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Warmth

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It was late. Frank hadn’t come home yet. He always came home late. And I just sat on the couch, waiting and looking at the door, like he would miraculously appear.

I knew he wasn’t just working, or going on meetings, or whatever reason he gave me. But I didn’t care, I couldn’t get away from him, I couldn’t leave him.
He found me when I needed someone in my life, he helped me so much, I couldn’t possibly leave him.

I don’t know what changed in the past four years, the warmth that I felt when I was with him faded away, leading to a cold, chilling feeling. But needlessly my mind was drawn to him, making me think that if I left I would be a fucking traitor that just took advantage of him.

I want to feel loved again, I want to be held and to be enough. But I’m never enough, not for him. I wonder why he hasn’t left me if every time he sees me he can’t even look at me in the eyes for more than a few seconds anymore.

“Darling you should lose a few pounds, I don’t want to be seen with a woman whose tights are bigger than mine. And for the love of god, stop cooking that fucking meat loaf. It’s disgusting. Just make something you know.”

He told me several times that he wanted someone normal, but then he made me feel guilty when he suggested to leave me.

“How could I possibly leave you, if you can’t even mend a sock. You would just come back to me, begging, and that would be a waste of time.”

Then I heard the door unlock, but the footsteps where frantic, and different from Frank’s usual ones; I was suddenly scared but fear turned into shock when the door opened.

“Darling please just stay on the fucking couch tonight uh?”

I couldn’t move, or say anything for that matter. The vision before me was squalid to say the least: a drunken Frank with two random girls, or probably hookers, attached to his arms. In our house. Going to our bedroom.

Tears were filling up my eyes when they just walked up the stairs, leaving me there, stranded.

 

After starting into an abyss for what seemed like days i got up and my mind started realizing the sounds that my ears were hearing. He was fucking them, in our bed. I was downstairs.
I knew he wasn’t faithful to me, but having the proof served to me on a fucking silver plate was like a punch in the gut, a knife so sharp that just seeing it hurt.

Something that felt like despair and anger and betrayal started to come up to me, and I left.
I left the house that had suddenly become empty, the guilt I felt gone. All those years of me being absolutely nothing were being slapped into my face.

He didn’t care about me, at all. I was a prop to show to his friends, a maid that took care of his house and made him dinner.

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I ran for what seemed like an eternity, my lungs burned and my legs where aching. I ran until I couldn’t anymore, and I stopped but I didn’t know where I was. It was dark, late, the middle of the night.

Seeing the café where I went every Tuesday morning, one of the rare moments I had for myself, made me realize how close I was to my best friend Geillis’ house, and I knew I could go there to feel safe.

 

“Claire?! What in the devil are ye doing here?!” I felt so bad waking her up so late, but I needed someone, I needed to feel something other than despair.

“Frank I... Please can I stay?” I knew she would understand, she always had a bad feeling about him. She looked at me like I was completely lost, and I was. I didn’t even realize I was crying, damn him.

Then a flicker of warmth. Geillis was hugging me, and it felt strange but I was beginning to feel something. Anything other than anguish.

It was after a while that I noticed a tall figure inside her house. I was beginning to panic but she must’ve quickly realized what I was feeling because she broke the hug, just to say that he was her parent’s friend, James.

 

I don’t remember anything clearly after that; I was crying again and it all felt blurry. I just remember waking up in her bed, with Geilie sleeping in her cosy bedroom chair. She must’ve stayed there to look after me, and it felt so strange thinking that someone could be looking after me. Guilt came over me. She had a guest, and I came in unannounced in the middle of the night, distraught, crying, waking them both up and then I even stayed. I wanted to leave but I couldn’t just go, without saying anything. So, I went downstairs to make something for her breakfast, she had to get to work in a few hours.

My thoughts circled back to Frank, to every time he said that my bacon and eggs tasted horribly, my coffee was stale. In just a second my vision was unclear, and I was on the verge of crying again.

I tried to put myself together, but I couldn’t; I was on the floor, leaning against the kitchen, crying and sobbing like a child. My mind was going in all of the wrong directions, I didn’t want to think about the last four years but it was like a vicious circle. How could I let things get to this, how did this happen? How could I not realize what he made me become?

 

I was jerked out of my trance by a hand on my shoulder, a firm grip that brought me back to life. Then I looked up and I met two eyes that were completely different from the beautiful green that I was expecting; a blue, a blue so intense my mind couldn’t even process it, and they were staring at me full of concern, worry and even something else, but I wasn’t able to decipher what.

I don’t know if I was still crying but all of a sudden he had his arms around me, making me feel vulnerable but cared. And even if I had never met him before I was not frightened, I was letting myself relax into his embrace.

I don’t know for how long we stayed there, my head was resting on his shoulder but it didn’t feel wrong, I felt secure. I was cold and shivering but his warmth gave me a sense of reassurance like everything was going to be fine. Like I was going to be fine. Then I realized that he was kneeling beside me, and I felt bad making him stay in such an uncomfortable position on a hard wooden floor.

I lifted my head and there was a moment, a brief exchange between my eyes and his, like he could feel all my anger and misery and understand it. I felt something that I haven’t felt in what seemed like a lifetime.

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I didn’t hear Geillis arrive, and I was both embarrassed and flushed to be still entangled with her friend, in her house. He swiftly jumped up and he held out his hand to help me get up, a simple gentle gesture which felt like gallantry to my eyes, something that I hadn’t experienced in years.

Geillis stood there looking concerned and a little amused, but her mind was always more playful than mine. I dared not ask why she had that look on her face, but I knew why in the back of my mind; still, these thoughts were not what I needed right now.

The scene of horror that I witnessed not even a day before was still lingering in my mind, and all of the realizations of what happened the past years were still coming to me.

But tucked away, far away, I knew there was something. Something a little blue, something warm.

I returned to reality noticing that I was standing there, doing nothing, with my cheeks lightly flushed. I started to take out what I needed to make breakfast, only to be abruptly stopped by Geillis “Just what on earth do ye think ye’r doing?” I wanted to make it up to her for being so kind and such a good friend to me, “I wanted to make you some breakfast, I’m so sorry I came here last night without saying anything...” she was looking at me like you look at a sad puppy, which I probably was considering I had been crying for god knows how long, and my eyes must’ve been red and puffy “Ye don’t need to worry my dear, I’ll take care of everything. Ye can relax and wait, I want to make my special pancakes for ye! Oh, and Jamie can ye keep her company while I cook?”

I almost forgot he was there for a second, and I finally took my time to look at him and it was the first time I’ve ever seen such a good-looking man.

I’ve never dated much, Frank had kept me practically hidden, and before him I was too busy looking after my father.

I miss him.

Before the accident, my mother and I took care of him in the early stages of his illness. We still had hope; but when she died it was like he lost his soul, he didn’t want to fight anymore.

I didn’t have parties and friends during my teens and early twenties, I was caring for him every day. His illness was becoming more part of my life than his. I tried my best, contacted the best doctors, but nothing could be done. Losing him was like losing a part of me, and despite all of the bad things that were happening he always asked how my day went, how I was.

Then nothing, no one was left. First my mother, then him. I got stuck in a hole, and couldn’t get out; that’s when I met Frank. He seemed nice, caring… until he “fixed” me, and he wasn’t anymore.

Maybe he just needed someone to feel better about himself, maybe helping me made him feel like an accomplished scientist, so he could then keep me and show me around like a successful experiment.

At the beginning he would take me out on dates, stay with me on the couch watching movies caressing my hair… how could that all go away in just a few months?

Maybe I stayed with him because I thought he wouldn’t leave, like I would never lose him or I didn’t want to lose him, because everyone else was gone. How could I do this to myself.

I had Geillis... she would never leave me. She had always been there. But I needed something more than friendship. Like that ended up well.

I was sitting beside the kitchen table, not remembering how I got there, I was lost in my thoughts. “How are ye?” I didn’t even realize he was talking to me but when I did my eyes instantly came up to meet his, and I couldn’t look away. “I’m fine” these were the only words I came up with, but I wasn’t and I knew he knew it was a lie; still, he didn’t say anything else and I was grateful, I didn’t want to talk.

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Geillis’ pancakes were delicious as always; even though she didn’t say anything she still looked at me in the corner of her eye, constantly checking on me. James, or as she called him Jamie, was still looking at me now and then, that made me feel somewhat awkward but I didn’t mind.

That certainly was the most beautiful mop of red hair I had ever seen. His traits were gentle but firm, he was charming to be sure; but there was something else, how he comforted me earlier, the look in his eyes, that made his way into my mind and heart. But I wasn’t ready to let someone else into my life like that.

Then it came to me: I had no home, no clothes or phone with me; Frank wouldn’t come and search for me, he probably didn’t even notice I was gone, and I couldn’t go back there. At least not alone.

“Claire... are ye with us?” Geillis looked fairly concerned but I couldn’t help my mind going places “Sorry Gelie, I’m just thinking… what do I do now? I can’t go back.” Both of them were looking at me like I was going to break in thousands of pieces in a moment. But no, that would not happen, Frank had taken away the last four years of my life and he would take nothing more.

My father always told me I was brave, and I needed to prove him right; I’ve been a shell of myself, submitting to the will of a man who used me to feel superior.

Why didn’t I get away sooner, why did I stay so long? Why did I ignore the truth for so many years, when it was right in front of me?

I didn’t want to see him ever again, but he still had all my things; “Geilie I need your help again… I’m so sorry. But I can’t go back there alone, please come with me” I felt like a bad person asking her for help yet again, but I needed support to get away from my old life.

And even though I knew I was brave, I didn’t know if I had enough will to not fall again into the loop Frank had taken me. She stared at her phone and then looked at me, but with sad eyes said “I have some verra important meetings this week at work, my heart breaks but I cannae go with ye… perhaps Jamie will help ye, no?” he was apparently staring at me and looked like he snapped out of a trance when he heard his name, I noticed he was tapping his thumb on his thigh like he was nervous about something. “Aye, of course.” I gave him a nod and my lips formed a little smile on their own, and nothing else was said.

