Song link inspiration HERE
Irish Peach Sour- the night of I’ve Just Seen a Face
What seems like a lifetime ago.
Joe is at the piano, crossing his arms again and glaring at Jamie. Everyone is waiting on him but he takes his sweet time getting to the stage and whispers something into Joe’s ear.
“Nuh uh,” I can hear Joe hiss at him.
“Not gonna do it.” Joe bites under his breath.
“Ok we’re doing it.”
The microphone is picking up them bickering like an old married couple and the crowd is embarrassingly engrossed in this private conversation.
Jamie’s cheeks flash bright red as he turns to pick up his black glossy guitar and throws it over his back in one solid movement. Walking to the mic, he swallows before taking a guitar pick out of his back pocket and pushing his auburn waves out of his eyes.
Jamie doesn’t even look at anyone else.
His blue eyes cut through the crowd and land on me at the bar. I start to turn around in slow-motion to hide but I’m not fast enough.
“This one’s for Claire,” Jamie shouts, his voice a tad lower than it usually is.
All eyes turn to me as surely as if I was hit with a spotlight.
Present Day- Claire’s POV
Same pub. Same stage.
A lifetime later…
(I told ya about the breadcrumbs… are you ready to see them tie-in?)
A sob rose in my throat before I could reach the heavy metal of the door.
Although steel and stone separated us, I could feel his pain ripping through my own heart and my soul answered by shattering in kind.
Hearts are fragile and ours are stained glass, broken by time and set in different patterns and ways that catch the light and make others see them and think they’re beautiful.
But they’re really just glittering brokenness.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of brokenness being beautiful.
I’m sick of being broken and watching those around me picking their glass hearts out of their wounds lest this time it should cut a major artery.
Cut the line.
The myth that brokenness is only beautiful if it shines for others is bullshit.
Sometimes brokenness is just that: brokenness with no rhyme or rhythm or meaning beyond the search for an explanation we’ll never receive.
My shoulders bend with the responsibility of seeing him whole and the fear his sudden departure left in my heart.
I shot a look over my shoulder to Joe as we paused for a moment and I went off to chase after him, a look that said stay .
Whatever was wrong, I would fix it.
Not Joe, not anyone else.
And if I couldn’t…
Well, I didn’t even want to think about that prospect.
It’s an impossibility that I couldn’t.
I find Jamie back to the brick wall, slumped down in a crouch against the mucky cobblestones of the alleyway.
He stands up quickly and the smell honestly makes me fucking gag.
“This again?” The words leave my mouth in a tone that is absolutely in judgement and I cringe as the acid in my voice falls on my own ears as well.
He inhales deeply and the light of the red tip of his cigarette lights up his eyes, black and hollow with a fear that I already know too well.
He doesn’t answer.
His right cheek is wet and his hair is disheveled to the side of his brow in a tangled mess of curl and … sweat.
The shortest verse in the King James version of the Bible.
It holds so much.
The verse holds the entire idea that God Himself can be full of human passion and anguish and yet succumbs to the most natural reaction... of weeping.
And I wonder.
Did His tears taste any different?
Or were they mixed with the salt and bile and pain of our own?
I don’t know why the verse echoes around my brain right now but it does, along with the sight of Jamie that makes my stomach clench and my fists tighten as I notice how his hands shake and his shoulders shrug uncomfortably as if he’s trying to wriggle out of the grasp of something with a tight hold on his body, though no one is touching him.
Wordlessly, I go to him. I choke on the air and the smoke and the dank alley fumes and wrap my arms around his shoulders, pressing my forehead to his own as he draws his hand away and breathes out harshly into the silence.
“Hey,” I say softly.
Jamie’s brow furrows against my own and he pulls back.
“Hey.” I say again, harder this time.
“Ye cannae help me, Claire. Dinnae even try. I need a minute,” His voice is low and warning. “Just give me a minute, aye?”
I clench my jaw and step back, anger burning in my eyes as tears.
“And what would you have me do?”
My voice is soft and it trembles in the quiet.
“Go back inside tae Joe, Claire. He’ll take care of ye.”
“I don’t want to be taken care of.” I say sharply.
“Ye’ll do as I say.” Jamie growls.
I’m taken aback and blinking in surprise as he sets his own square jaw and locks it around his cigarette again, mouth taking another drag in a firm straight line across his shadowed face.
