the other three randomly impaled around it.

"Stand in front of it, I'm sure my aim will get a lot better," I throw back, giving him a sweet smile.

Jamie picks up his glass of water, taking a sip out of it while he's leant against the pool table; pulling it away to lick his lips as he cocks a brow at me.

"I'm sensing some hostility."

"Really? I wonder why," I squint at him, wanting to roll my eyes when he picks up one of his darts, aiming it at the board with his tongue pressed at the corner of his top lip on concentration before he throws it and hits the bulls eye effortlessly - for the fifth time.

"I think yer just a sore loser," he says, gesturing at me to take my turn.

"Yes, sucking at darts is the reason I'm in a sour mood tonight, has nothing to do with some persistent smirky idiot that can't take a hint," I deadpan, throwing my dart and glaring at it when it hits the wooden frame around the dart board and bounces off.

Jamie picks his drink up to take another sip and hide his smile over my absolutely shit aim, and I pick up my own, knocking back the rest of the liquid in the glass and know I'll need several more of these to get through tonight.

Jamie moves from the pool table, to sit on the bar stool at the tall table we were sitting at near the dart board that I'm standing next to; resting his arms on the table.

"Why is someone wantin’ tae spend time wi’ ye something that pisses ye off so much? A lot of people would take the persistence as a compliment," he says with a thoughtful expression, like he's trying to figure me out.

I take a seat across from him, folding my arms on the table in front of myself and at least feel a bit more relaxed with my friend vodka settling that warmth through my body.

"Harassment isn't a compliment," I say, giving him a knowing look.

"Ye consider someone trying tae be friends wi’ ye harassment?" He asks, tilting his head.

I give him a look like he's full of shit, and find it hard to keep his eye contact to decide to just look at his hands instead, observing his fingers toying with the silver ring on his pinky finger.  

"You aren't trying to be my friend. You're just trying to get what you want from me - and look up the definition of harassment, that's exactly what you turning up at my house is, so excuse me for not finding it flattering."

"And what do I want from ye exactly?" He questions, ignoring the rest of what I said, looking intrigued by what my answer might be.

I shrug my shoulders, giving him a bored expression. "I don’t know, you tell me. You're the one that won't leave me alone."

"I dinna want anything from ye - that was yer assumption, never once did I say that. I just want to get to know ye," he says, moving his hand to mess through his hair before he scratches at his jaw and folds his hands on the table.

I don't believe that for a second, he has to have some kind of ulterior motive - everyone does.

"Well, there's nothing to get to know, so you may as well cut your losses and move on to someone else," I say, hoping he will actually believe me and just drop whatever weird interest he has in me.

Jamie's lips pull into a slight frown as he searches his eyes over my features. "I think there's plenty tae know. I think ye just like pretendin’ there isn't so ye dinna have tae get close to people - I'm curious as tae why that is."

"So we're psycho-analyzing me now?" I ask, giving him an accusing look.

I get enough of that from my psychologist, I don't need it from him too.

"Just bein’ observant," he states, watching me with that inquisitive stare again.

"Yer interesting. I want tae learn how ye see things - how yer mind works."

I think I'm being made more uncomfortable about the fact his observation was a bit too close to home for me, and I'm not someone that likes to open up to people - and I certainly don't like them getting to know me.

If you open yourself up, you're vulnerable. You give people the power to hurt you and that's all people seem to be good at.

"Well good luck with that," I say with a flat look, trying to emphasize how unlikely that ever happening is.

"Thanks, I'm probably going tae need it," he smirks, looking more determined than anything.

"So, I have somethin’ else I need tae ask ye," he states, leaning forward on the table looking more mischievous.

"What?" I ask, never liking that look on his face - it only means trouble, or he's about to say something that will make me want to smack him.

"Seein’ as we're on a date, which one of us is going to break it to Gizmo that yer cheating on him?" 

He looks way too amused at his own question and as much as I hate it, I had the urge to laugh but I quickly stuffed that back down.

But the vodka in my system has lightened me up enough to play along, even if I will refuse the fact that this is a date until the day I die.

I don't do dates. I don't do dating in general, I'm far better off on my own.

"You can tell him, maybe then he’ll stop thinking you’re an angel walking on this earth," I say, watching as his face breaks out into a grin.

His eyes genuinely light up over the small amount of banter he's managed to drag out of me that hasn't been completely laced with hostility like the most of the night.

I'm normally never this blatantly rude to a person, but christ he just won't quit no matter how off putting I try to be.

I feel like that only encourages him, but I don't want to dare risk being polite - which I'm thinking would bore him and whatever game he's up to - in case it completely backfires and only makes it worse.

"I suppose I'll be the bearer of bad news then," he agrees, and then looks over his shoulder towards the pool table and darts his eyes back to me like he has an idea.

"Hey, I'll make ye a deal. Play a game of pool wi’ me - if I win, ye have tae give this night a chance and have some fun. If I lose, I'll leave ye alone after tonight," he offers.

I watch him suspiciously, wondering what angle he's trying to play at now.

"If I win, there'll be no more turning up at my house, no more trying to get to know me and you'll leave me alone - for good?" I check, honestly grasping at any opportunity I can get to put an end to this charade of his.

Even if he's bullshitting me, I'll take the chance.

"Well unless yer at John's, I canna avoid ye there - but if ye want, I'll even pretend like I dinna see ye," he says, taking an obvious jab at my performance of pretending I was blind the first night we met.

"You promise?" I ask, raising my brows.

Jamie lifts his hand, painting a 'X' over his heart with his pointer finger and gives me an exaggerated sincere expression. "Cross my heart. Ye win, and you'll get rid of me."

I extend my hand over the table, and Jamie grasps it without missing a beat with his lips pulling into an eager smile.

"Deal," I say, with a firm shake of his hand and he agrees with a nod, echoing what I said with an enthusiastic 'Deal'.

Well, it's game on, loser. Because I may suck at darts - but I'm fucking amazing at pool.

You've just played yourself smirky.

 

***

 

Me writing Claire and Jamie’s relationship:

 ***

Chapter Text

"I said hey, what's your name baby

Maybe we can see things the same"

(All Right Now - Free)

 

***

 

This game is rigged.  

I watch as Jamie sinks another ball into the pocket, with my hands wrapped around my pool cue, and rest the front of my chin against the top of it; with the bottom perched between my feet.

Show off.

He moves around the table, bending over it and splaying his large hand against dark green material; perching the pool stick between his pointer and middle finger and I watch as his muscles in arms flex with the movement of him lining up his shot while his brows crease in concentration.

He takes his shot, shooting his last colored ball into the pocket like it was effortless; leaving only the black ball left over while I stare at the multiple colored balls I still have on the green table - taunting me.

He stands straight from the table, messing his long fingers through his hair and smiles at me. "Yer turn."

"What's the point? You're just going to kick my arse regardless," I say, shrugging my shoulders and he gives me a playful scowl.

I've accepted defeat, I did it the second we started playing and he made it apparent he was some freak pool prodigy.

He did this on purpose. I just know it.

"Dinna think like that, ye could still win this."

I throw my head back letting out a dry laugh.

"Right, sure - okay then," I say, giving him a sarcastic look.

"Would ye like me tae help ye?" he offers, walking around the table to stand in front of me.

"Sure - just turn around real quick and ignore the sound of me slapping my balls into the pockets," I reply, and he chokes on a laugh at my choice of words.

"I meant, help ye line up yer aim better," he says, biting on his lip while the apples of his cheeks lift to crease the corners of his bright eyes.

"My aim is fine," I argue and he looks back to my numerous balls on the table then back to me and cocks his brow.

Yeah yeah yeah, rub it in why don't you.

"Just give me a chance, I'll -" he starts, but cuts himself off, and I crease my brows when he brings his hand up and grasps my chin to swipe his thumb across it.

"Ye had blue chalk on yer chin," he points out when I pull my face back away from him, and he smirks to himself.

"Maybe I wanted it there," I say, lifting my brows which only makes his smirk grow and deepen the dent in his cheek.

"Sorry, I can put it back if ye want?" he offers, pointing his pool cue towards my face.

"Nope. It's too late - you've ruined it. It won't be the same," I sigh, sticking my nose in the air; earning a chuckle from him that seems to light up his eyes over the fact he's getting some playfulness from me.

It has to be the vodka.

Vodka is probably also why I can't even manage to sink a goddamn pool ball to save my life.

I was so good at it as a kid, but I guess that talent didn't stick around.

Also, I'm by no means drunk, just tipsy, but smirky over here is as sober as a nun.

"Just let me help, worst case ye still lose and best case ye kick my arse at the last minute," he says, watching my face for my reaction.

"Fine," I sigh. "You'll only keep nagging me until I give in anyway. I'm going to lose, but go on, prolong the inevitable."

"Yer so optimistic," he teases, resting his cue against the pool table and gestures his head for me to follow him.

I walk to where the white ball is sitting at the side of the table and Jamie comes to stand behind me.

"Alright, bend over," he says, and I whip my head over my shoulder to gape at him.

"Excuse me?"

He raises his brows, wetting his lips and points to the table. "So ye can line up yer shot - you'll need to bend over."

I squint my eyes at him, giving him a suspicious look but decide to just do as he says, knowing that if he tries anything I will promptly crack him straight in the nuts with this pool cue.

He steps back as I bend forward and place my hand on the wooden side of the table, placing the pool cue between my pointer and middle finger; keeping my elbow bent as I hold it near the end with my other hand and glare at the white ball like it's my nemesis.

My whole body goes rigid when I feel Jamie lean over me as he comes back up behind me, his chest hovering against my shoulders while his face comes to rest next to mine; his cheek so close to my own that I can feel the warmth from his face.

His hand slides down my forearm to rest over the top of mine, so the pool cue sits between his own fingers and his other hand wraps my own at the end of the stick.

My stomach twists into a knot that tight, it knocks the air out of me and I stay completely frozen - someone being this close to me always makes me panic, and it's only being made worse by the fact it's him.

I don't like being close to anyone, but men especially send my nervous system into overdrive.

Jamie laughs under his breath, noticing how my body has tensed up and I don't dare waver my eyes from staring straight ahead, and grip the pool cue so tight I swear I nearly crushed it.

"Relax Sassenach, ye need tae loosen up," he says, keeping his voice soft and my heart is accelerating that fast I'd swear it was having a seizure.

"I am relaxed," I lie, my voice squeaking with stress.

"I've met statues less stiff than ye right now," he says with a dry tone, and I can feel his cheek hit mine when his mouth pulls into a grin.

I huff, and try to loosen how tense I am; swallowing down a harsh gulp when his hand that's engulfed my own wrapped around the pool cue gives it an assuring squeeze.

The fact that he smells so nice isn't helping things, I hate that I like it or that I've even noticed it.

Why does he have to smell nice? The prick.

"Yer still tense," he points out and I roll my eyes.

"This is as good as you're going to get with me smirky, just hurry up and help me with the shot."

"I doubt that, I can think of a few ways tae help ye loosen up more," he says with a teasing tone and I grit my teeth, wondering why the fuck I’m still standing here.

"Say one more thing like that and I'm showing you how good of an aim I can be with this pool cue at a set of balls," I warn.

"Well, if how you've played tonight is any indication, then I'm pretty sure I'm safe," he grins and I press my lips into an annoyed flat line.

"Screw you," I mutter, but my nerves fire off through my whole body when he turns his head and hovers his lips near my ear, murmuring with that amused drawl to his voice.

"Oh, I'd love it if ye did."

"That's it!" I growl, letting go of the pool cue and bracing my hands against the table, trying to decide on the best words to turn around and tell him to fuck off all the way back to Scotland. 

"Calm down, I'm just playing around. M'sorry, I'll behave," he apologizes, turning his face back to look at the table.

"I fucking doubt that," I mumble to myself as I hold the pool cue in my hands again; wanting to kick my own arse for agreeing to this.

I knew he'd be like this.

"Am I making ye uncomfortable?" he asks, that playful hint in his voice switching to a sincere, concerned tone suddenly. “Ye can tell me, I’ll stop if I am.”

"No, you're just irritating," I reply, not knowing how to explain that the sincerity in his voice is actually what just made me uncomfortable.

I can handle the crude banter and fuckboy antics, but I can't handle serious moments.

"Ah stop it, yer going tae make me blush," he says, switching straight back to his cheeky demeanour.

Jamie flexes his fingers resting on top of mine, then clears his throat. "Now, which ball did ye want tae aim for? You've got plenty of options."

"Thanks for pointing that out," I deadpan at the reminder that most of my balls are still on the table.

He nudges his cheek against mine, sounding like he's a coach trying to train me. "C'mon, concentrate."

"I don't care which one," I say, looking at the colored balls on the table, and not seeing a single one I could actually make a successful shot with. "I couldn't sink any of these anyway."

He clicks his tongue in response. "Of course ye willna wi’ an attitude like that. Ye just need tae look at it from a different perspective, there's plenty of shots ye could sink wi’ what's there."

"Whatever you say, Yoda," I tease, wanting to shake my head at how sure of himself he sounds.

"What about sinking that purple one into the top left pocket?" he suggests, resting his chin against my shoulder.

"I don't see how that's possible," I say, looking at where it's positioned, and have no idea how I'd hit that from where we are with the black ball blocking it.

"Anythin's possible," he states, gripping my hand around the pool cue and pulling back, then pushing forward in a fluid motion as he works out his aim, until he hits the white ball with a sharp blunt force.

I watch as it rolls forward, hitting the other side of the table, to bounce back and roll over the other side, rebounding to roll towards the purple ball and avoiding the black completely until it taps against the purple ball and knocks it into the pocket.

Well I'll be damned.

"See?" he grins, turning his face and leaning it back to look at me; but I just keep staring at where the ball just went into the pocket, far too apprehensive to look at him while our faces are so close.

"Yes, you’re a fucking genius - congratulations," I deadpan; trying to cover for the fact I'm slightly impressed... well, a little more than slightly.

"A genius? I thought I was irritating?" he mocks, leaning his head around to try and make me look at him.

"You're an irritating genius - how is this helping me if you're doing it for me?" I ask, still avoiding looking at him, and he rests his chin back on my shoulder. I'm wondering when we’re going to stand up again because he just seems to be getting more comfortable. I’m also wondering why I don’t mind it as much as I should. 

"Helping ye see things differently is help," he replies, and nudges his cheek against mine. "And besides, letting someone do something for ye is help too."

"Isn't the point to do it on my own?" I question, feeling like I'm going to start sweating soon from how close he is. It's making my stomach do weird shit and I don't like it.

Why is he affecting me so much?

"Everyone needs help at some point, Sassenach," he states softly.

His hand moves from mine wrapped around the pool cue and grasps it, pulling it out of my grip and leaning it against the table to then place both hands either side of me on the table; caging me in with his chest still against my shoulders.

.... This is kind of a compromising looking position and I can tell smirky is lapping up how my body went stiff again.

"Well I don't like help, I like to do things on my own," I say before I can catch myself, nearly biting through my tongue that I admitted something vaguely personal about myself.

"Well, that would certainly explain why it's been two years," he teases, tilting his head to watch the side of my face with a damn smirk I can hear in his voice.

"Excuse you," I scoff, irritated by his jab at my voluntary choice to not waste my time with that bullshit. "Why the hell are you so hung up on that?"

"It's interesting."

"No it's not," I argue, jumping when his hand comes up to tuck my hair behind my ear that's fallen forward to cover my face as I still stare straight ahead.

I've only just opened up to John about this in the last couple months, so this idiot has more of a chance of getting struck by lightning than getting me to elaborate on this.

"I think it's verra interesting, and I'd like tae find out why you've chosen to do that - because it has tae be a choice, there's no way it's because other people dinna want ye," he says, leaning closer.

Is personal space not a fucking thing in Scotland?

"Maybe I just prefer men that don't talk and require batteries," I quip, starting to feel my heart race faster the longer we stay like this.  

"Mmmm," he hums. "Well, if ye ever need a hand, I'm happy tae help."

"No, I've got two thanks - I'm fine with those," I reply with my voice tight, damn near squeaking when he leans into my ear again.

"I'm sure yer more than fine with them, Sassenach,"  he murmurs and then pulls back, standing up straight while I stay completely stiff and try to slow my pulse back down.

"Take another shot," he grins, searching his eyes over my rigid figure and cocking his head towards the pool table.

"I'm going to need about 10 after that," I mutter, swallowing and trying to shake off that feeling stirring in my gut.

"What was that?" he asks, keeping an eye on me while I stand and straighten up and grab hold of my pool cue, but avoid looking at him.

"Nothing."

He perches himself on the edge of the table, folding his arms in front of himself while he watches me walk around the table and bend over again, having to try and make another impossible shot with the black ball blocking the white ball again from where it's stopped in the table.

Just as I'm about to hit the ball, Jamie's voice pipes up.

"It's distracting watchin’ ye hold that pool stick, the way yer hand is wrapped around it is doin’ strange things tae me."

I snap my wide eyes to him just as I falter when I hit the ball, and the cue hits the ball at the wrong angle; sending it flying into the black ball, and has it shooting into the pocket across from him.

"Oh no - looks like I win," a triumphant grin breaks out over his face and I glare at him.

“Playing dirty now?”

Jamie holds up his hands in surrender, shrugging with a cheeky look. "Guilty as charged."

"You did that on purpose - what happened to helping me?" I scoff, sitting the pool cue against the table so I don't use it as a weapon and stand to fold my arms in front of myself.

Jamie raises his brows, with a satisfied expression. "Ye said ye didna want help remember? Ye wanted tae do it yerself."

"You're such a wanker," I say with a flat expression, and Jamie cocks a brow coming to stand in front of me.

"Nothing wrong wi’ masturbation, Sassenach" he pauses, giving me a once over and then smirks. "As yer well aware of - I'm sure yer verra familiar wi’ it by now."

Can he stop having digs at the fact I haven't gotten laid in nearly two years? What's the big fucking deal.

I roll my eyes; keeping my body language guarded and shake my head at him. "And you wonder why I think this whole wanting to just be my friend thing you go on about is bullshit."

He gives me a quizzical look, quirking his brows and tilts his head. "Why's that?"

I look at him like it should be obvious, dropping my hands by my side. "Really?"

"Is it because I'm bein’ honest about the fact that I'd like tae have sex wi’ ye?" he asks, looking curious about my answer.

My face drops as I stare at him; not used to someone being that direct about that with me.

"Um... yes?" I say, raising my brows with a 'well duh' expression.

Jamie purses his lips, looking even more curious. "Why can't friends have sex?"

I scoff, pulling my face back and then laugh in realization under my breath. "Ohhhhhh you're one of those."

"One of what?" he questions with his brows pinching together.

I place my hands on my hips, cocking my head. "One of those 'No feelings, just sex - friends with benefits' people."

He squints at me. "Bold assumption - but if I were, what's wrong wi’ that?"

"Because that never works - it's the same storyline every time." I say with a matter-of-fact tone. "It always ends the same way. Someone gets feelings, or one person gets more invested than the other and it blows up in their face, or even worse, they just fall for each other and end up together."

He gives me a puzzled but amused look at my choice of wording at 'even worse', but seems more intrigued by what I've said.

"Interesting," he notes, sounding thoughtful and like he's talking to himself and not me.

I give him a questioning look but he ignores it, leaning down to my eye level with a mischievous raise and drop of his brows.

"Enough about that. Deal’s a deal, and I won heartbreaker - now it's time tae have some fun."

Why do I have a feeling the rest of this night is going to be anything but fun for me?

***

Claire: 

 

Chapter Text

"Pour some sugar on me

Ooh, in the name of love"

(Pour Some Sugar on Me - Def Leppard)

 

***

 

I have entered the seventh circle of Hell. 

I knew I would get there one day, just didn't realize it was going to be tonight.

"Just dance wi’ me."

"I would rather die."

"Stop being dramatic."

"I'm not being dramatic, seriously just take me out the back and shoot me - I'm begging you, I'll even pay you to do it."

I wish I was joking.

"Dance wi’ me," Jamie requests again, standing in front of me where I had dug my heels into the laminate floor and damn near collapsed on the ground as a limp dead weight to avoid moving, just outside of the area near the jukebox where several other people were dancing to the music playing.

"Alright fine. I'm dancing - happy?" I say, folding my arms over my chest and stare at him.

Jamie gives me a once over, and scrunches his brows together. "Yer no’ even moving."

"It's an interpretive dance - I call this move 'still and stubborn'," I say with a flat look.

Jamie purses his lips, running his tongue along the inside of his cheek with his brows pinched together.

Am I annoying him?

I fucking hope so.

He huffs out a breath, turning on his heel without a word and walks towards the bar; stopping in front of it and gestures one of the bartenders over, and says something to him.

What is he up to now?

I stand with my eyes narrowed in suspicion, watching the bartender set several full shot glasses on a tray; and Jamie pays for it, picking up the tray and walking back towards me.

My suspicion turns into confusion when he comes and stands back in front of me, and I look to the six shots on the tray; only to now look to Jamie in shock when he takes three of them, one by one and downs them without so much as a flinch on his face.

"What are you doing?" I ask, scrunching my face up.

Jamie holds the tray out to me, glancing from the three leftover shots and back to my face. "It's tequila, I'm lubricating that attitude of yers."

"Tequila won't get me to dance," I argue, knowing it's a bold faced lie.

Tequila will have me dancing on that fucking pool table, but I'd need far more than three shots

"I didna think it would, just drink them," he urges, and I raise a brow at him.

"Why are you taking shots now? You haven't drank all night - aren't you driving?"

"Needed some liquid courage, and I'll get us both a taxi and pick up my car tomorrow, now just drink them," he says, daring me with a raise of his brows.

Well look, you don't have to tell me twice. While I do not trust whatever he's up to, either way I know I can't be sober for it, and I’m far from drunk - so bottoms up.

He gives me a satisfied smile as he watches me take the tequila and throw each one back, coughing and grimacing at the taste.

I fucking hate the taste of alcohol.

It's why I usually strictly drink vodka. I don't know how people enjoy the taste, I like the effects but I prefer drinking it in a way where it doesn't taste like I'm drinking burning cough medicine.

I place the last empty glass on the tray, wiping the back of my hand over my mouth and Jamie just looks pleased, setting the tray on a table near us and grabbing a chair on his way back over to me; placing it behind me with a sweet smile.

I stand there giving him a suspicious look.

"What's with the chair?"

He gives me that innocent sweet smile again and now I know I really should be worried.

"Ye might need it" he says vaguely, still smiling. 

I'm gonna end up hitting him with this chair, I'm calling it right now. Whatever he's going to do, is going to end with me smacking him with a goddamn chair.

Jamie sucks his lower lip into his mouth, only to release it and dart his tongue out to run over it with an open mouthed grin before he turns on his heel and walks into the small crowd of people dancing.

... What in the Scottish fuckboy fuckery is he doing?

I see women and men in the crowd, eyeing him as he walks past and Jamie smirks to himself. Of course he does.

I narrow my eyes when he walks up to the jukebox on the other side of the dance floor, pulling some loose coins from his back pocket and slots them into the machine.

He presses a couple of buttons, and I'm assuming he's chosen the next song after the one that's about to end.

I'm still wondering what tequila and a fucking chair has to do with any of this.

Jamie turns from the jukebox to walk back towards me and adjusts his jacket, then brings his hand up to ruffle his fingers into his hair.

He's a few steps away when I hear the unmistakable start to 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' by Def Leppard and my brows shoot up.

I don't have a good feeling about this...

Jamie lowers his eyes at me as he walks with a mischievous slow smile pulling on his lips. 

Well, more so prowls towards me, because he looks like a fucking tiger stalking it's food.

He stops in front of me, but before I can ask what's going on here places his hands on my hips and gently pushes me backwards with his hold on them until I lose my footing and fall back onto the chair.

"Jamie what the fuck are you-"

My words die in my throat when he places a leg either side of mine, so my thighs are between his legs and he grins as he starts to slide his jacket off of his shoulders while he rolls his hips in tune with the music.

My jaw damn near flies out of the building, it drops so fast.

He is not doing what I think he's doing...

Jamie bites down on his lip, raising his brows at me while he slips his jacket down off of his arms to then only grasp it in one hand and lift it above his head and twirl it around like a bloody lasso; then tossing at the empty table behind us.

Oh god... Now people are staring.

"Dance wi’ me," he dares, giving me a warning look that says this is only going to get worse if I don't agree.

I'm just staring at him frozen in shock, I can't even speak. Is this asshole really going try and give me a fucking lap dance to 80's glam metal? This is literally a stripper anthem and he's going to do this shit to me in public.

"Dance wi’ me, or get a show Claire - it's up tae ye," he says, placing his hands on my shoulders as he basically fucking dry humps the air in front of me to the beat of the chorus while he leans backwards.

He's actually quite good at this and I do not want to know why.

I have never in my entire life been as mortified as I am right now. Oh god now people have stopped dancing to watch - oh for fucks sake now they're cheering him on and whistling!

Stop encouraging him!

My face is on fire, I can literally feel it burning as he keeps dancing - but I have no idea what to fucking do, I'm just completely fucking paralyzed with embarrassment.

I'm having a stroke. I'm actually having a fucking stroke. And I'm still trying to register that this crazy son of a bitch is actually doing this.

I think I'm going to faint from stress.

It's only being made worse by the fact it's obvious he's loving absolutely every single second of his little Magic Mike moment, and has no shame whatsoever.

I was correct. I am actually in hell.

I glance to the bar to see even the bar staff are clapping and cheering him on, and I officially pray for a sudden brain hemorrhage.

I smack my hands to my cheeks, trying to cover how red as a beetroot I am, wishing I could shrink back and disappear.

Jamie hasn't taken his eyes off me, they've been locked on my face the entire time and I'm awful at eye contact at the best of times so this is absolute torture.

There's no where to look, if I look up it's his eyes, if I look straight ahead or down all I see is his damn hips or crotch moving way too close to my face for my liking.

Please god make it stop.

Jamie cocks a brow at me before biting down on his lower lip, rolling his body to the music and slides his large hands slowly down the front of his torso all the way to the hem of his shirt and starts to lift it up.

I see his defined carved hips start to expose themselves with that damn snail trail making a path into his pants and as his shirt goes higher his stomach muscles tense and contract with the movements of his pelvis.

He gets the shirt up to his chest, exposing his lean torso and he smiles at me. "Pants are next after the shirt Claire, and I'm no’ wearing underwear."

I smack my hands over my face, and shout, "Fine! Fine! I'll fucking dance with you, you smirky psycho - just keep your clothes on for the love of god!"

Jamie pauses with a triumphant grin, dropping the material of his shirt down and you can hear the audible devastated 'aww' from the people watching.

He leans down and grasps my wrists to pull them away from my face, looking smug as ever. "I dinna ken if I should be insulted or not that yer so against seeing me naked."

"I'd rather cut my leg off and beat myself to death with it," I throw back, wishing I had way more alcohol in my system so I wouldn't remember this.

I'm definitely past tipsy now thanks to those shots, which I'm thanking god for because if I wasn't partially drunk I don't think I would have survived that stunt he just pulled.

Jamie pulls a feigned hurt expression like I just punched him in the stomach. "Ouch. My poor ego."

I lift my brows, with a sarcastic squint. "I'm sure your ego will be just fine with how big it is, I'm shocked you were able to fit it through the front door."

He presses his lips together trying to hide his smile at my insults, looking nothing but entertained by them.

His hands slide from my wrists to take hold of my hands, and he stands up straight pulling me with him so I stand to my feet.

"C'mon, ye wanted to dance, so let's go," he says with a tilt of his head.

I glare daggers at him as we start to walk towards the dance floor, and I'm walking like a petulant child behind him.

"I did not want to dance! You cornered me into agreeing to it, you didn't give me a choice with that crazy bullshit you just pulled!" I argue and Jamie looks over his shoulder at my as he leads me to the dance floor and raises a brow.

"Ye had plenty of choices Claire, ye could have just gotten up and left for example. But ye didna, instead yer dancing wi’ me now, don't ye find that interesting?"

I clench my teeth, huffing a breath out my nose and feel my blood pressure rise that higher around him.

Why haven't I left yet?

"No, I just find you irritating," I deflect, trying to ignore the fact I don't have an excuse for why I'm still here with him or know what that even means.

Once we're on the dance floor, he stops and turns to stand in front of me, giving me a once over and a playful pout.

"Oh aye, I'm forcing ye tae actually have some fun for once - I'm a terrible person."

I fold my arms over my chest, with an annoyed expression. "Why are you so interested in me having fun?"

Jamie tilts his head, looking thoughtful as he purses his lips. "I'm no’. I'm far more interested in why yer so hell bent against having fun"

I look around the bar like I'm searching for something, dropping my brows in confusion. "Did you hear that?"

Now Jamie looks confused as well. "Hear what?"

I look back to his face, leaning closer like I'm telling him a secret. "It sounded a lot like none of your fucking business."

Jamie's face lights up as he blows out a laugh through his lips. "Never a dull moment with ye is there?"

Why does it seem like the more abrasive I try to be to push him away, it only has the opposite effect and interests him more?

This whole you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar nonsense is turning out to be a load of shit.

Because this fly won't fuck off.

A woman comes up behind Jamie, tapping him on the shoulder to grab his attention before I can reply and I look at her as he turns slightly to see who had touched him.

She's all plump red lips and pin-straight jet black hair, and a body that makes me want to go home and binge on ice-cream in front of the TV and feel like Shrek in the comfort of my own home.

She's stunning.

Power to her though, kudos on winning that genetic lottery.

She looks at Jamie and speaks, her voice just as suggestive as the look on her face.

"Mind if I steal a dance?"

I say a way too enthusiastic "He'd love to, go right ahead," nearly shoving him at her, at the same time Jamie gives her a polite smile and says, "Sorry, no’ tonight."

She looks between me and Jamie with a perplexed expression, and he looks back to me and quirks his brows with a 'what the hell are you doing' look.

What? Sue me for jumping at the opportunity to bail on this.

He clears his throat and looks back to the woman. "We're o a date, thank ye for the offer though - maybe another time."

"It's not a date," I cut in, and now the woman looks genuinely confused.

Jamie steps back from the woman to stand next to me, and smiles. "It's a date, she's just having a hard time coming tae terms wi’ it."

I roll my eyes, huffing in annoyance and the woman gives me a disbelieving look; as if I've lost my mind for not being over the moon about being out with this man.

In fact, she almost looks insulted that I'm being so sour over it.

She wets her full painted lips, then reaches into her purse and pulls out a pen, before she reaches forward to takes Jamie's hand and brings it up to start to write on the back of his hand.

She looks at him under her lashes, biting on her lip before releasing it as she finishes scribbling on his hand and Jamie is watching her with creased brows.

I stare between the two of them, and feel the urge to ask if she would like a moment alone because she is literally fucking him with her eyes and I feel kind of awkward watching.

"Well... if you change your mind, give me a call - any time you like," she purrs, releasing his hand and Jamie drops it back to his side while she slides her pen back in her purse.

I literally cannot fathom having that much confidence or being that bold, fuck me it’s almost impressive to watch.

I should be offended or something right? I feel like I should be. I'm not at all, but I feel like a normal person in this situation would usually have a problem with this.

I'm starting to think this woman has bigger balls than Jamie.

"I'll keep that in mind," he replies, giving her a signature charismatic smirk and if I roll my eyes any harder they're going to roll straight out of my head.

She glances to me, with a smile that isn't genuine at all. "Well you have a good night, you're a lucky girl - he's a real catch."

"That's pretty fucking debatable," I mutter, but then force smile back at her.

She looks at me as if I'm insane again, then turns her attention to Jamie, batting her lashes that hard at him I'm surprised she didn't fly away, before she gives him a suggestive bite of her lip and turns to walk off.

Jamie turns to face me, ducking his head down to my eye level and raises his brows. "Want tae tell me what all that was about?"

I give him a puzzled look, glancing to where the girl was standing then back to him. "Uh, well. A wild female approached you, and did everything short of literally throwing her vagina at you - I believe in the wild it's called flirting, and then she gave you her number, I presume in hopes you'd call her and complete the mating ritual."

Jamie closes his eyes, blowing out a slow sigh and shakes his head. "I ken what she was doing, Sassenach. I meant the part about ye trying tae get me tae go dance wi’ her."

I shrug my shoulders. "She wanted to dance with you - among other things, you should've gone for it. I'm sure she would've given you the good time you're after."

He narrows his eyes at me for a moment, then stands straight and takes my hands to bring them up and wrap them around his neck; so he can place his hands on my hips.

"Ye dinna get out of this that easily, nice try though."

The song that's started playing is much a slower, 70's rock song and I'm kicking myself again that I've agreed to this.

He trails his eyes over my face, like he's trying to figure me out. "And I'm here tae spend time with you by the way, no’ her," he adds, still giving me a strange look.

I press my lips together in a flat line, shooting my brows up. "Yes, and I'm just as confused about that as she was."

He starts to move us slowly to the music, keeping his eyes focused on my face and I'm so glad I have enough alcohol in my system to not be having an internal meltdown over someone being so close to me.

"Why is it so hard for ye tae believe that I'd want tae spend time wi’ ye?" he asks with his brows pinching together, losing the cheek to his voice momentarily as it's replaced with a genuine tone.

I don't like that question, mainly because I don't like the answer to it, so instead I counter. "Why is it so hard to believe I don't want to spend time with you?"

That answer makes him look at me like he is calling me on my bullshit, and knows I'm deflecting but my question also amuses him so thankfully he doesn't push it.

"Because what ye say and what ye do , contradict that. Verra mixed signals wi’ ye," he answers, wetting his lips as he pulls me closer and I feel like I need more vodka.

I was okay with having a bit of an arms length between us, but now our chests are nearly touching and I'm feeling claustrophobic.

"Mixed signals? I literally said that I didn't want to spend time with you," I scrunch my nose up in confusion at how he can possibly misconstrue any of my behavior since I've known him as any inclination that I even remotely like him, let alone want to be around him.

He gives me a lazy smile, tilting his head and smoothing his hands around to lock with each other behind my lower back.

"Ye did say that, and yet here ye are. Spending a night out wi’ me and now we're even dancing."

I blink at him with a flat expression. "You're really going to just gloss over your little games where you turned up at my house, dragged me here and then almost gave me a full on lap dance like you were waiting for me to stick money in your underwear aren't you?"

"Aye, but like I said, ye could have left at any point in the night, or not come out wi’ me at all," he grins, his blue eyes lighting up to match it and then he leans his face closer. "And I told ye, I'm no’ wearing underwear."

I groan, closing my eyes. "I didn't need you to remind me of that. Keep your free balling habits to yourself."

Jamie laughs under his breath, keeping me close to him and when I open my eyes he's just watching my face with another one of his inquisitive looks.

I'm beginning to think I have riddles written on my face.

"How about we make another deal?" he suggests, and I look at him like I think he's actually plotting to kill me.

"You know, I'm beginning to think you may actually be the devil with all these deals of yours."

He gets this glint in his eye, it's devious like he's thinking something I'm positive I don't want to know about but he ignores my accusation, instead saying, "I'll share a secret with ye, if ye share one wi’ me."

"Fine," I let out a resigned sigh. I'm too tired to keep up this back and forth with him. If I try and argue about this, he'll just continue being his infuriating persistent self until I give in anyway.

Plus I'm drunk, guess the tequila really did lubricate some of my attitude.

I need to be way more drunk to get through the rest of this night though.

He looks momentarily surprised that I gave in so easily, but doesn't miss his chance to ask what has obviously been on his mind. "So tell me..." his words start slow, and he leans his head back looking down at me with curiosity. "Why two years?"

I throw my head back, groaning with my eyes pinched shut. "You just can't fucking let that go can you?"

"Nope."

I drop my face back to stare at him with a passive expression, and exhale a frustrated breath. "There's a lot of reasons, but also I'm at a point in my life, where I can't be bothered wasting my time. Men, majority of the time make sex solely about them and what they want, or they just don't know what the fuck they're doing, so I decided to stop letting them use my body to masturbate with when I wasn't getting anything out of it. I'm perfectly fine without it."

That's the gist of it really, and I don't intend on elaborating more. The other reasons I have aren't something I care to bring up from the box I keep them locked in, in the back of my head.

Jamie's eyes widen, and his lips part briefly over how blunt my answer is and I'm not sure whether he expected me to reply with that.

"Using yer body to masturbate with?" he echoes, then his brows drop and he shakes his head. "That's the most depressing description of sex I've ever heard. Yer havin’ sex with the wrong men, Sassenach,  if that's what yer getting."

"Exactly, and I solved that problem by having sex with no men. Now it's your turn, I answered you - so spill, what's your secret?" I push, not wanting to answer any more questions about myself.

Jamie looks like he has a million things he wants to ask me, but instead he purses his lips and shrugs his shoulders. "Alright. I've been married before."

Now I'm staring at Jamie like he has three heads.

He’s been married?

"What? When? How? Are you serious?" I gape at him like he's just told me he cut his own dick off, but while in my shock I haven't noticed that Jamie has brought me closer so that our chests are now pressed together with his arms hugged comfortably around my waist.

Why isn't that freaking me out?

We're hardly dancing, just swaying thoughtlessly and moving a few steps occasionally.

One corner of his lips pull up to indent his slight dimple, and his face doesn't really show any emotion about what he's just said. "It was a long time ago. And if ye want tae ask more questions, you'll have tae answer some of mine as well."

"Never mind. I don't need to know," I reply shaking my head, in no way wanting to answer any of the prying questions he would have.

I don't care how curious I am about how mister fuck anything with a heartbeat, managed to get tied down to one person, to the point he was married - I'm not curious enough to let any more about myself slip out than it already has.

The one question that's bugging me though is, why isn't he married any more? What happened?

Nope. Shut up brain. None of my business.

Jamie doesn't push it, and for once I think I've stumbled on something he doesn't care to elaborate on either. Instead, he pulls away from me but keeps hold of my hips while my arms unwind from his shoulders and drop to my sides.

"How about we get some more drinks? Now that I'm not driving we may as well make the most of it," he suggests with a daring look.

"See, now you're speaking my language smirky," I agree as I point at him with exaggerated enthusiasm.

Yep. I'm definitely drunk. That tequila really hit me out of nowhere.

"Ye sure ye can handle it?" he cocks a brow, noticing the shift in my behavior.

It may not seem like much, but this is the least snarky I've been towards him since I've known him.

I scoff, far too dramatic. "Oh you haven't seen anything yet - you have no idea how much I can handle."

Jamie looks at me like he wants to say something, but decides not to and takes a hold of my hand instead and starts leading us towards the bar.

As we reach the bar he looks at me with a raise of his brows. "I suppose I'm going tae have tae play catch up wi’ ye then, because you've been ahead of me all night."

Yeah, good luck with that.

Jamie gestures to the bartender who starts to walk over to us, and gives me a cheeky glance as he orders. "Another six shots of tequila please - and two shots of vodka for my date here."

I glare at him knowing he said that just to irritate me, and he just smiles at me with an innocent shrug and what looked like an attempt at a wink.

Stop acting cute. It's annoying.

The bartender brings his order over and Jamie says for it, despite my arguing that I can pay for my own.

Jamie picks up a shot glass in each hand, while I pick up one of my own and he clinks one of his glasses against mine in a cheers.

"Slainte heart breaker, now we really get tae have some fun," his expression is mischievous again with a promising tone to his voice, but I can't find myself caring - the alcohol is dulling my apprehension towards him well and truly.

Jamie throws back his two shots one after the other, and I do the same with mine to then only watch him finish off the other four of his.

I notice his eyes start to get that glazed look in them, and he gestures to the bartender again, motioning his finger to the empty glasses. "Another round please, it's going tae be a long night."

And that's all I really remember from the rest of that night, things just go fuzzy and blank after that.

I have flashes of us dancing again, and fragmented parts of me even laughing and joking with him.

There's a blur of when we left, and all I vaguely remember from that is at some point we were making our way to get a taxi, and somehow I ended up on Jamie's back, with him piggy backing me up the street.

At some point during that we somehow managed to fall into some bushes out the front of a late night restaurant and I think I remember a waiter yelling at us saying, "If you two giggling idiots don't get out of our bushes I'm calling the police."

Then it's just blank again. I don't even know how much we drank, when I got home or even the taxi ride home.

I know that I drank far more than I should have though. The second I open my eyes I clamp them shut again because the light feels painful.

God my head hurts. I need water, lots of it.

I'm pretty sure I'm still drunk.

I hear Gizmo’s familiar wheezing snore, and know I at least made it home to my own bed in one piece, but then I notice something that makes my breathing stop in my chest.

I squint my eyes open, blinking at the daylight in my room that's burning them.

I wet my lips, swallowing that dry awful feeling in my mouth and look down, lifting my blanket cautiously to look underneath it from where I'm laid on my side.

That's an arm.

There is a person's arm hugged around my waist.

... Oh no.

No no no.

I hold my breath, slowly turning my head to look over my shoulder feeling my heart beat faster by the second until my eyes fall on a mess of red curls and relaxed sleeping face cuddled up to my shoulder.

I know this probably wasn't the best reaction, but it's the knee jerk response I had.

I scream.

I scream in terror like I’m auditioning for a B-grade horror film, and scare the absolute shit out of Jamie.

He jolts awake like he's been electrocuted, looking around frantically like he’s trying to see where an axe murderer is in the room.

"What the fuck are you doing in my bed Jamie!"

***


Chapter Text

"This is for all the lonely people

Thinking that life has passed them by

Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup

And ride that highway in the sky"

(Lonely People - America)

 

***

 

Jamie looks completely dazed, and very hungover. He moves his hands to cover his ears and grimaces. "Little less screaming please Sassenach, use yer inside voice."

I throw myself out of the bed from under the covers with a yelp like he has a contagious plague, scrambling to my feet and backing away, just staring at him with round panicked eyes.

Jamie is completely calm, once he got over being woken up so abruptly and he yawns while he rubs at his eyes, only to relax back against the bed on his side; perching his head against his closed fist to stare at me with lazy eyes.

I think I'm going to hyperventilate.

Why is he in my bed? Why is he in my house? What the hell happened last night?

I stare at him while my heart only speeds up from panic, and it gets harder to breathe when I notice the covers now draped just over his hips below his bare torso.

....Is he naked?

I think I'm going to faint.

I snap my eyes down to see my own bare legs and realize I'm only in my underwear and shirt I was wearing last night.

"Ye always this much fun in the mornings?" Jamie drawls with his voice thick and heavy with sleep, watching me have an internal meltdown with his relaxed expression.

"Why are you in my bed? What happened last night?" I rush out, my voice cracking at a high pitch from how stressed I am.

Jamie lifts an accusing brow. "Ye dinna remember?"

My stomach drops and I start to feel nauseous, and it's not from the hangover.

I start to breathe harder, I can't help it, it's like I can't suck air into my lungs.

"Did... Did we sleep together?" I stutter, not even capable of being a smart ass at the moment.

Those same old feelings start coursing through my chest and it feels like it's choking me, those memories start to creep back in again.

I'm so fucking stupid! How could I let this happen? I well and truly fucking know better and learnt my lesson several times over things like this.

"Well...aye," Jamie replies, creasing his brows as he watches me.

Oh god... this can't happen, not again.

I bring my hands up to thread them through my hair as I feel all the blood drain from my face and it's like the room is shrinking around me, it feels suffocating.

He notices my reaction, and leans up on his elbow with a worried look. "But if yer wondering if we had sex, then no, we didna."

My breathing only gets worse with that twisting in my gut, and I wince at the memories and thoughts flooding my brain.

Jamie leans up further, looking genuinely concerned. "Claire - hey, nothing happened. It's okay. I would never let anything happen when yer that drunk, it doesna matter how wasted I am."

I start shaking my head no, and squeeze my eyes shut; trying to control my breathing and the fact I want to crawl out of my own skin.

My throat feels like it's constricting and my chest is like a vice.

I grip my fingers tighter in my hair, clenching my jaw as tight as I can just wanting this feeling to go away.

Jamie pulls himself up, throwing the covers off to reveal his jeans and gets out of the bed to come over to me.

"Claire... Are ye okay?" His voice is soft but filled with worry and when he reaches his hand out to touch my arm, I flinch and jump away from him.

"Please don't touch me," I rush out, trying to suck in air through my sharp breaths.

Jamie freezes and his face drops, but he doesn't back away.

"Claire, look at me. Yer okay, everything is okay - I never touched you, I promise. We came back here and fell asleep, that's it." The concern in his tone is only growing, along with the guilt there for the fact his playful joke has gotten this reaction.

"Well, okay that's not entirely true - I mean, we cuddled but that's it," he adds, like he doesn't know what to say to help or whether he's just making it worse.

I still can't look at him, and I just need him to leave me alone. I need to get rid of this feeling, this panic and crawling in my skin. I never let anyone see me like this.

I just want to be alone. It's safe when I'm alone.

"Just go, Jamie, please leave," I stammer, backing away from him.

"Absolutely not." His answer is soft, but firm and that makes me snap my eyes open and stare at him.

His brows are furrowed heavy over his eyes, and he looks over my face with his lips pressed together in a flat line.

He looks stubborn and like he isn't budging.

"Jamie - go. I don't want you here." My voice is starting to raise with more stress, I'm feeling cornered and I can't stand it.

He still doesn't move, just watches me like I'm some frightened animal and I hate it, I hate that look.

He wets his lips, taking a slow step towards me and I back up again. He keeps his voice as calm as possible despite how loud mine is getting. "I'm no’ leaving, something is obviously wrong. Yer no’ okay and I'm no’ leaving ye while yer like this."

I bite down as hard as I can on the inside of my cheek, doing anything to distract myself from the feelings ripping apart my insides.

I can't stand being like this.

"You. You are what's wrong Jamie, and I need you to leave,” I snap distressed. I just want to be alone. I want him to leave me alone.

Why won't he just leave?

Jamie pauses at my words, his face wincing like what I said has slapped him; and his arms drop by his sides while his shoulders slump.

I move my hands to cover my face, feeling my eyes start to burn and huff out breaths into my hands.

"I dinna want tae leave while yer upset, Claire, I promise nothing happened. I'm sorry for joking about it - please just talk tae me about what's going on," he says, sounding hurt with how I'm being towards him.

I've never heard him this serious since I've met him, and he almost doesn't sound like himself without some kind of mischief to his voice.

I feel his hand reach out to touch my arm, and I jump back away from him and I'm begging at this point. "I said don't touch me! Just please go, please leave me alone."

I wonder if other people know what kind of torture this is, to feel like this. To feel like your insides are eating you alive, and craving someone to be able to hug you but you can't let people touch you.

Your body is screaming for comfort and doesn't know how to get it, because when someone gets close to you it feels even more terrifying.

It's like hell on repeat.

Comfort feels uncomfortable, and I don't have the capacity or urge to explain my clusterfuck of damage that exists in me.

Jamie doesn't say anything for a moment, and his voice sounds uncertain when he does speak. "I'll go sit in the lounge room, I'll leave ye alone in here. But I'm not leaving the house until I ken that yer okay."

I guess you're moving in then Jamie, because I'm never okay.

Fuck why can't this smirky son of a bitch just let me have a panic attack in peace.

Why does he even care? Why can't he just leave like everyone else does?

He's just like John, just as stubborn. But I don't understand why he gives a shit.

"Just leave me alone, please, I'm begging you," my voice comes out strained and muffled against my hands, I wish I could just disappear right now.

I don't know how to handle being like this around someone else, it's hard enough the few times John has seen it and I barely know Jamie, he's only making me feel worse by being so close.

"Okay - It's okay, I'm going," he hushes, trying to sound as reassuring as possible but I can also hear how confused he sounds.

I don't answer him, I just wait until I hear the bedroom door open and then click shut before I let my legs give out and crumple to the floor; pulling my knees up to my chest and bury my face against my knees.

Just breathe, I just need to breathe.

Just remember what Hilda taught me, focus.

I start to rock back and forth in some attempt to soothe myself, and start asking myself questions; hoping it works the way it does when my psychologist does it.

"First five things I see..." I murmur to myself, darting my glassy eyes around the room and wish that awful tightness in my chest would leave.

"Gizmo, window, lamp, bed, blanket."

"First things I hear..." I murmur again, closing my eyes and trying to listen to any noises and hoping this starts to work soon.

"Gizmo wheezing, cars outside, my fan, footsteps, birds outside"

"First five things I feel..." I sigh, and concentrate harder.

"My carpet, my T-shirt, my hair brushing against my arms, the breeze from my fan, my arms against my legs"

I repeat the questions again, except now it's the first four things and keep going until I work my way down to one. I don't know how long it takes, it feels like forever but that black hole I felt stuck in starts to dissipate around me.

"First thing I feel..." I say under my breath, and look to where Gizmo has come to sit next to me and rest his head against my leg.

"Gizmo."

I blow out a heavy breath, feeling my heart going back to a normal pace and my insides feel like that aren't going to be thrown up out of my body; that unnatural dread in my guts slowly subsiding into a dull nagging and I rest my face against my hands with my fingers threaded into the front of my hair.

Fuck I can't stand this.

Everyone always gives you that same bullshit pep talk that 'things get better', well if we're basing things off of experience with me - obviously they don't.

I may not remember the end of last night, but what I do remember I feel like I'm being punished for now. Last night was the first night since I can remember where I felt somewhat... normal. Somewhat...not numb? I was enjoying myself, and I was distracted by the constant car crash that speeds around in my brain like a loop that gets so deafening some days.

Jamie may have had me wanting to strangle him most of the night from how he behaved, but at least I wasn't sitting there alone arguing with myself in my own head about why I'm even bothering still trying, like I do every day.

The only answer I can ever come back to is Gizmo.

I really wonder if this is what being dead while you're awake feels like.

Because that's how it seems, when I'm not in that vacant well of feeling absolutely nothing, I'm feeling exactly what I just went through. 

The days where I serve customers with a smile and they comment how cheerful I look and I wonder if they ever could have imagined that I'd spent most of that day at work trying my hardest not to break down. 

My gravest concern isn't what would happen to me, it's the fact I may inconvenience someone. That I'd be more of a burden than I already am. I wouldn't want to ruin their day.

So because of my nature to only worry about other people - suffering wins, I guess.

Sometimes I wonder if the customer was feeling that way too those days, I wonder if they're lonely - if they just put on a brave face as well. Maybe they were just like me.

And yet, I just still feel overwhelmingly alone. It doesn't matter if I'm in a room full of people, I feel like I'm standing outside a glass fish bowl looking in.

I'm not living, just observing.

People are truly terrifying, and I have no idea how to trust them. 

I'm really not sure I know how to exist in a world like this, where people are so self serving and cruel - so terribly unkind. Especially to those few who are good people, the selfless and compassionate ones, they get eaten alive.

Just like I have been.

It's the reason I acted like a fucking nut case when I woke up to Jamie in my bed, when I couldn't remember anything. I was terrified.

I've been in so many situations like that where people hurt me, I can't go through that again.

I eventually pull myself up off the floor, and go to rummage through my chest of drawers till I find a pair of sweatpants to tug on; and hate how I'm edge I feel now, I hate that my hands are still trembling.

I'd say I'd hope Jamie had left, but his shoes, shirt and jacket are still strewn on my floor so unless he's left shirtless and barefoot he's still in the house.

I really don't have it in me to explain my little episode.

John did try to warn him, he should have listened.

I still feel like shit, on top of all of this, this hangover is still kicking my arse.

I decide to just rip this off like a band aid and get it over with, hoping once Jamie sees I've stopped having some kind of nervous breakdown he can just leave, and this will be enough for him to not come back.

I walk to the door, running my fingers through my hair to get it away from my face and pause with some apprehension before I just push myself and finally open it.

The sound of my door opening makes Jamie shoot up from his spot on the couch, and I make my way out to see him standing there with worried eyes; fidgeting with his fingers in front of himself.

I stand a few feet away from him, listening to the patter of Gizmo’s feet trudging in lazy steps behind me.

"Claire..." he begins, looking concerned but nervous about my reaction. "Are ye alright?"

"I'm fine, I really don't want to talk about it - but you can see I'm fine now, so you can go," I reply, feeling that same shame eat at me. I'm embarrassed. I can't stand people seeing me like that.

I bite the inside of my cheek, to distract myself from how uncomfortable I feel and hope Jamie can't notice that I'm struggling to look composed.

He presses his lips together, with his brows creasing deeper and drops his hands by his sides. "I dinna think yer fine - ye can talk to me, I just want tae make sure yer okay."

"I barely know you Jamie," I point out, folding my arms over my chest. "I don't want to talk to you about it, I just really need you to go please."

His shoulders deflate and he looks to the ground, bringing his hand up to rub at his forehead. "Look, Claire, if I did something tae make ye uncomfortable - I am truly sorry about that... I didna realize... I didna realize, I dinna ken - whatever it is that's going on for ye. I swear I would never touch ye unless ye told me it's exactly what ye wanted. I never wanted tae upset ye."

His voice sounds like it's riddled with guilt, and it makes my chest feel odd.

I've never had someone apologize to me, especially regarding that sort of thing. Normally I'm being told it was my fault.

I pull my lips to the side, feeling my own guilt that he looks so eaten up over how bad he feels. It must be unusual for him I guess, I assume he's used to people throwing themselves at him - not acting like he has some deadly disease just from being close to him.

I didn't react the way I did because Jamie hurt me, it was because other people have hurt me that have me the way I am.

It's not his fault I'm broken.

"You didn't do anything Jamie, I know you weren't trying to hurt me..." I say with my voice quiet, averting my eyes when he looks at me. "You weren't the problem, it's me. I really don't want to repeat myself again, so can you please go - please."

Jamie runs his hand through his hair, his jaw tensing with a heavy sigh through his nose as he just gives me a silent nod, still looking like he has a million things running through his mind over what just happened.

I keep my eyes on the ground, as he starts to make his way towards the bedroom and frown when after a few minutes I hear him come out of it, and his voice comes out so solemn behind me when he talks to Gizmo.

"I'll see ye later buddy, behave yerself aye? And maybe keep an eye on her today."

I still don't take my eyes off the ground when he comes to stand in front of me; the atmosphere feels suffocating, I wish he would just go.

"I'm going tae get a taxi. I dinna want tae leave - just so ye ken. I want tae make sure yer alright but... look, if ye need anything, please call John alright?" He says with his voice soft as if he's worried about startling me.

I give him a short nod, and cross my arms tighter in front of myself. I'm far too embarrassed to look at him.

He sighs at my lack of verbal response, and he only says one last thing before he leaves.

"I promise I willna bring up what happened when ye woke up today again, okay? And I ken that ye barely know me - but if ye ever do want tae talk about it, I'm always happy tae listen, Claire. No’ everyone is as bad as ye think."

I can only manage another nod, not expecting him to say that and not really knowing how to handle this side of him. I'm terrible with emotions, feeling them or talking about them; I don't know how to cope with feeling vulnerable.

I'm certainly not used to the way he's acting, about this whole situation - the only person that's really been similar is John and that still feels so foreign to me.

Honestly... I kind of just miss the side of him that made me want to kick him in the balls, it was far less scary for me than this.

Jamie doesn't say anything else, and he doesn't try to touch me. He just makes his way to the front door and I drop my arms in relief when I finally hear it close.

I really don't know what to make of him, he's not what I expected. But at the same time, hopefully with everything that just happened it will actually make him stay away from me.

This whole thing proves exactly what I already knew, that I'm far better off alone.

***

 

Chapter Text

"Call out the instigators

Because there's something in the air"

(Something in the Air)

 

***

 

The knock on my door at 6pm that night is the last thing I needed, I was still licking my wounds from my outburst that morning with Jamie and dealing with the hangover from hell.

I hadn't moved from the couch, just stayed curled up there with Gizmo watching reruns of TV shows and hoping it drowned out the war in my head.

It didn't, but it was better than nothing.

I must have taken too long to answer, which is understandable. I did ignore the knocks at first, contemplating if I should just pretend I was asleep - I really didn't feel up to interacting with anyone.

But, next thing I know, a key is jingling in the door and John is barging through it.

Wonderful.

"Did you throw your phone across the fucking pacific ocean, Claire?" he snaps exasperatedly, stomping towards the couch and throws his arms out in front of himself.

"Hello to you too," I deadpan, blinking at him from my spot on the couch with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and Gizmo snoring with his head in my lap.

He glares at me with a flat look, running his tongue along the inside of his cheek. "I've spent the last five hours worried sick, so I'd watch the sarcasm sunshine."

Sunshine has always been his ironic nickname for me, since he's known me. Mainly because I'm such a dark, pessimistic cloud most of the time.

I never used to be... But people change.

The nickname for me usually comes out the most when he's worried, and judging by the stressed look on his face, I'm going to be hearing that nickname a lot.

I scrunch my nose up. "Worried? Why? You know I'm useless with my phone - it's in the bedroom on silent."

He brings his hands up in the air near his face, shrugging with his voice dripping in sarcasm and wide comical eyes. "Oh I don’t know Claire. Maybe it's because my idiot Scottish friend gets home today looking miserable as fuck, and then I find out he took you out last night but won't tell me what happened. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make that dickhead upset? And then he starts asking me all these weird fucking questions about you - he was worse than a worried mother. Now spill it sunshine - what happened?"

"What was he asking about me?" I question while my face drops, I don't like that. It gives me this weird feeling in my gut and I want it to go away. I don't want him knowing things about me.

Why would he care? Why was he so upset?

John puts his hands on his hips, squinting at me. "Don't avoid my question. Now start talking - I've spent the last few hours in panic over how you are, so I'm not dropping this until you explain."

"I'm fine," I lie, keeping my face blank. "I'm sorry I worried you, but I'm fine. It wasn't a big deal."

John cups his hand behind his ear, leaning towards me and creases his brow. "I beg your pardon? I'm not fluent in bullshit, you'll have to translate."

"John..." I groan, squeezing my eyes shut and drop my head back against the couch.

"Claire," he mocks in the same tone, and moves to plop himself down next to me on the couch.

He has no intention of dropping this, there's that fucking stubbornness of his again.

I keep my head resting against the back of the couch with my eyes still closed. "Nothing happened," I sigh.

"Oh really? Is that why both of you are acting not at all evasive and weird since then?” John asks, sounding nothing but sarcastic with how feigned with seriousness his tone is.

I drop my head forward and glare at him, huffing out a resigned sigh, looking down to Gizmo lying comatose on my lap.

I swear this dog would sleep through a hurricane.

It can't be normal.

"We went out, I got really drunk. We came back here and I woke up with smirk- I mean, Jamie, in my bed. But nothing happened, I asked him to leave and he left. Not much to talk about," I say fiddling with Gizmos floppy ear and refuse to look at John.

"... Did he touch you?"

John's voice is an odd mix of dread, but there's anger in it as well and it makes me snap my eyes to his.

"What? No. You think he's like that?" I ask with a frown, wondering if John thinks his friend is the type of person to do something like that.

Is he?... He didn't seem like it... Well, someone that would force himself on me.

Then again I'm not the best judge of that, my past history is proof of that.

John clears his throat, and his warm eyes look over my face like he's being cautious about how he picks his words. "No sunshine, not at all... It's just, I know that you've had trouble being able to say no in the past when you've been put in situations that you didn't want to be in... I just know Jamie is really forward. He would never force himself on someone ever but I know what you're like, and what's happened to you and just... - I was worried."

I wince at what he says, but still keep my face blank. I hate that being brought up, that I've let myself get into those situations.

That I couldn't stand up for myself. That I was weak and I froze.

That I let those things happen to me.

"Well he didn't touch me John, so there's nothing to worry about," I say dropping my gaze back to my lap, that uncomfortable feeling knotting in my stomach again.

John sighs, giving me a sympathetic look. "Did it freak you out? Waking up with him here? Is that what happened? You haven't let anyone near you in years Claire."

I bite down on my cheek, trying to hide my emotions and stay as monotone as possible. "I guess so... He wasn't meant to stay here, I couldn't even remember coming home, I shouldn't have even gone out with him. I'm fairly sure how I was this morning will be enough for him to leave me alone so you don't have to worry about that."

"Stop telling me not to worry. I am allowed to worry about you," he huffs, leaning his face down to try and get me to look at him and I wish we could just cut this heart to heart and go back to being sarcastic with each other.

"Did you... You know, panic this morning?" His question is gentle, and it's like he's walking on eggshells so I don't clamp shut and not speak at all.

I only manage a nod, feeling embarrassed. I still wish Jamie had never seen that.

He must think I'm a complete head case.

Well I mean if he does, he wouldn't exactly be wrong.

John doesn't say anything for a moment, but then relaxes back against the couch. "See, this is exactly why I told him to leave you alone."

"Yes well, he's just as stubborn and persistent as you. Maybe now you know how annoying it is," I throw back with an accusing look.

John glares at me, but then shrugs his shoulders with a 'yeah true' expression. "I know what he's like, which is exactly why I told him to leave you alone because... yes, he is persistent."

I still can't figure out what Jamie’s angle is, or why he's even bothering in the first place. I don't understand his interest and that makes me not trust it.

No, I don't think he would intentionally be trying to hurt me but that doesn't mean I trust his intentions.

I don't think I trust anyone’s intentions anymore.

Well besides John but he's managed to drag that out of me.

"I don't think Jamie is a bad person," John starts randomly, watching my reaction. "I love that idiot more than anything, but I just don't think someone like him is good for you, you know what I mean?"

"I can't say I do," I reply, cocking a brow at him. "I wasn't planning on continuing anything there with him. I've literally tried my hardest to avoid him. I know you're worried with him spending time with me - and I've told you I can look after myself with that, but I also don't know why exactly you have such a big problem with it."

John ruffles his fingers through his hair, pulling his lips to the side. "It's just... you need someone that's going to be consistent, you know? Even if they're just a friend. Trust me Claire, I think you need to get laid more than anyone but I understand why you don't. Normally I'd say Jamie is perfect for that sort of thing, it's just...with you, I get scared. I don't want anything to happen that just sends you spiralling again."

I bite down on my cheek again so hard I can taste that metallic tinge on my tongue from it drawing blood, and look away from him with my voice going quiet. "Can we please not bring that up?"

"It's been a year Claire, and you've still barely spoken to me about it... when I found you that day I -"

"John. Stop. Please, I can't talk about it," I cut him off quickly but I'm not snapping at him, I just have the uncomfortable twisting in my gut and weight on my chest that makes talking about this feel unbearable. 

It's the anxiety. As usual.

I also don't think I know how to handle the guilt of it still. All I've ever been able to do is apologize to John, over and over again. I hate myself for it, that he had to go through that. It wasn't fair on him.

But that's as far as I can go with bringing it up, I just can't bring myself to talk about it.

Part of me is scared to talk about it, because maybe I'll just remind myself of why I did it in the first place and not have the sense about me to talk myself out of it like I usually do.

All I can remember is how disappointed I was, that I even woke up; then how guilty and ashamed I felt that John was the one that found me.

Disappointment and guilt, two things I feel more than most other emotions.

That and shame, then there's the sadness and the hopelessness.

I can't remember the last time I felt anything else really... aside from last night that is, when I genuinely laughed for the first time in months.

That fact alone is only confusing me more when it comes to Jamie.

As much as I want to refuse to let myself believe that I actually had fun around him, I genuinely did - I enjoyed myself no matter how hard I tried fighting it, and I think that terrifies me.

John sighs after a long pause, bringing his hand up to pat against the back of my head like a parent trying to comfort a small child. "It's alright sunshine, I'll drop it. But we'll have to talk about it someday you know - look why don't we watch a movie or something yeah? I'll order some pizza."

I appreciate John and that he doesn't try to push me too hard, I really do but again I feel guilty because I know the reason he's saying that is because he's so worried about me. I hate that he walks on eggshells around me sometimes. 

See this is the fucked thing they don't tell you about having mental illness, and the people around you. You don't know if they're spending time with you because they enjoy it or they're just concerned.

And half the time even if it is because they enjoy it, your brain tries to convince you that you're a burden and they couldn't possibly want to be around you, and it's all out of obligation.

Do they just pity you?

It's almost impossible to let people love you because you can't love yourself, you can't understand anyone feeling that way for you.

Either way, I can hate myself till the cows come home but I can't say no to pizza, so I guess John wins this one. He knows my weaknesses. 

"Alright, as long as I don't get lectured about smir- Jamie anymore," I say, giving him a warning look. "You've made your point with that."

John gives me a lopsided smile, looking like he wants to say something but decides not to and only nods as he pulls his phone from his pocket to order pizza.

While he's ordering, I hate that my mind actually wanders back to Jamie - which is where it's gone all fucking day despite me doing everything I can to avoid it.

As much as Jamie seems to be curious about me, I find myself becoming more curious about him and less... irritated.

Which is annoying. Annoying like that bloody smirk.

I think the thing that panicked me above all else after last night, and had dread gripping every organ in my body that made me want to get as far away from him as possible was...

The fact that, I found myself not wanting to stay away from him at all.

But why?

 

***

Bit of a shorter chapter than usual.

 

***

Chapter Text

"You make a grown man cry"

(The Rolling Stones - Start Me Up)

 

***

 

It's Thursday, and I'm back at work. 

My patience today is about as strong as my will to live, almost non-existent.

Mum gets home on Sunday and I'm dreading it. I haven't heard from her so far which is a bonus though, but I'm sure she's having a fantastic time making me look like the worst person in the world while she's an innocent little lamb with the nurse.

It's just part of what she does.

I'm always the bad guy, unless I'm doing exactly what she wants or giving her exactly what she wants. If I'm not doing that then all I’m doing is being awful to a poor helpless victim.

Her.

She's always the victim, always will be. Even if she's the one doing the awful things.

In theme with people I haven't heard from, Smirky seems to have taken the hint and left me alone completely.

I can't figure out why I'm not happier about that.

After he left my house on Tuesday morning, and I spent the evening with John; I didn't hear a peep from him.

There was no randomly showing up at my door, and I didn't even see him today when I dropped off Gizmo.

Why did that make my stomach drop? Why was there that pang of disappointment?

I got what I wanted, so why is it making me feel like shit?

Well, more like shit than I usually feel.

My last few journal entries have all been surrounding the same thing since Saturday.

Blue eyes.

All the questions I have surrounding the things I can't figure out since I met him.

Why do I even care in the first place? Why the hell am I always catching myself thinking about him?

It's irritating.

"Earth to Claire!"

Fingers snapping in front of my face jolts me out of my black hole vortex I fall into, when I'm thinking too much. Staring off for god knows how long while my brain plays a mental game of ping pong at a hundred miles an hour.

God I'd do anything to be able to turn it off, to just have some quiet for once. Instead of the constant thoughts that race around screaming like nails down a chalkboard.

I blink at Charlie, who is standing in front of me with an amused expression.

I'm still shocked he hasn't fired me, and I can't say I understand why he hasn't yet.

Charlie folds his large tattooed toned arms in front of his chest, looking like the hulk - if the hulk looked like he stepped out of the Amazon lumberjack edition of some sports illustrated body builder magazine.

He is a contradiction, he looks like he could kill a giant deer with his bare hands, and eat the meat straight off the bone whilst at the same time being the closest thing to the human version of an adorable baby panda I've ever met.

"Glad to have you back," he smiles, his cheeks pulling up to make his bright hazel eyes glint. "How was your little holiday in your head? Meet anyone new?"

I give him a flat look, with a dry tone. "You ever think about becoming a comedian, boss? Because you're hilarious."

Charlie scratches his fingers against the bearded scruff of his angular jaw, with a wide grin looking down his nose at me. "Glad we both agree that I'm a funny fucker."

He's also annoying, because he actually is quite funny. He's also one of the most attractive humans I've come across, like some greek god with his long beach waved chestnut hair to his shoulders and deep olive skin. Not to mention, he's also one of the most frustratingly nice humans I've met - just like with John, you don't get to be that fucking attractive and nice, you dick.

I have to tilt my head up slightly to look at him properly, considering he's six-foot-fuck-off and I often wonder if he's ever walked head first into the top of a doorway.

"You're just gonna go right ahead and ignore the sarcasm aren't you?" I say with a pointed look.

Charlie shrugs, flashing a bright toothy smile with a nod. "Absolutely, I always do. It's like our own little thing we have."

Ever since I started work at this burger place six months ago, I've really tried to dislike Charlie. But the son of a bitch just keeps being so damn... lovable.

It's like trying to hate a baby seal, have you seen those things? They're fucking adorable.

I was trying to stick to my plan of avoiding human interaction, and avoid making friends but he's been putting holes in that plan since the day I met him.

Like I said, annoying.

Did I mention he and John get along great? I fucking wonder why.

"Look, the reason I interrupted your little Claire trance is because there's a customer at a booth that specifically asked for you - I know it's your lunch break soon but do you think you could sort that booth out first with their orders?" Charlie looks way too happy about what he just said.

No one that knows me comes to my work aside from John, and Alex is never here without him.

So that only leaves one other dickhead.

I narrow my eyes, running my tongue along the inside of my cheek. "He wasn't smirking by any chance was he? Perhaps smug and Scottish as well?"

Charlie points at me, with a face like he's just struck gold. "Ah-huh! So you do know him. Is he a friend? Have you actually made a new friend Claire? Did hell freeze over? Who is he? I want details."