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We didn’t talk much, just exchanged glances here and there. I was walking to the place I once called home with another man, who I didn’t even know, to get my things and just go.. somewhere? I didn’t have any plans for what was to come, I just knew I had to get away.

My head was spinning, everything was changing, and it all happened so suddenly; I wasn’t ready to see Frank again, and I didn’t want to.

We stopped in front of that fucking black door, the same one I stared at every night, alone on the couch. Everything seemed so different, yet familiar; it took all my courage to ring the doorbell.

Nothing happened for what was about five minutes, but I knew he was there. Then I heard noises, a clank and the door opened. I was expecting him, but instead I got one of the two women he brought home, he let her open the door dressed in his boxers and shirt, while every time I had to make myself presentable and formal even if it was just the mailman.

“Hiiiii, ye are?” I was so shocked I couldn’t speak; she didn’t even remember it was me on the couch the previous evening “I’m James, this is Claire. Ye ken… she lived here but now it seems someone else has taken her place.” I stared at him, I didn’t say anything but just stared, why did he seem to care so much about me? “Oh sorry I didn’t ken.. Welcome! If ye live here then ye obviously can come in!” she seemed to have ignored half of what Jamie said.

But still, I was in; inside those four walls that I now viewed like a cage where the Claire of the last four years was trapped in. I was numb, everything around me silent; I don’t even remember getting my things at first, maybe Jamie was helping me. I had to go upstairs, around the corner, end of the hallway.

There it was, that fucking room, I could hear him laugh with the other woman, not even caring that someone ringed the doorbell.

“Claire? Darling, why are you here? I told you to stay on the couc- who the fuck is that?” I heard him, I didn’t look back, I was already headed down for the door. I forgot Jamie was there for a second. “A friend.” He was in front of me, his large figure blocking most of the hallway, I couldn’t reach the stairs so I was just stuck there, between him and Frank. “How dare you bring someone in our house without asking me?”

 

I couldn’t hold myself anymore. Everything I had built up inside came out at once. I was screaming at him, everything that came to my mind, everything he ever did to me.

 

After that it all was a bit of a blur, but I know for a fact that I threw the three little vases that were on the shelf beside me at his face; I don’t know if they’d hit him, it was so liberating that I didn’t care. I remember vividly though, that his face was of pure horror. He couldn’t believe that his poor little devoted Claire could say such things to him.

Next thing I knew I was out of the door, Jamie holding me with his arm around my waist, I felt lightheaded, but a massive weight on my chest was lifted.

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We arrived back to Geillis’ house, because I had nowhere else to go and he was staying there.

He let me in, and brought in all of my stuff; I wanted to thank him for everything he was doing for me, not even knowing who I was. Instead, the adrenaline from before rushed away leaving me shivering and slowly leaning against the kitchen, again.

I was crying but this time it was a nervous cry, not a sad or a happy one. I was letting go of all of the emotions I felt moments before, it was my copying mechanism.

I felt Jamie’s hands grip both of my shoulders and I instinctively looked up to him, to meet the ocean in front of me. A smile came to my lips, faint and subtle but it made Jamie understand that I was not going off the deep end.

And I was in his embrace again, hearing him whisper something to me in what I thought was Gaelic, because sometimes Geilie tried to teach me but with little to no success.

Na caoin mo nighean donn.” *

His chin was resting on my head, and mine was leaning against his chest.

He was warm, his heartbeat was like a melody that could hypnotize me. Being this close to him made me feel something that I was not ready to experience, but regardless of everything my mind was telling me, my heart was welcoming it and beating again, feeling alive.

I never felt like this with Frank, he rarely hugged me even at the beginning. I was always the one that searched for any sort of physical touch, and he always gave so little to me. One day I stopped trying.

We stayed there for maybe an hour, but my back was starting to ache and I could feel him shift in discomfort. We got up and suddenly I felt embarrassed, I knew my cheeks were flushing but he was looking at me with such care and softness that I couldn’t help myself.

I never shared this kind of intimacy with anyone, let alone a stranger; it felt forbidden but right, his arms were becoming a place of comfort for me, he just needed to hold me to calm whatever was going on inside my head.

I started fidgeting with my hands, not knowing what to do or say next, but he started getting closer to me. My heart was racing, telling me to get near him even if my head was telling me to go sit on the couch and stay there. He hugged me again, and there was that feeling of warmth that I already knew so well.

I took his hand, not knowing what I was doing at this point, and I brought it to my lips. A gentle kiss on his knuckles to thank him. Words were not coming out of me. I felt his heart beat faster. I never wanted to let go.

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Neither of us wanted to let go; I needed to heal my soul but I felt like he needed it too. Healing. We lingered, but eventually he disentangled from me and went to put my stuff upstairs.

How could I feel this deep of a connection with someone I had barely spoken to?

My mind was telling me that this was bad, or at least wrong, because the scars that Frank had left me were still fresh.

What if I let myself get close to someone again and they left? Or worse, became like him?

Talking to Jamie was the right thing to do, before my mind started to make assumptions, before going down the rabbit hole. I didn’t know what I was going to ask him but I had decided to just come up with something when the time came.

He was upstairs putting my things in one of the guest rooms, and it was nice because he seemed to care so much for me; I decided to wait and see if he came down before talking to him.

“Jamie… do you have a moment?” he quickly turned around like I made him lose his train of thoughts “Aye? Are ye ok? Do ye need anything?” this really felt like a caress, simple questions that I had barely heard in years “I just wanted to talk to you…” for the first time his beautiful sculpted face gave me a smirk, which I’ll admit almost made me giggle.

“What is it sassenach?” I didn’t know what it meant, but I had heard it before and dismissed it as one of the usual Scottish sayings.

“Why did you hug me?” Words were coming out of my mouth but I wasn’t the one who let them, they let themselves out. He looked taken aback, but I must admit I was too, by myself.

We stared at each other for a while, his face undecipherable, and then he spoke “He hurt you, I ken how it feels to be hurt. I had no one when… I thought ye could use some help.” This conversation felt personal, even too personal, for two people who barely knew each other; but that didn’t stop us. “It felt… nice. Thank you. I’m sorry I- I let my emotions take over when I saw him, sorry you had to witness that.” He broke into a smile, one of the most beautiful I had ever seen and it almost gave me butterflies, “Sassenach, watching ye stand up for yerself only made me proud.” Those words lifted me up, it was strange… I knew I couldn’t feel this much affection for him, I only knew his name and nothing else.

Then I saw one of his brows lift up like something clicked in his mind. “Do ye want to come with me to get some coffee?”

I felt the heat coming up to my face, I blushed like my high school crush just asked me to go to prom; did he mean a date? Going to get coffee on a date? Maybe he just wanted to be nice; after all, I basically had been crying endlessly since he first met me. I knew in my mind that men where not an option, not until I healed from all the damage Frank caused me… but maybe feeling something normal was what I needed. And even if this ended badly, I was already broken.

“That would be lovely.” He smiled again, it was a warm smile, full of affection, and for a moment all my worries were put aside.

Chapter Text

I asked him for some time to take a shower and change, I was still wearing what I had on the previous night.

A beautiful long warm shower was something I really needed, like I could wash away the stench of that prison I once called home. It gave me more time to think but instead of dwelling on the past I decided to think about the future, my future. Away from Frank. I never wanted to see him again, or even think about him.

I closed my eyes in search for some peace but my mind travelled to something red, warm, and blue. And I found myself thinking about him. This tall, red headed Scot, with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. I let my mind go, his voice and smile being one of the things that gave me comfort right now.

I was nervous, my heart set on the idea that this was a date; but reason told me it was too soon, not even 24 hours had passed. And maybe he really just wanted to be nice.

But in reality, I had been alone for almost four years; Geillis was the only one in my life who loved me, but she was my friend. I had not been loved since my father died and I missed it, I missed having someone to talk to at the end of the day, about good and bad and anything else; I was taking a chance with Jamie and I didn’t even know his true intentions. Hope was all I had. Without it I was alone, left to collect the pieces of myself Frank had scattered all over.

I chose to not let my mind get away, and started looking for something to wear. It was a hard decision, not wanting to look too desperate or too prude, I needed Gelie’s advice but she was busy. The only thing left for me was to trust my instinct: a light cream dress, with little blue flowers on it that reminded me of Forget Me Nots. My hair was a mess, as usual they were untameable, so I let them fall on my shoulders hoping for the best.

Then the doorbell rang one, two, three, four times, and I heard it. I heard that voice that always said my name with a hint of disappointment. Frank was there.

“Where the fuck is she?!”

“Ye need to calm down, mate.”

I was already down the stairs, frightened, my legs barely keeping me up. Frank looked at me but continued talking like I wasn’t there.

“Don’t tell me to calm the fuck down, who do you think you are?! I can’t even have one decent night without her doing something wrong. That ungrateful bitch. She even tried to fucking hit me. Should’ve let her go when she didn’t stop crying about her dead father.”

A million daggers went through my heart, hearing him talk like that about my father left me aching, all over, and barely breathing.

 

Then Jamie hit him. Again, and again. Frank was on the floor on all fours, struggling to get up. I couldn’t move, I just stood there watching.

“I’d choose my next words carefully, if I were ye.”

Frank didn’t say anything for a while, using his hand to check if anything was broken on his damn stupid face.

“This isn’t worth my time; I’ve already spent too many years with that-”

“That?” Jamie lowered himself so he could talk to him eye to eye.

“Take her, I don’t give a shit. She was only making me look bad. Take her, her shitty cooking, stupid problems and miserable appearance and fuck off.”

“Wrong choice of words, my guy.”

Jamie grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him up, threw him out like garbage and slammed the door.

He closed his eyes for a moment, his jaw clenching and his hand flexing. I didn’t know what was on his mind, I had not a single clue. Only then I realized I was on the floor, against the wall, again. This was the effect Frank had on me. I was crying, but I didn’t feel it; silent tears were coming down my face, I was shivering.

Jamie opened his eyes and not even a second later I was in his embrace. I could hear his heart beating fast, so fast that I was worried and looked up to him. I needed something more than his arms to feel something and not even thinking about my actions I kissed him.