“No, I fucking won’t.” My voice rises now, sharply. “I’m not leaving you Jamie, not here, not anywhere and if you fucking think you can choke years off your life with a goddamn cancer stick-”
“How bout ye not judge me? I dinnae judge ye, Claire. Never have.”
I snort in mock laughter and I don’t know what comes over me, but I have a fire in my soul and reach for the only thing I can think of.
Never smoked one in my life.
Time to pop that cherry.
Jamie’s hand is limp in surprise as I take it out of his fingers and hold it like I’ve seen them do in the movies and bring it to my lips.
“Claire! What are ye-” He sputters but looks defeated as I take his vice as my own.
“I’ll do what I damn please, Jamie Fraser. Not so nice to see someone doing something to hurt themselves, hmm? You know how I feel about these things. They’ll kill you.”
“What doesna kill you, ye ken what they say about that…'' Jamie shrugs but opens his mouth again as I inhale deeply with a puff off the cigarette, inhaling entirely too much smoke as I cough it out.
Jesus H. Christ. How does anyone do this??
“Claire.” He lunges forward to grab it from me but I walk off and turn, setting my back firmly against the building opposite of the pub and looking at him, my eyes like daggers.
“I’ll smoke them all.” I say resolutely.
Jamie blinks, a confused look on his face.
The pain is gone, replaced by pure confusion and bewilderment.
“Every Goddamn one. I promise you that, James Fraser. I’ll smoke like a fucking chimney if I have to but I’ll take it all for you. Every single one. You’re not leaving without me, you hear?”
His mouth falls slack a bit and he scowls at me, kicking at the cobblestone and cursing low under his breath.
“I said, do you hear me?!” I snap at him, my anger at him searing into my veins and causing me to bite out like a wounded dog.
“Aye,” Jamie frowns darkly, licking his lips and clearing his throat, spits the contents of his mouth onto the alley stones somewhere by his feet.
Smoking is disgusting.
I take another drag.
Please stop me.
Jamie growls but then jumps in and waves his hands trying to get close to my face as the cancer-stick lays perched in my mouth.
“Fine. Fine. I’ll stop… just… just put it out, aye?”
He nods his head, curls falling over and takes the lit end out of my mouth gingerly as I hock and spit a mouthful of disgust out onto the ground.
Wasn’t sure how much longer I could do that for but I’d do it for hours if it meant we both died together.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore, not even in death do you hear me?”
Jamie swallows hard and nods once, his gaze still at his shoe. He’s favoring a finger on his hand and I know he’s hurt it.
I don’t judge. I can’t.
My wrists are usually covered by a bracelet or watch that hides the tiny silver lines from pain that never went away.
I cough and splutter again.
In my attempt to save this man, this is the weirdest thing I’d done yet but Jamie’s demeanor isn’t as dark and I hope my weird reaction has taken his mind off some of his current pain.
“Wanna talk about it?” I ask softly.
Jamie shakes his head and I admit, it hurts a little, but I know when to push an upset Scot and now is not the time.
“I trust you, you know.”
We both reek of smoke but I let him pull me into a hug and smell my hair, which now probably smells like an 80’s bowling alley or the partition of a restaurant between smoking and nonsmoking, back from when that used to be a thing.
“And I, ye.”
He holds me close and tight to him in silence.
I close my eyes and try to fight against the tears that well in my eyes as I try desperately to absorb his pain.
Maybe if I squeeze him hard enough, I’ll be an emotional sponge and soak up some of it.
I’d hold the world on my shoulders for him, like Atlas.
It would never be too heavy.
No weight would ever be too much.
Put it on me , I longed to scream at him. Put it on me and don’t feel it anymore.
He squeezes my hand three times as we touch foreheads for a moment before going back inside.
I don’t know what fresh hell the boys had planned but I do know that tonight is a night of firsts.
Claire Beauchamp can smoke like a chimney.
I’ll be feeling this tomorrow.
Amongst other things...
The energy within The Trinity was subdued and held back for a while.
At least, I didn’t notice if anyone else was having a good time since the one person I cared about was not.
Jamie was reserved for a bit and sat back down at the table looking at his hands. Nothing seemed to help, I knew it wouldn’t.
Surface things don’t work for holes that are that deep.
Like slapping a band-aid on the Titanic, we’re still going down.
No matter how cute the band-aid is, it’s not gonna fix a hemorrhaging leak.
Joe sets down an Irish Peach Sour in front of Jamie as we come back from the bar.