I glare at him, folding my arms over my chest. "Can you quit the interrogation? He isn't my friend. He's John's friend. I barely know him - he probably just wants a discount on his meal or something because he knows me."

Same with all people, they always want something. They always have some kind of motive.

Charlie’s large built arms drop to his side, with deflated shoulders and a pout. "Well that's fucking boring."

I walk a couple steps to the doorway of the kitchen, peeking out to look towards the booth and catch a brief glimpse of back of Smirky’s stupid head.

He has his long hair up today, pulled back into a bun that looks effortless and I'm annoyed at how good it looks.

If I try and do that I look like I have a dead animal sitting on my head.

I look back to Charlie, who also has his hair up in the same type of infuriatingly perfect bun and huff. "Can't you go serve him? Start some man bun bro club and fist bump or something? Start a scrunchy collection together?"

He raises a sharp brow at me, but looks intrigued over my reaction to Jamie and why I'm being apprehensive about serving him. "I think me being the boss means I don't wait the tables darlin' - why don't you wanna serve him? Hm?"

"Because he's annoying," I groan, throwing my head back.

Charlie gives me a suspicious look, like he doesn't buy it and there's more to it.

"He done somethin' to upset you?" He asks, looking less playful. Getting that same protective look I've seen on him if male customers have ever been too forward or inappropriate with me.

Usually it's on Friday and Saturday nights when we're open late and all the drunks come in for a burger after a night out.

Charlie has a habit of not only acting like a boss, but also has some big brother complex with me.

I drop my head forward to look at him, and clear my throat. "No - he hasn't, he just gets on my nerves."

"Want me to spit in his food?" Charlie offers with a sweet smile that looks so strange mixed with his deep gruff voice.

I smile, rolling my eyes and shake my head.

"Well, go on - just go get it over with, then go on your break," Charlie adds, pushing me out of the doorway. "If he gives you any trouble, I'll lick his burger bun before you take it out."

I snort to myself, knowing he's just trying to make me feel better - but to be honest I wouldn't put it past him.

Working in hospitality and seeing behind the scenes of food getting made is one of the reasons I rarely eat out.

There's a reason they say you never want to see in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant.

It's a metaphor that can apply to most things in your life, you never really want to see the reality and truth behind the things or people you love and admire.

Charlie waves me off with his hands, as I walk out to the front counter and I lift my hand to flip him off behind me as I make my way towards the booth where those eyes that have not fucked off out of my mind are reading the menu.

I notice something else however, sitting at the booth with him.

That same long black hair and perfect features are sitting opposite him.

It's that girl from Monday night, the one that approached him at the bar and gave him her number.

Of course it is.

I chew on the inside of my cheek, wondering why... it kind of sucks seeing that. It shouldn't. And yet it does and I don't know why.

Why would he purposely ask for me to wait his table if he's on a date?

Why would he bring a date to my work?

The girl is sitting across from Jamie, not even looking at her menu and just staring at him like she wants him for lunch and not actual food. She's not being subtle at all, biting her lip and twirling her hair around her finger with sultry eyes.

I quickly look over Jamie's outfit, seeing him in some black jeans, vans and an old band shirt - he looks so contrasted compared to the girls polished appearance.

I watch him flick the pages in the menu, noticing a different set of rings on his fingers.

They actually look quite nice on him.

Wait no, hang on. No. Bad brain. Stop it.

He gets no compliments from me.

I approach the booth, and pull my notepad from the front of my apron and stop in front of the table; clearing my throat to grab their attention and keep my face as blank as possible.

"Hi, what can I get you today?" I ask, as passively as I can and treating them as I would any other customer.

As soon as he hears my voice, Jamie’s eyes whip to my direction and his face breaks out into a bright smile. "Sassenach! Fancy seein’ you here."

Again with calling me Sassenach? I had looked up the word yesterday when I was trying to - unsuccessfully - will my brain not to think about him. Apparently, it means English person, which only made me more confused. Why is he calling me that? We are literally in England. 

I brush it off, not in the mood to do any mental gymnastics right now to try and figure him out. It's not like I understand anything else he does either. 

I can almost feel the other girl's eyes burning holes in my head. I'm sure she recognizes me from the bar but I don't even know her, is the glaring really necessary?

"Mm, it's almost like I work here or something. What a coincidence," I shoot back with a flat look, tapping my pen impatiently against my notepad.

Jamie smirks, what a bloody surprise, and flicks his eyes over my uniform and back to my face then tilts his head. "Ye look good today."

If looks could kill, I'm fairly sure I would have just dropped dead on the spot from the daggers that are getting thrown at me from the girl across the table.

I dart my eyes down to my notepad, shifting my feet and clear my throat again. "So are you ready to order?"

"Sure," he hums, sounding pleased with himself. "I'll have the special, what about ye?"

He looks to the girl sitting across from him, and I glance up to see her whole demeanor changed back to that coy minx one.

Girls like that fascinate me. The ones that can be so flirtatious and I guess, is sexy the word I'm looking for? It is so foreign to me. I don't know how to act like that.

I can give you dry sarcasm, witty come backs and self depreciating jokes but I'm absolutely fucking lost with being giggly and flirty.

"You can order me whatever you want daddy," she coos at him, and I blink at her as my brows nearly shoot clear off my forehead.

Okayyy then. Today's awkwardness meter has hit an all time high. 

I side eye Jamie, who I notice who's looked at me to see my reaction and he rolls his lips inside his mouth with a shrug. "Guess ye can make that two specials."

"I just need to use the bathroom, freshen up a bit," the goddess on legs says, giving Jamie a suggestive look before getting up from the booth and turning her nose up at me before she walks off.

She basically just asked him to go shag her in the bathroom with her eyes. Oh, joy.

Why are people like this? I haven't done anything to her. There's no need to be rude to me, if Jamie isn't giving you the attention you want - be a bitch to him about it.

As soon as she's out of earshot and I finish jotting down the order, I raise a brow at Jamie who is still watching me with an intent expression; with his elbows resting on the tables.

"Daddy? Really?"

I can't say I'm surprised. He seems like the type.

Jamie shrugs again, looking complacent about it. "It's no’ really my thing, but she gets off on it. I dinna see the problem in humoring someone." His sentence ends with a cheeky half smile, lifting a single brow at me.

I narrow my eyes at him, leaning forward to rest my palms on the table after I put my notepad back in my apron.

The cockiness on this idiot, I swear.

"Oh?" I ask, leaning down to his eye level and lift my brows back at him "Maybe you should give her my number then."

Jamies pulls his face back in surprise, but then gives me a curious look. "Are ye jealous?"

Where the fuck did he pull that idea from? Jealous of what?

My face drops, as I stare at him and scrunch my nose up. "Why the hell would I be jealous?"

He leans closer this time, searching his eyes over my features. "Maybe yer the one that wants tae ken what something like that would be like with me - curious are ye Claire?"

The close distance makes my stomach flip, with his nose only an inch from mine and I pull back to stand up straight and he keeps his eyes trained on me.

Looks like what happened on Tuesday hasn't affected anything at all, that's just great. Absolutely brilliant.

"Your food won't be long, I'll go put your order in now - you can help yourself to free drinks and refills at the counter," I say, trying to bring the conversation away from the sexual direction he always pulls them in.

Jamie just watches me, wetting his lips as he just keeps his intense eyes on me and it's terrible for my anxiety.

"Oh and also," I add, pointing to him. "If you even think about fucking her in our toilets here, you'll be wearing your burger - not eating it. You're not bringing girls here to treat my workplace like a brothel."

Jamie purses his lips before he takes his lower lip under his teeth, folding his arms in front of himself on the table as he leans towards me with his voice dropping. "Would ye prefer I fuck you in that bathroom, Claire?"

I pull my lips to the side in annoyance, and lean closer to him just so the other customers can't hear this conversation.

I give him a dead serious look, with my eyebrows quirked and ignore the uncomfortable feeling in my gut as I look him in the eyes.

"This may be hard for you to believe Jamie, but not every woman in the world wants to fuck you, or every man as well, in your case. Hate to break it to you, but you aren't god's gift - no matter how much you think you are. And I am the last person that would ever want to fuck you."

Jamie's brows crease together at my harsh tone, but he stays quiet like he's not sure what to say; I think he expected some more sarcastic banter. I don't say anything else before I stand straight and walk off back towards the kitchen without another look in his direction.

I am not in the mood for his games today.

Looks like Charlie is licking burger buns after all.

***



Chapter Text

"Now I've been smoking for so long

You know I'm here to stay

Got you in a stranglehold baby

You best get out of the way"

(Ted Nugent - Stranglehold)

 

***

 

Thank god that's over. 

I managed to get Jamie’s food to his table without throwing it at his head, and if I was petty he would have had a side of saliva with his mustard... but I decided to be a bigger person than that today.

Even though Charlie offered to do it several times after he noticed how much my mood had dropped more than usual after I came back from getting his order.

I spent the whole time avoiding looking at Jamie completely, and barely acknowledged him when I gave him his food, even though I could feel his eyes burning holes in me the whole time.

I could have kissed the ground when I was finally able to take my lunch break and didn't give Jamie a second glance when I slipped out the front door and went to stand in the small alleyway next to my work.

I could use my break to eat, but that anxious pit in my stomach is making the thought of food enough to gag; so I decide to listen to music instead.

I've been going through songs in my phone for probably the last ten minutes and getting lost in them with one earbud in.

I need to be able to hear if Charlie randomly gets busy and needs me to come in, the other girl we have working today is new-ish and she hasn't gotten all her bearings yet.

We haven't spoken much, usually too busy waiting the tables, but she seems nice enough.

I've also decided to indulge in an old habit, one that I only fall back into when I'm not coping with the stress of well ... being alive.

Everyone will tell you that smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, and it's disgusting.

And it is.

It's the exact reason I do it when the time calls for it.

My therapist groups it in with my self destructive behaviors I fall into when I'm not coping, and I mean, she's not wrong.

I hate smoking, truly I do.

The minute I draw in the smoke from the cigarette and taste that foul bitterness all through my mouth I grimace, but inhale it into my lungs anyway.

As soon as I exhale I get that same dizzy feeling from not doing this as regularly as I used to and close my eyes, humming along to the rock music and rest my head back against the brick wall as I lean on it.

Fuck, this tastes disgusting.

"Are you fucking kidding me right now!"

The high pitched shrill voice shouting grabs my attention, and my brows drop in confusion.

"This is bullshit! Who the hell do you think you are!"

By the sounds of it, a woman is absolutely losing her shit right now. She's screeching like a banshee.

I push off the wall, and take a couple steps to peek around the corner to the direction of the voice so I can see what all the fuss is about and shove my phone back in my work apron.

My eyes fall on the girl Jamie had brought into my work, with Jamie standing leant against the wall a few feet from the front door as she fumes in front of him.

She looks pissed.

I pull my earphone from my ear and frown as I watch both of them.

What's possibly happened between when they had their lunch and she was fucking him with her eyes, until now?

"Ye need tae calm down," Jamie says with a passive expression, watching her with lazy eyes and looking unbothered by the fact she looks ready to explode on the spot.

"Don't you dare tell me to calm down!" She hisses at him. "You drag me to this cheap, shitty, hole-in-the-wall burger place, and then I have to watch you flirting with that dumb waitress, and now you’re telling me you can't see me again? Screw you."

... Excuse you?

We are not cheap.

We're just affordable.

Sure, it's not the fanciest place in the world, but I like the cracks in the walls and how scratched up and worn out the wooden floors are. It gives it character.

And he was not flirting with me, he was just being a dick.

This girl may be drop dead gorgeous, but her personality rearing its ugly head right now.

Jamie’s expression hardens as his jaw tenses with a warning look. "Watch how ye talk about my fucking friends. Do not speak about Claire like that - and tae make it clear, I didna say I can’t see ye again. I said I didna want tae. I told ye exactly what this was when I first called ye, dinna go acting all surprised now."

My frown deepens and I feel an odd pull in my chest.

We aren't friends. Why would he be defending me? Especially to her.

"Is that what all of this is about?" She scoffs. "Just because I make a few harmless jokes about that waitress? She's an idiot! She didn't even want you when I met you at the bar! Why would you give a shit about her!" The girl snaps, resting her hands on her hips with a sour glare.

She was making fun of me?

Well, jokes on her because I can roast myself better than she ever could.

Jamie’s brows pinch together and his tone is harsh when he replies. "They werena jokes, ye were and still are just being a bitch. And I already told ye, she's no’ just some waitress, she's my friend. This is about the fact that I dinna want tae be around ye, get that through your head."

"Don’t you speak to me like that!" She shouts, stomping her highheel covered foot against the cement. "What, so you fuck me then that's it? You're an asshole you know that? Do you have any idea how many men would love to be in your position!" She snaps, only getting more infuriated by his placid demeanor.

Ah smirky, this casual deal you've got going for yourself looks like it's working out so well for you.

"Go fuck them then," he shrugs with a complacent tone. "I told ye it was a short term thing. It’s no’ my problem yer too dense tae comprehend how clearly I told ye that yesterday."

....Yikes.

I think this girl's ego is just bruised, or maybe she actually liked Jamie - I can't really tell.

See it doesn't matter how much you tell someone rules around a 'strictly' sexual relationship with them, you can't control human emotions. That's why this whole 'no attachment' shit blows up in peoples faces.

More often than not it's just one sided, and one of the parties is only agreeing to it in the hopes that they can change the others mind eventually.

There are occasions where it does work, but this case is not one of them.

Even I could have told him this was a bad idea.

The girl's jaw drops in offense as she pulls her face back, and her voice cracks as she shrieks at him. "You can't just speak to me like I'm some piece of shit!"

Jamie lifts his brows, his voice still calm. "Maybe ye should stop acting like it then."

I suck in a sharp breath through my teeth as my brows shoot up.

Ouch. She's not gonna take that well.

...Wait for it

One.

Two.

Three...

The sound of the slap cracks through the air, mixed with the angry squeal in the back of the girl's throat.

Bingo.

I could see that coming a mile away.

Jamie’s hand comes up to palm against his cheek while he glares at her, and the girl points at his face shouting. "Fuck you! No one talks to me like that! I don't need this from someone like you, you're a fucking loser anyway"

Jamie rubs at his cheek, and leans close to her face as he drops his arm by his side with a smug expression. "Well, this loser had his dick inside ye last night while ye called him daddy. Ye were begging me tae fuck ye again an hour ago in the toilet of this 'cheap burger joint' - so which one of us is the loser now? Hm?"

Wow... Smirky really likes getting slapped doesn't he?

Also, that was way too much information and I could have lived a happy life without knowing any of that.

The girl throws her fists down at her sides, squealing in her throat again and turns to storm off.

I think it was meant to look like she was stomping off all angry with her nose stuck in the air as a kind of ‘fuck you’ to Jamie, but I'm trying really hard not to laugh at how comical the little ‘click click click click’ sound of her heels hitting the cement sounds as she walks away.

She's like a cranky little chihuahua with tap shoes on.

I'm standing staring with wide eyes watching the whole thing, and freeze when Jamie turns his head, catching my gaze and I panic.

Shit. Busted. Abort mission.

See this is why you don't eavesdrop on other people's business, it always gets you into shit.

I whip back around the corner like my ass is on fire, into the alley and press my back against the wall, cursing in my head that the only way I can leave is to walk out of the alley to get back to the front door.

Maybe he'll just leave.

I'm sure he'll just leave.

He's probably embarrassed over just getting the fuckboy slapped out of his soul and the fact he had an audience witness it.

I'll just wait right here until he leaves.

"Enjoy the show?"

Jamie’s slow drawl comes from a few feet away and I close my eyes cursing under my breath.

I keep my eyes closed, for some reason thinking that makes me invisible and I hear footsteps hit the cement until they stop; right in front of me.

"Ye realize ye can still hear me wi’ yer eyes closed, aye? Or are we pretending tae be deaf again today?"

....He's obviously not leaving.

I squint one eye open, seeing him stand in front of me with an accusing look, but there's amusement lit up in his eyes. And I can't work out why there's such a fondness there.

"I was just erm, checking the inside of my eyelids - for you know, abnormalities and what not," I mumble, slumping my shoulders in defeat that I'm cornered here.

He cocks a brow, flashing that annoying smirk again while I open both eyes and fight rolling them back into my head.

"So," I clear my throat, gesturing to the red mark on his cheek with my cigarette between my fingers that's now put itself out, only burnt down half way. "Looks like you've had a good day so far."

Jamie tilts his head, darting his eyes over my face and hums to himself before looking down to my hand and nodding to it.

"Those things are bad for ye, ye ken."

I widen my eyes at him and point to his face again with a dry tone. "Yeah, so is sticking your dick in messes you can't handle."

This makes him smile, genuinely lights his whole face up in a sincere grin and I really do think he's more nuts than I am.

He ignores my jab at him, and creases his brows. "I didna ken ye smoked."

"I don't," I shrug, which makes him give me a disbelieving look. "It’s just an old bad habit I fall back on sometimes."

"Hm," he hums, pursing his lips, then reaches for my hand and plucks my half smoked cigarette from my fingers and places it between his lips.

He leaves it perched between his pink lips, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a lighter, flipping it open and bringing it to the cigarette, flicking the flame alight and draws in until the end of the smoke ignites into that bright amber glow.

He shoves the lighter back in his pocket, pulling the cigarette from his lips between his thumb and forefinger; then exhales a slow stream of smoke away from my face before looking back towards me.

...Stop making looking like a dragon attractive... you twat. It's annoying.

"I didn't know you smoked," I mock his statement back to him, glancing from the cigarette between his fingers and back to his face.

His mouth pulls into a half smile, and he shrugs with that lazy half lidded look in his eyes, bringing the cigarette back to his lips. "Yer no’ the only one wi’  bad habits, Sassenach."

"One of them being stealing other people's cigarettes," I throw back, tilting my head with a sarcastic sweet inflection to my voice.

"Oh sorry," he says, then perches the cigarettes between his lips; and takes a large step forward and I instinctively press harder back against the wall.

He leans his face down and nods his chin towards me keeping his eyes locked on mine; they're so intense it makes my insides knot together.

"Take it then."

He grasps my hand, bringing it up to his face and hovers my fingers near his lips. "Go on," he dares, leaning closer with a raise of his brows.

I hold my breath as I gingerly place my middle and pointing finger flat against his lips with the cigarette between them, and he puckers his lips against my fingers with a cheeky look before releasing the cigarette and pulling back to leave it perched between my fingers.

I release the breath I was holding and just stare at him, wondering why that made my chest tighten the way it did. And not in a bad way. 

"Can I ask ye something?" He cocks his head with a curious look as he straightens, watching as I draw on the cigarette and for some reason it makes him smirk to himself.

"You just did," I quip back, trying to compose myself, and turn my face to exhale the smoke I'd inhaled out.

I don't like blowing smoke at people, it's rude.

He gives me a look that calls me a smartass but then his tone becomes serious. "Do I make ye uncomfortable? Has anything I've done, or the way I've acted towards ye made ye uncomfortable, or feel unsafe?"

I pause at his question, not expecting it and give him a strange look as I think of how to answer, because he actually genuinely looks concerned over it.

I glance down to the ground and flick at the butt of the cigarette with my thumb to ash it even though it's almost out. 'Uhm... well, no. You haven't made me uncomfortable - like I've told you before, you just irritate me - why?"

I think the thing that bothers me as well is that he doesn't make me uncomfortable. I feel like he should and I can't figure out why he doesn't.

Normally if someone acted the way he did towards me I'd have a meltdown, much like the one I did on Tuesday morning.

Usually I can hide it better though.

The fact that he doesn't bother me as much as I wish he did, bothers me.

I keep looking at the ground as I drop the cigarette and step on it to put it out and I hear his voice again.

"Do ye think I'm a bad person?" He asks, ignoring my question, and his tone is soft and sincere.

My eyes flick up to his face, to see him watching me with his brows creased together and his lips pulled into a slight frown.

Why would he ask me that?

My own brows crease and I look at him confused. "No, I don't think that, Jamie. "

He nods at my answer, and doesn't give me much of a reaction.

"I just think you're annoying, and bit of a smirky slut," I add, raising my brows at him.

His warm eyes crease at the corners while his mouth breaks out into a grin and he shoves his hands in his pockets of his jeans.

"Well, I've been called worse, guess I can live wi’ that."

My face becomes serious, while I pinch my brows together in confusion again. The questions just all tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them. 

"Why did you defend me to that girl? Why did you say I was your friend? Why did you even bring her to my work? Why did you even come into my work?"

His expression softens at my questions, but quickly gets taken over by a mischievous look.

He leans forward, making me pull my face back when his nose nearly touches mine. "Sounds like a mystery. Guess you'll have tae try and figure that out, won't ye?"

"You're seriously not going to tell me?" I huff with my face dropping.

He stands straight and shrugs, lips tugged into a half smile. "Nope. Let me know what answers ye come up wi’ though. I'm interested in what ye think they are."

He doesn't let me reply as he turns on his heel and starts to walk off out of the alleyway and looks over his shoulder at me before he turns the corner with a bright smile. "Enjoy the rest of yer shift - thank ye for lunch and the smoke. I'll catch ye around heartbreaker."

I just stare as he walks off, my lips parted with my brows still creased firmly together.

What the hell just happened? What is that blue eyed smirky dickhead playing at?

...I am so fucking confused.

***

 



Chapter Text

"There's no comfort in the truth

Pain is all you'll find"

(Careless Whisper - George Michael)

 

***

 

Work was bullshit, yet again.

And thanks to Smirky, I spent the rest of my shift plagued with possibilities going through my head.

Did he do it on purpose?

Did he tell me to figure out why he was behaving the way he was just so I would think about him?

But that makes no sense, why would he give a shit if I think about him?

I've been in this mental circle jerk for hours now, and it didn't stop when I got home.

Even when John dropped off Gizmo and I resumed my position on the couch watching re-runs of The Office, trying to quiet my brain down, it didn't work.

Blue eyes.

Stupid smirk.

Fucking red curls.

Round and round in circles it went.

That's all I could write in my journal entry as well.

 

'// #338-16/04/18   

Mystery - Need to figure out why he gives a shit.

Need to figure out why I care."

 

It's 7pm, and that means I've officially spent six hours straight with nothing but that on my mind.

Why can't I stop thinking about this?

I think I'm more frustrated than anything else, that I can't peg exactly what he's up to. I have my walls built so high that it's almost like I can't even look over it to get a glimpse at the other side to see a different perspective on what he might want.

It's like I'm blinded by my own insecurities.

He has to want something.

I refuse to buy into the notion he just likes me, or finds me interesting or wants to spend time with me. That's impossible.

No one has ever wanted that from me, romantically or in a friendship.

Well besides John I guess, but I still have my days where I question that too.

People have always wanted to use me for something, I wasn't valuable unless I was useful.

I've never been valuable.

Just disposable.

I honestly don't know if I've ever even been truly loved by a single person that's touched me. Because if that's what love feels like... then I don't want it.

My phone ringing snaps me out of my mental gymnastics, and I look down at it in my lap to see Ms. Allen, my mum’s caretaker’s number lit up on the screen.

I sigh, throwing my head back against the couch and pinch my eyes shut.

I really don't want to answer it. But I know I have to because there's always that chance something has happened with mum, and for some reason I just can't risk it.

It would somehow be my fault, even if I wasn't there.

I look at my phone with tired eyes, picking it up and swiping across the screen to answer it before I bring it to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Claire, dear, I need to talk to you about something, it's about your mum."

"Mmmmm?" I hum, still focusing on the TV.

"She just told me that you messed up her medication before she left, and she ended up passed out on the couch and you left her there alone. What’s going on at home, honey?” Ms. Allen chastises through the phone.

My face drops, as I blink like I've heard her wrong. "Excuse me?"

“Look dear, I only called to let you know that you really need to make sure to be up to date and diligent with her medication, mistakes like this could cause a lot of harm.”

I grit my teeth, knowing it’s pointless to argue with her about this. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“One second dear, your mum wants to talk to you,” she says. 

I press my fingernails into my palm, trying to quell the anxiety bubbling up inside me.

“Claire?” My mum's voice comes through the speaker. 

“Mum,” I sigh, my voice sounding defeated. I don’t even bother asking her why she lied to Ms. Allen. I already knew the answer. Sympathy. 

"Claire, you need to stop dropping me at some stranger’s house for days on end. Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? I’m your mother, and you treat me like this?"

I run my tongue along the inside of my cheek and feel the anger bubbling inside my chest as she continues on with her lecture. This isn’t the first time I’m hearing this, which is why I usually try to avoid her calls when she’s away. But I just get scared sometimes that something has happened to her, and if I don’t pick up it’ll be my fault for not being there to help. 

And I already know that the only reason she wants to come home isn’t because she wants to be with me or spend time with me. She just wants to use me. 

"I’m your responsibility, I gave birth to you and this is how you repay me? How do you even sleep at night? It’s your job to take care of me. Why did I even bother having a child if you were going to treat me like this,” she snaps, sounding high and mighty as usual.

"Mum, this has been a good chat. I really enjoyed it. I’ll see you when you get home," I say in a blank tone, and hang up before she has the chance to respond.

I immediately put my phone on silent because I know she's going to be calling back trying to get the last word in and give me a piece of her mind.

Well sorry, I'm busy being the horrible daughter you make me out to be - I can't talk right now.

I look down at Gizmo who is asleep next to me on the couch and gently nudge him. "Come on you, let's take you to have a sleep in my room."

Gizmo doesn't even move, just snores louder and I roll my eyes. Guess I'm gonna have to do this the hard way.

I stand up from the couch, scooping my arms underneath him and hold my breath as I lift him with a strained grunt.

Gizmo just acts like a dead weight, snorting still half asleep as I start taking uncoordinated steps to my bedroom; becoming out of breath very quickly.

By the time I get him on my bed, I'm sweating like I've just been lifting weights at the gym and rub at my lower back like an achy old grandmother.

I go to my closet and rummage through it to grab jeans, a shirt and a jacket to throw on instead of the oversized shirt and pyjama pants I've lived in since I got home.

I'm trying to stay calm but it's just not working, my skin feels like it's crawling and my eyes are starting to burn.

I want to scream.

I want to punch something.

I want to get this feeling out of me.

But I don't. I just bite down on my cheek as I get changed and bottle it up like I always do, bury it deep down inside where it can sit and fester with everything else.

I know I should be used to this right now but with the hell I go through every day, every time something like this happens I feel like I'm being kicked in the teeth while I'm already crippled on the ground.

I still can't figure out what I've ever done for people to be so awful to me, to treat me the way they do but it's all that ever seems to happen and it's all I've ever been surrounded by.

I guess it is my fault.

If it isn’t my fault then why does it keep happening to me?

I wipe at my eyes quickly, once I'm dressed and feel that deep hollow ache in my chest and that loneliness.

Why am I so easy to hurt?

Why can't I be worth not hurting?

People that are meant to be the ones that love me unconditionally are always the ones that hurt me the most, and I don't understand why because all I've ever done is try to do the right thing.

It's just never enough.

I'm never good enough.

Look what my own mother does, the way she speaks about me. The awful lies she makes up to get her that sympathy she thrives off, without an ounce of empathy for what they could do to me or how they would make me feel.

I give Gizmo a kiss on the head, before I walk out of the room and shut the door behind me; feeling my heart hammer in my chest and I sniff, trying to cough away the tightening in my throat while I grab my car keys and phone.

I walk out the front door and lock it behind me, making my way towards my car before opening the drivers door and climbing into the seat.

I wish I could disappear.

I don't even know if I wish I wasn’t alive any more, I just wish I didn't exist in the first place.

I rest my elbows against the steering wheel, threading my fingers into the front of my hair and my breathing starts heaving in my chest.

This hurts, everything hurts.

I clench my teeth as I squeeze my eyes shut trying to force the dampness in them to go away, and can't keep it in anymore.

I scream, I scream until my throat feels like it's on fire.

It's the kind of scream where all of the agony just rips it's way out of your body, all the pain is bottled up too tight and it explodes straight out of you but feels like barbed wire being shredded through your insides.

I'm sure the neighbors are appreciating my meltdown.

Fuck. Now I feel bad because if any of my neighbors saw that, I wouldn't want it to worry them or ruin their night.

I start sucking in deep breaths to compose myself, and clear my throat to clear the raw feeling from it but it only makes me cough.

I probably sit there for fifteen minutes before I start the car and drive off, knowing I need to get away from the house and occupy myself so I don't do something stupid... well, more stupid than what I'm going to do.

It's all I can think of though, and it's better than the alternative my brain always defaults to.

I just can't handle feeling, so I'm going to make it go away.

~•~

I'm drunk.

Im'a drunky mc'drunk pants.

Teehee. I can't feel my mouth - or my face, I can't feel much of anything really.

Except fluffy. My skin feels fluffy.

I don't know how much I've had to drink, I stopped counting but I've managed to make this really cool big pyramid out of stacked shot glasses on the table.

I hiccup as I squint with one eye open, and my tongue pinched between my teeth in concentration as I place the last shot glass on top; making sure to hold my breath.

It takes way longer than it should have, it felt like I did it in slow motion.

As soon as it's on there and I realize I haven't knocked it over, I punch my fists up in the air and throw my head back in victory, slurring out a whispered "Fuck yesshhhh."

Unfortunately doing that, throws me off balance and I fall backwards off the barstool with a startled yelp until I land on the floor with a hard thud.

I let out a sharp laugh, wheezing in a fit of giggles over the fact I didn't even feel it and how funny I find the fact I just fell down in front of the whole bar.

The floor feels like it's swaying.

Like you're on a boat.

Woooooosh.

That's the sound water makes.

"Woooooooosh," I whisper to myself with my eyes closed, enjoying how relaxing the swaying is.

"Hey honey, I think you've had enough tonight - why don't you let me give one of your friends a call to come pick you up?"

I peek my heavy eyes open, to see one of the bartenders standing over me and I remember him being the one that served Jamie the night we were here at the start of the week.

This is the only place I could think of to go to, it's the last place I can remember where I didn't feel miserable.

I pout at him. "It’s very bold of you to assume I have friends."

The man's face lights up with a smile, but it looks gentle and sympathetic. "I'm sure a ball of fun like you has plenty darling, c'mon let me help you up and we'll give em a call."

I keep pouting over having my fun night ruined, but I don't want to be a pain because he's been so nice to me, replacing my blood with alcohol all night.

Not all hero's wear capes my good sir.

"I might just wait down here, I'm comfortable," I tell him, and reach into my pocket to fumble for my phone; squinting again with a frown to try and focus my double vision when I unlock it to scroll through my contacts and find John’s number.

I hit call and extend the phone to the bartender who takes it with another smile and presses it to his ear.

I point to the table from my spot on the ground. "Did you see my sculpture?"

He glances at the table and laughs, looking back down at me. "Great job, love."

I stick my chin up, flopping my arms back against the ground above my head with a goofy grin. "Thanks, I did it all by myself."

"Hey this is Thomas from Placebo. We've got a friend of yours here - what's your name honey?" The bartender pulls the phone away from his face and looks to me for an answer.

"Claire," I whisper like it's a secret but then I grin and shout with way too much enthusiasm. "Hiiiiiii Johnnnnnn!"

He bites back a laugh, putting the phone back to his ear. "Your friend Claire is here. She's had a big night and I think it's best she goes home, would you be able to come pick her up by any chance?"

He nods, at whatever is being said on the other end of the phone. "Yeah of course, I'll keep an eye on her. Don't worry she's safe. I'll see you when you get here."

I got a strange stare from a couple people walking past looking at me just sprawled on the floor, and I gave them an eager wave with a smile. "The floor is fun. You should try it. It moves!" I finish my sentence with wide serious eyes like I'm divulging valuable information.

"Your friend will be here in about fifteen minutes he said, you want some help up?" Thomas offers, holding his hand out to give my phone back.

"Nope, I'm all good - I like it here," I tell him honestly, closing my eyes.

"Right well... I'll just wait here with you till he gets here," he says, pulling up a stool to sit next to where I'm laid down.

This is so much more fun than standing.

Standing is for losers.

I shoot my arm up to give him a thumbs up, before letting my arm slap back down against the ground.

Vodka is so good. It's my best friend.

I start to sniff quietly and Thomas looks down at me with a worried expression. "Darling, are you alright? Why are you crying?"

"I just really love vodka, you know? It's so nice to me. If I ever have a kid I'm gonna name it vodka," I choke out, feeling overly sentimental.

It felt like forever that I was laying there, just slurring gibberish to Thomas, who is now also my best friend.

"Oh my god I love this song," I whisper yell after a while, clenching my fist against my heart when Careless Whisper by George Michael starts to play.

I start swaying on the ground in tune to the saxophone with a dramatic emotional look on my face.

I throw my hands up in the air,  still with my eyes closed.

 

"I'm never gonna dance again

Guilty feet have got no rhythm

Though it's easy to pretend

I know you're not a foooooool"

 

I need to pee.

But I don't wanna get up because

"So I'm never gonna dance again

The way I danced with youuuuuuu!" I sing, swaying my arms in the air above me.

A hand touching my arm catches my attention, and I squint my blurry eyes open to see a figure crouched down leaning over me with a worried look.

As soon as my eyes focus more, and I make out those blue eyes and messy red hair, I purse my lips with a confused look.

"Smirky? What are you doing here?" I squint my eyes more. "Why are there two of you?"

***

 

Chapter Text

"I know I got a bad reputation 

and it isn't just talk, talk, talk 

If I could only give you everything 

You know I haven't got" 

(Bad Reputation - Freedy Johnston)  

*** 

 

JAMIE’S P.O.V :

John is going to be so pissed at me.  

But... that sounds like his problem, no’ mine.

I'll cop an earful over this at some point, but there was no way in hell I wasna going to that bar.

I didna ken what to think when I answered his phone, he left it on the kitchen counter when he went to shower, and I had no clue who would be calling him at 11pm at night but I figured it was probably important.

Turns out it was very important. 

I didna want to wait till he was out of the shower, I needed to leave then and there.

As soon as I heard Thomas’ voice and he said Claire was there by herself, I felt my stomach drop. I could hear how drunk she was in the background.

I told him who it was, and that I was leaving straight away to come pick her up. I've been at that bar enough now that I'm on a first name basis wi’ most of the bar staff. I was relieved it was Thomas that was there with her, he's a pretty nice guy.

I've slept wi’ Thomas already... but it was a once off thing when I first started going to that bar when I moved here a month ago. It usually is a one time thing when it comes to me, sometimes it's a handful of times at most but nothing more.

Monogamy just isna for me, my marriage that ended worse than a burning car crash is proof of that. But that doesna mean I dinna care about or respect the people I sleep with.

I actually care a lot, that’s why I'm honest about how I am upfront, I dinna bullshit people or lie to them about it.

I fucking hate liars.

I ken Claire thinks I'm a bit of a whore, and to be honest I kind of am. But I'm an honest whore.

And besides, there's nothing wrong wi’ harmless fun between consenting adults - well unless it's that girl from today, then it's just a giant pain in the ass.

The brief fun wasna worth the fucking headache afterwards.

Especially wi’ the way she acted towards Claire, that was the absolute last straw wi’ me.

Speaking of Claire.

She seemed alright when I saw her earlier today? Well, she looked like she wanted to spit in my food, but that's just our usual dynamic.

What's happened? Was it like what happened the other morning?

Would she even tell me?

I promised her I wouldna bring that up to her again, and I won’t, but it doesna mean I havena been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what the fuck actually happened.

I truly canna figure her out, but I really want to. The second she opened that bedroom door and caught me wi’ my dick down some guy’s throat I was absolutely caught on her; I've never in my life met someone like her.

I've also never had to fight bursting out laughing so hard in the middle of a blow job in my entire life.

I needed to meet her.

She wasna disappointing either, when I finally did speak to her - if anything I was more intrigued by her.

I have a habit of getting bored, it's hard to keep my attention, but christ I just canna take my attention off of her.

Every time I see her I'm dying to see what she's going to do or say, it's completely unpredictable.

She's an enigma.

I wonder if she would ever let me photograph her one day... I'd say I have a better chance of getting punched in the dick first, considering my models are usually naked, but miracles happen every day.

I like showing people a side to themselves that they havena seen before, it's fascinating to capture someone in a way they didn't know existed.

I'd like to do that for Claire.

There may also be that tiny (massive) part of me that wants to see her naked but hey, I'm just being honest.

But I have a feeling with Claire, I'd have to undress her mind before she would let me do it to her body.

I'm fine wi’ that though, I'm dying to ken how her mind works - what's happened to make her the way she is.  

She's this quick witted, mouth-like-a-sailor, mystery that rambles to herself and talks to her dog like he understands every word she's saying. I can see the walls she has up from a mile away, and I'm really interested about what put them there, and what dulled that fire in her that I see spark up occasionally.

I wish she'd let me in, even just a fraction.

I'd be careful wi’ her, I'm not out to hurt her like she thinks.

Or like John thinks.

He willna tell me why he's so protective of her, or so hell bent on me staying away from her, but that's doing nothing but making me even more curious.

I wish she would just give me a chance, so I could show her I'm no’ as bad as she thinks.

I'm no’ the asshole she assumes I am.

Guess I'll just have to settle for annoying her into spending time with me.

Even if she's pissed at me, at least she's paying attention to me.

My thoughts consumed my entire drive to the bar, and as soon as I pulled up I was hauling myself out the car that fast I nearly fell over.

I didna even bother locking my door.

I just hope she's okay.

When I got inside the bar, I stopped dead when I saw Claire just laying on the floor - is she singing Careless Whisper?  

As worried as I was, now I'm just biting down on my lip to try and hide my grin.

This is one of the sides of her that had me so wrapped up in her, the same one I saw the day I busted her dancing around to Queen in her living room.

She looked so carefree, she was entrancing (and hilarious) to watch.

And it's so strange to see that when the next second she’s clamping shut faster than a bear trap and that sadness floats back in to dull her eyes.

When you've felt that kind of sadness, ye recognize it in other people, and I see it screaming from her.

I see Thomas and give him an appreciative smile and silent 'thank ye’, to which he gives me a warm sympathetic smile back.

"I'll let you get this party animal home," Thomas whispers as I reach him when I've finally managed to stop staring at Claire and walk over.

"Thanks again, for taking care of her," I whisper back, and he gives me a pat on the back with a nod before he walks off.

"So I'm never gonna dance again 

The way I danced with youuuuuuu!" 

I look down to Claire singing below me, and crouch down; reaching out to touch one of her swaying arms to grab her attention. I'm keeping in mind how she reacted when I tried to touch her on Tuesday morning, so I'm trying to be mindful of that and hope I dinna startle her.

She's really drunk, and no’ the type of drunk ye get to have fun. It's the kind of drunk ye get to forget something.

Claire slowly peeks her heavy eyes open, and stares at me like she's trying to figure out who I am.

"Smirky? What are you doing here?" She squints more. "Why are there two of you?"

"Hey heartbreaker," I smile at her, trying to keep my voice gentle. "We've come to take ye home."

I hope she gets my joke, but by the confused look on her face, I can tell she doesn't. Probably need her to be a bit more coherent for that.

Claire pouts at me. "Where's your uniform?"

I furrow my brows, and I'm the one that's confused now. "Huh?"

She raises her brows at me, trying to widen her heavy lidded eyes but it doesna work. "You know, since you're the fun police."

I grin, shaking my head at her and laugh under my breath. "Sorry to ruin yer night Sassenach, but I need to get ye home to yer boyfriend."

Claire gasps, "oh my god Gizmo!" Then her face becomes emotional as her eyes get glassy. "I love Gizmo."

She's verra cute when she's wasted.

"Well c'mon, let's get ye back to him then. I'm sure he's worried about ye," I urge, grasping her arm carefully to help her up off the ground.

Claire doesna fight me, much to my surprise. Seems like any mention of that dog is enough to get her to do just about anything.

At least I know what her one soft spot is.

Getting her off the ground however, was like trying to pick up an octopus. She was all jelly limbs, and a dead weight.

I got her sitting upright before I hooked my arms under her armpits and hoisted her to her feet; and managed to wrap her arm around my shoulder and take a hold of her waist to keep her up before she fell face first to the ground.

"I made a sculpture!" She announces proudly, looking to the table next to us.

I follow her gaze to see a stack of shot glasses, and my lips part.

That's how much she's had to drink? How the fuck is she no’ dead, let alone standing right now?

Well she's barely standing, but still.

She wasna even this drunk when we left here on Monday night.

I look back to Claire who is swaying on the spot while I hold on to her, and I let out a deep sigh.

What's got ye in so much pain mo nighean donn ?

"Looks like you've been busy," I say, with a gentle nudge to get her to start walking wi’ me. "Come on heartbreaker, let's get ye out of here."

"Okie dokie officer smirky," Claire hums, stumbling as we start to walk.

Getting her to the car took forever, it was again, like trying to make an octopus walk.

I told Thomas I would come back tomorrow and pick her car up, I'll just have to get a cab in the morning to go get it.

Hopefully Claire willna flip out on me if I just sleep on her couch.

Either way, I managed to get her into the car without her injuring herself, even if I was basically carrying her towards the end.

Getting her inside her house is going to be interesting.

The drive for the most part has been quiet, aside from Claire occasionally  whisper-singing to my music in the car.

That's another thing about her I like, she's got great music taste. I kent that from the second I saw the Queen shirt she was wearing the night I met her.

If she would just try and get to know me, she would see we like the same kind of music... and maybe we have even more in common than she thinks.

The silence is broken suddenly by Claire’s voice. It’s sleepy, but I can hear the insecurity in it I havena heard from her before.

"Are you angry at me?"

I glance at her, as we pull up at a stop light and she's got her head rested back against the seat wi’ her eyes closed.

I look at her properly once we've stopped, and wonder why she would even ask me something so ridiculous. "Angry at you? Why would I be angry at you?"

Claire shrugs a shoulder, and rolls her head to the side to peer at me, and it looks like she's struggling to keep her eyes open. "Because I'm drunk. Frank always got angry at me, or upset with me."

Now I'm even more confused. "Who's Frank? Why would he get angry that ye were drunk?"

Claire rests her head back against the seat and closes her eyes again with a sigh. "My ex. He got mad at me when I had fun - I used to have fun when I drank sometimes and he didn't like that. So I stopped having fun so he wasn't upset with me. So now I just do it when I'm sad."

She sounds just like a little kid, talking about getting in trouble.

Is this fucking idiot the reason she hasn't let anyone touch her in two years? Why the fuck did he get angry at her for drinking or having fun? She's hilarious when she's drunk.

I just dinna like when she's drunk like this, when she's done it to numb out whatever it is that has her so upset.

But the last thing I am is upset wi’ her.

My brows pull hard together as I frown and keep staring at her, and I dinna ken what to say. I'm still surprised she actually answered me and told me something personal about herself. 

Alcohol is usually the best truth serum I suppose.

I dinna want to prod her on this while she's drunk though, if it isna something she wouldna tell me sober.

"I'm not angry at you. There’s absolutely nothing to be angry at ye about, Sassenach," I tell her instead, which makes her open her bloodshot eyes and look at me.

"I'm angry at me," she says with her voice quiet, and she just looks so sad.

The car behind us honks making us both jump, and I quickly realize the light has turned green.

I look back to the road while I accelerate to take off, and glance back at Claire who's closed her eyes again.

"Why are ye angry at yerself?" I question, trying to keep my voice soft, but I canna wipe the frown off my face over hearing her say that.

I'm met wi’ silence, and I take a better look at her to see her head dropped to the side, and I realize she's fallen asleep.

Drinking your bodyweight in alcohol will do that to a person.

I press my lips together, and look back at the road and decide to just try and get her home as quickly as possible.

I can hear soft snores coming from her by the time we pull up in front of her house, and she still doesna budge when I turn the car off and get out of the drivers side; opening her passenger door when I get around to her.

I shake her shoulder, again trying to be gentle. "Claire, hey, yer home. C'mon, let's get ye inside."

I only get a half asleep grumble as a reply, and I sigh to myself. She's not budging.

I guess I'm going to have to do this the hard way.

I lean in and undo her seat belt, then carefully slide one arm under her thighs and grip the other around her back.

I manage to pull her out of the car wi’ a grunt, standing up straight once I have a sturdy hold on her, and Claire’s head flops against my chest while her limp arm hangs by her side.

Wonderful.

Her neighbors are going to think I'm carrying around a dead body.

I look down at her as I kick the door shut wi’ my foot, and I have to admit - even blackout drunk she looks adorable when she's asleep.

Now it's mission ‘get Claire inside her house’, and I ken that finding her house keys is going to be the next ordeal once we reach the front door.

"Alright bòidhchead cadail ," I sigh, with a crooked smile.  "Let's get ye inside."  

***

Chapter Text

"There's no aphrodisiac like loneliness"

(No Aphrodisiac - The Whitlams)

***

 

 

JAMIE’S P.O.V:

Well at least now I ken if I ever have to dispose of a dead body, I'm quite capable of carrying one.

Getting Claire inside was a miraculous feat, and I'm praying her neighbors didna see me searching her pockets for her keys while she was slumped against her front door.

I apologized the whole time, even though she couldna hear me. I felt guilty touching her like that without being able to ask her if it was okay, but it was either that or break one of her windows and climb through it.

I finally got her front door open, and picked her up like the limp octopus she is and got her into her bedroom; thankfully without tripping and sending us both crashing to the ground.

I'm wondering how she was even planning on getting home, did she even think about that?

I keep going around and around in my head. What made her put herself in that state, wondering what happened or if someone upset her.

Does she do this a lot if she's upset?

I got her onto her bed, and nearly tripped over Gizmo in the process, but he didna even flinch - just wagged his stumpy tail and snorted at me.

Once I rolled her onto her side, I walked out to the kitchen to grab some water and see if I could find some kind of aspirin.

I ken what the kind of hangover feels like when you've completely obliterated yerself, I've had far too many.

It's why I barely drink anymore.

I wonder if Claire does it for the same reasons I used to.

I managed to find some glasses in the cupboard, but panicked when the cupboard door came off the hinges.

It just fell off, I swear.

This whole house seems to be falling apart.

I'm no’ judging, there's no shame in it; everyone does the best they can, and just because a place isna a mansion doesna mean it's less of a home.

I'll just have to explain what happened to Claire tomorrow when she's conscious, I'll fix it for her.

Would she be offended if I offered to do some things around the house for her? Repair some things?

I assume she would be, seeing as she's so stubborn about accepting help.

Maybe I can weasel my way into her letting me help her with that like I've done wi’ everything else since I met her. I've had to get fucking creative with ideas just to get her to be around me.

Canna say I've ever started stripping in public just to try and get someone to dance with me, but she's got a habit of making me do things even I question myself over.

I still canna believe I spent three hours searching different stores for a goddamn pig with wings.

Once I've grabbed the glass of water, I find my way to her small bathroom attached to her bedroom and look through a couple drawers, again feeling guilty and like I'm snooping, but I'm just trying to find some kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, even some panadol.

However, what I find when I open the third drawer makes my stomach hit the floor.

It's filled with various boxes of painkillers, strong ones. Dangerous ones.

Oxycontin, Endone, Palexia - you name it, plus a few other medications I dinna recognize. 

What in the fuck does she have all of this shit for?

It's prescribed heroin.

Does she take this shit?

I stare inside the drawer with my face dropped into a deep frown, trying to comprehend what I'm looking at or how in the hell she has so much of it or why.

Claire groaning from her room snaps my attention away though, and I ignore the sinking in my chest to go check on her.

I walk out of the bathroom leaving the glass of water on the sink and think about if I should even bring up to her what I saw. It's not really my place or my business, but it's making me feel sick to think that she may take something like that.

Is she sick?

They woulda even give a dying cancer patient that much pain medication, so I have no clue what would be wrong wi’ her to have that much.

I see Claire laid out on the bed, trying to push herself up to lean on her elbow but no’ doing a very good job of it.

At least she's awake. I was starting to get worried.

"Hey sleepyhead." I keep my voice soft, trying to just focus on her and think about the drawer full of pills later on. "Ye feelin okay?"

Claire squeezes her eyes shut, and she looks white as a ghost as she shakes her head quickly, puffing her cheeks and swallowing out like she's trying to keep the contents of her stomach down.

Uh oh.

I know that look.

"Are ye going to be sick?" I check, rushing to the bed to help her sit up and I think I pulled her up too fast because she slaps her hand over her mouth as she sways on the spot but manages to nod and let me know that's exactly what's happening.

Shit.

I dinna give her a choice when I pick her up off the bed, knowing I can get her to the bathroom quicker than she would be able to walk and at least she canna cuss me out with her hand clamping her mouth shut.

I rush her to the bathroom, crouching down next to the toilet and sit her on the ground, gathering her hair as soon as she slumps over the bowl and heaves out a gag that makes my own stomach twist.

I move to rest on my knees, and rub my palm up and down her back as I feel it tense and jump with each gut wrenching heave she makes as she vomits up the endless amount of alcohol she's poisoned herself with tonight.

Poor thing, I ken how it feels.

"Yer alright, Sassenach, just get it all out," I hush, listening to her groan and whimper in between her retching.

It's a few minutes before Claire finally stops throwing up and I'm shocked she didna actually vomit up a lung, but she just stayed slumped over the toilet trying to catch her breath and I kept smoothing my hand over her back.

I hope me touching her isna making her uncomfortable.

I felt fucking awful about how I'd acted towards her up until Tuesday, after she freaked out when she woke up. I hadna realized me being so close to her could have made her feel that way.

I'd like it to be the opposite, I'd like it if when I touched her it made her feel good... if she'd let me.

"Feeling better?" I murmur, keeping my eyes on her tired face as she rests it on her arm.

Claire gives me a slow nod, still keeping her eyes closed.

"Want to brush yer teeth? Get rid of that awful taste? Then I'll give ye some water," I offer, smoothing her hair away from her face and tucking her hair behind her ear.

I ken that's the first thing I always wanted to do after throwing up.

"Mmmm," she groans, agreeing, but looking like she doesna want to move.

I push myself up to stand, and lean over her; slipping my arms under her armpits to urge her up off the ground. "C'mon Sassenach - quicker we do this, quicker ye can go back to bed and sleep yerself sober."

Claire huffs and grumbles as I pull her up, and I smile to myself over how immature she sounds.

I'm kind of starting to miss her insults though.

I get her standing and steady, wrapping my arm around her waist to keep her upright, guiding her to the bathroom sink and ignore her tired protests when I lift her up; sitting her on the counter because I know she's still going to be useless at standing at the moment.

It'll be easier to catch her if she's sitting, compared to if she collapses in a heap while standing - she could hit her head doing that, and then it's a trip to the hospital.

I should know.

Claire's heavy eyes watch me as she stays silent with her shoulders leaning back against the mirror, while I grab the toothpaste and toothbrush out of the holder on her sink; squeezing some of the minty gel onto the bristles.

I hold the brush out to her, noticing she's just staring at me with a strange expression as she plucks the toothbrush from my fingers and brings it up to her mouth slowly.

"Why are you helping me?" She mumbles, with her brows dropped, and her voice is raw from all of the strain from throwing up.

She sounds like she's sobered up a bit, but it's still obvious she's drunk.

I crease my own brows, confused by her question. "Because ye needed help."

She doesna say anything, just places the toothbrush in her mouth as she starts to scrub it against her teeth with heavy lidded eyes, but she looks like she's trying to figure out why I'm standing in her bathroom.

I lean my palms against the counter either side of her legs, caging her in where she's sitting because I don't trust her not to just fall forward, and search my eyes over her face.

"And because I wanted to," I add, watching for her reaction.

She frowns with a pout that I canna help finding her adorable with the tooth brush in her mouth and foam that's starting to form in between her lips.

"What do you want?" She says but it's barely understandable with the toothbrush and all the toothpaste in her mouth. 

What does she mean what do I want?

I dinna want anything from her, I just want her to be okay.

What's happened to her to make her distrust people so much? She acts like everyone is out to get her.

Worst thing I'm trying to do is get her naked at some point hopefully, but I'm sure we'd both enjoy it. Again, I'm just being honest.

Like I told her though, I'm not in the habit of convincing someone to sleep with me. It'll only happen if it's what she wants, I just get the very big impression that she's trying to convince herself that's not what she wants when she actually does.

Could just be wishful thinking and some arrogance on my part, but who knows.

She acts like I'd just use her and never speak to her again, and that couldna be further from the truth. I meant what I said about wanting to be her friend, she's a fascinating, interesting and funny person and I do want to get to know her.

I also dinna use people, if anything they use me.

I'm okay with it though, I know what I'm good for and I play the part well.

I'm just a bit of fun.

I was the same thing to my ex wife.

I bring my hand up to tug the tooth brush from her mouth, handing her the glass of water I left there and urge her to take it.

Claire takes the glass, still giving me a suspicious look and rinses her mouth out; spitting the contents into the sink and I hand her a towel off the rail next to the sink to wipe her mouth.

Her poor eyes are haggard and bloodshot, but I just canna seem to stop staring at them, they're captivating. 

They're so dull at the moment, but when they brighten up when she smiles it's like they light up a room. It's all I could see on Monday night when she finally let that guard down and actually started having fun.

She's hilarious, vivacious and full of life when she finally let's that side of herself out and I was enthralled by it the rest of the night.

I dinna remember the last time someone made me laugh so much.

I want to know why she keeps that side of her locked away so deep, like she's protecting it. It's incredible, she should let it flourish.

"You didn't answer my question," she points out, snapping me out of my thoughts and I realize I've just been staring at her the whole time.

I blink at her, gathering my thoughts and take the glass from her to refill it with water from the tap in the sink.

"I dinna want anything from ye Claire, dinna ken how many times I have to repeat myself about that," I sigh, handing the glass back to her.

"Now drink that, ye need to get some water into ye and I'll help ye back to bed."

Claire goes quiet again, looking confused over my answer and finishes off the water in the glass before sitting it on the counter.

I glance down at her jeans and back to her face. "You've got toothpaste on yer jeans, are ye going to sleep in those?"

Claire looks down and mutters a 'fucks sake' under her breath when she notices the stain on her pants and mumbles to herself while she starts to try and unbutton them.

Well, she's definitely still drunk. Never in a million years would sober Claire do that in front of me; I may no’ have kent her very long but I ken that is an absolute fact about her.

Her fingers fumble as she becomes more frustrated trying to get the button undone, and I slowly place my hands over hers to stop them.

I keep my eyes on her face as she glances up to me, and I keep my voice gentle when I speak. "Here, let me help - I’m no’ trying anything. I just want to help."

Claire looks apprehensive but after a few seconds her shoulders drop, and she just nods averting her eyes from me.

"Ye can trust me," I add softly, moving her hands aside and moving my fingers to the button on her jeans.

Claire scoffs under her breath and looks at the wall next to us as she rolls her head back against the mirror.

"Never trust someone that tells you can trust them," she says with her voice tired, and I press my lips into a flat line.

"Why do ye say that?" I ask, ignoring the slight twist in my stomach over the fact that I genuinely think she has not one shred of trust towards me

Does she think I'd hurt her?

"Because the people you can trust don't need to tell you that, they aren't reassuring you. They're trying to convince you," she mumbles, closing her eyes with a tired sigh.

I pull my lips to the side, as I slide her zipper down and grab the hem of her jeans. "Ye ken Claire, sometimes people just say what they mean. No’ everyone has cruel intentions."

I give her pants a soft tug to get her to help me out a bit and lift her hips, and she obliges. However, I swallow as I start to pull them down and see more of her pearly skin expose itself.

I snap my eyes up immediately to focus on her face instead, as I start shuffling the denim down her thighs.

"That's a good movie," Claire says all of a sudden and I give her a puzzled look.

"What is?"

"Cruel Intentions, good movie." Her eyes are still closed, and I lift my brows in understanding.

"Oh, aye. Aye, that is a good movie," I agree, trying to keep my composure as I step back a bit and start to slide the denim down over her knees until I'm crouching down to tug the material off her feet.

My eyes move up to her face, doing my best to avoid looking at her body. The split-second glimpse I got of her legs as I moved my eyes to her face already had my mouth dry. They look so smooth... and soft.

Claire’s sleepy eyes catch mine when I flick them up, and while normally I'm pretty obvious about undressing her with my eyes - I’m actually trying to behave myself and not make her uncomfortable at the moment.

She doesna say anything, but instead tries to pull her shirt down to cover her legs, dropping her eyes to her lap, and she looks painfully insecure or embarrassed. I canna pick which one.

Does she not like how she looks?

Why the fuck not?

Has she seen herself?

I havena seen that much of her body, but from what I have seen it's sent all the blood in my body straight to my dick.

The human body is a beautiful thing, the variety being the most beautiful thing. All shapes, colors and sizes. There's so much to appreciate.

It's why I like photographing it.

I push myself up to stand, resting my hands back on the counter either side of her. "Why are ye trying to cover yourself up?"

"I'm cold," she murmurs, still looking at her lap but I give her a look calling bullshit on that. It wasn't believable at all.

I ken that no’ everyone is confident, and every person has insecurities but the look on Claire’s face isna just that, this isna just being shy. She looks... ashamed.

I decide no’ to push it, instead I take her wrists and take a step back. "Let's get ye into bed then - you just going to sleep in the shirt, or do ye need me to find ye some pants to sleep in?"

"No this is fine," she sighs, shaking her head, but she still won't look at me and starts to shuffle off of the counter; while I hold her hips as she slips off of it to keep her steady on her feet.

Before we move to start walking to the bedroom, Claire looks down and notices the drawer open with all the pain medication and her eyes dart to my face; filled with a sudden panic.

"I'm sorry - I didna mean to see that, I was looking for some aspirin for you," I explain in a quick breath, worried she's going to flip out and tell me to fuck off.

Claire swallows, wetting her lips, looking back to the drawer then to my face. "...It's okay. They're my mum's. I just keep them in here for her."

Her mother lives here? I've never seen anyone here besides Claire. Why the hell would her mother be on all that shit?

I can tell from the sudden switch in her demeanor she's uncomfortable - she looks ashamed again and I canna figure out why, but I can see she doesna want to elaborate, so I dinna question it further.

"Okay," I say simply, giving her a faint reassuring smile. "C'mon let's get ye to bed, drunky pants."

Claire rolls her eyes and I'm over the moon to see that sarcasm from her, even if it's just with her eyes. I prefer that compared to when they look so sad.

As we start to walk, I glance down while my arm is wrapped around her waist then look back to her face. "Or should I say drunky-no-pants."

I watch her scrunch her lips up to fight smiling and I grin.

Admit it Claire, ye think I'm funny - even just a tiny bit.

"That was a shit joke," she says, trying not to stumble as I help her to the bed.

"Always trying to hurt my feelings aren't ye, heartbreaker?" I hum, pulling her covers back as she plops down on the edge of the bed before shuffling into it.

"You'd need feelings for me to be able to hurt them," she throws back, rolling on her side and looking up at me with her eyes barely open.

I give her a playful scowl, sucking in a sharp breath through my teeth. "Ouch, yer mean when yer drunk."

Claire’s face falls into a worried expression, looking like my words just slapped her. "Am I really? A mean drunk?"

Why does that bother her so much? Should I not have said that?

I blink at her, my stomach sinking at how upset she looks and I shake my head. "No Sassenach, no’ at all. I was only kidding - yer a hilarious drunk, maybe just a tad emotional - but yer a fantastic singer."

My words seem to settle her a bit but there's still that crease between her brows I dinna like seeing, so I look at her before hooking my thumb over my shoulder to point at the door; clearing my throat. "Well erm, I'm going to just crash on the couch but... if ye need anything - just call out, aye?"

Claire stays quiet and gives me a small nod, but when I go to turn her lamp off that's been on since I brought her back here, her voice pipes up.

"Leave it on. Please... Don't turn it off."

I pull my hand back, holding it up in surrender over how nervous she sounded and decide that's something else I can try and figure out with the puzzle she is another day.

Something else to add to the list about her, apparently she doesna like the dark - or I assume that's what it is.

I give her another reassuring smile and nod, before I'm turning and heading towards the door.

Just as I'm about to walk through it, I hear Claire's quiet voice and pause.

"Jamie?"

She said my name.

She didna say smirky, or asshole or anything else. And she didna even say my name like she wanted to slap me.

Dinna overthink it. No’ a big deal.

I look over my shoulder to see her watching me, and she's chewing on her lip. "...You can uh, stay in here... if you want. You don't have to stay on the couch... it's awful to sleep on."

She wants me to stay in here?

Alright Jamie, dinna get ahead of yerself. Maybe she's just being polite. It's probably just the vodka talking for her.

I clear my throat again, turning to face her with my hand still on the door handle. "Ye sure? Ye willna hate me in the morning or anything?"

"I'm sure," she agrees, but her tone doesna match what she says. She looks nervous, as if she canna understand why she's even saying it.

I should probably say no and go sleep on the couch anyway, but I'm not going to. Call me selfish, but I'm quite happy being in the same bed as her if she'll let me, I'll take whatever chance I can get.

This is the first time she's initiated willingly being closer to me since Monday night, no chance in hell is there of me turning that down.

There's something that's different about her at the moment, more vulnerable than usual. Normally it's like she's got her quills up ready to stab ye if ye come near her.

I give her a wordless nod, pushing the bedroom door shut and kick my shoes off.

I figure if I act calm about the whole thing and like it's no’ a big deal, it'll make her feel a bit more at ease.

I reach for the hem of my shirt, about to take it off and I pause, looking at Claire for permission. "I normally just sleep in my boxers, is that alright? I can sleep in my jeans like last time if ye want."

She chews on her lip again, then shakes her head. "No it's okay, sleep however you're comfortable."

I start to pull my shirt up my stomach, and Claire rolls over, averting her eyes away and facing the wall. She shuffles over on the bed, I'm assuming to give me some room to get into it.

She's going to start giving me a complex over how against seeing my body she is.

Once I'm undressed I walk over to the bed, stepping over Gizmo who’s in a coma snoring a symphony next to the bed.

God, he snores worse than my grandfather.

I make my way under the covers, for some unknown reason feeling my heart speed up as I shuffle to lay down on my side facing Claire's back.

I'm probably pushing my luck here, but I canna help it.

I scoot closer to her, while Claire stays quiet and the silence is starting to become deafening. It's like there's this unspoken tension there with neither of us knowing how to act.

I dinna really have ‘moves’ for this sort of thing, normally stuff like this is way easier. I barely even have to try, but right now I feel like I'm stumbling around a labyrinth blindfolded with this woman.

Does she even realize she makes me nervous too? That I try to impress her?

I reach my hand out and rest it on her waist, my heart thumping harder in my chest. "Is this okay?"

"...Mhm," Claire hums, but it's timid when she does it. It's back to sounding like she's unsure of herself.

However, I'm frozen in surprise when she shuffles herself back more until her shoulders are pressed against my chest, and I dinna waste time slinking my arm over her waist, pulling her against me until she's slot in perfectly like a puzzle piece.

I'm trying to ignore the way my stomach flips over that small action, but from her it seems monumental.

The only thing dulling my thrill over it, is that I wish she was sober, because I feel like she's going to wake up tomorrow and want nothing to do with me again.

Beggars canna be choosers though, so I'll just take what I can get right now and enjoy it.

"I'm sorry..."

Claire’s small voice makes me lift my head up off the pillow and try to look at her face, but I can still only see the side of her profile and no’ her expression.

"Sorry? What for?"

"Tonight. Screwing up your night. I'm not your problem," she answers with her voice barely above a whisper.

I press my lips together, darting my eyes over the details of the side of her face that I can see. I lay my head back down, shuffling up a bit so I can pull her closer and rest my cheek against the top of her head.

I keep my own voice quiet like hers, hoping it soothes her, and trace my fingers against her arm that's curled up against her stomach. "Absolutely nothing to apologize for, Sassenach. I’m just happy yer alright."

For what feels like the hundredth time tonight, Claire doesn't say anything again and it's not a comfortable kind of silence. It's like I can feel the tension radiating off her from being stuck in her own head.

"If ye want to make it up to me though, how about ye tell me something? Tell me something about yerself and we'll call it even," I offer, hoping my usual cheeky probing nature might lighten her mood a bit. I've noticed that even though it annoys her, it seems to be some kind of tension breaker for her as well... Well, sometimes.

I'm not really sure what I expected her to tell me, part of me just expected nothing or a "fuck off smirky," but instead what her soft voice gave me made my chest tighten when she finally spoke.

"...I'm really lonely..."

I dinna ken why I didna say this to her, but I guess it's something I dinna even like admitting to myself.

Like I thought, we have more in common than she thinks...

Because I'm really lonely too.

***

 



Chapter Text

"Seems to me girl you know I've done all I can

You see I begged, stole, and I borrowed (yeah)

  Oh that's why I'm easy"

(Easy)

***

CLAIRE'S P.O.V:

Christ, my mouth is dry.

It feels like I've forgotten what water even tastes like.

Have you ever had your mouth feel so dry your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth? I can barely swallow.

My head feels like my brain is throbbing with its own heartbeat, if the heartbeat was it smashing itself against my skull.

Nice going Claire, gold star for doing this to yourself.

The human mind is a wonderful but fucking irrational thing. Let's medicate my pain by putting myself in more pain later on.

Now I'm just miserable and my body feels like shit.

I start the task of trying to squint my eyes open, wondering if I roll on my back instead of staying on my side maybe gravity will help rip them open.

They feel like they're made of cement.

I just want some water.

A fucking oceans worth of water and then I can drown myself so I don't need to deal with this fucking horrific hangover.

I manage to peel my eyelids open a smudge, grimacing at the light that feels like it punches me in the face and I groan, trying to focus on the blurry figure next to me.

Even though my vision is still foggy, I start to make out Jamie’s features until I can clearly see him sitting up in the bed next to me; facing me with his legs crossed and holding his hands up in front of himself in surrender.

"...Please dinna scream."

His face is frozen with a cautious expression like I'm going to explode any second.

Has he just been sitting there watching me sleep?

I cough to clear the sleep from my voice and grumble. "It's fine Jamie, I remember you being here last night - relax, I'm not going to freak out again."

I squeeze my eyes shut to stop their stinging from the bright light in the room, trying to sift through the hazy memories in my head. There aren't many of them.

It feels like rough sandpaper scraping through my mind trying to sort them out.

I don't remember leaving the bar, I don't even remember getting into my house. I don't know why Jamie is here, but I just remember him next to me while I hurled my guts up into the toilet and helping me brush my teeth.

... Oh god he took my pants off.

I groan out loud in embarrassment and bury my face into the pillow. For fucks sake Claire.

I vaguely remember asking him to stay in my bed, and wanting him to, and that alone has me feeling nauseous with anxiety.

Surely that was just the alcohol.

I feel Jamie's hand come to rub over the top of my back, and his voice sounds more relaxed now. "How's that hangover treating ye? Ye feeling okay?"

"I wanna die," I grunt muffled into the pillow, wondering if I can suffocate myself so I don't have to suffer through this.

"I figured that's how you'd be feeling, want some water?" He asks while his large palm smooths over my shoulder blades.

I nod against the pillow, unable to even be sarcastic at the moment; god I feel fucking awful.

"There's a glass on the bedside table for ye," he pats me on the back, chuckling to himself as he watches me struggle to roll over and sit up.

Moving is so much effort.

I glance to the glass of water on my bedside table after I rub my hands over my face, and look back to Jamie who is still sitting facing me in only his underwear.

I snap my eyes up when I catch them looking over his figure, and when my stare falls on his face he raises an accusing brow at me.

"You got me a glass of water?" I ask, clearing my throat and making sure to keep my eyes on his face.

The eye contact is making my stomach twist from how uncomfortable it makes me, but it's nothing compared to the fist that felt like it squeezed my organs when I looked over him half naked.

I haven't been around a guy in his underwear in years and I'm not really sure how to act around it.

I notice him purposely decide not to bring up the fact that he caught me staring and instead he nods.

"Aye, I thought you'd need it when ye woke up."

My brows twitch together and I give him a strange look.

It seems like such a small insignificant friendly gesture, but it's monumental to me. That someone was that nice to me, that they were thoughtful towards me.

Even the snippets of what I remember last night, how kind he was. I don't know how to process the fact that he bought me home and took care of me.

He's so fucking confusing.

Someone treating me that way confuses me.

I don't know if it's just the hangover, but it's even more confusing that I'm not minding his company at the moment and I feel... comfortable around him. Aside from the gnawing in my stomach over my own nerves, but they're always there - regardless of him.

"Thank you," I mumble, darting my eyes away when I can't handle him looking straight into what feels like my damn soul any more and turning to grab the water; drinking it so fast I end up coughing and nearly choke myself.

"Try not to kill yerself," he jokes, quirking his brows in worry as he pats my back again while I splutter out gasped coughs.

Hah.

If only he knew how many times I repeat that same sentence to myself every single day from the second my eyes open.

They may just be five simple words, but words are more powerful than I think people give them credit for.

People always love that saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me'.

I understand the notion behind it, understanding that words are just that - words, that they're benign and harmless. They can't physically harm you.

But the thing they don't talk about is thoughts.

Now thoughts, those can be lethal. I think the thing that makes them the most ominous is that they're invisible.