His hands came up to cup my face, and one of his thumbs was stroking my cheek; the intensity of the feelings I had in that moment was something I had never experienced before in my life.

I kissed him deeply, and I felt like he knew the reason why.

We parted, my eyes searched and found his in a heartbeat; my tears kept coming down, slowly, but he cleared them away. I suddenly felt embarrassed, his eyes were fixed on mine and his gaze felt almost too intimate. I looked down, and he instantly put his arms back around me, keeping my head on his chest.

I felt… peaceful.

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He kept me in his arms forever, I was so exhausted I feel asleep laying against him.

I woke up slowly, my eyes felt puffy from all the crying, I was confused for a moment because I didn’t remember how I got into bed. The clock on the bedside table told me it was 11am, so I had slept for more than a day.

When my brain started working it all came back to me: Frank yelling, Jamie hitting him and throwing him out, Frank saying that he no longer gave a shit about me. I already knew it, but hearing it out loud made me feel like an object, I was his plaything to show his friends when he wanted to say that he had someone who was absolutely devoted to him; like they would ever worship him.

I sat up on the bed, and stayed there staring at the fake Van Gogh painting on the wall in front of me. My mind was hearing Frank’s words over and over again, but after a while I finally figured it out: he wanted nothing more to do with me, I was free. The shackles that were keeping me there were gone.

I felt... joy; for the first time in years, I felt something that wasn’t the evergoing feeling of nothingness.

I remained there thinking about this, but then I remembered something else… I kissed Jamie, and it was the best kiss of my life. It made me feel alive, cared for, comforted; I felt my cheeks blush and a warm, strange feeling in my stomach.

Butterflies?

I really was just a teenager with a crush.

But then embarrassment came in... I had to go down the stairs at some point, and at least say something to him.

After I feel asleep with my head laying on his chest, the only thing my mind remembered was Jamie carrying me up the stairs. He was like my knight in shining armour, but being in Scotland probably my brave highlander warrior.

He seemed to care for me, I really hoped that was the truth of it; if not, I couldn’t understand everything he did.

I got myself up and out of bed to get some clothes and change, I didn’t really want to go out that day so I went down.

“Good morning sassenach.”

I was startled for a second, then I realized it was Jamie; he looked really handsome, with his curls all ruffled and just t-shirt and sweatpants on. I was staring but my brain decided it was actually a good moment to check him out apparently.

“Hello” my voice was almost shaking; I was embarrassed and nervous… Cursing myself for looking stupid. I approached the kitchen for something to eat because I was starving and just as I started to make myself a sandwich, I hear his footsteps come closer. My head instantly turned to face him, “how are ye feeling?” his voice full of concern, “I’m okay.”

We just stayed there, my eyes locked on his, and I felt heat rise up in my cheeks.

“What you did yesterday.. Thank you. For everything.”

Words came out of me automatically, and I was tearing up… stop crying Beauchamp

I looked down and closed my eyes, I didn’t want to cry again. I felt his hand on my face, his fingers slightly grazing my neck, and my heart started beating faster. I was a mess.

He brought my chin up and I looked at him; he placed a gentle kiss on my forehead and then held me. In his embrace my head found its place in the crook of his neck.

And just like before I felt peaceful.

“He cannot harm ye anymore.”

“Why are you helping me so much?”

Words really seemed to come out on their own when I was with him, but this time I didn’t mind.

“Because I ken how it feels.”

We parted, but still standing just a few centimetres away from each other; when I looked into his eyes, I could see the sadness behind them.

My hands were on his chest, my vision unclear and my breath shaky.

I closed the distance between us; he didn’t stop me, instead he was welcoming me.

One of his hands was now resting between my cheek and my neck, his thumb caressing me, and one on my back pulling me closer. I let my arms around his neck, it all felt so natural; what started as a tender kiss was now becoming something deeper, more urgent.

I almost let myself go.

Coming back to my senses I pulled back, “Sorry, I- I didn’t mean to..” I didn’t know what had gotten into me. I couldn’t just launch myself at him.

He was still a stranger, but I couldn’t deny that I felt something for him.

I could feel his gaze upon me, even if I was staring at the floor now. “I should get something to eat.” He caressed my hand, and said “Then let’s get ye something to eat. There’s a café, hidden in one of the streets behind the house, that makes the best scones I’ve ever eaten.”

I wanted to know his story, what he meant by saying that he knew how it feels, but I felt like if I did that, I would just have looked impertinent and disrespectful. Maybe when the time was right and he would feel ready, he would tell me. But now I had to get myself back together, stop trembling and answer him.

“Sounds nice.” Was all I could came up with.

Chapter Text

Shit. I didn’t know what to wear, again. My brain was still telling me that I should wait, but my heart wanted it. Wanted it so badly that I couldn’t say no.

Jamie felt like a breath of fresh air, like I could learn how to be myself again, how to be free. I really hoped he didn’t just want to fix me for the time being and then leave.

Hoping for the best I put on another one of my dresses, it was plain white but I loved it so much; my father gave it to me.

My hair was a lost cause again, so I just left them. A bit of make-up was needed to cover up my red eyes, and a little mascara never hurt anyone. I got my purse and went down the stairs and I actually was not prepared to see him, dresses in jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket; he was a sight to behold, absolutely handsome with his red curls just falling on his shoulders, and I couldn’t help but stare. I was caught, and I really felt my whole face go red, but he actually just smiled at me which made me feel at ease a little bit.

“Ye look beautiful, sassenach.”

“You must be losing your eyesight then.” Considering that the last few days had been a mess, my hair were all tangled and my eyes probably still a bit red, I didn’t comprehend how he could think so.

“I don’t think so.” He said with a smirk and a look that made me blush even more.

We were on our way to this mysterious café he told me about, I never noticed some of the delightful streets that went behind Geillis’ house. As we went on the houses became more and more like traditional Scottish cottages, and it was absolutely lovely; flowers were on each side of the road, and it almost felt like a fairytale. I was mesmerized by the view but when I looked at Jamie, I was even more hypnotized.

His warm blue eyes were looking at the cottages, then the flowers, then… me.

We just looked at each other for a moment but eventually I broke into a nervous laugh, he really made me feel like a teenager and it was all so strange to me. After all, I didn’t have much time for myself or crushes during my teen years, my father needed me more.

What happened with Frank these past few days made me realize that my father wouldn’t be proud of me; I stopped my dream of becoming a nurse, lived a half life after he died, but I was actually happy to have realized it. I needed to let go of my past with Frank, that would not be easy of course, but with time and healing I would be okay again.

We arrived at what was called “Wee Glenn café”, it was lovely; little vases were on every table, containing a flower which was probably Lily of the Valley. We entered the little cottage, and were instantly greeted by a woman with a kind smile.

“Jamie, my dear boy! I’ve missed ye! Ye look so well! And what do we have here, hello lass!”, I smiled,

“Claire, I present to you: Mrs Fitzgibbons” Jamie had a beautiful amused look on his face, and his introduction earned him a little tap on his arm “Och, so formal! Ye can call me Mrs Fitz my dear.”, she gave me the impression of being really sweet but also quick-witted, and I liked her; “Pleasure to meet you Mrs Fitz, I’m Claire.” I held out my hand to shake hers but she took it with both hands and gave me a warm-hearted smile.

We sat down at one of the tables outside, it was a beautiful sunny day which was rare in Scotland. We ordered some scones, then tea for me and whisky for Jamie; Mrs Fitz brought everything to us right away, and after giving a sly look at him went back inside.

“How are ye feeling sassenach?” he asked me how I was probably more than everyone in the past 24 hours, and I didn’t mind.

“I’m fine, thank you for bringing me here. I love it! And Mrs Fitz seems very sweet. I needed a bit of fresh air and a change of scenery. Did you know her already?”

“Aye, I used to come here almost every day. But after my brother passed away.. I left. I’m here now because I’m visiting Geillis; we have been friends since I was a wee lad. I used to live a few houses away from her, she’s like a sister to me.”

“I’m so sorry about your brother.”

“Och, it was a long time ago now. Thank ye.” I could see the sadness behind his eyes, regardless of his smile.

“Where do you live now?”

“My grandfather had a house and some land, he left everything to me and my brother Willie when he died but we were living here so it became like a holiday home for us.” A sad smile appeared on his face when he said his name. “Now it’s just me, I went to live there and sold my house here. The estate is called Lallybroch, och well actually Broch Tuarach.”

“Does that mean something?” I didn’t try to pronounce it because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

“Aye, it means north facing tower. Even if the tower is round.”

“How can it be facing north if it’s round?” I was actually confused;

He leaned forward like he was telling me a secret, and with a smirk said “the door faces north.” which made me giggle a little.

We ate, and talked more. He was a born storyteller like most Scots, and I felt like we had known each other since forever. I told him about my mum, my dad. Telling my story after so many years felt good, my chest was less heavy, and I was beginning to understand the affection I had for Jamie.

Chapter Text

“And then I met Frank…”

“If ye dinnae want to talk about it, it’s okay.”

As much as I didn’t want to, I felt like talking about what my life has been the past four years could’ve helped me; and Jamie needed some clarifications about what happened.

“After all you did for me, I suppose I owe you an explanation.” I slightly smiled at him, and he took my hand.

“I met him when I needed someone, because everyone else was gone… and at first being with him helped me to get out of that place of loneliness and despair I was in. He was kind, caring and gentle… after two months, more or less, he started to take me along when he went out with his friends. They were not all that bad; at the beginning we were all having what I dare say fun when we went out.

“Then, as time went on, he started to brag about how devoted I was to him, how I made him dinner and did his laundry. I didn’t think about it at the time because I didn’t realize that he was treating me like property… like he wanted to show off. I felt like after everything he did for me, I owed him. He always needed someone that worshipped him in everything he did; but I was not enough anymore… I was the example that his friends needed to follow. I know this sounds absurd but- “

His grip tightened around my hand, and on his face I could easily read anger, as well as compassion.