I lick my lips nervously dancing from one foot to the other as I look around the pub and notice the place filling up with regulars and new faces.
I rub Jamie’s shoulder with my left hand, his gray tee bunching up over his solid muscles as I do so. My fingers twitch at the base of his neck as Joe and I both look beside ourselves at what use we could possibly be.
Kim and Kevin give us space and hang back a ways as a group of young college students gather around the karaoke machine trying to pick out what songs they actually know from the 80’s which was way before they were ever born.
“Oooh throwback!” I hear one of them yell out and I cringe even more when I hear “Baby One More Time” by Brittiany Spears playing.
Jamie’s nimble fingers shake a tad as he picks at the peach ring candy hanging off the rim of his glass.
“M’sorry.” Jamie turns his head and kisses my fingers, reaching out to pull me on his lap as I lean against him sitting on the edge of the horseshoe booth in the corner.
“Sorry? Are you fucking kidding me?”
Jamie shrugs uncomfortably and jerks his head so I would put my ear to his lips.
His voice is rougher than it was pre-cigarette. Mine too. But something in his tone is sweet and smooth and the low tone rumbles in my gut in pleasure nonetheless.
“Aye. Just wanted tae take my girlfriend out. I ken it’s gonnae be a hard week fer ya, sae I wanted… we wanted,” He nodded once to Joe. “Tae cheer ye up. Kent mebbe karaoke would brighten yer week a bit. M’sorry I’m just no’ in a state to perform. M’sorry ye have tae put up wi’ me like this…”
“Put up with you???” I exclaim loudly and pull back to look into his face only to see his shattered heart bleeding out and into my own.
The next words out of his mouth were tentative.
“Mebbe… mebbe we should just go home, aye?”
“Um absolutely fucking not, James Fraser.” I say resolutely, sitting up straight and speaking loud enough for Joe to hear me over the awful wailings of Brittiany Spears karaoke that honestly sounded like two alley cats mating.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking here for watching those kids make idiots of themselves, eh?”
I wrap my arms around his neck and hug him tightly until he taps on my back to let go as his face is quite smothered in my boobs.
What a way to die.
There’s some things about being bi that I just get when it comes to men.
One of them is that death by boobs, is always…. always a good option. When in doubt boob hugs are the simplest and easiest things I can offer a man and he’ll never feel worse for it.
But the bastard wants to live another day.
“‘Scuse me, I’ll be back, Baby.”
Jamie slides past me and I sink into the booth across from Joe who looks at me and shrugs with a frown on his round face, crinkling up the center of his forehead like a raisin.
I sigh and slink down further into the booth, ripping the paper off my straw of water, I take a shot at Joe as he yells out, “Kill shot!” and ducks down into the booth.
We laugh but our smiles die on our lips as we sit there in somber realization that the night very well may be ruined for him.
“How do we get him out of this?” I tap Joe’s leg thoughtfully with my foot as I rest it on his knee under the table.
“Well,” Joe leans forward. “Personally, I know to either leave him alone or… we can shock it out of him….”
“Well, you’re his medicine, Claire. Always have been.”
My throat constricts as his words hit my soul like a splash of ice water down my shirt in Jamie’s kitchen.
“Fine,” I glare at him and take a sip of Jamie’s peachy pink froufrou drink. “But this won’t be enough if it’s what you’re thinking. I’ll need something stronger.”
The word taunted me as I worked up the courage to do as needs must.
Liquid courage worked for Jamie the first time he performed for me.
While Jamie is in the bathroom, I down not one, but two shots of Laphroaig whisky.
I have the alcoholic taste of a 60 year old man with chest hair and a thick gold chain and house slippers, sitting in my brown leather recliner ready to watch a rerun of Bonanza to drown out the noise of my wife as she bitches to her friend, Myrtle, for the third time today about how the grandkids never call because they’re so used to the TikTaks right now and don’t have time for important things like family.
Who raised these kids?
Fer fucks sake.
“Edge, sorry. Coming baaaaack,” I draw out my vowels like I’m pulling a damn rainbow clown scarf out of my mouth and turning a trick.
Literally this is a trick and I’m about to get TURNT.
I think that’s what the youths call it.
I don’t know.
I don’t watch the TikTaks, remember?
Kim is ushering me over to the stage with her.
Ok. Kim can sing.
What the fuck I agreed to, I have no fucking clue but I am fucking nervous.