You could be walking down the street and pass someone whose thoughts are holding a gun to their head with a hair pin trigger and be none the wiser of it.

The other problem with thoughts is you can't escape them, because they're internal. You can't remove yourself from them, there's no mute button for a mind.

Thoughts hold a far more devastating reality than a punch in the face, because when something is tangible - when it's physical, you have a chance to remove it. Run from it.

How do you run from a ghost? How do you run from the invisible beating in your own head? No matter how much you cower and scream for it to stop, it can't hear you. And not a single soul can see it.

So that's the flaw I see in that statement people love so much, because thing is... thoughts are words.

I wish sometimes, people understood the power their words have - the power their voices have.

Both for incredible good, and also for incredible cruelty.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may very well be what kills me.

Words are not just words, they can be weapons, and it hurts me far more than it should that people aren't more kind to each other with them.

If you think words aren't powerful enough to cripple a person, then hearing someone say words like -

"I'm not in love with you any more."

"You're worthless."

"You're ugly."

“You can’t do anything right.”

Shouldn't matter right? They're just words.

But the fact is, words shape our reality, words turn into thoughts and thoughts control us.

They can hurt or heal us, build or break a person and no matter who you are, if you have words it's a power you have.

It's a shame to see people use them so viciously towards each other.

But then again, I guess this is why I prefer dogs or any animal really.

They can't talk.

Speaking of dogs, now that I'm not choking to death I lean over and look at Gizmo laying on the floor, staring up at me with a lazy expression.

Thanks for the show of concern there Gizzy, good to know if I was ever dying you'd be supportive and just lay there and watch.

I'm sure he welcomed Jamie into my house with adoring looks last night, like the little tart he is.

Everyone always says you can't buy love, well that simply isn't true. With Gizmo, his asking price is bacon.

Dogs are loyal, as if .

"Claire? Ye alright?"

Jamie’s voice snaps me out of my mental gymnastics, and I blink at him like I haven't heard him properly.

"Huh?"

"I've been asking ye if ye were okay for the past couple minutes, ye completely zoned out," he says, keeping his tone light, but there's concern there that he isn't hiding well.

"Oh... Sorry, I do that a lot. I'm okay," I say, looking down to my lap and then start to shift over to get off the bed. "I'm just going to go brush my teeth, the taste in my mouth is awful."

I'm okay.

The two words I repeat like a broken record that couldn't be further from the truth. But it's just a reflex at this point.

Jamie doesn't say anything, just nods and watches while I go to the bathroom. Once I'm in there, I'm relieved once I finally brush my teeth to have the taste of mint as opposed to the old cardboard taste I had in my mouth when I woke up.

When I make my way back into the room, I look to Jamie and catch him with his eyes focused on me but not on my face; so I glance down, seeing my bare legs and quickly tug my shirt down even though it's useless.

"Why do ye do that?" He asks, sounding curious.

My eyes dart back to him, as I reach the bed and sit on it; pulling the covers up over my legs, and fold my hands in my lap.

"Do what?"

"Hide yerself," he says with a simple tone, but there's some ambiguity to it; like he's not just talking about the fact I cover my body.

I glance sideways at him, and shrug my shoulders. "Why do police cover dead bodies in public at a murder scene?"

Jamie frowns, and looks confused by what I asked but answers anyway. "Erm, I dinna ken. Because people dinna want to see that? They dinna like to see it?”

"There's your answer," I shrug again, looking down to my lap and wondering if I asked him politely would he smack my head against the wall, it'd hurt less than this headache.

"Wait a second... That's how ye feel about yer body? That no one wants to see it, or they wouldna like it if they did?" He asks, sounding shocked.

Shame gives you one hell of a body image, smirky.

"Maybe," I mumble, wanting to change the subject. I could kick myself for even answering him in the first place "Anyway... you don't have to stay, I'm all good and sober now. You're off the hook, you can go home."

I still can't think of a reason as to why Jamie helped me the way he did, but the only thing my brain keeps screaming at me is that it was out of pity or obligation, unless he's waiting around to get something from me for it.

"Oh no ye don't," he tutts, shifting up on the bed and moving until he's on his knees, and my stomach leaps into my throat when he throws one of his legs over mine until he's straddling my thighs.

I gape at him while he gives me a determined look. "Yer going to answer me, is that what ye think about yerself?"

...how the hell did I end up with smirky in my fucking lap?

And more importantly, why am I not panicking?

"I - uh, what - what are you doing?" I fumble, feeling trapped in a revolving door hell because I'm either stuck staring at his face or his torso, or even worse his goddamn crotch and I wish I was actually blind at this very moment.

He sits on the very tops of my thighs, with his knees perched either side of my hips and rests his hands either side of my head against the wall behind us, keeping most of his weight off of me.

"I'm not letting ye avoid my question, that's what I'm doing."

"Why does it matter what I think about myself?" I say, sucking in a breath when he leans closer, holding his eyes with mine and raises his brows like it's a challenge.

"Do ye think there's something wrong with how ye look?" He presses further, and I lean back against the wall wishing it was magic and would just let me disappear into it.

My heart is thundering in my chest and I'm struggling with where I should put my hands, so I just hover them above his thighs not knowing where else they could go, I can't touch him.

There's a war in my head that's freaking the fuck out of me, because one part is screaming come closer while the other shouts get away, and I can't make sense of it.

"Well we can't all have the ego the size of Saturn that you have smirky, not everyone thinks they're the hottest shit since sliced bread," I throw back with my voice tightening, trying to avoid the question and wanting to scamper away from this whole interaction.

His lips pull into a small smile as he tilts his head, and I hold my breath while he traces his eyes over my face.

He's close, too close.

Why can't he just be a normal fucking person, did no one teach him about personal space?

"Ego is the biggest symptom of insecurity, ye ken," he says with a slow absent drawl while he stays focused on my face, and my brows crease together at what he says.

Did he just tell me he's insecure in some kind of roundabout way? Insecure about what?

Has he seen himself?

He's beautif- wait no, cut that shit out brain.

"Tell me one thing ye like about yerself," he says all of a sudden, with a thoughtful demanding look.

I give him a confused look, not understanding why the hell he's wanting that and I really don't have the energy to explain why I have nothing to say to it.

I reply with stubborn silence, which only looks like it encourages him and he presses his hips down a bit to pin my thighs against the bed; removing his hands from the wall and moving them to my waist.

"Tell me," he warns, and the devious glint in his eye makes my stomach drop.

"Kiss my ass," I fire back, wanting to slap myself over how out of breath I sound when his face moves closer and hovers barely an inch from mine.

"I'd love to," he grins, flexing his fingers against my waist and it makes me jump. "Last chance, tell me something ye like about yerself."

I glare at him, not budging on it and his grin only grows larger. "Fine, guess we're doing this the hard way."

I don't have time to wonder what he's going to do before his fingers move up, tickling against my ribs and I shriek, my body jolting and wriggling around like I'm having a fit.

I fucking hate being tickled.

"Jamie! You prick! St - Stop! I mean it - fuck! STOP!" I stutter out in yelps while my limbs flail, but he has my legs trapped completely while he bellows out a loud amused laugh at my reaction.

"Tell me." he demands, only wriggling his fingers faster along my ribs as I squeal.

"I'm not kid- kidding, I can't - you need to -" 

I’m laughing so hard I can't breathe and I lose control of my arms flying around.

It's the kind of laughing where you crack your funny bone against something, you're hysterical from the torture.

I don't even realize what's happening as I squeeze my eyes shut, wheezing and begging him until the thing that I was worried about happens so fast I barely register it.

Somehow my elbow manages to connect straight with his jaw, cracking him that hard it knocks a loud grunted sound from Jamie like it's knocked the air out of his lungs and he falls against me.

I'm catching my breath in large gasps and snap my eyes open to feel him with his face rested against my shoulder groaning.

Oh my god, I've knocked smirky unconscious.

"Shit smirk- Jamie, are you okay?" I rush out, trying to push him up but he just stays slumped against me.

Jamie groans again, grunting out, "Aside from the dislocated jaw, I think I'm fine."

Oh thank fuck he's conscious.

I push at his chest to try and get him to sit up, and this time he obliges; moving to sit up straight and my hands immediately go to his face to inspect his jaw.

He looks very dazed.

His brows are pulled tight together, with a pained pout on his lips and I do genuinely feel awful; I know I've wanted to slap him since I met him but now I just feel fucking terrible I've actually hurt him.

"What the hell were you thinking!" I scold, tilting his jaw up to run my fingers over it with my face in a frown while he watches my face. "This isn't some romantic movie Jamie, tickling someone is the easiest way to get the shit kicked out of you. 

"Seemed like a good idea at the time," he murmurs with a half chuckle under his breath, just watching my expression.

His jaw is red and it definitely looks like it's going to leave a nasty bruise, for god sake. I tried to tell him to stop, and this is why. I'm not cute and giggly when I'm tickled. I turn into fucking Jackie Chan apparently.

I cup one side of his jaw while my fingers ghost over the side I punched with my elbow, and my frown deepens. "Yeah, real genius idea smirky -  you've got the swollen jaw to prove it. Are you okay? I'll get you some ice - I am so sorry."

I'm wondering why I'm not actually gloating about this, but I feel so damn guilty.

Even if he deserved it, that's what you get for tickling a person you jerk.

Jamie stays quiet, wetting his lips while he just keeps his eyes on my face and let's me continue my manic fawning over his jaw.

I hate hurting people.

"M'okay," he says sounding distracted, and I don't even spend time noticing that I'm not having a meltdown over the fact I'm touching him; I'm far too guilty and worried.

He's being far too quiet and now I'm positive I've given him a concussion.

I'm trying to be as gentle as possible with him, but he seems quite content with what I'm doing.

"Hey, at least you're pretty enough to pull off looking good with a bruised jaw - gives you some character, I’m sure it'll work like a charm and impress some girl... or guy," I jest, trying to lighten the mood. I don't even notice the compliment before I've already said it and wish I could shove it back in my mouth.

I've almost even forgotten the fact he's still straddling me.

Jamie's hands come up to wrap his fingers around my wrists, and he pulls my hands down gently, darting his eyes over my face with a lazy smile and a surprised lift of his brows.

"There's only one person I'm trying to impress at the moment, and she's no’ making it fucking easy," he says wetting his lips, and keeps hold of my wrists as he slowly brings them down to rest in my lap.

I'm just going to ignore the fact my hands are now a stone's throw away from his bloody junk.

I give him a playful pout. "Need me to sock you in the eye? Maybe a black eye will seal the deal, you know girls love the bad boy and all."

His eyes squint for a brief moment, looking at me like I'm oblivious to something that should be glaringly obvious, and he swallows. "What's yer opinion on taking risks, Claire?"

Normally I'd be a smart ass but with the way he's looking at me I'm really beginning to think I gave him brain damage, so I feel bad and decide to humor him.

"I think you should only take them if it's something you really want and you can handle the consequences."

Jamie takes in my answer, not saying anything and swallows as he gives me a slow nod and flicks his eyes between my own.

His brows pinch together, and he sucks in a sharp breath "...Please dinna kill me"

My nose scrunches up in confusion. "Why would I kill y-"

And just like that, my words are cut off and left stuck in my throat when he moves forward and his soft lips connect with mine.

***

 

 



 

 

 

Chapter Text

"I put a spell on you

Because you're mine"

(I Put A Spell On You - Creedence Clearwater Revival)  

***

***

There's always moments in our life when we make choices.

That's all life is really, a series of choices. Never knowing whether that choice is going to be the biggest mistake, or best decision of your life.

This is one of those moments for me.

What I do right now could be the best decision or my worst mistake.

The second Jamie’s lips touched mine I felt paralyzed, I couldn't move. I could barely comprehend what was going on.

I hadn't been touched by another person or really had an ounce of intimacy or affection in years, and it felt similar to being locked in a dark cell for years and suddenly being thrust into the light.

It felt foreign, like I'd been desensitized to human contact and now all of my sense exploded at once.

I felt completely blinded by it.

His lips were warm, they were soft like the feeling you have laying down on a fresh pillow for the first time and it sent my mind completely blank.

It wasn't forceful, or hard but it was purposeful and delicate.

What must have lasted only a few seconds felt like years, before he pulled his lips back a fraction and hovered them over mine while his breathing came out in shallow breaths.

I can't seem to find my own breathing, it's like I'm holding all my oxygen in my body too scared to let it out.

I don't know what the fuck is going on. It's like my body doesn't know how to respond, just stunned into this catatonic state of shock.

I don't even remember what it was like to be kissed, what it felt like, and I don't know what to do with the fact that what he just did didn't feel... bad.

Jamie lets go of my wrists, and draws his careful hands up to hold either side of my jaw, ghosting his thumbs across my cheeks like he's either soothing me or reassuring me.

Every movement he makes is slow and apprehensive, completely unsure if himself and it's so strange compared to the forward cocky idiot I've seen since I met him.

His eyes are focused down on my mouth, before he flicks them up and focuses them on my own stunned ones.

I still can't move.

It's not like all those other times when I was frozen from fear, or because I was too insecure to move - I'm not scared, I'm just fucking beside myself.

It's wondrous how a split second can take a moment and flip it on its head, take the reality around you and transform it into something entirely unrecognizable.

This moment and the one that existed a minute ago between us seem like they're from different dimensions.

"...Considering the fact that ye havena punched me in the face yet..." Jamie drags out in a soft anxious tone, swallowing and wetting his lips before he continues. "Would ye mind if I pushed my luck and did that again?"

His lips are still hovering near mine, with our breaths mixing together and I can't get a single coherent thought straight in my head.

I just stare at him, feeling my stomach doing some kind of gymnastics inside my body and the atmosphere feels like its gotten so thick around us it's like it's constricting my lungs.

"Can I?" He whispers, begging for some kind of direction with his eyes and looking like he's bracing himself for me to start screaming at him any second.

Why am I not screaming at him?

It's like my body and my brain aren't cooperating, because all my body is doing is wanting to chase that feeling it just had again, praying for it as if I've got cancer and he's the cure.

All at the same time that my brain doesn't know what the fuck it's doing.

I let out the breath I'd been holding, and he dares to lean forward and brush his lips across my lower lip; and he sighs closing his eyes.

"Do ye want me to kiss ye again?" He murmurs, with his low voice barely audible.

I swear you could hear a pin drop in the room, even if there was music blaring around us; it would still sound dead silent.

I'm nodding.

... Why the fuck am I nodding?

I did not give my head permission to move and it's just going off doing whatever it pleases apparently.

I want him to kiss me? Do I want that? Apparently my fucking subconscious does but I’d appreciate if that bitch would at least discuss it with me first.

I feel like I'm being crushed by the pressure around us, it's like a pulse with its own hum that's vibrating around us and it's only coiling my stomach tighter.

"Please say something, I need more than that - I need ye to tell me," he swipes the pads of his thumbs against my skin while his warm palms holding my jaw feel like it's sending off small waves of electricity through my body. "Is it okay if I do it again?"

You know, I have a strong feeling this is going to bite me in the ass once my rational brain catches the fuck up with what's going on, but seeing as it’s apparently short circuited, I barely have control of my own mouth when the quiet "it's okay" leaves it.

The words hardly get out, before it's all the go ahead Jamie needs and those warm lips are capturing my bottom one; pressing a gentle kiss there like he's waiting for my reaction.

Here we are again at make or break choices that change everything, mistakes or best decisions.

Because that's what the moment is when my lips finally press against his when I kiss him back, completely insecure in the action. It's as if I've never kissed someone before.

The second that happens, Jamie sucks in a sharp breath through his nose, taking a firmer grip on my jaw in his large hands and my head starts spinning from the flip in the atmosphere again.

It went from heavy and intense to sparking into a static of explosive bolts of electricity; light and floating around us while it swept over my skin and made tingles rupture through it.

My hands move to rest against his bare thighs; frankly just needing something to hold on to when his lips start to fold and caress against my own; listening to his breathing get heavier and I get absolutely punched in the chest by the feeling.

His lips are careful, gentle and tender with their slow movements against my own, and I've never felt someone kiss me like this.

This sounds strange, but it feels like he means it.

It's not the kind of kissing I was used to, which was always just a means to an end. It never even felt like they wanted to be kissing me really, more so just following steps like you would in a recipe to get what they're really after.

This...this feels like it matters.

And good god that feels consuming.

Jamie moves his hands away from my jaw, continuing to kiss me while he takes hold of my hands on his thighs and brings my arms up to wrap around his neck.

He traces his fingers from my forearms, feathering them down my arms and starts to deepen the kiss, teasing his tongue against my lips until I invite it in and let it explore my own.

The minute that happens, a low drawn out approving groan vibrates in his chest; while his fingers trace from my arms down until they take hold of my waist and start to slide down.

I can hear my pulse thundering in my ears, booming that loud it's deafening with how erratic my heart rate is.

His palms go down until he takes hold of my hips, but he doesn't go further and just continues to melt my fucking senses with that mouth of his.

His fingers tense and grip tighter into my hips while the kiss starts to become more needy, the motions less controlled and our tongues rolling against and tasting each other.

It feels like we're two magnets being pulled together, the force of the eagerness there knocking my breath out of me in quick pants as I grip tighter around his neck.

I never paid that much attention in school, it always felt like I didn't belong there but at this second I'm finally comprehending those chemical reactions I saw in science class; I feel like I'm physically experiencing them.

When two substances come into contact and it just implodes, setting off a chain reaction you can't control.

My skin feels like it's flaming, and for the first time since I can honestly ever remember, I actually feel something.

That numb baseline I'm so familiar with is washed away and I'm experiencing so many sensations I almost forgot existed.

It almost feels like having a heartbeat again after it's been dead for years.

Pleasure.

A sensation I completely forgot the meaning of is raging rife through all of my nerve endings, firing through me so intensely I can't help the small soft moan that travels out of my throat and into the kiss.

Jamie's body tenses as soon as he hears it, and my back gets pushed harder against the wall when he pushes forward and kisses me with more force; his own hoarse moan coming out of him that gets muffled by our lips clashing.

I can't make out a single thought in my head, all I can do is feel him and get lost in it; I don't even know how to stop.

I don't have to worry about that however, because as quickly as the kissing was becoming desperate, Jamie ripped his lips from mine; sucking in sharp breaths and rested his forehead against my own.

We both stay still, trying to regulate our breathing and I feel completely fucking dazed from the whole ordeal.

"Are ye okay?" Jamie asks, out of breath, his voice tight and hoarse; dropped to a deep octave like it does when he's first woken up.

I gulp, trying to grip my bearings and I'm not really sure how I feel about anything at the moment.

Dizzy.

I feel kind of dizzy. And confused.

"I'm okay," I answer under my breath, not knowing how accurate that is but it's all I can come up with.

I'm struggling to think of words at the moment.

Jamie sighs, sounding relieved and I feel his body relax while his thumbs start smoothing circles against the material of my shirt on my hips.

I'm surprised he stopped if I'm being honest, it's not what I'd expect from him. Then again, I didn't expect him to kiss me either.

No one else would really ever stop until they got what they wanted... so what does he want?

"That wasna what I expected," he sighs out in one breath, pulling his face back to look at me and I struggle to keep my eyes on him when I see his heavy eyes, flushed cheeks and pink swollen lips, with his hair all messed about.

I don't know how to take that or what he means by it, but whatever face I make has him clarifying it.

"Didna think I'd survive trying that, thought you'd kick me out or something."

"I'm just as surprised as you," I say my thoughts out loud before I can catch them, still beside myself over what just happened.

And the fact I enjoyed it.

My brows furrow as I look at him. "Why did you kiss me?"

Why didn't I stop you?

Is the question that's starting to scream in my head.

He sucks his lower lip under his teeth, looking like he's picking his words but then decides on a simple, "because I wanted to."

I blink at him and my brows crease further, genuinely looking perplexed. "No, I mean - I literally just elbowed you in the face and your reaction was to kiss me?"

Jamie presses his lips together as his eyes light up and crease at the corners with the smile that breaks out on his face.

"And ye kissed me back - and it felt really fuckin good, might I add," he points out, ignoring my questions and looking absolutely beside himself with satisfaction over it.

I just keep looking at him as the reality of that slowly starts to sink in, and I realize in that moment that things won't be the same between us now.

We kissed.

I kissed smirky.

Fuck.

I don't want to freak out. But that feels like it's zapped my brain alive and all those thoughts that went into white noise are yelling like they're in red neon lights.

Granted, before a few minutes ago, he was still just the blue eyed smirky idiot that I wanted to strangle most of the time.

Now he's still all of those things, but we've kissed and I'll be fucked if I have the first clue about what it means.

"Claire," Jamie's voice grabs my attention, and he leans forward holding my gaze.

"Relax, we just kissed. I didna get ye pregnant," he says with a raise of his brows. "No need to panic over it - the world isna going to end, I promise."

I still really don't know what to think, or how to feel about it aside from confused as hell.

How is he so calm about this?

Well I guess for him this kind of thing is as casual as buttering toast, but my mind is jumping through hoops over it.

Why am I not pissed at him?

Jamie's face becomes more serious, while his voice becomes sincere. "Did I make ye uncomfortable?"

I clear my throat, shaking my head and hope it shakes the million thoughts spinning in my head away. "No - no you didn't, I just...I just need a minute. Don't really know what to think."

That's the thing that's becoming the hardest thing to wrap my head around, that I don't understand.

It was quiet.

When I was kissing him, that constant noise like smashing dinner plates on repeat in my head that never leaves me alone, went away.

My mind was quiet.

I don't remember the last time that happened. I also didn't realize how loud my mind was until I experienced what it felt like to go away for a brief moment.

It was almost peaceful.

Jamie watches my face, and then gives me a soft smile. "Can ye do me a favor?"

My heart sinks when he says that, because that's what I'm waiting for - everyone always wants something.

I lift my brows to tell him to continue, and he brings his hands up to smooth up my arms that are still wrapped around his neck and starts to unwind them.

"Just let yerself enjoy something for once."

Wait - huh?

That catches me off guard and he notices, but he moves his eyes to watch as his hands pull my own to smooth down his chest, going further to his stomach until he finally places them on his hips.

That action alone has my insides knotting that hard I try not to wheeze.

"When ye were kissing me, did it feel good? Did ye enjoy it?" He asks, tilting his head and looking genuinely interested in my answer.

I can only manage a nod, thinking I may collapse in on myself in embarrassment if I try to verbalize how good it actually felt.

He purses his lips with a shrug, but I can tell he's trying to fight one of his cocky smirks that I actually admitted that. "So, just let it be exactly that. Something ye enjoyed. No need to torture yerself over it - let it be simple."

I'm not really sure what to say back to that, so I just stare at him. Is this part of his voodoo fuckboy magic? Is that what I'm getting sucked into right now?

This is making me uneasy.

I feel like Jamie is quicksand, and the minute you consider taking a step in you just get sucked into it and drown, and the more you struggle the quicker you sink.

He keeps watching me, looking at me like he's trying to figure out what's going on in my head. "Besides, it doesna need to happen again - whether it does or not is completely up to you."

I give him a strange look, pulling my face back. "What?"

That cheeky smirk pulls back on his lips and he leans forward. "If ye want to kiss me again go right ahead, whenever ye like. But I willna be kissing ye again unless ye ask me to."

Alright, I was confused before but now I'm genuinely fucking lost.

"Then why did you kiss me in the first place? If you just wanted it to only happen once?" I ask, because at this point I don't see it happening again. I don't think I could ask him to kiss me and I sure as shit don't think I could kiss him.

Wait hang on a fucking minute, I want it to happen again?

He gives me a sly look, like he's amused with himself. "Never said I only wanted it to happen once. But I'm really interested to find out if you want it to happen again - worth a risk don't ye think?"

My face drops at what he says, trying to decipher it but he just lifts himself up onto his knees but leans his face down and keeps his lips close enough so I can feel his breath and my muscles clench.

"Can I use yer shower?" He asks, looking at me with lazy eyes and I could punch myself in the face over how high pitched my voice squeaked out.

"Sure, go ahead."

"Want anything from me before I go?" He drawls, not budging how close his lips are hovering near mine.

"No, why?" I rush out, sounding like a chipmunk that had just been run over.

Jamie smiles to himself, sounding amused. "Just checking."

He climbs off of me, standing next to the bed and I snap my eyes down to my lap when I see him adjust himself in his underwear as he turns to walk towards the bathroom.

As soon as the door closes behind him I smack my hands to my forehead, and look to Gizmo who is sitting on the floor staring at me with an accusing stare.

"Don't look at me like that! I didn't know what I was doing!" I whisper yell at him, to which he only snorts.

He thinks I'm full of shit.

All that keeps going around in my head about the choice I made, is did I just make the worst mistake?

Things have changed between Jamie and I now, and only time is going to give me the answer to that question.

I look to the bathroom door, then back to Gizmo distressed and flop my hands into my lap.

"What the fuck just happened?"

***

Chapter Text

"Darling you got to let me know

Should I stay or should I go?"

(The Clash - Should I Stay or Should I Go)

***

 

It's Saturday, it's been a day since Jamie kissed me and I'm still just as fucking confused as I was when it happened.

It's all I can think about.

My brain is going haywire trying to figure it out and understand it, and all I seem to end up doing is spiral myself further into a mental hockey match I don't know how to play.

He didn't try to kiss me again, and I can't figure out whether I'm happy or upset about that.

It's driving me more mental than I already am.

Even my journal entry last night was the same bullshit thing.

"17/4/2018 #339

Why did he kiss me?

Why did I let him?

Why did I like it?

Need to figure it out."

After he showered yesterday he got dressed, but not before walking around my room in a towel picking his clothes up; smirking to himself when he caught me staring.

I don't know why I was staring, it was like I couldn't control my eyes.

Watching him walk around the room, clinging the towel low on his hips in a fist, droplets of water falling from his damp hair onto his broad shoulders that tensed and flexed as he moved around, made me feel...

I'm not sure, but I felt something and it sent me into even more of a head fuck spiral.

I don't remember the last time I felt attracted to someone, barely remember what it even feels like. I'm so used to basically holding up a crucifix and hissing at anything male that comes near me.

I know that, logically and subjectively by all rights he is an aesthetically well made human. I can appreciate that and know that, as I would with anything I could tell is aesthetically well put together - like how you can understand a nice looking car when you see one. But I'm lost about whether I just know that about him now, or whether I find him attractive.

There's a difference between understanding someone is attractive and being attracted to them.

How could he possibly be attracted to me, though? Do you kiss people you aren't attracted to?

If he were a car he'd be like an old cool sleek black mustang and I'd be... I'd be one of those death trap cars with duct tape holding it together that nearly blows up when you try and start it.

I mean even in comparison to that girl he brought to the diner, I'm nothing like that. She had a body that could give a blind man an erection - she was like a sensual panther.

I'm like a sloth. A sloth with jokes.

But... despite knowing that, I'm still catching myself looking at him and noticing things about him I didn't before and it's infuriating for my brain to comprehend.

I didn't really know how to act around him yesterday, which he seemed to get a kick out of. He just spun me through such a loop with that kiss, that my usual sarcasm and abrasive attitude was swapped with me being barely able to look at him or stuttering over my words.

I knew how to act when I was trying to get him away from me, or telling him to fuck off.

What the hell do I do around him if I don't want that?

He also fixed my cupboard door in the kitchen that had fallen off at some point when I was unconscious even though I argued about it, I still get so embarrassed over this house. The bit I couldn't understand was that he didn't look like he was taking pity on me, he just passed it off as something he felt like doing and I was more stumped when he didn't ask for anything in return.

If anything he seemed grateful that I ended up letting him do it. How does that make sense?

He thanked me for letting him do it?

Is he going to throw it in my face at some point? Hold it over my head later on?

That's what people have always done when they've helped me, used it as an excuse to act like they own me because of it.

He also seemed like he was just finding excuses not to leave; which I didn't understand either and then eventually I told him I had to work that night and he drove me to pick up my car from the bar; and then offered to take Gizmo to Johns and drop him home.

Why is he being so nice?

He played it off saying he wanted to spend time with Gizmo, and threw in a comment saying, "If we're going to be friends, I should probably get to know yer boyfriend a bit better."

I felt like I was going insane around him, everytime he spoke I'd catch myself glancing at his mouth, and Jamie noticed as well but he didn't mention it; he'd only smile to himself over it.

I've gone from being irritated around him to fucking nervous and I hate it. It makes me feel vulnerable and that scares the shit out of me.

I don't want to get close to him, I don't want to care. I much preferred it when I wanted to slap him not kiss him.

Do I want to kiss him again?

That question has plagued my brain on repeat and I barely got any sleep because of it.

Well... less sleep than usual which isn't much to begin with.

I'm not even entertaining the notion of feelings, I barely know the guy. I've chalked his interest down to what I guess it would be to any of his other conquests; just some fun.

Which makes me not understand this whole friend angle he's playing at.

I don't kiss my friends. Other people might, however it's never been a habit I've gotten into or want to start.

I don't even know what he is to me, aside from just fucking headache inducing confusion.

I just don't see this ending well at all, and the most infuriating part of all is that I logically know that and yet for some reason, my stupid emotions don't want to stay away from him now.

It's just... that feeling that I had when we kissed. Feeling anything that wasn't pain was so addicting, so exhilarating and now it's like now my senses have had a taste of it, it's all they're wanting to chase after.

I don't know how to have that again and still keep him at arms length.

I don't know how to experience it and still keep myself safe.

It's terrifying.

...And yet I can't seem to stop, or control myself really.

Which would explain why when Jamie turned up at my house tonight, I didn't slam the door in his face.

As soon as I saw him leaning against my doorway with his arm above his head, wearing his usual brown jacket that I’d started to associate with him now, my stomach did that weird flippy thing again.

His head tilted with a lazy smile, giving me a once over with his eyes and wet his lips. "Hey heartbreaker."

As much as my heart felt like it was trying to beat it's way up my throat I tried to look composed and hide the fact all my organs felt like they clenched inside me.

"You always turn up at people's houses unannounced smirky?" I ask, folding my arms over my chest so I can avoid giving away how nervous I feel by fiddling with my fingers.

He shrugs with one shoulder, watching my face. "I still dinna have yer number- thought we could hang out tonight. Ye havena slammed the door in my face either, that's progress."

I frown at him, crossing my arms tighter. "What if I had plans? You can't just turn up whenever you feel like it."

He lifts a brow; relaxing against the door frame and shoves his free hand into his jacket pocket. "Do ye have plans?"

If you call making a dent in my couch watching TV and trying to distract my brain then sure, I'm fully booked.

I press my lips together, sighing out of my nose. "No but that's not the poi-"

"Have plans wi’ me then," he cuts in, then smirks and pulls his hand from his pocket to dangle the pig ornament in front of me. "If it'll make ye feel better, ye can blame him. Just pretend I blackmailed you again."

I stare at the pig and then back to Jamie. "You kept that?"

He lifts his brows as he shoves it back in his pocket, with an exaggerated dead serious tone. "Of course I did, ye never know when you'll need a flying pig - it's my good luck charm now."

I squint at him, stuck on what to say. Which is frustrating me. Normally I'd have some quick come back and now my brain is on the fritz around this idiot.

He bites his lip at my silence, then flashes that annoying half smile at me with a lift of his brows. "So, should I stay or should I go? Can I come in?"

I stay silent, willing my brain to stop acting like it's made of fucking pudding and nod at him before I can realize.

"No you can stay... I guess."

Do I just lose control of my motor skills around this sly blue eyed bastard?

I again, did not give my head permission to fucking nod and barely thought before I replied, it was just a reflex. Me and my subconscious need to have a serious bloody discussion.

I miss when my reflex around him was "Fuck off"

We're meant to be a team and right now it's making executive decisions without my approval.

He pushes off the doorway with a triumphant lift of his chin, sauntering a few steps forward to stand in front of me and nudges the door close behind him with his heel.

I clear my throat, asking the thing I should have the second I opened the door. "What are you doing here? What do you want?"

I hate that I feel like I have no control of my actions around him. The logical part of my brain was screaming to tell him to go home and yet here I am inviting him in and barely able to get my thoughts straight.

Maybe his saliva is poisonous.

That must be what it is.

I've been poisoned by him, and now it's slowly eating my brain and making me act like a twit.

He ducks his face down to mine, looking entertained when he notices me suck in a sharp breath and hold it. "Ye really want to ken what I want?"

"No I just asked because I like the sound of my voice, what do you think?" I deadpan, swallowing when his eyes light up over my sarcasm before his lids hood his eyes and he moves to lean his lips close to my ear.

My whole body goes rigid, I can't seem to let the breath out that I'm holding; and it's making my blood pressure rise when he drawls in a low voice against my ear.

"I want..." he trails off, pausing to run his lips across the shell of my ear and I'm positive I’m going to pass out any second now from lack of oxygen. 

"...Pizza."

Huh?

He pulls back to look at my face, looking smug as shit over my frozen wide eyed expression and then he adds. "Preferably without olives, and some extra mushrooms... And I'd like to watch some movies - maybe listen to some music. If yer feeling really risky maybe ye might even tell me some things about yerself."

I blink at him, still reeling from having him so close to me.

"... You invited yourself over... for pizza and movies?" I check like I can't comprehend it.

Why does he have to do that here? He can eat pizza and watch movies at his own house. And why is he so fucking persistent about knowing things about me?

He gives me a simple nod, smiling to himself wider at how frazzled I look. "Aye. My treat"

"No wait, hang on a minute you're not paying for my food. I can pay for my own," I argue, drawing the line there.

I don't let people pay for things, then I owe them. It makes me really uncomfortable and they always use it against me.

Jamie looks even more pleased with himself. "So we're getting pizza then? Good to know. Let's go sit down and I'll order it - what kind do ye like?"

My lips part as I stare at him, but he doesn't give me a chance to say anything as he steps around me with a dramatic joyful grin; sliding his jacket off his shoulders and walks towards my couch to throw it on the arm of it.

How did he... ? When did I agree - what just happened?

"There's my handsome lad," Jamie coos the second he sees Gizmo looking dead on his back on the couch, snoring.

He crouches down, smushing Gizmos face between his hands, and Gizmo snorts himself awake; his butt wiggling against the couch the second he recognizes Jamie. "Did ye miss me? Ye want some pizza too?"

I'm still just staring at him over my shoulder with my mouth hung open, trying to catch up to the fact that within five minutes I've somehow agreed to spending the night with him.

I still have pudding brain. He melted my brain with that kiss and it hasn't recovered.

I can't help the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've opened the door to something else far more dangerous than Jamie the second I let him in.

That's the problem, I let him in. Now I don't know how to get him out, and I don't mean out of my house.

I mean out of my head.

I watch as Jamie squishes Gizmos face while he gushes over him, who is absolutely loving the attention like the damn traitor he is, and I fight the warmth that starts spreading through my chest when I see how bright Jamie's adoring face is while he talks like a toddler to my dog.

Honestly, Gizmo may as well be his boyfriend at this point.

"So what pizza did ye want?" Jamie asks again, looking back at me over his shoulder.

I'm still frozen on the spot, comprehending the predicament I've just put myself in.

"Uh...uhm, Hawaiin?" I fumble, my voice cracking with stress that I squeeze my eyes shut over and scold myself in my head.

Jamie's silence has me peeling my eyes open and when I look at him, his eyes are doing a very shameless trace of my legs until they stop on my behind and he drags his tongue over his lower lip; finally flicking his eyes up to my face after I feel like he has stared long enough to paint a picture of my ass with his eyes closed.

...Subtle as a whore in church you are.

I forgot I was wearing just a shirt and my sleeping shorts which may as well just be underwear, but I didn't exactly plan on having company tonight.

He gives me a sweet smile that looks totally unbelievable and cocks his head, but his voice sounds ambiguous. "Tonight should be fun"

No smirky, not the fun you're after. You need to Netflix and chill the fuck out.

...Tonight seems like it's going to be nothing but trouble.

***

I wonder how their night is going to pan out. 

Chapter Text

"There goes my baby

She knows how to rock 'n' roll

She drives me crazy

She gives me hot and cold fever

Then she leaves me in a cool cool sweat"

(Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen)

***

So Jamie paid for the pizza, and I hope he chokes on it.

I bet that sneaky son of a bitch could sell ice to a penguin, god he's infuriating.

Know what else is infuriating? The fact I'm actually enjoying his fucking company.

When the pizza arrived, he answered the door before I could; shoving the money at the teenager and telling him to keep the change before turning with an innocent smile to look at me where I was glaring at him from the couch.

He then said if I was really upset about it, I could just pay for the food next time.

Next time.

I asked why he assumed there would be a next time, and he said, "well, if there isna a next time, obviously ye dinna mind me paying for the pizza tonight and just leaving it at that."

I sat with a petulant glare at the TV while Jamie picked a movie, again looking happy with himself when I didn't argue again about there being a next time where I would buy him dinner.

He picked the movie Gremlins, which surprised me but also made me give him a suspicious squint.

When I asked him why he picked it, he simply pointed at Gizmo and then looked at me with a 'well duh' expression, saying, "it wasna hard to put two and two together and realize ye like that movie."

... Okay, so maybe it's my favorite movie of all time, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of telling him that.

Gizmo sat on the ground watching us as we started to eat our pizza, staring at Jamie like he was Romeo and Gizmo was a tubby slobbering love sick whore of a Juliet; and I rolled my eyes when Jamie tried to inconspicuously pick bits of meat off his pizza and drop them on the floor for him.

Gizmo isn't a quiet eater, he's like a vacuum that practically inhales his food, but I decided to not say anything; smiling to myself when Jamie was practically eating a vegetarian pizza by the time Gizmo was done harassing him.

I was picking at my own pizza, following the same ritual I always do with eating all the topping first before I eat the base - it's an old habit I haven't been able to kick, sometimes old rituals just stick with you.

"Okay - No, stop, stop. I canna watch this anymore - what are ye doing? " Jamie asks from his spot next to me, where he has sat far closer than he needs to.

He's glancing from my naked pizza slice, then to my face with an incredulous expression.

I look to my pizza slice and then back to him. "Knitting a sweater, what does it look like I'm doing?"

He rolls his eyes, wiping some sauce from the corner of his mouth away with his thumb before sucking it into his mouth and releasing it. "Look, I was able to look past the pineapple on pizza thing - you psycho - but I canna sit here and watch ye eat the topping and then the base like some lunatic."

I just give him a blank stare, so he continues his rant. "It's like watching someone take a bite out of the middle of a burrito, or taking a bite out of a whole kit kat instead of breaking it apart - were ye raised by savages?"

Well... alcoholics that never didn’t always feed me properly, but same thing right?

Is this really bothering him? Is this like a thing for him?

This is fantastic.

I watch his face as I turn my empty pizza slice around, bringing it to my mouth and take a bite out of the crust first and watch him look like he's about to have a mental breakdown.

"Some people just want to watch the world burn, Jamie," I shrug, fighting the urge to laugh at the way his mouth is hung open with wide mortified eyes.

"Yer going to eat the rest of yer pizza like that now, aren't ye?" He looks disgusted by the thought and I love it.

"Absolutely," I agree without missing a beat and turn my face away to watch the TV again, ignoring Jamie just staring at me while I continue to corrupt the simple act of eating pizza.

Fun night, huh Jamie?

I continue to watch the movie, literally able to feel Jamie's disapproving stare on me; I can feel him cringe every time I bite into my pizza and I can't hide the amused look on my face.

"Ye ken, ye kinda remind me of a Mogwai," Jamie says all of a sudden sounding thoughtful, and I look sideways at him pausing my chewing.

"Why? If you feed me after midnight you think I'll turn into a gremlin?"

I see that usual sly smirk pull on his lips. "No, I think if I got ye wet you'd surprise me."

I drop my pizza into the box and whip my shocked face to him.

"Jamie!"

He blows out a laugh that vibrates through his lips that he was trying to hold in, and gives me the fakest innocent look I’ve ever seen. "What? I was going to say ye look like you've got strong legs - think you'd be a great swimmer."

"Bullshit - that's not what you meant and you know it," I narrow my eyes at him, scrunching my lips up to not give him the satisfaction of a smile, and it only makes him throw his head back chuckling to himself.

"You said that to get back at me for the pizza thing didn't you?" I watch him lift his head up to look at me, and he shrugs looking back at the TV with a satisfied look.

"Maybe - or maybe it's just what I actually think, guess we'll never know."

I huff, turning back to watch the movie while Jamie sits his pizza box on the coffee table before asking if I was done with mine; to which I just nod, and he places the box from my lap on top of his on the table.

As we continue to sit and watch the movie, I much preferred it when I was eating; having something to distract myself and also do with my hands because now they're just fidgeting in my lap which isn't being helped by Jamie’s periodic stares at me.

"You've got an interesting way of watching movies," I dig at him with a dry tone when his eyes are focused on the side of my face instead of the TV.

"You've got an interesting way of eating pizza - we've all got our quirks," he throws back, refusing to look away, and I want to squirm on the spot with how anxious it's making me.

"Watch the movie smirky," I huff, barely able to pay attention to what I'm seeing on the screen; wanting to bite my tongue off when I accidentally glance at him and my eyes go to his mouth before snapping away.

"I’m far more interested in what I'm watching right now, actually," he says with a tilt of his head, and I close my eyes with a drawn out frustrated sigh.

He leans closer, barely keeping an inch between the side of my face and his nose, feeling his breath fan across my cheek; I just keep my eyes planted firmly on the screen and dig my nails into the palms of my hands to soothe the way my heart nearly jumped out of my fucking body.

"Ye okay, Claire? Something ye want?" He asks with a suggestive amused drawl that makes me clamp my teeth down on the inside of my cheek.

Don't kiss his stupid face, don't kiss his stupid face, don't kiss his stupid face.

"I want you to watch the movie," I blurt with my voice hitching in my throat, which only makes him smile and look even more pleased with himself.

He hums a disbelieving "mm-hmm" but leans back; facing the TV again but I fight nearly throwing myself off the couch when he shifts to lay down all of a sudden.

He throws his feet up over the arm of the couch, laying on his back to pillow his head on my lap; lacing his fingers together to rest on his chest and watches the TV with a casual expression.

"...What are you doing?" I ask, hovering my hands above him with no idea where to put them, while he tries to hide his lips twitching up at the corners.

"Watching the movie like ye told me to."

I don't know what to say, or what to do with my hands so I just stay rigid; swallowing down the dry feeling in my mouth and opt to rest my arms along the back of the couch to avoid touching him which only makes him grin.

The rest of the movie was like being in hell again, I couldn't even concentrate on it.

There was a moment when Jamie (I swear it was on purpose) moved one hand down to pull up the hem of his shirt over his stomach; acting like he had an itch he needed to scratch but then just left his hand on his exposed stomach and carved hips that his pants had shifted dangerously low on.

He rested his other arm hung above his head, the top of his arm rested against my thigh while his hand rested against the couch and his fingers made a habit of grazing against the side of my bare thigh occasionally.

By the time the movie was over, my stomach was in that many knots you'd swear it was practicing to be a sailor, and my muscles ached in my body from how tense I had been the whole time.

Jamie acted completely oblivious to my distress, moving up off the couch and asked how he went about putting some music on, and after I explained how to, I gave him another suspicious look when he put Queen on from his phone to play through the Bluetooth speaker on the stereo.

He came back to sit next to me, raising a brow.

"Dinna act like yer the only one wi’ good music taste, Sassenach."

I roll my eyes, but Jamie just looks over my figure. "Ye seem tense."

It reminds me of the night we played pool at the bar, and my heart thumps at the memory of him leaning over me and pressing his body against mine.

I don't say anything, too distracted from the memory, and Jamie grabs my attention by grasping my hand. "I want to try something, to help ye relax a bit."

I look to him with panic flashing across my face, which makes him clarify what he means straight away. "I just meant give ye a head massage - I'm really good at them. I used to give them to my Ma all the time back home, she used to get terrible headaches.”

I shake my head, leaning back "Oh no, I'm good - I don't like massages, or people touching me. It's torture, not relaxing for me."

It's true. I hate physical contact for the most part, I've never understood how people got massages or things like pedicure as a form of relaxation because to me, a stranger touching me is the worst thing I can possibly think of.

I'd literally pay someone to not touch me.

He pulls his lips to the side with a disbelieving look, and tugs at my hand again. "If ye really dinna want me to touch ye I won't - but I'd like if ye gave me a chance, I might surprise you."

I press my lips together in a flat line when he gives me the most pathetic begging puppy dog eyes I've ever seen... oh for fucks sake. "Fine - but I'm telling you, I'm going to hate it."

His solemn expression turns into a bright smile, and he gestures between his legs spread apart where he is sitting. "Just say the word and I’ll stop whenever ye want - come on, sit on the floor between my legs."

I roll my eyes again. "Bet you're going to love that, getting me on the floor between your legs," I sigh, pulling myself forward up off the couch and moving to sit on the ground between his legs with my shoulders against the back of the couch and his knees either side of my head.

"Doesna do much for me unless yer on yer knees and facing me, Sassenach," he jabs back, and for some reason it doesn't make me uncomfortable. It's like I'm just becoming accustomed to his crass sense of humor.

At least I think he was joking.

Right?

"It'd be a cold day in hell before that happened," I quip and hear him laugh under his breath as he starts to run his fingers through the tops of my hair to pull it back away from my face.

"Oh I dinna ken," he grins, shifting forward on the couch so his thighs are either side of my shoulders. "We've already seen flying pigs - miracles happen every day."

"In your dreams," I scoff, feeling my muscles constrict when his long fingers slide into my hair up from the base of my neck.

I'm fighting my natural instinct to recoil away, and panic over someone being so close. I don't know how this anxiety is ever meant to feel good.

I still don't rightfully know why I'm even letting him do this.

... I know the answer is buried deep down, I'm not stupid, but I’m refusing to acknowledge it because it will tumble me off a cliff I'm not ready to go down.

Far better keeping those doors closed.

I'm just humoring him.

Jamie stays silent, as his fingers begin to work against my scalp, massaging in slow motions.

...Oh.

I'm shocked by the feeling, it's like I had strings pulled taught on every limb in my body that have just been cut and my body relaxes; and the more his long fingers work it starts sending waves of tingles radiating down my spine.

Goosebumps prickle over my skin, and my head lulls back while my eyes close.

"Just relax," he murmurs, keeping his voice soothing.

Well this doesn't feel... terrible.

"How about we swap some secrets again?" Jamie asks, and even though my eyes are closed I can feel his eyes fixed on me as my head falls further back.

I feel like a limp doll, like all the tension in my body is melting away and to be perfectly honest I've never really had that. I've always been wound up too tight to let it happen, let alone have anyone do this.

I'm always tensing some part of my body every second; whether it's subconsciously clenching my teeth or jaw, tensing my shoulders or clenching my fists, I'm always on edge. Even in my sleep.

I can't say I even truly know the meaning of what relaxation really felt like, I just assumed I wasn't capable of it.

"Okay," I agree, feeling far too compliant at the moment with these warm waves washing through my body as his fingers somehow unravel every bit of tight pressure in my body as they start to massage down my neck to the tops of my shoulders.

"That was easy," Jamie points out in surprise, but doesn't hesitate to take up the opportunity. "Ye can ask me something first," he offers.

I sound lazy and drunk, keeping my eyes closed as I don't miss a beat with the first question I have. "How long ago were you married?"

"Four years ago," he answers without hesitation, starting to sound distracted.

I don't even feel like myself right now, I could melt into the floor.

I knew he had fuckboy magic.

This is witchcraft.

"Was yer last relationship wi’ that Frank guy?" He asks, smoothing his fingers up from the base of my neck again.

How does he know about Frank?

...Wonderful, I'm assuming that's something drunk Claire decided to word vomit about. Christ I'm stupid.

I swallow, wetting my lips. "Yeah...it was."

I wish I could go back to who I was before I met him, even though I was still broken then... I just wasn't this... damaged.

Jamie just gives me an acknowledging hum and I decide to continue my own prying. "How long were you married?"

"I was married for a year - is Frank the reason it's been two years since you've been wi’ anyone else?"

Please stop saying his name.

I let out a long sigh but it's not an anxious one, it's almost a pleasured one from the feelings flickering around my body over how nice this feels.

I'm barely paying attention to what we're talking about.

"Partly, but not entirely," I drag out, relaxing my head back further as Jamie moves his fingers to massage the sides of my head. "Do you regret getting married?"

Again his answer is simple and fast, but he doesn't even sound like he's concentrating on what he's saying as his own voice becomes slow. "Aye, I do - ....Don't ye miss it though? Someone making ye feel good?"

"Can't miss what you've never had smirky," I reply under my breath without thought, feeling my breathing shallow and I could literally moan at how incredible this feels.

It’s the truth though, it's a large part about why I'm so complacent about sex. Sure it's felt okay, but if I'm being totally honest, I really don't think I've ever felt loved by a single hand that's touched me. It's never been about me enjoying it, it was about me being enjoyable for the other person.

It was never about me or how I felt, it was always about them. My pleasure only mattered if it benefited them, but for the most part they wanted me to inflate their ego, not actually make me feel good.

Could've won an Oscar with some of my performances I reckon.

And those were the times when I actually wanted to have sex... the other times, hell, I may as well have not even been a person. How I felt certainly didn't matter then, and what I wanted didn't matter either.

It was my fault though, I didn't say no. I didn't know how to, but it’s not like they asked my permission anyway.

Consent should be common sense, unfortunately it doesn't seem that common at all.

Jamie's fingers pause, and it makes me slowly blink my groggy eyes open, jumping when I see his face much closer to mine than I expected.

His pupils are blown out, with his lids hooding his eyes but his brows are pinched together as he darts his gaze over my face.

There are several emotions mixing together over his face that are confusing me; there's sadness, irritation, and to be honest I don't know if hungry is an emotion, but he looks like that too.

I don’t know why though, he just ate. Maybe he's a bottomless pit like Gizmo.

Jamie's fingers slip from my hair as he slides his hands to hold either side of my face, and he leans closer flicking his eyes between mine.

It's getting harder to breathe, it feels like everything else in the room has evaporated - I can't even hear the music.

I have pudding brain again.

His tongue darts out to dampen his lower lip, and his voice is soft but low as he speaks.

"I could show ye, ye ken... I could make ye feel good... If ye let me."

My chest tightens at the same time my stomach jolts when he dips his head down to lean close enough that his nose nudges my chin.

"Canna stop thinking about it, to be honest," he murmurs, hovering his mouth over mine but not going further.

His long fingers are around the underside of my jaw, tilting my chin up more till there's barely a hairs width between our mouths, and I can almost feel his lips touch mine as he speaks.

I don't think my heart knows whether to give up or beat a hundred miles an hour, it feels like it's trying to do both and my breathing is so shallow I can barely feel it.

Jamie takes the fact that I haven't smacked him or yanked myself away from him as a positive sign, because he nudges my lower lip with his own before murmuring, "I’m dyin’ to kiss ye again - but that's up to you... Do ye want to kiss me again?"

Both sides of my brain are screaming at each other while my skin heats over my whole body, and I can barely make out what the war in my head is arguing about.

Don't do it Claire.

Jamie sighs, slipping his tongue out to ghost against my lower lip and every organ I have clenches while I ball my hands into fists. "Go on Claire, do what ye want…," he dares in a low whisper.

Don't do it.

It's a split second before I'm sucking in a breath and closing the fraction of a distance between us, pressing my lips against his; feeling completely out of my mind.

... God dammit Claire, you idiot.

***

A little hint for what to expect next chapter...

 

Chapter Text

"I’ve been waiting so long

To be where I’m going

In the sunshine of your love"

(Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream)  

***

 

As soon as he feels the pressure of my lips against his, Jamie takes a firmer hold on my jaw; drawing in a sharp breath through his nose before he starts to mold his mouth against my own.

It's completely opposite to what it felt like last time; his slow careful movements are replaced with hard needy ones that have me feeling like I'm spinning while sat still.

Everything feels like it goes from this frozen tense moment, like cracks slowly splintering in glass until the pressure gets too much and it shatters.

The kiss only lasts a few seconds, then his mouth is being torn from mine while he grabs under my arms to pull me up to my knees; turning me and tugging me until I'm crawling up onto him, but the second I’m facing him again, his lips are connecting with mine as I struggle to keep up.

I'm not even thinking, my body is just doing whatever the fuck it feels like apparently. It's almost like I've blacked out, my mind going blank and all I can do is feel.

It's so bizarre, normally all I can do is think and never feel anything... well, anything good.

It's quiet again.

He keeps pulling me towards him until my knees end up either side of his hips; panting out low moans into the kiss that just becomes more intense the second he taunts my lips with his tongue and I welcome it with my own.

My skin feels like it's on fire, boiling my insides along with it while I have my damn reality shattered, and his hands roam around my body like he can't decide where to put them.

I'm still not sure what to do with my hands, so they just move up to hold his face; gripping around his sharp jaw that tenses and flexes with the movements of his mouth.

His large palms slide down my back, and grope at my hips before they move lower and pause for a second, like he's hesitating, until he finally moves them to take large handfuls of the flesh there through my shorts.

I gasp into the kiss when he pulls me down against him at the same time that he groans low in his throat, digging his fingers into my ass.

All of these sensations are firing through me, making me feel drunk and high all at once as Jamie deepens the kiss, becoming frantic with his lips and tongue while his breathing starts to heave in his chest.

The moment that changes this from just kissing though, is when he tugs me against him at the same time that he rolls his hips up; grunting out a sharp moan the second our centers press against each other.

He repeats the action again, using his grip on my ass to rock me against him as he snaps his hips up, making my breath hitch in my throat.

The very distinct hardness straining against the denim of his jeans was unmistakable.

Shit.

A jolt of electricity zaps up my spine and floods my nerves, like it wakes a part of me that's been dead for years when I feel him, but it's also the moment that hits me like a freight train and my body becomes stiff.

This is going really fast and I'm putting myself in another situation that I won't be able to stop even if I want to, I can't go through that again.

Jamie notices as soon as my demeanor changes and my body freezes up. He let's go of my ass to grab my hips and hold them still, lifting them up while he pulls his lips from mine; gasping in deep breaths but keeps his mouth close to mine.

"I'm sorry," he pants, pinching his eyes shut like he's in pain and swallows. "Sorry - I got carried away, are ye okay?"

I catch my breath and just watch his face for a moment - he actually stopped?

... He's asking if I'm... okay? Why?

Well that's never happened before.

I lick my lips that feel raw, and try to sort my thoughts out but I keep getting distracted by his fucking mouth so I decide to look down in between us.

Terrible idea.

Christ, I'm surprised the zipper to his jeans hasn't exploded open, that looks it hurts trapped in those pants.

I whip my eyes back up, and Jamie notices where I looked and he chews on the corner of his lip. "Sorry about that too - but I really canna help that at the moment..."

His fingers squeeze against my hips, like he's trying to get my attention and he focuses his heavy blown out eyes on mine. "Need ye to talk to me though, are you okay? Did I make ye uncomfortable? - I didna mean to."

I clear my throat, tucking my hair behind my ear and decide it's easier to just look at his mouth than his eyes at the moment; I feel so fucking insecure right now. 

"You didn't make me uncomfortable... that's kind of the problem," I mumble, swallowing down my nerves. I don't do honesty about my feelings well and I'm unsure how he has this ability to drag it out of me.

Well, the other problem is, I'm fucking useless at this and have no idea how to navigate someone like him.

Jamie ducks his face down trying to get me to look at him, keeping his voice soft but it's hoarse in his throat. "I’m gonna need ye to elaborate a bit, heartbreaker."

I bite down on the inside of my cheek, and rest my hands against his chest; feeling his muscles there twitch from the small contact, and my insides do that weird flipping thing like they're bloody gymnasts again.

"It's just uh..." I take a deep breath, cursing myself in my head at how stupid I think I sound. "It's been a long time for me with you know... sex, or anything like that in general, and I've only known you for about a week or so, and most of that time I wanted to strangle you...and now I'm kissing you  - this is just really fast and it's confusing because uh... I... I enjoyed what was happening and I feel like I shouldn't."

I know a week might be a long to some people, and hardly any other time to others. But to me it's barely any time at all, but hell, for all I know a week could feel like years to Jamie - considering he gets a blow job from someone he's just met.

Jamie pauses to choose his words before he speaks, but brings his hand up to nudge his knuckle under my chin to force me to look at him.

His face is earnest, but I don't miss that giddy flicker in his eye, and I'm not entirely sure why it's there. "Claire, a ghraidh - I had no intention of trying to have sex wi’ ye tonight. I mean, I really fucking want to right now - just being honest about that... But I'm no’ a moron, I ken that sort of thing is erm..." he pauses again, his brows pinching in worry like he's going to offend me. "..a sensitive topic for ye, a big deal, and I'd never push ye into that. I was just testing my luck wi’ some kissing, that's all - maybe some over the clothes action if I was really lucky... I didna mean for it to get so out of hand so fast."

My own brows crease, unsure if I really buy that. "You really expect me to believe you weren't going to pounce at the opportunity to have sex with me as soon as you had the chance?"

Jamie's face falls, his lips pressing together as he leans back, and he sounds genuinely upset by my question. "Okay first of all, yer no’ an opportunity. And no, I wouldn't have. I dinna even have condoms wi’ me - and I literally always have them wi’ me. So even if yer the one that wanted to, I still would've said no."

I really don't know what to make of that...

"If you always have them on you, then why don't you tonight?" I ask, my brain doing it's usual circles trying to find something disingenuous about what he's saying.

"Because if by some miracle, ye ended up wanting to have sex wi’ me and I had them on me, I knew I wouldna be able to say no and I knew it would be way too fast for you. I may have only known ye a week or so, but I ken that about ye for a fact," he replies with not a single hint of hesitation or insincerity in his tone. "Better safe than sorry, and in this case it was safer if I left them at home. I have fantastic self control, Claire... but that would be testing its limits."

"Why do you care if it would have been too fast for me?" I frown, completely blindsided by this conversation and struggling to wrap my head around it.

Jamie leans forward, flicking his eyes between mine and talking like the answer should be obvious. "Because how ye feel is important, what ye want is important... you are important."

No I'm not.

I look at my hands on his chest and shake my head. "You barely know me."

"Time doesna equal value," he states, trying to catch my eyes but I keep staring at my hands. "I may no’ ken much, but I like what I've seen so far.”

"Yer more valuable than ye think," he adds, and for some reason I want to snap at him, but I bite at the inside of my cheek.

Either he's delusional or he's lying. That's not true.

This is getting overwhelming with what he's saying, so I cover it the best way I know how. "So you liked me insulting you?" I ask, finally looking at him with an accusing expression.

He gives me a smile as he looks over my face. "Aye, I did actually - but I found something I like that ye do, even more than that."

"And what's that?"

He leans forward with his face washing over with that drunk look again and he darts his eyes to my lips. "Kiss me again."

My heart leaps, and I lean back shaking my head. "No I can't, I don't think it's a good idea."

A brief flicker of disappointment flashes in his eyes, but he tilts his head and keeps his question sincere. "Can ye tell me why?"

I still don't know how he's prying honest answers out of me, or why I feel this weird pull in my chest to be open towards him, but the words are coming out before I can shove them back in.

"Because... I enjoy it too much... I don't know if I could just kiss you... And stop there - I'm not ready to sleep with anyone yet."

That almost feels like a bold face lie, because with how I felt a few minutes ago, I'm not entirely sure I wouldn't want to sleep with him.

I feel Jamie's chest jump with a sharp breath while my heart is hammering again, and I feel all the blood rush to my face. Jamie pulls my hips down to rest against his thighs, smoothing his hands down to rub against my own thighs.

There's a drawn out silence again, until he leans forward, ducking his head to my neck and presses a kiss there. "That's fine wi’ me... but..."

He starts to drag his lips up my neck and my head tilts back involuntarily to give him more access to it; feeling my stomach knot each time his warm lips touch my skin as he murmurs against it.

"If ye wanted to... there's a lot of other things we could do... to make ye feel good... would ye want that?"

Regardless of how strongly I feel that this is a bad idea, and that I shouldn't be doing this...

I dare anyone that's been starved for years to have a mouth watering meal put in front of them, and not want to at least have a taste.

My subconscious is screaming at me over how stupid I'm being but I just can't help it.

Jamie sighs out a deep breath as his palms smooth up my thighs, his fingers grazing the insides of them while he kisses up to my jaw. "I'd be careful with you - we can stop whenever ye want. Can I make ye feel good?"

I swallow, breathing out a quiet "yes" while my eyes roll shut, and Jamie lets out a hum that sounds like a flustered mix of relief and excitement.

He digs his fingers into my thighs to pull me forward again, dragging kisses from my jaw back to my mouth and nips at my lower lip, which triggers me to connect my mouth with his again, savoring the feeling.

He breaks his lips away, only to nip and kiss at my lower lip between his words. "Tell me what ye like." He takes my lip between his teeth to give it a gentle tug before releasing it and teases his tongue over it. "I'll do whatever ye like - tell me."

Jamie waits for my answer, but insecurity cripples me because I don't know what to say to that, because... well I don't know the answer.

I've had plenty of sexual experience but it's never been about what I liked, I've never even thought about it.

Jamie pulls back at my hesitation and his brows crease. "Dinna be shy, ye can tell me."

"I uh," I clear my throat, feeling flustered. "I can't tell you because... I don't exactly know."

His brows scrunch even further in confusion and I shrug my shoulders. "No one's ever asked me that before."

His expression falls with a sigh as he presses his lips into an annoyed flat line. "...We need to have a serious talk about the kind of douchebags that you've been wi’ - but we can do that later."

He taps his fingers on my thighs as an indicator for me to get up. "C'mon, need ye to stand up for a second."

I give him a confused look, with my stomach dropping as I stand; thinking that what I just told him has made him change his mind and not want to touch me.

See this is why I always just keep my mouth shut.

But he stands when I do, grasping my hand and starts to walk us towards my bedroom, looking at me over his shoulder. He notices the insecurity on my face, which he matches with a soft but determined look. "Ye dinna ken what ye like, and we’re going to do something about it. I'm going to help ye figure it out."

My eyes widen at how matter of fact he sounds, but he stops just as we reach my door and we hear trotting footsteps behind us.

Jamie looks behind us to see Gizmo following, then looks to my face, cocking his brow. "I ken ye love that dog - but he canna watch, I doubt he's going to want to see what I'm about to do to his girlfriend either. I think he's seen enough already."

I give him a flat look that makes him bite his lip with a cheeky grin, a look that makes me want to kiss him again instead of slapping him like it used to.

I look at Gizmo and point to the couch. "Sorry baby, couch tonight - I'll make it up to you I promise - go on, off you go."

Gizmo huffs and whines, before turning and hanging his head; walking away with slow sad steps and I immediately feel terrible.

Jamie notices the guilty look on my face, and pulls on my hand; tugging me into the room and shutting the door behind us before I have time to feel worse. 

As soon as the door clicks shut his hands are grabbing my face and he’s crashing his lips into mine to kiss me that hard I would have fallen over if his hands didn't immediately let go of my face and grab behind my thighs instead; hoisting me up until my legs wrap around him and I squeak in shock at the action.

He walks us towards the bed, stumbling while he tries to blindly find his way, and I'm surprised we both made it without him tripping and hitting the ground when he turns and falls back onto the bed.

I threw my hands out to hit the bed as he did, to stop myself nearly headbutting him; but his mouth continues to attack mine while he moves my legs on either side of his hips. He grabs the hem of his shirt, tugging it up and only breaking the kiss to tear it up over his arms and head before he's tossing it and latching his mouth to mine again.

Both of our chests are heaving while the air in the room feels like it shoots to a thousand degrees, and Jamie grabs my hands to place them on his bare, warm chest before his own hands explore over my torso in greedy frantic touches.

His hips roll up underneath me, grinding his center against mine with a moan in the back of his throat, and I'd snap my legs together at the sound if I could.

Holy shit.

His fingers grab at the hem of my shirt as he starts to tug it up, but then pauses. "Is this okay? Can I take this off?" He checks, his words muffled against my lips.

I'm nodding before I can stop myself, mumbling an agreeing "yes" against his lips. Next thing I know, the material is being pulled up and torn off me, thrown aimlessly, and his hands go back to exploring all of the new exposed skin that they can. His palms feel like they're scorching every inch of skin they go over.

My head is fucking spinning faster than a thrill ride at a fair.

His lips kiss down to my throat where he latches onto it, sucking at the spot above my collar bone with his ragged breathing hitting my skin, making me whimper as he sucks and laps at the spot while his palms smooth up my back and his fingers stop at the back clasp of my bra.

"Can I undo this?" He rasps, snapping the band of the back of my bra against my skin.

"Yes."

Have I been possessed? Because I didn't even recognize my voice before it answered. I never let anyone see me, let alone feel as eager to let someone undress me as I do right now.

He swallows as he continues to pant, dragging his warm slick tongue up my neck to my jaw as his fingers undo the clasp with impressive ease.

... Well, I guess he has had a lot of practice. 

The material of my bra starts to slip from my body, and I gasp in surprise when his hands go to my shoulders, grabbing me and flipping us quicker than I can process, and suddenly he's hovering above me.

He pauses, looking down at me with his face flushed and hair messy, glancing to my bra laying loose over my chest. He takes hold of it, not taking his eyes away while he slips it down my arms and tucks his bottom lip under his teeth.

As soon as he drops my bra next to us on the bed, my instinct is to cover my chest, and I look away from him and curse myself in my head that I'm so ashamed.

I don't know how to feel comfortable or proud of my body. The confidence that Jamie has is something I envy, I can barely even look at myself naked in a mirror.

"Don't," Jamie stops me, grasping my arms to pull them away. "Dinna hide yerself."

I close my eyes when he removes my arms from in front of me, wishing it made me invisible, because I could curl up in a ball over how self conscious I feel.

"Fuck..." he curses under his breath, and I don't know if that's good or bad. "Look at me, Claire."

I keep my eyes closed and his voice becomes more stern. "Look. At. Me."

I force my eyes open, sucking all the air I can into my lungs the second I see the look on his fact; it's enough to make me want to shrink back into the bed as he stares at me under his brows. 

He licks his lips, placing his palms against my stomach and I try not to cringe.

I often wonder what sex would be like not caring about your body, not spending the whole time wondering if the other person is disgusted by you or not.

"I dinna ken what the hell ye think is wrong with yer body... Because I can't for the fucking life of me figure out a single problem wi’ what I'm looking at right now," he says, slipping his palms higher. "But I'm not you, I dinna see what you do - but I’m going to show ye what I see... because wanting to hide this," his fingers grope and knead at my skin as they go higher, and he gestures his face down referring to my bare torso. "Hiding this is just....," he trails off as if at a loss for words. 

I swallow the harsh tightening in my throat, a mix of my own personal discomfort from feeling so exposed and the tension from his hands sliding up my skin. 

He leans down, keeping his eyes on my face, kissing in between my sternum and then drags his lips up over my left breast with his breath heating my skin. "If I had it my way, you'd never wear clothes again - I'm hooked now."

I don't know how something that was meant to be a compliment also sounded like a warning, but all I can do is watch helplessly while his mouth tastes and teases over my chest.

I think I'm about to hyperventilate, I've never had something or someone be so damn... intense.

To be fair, usually the sex would be over by now from my past experience. Very in and out, and over and done with. But he seems like he's in absolutely no rush at all.

He pulls away just after he licks my nipple, making my back arch up towards him. He crawls off of me to stand at the edge of the bed, keeping his starving eyes on me as they dart all over my body like they can't decide where to stay, and he starts to undo his jeans, tugging them down once they're open.

He lets out a relieved groan once they're down past his hips, which I'm assuming is from the lack of restriction he has now. I try not to look while he shuffles them down his legs to kick them off, but the hard bulge that’s begging to get out of his underwear is hard to miss.

He brings his fingers up to push his hair away from his face and sighs, looking like he's in pain. "Yer making it really fucking difficult to have self control right now, Claire."

I just stare at him with my brows twitching together.

How? I'm not doing anything.

I chew on my lip, not sure what I should say while my chest rises and falls in slow but harsh breaths.

Jamie rubs his hands over his face, groaning a strained 'fuck' into his hands, before dropping them and stepping forward to hook his fingers under the material of my shorts, flicking his intense eyes up to mine. "Can I take these off? I want ye to get under the covers after I do - if it's alright."

I give him a shy nod and he gives me a warning look. "You've got a voice Sassenach, use it."

"It's alright," I blurt out under my breath, my ovaries feeling like they strangle themselves over the stern demanding tone of his deep voice.

His mood flips again as he smiles, holding the tip of his tongue between his teeth - which looks far too adorable of an expression to have while he's getting me naked, and starts to pull my shorts down along with my underwear; but he keeps his eyes on my face.

I hold my breath when he slips them off my legs and drops them on the floor next to the bed, gesturing his chin towards the pillows. "Under the covers."

I will my body to move, shuffling up the bed as he watches my face. Once I tug the covers back and climb under, he moves to follow me.

"You're leaving those on?" I question, glancing to his boxers. I have no idea where I got the guts to even ask that.

Intimate moments are when I'm my most insecure and not even my wit can save me.