“I ken how that feels. I really do. “

I wanted to ask him why, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

And then it was like he knew what I was thinking.

“I was…” he was hesitating, but before I could say anything he continued “I was married. She was the same.”

I was startled for a good minute, but then I realized that he said was not am.

“I was young and stupid; I did everything too fast. We went to live away from here, because she said she wanted to be near her family, and I agreed. It was hell.”

I actually thought I could feel his hand tremble a little, so I turned my hand over and I was holding his.

“She used me every time she needed anything. But I was never good enough, never did the right thing, always could’ve done something more. I was left taking care of her ma so I quit my job, while she was out doing whatever she wanted. When her mother died, she blamed me, said things to me that I never would’ve imagined. But when she needed to make a good impression with her friends she acted like the perfect wife. I was her trophy. She tricked me into marrying her, I thought- I thought I loved her. Took me too much fucking time to realize I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t have any other words to say, it was the most heartfelt sorry of my life. I knew exactly how he felt.

“When my brother died, it all became so clear. I left her, filed for divorce, but that wasna easy. She tried everything, even fucking ruined my brother’s funeral by entering in, begging me to take her back. That’s when I went away from here for good. I still can’t pass by that church. I miss my brother. It was too late.”

I was caressing his hand like I could take his pain away.

His eyebrows were pressed together and he was looking down, like all the memories were passing by in his mind. But when his eyes rested on my face, his expression was tender, affectionate.

“I came back now because I missed my friend and then I met ye, held ye.”

He paused for a moment to get closer to me, my body longed for his touch.

“I can bear pain myself, but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have. I want to keep ye safe, if you’ll let me.”

This felt like a declaration of love. His words touched my soul, and in that moment the affection I had for him was turning into love. We had known each other for three days but in my heart, those felt like a lifetime. We had both been through so much, and the only way we could heal was by helping each other. Mending our wounds together.

“Thank you, Jamie.”

I wanted to kiss him. But we were too vulnerable in that moment, it wasn’t right.

He caressed my face, and I leaned into his hand and closed my eyes; I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling.

 

We ate some more, thanked and paid the lovely Mrs Fitz, then headed back to Geillis’ house. But instead of getting there directly we needed to let the heavy emotions that resurfaced before go, so we stopped by a little green corner. It was just made of two trees and a bench, but it was peaceful.

We sat down, looking at the enchanting street we just walked by, and he put his arm around my waist to keep me closer. I was smiling, leaning against his shoulder, and I felt safe.

When I looked up, his eyes met mine and we closed the distance between us. It was a gentle kiss, affectionate. When we parted my eyes never left his.

“You said you want to be there for me. Let me do the same for you.”

He smiled, our foreheads touched, everything was perfect.

It was the moment I knew me and Jamie were going to be alright.

Chapter Text

We walked back to Geillis’ house, our fingers interlaced with each other; it was a good day.

We talked more about our lives, even simple things like our favourite foods or colour. It all felt so natural, I was beginning to feel like a person again.

All these years of living my life for someone else, I wanted to start and live my life for me; and in the back of my mind, I wanted to share it with Jamie. It was soon, probably too soon, but I had a feeling that what we had going on, was going to last.

When we entered the house, it was late; I didn’t even realize we had been away almost all day, time flew by and I loved it. We were still holding hands when Geillis popped up from the kitchen “Och there ye are! I was going to call ye, where have ye been?” she was looking at me but quickly realized where my hand was and her face turned from a little concerned to curious, and a bit sneaky; “And Jamie, where have ye been my lad?” she was looking at us and trying not to laugh at my face, which was completely red, I could feel the heat in my cheeks and ears.

Jamie let go of my hand just to put his arm around my waist, “Actually, we went on a date” I turned to him and I could see his smirk but I was more concerned about all the teasing that would’ve followed that statement, knowing Geillis.

“Did ye treat my Claire well?”

I was looking at my feet, too embarrassed to do anything else.

“Aye, or at least, I hope so.” He gave me a little squeeze and I all could manage to say was “It was lovely.” When I caught a glimpse of Geilie’s face she was smiling, and actually winked at me which made me giggle a bit.

 

The next day started well, we all had breakfast together and talked about our plans for the day.

But then it dawned on me: I had nothing to do, no job, no house, no nothing.

“Geilie.. where am I going to go? I don’t have a house anymore.. and I can’t stay with you forever.”

“But ye can stay here! Who says ye can’t? Darling ye’re no’ a burden to me. Never.”

I smiled at her, but as much as I loved Geilie for being kind to me I needed to rebuild a life.

“We’ll talk tonight, I have to get to work now. Don’t ye dare worry about this all day! Ye hear me?”

“Okay, thank you.” She gave me one of her brightest smiles, and I was so thankful to have her as a friend in that moment.

Geillis went to work, and it was just Jamie and I. As much as I didn’t want to think about all the stuff that I mentioned earlier, my mind had other plans. I didn’t know what to do, I had money in my bank account, thankfully I was always careful about my expenses; I had completed my studies, but my work experience was none and I needed to refresh my memory if I wanted to work as a nurse; it had been years since I got my degree, another kind gift from Frank. But for right now I needed a temporary job and a house.

“Jamie I really need you to help me find a place. Please.”

“Aye of course sassenach.” It always gave me a strange feeling hearing him call me that, it was nice, I loved it.

“I don’t even know where to start…” and I really didn’t. I had to check what I could afford and then absolutely find a job.

Jamie looked lost in his thoughts for some time, but then something clicked in his brain and I saw his face lit up.

“Ye can come to Lallybroch with me.”

Never in a billion years I expected to hear him say that. Was he asking me to live with him? It was too early. What if everything went wrong? What if he got tired of me? What if I didn’t fit in?

Or maybe he wanted to be nice to me and help, was I the one that was getting carried away? Why did I instantly think about him asking me to live together?

My expression probably gave my thoughts away because he immediately looked at me with a puzzling look and said “Claire. I’m not asking ye to get married, right now. I’m asking if ye want to come with me and live there until ye find a job. Lallybroch has a lot of rooms and space, ye can have your own room.”

Right now?

Of course, he meant I had my own room, what was I even thinking.

“I don’t want to be a burden. What if I can’t find a job?”

“Ye will find a job, I’m sure of it. But if ye want to stay there for a while, I wouldn’t mind some company.”

I felt bad, because I wanted to get my own place so as not to stay at Geilie’s like a hotel, but accepting to stay at Lallybroch felt the same; however, Jamie’s offer seemed like he genuinely wanted me to stay there.

“Are you sure I can stay and not bother you?”

“I am sure. More than sure.” He squeezed my hand.

“Then yes, I will take up your offer. Thank you so much Jamie. I owe you.”

He brought my hand to his lips and placed a chaste kiss on my knuckles.

“Ye owe me nothing sassenach.” He smiled, and again it was one of his smiles. So beautiful I could never stop looking at it.

“But when are we going?”

“I originally planned to go home yesterday but…” he tried to wink at me but failed and closed both of his eyes, more or less, and that got me smiling even more. “We can go when ye’re ready.”

“I wanted to say goodbye to Geilie. She did so much for me, I need to thank her.”

“How about we make her a nice dinner?”

“That’s a great idea, but I can’t cook really well..” all the times Frank said that what I made was terrible had convinced me of that. A chill went down my spine when the thought of him crossed my mind, I wanted him gone.

I was still, absolutely still. I turned to face Jamie, I could see he was worried because I tensed up all of a sudden but watching him, learning the lines of his face, feeling his hand upon mine let that awful feeling I had go away.

I smiled, and he smiled back.

Chapter Text

We were going to get all the stuff we needed for dinner, so I had to go upstairs and change.

And I thought I closed the door. Turns out I didn’t.

I just had my underwear on when he came upstairs to go to the bathroom, I turned around the second I heard his footsteps in the corridor, that’s when I realized the door was open and rushed to close it but I was too late.

I had my shirt in my hand and pulled it up to my chest, but that wasn’t going to do much. We stared at one another for a few moments before we both turned away shily.

I closed the door and heard a muffled “I’m sorry lass” coming from outside; I was still standing there, letting my face cool down from the heat and the redness I felt all over it. I was lightheaded and my stomach was doing things of his own, what happened just then? Did I really regret not closing the door after that? Perhaps not.

 

I went downstairs and when I saw Jamie, I could swear I had caught his gaze wandering on me, all of me, but I paid no mind to that.

“Are you ready?” I asked before any awkward conversation could come up.

“Aye.. Let’s go.”

He opened the front door for me and this time when my shoulder brushed his chest it was like a million little fires lit up, this feeling was new but I didn’t know what to make of it. I catched his eye from the corner of mine, and I caught a glimpse of something different that I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt an awareness between him and me, of our presence, our bodies. Maybe we realized that we had some kind of attraction going on; but I was already aware of mine.

I walked on and acted like nothing happened, but my mind stayed there.

It felt like a bolt of lighting struck; why was I still thinking about it? We barely touched.

We went grocery shopping, got everything we needed to make some burgers with fries and went back to Geillis’ house.

We put all the food in the fridge and then headed out again for lunch, since we forgot to get something to eat right away. He took me back to Mrs Fitz which was lovely like the first time, we ate and talked about our passions.

“So, what do you do for a living?” because I actually wanted to know, since we didn’t talk about that.

“I have a wee distillery up near Lallybroch.”

“That’s amazing! How come you didn’t tell me this before?”

“Ye didna ask.” And he smirked, I just rolled my eyes like I was annoyed but it was actually quite the opposite.

“I run it with my friends Angus and Rupert, they will be probably expecting me when I get back ‘cause they wanted to ken why I changed plans about coming home. I have to warn ye, they can be a wee bit… much. Maybe for ye.”

“Now you just made me more curious!” We laughed, talked more about whisky and friends and ate our lunch.

“What’s your passion?”

“Oh I studied to be a nurse, a long time ago… You know what happened next…”

He instantly looked concerned, “Yes I ken.”