Also, did I mention… I swear for most every emotion but especially now as a nervous knot of panic poops rises in my gut.
Kim cues up the machine and I see Jamie’s tall, boulder shoulders come out of the dark from the washroom back to the table.
He looks around for me and is very confused and a little bewildered when he finds me, not at the table, but on stage looking like I’m about to puke.
He opens his mouth and his eyes go wide as I swallow hard against the warm fuzzy buzz I have coursing through my veins and the smoke flavor of Laphroaig and cigarettes on my tongue.
I can’t even taste my strawberry lip gloss anymore.
My simple black dress has a zipper on the front that is hardly noticeable but is VERY MUCH noticeable as I shake my curls out and hold my head high and …
Unzip the top by my collarbone until it is well and open and halfway between my breasts so the bright pink corset I am wearing underneath is showing, vividly bright under the lights on the stage.
Even under the lights, I look out and can see Jamie’s face flush almost violet, mouth still ajar.
To my horror, the room is full of cat calls.
Some from men…
Some from women…
There’s even a, “YASSSS QUEEENNNN!”
Then, the silence that follows is so thick you can hear a mouse fart.
As planned, Joe yells out, “No way!”
His tone, sarcastic and taunting.
“Claire fucking Beauchamp never, ever, ever does karaoke and you and I both know it, girl. Get the hell off and give someone with actual talent a try.”
He’s being an asshole on purpose but it’s working. The crowd is rallying up and ready to smack someone for the energy we suddenly bring into the usually happy space that smells of sweat, warm wood and beer on tap.
Most of the crowd knows Joe but they don’t know me, there are some “boos” and “no he did not” murmurs throughout.
Claire Beauchamp is no coward.
Tonight the whole world will know who I’ve become.
I steel myself with the heels of my boots and, locking eyes with Jamie tug my bodice until the little pink rosebud nestled between my cream breasts is fully on display.
“Fuck yeah!” Kevin shouts, still holding the ukulele.
Joe backhands him before Jamie can tackle him to the ground.
“Oh really, Joseph Abernathy?” I cock an eyebrow at him, my voice squeaks a little and I do, I really do feel like I’m about to throw up.
“Really.” He challenges, a smirk on his face and a hand on Jamie’s shoulders forcing him back down after his brief rush to get up and at Kevin.
“Do you dare me?”
With more confidence than I feel, I twirl the mic Kim hands me in my fingers.
My palms are sweaty as they grab the plastic coated handle.
“Triple fucking dog dare you.”
With those words, Joe settles it.
This is happening.
Love makes us do crazy things.
Things we thought were impossible.
I remember butt-clenching my way through his first performance for me on this very stage as I prepare to take this fucker full circle in order to banish the dark mass of loss exuding from his broken soul.
I understand now.
I get why he did it.
Cause I’d do anything.
Anything to make it better right now.
All this rushes through my mind as I hear the first few notes of my chosen song and I ignore everything but the blue opal eyes in front of me staring at my face, and breasts, in shock and subtle awe as I still my shaking breath as my body vibrates with nervous energy as the alcohol courses my veins like wildfire.
Jesus H. Roosevelt and the guardian angels of Laphroaig.
Please make me buzzed.
I open my mouth and for the first time in ten years, I begin to sing.
I am not a good singer, not in the least but I don’t sound half bad as Kim joins me in harmony.
“Oh you gonna take me home tonight
Oh down beside that red fire light
Oh you gonna let it all hang out
Fat-bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round”
Although we hit the first verse mostly acapella, Jamie’s mouth falls down and open as the rumbling bass rattles the floor and shakes the nerves from my soul like cobwebs falling to the ground.
He likes his music loud.
I made sure it was.
I swallow hard and loosen my shoulders a bit, smirking to myself as the crowd begins to clap along to the beat.
More patrons from the bar edge closer to the stage, more to hear Kim’s dulcet tones than my own notes.
I hold the next verse out loud and clear as I belt it as confidently as I’m able.
Is this how it feels for him?
Joe winks at me and nods in enthusiasm as I breathe in shakily and start the next verse, pretending like I’ve never obsessively listened to every cover Keeping On ever did and I’m channeling Jamie the only way I know how to.
Through the language of music.
The language that hits him where he needs it, like a fix. A drug. An emotional high that only can be achieved by this mad, crazy endeavor.
But all love is madness and my love for Jamie is no different.