He slides into the bed next to me, nudging me to lay on my back and then urges me to roll on my side with my back facing him. "Trust me Claire, it’s much better for my self control if I leave these on this time."

This time? So we're already on the next time assumption thing again?

I scrunch my face up in confusion, but then jolt when he scoots up behind me, wrapping his arm around my waist and slotting my shoulders flush against his firm chest that radiates heat through my body.

He rests his mouth near my ear and starts to trace patterns over my abdomen with his fingers. "I ken it was a lot letting me see you, so I thought we could try something else... I want ye to be comfortable - we dinna have to rush anything..."

There's a strange tug in my chest over how observant and thoughtful of that he was, and how foreign it is that someone is being so attentive towards me.

"I'm going to ask ye some questions, ye can answer however ye want - there's no wrong answer but I need ye to use yer voice okay? Nodding isna going to work for me," he says in a gentle tone, flattening his hand against my stomach.

"Okay," I breathe, biting down on my lip so hard I nearly taste blood when he leans up and his mouth goes to my neck again.

"Dinna be offended - but you've had an orgasm before, right?" He asks in between slow kisses down my neck, making his way to my shoulder.

"Yes."

I think one word answers are the best I'm going to be able to drag out, because I'm even struggling with just those. I have no idea where this is going.

He lets out a thoughtful hum, nipping at my shoulder as his hand moves higher to massage over my breast. "Has anyone else ever made ye come? Or just yerself? Be honest."

"Just myself."

"Thought as much," he sighs in a mutter, sounding annoyed but not towards me; my answer just seemed to frustrate him but he doesn't sound surprised. "So you've never came during sex? Or from someone else touching you? Ever?"

"No," I clear my throat, deciding to add, “just assumed I was defective or something, because I couldn't."

What is with me and blurting this shit out to him?

Jamie pauses and leans over to look at the side of my face, but I just stare at my wall. "There is nothing wrong wi’ you, understand me? If ye can make yerself come, so can someone else. Whoever you've been with either didna ken what the fuck they were doing, or they didna deserve to touch ye in the first place - the idiots never even stopped to ask what ye liked or find out - they're the fucking problem."

His words are firm and direct, and I'm so used to his cheeky light nature that hearing him sound so harsh and serious makes my muscles tense. I don't know why all of this has struck such a nerve with him, but he obviously feels very strongly about it.

Could've done with the lecture when I wasn't butt ass naked though.

"Point taken. I don't have a broken vagina, good pep talk," I quip with my voice tight, and the tension from Jamie's speech breaks when a bright chuckle vibrates in his chest.

"Definitely dinna think it's broken...  maybe a little neglected, but no’ broken," he teases, and I'm just about to fire back at him but he slides his hand down to grab my thigh to lift it; running his fingers up the crease of my thigh. "Only one way to find out though."

My belly coils that tight I just about choke, my muscles twitching when he drifts his fingers over my pubic bone. "Can I touch you?"

I bite down on the inside of my cheek, hard. My hips have the urge to shift forward of their own accord to encourage him, and I'm trying to adjust to constantly getting asked permission.

The normal side of my brain would have been sarcastic, but the hormonal one is the part that murmurs a shy "yes."

That three letter word has Jamie's fingers ghosting down, making me grit my teeth when his careful fingertips drag a slow stroke between my folds; a deep long exhale leaving his mouth as he does.

His fingers move back and forth, exploring every slick bit of skin he can and I feel him shift on the spot behind me like he's trying to get comfortable.

"Feels pretty perfect to me, Claire," he murmurs, leaning down to press an affectionate kiss to my jaw. "Just relax, I want ye to do something for me."

I try to ignore that voice in my head, the one that said I should have seen this coming and everyone wants something; because feeling him touch me feels exhilarating, even if it's terrifying to finally be so vulnerable around someone.

I feel safe, and for me that’s an unusual fucking feeling in this situation.

He removes his hand from between my legs, taking my hand that I hadn't even noticed was clamping into the sheets, and moves it down with his own. "I want ye to take my hand and show me what ye like, when ye touch yerself - what feels the best for you. Just place yer hand on top of mine and move my fingers however ye want."

...I beg your pardon?

"Jamie I can't - I can't do that," I stutter while I try and comprehend what he just said - I'm not confident enough for that.

"Yes ye can," he dismisses, placing our hands between my legs and moves his fingers to rest against the sensitive spot that's started to throb. "Just close yer eyes, and breathe. Ye can do it, and I'm no’ moving my fingers until ye do - it's up to you."

He applies more pressure but keeps his fingers still, and I curse under my breath, squeezing my eyes closed.

How the fuck am I meant to cope with this?

"While yer deciding..." Jamie starts, still not moving his fingers that feel torturing at this point. "I'm pretty wrapped about the fact that I turn ye on, feeling how soaked ye are. Enjoy kissing me that much, aye?"

I can't answer, I'm too distracted by the ache that's getting worse between my legs that I haven't felt in what feels like an entire lifetime ago.

Jamie just sounds amused now, and keeps talking with the smug expression evident in his voice. "What else turns ye on, Claire?"

I'm breathing heavily and fighting to keep my hips still as Jamie moves his lips to my ear. "What about dirty talk hm? That get ye off? Let's see if it does," he drawls in a low voice that feels like it shivers down my spine from the drop to it.

"Want to ken how much ye turn me on, Claire?" He breathes against my ear, his words slow and sound filthy enough from his tone. His hips press forward, his hard dick clothed underneath his boxers circling against my ass, and he moans - it has to be on fucking purpose with how drawn out it is - before he continues to speak. "Ye feel that? Rock fucking hard for you, and it isna the first time either."

What is air?

Does it exist?

Because I can't seem to find it.

"Ye want to ken what I did last night?" He drags out, continuing to rock his hips against me while that ache between my legs makes me want to scream; and when I try to shift my hips he cups my heat, pinning me back against him to hold them still. "Just move my fingers Sassenach, ye ken what to do," he taunts, and I growl in frustration in the back of my throat which only makes him smile. "Now where was I? - Oh aye, last night... I had a shower, know what I did while I was in there?"

I try to stop the strangled moan that echoes in my throat when he circles his erection against my ass in slow hard movements, but my body betrays me like it has since I fucking met this smirky dickhead.

"Was thinkin' about ye, thinking about kissing ye yesterday," he murmurs, moving his head to press a kiss to my shoulder. "And I got so fucking hard, I couldna even concentrate. So I wrapped my fingers around myself... leant my other hand against the wall and started to fuck my fist; started slow and got faster and faster the more I thought about ye, what it would be like to touch ye... have ye in that shower with me... all the things we could do - and then you know what happened?"

I swear on my unborn children I am about to suffocate to death.

I can't even explain what is happening to my body at the moment, it feels like every nerve ending I have is screaming.

Jamie's breathing gets heavier as he continues to grind himself against me, while his voice becomes thicker and he damn near moans his words out. "I came... really... really fucking hard . Could barely hold myself up, making filthy sounds I couldna control... It felt so good, Claire, so damn good."

The image that is now burned into my brain is going to fucking kill me, along with the sound of his voice.

My throat feels like it's closing on itself and I can't take this any more. I suck in a sharp gasp and use every ounce of non-existent confidence I have.

I grab his hand, placing mine over his and press his fingers against my aching nerves, whining at the relief when I start to move his fingertips in slow circles.

Jamie's lips pull into a grin against my shoulder, and he hums to himself. "Mmmm'suppose we can add dirty talk to the list of things that turn ye on then."

I circle my hips back against his fingers, whimpering at the feeling, and christ, if I knew this is how good being with another person was meant to feel, I would've ended up like Jamie a long time ago.

This is mind numbing.

"Ye really enjoyed that didn't you?" Jamie murmurs, sounding breathless as his hips grind harder against me. "Didna ken it was possible for ye to get even wetter  - making a mess of my fingers, Sassenach."

I'm going to have to get a priest to bless my shower head, so I can cleanse myself under the water for a week straight after listening to that mouth of his.

I decide I'm not going to be the only one that's a mess, and I push my ass back against him as I start to work his fingers faster at the pressure and speed that I know will unravel this painful knot the way I need it to.

Jamie grunts a low, guttural sound with a strained "oh fuck" following it, and thrusts his hips harder against me; dropping his humid forhead against my shoulder.

His fingers keep up the rhythm I have going, pushing me closer to that shattering feeling that's making my stomach muscles start to tremble. I drop my hand away, unable to keep it there any more, and dig my nails into the mattress.

I haven't even had a thought about what I should be doing, the sounds I should be making or how I should be reacting because that's all I used to do - make sure I was reacting the way the other person wanted. But right now, I can't think of a goddamn thing, all I'm doing is relishing how incredible it feels.

My head is so quiet, and calm - it's blissful.

His fingers continue to mimic the exact motions I showed him, playing my body like an instrument he mastered in minutes, and I start to writhe against him while he grinds his dick against me like he's consumed by his own movements.

"Oh god," I gasp, my breath hitching in my throat as that pressure starts to ripple out from my core. "Faster- please, I need - please go faster," I beg, sounding incoherent, I just need that last little push to unravel everything.

Jamie moves his face to hover over mine, and I barely recognize his voice with how low and hoarse it is. "Ye going to come for me, heartbreaker?"

I bite down hard on my lip, scrunching my eyes shut tighter with a sharp desperate nod, and Jamie nudges his nose against my cheek. "Kiss me - and I'll go faster, I'll make ye feel so good Claire, just kiss me."

Honestly he could've asked me to do anything at that point and I would have.

I turn my face, with his lips capturing mine as soon as they're in reach, and immediately the kiss is desperate. It's wet tongues and careless lips while his fingers quicken against me, and he captures every single one of the choked moans that leave my throat.

Every muscle in my body tenses as that coil in my abdomen unravels and pulses out from my lower half through my body in shock waves; spasming my nerves and constricting my stomach as it does, while my hips thrust and roll to ride the feeling as it washes over me.

Feels like floating to heaven and crashing down to fucking hell at the same time.

Jamie's fingers continue to drag the feeling out, pulling high pitched whimpers and strangled moans out of my chest while our kissing becomes uncoordinated until he stills his open mouth against mine when his hips jolt forward.

He chokes out a whimpered "oh my fucking god" against my mouth, his own body jolting and trembling while his hips roll against my ass until I feel a liquid warmth against my skin soaked into the fabric of his underwear.

I jolt my hips away when I become too sensitive from his fingers, and his hand cups against my heat, pulling me against him like he's trying to soothe the feeling while my body twitches from the aftershocks firing through it, and I try to float back down from the high I was just on.

Both of us are panting, with Jamie's forehead against my own, and his hair that's become damp in places is tickling against my face.

He presses several lazy kisses to my lips, sighing to himself and finally slips his hand from between my legs when my hips still; hugging his arm around my waist like he can't get close enough.

"Ye feelin okay, heartbreaker?" He asks with a tired but light inflection to his voice.

"M'good - really good, I'm great," I sigh sounding groggy, and can't even string a sentence together.

Orgasms are great. So great.

I'm so sleepy.

Jamie laughs under his breath at how spent I am, sounding pleased with himself.

"Thanks for letting me help," he taunts playfully, and if I didn't have pudding brain again I'd so have a smart ass remark for that.

But I don't.

...So sleepy.

He lifts his face from mine, and my head drops to the side against the pillow like it's a dead weight which makes him laugh again; but he just cuddles up behind me.

"Ye ken, I havena came in my boxers since I was about sixteen  - so thanks for the nostalgia too," he muses, sounding thoroughly entertained with himself.

"You're welcome," I hum, half asleep and barely paying attention to what he's saying.

There's a long silence as we just lay there with each other, Jamie nuzzling into the crook of my neck and I get closer to drifting off into sleep from the sedated state my body is in; I just feel so damn content. He feels so comfortable and warm curled up against me.

"Claire? I need a favor - before ye fall asleep."

I don't even feel the normal drop my heart would make at that, especially after what we just did - I think I'm still brain dead so instead I just murmur a sleepy "Mmm?"

He pauses for a moment, and then sighs, and for once I hear the slightest hint of bashfulness in his voice.

"I need to clean myself up before I fall asleep - but uh, I kind of ruined my boxers... So ye wouldna have any clothes I could sleep in, would ye?"

I smile to myself.

"Yeah, I do."

They're going to look fantastic on you smirky.

***

Surely things will be fine when they wake up tomorrow, right?

Chapter Text

"Feast your eyes I've got something new

From up here can't beat the view

Just watch me now

Just watch me now

I got somethin' for ya

A little more for ya

You won't believe your eyes

Just watch me now"

(Watch Me - The Phantoms)

***

 

Watching Jamie strut around my kitchen in pink sweatpants that say 'Juicy' across the ass, wasn't how I thought I'd spend my Sunday morning, but here we are.

I had bought them for John once as a joke - which is a funny story actually - and they were probably the only thing in my closet that would have fit Jamie. I mean, even these were a little tight on him.   

As funny as I thought it would be to give him those sweatpants last night, thinking of it as some kind of payback for making me wear his shirt that night, I guess I forgot who I was dealing with.

Because he is walking around with a kick in his step, like he's the hottest thing since sliced bread. 

This really backfired.

When I handed him the pants last night, he gave me a sly look as if he was accepting a challenge and I was too tired to decipher what he was plotting in that head of his.

Much to Jamie’s whining, I did not sleep naked. You could have sworn I killed his non-existent dog over how pouty he was over it.

I do not sleep naked, it's far too uncomfortable for me. The more clothes the better.

He hasn't tried to kiss me again, or touch me at all really and I hate that that's all that's been looping around in my head since I woke up.

Flashes going through my mind of the sounds of his panting and moans, how he felt - it makes my stomach tighten and I damn near chew through my cheek trying to make the thoughts go away.

Things were far easier when I wanted to kick him in the balls.

This feels complicated now.

And yet, when it comes to Jamie he just makes it look so easy.

I honestly thought I'd be having more of a meltdown over this, I was so terrified of human contact for so many years that I thought I'd crumble if it happened again.

...What I wasn't expecting was that I would enjoy it.

What is wrong with me?

The sweatpants are a good distraction though, I've been cycling through trying not to laugh and not look at his ass - which he purposely keeps making sure is in my line of vision.

"...So, I was going to make breakfast but uh, there's not really anything here - aside from toast, ye want some toast?" He asks, looking at me over his shoulder from where he's stood for five minutes inspecting my essentially empty pantry.

There's usually not much variety of food in the house unless it's for mum, or Gizmo. I usually just eat the bare minimum and the easiest thing to grab.

I used to love cooking. But like with everything else I use to enjoy, I can't find it in me to care.

"I'm not much of a breakfast person - help yourself to whatever is there, thank you though."

Jamie gives me a strange look, probably over the fact I was actually being polite and not sarcastic; but the minute I notice I've been staring at his mouth again, I look at the counter where I'm sitting on a stool at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.

"What about ye, Gizmo? Ye want some breakfast?" Jamie calls out, while he collects some bread and peanut butter.

Gizmo stares at Jamie from where he's sitting just outside the kitchen, then grunts and gets up and walks off.

I smile to myself, watching Gizmo go jump on the couch and ignore him completely, then look to Jamie. "You're in the doghouse now, he's pissed he had to sleep out here and you stayed in my bedroom."

Jamie stares at Gizmo with a frown, looking genuinely upset but then goes towards the toaster to start to make himself something to eat.

"I'll make it up to him, he has to forgive me sooner or later," he mumbles, which only makes me smile more. He really does sound upset that Gizmo is giving me the cold shoulder.

He can be pretty moody when he doesn't get his way.

I got the silent treatment for a whole day once because I had to throw out his toy that he'd ripped to pieces, because I was worried he'd choke on it.

He's not the brightest crayon in the box, but he sure is my favorite color.

"Just get him some bacon, he'll be your best friend again," I assure him, resting my chin in my hand.

Jamie just nods, staring at the toaster while he waits for it to pop, and as I watch him with his palm pressed flat against the counter, I can't help the question that tumbles out of my mouth.

"Why did you get divorced?"

I can't help how much the fact that Jamie has been married fascinates me, because I just can't picture it. And after the past couple of days, instead of fighting thoughts about him, it's a million and one curious questions about him that swirl in my head.

Jamie glances at me, his brows lifting at the sudden random question, but the toast pops and he pulls it out to start to butter it on a plate.

"If I answer that, do I get to ask you something?"

I shrug my shoulder, still just watching him. "I guess"

He purses his lips with another nod, wiping his hands together to rid them of crumbs after he's finished making his toast; grabbing his plate and making his way over to sit on the stool next me.

"I got divorced because my ex-wife didna love me - Why'd ye and Frank break up?"

The way he says that with such casual tone, has my lips parting as I stare at the side of his face while he starts to bite into a slice of toast with his elbows resting on the counter.

I blink at him, confused by how unbothered he looks. "What do you mean she didn't love you?"

"Uh-uh, that's cheating. Answer my question first," he tutts, licking at his lips to get remnants of peanut butter from them as his jaw flexes while he chews.

I huff, resting my temple against my knuckles with my elbow on the counter. "He broke up with me."

Jamie cocks a brow "Why?"

"No no, you answer my question first," I throw back, using his own statement against him.

Jamie smirks to himself as he takes another bite from his toast and I can't figure out why. Maybe it's because for once I'm initiating conversation, or trying to learn something about him. Maybe it's because I sound interested.

Or maybe he just really likes peanut butter, who knows.

"I was a way for my ex-wife to piss off her parents. I was her act of rebellion apparently. They were rich upper class snobs, and the last thing they wanted was their perfect, proper, princess of a daughter marrying someone like me. Someone who worked at a bar - that’s what I was doing at the time, photography was more of just a hobby back then. Someone who wasna straight, someone who spent his weekends at places like music gigs and whatnot - she didna love me, just the idea of me. I actually dinna even ken if she cared about me at all - to be perfectly honest."

Again, he sounds complacent about the whole thing. He may as well be describing his toast to me with how emotionless he sounds about it, but that doesn't stop my expression falling as I stare at him.

Disregarding my own issues with him, I don't agree with anyone treating another person that way, and for the first time, I actually feel sorry for him.

"She sounds like a bitch," I state, and this makes Jamie grin as he starts on his next slice of toast.

He looks at me with his light eyes lit up, nodding as he chews. "She kind of was, but it was one of the things that had me caught up on her. Treat em mean, keep em keen - Ye ken how that works. Yer turn now, fess up about that Frank idiot."

I pull my lips to the side, feeling my chest sink and dart my eyes down. "Not much to say, he just got everything he could from me - guess I stopped being useful. So he left."

He just broke me until there was nothing left to take any more. It's what everyone does.

Jamie pauses his chewing, then swallows and leans his face down to get me to look at him. "He sounds like a dick."

My own lips pull into a smile as I flick my eyes up to his and nod. "Yeah, he kind of was."

Jamie watches my face with a lazy smile, and taps his finger against the tip of my nose. "He didna deserve ye in the first place heartbreaker, he did ye a favor. His loss, not yers."

I don't know how to respond to that - the sincerity of his tone made my stomach flip, so I cover it how I usually do.

"Well, the fact he was a dick kept me away from actual dick the last two years, so yeah, he kind of did do me a favor. Gave me time for more important things - like eating the topping off pizza first."

I grin at Jamie who rolls his eyes, laughing under his breath but he doesn't say anything else and just goes back to eating.

Jamie finishes his toast, and it feels oddly comfortable to sit here with him. Our small conversation is not causing the usual crippling feeling inside of me that it does.

He isn't that bad to talk to I guess, but I'm still caught off guard by the whole ex-wife thing. I always think I have him totally figured out and yet I never do.

Did he love her?

Why did they even get married?

Jamie stands from the stool, grabbing my hand to urge me to stand up, and it's only then I realize I've just been sitting there staring at him again while my mind goes in circles.

I still can't get over how comfortable he looks in those fucking sweatpants.

"Where are we going?" I question with my brows dropping together.

Jamie gives me a cheerful look, but then keeps leading me towards the bedroom. "We are going to go brush our teeth, like responsible adults - ye got a spare toothbrush I can borrow?"

I watch his back with a puzzled look while I follow him. "Uh... yes, I do - but I don't need you to hold my hand to do that."

"Thanks, I appreciate it," he muses, ignoring the other part of my sentence and walks us into my bathroom, shutting the door behind us before going to lean against the counter. "So, spare toothbrush?"

... What is he up to?

I side eye him with suspicion, going to the top drawer and grabbing a spare toothbrush that’s still in the packet and hand it to him. He takes it, then grabs my toothbrush from the holder on the sink and hands it to me with a sweet smile.

"What are you playing at, smirky?" I squint at him, but he ignores me again; handing me the toothpaste and gestures for me to use it while he starts opening his own toothbrush.

I huff out a sigh through my nose, knowing he won't tell me, and decide to just brush my teeth and let him be the weirdo he is.

He eventually joins me and we brush our teeth in silence. I stare at the mirror trying not to look at his reflection, where he's just staring at me in the mirror.

He looks far too amused for someone brushing their teeth, and it makes me uneasy.

We finish up without any surprises, both rinsing our mouths and I give him another strange look when he places the toothbrush in the holder next to mine.

...So… is he planning on brushing his teeth here again...or? Why would he leave that here?

I jolt in shock however, when Jamie grabs my waist and lifts me, only to plop me down on the counter top. He walks off to the shower, opens the glass door and starts the shower running.

"What are you doing?"

He faces me and tilts his head, hooking his thumbs into the hem of his pink sweatpants. "I'm having a shower."

I pull my face back, looking mortified. "I am not showering with you."

He purses his lips to hide his smirk, and keeps his thumbs hooked in the pants as he slips them down to just below his hips and then pauses. "I ken, that's why I said I'm having a shower."

"Okay, I'll leave you to it then," I blurt out, leaning back when he pulls his hands from the pants and walks towards me. He places his palms flat on the counter on either side of me and dips his face close to mine.

"Mmmm'no, I want ye to watch."

"Have you lost your fucking mind!" I snap with my voice breaking from high pitched it went, which makes his eyes light up in amusement.

"I said I'm going to help ye figure out things ye like, and you've got me curious about what those other things might be, Claire...just give it a chance, ye can leave whenever ye want. Just try," he says with his voice slowing as he leans closer.

My insides are clenching and flipping and doing all kinds of contortionist bullshit, and my brain is scrambling to figure out what the hell he expects exactly.

"If ye like it, stay. If ye dinna like it, leave. Pretty simple - I willna force ye. Completely up to you," he continues, keeping his eyes focused on mine while I fight the urge to bite through my own tongue.

How did we switch from brushing our teeth to this so quickly?

How is watching him shower helping me figure anything out?

This is that fuckboy magic again.

Why are the only speeds he knows 0 or 100?

"What does watching you shower have to do with things I like?" I stutter out like a fucking idiot.

I look like a deer caught in headlights right now.

I'm confident and quick witted in situations where I can cover my nagging self doubt with jokes, but faced with any kind of intimacy and I'm a blubbering moron.

Whereas that seems to be the area where Jamie excels, and it's terrible for my cortisol levels.

"Ouch, here I was thinking ye might actually like seeing me naked," he teases as he places his hands on my hips and tugs me forward until I'm flush against him with my thighs either side of his hips, and I swear to god I hope I pass out right now so I don't have to deal with this.

I thought maybe because he hadn't tried anything since we woke up, maybe last night was a once off or it'd be forgotten... I should've known better.

I mean, this is smirky we are talking about here.

Is this payback for the Juicy sweatpants?

"Just humor me," he says in a low voice, nudging his nose against mine "Give it a chance."

"I-...uh," I hold my breath trying to think of anything to say, but all that is spinning in my head is how much of an idiot I am because I'm actually considering this.

"Relax - Yer safe," he murmurs, gripping my hips tighter which makes me let out my breath in a sharp shallow exhale. "I do need a favor first though."

I raise my brows, encouraging him to just hurry the hell up and tell me because I'm about to start sweating bullets from how quickly this entire thing has flipped upside down.

He sucks his lower lip under his teeth before releasing it, and puts those damn voodoo lips barely an inch from mine. "Can ye kiss me again?"

I hesitate for a moment, swallowing and he glances from my mouth back to my eyes with his low voice still managing to somehow sound coy. "Pretty please? Cherry on top? Extra sprinkles too?”

I roll my lips into my mouth, my eyes giving away the smile I'm trying to hide as I fight the urge to laugh. I hate the fact that I find this idiot adorable now.

I actually enjoy kissing him, and he knows that now. It's bad news. It gives him a power over me I don't want him to have.

Alas... I am an absolute imbecile and lean forward, pressing my lips to his anyway.

If my subconscious were a person, it would be beating its face against a wall right now.

Hormones make you fucking stupid.

He lets out a triumphant hum but immediately takes control of the kiss, hooking my legs around his hips and taking a hold of my face between his large hands.

There's that silence again.

The kiss goes straight to heated, his tongue breaking past my lips to roll against my own, and the way his mouth is attacking mine has me panting for any kind of air I can get.

His soft moans that start vibrating up his throat have my skin prickling. It's like my body doesn't know what to do with itself, I went so long without feeling things like lust or pleasure and now it's all I'm being bombarded with in a span of 48 hours.

After a few minutes of him scrambling my mind with his mouth, he pulls back with heavy eyes, pecking my lips once more before he rests his hands on my thighs with a smug look.

"Thanks for the help," he says with a deep exhale while he catches his breath.

I quirk my brows together, trying to grip my bearings again. "Huh?"

My eyes nearly pop out of my head when he explains what he meant by holding my thighs and thrusting his hips forward; pressing a very distinct hardness against my center. Every muscle in my body constricts at the feeling.

He smirks at how rigid I become, lifting his brows with cheeky eyes and unwraps my legs from around him; pulling away and watching my reaction as he grabs the hem of his sweatpants again to pull them down.

What the fuck is going on?!

I dart my eyes away, looking at my lap and trying to stop my heart feeling like it's about to give out. I hear Jamie chuckle to himself before hearing the glass door to the shower open and close.

I should leave.

I should, but I'm not and I don't know if it's because I'm paralyzed with nerves or I actually want to be in here.

All I hear is the steady stream of the water from the shower head being disrupted by Jamie stepping underneath it, letting out a low relaxed groan that has me gripping onto the edge of the counter top while my eyes stay firmly stuck on my legs.

The sound of the water hitting the ground in uneven patterns rings around the air, while I assume he's washing himself but I just can't bring myself to look up.

I'm still figuring out this attraction to Jamie, if that's what it is. I know that he's physically appealing like, genetically, but I've never been someone that's overly swept up in looks - am I just physically attracted to him? I can't tell. I guess because I haven't felt attraction in so long, I'm just unfamiliar with it now.

The feeling is so new again it's uncomfortable because I don't know what to do with it, or where to place it. I feel blindsided by it.

The seconds tick past like hours while my pulse hammers in my body until I hear Jamie's gruff voice trying to sound soft and reassuring.

"Look at me, Claire."

Nope, I'm good, never found my legs so fascinating to be honest.

"Claire."

So, how about those legs?

"Look at me or I'll get out of the shower and stand in front of ye naked until ye do - or just leave, it's up to you."

I think my legs would give out if I tried to stand right now, so I swallow the ball of nerves in my throat and slowly drag my eyes up; taking a deep preparing breath before I move my gaze to the shower.

Just look at his face.

My eyes catch his bare, wet torso, with his shoulders leant back against the tiled wall; facing me and staring at me through the misty glass. I notice his stomach contract as he breathes.. the sparse hairs from his belly button that trail down between his hips...

That's not his fucking face Claire!

My eyes whip up, catching his hooded ones as he watches me with a calm expression, but there's a faint concentrated crease between his brows.

His hair is soaked and pushed away from his face, and I watch his adams apple dip as he swallows before he speaks. "Just watch me, okay? See how it makes ye feel - if ye want me to stop just tell me."

Okay... But watch you do what? Stare at me?

It makes me feel like I'm going to have a stroke, glad we could clear this up.

Jamie's eyes stay on mine, but his brows cinch tight together when he sucks in a sharp breath and his lips part; before he huffs out a puff of air with a barely audible moan.

.....Oh god.

He's... is he seriously doing what I think he's doing?

Don't look down. Don't look down . Don't look down.

My eyes glance down before I can stop them, seeing the fogged image of his fist wrapped around his length as he pumps it in slow motions, and my stomach clenches that tight I just about hunch over, feeling like I've been kicked.

Shouldn't have looked.

I hold on to the counter for dear life, genuinely scared I'm going to fall off it and dart my gaze back to his face; completely frozen where I sit.

I feel like I'm in some kind of trance, watching a car crash I can't look away from while he keeps his eyes on me; rolling his head back against the wall to expose his throat while his chest starts to rise and fall faster.

My nerves are firing over my body, and the tension in the room that feels thicker than the steam damn near has me shaking while I watch his mouth fall open; echoing a deep strained moan around in the air as he starts to pant.

I'm going to die.

This is how I die.

I'm going to faint and crack my head on the tiles. I can already see it happening.

Everything in me is screaming to look away and I just... can't.

Jamie doesn't take his stare off me, and while I struggle to focus solely on his face, I can see his shoulders tensing along with his chest muscles as he starts to work himself faster.

He's hazy through the steam on the glass, but the droplets of water that trickle down it leave streaks that let hints of his clear image come through.

"Staying, Sassenach?" He drawls; his voice is low and out of breath and I sure as shit hope he doesn't expect a verbal answer, because my vocal chords feel as stunned into paralysis as my body does.

He takes the fact that I haven't budged as a response, thank god, and a ghost of a satisfied smile pulls on his mouth before he wets his lips and his breathing gets faster. "Just keep looking at me - M'thinking about ye being in here with me, yer hands on me. It's driving me fuckin' insane."

Glad I'm not the only insane person in this room right now.

I swallow for what feels like the hundredth time, and my knuckles are white from how hard I am holding onto the counter; and a sheen of sweat starts to build on my forehead and chest, which I can't tell if it's from the steam in the room or from what I'm seeing.

Jamie’s chest does a sudden jump, while his brows crease hard together and his jaw drops with a strained 'oh fuck ' as his eyes pinch shut.

Oh fuck indeed smirky, couldn't have said it better myself.

I'm clenching my jaw tight, but not as tight as I'm squeezing my damn legs together as his grunts and moans become louder mixed with the occasional profanity panting out of his mouth.

I can hear my pulse ringing in my ears, but it's doing nothing to drown those sounds out; and when Jamie’s jaw drops and his face scrunches up in so much pleasure it looks painful with his shoulders hunching forward, I am absolutely certain I'm going to faint.

I can see his body tremble and tense while he curses and grunts out moans that get cut off with sharp pants as his muscles constrict with what I can describe as nothing short of bliss across his face.

I think my heart stopped.

I can't even feel it, my whole body feels numb.

I watch helplessly as Jamie composes himself, catching his breath slumped against the wall and eventually moves back under the water and runs his hands through his drenched hair as it streams over him.

He rinses himself off, then shuts off the water and rings his hair out, running his hand through it before pushing the door open and walking out to grab a towel hung over the towel rack to wrap low around his hips.

I'm still a damn statue on the counter, trying to wrap my head around what I just watched, and don't even realize how heavy my own breathing is.

I feel like this should be awkward, but it's just not. The air of calm confidence he has as he turns and walks towards me, giving my rigid body a once over before he stands in front of me, just has me speechless instead of anxious.

He doesn't say anything, probably aware that I wouldn't be able to respond even if I wanted to, and just grips my waist to help me get down off the counter.

I am so surprised my legs didn't collapse underneath me.

I feel like a walking stunned zombie, everything I just saw replaying in my head like some erotic movie in flashes.

I turn because I think we are just going to leave the bathroom, but Jamie stops me and stands behind me with his chin resting on my shoulder.

"Not so fast," he tutts, smoothing his hands from my waist down my front to lift the hem of my shirt and dip his fingers into my shorts.

I dig my fingernails into my palms to stop from jumping when his fingers go lower, sneaking past my underwear until they go between my legs and explore a lazy back and forth stroke up the arousal coating my heat that has me choking on a gasp.

He pulls his hands from my shorts, moving his mouth to my ear and I can hear the damn cocky smile in his voice. "Guess we can add watching me getting off to the list of things ye like …”

I'm still wordless, absolutely shocked into helpless silence which only seems to entertain him more as he presses a chaste kiss to my cheek.

"Ye feeling okay?"

I hum out an “mhmm”, which only audible sound I can make because that question is so fucking ridiculous right now.

"You'll be fine. Besides, this'll give ye something to think about till' I see ye again. C'mon - I've got to get dressed."

He nudges me forward with his hold on my hips, which makes me stumble and Jamie chuckle to himself.

Shut the fuck up smirky, I'm lucky I'm not face first on the ground right now.

He coaxes me out of the bathroom and walks me to the bed where I flop down to sit, still acting like some trauma patient that's seen some wild shit that sent them completely mute.

Did I seriously just watch him do that?... Did I really enjoy it?

The throbbing that has me crossing my legs says yes apparently.

He looks very happy with himself over it.

He shuffles around my room collecting his clothes, until I shoot my gaze to my lap again when he drops the towel.

He's trying to kill me.

I can hear him pulling his pants on, but that's not what grabs my attention and makes my face whip to my doorway in panic.

The front door opens, then shuts, and I can hear my mother's usually dramatic groaning as if she's a creaky old chair.

Fuck, I completely forgot she comes home today.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Jamie notices my whole body become stiff, looking to where the noise is coming from, then back to me, and gives me a strange look; but I only look at him feeling like all the blood is draining from my body.

"You need to leave," I burst, darting my frantic eyes to the door and back to a shirtless Jamie that's barely done his pants up.

His brows scrunch in confusion. "What?"

"You need to leave, right now - preferably out the window," I whisper yell, waving my hands at him and feel my panic only get worse.

However, Jamie doesn't get a chance to ask me why I look like I'm about to have a nervous breakdown, because my mother's voice comes from my door.

"Claire, I need a pain kill- oh, who's this?"

Oh fucking hell, this cannot be happening.

***

Well....it was good until it wasn’t. 

So, how are we all feeling?

Chapter Text

"Can't you see oh can't you see

What that woman, she been doin' to me"

(The Marshall Tucker Band - Can’t You See)

***

I'm paralyzed again.

I just keep looking back and forth between my mother and Jamie, wishing I could shrink away and hide under my bed.

I hate that I feel like this around her.

I watch my mother's personality flip like a switch to a bright friendly smile, and it honestly makes my skin crawl. Because I know it's fake.

She's not happy to meet him, she just wants to know why he's here.

She just wants to know what I'm doing.

I'm grappling between embarrassment that he is standing in my room half naked, and ashamed that he's actually meeting her.

I don't exactly have a mother I'm proud to introduce to people.

The way she's treated herself all these years has weathered her and it shows, even though she's only 55, you'd swear she looks over 70.

She's wearing her usual slippers and crinkled oversized button up shirt that hangs on her frail frame; her short salt and pepper hair is carelessly brushed and when she smiles it's obvious from the worn creases on her face and dull teeth that she's drank and smoked the majority of her life.

My mother looks between us, expecting an answer, and I don't miss Jamie glancing at me with a look I can't make out, but I don't have the time to make sense of it.

This is what I was worried about, these are the parts of my life I never want anyone to know about.

"I'm Claire's friend, Jamie - Ye must be her mother. It's nice to meet ye."

Jamie's tone is polite and cordial, but it lacks the warmth I'm used to from him and I can't figure out why. He just gives her a smile and starts to tug on his T-shirt over his head.

I don't know how to feel about it, but part of me wants to kiss him all over again out of relief; just because he didn't say anything to make this more awkward for me.

I don't know if he did it on purpose, but I appreciate it.

"I met him through John, they’re old friends," I blurt out, for some reason feeling like I owe an extra explanation.

I always feel like I have to explain myself to her.

It's one of the things I try and work on with therapy... among the other clusterfuck of things I need to sort out.

But that anxiety, that stomach churning anxiety that ripples through my whole body and up my throat is the worst part, it's that feeling you get when you lean back in a chair and you think you're going to fall.

It won't go away.

The constant hyper vigilance is exhausting.

"Oh, well it's nice to meet you Jamie! I'm Julia," she says with a cheerfulness I know is all too fake, it's all an act for strangers. "Claire never brings her friends over," she frowns with an accusing look at me, but then her brows shoot up in excitement when she looks back to Jamie. "You should come over tonight for dinner!"

You want to tell him why I've never brought friends over, mum? Even as a kid? Or are we just going to gloss right over that like you always do?

I clench my teeth, not out of frustration but it's just a reaction to the stress going on in my body.

Jamie glances at me again like he's observing my reaction, but I don't understand why, then he clears his throat and shakes his head with a smile. "Sorry I can't tonight, I've got plans - but thank ye for the offer."

Mum keeps up her act with a dramatic pout and wave of her hand. "Oh, that's too bad. Well, you're welcome here any time, I'm always telling Claire she should spend more time with friends."

No you're not. You never say that to me.

And this is my fucking house, stop giving people open invitations.

...Not that smirky doesn't just turn up whenever he feels like it anyway.

"I'll bring your tablets into your room, mum," I cut in, just wanting to get this situation over with as soon as possible. "Jamie really needs to go - he's running late already."

Jamie gives me another quick look with his brows pinching together, but doesn't say anything and just nods in agreement.

I can tell by the smile on mum's face, the way it doesn't reach her eyes, that she's hiding her annoyance that I'm dismissing her.

I kind of am, kind of not. I just want this conversation to be over but her prying nature will have her irritated with me that I barely introduced her, or that I’m not fussing over her.

"Oh, did Jamie stay here last night?" She asks, not moving from the doorway, and I start to tense my fingernails against my palms for some kind of relief from my distress that's only building.

She isn't asking to just be curious.

My mother is like a filing system, she collects information to weaponize and use against me when she gets the opportunity.

Or she just wants gossip to twist and run her own narrative with to whoever will listen, it's one or the other.

She's being nice to Jamie now, but I can only imagine the awful things she would say the second his back is turned.

The stress in my body has my brain shorting out while I scramble for an answer, but Jamie's voice pipes up as he tugs his jacket on. "Aye - Claire kept me company and let me come over and watch movies. I moved here no’ long ago and I dinna have many friends here yet. It got late and I fell asleep on the couch."

My eyes dart to Jamie with my brows furrowed in confusion. Why is he lying for me?

"Oh, that sounds like Claire," Mum praises, but not looking at me. "Just how I raised her, always helping or taking care of everyone - so you're from Scotland?"

"She's verra lovely - and aye I am, the accent usually tips people off," Jamie agrees. He sounds completely earnest which makes my stomach twist, but his eyes are searching around the floor for what I assume are his shoes; judging by his bare feet.

He's making it obvious he doesn't want to continue the conversation, and normally that would seem rude I guess but somehow he's making it sound polite.

"They're in the living room," I speak up, making him flick his eyes to my face with a look like he's momentarily confused, so I add, "your shoes."

His lips pull into a faint smile, and he points at me. "Mind reader and life saver."

Don't give me all the credit smirky, you're barefoot

"Well I'll leave you two to it, I'll be in my room - bring those tablets in soon Claire, I'm in a lot of pain. It was nice meeting you Jamie, come around for a drink some time."

And that just made my stomach drop. God I'm so embarrassed.

I can already tell from the tone in my mother's voice she was laying on the pain part thick, which I'm sure she was just itching for Jamie to ask what was wrong with her... Or it was just to make me feel guilty.

The invitation for him to come around and drink already has my stomach knotting in dread, more than it already was from how awkward this whole fucking interaction is.

I hate that her invitation isn't even genuine, she doesn't want to get to know Jamie. She wants a drinking buddy or an excuse to drink and she will size up anyone she meets to try and get that.

It's exhausting being around someone whose intentions are always cloaked in ulterior motives you have to decipher; because if you don't and you take them for face value, you'll either end up very hurt or very disappointed.

Got to know where to keep those expectations.

I don't even notice I've zoned out again, because when I look up Jamie is standing in front of me with shoes on and Mum isn't in the doorway anymore.

Great, now she's going to think I ignored her and be even more pissed at me.

"Ye tuned in again or are ye still on a different channel?" Jamie asks, watching me with his hands shoved in his jacket pockets.

"Huh?"

He bends over, pulling his hands from his pockets to rest them on my knees so he's at my eye level from where I'm sitting on the bed. "Ye disappeared again."

He gestures his chin up, like he's indicating to my head with a curious squint of his eyes. "Where do ye go off to in there anyway?"

I find it odd that he sounds interested about the fact that I just check the fuck out, most people have just found it annoying or gotten angry at me over it.

I shrug my shoulders, looking down to his hands on my legs. "It's just a bad habit."

"Way to not answer my question," he teases, giving my legs a gentle squeeze before standing up straight. "I do have to get going though - walk me to the front door?"

I give him a  strange look, pulling my face back. "Why do you want me to walk you to the door?"

His face drops into a comical offended expression as he holds his hand to his chest. "Because I'm a gentleman, and ye dinna just get to see me naked and then kick me out like some cheap hooker."

God I hate that I find him fucking cute.

I can't help smiling at him, and I don't like it. It feels uncomfortable because it's a genuine smile, and I barely remember what those feel like.

But he just has this habit of dragging it out of me.

I push myself up to stand, and tap my finger against his nose. "Aw, of course you aren't a cheap hooker  - you were a free hooker."

Jamie scrunches his nose up, swatting my hand away and I laugh under my breath as I turn to start to walk out of the bedroom.

We get to the living room and Jamie waves at Gizmo on the couch. "Bye Gizmo - we can go on a bacon date soon."

Gizmo just grunts, and shuffles on the couch to turn his back to Jamie and I snicker to myself. Gizmo holds grudges. Jamie has some serious groveling to do before Gizmo is giving him those love eyes again.

That was the first night he hasn't slept in my room since I've had him, he's even pissed at me.

"See even he thinks you're a hooker."

"I'm a gentleman, dammit," he huffs, the tone of his voice playful as he follows me through the living room.

"Tell that to my shower," I grin to myself but keep my voice quiet so only he can hear me, feeling him hover close behind me as we walk to the front door. "I'm sure it thinks you're a whore too."

Jamie huffs, reaching around me to grab the handle as we reach the front door; opening it and rushing me out of it with his hands on my waist before closing it behind him.

What the hell are you-

"I'll have ye ken that masturbation is perfectly healthy," he contends, but I can see him fighting a smile as he adds, "which ye should know, you've been its number one fan for a couple years now."

"Oh screw you smirky," I huff, throwing my arm out to point at the front door with an incredulous expression to ask why the hell he pushed me out of it but he cuts in.

"We've been over this Sassenach, I'm dying for you to."

There's that smirk again.

He points to the door to clarify my question I didn't get to verbalize. "And I brought us out here because I didna think you'd want yer mother to hear me talking about jerking off in yer shower just before while ye watched - and enjoyed it."

I smack my hands against my face, groaning. "So you thought my fucking neighbors should hear it instead?!"

"What?"

I drop my hands, glaring at him and point next door. He turns his head to see my petite elderly neighbor watering her flower garden a few feet from us and he freezes. She's watching us frozen with wide eyes as she holds the hose in one spot while it starts to drown her gardenias.

I keep my eyes on Jamie, but wave in her direction, raising my voice.  "Good morning Mrs. Fullerton."

"Good morning, dear!" She sings out startled, clearing her throat. She starts humming as she keeps watering the same place, trying to act like she didn't hear anything but staying in hopes she'll hear more.

Mrs. Fullerton is harmless, she lives alone - well, alone with several cats - and she’s fairly obsessive with her gardening, she does it every single morning.

She's very nosey, and loves her gossip which she loves to tell me about even more, but it's in a very endearing almost comical way. It's not with the same malicious intent that my mother has.

I think she just gets lonely, and I get that - I know how it feels.

She's given me homemade cookies before, so basically that means I'd die for her and will protect her at all costs.

Jamie drags his eyes back to me with his brows lifted and eyes wide. He pauses for a second when he notices me glaring daggers at him, before the laugh he was holding back blows through his lips and he hunches over cackling to himself.

... I'm glad one of us finds this funny.

How am I meant to look Mrs. Fullerton in the eye after this?

Jamie coughs into his fist as he stands straight, his eyes creased in the corners from how large he's smiling. "I'm sorry - I shouldna laugh. I'll make it better, I promise."

I press my lips together, and he gives me an apologetic look before turning his face to Mrs. Fullerton again who is still pretending to water the same poor patch of flooded flowers with loud, off tune humming.

"Ye ken, voyeurism is perfectly natural and healthy as we-"

I smack my hand over his mouth, grabbing his shoulder and yanking him towards me. "I'm going to kill you smirky, I swear to god."

He's just grinning against my hand, watching my face with his eyes lit up with mischievous amusement, and I hate that now I have this confusing feeling around him, where I don't know whether to slap him or kiss him.

He pulls my hand from his mouth, as he chuckles to himself. "Yer cute when yer all riled up like that, it's kind of hot. Threaten me some more and maybe we can sneak back inside and go for a round two."

I drop my hands by my sides, pinching my eyes shut and taking a deep breath.

Don't slap him.

Or kiss him.

"Look smirky," I sigh, opening my eyes to see him hovering close to my face and I take a step back with my shoulders hitting the door. "I can't keep doing this with you. I can't have you just turning up at my front door anymore - okay?"

My mother coming home was like a reality check slap in the face, and it's the reason I keep people far away from my bullshit.

I'd be mortified if he just showed up on one of her bad days, or worse - seen me on one of my bad days. If he thought that morning I screamed when he was in my bed was bad, he hasn't seen anything yet. It's best if I just put a stop to this before it gets more complicated.

His expression becomes serious with his brows creasing. and he glances to my mouth before fixing his gaze back on mine again 

"Okay," he agrees, with a faint nod.

I give him a suspicious squint. "Okay?"

"Okay," he nods again, pressing his hand next to my head against the door as he watches my face and I feel like shrinking back.

This is too easy. He shouldn't be agreeing to this so easily.

"That's it? You're not going to ask why? Argue about it?"

His free hand goes to rest on my hip, and he dips his face closer "I'm sure you've got yer reasons - you'll tell me when ye feel like it. I trust ye."

Hang on, what? He trusts me? Why - How?

I'm trying to stay focused on being firm about this, but I'm getting too distracted by his damn mouth being so close to mine.

It's making my heart leap into my throat again.

His light eyes dart between mine, and he wets his lips while his voice gets quiet. "I really do need to get going though, anything ye want before I go?"

"Not that I can think of," I squeak out, my breathing picking up when he nudges his nose against mine.

"Ye sure?"

"Yep."

He smiles to himself, and moves his lips to press a kiss to the tip of my nose. "That's too bad, I had fun though. Thanks for the movie night."

"No problem," I breathe, feeling my chest tighten.

Christ, he can't keep doing this. All of this intense fuckboy voodoo shit is stressing out my already shot to shit nervous system.

He moves his mouth to my ear, murmuring in a slow voice. "And thanks for letting me get ye off, it's all I'm going to think about."

If he keeps this up, I'm going to tell Mrs. Fullerton to turn the hose on him.

I'm clenching my jaw again, trying not to give away how much of a flustered idiot he had me turning into within a few seconds.

Fuckboy magic.

Jamie pulls back, giving me a once over and looking pleased with himself. He starts to walk backwards, a slow cheeky grin pulling on his face. "Catch ye around heartbreaker."

He slides his hands into the pockets of his jeans, hooking his thumbs over the outside; raising and dropping his brows before turning on his heel and strolling towards his car parked on the road out the front of my house.

I know that damn look.

And it means nothing but trouble.

I watch Jamie climb into his car, still hearing Mrs. Fullerton's humming, until I hear a voice yell from inside that has my body flinching.

"Claire!"

... I have a feeling it's going to be one of those nights.

***

Chapter Text

"I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight.

I need somebody and always

This sick strange darkness

Comes creeping on so haunting every time"

(I Miss You - blink-182)  

***

 

I'm so fucking tired.

I think that's the main reason that I was looking forward to, and dreading my mother going away. I knew when she got back that things would be worse.

I don't know if it's because I didn't speak to her while I was away, I haven't paid enough attention to her, or if it's because of how I reacted on the phone that's the reason that she's going through one of her episodes, but I'm honestly too exhausted to figure it out.

It's 9pm on Friday, so it's been five days since I've seen Jamie. I'm both surprised and grateful he hasn't just turned up at my house - there's the smallest part of me that actually found me missing that dickhead and it was yet another thing that confused me. I haven't even had time to think about what's gone on between us, to be honest I haven't had the energy either. Mum being home means back to my usual routine of barely being able to leave the house unless it's for work or I'm out getting her something she wants.

She'd have me quitting my job if she could, I remember that was one of the first things I did for myself that she hated. Because if she had it her way, my only job would be taking care of her.

John has been nice enough to pick Gizmo up and drop him off the days I've worked this week. He could tell as soon as he saw me that I was going through another bad episode with mum from how worn out I looked.

I haven't told him about what's happened with Jamie and I yet. I'm not really sure what to do there but again, after this week with mum I just haven't had the energy to think about it.

It's mental torture, it's the only way I can put it.

The sleep deprivation, constantly trying to scare me by saying she has chest pains but not letting me call for help, just so I have to constantly check on her. Yelling out from her room just for me to walk in panicked and have her tell me she needs a drink. Banging at my door at 4am crying saying she's in pain and needs painkillers - even though she knows I can't give her more than what she's prescribed. 

It's to the point where I start hallucinating. I'll be at work and hear her. Or sometimes she'll be asleep and I still panic because I think I can hear her yelling out to me.

Makes me feel like that little kid running to my parents room all over again.

It can send a person insane, being trapped with that; just listening to someone beg for help, but they won't let you help. It's excruciating to listen to, especially from your own mother.

If it's not the painkillers, it's the cigarettes. She acts like they're heroine. Even though I have to ration them out to her so she can afford it, because she's regularly smoked 80 in one day when she can, she still chain smokes them and expects me to figure out a way to find money and get her more.

"I need cigarettes Claire, I've run out."

"You knew you had to make them last, I can't get them."

"Why not? You got paid today."

Same conversation, over and over again.

And then there's the messages, the endless slew of constant text messages that bombard me like she's dinging a bell from her room.

If I don't pay attention it's the messages like

"I'm going to die alone in this room someday. No one cares. I'd rather be dead than live like this."

"God I wish you could help me Claire."

"Please help me, I'm in so much pain."

I think the first memory I have of her telling me she wanted to kill herself was when I was about five, I just have this vivid memory of her in the kitchen drunk and turning to me and saying.

"You know, if it wasn't for you I'd walk into the bathroom and slit my wrists right now."

I remember not knowing what to do with that information when she said it, but I just remember feeling really guilty. Like it was my fault or I'd done something wrong somehow and it was my job to fix it so she didn't feel like that.

It was the same with my Dad though, I lost count of the amount of times he threatened to kill himself, but he said it to my mother not me. I think the thing I hated the most about that was when they would get drunk and fight, and he threatened to hang himself... and then my mother would taunt him. Telling him she was happy to help if he needed. Laughing and calling him a coward.

I didn't know what to do, I was too scared to disobey her but all I wanted to do was go and help him.

He was sad a lot. I understand it a lot better now.

If I do leave the house, then it's the bombardment of messages like

"Where are you?"

"When are you getting home?"

"Claire, I need your help, come home."

"I think I'm having chest pains again, you need to come home."

"I need cigarettes."

"I'm hungry."

"Where are you?"

"Where are you?"

"Where are you?"

I think her record was 25 messages in one hour, when I hadn't checked my phone during my therapy appointment.

I fucking hate the sound of my message tone, that ding feels like a jolt of fear being stabbed into me every time it goes off.

And sure I could ignore it, but the thing is, there's always that chance... that what if. What if this time something actually is wrong.

Because then my option is to walk in her room and find her dead, and then that's something else I’d have to live with. Knowing I ignored it.

I'm coming out of the tail end of it though, usually she's bad for a few days and then she kind of bottoms out and goes back to a baseline. But I'm always just waiting for it to happen again.

She only ever does it to me. She's never like it around anyone else.

I suppose the only other person that really saw it was my Dad, but she didn't get 'sick' until about eight years ago; before that it was just the drinking and prescription pills - just not the pain medication.

 Can't say I blame him for leaving her, I would if I could.

I've told my psychologist the hopelessness I feel in this situation is that the only way I ever see myself getting out of it, is if one of us leaves in a body bag.

But at this point, I don't think it'll ever be her.

I'm trapped.

Aside from that, the only person that kind of saw what she was like was Frank. He's the only person I ever really opened up to about my childhood or my mother - I trusted him with it, but just like everyone else he used it against me.

Now really the only ones I have that have an idea of what it's like is my psychologist or John.

I would have kept it from John if I could, but after what I put him through, I owed him an explanation.

I suppose I can't complain too much, at least tonight Mum has left me alone for the most part. She's got her tablets, and her cigarettes along with her TV shows to watch on her Netflix that I pay for while she plays solitaire on her phone.

I caved tonight and gave her some extra medication, I just couldn't take it anymore. I was so fucking exhausted and beaten down I just didn't have it in me to fight it anymore. I just needed a break.

So she's high and happy, and I'm laying on my bed with Gizmo; staring at the ceiling and wondering if it's even worth trying to sleep tonight.

I know I'm just going to have nightmares again. They always get worse when she's acted like this. So what's the point? I can be in hell while I'm awake or hell while I'm asleep.

May as well just be tired and choose the option I have more control over.

You know... sometimes I stand on a ledge and wonder if I jumped, would it feel like falling or flying? Some days it's hard not to find out.

Today is one of those days.

People always say you struggle with mental health.

Well I'm not struggling, I'm suffering.

At least I have Gizmo though, he's the only thing that makes any of this shit bearable. I could never abandon him.

I've been trying to listen to music to drown out the noise in my head, because the silence is always far too loud, but a strange noise has me lifting my head up off the pillow and I immediately feel that dread.

Is that mum at my door?

I hear the sound again, and my brows scrunch together. It sounds like something tapping against my window, or well, hitting my window. It's hitting the glass above the fly screen.

It sounds really fucking creepy.

I pull myself to sit up, and I've watched enough horror movies to know I should not be checking what the noise is.

But if it's a serial killer, jokes on them cause I want to die anyway so thanks for the help.

Gizmo is sound asleep as usual, so I crawl over towards the window that's above the side of my bed where it is against the wall and slowly lean my head over to look out of it.

At first I don't see anything, but suddenly a head pops up and I absolutely freak out, flying backwards and shouting, "oh what the fuck!"

I land on my back on the mattress with a thud, but pull myself up on my elbows to see what the actual fuck I just saw.

It's dark outside; but the second I make out that red hair I know exactly who just nearly made my soul leave my body at the same time I just about shit my pants.

Jamie is standing there with his hands smacked over his mouth, looking like he's about to explode from the laugh he's holding in.

My window comes up to about his shoulders, and I can only see the features of his face that are illuminated by the faint glow from the lamp in my room.

I'm going to fucking. kill. him.

I scramble up to my knees, and crawl back to the window; yanking it open to whisper yell at him. "What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you smirky psycho!"

Jamie coughs into his fist to compose himself, but still has a wide grin when he talks. "Ye ken, throwing rocks at a girl’s window looks a lot more romantic and works out a lot better in movies."

"Have you lost your fucking mind?" I hiss at him. "You nearly gave me a heart attack! What did I say about not turning up here!"

Jamie folds his elbows over the windowsill, staring at me like my distress is just amusing. "Ye said not to turn up at yer front door. I didn’t."

I-

You know what? I should have known. I shouldn't even be surprised at this point.

My face drops into a flat annoyed expression, but Jamie gives me a curious look as he inspects my features and I notice the faintest frown pull on his brows. "Ye havena come around to John’s to pick Gizmo up all week."

My own brows quirk together. "I've been busy."

He purses his lips, and then narrows his eyes. "Ye wouldna be avoiding me, would you?"

It sounds like his usual taunting question, but there's still a hint of seriousness to it that I don't miss.

"No, I've just genuinely been busy, John has been dropping him off for me."

He nods at my answer, seeming to accept it but he looks over my face again and his lips pull to the side. "Ye look tired."

"That's the polite way of telling me I look like shit, but thanks. I was already well aware of it," I reply with a dry tone, raising my brows at him, and Jamie gives me an annoyed look.

"Ye never look like shit, ye just look tired. Dinna put words in my mouth."

I sigh, pinching the bridge of my nose, not having the mental energy to bicker with him about it. "Why are you here Jamie?"

"I wanted to see you," he replies simply, as if it should be obvious.

"Well, you've seen me now and scared the shit out of me - so you can go now," I quip with an accusing raise of my brows.

"Are ye going to sleep any time soon?" He ignores what I say completely, and relaxes against the windowsill with no signs of budging.

I scrunch my nose up. "Why?"

"Wanted ye to come for a drive with me."

Unless it's off a cliff, I'm not interested smirky.

And yet, there's that little voice in my head telling me how much of a bullshit liar I am because I know there's that part of me that's actually happy to see him, and would want to spend time with him.

But that part of me is an idiot, and I should not be listening to it.

I couldn't go even if I wanted to though.

I shake my head, glancing to my door. "I can't, not tonight"

He tilts his head, still not budging. "Why not?"

"Just because I can't."

"That's no’ a reason, that's an excuse."

I groan, rubbing at my eyes; far too mentally drained for this. "I just can't okay?"

I also can't explain the reason because I don't know how to explain this shit with my mother to anyone and I don't want to. It's embarrassing.

Jamie sighs, and clicks his tongue at me.

"I dinna want to have to do this Claire, but you've left me no choice."

I stare at him confused until I see him hold up that fucking pig and dangle it near his head with a raise of his brows. "The pig says you've got to come for a drive."

....Does he seriously just carry that thing around now?

I roll my lips into my mouth, fighting a smile so hard my cheeks hurt and give me a dramatic stubborn expression.

I honestly thought I was too tired to smile, I guess not.

Fuck him for being an endearing, infuriating, cute red headed son of a bitch.

"Bringing out the pig," I shake my head in mock disgust. "That's low, even for you smirky."

He shrugs, pulling his hand down and shoving it back into what I assume is his pocket. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Just come for a drive, we'll only be gone a couple hours. Promise I'll have ye back before midnight," he offers and I give him a teasing look.

"Why midnight?"

"My ride turns into a pumpkin after that, I dinna think my ego could handle the embarrassment of ye seeing it," he says seriously, which cracks the smile I was trying to stop onto my face. "I need ye to think I'm cool after all."

...I hate that I missed you, you jerk.

I scrunch my lips up, squinting my eyes and sigh as my shoulders slump, and don't say anything for a moment but then I point at him.

"Only for a couple of hours, I can't be out all night and no funny business."

"Serious business only," he agrees without missing a beat and a firm nod.

God this is a bad idea, and I'm already worried sick about my mum finding out that I've gone out; I don't think I could handle the backlash from it after this week.

But I'm hoping she just stays passed out in her room, she should definitely be asleep by now.

"Don't make me regret this smirky," I warn him, but he just gives me a lit up triumphant excited smile over the fact I've given in.

"That's the last thing I'd ever want to do - I'll wait for ye out the front."

He walked off before I had a chance to reply, I don't know if he was worried I'd back out or change my mind suddenly but I decided not to dwell on it and instead shut my window. I got up to change into jeans and a hoodie and gave a comatose Gizmo a kiss on the head before I tiptoed out of my room to sneak towards the front door.

I felt like a teenager sneaking out which is ridiculous, because I'm a grown woman and this is my goddamn house.

This is such a terrible idea.

For whatever reason though, that's not stopping me, and when I finally get out of the front door, Jamie is waiting leant on his shoulder next to it.

I don't know why, but for some reason he looks even better than the last time I saw him. Maybe it's just because I’ve started seeing him differently. 

And for the first time around him, I find myself feeling like I kind of wish I dressed nicer, or maybe put a little more effort into my appearance.

Do I care if he thinks I look nice or not?

"I was starting to think ye were going to bail on me."

"Thought crossed my mind," I tease.

The first thing I see though, after I shut the door before we go to walk off is a motorbike parked on the road out the front of my house.

...Of course he owns a motorcycle, typical.

It's black, and to be fair does look quite nice 

I could have sworn I heard a motorbike earlier but I thought it just drove past, it had to have been at least 40 minutes or more ago.

How long was he outside my window?

"Are you fucking kidding me right now? A motorbike? Seriously? You really did just walk out of the fuckboy monthly magazine didn't you?" I whip my eyes to him, not budging a step further and Jamie feigns an offended expression.

"Hey - be nice, I only picked her up today, if ye keep talking like that yer going to hurt her feelings. I left my other one back in Scotland, I was excited and wanted to take her out."

"I am not getting on that thing," I fold my arms over my chest, being as firm and stubborn as possible

I've never been on a motorbike, and I don't plan to start now.

Jamie faces me, leaning to look at me at my eye level and places his hands on my shoulders. "Do ye trust me?"

"To kill us both on that thing? Absolutely."

You know now that I think about it, maybe a motorbike ride is a great idea.

Jamie rolls his eyes, and gives me a warning look to cut the sarcasm. "I'm being serious, do ye trust me?"

I pause for a moment, pursing my lips before mumbling "....Maybe."

"Okay well, maybe is a start," he says with a smile. "I promise it's safe, and besides - nothing can go wrong."

I peer at him, looking suspicious. "...And why is that?"

Jamie stands straight, slinging his arm over my shoulder as he tugs me along and starts to walk us to the bike and taps his free hand against his pocket. "Because I've got my good luck charm."

Great.

My life hangs in the balance over a pig ornament.

We stop just in front of the motorcycle as I eye it with caution, and Jamie grabs one of the two helmets on it; handing it to me. "Dinna look so worried Sassenach, ye never know - ye might enjoy it."

"Doubt it," I mutter under my breath, but Jamie just gives me a cheeky look as he holds onto the handles and swings his leg over the seat to perch himself on the bike.

What he says next is so laced with ambiguous cheekiness that I'm tempted to smack the hamlet against his head.

"C’mon heartbreaker, hop on. I've been dying to take ye for a ride."

...Why did I agree to this.

This is such a bad idea.

***

"Like indecision to call you

And hear your voice of treason.

Will you come home and stop this pain tonight?

Stop this pain tonight."

***

Chapter Text

"Am I loud and clear, or am I breaking up?

Am I still your charm, or am I just bad luck?

Are we getting closer, or are we just getting more lost?"

(Swing Life Away - Rise Against)

***

I am a possum.

Well at least that's how I felt, the entire time I was on Jamie’s motorbike clung to his back for dear life.

There were times I thought it was intentional, when he would suddenly speed up or go around a corner especially hard and my arms would tighten around him and I'd bury my helmet clad head against his back like the terrified marsupial I felt like.

I can't say that I felt unsafe, some moronic part of me trusted that he was in full control of what he was doing, but I'm just usually not one to do this sort of thing.

I'm not exactly a thrill seeker.

My life has been enough of a roller coaster without me purposely going out of my way to have my anxiety shot through the roof.

I'd never admit it, but just before we stopped, I did find myself actually enjoying it... a bit. How free it felt. Almost as if you were flying along the ground and nothing could touch you.

Things went quiet again temporarily and all I could focus on was the warmth from Jamie’s back radiating against my chest; how soft his stomach felt, even though I could feel his muscles that would contract if I squeezed my arms tighter every so often.

It felt nice. It was fun.

But I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

Everything about Jamie has been chaotic since I met him, absolutely unpredictable and infuriating. For whatever the reason though, one I can't explain is...

He was the kind of chaos that calmed me.

And I don't know why, it makes zero sense to me. I don't like things that don't make sense.

I was also confused, when we finally came to a stop maybe 20 minutes after we left; and Jamie had pulled up at a children's playground.

I asked him why we were here in the middle of the night while he sat both of our helmets on the bike, and his response was,

"It's peaceful here at night, it's quiet. And there's no people around, I thought ye might like it."

I pointed out that we were adults and not children when he grasped my hand and urged me to start walking down the hill with him to the play equipment, to which he said,

"We're all just kids in big bodies, c'mon - live a little."

I think I've lived too much for one person, Jamie, that's the problem.

Either way, that's how we ended up sitting on swings next to each other at the moment, like a pair of teenagers in some dumb romance movie.

The park is only lit up by a couple of light posts at the very far corners of the playground; and there's lights along the creek a few feet down from us.

The water separates the children's playground from a big sports field on the other side, where there's also a bunch of wooden gazebos and outdoor barbeques. There's a small old wooden bridge that connects both sides, and I find myself wondering why I never bothered to come here before.

I haven't been to this park, but I haven't really left the house much since I moved here a few years ago, unless it was to go to work or see Frank.

Probably a dumb idea to move here to be closer to him, but I didn’t know that at the time.

At least I met John and got Gizmo out of it, that's a silver lining.

I guess I could’ve left after Frank broke up with me, but I already had mum with me here and to be honest, I've moved around more times than I can remember, especially as a kid. Like I keep saying, I'm tired. I just kind of wanted to stay in one place for once.

It's a clear night… it feels calm. There's not even a breeze and all I can hear is the creak from the swings swaying and the water running down the creek near us.

I guess this isn't so bad...

However, it's a really odd place to put a children's park if I'm being honest, next to the creek. Did the person who approved this just hate kids?

Looked at this bit of land and went, "perfect place for killing children - they can go play on the seesaw and then fall into the water."

I think I'm a bit too morbid for my own good, but honestly - who puts kids' play equipment next to an open body of water?

"What are ye thinking about?" Jamie asks, staring at me from his spot sitting on the swing next to me with his hands gripped around the chains either side of him.

I realize then that I've just been sitting there staring at the water stuck in my own head, and I look over to him, talking before I think.

"Drowning kids."

His brows shoot up as he pulls his head back. "Excuse me?"

That answer sounded a lot better in my head.

"I was just thinking it's weird to put a kids playground next to a creek."

Jamie looks to the creek, then around the park, back to me, and shrugs his shoulders. "That's a good point actually - kind of a death trap waiting to happen."

I throw my hands out in front of myself "Exactly! Thank yo-  AH!"

I shriek when I fall backwards, forgetting I'm on a swing and the momentum of throwing my arms forward sends me back; and I grab onto the chains just before I land on the ground.

"Woah, ye okay there?" Jamie checks, but I don't miss him trying to hide his snickering.

I give him a flat stare. "I'm fine, you sound really concerned by the way."

He clears his throat, swiping his hand over his mouth to wipe the smile away, giving me the most exaggerated look of concern I've ever seen, like he belongs on a damn soap opera.

"Oh Christ, Claire, are ye alright? That must have been so terrifying, how did ye even survive?"

I narrow my eyes at him, while he stares at me and his expression falters as he presses his lips tight together to hold in a laugh.

"Fuck you, and that smart ass mouth."

Jamie's shoulders slump in relief, as he holds his hand to his heart on his chest. "Oh thank god, I thought you'd never offer - right here? Right now? Me or my mouth first?" His face starts to morph into the sly look I know on him so well as he talks. "I didna ken ye were into outdoor sex ye vixen - that something else I should add to yer list?"

My eyes narrow further into slits, and I purse my lips to avoid cracking the smile wanting to break out on my face that I'm annoyed at myself over.

"You know... You're making it real hard for me to think you want anything from me aside from sex, smirky. Kind of ruining this whole 'I actually like you as a person' charade you're trying to keep up."

His brows pinch together, while he tilts his head and he looks vaguely bothered by what I said; but that washes from his face to be replaced by a thoughtful look. "It's no’ a charade. Being honest about wanting to fuck ye, doesna mean I canna like who ye are as well."

I give him a deadpan look, still not buying it. "Uh-huh. I'm sure your dick is super interested in my personality."

Even with everything that's happened with Jamie, I still have my guard up a mile high.

I still have that fear that this is just a game to use me somehow; and my brain is doing whatever it possibly can to come up with ways to rationalize that, so I can protect myself.

If he just wants to have sex with me fine, but stop trying to put it in my head that you actually like me. That you care somehow. That makes me trust it even less.

I find it inconceivable that he, or anyone really, could genuinely like me.

The only person I don't question that about is Gizmo, and that's because he's a dog.

It's not just a matter of low self esteem either. I'm aware I'm not the most confident person in regards to self worth, but it's my inner dialogue. It's that inner voice I've had since I can remember telling me there's something inherently wrong about me.

It's wired into my brain. It's not something some pretty blue eyes and rugged accent is going to randomly fix.

You know, people always say we should learn from history. Well, my history shows that my worth is at the bottom of the barrel really.

You can't kick a dog repeatedly and then act surprised when all it knows how to do is cower.

"Fine," Jamie says, looking determined. "I'll make ye a deal then."

Again with his bloody deals.

I raise my brows, gesturing for him to continue, and he pushes his fingers through the front of his hair, pushing it away from his face before he stares at me with a serious expression.

"I'm not going to sleep with ye, unless ye ask me to."

I raise a brow at him. "As opposed to my other option of you having sex with me... without me asking?"

His brows pinch together, and he shakes his head quickly realizing how that sounds. "No wait, what? No - No, that's no’ how I meant it. I meant that unless yer the one that initiates it, that asks - that tells me that's what ye want. Then I'm not sleeping with you - I told ye, I'm not here to convince ye to sleep with me. Ball’s in yer court with this."