I continued talking to change the subject, I didn’t want Frank in this. “That dream seems long gone now. But actually, in these past few years I took a liking to medicinal herbs, and I read a lot of books about them. I even had an idea to open a little shop on my own to sell them, give advice to people on how to use them properly but it was just an idea. Now I don’t even have a home, I can’t afford to think about my dream job.”

He was looking at me with an undecipherable expression, but I gathered he was interested in what I was saying.

“Dinna fash, sassenach. Remember ye have me, I can always help if ye need me.”

He smiled at me but this time it was different, his gaze was more intimate, like he truly meant what he said.

We wandered around in the little cozy streets near Mrs Fitz café, then headed back to Geillis’ house. After we arrived, I wanted to take a shower so I left Jamie in the kitchen to prepare the pans for later.

I was alone with my thoughts, memories of the day kept replaying in my mind; the café, our conversations, Jamie’s offer to go and stay at Lallybroch, and the little accident soon after that.

I had already noticed his tall figure, almost Viking-like; his eyes, their overwhelming blue and the way he had about himself. Gentle but secure, I felt like I could trust him with everything. The way he looked at me.

I caught him a few times during the day, with that look, the glimpse of something new; he was a handsome man, charming, even with his shirt on I could see he worked out. His beautiful red curls.

His touch.

Him.

My mind was wandering too much, I certainly couldn’t think about him this way. But buried deep inside me I felt the desire of intimacy with someone; not just a kiss or a hug, something more.

Frank hadn’t touched me in probably two years, but with him I always felt distant. It was mostly about him, not me.

I wanted to know how it felt, having a deep connection with someone and then becoming almost one with them.

I stopped myself before getting too carried away, and finished my shower. I put on my linen camisole and a pair of shorts, then I went down to the kitchen.

“Hello sassenach.”

Damn he was good-looking.

Chapter Text

Jamie had already prepped out everything that was needed to make dinner, so we just had to start.

I was getting ready to cut the tomatoes, I had the cutting board and everything else on the kitchen counter, when I felt Jamie almost pressed against my back.

“Sorry I need to get something to put the salad in.”

I had little to no room, Geilie had a small kitchen, so I just stayed there letting him do his things; he leaned to my right, gripping one of his hands to the counter.

His fingers slightly grazed the skin between my camisole and my shorts, I was suddenly out of breath. When he stepped back to return to his workstation, I was the one using the counter to keep me up.

I didn’t know what had gotten into me, but I walked up to him, my body moving on his own. I took his hand, and he turned around to face me.

I looked up at his eyes but all I could focus on were his lips. I kissed him; hungrily, my arms suddenly around his neck and I sensed him hesitate for a moment. Unconsciously my hands started playing with his curls, and he slowly put his hands on my hips. Then on my waist. My head was spinning when I felt his touch near my breasts, I had almost forgotten my camisole was quite open on the sides.

I pressed myself more onto him, I could almost hear his heartbeat. He almost deepened the kiss, his hands gripping me tighter. But then stopped, and distanced from me a little bit. Our foreheads still touching, he was out of breath.

“Christ, Claire…”

He loosened his grip.

And then it hit me: what was I doing?

“I’m sorry I… “

No more words were not coming out of me.

I didn’t even think that maybe he didn’t want this.

I stepped back, shame probably portrayed on my face, but he didn’t let go of me. I looked at his chest, unable to keep my head up.

“Sassenach… Look at me.”

My body refused to respond.

He gently took my chin and slowly tilted my head up so my eyes could meet his.

“Stop yer head from thinking whatever ye’r thinking.”

I looked into him, trying to get an answer, and I could see something that resembled lust. His pupils dilated, his breath uneven, I felt wanted.

He placed a kiss on my forehead.

What was going on in my mind, I didn’t know. This was my best friend’s kitchen, her house, we were making dinner for her; I needed to stop whatever I was set on doing.

He was so close to me; I felt my breath thick in my throat.

“Come now. We need to make dinner.”

He probably understood that it wasn’t the right place or time to get carried away.

We got back to what we were doing before, but there was something different in the air. Every time we passed each other there was a slight touch, an exchange of looks from the corner of our eyes. The atmosphere was almost electric.

I felt like I was going to explode, I went outside for a moment saying I needed a breath of fresh air from the kitchen smells.

I had never felt that way. I was dizzy, a warm feeling inside me was expanding all over. What was he doing to me?

I felt a connection with Jamie, not just between our minds but also our bodies. I wanted to get lost in him, I wanted us to get lost in each other; I knew it was almost wrong to think about him that way, but I couldn’t help myself.

I never wanted this with Frank, I never felt this kind of affection, desire and care for him. I realized that in reality, I had never even truly loved him. All I felt was hate. I needed him out of my mind, out of my nightmares, just out.

 

My body was shivering, the memories of everything he did or said all these years flashing before my eyes. The cage I was in slowly reappearing all around me. I didn’t need it embedded in my mind. I needed to live.

 

I couldn’t explain why I was terrified, I just wanted to feel the ground beneath me, the air, the sun setting. I closed my eyes, trying to find myself, all I could see was Jamie. Not Frank, Jamie.

 

I loved him.

I was sure.

Chapter Text

I went back inside, right when Jamie was coming to get me.

“Are ye all right?”

“I’m fine.”

I could see he was not convinced at all, but this time I was really fine; the realization that what I felt for him was love helped me breathe again. I took his hand; I saw in his eyes that he was trying to understand what was going on in my mind.

“I really am fine, Jamie.” I smiled at him. “Let’s finish preparing dinner.”

-

When Geillis arrived we popped up from the kitchen in a sort of birthday surprise way, I could tell she was curious but she liked the idea at the same time.

“Okay ye tell me what have ye been up to?”

“Geilie, you have been so kind to me these past few days and I wanted to thank you for that. So here’s dinner!” I waved my hands and smiled.

“Claire ye didna have to do that!”

“No I really had to.”

I gave her a big hug, then we went to sit down at the dinner table.

We ate a little, talked about our day and how it went. But it was time for me to tell her that I had decided to go to Lallybroch. I realized I was actually dreading this moment; I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

“Geilie, I was talking with Jamie this morning about finding a home and a job; he offered me to stay at Lallybroch, I mean- his house, for the time being. Until I find one for myself and something to do.”

She looked rightly surprised, and I owed her that.

“Jamie can I have a minute with Claire?”

He looked at me, then at Geillis. “Aye, I’ll get dessert.”

As soon as he was out of earshot she took my hand, looking slightly concerned.

“Are ye sure? Isn’t this a big step?”

“Geilie I’m just staying there for a while; I’ll have my room. Don’t worry. He was kind enough to offer me this opportunity, and he actually said that he wouldn’t mind some company. I want to give you your space.”

“Just- Be careful Claire. Okay?”

I knew the reason she was so troubled about this, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t really going to live with him, not really together.

“I will. Don’t worry.”

The rest of the night went well, we talked and laughed together. I knew I would miss her, but she had her life, and it was a busy one, I couldn’t just linger there. Also, I knew that when she didn’t have me or Jamie around, she wasn’t really alone; I didn’t want to intrude.

Geillis went to bed early, so it was just me and him, again.

“We need to wake up early tomorrow, perhaps we should go to bed.” He instinctively turned to me with a puzzling look, and I didn’t know what to make of it.

“It’s getting late, we should- yes we should go to sleep.” Gosh I was red all over my face, all of this because my mind made conclusions on her own.

“Aye, let’s go to sleep.” I could tell he was slightly amused, but decided to ignore it. “Goodnight Sassenach.”

I loved the way that his nickname for me made me feel.

“Goodnight Jamie.”

I went upstairs and finished putting away my stuff, brushed my teeth and went to bed.

We should go to bed, really Claire?

-

We were ready to go, I quickly hugged Geilie before getting in the car. “Ye have fun! And ye, take real good care of my Claire, ye understand me?”

“Will do my best, ma’am.”

“Okay, I’m right here.” They both laughed at me, but what was I expecting?

It was time to go, I blew one last kiss at Geilie and she blew one back to me with a look that reminded me of what she said last night; I was careful, even if I felt like I had nothing to worry about, which was amusing considering I had no home and no job. I trusted Jamie.

Was I ready to be in a car with just him for several hours? Probably not.

But then time just flew by. Talking with him was so easy, I could joke and really feel like myself without the usual wave of disappointment or blank faces.

This trip also gave me the opportunity to admire him without being really caught, I was completely drawn to him. I had to resist putting my hand on the back of his neck and start playing with his beautiful red curls.

When we arrived a part of me was glad to get out, I needed some fresh air. As soon as I stepped out of the car I was captivated by the beauty of the scenery I had before me: Lallybroch, this almost castle, was absolutely astonishing. It felt like being thrown back into the Scotland of the 18th century, watching the horses roam in the fields of grass near the house; the clean fresh air, free from the pollution of the city.

“Jamie this is wonderful. Is this all yours?”

“Aye, Lallybroch has been the family house for generations. The blood and sweat of my ancestors are in these walls.” He looked so proud, feeling the solid stone of the walls.

He took my hand “Come, I’ll show ye inside.”

I could see what he meant when he said ancestors, the house was really a rare antique piece. Everything was mesmerizing, from the myriads of paintings on the walls to the wide hearth that occupied a large portion of what seemed the living room.

I realized that this was going to be the place I would live in for quite some time, I was actually excited; my old house was nothing special, and Frank’s place was plain and depressing.

I could really see myself staying in Lallybroch.

Chapter Text

“Let’s go upstairs, I’ll show ye your room.” I was too fascinated to reply, so I just nodded and followed him.

My room was the first of three of the large hallway, his room the last. After showing me where the bathrooms, kitchen and everything useful were, we went outside to get our stuff and brought it inside.

It was mid-afternoon and I was curious because he told me his friends would be expecting him, but no one other than me and him was there.

“Jamie, should you be expecting your friends?”

“Och aye, but they’ll arrive later. I wanted ye to get comfortable a wee bit before.” I swore I could’ve seen his ears going a darker shade of pink, but paid not much attention to it. It was really sweet of him to let me have some time to acquaint with the house.

He helped me with all my stuff, until it was all up in my room; it was time for me to take a shower, I wanted to look presentable and make a good impression on his friends; after all, I would stay there for a while.