“I was just a skinny lad
Never knew no good from bad
But I knew love before I left my nursery
Left alone with big fat Fanny
She was such a naughty nanny
Hey big woman, you made a bad boy out of me”
I take a big breath and smile as Kim grabs my hand and we dance against each other, God she’s amazing.
“I've been singing with my band
Across the water, across the land
I've seen every blue eyed floozy on the way
But their beauty and their style
Went kind of smooth after a while
Take me to them naughty ladies every time”
Come find me, Jamie.
My heart echoes the words and hope his responds in kind.
Come find me.
Come find us.
I become increasingly bold as I shake my hips to the music and smile right at him.
His opal eyes are shells of what they were but I’m determined to make it right.
Look at me, darling.
Look at me.
I have broken edges, too.
But I shine for you.
I twirl, and almost lose my footing for you.
But I don’t feel it.
I don’t care.
I let the music take me away to that place where life doesn’t hurt me anymore and I hope. I pray I can take him there, too.
I sing and hit notes I never thought I could with more confidence than I ever thought possible for you, Baby.
Just fucking stay with me, Jamie.
Look at me.
I’m a mirrorball.
I’m a disco fixture.
I’m a shining example of all I can be when I’m taking the lights off you for a second so you can be alright.
Look at me.
Watch me as I shine for you.
Don’t look at the darkness.
It can’t follow you here.
It’s you and me, Baby.
Let me take this from you.
Before the next chorus, Kim pushes me down the stage and amid the way The Trinity has come alive, there is Jamie looking at me with such a look of love and adoration and devotion all over his face it makes me want to burst into tears.
But I’m not done.
“Ah, won't you take me home tonight?
Ah, down beside your red fire light
Ah, and you give it all you got”
Courageously, I walk up to Jamie’s chair. Throwing him a devil-may-care grin, I straddle his lap shamelessly and rock my hips solidly into his torso, grabbing both hands and slipping them up under my skirt and over my round ass he loves so much.
I lean forward and bite his earlobe tantalizingly tender at first and then I nip him with my teeth sharply before pulling back and tossing my dark curls over my shoulders and, taking his stunned hands, guide them up around my waist as I arch my back and slide my exposed corset top against his shirt, so thin and lightweight I can feel the rock hard response of his nipples to my rough touch as they harden and I rock my body into his shamelessly for all the world to see.
I let the microphone trail against my bottom lip and blink my eyes slowly at him and, to my surprise, my mouth actually waters for the taste of him as I can remember it.
“Fat bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round
Fat bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round”
I know if I move, if I move one inch, he’ll be exposed. His eyes are full blown dark as night in arousal and the way the air leaves his lungs as I trace my fingers down his bare neck and toss my head back to show him I’m really enjoying this.
Among the whoops and hollers of the crowd, there is a still, small voice.
It’s not Jesus.
And it’s not my inner whore begging to be unleashed.
In all its crazy forms.
And pure adrenaline and sexuality unleashed and wild and as untamed as he’ll ever be.
I lean close to his ear and whisper, feeling the goosebumps rush from my hands to his neck and back again.
“I’ll be anything for you, Baby. Anything you want me to be. Need me to be. I will be your lover. Your best friend. Your distraction. Stay with me, Jamie. Stay with me and I’ll make this heaven on earth for you. For as long as I draw breath. I promise. Promise you’ll stay?”
Jamie doesn’t respond verbally but the screams that go up around us are drowned out by the fire in my soul as he takes me in his arms and holds me to him roughly, kissing me long, hard and deep in a way I’ve never known in my whole life.
His soul reaches out to mine and we mingle in the unending joy of knowing, really knowing someone.
On the counter back at the table, my phone vibrates with a text as Kim sings with a smile to her voice the remaining verse as I go back to Jamie again and again, losing myself in the mixed enthrallment and ecstasy of an unending kiss.
But as all things do, it will end eventually.
Let’s keep us here a little longer.
This is the last good night.
Eventually I’ll look at my cracked phone screen protector and see the text from Polly.
Polly: It’s wedding week BIATCHEZZZZ!!! Who’s ready???? Kisses xxxxxx The BRIDE
Funny how little it takes to change everything.
And after this night, everything changes.
But for right now, his hands are in my hair, I’m tangled up in my broken angel on a bar seat with my legs wrapped around his waist and his tongue sliding lasciviously against my own taking me higher… ever higher to the only bit of happiness we’ve ever known.
It really was The Last Good Night™.