Jamie points at me, with another determined look. "And I mean literally ask me Claire, if ye dinna say the words it's never happening. Ye have to expressly tell me to fuck you."

I literally cannot picture those words ever leaving my mouth.

I can picture me telling him to fuck off, or maybe to go fuck himself - but not telling him to fuck me.

I blink at him, caught off guard with how blunt he can be. "What's changed?"

Now he looks confused again. "What do ye mean?"

"I mean, that since I met you you've been harping on about the fact that you were going to sleep with me - you even said it to John, that you were going to, it was only a matter of time. And now you're back tracking and saying it's never going to happen unless I'm the one that goes after you."

This is why I'm not trusting it. It doesn't add up, well not to me at least.

Jamie rolls his lips inside his mouth, scratching at his forehead and sighs. "Honestly?... I just got to know ye better. I barely knew ye when I said all that, I didna ken that things would be so erm, different wi’ you... and sometimes I was just saying things to get a reaction out of ye. Ironically though, the more I get to know ye, the less I can figure ye out."

"But you don't know me," I argue, not understanding what the hell he's so hung up on figuring out.

This is what I mean, sex complicates things. Well they complicate things for people like me; for Jamie I'm sure sex is the most simple, straightforward thing in the world. If things keep going like this with us, I'm only going to be questioning him more.

Sex is fun for him.

It's been traumatic for me.

Sex is an experience to him.

It's been an ordeal for me.

Jamie looks at me, with his lips pressed together and a pensive look on his face; his eyes going over my features while he looks like he's got a million thoughts running through his head.

"I ken ye dinna like sleeping in the dark," he says all of a sudden, and it makes me freeze before he continues to talk.

"I ken ye work as a waitress, and I ken that ye work really hard. I ken yer favorite movie is Gremlins. I ken ye only like vodka when ye drink. I ken ye eat pizza like a fucking lunatic."

He doesn't break his stare from me, and now I'm kind of wishing I did fall off the swing and go head first into the ground.

"I ken that ye love Queen, and have amazing taste in music. I ken that crowds make ye nervous." 

Jamie bites on his lip with a teasing glint in his eye. "I ken that yer boyfriend is the most important thing in yer life, and you'd do anything for him."

He's never going to let me forget that boyfriend shit with Gizmo is he?

I'd cuss him out but my body is completely still, and I have no idea how to react; my heart just jumps faster and faster the more he talks.

I open my mouth to say something, anything, but I'm stumped.

"I ken ye hate asking for or accepting help. I ken that affection makes ye nervous, I just dinna ken why yet - but I ken that when yer asleep ye get extremely cuddly and ye breathe through yer mouth, and sometimes ye make these quiet whimpering noises that kind of sound like a puppy. Ye snore sometimes, no’ all the time but ye do - s'cute though. I ken that ye smoke when yer stressed, but ye hate it."

He notices my reaction at the end of his sentence, where it must look obvious that I'm wondering how the fuck he knows that, so he explains with a shrug. "Ye grimace, when ye inhale. I can just tell ye dinna enjoy it. But ye do it anyway."

"I ken that yer stubborn," he adds, apparently not done, and his lips pull up at the corners like he's thinking of a memory he's fond of. "I ken ye canna sing for shit, but ye enjoy it. I ken ye like to dance like no one is watching you. I ken that yer funny, and witty, and when yer uncomfortable you use that humor to deflect it."

He pauses for a moment and his voice becomes a bit softer as he continues to watch me. "I ken ye have bad dreams, dinna ken how often - but I could tell they happen enough, and upset ye enough for ye to not want to talk about them."

He wets his lips, resting the side of his head against his fist wrapped around the chain of the swing. "And I ken that you've been hurt, a lot. And ye dinna trust anyone. Especially me."

I am absolutely fucking dumbfounded.

I'm literally at a loss for words, and my emotions are firing around my body a hundred miles an hour not knowing what to do with themselves.

"How - What - " I pinch my eyes shut, shaking my head like I'm trying to shuffle the thoughts in my head out of their jumbled mess into some kind of sense but it's not working. "How do you even know all of that?"

Why would he even notice? Or even bother to remember?

"Because I pay attention," he replies without missing a beat. "There's more, but that's all I could rattle off, off of the top of my head."

He takes in a deep breath, blowing it out in a drawn out sigh and just keeps a content watch on my face. "But that's the thing, Claire. I ken all those things and at the same time I dinna ken a fucking thing about you. I'm never going to actually know you, unless ye let me."

My pull tight together, my eyes automatically going to my lap as I start my usual habit of chewing on the inside of my cheek.

"But why would you even want to? Know me?"

The notion of that, confused the fuck out of me.

Jamie reaches over, grasping the chain on my swing and pulling me over to him and nudging my chin up to look at him.  He catches my eyes and leans his face close to mine.

"Because..." he pauses, flicking his eyes to my lips and then back up, leaning closer, and I have to fight the conflicting feeling of pulling back and moving closer myself so I just stay still.

My heart and stomach are acting like gymnasts in the damn Olympics and I'm scolding myself in my head over it.

He forever has me at a tug of war with my logical, rational side and the dumb fuck side that just wants to kiss him all the time now.

His voice is gentle, but serious. and I can feel his breath hit my lips as he talks.

"I want to ken everything about someone that could think it's ever acceptable to put pineapple on their fucking pizza."

His face lights up in a giant bright cheeky grin, that creases the corners of his light eyes and he lets go of my swing; pushing me back away from him as my face drops into an annoyed scowl, but yet again, I'm trying not to smile.

"Oh fuck off, there is nothing wrong with pineapple on pizza!"

He points at me, as I sway back and forth on the swing. "Everything is wrong wi’ pineapple on pizza."

I scoff. "Yeah, well, mint chocolate chip ice cream tastes like shit."

Jamie gasps, with his jaw dropped and slaps his hand to his chest, acting like I just cussed out his mother. "How dare you."

Now I'm the one grinning, and I shove his shoulder when I sway back over towards him. "It tastes like toothpaste and chocolate - what kind of psycho likes that?"

Jamie is trying to look offended, dipping his lips down at the corners to fight smiling. "At least I dinna put fruit on pizza."

"Yes, you do actually," I laugh, watching his nose scrunch in confusion. "Tomato is a fruit, genius."

He pauses, thinking for a moment with a crease forming between his brows and his bottom lip jutting out.

"Well, fuck," he mumbles before bursting out into a loud laugh when the realization hits him; rubbing his hand over his face like he's embarrassed. "Ye got me there".

I raise my hand, holding my middle finger up with a smug expression. "So fuck you - you're just as weird as me."

Jamie's entire face is lit up, his cheeks looking like they hurt from how large he's smiling, and it doesn’t feel as annoying as it used to. "Dinna fash Sassenach, I was already well aware of that."

It falls silent between us, we're just smiling like a pair of dorks and I get that same odd tug in my chest as I stare at him.

I purse my lips, giving him a thoughtful look, and then extend my hand out to him. "Deal."

His eyes flick to my hand then back to my face with a puzzled look. "Huh?"

"That deal you offered earlier, I'm accepting it."

Jamie's brows lift in surprise, and he looks like he wants to say something but stops himself and instead his lips tug up in one corner to flash that damn smirk that coined my nickname for him.

He extends his hand, grasping mine, and I swallow when my stomach clenches over the contact. He focuses his eyes on mine and sounds far too pleased with himself.

"Deal heartbreaker, no sex till I hear those magic words from ye - canna wait to find out if I do."

Honestly at this point, now I'm interested in figuring out if I'd say them to him as well. Is it what I want? Do I want to sleep with him? Can I ask him that?

I guess all I can do is wait and see.

***

Everyone @ Claire:

Chapter Text

"Cause I'm only a man

And I think I need some time to breath

But I've done all I can

And I'm hoping one day you'll see

Cause I've been on my knees again

Well I've been on my knees

Where do we we go, where do we go from here"

(Knees - Ocean Alley)  

***

Jamie and I have just sat talking and teasing each other for the last two hours, while we had competitions to see who could go the highest on the swings. It's strange, finding conversation so easy with someone. Normally it feels like trying to pull teeth, and I'm always so hyper aware of the other person and making sure I say the right thing that the interaction is just exhausting and I want to get away from it.

But conversation with him is just so...easy and interesting. When I actually let myself give in to it.

The time has gone by faster than I thought, and I didn't realize I could get so lost in spending time with another person. Usually I'm breaking my neck to figure out a way to escape someone's company, and now that Jamie told me it's 11pm, I'm finding myself dealing with a heavy disappointment in my chest.

Tonight has been this odd kind of experience with Jamie, it's seemed so carefree and pure; well, if you don't include all of his crude remarks, but it's just difficult to describe.

It just felt like a really innocent, simple way to enjoy each other's company, and I can't even believe I'm saying that now.

We didn't talk about anything in particular, just ended up on random tangents that would swap and weave over different topics, talking about our opinions on different things. He didn't try about anything personal, and I did the same for him.

Jamie seems like an infection, honestly. Like for the briefest seconds where I let an inch of my guard down; I've contracted a virus that is slowly spreading.

I'm fairly sure I've developed a heart arrhythmia, considering how out of whack it gets around him - which could be a side effect. Not to mention I can't regulate my body temperature, and I swear I'm developing asthma with how bullshit my breathing gets too.

All symptoms point to him and the fact I've contracted a horrible infection.

Feelings.

I'm not sure what kind and I know they're only in their beginning stages, I'm not sure if they're purely hormonal driven because let's be honest, hormones are the most irrational fucking thing in the world, but I'm also not sure what those feelings mean either.

The only way I can sum them up, is that now instead of wanting to punch him in the face with my fist, I want to punch him in the face with my mouth.

I don't like the fact that I actually care now, I would never go as far as saying that it's romantic, but it's just the fact that I actually give a shit about him in some capacity.

I like his company. I don't like that I like it, that I miss it when it's not there.

If you care you are handing the other person the power to hurt you and that is something that explodes so much fear in me it's crippling.

And while I know the smart thing to do would be to put a stop to everything right now, I don't want to. I blame my vagina if anything, get one orgasm and all of a sudden I'm throwing all of my rationality out the window. 

Bad vagina. I thought we were smarter than this.

Which brings me back to the point that I stand by the fact that I just have a horrible fuckboy virus and it's slowly eating away at my functioning brain cells. Why couldn't it just be something simple like chlamydia, at least I just take some pills for that and it's gone.

Jamie, for whatever reason, decided he wanted to push me on my swing; and normally I would argue but unfortunately it felt nice every time I would feel his large palms splay against my back to push me forward.

Christ I'm pathetic.

I'm so unaccustomed to affection or being touched in general, that all of these small benign gestures seem so monumental to me; so important and noticeable.

"We're gonna have to leave in about 20 minutes,” Jamie says from behind me as he pushes me forward again, and I'm swaying through the air with my head hung back, my eyes closed...just enjoying the feeling.

It feels like flying.

"Thank god, I was wondering when I was going to be able to get rid of you - didn't know how much more I could take," I grinned, keeping my eyes closed as I continue to swing.

It's peaceful.

Jamie doesn't say anything, and silence is never a good thing. He's like a toddler, if he's too quiet he's up to something.

I swing forward with my legs straight out in front of me for momentum, and I open my eyes to see Jamie standing in front of me and I shreik "oh fuck" in shock when he grabs hold of both my ankles while I'm in mid air, stopping me abruptly. 

He's lucky he has good reflexes because I nearly booted him straight in the face.

He starts to walk forward to lower me down and I stare at him with my eyes wide while he pushes my legs apart, hooking my thighs around his hips while he continues to walk forward until the swing is hanging horizontal again.

What the hell is he doing?

His hands come up to wrap his fingers around either chain just above where my fists are gripped around them, and he tilts his head, darting his eyes around my face.

"Ye ken..." he begins, with a thoughtful purse of his lips. "This whole waiting for ye to kiss me first thing is a special kind of torture."

"Hey, it was your idea," I point out, my voice hitching up an octave when he ducks his face down to my level so our noses are nearly touching.

"Mmm'I ken," he agrees, wetting his lips and focusing his stare on my mouth "But it's been killing me all night..." His voice softens, becoming quiet and his ocean eyes flick back up to meet my own. "Think ye could take a bit of pity on me - put a guy out of his misery?"

I chew on my lip, but then suck in a breath when he moves his lips to press a barely there kiss against the corner of my mouth. "Please? I'm suffering somethin’ terrible over here."

I smile, gripping the chains of the swing tighter. "I don't know, letting you suffer sounds pretty tempting."

Jamie's own lips pull into a smirk, like he's happy I'm actually being playful with him.

"Now yer just being cruel," he muses, tilting his head down to press another faint kiss to my jaw "What do you need me to do? Hm?"

My stomach constricts at the same time my legs tighten around him when his soft lips drag across my jaw until he presses a kiss under my ear. "Need me to beg? I'm no’ above it."

Well now you're just being dramatic.

...But, hearing the drop of his smooth quiet voice wrapped around those words has my skin prickling.

His mouth ghosts back across my cheek and he hovers his mouth over mine, his voice becoming strained with the tension that's making our mouths feel a million miles apart even though it's only millimetres. 

"Please, just a kiss," he sighs. "I'll get on my knees if ye need me to."

His lips part and he brushes them over my own, his hot breath coming out in sharp shallow puffs of air. "I canna even think straight anymore...please."

I'm closing the gap between us before I can think twice about it, pressing my lips against his and his body slumps like it's melted with relief; his mouth automatically attacking mine with needy, savory motions and his tongue is eager to slip past my lips and explore my own. 

It's triggering all those unfamiliar sensations in me again, and for the first time I take initiative with touching him; letting go of the swing to reach up and grasp my hands around his defined jaw, pulling him closer.

The faintest moan echoes in Jamie's throat, and he moves his own hands to smooth down my waist until he reaches around, wrapping his large hands around my behind and tugging me against him.

I'm literally hanging here in mid air, with my legs clung tight around him, feeling like I could float and fall at the same time.

My hands slip from his jaw, my fingers feathering in shy motions down his neck, and Jamie sighs at the faint contact while he deepens the kiss, breathing heavier and holding me tighter against him.

I drag and explore down his chest, feeling it rise and fall with his harsh breaths; and his muscles twitch and jump when I move them lower over his stomach.

I get so lost in how his mouth feels, that I don't even think about what I'm doing when I slip my hands under the fabric of his shirt; sliding my delicate fingers up his warm skin, and Jamie shudders at the feeling with a sharp inhale.

His stomach is so soft, smooth and contrasted by the sparse coarse hairs that trail from his belly button. His skin prickles with goosebumps while his abdomen flexes with each unsure touch.

I go to pull my hands away, immediately second guessing myself as soon as I registered what I'm doing, but Jamie quickly lets go of my ass and puts his hands over mine through the fabric of his shirt; shaking his head and breaking the kiss only to mumble with his lips against mine.

"No keep going, keep them there."

"Please... feels good." He licks his lower lip, before swallowing a harsh gulp and presses my palms flat against his skin, sighing and closing his eyes as he guides them up higher to explore over his chest and back down, pushing his lips forward a fraction to capture mine again and kiss me harder than he had before.

As soon as he's sure I won't tug my hands away, and start feeling my hands around his torso, taking in every crevice and dip that maps out his firm chest down to his sternum, Jamie moves one hand to take a strong grasp on the side of my jaw, sliding it until his fingers lace into the back of my hair and his thumb rests near my ear while his free hand goes behind me, lifting the back of my hoodie so he could sneak his hand underneath it.

He pauses his hand against my back, like he's waiting for my reaction and traces his fingers in soothing patterns against my bare skin; and the small action sends a ripple effect through my whole body.

It's like the more small acts of affection I get, the more my body fiends for it, craving the sensations like a dry sponge desperate to soak up any drop of water it can.

I don't think a lot of people really appreciate how big and powerful small touches can be. How significant little intimate gestures can be when you're learning about another person.

These days, or just with most people I know; the important part is just sex - the act itself, just hookup and get it over with. Everything seems so rushed, casual and almost void of connection and I suppose that's the other reason I never felt like I fit in, enjoyed or felt like I needed sex. The reason I always felt out of place and never close to anyone, because people just don't seem to care about the small things.

It was the insignificant things that meant everything to me, and nothing to everyone else.

It feels like it matters to him though, that he realizes it's important to me. I doubt they're important to him, given his track record with sex but still, god it's intoxicating to feel that connection with with someone.

I try to give him a non-verbal queue that what he's doing is okay; tightening my legs around him and dragging my fingertips down his stomach to trace over the indents of his hips until I feel the band of his underwear. I tuck my pointer finger inside it, dragging it back and forth under the elastic over his abdomen, feeling his whole body twitch.

Jamie's hips shift forward at the same time that he whimpers low in his throat over my careful touches, sliding his hand on my back down to dip his fingers past the top of my jeans. He slides his hand down the back of them until his palm grips a handful of my ass over the fabric of my underwear, and he pulls me against him at the same time his hips rock forward again.

I like touching him. I like him touching me.

I really like kissing him.

When I feel the pressure from the growing hardness strained against the fabric of his pants, pressing against my center with each slow roll of his hips, I don't seize up like I did last time and he notices, groaning at the friction. The pace of the kiss becomes more desperate, careless, and hearing the sounds from him draws a quiet moan to dance up from my chest and tumble into his mouth.

It's times like this I wish I wasn't so fucked in the head, that I was able to just give in and tell him to do whatever he wanted and know I wouldn't end up freaking out over it afterwards. I wish I was as carefree as him sometimes.

Honestly, if he keeps kissing me like this he's not going to be the only one that would drop to their knees.

That's the thing though, I'm far more comfortable pleasuring someone else - I know how to do that, because that's all I've ever done, is to learn how to make someone else feel good. It's dealing with the idea of letting myself be vulnerable enough to let someone pleasure me; that makes me anxious. The trust it involves.

Strange to think I've had so much sexual experience in my life, and yet barely experienced anything good for myself.

Jamie's hand that's gripping the flesh of my ass gives it a harsh squeeze, as he grinds his hips forward with a moan that hitches in his throat, and his fingers tighten in my hair when my own fingers drag down his stomach again, feeling it quiver as I do.

The stillness that's been in the air all night now feels like electricity exploding around us, rumbling static through the air that's trying to crush both of our bodies together.

Jamie breaks his lips away, panting, and stops his hips, but keeps me pulled tight against him. "We're going to have to stop before I get too ahead of myself, and have to drive home wi’ cum in my pants."

His face breaks out into a smile towards the end of his sentence, and his pink cheeks lift to crease the corner of his glazed eyes.

"Sounds like that's becoming a habit for you," I tease, wetting my swollen lips and feel my chest jump over how lit up his flushed face looks.

Jamie grins, flicking his eyes down looking almost shy and leans forward to steal a quick kiss. "What can I say, ye’re giving me bad habits"

You're doing the same thing with me smirky.

He chews on his lip while watching my face, and slips his fingers that were laced in my hair down, and moves his hand to rest against my hip. I move my own hands to rest on his hips under his shirt.

"...Ye ken... John and Alex are going away this weekend..." he pauses, wetting his lips. "Come over tomorrow. Stay the night."

His request sounds demanding but there's also a shy insecurity to his voice,  like he's anxious about my response.

It's obvious he's hiding this from John, and I'm not sure how to feel about that - because I hate keeping secrets, I've had to keep far too many in my lifetime and I hate lying to people I care about. If I'm going to keep spending time with Jamie, I need to talk to John about it.

That's an issue for another time though because that's not even close to my biggest problem, it's my mother.

My stomach drops and I feel worry wash over me, because my first response is to just agree but then I remember the reality of my mother and know she would never stay at the house by herself and make my life hell if I tried to do that.

The reality sinks in that I can't just do what I want, that this night was a brief fun escape but it's not something I'd be able to repeat often, if at all.

My silence makes Jamie look more nervous while he tries to read the emotions on my face. "Please? I'll be on my best behavior - just want to spend some more time wi’ you. Gizmo too, I need to get back on his good side."

I bite down on my cheek, my brows creasing together as I feel that tug in my chest again over the look on his face, and run over thoughts in my head over whether I could actually manage to stay the night. I don't know how to explain to him why I wouldn't be able to.

I'd like to spend more time with him too.

Fuck this is a mess.

Actually, I'm the mess.

I actually find myself feeling bad for Jamie, he looks like he's being tortured just standing there waiting for me to reply to him, and before I can stop myself, my brain short circuits again and I blurt out "okay."

"Really?" His face automatically brightens, his voice kicking up an octave to reflect his surprise - or excitement, I'm not sure.

I chew on my cheek with a slow unsure nod, then wet my lips and move my eyes down to stare at his chest. "Yeah... I have to work tomorrow, and sort a couple things out so I'd be able to stay. But uhm, I'll figure something out and come over after work."

I can't believe I'm agreeing to this, I'm already filling up with stress over what I'm going to do with mum and the guilt of doing something that I want.

"Leave yer car at my place when ye drop Gizmo off, I'll take ye to work and pick ye up," he offers, trying to hide the large smile on his face and failing miserably.

I give him a deadpan look, raising my brow. "I can drive myself to work."

"I ken," he agrees, biting down on his lower lip with a shrug. "But I want to pick ye up - just humor me."

"Fine." I roll my eyes, deciding not to argue with it or figure out why he wants to. It seems redundant to me, when I can just take myself, but I don't have the energy to figure it out.

Jamie grins, with a nod "Amazing. It's a date."

I sigh, closing my eyes and shaking my head. Not this shit again.

He doesn't give me a chance to reply with a smart ass comment, instead he just keeps grinning, slipping his hand from my jeans and giving my ass a light smack.

"C'mon let's get going, before I'm driving ye home in a pumpkin."

You fucking dork, smirky.

***

Chapter Text

"You got a fast car

But is it fast enough so you can fly away

You gotta make a decision

Leave tonight or live and die this way"

(Tracy Chapman - Fast Car)

***

I did everything short of offering my first born as a sacrifice to Satan, to get my mother to stay with the nurse this weekend.

In short, I bribed her.

I told her John was having an important party over at his house, and I didn't want to drive home late and wanted to stay the night; immediately the guilt tripping started.

However, there's nothing a carton of beer and two packets of cigarettes won't fix for her.

They were expensive, but I’ll manage. 

I always do. 

I feel like it may be cheaper for her to have a daily heroin habit at this point.

I mean, she does technically have one already - It's just a prescribed heroine. And she gets that for nearly free because of her disability payment.

Oh well, at least she went to stay with the nurse.

I'm sure I'll be the topic of discussion the whole time, and how selfish I was being; how much of a favor mum was doing me letting me just go off for the night and how she's such a caring mother because of it.

I'm still going to owe her for this.

Work dragged on, as it usually does. However my shift this time was spent with Charlie giving me cheeky smiles and teasing me about the Mr. Scottish accent that dropped me off at work.

God he was like a school girl snickering at me all night.

To be fair, Charlie hasn't seen me around anything male besides him and John since I started working here, and I found out that for the first few months he actually thought I was gay.

Apparently when men I would serve would try to talk to me I'd get a look on my face like I just smelled sour milk, and he thought it was because I preferred women.

I just prefer being left alone.

Well, I used to, because tonight I had this annoying pit of excitement in my stomach that I kept trying to will away the closer it got to me finishing.

I don't like getting excited, simply because I don't like being disappointed and that's all that seems to happen.

I kept thinking back to Jamie dropping me home last night, following me to my door and hovering around with small conversation as he shifted back and forth on his feet.

He seemed nervous, and it's still a bizarre look on him.

I didn't know what to make of it when he pulled the pig ornament from his pocket and handed it to me, giving me a simple explanation when he saw the puzzled look on my face.

"Now ye canna bail on me. I'll need to get my lucky charm back."

Sly thing he is.

By the time I finished work, my nerves were eating me alive and I hated it. I hated how much anticipation I had seeing Jamie now, that nervous feeling that flutters in your gut and then drops the minute you lay eyes on them.

He's woven his way into my mind, slowly solved all the puzzle pieces to the several escape rooms I have in place to block people getting too close.

And it's like without any effort one by one, he's making his way through each room and getting closer.

My journal entries have been all over the place since I met him; I was so sure the only word I would have to write in there is Gizmo and now these days I'm writing full sentences.

I walked out of the front door at work, with Charlie close behind me and after he locked it. He turned to me and slung his arm over my shoulder, flashing me a bright smile.

"I'd be lost without you, ya know that?"

"Charlie, I only reminded you that you left the fryers on," I muttered, rolling my eyes at how he's making it sound like I saved him from falling off the edge of a cliff.

"Yeah, but I've done that more times than I can count, and you've saved my ass with that more times than I can count since you started work here," he points out.

"Maybe I deserve a pay rise," I say with an accusing look, and Charlie gets an expression of mock shock on his face.

"Hey now, let's not get too crazy. I was thinking maybe we just name a burger after you or somethin."

I place my hand to my heart, giving him a sarcastic look as if he's touched all the emotions I can never quite reach. "Oh gosh, name a burger after me? My life would be complete. I could finally tell my mother I'd really made it."

Charlie gives me a flat look. "I'm gonna call it The Royal Smart Ass."

I grin at him. "I have no idea why you'd call it that."

Charlie scoffs, shaking his head but his eyes are lit up and he gives my shoulder a squeeze with his arm around me, leaning over to peck a kiss to the top of my head.

He really is like a giant affectionate teddy bear. Normally that kind of thing would be weird from a boss, but it seems so genuine and light hearted with Charlie. He’s actually become my friend since I started working here.

"You're lucky I like you - no other boss would put up with this shit."  

Something catches Charlie’s eye when he glances towards the road, and I look in the same direction to see Jamie's car parked there.

I see Jamie's figure perched against the hood of the car, his legs spread wide while he twirls his keys around his finger with his hands resting between legs.

I catch his eyes, and notice his brows dropped into a frown, with his lips pursed as he stares over at us.

Why does he look annoyed?

I finished a bit later than I thought I would, but I texted him and let him know - is he annoyed I finished late?

Oh that's another thing, he finally managed to drag my phone number out of me as well. Wonderful.

Charlie leans down to whisper in my ear, grinning. "Getting some Scottish in you are you? You little minx, you."

I elbow Charlie in the ribs, which honestly would hurt my elbow more than it'd hurt him seeing as he's built like a fucking brick house, but this only makes Charlie throw his head back in a loud laugh.

Jamie's brows only crease further as he watches, and his tongue runs along the inside of his cheek as he twirls the keys faster around his finger.

Charlie unwinds his arm from around me, tapping his finger against my nose with a snicker. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, Sunshine."

I just glare at him, and he leans in closer whispering again with a lift of his brows. "Just to clarify - I'd do everything."

"Oh fuck off Charlie," I huff, shoving his shoulder.

Charlie just starts walking backwards, twinkling his fingers at me with a wide smile. "Remember Claire - don't be silly, wrap his w-"

"Fuck. Off. Charlie." I yell, flipping him off which only makes him laugh harder as he spins on his heel and struts off like some sassy damn lumberjack.

Asshole.

I look back to Jamie with a huff. He is still just staring at me, and I start to walk over to him, holding tight onto the plastic bag in my hand.

As I get closer to Jamie, I still wonder why he has the expression on his face. I've never really seen him look irritated before.

"Why do you look like someone shit in your cereal?"

Jamie's brows raise "Hello to you too."

I stop in front of him, raising my brows back. "What's with the face?"

"I'm no’ making a face"

"You look annoyed," I point out, shifting on my feet when Jamie does a once over of my figure that he in no way tries to be subtle about.

"Ye look nice."

My face drops into a deadpan expression. "I'm literally wearing what I was when you dropped me at work."

He shrugs his shoulders, that crease between his brows wiping away into a smile. "And it still looks nice."

I hate admitting it but... he looks nice too.

He’s wearing a jacket, but has a black hoodie underneath that looks absurdly comfortable; matched with some torn up jeans with some worn out looking boots.

"Pretty sure I smell like food by this point in the day," I throw back with a dry tone as he stands, motioning his hand at me to get into the car.

"Ah, a woman with a fragrance after my own heart," he teases, raising and dropping his brows at me before he opens the passenger door to the car.

"I have arms you know. You don't need to open doors for me."

I've never liked this chivalry shit, it's always seemed disingenuous. I don't want to be treated like I'm too weak to open a door by myself. Any time someone did something like for me it was just because they were trying to get something from me, or seem more trustworthy than they actually were.

Christ, being this cynical is exhausting.

Jamie watches me climb into the car regardless, giving him a small thankful look, and he leans his head down with his arm perched on the open door. "I ken, yer an independent woman - thanks for letting me help," he grins, before shutting the door and I just stare at the closed door with a puzzled expression.

~•~

The drive back to John’s house has been relatively silent for the most part, aside from the music.

I guess that's one thing I do have to give to smirky, I like his taste in music. Not sure if I should tell him that though.

I've noticed that Jamie always drives quite fast, similar to how he is on his bike, and it comes back to that risk taking behavior that's so opposite to me.

I’ve never met someone that seems so careful and careless all at once.

Part of me wants to give a little, and maybe try a bit harder with him instead of being so stand offish. I still don't know if I trust him, but maybe I could give him a little bit of rope.

"So... yer boss seems friendly."

Jamie's voice grabs my attention and I look at him, seeing him just watching the road, and I give him a confused look.

"Huh?"

"Yer boss. Seems friendly," he repeats, but it in no way confuses me any less.

"Uh, I guess. I'd call him irritating but sure, friendly works too."

Why are we even talking about Charlie?

"Is he... just yer boss? You two ever been a thing?" He prods further, still not looking at me.

Wait, is Jamie into Charlie? I know he swings in every direction and Charlie has that whole Greek god thing going on for him - I think he's annoying but every one else finds him charming.

Charlie is as straight as a metal rod, though, so I'm not sure the feelings would be reciprocated.

I frown at his questions. "He's only ever been my boss, and a major annoyance sometimes."

Jamie purses his lips and pauses for a moment, and then drags out, "Sooo... ye dinna, ye ken...see him as more than just yer boss? Yer no’ into him? ...He looks nice."

"Jamie, if you want to fuck my boss just spit it out," I say with a blunt tone that makes Jamie’s eyes go wide and he snaps his face to look at me.

Jamie blinks at me, before looking back to the road and bursting out into a loud laugh.

"That whole blind stunt ye pulled the night we met makes more sense now."

I scrunch my nose up. "What?"

"Blind as a damn bat ye are," he chuckles, shaking his head.

I shake my back head at him, squinting. "You're so confusing, you know that?"

Jamie just shrugs. "Right back at ye.”

The subject of Charlie seems to be forgotten when Jamie glances at the plastic bag in my lap, and he raises a brow. "So what's in the bag anyway?"

I look down to the bag, and chew on my cheek feeling kind of stupid.

"Uh," I clear my throat. "I grabbed some tubs of ice cream from work - I didn't know if you'd feel like any tonight if we were watching movies, but I grabbed it just in case."

Jamie glances sideways at me. "Ye got ice cream?"

I bite down on my cheek harder and nod, mumbling. "Yeah - I got you the mint chocolate chip one we have. It has like actual chocolate biscuit pieces in it and whatnot. Thought you'd like it."

Want to sound like any more of a dumb ass Claire?

I don't even know fully what possessed me to grab the ice cream. I looked at the freezer not long before I was finishing, and when I saw that flavor I thought of Jamie.

I suppose I'm trying to be nice, but I just feel ridiculous.

"Ye got my favorite ice cream for me?" He smiles, the apples of his cheeks lifting to crease the corners of his eyes.

"It's not a big deal... We have plenty there. Seeing as it's a terrible flavor no one buys."

God I'm such a loser.

I have to throw in a sarcastic comment to soften this anxiety twisting in my gut, I can't help it.

Jamie doesn't say anything, just keeps grinning to himself but then asks, "What flavor did you get?"

"Cookies and Cream," I reply, thankful for the change in questioning and that he's not making a huge ordeal out of this. I already feel ridiculous enough.

"May have to steal some of that, it's my second favorite," he teases, and I shove his shoulder.

"Touch my ice cream and I'll break both your hands," I warn with a mock threatening voice.

He holds both his hands up in surrender, hovering them over the steering wheel. "Dinna come between a lass and her desserts, point taken."

I roll my eyes and feel that odd flip of my stomach as I do. The atmosphere around us is different now; while it's a lot lighter and playful it also feels a lot heavier. As if there's a new tension there that's making my nerves strangle themselves.

Jamie just keeps watching the road, with a giddy smile on his face, drumming his thumbs against the steering wheel to the beat of the song playing.

I hear his voice as he mumbles to himself, but I don't think he knows I heard him; his voice sounded like this weird mix of shy disbelief.

"She got me ice cream."

I decide not to point out that I heard him and look down at my lap, fiddling with my fingers and staring at the two tubs wrapped in the plastic bag, squinting at it.

Why do I feel like this frozen dessert means a lot more than I want it to? 

***

Who's excited for ice cream and their sleepover?

Chapter Text

“"I got no regret right now (I'm feelin' this)

The air is so cold and null (I'm feelin' this)

Let me go in her room (I'm feelin' this)

I wanna take off her clothes (I'm feelin' this)

Show me the way to bed (I'm feelin' this)

Show me the way you move (I'm feelin' this)

Fuck it, it's such a blur (I'm feelin' this)

I love all the things you do (I'm feelin' this)"

(blink-182 - Feeling This)  

***

Jamie won't stop staring at me.

We've been sitting on the couch in the living room at John’s place, watching Gremlins 2 and eating our ice cream with some popcorn as well.

It's been like this most of the car ride and since we got back here; constant staring or slight touches he does on purpose and tries to play off nonchalantly. There's this uncomfortable shift in the air that's making me feel like I have bricks on my chest.

Something about Jamie's usual mood is different since he picked me up, because while normally he's always in my personal space, he's seemed extra focused and more handsy tonight.

Jamie has also seemed to have charmed his way back onto Gizmo’s good side, because as soon as we got back the little traitor was staring at Jamie with goo goo eyes and following behind Jamie's heels.

I'm sitting with my legs folded in front of me, trying to focus on the TV, and wearing Jamie's hoodie that he demanded I put on when he noticed I was shivering periodically.

It smells like him. I hate that I like it.

I've been taking pieces of popcorn, dipping them in my ice cream and then eating them which is my usual ritual, trying to ignore Jamie's stare burning into the side of my head.

"Strange way to watch a movie," I point out eventually, shifting on the spot and not daring to take my eyes off that TV.

"M'just trying to figure out why the fuck yer dipping popcorn in ice cream," he replies with a curious tone, and this makes me look at him.

I jolt at how close his face is, my nose nearly hitting his when I turn my head; he's sitting far closer than he needed to but what else is new?

"Have you never tried it?" I ask with a strange look.

The corner of his lips pulls up into a lazy smile, and he darts his stare from my eyes to my mouth and back up again.

"No, because I dinna eat popcorn and ice cream like a crazy person - why the hell do ye eat it like that?"

I squint at him, scoffing like it should be obvious. "Because it's delicious."

His face breaks out into a grin, and he gestures his chin up at me. “Let me try it.”

My brows twitch together, wondering why he has to ask and just nudge the bag of popcorn towards him. "Well go on then."

Jamie shakes his head, his eyes dancing in mischief and his lips part, gesturing his chin at me again.

"You're not seriously expecting me to feed it to you, are you?" I ask with an incredulous tone. The corners of Jamie's open mouth twitch up, and he licks over his pink lower lip with an innocent nod.

I ignore how my abdomen clenches over his wet tongue slipping over his lower lip, it's like it happens in slow motion and I clear my throat.

"You're a child, you know that?"

Jamie just gives me a shrug and leans closer, opening his mouth a fraction wider.

"You're just going to stay like that until I feed it to you, aren't you?" I say with a flat tone, which only makes Jamie nod with an amused "uh huh."

May as well get this over with. Otherwise he's going to sit there like a needy seagull all night.

I groan out a defeated sigh, plucking two pieces of popcorn from the packet and dipping it in the ice cream to collect the sweet creamy dessert onto the salty treat. I lift my hand and hold my breath as I extend it to drop it into his eagerly awaiting mouth.

What I didn't expect is Jamie’s hand coming up to grasp my wrist, holding my hand in place while he leans forward and keeps his eyes focused on mine. He wraps his lips around my fingers, stealing the popcorn from in between them with his tongue.

The oxygen in my body is still frozen in my lungs as I just stare at him, and he puckers his warm lips around my pointer finger since my thumb slipped from his mouth; drawing my finger back out of his mouth at an agonizing pace as he continues to trace his slick tongue around my skin.

I swear to god my stomach just strangled itself.

He keeps a hold of my wrist; keeping my finger near his mouth as he starts to chew with a smirk, his jaw flexing with each movement until he swallows, looking very satisfied with himself.

I let out the breath trapped inside me when he finally let's go of my wrist and I pull my hand away, resting it in my lap as Jamie tilts his head, smacking his lips together like he's at a wine tasting before smiling with a hint of surprise in his voice.

"That tasted really fuckin good."

"Yep... It's why I eat it that way," I squeak, mentally slapping myself for how high pitched my voice went.

Screw him and that fuckboy voodoo bullshit.

Jamie leans closer, showing absolutely zero interest in the movie he hasn't been watching all night anyway, and hums. "I like yer flavor, want some more."

"Excuse me?" I blink at him, feeling my organs tie themselves in all kinds of knots and I'm just about to take this hoodie off because I feel like it's suddenly the middle of summer in this room.

Christ it's warm all of a sudden.

Jamie's eyes dart down to the tub of ice cream in my lap then back to my face. "Cookies and Cream - can I try some more? Please? S'really good."

Right. The ice cream.

My brain is on the fritz again, I can't even organize my thoughts when he's this damn close and treating my bloody finger like it's a popsicle.

"Uhhh... Sure - here," I offer, handing my spoon towards him; hoping it'll get him to back away so I can breathe because he's making that really difficult right now.

Not even my sarcasm could save me at this point.

Everything about him has seemed so damn intense since he picked me up from work, and it's like it's only getting worse as the night goes on. I have no clue what's up with him.

Jamie's teeth sink into his lower lip, and my brows drop in confusion when he ignores my spoon completely and dips his finger into my ice cream to scoop some of the frozen treat onto his fingertip.

"Are you fucking kidding me right now?" I huff, glaring at him. "Now I can't eat the rest of-"

My complaints are silenced when Jamie's fingertip swipes across my lower lip, smearing the cold ice cream across it, and my whole body goes rigid.

I want to ask what he thinks he's doing, but my words are lodged at the base of my throat, and my heart damn near jumps straight through my rib cage when his large hand comes up to cup against my jaw and he leans his face into mine so our lips are barely touching.

"Just needed a taste," he murmurs, slipping his tongue out slightly to give my lower lip a brief lick where he's swiped the ice cream. That small action alone makes every nerve in my body feel like I get zapped with a bolt of electricity.

Both of our breaths mix together between our mouths as his focused eyes flick between mine, as if he needs some kind of reassurance, and he takes the fact that I haven't pulled away as his cue to close that gap between us.

He doesn't kiss me though.

Instead, his mouth captures my lower lip, feeling hot against my skin that's become ice cold from the frozen dessert on it, and he sucks on my lip; lapping his tongue against it until he's gotten every last trace of the ice cream that he had placed there.

My breaths are leaving my mouth in shallow gasped puffs of air, and I don't even know if I can describe the sensations exploding through every part of my body.

He releases my lip with a final swipe across it with his tongue, and his voice has dropped to a low tone that feels like it punches me when he hums in satisfaction.

"So good, I canna get enough of it."

I'm still caught like a deer in headlights, my pulse slamming in my ears making my heart beat sound like it's being played through a megaphone.

His hand that he used to wipe the ice cream on my lip comes up, and he taps his pointer finger that still has remnants of cookies and cream goodness dripping from it against my lips in a silent request for me to open my mouth.

"S'polite to share, so here, have some..."

I feel like I'm in some kind of trance, because without thinking I part my lips so he can slip his finger past them and I close my lips around his finger instinctively; tasting the creamy flavour coated on his skin when I swirl my tongue against it.

Jamie swallows, his Adams apple dipping harshly as his own lips part at the sensation of my lips suctioned around his finger, and his voice is shaky when he murmurs.

"I made a mess. Do us a favor and suck it clean for me, aye?"

His heavy eyes have flooded with a look that's making me want to squeeze my thighs together, and when I comply and suck against his finger in my mouth as he slowly draws it back, Jamie’s brows pinch tight together and a groan gets cut off, stuck in his throat before he whispers "...fuck" under his breath.

As soon as his finger slips from my mouth, the air between us feels like it's made of thick suffocating steam, and he flicks his stare back and forth between my lips and eyes as both of our breathing becomes more uneven.

I can't even explain what just happened, how things flipped so quickly to the point that I have absolutely no control over my body.

It's like the atmosphere falls into a dead silence around us, everything slowing down until seconds feel like hours. Even my blood feels like it stills in my body.

And then there's a snap.

Something in me snaps, and my hand shoots up to grab the material of Jamie's shirt, clenching it in a fist as I tug him towards me, colliding our lips together.

I've gone from having the sex drive of a brick wall to a hormonal fucking teenager in two weeks and it's all this smirky idiots fault.

It all happens so fast. The kiss is hard, frantic. It's desperate tongues and lips that can't seem to get close enough to each other, and all I hear from Jamie is a hoarse "I canna fuckin take this anymore" when he breaks his lips away from mine.

Next thing I know I'm being hauled off the couch, and my protests about the ice cream he haphazardly set on the table next to the couch melting were cut off by his mouth attacking mine again; one hand roaming and groping anywhere it can while the other keeps a firm hold on my hip as we stumble towards the stairs.

I'm shocked we even made it up the stairs without one of us falling to our death. I was basically being hoisted up a few steps only to be pushed against the stairway wall with Jamie's mouth on mine, knocking the breath out of me until I was being dragged up the stairs again.

Somehow by the time we reached the door of what I assumed to be his bedroom, his shirt was gone and his hoodie that I was wearing had been tugged off and thrown at some point on the floor of the hallway.

I was pushed against his door while one of his hands struggled to find the doorknob, as the other slipped up under my work skirt; grabbing my ass and pulling me against him while he kissed me that hard, all I could do was tangle my fingers in his hair and hold on.

When he finally gets the door open we are stumbling back, nearly falling over each other into his dark bedroom, and Jamie blindly reaches his arm out, only breaking the kiss for a moment to slam the door shut before he's on me again.

Everything around me feels like it's spinning. I've felt so stagnant at a standstill for years now and it's like things are finally moving again. All of the sensations of him are scattering my brain and making it hard to keep a grip on any kind of reality that exists outside of kissing him.

Jamie starts pushing us backwards, turning after a moment and tearing his lips from mine with heaving breaths. He sits in front of me on the edge of his bed, while my eyes try to adjust to the dark; he has large dark curtains that block out almost any outside light.

His hands grab my hips, tugging me down until I'm half climbing and half tumbling into his lap, perching my knees on either side of him on the bed.

He drops his forehead to rest it against my shoulder, his fingers digging into my skin through my skirt. He stays still, panting slightly while it seems like he's trying to compose himself.

"If I’m doing too much, too fast - please tell me," he says after a moment with his breathy voice coming out deeper and thicker than usual. "I just...Sorry I just kind of lost it for a moment."

I give myself a moment to catch my breath and let my brain catch up to what's going on while resting my arms around his neck, but I can't get it out of my head how good that felt.

I think when you've spent so long in the cold that when you get a taste of warmth you just fiend for it; it's consuming.

"You're not... that wasn't too much," I say with my voice quiet, and I feel Jamie's fingers dig harder into my hips before his hands start to slide down until they slip under my skirt and rest at the tops of my bare thighs.

My skin tingles as soon as it feels the heat of his palms and I swallow, my already jack hammering pulse only speeding up.

"Ye promise that you'll tell me?" He asks in a hushed tone, while the air in the room feels like it's crushing me when he lifts his forehead from my shoulder, turning his face to press his lips against my neck.

I don't think I have the energy to keep fighting this, it's exhausting trying to push him away. As much as I hate admitting that I want him, because I know for a fact it's going to bite me in the ass later, I just can't stop myself.

I know how things like this end, but I can't help that ache deep in my gut that screams at me to just enjoy him while I can.

"Tell you what?" I exhale, closing my eyes and tilting my head to expose my throat as he drags his wet lips up my skin, fueling the fire that's simmering inside me wanting to explode.

"Promise you'll tell me if I ever make ye uncomfortable - if I ever do something that ye dinna like," he murmurs, kissing up to my jaw and pulling his head back to look at my face. "Promise you'll tell me to stop."

"I will," I say with my voice as hushed as his, focusing on his dark features in the blacked out room.

My eyes have adjusted to the darkness enough to be able to make out some details of his face, and it strikes me that the pitch black room isn't making my anxiety go through the roof.

Jamie shakes his head, removing one hand from my thigh and I squint in the darkness to see what he's doing when he holds it up, only to realize he's extended his pinky finger.

"No, you've got to promise."

My lips crack into a smile as I look between his finger and his face. "You seriously want me to make a pinky promise right now? What are you, five?"

His own mouth pulls into a lazy half smile but he tries to sound firm with his voice. "I'll have ye ken that I take these verra seriously, and they're the only kind of promises I'll accept."

I chew on my lip to try and avoid my smile growing any wider, and feel my heart float around in my chest like it's a damn helium balloon as I search my eyes over his face.

He really does have a pretty face.

It's not as irritating as it used to be.

Promises are something I hold huge weight in and also think mean nothing at the same time. They mean everything to me and nothing to other people apparently. Which is the reason I rarely ever make them or utter that damn word.

If I had a pound for every time I heard a promise from my parents that was broken within a few hours, I'd have enough money to not be in the fucked situation I'm in.

"I promise I'm not drinking any more."

Ha.

In this instance though, for reasons I'm not willing to explore that much at the moment, I remove my arm from around Jamie's shoulder, moving my hand to his and pausing for a moment before I hook my pinky finger around his.

"I promise."

As soon as the words leave my lips and hit the air, he's tugging me towards him with his pinky still wrapped around mine to close the small gap between us, capturing my mouth with his.

He releases our intertwined fingers to move his hand to the hem of my work t-shirt, and his other hand on my thigh moves to help as he tugs up my shirt, pulling his lips away to tug the material up over my head as I lift my arms to help and he tosses it behind him on to the bed.

You know, I'm kind of happy the room is so dark now; that same crippling insecurity is flooding me again as soon as my clothes start getting removed.

His lips hover over mine and I rest my palms against his bare chest, feeling it rise and fall in heavy breaths when his hands move to slide up my back and go to the clasp on my bra, but then he pauses.

"Ye promised, remember," he reminds me, sounding unsure of going further and I shake my head, swallowing and wishing I sounded confident instead of nervous.

"I know - it's okay, keep going."

He sucks his lower lip under his teeth, with his hair a mess around his face; and I get momentarily mesmerized by him until the feeling of my bra clasp snapping open jolts me back to reality.

My bra is being thrown across the room before I register he's even taken it off; his hands immediately on me and exploring my breasts before his mouth joins the party he's having.

His hot tongue and lips tease at my nipple before sucking it into his mouth with a low groan in his throat; one of his hands moving to take a hold of my hip to pull my center down against his so he can circle the hardness constricted in his jeans against me.

"Ah - Oh god," I stutter, my words getting hitched in my throat towards the end by a moan when he rocks my center against his and grazes his teeth over the sensitive bud of my nipple.

Jamie rumbles an approving hum that vibrates up from his chest and releases my nipple; kissing his way up my chest to my neck, murmuring, "Want to make ye make more sounds like that."

I'm breathing like an asthmatic trying to run a marathon at the moment; feeling intoxicated by everything that's happening and just how incredible it feels - the fact that I want what's going on.

I don't think I'm ready to dive in head first and actually sleep with him this very second, but I'm getting a hell of a lot closer to it than I was last week.

That's the thing my mind is made up on now, I guess. I know I'm going to sleep with him, it's just a matter of getting to the point in my brain where I won't panic over it afterwards.

For once I feel in control of that decision, and it's a strange feeling.

I wish I wasn't so screwed in the head, so I could just say to hell with it and let him do whatever he wants. Whatever I want.

Jamie’s lips move up my throat to my ear, and he moans as he thrusts his hips up against me. "I ken yer no’ ready to fuck me just yet... But I want to figure out some more stuff ye like...can I?"

I slide my hands from his chest, down his stomach and feel him suck in a breath as I do.

I nod, sighing out a yes when he kisses along the underside of my jaw.

Next thing I know, Jamie is turning me and half tossing me onto the bed, and I've barely landed on my back before he's crawling up over the top of me and tapping his finger against my thigh. "Move up the bed, to the pillows."

I shuffle back a bit as Jamie follows over top of me until I feel the plush, cloud like pillows. As soon as I stop, his hands are going to my skirt to tug it down my hips and off my legs, discarding it as carelessly as he did every other item of clothing.

He presses his hands on the bed by the sides of my head, with his knees perched between my legs, and leans down to press his lips to mine. The kiss shows how desperate both of us are as soon as our mouths connect.

I cautiously bring my hands up, one going to thread into the back of his hair, and with the other I graze my fingertips down his stomach and continue until I reach the top of his jeans.

Ignoring my nerves, and just listening to that part of my brain that's taken over tonight to scream at me to do what I want, I slip my hand down further until I palm over the hard bulge straining in his pants.

His hips rut forward as soon as feels the touch; pausing his lips against mine to gasp a sharp moan.

I repeat the action again, massaging him through the denim which makes a series of low moans tumble out of him before he speaks, his tone filled with a hint of surprise mixed with so much sexual frustration my stomach tightens.

"Christ - Claire, I wasna expecting ye to do that."

"Should I not have? Did you not want me to?" I ask in a hushed voice, my mind automatically defaulting to thinking I've done something wrong.

He quickly shakes his head, looking at me like I’m nuts. "What? No, no - fuck no. Of course I want ye to, I just wasna expecting ye to want to touch me."

He then pauses, wetting his lips and his voice becomes lower. "Is that what ye want? Do ye want to touch me?"

No, I'm touching your dick because I hate it, why else would I be doing it?

I decide to push past wanting to be sarcastic, hiding how nervous I feel with humor like usual, and answer honestly instead.

"I want to," I tell him, focusing my eyes on his chest when he leans up because I don't think I can handle the look in his eyes.

And I do want to touch him, that I am desperately sure of at the moment.

"Ye can do whatever ye want to me, heartbreaker," he says, watching my face. I flick my eyes up to meet his, and even though it's dark, I can still see the look on his face. He looks excited, but it's mixed with a flushed needy expression.

"But before ye do... I want to try something," he adds, his lips turning up at the corners as he finishes his sentence.

I don't get to ask what he means because he starts to move back until he lowers himself down onto his stomach and elbows in between my legs.

My insides are doing flips in my body over the prospect of what he wants to do, and all I can do is stare at him with my mouth parted.

"Been craving somethin’ else all night," he says in a slow drawl, focusing his eyes on my heat covered by the fabric of my underwear.

He leans forward, making my breath hitch in my throat when he places a hot, open mouthed kiss to my clothed center before pulling back and watching my face. "Can I have a proper taste? This something ye like?"

All I can do is nod, my hips squirming over the throb that's radiating from my center and if I don't start getting some relief from it I may cry.

His face breaks out into a grin, then he's shooting up to his knees and hooking his fingers under the fabric over my underwear to slide them off, keeping his eyes trained on mine as he does.

As soon as the material is being tossed away, his hands grab the insides of my thighs, spreading them further apart while he lowers himself back down.

"Let's see if my tongue can get ye off better than my fingers did the first time," he hums, flicking his eyes to my face as he moves forward and attaches his mouth to my heat.

My head rolls back and I gasp out "oh fuck" as soon as his slick tongue starts to circle patterns around my nerves, groaning low in his throat as he does while his fingertips dig into the skin of my inner thighs.

He continues to work me with his mouth, alternating between tracing fast patterns over my clit with his tongue to sucking me into his mouth; making gluttonous moans that ring in my ears and only make the whole experience more mind numbing.

I can feel that coil in my lower stomach getting tighter, the sensations flooding my body that's making my limbs twitch and tense as I pant into the air and ramble out cuss words that get cut short with moans as his movements become more shameless.

My eyes are pinched shut, with my jaw slack as I circle my hips back against his mouth, which only makes his fingers dig harder into my inner thighs to the point where I'm sure it's going to leave bruises.

My stomach starts to tremble and tighten when he flicks his tongue faster against my sensitive nerves; making my back arch and I whimper out "oh my fucking god" as my eyes snap open, and my hands move to tangle into his mess of hair.

Jamie grunts when my fingers tighten in his hair, and he pulls his mouth back to replace it with his fingers as they press against my clit and rub fast slick circles over it, and his hot breath hits my center as he speaks in a hoarse voice.

"Ye going to come for me, a ghràidh? Ye close?"

I nod quickly, biting down hard on my lower lip as my hips writhe and can only whimper out a strained "mhmm.”

He flicks his fingers faster, and his voice drops as he hums. "Good lass - do me a favor and say my name when ye do, aye? Be loud for me."

And with that he removes his fingers and latches his mouth back to my throbbing center, assaulting me with his tongue at a pace that has me crying out and my whole body shuddering, unraveling that tension in my abdomen as it starts to pulse through my body.

"I'm - I'm  - oh god" I stutter, gripping tightly onto his hair, and Jamie gives an encouraging groan as he works his tongue and mouth faster, feeling more determined than ever to push me over the edge.

A few final flicks of his tongue, before he sucks against my nerves has my body seizing as I gasp out "Jamie - oh fuck" when that tension snaps and floods my body; rolling bliss through my nerves and leaving my pulse ringing in my ears as I get consumed by an orgasm that shocks my entire body.

His mouth continues to ride me through it, sending aftershocks through my body as my limbs feel like they're made of cement but I could float off the bed; making obscene sounds I can't control just like I can't control the shaking in my legs.

He finally stops when I pull my hips away whining at how sensitive I am, and he chuckles to himself, sitting up back on his knees to look over how spent I am.

"How'd that feel heartbreaker? Ye feeling good?" He asks, and I can hear the satisfied smirk in his voice.

"Mmmm," is all I can reply with at this very second, waiting to float back down and recover enough to even open my eyes.

I feel the bed shift, hearing Jamie move around but I can't make out what he's doing, and I still feel too fuzzy inside to be bothered to check at this very moment.

The mattress moves again after a few moments, and I finally peel my eyes open to see Jamie sitting next to me on the bed with his back against the headboard, staring down at me now in only his briefs.

I flick my eyes down and see how hard he is straining against the material, and I don't know if I'm out of my mind on hormones or adrenaline but before I can question it, I'm pulling myself up and hooking my leg over his bare thighs, earning a surprised look from Jamie as I perch myself on them.

"Wow okay - hello there," he laughs, resting his hands against my thighs.

I smile at him, chewing on my lip and glance down to his briefs before slipping my fingers under the hem of them and his brows shoot up. "Christ, get ye all fired up and ye turn into a wee vixen don't ye?"

I wet my lips, looking down as I slide the material down enough to release his solid length that hits against his lower stomach, making it more obvious than ever how turned on he is, and I shrug my shoulders. "I just uh, I want to make you feel good too."

His hips shift, trying to get some relief and his hands slide from my hips to my bare behind; groping and palming it as he leans his face closer to mine. "Just do whatever ye want - whatever yer ready for. I'm going to love it as long as yer touching me."

I swallow as my pulse races, and gingerly graze my fingertips up his smooth length, feeling him twitch and suck in a sharp breath; pulling me closer up his thighs and attaching his lips to mine. The kiss is slow and thoughtful, savoring, like he's trying to ease any apprehension I have.

I'm in no way new to touching someone, or most things sexual; the thing that makes everything with him so different is how I feel about it, how I'm doing things because I enjoy them. I want to make him feel good. 

I muster up all my confidence; wrapping my fingers around his rigid length, sliding my grip from the base up to the tip, exploring him and the silky feel of his warm skin. Jamie whimpers into the kiss, thrusting his hips up as his fingers clamp down on my ass and his breathing becomes heavier.

I start to pump my fist around him in slow motions, listening to his reactions to see what gets the best response with different pressure or patterns.

He breaks the kiss but keeps his lips hovering over mine, panting as his voice becomes more thick and strained. "Fuck, that feels good - keep going. Please. Ye dinna ken how many times I've gotten myself off thinking about how this would feel."

The needy tone in his deep voice only spurs my confidence on, so I move my hand faster and with more purpose. Paying attention to his sensitive tip that's dripping with arousal as I circle my grip around it, making Jamie grunt out a low "fuck" through his teeth.

There's something about the darkness and the silence in the room around us that's only being broken by Jamies pleasured noises that makes the atmosphere feel like we're temporarily in our own little world.

It's like nothing else exists right now outside of this moment.

One of his hands moves from my ass, smoothing up the inside of my thigh then grazes his fingers up my soaked center, making me jump from still being overstimulated, and he teases his middle finger against my entrance.

"Can ye fuck my fingers while yer touching me? Want to feel ye come around them. Ever come from doing that before?" He asks, his voice low and filthy as he circles the tip of his middle finger around my entrance, which makes my grip tighten around him.

"No - No, I haven't. I don't know if I can...you know, come from that," I pant, my hips circling against his finger as I feel arousal pooling in my center over hearing him in so much pleasure and the sound of his voice.

I've never been able to come from penetration, during sex or with fingers, and I just assumed I wasn't capable of it. No one really ever spent enough time or care to find out really.

"I think I can get ye off again, like that - let me try. I ken yer sensitive, but that's what’ll make it feel amazing," he encourages in a hoarse voice, inching his finger inside me easily from how aroused I am and I rest my forehead against his, continuing to stroke him.

Both of our foreheads are becoming humid and damp with sweat; while he pumps a few slow thrusts inside of me with his finger before teasing a second at my opening and sliding them both in.

Jamie groans at the feeling, of both my hand around him and his fingers inside me as his jaw goes slack; curving his fingers against my front wall to massage it until he hits a spot that has me gasping a surprised "oh m - oh my god".

I've never had someone doing that feel this good.

"Fuck that's it," he murmurs with a low moan, feeling my walls flutter around his fingers and thrusts his hips up against my hand, encouraging me to stroke him faster.

His fingers start a deliberate quick rhythm, hitting and stroking against that spot that has my stomach knotting instantly and a foreign feeling swirling in my abdomen. It feels like an orgasm building but so different; it feels deeper, more intense, and it has my hips writhing.

His voice is breathless, sounding lost in what he's feeling. "M'going to come so fucking hard from ye riding my fingers wi’ yer hand wrapped around my cock - ye dinna ken how much it turns me on. Ye feel so fucking good, Claire."

Judging from how he's pulsing in my hand, feeling painfully hard, I think I get the idea.

I brace my free hand against his damp chest, feeling it tense and jump with his breathing and movements when he starts to fuck his fingers into me faster; urging me on to tip over the edge again as I try to keep up with pumping my fist around his length and focusing more on the tip to listen to the obscene noises it drags out of him.

The feeling deep in my abdomen, that pressure that simultaneously feels so new but familiar at the same time, starts to intensify so quickly it shocks me, and I rock my hips against his fingers as I cry out a stuttered string of profanities.

"I'm so fucking close Claire - can ye come for me again? Come all over my fingers?" Jamie pants; being merciless with his thrusts into me, hitting that exact spot that makes my whole body spasm as I cry out. It feels so intense I almost want to push his hand away, it's such an overwhelming feeling.

He growls from deep in his chest before his jaw drops and his head rolls back to rest against the headboard with his eyes trained on my face. 

I continue to work him with my hand, trying to not let my rhythm falter as I feel his body start to twitch and tense as his moans only get louder; and those sounds mixed with the deliberate thrust of his fingers explodes that orgasm deep in my gut that envelops my whole body and draws out a shocked strangled moan from me at the crippling feeling.

As soon as he feels my walls clamp and spasm around his fingers, my hips rolling frantically as my body writhes, Jamie growls out a frantic  "That's it - Fuck, I'm com - oh holy fuck “ as his hips slam up before stilling and I feel his length pulse in my hand as his body goes completely rigid.

His orgasm assaults his body as I try to ride my own one out; and his body jolts with each spurt of his release hitting against his stomach and I feel some of his warmth drip down over my hand.

We're both jelly limbs and heaving breaths as I slump forward, resting my head against his shoulder, and his arm instinctively comes up to wrap around my waist while we try and compose ourselves.

"Fucking hell," he exhales after, blowing out a tired laugh under his breath. "If I come like that just from ye touching my dick, m'pretty sure I'm not going to survive actually fucking ye."

"I still can't feel my legs," I say in a daze, which only makes Jamie burst out an amused chuckle.

"My fingers that good huh?" He muses, pressing a kiss to the side of my head as he starts to trace patterns up my back with his fingertips.

"They're very talented," I mumble, still trying to unscramble my brain and barely aware of what I'm saying.

My hands are resting against his hips while I listen to him try to regulate his breathing, and after a minute or so he speaks again sounding a bit more coherent. "Hey, why don't we go get cleaned up and have a bath, hmm?"

"A bath?" I question, wondering why on earth he'd want to have a bath with me. I've seen people bathe together in movies, just never done it myself. Never really had a reason to, or someone that wanted to do something like that.

"Aye - a bath, we can relax for a bit," he says with a coaxing voice.

"Is that just an excuse to keep me naked?" I joke, but it sounds so half assed with how spent I am.

"Ye caught me," he teases, grinning and pressing another kiss to the shell of my ear.

He's extra affectionate tonight.

I guess orgasms do that to a person.

"Come on," he taps his fingers against my back to urge me to move. "Let's go have a warm bath, you'll like it."

"If you say so," I mumble, pushing myself up to sit straight and see a satisfied look on his face.

"What's that face for?"

"I've made ye come three times now," he smiles, sounding triumphant.

"Wow, nice way to pat yourself on the back there," I deadpan, giving him a mock glare and feel my cheeks heat up.

"I'm pretty happy about it," he grins, looking amused at how sheepish I look. "But ye ken what I'm more excited about?"

"What's that?"

He leans forward, brushing his lips over mine and my chest tightens.

"...Having a bath - now let’s go ."

He's so fucking annoying. He always does that.

***

Chapter Text

"At times so self destructive

With no intent or warning 

But behind this emotion

There's a sensible heart"

(Sensible Heart - Dallas Green)  

***

This whole bath idea isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

That is until it got time to get into the bath.

I stood in a towel while Jamie filled the tub, adding ridiculous amounts of bubbles to the point they started overflowing and when I mentioned about the mess, he only shrugged with a grin and said -

"Sometimes fun is messy."

I gave Jamie an 'are you serious' look when he proceeded to light a few candles and put them on the bathroom sink before he turned the lights off in the bathroom; leaving it dimly lit with only the glow from the candles dancing around the white tiled walls.

He had looked at me, hooking his thumbs into his briefs that he had pulled back on before we left his room when he went to grab me a towel.

"I can look at ye naked in bright fluorescent lighting if ye want, I'm completely fine wi’ that if that's what yer offering," he said with a raise of his brow before sliding his briefs down, and I averted my eyes, gripping tighter onto the towel wrapped around me.

Is he just doing all of this to make more comfortable? It wasn't just his usual fuckboy ploy that I assumed was part of his whole routine?

"It's kind of cute that I just had my fingers inside ye and ye still canna look at me naked," he teased as I stared at a very blank wall; so I blindly flipped him off as I listened to the water swish around as he lowered himself into the tub.

"I still can't believe I agreed to this," I mutter, finally looking to Jamie when I'm sure his naked figure is adequately covered by bubbles.

"I still canna believe yer kissing me instead of punching me," Jamie grins, holding a handful of soapy bubbles in his palms and then blows a huff of air out too send them flying in my direction. "Now get in, s'nice and warm."

I shift back and forth on my feet, feeling anxious over his staring and hating that I'm not as confident as he is. I know he's seen me naked already, but it doesn't get any easier for me.

Things are very different and sobering when hormones aren't flooding your brain and fogging your inhibitions when you're turned on.

Jamie notices my apprehension, and I watch as he places his large hands over his face.

"This better? Hurry up and get in - it's getting lonely in here."

"Alright, alright - I'm coming," I huff, double checking he isn't looking before I drop the towel and feel it pool at my feet.

I hear Jamie take in a breath to say something and I cut him off before he gets the chance. "Whatever dirty smart ass comment you were going to make - don't" I warn.

I walk towards the tub, hearing him chuckle against his hands and I hook one leg over the tub before the other, and grip the sides as I start to lower myself down at the opposite end facing him.

Jamie drops his hands just as I'm waist deep but my chest is still very exposed; so in a moment of panic, I let go of the sides and drop the rest of the way into the tub with a thud, causing the water to splash over the edge of the large bath. 

Jamie snorts. "Ye sure know how to make an entrance."

"I slipped," I defend, glaring at him and feel my cheeks heat; gathering bubbles around me to act like some makeshift shield for my naked body.

“That’s no’ what I was talking about,” he smirks, raising and dropping his brows and gesturing to my chest with a pointed glance. 

"Oh shut up smirky,” I smack the water, splashing him which only lights Jamie's face up until he gives me a sudden dramatic frown.

"Yer too far away."

"I'm literally in the same bathtub as you," I say with a flat look but then feel Jamie's hands move to grab around my calves that are between his legs under the water.

"No. C'mere. Need ye closer," he says with a gesture of tilting his chin up and tugging on my legs, making me slide closer and I grip the sides of the tub to stay upright.

I decide not to fight it, knowing at this point he'd probably get his own way regardless, and unfortunately, now there's that small part of me that likes being closer to him as much as I outwardly act like I don't towards him.

I'm scared of showing that soft side with him; it gives him a power with me I'm not sure I want him to have.

That's the thing with me, I keep this hard exterior up but I am absolutely soft as shit. I come off as complacent and abrasive to protect myself, to protect my heart because it's so fragile. I am so easy to hurt because once I care about someone, I'm at their mercy. I care with no limits and with such intensity that it leaves me vulnerable to being completely and utterly destroyed.

The only way to protect myself from caring too much is trying not to care at all.

I scoot closer as he smooths his hands up my thighs when I get closer until he can grab my hips, and he pulls me towards him so my legs have to hook over his. I cross my legs around his lower back while his legs lay straight either side of me.

"Much better," he muses with a smug look, then grabs my arms to hook them over his shoulders and moves his hands back to rest on my hips under the water.

I can't stand how nervous I am around him right now, that nauseous pit in my stomach that's fluttering around so fiercely I have to clench my hands briefly to stop them from shaking.

I hate how insecure I feel, I hate how it's always gnawing at every fibre of my conscience every second I'm awake and is only amplified the second I get close enough to someone to care what they think.

I care what he thinks now. I wish I didn't.

Jamie searches his eyes over my features, blinking slowly before he leans forward. "Can we scrap the whole waiting for ye to kiss me first thing, just for tonight? We can go back to it tomorrow - Can I just kiss ye, when I want for the rest of the night? Is that okay?" he asks, hovering his lips near mine.

I bite down hard on the inside my cheek as I suck in a breath, giving him a silent nod and Jamie is already capturing my lips with his within barely a second.

This kiss is polar opposite to the one that started down in the living room; it's slow, tender, and like he's in absolutely no hurry to stop his indulgence when his tongue teases my lower lip before it slips into my mouth to explore my own.

It may not be desperate or heated, but it's a much different kind of intense. It's still knocking the breath out of me - the kind of intense that has those nerves in my stomach go from fluttering to an absolute buzzing riot inside me.

When he finally pulls away, I have to remind myself to breathe as he rests his forehead against mine. "I want ye to relax, just try for me, aye?"

"I am relaxed," I lie, keeping my voice quiet.

"No - ye were relaxed before we left my room," Jamie points out, then sounds slightly bothered but thoughtful as he continues to talk. "Now yer tense again."

For some insane reason, instead of a sarcastic quip for a response, I actually give him one of the rarest moments of honesty since I've known him.

I swallow, wetting my lips and look down at his chest that's glistening from the water and covered in random soapy suds. "I can't help it... I'm just nervous."

Jamie pauses for a moment, then he says in a soothing voice, "turn around."

"What?"

"Just turn around," he says again, not explaining and pressing a quick chaste kiss to my lips.

I shuffle around in the bath again, doing as he says; until my back is facing him and both of us were just as immature as the other when we both snickered at the fart type noises of my skin sliding against the bottom of the tub when I turned.

Good to know we both have the emotional maturity of six year olds.

As soon as my back is turned, Jamie runs his fingers through my hair over my back that's become damp and starts repeating what he did at my house the other week with the head massage and leans forward to press a kiss to my shoulder.

"See if this helps again."

His fingers work against my scalp, sending ripples of gooey relaxation into all of my limbs, and I literally my muscles in my body release their anxious tensions which makes me let out a contented sigh.

"I usually hate people touching me," I admit, letting my eyes drift closed to enjoy the comfort that radiates from his fingertips into the rest of my body. "But this feels nice... Surprising how much it helps."