 

After showering I was going back when I caught the light coming from Jamie’s room; I didn’t want to spy on him, but every fiber of my being decided otherwise. I stepped forward to his door, careful not to make any sound, and the vision before me was simply spellbinding.

He had his kilt on, representing what I thought were the Fraser’s clan colours, and just a white shirt on; there was something about seeing him dressed like a true highlander that just took my breath away. I almost took another step forward but I stopped myself, what was I going to do? Gosh I needed to start thinking straight.

 

I went back into my room, that warm feeling all over me once again. Of course I knew why I felt like that, I just couldn’t possibly enter his room half naked and demanding; we had just arrived and my things were still unpacked, I had to live with this man for a while. What had gotten into me?

Get a grip Beauchamp.

 

I put on a simple white embellished dress, I didn’t want to look overly-formal nor the opposite; I genuinely wanted to make a good impression. When I entered the living room I was once again met with the beautiful sight of Jamie in a kilt.

“Hi.” I was suddenly shy; out of all the things I felt for him, his beauty had a disarming effect on me. He swiftly turned around upon hearing my voice, he was looking at what I thought was an antique dagger.

“Hi sassenach.” For a moment I felt his gaze almost burning into me, I was delighted at the fact that I decided not to dress with just leggings and a shirt.

“What is that? A dagger?” I couldn’t come up with nothing better to break the tension building up between us, I got closer to him so I could take a look.

“Aye it is, it’s a dirk. It’s a traditional symbolic and ceremonial weapon of the Scottish Highlands, been in my family for many generations.”

It was certainly beautiful, simply carved on the wooden handle and very well preserved.

“Makes me think of my Da. I was just a bairn when he and my Ma died, but one of the few memories I have is him telling me this was going to be mine one day.”

He looked so proud, his eyes glistening from the memories that were probably playing through his mind.

“May I?”

“Of course.”

It was quite heavy, I expected it to be lighter.

“Tomorrow I want to take ye sightseeing, there’s many bonnie things to see around here. If ye want.”

“Jamie that would be lovely! I would gladly go with you!”

His face lit up, I truly wanted to get to know my surroundings; in truth, I had rarely visited the country.

Giving him the dirk back our hands touched for just a heartbeat, but it felt like hours. He lightly gasped with a shy smile, so subtle I almost didn’t catch it; our eyes locked for a moment and we got closer.

And closer.

Our lips a breath away from each other, I decided to close that gap.

This kiss was gentle, tender, loving. We parted just so our foreheads were still touching, my hands were on his chest and he put his over mine. Everything felt so right, so… peaceful. I felt peaceful.

Not wanting to pull away I didn’t say anything, I just continued to cherish what we had in that moment.

“I would love to stay here with ye in my arms sassenach, but we willna be alone for much longer.”

I snuzzled in the space between his neck and his shoulder. “Just a few more seconds.”

We swayed a little, almost like we could hear the melody of our hearts. We were like an old couple, who stayed together for many years, just enjoying the little moments.

I loved him, so much.

Chapter Text

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; - it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

 

Rupert and Angus did arrive just right after I left Jamie’s arms. They just knocked once, then entered without waiting for anyone to open the door.

“Jamie! Ye’re late! We cannae go out and drink without ye! What took ye so long-“

The little bearded man only then noticed me, standing a few steps away from Jamie.

“And what do we have here? Hello m’lady!” He then made an exaggerated bow to me, which I found quite funny.

“Let me introduce myself: I’m Angus, at yer service. And ye lovely lass are?”

“Claire, nice to meet you.” I held out my hand but he just hugged and kissed me on the cheek with a loud smack.

“Okay okay, let the lass breathe ye devil.” The other guy said and Angus let me go, I was glad he did because he was squeezing little too hard.

“I’m Rupert, nice to meet ye Claire.” I hesitated to offer him my hand, but he seemed a little less… exuberant than Angus.

“Angus, Rupert, this is Claire. She will be staying here with me for a while.” The announcement got him some surprised looks full of pride.

“Verra nice news lad.” Angus said, then winked at me.

These two were really a pair.

Jamie got closer to me and offered me his arm; I couldn’t tell but I thought he was kind of jealous of all the attentions they were giving me.

As I clung onto him, he announced we were going out for dinner.

“Where are we going?” I didn’t expect anything fancy for the night but I didn’t mind having a nice dinner. He turned his head to look at me, then lowered his voice so only I could hear.

“Are ye okay with dining out? I don’t have much food here for four.” He was so caring and respectful of me, I could only smile at him.

“It’s more than okay. Also, I like your friends.”

“Och, I’m glad ye do. They can be a little…”

“…vivacious?”

“…excessive was the word I had in mind but aye, vivacious will do.”

I smiled as I squeezed more tightly onto him, this was the most normal I felt since my father died.

Thoughts were making their way in my head as we got into one car and drove to the place we would have dinner in.

So this must’ve been what it felt like. A normal relationship? At least that’s what I thought Jamie and I had.

In the time I had been with him I felt more respected and cared for than the past four years. I knew that everything could always change, but I felt secure enough with this that I didn’t worry too much about all the “what ifs” my mind could come up with.

I trusted Jamie, with my heart.

The ghosts of my past would not ruin what I was starting to build with him.

I didn’t even realize we had arrived; I didn’t take part in any conversation on the way. I looked at Jamie and I could almost feel his worry. Instinctively I took his hand, interlaced my fingers with his, so that he would know I was ok.

We got out of the car; the place was really beautiful but with a hint of the roughness of the Scottish highlanders. The name was quite funny Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy; which reminded me of the song my mom used to sing or hum from time to time.

Entering the old cottage, I was met with low lights and the delicious smell of food, with a hint of whisky in the air. A man, probably in his fifties or sixties, with bushy furrowed brows and a thick beard came to greet us.

“Welcome lads! Long-time no see.” He then turned his head to look at me. “And who’s the lucky lady?”

“I’m Claire.” There was something oddly welcoming about him, and I felt like he could’ve been a good friend.

“Murtagh Fitzgibbons, pleasure to meet ye.

Well tonight is yer lucky night folks. We have live music, and a free round of whisky at the end of the night. Follow me.”

Our table was in the corner right next to the stage, we ordered and ate plenty of food. Everything was delicious, I had fun with Jamie, Angus and Rupert. Thinking back to all the times I went out with Frank and his pitiful friends I should’ve just got up and left.

I was snapped out of my train of thought by the lights dimming even more than before and just one single beam appearing to light up the stage. A man then arrived carrying what seemed to me like a little harp; he just sat down and immediately started playing.

At first I thought I couldn’t hear well but quickly after I realized he wasn’t singing in English, but in Gaelic.

“I don’t understand a word, but it’s so beautiful.” I whispered to Jamie, careful not to break the spell the man had cast upon the room, there was utter silence.

“This one is about a man out late on a fairy hill on the eve of Samhain who hears the sound of a woman singing sad and plaintive from the very rocks of the hill.

‘I am a woman of Balnain.

The folk have stolen me over again’,

the stones seemed to say.

I stood upon the hill, and wind did rise,

and the sound of thunder rolled across the land.

I placed my hands upon the tallest stone

and travelled to a far, distant land,

where I lived for a time among strangers

who became lovers and friends.

But one day, I saw the moon came out,

and the wind rose once more.

so I touched the stones

and travelled back to my own land

and took up again with the man I had left behind.”

“She came back through the stones?”

“Aye, she did. They always do.”

This was one of the times where I truly learned that there’s no place on earth with more magic and superstition mixed into its daily life than the Scottish Highlands. And I loved it.

I rested my head onto Jamie’s shoulder for the rest of the songs, I felt relaxed and happy. I felt… loved. Accepted. It was a feeling I did not want to go away.

We arrived back at Lallybroch, I tried to say goodbye to Angus in a sober, friendly way but I still got a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Rupert on the other hand was more… let’s just say less cheeky, with just a shake of hands.

 

I went up the stairs, Jamie right behind me; I was right in front of my door when I glanced at him over my shoulder. He was looking at me, his shirt slightly open just so I could see the russet hair on his chest.

“Thank you for the lovely evening Jamie.”

He stepped closer to me and took my chin, brought my head slightly up to look at him better.

I could almost feel him trembling, his breath uneven and sharper than usual. He was looking at me in a way that made my blood heat up.

“I want ye Claire. I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe.”

I couldn’t move, froze by his words.

His hand trailed from my chin to my neck, he put his arm around my middle and brought me closer to him.

“Will ye have me?”

“Yes.” I didn’t need time to think about it, nor encouragement to respond.

He kissed me then, tenderly at first. But that kiss turned into something more deep, more passionate, and I welcomed him.

I almost felt dizzy, entering my room entangled to this man.

 

We undressed each other, I stood bare before him. I felt exposed, I had never been this vulnerable with someone. He was looking at me, studying me, the blue in his eyes replaced by a piercing black.

“You might bloody well say something?” I was covering myself, aware of my nakedness.

He took a step back, almost like he was admiring me better from there.

“Christ. Claire… Ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

I let out a chocked chuckle, unable to look at him in the eyes. He came closer to me again, taking my hands and uncovering me; he was beautiful, the lines of his body and face meticulously sculpted by the gods. He brought my hands on his chest. “Touching ye Sassenach. Makes me want to have ye, naked in bed with me, and never let ye go.”

I quivered at the feeling of his hands on my bare skin, exploring, caressing my bare back.

“You have me, Jamie.”

With a kiss he laid me onto my bed, I could feel him on top of me in all his glory.

I looked into his eyes, full of desire, and I couldn’t find words to describe what it was between us. It wasn’t usual, for a fact.

He stroked my cheek with his thumb.

 

“Do ye want… me. Sassenach.”

“Yes, I do want you. James Fraser.”

 

I was alive, with him. We became one, we lost ourselves in each other. Slowly at first, but then we started picking up our pace, discovering what one liked or didn’t.

I cried out his name as I reached my apex and he, mine.

 

 

We laid there, naked, my head on his chest and my arm wrapped around him. He was caressing my back, designing intricate patterns that sent shivers down my spine.

Mo nighean donn.” He whispered.

“What does that mean?”

“My brown-haired lass.”

“Always a dull colour I thought, brown.”

“No, not dull at all. When the sun touches yer curls, it’s like a painting. Dark in the wavy spots, with wee bits of gold.” He started playing with one of my loose curls, looking at me like I was the only thing that mattered in the world. I placed a chaste kiss on his chest.

 

 

We remained there, slowly drifting into sleep. My life was taking a turn, one that I was completely happy about for once. My mind was at ease, free of the rotten man I once shared a life with.

 

 

I woke up in the middle of the night, I was quite cold and I had no sheets covering me. Sensing my movements Jamie pulled me close to him, he was warm. I saw his eyes flutter for a moment before resting on me.

“Claire I…”

I could tell there was something on his mind.

“Are ye scared as I am?”

“I suppose, I am.” I felt my eyes starting to fill up with tears, I didn’t exactly know why.

“This, what it is between us… It isna usual. When I touch ye. Feel ye on my skin. Your face, sassenach, is my heart.”

He paused to get a few loose strands of hair from my face, seeing his expression through the dark left me breathless.

“Being with ye tonight, makes me fear to lose ye. I want to keep ye safe, give ye my soul for you to hold. I ken it might be soon, or too soon, but I cannae think about anything else.”

A single tear ran down my cheek, I could feel the cold, wet trail it left. Never in my entire life had someone said anything like that to me; he was talking to me like I was his soul, and for that I loved him.

He took my face in his hands, stroking away the tears that had been escaping me without me noticing with his thumb.

“I am scared Jamie.”

I hesitated, not knowing if it was the right time or if my fear would’ve come true.

But my love for him felt like standing in the middle of a field, surrounded by grass that felt like silk, alone, warmed by the sun; it was intense, frightening but at the same time calming, and reassuring.

“Why are ye scared, mo duinne?”

“I’m afraid if I start, I shall never stop.”

He bent his head slightly, his forehead touching mine. I closed my eyes, taking in his scent and his presence as courage.

“I love you.”

“And I, you.”

Chapter Text

I woke up slowly, relishing the feeling of the warm rays of sun from the window. I turned on my side to feel the empty space beside me, Jamie probably got up earlier than me.

This all felt natural, waking up and searching for him. After a few minutes I heard the door open and he came in bringing me breakfast; to say I was delighted was a euphemism.

“Good morning mo duinne.”

“Good morning.” He put the tray on the bed, sitting down to give me a kiss.

“How are ye feeling?”

“Good. Never slept more peacefully.” I gave him a smile, it seemed like we both were thinking about the confessions of last night.

We ate our breakfast, savouring both each other and the meal before us. We got ready for the day, Jamie said he wanted to take me sightseeing today and I was really excited to explore my surroundings.

What we didn’t expect was to find Angus and Rupert outside our door.

“Hello ye lovebirds!” I was clinging to Jamie’s arm, so Angus was probably right.

“Hi? Is there something wrong lads?”

“Och actually aye, ye have some boring paperwork to do but it needs to be done and ready for tomorrow. We arenae qualified for this one, ye’re the brains.”

I felt Jamie slump in frustration, he turned to face me. “I’m sorry I really need to do this Sassenach. But… Would ye come wi’ me?” I could hear his Scottish accent getting a little bit more prominent when he was around his friends, I loved it.

“Of course! I want to see your distillery!” and I really did, I had never been to one.

He briefly smiled at me, and we got going.

 

The place was completely different from what I expected. Not at all a dull, boring, greyish industrial building; but a beautiful stone one, with a water wheel and neatly manicured gardens, one façade was completely covered in red ivy which gave a mystical and traditional feeling to the location.

In the same ivy-covered wall I noticed that the name “A’ Ghàidhealtachd Distillery”, I didn’t dare pronounce it, for I didn’t know how.

Still in awe from the beauty of the place, I almost didn’t notice the others talking.

“What do ye think Claire?”

“It’s amazing! I didn’t expect such a lovely place for a distillery, always thought about something more… boring.”

“This was an old warehouse, we renovated it, but usually in Scotland every distillery is bonnie.”

“I love it! What does the name mean?”

“The Highlands Distillery, it’s simple but it feels like home.”

He took my hand, “Come, I’ll show ye my office.”

From the little I had seen of Lallybroch, the tavern the night before and this, I was becoming more and more in love with Scotland. I didn’t travel much in my life, I suppose I could’ve in my years with Frank, but he never took me anywhere; always out on his own, and I was left at home cleaning and tending the house. Piece of shit.

I dozed off, my head full of thoughts, until Jamie stopped and turned to face me.

“Are ye ok?”

“Oh me? Yes.”

“I lost ye for a moment there. Ye were thinking so loud I could almost hear it.”

“Sorry, it seems like my past always has a place in my head.”

He brought both of my hands to his chest and covered them with his.

“Remember, I’m here. Ye can talk to me. If ye want, or need to.”

I closed my eyes for a moment, I wanted to tell everything and nothing to this man. He made me want to pour my heart out, but not do it at the same time, fearing it would be harder on him than me.

“I was thinking…”

I swallowed, opening my eyes to look at him.

“Just- Thank you Jamie.”

His eyes piercing into me, I saw him trying to understand what I meant.

“Now, let’s see this office of yours.” I smiled, it was genuine, I was happy.

 

There was a smaller stone building a bit separated from the main one, it looked even more polished and curated. Red ivy had conquered one of the walls here too, giving it the same eldritch feeling.

I was expecting a modern interior, but instead I was met with a mixture of old and new, the strong wooden beams on the ceiling making this moderate place feel like a castle.

Jamie’s office was stunning, a big window let the natural light in on a beautiful ornate desk with an antique feeling to it, maybe 18th century-like? I wouldn’t know. It had a straight-backed chair, the seat covered in dark-green velvet, and one wall completely hidden by books.

What I did also notice was a plant in a small, maybe too small, pot in the corner. The poor thing was almost dead.

“Jamie, I love your office but… did you forget about her?” I pointed the withered thing, and the look on his face went from relaxed to mortified.

“Och, Dia. Sorry wee one.” He took the plant in his hands and it seemed like he wanted to comfort it.

“Don’t throw her away, I might save her still.” Seeing how sorry he felt for just a plant made me smile a little. He handed it to me, “I ken ye’re good with herbs and stuff, but I dinnae think there’s hope.”

The guilt in his tone and the puppy dog eyes he gave me made me laugh a bit. I felt bad but I couldn’t contain myself.

“So that’s how it is huh? I feel bad for my plant and ye laugh at me?” The look betrayal on his face was mixed with a glint eye.

I put down the lifeless thing, sitting myself in the big comfy chair near the bookshelves.

“I’m sorry I know I shouldn’t laugh but-“ he scooped me up from the chair in one swift motion, putting one arm on my back and one under my knees, and spun me around on the spot. After a few turns he stopped, I was dizzy but laughing wholeheartedly like I never did.

“Everything is spinning.” I said between one laugh and another.

“That’s yer punishment for laughing at me for my lack of gardening skills.” He was chuckling with a smirk, and looked as beautiful as ever.

He put me down on earth, still giddy I stumbled but luckily my arms were still around his neck. He gently grabbed my waist to give me more stability and the moment my eyes locked his, butterfly wings started in my belly.

The way he looked at me felt so intimate, yet so challenging. I overcame my shyness and kissed him, leading way to an ardent but sweet kiss.

Before we could get carried away, a thud coming from all the way back at the end of the outside corridor took us back to reality.

We parted slightly but not entirely, not caring what anyone might think.

Rupert emerged from the door, without knocking of course but I was expecting that, “Oh um..” his cheeks turned one, or two?, shades darker, “Jamie, lad, I’ll go wi’ Angus to the meeting for the malted barley supply.”

“Aye, can ye make a quick report for me later?”

“Sure, have a nice day ye two.” And with a wink he was gone.

I turned to Jamie, I felt my face warm, it felt strange being this openly affectionate with someone for me.

“Well, I guess Rupert and Angus won’t have any questions for you then?”

“They willnae shut up.”

Chapter Text

After staying at the distillery all day, we finally got back to Lallybroch; it’s intriguing how that place felt so much like home after being there for such a short period of time.

“Thank Dia tomorrow is Saturday.”

“How come?”

“I want to stay with ye and not work.”

“But I thought we had fun today?” This time I was the one smirking at him, remembering the few times we snuck around like teenagers trying not to get caught by Angus or Rupert.

“Aye, I suppose we did.”

 

We used what little we had to make dinner, and sat down to watch some telly. It was getting rather late, and Jamie kissed me goodbye before disappearing into the shower.

I stayed on the couch, my head full of the fond memories we had created in just one day; it baffled me how much I felt at ease with Jamie, the way we fitted together like pieces of a puzzle without any struggle.

Were we moving too fast? We had been in our own bubble for the past few days, but thoughts of the real world and everything that came with it started resurfacing. Gosh I didn’t want to think about anything.

 

After sitting there for almost twenty minutes I was startled by my phone buzzing; it was an unknown number. I decided to take it anyway, maybe it was something important.

 “Hello?”

“Claire. Where are you?”

Everything stopped. I couldn’t focus on anything else apart from the voice I heard.

“Frank? What do you mean where am I?”

“Claire, it’s been a few days. I’m alone. Where did you go?”

 

“Claire you need to do something about those hair, I don’t want to go around with a stray cat.”

“I need you to just look pretty and nod when I speak, can you do that? ‘Cause sometimes I feel like you’re too thick to understand.”

“I helped you, show some respect and when you polish things. Don’t. Let. Them. Fall.”

 

I froze, I could feel myself shaking but I was completely still.

“Claire please, come back. Sweetheart, how do you suppose to live without me?”

I wanted to end the call, so badly, but my body wasn’t responding. Instead, my mouth decided to let everything out, all I had left to say to him. The utter rage I felt in that moment I had never felt in my entire life.