Jamie snatches the opportunity at me voluntarily offering something personal, wanting to pry me open further. "Would ye ever tell me why ye dinna like being touched?"

I shrug one shoulder, letting my eyes drift open and look down at the bubbles in front of me. "There's lots of reasons, it's never just one thing."

"So does that mean ye would tell me?" He asks, shuffling closer until his legs are slightly bent at the knees on either side of me, and he starts to run his fingers through my hair again.

I really don’t know why I have this sudden pull to confide in Jamie, or be more forthcoming about myself, but that shield I had up wanting to block everything about him out feels like it's crumbled and now I just want to invite more of him in.

This is very dangerous. The sensible thing would be for me to run as far away as possible.

And yet again, I just can't help myself.

"I guess," I reply, moving my fingers around in the bubbles on top of the water to distract myself from my instinct to shut off completely.

"I'd like to know - understand ye a bit better. Can ye tell me some of the reasons?" he asks, keeping his voice gentle and continuing to play with my hair like the action is some kind of truth serum.

I exhale a coaxing sigh, clearing my throat and decide to throw caution to the wind. I'm already losing my grip on my resolve with him anyway, and besides - even if he turns out to be just like everyone else I've confided in, at least I won't be surprised, right?

Just give a little. I think to myself.

Hopefully he won't take too much.

"A lot of trust is involved in touch, you know? To trust that a touch isn't going to be hurtful," I begin, just letting my thoughts tumble out before I can overthink them and talk myself out of it. "We learn about touch from when we're babies and as we grow up. What touches comfort, what touches hurt... it shapes how we respond to or feel about touch or physical contact as adults," I pause for a moment and I feel Jamie's fingers pause in my hair, and I know exactly what conclusion his mind has jumped to because everyone else does the same thing.

"I was never really touched as a child," I continue, but still can't help how I sound like I'm talking about this like it happened to someone else and not me. "I was never hurt, but at the same time I was never hugged either. I have almost no memories of being hugged or touched as a kid - I just kind of have memories of existing, kind of like a piece of decorative furniture."

Jamie inhales like he wants to say something, but I cut in, deciding to give the most simple explanation I can.

"I don't know what to do or how to react when people touch me because I never learnt how to. And most of the time it scares the shit out of me, because I don't know how to trust it."

"What about if ye were sad - or scared? Hurt? No one hugged you?" Jamie asks, sounding like he's trying to process everything I just said and it causes a sadness in his voice he can't hide.

I just shake my head. "Nope... But I just didn't know any different. As I got older if someone tried to hug me in any of those situations it made it worse because I didn't know how to cope with it."

"Is that why ye wouldna let me touch ye? That day ye woke up and erm... got... overwhelmed when ye woke up wi’ me in your bed after the first night we went out."

"Pretty much," I shrug, sounding complacent and have my eyes focused like lasers on the swirling bubbles in the water. "The funny part is though - by nature humans crave affection, we crave touch and connection. We need it. So my body craves this thing my brain is terrified of."

"... How is that funny?" Jamie asks in a slow voice, dragging out each word like he can't comprehend the humor in something like that.

"It's kind of like... Having a fear of spiders, and craving hugging a spider when you're sad - it's so fucked up that you just have to laugh," I explain, snorting under my breath and feel Jamie shudder behind me.

"Fuck spiders," he says with another physical shudder, like the mere thought has made his skin crawl.

At least he knows how it feels now.

"Strange advice - don't see how fucking spiders would help anything," I quip, smiling to myself when I hear Jamie huff and feel his arms slink around my sides to hug around the front of me, and he rests his chin on my shoulder.

"Haha verra funny" he mutters dryly, but there's a smile in his tone.

I try not to think too much about the weight of the fact that I've also inadvertently admitted the large amount of trust I'd have to have with Jamie to let him touch me, or even be as close as we are right now.

"I understand better now though..." he adds, with his voice softening. "Why being touched is hard for ye."

To be honest, I'm kind of surprised he isn't jumping out of the bath and running away from me like I have some kind of contagious disease.

I always think that if I share parts of who I am with anyone, it'll scare them away, or even worse they'll just pity me.

"Well that's only part of it," I explain, chewing on my lip. I suck in a sharp gasp of air when he traces his fingers over my stomach and I fight the urge to cringe. "I'm like a Mary Poppins bag, full of ridiculous bullshit."

"It's not ridiculous bullshit - nothing about ye is bullshit," he says with a frown, pausing his fingers when he notices my body go rigid. "Can ye tell me one of the other reasons? That ye dinna like being touched?"

I swallow, chewing on the inside of my cheek and feeling my chest tighten at the thoughts that go through my head.

Should I be honest?

Because what I want to say is just what I always have looping around in my head; that internal voice that plays on repeat and whispers to me.

The one that can twist any compliment into an insult, and tells me that any praise is a lie.

I just always keep it to myself.

Or cover it with self deprecating jokes that hold far more truth than I think anyone realizes.

"Intimacy was and is one of the biggest head fucks for me - with touching," I blurt out, feeling my heart speed up with anxiety.

"Why's that?" Jamie presses his lips against my shoulder as an encouraging gesture to continue.

I guess there's a plus to us taking a bath while I word vomit the things I hide from everyone else.

If this goes badly, I can just drown myself.

I work up the guts to push the words out, past the discomfort of how truthful they are trying to lodge them in my throat.

"Because... I don't understand how anyone could ever touch me, and not be completely repulsed by me."

Jamie's arms tense around me and he goes quiet for a few moments before his soft voice asks "... Ye think yer repulsive?"

He seems taken aback at my choice of wording, as if he can't comprehend it but it also sounds like it hurts him to even ask.

All I can do is shake my head, then he sounds confused, "So ye dinna think that?"

I sink my teeth into the inside of my cheek, feeling my chest constrict andI swallow, hanging my head and try to distract myself from my emotions by playing with the bubbles on top of the water again.

"... It's not a matter of me just thinking that. It's not a thought... It's a fact. Because I know that's exactly what I am."

I could pick any word to describe it, but it all comes back to the same thing.

Everything about me, is just...wrong.

***

 

***

I just proofread this half asleep and figured I should wait till tomorrow to post it, but...

Chapter Text

"Dear insecurity

When you gonna take your hands off me?

When you ever gonna let me be

Proud of who I am?"

(Dear Insecurity - Gnash)  

***

 

JAMIE’S P.O.V.:

I can't for the life of me understand how Claire could look in a mirror, and see anything other than something captivating.

How does something like that happen?

How can someone as lovely as she is, think she's so awful?

Granted, most of the time I've known Claire she's been abrasive, standoffish, and some may even say kind of rude...but I havena exactly been a walk in the park either.

I ken I've been intrusive and full on with someone that clearly wanted nothing to do with me, but it was my stubbornness and own selfishness that had to pursue it.

My own intrigue.

I've spent most of my life getting bored out of my mind and chasing things that can hold my attention, and she's done that effortlessly.

What was even more intriguing, is that I'd heard about this best friend that John had made. When we'd talk sometimes he'd hardly shut up about her.

How kind she was, how sweet and how hilarious she was. That she was one of the most gentle and genuine people he'd ever met.

So then, when I met this best friend, realizing the woman that caught my attention in that bedroom at his party was the same Claire I'd heard so much about; and the Claire I was presented with was... well, odd, but cold.

It's the main reason I gave her that nickname. She looked like she could break a man's heart in the blink of an eye.

I didna imagine it was hers that was broken until I got to know her.

I dinna ken if she realizes that she could break my heart in a split second if I gave her the chance, and somehow she thinks it’s the other way around.

She always seems so hard, hiding that softness in her.

I wondered why that was.

How there could be such a contrast from what I'd heard about her to what I saw. Why was she that way with me, and everyone else, but not John?

A mystery I'm dying to figure out.

I really wonder what it is that she actually sees, when she looks at herself and when she looks at me.

I'd like to show her what I see.

So, that's how we've ended up back in my bedroom with Claire sitting in a towel on my bed after I half nagged her to death to let me take photos of her.

It's a good thing I could talk the back legs off a donkey, because I think in the end she agreed just so I'd shut the fuck up.

I'm not going to do this if she truly doesna want me to, but I just want to make sure that's the case and she's not being so dismissive of it because she's insecure about it.

I watch Claire sitting on the edge of my bed, her arms folded over her chest, and from her body language alone I can tell she's being guarded.

She stares around my room, like she has since we came in and I turned my light on - well, the blue neon fairy lights, and neon black lights I have around the edges of my ceiling.

I dinna even have a normal light bulb in here, it's a black light in the fixture in the ceiling. I've always been big on lighting though.

It calms me, and I'm a sucker for ambiance.

I like blue lights and black lights, mostly because they can show ye things ye wouldna see normally. A normal white shirt becomes fluorescent, or watching almost invisible black light paint glow and come alive.

I notice Claire focus on all the vinyl records displayed on my walls, in between some band posters and other random things I've collected over the years.

You'd think with all the vinyl records I own, I'd own a record player, but I don't. I just enjoy collecting them, fills me with nostalgia and appreciation for a time period I'm always going to wish I was a part of.

I truly think I was born in the wrong generation.

Never really felt like I fit in anywhere, and sometimes I wonder if it's no’ the places I dinna belong in. Maybe it's the time.

I hear Gizmo’s panting from down next to my feet, where I'm standing next to the table across from my bed in my underwear, and I look down to see him staring up at me.

I wonder if Claire would ever look at me like that.

Ye ken, like she really likes me.

Maybe I should give her some bacon.

I brought Gizmo in here because I figured it might make Claire more comfortable, he's like a fat little security blanket for her.

"Can we please just get this over with, smirky?" Claire mumbles, folding her arms tighter against her and it makes me frown.

"I'm taking yer picture Claire, not sticking ye in an electric chair," I say, picking my camera up off of my table and walking to stand in front of her.

"Same thing," she shrugs, and avoids eye contact with me.

She looks incredibly anxious and I dinna like it at all.

"I'm not going to force ye to do this - I'd never do that. I just want to show ye yerself in a way ye may not have seen before. It's why I like taking pictures," I tell her as I crouch down and sit my camera next to her on the bed, trying to get her to look at me.

Claire sighs, and drops her hands in her lap to fiddle with her fingers. "You're not going to show me something I'd like."

My brows pinch together, as I press my lips into a flat line and stare around her face as she looks at her lap.

"Ye really dinna ken how lovely ye are, do you?"

Instead of my complimentary words making her feel better, Claire grimaces. "Please stop saying things like that."

"Why?" I push, resting my hands either side of hair hips against the bed as I look up at her.

Claire looks like she becomes more frustrated, her discomfort only growing. "Because some good looking guy saying some sweet words and taking some nice pictures isn't going to change reality, or magically fix everything. The real world doesn't work like that."

She thinks I'm good looking?

My chest tightens and I wet my lips, taking a moment before I speak.

"Well, in my reality yer lovely," I say finally, watching her brows furrow tightly and she shakes her head.

"Please stop."

I feel like I've chipped away at part of the wall Claire keeps up, because I'm actually seeing emotion from her and she's speaking to me instead of dismissing everything with an insult or a joke.

"Why can't I say nice things to you?" I question, keeping my voice soft and moving my hands to rest on her thighs.

Claire hangs her head, picking at her nails and her voice becomes small.

"Because they're not true, Jamie. Please just stop it."

She said my name.

"I dinna lie," I tell her firmly, taking hold of her hands to stop their fidgeting because she looks like she's about to rip a fingernail off. "What if the things that ye said to yerself were the things that werena true, ever consider that?"

I watch Claire shrink down, chewing on her lip till it's raw and it feels like a kick in the guts to get a glimpse of how awful she feels about herself.

I ken everyone has insecurities, I have more than I can count, but this is more than that. This is like watching a sunflower think it's a weed, and hating itself for it.

Who was it that convinced her she wasna a flower?

I'll kick their ass.

"Why are you doing this?" Claire asks instead, finally looking at me, and I can see the uncertainty and mistrust on her face.

"Being nice to ye?" I ask with a quirk of my brows, trying to understand what she means.

"Acting like you care,” she says without any hesitation in her voice.

I dart my eyes between her own, doubting I'll get over how captivating I find them. I wish some of the softness I catch in them occasionally was for me.

"It's no’ an act," I tell her, absolutely meaning that, but keep my tone gentle. I dinna ken which way this could go, I'm still kind of waiting for her to tell me to fuck off.

Claire is just staring at me like she doesn't understand, as if she can't possibly comprehend that I'd genuinely care about her.

Could she ever care about someone like me?

I dinna really see how she could, no’ for who I am anyway. No one ever does. I'm only good for one thing really, but that's okay.

My ex wife made that abundantly clear to me, which makes how in love with her I was even more pathetic.

But it was a valuable lesson, I'm no’ meant for one person and it’s stupid to try in the first place. Relationships and monogamy is just a sham, everyone always ends up bored and miserable - always searching for something better.

No one would be content with just wanting me.

I watch her swallow thickly, as if she's burying any emotions that are trying to climb out of her as I watch her unsure eyes gloss over, and she darts her stare back down to our hands.

"Would it really be the worst thing in the world if I care about you?" I ask, ducking my face down to get her to look at me.

Claire shakes her head, keeping her eyes locked on our hands and her quiet voice sounds so unbearably sad, God, it makes my heart sink.

"No, the worst thing would be if I end up believing it."

I pull my lips to the side, giving her a determined look and bring my hands up to press against her shoulders, pushing her back against the bed as I climb up over her and straddle her waist.

Claire just looks up at me with her eyes wide, and I like that even though she looks surprised, she's not freezing up like she used to.

"I'm no’ out to hurt ye, regardless of how much ye think I am," I say, reaching up to tuck my fingers under the top of her towel over her chest and start to tug it open, but her hands grab my wrists.

"What are you doing?"

I glance to my hands and back to her face. "I'm going to take yer picture and show ye what ye canna see. I'm going to show ye that there's plenty to like about you."

"Naked?" She exclaims, her face filling with panic. "Listen smirky, I get that other people might be eager as fuck to let you take their nudes, but I am not one of those people."

Please call me Jamie again. I like when ye call me that.

I keep my hands stilled, and try to put all of the sincerity I'm capable of in my voice. "It's no’ going to be the type of photos ye think. It's nothing sexual, and I’ll delete them in front of ye as soon as I show them to ye if ye want. Could ye please try this wi’ me?"

Claire looks at me full of uncertainty, not saying anything for a moment then she blows out a resigned sigh. "...Don't make me regret this."

My heart jumps, and I give her an assuring smile as she keeps hold of my wrists while I start to tug the towel open again. "That's the last thing I'd ever want to do."

I slowly pull the fluffy white fabric away from her, lifting myself up on my knees so I can push it away from her stomach, and let it fall on either side of her on the bed.

Claire keeps hold of my wrists, like it's some kind of reassurance for her as I perch over her thighs and rest my hands on her waist, taking a moment to let my eyes savour her bare skin.

Absorbing every arch and valley, mound and crevice that's exposed to me.

Claire clears her throat, at her obvious discomfort from feeling so vulnerable, so I decide to distract her and hopefully myself from the swelling in my cock from looking at her; moving her hands to rest on my thighs.

I trace my fingertips down her stomach, feeling a pang in my chest when she grimaces. "Ye ken what I love about the human body?"

She just focuses on my face, raising her brows for an answer and looking like she's as desperate for a distraction as I am.

"All of the imperfections people tend to hate, I've always loved," I begin to explain, flicking my eyes down to her bare torso and trace my fingertips over the faint stretch marks over her hip, feeling the pattern of them. "Everything tells a story."

Claire automatically tries to recoil away from where I'm touching, and like I thought, she's memorized every inch that she's picked apart about herself so she knows exactly what I'd be touching.

I dinna let it deter me though.

I refuse to let her think that any part of her is wrong.

"Every flaw," I continue, glancing back to her face and then move my fingers to graze over the freckle under her belly button. "Every freckle," I continue my fingers down and trace my finger over a scar at the top of her thigh as she sucks in a breath, briefly wondering how it got there but that also only proves the point I'm trying to make.

"Every scar," I add, looking up to her face again to see her eyes frozen on me with her lips parted. "Every dimple, wrinkle, and every blemish, is like a piece to a mystery of that story - each one is like a page in a book that tells it."

I trace my fingertips back up her stomach, up her sternum and let them graze over the swell of her breasts. "See, the thing is, if ye take away one of those pages then the story just willna be as good - and what fun would it be if every page looked the same as everyone else's? There'd be nothing to learn, there'd be nothing unique or interesting about the book."

Claire's chest rises and falls faster, and she stays silent as her brows crease together and she bites down on her lip.

"How are ye ever going to solve a mystery wi’ blank pages?" I ask, looking back down to watch my fingers ghost across her nipple and feel my cock twitch, so I move my hand back down to rest against her stomach instead.

Reel it in Jamie, this isna the time to think with yer dick. Christ, she's making it difficult though, and she has no clue.

I drag my tongue over my lower lip, then swallow and flick my eyes back up to her face.

"You've got a beautiful story Claire, I wouldna change a thing. Ye should be proud of it, no’ ashamed."

Claire rolls her lips inside her mouth, and I see a rare instance of a trace of her emotions flash in her eyes before she pushes them away, and she exhales. "I guess that's the problem then."

"What is?" 

"I usually just watch the movies," she grins, with her face lighting up and I feel it flood a warmth in my chest.

My face breaks out into a wide grin, and I drop forward on my hands either side of her head and stare down at her. "Cheeky thing ye are."

Claire's bright smile stays on her face, the one that I wish she'd let show more often, and she surprises me when her hands grasp around my jaw, pulling me down to her and pressing those soft plush lips against mine.

My heart thumps fast in my chest as she caresses her mouth against mine; it's slow and tender, full of affection, and so different from any other kiss I've had from her.

I try no’ to get too carried away, but I canna help it. I get so caught up in kissing her.

There's just something about it wi’ Claire. I've kissed plenty of people, through countless hookups and one night stands, but not even on the day I got married did someone kiss me the way she does.

Like I matter.

Like I'm important.

Like it means something.

It's all I can think about half the time.

Claire breaks her lips from mine, like if she doesna stop herself she's going to lose her self control. "Go on, hurry up and take these pictures."

I smile, stealing another quick kiss and nod. "Aye."

I guess my plan worked, because she seems far more relaxed now and less shut off.

I pull myself off of her and grab my camera, kneeling next to her on the bed and turn it on.

We probably spend about half an hour taking the pictures, with me instructing her through different poses on the bed and trying to capture the images that I want; making sure I'm happy with the shapes and shadows, complemented with the neon blue lighting.

I had to adjust myself in my briefs when I caught myself stealing longer stares than I should have at her body in between photos, but I canna help how attracted I am to her.

I think it was the atmosphere in the room as well, something felt like it had shifted between us. Claire was so much more relaxed around me, playful and inviting. Showing me a warmth I hadna seen from her before and a vulnerability that was only making me tumble deeper into my fascination with her.

I was trying to show her sides of herself she hadna seen, and in return I guess she was showing me parts of her that she kept locked away from most people.

When I feel satisfied with the images I have, I flop down on my back next to where Claire is laying on the bed, resting the camera on my chest and turning my face to the side to look at her.

"See? That wasna so bad was it?"

"I think one of us enjoyed it a bit more than the other," she says with a dry tone, raising her brows and glancing down to my crotch.

I clear my throat with a sheepish expression, glad for the lighting in the room so she canna see my cheeks heating up. "That was yer fault, dinna blame me."

"I didn't even do anything," she says scrunching her nose up and I resist the urge to lean forward and kiss it.

I always find it cute when she does that.

I let the images flash through my head of the past half hour; the curve of her ass as it meets her thighs, how her full breasts moved each time she'd shuffle into a new position, and the way the flesh of her upper thighs touched together to hug perfectly around her center while she laid on her back with her ankles crossed staring up at me.

That fact she doesna comprehend how attractive she is, is fucking torture, because she has no clue about all the things she does that get my blood firing.

"Ye did plenty, just take my word for it,” I say, shifting on the spot at the discomfort in my briefs, trying to will it away.

If I didna think it would be too much, I would've already had her pulled on top of me; kissing over her breasts as I held her hips and fucked up into her, feeling how amazing she'd feel clenching around my cock.

God, I hope she lets me fuck her someday.

But now isna the time for that, she's pushed herself enough tonight and I need to pull myself together before I need to go into the bathroom and fuck my hand to cope with it.

"Do ye want to see the photos?" I ask, trying to change the subject and take my mind off it.

Claire just gives me an apprehensive nod, and before she can change her mind, I pick up my camera and press the button to bring up the images on the LCD screen at the back of it and gesture it towards her for her to take.

Claire gives me a quick glance as she takes the camera with apprehensive hands, chewing on her cheek as she holds the camera up above her face and I shuffle closer, resting my cheek against her shoulder to watch her go through them.

The first image she sees is one of her laying on her stomach; I'd focused the camera on the curve of her lower back, accentuating the two soft dimples just above her behind that I like so much.

The picture cuts off at the top of her behind, and only goes to her mid-back, and the glow from the lights has created shadows on her skin that accentuate the dip of her spine.

Claire stays silent, which creates a sick worry in my stomach and I'm too nervous to look at her face, worried about what reaction I'd see, so I just continue to watch the images flick past one after the other as she goes through them.

She reaches the last photo and stays paused on it; it's a picture of her laying on her back, resting her arm behind her head, her cheek pressed against her upper arm with a large smile on her face, and her other hand draped over her chest.

She looks happy.

I managed to make her laugh and couldn't not take a picture, I love it when she smiles.

I suck in a breath through my teeth, then wet my lips out of habit and dare to ask, "So what do ye think?"

The longer Claire stays quiet the more insecure I become, and the seconds feel like a ticking hell of eternity until I hear her quiet voice.

"...They're...beautiful photos Jamie - You're really talented."

Immediately a giddy pride explodes inside me, and I finally look up to her face to see her just staring at the screen with an expression I canna quite decipher.

She looks deep in thought, but also a mix of surprised and confused.

I turn on my side, lifting up to rest on my elbow as I look down at her.

"Did it ever cross yer mind, that maybe you are what makes those photos beautiful, and no’ the other way around?" I ask, hoping she catches on to my point with all of this.

Claire's lips part as her eyes snap to me, again emotion flashing over her face that's too fast for me to make out before she hides it, and she looks lost with what to say.

"Did ye want me to delete them?" I offer, no’ expecting her to say anything because I already ken whatever emotions she's dealing with would be overwhelming.

She's shown me more of herself and her feelings tonight than she has since I met her, so I'm just going to let her take small steps wi’ that.

Claire looks back to the camera, focusing on the photo and chews on the inside of her cheek, her brows twitching together like she can't understand something but then she shakes her head.

"I like them. You can keep them."

***

Chapter Text

"I'm only happy when it rains

I'm only happy when it's complicated

And though I know you can't appreciate it

I'm only happy when it rains

 

You know I love it when the news is bad

Why it feels so good to feel so sad?

I'm only happy when it rains."

(Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage)  

***

I've had the week from hell. 

It's also been a week since I've seen Jamie, and that's been on my mind more than it should.

I've felt more lonely than usual, which I didn't realize was possible.

In a way, I guess I was almost grateful for the distractions this week; even if they pushed the brink of my already thin as a thread sanity.

Jamie had messaged me through the week, trying to see each other and it just wasn't possible on my end, I could barely reply to him with everything going on. So he'd opt for late night texting conversations instead, keeping me awake talking about nothing.

It was always random, nothing personal or just shitty jokes, and the lightness of the conversations honestly felt like a relief.

I couldn't tell him why I couldn't see him, I don't even know how I'd begin to explain it. I'm just thankful he didn't turn up unannounced.

John came by on Thursday to pick up Gizmo, after I had spent the night with Jamie on Saturday, and he could tell immediately that I was having one of my bad weeks.

The part I needed a distraction from though, was when John let it slip in casual conversation that Jamie was out on a date the night before.

I'd asked how John's night had been and he had said it was good until he was woken up by Jamie tripping over his own feet and falling into his door with a loud bang at 3am.

He was drunk as a skunk, and John got up to help him to bed.

He was also missing a shoe, apparently. Which they later located in the driveway.

"Must've been a wild night," John had said. "I'm surprised he even made it home though."

I didn't know what reaction to give John, I didn't know what reaction I should even have.

I can't say I was surprised, I mean - to think Jamie would only be focused on me would imply I were something special.

I'm the furthest thing from special.

As soon as he mentioned the date I felt my stomach do the pitfall that happens when you drop suddenly on an amusement ride.

I couldn't really decipher the feeling, I just knew it didn't feel good. After the night I spent with him, my resolve crumbled and I've just given into the fact that I care, a lot. I like him, I like his company and I like how I feel when I'm around him.

So caring about him, I guess, means I care far more about this shit than I should.

I couldn't explain that to John though, I still don't know how to explain what has been going on between Jamie and I. I have to tell him though.

I don't think I'm really in a position to be upset about it. I knew what Jamie was like, and we aren't together; I don't even know if what he does when we aren't together is even any of my business.

I doubt if I went on a date he'd care, seeing as he's so into his ‘no commitment, fuck buddies’ routine.

I guess the only difference is I don't want to go on dates with other people.

Not that I want to go on dates with Jamie.

We're just... I don't know, passing the time with each other.

I'm sure he'll get bored soon enough.

Can I really expect much else?

I know it'll end badly - I warned him that this story ends the same way every time. May as well practice how that's going to feel now, with this whole him going on a date thing.

I no longer think Jamie is intentionally out to hurt me or deceive me, but that's the problem. Sometimes the best intentions can hurt.

Guess I'll just enjoy the small moments of quiet and contentment when I can.

It's not like I'll get to have many more of them.

"How have things been?" Hilda asks, looking at me over the brim of her glasses with a warm smile, where I'm sat flopped against the couch.

It's time for my monthly therapy appointment, and to be honest, I've needed it more than usual after this week.

"Bout' as fun as bungy jumping with a noose, so fantastic," I give an over enthusiastic smile at the end, which makes her warm expression soften into an understanding look.

"How are things with mum?"

I chew on the inside of my cheek, which is beginning to feel like minced meat from the way my teeth have hacked at it running thoughts of Jamie through my head this week.

"She's in the hospital again," I answer, keeping my face and tone blank, stating facts like a reporter on the news.

Same shit, different day really.

Hilda's lips press together in sympathy, and her soothing voice breaks the silence again. "What happened this time?"

I shrug my shoulders, threading my fingers together in my lap and try to recount the last few days of hell that I'm far too numb and exhausted over now to feel much about.

"She got a hold of some of her medication while I was at work. She took far too much, and I didn't know. So it was two days of trying to figure out if she was sick, overdosed on meds or just pretending again. I ended up having to call an ambulance. She really keeps you on your toes."

My mother has a habit of that, you can never tell what's what with her. There's plenty of times she fakes being sick, and she'll tell me to make sure I keep checking on her.

It's hard to decipher from when she is actually sick, because she refuses to let me call a doctor either way. She just keeps saying she needs me to help her.

And then there's the moments where she's abused her medication, which is why I had to take it off her.

It's hard to figure out what's going on with her each time and it has a habit of making you feel crazy, like you can't trust your own judgement.

There's a lot of the boy who cried wolf instances with her, and she lies so frequently you can never really know what's real.

That's the kicker, really. Because whilst I could just ignore her, what happens if it's that one time something is actually wrong? It'll be my fault.

So, I spent those few days trapped in the cycle of panic and helplessness. Nights of no sleep, filled with dread and getting up throughout the night to go check on her.

The days were spent with finding her disoriented and acting like a dementia patient, muttering nonsense and having no clue where she was or what she was doing.

I'm now even more stressed because I had to miss some days at work because of it, and while Charlie was incredibly understanding over my bullshit excuse of being unwell; I now have to worry about how I'm paying bills this month with even less money.

Thankfully she was so out of it, because it meant when I called the ambulance finally they were able to take her; whether she wanted to go or not.

There's been too many times where they've asked her those frustrating competency questions which she can answer perfectly, so they can't force her to go and she tells them to leave.

It's so embarrassing when that happens. I feel like I've wasted their time.

Hilda keeps her empathetic expression, it doesn't look like pity though. Which I appreciate.

"That sounds like it would've been very stressful, and scary to deal with on your own,"  she says, glancing towards her clock and trying to be unnoticeable.

I shrug again, trying not to let the memories sink in of how panicked and helpless I felt; and how I wish someone could have helped me.

No one really understands though. Well, except for Hilda. John tries, but honestly it's so fucking hard for someone not in this situation, that hasn't had my upbringing, to fully grasp.

From an outside perspective they think the answers are so simple.

'Leave your mother'. 'Put her in a home'. 'Ignore her'.

If it were that simple, do you not think I'd have done that already?

"I'm used to it." I say instead, but clear my throat and decide I've had my last week already consumed with this shit; I'd rather not focus on it today.

We're going to have a lot more appointments discussing my mother in the future anyway.

"I wanted to talk about something else today though," I say, leaning forward to rest my elbows on my knees, and my brows twitch in confusion to express how muddled my head feels over it.

Hilda nods in agreement, not pushing it and crosses one leg over the other; folding her hands in her lap with an attentive warm look. "What did you want to talk about?"

I pull my lips to the side in thought, trying to think of how to word it, but decide on asking, "Do you remember me saying I started writing something new in my journal entries? I wrote something other than Gizmo."

"I do."

I lace my fingers tighter together, clearing my throat and shifting in my seat. "Well, they've been about some one , not some thing ."

Hilda's brows lift in surprise, a ghost of a smile playing on her lips that she tries to hide. "And who are they about? Have you met someone new?"

I nod, letting out a heavy breath. "Yeah... He's an old friend of John’s. His name is Jamie. I've pretty much wanted to strangle him since I met him. He was just so fucking frustrating, and persistent, and cocky. He'd always have this dumb fucking smirk on his face and I swear he was like herpes, just couldn't get rid of him. He wouldn't fucking leave me alone."

Hilda coughs into her fist to mask a laugh, but grins at me with her eyes lighting up. "He sounds charming."

I throw my hands out in front of myself, widening my eyes and raising my brows. "He is! That's what was so fucking annoying."

"You used past tense a lot just then, describing what he was like. What is your relationship like with him now?" She asks, catching on immediately.

"I..." I pause trying to think of the right answer, but that's where that confusion comes in. "I don't know. I don't want to strangle him now."

Hilda tilts her head with a thoughtful look, but I catch a glint of excitement in her eyes.

"Are you friends?"

I frown in concentration, twisting my fingers together. "Uh, I don't think so?" 

She nods. "Okay, is it romantic then?"

I concentrate harder and stare at my feet as I try to describe it, feeling that same uncomfortable sensation in my chest as I try and figure it out.

Eventually deciding that romantic isn't the right word either. We aren't romantically involved because that would involve feelings and Jamie has openly said he's just about sex, not romantic relationship.

I think I could be friends with Jamie, that is, before we kissed. That threw that option out the window for me. I don't kiss my friends and I don't fool around with them.

Casual isn't the right word either, because nothing about him feels casual, it's all consuming and intense.

"It's... intimate."

"Uh-huh," Hilda says with her voice kicking up a notch in surprise and understanding. "So you're sleeping together?"

My eyes snap to hers and I shake my head quickly. "No, no we haven't done that. We've done other things... but..." I pause, falling back against the couch and scratching at my forehead with my brows pulled tight together. "I'm pretty sure that's what's going to end up happening"

Hilda is very well aware I haven't been close to anything male since Frank, and also my prior history with men in general.

So, that's why her expression becomes more focused and her tone stays gentle but serious. "That takes an enormous amount of trust for you, considering your past. How are you feeling about that? Do you feel safe with him?"

I think for a moment before I answer, but then just nod, and answer honestly. "I do, feel safe with him in regards to sex. He's actually really wonderful about making sure whatever happens is something I want. I'm used to it but it's nice... it's just really confusing."

"What's confusing about it?" She encourages, keeping her attention fully focused on me.

I fiddle with my fingers, staring at my lap and decide whether I should just say it out loud; if there's one person I trust to talk to about it and give me a logical, rational explanation without their emotions or personal interests clouding it, it's Hilda.

"I like him - I mean, as a person. I like him. I like who he is," I blurt out, trying to figure out my thoughts. "I enjoy his company."

Hilda thinks for a moment, then gives me an understanding nod "Well, that makes perfect sense. We've spoken about how difficult it is for you to form relationships or bonds with people, because for you people have never been safe. You were never shown how to form loving relationships or trust them, so it's understandable that when you meet someone and start to form a connection with them - it can be confusing and unnerving, and it makes sense for your brain to try and figure out a reason for it to be wrong. To protect itself."

I nod in understanding, appreciating how factual that is. I understand facts, not feelings.

"Is he good to you?" She asks, looking curious. "How does he treat you?"

I run my fingers through the front of my hair, sighing and let all the memories flash through my head of moments with him. How those moments made me feel.

"He's really nice to me..." I say in a slow voice, again sounding perplexed by it. "He's kind, and funny. He has this way of making you feel like you're the only person in the room when he talks to you, and it feels the same when he looks at you. He's sweet, when he's not being irritating."

Hilda hums in understanding, and when I look at her I see her suppressing a giddy smile that lights up her eyes.

She composes herself, pushing her glasses up her nose where they've slipped down.

"Well, for most people that would feel really good. However, because for you, your brain developed around situations that were neglectful, unsafe and hurtful, that's what it registers as normal. When you finally encounter a person that isn't like that, it's normal for your brain to set off alarms that that behavior is what is actually unsafe. Because it isn't familiar."

That makes sense.

It's logical.

My brain is just a defective asshole.

"What's concerning you the most at the moment?" Hilda prods further, watching my reactions as I start to fidget more and struggle with the tightening in my chest and stomach, the discomfort.

"... Getting attached to him," I answer, looking to her with an uncertain expression.

The closer you get to someone, the more they can hurt you.

"Does the prospect of that scare you?"

I suck my lower lip under my teeth and chew on it, knotting my fingers together and squeezing to alleviate the pressure in my chest somehow.

I swallow, looking to Hilda and feeling totally helpless, and hate how insecure I sound.

"It fucking terrifies me."

***

The Office literally has a reaction gif for everything lol

Chapter Text

"You're so fucking special, I wish I was special.

But I'm a creep."

(Radiohead - Creep)

***

 

"Hey, I was just calling to see how you were?" 

No that's dumb.

"Hey, I hope I'm not interrupting anything-"

Way too fucking formal, you sound like a twat.

"Hey, did you know that some turtles can breathe through their anus?"

Yeah Claire, just open with weird animal facts you fucking creep. Amazing idea.

"Oh for fucks sake I'm useless at this shit," I huff, staring down at my phone in my hand where I'm sitting on my bed, hovering my thumb over Jamie's contact name.

I've been sitting here for the past twenty minutes just staring at his name on my phone; talking to myself like a mental patient over what I should say if he answers, finally giving in and caving to the fact that I miss the sound of his voice.

He's been on my mind since I got home from my appointment five hours ago, no matter how much I tried to distract myself.

I finally showered and washed my hair, brushed my teeth and got into fresh clothes. I called the hospital and did my laundry.

It doesn't sound like much, but when you're weighted to the ground being crushed by your own mind those things feel impossible.

Unbearable even.

The smallest tasks of self care everyone takes for granted feel like the most daunting thing imaginable.

I cleaned the house, tried watching a movie, tried listening to music and nothing worked.

Even though my mother isn't here, there's still that heavy anxious atmosphere in the house that makes me want to crawl out of my own skin and whilst normally when I'm feeling like this, I seclude myself and lock myself away to suffer in silence; not burdening anyone.

This time I've got that ache deep in my gut for some kind of respite from it, some kind of comfort. A distraction.

I want to feel better.

I want to let someone else help me feel better.

I shove down that anxious self doubt as far as I can, sighing. "Oh to hell with it."

Just before I press Jamie's name, I look to Gizmo on the end of my bed.

"Wish me luck."

He snorts in support, then wheezes out a breath that makes his jowls vibrate; staring at me with that same droopy expression.

"Thanks for the pep talk," I say with a flat look, pressing Jamie's name and bringing my phone up to my ear; feeling my stomach flip as soon as the call tone starts and I chew on my nail cuticle.

The phone only rings three times before I hear that same accent drawl through the phone, making my heart stop in my chest.

Fuck he makes me so nervous now.

"Claire?" Jamie's voice sounds full of surprise and a hint of confusion, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

I freeze, panicking and feel my brain malfunctioning. At my silence, Jamie's voice comes through the speaker again.

"Hello?"

Fuck fuckity fuck. Just say something!

"Turtles have anus's," I blurt out, unable to control my brain's verbal vomiting in a moment of panic, then look to Gizmo with a mortified expression and smack my hand against my forehead.

I can hear the bright smile in Jamie's voice as he bites back a laugh, and I can't help how it makes my heart kick start and thump in my chest.

"That's ...fascinating - ye called just to tell me that?" he teases, but his voice sounds so warm.

I trip over my words, staring at Gizmo for some kind of help while he just looks at me like I'm an idiot.

"I meant - sorry that came out wrong. I meant to say some turtles can breathe through their anus," I fumble as if it makes it any better, silently yelling 'oh my god - what the fuck is wrong with me' as I throw my head back and cover my eyes with my hand.

Jamie chokes on a loud laugh, then composes himself as I hear shuffling in the background; sounding like he's getting comfortable on a bed.

"I've been wondering if they could do that all day, thank ye for solving that mystery for me," he says with mock sincerity, his voice breaking occasionally as he chuckles.

Abort mission.

Abort the whole mission you fucking clown.

"Yep well. My job here is done then," I say with my voice kicking up to a high pitch from stress, and I pinch the bridge of my nose, squeezing my eyes shut.

"So I guess I'll let you go-"

"No wait," he cuts in, his words are so rushed that he pauses and then clears his throat. "Dinna run off just yet, how have ye been?"

Don't make a suicidal joke.

This isn't your therapist.

"I've been.... alive?" I smack my palm against my face, leaning my elbow on my knee where my legs are crossed and curse myself over how I can't seem to talk properly around him now.

"How have you been?" I add quickly, trying to remember how to have a regular conversation where I wasn't hanging on his every word.

Why is this so difficult now?

"I've had better weeks," he answers with a simple tone, seeming unaffected by the fact that I sound like a blubbering idiot. His tone then gets that perplexed inflection again, but he sounds genuinely interested when he asks, "Are ye okay?"

My brows pinch together. "Why? Do I not sound okay?"

You just told him that turtles breathe out of their anus, Claire, he probably thinks you've had a psychotic break.

"You've just erm, you've never called me before." For once he doesn't have that self assured cocky tone to his voice, but there's a faint shyness to it.

I try to think of what to say, knowing I can't tell him the real reason I called.

I missed you.

I missed your voice.

I miss that stupid smirk.

Jamie alleviates my distress, when at my drawn out silence he adds, "I just thought something may have been wrong is all."

I start chewing on my cuticle again, feeling my pulse accelerate like I'm running on an incline up a treadmill.

"No, nothing is wrong. Just wanted to talk to you."

My heart slams even harder against my rib cage while I nearly bite clean through the skin on my finger over the fact I admitted that.

There's another pause, but then I hear a smile that bright in Jamie's voice it's like a punch straight to the stomach.

I hate that I can picture it so clearly.

"Well talk to me then heartbreaker - What have ye been up to?"

Now I'm smiling.

Listening to his soothing voice wrap around those words, how genuine they sound has warmth exploding in my chest and a stupid grin breaking out on my face.

I'd rather not go over the specifics of this week, because that crippling anxious dread I've felt all week that's fueled my nightly nightmares or insomnia melts away and I don't want it back just yet.

"Nothing too interesting - just daily adulting, about as interesting as watching paint dry. What about you?" I ask, relaxing back against the wall at the head of my bed and fiddle with the end of my t-shirt.

"So watching paint dry was more important than seeing me?" He taunts, but there's a hint of seriousness there that makes my brows twitch into a frown. "I was beginning to think ye were avoiding me."

Instead of being sarcastic, I decide to be honest, because while before I would have happily let him think I wanted nothing to do with him, the idea of that now feels heavy in my chest.

"I did want to see you - I would if I could have."

Jamie continues to taunt me with a disbelieving "mhmmmm" but there's relief there as well.

"I guess my week was boring too," he adds, and I can't stop the next question that vomits out of my mouth.

"John was saying that you had a date."

I want to smack myself in the face, because I sounded far less casual about that than I should have and I have no business bringing it up. So I try to save myself.

"He was saying you came stumbling home missing a shoe - sounds more interesting than my week. I still have both my shoes."

Great. I've graduated to dad jokes now.

There's a long pause from Jamie, and when he does speak he's back to being unsure of himself.

"He mentioned that, did he?" The faint irritation in his voice at that question dissolves as he sighs, shifting like he's trying to get comfortable again.

"I guess ye could call it a date. One of John's friends asked me to go out to some bar for the night. I had no plans, so I thought I may as well go wi’ him."

My heart tumbles as I think of what he said when I first met him.

'I fuck on the first date.'

I quickly will away the images that flash into my mind, getting annoyed with myself over the fact they stung so much.

It makes me feel stupid.

Jamie continues though, at my lack of response. "I'd call it a train wreck though. I got so fuckin' drunk, havena been that drunk in years. I threw up on his shoes when he was trying to put me in a taxi outside the bar. Doubt I'll be seeing him again."

There's embarrassment in Jamie's voice, but he still chuckles towards the end.

So they didn't sleep together?

Why did he get so drunk?

This shouldn't matter to me. But it does.

My whole body seems to deflate, relaxing and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding before I laugh.

"Well aren't you a charmer, it sounds like you had a fantastic time. I can't imagine why he's not banging your door down right now."

"Would have had a better time wi’ you, to be completely honest," Jamie says, catching me off guard, and I try my hardest to swallow my heart back down from where it flew up into my tonsils.

"With me?"

"Mmmh'aye" he hums, then smiles. "I didna like his taste in music. He was boring as a fuckin brick wall too. Couldna keep me on my toes like you do."

"Like I do?" I question, scrunching my nose up.

"Aye." He scoffs. "... He never even mentioned that turtles could breathe out of their anus, can ye believe that?" I can hear that same god damn smirk in his voice.

I press my hand to my cheek, feeling my skin burning red hot and try to soothe it but still grin.

"Fuck you, Jamie."

"We've been over this already, Claire," he chimes back in a cheeky sing song voice, sounding like he's wearing a goofy grin as stupid as mine.

My cheeks hurt. They're genuinely sore from how large I'm smiling at this point.

It falls quiet, as I try and think of what else to say. I didn't think you'd be able to feel tension through a phone, but it's suffocating.

Like it's traveling through the air waves and constricting my whole body.

"Are ye busy right now?" Jamie asks, his quick voice cutting through the silence with a tone that makes my insides twist.

I stare around my room, as if I'm looking for an answer but then my eyes land on Gizmo.

"I was just spending a quiet night in with the boyfriend - so not really. Are you busy?"

I can hear Jamie sit up, then hear shuffling around and a bang; hearing him curse under his breath like he's stumbled over something.

"Free as a bird - Can I come over?" He asks, his words rushed with whatever he's doing on the other end of the phone. There's eagerness and what I think is desperation all mixed into his voice.

I feel excitement explode in my chest, but try to hide it in my voice and sound casual.

"If you want to."

My plan fails miserably because my voice cracks at the end like a teenage boy, and I bang my head back against the wall, wondering how people play these things off all cool, calm and collected.

I wonder how Jamie is so confident with this shit.

"I'm leaving no- fuck !" Jamie's words are cut off by a yelp, followed by a loud thud and Jamie ranting profanities.

He sounds further away so I assumed with whatever has happened, he's dropped his phone.

"Why do I wear pants this fuckin’ useless to get on, I swear to god," he rants to himself, but it's muffled through the phone until I hear the static like noise of him picking the phone up off the ground.

The image of Jamie trying to struggle his viking legs into his jeans with one hand and face planting the ground has me cackling.

"Claire? Ye still there?"

I press my fingers to my lips to try to stifle my laughing at how out of breath he sounds.

"You okay there smirky? Go for another trip?"

“M'fine" he huffs, sounding sheepish. "I'll see ye soon alright? Just grabbin’ my keys."

"Try and get here in one piece - I'll see you in about a half hour then," I grin, feeling like a fucking school girl over this giddy sensation buzzing through my body.

It usually takes that long to get here from John’s, and there's not much traffic at 8pm so I can't see it taking longer than that.

At least I'll have half an hour to pull myself together.

Should I get changed? Jamie’s seen me in sweatpants and hoodies plenty of times but now I kind of want to make some kind of effort. I guess I care if I impress him or not now.

I hear a door slam from the other end of the phone, then quick footsteps down stairs while Jamie's enthusiastic voice comes through the speaker with a daring tone before he hangs up.

"I'll be seeing ye in fifteen, heartbreaker."

***

Jamie on his way to Claire's:

Chapter Text

"I'm a lonely boy

I got a love that keeps me waitin' "

(Lonely Boy - The Black Keys)

***

 

JAMIE’S P.O.V.:

Blue.

I've never had the color make me so anxious.

Normally it's calming for me, but at this very second it's ominous.

I blow out a puff of air, bringing my hand up to knock twice on the blue door and shift on my feet as I wait in silence.

It's a miracle I didna get pulled over on my way here. There's speeding, and then there's driving like a dumbass, but I never claimed to be smart.

I figured the longer I took, the longer she had to change her mind.

I dinna hear any movement from inside after a few moments, and start to chew on my lip as I shove my hands into my pockets.

She couldna have changed her mind in fifteen minutes, right?

I resist the urge to knock again, or call and tell her I'm here so I dinna seem like a needy fucking puppy.

This woman has always got me on edge. I can never predict things with her.

I spent the last week thinking she just didna want to see me anymore.

I ken John said she was having a rough week, even though he wouldna fucking tell me why - and his avoidance of the subject had my paranoia thinking that maybe he was just making up excuses and dancing around the subject about the fact that she just didna want to be around me.

I mean, she saw John a few times and when I asked to go wi’ him to pick up Gizmo, he always made up some excuse over why I couldn't.

Normally I would've just turned up at her window, but that recent insecurity in my stomach had me thinking maybe she really didna want me to this time.

Then there were the couple days spent wondering whether she was spending time wi’ that boss of hers instead. Maybe she finally realized she was working for a bearded fucking supermodel. Maybe the way I saw them act when I picked her up from work wasna as innocent as she played off.

I dinna ken how Claire is so oblivious to the fact he flirts wi’ her, and she didna seem to mind it at all when he was hugging all over her and kissing her on the head.

Why didn't she go all stiff and tell him to piss off like she'd done wi’ me?

I hate that he's so nice. With his dumb fuckin big arms, and broad shoulders, and those stupid fuckin plaid shirts with his annoying cheerful fuckin smile.

He gave me a free burger on Tuesday when I turned up at Claire's work, hoping I'd see her, but he said she was off work for a few days.

He even gave me extra fries, the prick.

She still hasna answered the door. Now I feel kind of sick.

She still has our pig though, if she really didna want to see me, she would've given that back, right?

I run nervous fingers through my hair and start to look around aimlessly; trying to focus on anything except that door and the fact that it's not opening.

The house next door catches my attention, when I notice a figure staring out of the window lit up by a warm dim light, and as soon as they notice I've spotted them the curtain snaps closed.

Wonderful.

If Claire stands me up, I'm going to have an audience.

My stomach goes from anxious knots to leaping into my chest when I hear footsteps rushing towards the door; so I straighten up and try to look as casual as possible and not give away that I've been fretting with sweaty palms.

"Coming!" I hear her rushed voice call out.

Well, if I'm lucky, aye, ye will be.

I think the amount of times I've relived the sounds and feel of her, while fucking my own hand this week is bordering on unhealthy.

I've also spent far more time staring at those photos of her than I'd like to admit.

Has she thought about me? Had me stuck in her head just like she's been stuck in mine?

The door swings open and my heart jumps the second my eyes catch those same whisky colored ones staring back at me.

Fuck her eyes are gorgeous.

My mouth breaks out into a wide grin, and I try to keep the excitement pushed down.

Be casual.

"Hey heartbreaker - was starting to think ye were just going to leave me out here."

Or just blurt out yer insecurities ye fuckin idiot.

I ken that she thinks I'm just teasing, but I really was fucking thinking that.

"Hey - Sorry I was just - I was in the middle of something," she says, sounding a bit out of breath.

I let my eyes glance over her flushed cheeks, tousled hair, then let them go lower; taking in her white cotton shirt that's far more form fitting than those oversized band shirts I normally see her in.

I feel a spark deep in my gut when my eyes get to the small black velvet sleeping shorts that are clinging to the tops of her thighs, and wet my lips before letting my gaze drink in her legs and dart back to her face.

"And what were ye in the middle of? Ye seem flustered," I ask with a suggestive raise of my brow, letting images flood my head that make me want to adjust my dick in my jeans.

Claire’s eyes widen when she realizes what I'm implying and she shakes her head. "I was sorting through my clothes."

I purse my lips with a disbelieving look, fighting a smirk. "Sure ye were."

Claire's face drops into an annoyed glare, but there's humor behind it. "Get your mind out of the gutter smirky."

"Around you? Impossible." I muse back, tilting my head and finally letting the smirk break onto my lips.

Claire rolls her eyes, but then her gaze falls to my chest and her brows quirk together. "You're not wearing a shirt."

I glance down to my bare torso that's only covered by my jacket, and look back to her. I decide not to mention I was in too much of a rush to put one on.

Instead I focus my eyes on the collar of Claire’s shirt and notice the tag sticking out and raise my brows. "Your shirt is on backwards."

Claire's eyes dart down and I notice her curse under breath, and I give her a curious look.

Did she get dressed in a hurry too? Or has she just been walking around all day with her shirt on back to front?

Claire's eyes fall on my boots instead of looking back up to me, and her own voice is curious now. "Your shoe laces aren't done up."

Aye, didna have time for those either.

She's only got one sock on though, so I dinna think she's in a position to criticize my footwear.

In hopes of hiding how desperately I was breaking my neck to get over here to the point it's embarrassing, I take a step forward to the threshold of the doorway, which makes Claire lift her eyes back to my face.

"What can I say? I was feeling risky tonight."

Claire scrunches her nose up. "What, risking tripping and breaking your neck?"

More so getting my heart broken, but I risk that more every time I see ye.

I ken I'm playing a dangerous game there, but I just canna help myself.

I press my hand against the doorway, ignoring her question and giving her a frown. "Ye gonna invite me in? Or were ye planning on just making me stand out here all night?"

Claire squints at me, acting like she's thinking for a moment. "Leaving you out there sounds tempting but I guess you can come in."

I ignore my heart jumping again when a smile she tries to hide by looking to the ground pulls on her lips. She steps back and opens the door wider as an invitation to come in.

Is she being shy or am I looking too much into it?

I step through the doorway and stroll inside while Claire shuts the door behind us, and my eyes search for one of the other reasons I was eager to get here.

As soon as I see that droopy face, and those four stubby legs where Gizmo is sprawled on his back on the couch asleep with his tongue hanging out, my face lights up.

"There's my good lad!" I coo way too loudly, and with far too much enthusiasm. I sound like a clucky old grandmother.

Gizmos eyes snap open at my words, blinking as he wobbles for a second with a loud huff trying to roll on his side; before he wriggles with excitement to get off the couch and manages to roll straight off it and land on the ground with a thud.

My hand flies to smack over my mouth and stifle a laugh as I gasp against it. "Oh shit."

Completely undeterred by the fact he just hit the ground like a bag of bricks, Gizmo waddles over excitedly with heavy wheezing.

I crouch down to greet him, holding my arms out wondering if Claire would ever look that excited to see me one day.

At least I know he missed me.

"I missed ye," I grin, smushing his face between my hands before scratching just behind his ear on his favorite spot and watch his little tail wag a hundred mile an hour while his back leg taps against the floor. 

I'm so fuckin whipped by this dog. He's like a useless sack of potatoes that breathes, but it's so endearing.

"I think that's the fastest I've ever seen him move when there's no food involved," Claire points out, coming to stand next to me and I look up to see her arms tucked inside her shirt as she spins it around so it's facing the right way and pushes her arms back through the sleeves.

"Aye, I think he's considering breaking up wi’ ye for me" I tease, giving Gizmo one last pat and push on my knees to stand up straight.

Claire gives Gizmo an accusing look. "That wouldn't surprise me. He's always been a bit of a whore."

Guess Gizmo and I have that in common.

When Claire looks back to me, I catch her eyes falling on my torso and watch as she pauses there, letting her eyes drift over it and my pulse picks up.

"Just browsing, or were ye planning on buying something?" I ask with a sly look when I see her gaze travel down to my hips before she blinks and snaps her eyes back to my face.

"What?"

Dinna what me, Sassenach, you and I both ken ye were checking me out.

I see her cheeks start to tint deeper and I canna help that I like teasing her, but I decide to not in this instance because honestly I'm still kind of nervous she'll tell me to fuck off if I push my luck too fast.

Instead I give her a once over, and take a few steps to stand in front of her. "Yer looking lovely tonight."

She looks tired too, but I dinna mention that seeing as last time, her brain turned the observation into an insult.

Besides, telling her she looks lovely is better than saying 'you've had all the blood in my body rushing to my dick since ye opened the door'.

Claire looks down to the ground and starts to fidget with the end of her shirt. I try not to, but I canna help that I notice the way it makes the fabric shift and tighten over her chest.

The sarcastic response I expected never came though. Instead, the response I got had my chest tightening and my stomach feeling like it was packed to the brim with a billion buzzing bees.

"So are you."

As small as that compliment seems, it's universal in magnitude coming from her. Somehow, someone could come up to me and write a sonnet on how beautiful they thought I was, and yet it wouldna seem as impactful as those three shy words.

Maybe it's been her lack of compliments that makes the ones she decides to give so meaningful.

She thinks I look lovely.

I couldna hide the bright look on my face if I tried, and I reach out to take her hand; to stop her nervous habit but also pull her against me, and I look down at her.

"Oh aye?" She's staring at my chest and still won't look at me, so I lift my free hand to nudge her chin with my index finger to force her eyes to meet mine. "Think I'm lovely enough for a kiss then? Just a quick one?"

I dinna want to get too carried away the second I'm in the door, but I've been missing those lips all week and I just want to be reminded of how they feel. 

How she feels.

That she still wants me.

I've been lonely.

I thought I'd need to wait a bit more, but to my absolute fuckin shock and pleasure; Claire is grasping the edges of my jacket and closing the space between our mouths as she leans up and presses her lips against mine.

There's plenty of places I could have put my hands when I kiss her back, tasting and relishing in every soft eager movement, but the opportunist in me couldna help snatching up the chance to slide my palms to her arse. Gripping the soft flesh there in shameless handfuls to press her body harder into mine.

Velvet.

That's all I can feel at the moment. The velveteen on her warm lips and the smooth black velvet against my palms as I let my fingers flex and dig into her skin through the material 

Maybe she did miss me. Maybe I'm just overthinking it.

I'm trying not to get too carried away but I can't help it; although when I hear Claire gasp into the kiss as I give her arse a rough grope I couldn't help myself with, I break my mouth from hers.

We're both breathing heavier, and the second I catch sight of her damp rosy lips, I'm fighting myself from just picking her up and taking her to the room to toss her on the bed.

"Have you eaten yet?" Claire asks, trying to sound far more composed than her tight voice is giving away.

She really did just walk into this one.

I nudge my nose against hers, humming. "No, but if ye lose the shorts we could fix that."

I break out into a wide cheeky smile, raising and dropping my brows as Claire gives my shoulder a playful shove and steps back.

"You're hilarious - Did you want me to order some food?"

I wasn’t joking.

Canna blame a guy for trying.

"Sure," I agree, eyeing her as I watch her turn and walk to the coffee table, bending down to grab her phone.

Black velvet.

I clear my throat, adjusting myself in my jeans and mentally curse myself that they're so fucking tight. 

I feel my phone vibrate in my back pocket, and pull it out to check while Claire focuses on her phone scrolling through it, I'm assuming to find somewhere to order from.

Thomas (Bar)

Message Received:

8.30pm:

Were you still coming over tonight after I finish work?  

I chew on my lip as I look at the message, kind of feeling bad I honestly forgot about that the second Claire called.

"What kind of food did you want?" Claire asks, looking up at me from her phone.

Thomas (Bar)

Message Sent:

8.31pm:

Sorry. Can't tonight. Something came up. Catch up soon 

I glance to Claire from my phone after I hit send, and shove my phone back in my pocket.

"Surprise me, heartbreaker."

***

Chapter Text

"So have you got the guts?

Been wondering if your heart's still open

And if so, I wanna know what time it shuts"

(Do I Wanna Know - Arctic Monkeys)

***

You'd swear I ordered Jamie five star cuisine, not nachos from the Mexican joint a few blocks away.

As soon as the food arrived and I gave him the styrofoam container packed full of corn chips, cheese and salsa, his face lit up like a kid on Christmas.

I don't see the big deal, he said his favorite food is nachos right? It's not like it was some psychic guess.

Again he sat far closer than he needed to when we plopped down onto the couch to eat our food and not pay attention to the TV while we spoke through eating.

I didn't mind this time though, I liked that he was close.

I, on the other hand, didn't get anything too exciting. I just ordered some seasoned fries; I was a little tight on money to be eating out, and I didn't really feel like having nachos anyway.

I knew he'd like it so I don't mind just having fries.

Jamie tried to offer to pay, but I reminded him that he had said the next time we got food I was allowed to pay.

He looked both annoyed, and pleased at the same time over that.

As we ate, Jamie kept up his new habit of watching how I eat like I'm some animal being studied in a zoo.

I had to keep catching myself from staring at him, which I find myself wanting to do a lot more than when we first met.

Don't ask me how someone that’s only dressed in a leather jacket with various patches and pins on it, sat with his legs spread and a take away container of nachos in his lap can look so fucking serene; because I'm still trying to figure it out.

I still can't believe I answered the door wearing one fucking sock.

I didn't think he literally meant fifteen minutes.

I spent thirteen of those minutes throwing clothes out of my drawers trying to find something even remotely appealing, and literally the only thing feminine I own besides two dresses and my work skirt are these fucking pyjama shorts.

I luckily didn't have time to talk myself out wearing them the second I caught my reflection and grimaced, because that's when I heard him knock at my door.

And then it was a mad panic trying to find a shirt that wasn't ten times too big.

To top it all off, I had the goddamn thing on backwards.

Good going Claire, real fucking seductress you are.

Should've worn your underwear on the outside, really polished it off you idiot.

"Why did ye only get chips?" Jamie asks, watching me with a curious look as I chew on my food.

Because I'm broke and wanted you to have your favorite food.

"I like potatoes," I answer as I swallow, as if it should be obvious. "They're my favorite food."

Jamie pauses the salsa covered chip he was about to place in his mouth, and places it back down with an amused expression. "Potatoes are yer favorite food?"

I nod, throwing another one in my mouth. "Most versatile vegetable there is."

I'm boring.

"I had no idea potatoes were so interesting," Jamie grins, acting like the bit of information I gave him is gold plated.

I glance sideways at him, and toss another chip in my mouth with a shrug. "Most people don't, they don't get the credit they deserve. I mean think about it - mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, chips, wedges, crisps, scalloped potatoes, roasted potatoes, hash browns - the list goes on, the possibilities are endless."

"Never heard someone see so much potential in a potato." He’s staring at me with such a warm amused expression that I'm finding it hard to look at him with the way it's making my insides twist around.

I'm trying to remember what Hilda said to me today, and apply it. I'm trying to resist my natural reaction to keep barriers up and keep him at arm's length. Be more open.

"That's the scary thing about trust, Claire, it's giving someone the power to hurt you and trusting that they will try their hardest not to. While it's safe not to trust anyone, you're also denying yourself of the opportunity and potential to experience love, bonds and meaningful connections. You'll never know if a risk was worth the experience if you never take it."

It's also not just trusting Jamie that's terrifying, it's trusting myself. Trusting my choices.

"You can find potential where you least expect it," I say staring down at my food, and Jamie shifts to face me, moving his nachos off his lap and placing it on the coffee table.

"So can ye explain to me then, how ye can see so much potential in a vegetable, and canna see any in yerself?"

Jamie cocks his head awaiting an answer as I look to him with my brows creasing together. There wasn't any judgment in his tone, it was just a genuine question.

I'm absolutely stuck for words. I expected him to tease me about my apparent potato obsession, but not ask me something like that.

I just blink at him, while Jamie waits patiently and makes it obvious he's not dropping it unless I answer.

For whatever reason, the honest answer just seems to fall straight out of my mouth.

"I can't see it because it's not there."

There's a certain amount of absolute minding numbing terror that grips your body when you admit core beliefs about yourself out loud; ones you only utter in silent chants inside your head. When you hear them echo in the air and also see the reaction they cause in another person.

And bizarrely, in that very same moment exists an indescribable weight that lifts itself off of your chest and let's your sternum feel like for once it's not being crushed by the weight of your own self deprecation.

Jamie's eyes soften, but he tries to hide the effect it has on him. Instead he purses his lips and gives me another curious look.

"So just because you canna see something, means it doesna exist?"

I raise my eyebrows at him, standing my ground on my feelings about it. "Sounds a lot like what my mother asked me when I told her I knew the easter bunny didn't exist. I like facts, not fairytales."

Jamie's lips pull into a lopsided smile, and he leans over to pick up his nachos and sit them back in his lap. "So would ye like a fact then?"

"Sure, why not."

He picks up a corn chip, placing it in his mouth as he chews it with a loud crunch and growing amusement in his eyes before he swallows and says, "You've fucked yerself by yer own logic - you've got plenty of potential."

I scrunch my nose up, shaking my head and pull my face back. "How do you figure that?"

Jamie's smug expression only grows as he leans closer, darting his eyes between mine. "Because as ye said, ye can find potential where ye least expect it."

As soon as my face drops, his lights up and he chuckles to himself as he gestures to me then to the nachos in his lap.

"Now c'mon, share these with me. I'm no’ going to eat them all by myself."

~•~

Somehow after we ate and pretended to watch The Office while stealing glances at each other, Jamie and I ended up in my bedroom.

We were on my bed, sitting up lazily against the headboard, and we’d spent the last hour or so talking while he absentmindedly played with my hair.

His touch was actually really relaxing. I thought I hated people playing with my hair. But I don't mind when he does it.

I was absentmindedly toying with the various patches on his jacket - there were a few band ones I recognized among some other random ones - which was in my lap after he'd taken it off to get comfortable.

I learnt a few things about Jamie in that hour. He has a business degree because he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do back in college, and he's still trying to figure out what he's trying to do work wise here. He used to freelance as a photographer back in Scotland, because he hates being tied down and enjoyed the freedom. 

I have a feeling he doesn't like being tied down to much of anything.

He has a good relationship with his parents; his father is a doctor and his mother is a sex therapist.

Explains a lot.

But for all intents and purposes he had a great upbringing, not conventional but still loving.

I never know how to relate to people that have healthy relationships with their parents, or supportive parents. It's hard to have conversations. Sharing childhood memories gets awkward really fast.

"I remember when my Da taught me to ride a bike, I ended up in hospital because he tripped and let me go and I rode head first into our front fence. Lost my two front teeth"

Wasn't sure what to say when Jamie told me that. No one taught me how to ride a bike.

I taught myself when I was 10 at a friend's house one afternoon, just going back and forth up the street in front of her house when she let me borrow her bike. I was embarrassed that I was the only kid my age at school that didn't know how.

What memories could I share?

"I ended up in the hospital when I was three because my parents were fighting, and my mother kicked the coffee table angrily as she stormed away from my Dad, and it accidentally hit my shin and fractured it. She made sure to drum it into my head that I had to say I fell down the stairs."

Stuff like that kind of spoils the fun memory sharing atmosphere for most people.

So instead I just decided to share one of the few positive memories I had from being a kid.

"I remember when my Dad let me borrow his Queen CD's, he had the whole discography. I used to sit in my room and just listen to it on repeat for hours."

I left out the part where a lot of the times it was to drown out the yelling, but, it's still a nice memory.

So, that's how we got to where we are now; laying down facing each other on my bed, listening to Queen playing from Jamie's phone and going back and forth about which songs we like best.

That then leads into Jamie going through music on his phone and showing me different bands or songs he liked, most of which I was excited to hear because I enjoyed them too.

I was trying to keep my eyes focused on his face, to take my mind off of his shirtless upper half next to me and the way his hips dipped into his jeans while he laid on his side but it didn't help much, because I'd catch myself just staring at his mouth.

Jamie as usual didn't try to hide when he wanted to stare, and the moments his eyes would trace over my body while he spoke about a specific band, or kept his stare locked on my lips made me want to squirm.

He's kept his hands to himself for the most part all night, and these days I'm wishing he wouldn't.

I've wanted to kiss him, to touch him and be closer. And while I know he wants me too, I can't help the default shyness in me that grows the more I like someone.

It's like the opposite of what should happen. When I start liking someone I get this whole sheepish school girl bullshit going on. And then at some point, my brain just switches and I'm all over you and then get all shy again. It's frustrating.

I wish I didn't second guess everything I did.

"Maybe we could go to a show together."

Jamie's voice tugs me out of my mental gymnastics and it's only then I realize he's moved his hand to rest on my hip, with his thumb stroking against the fabric of my shorts.

When did he get so much closer?

His phone has been placed on the bedside table now, and he's shifted over so that our legs are grazing against each other.

"A show?" I question, trying to blink myself out of my zoning out and focus on his face.

Jamie is leaning up on his elbow looking down at me, with his cheek rested against his palm.

"Aye," he glances his eyes over my face, wetting his lips. "We like the same kind of music, there's plenty of cool bands that play at bars around here."

Jamie pauses for a second and shuffles closer, nudging his knee between my legs so I hook mine over top of his. "It could be like a proper date - ye ken, where ye dinna want to punch me in the face the whole time."

"I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself assuming I'm not gonna want to punch you in the face," I tease, trying to look serious but it doesn't work.

Jamie gives me a playful scowl, but then raises his brows with a smirk. "So is that a yes then? Dinner and a show? I'll even dress nice."

I give him a puzzled look, ignoring the flutter in my stomach over what he's saying. "You always dress nice though?"

Jamie looks momentarily surprised, but then his surprise morphs into a smile that I can only describe as bashful.

"Ye think I dress nice?"

I flick my eyes down to his chest, chewing on the inside of my cheek and shrug a shoulder while I feel my heart slam in my chest with anxiety over being honest.

"I always think you look nice. I like how you dress - I think my favorite thing is probably the jacket you were wearing today. I like how it's decorated." 

I just like you in general.

"Oh really?" He muses, dipping his face down to try and get me to look at him. "Well I like how you dress too."

I frown, glancing up to him. "I dress like a boy."

The corner of his lips pulls up and he shrugs his brows. "Guess I get the best of both worlds then."

His eyes trail down to where his hand is still resting on my hip, and he tugs at the material of my pants. "I'm a big fan of these shorts though. Think they're my favorite."

Jamie's hand flattens against my hip as he smooths it over my shorts to my behind, and grips it pulling me closer as his voice gets quieter. "I like how they feel... soft... smooth."

I swallow as the light mood seems to flip in an instant to one that's making my chest get tighter and pulse beat faster.

I move my hand to rest against his chest as he leans above me on his elbow. I avoid his eyes again, focusing on my hand and start to trace my fingers across his chest, trailing them up over his shoulder and down to the black ink decorating the skin on his upper arm that I hadn’t really taken the time to properly look at before. I can't exactly tell what it is, it seems like some sort of pattern, and it isn't very big.

His muscles twitch as I feather my fingers over it lightly, watching his breathing get heavier as his fingers grip tighter into my skin and he slots his leg further between mine; tugging me closer again until my leg is hooked over his hip and his thigh is resting dangerously close to my center.

"I like your tattoo" I exhale, my voice tightening with the pressure in the room that feels like it's trying to crush our bodies together. "I've always wanted one. Never had the guts to get it though."

It reminds me of what he said about bodies telling a story, and that's how I've always felt about tattoos. 

Now I'm finding myself wanting to read more of his book.

His face leans down to brush his nose against mine, and when I finally get the bravery to look at his eyes I try not to choke at the starved look in them.

"Oh aye? What if I took ye to get one? Would ye?" His voice is a murmur, sounding like he's not even paying attention to his own words as his stare focuses on my mouth.

He wants to take me to get a tattoo? I don't know if I could do that. I've never gotten tattoos because I can't trust the choices I make. Tattoos are permanent choices.

At this point I feel like I should get the word ‘idiot’ tattooed across my forehead for letting myself get this far with Jamie, but I just can't seem to help myself anymore.

My fingers trail back down his chest, stopping when they reach his abdomen. 

"Maybe," I answer instead, tensing every muscle in my stomach to stop a gasp when his thigh nudges up and grazes against my center for a split second.

I'm trying to distract myself by tracing patterns around his torso with my fingers, but feeling his muscles tense and shudder are only making things worse.

Jamie hums in acknowledgement, hovering his lips near mine as he wets his own. "Where would ye get it?"