“How dare you. How am I supposed to live without you? What like you’re important to me or my existence? Please.

All you’ve done is take my bloody life away, but you know what? You can keep it. I don’t want that life anymore. Poor Claire living to serve you. No. I want to see you suffer, with no one to worship you, no one to manipulate or punish. Let’s see if you’re really that important to anyone.”

“You talk like you have a choice. I know you are going to come back to me, you’re nothing without me.”

“Fuck you, Frank. I’ve been happier in the past few days without you than our whole stupid relationship. You can stay alone, your pathetic friends don’t even like you. Hell, for all I care you can die alone. You rotting bastard. Don’t ever call me again. I’m not yours, I don’t want you.”

“Stupid woman-”

“Oh no you don’t. I might be a lot of things, but not stupid. You don’t deserve me, never did. And I don’t want to hear anything else from you.”

“I won’t spend anymore of my time on you-”

“Well then, don’t. Goodbye.”

I heard him muttering bitch when I found the strength to end that call.

So that’s how it ends I thought.

I felt my phone slip from my trembling hand and fall beside me. With the adrenaline rushing out of me, the only thing I could do was take my head in my hands and cry.

As much as I was terrified, I felt different, lighter in a way. Letting my tears out helped me regain conscience of myself, my rage slowly turning into realization; that’s when I heard Jamie arrive, he didn’t hear me arguing with that piece of filth but the state I was in obviously suggested something had happened.

“Sassenach? What the devil happened?”

I was relieved to see him, to hear his voice.

“Just hold me.”

I was at home in his arms, holding me steady and keeping me warm. I could hear the melody that was his heartbeat, a little faster than usual; he was whispering beautiful words in Gaelic and even though I didn’t understand them, they were like a lullaby that kept me there.

“Shh, nach gabh thu do shocair, a ghràidh.”

(Please take it easy, my love.)

 

I asked Jamie to stay with me that night, I didn’t want to feel alone. There was only one person in my mind that needed to be alone, rotting, and that was Frank. 

I would never let him take something from me again, ever. He took my life, but not my soul; that was still mine and if I wanted to share it, it would be with Jamie.

 

We went out on Sunday, the chosen location was the stone circle that Jamie had talked about when translating that Gaelic song to me at the tavern, Craigh na Dun was the name of the place.

When we first arrived, I immediately felt a mystical aura from the stones, reminding me of all the faerie stories I had heard when I was little. Going up on the little hill the wind started blowing, adding to the atmosphere. The sun came out, a rare occasion in Scotland, so I took Jamie by the hand and sat down by the central stone; the sun rays warming us and welcoming us to this magical place, we were alone.

I felt the need to tell him what happened, what I said, because he deserved an explanation.

And so I did, I explained it all and he listened with an indecipherable look on his face; after that I felt tired, I leaned against his shoulder but he brought me closer to his heart, both of his arms around me, and placed a gentle kiss to my forehead.

“Christ, ye’re a brave wee thing.”

“Am I?”

I looked up to him, he had such grace in that moment, I wanted to weep; he kissed me softly.

 

“Did you ever get past it, her?”

“No, she’s still here, sometimes. I think it’s no’ possible. But it will get better. It has to, my love.”

I looked up to the sky, clinging to the words Jamie said to me. Feeling the wind in my hair, the warmth of the sun on my skin; it was as if my heart was… less heavy. I began to feel it a little, hope.

“Yes, I think it will.”

It was the first time I felt at peace with myself in years. It was strange, but I ultimately accepted that the fault was not mine.

Chapter Text

"Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and in sickness it would still be dear." — Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

It had been three months since that day at the stones, everything was different and yet the same. Things did get better with time, it took most of these months, but I was becoming myself again and rediscovering parts of me that I had once forgotten.

Everything was going well but one day we decided to go and visit Geillis, we both missed her terribly, and a normal day had turned into a nightmare.

We met her in the street as we strolled down the road to Mrs Fitz café, she stopped on her tracks as soon as we saw her.

“Jamie Fraser uh. With a whore.” He was holding my hand but started squeezing it so tightly to the point where I felt my fingers go numb.

“Ye shut yer mouth.”

She was looking at him with disgust but then turned to me, I had no idea who she was but my brain had come up with a solution of his own: his ex-wife.

“He’s gonnae leave ye, ye ken? Like he left me. The bastard has no heart.”

“Ye do no’ speak to her that way. Go away Laoghaire.”

“Ye’re no’ my husband anymore. Ye can’t tell me what to do, and I’ll talk to her anyway I want. To her and any other bitch that ye manage to bring in.”

He released my hand and went up to her, I stood there in the middle of the street, frozen.

“I left ye because ye don’t deserve love, nor anyone in yer life. Ye ruined mine, now leave us be.”

She scoffed and got closer to him, I could see his fists clenching with rage.

“She will leave.”

She turned and left, leaving us there, stranded. I was in disbelief, couldn’t fathom what just happened right before my eyes; Jamie was still there, his muscles tense with ire, his breathing uneven. It took me what felt like hours to move or do something other than standing there, and I took a step towards him.

I tried to reach his arm with my hand, but he flinched at my touch, I could feel the tears starting to build up in my eyes.

“That bitch” he shouted, hit the tree on the side of the road with his fist. This was a side of Jamie that I didn’t know, I was unsure of what to do. He was angry, in pain, he hit the tree again and I was scared someone would see us. But the road was deserted, she was gone.

When he stopped I tried to get closer again, to shake him out of the loop he had fell in.

“Jamie…”

He froze for a moment, then looked at me from the corner of his eye, I could see his gaze through his red curls now all over the place.

We had talked about her seldom times, the only time he properly explained what happened was one of the first days we met at Mrs Fitz cafè, after that he only mentioned bits and pieces. He said he was fine, yet some nights he would wake up covered in sweat, freezing cold, unable to answer me. I couldn’t bring him to let it out, to talk to me about it. I knew he needed it, he said it too, but there was always something that prevented him from doing it.

“She was using you. Manipulating you to believe her, Jamie talk to me. Please.”

“I ken.”

“I would never leave.”

“Do ye? Do ye really know me? She’s-“ he turned, I felt the pain in his eyes, I knew there was something he wanted to tell me but he didn’t.

“I do. Talk to me, please.” I was pleading him, begging. Anything.

“I cannae do that.” He started to walk away into a dark narrow alley, I felt him slipping away from me.

“Jamie!” I ran after him, grabbing his arm as I reached him inside the alley. He turned instantly, his cheeks wet with tears, it broke my heart. I cradled his face in my hands, trying to calm him from the nightmare he was living. He hugged me and I put my arms around him, I felt his face buried in my curls, taking in my scent.

“I love you, Sorcha.” His voice was a whisper grave with fright.

I moved so that I could face him, look him in the eyes as I said “I am not going anywhere.”

He saw me, but he was distant. He turned his gaze away from me and distanced. I didn’t understand what was happening.

“Some nights – she comes back in my dreams. Takes ye away from me.”

He slumped on the wall beside him and collapsed to the ground with his arms on his knees. I crouched and sat at his side trying to touch him where I could to let him know I was there, he was rigid, I could almost hear the fear that haunted him in that very moment.

“She won’t, I’m not going away.”

“She tells ye that I can’t protect ye, that I let her mother die so I will let ye die too.”

He had told me what happened with Laoghaire’s mother, he told me she blamed him for it, the rage building up inside me at the thought was eating me alive. Blaming someone else for your parent’s death is an act so cruel that I couldn’t even think it was possible.

“She hits me with the ashtray on the table, the empty bottle or anything else that’s there.

I cannae move, I just stay there, ye’re behind me and I cover ye but everything passes through me. Then I turn and you’re laying there on the ground, saying that this is my fault.”

I felt my heart wrenching, I just wanted to hold him so tight and keep him in me and safe always.

“It isn’t your fault. I am safe Jamie. Look at me.”

He didn’t respond nor even turned his head, so I did it for him. I gently took his chin with my hand, feeling the light auburn stubble that was growing that rasped against my skin, his eyes were looking past me; I couldn’t see him like this, thinking he hurt me.

“I am safe, I am whole. You keep me safe, you have my heart and my soul. She’s gone, she can’t hurt you or me. You did not let her mother die.”

“But I did. That poor woman suffered from a rare disease that made her organs fail, I went out the door for a minute and when I came back it was too late. Her heart stopped, if I had been there maybe – “

“There would’ve been nothing you could’ve done. It was going to happen in one way or another.”

He told me what it was, and I remembered it from my studies back in the day; the poor woman was destined to die one way or another.

He let go of his body then, slowly falling towards me. I sat with the wall behind my back, Jamie cradling into my chest. I tended to forget his size, but with him in my arms I was struck anew by his grace and the beauty of his body.

And he loved me, oh how he loved me, as did I; I tried to smooth away the deep line of concern on his forehead. His mouth curled up ever so slightly, but the line stayed, a thin vertical crease between the sandy curves of his eyebrows.

 

I caressed him with affection and care, seldomly shushing to try and keep any thought away from his mind. I wanted to let him know I was there, unharmed and alive, I tightened my arms around him and shifted his head right over my heart.

 

“I hear yer heart, Sassenach. It beats, does it beat for me too?”

“Always.”

 

He got himself out of my embrace, rose up to his feet and leant a hand to me; I took it, relishing in his warmth and comfort, he wasn’t trembling anymore. I put my hands on his chest, letting him cover them with his.

“She’s gone, I am safe.

We’ve enough ghosts between us, they cannot and will not hinder us anymore. It’s you and me now, we must put everything else behind us.”

I cupped his cheek with my hand, my fingers light and gentle on his temple. It was just then that he finally looked at me, he saw me, he understood what I had said and I was waiting for him to break the silence that had fallen between us.

“Aye, we must. I swear to ye, I willna let any fear of the future or the past come within you and me. I will protect ye with my heart and soul, and my body too.”

Silent tears were leaking from the corners of my eyes and he got closer to me, kissed the salty trail they left.

“Dinna weep, Sassenach. Ye’re here; so am I. I can feel ye. There’s naught that matters, aside from that.”