"Probably just a really small one behind my ear," I answer, already sounding out of breath. It's the honest answer, that's where I've always wanted to get my first tattoo if I ever got around to it.

His face moves, nudging his nose against my cheek to tilt my head so his mouth can ghost down to my neck; moving up to the spot behind my ear as he presses a kiss there that makes goosebumps explode over my skin.

"Right here?"

My mouth suddenly feels like the Sahara desert, and I can only manage a nod.

"I like this spot," he murmurs with his voice dropping.

Jamie latches his mouth to the same spot this time, sucking against the skin and this time the gasp I was trying to hold in slips out.

As soon as Jamie hears it, a low sound vibrates from deep in his chest and he gropes my behind, taking hold of a gluttonous handful of flesh as he pulls me down against his thigh at the same time that he presses it up against my center.

He circles his thigh against me, making my abdomen ache as that pressure against my center ripples through my body, and I can't help the faint moan that falls out of my mouth when he urges my hips to rock against him.

I hold onto his waist, with my fingers digging into his skin and Jamie lifts his face back to mine; with a desperate look and a voice that hoarse I want to shiver from it.

"Claire, I'm about to lose my fucking mind if ye dinna hurry the fuck up and kiss me already."

He barely has time to finish his sentence before I'm pushing my lips against his and it's heated as soon as it starts, like all the tension ruptures between us.

There's nothing soft or tender about it, both of our tongues push forward to caress and roll against each other; tasting, teasing and getting lost in how all of it feels.

He grinds his thigh with more pressure against my heat, causing arousal to course through my whole body and straight between my legs.

Our mouths are capturing both of our heaving breaths and he's got my mind that mixed up I swear I could taste colors and smell sounds.

Jamie's hand slides down from my behind, only to slip up under the fabric of my shorts and he pauses completely when he feels the bare flesh there.

My hips are squirming the second he's stilled his thigh and his fingers bite into my skin as he coaxes me to keep rocking my center against him while he breaks his lips away.

"Are ye no’ wearing underwear?" The hint of surprise in his voice is laced with that much sexual frustration it's like his vocal cords tighten as he speaks.

"I was a bit short on time," I reply, catching my breath, which doesn't work because he presses his thigh harder against my heat and urges me to go faster as he stares at me with heavy shameless eyes.

I was going to try and find some kind of cute underwear after I decided on these shorts, but someone knocked on my door.

"Yer trying to fuckin kill me," he groans, dropping his forehead against my shoulder, pulling his leg back only to slip his hand under my shorts between my legs.

His fingers run a slow, exploring stroke up my folds and as he feels the dampness there he sucks in a sharp breath that gets cut off by a slow stomach knotting moan. "This is definitely gonna fuckin kill me."

Jamie's own hips shift out of discomfort, and my hands go straight to the hem of his jeans; my fingers fumbling with the button as I choke on my breath when he teases his fingers over my nerves that feel like they're aching at this point.

He removes his leg completely, and slips his hand away to grab hold of the end of my shorts and tugs at them, mumbling against my lips before he kisses me again.

"Off - Off with these. Now"

My hands are being pushed away from his pants as he rushes to undo his own jeans, and both of us look ridiculous trying to still kiss each other while we fumble around trying to get our pants off.

I manage to kick my shorts off my feet as Jamie struggles his jeans down his thighs, and he breaks his lips away to rush out, "shirt too."

By the time Jamie has finally wrestled himself out of his jeans and boxers, I've discarded my shirt and left only in my bra. For once I can't even be bothered to worry about how I look, because Jamie barely has his pants kicked off his feet when he's taking hold of my face and pulling me back to him to attack my mouth again.

We end up back in the same position, just much more naked facing each other on our sides; with Jamie slotting his leg back between mine and pressing it back against my exposed center, while my leg hooks over his hip.

As soon as he feels the slick warmth touch the skin of his thigh he groans, and moves one hand to smooth down my chest until he grabs the front of my bra; tugging down so my breasts spill from the cups and he's exploring each one with hungry gropes and massages.

One of my hands moves to slip up into the back of his hair, while the other moves down, sliding between us to run my fingers over his length that's so rock solid I actually feel sorry for him and the fact he had to deal with that in those jeans.

I'm trying to get any relief that I can, with my skin feeling like it's on fire and that silence engulfing my mind again so all I can focus on is that deep need in my belly that I'm trying to suffice with grinding myself against his leg.

Jamie sucks in a sharp breath when I wrap shy fingers around his length, and his hips rut forward as he pulls his lips from mine, talking through heavy pants.

"Ye promised, remember?" He says with his cheeks flushed and lips red like blood colored toffee; with a softer tone he reminds me, "That you’ll tell me to stop if anything is too much or something ye dinna want."

I give him a quick nod, watching his brows pinch together and his lips part, exhaling a shaky breath when I swipe my thumb across his damp tip.

"I know - it's not too much."

My voice is just as shaky as his, but it's not from nerves. It's a mix of anticipation and excitement.

He swallows a heavy gulp, wetting his lower lip as he moves his hand to take a firm hold on my hip, and starts coaxing me to grind my center harder against his thigh and he darts his eyes down to watch.

The octave to his voice dips, and his demeanor switches to a dirty drunk sounding drawl.

"Watching ye ride my leg like that is makin me wish it was my fuckin cock - do ye ever think about it?"

I squeeze my eyes shut and choke out a moan as my head drops forward to rest against his chest while he leans up slightly on his elbow to get a better look.

I don't know how to give him a verbal answer this very second, the knot in my stomach is making the alphabet look like braille.

When my center rocks harder against him as he speaks, I can hear the smile in his rough voice. "That dirty talk really turns ye on doesn't it?"

I couldn’t deny it even if I wanted to, it’s obvious how much his words are affecting me. 

His fingers dig into my hip to halt my movements and I can't help the pathetic whimper that leaves me. I can't remember ever being this pent up around someone, so eager it's maddening.

He pulls me closer so that our hips are touching, then moves his hand to nudge my face up so that my head is on the pillow and not against his chest so he can look at my face.

"Answer me Claire, do ye think about me? ...What I'd feel like inside ye?" His hand slips down between us until his fingers press against my clit, circling his fingers in slow motions.

I bite down on my lip, squirming against his hand and give him a nod, not knowing if my nerves would let me verbalize it.

His hips press forward against my hand as my grip around him tightens, feeling his length twitch as I stroke the satin like skin.

He brushes his mouth over mine, his heavy breaths hot against my lips. "Tell me what ye think about. What am I doing when ye think about it?"

The tension in the air at the moment feels like it has its own pulse, full of magnetized electricity that could power entire cities as it builds.

I've never been good at this sort of thing, and to be perfectly honest, no one's really wanted to hear from me during these kinds of moments before.

However, whatever fuckboy magic he's done to my hormones, has my crippling insecurities pushed aside and I manage to push out a shy breathless answer.

"I - I think about you just pinning me against a wall - what it would be like to let you do what you want."

Jamie sucks in a breath, pressing harder against my nerves as his voice lowers. "Yeah? That something you'd like? Letting me take control? Letting me fuck ye hard against a wall until I had ye coming all over me?"

My stomach clenches at his words, and I gasp out a moan as my eyes squeeze shut and all I can manage is a strained "Mhmm" .

Jamie's composure seems to crumble, and he lets out a pained groan as he pulls his hand away from me and pushes my hand away from him only to grip himself and push his hips forward.

His humid forehead drops against my shoulder, with his hair tickling against my skin, and it's like we're both momentarily too consumed with the desire wreaking havoc on our bodies and clouding our minds.

"I'm dying to ken how ye feel - couldna get ye out of my head all week. Just want a small taste of it... how good it'd be," he groans, both of us gasping at the same time when I feel his blunt tip nudge against my clit.

This is flirting with dangerous territory, but I just don't have it in me to want to stop it at this very second.

"Jesus fucking christ," he huffs through gritted teeth, dragging his tip over my nerves and through my slick heat, and the sheer desperation in his voice has my resolve melting.

He continues to tease his length against me, both of our bodies burning as the air feels too thick to breathe in and his face moves to bury against the crook of my neck.

The desperate whimper he lets out against my neck has my hand gripping onto his shoulder, digging my nails into his skin to stop from just thrusting my hips forward and saying to hell with it.

"Ye dinna ken how badly I want to fuck you, Claire" he chokes against my skin, brushing his tip down further and teases it around my entrance. "Fuck,  I'd do anything ye wanted - never wanted someone so much."

At this point he's just torturing himself, he's torturing both of us.

I can barely think, all I can do is feel him and both of our breathing becomes frantic as I gasp out, "I want you, too."

His hips nudge forward, and I feel his tip press against my entrance and all it would take is me shifting down to cross that line I can't come back from.

I don't think I want to come back from it.

So I ask the question I know will change everything.

"Do you have a condom?"

Jamie’s body tenses, freezing completely as he pants against my neck and I hear him grunt a muffled "Fuck."

My question hangs in the air until Jamie shakes his head, and sighs out frustrated, "No. I dinna. Fuck ."

The frustration doesn't sound directed at me, but at himself; like he finally realized what was about to happen.

The hormonal idiot in me that's desperate for him wants to tell him that I don't care, which I don't at this very second, but luckily I don't get to.

It's like he's suddenly been slapped back into reality from what he was doing, and he pulls his hips back; reaching up to take my hand and pushes it down to his length and pleads, "Please touch me - please , before we do something really fuckin stupid."

As I wrap my hand around his length that's now slick with my arousal, his hand slips between my legs and he swipes his fingers through my soaking center before pressing his ring and middle finger against my entrance and sinking them into me.

"Oh god," I moan, my eyes rolling closed as he starts to work his fingers like he's memorized the exact way to unravel me the quickest; while pressing the heel of his palm against my overstimulated nerves.

His face lifts from my neck, and he catches the whines that leave me with his mouth as he fucks his fingers into me with determined purposeful thrusts.

I pump my fist around his rigid length, circling around his swollen tip as his hips roll with each movement.

I'm that pent up that the knot deep in my abdomen is already loosening, falling apart and spreading through my lower half as his fingers curve and hit against that part inside me that has my legs starting to shake.

"Ah - Jamie - Oh fuck " I stutter against his lips, and he pulls his face back to look down between us as my eyes clamp shut.

"Say it again. Say my name again," he pants, working his fingers faster as his hips thrust against my grip around him.

My stomach starts to quiver as that pressure in me builds to it's breaking point and I whimper "Jamie" just so I can hear the obscene rough grunt that claws up from his chest when he hears it.

He moves his head to rest his cheek against mine, and growls against my ear, sounding like he's struggling to hold off his own release, "When I finally fuck you mo nighean donn - I'm going to have ye screaming that for me, I promise."

All of a sudden my body seizes, my orgasm sucker punching me with an unexpected force as I arch into him and cry out a broken "oh my fuck - oh - oh god."

Liquid fire pulses through my whole body, every muscle convulsing as I lose momentary control of my limbs and white noise fills my ears.

Jamie coaxes me through it, thrusting his fingers faster as he feels my walls clamp around him to only push the feeling further to the point I nearly scream from how intense it feels.

A second release floods in the depths of my belly, one I've never never experienced when he doesn't let up with his fingers, pressing them hard against that mind numbing spot inside me as he only thrusts harder and faster.

I yelp a shocked moan, not understanding what my body is doing but Jamie only encourages me in a filthy tone, "Just go with it baby - let it happen, yer okay."

My body trembles at the sensation rippling through me; all I can do is cry out overwhelmed profanities into the air, and all I can feel is liquid coating my thighs and the wet sounds from Jamie's fingers thrusting into me.

I'm too disoriented to realize what's happened, and Jamie slows his hand when my hips pull back from how sensitive I am; drawing his fingers out to slip through my folds with a low moan before he's resting his forehead against mine and pressing several kisses to my lower lip.

I can safely say I've never done that, I didn't even know I could. I'm not embarrassed, I'm a grown woman and I know it's perfectly normal but I'm still sheepish over the fact that I just made a complete mess between my thighs.

Fuckboy magic strikes again.

I'm completely spent, barely able to move and Jamie moves my useless hand from his length to wrap his own hand around it and starts to stroke himself.

"I've got yer come soaking my hand, Claire - god , it feels good on my cock," he grunts, pumping his fist faster as his ragged breathing puffs out against my lips.

His pleasured noises only become more shameless with the sound of his hand fucking around his length, until he whimpers against my mouth, "M'gonna come so fuckin hard thinking about what I just watched. How it felt - Ah, fuck - Claire, kiss me - please."

I'm still so dazed, but listening to his begging has my insides tightening and I reach up to lace my fingers into the back of his hair, and capture my mouth with his.

It's only a few more moments before Jamie’s gasping out a strained moan into the kiss, pausing his parted lips against mine as his body jolts and he gasps sharp grunts with each spurt of his release that coats his hand and hits against my thigh.

We both slump against each other, letting our bodies bathe in the bliss that had ruptured through them.

Jamie shifts down to nuzzle his face against my chest, and mumbles against my skin with an exhausted sigh, "Yer bloody dangerous."

I can barely open my eyes, and my brows crease together. "Huh?"

"I nearly broke our deal and fucked ye without a condom - never been so reckless with someone. I'm so sorry, I wasna thinking properly, I shouldna have let it get that far - you've got me fucked up."

Jamie's voice is tired, but there’s guilt in his tone as he snuggles his face against me like it's an apology.

I stroke my fingers against the back of his hair to try and soothe some of that guilt and he hums at the feeling, pressing a kiss to the space between my breasts.

"Don't apologize - I wanted you to, I was just as stupid."

I've lost my mind and common sense with him apparently.

Jamie pauses for a moment, before he asks "... Is it something yer ready for? Would ye still want to after tonight?"

He sounds apprehensive about my answer, but I'm sure of the choice I've made. I'll deal with the consequences when they inevitably happen.

"I still want to."

Jamie smiles against my skin, "Guess I'll start keeping condoms in my wallet again then - but remember you've got to say those words next time - gotta tell me to fuck ye. And I'll work on havin some better self control around you."

I don't know why I'm smiling, I just am. It feels so comfortable laying here with him, listening to how matter of fact he sounds.

I don't miss the excitement in his rough voice he's trying to hide either.

To be honest, I can't really think of anything aside from him at the moment, I don't even remember why this week was awful or why I was disappointed I'd woken up every day. All there is at the moment is content comfort.

Quiet.

"We're going to have to get up and have a shower- and we need to change yer sheets too," Jamie murmurs, relaxing against me like he has no intention of moving.

"Mmmm'we can get up when I can use my limbs," I mumble, which only makes him chuckle under his breath.

However, there's a noise that makes us both go tense.

Wheezing.

"...Claire?"

"...Yeah?"

"Gizmo's in the room, isn't he?"

I use all my energy to lift my head, and look with cautious eyes to see Gizmo sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor; glaring at us with judgmental eyes and I swear he's frowning.

Oh no.

I just stare back at him with a mortified expression. Oh god, I forgot he was even in here.

"Uh huh..."

Jamie goes quiet, but then sounds just as full of horrified embarrassment as I feel.

"... He just watched that whole thing didn't he?..."

***

Chapter Text

“So let's face it this was never what you wanted

But I know it's fun to pretend

Now blank stares and empty threats

Are all I have, they're all I have

Now you still speak of day old hate

Though your whole world has gone up into flames

And isn't it great to find that you're really worth nothing"

(City and Colour - Day Old Hate)

***

 

Trigger Warning: Mentally abusive relationship

Trigger Warning: Mention of sexual assault.

If you don’t feel comfortable reading this chapter, but still want to know the overall gist of what happens, please don’t hesitate to comment on here or message me on tumblr or twitter (@arabellainthsky), I’ll do my best to give you a general summary. 

*** 

October 2016

  2 Years Ago

*** 

"Can you please not be upset with me? I'm just stressed. It's been a bad couple of days. I'm not trying to be frustrating," I say, hanging my head and staring at my legs as I sit on the edge of the bed. 

I can't help it. He asked why I was being so quiet - acting so distant tonight, I knew I shouldn't have told him.

All of this just because I wasn't in a good mood, and it's set him off.  

"You know it stresses me out when you stress - I told you to just stop stressing about that shit, but you can't help yourself, can you?" Frank mutters, walking into our bathroom.

"I can't just stop - she's my mother," I defend in a small voice, not wanting to frustrate him more.

He knows what happened last night. How scared I was when she was yelling at me to help her but wouldn't let me call anyone.

He has seen more than I have ever let anyone else, what my mother does to me; and told him what she has done my whole life. And yet, I'm still to blame when he doesn't get his way. When I'm not acting accordingly.

If I try and argue he just gets angry, he just never listens. He always thinks I'm attacking him. Even if I'm just trying to explain that he's hurt my feelings, he just gets angry.

I'm too tired to argue anyway.

"Yes, well, you're the one that chooses to be stuck here with her Claire, locking yourself in this goddamn house with her for a year and a half," he snaps, storming back into the bedroom and coming to stand in front of me.

I'm not locking myself in here, she doesn't let me leave. He knows that.

When I look up to him and see those same hazel eyes that I remember making my heart skip, and now they just fill me with dread, with anxiety. I don't feel loved when I look at them, I feel ashamed and like I'm a burden.

His eyes were so warm when we met, but it's like the second he knew he had me they went cold.

Feels like I've been chasing that warmth ever since, hoping it would come back. Unfortunately that warmth was never directed at me again. Everyone else, but me.

"You know it's not a choice... I'd never choose this, I've tried to explain what Hilda told me about why I can't just abandon her-"

Frank cuts off my reasoning, scoffing with a snide glare. "It's excuses Claire - you're doing this to yourself. You're choosing her over me, and you know I'm the only one that cares about you. That's stuck around for you."

I frown at him. "I'm not choosing her. I wouldn't choose fucking Satan over her and you know that. I'm not giving you excuses - I'm trying to explain the reasons behind why I am the way I am with all this. I'm trying to change, to get better-"

Frank cuts me off again, talking over me like he always does. "You're trying? You've been shut off for months. You never leave the house, can't do anything for yourself. I'm always taking care of you. It's not going to get better, Claire."

His words feel like a sharp, hard, open palm crack across the face, and while I take a lot from him, I don't have the tolerance I used to.

Seeing a therapist is probably the worst thing I could have done for our relationship.

He always said that my mother would hate me getting help, when I finally got strong enough to stand up to her.

I tried to warn him, I tried to tell him. That she wasn't the only one that wasn't going to like it.

I wasn't this broken when I met him. I wasn't this shell of a person. But he certainly helped chip away at the mess I'm left in.

It was just so subtle I never realized it. I felt guilty even saying the slightest negative thing about him or our relationship to other people, he'd always get so upset if I did. Tell me that I was going to make everyone hate him and somehow I'd feel guilty for being hurt over the wrongs he'd done.

"When have you taken care of me? I never ask you for help," I argue, not raising my voice and keeping it as calm as possible. I'm not trying to antagonize him but I genuinely want the answer. "And you're the one that keeps trying to drill it into me that I'm too mentally sick to do anything. Telling me I'm too sick to even get my own groceries."

I don't ask him for help, I don't ask anyone. Because this is what they do. They throw it in my face.

I've asked him to go to the supermarket for me. Is that considered taking care of me? It took me two years just to ask that favor from him.

I've taken care of him since we met. I let him live with me when he didn’t have a job. I helped him budget his money. I drove him to and from work every single day for two years before he got a car when he finally managed to get a job. A job that I helped him get. I always tried to be supportive.

When we met I was the one with the job, a savings and my shit together. Slowly over the years though, now I'm the one that's crippled. Hollow. Having the life, energy and sanity sucked out of me from both him and my mother.

Now that I'm useless he just looks at me with contempt, like I'm bothersome and too much effort.

I guess that's what happens when you give everything to everyone else, and nothing for yourself.

"You're not too sick, I just tell you that sometimes because I can't be bothered with the arguments - and I'm the one that's stuck by you through all this shit. I haven't done what everyone else has done to you. How is that not taking care of you?" He throws back, getting that same offended stance I know so well.

My mouth drops as I just stare at him, wondering how he doesn't realize how fucked up that is.

"Did you just hear yourself? So what, you just convince me I'm too mentally sick in the head to do things for myself so you can avoid an argument? Do you realize how awful that is?"

My heart is sinking to the floor but I don't dare show it on my face, I stay as composed outwardly as possible. I argue with logic not feelings.

It's how I cope. It's the only way I ever learned how to cope.

I see anger or confrontation and I stay calm. It was my job to be the calm one. Only on the outside.

I only let it out when I'm alone.

"Stop twisting it around on me, you always do this! Everything is always about you!" He snaps with his voice raising and my nerves shatter like glass.

I can't handle the yelling.

I don't show it though.

"Please lower your voice," I ask in a hushed tone, pressing my palms flat against my thighs to stifle their shaking. "I'm not turning this around on you, but you just said-"

"What? Worried your mother is going to hear?" He hisses, his tone completely patronizing. "Maybe she should hear. Then she'd know she's the one ruining our fucking relationship."

I pause as I look at him, deciding whether it's worth actually pointing out that my mother is the least of our problems, but I know it would be like trying to sing a note with no vocal chords.

"Ruining our relationship?" I ask instead, stepping on eggshells with my tone so I don't spark even more anger in him.

"You've been completely shut off for months now Claire! It's like dating a fucking zombie! Do you have any idea how hard it's been on me?" He throws his arms out by his sides, towering over me and I can't help the words that tumble out next, I know I shouldn't say it but I can't help it.

 "Well with the things that I've seen between you and Sandy, do you blame me?"

Frank's relationship with the opposite sex has been a endless pit of gut wrenching pain in this relationship. And every time he promises he'll stop, every time he uses it against me and says that he has a problem he can't help, I fall deeper into that quicksand of numbness; letting it drown me.

I think that's what I hate about this generation, is betrayal isn't just finding a phone number in a pocket or lipstick on a collar. Even if there's no physical contact, now you get to watch in real time; through thousands of messages and photos displayed in front of your eyes like a step by step guide on how to rip your heart out and shatter any self worth you have.

Disloyalty in this day and age isn't just left up to the imagination, it's spelled out vividly to experience like a thousand lashes over your back that get burned into your mind forever.

Why didn't I leave? The one resounding question I'm asked and then judged over, which then forced me to keep my mouth shut and just convince myself I deserve it. If I'm not leaving, I have no right to complain.

I made my bed, may as well suffer in it.

I guess people forget that you need self worth to make self loving decisions.

When you can't talk to anyone about it, without the fear of judgement, of ridicule, you just resign to it. You blame yourself. Why weren't you enough? What's wrong with you?

Frank stiffens, his demeanor automatically becoming defensive.

"No, you don't get to do this Claire, you don't get to make me the bad guy here. You've been checked out of this since what happened with Bryce and you know it - do you know what it’s like having girlfriend that won't even let you fuck her?" he spits, glaring at me like I'm the one that's been dishonest.

Now that, that is something that hit right where it hurt.

My face falls at the same time that my shoulders slump, and I pull back like he's slapped me. Even hearing that name uttered makes my skin crawl.

"You... you know why I've been like that - I can't help it. You told me you understood, you know what he did. He was supposed to be a friend, I trusted him. You know why it fucked me up so much, you know what's happened to me before," I say like the breath has been knocked out of me.

I knew he'd throw that in my face at some point.

The incident three months ago, when I still had friends, or who I thought were friends... You assume you can trust friends right? That if you're all drinking at a friend's house, and you can't drive home; it's safe to stay there?

That you won't be woken up in bed by someone you considered a close friend, while you're drunk, to him shoving your hand in his pants? Groping you? Touching you.

When you lay there, frozen. Terrified . Reminded of all the other times you've been in this situation and couldn't get the word ‘No’ out past the fear blocking your throat.

But this time you do. You manage to choke out a no.

To your shock and stomach collapsing relief, he listens, rolling over and acting like nothing just happened and then tells you the next day he doesn't remember.

Then when you try to tell your other friends what happened, you're met with "Well, at least he's a nice enough guy to stop when you ask. It's just how he is, if you're going to be in a bed with him you have to expect that sort of thing. He's just being a typical man, it's how they are."

It's brushed off by the other people you trusted, and they take his side. You're just being sensitive. Making a mountain out of a molehill.

Then when you work up the guts to tell your boyfriend, you just get lectured about drinking. You should know better. What else do you expect when you've got friends that don't really care about you? He's the only one that cares. No one else does, look how they treated you.

I've spent the last three months with that feeling that I swore I'd never let anyone make me feel again, the one where you feel so dirty you want to scrub your own skin away. You feel violated. Ashamed.

Disgusting. Repulsive. Defiled.

Worthless. Used. Disposable.

Frank scoffs, shaking his head. "Making it all about yourself again like always. Do you know how hard it's been for me? I'm the one that had to watch you go through it, Claire!" 

I'm sure Sandy was fantastic comfort while I was busy being an inconvenient fuck up. Not to mention how many others over the last three years.

I could never bring that up though, he'd always say I could never get over things. That I was throwing the past in his face.

I bite my tongue, hanging my head and will down the lump in my throat. He's one of the few people that can make me cry, that knows exactly what to say to hit me where it hurts.

I don't think my own mother has seen me cry since I was about 10 years old. My last memory of crying in front of her, is with her yelling at me. Furious that I was sobbing. I was inconvenient. 

I could fight this more. I can feel where this conversation is going, but I don't want to fight.

I'm so tired. I can't do this any more.

"You promised you wouldn't use that against me... what he did, what it did to me - you said you didn't blame me,” I say with my voice quiet, barely having the energy to have any conviction behind it.

I sound pathetic.

"I never said that," he argues, with that same inflection in his tone that implies I'm full of shit.

This makes me look to him. And I know that I specifically remember him telling me that. I know he did because I remember how terrified I was of even telling him and told him that was one of the main reasons.

"But you did - you said-"

"Oh yes, go on - do what you always do. You just always have to be right, don't you? Even if it means making things up in your head," he talks over me, and I feel my chest tighten.

That same self doubt coming over me and my brows crease tight together, and wonder whether it was a figment of my imagination. Did I just make it up?

Am I crazy? I can't trust myself.

Mum does the same thing, always telling me things that I remember never happened and now I don't know what are memories or imagination.

I'm crazy.

I don't know what to say back, I don't know how to argue through the fog in my head.

Frank gives me a once over, before focusing his eyes on me with a distasteful look and I can already feel what he's going to say before he says it.

It's been getting to this point for months now. I've been too drained to try and stop it.

"I can't do this, Claire. I'm done. I can't do this shit any more. I have tried with you, but there's just no point. I need to think about myself for once, instead of only ever thinking about you." 

He gestures between us. "This. Us. We're done. I'm done being the only one that's trying. I'm done watching you turn into this basket case. I have a life I need to live and I can't do that when I've got this," he gestures at me, shaking his head, "to look forward to. I can't cope with you anymore."

I should feel something. I should.

I should feel heartbreak. Anger. Devastation. Maybe grief for the last three years being smashed in front of me? But I don't.

I feel nothing. A cold dead pit of nothing deep in my chest, and everything around me feels like it blurs, fades out, like I'm not even in the room.

My body’s there and my mind is in space.

I just stare at the ground and Frank looks to me for a response, throwing his arms up. "Well? Aren't you going to say anything? I'm fucking ending it and you don't even care how I feel? You're just going to sit there?"

I still can't look at him, it's like I can barely hear him. He sounds a million miles away. It's like I've clicked onto autopilot and just sit almost catatonic.

"I understand. I'm not going to stop you, I'd leave me too. I don't blame you," I say in a murmur, almost as if an auto generated response. I have no emotion behind it.

I feel nothing. Emptiness.

Why can't I feel anything?

"You're fucking unbelievable," he yells, looking at me as if if I was sitting there on fire he wouldn't even bother to throw some water on me to put it out. "You know what? I don't blame me either. Because at least now I'm not going to end up with a mental fucking drunk, just like your mother. Because that's exactly who you're going to be. You'll never get better - and I deserve a lot fucking better."

I just sit still.

Copping the brunt of his words, I barely even blink and just stare with a blank expression at the floor.

"Okay," is all I can manage to get out, and it only infuriates him more.

"Well, it's good to see sending three years down the drain mean nothing to you," he leans down, getting closer to my face and his voice drops with so much spite it twists my stomach. "Good luck finding anyone else that will love a fucking mess like you. You should have appreciated what you had - have fun being alone like your goddamn mother."

He's always been vicious when he's angry. Only behind closed doors though.

Only person I've met that rivaled my mother with a venomous tongue, and no limit to how low they'll go.

My silence only fuels his temper, and he stands straight; turning to slam his fist against my wall and it makes my whole body jolt in panic.

"Fuck this! I can't believe you just fucking sat there. Un-fucking-believable," he snaps, throwing his foot against the wall and putting a deep hole in the plaster before striding towards the bedroom door; swinging it open and slamming it behind him with so much force the room shakes.

I guess I don't have to patch up any more holes in the walls after this.

I should be feeling or doing a million things right now.

I should be angry or hurt. I should have been yelling. Fighting.

But I'm not.

I just sit there.

And the only thing I can hear ringing around my head over and over again, is the words that are the loudest of them all.

I give up. I can't do this anymore. I'll never get better. There's no point.

I fucking give up.

***

 

Chapter Text

"What else should I be?

All apologies"

(All Apologies - Nirvana)

***

"Someone better explain what the fuck is going on. Right now."

Being woken up by John's booming voice is akin to being woken up to an electric shock.

I woke up disoriented, not knowing what was going on or why there was a shrieking banshee in my room, and pulled myself up to my elbows; trying to let the blur in my heavy eyes focus on John standing in my doorway with his hands folded across his chest.

"Jesus, John I was asleep, not dead, calm down," I grumble, squinting at him.

"Oh, I'm sorry," he shouts, throwing his arms out at his sides and his sarcastic voice only gets louder. "Did I wake you? How rude of me!"

The volume of his voice makes me flinch as I frown at him with my eyes barely open. "Why the fuck are you yelling?"

"I fucking wonder!" 

Next thing I hear is the sound of Jamie grumbling next to me, and his hoarse voice groans, "Someone better be getting murdered wi’ all this screaming."

It's in that moment, that realization hits my sleep fogged brain, and all of a sudden I’m slapped awake faster than I can register.

Ah fuck.

I shoot upwards, sitting bolt straight, clinging the blankets to my chest and glance down; thanking past me for having an insecurity about sleeping naked and putting a shirt on before I fell asleep.

John can see the realization on my face, and he looks back and forth between a still semi conscious Jamie and my deer-in-headlights face.

He isn't angry - okay, well, I take that back, he's pissed, but I can see the hurt look in his blue eyes that are focused like lasers on me.

Fuck, I knew I should have spoken to him about this sooner.

"So? Just going to stare at me all day or are you gonna start talking?" John questions, gesturing his hands to encourage me to just open my damn mouth.

"Can ye keep it down, bloody hell," Jamie mutters, burying his face into the pillow.

Either he doesn't realize John is standing right there or doesn't give a fuck.

"You mean like this?" John yells at Jamie like he's deaf. "Pardon me princess, didn’t mean to interrupt your fucking beauty sleep."

"Fuck off John. Too early for this shit," Jamie groans against the pillow, then rolls onto his back and rubs his hands over his face.

Safe to say it's the second option for Jamie, he just doesn't give a fuck.

"John I know this looks bad..." I try to reason, honestly stuck on what to say.

John folds his arms over his chest, pressing his lips flat together. "No Claire, what looks bad is that you apparently have to hide shit from me."

I'm a terrible fucking friend.

My heart drops, and I look at him with the guilt in my chest evident on my face. "I wasn't trying to hide it - I was going to talk to you. I just didn't know what to-"

"I was worried out of my mind, Claire," he butts in, not hiding the fact that his feelings are hurt. "You ignored your phone last night and this morning, and with all this shit that's happened this week, with your mum in hospital and how you've been - do you have any idea how much I panicked when I couldn't get a hold of you?"

"Yer mother is in the hospital? Is she okay?" Jamie's tired voice speaks up, as his half lidded eyes turn to me and he has curious worry in his thick voice.

My face darts between Jamie and John, not knowing which to answer first. Both are questions I don't feel like delving into, and both are something I didn't feel comfortable having thrown out in front of Jamie.

"She's fine," I decide to answer Jamie first.

In reality she is fine. In my reality, when she's in the hospital is the only time I don't have to panic over what’s going on with her. Because she's supervised and funnily enough always on her best behavior.

Granted, she's only such a stellar patient because she's breaking her neck to get out of hospital, but at least she isn't overdosing or drinking herself unconscious.

Jamie doesn't question any further, just looks at me like he's trying to figure something out and I turn my attention back to John.

"I'm sorry," I say, without a hint of sarcasm. I hate, hate , hurting people I care about. And I know exactly why he would have been worried which is also all my fault, and I hate that I made him feel like that.

"I wasn't trying to make you worry - I wasn't thinking properly." 

Jamie's tired voice cuts in, but he's starting to sound coherent now. "Ye dinna need to apologize, Claire, you've done nothing wrong, he's just being dramatic as usual."

He isn't being dramatic, though, Jamie just doesn't understand why.

It's not abnormal for him to turn up when he can't get a hold of me when I'm not doing well, and I don't blame him. It's only because he cares.

This is a really shitty way for John to find out about whatever this is with Jamie, and while my natural reaction is to shut down when I'm put on the spot, I'm trying really hard not to.

John diverts a glare to Jamie, raising his brows. "I'm pissed at you too. You’re living in my fucking house and sneaking around behind my back with my best friend - after I specifically told you to leave her alone."

Jamie pulls himself up to rest on his elbow on his side; with the covers moving down his bare torso just above his hips. He returns John's glare as he runs his fingers through his bed hair.

"I'm a fucking adult, ye dinna tell me who I can and canna spend time with. Maybe I wouldna have to sneak around if I knew ye werena going to blow a goddamn blood vessel just like ye are right now," he throws back, looking not the slightest bit regretful over what John has walked in on.

John narrows his eyes. "You were the one who told me you'd fuck Claire for a week just to teach me a lesson - I wonder why I'm blowing a fucking blood vessel right now you dick."

Jamie's face drops at the same time as my stomach does, but thankfully I've had a lot of practice at not letting my emotions show.

The memories of Jamie saying that play around in my mind and I automatically feel dread that I've played right into another game despite knowing better. 

I know Jamie better, I think, than I did back then... Those aren't his intentions right? He worked so hard to convince me that I wasn't some conquest to stroke his ego, surely that wasn't part of the plan all along?

That sneering inner voice inside me starts it's usual chanting 'see, of course he doesn't actually like you, who could?'

Jamie’s voice is the one that raises this time, and he moves up to sit; pointing at John. "Don't ye fucking dare imply that I'm using her. Ye dinna have the first clue about how I feel or what I'm doing. I wouldna do that to her and you fucking know it. I said that to piss ye off weeks ago, dinna go trying to twist it into something it's not."

The assertive and matter of fact tone of Jamie's voice is unwavering, showing that he's not tolerating that idea for a second.

He turns his stare to me, reiterating his point. "I am not trying to fuck you to piss him off, alright? Am I clear about that?"

I don't know what to say to that, I just manage a nod; but he keeps his eyes on my face, looking over it trying to figure out if I actually believe him or if John's suggestion has planted a seed of doubt that he can't undo.

Two weeks ago, I would have never believed Jamie... but for some reason, whether it's stupid or not, I do believe him.

John observes the interaction, and he lifts his chin at Jamie; throwing his arms out at his sides. "Well, I'm wondering how I'm supposed to know what's going on with this when you're hiding it from me. So go on, explain what you're doing with her then? And don't sit there acting like a saint, you know why you going after Claire would worry me."

Jamie pauses at his question, and it makes my insides tight as I start to fidget with my fingers.

God this whole situation is awkward.

"We're just spending time together. We enjoy each other's company," he eventually answers with a shrug of one shoulder, keeping it short and simple; also not explaining a goddamn shred of how he feels. "And why don't ye tell me why yer so worried John? Cause I seriously have no fucking clue."

"Enjoy each other's company?" John gapes, leaning forward to rest his hands on his thighs, just to be dramatic, and then lets out a high pitched laugh. "Last time I checked, Claire was close to knocking your teeth out of your fucking mouth."

John shakes his head, pushing up off his knees to stand straight again and gives Jamie a knowing look. "You and I both know you don't stick around, you shuffle through people like a deck of cards. Closest thing you've come to commitment is that fucking tattoo. And that's fine. It's who you are, and I love you, but I don't love that for my best friend."

Suddenly I feel like a third wheel in a conversation that's becoming personal between them, and I wish I could disappear under the bed.

This is heading in the direction of trudging up conversations of what Jamie and I actually are or what our feelings towards each other are, and I really don't think I'm ready for that.

I don't think I'd be ready for his answer.

Actually.

Maybe it's my answer I'm scared of.

Jamie's demeanor becomes more defensive, as he fires back. "Closest I've come to commitment? Did ye just forget about the fact I was married four fucking years ago?"

John scoffs, pressing hands to his face and drags out a disbelieving "Oh my god."

He drops his hands and stares at Jamie. "You are so not trying to use that shit show as an example right now, are you kidding?"

"I'm just saying keep yer facts straight," Jamie bites back, sounding more irritated. " And maybe ye should ask yer best friend what she wants instead of acting like ye ken what's best for her. Ever think maybe that's why she didna talk to ye about it?"

John looks to me, as if realizing I'm still in the room, but his annoyance from bickering with Jamie softens, looking like the words were a punch in the stomach.

"Did you really feel like you couldn't talk to me?"

Please don't look so sad, John.

I shake my head, wishing this whole situation was just over with already. It feels like dragging nails over a chalkboard.

"No - I know I can talk to you. I just, things didn't work out how I expected. I didn't know how to explain what was going on or that I didn't want to strangle Jamie with his own hair anymore. I wanted to tell you," I explain the best I can, hoping to get rid of the hurt look on his face.

John can be a lot at times, he can be overwhelming and too full on, but I literally wouldn’t be alive without him - I'm just unsure whether he actually did me a favor or not with that.

Either way, this last year would have been completely unbearable without him. He's important to me.

Even if I also want to strangle him a lot of the time.

He and Jamie have that in common.

John sighs, seeming to be simmering down from his initial outburst and scratches his fingers through his hair.

"Look, I just came over here to make sure you were okay that's all. I wasn't expecting to find you two in bed together - just shocked me a bit. I didn't mean to lose my shit but fucking hell, I could've used some warning."

"Hey, if it helps, at least ye didna have to see what Gizmo did last night - he still willna talk to us," Jamie says trying to lighten the mood, looking to Gizmo who is laying on the floor with his back facing us.

I swat at Jamie’s shoulder with my jaw dropping. "Not fucking helping right now!"

Jamie rubs his shoulder and looks at me with a cheeky smirk that glows up to his eyes. "What? It's not like I told him how fuckin hard his best friend makes me."

I take back what I said to John. Maybe I am going to strangle him with his hair.

John smacks his hands over his ears, squeezing his eyes shut and sings loudly, "la la la la la la la!"

Jamie snickers at both John and I's reactions, while I shoot daggers at him with my eyes.

John peeks one eye open, and when he sees Jamie has stopped talking he drops his hands, but Jamie only takes the opportunity to be more of a dickhead.

"I honestly think the neighbors heard us... And christ, the sounds Claire was making - so fucking hot, I dinna think I've ever came that hard-"

I'm going to murder him.

"Nope! That's it!" John yelps, smacking his hands over his ears again as I try and swat Jamie’s shoulder to get him to shut up, but he catches both my wrists and pins them against the bed in between us.

The more I struggle scowling at him, the more entertained he looks.

Why is smirky so strong? The fucker.

"I'm going! I'm going to rinse my ears and brain with bleach while I'm at it, I don't need that fucking visual," John announces, backing out of the room.

"Thanks for dropping by," Jamie grins at him, but John scrunches his face up in disgust and just keeps backing out of the door until he's out of the room.

"For the record, I think this is a terrible idea, but you two have fun though," John calls out from the living room as he makes his way to the front door. "Glad you're getting laid Claire, I'll talk to you about this later and for fucks sake make him keep the details to himself."

"Love ye, John," Jamie calls back, and I'm honestly too embarrassed to say anything.

This whole experience has been mortifying.

"Fuck off, Jamie," John calls back, before I hear the front door slam shut.

"Are you crazy!" I gape at him as soon as the door is closed, and Jamie only gives me a mischievous look; flopping back onto the bed and tugging me with him.

As soon as we hit the mattress he's tugging the covers up over our heads and trapping my back against his chest with his arms around me.

"Thank God that got him to finally leave," he muses in amusement as I squirm against him.

"Let me go," I grumble, and Jamie only tightens his arms with a taunting laugh under his breath. 

"Never."

I huff out a defeated breath and finally give up when I realize he's not letting go, and relax against him. Annoyed that I instantly love how his warm skin feels, and how nice it is being close to him.

Stupid Scottish smirky fuckboy magic bullshit.

I hate that he smells so nice even in the mornings, I hate that I notice it so much now and that I know I'll miss it when he leaves and hope it stays on my sheets.

"Did you really have to say that shit to him?" I mutter, cursing myself when he nuzzles his nose against my neck and my skin tingles.

Jamie hums to himself, nudging his knee between my legs so he can snuggle up closer behind me.

"Aye I did, I wanted him to leave. He was cutting into my cuddle time."

I should be annoyed with him, but instead my lips are fighting a reluctant smile at how childish he sounds.

"I don't want him to be upset with me," I admit, sucking in a breath when Jamie tugs my shirt up at the front so he can slip his hand underneath and run his fingers over my stomach.

As nice as it feels, I'm still trying not to cringe.

"He'll get over it," Jamie dismisses, pressing a kiss to my neck. "Yer an adult woman, Claire, ye can make yer own choices. And look on the bright side, he knows now so it's one less thing to stress about." 

He's always so optimistic and it's even more frustrating that he's harder to argue with.

Jamie continues tracing his fingers over my skin, relaxing further against me like he can't get close enough and his affectionate touches aren't sexual, he just seems to be content laying here and it's strange.

It becomes quiet between us, and I let my mind run over everything that has happened since I woke up. I'm trying to ignore that nagging in my stomach to need to fix everything and take care of it, worrying over if John is still upset or whether he was just shocked at first.

I know this is a terrible idea.

I'm just not entirely sure what this is.

"...Jamie, what are we doing?"

As soon as I ask the apprehensive question I want to take it back, and I don't know why I blurted it out.

I'm just glad my back is facing him, and considering we're still under the covers, if the answer I get is awful then I can just hopefully suffocate to death under here.

Jamie's lazy voice vibrates against my neck, as he sighs out a deep breath and I can hear the amusement in his voice.

"It's called cuddling. You'll get used to it, I promise."

I roll my eyes, chewing my cheek inside my mouth when they try to tug up at the corners.

I don't want to push the subject, and I'm kind of grateful that he deflected it with a joke because I'd just tried to open up a conversation that I don't rightly know I'm prepared for. It just kind of came out.

Why did I even ask?

In all honesty, I just expected him to prattle off some term like 'friends with benefits'. It seemed like his go to default for whatever he does.

Are we friends? Could we be friends? Do I want us to be only friends?

What are we if we aren't friends?

This is the grey area I hate.

His exploring fingers travel higher up my stomach, ghosting over my sternum and outlining the underside of my breast while he buries his face against my neck and takes in a deep contented breath.

A few moments later, Jamie decides to answer my question properly and somehow manages to still not answer it at all.

"We're enjoying each other, heartbreaker. Like I've said before, just let yerself enjoy it."

***

What Jamie really said:

Chapter Text

"What if you're here when I'm not ready?

What if I'm not willing to listen?

I hope these devils never leave me

'Cos I keep taking what they're giving

Right now it feels like killing time

I'm running from the shadow of my former shadow's life

Sometimes I wonder if I was ever really there?

Right now it feels like killing time"

(Killing Time - City and Colour)  

***

It's been another long exhausting week.

Mum is out of hospital with a vengeance, and I'm serving my time in punishment for calling the ambulance last week.

No sleep. No peace. Repeat.

I'm so tired. Breathing is exhausting.

Charlie has noticed at work, and while I appreciate that he's been trying to give me extra breaks; I reminded him that he's paying me to work, not just stand there.

He then told me he was the boss, and if he wanted to pay me to stand around he damn well will.

Speaking of Charlie, I don't know what is up with Jamie, but the couple times he's 'randomly' come in for lunch this week while I 'just so happened to be working' which was 'such a 'coincidence', he has been glaring at Charlie like he killed his dog.

It's almost impossible to hate Charlie, trust me. I've tried. So I don't know what his issue is.

The only time I've been able to see Jamie this week, has been at work for the short time he'd come in for lunch. My mother has been exceptionally diligent at terrorizing every shred of my sanity when I try to leave the house aside from work.

I don't have the energy to fight it. I'm just so damn tired.

I understand why they use sleep deprivation when interrogating prisoners of war, it's mental agony.

I can barely concentrate.

Not to mention the constant psychological assaults that leave me crippled and feeling like a helpless 6 year old all over again.

It made it harder to find something to write in my journal each night, the temptation to just leave the page blank and stop the suffering was a lot more prolific - almost deafening.

Halfway through the week though, I started having something to look forward to each night. Something to write down that added a semblance of respite from those four walls of my sanity collapsing around me.

That slow voice that had my stomach in knots, my ears drunk on the sound while it flowed into my mind to drown out the clutter and made the day bearable.

Jamie started calling me.

I didn't hear from him after he left on Saturday, but I didn't contact him either. I found myself in that new cycle I hate where I let insecurity rip at my insides.

Does he want to hear from me? Would I be bothering him? Would I be annoying?

All of the things I never gave two fucks about a couple weeks ago now nag at me like a song that never ends.

Then he just turned up at my work on Wednesday, and that night was the first time my phone rang with his name on my screen.

When he called Wednesday night he asked if he could call again on Thursday after I said I wouldn't be able to see him when he asked; I felt like shit that I was too ashamed to tell him the real reason I couldn't see him aside from just saying I was 'busy'.

Could I tell him about mum? It's so fucking embarassing.

Frank always made me feel like it was the biggest inconvenience, and eventually I just stopped talking about it. As much as I wanted Jamie to fuck off before, now I'm worried my situation would make him run for the hills.

I also found myself writing down the importance of the couple hours of pointless conversations that we got lost in. 

Wednesday. Thursday. Friday.

Miserable starts and happy endings.

 

#357

5/05/2018

His voice made an unbearable day feel like a memory of a moment that didn't exist before he called.

I wish the call never ended.

 

#358

6/05/2018  

He has stupid jokes.

They made me smile.

I missed smiling.

 

# 359

7/05/2018

Why do I miss him before he even hangs up?

I miss the color blue.

 

Funny how the smallest glimmers of joy seem so irreplaceable when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasons to stay alive.

I tried to keep reminding myself of what Jamie told me on Saturday, that we were just enjoying each other.

Unfortunately for me, I feel like we're enjoying very different things about each other, and what I'm enjoying is growing that feeling deep in my chest that tightens just from the mention of his name recently.

I feel like I'm leaning over a ledge, holding on by the skin of my fingers about to fall for something I know will have me landing flat on my face.

... But, sometimes. Just sometimes he has this habit of creating a bit of hope that maybe, just maybe for once it won't work out like that. Maybe he really does care.

He's like cigarettes, a vice I know is terrible for my health but I do it anyway and have wishful thinking that just maybe I won't get cancer.

At this point I feel like cigarettes are better for me than he is, at least I can quit those.

In light of all of this, I've still been pushing myself with him. Resisting the urge to clamp shut, giving him the opportunity to hurt me and hope he doesn't.

I suppose if I'm going to be sticking around with the living I may as well keep working to try and get better, make the effort. I kind of stopped trying this last year. I just gave up.

Maybe I can hold on for a bit longer. Life might not be so bad.

That brings me to tonight, Saturday.

Through the week I caught myself missing when he didn't actually listen to me and would just turn up at my house, and that has now come back to bite me in the ass.

At 8pm there was tapping at my window again, and I was met with those cheeky blue eyes matched with that persuasive smile.

My heart was in my throat and my stomach felt like it was filled with helium and floating around inside my stomach as soon as I was greeted with a "Hey heartbreaker," complemented with that smirk I don't hate these days.

God I missed that stupid smirk.

Jamie could persuade the panties off a nun, and that would explain how he managed to get me to agree to sneak out and ignore the deep pit of anxiety in my stomach over it.

When I asked why he turned up he said he "Missed the pig," and also pointed out that as long as I had that, it meant I wanted to see him again, so he was just taking up the opportunity considering it's what I wanted.

He also said he "Missed Gizmo," and asked if Gizmo was talking to me yet after last week.

To be honest, Gizmo has been giving me accusing looks all week. He won't even get on my bed.

I was hoping maybe he'd say he missed me, he didn't though. I also didn't know how to tell him that I missed him, because while his actions showed that he wanted to see me - I didn't know if it was for the same reasons that I wanted to see him.

Either way, I was still confused when we pulled up in front of a tall building just outside the city in the middle of the night.

It was empty and had a 'for lease' sign out the front and I had no clue why we were even there.

You know, this is how horror movies start.

Jamie answered my confused expression once we got out of the car, gesturing to the building as we stood out the front when he pulled out a set of keys out of his jacket.

“I was considering setting up a restaurant-slash-bar here... ye remember Thomas? He kens a few people in the business around here to help get it off its feet. Alex found this place for me, gave me the keys to have a look around while I’m deciding what I want to do. But I wanted to show ye something.”

John's boyfriend works in real estate, it's why they have such a stunning house.

I gave him a quizzical look, "So you're staying here?"

Jamie matched my expression, as we walked towards the large timber door of the older style brick building, "Where else would I be going?"

I shove my hands inside the pockets of my hoodie, and shrug as I watch his hand slide the key into the brass lock.

"I'm not sure, you've just said before you don't like staying in one place. I thought you might be going back to Scotland."

The thought had crossed my mind, recently. That Jamie wouldn't be staying here, that he was just here temporarily until he figured out the next place he wanted to go.

"Going back to Scotland would kind of be staying in the same place though, wouldn't it?" He replies, pushing the door open and gesturing for me to walk through before him.

"Besides, I've got a few good reasons to stick around," he adds, stepping in behind me and shutting the door.

"And what would they be?" I question, ignoring the way my stomach jolts when he reaches out to take my hand as he comes to stand next to me, threading his fingers with mine.

He bites on his lip, glancing his eyes down to my feet and back up. "Ye ken how this game works Sassenach, ye want to ken something then you've got to tell me something too."

I narrow my eyes at him with a playful glare, and his face breaks out into a bright smile as he gestures around the dark empty space we're standing in; changing the subject completely.

"So what do you think?"

"It's very... empty?" I say, not sure what else I should comment on as I look around at the blank white walls and checkered laminate flooring.

It looks a bit worn, run down and like no one has been here in years. I wonder what it was previous to just being a hollow space.

Jamie tutts me, clicking his tongue and tugs on my hand to get me to follow as he walks around.

"Nah, see, yer just seeing it for what it is right now, not what it could be," he comments, and I raise a brow at him as we come to stand over near the wall at the back of the room.

"And what could it be?"

He glances sideways at me, before grinning, "Amazing. Ye just have to look properly."

He starts walking around the room, pointing and describing things to me. “Here, the bar would run across this way coming out from the wall with a neon sign on this side by the front…” He continues to paint a picture with his words. “Tables and booths here..I’d have antique style chairs, vintage leather couches right along these areas..” He walks to the other side of the room. “There’d be a raised stage here for live music.”

“I want it to have a cozy, old school feel,” Jamie comes back towards me and points to the wall at the side of us. “I’d frame some of my photographs on the walls - could switch them out if I wanted.... some records and guitars..maybe have some vinyls hanging from the ceiling here.”

I look around the room as he talks, imagining everything he's saying like it's appearing out of thin air and he points to the back corner next to us, "I'd have a big old jukebox right here too, always have music playing."

There's something so mesmerizing about listening to him talk about this, he's so passionate about it and it's flooding my chest with warmth.

"Sounds like you've got it all figured out," I say with an endeared smile over how excited he sounds. "What would you call it?"

He turns to face me, and even in the dark room I can see how lit up his eyes are. He let's go of my hand, only to stand in front of me and take hold of my hips. He nudges me back the small distance until my shoulders hit the wall.

Jamie moves forward, so there's barely any space between our hips and stares down at me. 

"Guess that can be another mystery, heartbreaker," He drags out while his eyes search over my features and I'm finding it really hard to keep my eyes on his face, the way he's looking at me is making me feel like my organs are twisting into tight knots.

"So is this all you wanted to show me?" I blurt out, hating how my now chronic nerves around him make me lose the ability to use forethought.

"Some of it," he answers, looking like he's not even paying attention to what he's saying as his eyes glance to my mouth. "The other part is upstairs - So what do ye think about what I want to do with this place? Think it's any good?"

"It sounds amazing, but it sounds like a lot of work though," I reply just being honest, getting too overwhelmed from his stare being glued to my face so I look down and focus my gaze on the shirt he’s wearing under his jacket. 

"I ken this place is a bit worse for wear, it's been neglected - But I knew it was a hidden gem as soon as I saw it," his tone becomes more quiet, and my breath freezes in my body when his face leans down to brush his nose against my cheek to try and urge me to look at him. "All it needs is some TLC, a bit of patience to get it back on its feet. It'll be worth the hard work, to prove how amazing it is."

I flick my eyes up to him, and give him an accusing look as my heart kicks up in speed at how close his face is. "You're not slick, smirky - I know what you're doing, we both know you're not just talking about the building. You pull out all these elaborate metaphors on everyone you want to sleep with?"

I'm unsure what angle he's playing at with this, if he just wants sex. He already knows I want to sleep with him. So if he isn't interested in more than that, I really wish he wouldn't do these type of sweet things that pull at my already hanging by a thread heart strings.

It's making it impossible to keep the boundary there that my emotions are threatening to cross.

Jamie pauses, pulling his face back a bit to tilt his head and look down at me with a lazy smirk that contradicts what he says. "I have no idea what yer talking about."

I lift my brows with a disbelieving expression, pulling my lips to the side and calling bullshit on that.

His eyes squint for a brief moment, knowing I'm not buying it which only makes him more amused. "So does that mean ye consider yerself a hidden gem, then?"

"Hey they were your words-" I try to argue, but he butts in looking smug.

"Uh uh, that's what I said about the building. You were the one that said I was referring to you."

My face drops into a flat stare, and he leans down again to hover his face above mine, flexing his fingers a bit tighter on his hold on my waist. "But for the record, I agree. Ye are a hidden gem, glad ye can see that."

Sly bastard.

"You're so full of shit," I grin, laughing under my breath in disbelief. I don't know why I'm smiling; I guess his antics like this are just funny to me now instead of making me want to smack him.,

"Ye think you've got me all figured out - don't you?" He wonders, taking one hand off my waist to bring it up to my face, and smooths some loose strands of hair behind my ear. "Why don't ye tell me something then? Hm? Tell me something ye think you've got figured out about me. Let's see if yer correct."

He still looks so damn pleased with himself, so I ponder his question for a moment. Wondering if I should tell him what I really think.

"Go on," he urges again, moving his hand back to my waist.

I think for a few more seconds, and then decide to just go for it. I always deflect this kind of thing with him, and assume that what I think is stupid, but I guess this is part of pushing myself to be more open.

"Well..." I begin, trying to sort my thoughts out and take in a deep breath. "I think, that you think sex and your looks are the only things you have to offer people, or maybe that that's all they would want from you so you play on it - play that role. I think it also keeps you safe, because then if you get rejected it's only superficial and that's why you make such a point of not getting attached. Bruised egos are easier than broken hearts."

I can't look at him while I talk so I've resorted to scanning over his jacket instead, whatever I can to distract myself from how anxious I feel as I keep talking.

"I think the notion of keeping it strictly friends to protect yourself is also bullshit."

Jamie's voice is oddly soft, as if he sounds caught off guard. "Why is it bullshit?"

I shrug my shoulders and chew on my lip, still refusing to look at him. "Because friends can break your heart too."

He falls silent again and it's almost deafening, the way my words are left hanging in the air only tortures me more and is making me wish I didn't speak in the first place.

"Yer right," he says with his voice barely above a whisper, and it makes me look up to him in partial shock.

I am?

There's no humor on his face, but he looks like he has a million things running through his mind. "About what I have to offer, all of it," he adds, but then gives me a soft smile to try and lighten the mood.

"Ye ever consider becoming a psyche? Yer very observant."

His eyes flick back and forth between my own as my face drops into a frown. "No hang on, I said you think that's all you have to offer, or all people could want from you. That's also bullshit, by the way. It's not true."

His brows twitch together, as he cocks his head like he didn't expect that, and he almost looks confused. That usual confident aura he has looks like it's been slapped right off his face.

"What do ye think I have to offer then, that someone would want?"

I match his confused expression, as if it should be obvious. "Well, when you're not being a cocky fucking dickhead, there's plenty of things. You're smart, you're witty, you have interesting conversations, you're thoughtful, talented, and even though it's hard to see through your fuckboy bullshit sometimes, you're actually quite caring and really kind. Your personality is one of the most attractive things about you, when you finally get to see it properly.”

Jamie is now staring at me with his brows pulled tight together and an expression I can't read, and for some reason now I can't shut the fuck up.

"There's a hell of a lot of things that are valuable about you, that have nothing to do with sex or your looks. Your personality is what made me like you, not your looks, you know, once I got past wanting to strangle you."

He's still just staring at me. Totally silent. Of all the times that he could pick from to not have a quick as a whip comeback - it's this one.

This honesty shit is terrifying.

That same panicked regret starts racing around my mind that I've said something incredibly fucking moronic, but my thoughts get interrupted when I yelp from Jamie slipping his hands from my waist to my thighs, and hoisting me up in a rough abrupt motion that startles the crap out of me.

My legs instinctively cling around his hips to hold myself up at the same time my hands fly to his shoulders to hold on to something.

I'm staring at him with my eyes snapped wide, and his eyes are locked on my face with his lips pressed flat together.

I don't understand his expression, he looks angry? Or maybe annoyed?

Maybe I could figure it out if he fucking spoke.

Agonizing seconds tick past as he continues to act like a bloody vexed mute, until his voice finally echoes in the room thick with whatever he's feeling.

"Ye know what Claire?"

I push aside the urge to be sarcastic, instead I swallow and ask an apprehensive, "What?"

His jaw ticks as he exhales a heavy breath through his nose, and he licks his lips.

"I'm over this waiting for you to kiss me first shit. Fuck it. I'm done with it"

I go to open my mouth and remind him that he shouldn't be snapping at me about it because it was his goddamn idea, but I don't get to because I'm being pressed back hard against the wall, with his mouth rushing towards mine to connect our lips together in a kiss that makes me thankful I'm being held up.

My brows shoot up in shock from the force of it, but the moment his lips start molding against mine, I'm melting into him and kissing him back with just as much fervor and it rips a strained hoarse sound from deep in his throat.

I can only clench my legs tighter around him as soon as I hear it.

His hands slide down further under my thighs from where he had them gripped, until he reaches my behind and grabs shameless handfuls of it, pulling me tight against him when his tongue teases it's way into my mouth to taste and caress my own.

My hands move from his shoulders to hold onto the back of his neck, slipping my fingers up into his hair at the nape of his neck while he deepens the kiss; making the air feel thick and sending that same spark firing through my body that feels like it jolts me awake for the first time in centuries.

Both of us are heaving out pants through our noses, being careless about air as the magnetized atmosphere seems to crush us together and evaporate everything around us.

I don't even remember what kissing felt like before him now, and I don't think I want to. Maybe it's because I never felt them back then, not like this. They had as much passion as a pat on the back, I couldn't feel them through my whole body like I do with him.

By the time he finally breaks his lips away so we can both gasp for some kind of oxygen our lips are swollen and wet; but he continues to press several kisses to my lips as we both catch our breath, like having our mouths separated is unacceptable.

After a few moments of attempting to compose ourselves as I try and float back to fucking reality; Jamie presses a quick kiss to my lower lip and leans back to look at my face with his eyes heavy and a pleased smile on his face.

"You like me?" his tone kicks up at the question, with his smile growing wider as he asks.

Fuck, that's what he picked up on out of everything I said?

I feel my rib cage want to collapse, stressed over what admitting that means.

I think it could mean very different things for both of us.

I wet my lips, stumbling on my answer like an idiot. "Well, I mean, I don't want to kill you? So - I guess you could say -- I uh, yeah I do."

His eyes light up as his smile indents his cheek, and he looks amused by my answer while he moves his hands back to my thighs, and pats against them as an indication for me to hop down.

He keeps an attentive watch on my face as my feet hit the ground, and he unwinds my arms from his neck, taking hold of one of my hands, threading his fingers with mine again.

"It's okay heartbreaker," he grins at my nervous expression, leaning forward and taps his finger against the tip of my nose with his free hand as he lifts his brows. "I like you too."

I swear my heart nearly just leaped out of my throat and punched him in the face.

I've worked so hard not to get my hopes up with this, but for some reason those words had my stomach fluttering to the point I worried I was going to vomit.

I just don't know if he means it the same way I do.

I must look as shocked as I feel, because Jamie only looks more entertained; taking a step back tugging on my hand to get me to follow him.

"Stop looking like I just told ye the world is ending, a ghraidh. C'mon, come wi’ me, I have something else to show ye."

This is my version of an emotional apocalypse, so I think my expression is quite fitting thank you very much.

Without saying another word I follow Jamie as he leads me to a staircase in the very back corner of the room, feeling him squeeze my hand periodically as we make our way up the stairs while he practically has a spring in his step.

I find myself wishing I could be normal, as I stare at his back and memorize all the various patches over it; I wish his words made me giddy instead of worried. I wish they excited me instead of terrified me.

I'm lost in my thoughts when we get to a small room at the top of the stairs, that looks like some kind of tiny studio loft type apartment and Jamie leads me to a door that looks like a fire exit.

When he turns the large metal handle, shoving the door open and ushers me out of it, I find that we are on the roof of the building and immediately I'm awestruck from the view.

Aside from the roofs of the other buildings, all you can see is the endless blanket of the night sky and the thousands of glowing lights from the city a few miles away.

It's so quiet up here.

"Think this is my favorite part of the whole place, thought ye might like it here," Jamie says, walking us towards the edge of the building where a railing surrounds the entire perimeter of it.

I take in a deep breath, and drag out my words in a nervous voice. "...Guess this would be a bad time to mention that I have a phobia of heights, huh?"

I look sideways at Jamie, to see his whole body go stiff and his face drop in panic.

"Oh - fuck, Claire - I'm so sorry, I should've asked -- fuck. We'll go back inside. Shit I'm so sorry -"

Jamie starts to pull me away, sounding distraught, and I can't help but burst out laughing and he stops dead to look at me confused.

"Oh fucking hell, your face! I was kidding," I'm nearly hunched over, trying not to wheeze over his ghostly complexion.

My laughter gets cut short though, by Jamie coming up behind me and grasping my hips to tug me back against him; wrapping his arms around my waist and pressing my shoulders tight against his chest as he growls against my ear in mock anger.

"Ye think yer real funny, don't you?"

I know that he's only joking, but the low guttural tone to his voice has my spine shivering and my amusement dying in my throat.

"A little bit," I admit in spite of myself with my voice so high it's embarrassing.

I swallow when he brushes his lips against my ear and gives me a taunting ominous warning.

"I'll remember that."

Then his voice softens back to a sweet tone, and he rests his chin on my shoulders. "But do ye actually like it up here?"

I decide not to push my luck, and just answer honestly. "I do - it's really pretty. Why'd you bring me up here, just for the view?"

"Sometimes it's nice to go somewhere to get a break from everything, ye ken? Thought we could do that for a bit, just throw some time away for a while till you've got to go back to reality."

We're both staring out over the sea of lights, and he's making my chest do that fucked thing again where I feel like I need to swallow my heart down from my throat.

"You wanted a break from everything, with me?" I question, wondering what's been happening for him that he'd need to escape from.

Jamie rests his cheek against mine, and hums with a contented sigh.

"There's no one else I'd rather kill some time with, heartbreaker."

***

Chapter Text

"I'm the newest member of The Broken Hearts Club

We hate every little thing about the people that we love

We're the let-down, we're the lied-to, where the lost go when it finds you

Where the lonely make the lonely feel less lonely, and we're dying to

Invite you to stay, and take away the pain

'Cause misery loves company, so hey, what do you say?"

(gnash - the broken hearts club)  

***

I didn't think I'd find myself on top of a building without the urge to throw myself off it, but here I am. 

The past hour has been nice, more than nice actually.

Jamie and I have been sitting with our legs dangling over the edge of the building, with our arms perched on the middle bar on the railing, just talking nonsense really.

Sometimes you need that though, a bit of nonsense to make sense of the chaos that moves too fast to understand sometimes.

It's so nice to not have to force conversation, to have it flow so naturally. To feel like I don't have to filter it.

It's comforting, and quells that deep ache that loneliness echoes around your body.

I'm always so focused on avoiding connections with people, or just failing miserably at them that when they actually do happen; it's like slipping on fresh socks out of the dryer for the first time.

Comfort. Something I usually refuse at all costs but crave like the blood in my veins; I was just never taught how to accept it. I don't even think I fully understand what it truly is.

It's like a foreign language I don't quite understand, I just know it sounds beautiful and when I hear it, I wish I understood what it was saying.

I don't mind it from him though. It feels nice. His company is comforting, at least what I know comfort to be. Maybe this is a new kind.

"Do you think, if you jumped from this roof - it'd feel like falling or flying?" I ask, keeping up with our theme of asking random useless questions that we've been going back and forth with for the past half hour.

I stare at my feet swinging back and forth, looking down at the alleyway behind the building; pondering the question over in my head that I often wonder too much about.

I glance over to Jamie when he doesn't answer straight away and he's watching me with a look I can't read.

"Unless ye were a bird or could fly, it would just feel like falling. Because you'd ken ye were going to hit the ground," he decides to answer, staring at me like he's somewhat bothered that I asked him that.

I look back down at the ground, and shrug my shoulders. "I think if you didn't care about hitting the ground it could feel like flying for a few seconds."

I feel Jamie shift closer, closing the small gap that was between us and his voice sounds on edge. "... I'm not sure I like this conversation when yer sitting on the edge of a building."

I feel my stomach drop at the concern in his voice and curse myself in my head over the fact that I forget most people don't daydream about a long walk off a short plank.

"Don't worry, I wasn't going to jump," I say, looking to him as my lips crack into a smile. "I was just asking in case I pushed you."

My attempt to lighten the mood seems to work, as Jamie's mouth lifts at the corner before he tries to force a mock offended expression with his jaw dropped.

"Way to break my heart, I thought ye were enjoying spending time with me."

I nudge his shoulder with mine, glancing at him before looking down to my lap. "I am - just keep in mind I've got options if you piss me off."

"I'll be extra nice then," he grins, moving his arms from the railing to lift above his head in a dramatic stretch as he arches his back with a yawn.

As he lowers his arms, he rests one back against the railing and slips the other around my back, resting his hand on my hip and pulls me closer.

I look at him with my brows raised, my cheeks hurting as I burst out laughing. "That was the cheesiest fucking move you loser."

Jamie's face is lit up, with a goofy smile. "Hey - it made ye smile though."

I just shake my head, still in disbelief over him pulling a move that cliche and he leans his head down, resting his cheek against my shoulder as he stares off at the lights in the distance.

"Plus, ye canna push me if I'm holding on to ye," he adds, sounding pleased with himself and I'm trying to swallow down the feeling fluttering around my body like butterflies on meth.

Bold of him to assume I'd care about falling off this building. I care about him falling though.

I decide to let him have a small victory, resting my cheek against the top of his head and the small action makes his grip tighten against my hip.

There's a drawn out silence, one I'm not sure what I should fill it with. It's such a strange moment, when I let all the memories of when I first met him play through my head, compared to how things are with us right now.

I swallow down the pit forming in my throat, pushing down the fact I know this is far more important to me than I think it is for him.

This is one of my biggest flaws when it comes to caring about people, I can't just ease into it. The second it happens I'm all in, they have my full attention. I don't understand how people do casual fleeting romances, I wish I could but if I like someone, they're the only one that I focus on. It's like tunnel vision, they're the only person I see in that way from that point on.

I'm one of those all or nothing people, and it's terrible for the state of my heart.

I guess that's why this whole thing feels like a bear trap waiting to snap shut, and I'll just be left wounded and stuck in it on my own.

"Claire, why didn't ye want to see me this week?" Jamie's quiet voice breaks through my thoughts, and the insecure question near knocks me off the building.

My face falls into a frown, and I keep my voice as quiet as his. "I did want to see you..."

"Kind of seems like ye avoid me, a lot. I'll see ye once and then ye disappear for a week... I just thought ye didna want to see me," he admits, sounding the polar opposite to his usual cocky attitude.

My chest aches at what he says, and guilt digs its claws deep into the pit of my stomach to the point that I can't stop the next words tumbling out of my mouth.

"No that's not it at all - I missed you all week. It's just, it's complicated."

Jamie's arm tenses around me. "You missed me?"

I bite down hard on the inside of my cheek, feeling my emotions causing havoc inside my body at how uncomfortable admitting something like that is. How vulnerable I feel over it.

"I'm just as shocked as you are," I try to joke, but it doesn't lighten the mood the way I thought it would because Jamie's voice has absolutely no humor in it. It's completely sincere.

"I missed you too." 

Just breathe. I remind myself when my lungs seem to seize in my body as soon as I hear those words.

He lets his words hang in the air for a moment, until he speaks again and the soft tone he's using is almost like a lullaby for my glass nerves.

"Ye said it's complicated... so simplify it for me, about why I couldna see ye,” he pauses for a moment, like he's choosing whether to continue but then asks, "Does it have to do with yer mother?"

I feel all my muscles tense, just the mention of her sends my stomach dropping. Everything in me is screaming to deflect, to push the subject away and cower from it. Keep pulled close to my chest where no one else can see it and let me suffer with it. Leave me ashamed with it.

But I don't.

Instead, I push the words out before the fear can grab them out of my throat and drag them back down.

"Yeah, it does."

Jamie doesn't react, and I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse, he just sits there taking in the tiny bit of information I've given him.

"Yer in a bit of a hard position with her, aren't ye?" he asks instead, and I'm not sure what to make of the question. There's no judgement, but it sounds like he already knows the answer.

"Yeah... it's - it's hard to explain, she just makes it hard for me to leave the house sometimes," I answer, thanking my lucky stars that I don't have to look at him right now, but I can't ignore the comfort that's there from him being so close.

"Have ye always had to take care of her?"

Nothing about his line of questioning feels like probing, although with anyone else I would have felt cornered. Panicked and like I was trapped in a room that was shrinking.

"It's what kids are for, apparently," I answer, replaying the words in my head I've had drilled into me since I can remember.

I wasn't born to be my own person, I was born as property. As something useful. I was born to love, not to be loved back. To make my mother feel important and to be reminded that she's the only reason I exist, and I'll never repay the debt for that.

I wish I had never existed to begin with.

I can hear the frown in Jamie's voice as he speaks. "No that's not what kids are for. You are yer parents responsibility, not the other way around."

I can't help the dry laugh that comes out of me in reply to that.

"Try telling my mother that."

"John doesna like her," Jamie says all of a sudden, which makes me go stiff again.

He hasn't told Jamie about her has he?

"He calls her the old witch, whenever he talks about her," he clarifies, noticing how rigid my demeanor became. "John doesna really dislike... well, anyone. And when I met her I kind of got where he was coming from."

Yeah... John has hated my mothers guts since that day almost a year ago, he's never forgiven her. He's cordial to her if he sees her at home, but he doesn't hide the fact that if she was on fire he wouldn't even piss on her to put it out. He has a right to feel that way, it still feels awful that it's about my mother though.

I wish Jamie could see how surprised my face is right now. "You did? Most people think she's Mother Teresa when they first meet her."

It's true, she's a fantastic actress. It's stomach churning to watch, it can make your skin crawl seeing someone flip their personality and emotions so well depending on who they're talking to at the drop of a hat.

I'm the only one that ever has to see behind the mask she wears.

Jamie disagrees with a soft shake of his head, his cheek still rested against my shoulder. "No, as soon as I saw how ye reacted when ye saw her, I knew she wasna a nice person. Ye dinna flinch like a kicked puppy at the sound of their voice, if someone is a good person."

He noticed all that?

He suddenly sits up like I've zapped him, his brows pinching together in worry as he looks at me. "Sorry - that's yer mother, I didna mean to be disrespectful -- I just meant -

"Jamie it's fine, relax," I try and settle his nerves, giving him a small smile. "It's by far not the worst thing she's been called, I know what you were trying to say."

I remember the fights I would have with Frank over my mother, I know he hated her but I think he more so hated the fact that I didn't hate her. I remember the terrible things he would say about her, they were venomous and spiteful... And he did it despite knowing that it hurt me, that I couldn't help that she was my mother. I didn't get to pick who gave birth to me.

I still love her, I just don't like the person she is.

You can dislike someone and still not be truly awful to them, you can still treat them with basic human decency.

I remember several times when mum had overdosed or I was waiting for an ambulance in a panic because I couldn't wake her up, and he would get angry at me for being upset. Telling me it wasn't my problem and to stop caring.

I felt helpless and scared because I didn't know what to do with my mother and had no one to help, and at the same time felt guilty and like a disappointment because I'd made Frank so angry.

It's always my fault. I'm too weak, I can't help how much I care.

"Claire?"

"Huh?" I blink at Jamie, seeing him watch me with his brows pinched together but when he finally sees me focus on him after I drifted off with my thoughts again, his lips tug up in a ghost of a smile.

"Lost ye again, glad to have ye back."

I give him a tight smile, glancing down. "Sorry, bad habit."

"Interesting habit," he corrects, which makes me snap my eyes up to him. "I'd love to know where ye disappear off to in that mind."

I shake my head, lifting my brows and widening my eyes. “Trust me, that's like wanting to go on a road trip to a dump site."

Jamie tucks a piece of hair that’s fallen in front of my face behind my ear while he gives me a thoughtful look. "Well, ye ken what they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure."

The fondness and affection in his eyes as they stay focused contently on my face is sending my nervous system into overdrive.

I hate how hot my cheeks instantly heat up while I fight not taking his words to heart, and lay my head down on his shoulder to bury it against his neck to hide the shy look on my face.

"You've got an answer for everything don't you?" I mumble, kicking myself over savoring the warmth coming from him.

I'm such a soft piece of shit, and I'm worried he's going to catch onto that.

Jamie is stunned for a moment at my out of character affection, but then wraps his arm around me tighter and turns his head to press his lips against my forehead, leaving them lingering until I feel his mouth form a smile before he pulls away.

"No, there's a lot of things I have absolutely no answers for," he replies, relaxing against me.

"Oh yeah? Like what?" 

He thinks for a moment, deliberating over what to say and then he sighs. “Why the hell people bother with relationships, for example. People are always temporary, seems like yer asking for an excuse to get hurt by placing all of yer bets on one person."

I feel my heart sink, his words a firm reminder of the situation I'm in and who I'm in it with.

"For someone that's so against relationships, getting married seems like a pretty counter productive thing to do," I point out, wondering how someone like him even got to the point of proposing, let alone going through with a wedding.

I know his ex wife wasn't exactly the greatest person in the world, but she must have been pretty amazing to have him wanting to get married or just, be tied to only one person.

"Touche," he agrees, slipping his hand down to slide it under my hoodie and rest his hand against the bare skin on my waist; the cool temperature of his hands making me jump.

"Sorry, yer warm, feels nice," he says when he notices my reaction.

Warm. That's not a description I've had used to describe me in a long time.

I used to be warm.

I'm just cold now.

"It's okay," I don't ask him to move his hand, in fact I'm savoring it being there and the feeling of his thumb stroking soft patterns against my skin. "...Why did you get married?"

"A bad habit," he answers, and when I don't respond he gets the hint that I'm waiting for him to explain further.

"My ex was just... Our relationship was fucked but I couldna stay away, know what I mean? We were always on and off for years before I asked her to marry me. I thought it was what I was meant to do, ye ken? Thought it would fix things, that it would mean she'd stay with me... I dinna ken, she just had this way of always pulling me back in, even when I should have stayed away. She always left in the end though. Like I said, she was a bad habit."

I listen to him talk, taking in the information and I can relate to being hooked on people that are terrible for you.

"Sounds like an awful reason to get married, seems a lot like smoking to cure cancer," I think aloud, and Jamie chuckles to himself, giving my side a soft squeeze.

"Hey, I never said it was a good reason. It was just a reason - yer turn now, what about you and relationships? You seem pretty against them too," he presses, keeping up with our ritual of swapping secrets or information.

"I'm not against them," I shrug my shoulder, deciding to be honest about it. "I'm against being close to people, which is kind of a prerequisite for a relationship. It's safer to be alone. I believe in love and all that, as much as I wish I didn't. I just don't think it's meant for someone like me."

I'm a hopeless romantic that has no hope in romance.

I don't know if that was the answer Jamie was expecting, but he's silent for an extended pause like he's processing my answer.

That's a big difference with Jamie and I, he's avoiding relationships so he doesn't have to be alone. He's constantly with other people, someone new and there's safety in that too because it keeps everyone at arm's length. Whereas I'm avoiding people altogether.

"What do ye mean it's not meant for someone like you?" He questions, tilting his head down to try and look at my face.

I chew on the inside of my cheek, and my voice is weak as I answer.

"Some people are just too hard to love."

Jamie goes quiet again, and when he speaks his voice matches the quiet level of mine.

"The people that made ye feel hard to love didna deserve to say they loved ye in the first place, Claire. That wasn’t love." 

I don't know what to say back to that. This conversation is delving into areas that are making my chest feel tighter and throat feel like it wants to swell shut.

"Guess it's a good thing I strictly date dogs now then, huh?" I deflect the weight of the air around us, along with the weight of his words and keep at my futile attempt to not get sucked in by them.

It's not working.

I'm already waist deep in quicksand with him and only sinking further.

"Aye.. Gizmos a lucky guy..." Jamie trails off, like there's more he wants to say but doesn't.

"Speaking of Gizmo, I'm going to have to get back home soon," I tell him, wishing inside my mind that I didn't have to. I'm enjoying his company too much.

Jamie lets out a dramatic sigh. "Damn, I was hoping I could add another orgasm to yer collection before we left."

I grin to myself, smacking at his leg when he lets his hand drift up to playfully palm at my breast over my bra.

"I swear your mind is always in the fucking gutter."

Jamie shrugs his shoulder, urging me to sit up so he can look at my face and when my eyes catch his, he's grinning as well with that cheeky glint in them.

There's something else there this time though, and I can't place my finger on it.

"It is, and yer mind is always in the clouds. Guess we're the perfect odd couple," he teases but I have to stop my heart from punching it's way clear out of my chest.

Jamie leans closer, nudging the tip of his nose against mine. "Let's get ye home heartbreaker before I change my mind, hold ye hostage up here, and keep you all to myself."

...I wish you would.

***

Chapter Text

"I've been locked inside your heart shaped box for weeks."

(Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box)  

***

JAMIE’S P.O.V:  

Just fucking call her ye coward.

She said it's fine.

It's fine. This is fine.

It's only been five days since you've seen her, and it's not like you've called her every night hanging on every word she says waiting for her to finally say she can see you. 

Oh wait.

You have. That's exactly what you've done ye needy twat.

At least I ken she's not avoiding me now.

She still has our pig, she still wants to see me.

There's something different with Claire now though, it's like things have shifted and while she still has me feeling like a donkey chasing a carrot on a string being dangled in front of it, she actually talks to me now.

I mean genuinely talks to me.

She's spoken about her mother, the situation she's in. It sounds fucking awful, I have no idea why she puts up with it, and I also couldna understand why she sounded so... insecure when she would talk about it.

She'd brush it off and say it's fine when it's clearly not. I admire the strength she has to deal with all of that, I wouldna be able to handle half the shit that she does.

Is she worried I'd judge her? I'd never do that. I've been trying to convince her to let me come over but she always says she never knows what kind of night her mother will have.

I told her it wouldna bother me, but I dinna think she believed me.

I feel like such a fucking tosser though, I'm getting jealous that John gets to see her so often, when he goes to pick up Gizmo. I ken he's Claire's best friend but still.

Normally I'd just tag along regardless of what Claire said, but these days I'm actually scared of her telling me to fuck off and genuinely mean it. Well, more than she's meant it before.

She doesna even come to pick Gizmo up anymore, John drops him off, and while my paranoia had me thinking a while ago it was because she was avoiding me. It turns out things have been getting worse with her mother.

Claire also spoke to me more about that fucking knobhead of an ex boyfriend of hers, he sounds like such a piece of shit. She deserved so much better.

If I dated him I'm sure I'd swear off dick as well.

It's also been two weeks since I stayed the night at her house and we almost slept together, nothing has happened since aside from kissing when I took her to that rooftop.  

I think I may very well be losing my mind over it.

I'm not saying I just want to see her for sex. It's not that at all, I like her company... well, more than like it. I canna explain what being around her is like, because at first I was just fascinated and now I feel completely enthralled.

I ken nothing lasts, but I kind of catch myself thinking sometimes...I wish it would with her.

People always leave in the end, so it's better to save yerself the heartbreak and dinna give them the chance in the first place.

I'll just enjoy it while it lasts.

I keep waiting for it to end, that moment I have with everyone where the excitement is gone and I just become painfully bored. It hasna happened yet though. Frankly, I canna see it happening, because I ken I've barely scratched the surface with what she keeps trapped in that mind and I'm already hooked.

But good god I want to fuck her that bad I can barely concentrate on anything else.

I've tried distracting myself, but every date I've gone on has left me sitting there feeling like watching paint dry would be more exciting.

There's nothing wrong with the people I'm seeing, they're lovely. They're attractive. They want to fuck me.

I'm the problem.

I'm not interested. I try to be and then catch my mind wandering off to a certain pair of golden eyes, and think about the ways she'd cut my knees out from underneath me with some kind of witty remark or insult.

I sometimes wonder if Claire would get jealous or if she'd even care. She doesna seem to. From damn near throwing me at the girl at the bar that night, to barely acknowledging when I brought the same girl to lunch and almost no reaction when I spoke about my other date last week; she just seems totally unbothered.

Whereas I find myself daydreaming about hitting her fucking boss with my car.

I kind of want her to be jealous. I'd feel wanted. I mean, I deal with my fair share of jealousy in the casual relationships I fool around in because people get too attached and to be frank, I usually can't stand it.

My ex wife had jealousy leaving a bad taste in my mouth, she either never gave a fuck and had me acting like an idiot with other people to purposely make her jealous just so I felt like she cared, or she was acting like a psychotic possessive tyrant that flipped her lid if I so much as glanced at another person.

With Claire though, jealousy is more of a mystery; it's wondering if she even feels it. If she'd feel that for me. Is she just not a jealous person, or is she just not jealous with me?

She's so hard sometimes and impossible to read, it's like she's locked in a glass box and the closest thing to affection I can get from her is pressing my hand to the glass, hoping she'll hold hers up to mine on the other side.

But there's also that soft side that she's given me glimpses of, that's buried deep under the layers of armor she's got built up around her that damn near knocks me unconscious.

For example.

I've had a lot of people buy me ice cream, fuck, I've had people lick it off my balls.

But it was different when Claire did it. 

Not lick it off my balls, she hasna done that. I wish.

When she got my favorite ice cream from her work, it meant something. It was such a small gesture that had so much meaning behind it.

The same way she remembered my favorite food.

I think that's what gets me the most, is that she only does something because she genuinely means it; her affections aren't for just anyone and are reserved for the select few she grants the privilege to.

And I do feel privileged.

Those moments that are happening more often as of late, where she is showing that sweet side of her has given me a sweet tooth that bad I'm positive I'll rot all my teeth with cavities from how badly I crave it.

I get a taste and want to feast on it.

Right, I just need to get this over with.

I've been staring at my phone for the past twenty minutes working up the balls to hit the call button.

It's the fear of rejection, that this is the time I'll call and she won't answer. That she'll ignore the call and that will be it. She'll be done with me.

I wonder if she looks forward to me calling her, if she gets excited the same way I do.

Ah, fuck it.

I hover my thumb over Claire's contact for one last moment before I press it, and lay back on my bed and distract myself from the sound of the call tone by staring at the blue lights along the ceiling.

All they do now is remind me of Claire.

"Dundler Mifflin, this is Pam."

The second that voice hits my ears it's like a string is attached to the corners of my mouth, damn near tugging them back to my ears.

"You've been watching Office reruns again, haven't ye?" I grin, shifting on the bed to get comfortable while I lift my arm to pillow it behind my head.

"How'd you guess?" 

"I just had a wild hunch -- How's yer day been heartbreaker, miss me?" I try to keep my voice as casual as possible and not give away how my heart sped up the second I heard the smile in her voice.

I like making her smile. She doesna do it enough. 

It suits her eyes.

"Don't know if I need to be feeding your ego more by answering that." 

She so missed me.

"I think you've bruised it enough to give me a bit of a confidence boost, Sassenach" I pout, feeling my stomach flip around at the playful tone in her voice. She sounds so much more relaxed talking to me now.

I notice how she avoided my other question, I ken now that means she hasna had a good day, and that bothers me a lot more than I let her know.

"I guess you could say I missed you and your bullshit, just a bit," she says with a dramatic sigh, but I can tell she's still smiling.

I missed the absolute fuck out of you too.  

I feel like a giddy teenager at the moment and I havena felt like that in years, it's like the smallest amount of attention she pays me feels like I've jackpotted on the lottery.

I'm a bit of an attention whore, in general, but I'm especially bad when it comes to her.

I want her to pay attention to me.

"You'd miss me less if I could see ye," I point out, squeezing my eyes shut and silently cursing into the air over how needy I sound.

Ask her for a fuckin leash and collar for your balls while you're at it Jamie, ye fucking moron.

I try to save myself before she can answer, and add, "That's why I called. Ye still owe me a date a ghraidh, so when are ye free next?"

Please say soon.

Claire is quiet for a moment, and I hold my breath with the dread in my stomach that her answer is going to be 'Never'.

"Would you want me to stay the night?" She asks instead, and now I'm not breathing for an entirely different reason.

"Absolutely," I answer far too quickly, and move my arm from behind my head, flicking myself on the forehead, and try to salvage myself but fail miserably. "I mean, if you'd want to. We could stay at my place, if ye want - only if ye want to though. Or we could stay at yer place, we can do whatever ye want."

Go on, sound like more of a broken record dickhead. She turns me into the biggest fucking idiot. 

"It might be easier to stay at John's," Claire offers me some kindness by pretending not to notice my rambling, and I'm grateful for it. "I think uhm... I think I could make Saturday work? I'll just have to get some things organized with mum for the night."

I hate that Claire seems like a prisoner, like she has to beg, borrow or steal just for a night out. No wonder she never wants to leave the house with the shit she has to go through just for a few hours to herself.

Makes me appreciate her time a hell of a lot more, knowing what little she gets she chooses to waste with me.

"Is there anything I can do?" I offer, refraining from whining like a child that Saturday feels like a fucking eternity away. "Ye ken, to make things easier for the night. Anything I could do to help?"

"No it's okay, I don't need any help," Claire assures in a heartbeat, even though I know it's the furthest thing from the truth.

She doesna think she deserves help, but she does need it. I dinna push it though.

"So it's set in stone then? Saturday is a date?" I check, trying to contain my excitement and not letting it show in my voice; so I just throw my fist in the air as a silent 'fuck yes' instead.

"It's a date."

It's pathetic really, how I've already had what I want to do with her planned out in my head for what feels like weeks. I canna remember being this excited over a date before.

I drape my arm over my eyes, grinning to myself, and try to hide my excitement with my usual behavior.

"Deal. Now that that's sorted," I relax against the bed, dropping my voice to a playful suggestive tone, "what are ye wearing heartbreaker, hm? C'mon throw me some crumbs, you've been starving me for weeks."

I wait patiently for a witty remark when I'm met with a pause, until I hear Claire's voice sounding confused.

"Uh... I'm in a towel?"

I feel my stomach jump, at the same time the muscles in my pelvis tighten at the idea of that and I pout again. "Well now yer just being cruel, putting that image in my head. Tell me what yer really wearing."

She wouldna actually tell me if that's what she was wearing. Such an oblivious tease she is. I bet she's in one of her shirts, maybe those velvet shorts again.

Fuck.

Now Claire sounds even more confused. "What? Jamie, you literally called while I was in the shower-- what else do you want me to call it? I'm dressed in a popular fuzzy cloth traditionally used to dry oneself when wet? Why would I lie about being in a towel?"

Jesus fuck dinna mention being wet.

The visual floods my mind of Claire's damp skin, glistening with her dark hair clung to her shoulders. The way the towel would hug against her breasts where it's wrapped around her and wonder how high it sits up on her smooth thighs.

I bring my hand up and bite down on the knuckle of my pointer finger to stifle a groan, taking in a deep breath and letting my eyes drift closed.

"Jamie?"

My name wrapped in her voice snaps me out of my fantasies when I've stayed silent.

I wet my lips, feeling my stomach swirl with that need and I thread my fingers into the front of my hair.

"So yer really in a towel?"

"Are you the one that's deaf now?" She questions back, not understanding what she's just sparked in my mind.

I wonder...

"Do ye want to ken what I'm wearing Claire?" I offer, deciding to take the risk and figure out if this could be one of the many things she might be into.

I'd like to find out.

Besides, if I can't touch her until Saturday maybe I can do the next best thing.

Listen to her.

*** 

Okay so I know most of you are this @ me right now:

 

But here's my peace offering for ending it there

It's a happy meal so you can't be mad at me. I'll have the next part posted as soon as I can. Appreciate you x

Chapter Text

"Yeah, you really got me now

You got me so I don't know what I'm doin' now

Oh yeah, you really got me now

You got me so I can't sleep at night"

(The Kinks - You Really Got Me)

 

***

JAMIE'S P.O.V:  

From the tone in Claire's voice I can already picture her scrunching her nose up, that puzzled crease between her brows forming as she blinks. "Uh, sure? But why do I need to know what you're wearing?"

I smile to myself at how clueless she is, ignoring her question and keep my voice casual, testing her reaction.

"I'm in my underwear." 

Rather be in you though.

I glance down to my half naked body sprawled on the bed; and contemplate for a moment whether I should take a picture and send it to her.

That might be a bit much though, and to be honest -- she doesna seem overly fussed on my body. Not in the way I am with hers. Am I not her usual type? Does she have a type? What did her ex look like?

I have caught her staring at me a couple times though; I'd hope it was out of attraction and not because she thinks I'm a total fuckwit.

"I'd say I'm shocked but I'm not -- do you ever wear clothes when you're at home?"

I notice Claire's voice has a slight strained inflection, that she covers well with her usual dry tone. Not well enough though.

Does she like the thought of me in my underwear?

I just want to ken how she feels, or what she thinks when she looks at me. She never gives it away, always keeps her cards close to her chest.

I ken she's mentioned that I'm attractive, but it felt like a general statement, I want to ken if I'm attractive to her. Like if we were strangers in a room, would I get her attention?

Would I be the one she noticed in a crowd?

"I'd be wearing less if ye were here," I say, trying to keep my voice playful but can't help how it lowers with the images running rife through my head.

I'll just give her a gentle nudge in the right direction and see if she catches on.

Claire clears her throat, and I feel my chest inflate over the fact I think the idea of that is affecting her the same way it is me.

"Do you not have an off button? I swear you snort viagra," I can hear the breathy air in her words, her voice piqued and faltering her deadpan demeanor.

Getting flustered, Sassenach? I am.

"Only got an on button around you, heartbreaker," I muse, trying not to get too ahead of myself but nudge a little bit further. "Would ye like that though, Claire? If ye were here right now? Canna help remembering how good ye looked on my bed in a towel."

"Well I'm not there," she points out, and I wonder if she's got that flush on her cheeks yet. If her heart's beating faster like mine is. "Guess you'll have to deal with just the memories."

She's not making this easy. I can work with it though.

"Trust me Claire, when I tell ye those memories have served me very well," I reply in a slow voice, feeling my own breathing shallow as I let my mind drift off to those sounds that melt out of her throat and how warm her skin is. "Want to try and make a new memory right now?"

"Jamie..." she trails off, sounding like she's debating on something and then speaks, "You can't... You can't come over tonight, it's- it's just not a good night."

She still hasna caught on to what I'm trying to do.

There's an edge to Claire's voice for an entirely different reason now, and it makes my brows twitch together. "I wasna asking to come over -- Are ye okay? Is it a bad night?"

I've come to learn recently with our late night calls there's never really good nights when it comes to Claire, there's just the ones that aren’t as bad as others. 

"I'm okay," she lies, I dinna believe it for a second. "It's just not the best night -- what did you mean then, if you didn't want to come over?"

I dinna push it, if she wanted to talk about it she'd tell me. I catch myself wondering sometimes how often she's lied to me, or hid things from me about stuff like that.

Lying is another thing my ex wife left a bad taste in my mouth with, but she was always malicious with it. Selfish. 

I've had conversations with Claire about my distaste for lying, but funnily enough, I don't think Claire thinks she's lying.

I think, she thinks she deserves to not be okay, or maybe she's scared of looking weak. Her incessant refusal of help has also made me realize that she doesna want to be a burden, as well as being stubborn.

She mentioned that's why she never asks John for help aside from babysitting Gizmo, she doesna want to take advantage of the fact that he cares about her. She's 'not his problem'.

"Jamie. What did you mean?"

Claire grabs my attention when I've wandered off in my mind, and I blink a couple times to clear my head.

"Sorry, I zoned out for a second," I apologize, rubbing the heel of my palm against my eye and wonder if I should really keep going with my idea. Would it be better just to talk to her?

Or maybe it might help? Could she use the distraction? Relieve some stress?

I ken I'm being a bit selfish, but looking down at the bulge that's now straining in my briefs, I can’t help myself.

"I meant, that since I can’t be there. Maybe we could do the next best thing," I explain, shifting to trying to get comfortable; reaching down to adjust myself in my underwear and resist the urge to press my palm down and give myself some kind of relief. "Maybe take yer mind off yer night for a while as well."

"...Are - Are you trying to start phone sex with me right now?" Claire's voice kicks up a notch, and I canna help the smirk that pulls on my lips at how stressed it is.

"Depends. Is it working?"

There's a pause. And I wonder if it's because she's considering it, or googling how to tell me to fuck off in several languages.

"I...- Jamie, I can't... I can't do that. I've never-- I'm not good at... I can't say the things you do," she stammers with an insecurity in her voice I've only caught a glimpse of a couple times before.

Is she shy? Embarrassed? Nervous?

That's cute. But I think she'd be better at it than she realizes.

"We dinna have to," I offer, reminding her that she has a choice. "...But, if ye want to - ye wouldna have to say much, just answer yes or no. Maybe use some feeling words."

"... Feeling words?" I can picture that confused crease between her brows again when she says that. Is she chewing on the inside of her cheek again too?

"Mmmm," I hum, dragging my thumb along under the hem of my briefs both teasing and distracting myself. "Ye ken, if I ask how something feels. Ye could say good... soft... warm."

I pause for a second, licking my lower lip and my voice gets lower, "...Wet."

I can already hear her breathing skip, starting to shallow through the speaker and even though we aren't in the same room, let alone house, it's like I can still feel that tension trying to rip me through the phone.

"Think ye could do that?" I ask, feeling my blood heat up as my pulse gets faster and I'm already getting intoxicated off of the arousal flooding my mind. "I'd do all the talking. I already ken how much ye love that."

"Your ego is showing," she throws back, avoiding my question.

"Ye can see straight through me," I tease, but canna ignore how true that statement is.

And it scares the shit out of me.

I dinna ken who I'm fooling more, me or her.

"But answer me, do ye think ye could do that?" I nudge again, giving in and letting my hand rest on my erection that's causing a dull ache in my lower half that matches the one in my chest.

Claire contemplates for a moment, before I hear her quiet unsure reply.

"I can try..."

I run my palm over the hardness under the fabric, my breath hitching in my throat as that spark jolts up my spine at the prospect of listening to her but I compose myself, and try and keep a grip on more than just my dick.

"Nothing to be nervous about, a ghraidh" I reassure her. "Sit on the bathroom counter, aye? Let me know when yer comfortable."

"Sit on the counter?"

"Ye can touch yerself while yer standing Claire, I dinna mind," I grin, listening to her suck in a quick breath and I'm savoring how that hard exterior is starting to deteriorate.

I think that's the most addicting thing, about being intimate with her. Seeing her vulnerable side. It's like getting to see a priceless piece of artwork that's been locked away and you're the only one that's been given the key to the room it's in.

Other people might ken what's in there, but I'm the only one that gets to see it.

I think? Her boss better not get to see it. Asshole.

There's some shuffling on the other end of the line, then a grunt and huff before Claire's unsure voice floods my ear again. "Okay. I'm on the counter."

"Comfortable?"

"It's a cold ceramic countertop, so I feel like I'm sitting on a block of ice like some idiot penguin. Am I sexy yet?" Claire deadpans.

A laugh bursts through my lips as I try to press them together, and warmth fills my chest that fiercely it nearly crushes me through the bed.

I swear I can’t get enough of this woman.

"Ye could be a sexy penguin," I offer, trying to settle my laughing.

I can hear the eye roll in Claire's voice, but she's smiling too. "We're terrible at this."

Fuck I miss her.

"Shhhhh, we havena even started yet. It'll get better," I reassure her, and wonder why I've never had moments like these with other people.

Ones where we can laugh so carelessly, even in moments like these, ones we shouldn't, but it feels natural. It only adds to how much I want her and doesna dissipate it.

"Yeah, you're really selling it to me right now Jamie, my arse is freezing and you're laughing yours off. What a turn on." Her sarcasm is rife, but there's a playful teasing there as well.

I like when she's playful, when she sheds that serious composure and just lets herself go.

Just like she did the day I caught her dancing in the living room.

I'd see her like that every day if I could.

"If ye could feel how hard I am right now Claire, you'd ken it's definitely a turn on," I shift the conversation, keeping my voice suggestive and Claire falls dead silent.

I've never been shy in this department. I was raised being taught that sex, talking about it and enjoying it was all perfectly normal. I have no shame in that aspect.

I also dinna think Claire is shy, I think she just doesn’t know any better yet. Or maybe she needs to trust me a bit more.

I feel my stomach get tighter as I press her silence. "Would ye like to feel that? I'd love it if ye did."

The only thing that breaks the lack of response on the other end, letting me know she hasna fainted, is when I hear her clear her throat. It's soft, and like she's trying to hide it.

I let my palm slide over my stomach, up to my chest and back down before dipping my fingers into the band of my briefs, grazing my fingertips in a faint touch against my swollen tip that's begging me to dip my hand in further.

I know her well enough now, to know she'd be stuck on what to say. So, I decide to direct things in a different direction instead of waiting for her to answer that.

We'd be here all night otherwise. Not that I'd be complaining.

"Undo yer towel for me, let it fall open," I give a gentle instruction, keeping my voice smooth even though it's becoming thicker from the need deep in my gut.

There's still silence on the end of the phone, building the anticipation like I can feel Claire's heart beat through the phone line.

"Have ye done that, baby?" I ask after a few moments, met with her voice weak with nerves.

"Yes."

The three letter word zaps me like a lighting bolt, making my cock twitch and plead for contact but I ignore it.

I swallow down the noise that wants to leave me as I picture her sitting on the counter, the towel pooled around her hips and her bare body waiting for what's going to happen next.

The mood has shifted so quickly, I can feel it burying me deeper inside my infatuation with her.

My voice is breathy, hoarse and it's losing its composure as I cling with white knuckles to keep my head focused. "Close yer eyes. I want yer hands to follow what I say, touch where I'm talking about. Can ye do that for me?"

I can hear the wet sound of Claire's lips parting as she takes in a breath, sighing it out before an even quieter "Yes" resonates in my ears.

I let my eyes drift closed, slipping my tongue over my lower lip and heat floods the lower half of my body as I imagine standing in front of her.

"I want ye to run your fingers down your neck for me, over the places I like to kiss," I tell her, listening to her breathing skip and it makes mine do the same. "Then I want ye to let them go lower... trace them over that place where yer neck meets yer shoulder, then down to yer chest."

I let my mind wander, trying to remember how her skin feels, how her fingers look tracing over it and my hips shift at how uncomfortable that throb in my lower half feels.

I barely recognize my own voice when I speak again, it's so rife with craving it scratches my throat. "Go down further and feel yer breasts for me, feel how soft they are. Do what feels good for ye. Are ye doing that for me?"

Claire murmurs a quiet yes, but it's a whisper that screams through my body and I finally give in, tugging my briefs down enough to release my erection and sigh in relief when I run my palm over it rested against my abdomen.

I continue my slew of verbal daydreams, directing her hands to where I wish mine were and taking solace in the inflections of her breathing, hanging on the edge and waiting for the briefest sound from her so I can let it both pacify and ignite me.

Sending her fingers on a treasure hunt from her nipples, to her sternum, down her stomach and getting her to part her thighs, feeling the inside of them but not letting her go further.

I let my fingers wrap around my shaft, stroking in slow teasing motions and avoiding the sensitive part that needs it the most. I canna help but drag it out, savoring it because the sooner I start, the sooner it'll be over.

I dinna want it to be over, I want to stay in any moment I feel close to her; I'll torture myself with her soft sounds if that's the closest I can get to her for now.

The sound of my pulse in my ears is rhythmic, until it becomes completely erratic when I hear the first conserved gasp come through the speaker when I say to her, "Spread yer legs further apart, heartbreaker. Slip yer fingers between them and feel yerself for me - trace yer fingers around but don’t touch yer clit -- not till I say so. Tease yourself."

Just like this is teasing me.

My fingers grip tighter around my rigid length, that's weeping with need to be satisfied when the faintest whimper comes from her, setting my blood on fire as my hips thrust up against my hand in a completely involuntary movement.

I bite down on my lip, willing away the urge to just say to hell with this and beg her to let me go over there, or pick her up and bring her here. Or hell, just let me take her in my car. Just let me be close. This feels incredible and unbearable at the same time.

Claire's breathing becomes harsh, panting into the air as her resolve or shyness crumbles, I dinna ken which.

"How does that feel? Not touching yerself where you're not supposed to, are you?" I ask, reminiscing over how her slick silky skin feels under my fingers, and my body shivers thinking about the sensation when I got a hint of teasing my cock against it. I go insane dreaming about it.

Claire's voice sounds completely tense, pent up with frustration and short on breath when I hear it again finally, "I'm not... It feels-" she pauses, still struggling with her confidence but her needs get the better of her, "It feels good but I need... Jamie, please."

I ken she doesna ken how to tell me exactly what she wants, and I think if I push her too hard with it, it'll go from pleasurable to stressful and I never want that. But she does sound desperate. As desperate as I feel.

And fuck, I canna find it in me to drag it out further, the way she begged with my name has me sliding my fist up over my sensitive tip and swiping my thumb over my slit; spreading my arousal around as my hips rut upwards at the same time my head rolls back.

"It's okay baby, touch yerself where ye need it -- I want to hear how good it feels though. Let me hear those pretty noises ye make.” My words are heavy now that I'm practically panting, unable to control myself anymore and start pumping my fist around my cock and wishing it was her.

I feel every organ in my body constrict, when that first gentle moan rings through the phone; it's like velvet wrapping around my whole body and makes goosebumps tingle down my arms.

I wish she could describe what she felt like right now, the way she would be coating her fingers with her own arousal; how warm she would be, how soft.

I ken what it feels like myself, so I'll have to suffice with memories and imagination for now while her pleasured noises play like a soundtrack for the movie in my head.

"That's it, yer doing so good," I encourage her, my voice coming out so rough the words nearly catch in my throat; and my lips part, moaning as I work my hand around my length that's become so solid it's almost painful. "Keep going beautiful, christ I wish I was there, ye sound amazing. I wish I was making ye moan like that."

I can feel the pressure building in my abdomen, and slip my hand down my shaft to grip myself; trying to hold off on the fact that just a moan has me that pent up I'm nearly coming all over my stomach.

I dinna ken whether it's the desperation in my voice, or the fact she must know I'm touching myself by now or maybe what she's doing just feels that good but her meek sounds become louder; less ashamed and mixed with that panting that's flooding my ears and dripping down to my center to make my cock twitch in my hand.

I exhale a shaky breath, moving my grip around myself again to pump a few teasing strokes before I pull my hand away, just listening to her for a moment and reveling in it.

My chest is heaving that abruptly I swear the air is too thick around me to get into my lungs.

I move the phone away from my face for a few seconds, so I can bring my hand up and spit into my palm; before taking hold of my cock again and grunting out a deep groan as I enjoy the new slick friction that creates, and letting my fantasies swirl in my mind about how it would feel if it were her on top of me.

Making those sweet dirty sounds that are sending me fucking crazy through this phone, as I thrusted up into her; being able to feel her come around me.

Fuck I'd give anything for that right now.

My breathing gets frozen in my body though, when I hear her voice gasp out, "J-Jamie I'm... I'm - oh god."

Hearing my name leave her mouth wrapped in that much pleasure, like it's mindless and she doesna even realize she's said it has my hand working faster; slipping over my slick skin as I focus my grip around the head of my length and my hips arch up at the feeling.

"God I want ye so bad, Claire," I pant, letting the words tumble out as my mind goes hollow and only filled with the erotic melodies from her, serenading me to an edge that's charging towards me faster than I can comprehend; but I canna stop my mindless wishes. "I'm picturing ye here right now, riding me. Fuck, wish it was you wrapped around my cock instead of my hand -- getting to watch ye fuck me -- I wish, ah - holy shit."

I grip the phone tighter at the same time my grip on my dick picks up speed, feeling the pleasure rippling from my lower back and center; and my head tilts back against the pillow with my jaw dropping open as I fill the air with grunts and whimpers I canna control. I feel completely consumed by all of it.

By her. 

"Oh god -- I w-wish I was there too," Claire rushes out in a single breath, and the helpless whine that follows it has every muscle in my body tensing; feeling the burn in my forearm and biceps from fucking my own hand and my stomach quivers at the tension wanting to release from me.

"Tell me ye want me," I beg as I choke on a moan, sinking my teeth hard into my lip as my eyes pinch shut and all I want is to hear her say that, to know she wants me the same way I do her. "Please, if ye want me Claire, tell me baby."

Actually, at this point I don't want her.

I need her. I'll lose my mind otherwise.

She's almost there and I'm craving it, I can hear it in the shake in her breathing; how her moans are getting faster, louder. I could listen to it on repeat forever.

"I want-" Claire’s words get cut off by a sharp gasp, before she stutters out, "I want you - Jamie, I'm close - f - fuck."

Have me then. I'm begging you.

The end of Claire's sentence is met with her crying out, her voice then twists and contorts into a series of breathless obscene sounds that are like bliss in my ears as I listen to her orgasm collide into her body; and the aftershocks of it feel like they ripple through the phone into my body and trigger my own.

"Fuck!" I growl through my teeth, throwing my head back as my body arches up and I feel the pressure inside my implode and assault every nerve in my body. Limbs shaking, twitching and out of my control as I let the feeling consume me while listening to her only makes the feeling more devastating.

My mouth is slack as I gasp, positive the expression on my face looks like I'm in pain but it's so much pleasure it's crippling. I barely comprehend what I'm saying, it's a mixed chant of profanities and Claire's name.

My hips jolt up as my release goes through me, hot spurts of my orgasm hitting my stomach and sternum as I writhe on the bed until my body just goes limp, feeling like I could melt straight through the mattress.

I'm completely spent.

My hair is stuck to the sides of my neck from sweat as I try to piece myself back together, both Claire and I nothing but heavy exhausted breaths on either ends of the phone through the silence.

As mind blowing as that felt, it's not enough.

Because I don't have her.

It's then that it hits me, as I lay there and finally manage to peel my eyes open and feel the way my chest is constricting at the realization she's not actually here. I canna be with her.

How I have to press my lips tight together to stop words coming out I ken I shouldn’t say.

My brain is yelling at me, telling me that the only reason I'm feeling like this is the post orgasmic chemicals in my brain.

But it's not.

She's really got me now.

I'm falling for her, like I've just thrown myself without a care off that building we sat at the edge of together.

And I ken she has absolutely no idea and I'd never be able to tell her, but even though we haven't had sex yet...

She's already well and truly fucked me.


***

Chapter Text

"Without it all

I'm choking on nothing

It's clear in my head

And I'm screaming for something

Knowing nothing is better than knowing at all"

(On My Own - The Used)

***

Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts  

Trigger Warning: Multiple mentions of sexual assault

As always, if you don’t feel comfortable reading this chapter but want to know the gist of what happens, please don’t hesitate to message me on tumblr or twitter (@arabellainthsky), I’ll do my best to give you a brief summary.

*** 

It's Friday.

I'm tired again. Things feel blurry, I kind of feel like I'm floating through a fog and completely vacant.

I have that date with Jamie tomorrow and I'm more nervous than I'd like to be. I've never really had a proper date, and the fact it's with him is only making matters worse.

I wonder if he would think it was pathetic I used the money I had set aside for my therapy appointment, just so I could organize to go out with him. I convinced my mother to stay with the nurse this weekend, which she only agreed to after I stocked her up with liquor and cigarettes. 

The monetary cost wasn't even close to the emotional one, the lengthy guilt trip I copped from my mother. The disapproving looks, passive aggressive words and whispers to Ms. Allen, her nurse, at my expense.

My mother expected a thank you, for agreeing to stay there, and pointed out the huge favor she was doing for me this morning. She made sure to point out that Ms. Allen was picking up my slack, how inept and selfish I was being 'choosing a night out over my mother' and how irresponsible it was. Guess I'll never deserve a break.

Forever in debt, never to dig myself out.

I'm really wondering lately if I'm going to make it to 27 - it seems to be the magic number. It took Hendrix, Cobain, Joplin and Morrison. Wonder if it will be my lucky number too, if I can even hold out until then.

But then again, I guess it's not polite to kill yourself when you've got plans the next day. That'd be rude, no matter how tempting running into a tree felt on the way to work.

I have Gizmo. He relies on me. It's all I kept repeating to myself to get me to work in one piece.

It's days like today that make it harder to push those thoughts out of my head. The relief looks so tempting. Who doesn't love emotional breakdowns before 11am? A bit of crippling mental crisis with your morning coffee?

Some days are worse than others, and you know sometimes there's no rhyme or reason - it just happens and today has been on the worst end of the scale.

There has been a distraction, though. Albeit a temporary one, but a distraction nonetheless.

God I can't get the sound of his voice out of my head. It's haunted me since that phone call.

Lucky for me, and by lucky I mean the universe just likes to fuck with me, now I can't get his face out of my mind either - because it keeps staring right at me.

I'm doing the lunch shift at work, and guess who decided to show up?

John and Alex, accompanied by none other than a pair of blue eyes and a decorated leather jacket.

Oh, and the bartender from that bar I went to with Jamie, I'm assuming he and Jamie are friends?

At least I think they're just friends, Jamie swings in every direction so I can't make assumptions. But surely he wouldn't pull another stunt like he did with that girl? Rubbing who he's sleeping with in my face?

Not that it's my business.

I kind of wish it was though, I also kind of wish the thought of him with someone else didn't twist my stomach the way it does.

I always swore after Frank I'd never let someone make me jealous or insecure again, I'd never sit through that nauseous torturous pit in my stomach again. I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone. It makes you question everything about yourself, even if they're in the wrong.

Why was I never enough?

I'm starting to think Jamie and that bartender are just friends though, simply because I think John would strangle Jamie with his own balls before letting him parade something like that in front of me, knowing what's going on between us. John gets a tad protective.

He already lectured me about Jamie going on dates or out with other people, and if I was sure about what I was getting myself into.

I jokingly told him not to be a snitch, and tattle on his friend, but he then said 'hoes before bros' and announced that I was his favorite hoe.  

I assumed Jamie was still seeing other people, I just secretly deep down wish he hadn't been; so whilst I wasn't shocked, I spent that particular night licking my wounds like a kicked animal feeling like it had no right to be upset.

I knew what I was getting myself into. Suffering in beds I made and all that.

Amazing what hell people will put themselves through for brief moments of joy, even if they're terrible for them.

I was busy serving other customers when they all came in, so the other waitress here served them; which means I haven't spoken to Jamie or the rest of them, since they've been here.

We aren't overly busy today, but I have a table of four truck drivers to sort out and those damn men eat like a family of ten.

Jamie has watched me like a hawk, even with my back to him I can feel his eyes on me and it makes it hard not to trip over my feet. I can't say too much about it though, I kept stealing glances at him when he isn't looking.

He looks good today. Same jacket as always, but he's laid it over some vintage horror movie shirt; matched with a pair of dark jeans and boots.

Honestly, sometimes I don't know if I want to undress him or dress like him.

He always looks so effortlessly put together, but in a messy kind of way, and I think it’s him more than the clothes he’s wearing, he’s the type of person that could pull off pretty much anything.

Jamie did catch me sneaking a look at him when I was at the counter folding napkins, and the sweet acknowledging smile and small salute he gave me had my stomach knotting with all my blood rushing to my cheeks.

I expected a cocky smirk, I wonder why I didn't get one.

I also noticed that bartender giving Jamie a knowing smile at us making eyes at each other like a couple of school kids, and even elbowed him in the ribs and whispered something in his ear which had Jamie nudging him back and grumbling something.

I still have no clue what Charlie has done to him, because every time he came out from the kitchen Jamie is narrowing his eyes like they want to shoot lasers at him. I've also never seen someone chew their food with such slow aggression while staring at someone when Charlie was talking to me at the front counter.

What is his problem? I think I'm just going to have to ask him.

I don't have time to figure it out though, because I hear the buzzer to the front door sound off; groaning to myself that more customers have come in and wish I could just fold napkins and avoid talking to anyone for the rest of the day.

I feel my blood freeze in my body at the same time that my stomach plummets when I hear that familiar voice, one that I haven't heard in a year and a half.

"Oh wow- Claire? You work here?"

My eyes snap up to catch those piercing hazel ones, and I try to suck in a breath but it's not working.

Frank is standing at the counter, with two other guys behind him that I can't even focus on because I'm too fucking shell shocked to do much else besides stare in silence.

"You aren't going to say hello?" he questions, leaning his palms on the counter and gives me a once over with a look that proves he hasn't changed one bit. His tone is far too friendly, I know he doesn't mean it. I know inside his head he's searching for something to judge about me, or waiting for me to crumble.

"What are you doing here?" I manage to stumble my words out, not realizing that I've crushed the poor napkin in my hand into my fist that I didn't realize I was clenching.

Really regretting not hitting a tree now.

It's not that much of a coincidence to run into him, he lives in the next town now where he’s working at some company at a job he got through one of his 'friends' , but I've just managed to avoid him successfully up until this point.

I see that annoyed look flash in his eyes, offended that I'm not pleased to see him or didn't offer a groveling hello, or he's irritated I am being rude in front of his friends. It could be any of those reasons.

I still know him like the back of my hand. Unfortunately for him, I'm nothing like the person he left. Sure, I may be more of a train wreck but I'm not wrapped around his finger anymore.

"Well we were getting lunch, kind of what you come to a place like this for, yeah? And I have some work here this weekend, wasn't expecting to see you here though -- You're working now?"

His tone is completely condescending, talking to me like I'm stupid and why he should be here is obvious and the remark about me working had that hint of surprise, like he's shocked I'm able to do something for myself.

"No, I just fold napkins for fun in my spare time," I deadpan, unable to stop the  sarcastic remark before it comes out which causes his jaw to clench and his posture to straighten.

I glance towards the table Jamie is sitting at, and see John leaning over the table to whisper in Jamie's ear while John shoots daggers at Frank with his eyes. John has never met Frank, but he knows what he looks like and he's not exactly his biggest fan.

"You look tired - how's your mum?" Frank's question has me looking back to him and I automatically feel my shoulders deflate.

He ignored my remark and jumped straight to his subtle insults he'd hide with concern. He'd never actually say what he meant. Saying I look tired was always his way of taking me down a peg and reminding me I look like shit.

"Thanks. She's fine," I reply, keeping my voice passive. "Are you going to order?"

I see Frank's eyes narrow for a brief second, and the insult written on his face that I'm being so dismissive of him.

He was always accustomed to being my priority above everything, expecting me to grovel in his presence.

I don't even feel anything when I look at him now, well, nothing except the fact I wish he was no where near me.

Frank parts his lips to reply but another voice cuts in which makes my already frantic nerves accelerate with my heart rate.

"Hey baby - sorry to interrupt in front of customers but we have to get going soon and I wanted to say bye before ye got busy again-"

What the fuck?

My eyes dart to Jamie, who gives Frank a bored once over before stepping in front of him without any acknowledgment and leans over the counter; grabbing hold of my wrist and tugging me forward until I'm leaning over it as well and his other hand grasps my jaw as he presses his lips against mine.

I'm completely caught off guard and totally stunned, my whole body rigid while it fights the urge to melt into him the second his mouth touched mine.

Jamie let out an approving hum into the kiss, teasing his tongue along my lower lip before pulling back and leaving me looking confused shocked into silence.

"Get a room you two!" Charlie hollers from the kitchen doorway, and I look over my shoulder to see him wiggle his brows at me snickering to himself and turning back into the kitchen.

I'm -...I... what the fuck is happening?

I glance to the table John is still sitting at with Alex and that bartender before looking back to Jamie; and the three of them are watching the whole interaction with amused expressions while John sneaks periodic glares at Frank.

"Excuse me, who are you?" I can hear the offended shock in Frank's inflection, but he tries to mask it with sounding curious instead.

Jamie keeps his eyes on my face, like he's silently trying to communicate something with me I can't make out, but hearing Frank's voice from behind him makes him cock a brow and slowly turn his head to look over his shoulder.

"Jamie - and you are...?"

Frank darts his eyes between Jamie and I can pick up that irritation he's trying to mask, other people may not notice but I do. It had me walking on eggshells with his mood swings for three years.

"Frank,'' he replies, keeping his tone short and Jamie simply raises his brows in question, pretending he still has no clue who he is.

"Good for you, man," Jamie nods, looking at Frank with half lidded lazy eyes and a disinterested voice and turns back to face me.

What the fuck are you playing at Jamie?

"I'm Claire's ex," Frank adds, looking at me over Jamie's shoulder and looking at me like I should be, for some reason sticking up for him? Introducing him to Jamie? Scolding Jamie for not being polite to him?

Jamie rolls his eyes still facing me, before turning to look over his shoulder again. "And? Never heard of you. Still no clue who ye are man and dinna care-" Jamie turns to look back at me, and I'm still watching the whole interaction stuck on words, "-- anyway, baby, I was gonna ask-"

"You her new boyfriend or something?" Frank butts in again, his arrogance and incapability to not speak over someone shining through.

Oh dear god... I am not ready for Jamie's answer to that, nor the idea of that right this very second.

Why can't I just get struck down by a sudden fucking brain hemorrhage already.

Jamie huffs out an annoyed sigh through his nose, widening his eyes at me with a look as if to say 'does this idiot ever shut the fuck up.'

Jamie turns his whole body this time to face him, standing about six inches taller than Frank and looks down his nose at him. "I could be her fucking husband for all you know, and it still wouldna be yer business. You're her ex, remember Fred?"

Husband! What fucking crack are you on Jamie!

I could cut the awkward tension with a knife, mainly coming from me because I hate situations like this but Jamie looks totally calm, if not entertained, and Frank looks absolutely pissed.

Frank looks around Jamie at me, not without shooting him a glare first. "It's Frank - "

"Still dinna care," Jamie quips, which only makes Frank grit his teeth.

"What, so you're married now? That's a bit fucking fast don't you think? You told me you never wanted to get married," Frank focuses his attention on me and I'm trying not to let my jaw hit the goddamn floor.

"I... we- he's uh, that's not what -- I'm not," I am stuttering like a fucking idiot, having no clue if I'm meant to be playing along with something or what the point of Jamie saying any of this.

Jamie leans into Frank's view so he can't look at me, and lifts his brows. "Maybe she just didna want to marry you , ever consider that?"

"Was I fucking talking to you asshole?" Frank snaps, raising his voice, with his shoulders stiffening and he scowls at Jamie.

Christ I'm so glad the only other customers we have are those four truck drivers, this is fucking embarassing.

"Hey!" I cut in, catching both Jamie and Frank's attention as they look at me and I point at Frank with a hard look. "Don't you dare speak to him like that - and this is my work, you can't come in here causing a scene. So either quit acting like a fucking dick, or get out."

Jamie gives me a surprised look, while Frank's caught off guard expression is laced with that same look I got from him for three years whenever I tried to stand up for myself.

He laughs.

He laughs at me. And then looks at me like I'm crazy.

"Are you blind Claire? I'm not the one causing a scene, you are - you always were so god damn dramatic and so fucking sensitive, nothing has changed and I thought after three years together you'd have a bit more respect for me but it's just like when we were together."

I frown, feeling my chest sink and dart my eyes between Frank and Jamie, unable to hide the sudden self doubt, and now that same insecurity starts running around in my head.

Am I overreacting? Am I being crazy? Should I have just kept my mouth shut?

Jamie takes a step so that Frank has to lean back and stares him down, with his voice deepening with a sharp edge to it. "Ye may have been able to speak to her like that when ye were together, but if ye want to keep yer jaw attached to yer ugly fucking head - I'd watch the next thing ye say to her."

I've never heard that tone of voice come from Jamie, or the intimidating energy he's giving off and it takes me back from a moment.

"Are you threatening me?" Frank hisses, trying to sound equally as threatening as Jamie but it's contradicted by him taking a step back and all I hear is a snort from across the room and John's voice scoff, "Pathetic." 

"Frank - mate, maybe we should just go. That's enough."

As soon as I hear that voice from behind Frank it's like time stops around me, and I finally pay attention to the two friends that had come in with him.

I will myself to take a step to the side so I can get a better look and as soon as my eyes fall on that brown hair and green eyes I remember so well, it’s like I’ve been punched clear in the chest. 

Bryce’s eyes catch mine, and when they do it's like something snaps inside of me and a rage explosion of crippling memories and uncontrollable rage bursts through me.

I can feel that nauseous twist in my stomach that seeps into my whole body and makes my skin crawl, it's unbearable, I wish I could rip it off.

"What the fuck is here doing here! What the fuck are you doing with him!" I shout looking back and forth between him and Frank, unable to control the pitch of my voice and it makes everyone stop and stare at me; and Charlie rushes out from the kitchen muttering something along the lines of,"Hold on, hold on - what's all the commotion about."

Jamie's face whips around to look at me, his brows pulling hard together and stunned by my irate outburst but I feel like an animal that's been cornered, lashing out to get danger away from me.

Bryce is completely silent, giving Frank an awkward look and he can't even look at me properly; he keeps darting his eyes to the ground.

"Answer me! Why is he here! You know what he fucking did to me!" I yell pointing to Bryce but keep my eyes burning holes in Frank, who just shoots me an annoyed frown; getting defensive over the fact I'm yelling at him.

"Don't you raise your fucking voice at me alright? It’s none of your business what I’m doing with him, I'm your ex remember? You need to calm down. Are you seriously still hung up on that? Fuck you can never let things go Claire - and you know it wasn't what you made it out to be," Frank throws his hands out at his sides, stepping back further from Jamie who is staring at me wondering what the fuck is going on and grasp why I'm completely losing my shit.

He's too momentarily struck to even notice what Frank has said, and even Charlie is standing a few steps away from me behind the counter like I'm some bomb he's worried is going to go off.

"Wasn't what I made it out to be!" I scream back at him, having absolutely no control over any of the reactions I'm having. My hearts racing a hundred mile an hour and my chest is getting tighter. "I told you what fucking happened and now you're friends with him?! How fucking dare you!"

I can barely focus on anyone else in the room, but I'm fairly sure even John, Alex and that bartender are up out of their seats.

Jamie is snapping his eyes back and forth between the three of us, trying to piece together what I'm talking about and I see his face flash with anger, but still absolutely lost and he seems to be more focused on my reaction, starting to look concerned. He makes a choice in his head, overriding his urge that looks like he wants to knock Frank the fuck out and instead strides around the counter and stopping few inches from me, unsure of what to do next.

"Claire - a ghraidh, try and take a breath - talk me so I can help, what's going on-" Jamie tries to coax me, reaching out to touch my arm but I snatch it away and feel ready to jump over the counter and fucking strangle someone.

"How dare I?" Frank spits back, "No way Claire, you don't get to make me the bad guy. I didn't do anything wrong! He told me what happened! I should've known you were spinning it to make me feel bad back then. Maybe if you didn't crawl into bed with guys drunk off your arse and throw yourself at them while you had a goddamn boyfriend like some whore, that shit wouldn't happen. You can't blame me for this when it was your fucking fault! You can't tell me you weren't asking for it."

Bryce is still staring at the ground like a complete coward, while their third friend is standing with a painfully awkward expression who's been dead silent this entire time. The other waitress is watching frozen from over near the drinks machine and the four truck drivers all have their chairs shifted to see the show and watching with glued eyes sipping their milkshakes.

I can hear my pulse ringing in my ears, my skin feels hot and I'm so fucking hurt and furious my eyes prick with tears as I shout with so much force it scratches my throat. "I didn't fucking throw myself at anyone! I went to bed alone and I was asleep and woke up with someone shoving my hand onto their dick you fucking asshole! What, was I begging him to touch me when I was fucking unconcious? Tell me which part was my fault!"

As soon the words have been ripped out of me, you could almost hear a pin drop in the room and Jamie's eyes snap wide and looking like he's been kicked in the stomach as the color drains from his face; frozen momentarily until a rage starts filling his features.

Jamie doesn't even get a second to react though, because then it's chaos; I barely register John trying to lunge at both Frank and Bryce before Alex and the bartender are holding him back, and Frank's apparently mute friend has tugged both Frank and Bryce back.

"You son of a bitch! That was you!" John bellows at Bryce; finally able to put a face to the man in the story I'd confided him about, trying to struggle past Alex and the bartender. "And trust you to be friends with someone that assaults women Frank, you abusive fucking prick! You're both pieces of shit!" 

John is by no means small, but Alex is almost twice the size of him, and I can see he's really struggling with even wanting to hold John back. This poor bartender though, has no clue what the fuck is going on.

To be fair, it's more so for Frank and his friends sake, John has some anger problems and when he gets to that place it's not pretty. It's why we met, he needed anger management and I was trying not to kill myself.

"Who the fuck are you asshole! I don't even know you!" Frank yells back, not even struggling to get to John; he's taking full opportunity to let his friend pull him back.

"I'm the asshole that's about to go to prison for what I'm going to do to both of you the second -" John yells louder, wriggling to get free "- the second these two let . Me. The. Fuck. Go. I’ve been dying to beat the fuck out of you."

"Nah, I'm going first," Jamie cuts in with his voice filled with a calm wrath as he glares at both Frank and Bryce with so much hatred it's like it fills the room. "You're going to regret laying a finger on her - you're both fucking dead," he promises through his teeth, spitting his words at them full of venom.

Everything is happening so fast, but it's Charlie’s voice that catches everyone's attention.

"Enough!" he roars, his deep voice echoing off the walls and it makes everyone pause to look at him.

Charlie is now standing holding the baseball bat in his fist that he keeps behind the counter and he looks absolutely livid. Big soft teddy to rabid gorilla real quick.

For a second I think he's angry at me and the scene I've caused but when he looks at me his hard eyes soften, and he gestures his chin at Jamie who had completely paused in his steps. "There's a fire exit through the kitchen, towards the back near the staff toilets. Take Claire home. Get her out of here and away from them, she's dealt with enough."

It's almost like it's just white noise in my head now, my body is so overrun with it's fight or flight response that it's hard to concentrate. I'm so fucking angry but there's  a million other feelings happening in my body as well at the same time my mind is screaming with memories and thoughts I can't shut up.

It feels like I'm trapped in that bed again that night, it's like reliving it all over again.

Jamie doesn't even hesitate, but he glares at Frank and his friends with his jaw clenched when he steps towards me and places his hands on my shoulders; you can see on his face he's using all of his willpower to not jump over the counter and beat the shit out of all of them.

"And as for you three," Charlie adds, pointing the baseball bat at a stunned but uneasy look Frank and his two friends, Bryce especially looking scared shitless at all the people that want to kick the crap out of him right now. "I don't take fuckin kindly to people comin' in here that have hurt one of my staff and one of my friends."

I'm his friend?

Jamie starts to pull me away and towards the kitchen, giving me no choice but to move and I'm just staring at the whole situation, getting nothing but spiteful looks from Frank.

"How dare you do this to me," is all he's saying with his eyes.

I put my fist up in the air, holding my middle finger up as Jamie pulls me through the doorway to the kitchen, trying to coax me with reassuring words and pet names and pushing his own anger down.

I hear Charlie’s voice bellow again, sounding like thunder crack in the air. "If you three can't get out of that front door by the time I get around this counter, I'm not responsible for what i do when I catch you - so I'd start fucking moving. And if I ever catch you even walking past here again, I'll do more than put you in hospital. Now move!"

I don't hear what happens next, because Jamie is damn near dragging me through the heavy fire exit door and letting it slam shut behind us into the tiny alley that is meant for employee parking at the back of my work where my car is.

As soon as we're outside I'm pulling away from Jamie, and threading my fingers into the front of hair; pulling hair at my roots as my chest gets tighter and my pulse gets faster while everything that's happened sinks in more and crashes into me in waves.

It's so loud. Everything in my head is so fucking loud.

I know I'm panicking and I can't stop, I hate that I can't control my own fucking body and I hate that they get to hurt me again. They get this reaction from me.

Jamie watches me pace, unsure of what to do and tries to talk to me in a soothing voice even though there's some edge to it. "Baby, just try and listen to my voice alright? You're okay - we can leave, I'll take ye wherever ye want to go."

I don't say anything, I keep feeling my throat get that hard pressure from the lump in it and being in my own skin feels excruciating. I hate this.

Because it's not just today, it's not just what Bryce did and the person I was with for three years that fucking destroyed me emotionally and mentally - it's everything. It's all of the years of everyone doing the exact same thing and my body and mind making me relive it.

I hate that I can't forget. I hate that I care. I hate that they hurt me. I hate me.

"Claire... heartbreaker... come here please," Jamie tries to reason, holding his hand out as he tries to step towards me and I stop dead to face him, flinching back.

And then it bursts out of me as I heave in quick sharp breaths.

"Why is it always my fault! Why is what they do to me always my fault! What's wrong with me! What do I do, to make them do it to me!" I shout, pain so raw in my voice it burns my throat.

Jamie freezes like I've slapped him, and I don't blame him, I must sound like a lunatic. I hate that he's seeing me like this and I hate that I can't control it and shove it back down.

Jamie swallows, sounding like the wind has been knocked out of him as his eyes fill with grief.

I know that look he's giving me, I've seen it before. It's when it finally dawns on someone that you are genuinely fucked up.

His mouth opens as he struggles with what to say and eventually gets out, "It's... - baby, that's not yer fault," he pauses, because he's trying to decipher exactly what to say. "The way that Fred fuckwit treated ye and what his fucking sack of shit friend did to you..." Jamie swallows like he had to stop himself from gagging the thought. "That was not yer fault - what happened wasn't your fault."

I feel like I'm being strangled by the agony in my chest as my eyes start to water which only adds to how overwhelmed I feel, I don't want him to see me cry.

"Which time?" I shout again, throwing my hands out at my side and I can feel my whole body shaking as I relive hell over in my head like a loop that'll never end, "Which time wasn't my fault, huh? Was it just what Bryce did? What about all the other times?"

I watch Jamie's lips part, realization washing over him that washes the color from his cheeks again; realizing that the notion of what Bryce did wasn't even the worst of it. But I can't stop everything pouring out of me, it's like today has torn flood gates open and I know Jamie isn't the one I should be yelling at but I'm not yelling in anger, it's pain.

"What about when I lost my virginity? When my best friend in high school left me at some guy's house to go see her boyfriend and I had no clue where I was or how to get home? She promised me he was nice, that he was her friend and harmless but then she rang him and told him I was a virgin and he should 'fix that' for me. Is that my fault because I didn't know how to say no? Because I thought she was my friend and I trusted her? Because I was terrified?" My voice starts to crack as I talk, and I throw my hands out as I struggle to get breaths in.

"Or what about when I was 19 and went to a bar with friends and went outside for a smoke and two guys came up to me and started making gross comments because I was wearing fishnet stockings with rips in them? Was it my fault when one of them grabbed me and shoved his hand up my skirt and groped me, and then when I shoved him they grabbed my hand bag off my arm and ran off with it? Was it my fault because I went outside on my own? Because the cop that came to take my statement made sure to tell me to be more thoughtful about what I wear if I don't want that sort of thing to happen to me!"

Jamie is speechless, he's staring at me like everything I'm yelling is cutting straight through him and I wish more than anything I could just curl up and disappear; I just wish I didn't exist so nothing felt like this anymore.

"How about when I was 20, and I was letting a friend live with me because he got kicked out of his house, I just wanted to help him and I woke up one night to him on top of me? Was that my fault because I tried to help someone else I trusted and all they wanted to do was use me? Take what they wanted from me? Because apparently my own goddamn body doesn't belong to me?" My vision is blurry as I choke on my own breathing and the twisting in my stomach is so gut wrenching I could hunch over. "So which time Jamie? Becuase that's only a fucking few of them."

Years of constantly keeping things buried crashes out of me, and I'm so embarrassed but I can't stop myself.

I'm sure most people can hear and they're all going to think I'm fucking crazy, along with Jamie.

But I am crazy. I'm fucked in the head.

"When things keep fucking happening to you at some point you realize you have to be the fucking problem," I feel the tears break from my eyes and they're hot against my cheeks, experiencing each memory vividly along with every other unspoken one and I'm disgusted with how pathetic I sound.

I finally break when a sob cracks in my throat, and I point my at my own chest, smacking my finger hard against it to punctuate my words yelling. "Tell me what's wrong with me that makes people hurt me over and over and over again. If it's not my fucking fault then why do people do that to me!"

I screw my eyes shut and cover my face with my hands, eaten alive with the shame and the agony and sob against my palms; completely defeated, I give up. "Why the fuck did they hurt me, what did I do?"

What is it about me that's so wrong that makes people do that to me? They all tell me it's my fault. I've always had to go through it on my own.

I get more frustrated that I can't stop my crying, mixed with the terror going through my nervous system and I just wish I could hide. Just curl up alone and suffer in peace away from everything.

I hear several quick steps before I feel Jamie's arms wrap around my shoulders and he pulls me against his chest, hugging me against him so tight it's almost impossible to breathe; and he buries his nose against my hair, pressing one hand to the back of my head while his other arm stays wrapped tight around my shoulders.

He doesn't say anything and just hushes me, offering gentle whispers I can barely make out and all I can do is ride out everything ripping out of me and despising myself for it.

There's a certain type of cry, that comes from a person when they're in the deepest kind of emotional and psycological torture. It's not just sobbing, it's an anguish ridden wail that claws its way from your throat and you can't stop it, it's like your soul's way of screaming.

It's almost a primal sound, one that any other human can recognize and it physically hurts to hear. It's like listening to an animal wail helpless in pain, and it's almost like everyone recognizes that sound as inconsolable suffering.

"Focus on yer breathing - please. I'm right here, I've got ye a ghraidh - please try and focus on my voice," Jamie begs in a soft voice, that wavers from whatever he's feeling, and I gasp into my hands still pressed against my face as he holds me to his chest.

He's trying to hide how distraught he is but you can hear it clear as day and I feel so fucking guilty, he didn't deserve this. He doesn't need me being a fucking mental case when he's not the one that did any of this to me. It's not his problem.

It takes a good ten minutes before I'm even able to breathe properly but Jamie won't budge, and when I slowly move my hands from my face to wrap them around his waist and cling to him he only hugs me tighter.

I wish comfort didn't feel so uncomfortable for me, because I know this is meant to make people feel better and while in a lot of ways his presence is making a world of difference; the voice in my head that thinks comfort and physical touch is a threat, it's not safe, is making this feel so conflicting.

Not to mention the shame. The shame is crushing.

Jamie strokes his fingers against the back of my hair, resting his cheek against the top of my head, and keeps up with his reassurances. "I've got ye, I’m not leaving," but then there's a long pause and his voice gets quieter and I can hear the anguish in it.

"I'm so sorry Claire, that people have ever hurt you. I'm so fucking sorry anyone ever did those things to you."

I can't say anything back, I'm just sucking in shaky sharp breaths so I can stop my lungs feeling like they're collapsing but I don't even have the energy to argue with him about any of that at the moment.

I know John and the rest of them probably heard me screaming from inside the restaurant, but honestly, it's not the first time John has heard but I'm almost positive my boss thinks I'm a headcase and I've lost my job.

I deserve it.

The one thing I don't deserve right now is Jamie.

Jamie lets out a long sad sigh as my crying finally starts to get less frantic, and to be honest I think my mind and body has just exhausted itself but he presses a gentle kiss to my temple and moves his lips to my ear, making a whispered promise that sounds like he'd swear his could on it.

"There is nothing wrong with you, Claire, and the horrible fucking things people have put ye through and done to you, were not yer fault. And I dinna care what I have to do, I'm going to make sure one day you believe that..."

As much as I appreciated the sentiment from Jamie, I know after this he won't be around much longer.

Because that's what happens, and it's the reason I'm better off on my own.

It's why Jamie was better off knowing nothing about me than knowing all of this, because I know that after today...

He knows just how damaged I really am, and why would anyone keep something that's defective?

***

So, that was a lot. 

I was super nervous about this chapter and it was difficult to write and not feel like I screwed it up, but I guess we know more about what happened to Claire.

We’ve got their date coming up next and we can see how learning all this affects Jamie.

Thank you for being patient, I know you had to wait over a week for this update. You da best, and I appreciate you all to the moon and back x

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